Cover Reveal: Melissa Maygrove’s Debut Novel, “Come Back”

In my meanderings this morning, while at my good friend and romance writer Melissa Maygrove’s blog, I was surprised and thrilled to see the cover reveal of  her début novel, Come Back. Goodness! It reminded me how much I’ve been out of the loop—I had forgotten all about it.

Melissa has a wonderful grasp on the art of writing, as evidenced each week with her Grammar Police Mondays, and as one of my first followers, I had to jump on the chuck wagon and help spread the good news. Take a look at the beautiful cover—its sepia hues immediately take you to the latter 1800′s, and the chemistry of the couple is hot enough to catch the cave wall on fire. Now that’s pretty dang hot.

Come_Back_Ebook cover for bloggers

Left behind by everyone she loves…

Rebecca Garvey had the promise of a California future dreams are made of, until the wagon train her family was traveling with left her behind. Now she’s slowly dying in the wilderness, abandoned and stripped of her self-worth. Once the shock of her desertion turns to embittered despair, she doesn’t want to be found. Then a handsome stranger challenges her convictions and changes her mind.

Headed for Texas, chased by the demons of his past…

Seth Emerson knows exactly what he wants. Working to save for a cattle ranch of his own keeps him busy and keeps his pain buried. Rescuing a stubborn woman from the hills of New Mexico Territory isn’t part of his plan—but she’s exactly what he needs.

Making greater sacrifices than either of them could foresee…

Seth and Rebecca set off on a risky journey and a quest for truth, each healing the other’s love-starved soul along the way. Will they give in to their growing attraction? Or will they honor their commitments when Seth returns Rebecca to civilization… and her betrothed?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I already see a movie in the works. Hmm…casting call for Seth and Rebecca! Be sure to look for the book later in May.

Come Back

New Adult / Adult

Western Historical Romance

Available May 2014

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

 

 

Redirect to “The Writing Nut” for Wednesday Writer’s Workspace with Nutschell

Today I’m over at Nutschell Windsor’s blog, The Writing Nut, as her Wednesday Writer’s Workspace featured author! Ever since the year started, I’ve been on a mission to declutter and repurpose my bedroom into a combination bedroom/writing workspace. I even purchased a new desk, hutch, tech station, task chair—the works.

WWWBitstrip

Did it come together in time? For the answer to this pressing question and more, run on over to Nutschell’s and find out!

Thank you, Nutschell, for featuring me today and your fellow writers each week. It’s been a delight to learn about all the earlier authors you’ve spotlighted, and I hope people are just as delighted to get a peek into my workspace and life.

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

PBC: “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”

2014-03-19 08.40.01

Another third Wednesday rolls around and catches me completely off-guard. Yes, it’s time for the Progressive Book Club, and this month I haven’t completed an entire book cover-to-cover, but instead have four works of fiction underway and a couple of reference books tapped. Such is the life of a busy reader/writer with a couple of acres—many demands in the non-writerly world are pulling at once, and I’m all-consumed with keeping on top of them. Spring has definitely sprung here in Florida.

My post, however, is a perfect example of the looseness of the PBC this year—any book will suffice—and this month’s, although not read in its entirety, is Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Remember how I told you one of my interests is FOOD? Well, I didn’t mean the culinary delights of McDonald’s or Burger King; I was referring to meals fit for a king and served in five-star restaurants. Unfortunately, my wallet is that of a pauper. I remember a time when I frequented some of the best eateries in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—and once you’ve experienced nirvana, it’s hard to digest the greasy soy that is fast food—but alas, that day has come and gone. On top of that, my mom was an excellent cook, so I was spoiled on the good stuff early in life.

Therefore, in order to eat well, I had to learn to cook well, and if you know the basics—how food should look and taste and smell at different stages of the cooking process, as well as how to follow a recipe—then that’s most of the battle. But fret not if you aren’t overly adept at these practices; Mastering the Art of French Cooking covers all these things.

Julia (and I’ll mainly refer to the authorship as Julia Child, although written in conjunction with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck) is wise to begin the book with an orientation to kitchen terms the reader needs to understand. She lists no recipe until after the first thirty-six pages, which cover everything from Kitchen Equipment (or Batterie de Cuisine) to Wines, with chapters devoted to Definitions, Measurements—including the size of an appropriate celery stalk—and all the various ways of Cutting.

Goodness! Chop, slice, dice, mince, julienne; gripping the knife, slicing round objects, dicing solid vegetables…who knew? And there is such a variety of ways to cut mushrooms, it has its own illustrated cross-reference on page 509. When a recipe involves a specialty cut, such as an artichoke, it thoroughly explains the procedure in the recipe itself, and once explained, if used again, refers back to that page. This single volume is a veritable encyclopedia of French cooking. Nothing is left to chance, and Julia cautions the cook in the Foreword:

Pay close attention to what you are doing while you work, for precision in small details can make the difference between passable cooking and fine food. If a recipe says, “cover casserole and regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly,” “heat the butter until its foam begins to subside,” or “beat the hot sauce into the egg yolks by driblets,” follow it. You may be slow and clumsy at first, but with practice you will pick up speed and style.

Hmm…that’s certainly food for thought in other aspects of my life, such as writing. What say ye?

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Okay, I’ll admit it. I bought this book after watching Julie & Julia specifically for the Boeuf Bourguignon dish, which I’ve made several times, even creating a crock pot adaptation. French cooking takes a LONG time!

Whenever I buy a classic book like this (and yes, this is a classic in its own right), I try to get as close to first edition as possible at a reasonable cost. This one is the sixteenth printing, 1967. While it arrived in pristine condition, sans a dust jacket, I’ve already “compromised” many pages with grease and wine spots. But that comes with actual use—I make no apologies!

I’ve also made other dishes featured in the movie, such as the braised cucumbers, which were surprisingly good. I’m not big on mint, which the recipe calls for—I only like it in gum, toothpaste, and creme de—and will probably use a smidgen less next time I make it. While it definitely complements the cukes, use it to taste. Her recipes for artichokes, mushrooms, and oignons glacés à brun (brown-braised onions—delish!) make other tasty sides. For now, I’m holding off on deboning a duck.

Of course this is Julia Child, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a masterpiece in the Culinary World, so naturally I give it five stars, however, the recipes are a bit involved, and some rather expensive. Julia recognized this in the opening statement:

This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules…or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat….This makes them a bit longer than usual, and some of the recipes are quite long indeed.

And that, my friends, is the gospel. When I come up for breath and have a bit more time…ha!…I’ll dip further into the entrées. I do recommend this book, though. If you have enough advance notice to grab a few essential ingredients (most are standard staples, others, not so), want something different than the usual fare, and can allot a day to create a royal feast, it’s just what you need.

For me, this also brought to mind the whole creative process—no matter your medium. Each skillet is a blank canvas wherein the chef (artist, writer) sears the meat, adds the veggies, sautés, simmers, mixes and stirs until the end product is a unique rendering of his experience, and no two—not even the same recipe—are ever alike. You can make Coq au Vin or Chicken McNuggets, the choice is yours.

That’s certainly something to chew on.

For a variety of other reviews and thoughts from our members, click the frog’s head below for the link list. The selections are as diverse and exciting as their readers! And as always, we are open every month to new participants. For more information, go to the Progressive Book Club Guidelines in the tabs at the top of the page.

Peace,

ML Swift

PBC 3DThe Progressive Book Club meets the third Wednesday of each month. If you’d like to know more, click on the badge to link to the guidelines. Any book is welcome, and we’d love to have you—the more participants and titles, the greater the likelihood one will resonate with our readers. Hope to see you next month!

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

My Weakly Walk: On Originality and Failure

One of my weekend pleasures is tuning into CBS Sunday Morning and seeing what the show, specifically Bill Geist, has to offer. He never fails, and my inspiration this week comes from his segment, A Tour of the Museum of Bad Art.

Housed in the basement of the Somerville Movie Theater in Massachusetts, the Museum of Bad Art is run by “Permanent Acting Interim Director” Louise Sacco, which I guess means she is always the Acting Director whenever there is no Director, and as settled into the position as she seemed, must always be the case. I also couldn’t help but notice her title spelled out PAID.

Take a few minutes to watch:

Ms. Sacco left me chewing on a few quoteworthy morsels about art, for whether you realize it or not, writing is an art—a crafting of original literary compositions—as surely as any of the other fine arts.

“Bad art is, first of all, art…it’s sincere and original and something went wrong in a way that’s interesting…we’re not interested in anything that’s just boring.

“People sometimes send us pieces that were deliberately made to be bad and you can see right through that…it’s fake bad and it shows.”

And the last is her response to the question posed by Bill at the end of the segment, “Has any artist ever sued you for defamation?” to which she answered:

“Most artists are happy to find that their work is in our museum and the reason is because artists are trying to communicate something and we are exhibiting and celebrating work…celebrating an artist’s right to fail.”

For me, this brings to mind the importance of being original versus following trends; that following trends is transparent and leaves the reader empty. Like the fake bad art, it’s not a sincere attempt at a unique piece, but a filling-in-the-blanks of a worn-out paint-by-number. Sincere and original stories—even when considered “bad”—are an artist’s right to fail, to experience growth, and if interesting enough, are “good” in their own right.

I may never create my own Mona Lisa (or War and Peace, as the case may be), but I’ll learn from each Mana Lisa, and in time, will see what work of art comes of it.

How about you? What do these quotes on originality, “bad” art, and failure mean to you? If you’re an non-writer (or not pursuing the arts) how can you apply them to your life?

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

Inspiration Is All Around, Simply Open Your Mind’s Eye

People often ask where I find inspiration. My answer: everywhere. To quote one of my favorite movies, Sister Act 2:

If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention.

This video by Jarbas Agnelli, Birds on the Wires, is a prime example of finding inspiration in everyday places. You may have seen it before—it’s made its rounds and has even been the subject of a TED talk—but if not, may it serve as a wake-up call for your Muse.

Today, if able, set aside thirty minutes or more to go outside and take a walk. Take your notebook and pen, camera, or whatever else you need to document your experience. Pay attention to your six (yes, six) senses: What do you see? What noises do you hear? What aroma does the world have today? How does the air taste? Feel the wind or sun or snow against your skin.

And finally, to address that sixth sense, what does your intuition tell you? What does your mind’s eye see? Where does your muse lead you with all this information? That, my friend, is inspiration.

I’ll end with the wise words of Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird:

There is ecstasy in paying attention…You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind.

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

My Weakly Walk: On Service, Humility, and Love

Photo Credit: Raindog via Photopin cc

Photo Credit: Raindog via Photopin cc

God puts many things in my path to help me overcome my times of weakness. Sometimes I notice them; other times they pass me by, only to be repeated in various ways until I finally see. They sear to the depths of my soul—a stoking of the Refiner’s Fire to burn away the dross and leave a man’s character essentially free of defects. It’s an arduous process that never ends.

As I soldier on, I’ll share the message that has most impacted my walk lately—whether it be ecclesiastical or secular in nature—a little something on which to ruminate. I’ll not discuss, but simply present and let you determine its relevance in your life.

This week’s message comes from:

Romans 12:1-21 (NIV)

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 12:6 Or the
  2. Romans 12:8 Or to provide for others
  3. Romans 12:16 Or willing to do menial work
  4. Romans 12:19 Deut. 32:35
  5. Romans 12:20 Prov. 25:21,22

(Source: Bible Gateway)

Peace be with you,

ML Swift

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

PBC: As A Man Thinketh

As A Man ThinkethPerfect for the cold, dark, and reclusive days of winter, February offers a time to weigh and measure oneself; to be introspective and see where one is found wanting. What happened to the promises made at the beginning of the year, when you were eager to put the past in the past and start anew? Alas, January is now but a distant memory, its resolutions long forgotten for the weak-willed and soft-minded, the lazy and the gluttonous.

At least that would be the conclusion the reader would draw after perusing As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, for it is that philosophy on which the essay is based, and the overall message I gleaned. Man’s thoughts determine his circumstances; good thoughts beget good results; bad thoughts, bad results. Of course, Mr. Allen gets much more involved in his explanations and examples.

There’s a long story as to why I’m discussing his book instead of the one originally scheduled, but that will come in a later post. Suffice it to say,  it was a rapid succession of vicissitudes which put this pamphlet in my path, and I’m so grateful it did. Over the past too-many-years-to-count, I’ve been on a journey of self-awareness and have read too-many-books-to-count in the spiritual, metaphysical, inspirational, self-help, and new thought categories—so many, in fact, I’m puking Chopra and crapping Tolle for goodness’ sake!

It’s not as if my life was a train wreck, though. I’ve always felt it a good idea to practice mindfulness and delve into a better understanding of the human condition, and in turn, myself. My exploration into the thought processes which determine behavior was a result of my first real heartbreak over twenty-five years ago. Curled in a ball on the kitchen floor, phone in hand and sobbing to anyone who’d listen was not how I wanted to handle it. I think Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More was the first in a long line of self-hell spelunking into the caverns of my soul.

Over the next couple of decades, my reading experience was similar: non-fiction personal exploration. It’s only recently I’ve dipped back into the realm of the unreal, but with Mom’s passing and the subsequent depression associated with grief, this booklet called out to me. I wanted to change my outlook toward the circumstances in which I felt trapped. I already knew how to unplug from the negative and into the positive (which I wrote about here), now to further implement that idea.

But first, some background on the book and its author. The book was published in 1902, therefore it was written in turn-of-the-century-speak, if you know what I mean. It’s a heady little read, each sentence requiring a bit of chewing and tasting, chewing and tasting, like a cow in a grassy pasture contemplating the meaning of life, but to be truthful, I eat those up. I’m in love with authors from that era. Take this sentence, for instance, which is an excellent example of some of the verbage:

Only by much searching and mining are gold and diamonds obtained, and man can find every truth connected with his being, if he will dig deep into the mine of his soul; and that he is the maker of his character, the moulder of his life, and the builder of his destiny, he may unerringly prove, if he will watch, control, and alter his thoughts, tracing their effects upon himself, upon others, and upon his life and circumstances, linking cause and effect by patient practice and investigation, and utilizing his every experience, even to the most trivial, everyday occurrence, as a means of obtaining that knowledge of himself which is Understanding, Wisdom, Power.

Whew! That’s a mouthful. Since the author, James Allen was born in England, some of the words, such as pothouse and gaol, threw me and I had to look them up. And viands—who uses the word viands for food? But I digress…it’s a thought-provoking booklet, nevertheless, even with some of the British and archaic vernacular.

The essay is broken into seven sections (greatly summarized below):

  1. Thought and Character. Based on Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh, so is he,” this chapter introduces the reader to the concept of thought and character interrelation, that “man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
  2. Effect of Thought on Circumstances. “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must and will, bring forth.” Seeds of good thoughts produce a blissful harvest; weed-seeds, nettles.
  3. Effect of Thought on Health and the Body. This is self-explanatory in the continued theory that positive thoughts produce positive results while negative produce negative. “Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought. Sickly thoughts will express themselves through a sickly body…Anxiety quickly demoralizes the whole body, and lays it open to the entrance of disease; while impure thoughts, even if not physically indulged, will soon shatter the nervous system.” It goes on to profess that “strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up the body in vigor and grace.”
  4. Thought and Purpose. Aimlessness is a vice. Thoughts should not be allowed to drift, but instead, be focused. “Those who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pityings, all of which are indications of weakness, which lead, just as surely as deliberately planned sins (though by a different route), to failure, unhappiness, and loss, for weakness cannot persist in a power-evolving universe.”
  5. The Thought-Factor in Achievement. “Before a man can achieve anything, even in worldly things, he must lift his thoughts above slavish animal indulgence. He may not, in order to succeed, give up all animality and selfishness, by any means; but a portion of it must, at least, be sacrificed.”
  6. Visions and Ideals. If you are creative, you will LOVE this chapter: “The dreamers are the saviours of the world…men, through all their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers…. The world is beautiful because they have lived; without them, laboring humanity would perish.”
  7. Serenity. “A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought-evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought, and as he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect, he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene.”

Okay, so I’ve thrown out a few catchy quotes…big whoop. What’s it all mean? It means you should’ve had a taste tantalizing enough to run to the trough, because frankly, this tiny volume delves into the basic truths of positive thinking so deliciously you’ll relish every bite like the squealing, suckling-for-knowledge little piggie you are.

And as of this writing, if you own a Kindle (or e-book, I think, but I’m not really sure how that works with Amazon) you can get As A Man Thinketh for FREE! Yes, you read that correctly. In my search for a cover picture, I went to Amazon and saw it was being offered au gratis—just follow this link. There are other versions for less than $1.00, and while there, I one-clicked As A Man Thinketh Deluxe Collection of Five Favorite James Allen Works [Annotated and Unabridged] for 99¢. I love a bargain!

I highly recommend this booklet. If you’re on the journey of personal development, it’s a must-have. And as always, the better a writer knows the thoughts that govern human behavior, the deeper he can go into character development and POV. The foreword of the essay makes a good place to end this post:

[As A Man Thinketh] is subjective rather than explanatory, its object being to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that—”They themselves are makers of themselves”—by virtue of the thoughts which they choose and encourage; that mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may have hitherto woven ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment and happiness.

For a variety of other reviews and thoughts from our members, click the frog’s head below for the link list. The selections are as diverse and exciting as their readers! And as always, we are open every month to new participants. For more information, go to the Progressive Book Club Guidelines in the tabs at the top of the page.

Peace and enlightenment,

ML Swift

PBC 3DThe Progressive Book Club meets the third Wednesday of each month. If you’d like to know more, click on the badge to link to the guidelines. Any book is welcome, and we’d love to have you—the more participants and titles, the greater the likelihood one will resonate with our readers. Hope to see you next month!

MikeBeachML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.