Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blogging Holidays

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Hi, one and all!

I'm taking a blogging holiday until January. I have hand surgery planned for early today and will be one-handed for a bit. 

So, enjoy your holidays! I'll see you later. 

  
And to keep you reading...Check out my "An Occupational Hazard" in the Fall 2015 WRITE ON! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November Mini Book Reviews: K. Belle, J. Clavell, E. Havey, A. Nathan, A. Weir

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THE ONES WE TRUST Kimberly Belle: Women's Fiction


A tough and tender story of trust--earned, misplaced, and redeemed. Set in the present tangles of life and loyalty, THE ONES WE TRUST is a powerful exploration of love in all its forms.

GAI JIN James Clavell: Historical Fiction

Gai-Jin is Clavell's last book. Though not as good as Shogun or Tai-Pan, it has a complex and compelling story with multiple characters.

A MOTHER'S TIME CAPSULE: Elizabeth Havey: Short Story Anthology

 Elizabeth Havey's collection of short stories show the sad, sweet, scary, and truth of motherhood. Read them and experience the emotional highs and lows of one of the most important roles women are blessed with. 

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR Amy Sue Nathan: Women's Fiction

Amy Nathan's done it again! I was hooked by the first page and all in by the end of the first chapter. Izzy Lane's story showcases the ease of creating a new life online and the dangers of secrets.

THE MARTIAN Andy Weir: Science Fiction  

This is a total Science Fiction rush! Brilliantly written, THE MARTIAN is a great example of maintaining character voice throughout a narrative. Andy Weir has written a compulsive, hard SF story that's so human. Everyone who reads it will care about his main character. Bravo! 

 I'm taking a blogging break due to some minor hand surgery and the Holidays. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and other celebrations you may have. See you in January! ;-) 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Fugitive Words

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Insecure Writers Support Group

 The Insecure Writers Support Group is a blog hop that emphasizes collective support and sharing the trials and victories of writing. Our fearless leader is Alex J. Cavanaugh

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.
  
This month's co-hosts are: Tyrean Martinson, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Stephen Tremp.

Pad or Recorder...That is the Question
 If writers aren't diligent, the brilliant words what surface from our back brains will run away to that limitless and lost area known as: I Had A Great Idea, But I Forgot It! All of us know this dread event and sad occurrence. 

But there's hope! Install these simple measures into your life and no longer fear the dreaded feeling of loss. Never forget the brilliant turn of phrase that defines your story's theme. Or the scene you've been hunting when it reveals itself. Be sure to have note pads everywhere ideas have been found in the past.
  • On the bedside table for those ideas that surface in the wee hours
  • In each and every vehicle you own for those rides that shake a few golden motes to the surface
  • If your bag is big enough, put one there, too
  • And last, but not least, in the bathroom for those revelations that comes from a "well-watered brain" that come when you shower.
But wait, there's more. What if you're driving? Or you can write at the moment due to a hand injury? Well, that's an "app" for that! Try a digital recorder.

So, intrepid writer, what's you favorite method for corralling those Fugitive words before they get away?

My next post is Tuesday, Nov. 17 when I will line up another bumper crop of Mini Book Reviews!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 October Mini Book Reviews: J. Bourne, K. Contino, M. Dilloway, K. Katchur, L. Thompson

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Just when you thought I'd given up reading...I have another boat-load of books to tempt you with. ;-)

 THE SPYMASTER'S LADY Joanna Bourne: Historical Romance

Great read!!!! Joanna Bourne's intricate plots are amazing and THE SPYMASTER'S LADY is a great example of what historical romances should strive for. Read this book! 

THE LEGACY OF US Kristin Contino: Women's Fiction

The Legacy of Us is a sweet family saga about four generations of women as they learn about love and life.  


THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS Margaret Dilloway: Women's Fiction

Galilee (Gal) Garner is as prickly as her roses, and just as surprising as a hybrid what produces an amazing bloom. This is a must read. Sit back and enjoy a story that will grip your heart.


THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD Karen Katchur: Family Saga

Caroline's family is good at keeping secrets. Only the secrets keep coming back to light at their annual summer at the lake. Coming to terms with the secrets will challenge their love.  


A MEASURE OF HAPPINESS Lorrie Thompson: Women's Fiction

The sweet and sour of life comes full circle in the family we have and the family we choose. A Measure of Happiness is a brilliant example of the home true love of family can be. The story of Katherine and Barry, and Celeste and Zach who the beauty of the trip.

Enjoy! 
Next post: IWSG November 4. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: Retreat!

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IWSG
 It's that time of the month again! Check out the Insecure Writers Support Group
Every first Wednesday, we post about writing--the highs and the lows--and offer each other a shoulder to lean on. 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

Our co-hosts for October are:
Tamara Narayan  http://www.tamaranarayan.com/   
Eva E. Solar   http://lilicasplace.com/  
Shannon Lawrence   http://thewarriormuse.blogspot.com/  
Stephanie Faris  http://stephie5741.blogspot.com/   

I know you looked at this post's title, and it took you back. What's she doing? Telling us to give up? To retreat from our dreams?

No. Far from it. I want to share a lovely way to hurtle your fears, find writing buddies, and Go, Writers, Go!

September 24-27, I attended the first-ever Women's Fiction Writers Association Retreat in Albuquerque, NM. I had a blast, but best of all, I am renewed. My writing is front and center. So, sit back and check out the perks of Retreating. ;-) 

1. Go new places.

Lovely Albuquerque Lifts Off!

2. Meet old online buddies face-to-face.
with Annee Brizo
 3. Try new things.
While I have read snips of my work in public many times, I have never sung part of them. Here, I'm reading my original lyrics to an "old folk song" to my self-composed melody. Really! Add lyric writing to my curriculum vita.

4. Learn new tricks and share insights.
Our Lovely Board and Me

5. Eat tons of good food. ;-) 


6. Share writing space with other creative minds. 
Of course, it helps if there is a helpful wait staff providing you with nibbles and fluids to fuel the effort. ;-)

8. Write a nifty, little character sketch/essay.

So, Retreat, Writers, Retreat!


For the next two months, I'll be posting on the first Wednesday and third Tuesday while I'm taking Barbara Rogan's Next Level Workshop: Revising Fiction. I promise I'll be writing...tons. ;-) 

See you Tuesday, October 21. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September: 7 Mini Book Reviews: N. Baart, L. Bujold, D. Cox, B. Davis, D. Gabaldon, J. Timmer, S. Wilbanks

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Here's a much longer and more varied list of books for you to sample. Enjoy!

THE  BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS Nicole Baart: Women's Fiction

How far can you fall? Do you have the courage to climb back up? That's the question Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny must answer in this powerful story.



 KOMARR Lois McMaster Bujold: SF/Space Opera

Miles Vorkosigan, Bujold's extraordinary and unlikely hero finds love., only winning the lady's hand is not for the faint of heart.

 TYPEWRITER FROM HELL Diane Cox: Paranormal Romance

Typewriter from Hell is a devilishly fun read. I dare you to put it down...or to look at an old typewriter the same way again. 


SUMMER AT HIDEAWAY KEY Barbara Davis: Women's Fiction

This story is a poignant study of three women and how sacrifice, love, and forgiveness figure into life. Fabulous Read.


 THE SPACE BETWEEN Diana Gabaldon: historical, paranormal, time travel

Once again, Diana Gabaldon takes us on a wild ride. This time, it's the story of Michael Murray and Joan McKimmie and their arrival in France. Their lives are complicated by the Comte St. Germaine. And that's never a good thing. 

 FIVE DAYS LEFT Julie Lawson Timmer: General Fiction

The real life of these two families is not for the fainthearted, and the language reflects that. Both Mara--a mother with Huntington's Disease--and Scott--a middle school teacher in inner-city Detroit--face saying goodbye to their beloved children. This one will keep you turning pages late into the night.


THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER Scott Wilbanks: Time Travel Family Saga

This is a book for fans of Science Fiction, family sagas, women's fiction, and just plain good storytelling. Scott Wilbanks' debut is wonderful.

Next Two Weeks: I'll be taking the next two weeks off to plan for and attend the Women's Fiction Writers Association's first writing retreat in Albuquerque. Keep reading and I'll see you back In the Shade on October 4. ;-)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Want A Little Romance?

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I take it the answer is "Yes!" ;-) I'll admit that I don't read Romance as a genre much, but I do read romances by authors I know. When someone so kindly shared the NPR's Happily Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances, I was thrilled to find two of my favorites on it--Joanna Bourne and Diana Gabaldon. Without further ado, I'll introduce you to those two worthy writers and three others whose books are more than worth a look. Enjoy!

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Joanna Bourne: Joanna's Spymaster's Series is fabulous and full of well-researched historical details. Be sure to check them all out.

This is another great Joanna Bourne historical romance! You can't go wrong with Jo as the author. Her spymasters series is the best! 






Diana Gabaldon: How many times can I tell you to read these books! Though technically none of Diana's books are romances by the genre definition, that hasn't stopped people from classing them as such. I'll just say they're oh, so much more! 

 WRITTEN IN MY HEART'S OWN BLOOD Diana Gabaldon is a historical, adventure, military, SF/fantasy, and indescribably good

Diana Gabaldon has again crafted an amazing story, a masterpiece that ties up the threads from its predecessor, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, with a roller coaster of a ride. She writes every single one of her POV characters' hearts, minds, and souls with humanity. WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is my second favorite of all the Gabaldon books. But be forewarned: There's more coming in this story. If you haven't read Diana Gabaldon's books before, start at the beginning with OUTLANDER. You won't be sorry. 

Darlene Marshall: I'll just say: Pirates, Oh My! ;-)

 Darlene Marshall has another smasher for you! I loved it. I figured out Robert's secret, but Lydia's caught me by surprise. All of the clues were there. Well done!






Elle Druskin: Elle's books are for those of you who like their romances contemporary and on the comedic side. Maybe, make that screwball. ;-) 

The fourth installment in Elle Druskin's Liberty Heights series lives up to the zany humor and romance of the first three. This time there's fire involved. Be sure and check out Druskin's books for a fun, light read. 

 

 

 

 

Kristin Callihan: Warning: Kristin Callihan's historical, paranormal, steampunk, romances are on the Hot! side. ;-) 

  Callihan's Darkest London series continues with her usual genre bending. The romance is on the side of steamy and the plot is as baroque as her readers have come to expect. Evernight takes two unlikely lovers and builds a tale of love, torment, sacrifice, and resilience. 

 

Happy Reading!

Next Week: September's Mini Book Reviews!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG: Who Is Supporting You?

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Insecure Writers Support Group
 Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the the September 2 posting of the IWSG will be Julie Flanders, Murees Dupé, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner!

Who is your main supporter, cheerleader, etc.? 

While writing is initially a job for one, we all need someone on the sidelines who helps us stay on track. They might do any of the following:
  • line editing
  • beta reading
  • feeding us when we're starving
  • All Of The Above
My supporter is my hubby. So in honor of our 38th anniversary on Friday, let me say:


 John,
Only you know where all the real-life bones are buried in my Cherry Hill. You're the best plot-twist generator known to writerdom. The meanest, most horrifying twists come from your fertile story mind. I know to sit up and take notes when you say, "What if?" I thank you from the bottom of my storyteller's heart for all the help you give me. {{{{hugs}}}}

Next Week: Are you in the mood for Romance? ;-) 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August Author Interview: Laura McNeill

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When fellow WFWA member Densie Webb mentioned Laura McNeill’s newest book, Center of Gravity, I had to get it. Check out the Amazon descriptioin, and you’ll understand why it was a must read for me. Also, check out Laura’s website www.lauramcneill.com

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 Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.

Or is it?



When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.



Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.



Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town, Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?



Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

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ZM: The structure of Center of Gravity is intriguing! How did the rotating POV develop?

Laura: Thank you so much! When I first began writing the novel, I decided it would be compelling to have the story told from several different perspectives – I love the way Jodi Picoult does this in many of her books – and decided to give it a whirl with Center of Gravity. I think that, Jack, the 8-year-old protagonist, adds an element of truth and authenticity to the storyline. He is a pure and innocent observer, and tells things exactly as he sees them. As for Ava, the female protagonist, and Graham, her attorney, they both have different ways of telling the story, and each perspective – I hope – adds richness and depth to the novel.

ZM: Your books are classed as Women’s Fiction or Women’s Fiction with elements of Romance. What’s your opinion of Women’s Fiction as a genre?

Laura: I think that booksellers and bookstores have to put a genre label on books, but for me, if a story is well written, it doesn’t matter if what genre it’s been placed in. Women’s fiction is such a broad term—and there are so many sub-genres under that classification. Center of Gravity definitely falls under women’s fiction, and there are elements of romance and suspense.

It’s my hope that the Center of Gravity cover, the story summary, and recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads reviewers will intrigue readers enough to give the book a try—no matter what genre!

ZM: What comes first for you—character, theme, setting, or plot? How do your stories come together?

Laura: When planning out a novel, I generally have a story spark—an idea or question that intrigues me. It may be an idea from reading news headlines; it could be from personal experience, or something that a friend shares with me. If that idea stays with me, and I start thinking about possible characters, storylines, twists, etc., then I know that it’s something that I should pursue.

With Center of Gravity, the question that came to mind was “What if everything that you think is real and true in your life is a lie?” I spent a great deal of time plotting out the storyline, revising, and trying to get the character voices just right. I talked to friends about their break-ups; I interviewed marriage counselors and therapists, and did lots of research on personality disorders—so fascinating (and a little scary!).

Before Center of Gravity was published, I wrote four previous women’s fiction novels—all set in the South—under the pen name Lauren Clark, so setting Center of Gravity in Mobile, Alabama seemed a natural fit.

ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Laura: Reading a lot is a must for authors! I think reading—and reading in all different genres—recharges your creativity, triggers new ideas, and allows you to explore new settings, characters, and storylines.

I am such an eclectic reader, but among my favorite authors are Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Anita Hughes, Sue Monk Kidd, and Joshilyn Jackson. As for a favorite genre, women’s fiction is my go-to, but I also love YA (Divergent, Hunger Games) suspense/thriller (Stieg Larsson, James Patterson) and romantic comedy (Sophie Kinsella).

Generally, recommendations from friends, book club picks, talking to employees at our local indie bookstore, and a compelling or interesting cover/summary draw me to books for enjoyment. I love checking out what’s new on Goodreads, Amazon, and Audible. I travel quite a bit, so I stock up on all sorts of audiobooks for my time on the road.

ZM: I can’t wait for your next book! Tell us a bit about Sister Dear.

Laura: My second HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson book will be released in April of 2016. Sister Dear is the story of a woman, Allie Marshall, who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, leaving behind a 5-year old daughter.

When Allie is paroled 10 years later, she hopes to reclaim her quiet life and move on, but her daughter, now a teenager, soon challenges her innocence. In her quest to find justice, Allie discovers that the one person she trusts most committed the ultimate betrayal a decade earlier. Think White Oleander meets Orange is the New Black.

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 Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Alabama with her two sons.
You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity is available wherever books are sold. 

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Next Week: IWSG: Who's Supporting You? 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August: 4 Mini Book Reviews: L. N. Diamond, T. A. Forkner, J. Keim, L. McNeill

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I just know some of you are still at the beach and need a few books to read. ;-)

SHELTER US Laura Nicole Diamond: Women's Ficiton

This story is an emotional roller coaster that follows a mother's journey into the black heart of grief for her baby girl. You keep turning the pages into the night, but the dawn is more than worth the ride.

 WAKING UP JOY Tina Ann Forkner: Women's Fiction

Full of magic and mystery, pain and fear--and best of all--redemption.


BREAKFAST AT THE BEACH HOUSE HOTEL Judith Keim: Women's Fiction

When life served up a nasty divorce and joblessness, Anne Rutherford discovered a new life in Florida, a new business, and love.

CENTER OF GRAVITY Laura McNeill: Women's Fiction

Excellent! Must Read! This page-turner grips you from page one with stellar writing and a powerful First Person POV. It tells the story of Ava, Jack, and Mitchell. Ava must grow into the super hero her sons need.

Next Week: The August Author Interview is Laura McNeill! Come on back to The Shade for a treat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Polishing Stone, Sanding Wood

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One of the endless tasks of writing is editing. I actually think that when we start writing, we have no clue just how many times we'll read the same sentences. We get tired of the process long before we finish. One of my very sweet, attentive beta readers was talking to me about the process she's seen my story go through. She's read the entire manuscript twice in the last couple of months. As she made her way through it the second time, she noticed the smoothing and shaping I had done since the first time.

Source

She mentioned to me that it was almost like I was polishing a surface. Since she's my sister, Thea, she has observed and participated in the same process I have while our family of talented carpenters has shaped and sanded many a linear feet of wood. You start with coarse grit sandpaper and proceed to finer and finer grit as the wood smooths out. A finely sanded piece of wood feels like satin. 

Source

The same process applies to polishing stones--and stories. We start with a rough pass that looks at story and character arcs. Later, we spend our editing on connecting the pieces smoothly. Then, we proceed to the finest of word choice, sentence patterns, and the final polish on our stories. It takes patience, persistence, and an open heart to change for the better. 

Zan Marie Steadham

My main WIP is nearing its final polishing. It's ready for a class on revision that I'm starting this Friday, August 14, with Barbara Rogan, a wonderful writer, former agent, and editor. Be sure to check out her Next Level Workshops if you feel you need a bit of expert, outside help. 

Zan Marie Steadham
So how do you polish your writing? Do you have any suggestions to share? 

Next Week: Mini Book Reviews! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: Attitude-Getting Your Head in the Game

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Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

My awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG will be Nancy Gideon, Bob R Milne, Doreen McGettigan, Chrys Fey, Bish Denham, and Pat Garcia!


Source

 I have to admit that I'd rather be "zleeping" too. But, my manuscript needs attention. After a few doses of caffeine each morning, I gear up, strap on my pads, and do battle with words. It's not always easy. That's why, as I near completion of my main WIP, I had to find a mantra for the journey.
  • Keep my feet on the ground,
  • Keep my head in the game,
  • Keep my heart open to instruction,
  • Respond with a learning spirit,
  • For all of us can improve.
Attitude is all it takes to chance a hard day into a day when the writing gets better.

Do you have any suggestions? How do you "get your head into the game"? 

Next Week: Polishing, Sanding, and Editing. ;-) 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

4 July Mini Book Reviews : Re-read Edition--L. Bujold, J. Clavell, D. Gabaldon

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PALADIN OF SOULS Lois McMaster Bujold: Fantasy with a healthy dose of Women's Fiction

Must Read for the 3-D characters who portray what heroic really means and a universe that is as multidimensional as the people in it. This is a fantasy and the sequel to The Curse of Chalion. Read Curse first.

TAI-PAN James Clavell: Historical Fiction

I periodically reread Clavell's Asian Saga for the amazing stories and vivid characters. TAI-PAN is the second in the series and is set during the founding of Hong Kong. With a tightly plotted story and an unforgettable main character--Dirk Straun--Clavell proves he is a mastery storyteller. Good read

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD Diana Gabaldon: Historical Fiction

Diana Gabaldon has again crafted an amazing story, a masterpiece that ties up the threads from its predecessor, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, with a roller coaster of a ride. She writes every single one of her POV characters' hearts, minds, and souls with humanity. WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is my second favorite of all the Gabaldon books. But be forewarned: There's more coming in this story. As always Diana Gabaldon's book is an absolutely Must Read!