Welcome to my blog!

I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

I love to hear from my readers! If you have a comment for me or if you'd like to submit a character for published character interview or unpublished character analysis, please use the form below or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com.

If you're not getting enough randomness from me here, please feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or like my Facebook page. I've also taken the Pinterest plunge. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter for news on books, sleep tips, and wine notes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Process and Progress: The Write Space

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a time management seminar sponsored by the Decatur Business Association. The hardest part was admitting I need help in that area, but with my own practice and a budding writing career, who wouldn't?

One of the things professional organizer Jonda Beattie of Time Space Organization spoke about was the importance of having an uncluttered space. She mentioned that every task results in a natural entropy, which then needs to be straightened out. Yes, Mom, I realize that you've been telling me to clean my toys up for 30+ years, but for some reason, it just didn't make sense until now. Consequently, I have been on an organizing spree in both my home and professional offices.

As you can see from the pictures below, this organization has been much overdue.

Desk before and after:

Floor and shelves before and after:

Yes, Jonda (and Mom) were right: it is easier to work in an uncluttered space. I still have some tasks, which are now on a list, such as find places to either donate or recycle books I don't want anymore (suggestions for resources are appreciated), but I feel like I'll be much more likely to come in the office and do what I need to do. The next task? Scheduling writing time.

Oh, and others are enjoying the newly cleared space:

Now if only I could teach her to take out the recycling...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper

It's hard to write, finish, and revise a book, and it takes courage and money to get it out there if the author wants to self-publish. Readers who are interested in self-published books but who don't want to waste their time on low-quality ones need a place to go for reviews. I'll post a review of a self-published book the first weekend of every month so that authors and readers can connect with each other. Interviews have been put on hold for now due to time constraints.

A disclaimer: I'm going to start with books by authors I know through real-life connections and through Twitter. If you're interested in getting your book reviewed, please email my assistant at bert{at}ceciliadominic.com or follow Bert on Twitter and message him there.

Title: Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper
Author: James Huskins
Genre: Historical Mystery

My father loves mystery novels, so I grew up reading books by Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Dick Francis, and other greats that I "borrowed" from his shelves. Consequently, I was excited to get the chance to review Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper by James Huskins.

Silence, whether it's for years or hours, can be deadly, and the different meanings and consequences of silence are the theme of this novel. Silent movie star Nora Bates and her cohort have kept quiet about an unsolved murder and a host of other scandals for years. The imminent publication of her memoirs causes someone to panic, which leads to two threatening notes, one attempted poisoning, and a murder. Main character Yancey Dunkle struggles to keep a secret from his boss, publisher Joseph Fitzroy, and everyone else. Fitzroy charges Dunkle to figure out what's going on, but after Dunkle is caught snooping by a real detective, the hapless driver becomes the primary suspect for the current murder.

If you're wondering what era the Groovy Mystery capers are set in, and the title doesn't give you a clue, consider that an Amazon.com search for Groovy Mystery pulls up a bunch of Scooby Doo books as well as Silent Scream. However, Dunkle, Bates, and the others precede the fictional Mystery Machine crew by about nine years and could be their parents or grandparents. There is no dog, but Dunkle does get to drive a pretty sweet car. Huskins describes 1960 Los Angeles and Palm Springs with enough detail to give a sense of place, but not so much as to be overwhelming. He also seems to have done his research into Old Hollywood and the culture around the transition from silent movies to "talkies."

Celebrities are a neurotic bunch in any era, and conversations about the past and old photos give Dunkle clues about motives and hidden relationships. As a lowly driver, he blends into the background, eyes and ears open, and has access to informative hotel staff. When his own secret is revealed, it adds unexpected depth and sympathy to his character, which has potential to grow during the planned series.

At first, the cast of characters seemed overwhelming, and I did have to refer to previous pages to keep everyone straight, especially once Bates and retinue get to Palm Springs for the official book release. Huskins adds a few more characters to the mix just before the climax, and earlier reference to those personalities and why they were important would have been helpful. There is one point-of-view shift away from Dunkle's perspective toward the beginning of the book, and it was a little confusing and unnecessary, as we got to know those characters through Dunkle's eyes immediately after.

Overall, I enjoyed Silent Scream and finished it in less than a day. Huskins' love of the era and his subjects come through in his writing, and I look forward to the rest of the series. Although Huskins describes his book as a "gay mystery," it should appeal to a wide range of mystery lovers. I'll likely give a copy to my Dad.

Silent Scream: A Groovy Mystery Caper can be purchased in paperback for $12.99 or for Kindle for $4.99 from Amazon.com.

Next up in March: Venturing into nonfiction with Perry Treadwell's From Sea to Shining Sea On U.S. 20: Boston to Newport, Oregon

Previous Reviews:
Laura Eno's Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel
Donna Carrick's The First Excellence -- Fa-Ling's Map
Kenn Allen's The Golden Cockerel

Disclaimer: This review was of a courtesy copy received from the author for no charge. My opinion of the book was not biased by this or by the fact that Jim and I are friends.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Melt

The wind is quiet, but I can hear the branches scratching against the window screens. We wait, silently, hoping that they'll think no one is in here. That's the advantage of human brains over brains made of snow – they're not that bright.

"Snowpocalypse!" the news media deemed the snow and ice that blanketed the city. With a ratio of about one snowplow to every million people, that's pretty much how it ended up. That first day, with the snow soft and only starting to get its hard layer of ice, the kids got out and engaged in that ritual that they'd only heard of from their Northern cousins: making snowmen. Some went all-out authentic with coal eyes and carrot noses, and others got more creative. One odd commonality: Mardi Gras beads. Whether it was a snow drag queen (that was in Midtown, I'm sure) or a snow bunny in Decatur, they wore beads.

"What did they show to get those?" my husband asked after we'd passed our third festive snow creature on a careful walk around the neighborhood.

"I don't know," I replied and righted myself after an almost-fall. "It sure puts a different meaning to the old phrase, 'colder than a witch's tits.'"

"Most witches I know are pretty hot," he said with a wink.

After the third day of no school and minimal openings except for bars and lightly staffed restaurants, the natives got restless, and not just the parents with small children. The weather would "warm up" to around freezing or a little higher, then hard freeze again at night. The snowmen and creatures mimicked the appearance of Hollywood starlets on crash diets, thinning out in odd places, and then getting their hard shells at night. A traditional snowman on Ponce de Leon Avenue took on an insectoid look as its head, thorax, and abdomen melted and flattened. The snow bunny's ears drooped, and its eyes grew big and skeletal.

It was that fourth night that we heard the noise the first time, a "scratch scratch scraaaaape!" on the neighbor's window. We peered out our dining room and saw it, the snow insect, its branch legs barely able to hold it up. Its beads swayed and sparkled in the light from the streetlamp.

"There must have been some magic," I started to sing under my breath, but my husband grabbed my wrist. The ice bug ambled toward our house, and we ducked into the kitchen, barely breathing as it repeated its scratching query on the screen.

The telephone rang, and the noise outside stopped. We let the machine take the call, and it was our neighbor from down the street:

"I just saw a zombie snow bunny with Mardi Gras beads!"

The next day, of course, hordes took to the streets to find and destroy the creatures, but they were nowhere to be found. I suspected that they were hiding in the woods, and my suspicions were confirmed that night when we saw them again, this time with sturdier branch legs.

By the fifth day, the ice had mostly melted off the sidewalks, although the roads were still bad, and the usual contingent of joggers and health nuts who consider five miles to be an "easy run" had taken to the streets again. We saw one of our neighbors, Michael Magee, on his usual route. He'd usually run up and down the streets of the neighborhood five times. After the third time, he disappeared.

"Honey?" I asked. "Did you see Michael go by recently?"

"Nope." We called our neighbor down the street, and she bundled up and joined us in front of our house. We retraced his route and found a thickly wooded empty lot where the snow and ice had been disturbed in a path running from the sidewalk to the trees. Blood stained the snow and dripped down the edges of jagged pieces of ice that had been torn up during the scuffle.

"Oh, gods!" my neighbor said with one mitten over her mouth. "We have to call 911!"

"Or the Ghostbusters," my husband added.

The police, of course, were not much help and warned us to stay inside. We went back home, cranked the heat up as far as it would go, and armed ourselves with a hair dryer and crème brulée torch. Not that they would do much good against a creature that could take down a healthy, full-grown man.

So here we sit, sweating and silent, as the creatures scratch at the windows. I feel it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to take down the power supply to the house, and food supplies are getting low, so we hope that the predictions of the imminent Great Thaw are true. Although I don't call myself a witch, I can feel the wild energy swirling outside, driving the clink of beads and scraping of branches. They say Mardi Gras brings out the wild side of people. Snowmen and ice creatures must feel the same.

There must have been some magic…

Yes, that was a snow bunny we saw on Sycamore when we could finally walk to downtown Decatur that Wednesday. Pretty much all of this story up to the creatures coming to life is true. If someone can explain why people decided to put beads on their snowmen, please do so – it was a very strange trend. The idea of them coming to life was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend about what the snowmen turned into as they melted and refroze. They did look pretty freaky.

Oh, since this is my first foray back into #fridayflash in a few months, here's a bunch of goodies from the case of temptation at Alon's bakery: