Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finding Katie by John J. Smith

Finding Katie

About the Book (from Amazon):

 The very wealthy and very sheltered Preston Meadows lives his life protected from even the hint of harm. His world is safe and secure until someone kidnaps his sister, Katie. Against his parents’ wishes, Preston sets out on his own to find her. Preston works hard to blend in with the “regular” people roaming the streets of Dallas – but the real world is zany, insane, full of danger and ruthless criminals. Preston soon begins to learn more about himself and finds he has a knack for foiling certain crimes. In his adventures, during his search for his sister, he makes friends with some of the strangest people he could ever imagine. Along the way, Preston falls in love, comes face-to-face with a self-described Drug Lord, and discovers a side of himself he never knew existed, especially after the Drug Lord kidnaps his girlfriend.

About the Author:

Image of John J Smith 

I write under two name John J. Smith and pen name Jonathan Black. Why do I do this? I've been told when a reader sees my work they have an expectation, hence the two names. I have won several awards under each name.
I've been called a prolific Fiction writer. I enjoy writing romance and mainstream as John and paranormal and paranormal romance as Jonathan.
Several of my novels have been converted or rewritten into screenplays; for which I've also have won several awards.
I reside in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

You can visit John on his website:

Guest Post on Writing Fiction by John J. Smith

I have always been an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction and have written technical documents over the years but writing fiction came to me late in life, so to speak, and I am so glad I did.

My previous employment had me on the road full time and one night, after growing tired of writing technical documents, I decided to try writing a novel; it didn’t go well. Not at all. I broke every rule. And after several eye-rolls and bellyaching laughter, I decided to go back to school. I took “several” creative writing classes and then worked with a professor on a consulting basis and then finally with other writers where I learned that technical writing and fiction writing were worlds apart. Although I like technical writing, I found I loved writing fiction and became addicted.

Unlike technical writing, fiction has a formula. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, but best of all, there are characters. Characters that you love, and characters that you love to hate, and the more I started creating characters the more I spent writing fiction and less time writing technical documents.

To me, one of the most exciting things about writing fiction is you have a story like Finding Katie. It was a thought that I carried with me for about six to nine months. I wanted a character that had the best in life: money, career, expensive taste and collectables but unhappy. Easy formula, but I wanted you to like him, so, I had to give him a big heart, a soft heart. Again, good, but why would you like him. I then thought, he has to be on verge of brilliant and he had to have a special talent, again, that wasn’t enough for you to like him. I mean, it’s impossible to feel for someone who has everything. Okay, now, let’s make him naïve. I created a paradox, he’s incredibly smart but naïve, incredibly rich but has a huge heart, incredibly handsome but shy, but I also threw in that if something was going to happen, it happened to him. All of that made up Preston Meadows.

Preston Meadows is a young man who loves his sister and is willing to risk his life to save her. A young man who had been sheltered from all harm. A young man who was basically imprisoned by his father to serve his father and make his father rich. I then plucked him out of his safe place, dropped him into a ghetto, and watched him grow.

To me, that is excitement. To create a character and put that character into a story that you dreamed up is exhilarating. Writing fiction can be exhilarating. I still write non-fiction, and technical documents, but I love writing fiction.

I have written stories that sort of parallel with my life but I think all writers peel a little piece of themselves and put into their stories. Over the last few years that has become less and less but I still find myself using something that may have happened to me that day and it happened to that character that night.

Book Quotes:

Although still in tears, I heard my mother snicker and say in her usual snobbish tone, “The Meadows never occasionally stay away. in the winter we vacation in Hawaii…My mother is infamous for dropping names of any sort.

I got out of be and slipped my feet into my leather slippers purchased from Michael Toschi Grotto, then put on my monogrammed satin robe purchased from Vintage A. Sulka & Company

My mother’s lips puckered for a beat as if she were going to respond until she saw me out of the corner of her eyes. Her mouth dropped open as if she were going to hurl pea soup. Her face turned beet red from embarrassment. Daggers shot from her eyes and ripped through my body, metaphorically speaking that is. In honesty, she had a look that now made my left eye twitch. …I knew she was going to do or say something moronic. Either way, I knew I was in for one hell of an embarrassing moment. …and she closed the gap between us, I looked down to see if my periwinkle was ticking out of my pajamas and peeking through my robe, but the coast was clear…She licked her fingers and smooth my hair down as if I were still a child…turned twenty-one in July.

I loved Katie with all my heart, but when her mouth jumped into gear, she was even worse than Chandler in the mind-numbing lecture department.

Chandler was a large and handsome man with a solid frame with cold dark blue eyes, which had a way of intimidating people. Now my mother was a different story. when she gave you the eye, you knew the most embarrassing moment in our life was about to happen. That’s when my left eye would start to twitch.

(My favorite quote from the entire book) Why is it when two people have different beliefs, one has to be wrong?

He turned over on his stomach, still dazed, then when he struggled to his feet he stepped in more dog feces and slipped again, WHAM! And landed on a pile that looked as if it had been dropped by a St. Bernard with dysentery…I knelt in front of him. “You’re the first guy I’ve ever seen kick his own butt.”

I then looked at Sandia and she had a grin that frightened me more than Jose. I honestly believed her thoughts would make Satan hurl green pea soup…Then I felt Sandia’s hand on my ass.

(My second favorite quote.) I loaded a tray and backed out into the main room, and began serving the homeless, the hungry, and the forgotten, and as I place a plate down in front of each person, my heart went out to them. How could a country that was supposed to be so rich have so many poor? How could a country pride itself on sending money to other countries when the number of poor here grew daily? I needed to be more careful when I picked out candidates for congress, the senate, and the presidency. I was beginning to believe I was voting our country into poverty.

When I was making my way back to the kitchen, something about five-feet-ten inches tall and medium build came down the steps from the rooms upstairs. I wasn’t sure if it was a man, a woman, a man dressed like a woman, or a woman who looked like a man but dressed like a woman. The only thing I knew for sure was it was a tall Negro with a hungry look on its face. It scurried over to me in a tippy-toed fashion and stopped close enough to me that I could smell and feel the moisture of its breath…”My name is Too Loose.”

…I nailed my foot to the roof twice, although the second time stopped me from falling but left me embarrassed as I dangled from the roof upside down until the laughing stopped and one of the workers helped me back up.

Butt-naked, she rolled out of bed, which made me gag, slipped into her thong, and then with a sight that would cause most people to go blind, she bent over and struggled into her shorts. Trust me, a size twenty-two butt jammed into size twelve shorts is mind boggling.

Two Garland police officers were standing with Low Down, and a third stood close by me, keeping vigilance as if I was the criminal here. He asked, “Is there a dark cloud hanging over you? In the last week, every call I’ve been on you’ve been involved.” I looked at the officer and said, “This was not my fault.”

My Review:

Preston Meadows is a quirky, sheltered, genius of a little boy in a man’s body. He is funny. He is kind. He is caring. And, he is generous. He can also hear what people are thinking. Preston is like Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke rolled into one character. All he wishes to do is find his sister, Katie, who has been abducted by the badass drug Lord, Delgado. What he finds is his true self. He meets the most unsavory characters and they fall like dominos behind him as he foils one bad plot after another. The more Preston tries to do accomplish good deeds, the more havoc he reeks in the neighborhood. And, one more thing, Preston LOVES his stun gun.

His vocabulary, or should I say Preston’s proper speech and the way it set him apart from the average man on the street is endearing. It is comical to travel along with Preston as he learns the “street lingo” and tries his best to fit in with hookers, transvestites, addicts, and the poor in the shelter where he has found a home. I’m still wondering if he ever figured out why everyone kept threatening to “pop yo ass”.

John J. Smith has written a book like no other book I have ever read (and I have read many.) It was enchanting. Finding Katie had action, drama, comedy, and romance; yet it was also enchanting. While I loved every bit of this book, the comedy will stay with me for a long time (possibly, because I channel Lucy and could picture myself in some of Preston’s scrapes.)

John J. Smith managed to capture the personalities and eccentricities of the rich as well as the poor, and everyone in between. The book is rich with characters who have names as large as their personalities; Sistah Goldenhair, Maxine PoopsAlot of BarksAlot, Fonzie Dale, Ms. Garza, Sandia, Low Down DD, Too Loose, Petey, and Camel.

As you close the book on the laughter, the tears, the good works, and the chase, it’s hard to believe that you have only spent a week in the life of Preston Meadows. Even though the book comes to a well-written conclusion, Finding Katie leaves you wanting to spend more time with Preston. I definitely recommend adding this book to your stash. 

Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm. 

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Thursday's Where Truth is the Dare

Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means!
Here is this week’s question.
Truth? or Dare?

What is the most important thing you want, that you 
didn't grow up with?

I'll be posting my answer next week because 
I want every one to come up with their answer spontaneously 
and not be guided by my answer. I cannot wait to hear your answers! :)

Thank you all for participating. I will be doing this every Thursday so I
hope you’ll all be back.

My answer to last week’s question “Despite beliefs, ideas, or feelings, that may change,what are you absolutely certain of all the time?"

I am certain that I will always love my children and my husband. I know that God has a plan and I need to trust he knows what's best.

This book can be found on Amazon:

Question of the Day on Face book found my blog and posted my Thursday's Truth or Dare. How cool is that. To thank them, I am posting their Face book link here: 

It's also Katharine's Thursday Hop! Follow the button to hop along!

Thursday Favorite Things

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday's Where Truth is the Dare

Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means!
Here is this week’s question.
Truth? or Dare?

Despite beliefs, ideas, or feelings, that may change,
what are you absolutely certain of all the time?

I'll be posting my answer next week because 
I want every one to come up with their answer spontaneously 
and not be guided by my answer. I cannot wait to hear your answers! :)

Thank you all for participating. I will be doing this every Thursday so I
hope you’ll all be back.

My answer to last week’s question “What are you tired of taking the rap for?"
I'm tired of taking the rap for things I didn't do because others are
good at manipulating. I have always been someone willing to take responsibility
for my own actions, right or wrong,  and I'll take the consequences.

This book can be found on Amazon:

Question of the Day on Face book found my blog and posted my Thursday's Truth or Dare. How cool is that. To thank them, I am posting their Face book link here: 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Crazy Life – A good old-fashion Southern wedding and Boucherie

March 21, 2012

            I had the privilege of being asked to create (that’s stretching it a bit) the wedding cake for a friend of mine. Since the arthritis in my hands prevents me from doing intricate work, I was happy that it was an outdoor wedding and she would be happy with a simple cake. I also made cupcakes (my favorite – my OWN piece of cake) and my famous bread pudding with praline sauce (no, you may not have the recipe).

Bread Pudding just from the oven

Gotta have a mess!
            As I have written before, food is a way of life here in the South and when we celebrate, we celebrate big. The wedding was no exception. But, first, we had to find the venue. Baking and transporting a cake for two and a half hours turned out to be the easy part (almost). The back of the suburban was full (we had removed the back seat) of cake and bread pudding which we hoped we had secured enough for the trip. Our first scare was about twenty miles from home when a truck came skidding to a halt as we were approaching on the four-lane highway. The driver did not look as though he had any intentions of stopping before entering the highway. Instead of seeing our life flash, Hubby and I were seeing cake flying before our eyes. Thank goodness all the layers were safely in their own boxes and on a rubber mat.
            We continued on our journey and that is a story all by itself. We live in South Louisiana and we were on our way to Mississippi for the wedding. What we had no idea about was we were on our way to no man’s land. The directions were interesting as they offered a number of ways to get to our destination (the middle of nowhere). It was quite interesting to meet up with friends once we arrived and to listen to the different stories of how they had all arrived. It seems we all took different routes, all claiming to have taken the “easy” route.

            We took Interstate X to Street Y to Highway Z to Lane A (we had to begin the alphabet over – there just wasn’t enough X,Y,Z to make this trip happen). I have to admit, even though the mileage wasn’t quite accurate, the landmarks we were given were. We turned down a two-lane road and almost had our second mishap of the day. The driver of a pickup truck stopped at a stop sign and then started to pull out – in front of us – and once again, we saw cake flying. Luckily, with a lot of horn blowing and braking, we managed to escape harm.

Chocolate! Yum!

Vanilla! Yum!

We were bumpity-bumping along the last leg of our journey and Hubby and I both burst out laughing about the same time (turns out we were both thinking the same thoughts). Originally, we were unsure if we would be making the trip to the wedding and if we hadn’t, then the bride would have been transporting the cake; and that may not sound like much of a big deal but you have to know her. She is full of energy, always going at a hundred miles an hour. We were thinking of M.J. transporting an assembled cake – all three layers of it. We were both picturing her be-bopping along the very bumpy country road, forgetting all about the cake until she reached the house (get the picture). Between laughing and wiping his tears, Hubby said she could have offered everyone a spoon! Well – that inspired more laughing. Hubby and I travel well together. We talk and laugh, never even turning on the radio.

            Digressing to earlier in the week (the day before), here are a few pictures of the cake baking process. M.J. and I had originally discussed a two layer cake, but then the basket I found to hold the cake just needed something more so I added a third layer. Hubby has always been my frosting guy. I don’t have the patience it takes to work the icing to a smooth finish. I had to give him credit for icing my cakes when I was taking cake decorating classes. He compares it to finishing concrete. He just uses a spatula instead of a trough.

            The shopping process was so much fun. I am not one to go out shopping, but when I have a mission, I can really get into it. I needed baskets to house the cupcakes and the cake. It was an outdoor country wedding and one of my favorite and in my mind, I knew exactly what I needed. I wanted a square basket in a darker natural twig color large enough to house the cake and the magnolias that I planned to surround the cake with for decoration. My only dilemma being – would I find what I had pictured in my head.

            I also wanted to find two shallow rectangle baskets to serve the cupcakes in as well. It was a pretty tall order, but I had confidence that I would find exactly what I needed at Hobby Lobby (I am infamous for projecting what I want- always good to hedge your bets). Imagine my excitement (no I did not run through the store shouting I found them, although I was tempted) when I found exactly what I was looking for.

            The next items on the list were the perfect cupcake papers. Anyone who bakes knows that once the cake comes out of the oven, you cannot tell what the original paper looks like. I wanted these to look special for my friend, so I was looking for an outer paper to set the cupcakes in once they were frosted. It has been a while since I have ventured out shopping and I was excited to view all the new products that available. I found a parchment colored toile with a brown design (how perfect is that – it matched the baskets) and a plain parchment paper cup. I was beginning to want this wedding to be my own!

            M.J. loves peach and wanted peach ribbon. What happened to peach?! There was no peach ribbon in South Louisiana (at least in Houma). My plans were to wrap each layer of the cake in a beautiful peach satin ribbon – so much for that idea! I did find beautiful coral ribbon as a back up in the event we could not locate peach ribbon. I ended up purchasing cream satin ribbon as a base to go under the too thin coral ribbon – yeah – no wide ribbon. I did not find peach ribbon at Michael’s but I did find the beautiful coral ribbon (as a backup) there.

            After a stop at the local cake shop for flavoring, I was on my way home content with my purchases – after a trip to Wal-Mart, that is. I did need cake mix and pans for the bread pudding and LOTS of good ole Southern sugar – the base to all of our fine desserts! I admit – I do use a bought cake mix, simply because I haven’t found one from scratch that is as moist. Sometimes the box is best. I do make all of my icings from scratch though – none of that fake stuff for me.

            For anyone wishing to make a wonderful cake icing, the flavoring is Crème Bouquet not Almond as most people think. It smells a little like almond and has a touch of that flavor, but it is not Almond extract. The flavoring is worth the stop and the cost at the local bakeshop. For the chocolate icing, there is none better than the old-fashioned Hershey’s Chocolate Icing off the back of the container of Hershey’s Cocoa. It is sinfully good. You don’t even need cake to enjoy it!

Peach ribbon overlayed on Cream

Dessert Table

Wedding Cake
             Getting back to the wedding, there was also the old-fashioned Boucherie or Cochon-de-lait – the roasting of the pig. There were many other goodies that are found at almost every Boucherie – Blood Stew (doesn’t that want to make your toes curl?) and pork stew and grilled grillades. Guests also feasted on potato salad and baked beans, and of course, no Southern meal is complete without white beans and French bread. And, as you will find at any Southern gathering, a table loaded with desserts. I am happy to report that my bread pudding was devoured in record time and, yes, I am human – I just loved all the comments it was receiving!

Roasting the pig

Roasting the pig

            Did I mention that there had been a rainstorm the day before? It was a bloody, muddy mess! Instead of the wedding taking place by the pond, the couple exchanged vows under the porch (thank goodness for those Southern porches!) It also presented problems with parking as you can see by the pictures. The friends next to us were stuck and need to be pushed out of the little ditch. In the process, they came very close to sliding into our car. There were a few white-knuckled moments there. Needless to say, they decided to let Hubby pull out first. I was waiting up the drive because trying to cross that muddy ditch was like a “Lucy” moment just waiting to happen. And, when I say up the drive, I mean WAY up the drive. I certainly did not want to wear mud home! Hubby gunned the engine and sailed through the ditch with mud flying everywhere. I think the burb brought home about a truckload of Mississippi mud on the sides. 

Surveying the best way out.

Ready, set, go!

It was a lot muddier than it looks.

          I also ended up being the “unofficial” photographer of the wedding and with the permission of the bride, here are a few photos for you to enjoy. Congratulations, M.J. and Sean on your wedding and thank you for inviting us to be a part of it.

Such a cute couple!

Oh Yes! The cake shot!

A toast to the bride and groom.

That's good cake!

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