Monday, June 30, 2008

Welcome to the mystery world, Amanda Bell Brown!

Oh man, you gotta get these books by Claudia Mair Burney. Love Janet Evonavich? You'll LOVE Burney!

Death, Deceit and Some Smooth Jazz by Claudia Mair Burney
Reviewed by Darcie Gudger

Complicated is an understatement when used to describe the life of psychologist Dr. Amanda Bell Brown. One month, two days, and three hours ago she broke up with the deliciously hot Lieutenant Jazz Brown. Decked out in a modest pair of midnight-blue Victoria Secret PJ’s (they don’t show anything – honest!), Amanda settled in for a cozy night of bonding with her new pet; a sugar glider. Buying Amos was meant to be a fix for her “baby lust.” Her mommy / sugar glider moment was interrupted when Jazz unexpectedly showed up at her door.

Amanda’s mind exploded with confusing thoughts as the interaction between her and Jazz pushed PG-13 boundaries. What’s the deal? He left her because he believed it wrong to marry her while his ex-wife was still alive. Before the passion reached “bodice ripping” proportions, the phone rang.

Having the medical examiner as your sister can sure kill romance. Jazz’s ex-wife was found dead in Jazz’s apartment on his bed. Carly, worried her sister was hot & heavy with a murderer, demanded Amanda’s presence at the scene of the crime.

Everyone at the Detroit PD along with Carly, believed Jazz was guilty. Jazz swore his innocence to Amanda. Who was telling the truth? Clues from the scene didn’t match up with the Jazz Amanda knew and loved – but how well did she really know her man?

Death, Deceit and Some Smooth Jazz was nearly impossible to put down. Only the cries of my baby, and the sharp teeth of hungry cats forced me to drop the book. Many crime/suspense novels are stronger in plot and weaker in character development. Claudia Mair Burney shatters this mold by creating some of the most memorable and likeable characters in this genre while driving the plot like a seasoned race car driver. As the book progressed, the plot grew more and more intense. Let me not forget to mention the comedy. I laughed so loud I gave myself hiccups.

The good stuff doesn’t stop there. Burney boldly presents the oft ignored issue of sexual purity in the lives of believers. Part of the romantic tension in this story is created by Amanda and Jazz’s struggle to remain in the vertical plane. Amanda, since giving her life to Jesus, pledged purity. Being 35, single, with no children her desire for sex overpowered reason. Both Amanda and Jazz had clouded sexual pasts, but Christ can redeem any and all sin. They were both new creatures fighting old natures. Burney paints the struggle so real, and so raw, some readers may be alarmed. Any reader who’s been there, done that, will be able to relate to Jazz and Amanda, finding encouragement that God never allows you to be tempted beyond what you can bear.

Another detail I loved about Ms. Brown is that she is not a teeny-tiny size zero woman with perfect skin and sexy hair. Being a curvy girl myself, I’m often turned off by heroines who are carbon copies of Maxim Models. Amanda struggles with the way she looks and questions why Jazz would ever find her attractive when his ex-wife was Playboy Bunny material. I’d say over 90% of American women can relate to her in that way as well. I sure do!

Death, Deceit and Some Smooth Jazz is like reading New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich without gratuitous sex scenes. Burney’s characters have the spiritual depth and “realness” of the characters found in Brandilyn Collin’s suspense novels and the hilarious plot twists and personalities found in Evanovich’s Stephanie Plumb series.

Folks, this book has it all! I believe I found me another author to add to my GREAT list. I can’t get enough of Burney’s unique voice and perspective.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"They" say it's irrelevant. Well it's not!

Sun and shadows danced around me moments ago while I worked though my Beth Moore Bible study, Breaking Free.

I'm in the final few chapters that focus on God's love. A reality I misunderstood for way too long. A reality, I chose to deny when circumstances vacuumed.

Followers of Christ are not the most beloved, popular people on the planet. And it's not only Christ deniers who beat up and persecute . . .

Beth instructed me to read Psalm 13 asking if David was timid, fearful or bold when he prayed the following:

Long enough, GOD --
you've ignored me long enough.
I've looked at the back of your head
long enough. Long enough
I've carried this ton of trouble,
lived witha stomach full of pain.
Long enough my enemies
have looked down their noses at me.

Take a good look at me, GOD, my God;
I want to look life in the eye,
So no enemy can get the best of me
or laugh at me when I fall on my face.

I've thrown myself headlong into your arms --
I'm celebrating your rescue.
I'm singing at the top of my lungs,
I'm so full of answered prayers.
Psalm 13 (
The Message)

That first block of sentences . . . I could have written them. I've prayed, cried, screamed, moaned, wimpered those very words more times than I care to admit. But I stopped there. I didn't go beyond those very real, very horrid emotions like King David did.

I love David because he doesn't pretend he has it all together. In fact, many scholars believe he may have suffered from bi-polar disorder (manic-depressive). Knowing depression as intimately as I do, that doesn't surprise me.

David doesn't get sucked down for too long. He laments, whines, cries, pleads, screams in the initial parts of his Psalms, but then a God-reality sets in and he welcomes God's perspective. He adopts God's perspective which is the TRUTH about his circumstance.

God's most beloved, the man after God's own heart feels God's ignored him for a long, long time allowing unwarranted suffering and distress in his life. Oooh.

He shifts from despair to telling the Creator of the Universe exactly what he wants. Exactly what I want.

People ask me all the time how they can pray for me, or what I want. Clarity escaped me for years as I undulated in and out of varying degrees of depression. Now I know! I yearn to look life in the eye so no enemy or opponent can get the best of me and laugh at me when I fall flat on my face - which I promise will happen.

Most of my life I've allowed hard circumstances, mean people, and faulty perceptions to define who I am. I bought into Satan's lies about my identity. Gee, this hurts to admit.

I'm a cradle-Christian. Born and raised in a fundamental, evangelical, Bible-believing church. I understood complex doctrine and theology before I hit middle school. Nobody could beat me in a Bible drill. During my short stint in Christian school (K - 4th grade), I was the un-defeated K-12 champion! Finished my AWANA books early to earn scads of points (and candy) for my team.

Head is one thing, heart is another. Yeah, I knew the stuff. Of course Jesus reigned my heart - to a degree - or as far as I'd let Him . . .

Knowing it, and living it are radical opposites.

Life in a fallen world is designed to test our belief system. Unexplainable trials and tragedies exist to aid in through self-discovery - or God discovery. Until a person is tested, no one, including that person, know who she is.

Take the hero's journey (the basic character progression found in great literature from the Bible to modern movies). All classic stories/movies etc remain in people's minds b/c of the element of trial and testing. Characters discover who they are and what they are made of in the face of disaster.

God, THE Storyteller, uses the same character arc in our lives. He lets us be tested so we can be proven.

Beth Moore says God can't be objective or unbiased towards us. We are his children. His love for us is incomprehensible. But, WE must choose to believe He loves us regardless of what life is doing to us.

My near-fatal error is waiting around for evidence of God's love. Make me FEEL your love, Lord, then I'll believe you love me. I've wasted thirty-one years waiting.

Embracing the lie that God must be disappointed in me b/c of all the crap and mess in my life nearly destroyed me a few months back. Christ-Followers base their existence on the unseen - faith.

King David, murderer, adulterer, liar, cheater, theif, hurls himself (I love this phrase) "headlong into God's arms".

He sings at the top of his lungs (a few verses ago his soul bled from perceived abandonment). He is FULL OF ANSWERED PRAYERS.

Okay, the dude, once engaged in prayer, turns a big corner. Check it out - he goes from "you've ignored me long enough" to "I'm so full of answered prayers." Six verses. That's it! Wow.

David is so confident God will respond and answer his plea, he dances around his living room like a madman, singing at the top of his lungs, scaring the royal pets into hiding.

This happened, what? Four thousand years ago? And people today claim the Bible is irrelevant.

Well, it's not. I'm living proof of that. I challenge any of you skeptics to pull a David, pour your guts out on the table in front of the REAL God, and see where He takes you.

Go ahead.

Try it.

I triple-dog-dare-ya.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sucks to be in Parker, but it's BEAUTIFUL here!

I've never seen anything like this before.

Posting for the benefit of my WFTJ (Words for the Journey Christian Writer's Guild) buddies. I was praying you guys didn't get sucked up in a twister.

Wish I could claim bragging rights, but John The Amazing Hubby Type Dude shot these in mystead. I was double crutching it and couldn't run into the house for the camera . . .

But it was MY idea to shoot these clouds in the first place.

I sent them to 9 News with hopes they may choose to run the pictures at 10PM. I'm going by Darciejoy on the 9 News weather photo site.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It's that draggy, cement-laden phase following a short burst of inspiration and hope.

Slumps are more like reverse humps.

Crawling out of one is like trying to climb a glass-smooth wall coated in olive oil.

Like sinkholes, slumps can expand.

Scientists have yet to discover a vaccine.


For a few weeks I flew through my days on a high from the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference. My shoulders ached from hours slouched over my laptop. Questions about fiction proposals bubbled out of me like shaken soda on a hot day in high altitude. And I actually thought my story was good.

Now, the doubts creep in. I'm paralyzed by the proposal. My brain hurts as I read through my ms again, doing more edits and applying some Donald Maas theory (Breakout Novel dude). Will I ever capture the imagination of an agent or acquisition editor? Is my voice "fresh"?

Then there's the whole platform/marketing thing - the source of my slump.

Our economy sucks. Disposable incomes are in the negative for most normal people who buy books. Publishers are cutting titles and print schedules. "Tried and true" is the anthem sung by agents/editors seeking new material.

Am I famous? Do I have a following? Can I convince 15K plus people to buy my book in less than six weeks? Is my marketing plan ultra-slick and compelling? Oh, and that image . . . growing emphasis is placed on The Author Headshot. Am I attractive enough to sell books? Will Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear give a "Shut up!" approval to my wardrobe?
Have I had my manuscript edited and polished by freelance editors prior to submittal?

Uhhhhh . . .

So. I want to write because?

I think I have a better chance of being accepted by NASA's astronaut training program than catching the eye of Book Contract.

Great stories and great writing appear to be sliding down the scale of selling points. I've recently read a NYT best-selling novel. Friends and family raved about this book.

I'm glad I borrowed it instead of buying it.

Turning the pages was laborious. I couldn't keep characters straight - there were so many. I had to back track to figure out whose head I was in. Head hopping galore!

I so did not care about any of the characters.

Off to another acclaimed writer who hit the big time. Ugh. Better than aforementioned book, but still.

Celebrity sells over talent. Too many fabulous authors' careers are on the line because they are "unknown". Nobody knows who they are. Nobody is willing to support their marketing campaigns. Nobody will sign them on b/c their bottom lines were small.

Slump. Feels more like a pit.

Anybody got a rope?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Percocet, Shmerkocet - OWWWWW!

I'm over it.


Can I get off my butt now?

Following up where I left off with the eat thing - when I got out of the car to go into the hospital, there was a small boy with a milkshake walking alongside his daddy. I almost ate him.

Next to the check-in area sits a cafe. Fresh muffins, lattes, scones, turkey sandwiches . . .

The check-in-dude waved me over, and as I approached him, his eyes grew wider than those satellite dishes people had in their backyards in the '80s. He saw the hunger in my eyes. He thought he was gonna be my lunch!

"You people are so cruel! Making pre-op patients who haven't eaten in nearly a day walk through a freakin' cafe with muffins! This is patient abuse!" I jabbed by Kaiser card and credit card at him.

"Uh, I guess they didn't think that through when they designed the building." Check-in-dude ducked. He really thought I was gonna bite him. Well, I would've if I could've.

Somewhere in that hunger craze, the surgeon came in, told me it looked like he'd only be cleaning up some rough torn edges in my knee (per MRI). I'd be back to normal in two weeks or so.

In recovery, the post-op nurse tells me the surgery went well. What needed to be fixed was fixed.

Long silent pause.

She had pictures.

Of the my knee's inner parts.

A city bus driver could take a gander at those photos and think, "Oh. My. Word! How did a cheese grater get in her knee?"

My poor knee was in shreds. John said the tissue looked like lace curtains used by a mountain lion as a scratching surface.

Sure, they cleaned out some rough edges, but then they had to stretch things out and sew others back together.

Good-bye two weeks and back on the happy hiking trails.

John broke the news to me that the earliest I could hike was NOVEMBER!

Hiking, biking, camping, mountain climbing - I live for that stuff in the summer. Now I'm on my butt or some metal crutches.

"Kiss Rickett's Glenn good-bye." John said to me referring to our trip to PA to visit my parents in July. I can't hike my beloved trail with 32 waterfalls. Can't even go near it. May have to travel with crutches.

Do you know TSA treats you like a terrorist if you have a metal brace or crutches? I was searched in a very embarrassing way a few years ago at the MN airport when I had my hinge brace on my elbow. Had to unbutton my jeans and roll down the waist-band in front of the line of passengers behind me!

So, I have to be funny. I need to come up with 101 ways to have fun on your butt. Humor me here. Any ideas?

Know of pain management that works better than Percocet that's legal? Drugs, ice, elevation . . . none of it's working right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!

Oh somebody help me! I'm seeing Blob burgers instead of a very fat cat. Had to do the drop-food-on-the-table-and-get-away, far, far away thing when I fed Kyle.

This is why I don't fast.

I can't handle the growlies, the cravings!

Keyboards aren't edible. As long as I'm writing and reading something I can't eat. I'm so desperate for diversion I popped off an entry to a writing contest!

Agent Rachelle Gardner has a picture prompt and is asking for 100 word "stories". Mine is way bizarre. Would you expect anything less from moi?

Ramble alert:
Last night at ACFW, HIS Writers, I found out I need to have a huge list of captured e-mails in order for an agent to notice me. We're talking 10 - 15K! Ummmmmm. . . .


The why is to prove I have an established reader base.

I hate it when my e-mail addy is captured. Don't really want to go that route, but what if my blog gets lots of subscribers and lots of hits? Help me out here, show some litter!

Spread the love!

I make you laugh.

I'm funny.

Funnier than that VW comercial for their new crossover vehicle featuring a talking slug-bug.

Oh, I need to get out of this house where inanimate edible objects are calling my name.

Three hours. Three more hours until I'm put out of my vacuous misery. Then I'll be too sick to eat.

Not. Fair.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I "knee'd" a break?

And I'm getting one.

Tomorrow an orthopedic surgeon will drill three holes in my left knee and shave out all the smashed, torn up goo. I hope they make a DVD of it. I've heard of doctors recording artrhoscopic surgeries and giving the patient a copy as a souvenier. Litterbox can sport a YouTube short: "Inside Darcie's Knee".

Am I scared? Not yet. Ask me again when I'm laying on a hard table, watching blurry blobs swim around my head and a voice says, "This will only be a little prick . . . "

Surgery is scheduled for 12:30 PM tomorrow. I can't eat anything solid after midnight. I can't skip breakfast! I've never been able to successfully skip that morning meal - my stomach gets ugly when its empty. I'd rather have to be at the hospital at 5 AM and get it done by 7 to avoid the whole hunger thing.

I mean, come on. How the heck do "they" expect me to feed the Booger and not stuff my own face? The OR nurse told me today that one swallow of water can cancel the whole thing. Grrr.

On Saturday, John, the Booger and I drove up to Dillon on the other side of the tunnel. We biked from Lake Dillon to Breckenridge. 30 miles round trip. 4 hours of bike-seat-butt. It was awesome!

We fought head winds gusting to over 50 mph. That's hard enough alone on a bike, but pulling a child trailer? Uphill? Our average speed up to Breck, was 4 mph. And that was when we dipped behind some trees or a hill that sort of blocked the wind.

Scenery was amazing! I've lived here for 13.5 years and am still awed by the massive Rocky Mountains. Thanks to the wind, we had a rare day when the fresh fallen snow-capped mountains popped out against a cobalt sky. The contrast was so sharp, I had to squint to stare.
John shot some great pix that I'll post soon.

I needed that. Burning out my legs gave me pre-surgery satisfaction. I don't know what recovery will be like. I've injured my knee twice since surgery was scheduled. Who knows what the doctor will find in there? So, I don't know how long I'll be off the bike, off the trails, and stuck here in Denver.

At least I have my beautiful backyard!

Win Some Spice!

Enter to win Megan's book Searching for Spice here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Spice it up, people!

You're missing out if you haven't read Searching for Spice by Megan DiMaria! The cover may look chick-lit, but it's so NOT.

Below is my review of the book, first published on Title Trakk.

Searching for Spice
by Megan DiMaria

“He’s standing in the middle of the kitchen, the questionable carton of half-and-half in one hand and a mug of steaming coffee in the other. His plaid robe hangs partway open, the belt loosely tied over wrinkled pajamas. A look of perplexity transforms his intelligent features into a caricature of a hapless sad sack.”

Sound like someone you’d want to lure into a steamy affair?

Linda Revere, assistant to an upscale photographer in Metro Denver, does. In fact, she initiates extreme efforts to seduce this clueless man, her husband. But wouldn’t you know it; when Linda launches her LAME (Linda’s Adventurous Marriage Experiment) plan rumors of an illicit affair burn through Dream Photography involving her boss and a co-worker and worse yet, Linda is subjected to the whims Carol the Wrecking Ball – a wealthy client her employer wants to keep happy. If that isn’t enough…

As her life spins out of control, Linda lowers her romantic expectations. She and Jerry are about to reach the twenty-five year benchmark in their marriage.
Jerry surprises Linda with an anniversary trip to Aspen. Unfortunately, Linda’s resigned her LAME plan to being lame. In fact, lying next to him night after night evolved to an exercise in tolerance.

Will Linda’s heart open to the wooing by her Savior as trials escalate? Can her marriage survive a cataclysmic discovery further down the road? Megan DiMaria crafts a novel so compelling, so real, you forget you’re reading fiction. Readers of all ages and stages of life will relate to the diverse cast of characters.

In past reviews, I’ve touted Barbra Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible as the paradigm for three-dimensional characterization on a two-dimensional page. DiMaria soars to paradigm quality.

Life is hard. Just when we think we’re through the fire, another log, a squirt of kerosene, or even a bomb is thrown in before the embers cool. Searching for Spice doesn’t shy away from this reality, however, the book is anything but a downer. DiMaria uses humor to buoy readers through the tough stuff Linda, Jerry, Emma and Nicky must face as a family.
Another strong thematic thread is the friendships Linda has with both Christians and non-Christians. These friendships are a lifeline.

Too many contemporary novels give men a bad reputation. Searching for Spice breaks that mold, restoring lost integrity to the male sex. Marriage is valued as something worth fighting for, not a disposable activity.

Megan DiMaria transcends the boundaries of genre, using fiction as a powerful tool to teach all of us how much Jesus loves us and comforts us in our deepest pain. Spice is a MUST READ for both men and women.

You can buy Searching for Spice at Borders, Amazon, and other book retailers.

I urge you to support authors of great fiction and buy their books for yourself, friends and family.

In the coming posts, I will be posting reviews of some fiction you don't want to miss out on!