A Thief in the Life Collection
Acrylic on canvas, 36 X 36

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents. ~ Andrew Carnegie

What would Andrew Carnegie know about mediocrity? He amassed a fortune equivalent to $309 billion today and is still considered the wealthiest American ever to live even though he died nearly a hundred years ago. Well, he must have been born into wealth. Nope. He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in a weaver’s cottage with one main room that served as living, dining, and bedroom. So how did a man born with so little amass so much? Well, it wasn’t by choosing mediocrity.

However, Mr. Carnegie’s thoughts and beliefs on wealth and work weren’t what you’d expect. In a time when wealth was passed down to heirs, Carnegie wrote an article in June of 1889. In it, he proposes the wealthy should redistribute their surplus in a thoughtful and responsible way in an effort to reduce the division between the rich and poor. He didn’t just suggest this life strategy. During the last eighteen years of his life, Carnegie gave away roughly 90% of his fortune to philanthropic causes.

So basically, Mr. Andrew Carnegie spent his life choosing motivation over mediocrity. That daily, perhaps hourly, choice led Carnegie to purpose, wealth, and the means to change the lives of others.

Mediocrity depicts the effect of choosing less in your life. You’re a settler. You tell yourself, “It’s good enough.” You do the bare minimum. You live just to get by. And when you feel the nagging or pulling of your once bright potential, you fill your thoughts with pointless diversions. You choose not to think about it.

Mediocrity gets the best of people. Literally. It waters down amazing talent. It reduces brilliant creativity to a glimmer. It turns great imagination into simple cleverness. Like a painfully slow quick sand, it grabs you by the ankle and takes its sweet time pulling you under. It moves into a small, insignificant corner of your life and feeds on insecurity, nurturing itself with indecision and laziness. Once fully intertwined in your life, it creates doubts and fears, steals creativity and imagination, and after many years, turns your powerful potential into what could have been.

I feel like Adele…

Hello, it’s me (Karen Jones).
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet (not really; flights are expensive).
To go over everything (there’s been a lot since I last posted anything here).
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya (that is an actual saying).
But I ain’t done much healing (true).
Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be (who I used to be, anyway).

So, I really did move to California a little more than a year ago. After our daughter, Allyson, graduated from high school in June 2015, we packed up our belongings and traversed the countryside to LA. Her dream is Oscars and saving the world from polluted oceans. Mine is to be able to afford the rent.

I had a job already lined up which was a great relief. It’s a good job and the company makes cool stuff used in movies and theme parks, etc. The people are great and fun to work with. I had to fix the coffee situation, but once that was settled, it was great. 

Rob still works from home with his clients from Indiana and Kentucky. They all made the transition really painless. That’s working out better than I could have hoped. 

Allyson’s career is blossoming. She’s landed an agent, worked a lot of background, and filmed some short films. In June she went on location near Lake Arrowhead to shoot a feature-length independent film. Her character is totally her. The movie is Summerland and set for release in 2017.

Photo cred: Kim Iosue

Photo Cred: Disney Channel

The weather in CA truly is all it’s said to be. Sunny most days and usually 70 degrees or above. It’s a desert so the sun can be intense but the dry heat really is comfortable if you aren’t exerting yourself too much. Move into the shade and the temp drops 10 degrees. I take advantage of this great weather by walking to and from work. It’s 1.3 miles and I use the time to talk to my sister or listen to music. I walk unless it gets to 88. Then I drive.

Parking is a big deterrent to driving though. The street I work on is packed up both sides by 10am. My company only has a small lot and there are more senior employees than myself. 

There’s been some less pleasant things this past year. One of my sisters contacted me because there was a shooting. Turned out it was 3 hours away but my family in Indiana haven’t learned the geography yet. 

We had a wild fire a couple months ago. And there’s still one burning (for nearly 2 months now) near Big Sur. This is a pic near our home during the local fire:

But take a look at these mountains:

I look at mountains when I walk to work and when I walk home. Yes, we live in a valley. Yes, it’s THE valley. I’m like a valley girl now, k.

And the food. And farmers markets. And the dining out options and variety. It’s a cook’s dream and an eater’s kryptonite. 

I’ve worked on more art in one year here than in several years prior. Maybe it’s the sunshine. Currently I’m working on a collection called A Thief in the Life. It’s artistic commentary on the things in our lives that steal our joy, our productivity, our peace, and our dreams. Things like Mediocrity, Distraction, Others.

There’s a plethora of activities in LA. Allyson has started archery and the Debbie Reynolds Dance Academy. We’ve been to the Hollywood Bowl for several events, most recently the Black Sabbath concert. Ozzy is adorbs. 

And we have Disneyland and Universal.

Breaking Down Breaking Bad

I think television shows have grown increasingly intelligent over the years. Not all, mind you. But when I watch some shows, they make me think. And not just about the characters or the situations those characters get into. I think about other things… like the opening sequence for Breaking Bad.

Why? Well, because there are two elements highlighted within the title. Any two elements? I wonder. Or were they chosen for a reason?

The first element is Br, or Bromine.

Br: Bromine is the only liquid nonmetallic element. It is a member of the halogen group. It is a heavy, volatile, mobile, dangerous reddish-brown liquid. The red vapour has a strong unpleasant odour and the vapour irritates the eyes and throat. It’s bleaching and when spilled on the skin it produces painful sores. It is a serious health hazard, and maximum safety precautions should be taken when handling it.

Now this is very interesting. Notice that cooking meth and bromine are both volatile. Notice, also, that Walt’s lab is mobile and bromine is described as mobile. Bromine produces a strong odor and the vapor irritates the eyes and throat. Hmmmm, sounds similar to the production of meth if the show is doing its homework and presenting the process as factually as possible.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But what about Ba? That stands for Barium. There weren’t a lot of choices in a three-letter word, but they could have used B: Boron. I like it because it rhymes with moron. But I digress. There isn’t an element for A or Ad, so Ba was the best choice. And it fits well.

Ba: Barium is a metallic element, soft, and when pure is silvery white like lead. The metal oxidises very easily and it reacts with water or alcohol. Barium is one of the alkaline-earth metals. Small amounts of barium compounds are used in paints and glasses.

I especially like the part about reacting with alcohol. But Barium was probably chosen because of its use in glass. If you recall, meth is often referred to as glass.

So did the creators put this much thought into it? Or am I just expressing too much feminerdity?


HarambeeProfits of 50% of the sale of this children’s book go to the Machao Orphanage.

“MACHAO” is an acronym for Makueni Christian Home for Assisting Orphans. MACHAO is a faith-based organization formed by seven Christians of the Africa Inland Church (AIC) within Wote Division in Makueni District. MACHAO aims at covering all the seventeen divisions of the Makueni District, with a population of about 900,000 people. It is estimated that over 5% of this population die and leave many children orphaned.

From Author Karen Jones: I met Carolyn while my family was relocating to Los Angeles, California. She and her family embraced me and mine as if we’d known each other our whole lives. I learned of Carolyn’s involvement with the Machao Orphanage and was deeply moved. My hope is that this book will change lives – mine, perhaps; Carolyn’s, certainly; but most of all the children in need of food, clothing, care and education.

Harambee is the Kenyan tradition of community self-help events, often used to describe fundraising or developmental projects and has become the official motto of Kenya appearing on its coat of arms. Literally, it means “all pull together” in Swahili. I think it is the perfect title for a book meant to encourage those who’ve been blessed to “pull together” to help those less fortunate.

In Harambee, you and your child will follow Zoe as she and her mother, Carolyn, travel to the continent of Africa on what her mother calls an “educational vacation.” Zoe isn’t particularly interested in learning anything new over summer break, but what she learns in Wote, Kenya will change her life forever. And, just maybe, the lives of others.

Gaddelpo the Christmas Elf

Gaddelpo Full cover thumbnailGaddelpo has graduated Elf College and now must find a special way to keep Christmas spirit alive in the heart of his assigned child, Allyson, who isn’t sure if Santa really exists.

Whimsical artwork and easy language make this picture book fun and enjoyable for all ages.

Based on a true story

Kindle Edition Exclusive


I ran across this blog the other day. And I realized it was mine. “Wow,” I say to myself, “I remember this blog.” When did I quit putting anything on it that wasn’t related to books? When did I become so one-dimensional? People are going to think the only thing I care about are books – mine, yours, the library’s, Rob Kroese’s. I decided I needed to write a post post-haste.

“Hmmmm,” I thought, “what else is really important to me that I’d want to share with the multi-verse?” Family. And when I say “family” I’m also including those people who become family to us through shared pain and suffering or mutual joy and hilarity.

First, we have to discover what a family is. I just told you I consider family to be my biological family and my adopted-through-hurt-or-humor comrades. But for the real definition, we must explore what the authority on all things, Merriam-Webster, has to say.

The first definition for family reads: “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.” Well, we live in one-half of a duplex and share a roof with our neighbors but I don’t consider them family. And what does “one head” mean? Like the big giant head from 3rd Rock from the Sun? I can hear William Shatner at holiday functions, “We……… are……… fam…….. i…….. ly.” Moving on.

The next definition reads: “a group of persons of common ancestry: clan; a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from common stock: race.” I have lots of people with common ancestry. But are we a clan? A clan is a group of close-knit and interrelated families. Unfortunately families (not just mine) sometimes don’t act very close-knit. And does “common stock” mean all Scotch-Irish-American-Indian-Who-Knows-What-Else people are part of my family? That would be cool. I’ve always loved Reba McEntire. Maybe we can hang out? I’ll explain to her security guards that we’re family according to Merriam.

Then we have “a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation: fellowship; the staff of a high official (as the President).” The “common convictions” part is why believers refer to other believers as their church family. That’s gonna be a ton of Christmas cards. I’m just saying. But does that mean all the vegetarians are my family? Or everyone who watches reruns of Psyche over an over again? And does anyone else think they should rephrase the President part so that it doesn’t indicate our Commander in Chief is basted?

Moving on… “a group of things related by common characteristics: as a closely related series of elements or chemical compounds; a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties (blah, blah, blah).” This is too science-y to discuss. I need Frau Farbissina to yell, “Next!”

And next includes, “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children; also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family; a spouse and children.” I get the first part. But as the second part indicates, basically any group of people functioning as a family can be considered a family.

I love this one: “a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order… ZZZZ (sorry, dosed off)… and usually comprising several to many genera; (some stuff about) descendants or line and (other stuff about) identifiable strain within a breed…” Boring. But I think it basically means my sister, Dorothy, can truly claim her dogs are her family. That’ll be a nice tax break.

But wait, there’s more. “A set of curves or surfaces whose equations differ only in parameters.” I think this is Geometry. Look away, Allyson, look away.

And finally, last but not least (I love cliches): “a unit of a crime syndicate (as the Mafia) operating within a geographical area.” I’ve never been a member of a crime syndicate (unless you count reading James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club books) but I’d be willing to give it a try if I didn’t have to kill anyone. Based solely on television dramatizations, I believe these people are the epitome of family, very close-knit. A quick Google search, however, indicates that being the big giant head of a crime syndicate makes you a “Don” or a “crime boss” but if you become the big giant head of a drug cartel, you are considered a “lord.” That doesn’t seem fair.

But my favorite definition of family wasn’t in Merriam’s database. It’s from Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.”

So what have we learned? That family is whatever you make of it. Being biologically related does not make you family. Effort does. Blood doesn’t bind. Time does. Time spent on shared pain and mutual hilarity.

From My Window

Synopsis for From My Window.

When a boy moves in next door, Ellie can’t help but notice. But it’s when he notices her that Ellie’s emotions run away with her. She hasn’t been noticed in forever. Because she died over a hundred years ago.

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Review: A Small Fortune

A Small Fortune
A Small Fortune by Audrey Braun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilion Williams leaves her daughter, Celia, a family legacy. But at the time of Gilion’s death, Celia doesn’t pay much attention to the paperwork and the legacy goes unnoticed for years. But someone notices. And they will do anything to get their hands on it. An impromptu vacation to Mexico proves to be just the first step in an unexpected and dangerous scheme. Celia’s only hope is to figure out her tormentor’s plan and discover who she can truly trust. But she has to keep her son, Oliver, safe. Will the man she had an affair with take him in? And can she truly trust Benicio, the dark and handsome stranger trapped in the whole mess with her?

A Small Fortune takes the reader on a whirlwind trip through Mexico and Switzerland as Celia frantically works to discover the plot against her and keep her son safe. Benicio claims he merely wants to help her, but she’s developed trust issues along the way. Discovering the people closest to you may want to harm you and take your family legacy can do that to a girl.

Cleverly-written and fast-paced, A Small Fortune, was delightful and believable. I found myself wondering if it was a memoir instead of fiction. Prepare to question everyone’s true motives.

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My Prior Life

Synopsis for my first novel.

After Tom Brown loses his business to an economic downturn and his home to foreclosure, he convinces his wife, Kate, and daughter, Stacie, to move to Los Angeles for a new beginning. When money runs out and Tom still hasn’t found work, he makes a decision that will change his life forever. As Tom’s life grows more surreal, he questions his physical existence and his sanity. Tom thinks he’s lost everything, including reality.

My Prior Life on Pinterest

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Review: The Second Virgin Birth

The Second Virgin Birth
The Second Virgin Birth by Tommy Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Second Virgin Birth was unique. The premise of a virgin giving birth to another Jesus Christ through the magic of science is controversial and intriguing. A variety of characters, including a Pope determined to make sure Christ is never born again, make for a complex story. There are many obstacles, some not fully realized (i.e. too little time spent on them), and a host of personal agendas that take place as events unfold. Some of the problems and near-crises could have been further expanded because the idea of them was that interesting. There are many loose ends left to the reader’s imagination and the book’s finale is open-ended, perhaps for a sequel. Overall, the story is well-paced, believable, and invites contemplation on several modern day topics. Could DNA of Christ be found? Could another Christ child be born? What would happen to the world’s religions in this case? Very, very intriguing.

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2011: A Life Review (Since it’s not a book)

A lot of people consider making New Year’s resolutions. I’m not one of them. It’s a nice idea, but I really think I’d just be setting myself up for failure and ultimately guilt. So the only resolution I have ever kept is the one to quit making them just because I had to remember to use a new date when I wrote checks.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t seek change, especially for the better. So in reflection of the past year, I’d like to share a few things I actually accomplished. Mind you, some of them were not accomplished alone. But having good people in your life can be an accomplishment in and of itself. The good people in my life take part in the joy of my 2011 accomplishments.

I’m not numbering them because that would indicate I need to accomplish more next year, when really the only goal is to keep moving forward in a positive way.

A. I wrote, illustrated, and published four (count them – 4) children’s books. If you haven’t read them, please take the time now. This post is way less interesting than the books.

Camel Lot was a short story that grew too long for a writing contest. Rob suggested I finish it in lieu of finding a job (I didn’t really want a job but had no easy out until he said this) and we’d publish it. New services, like the one I use KDP, are sprouting up all the time to help authors get their ebooks to vendors. So I finished the story and did some illustrations and (WOW) got it out there to the ether for people to buy and read. And they have. Not millions, but thousands, and maybe one day, millions.

Bermuda’s Triangle, Area 50 Juan, and Santa Monica came quickly enough. Each new story allowed me to explore other styles of artwork. Area 50 Juan seemed to need something more dark and sketchy. Santa Monica is a modified anime/kodomo style which I thought would be cute. And with each successive title, we learned a little bit more (a drop in the bucket to the ebook industry knowledge that exists) about getting the books completed, adding the illustrations, what people like (and don’t like), formatting, writing software, pricing, and getting books out to the public. It’s enough to make my head spin. Or it would be if I didn’t leave most of the technical stuff to Rob.

So one of my favorite accomplishments of 2011 is becoming a published author. I didn’t get a book deal, but I have books out there in cyberspace and that’s a heck of a big deal to me.

B. I beat addiction*. You were a druggie?! Well, aren’t we all really. In one way or another. Come on, didn’t you pay attention in high school chemistry class when they discussed caffeine? Yes, I realize some of us out there really do treat our bodies like temples, but the fact is, most of us treat them more like trash bags. Dump in whatever garbage we find and tie a bow in the top.

So what did I beat? Well, drugs. Prescription that is. And caffeine, but more on that later. I began taking prescription pain medication when I broke my ankle (5 places – 5X the pain). It seemed absolutely appropriate that I be on pain medication and even when I’d been taking it over a year, it didn’t raise any suspicions in my pain-medication-soaked brain. Curious, I know. Again, it took one of those people in my life to make me even think, “Hey, there might be a problem here.” I was lucky. The process wasn’t horrendous like some cases you read about online. And I’m so glad I (or Rob) realized I needed to clean the pain meds out of my system. I feel so much better and many of the “problems” I was medicating for disappeared when I got clean.

C. I beat caffeine*. Yes, caffeine is a drug, albeit legal. But it gets it’s own category under accomplishments because if you’re a casual user of caffeine there really is no reason to quit using it. So not using caffeine is more of a personal choice rather than a healthy necessity. Remember, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and it could be a healthy necessity to them. But, in general, caffeine is nearly harmless in moderate doses even over prolonged use. I however, was not a moderate user. I was a pot of coffee, 4 large Red Bulls, iced tea into the evening kind of user. Seriously, I don’t see how my jitters didn’t set off seismic waves.

So, how’d I do it? Cold tofurky. That’s the vegetarian version of stopping abruptly. Make a note here: DO NOT do it this way. I highly recommend you take the weaning approach to rid yourself of caffeine. Because, YOWZA, that was one really miserable withdrawal. Yep, I could have given in and had a smooth Green Tea Frappe to sooth my butchered temples. But, no, I decided to stick it out. Ultimately I recovered and all is well, but it was a pain I won’t soon forget.

D. I gave up HRT*. For those out there who are young and nubile, never giving menopause a moment’s thought, or of the male gender, therefore never giving menopause a moment’s thought, HRT stands for Hormone Replacement Therapy. There’s a lot of information (good and bad) out there about HRT. You just have to judge for yourself and decide if it’s right for you. I’d taken it for years because of surgically-induced menopause, but now that I’m really at the age of biological menopause, I’ve decided to quit treating my body as if I’m of child-bearing age. Menopause is a natural part of life for a female. So, I’m moving forward in a more natural state, sans HRT.

E. I finally tried juice fasting*. I’ve always wanted to try juice fasting. I’ve read about it numerous times over the years. I agree it’s an extreme nutritional approach, but with all the chemical changes I’ve put my body through, I felt the overabundance of nutrients common to juice fasting would do me a world of good.

The basics of the juice fast are simple. Buy a good juicer, buy the best produce available (preferably organic), and juice as often as you like (or can stand breaking down and cleaning your juicer), while consuming no foods you actually get to chew. Also no sugar, or other sweeteners in your caffeine-free tea. There are all kinds of modified juice fasts out there and a quick Google search will bring up more than anybody wants to know on the subject. But, I was super psyched to give it a whirl.

Now, I didn’t buy a really good juicer. I bought a centrifugal instead. Because of price. It was a fine juicer, if you’re concerned about quantity and speed and price. It made a lot of juice (not so much with green leafys) and it did it quickly. It wasn’t too horrible in the clean up department. And it was cheap. But… centrifugal juicers chop up your produce into fine bits and spin it faster than a black hole in space, thus damaging (with frictional heat) some of the vital enzymes you’re probably juicing to get. And you have to drink your juice immediately (within 15 minutes) because spinning adds damaging oxygen to your juice making the enzymes die off pretty quickly. So you can’t make a great big batch of juice to last you all day and only clean the juicer once. Ultimately you put a lot of fruits and veggies through your centrifugal juicer and get very little nutrition in return. You get plenty of juice, but that wasn’t my entire purpose.

Did I get any health benefits? Yep. But you’re results will vary depending on how unhealthy you are when you start out. I think I was pretty sad in the health department, so I noticed some results even though I wasn’t using a great juicer. I noticed that I slept better almost immediately. The reason for that could be the lack of digestion going on to keep me awake. I also noticed that I could see better when driving in dark, rainy conditions. When I quit juicing this perk seemed to fade. I also had more energy some days and felt like a sloth on others. No idea what caused either situation.

Will I juice again? You betcha’. I’ve already got my eye on a great juicer touted by many juicing aficionados as one of the best in it’s price category. The Omega J8006 is a single gear, masticating (means chew) juicer which produces great quantities of juice with no spinning (thus no oxygenation) and no heat (thus no cooked juice). I can’t wait to see how the better nutritional quality juice will effect my health.

Oh, I almost forgot. When I juiced, I lost nearly 20 pounds. That’s a perk too, right?

*Please note: This post is opinion and personal experience. It is in NO WAY to be taken as advice. If you need advice, please see a medical professional regarding addiction, fasting, or any of the other topics. Except book publishing. See Amazon about that. 😉

Camel Lot: A Misplaced Adventure

My very first (why do people say very first, if it’s the first, how does the word very make it any more the first) children’s book, Camel Lot, is a Kindle Edition Exclusive.

Synopsis: Three siblings, Arty, Lance and Gwen, set off for their Mother’s forbidden flower garden to play. They dream up the grand kingdom of Camel Lot with a courageous king, a daring knight and a princess with a pink magical unicorn. But somewhere else in the garden, trouble is brewing. It’s not their orange tabby, Marlin; it’s the neighbor-boy, Dwayne.

Camel Lot is a fantasy adventure for bedtime or anytime. Written to be read aloud to children of any age or read alone by children ages 8-12. Approximately 3,400 words.

Camel Lot was inspired by a short story writing contest. In the contest, a picture was provided and the writer needed to tell a story related to that picture in 1,000 words or less. Somewhere around 2,000 words it was obvious I couldn’t submit mine so I quit writing. I didn’t finish the story. It just sat there.

When I returned from LA, I couldn’t find work. Rob suggested I finish the story and maybe we could publish it. Ebooks were really taking off and there were many distributors cropping up to help you get your formatting correct and get your books out to the different sellers. So I finished the story and did some illustrations to go along with it. The cover is my favorite, closely followed by the cat, Marlin, wallowing in the flowers on his back.

I hope you enjoy Artie, Lance, Gwen, and Marlin in their backyard adventure. A sequel to Camel Lot will be coming in 2012 called Nights of the Brown Table. Per request, I’ll do illustrations including the kids this time.

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Bermuda’s Triangle: A Misplaced Adventure

My second children’s book, Bermuda’s Triangle, is a Kindle Edition Exclusive.

Synopsis: Screeching violins, rasping clarinets, and drums beaten to death were just the beginning. Bermuda longed to be part of the school band. She tried countless instruments, but couldn’t make any of them produce pleasing sounds. Her parents were ready to give up. Her music teacher was at her wits’ end. But, her friends had an idea.

Bermuda’s Triangle is a musical adventure for bedtime or anytime. Written to be read aloud to children of any age or read alone by children ages 8-12. Approximately 2,200 words with full-color drawings.

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Area 50 Juan: A Misplaced Adventure

My third children’s book, Area 50 Juan, is a Kindle Edition Exclusive.

Synopsis: Juan’s goal to save the aliens on Jade Island is threatened by a military search for the downed craft. Juan and his friends; Andy, Davie, and Earl, befriend a young airman named Ziggy who wants to help. With Ziggy on their side, they rush to help the visitors return to their world before the military arrives to search Area 50.

Area 50 Juan is a science fiction adventure for bedtime or anytime. Written to be read aloud to children of any age or read alone by children ages 6-12. Approximately 7,500 words with full-color, full-page illustrations.

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Santa Monica: A Misplaced Adventure

Santa Monica, my fourth children’s book in the Misplaced Adventure series, is a Kindle Edition Exclusive. Santa Monica is a fantasy adventure for bedtime or anytime. Written to be read aloud to children of any age or read alone by children ages 8-12. Approximately 9,500 words.

Each of my children’s books currently has it’s own illustration style. I don’t promise that will always be the case, it just has been so far. With Santa Monica, I found inspiration in the anime and kodomo (such as Hello Kitty) artistic styles. I adapted those to suit me and thought the style was perfect for the characters. I hope you enjoy the illustrations.

Synopsis: Monica dreams of playing Santa in the holiday performance presented by her local theater group. But will her theater coach, Mr. Shelley, be willing to cast a girl as Santa? What will her parents think? Will her friends ridicule her for wanting a boy’s role? Will her super talented friend, Eric, get the role just because he’s a boy? Follow Monica on her quest to play Santa Clause as she prepares for her audition, copes with her friends comments and questions, and ultimately follows her heart to be anything she wants to be.

One reviewer says: “As the tale unfolds, the reader learns about compassion, generosity and friendship.”

Kindle Edition Exclusive

Review: V is for Vengeance

V is for Vengeance
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s nothing I enjoy more (okay, a few things, but this isn’t the place for that kind of talk) than a Kinsey Millhone mystery/crime/romance. This one had everything.

Kinsey is hired by a widower to look into the alleged suicide of his fiancé who was recently arrested for shoplifting when Kinsey caught her stuffing a lace teddy and two pair of silk pajamas in her bag at Nordstrom’s. What Kinsey uncovers about the woman’s past leads her to more than she ever thought and pulls the reader through a delicately woven plot of organized crime, dirty cops, blackmail, deceit, and romance.

The story opens on a spoiled college graduate, Phillip, with a penchant for gambling. Can he beat the system and pay back what he borrowed from a “financier” named Dante? Can he go to his parents for help?

Nora is an upscale housewife. When she discovers her husband cheating, she sets out to be prepared for the inevitable. While trying to sell an expensive ring, she meets an intriguing man. But is he a crime boss?

Dante runs his family business with an unusual moral code not common in the crime world. But, he’s under investigation and it looks like they might have him this time. Will Dante throw in the towel for a married women with a wandering husband? Will he leave the family business to Cappi, his bumbling thug of a brother?

How are all these lives tied together? It’s a mammoth web of intertwined lives with a full line-up of characters. Sue Grafton has outdone herself. I’ve loved all of the alphabet mysteries, but this one is by far my favorite.

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Review: Mercury Rises

Mercury Rises
Mercury Rises by Robert Kroese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sequel to the hilarious Mercury Falls, Mercury Rises gives readers a insightful backstory on Mercury and his relationship to Tiamat who vows to make Lucifer’s rebellion look like a toddler tantrum. I can see satan kicking and screaming now.

And who would have guessed the ark had a name? Noah makes a wonderful appearance with his big boat and been-cooped-up-too-long family and we learn what really happened to certain mystical creatures.

The apocalypse looms large yet again and much-loved characters return. This installment in Mercury’s story is rife with plot lines moving faster than a particle collider and more twists and turns than a Tawani mountain crevice.

Kroese’s whimsical version of Biblical events is pure genius. But will the world survive his next book? Beware the sparkly apples.

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Review: The Deception of the Emerald Ring

The Deception of the Emerald Ring
The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who doesn’t enjoy a little deception? The third book in the Pink Carnation series was wonderfully entertaining.

The Emerald Ring introduces readers to more characters in the spy world of the 19th century. Letty Alsworthy joins the story in a fun twist on “wrong girl, right time.” Geoff Pinchingdale is the hero of this spy tale. Once in league with the Purple Gentian, he lacks the swagger of the aforementioned and the sardonic humor of Miles Dorrington (book 2), but he has many fine qualities, his poetry writing aside.

Old favorites are also in attendance. Henrietta is impersonating a bobble-head type lady with Miss Gwen in tow impersonating her aunt. And what reader doesn’t want to run out and buy a parasol after a few chapters of Miss Gwen? I’d love to read one of the novels she is forever working on. But, I digress. It seems everyone is someone they’re not in this volume, including our Letty Alsworthy. Is she a spy too?

The plot thickens around Lord Vaughn and the Black Tulip over the course of the book and there seems to be more questions than answers. A trait I love in a book as long as it isn’t the last one.

Things move forward, albeit slowly, for Eloise on the modern-day side of things. Her fidgety demeanor and obsessing about not obsessing over Colin are lighthearted and somber at the same time. This book didn’t give me enough of Eloise’s story, but thank goodness there’s another book.

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Review: Alexander Death

Alexander Death
Alexander Death by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The final installment in the Pox series is pure torment. You can’t stop yourself from turning the pages as fast as possible, but you fear the end as if Tommy has you by the shoulder. It’s like being shoved back and forth between Tommy and Ashley:

“I love it so much.” *crazy grin*
“I’m near the end!” *scream*
“I can’t stop reading, it’s so good.” *maniacal giggle*
“The end is close!” *scream*

Jenny meets Alexander Death (although they’ve met before) and he sets her on a path she hasn’t trod before. It’s interesting to see a character you already enjoy explore other aspects of who they are. Her behavior may seem a little odd at times, but she is being greatly affected by Alexander Death. As am I.

Alexander has powers like Jenny, Seth, Tommy, and Ashley. He has the power to command the dead. Think zombie puppets and you get the idea. He also has a different outlook on life and uses his gifts in unique ways. This takes our heroine to new life experiences, some good. Will Jenny follow Alexander into a new life full of possibility? Will she return to Seth? Ah, what’s a desirable, plague-infested girl to do?

As for this girl, I’ll just patiently wait for my Pox. There is so much more these characters can do. Let’s hope another trilogy is out there soon.

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Funny Who You Run Into Over Coffee

Took Allyson to Hobknobb Coffee Shop to make homework more palatable. I’d barely finished my pumpkin spice latte when I heard, “Karen!?”

It was a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. I use “ages” to avoid giving away increments of time that can be compiled to determine my real age.

The funny part of this story is discovering she co-authored a book and she was holding a signing in the coffee shop. On the day my most recent children’s book hits cyber-shelves. It was kismet.

So, obviously, I bought the book, got it signed and it’s moved to the head of my reading list.

You can find it at Live Unbroken.


Review: Tommy Nightmare

Tommy Nightmare
Tommy Nightmare by J.L. Bryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Pox thickens…

The second installment in the Jenny Pox series, Tommy Nightmare, is a wonderful dream come true. More Jenny, more Seth and more fantastic characters with unexpected powers.

This book picks up where Jenny Pox left off and as things return to normal (sort of) in Fallen Oak after the apoxalypse, new friends and enemies emerge. But how do you tell them apart? I don’t know! That’s what’s great about this series. Just when I think I know something, I get slapped right in the face. This book series has it all: fascinating plot, fresh ideas, detailed characters, heart-wrenchingly sad moments, skin-crawlingly (is that a word?) spooky moments, intelligent dialogue, twists, turns and double parking. Love, love, love this series.

So, in the words of the famous Ninja Turtle, Raphael, “I do hope there’s more o’ them.”

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FREE Books & Spaceships

I use a service called eReaderIQ to watch Kindle books for a price-drop or FREE offering. I usually get an email daily and scan it for books on my to-read list or anything that looks good.

Today I scroll down my eReaderIQ email and find a book I’d been planning to read. I download it since it’s free even though I swear I’m not starting another book until I finish the three I’m currently reading. Scroll some more. I see another book that looks like it might be good. After checking it out I decide to pass. Scroll some more… What’s this?:

My own books are listed. As a promotion leading up to the release of Area 50 Juan: A Misplaced Adventure, I’m offering Camel Lot and Bermuda’s Triangle for FREE for a limited time. I go to Amazon to check it out. And guess what I find. Go ahead, guess.

Yep, that’s my first children’s book, Camel Lot: A Misplaced Adventure, listed as #1 in Children’s Action & Adventure. Bermuda’s Triangle wasn’t far behind at #4.

While you have the chance, grab Camel Lot and Bermuda’s Triangle so you can catch up on all the Misplaced Adventures before my next book in the series is released. I’ll be publishing Area 50 Juan: A Misplaced Adventure today and it should appear within 2-3 weeks.

Camel Lot: A Misplaced Adventure, Kindle Edition Exclusive
Bermuda’s Triangle: A Misplaced Adventure, Kindle Edition Exclusive

Review: Jenny Pox

Jenny Pox
Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m totally infected with Jenny Pox. I began this book by reading the first chapter as an excerpt at the end of another book. I was so totally enamored of the lead character, Jenny, that I immediately purchased a copy to continue the story. That’s talent right there – grabbing my full attention so easily. I probably would have read the entire book in one sitting if I hadn’t needed to work.

Poor Jenny is plagued – in more ways than one. She suffers extreme loneliness and isolation due to the fact her slightest touch can spread a deadly disease. Her character is brilliantly portrayed. You suffer right along with her. You feel her joys, her heartaches, her struggles. Others in the book are equally believable and intriguing. You love some, you hate some, and you pity others. You know who should be held accountable. You know others really shouldn’t, should they? Very twisty with my emotions there, Mr. Bryan.

The plot of Jenny’s plague-ridden touch is a unique one. With such a fresh storyline you’d expect to be surprised or caught off guard now and then. No disappointment here. The plot turns unexpectedly toward the end of the book. Then another surprise. Then yet again – surprise! I love that. Catch me off guard once – good for you. Catch me off guard twice – good for me. Catch me off guard a third time – now I’m completely infected.

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Review: Until Death

Until Death
Until Death by Karen Woodward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Until Death requires a little effort at first, but there’s a big payoff at the end. The beginning (the effort portion) was slow and for several chapters I had a hard time focusing because my head kept screaming, “Come on… get to it a’ready!” There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, as a slow build can be quite titillating. But I’m afraid readers might give up too soon. My advice – keep going until the going gets really good (the payoff part). And it does.

The heroine-ish main character is Darla. She’s a bit of a bumbler, a grumbler and has plenty of anxiety to make her interesting. She’s just turning 18, and all that that implies. She’s portrayed very well in the context of the story and readers are sure to adore her as I did. In the book, she discovers something about herself which leads to some very revealing truths that have been hidden from her for nefarious reasons.

Her counterpart, Kael, is a demon. Now, this has some amazing potential. His character doesn’t receive the attention that the Darla character does. Readers will be left wondering over his backstory and details of his personality. But, oooooh, it’s enough to leave me wanting to know more. I believe (and hope) Until Death is just the beginning for this series which will fully develop the Kael character in the next installment.

I started to give this book three stars. Most people seem to be giving it three. Then I realized, despite a slow beginning, a couple confusing character choices (briefly explained below), a continuity issue (see below if you don’t worry about spoilers), I can’t wait to read the next one. That makes four stars in my book. Pun intended.

The continuity issue began in Chapter 23 where Darla can shield herself (and does) for protection, then later in Chapter 28, she can no longer do this. No explanation of her later failure is given. I was also confused by a couple of events. In one, Darla makes a decision regarding her father that seems sudden and out of character for her. The other event seemed like an obvious long-term eventuality, but it reads as if it occurred near instantly. Perhaps the author, Karen Woodward, was “wrapping things up” and a longer passage of time was not as obvious to the reader as it should have been. However, the event I allude to would have been far more fun if we’d had a nice, tortuous wind-up before culmination. *wink, wink*

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Windows, a poem


The soul peers out to view the day,

through bright, hazel windows.

It sees the bright and the gray,

all colors of the rainbow.


The soul searches, explores and learns,

taking in all it can.

Seeing God in all, it yearns,

to see God in man.

Review: The Preacher’s Bride

The Preacher's Bride
The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read, and enjoyed, historical romance before. But, this is the first one I’ve encountered based on the Puritan way of life. I normally go for a good mystery or a crime drama with offbeat humor. Lately I’ve been indulging in young-adult paranormal. I’m also a big sic-fi fan and I throw in the occasional classic now and then. So, it would stand to reason that I might hold a small fear of this book turning out to be dull. I mean, come on… Puritans. How can that be engaging and romantic?

But, engaging and romantic it is. The book opens with a heart-wrenching scene that grabs the reader and the plot never lets go. You’re immediately thrust into the lives of the main characters, John and Elizabeth, with a special peek into their hearts. Fear, worry, doubt and second-guessing. These topics of romance are always in season, Puritan or not. But, the Puritan part of the story is essential. It’s the love of God that causes the steadfastness of conviction that leads to much of the story. It’s an imbedded part of who the characters are and what makes them tick. But, you don’t have to be religious or a believer to fully fall in love with the Puritan’s of The Preacher’s Bride and be wringing your hands or cheering with fulfilled hope depending on the page.

This novel is based on the real lives of John and Elizabeth Bunyan. Writer’s license is taken with the romance of the couple, as well as creating personalities of the townspeople, while keeping most historical moments intact. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. A book I’ve never read, but I’m going to now.

So grab this one. Don’t let it pass you by because you think it’s all about religion. It’s about people. Their hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. It’s an awesome, intriguing page-turner for anyone regardless of your usual reading genre.

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Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An explosive wrap-up to a very enthralling trilogy. I was drawn in from page one. I can’t say enough good things about the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins must have a love affair with the keyboard because she produces some mighty brilliant text. I consider The Hunger Games a must read. And read again. I’m looking forward to the movie. I really hope they do a good job of it.

Mockingjay went a new direction from the first two installments. We still have our heroine, Katniss, and her vastly different but intriguing potential mates, Gale and Peeta. President Snow is still villainous, but new threats from unexpected quarters enter the picture. I was totally caught off guard on more than one occasion and this pleases me. I hate being able to keep pace with a story and foresee what will happen next. I adore the twists and turns, the unexpected hurts and joys and the oh-so-NOT-Hollywood ending to this epic, epic tale.

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Another Sneak Peek: Area 50 Juan: A Misplaced Adventure

“Do you ever wonder if there’s life out there?” As usual, Juan was thinking about aliens. Ever since his parents had taken him into Roswell to visit the UFO Museum, he’d been obsessed with visitors from other worlds. He devoured books on the subject and read his Dark Horse Aliens comics over and over.

The other boys rolled their eyes, but Juan couldn’t tell in the firelight. “I just think its crazy to believe we’re the only inhabited planet.”

“The Hubble Telescope has observed at least 125 billion galaxies. I’d say there has to be something out there,” Davie suggested helpfully.

Earl snuggled down into his sleeping bag. “I doubt they’ll invade tonight. Let’s get some sleep.”