Monday, September 24, 2012


Here we are with another Inquisition! Has it been a month already? You bet it has, and today our hot seat holds author Shaunna Gonzales. Hello Shaunna, and welcome.

Shaunna: Thanks. I’m glad to be here.

I understand that your new novel touches on the tender subject of PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Do you know someone who suffers from this?

Shaunna: I knew a veteran as a child and I will not soon forget the cautions when playing with him. He would bounce me on his feet in the air or let me use his huge muscular frame as my personal "jungle gym" as long as he was on his back and invited me to do so. He loved children and still does. Never, ever could I touch or try to tackle him from behind. Today I know why. Then I didn't.


What have you learned in your research that has surprised you most about PSTD?


Shaunna: It amazes me how common this is on one level or another. Most cases of PST are not extreme, but if you think about an experience in your life that frightened you, you might realize you deal with the post traumatic stress. For me, I was in a car accident as a child. It was during winter months and the car flew several feet into the snow. (I drew on this experience for a scene in the book.)


There was a situation in my life many years ago involving a helicopter. It was years before I could hear a helicopter nearby without an ominous feeling. But let’s move on to something lighter. What is your favorite bit of writing advice?                                        

Shaunna: Write what you know and love. Write for yourself, not your imagined perfectly matched editor or publisher. Should you one day find them, they will, if they know their stuff and we all hope they do, bruise you and your precious fledgling novel. (Smile - those bruises heal and make you both better.)


So you have imaginary publishers too? [whispers off stage: I thought I was the only one.] You can’t imagine how relieved I am to hear that. [smiles happily]

Shaunna: No—

Yes. And you shouldn’t let him or her bruise you either. That’s abuse, and totally unnecessary in writing. [whispers off stage: I need to start bringing counselors to these interviews.]

Shaunna: You misunderstand—

It doesn’t matter if you have a misunderstanding. Don’t let your imaginary publishers and editors abuse you. Be strong woman! Stand up for yourself!

Shaunna: I have a real publisher. Not a pretend one.

Oh. [shoulders slump] Well don’t let them abuse you either.

Shaunna: [raises eyebrows] Can we move to the next question?

Sure. What do you when you’re feeling the dreaded [whispers:] writer’s block?

Shaunna: I often become stumped, especially in my current WIP. Those are times to take a water or food break to feed the head and the body.

They say the way to every writer’s heart is through his/her stomach.

Shaunna: Of course there is the nature break.

I like walking out in nature too. I don’t do it often though. I live in the city.

Shaunna: [frowning] If the stump was small, it is usually fixed with the small distraction. Other times I have to walk away and get involved in living until the "Wow, it's been awhile. I better go see what is happening in my WIP." Some times that is just a day, but other times a bit longer.

Some of my neighbors plant flowers in the bigger stumps in their yard. Have you tried that? The small ones are a tripping hazard. You can burn them out, did you know?

Shaunna: What? [turns head sideways, brows pinched together]

When you’re feeding your head and body, what do you feed it?

Shaunna: I have an antique library desk with drawers and usually I will stash whatever sugary treat that caught my fancy there. It varies, on the healthy side to nuts, sometimes chocolates and right now? Sour Patch Watermelon.

What is your writing process after your initial story idea?

Shaunna: For me, and I don't advise doing this. Pray for inspiration then sit down and let my fingers follow the racing, but calm thoughts. If I really listen, there aren't a lot of changes. With my current WIP it is different, this WIP has been written for a while, submitted more times than I care to count and yet, it won't let me sleep. Basically I'm merging the thoughts with what is already there on the page. Some of it is good and needs to be kept, some of it needs to be deleted.

So, you don’t advise authors to pray? [eyes open wide in disbelief]

Shaunna: I do advise authors to pray. I don’t advise ... well, never mind. Next question.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Shaunna: I'm a pantster. Sometime it gets me in trouble, like now with Talisman. I have to keep it fresh enough that I don't get bored knowing how it ends.

Do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream?

Shaunna: That's easy, Rocky Road, preferably Dreyers Grand Light (I used to work for Dreyers.)


Meep! [lip quivers] You worked for Dreyers? [takes a shaky breath. Turns to the side: I don’t know if I can continue. Then, nods] Do you have a favorite writer’s  ice cream—I mean memory? Writer’s memory?

Shaunna: The day I knew Dark Days of Promise would be published. I didn't know by whom or when, I just knew it would be.

Tell us a little about your newest book coming out. The title, blurb, genre, publisher etc.

Shaunna: Dark Days of Promise is an Inspirational Romantic Suspense published by Desert Breeze Publishing. Release date is September 21, 2012.

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.

While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father—a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as a loving father, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes—she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.

Whew! Well, it’s time for some ice cream. Don’t you think?

Shaunna: You won’t hear an argument from me.

I love Rocky Road. Let’s go get some together. [stands] Hey, book fans, to learn more about Shaunna and her book, go to:




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BIG IN JAPAN, by Jennifer Griffith

It’s been a week since I finished reading about Buck Cooper’s escapades in Japan as a sumo wrestler. I miss Buck. 

Buck Cooper is from Texas. His father is an inventor of pharmaceuticals, and the whole family ends up in Japan while he tries to promote the product that they’ve mortgaged their home and the family’s 600-acre ranch for.

Buck is a big guy in height and width, but suffers from the invisibility factor. It’s something that I think endears him to the reader, and makes him likeable.  

In Japan, Buck is accidentally thrust into the limelight as the comic relief during a sumo match. He isn’t awful at it, and the crowd adores him. It’s a new experience for Buck—having people accept him—and having people accept him because he’s big. And so, against his parents’ wishes, and when the opportunity arises, Buck accepts an offer by one of the sumo wrestling stables with big plans of living the celebrity life.

His parents are already on the plane to Texas when Buck discovers the true life of an amateur sumo wrestler. He gets worked to a frazzle, beaten, spit on, and lives the life of a veritable slave. In spite of all his trials, Buck is determined not to quit, and has high hopes that a certain beautiful Japanese girl will fall in love with him and consent to be his bride.

Then Buck gets beaten behind an alleyway. And, after an important win, someone attempts to poison him. He’s attacked by the Japanese mafia, and Buck’s best friend lands in the hospital with a slashed throat. But it’s the threats against his parents that threaten to crumble his resolve and his integrity.

Big in Japan is written in such a way that the reader is also able to experience Japan—from their streets, to the beautiful gardens, to their funny food-vending machines where a hungry tourist can get almost everything except a soda and a bag of chips. One of my favorite scenes was Buck’s first experience with the public bath.

This is 2012’s feel-good novel of the year. I give Big in Japan 5-stars.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


In honor of the starting of school, I am posting about exercise today.

Brain exercise.

This is a bit of a stretch, because, to me, exercise is just another mode of self torture. And, my philosophy is to be nice to yourself.

So, why exercise?

Here’s why:

Although we can live without sight, or hearing, or even without the use of our limbs—living with a mushy brain is not a good thing. At all.

If you didn’t already know it, scientists have confirmed that the brain is an amazing thing. [Some days I really wish I were a scientist so that I could make such phenomenal discoveries.] Nonetheless, if we exercise our brains, while our body is getting old and flabby from lack of physical exercise, our brains can stay alert. Through exercise. The great thing about brain exercising is that you don’t have to pay for gym membership, or spend a half hour away from normal activity to do it.

So here are a few tips on increasing your cognitive capacity:

Do things with your non-dominant hand. You can do this at home. So, if you’re right-handed, do some of your daily tasks with your left hand; personal grooming, such as brushing your hair, or teeth; chores around the house, like vacuuming, putting away dishes, and dusting [blech]. Eat one meal a day with your opposite hand. [wear a bib to protect your clothes at first]

Memorize something. You could do this in the car [or bus] on the way to and from work. If you don’t like poems, you can memorize a verse of scripture, a new phone number, people’s names. Do mind-stretching games, like Sudoku or cross-word puzzles. Put together a puzzle. Do math in your head. Re-memorize the multiplication tables.

You get to pick what interests you, but keep it challenging, and be sure to pick something from both areas [non-dominant hand, and memorizing]. Do a variety of things to keep your mind active and challenged. If you only memorize poems, the ‘poem memorizing’ part of your brain will get a lot better, but you want the ‘math knowledge’ part of your brain sharp as well.

If you have time, yoga actually helps stimulate your brain. So I hear.

Then, if you stick to your brain-exercising-plan, you get to reward yourself! Yay! Three scoops of ice cream!!! Oh, I mean three celery sticks and a tablespoon of peanut butter! Yeah.

Here’s to a healthy brain!