Rhonda's A 'Muse'-ing Rambles

Life and Times of a Busy Woman

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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

On the Road Again with Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 1, 2010

Today I hit the road for Colorado. I am going to the International Hunter Education Association’s annual convention held in Estes Park. In addition to the wonderful learning and networking experience, I will be receiving an award for being the National Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, presented by Federal Ammuntion/ATK.

Meanwhile, the important part of my post today is to introduce you to a wonderful new friend of mine, Author CJ West. On June 10th, his newest book, The End of Marking Time, will be released with a great launch event, contests and more to which links I have listed below his report from the road. It’s a great book – I’ve read it and will be posting a review here and on Amazon.com. Graciously, West has agreed to drop by and visit with us today and give us an update on his Virtual Tour and recent road trips. Please welcome CJ West!
Report from the Road

This year I toured New England—actually I’m still touring—to bring the skills of Randy Black to my readers in real life. I called the tour Who wants to be a hero? The idea was to make tour events so exciting that people would flock to them and have a great time when they arrived. An interesting byproduct is that the events are a lot more fun for me, too.

The kickoff event was a high performance driving class. We spent an hour in the classroom with Anthony Ricci from Advanced Driving & Security in North Kingstown, RI. He showed us some video and taught us several things about situation awareness as it relates to cars and driving. The audience was riveted. Next we went to the track and readers rode along while the professionals drove the slalom, the break-and-turn, and the obstacle course. Then the pros moved over and let my readers drive the retired police cars. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Here is the highlight of the event. [Click on the YouTube link when this directs you to the site] In this video, Anthony drives me through the obstacle course backwards at 40 mph. When we are through the course, he executes a J-turn and spins us around (at 50 mph) so we are driving forward again.

In bookstores I have been teaching Texas Hold ‘em. Everyone I’ve spoken to has loved the concept, but in practice it has been hit or miss. When people are excited about the lesson at a venue, I have a packed table and we have a lot of fun. Sometimes I think people wonder what poker has to do with books. Maybe they have flashbacks from being taken at Three Card Monte. Like all signings, some are busier than others.

Recently I hosted a private tour of Westport Rivers Winery, the setting for Sin & Vengeance and Sin & Vengeance the movie. This is always a great time. It’s the fourth venue on my tour that serves alcohol (something new this year and highly recommended). The tour is also very informative, which really captures what the tour is about: a fun learning experience. We had a great group and many were surprised at the great wines produced right here in New England.

The final big event will be held on July 24th. I’ll be partnering with The Wankinquaoh Rod & Gun Club and the GOAL Foundation to host Women on Target, a program to teach women to shoot a handgun, rifle, shotgun and bow. The course is an entire day and features safety instruction, lunch, and half a day on the range. The women will leave the club more comfortable around firearms and the daylong format really gives me a chance to get to know them.

The best things about the tour so far are the comments I get after the big events. Several people have been really surprised by how much fun they had at a book signing. I’ve made some new friends and had a great time along the way. A tour like this takes time to organize, but the experience has been well worth the effort. Pictures and videos are available on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/cjwestfans.

On June 10th I’m hosting an event everyone can attend. Since The End of Marking Time is about a virtual jury, what could be more fitting than a virtual launch party? Drinking is allowed. The dress code is ultra flexible and it is going to be great fun. I hope you’ll join me on Facebook on June 10th.

To find the book, The End of Marking Time on Amazon, just click the title in this sentence and follow the link – it’s too easy not to try and a rewarding experience to read the book.

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Posted in Heros & Guns, Writing | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Hit the Road, Jack…

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 30, 2010

Summer is almost upon us and it looks to be a busy one for me. No, contrary to my title line, I am not telling anybody to hit the road, just can’t get the song out of my head! I personally hit the road for Colorado on Wednesday, June 2nd. I plan to keep you updated on my various trips through this blog and entries on FaceBook.

Another friend of mine, Author CJ West, will be hitting the road too in June – starting with his virtual tour to launch the book, The End of Marking Time.

The End of Marking Time


On Wednesday, June 2nd, the same day I hit the road, CJ is stopping by here as a guest on my blog to give his Report from the Road. I’ll also be posting a review of this book here and on Amazon.com – I’m sure you will be wanting to read it! For a sneak preview of some of the events, you should visit his website at: http://www.22wb.com Be sure and click on the YouTube link to watch the high performance driving class with Anthony Ricci from Advanced Driving & Security. Now here is the question you have to ask yourself – Will I push the Red Button, or will I push the Green Button? I won’t tell until later in the week, but if you check out some of the pictures in CJ’s TEOMT photo contest, you may see a hint which way I am leaning.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Meet Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 14, 2010

As a prelude to his ‘Who Wants to Be a Hero?’ book tour, I thought I would give you a brief look at author CJ West. First, you should go visit his web site at http://www.22wb.com At this site, not only do you get a glimpse of the books he has crafted for our reading pleasure, you also get a treat in the video he has posted on a driving event with a professional driver – BACKWARDS through an obstacle course! Be sure to check out his Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/22westbooks

Some of the upcoming tour includes lessons in Texas Hold ’em Poker, talks and signings, and my personal fave – a day on the range learning to shoot! This is one author that believes in giving his audience a live feel for some of the action his hero goes through in the book. Not only do you get a wonderful feel for these well developed characters, you get to experience the action up close and personal.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Shooting sports, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Go Green for Spring!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on April 4, 2010

Today is the day that many people worship their various ways in celebration of Easter and Spring. One of the many ways we like to celebrate this holiday, after we’ve attended to our morning rituals [outdoor sunrise services are especially beautiful with all the wild flowers this year] is to gather with family, have a picnic or large family dinner and hunt for Easter eggs [Spring eggs?] with the little ones.

One thing we know is that children of all ages like to hunt for the treasures in the grass, near rocks and logs – sometimes in the mailbox or dog house! It is never too early to teach our young ones about respecting our mother earth. So why not have a special hunt? While you are tending to that succulent goose or ham in the oven or the men are slaving over the grill, have someone take the younger kids on a recycle hunt. You have to plan ahead, of course, and plan for a treat at the end. Take them to the lane leading to your home, or a local roadway [not too much traffic!] or even the local riverside or park. Challenge each of them to gather up the cans and bottles they find along the way, maybe even the fast food cups. Give them a rousing story or two, point out the beautiful wild flowers – or flowering weeds – that are having a hard time poking their heads up with the cans and cups crushing them down.

When you are done, hopefully you didn’t keep them out TOO long, bring them back to the nest and trade them their trash for treats and trinkets. Maybe an Easter cupcake, some quarters, a handful of [sugar free] candy – or some fresh apple and orange slices. Make it special, and make it an annual traditions.  Oh, don’t blow off the REAL egg hunt – have that one too. Wow – how many kids get to say they had TWO Easter egg scavenger hunts in one day?!

One more thing – this is National Poetry Month. Please be sure to visit some of the sites like this one: www.riehlife.com and read some of the poems to inspire you. I was fortunate on this blessed day to have my nature piece, titled ‘The Sparrow’ featured on Riehlife today!

Posted in Dad & Family, Daily Life, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Druid Journey

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 31, 2010

Recently, I received two wonderful books to review and use as part of my research on Druids for a selection of stories I am writing. Tomorrow, April 1st, for your reading pleasure, the book ‘The Druid Isle’ by Ellen Evert Hopman will be available for retail sale! Please watch for my upcoming review on this beautiful story that chronicals the history of Drui of  Celtic Ireland while being told in a lovely romantic setting of fiction. The first book in the series is already available. The title is ‘Priestess of the Forest’.  Both books show great reverance for earth, her plants, animals, weather and more. ‘Priestess’ concentrates on the Druid’s sacred relationship with the land while ‘Druid Isle’ focuses on the sacred relationship with water.

Yes, they are love stories and fiction, but steeped in sacred beliefs that honor our planet. As a disclaimer, both books were sent to me free of charge by the publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide and the opinions in my reviews are my own. Thank you Marissa and Ellen!

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Sex Club by LJ Sellers

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 28, 2010

Recently, I had the pleasure of being sent two books to review by a person I had never even heard of before – LJ Sellers. As soon as I started reading her work, I just knew this was going to be an important author to follow.  I mentioned this first book and it’s topic to an on-line writing group I belong to and almost immediately, people began acquiring the book on their Kindle™ or ordering the book. For matters of disclosure, the book below was provided to me free of charge by the author and the opinions are my own.

The Sex Club by LJ Sellers

Writing about the hard issues and choices that women have is something in which  L.J. Sellers excels. In The Sex Club, Sellers tackles the controversial topic of Planned Parenthood, a world-wide organization that provides counseling on sex education, disease transmission and pregnancy options.

A pipe bomb explodes at a birth control clinic and we are introduced to a wonderfully portrayed nurse/heroine named Kera Kollmorgan.  One of her clients from the clinic is soon found naked and dead, tossed without regard in a dumpster. There are so many potential suspects and very few clues to lead to any case solution, and the violence continues to escalate as conflicting philosophies and relationships collide. Kera appears to be the target but due to patient privacy issues, a lot of the clinic information cannot be released, even to the police. Add in another level of intensity when you realize that most of the victims are early teens, hardly more than children that are playing a very dangerous game. Secrets abound and the lead detective fears that his own teen daughter may be targeted as well. Kera has realized the connection between the dead girls and the school and churches they all belong too, and rather than reveal the information, starts her own investigation which puts her in the spot light as a target as well. Oh, and add a little politics in there for flavor as a high ranking official becomes under suspicion and the investigators are walking on tenterhooks.

Sellers’ straight forward writing style coupled with a compelling mystery will capture your attention from the start and keep you turning the pages through the thrilling conclusion of this very important topic. The police procedural aspect of the story is well researched and the characters believable in their complexities.

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

What are you reading/writing?

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 23, 2010

Just popping in for a few minutes, taking a break away from the non-stop tax returns. The UPS guy laughs at me now when he drops off a package nearly every day. The Fed-X guy, of course, just drops the package on my door, rings the bell and RUNS! And of course, there is the mailman. Did I mention that last week I received two pieces of mail that were postmarked DECEMBER 2009! [Yes, 3 months late]. The mail person [not always the same one as we are an ‘extra’ add-on to a couple of routes], instead of using the large key/lock-boxes, prefers to bend and fold and stuff my mail into our tiny little box. I am appalled by our mail system – but that is not what I am supposed to be writing about!

What are you reading and/or writing about these days? Although I have been busy serving my tax clients, I still find time to read here and there. Sometimes, that is the only way to shut off my brain. Currently, I am in the process of reviewing several books, writing a newsletter, writing some pieces for my ‘Heroes & Guns’ series and setting up an interview with an author.

Here is a taste of what I am reviewing: by LJ Sellers, an author that addresses some hard issues and delivers some ‘keep-you-up-all-night’ thrillers:

And another pair of books that I keep returning to with their amazing history of Druids, finely written by Ellen Evert Hopman;

And for my taste of the entertaining mystery, I am writing a piece for my Heroes & Guns series from out of a great book by Ben Rehder. Hey Ben – you forgot to sign the book. What a wonderful wit this author has!

So if you happen to be looking for some good reading – just look for the above books. If you want to wait and see my reviews first, I hope to say I will have them all out – somewhere – in about a week. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the first few postings on my ‘Heros & Guns’ series by selecting that category over on the right side of my blog. Drop me a comment and tell me what you are reading/writing about. Next month, after April 15th, I hope to delve into some non-fiction, memoir and more Druid books and a bit more Native American research.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 15, 2010

Just wanting to wish all my family and friends a wonderful Valentine’s Day. How did you celebrate this day? Mine was very low-key – so low, in fact, I spent most of it reclining on the couch snacking on cough drops, cold pills and medicinal teas. Oh, yes – I did get a really funny card and a surprise box of dark chocolate truffles from my hubby. How sweet! We go more for funny in our house than romance and gushy stuff – so my son was surprised with a funny T-shirt [chocolate colored], a homemade card, some sugar-free candy and all wrapped up in a little girl’s ‘my pretty pets’ poster. Got a chuckle out of his response. Hubby got a handwritten card from me and a box of cookies that he likes and we don’t – so he knows he gets them all to himself.

What Valentine’s Day means to me is that we are celebrating St. Valentine – the patron saint I believe of little birds and animals. I eagerly get out my hummingbird feeders as the first ones generally appear this month, while close at hand I lay our Audubon bird book so we can identify the birds as they visit throughout the year. It’s generally on or about this day that wildlife starts bursting forth with new babies. Soon, we’ll hear the squeaks of baby birds wanting to be fed, see multitudes of baby deer, bunnies, coyote pups, birds and of course, our reptile ‘friends’. With baited [bated?] breath we wait to see what nature is going to spring on us – after two years of severe heat and drought followed by the coldest, wettest winter we’ve had so far, it will be interesting to see how the plants and animals spring back. Hmm….maybe I am using the word ‘spring’ too much – but it’s ever on my mind.

A week ago at this time I was just getting home and unpacking from a weekend conference of women writers; aptly called Stories of the Heart [V].  I’ll write more on this later this week but I want everyone [female] to mark their calendars now for the year 2012 when the next conference will be presented. The skills you learn here, the boost to your inner muse and the euphoria of sharing with hundreds of women cannot be perfectly described. You will come away changed, I know I did and it was definitely for the better.

Meanwhile, I bury myself in tax work as I try to catch up to the busy tax season that started out slow and somehow overtook me when I wasn’t looking. This sinus infection is also fuddling my brain cells and I’m losing track of days. If I lose my voice, I am in big trouble as I am teaching another outdoors Instructor course next weekend. Which hat am I wearing today? One of my ‘students’ in the weekend class said, “You Better be well by Sunday, or else!” What’s he gonna do – shoot me? Well…..

Posted in Daily Life, My gardens, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Only ONE more day!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on December 14, 2009

Has it been a week already since my last post? Well, almost anyway.  It’s hectic everywhere but I do want to take time and remind everybody [well, women mostly] to take time and sign up for the Stories from the Heart conference in Austin in February, 2010. The early registration closes tomorrow, December 15th. What a lovely gift this would make for a loved one or friend in your life – the chance to attend a wonderful, memorable conference that will encourage someone to share their life story, or at least get it written down for themselves, their own loved ones too. It’s fun, it’s healing, it’s informative – with a little something for everyone. Even if you can’t make the trip to Austin to attend the conference, a gift membership to Story Circle Network is a treasure as well.

Also, I forgot to mention it on Thursday last week, but I was a guest at Women’s Memoirs with a blog post and recipe for Gingerbread Characters. Please stop by the site and browse around for a little bit of wonderful reading. Here is the site; you’ll want to bookmark it and visit it frequently after just one taste!

Christmas? It’s only about two weeks away and I, of course have only barely begun. Many of my presents this year will be home-baked goodies, hand-made items and self penned missives. Although I would love to have thousands, or even dozens of dollars to give to charity or even to buy that special gizmo and gadget for my loved ones and those in need, I’d much rather just be able to pay the insurance bill and house payment. But what I do give will be given from the heart, and I think that is what counts the most in the long run. My prayers will be for our troops, for my friends, for those not in stellar health and constant blessings for those near and far. Don’t sweat the small stuff people, just give love and it will be enough!

Posted in Daily Life, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Tax Tips – BOOKS!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on November 29, 2009

One subject that is near and dear to all writers, editors and researchers are books. Although they are becoming, slowly, slightly overwhelmed by electronic media, books are still a vital part of our lives. How is THAT going to help on your taxes? This can be another long and lengthy subject but I will try to shorten my object lesson this time.

 First of all, ‘books’, per se, do not necessarily mean those large old dusty tomes of the past, although they are included. By books, I mean every single piece of printed [and now electronic] media. It could mean paperbacks, hard cover, books-on-tape, a bound essay or report, an e-book, newspaper, magazine, journals and newsletters. I could probably name a few more, but you get the picture.

 If you are a writer – then virtually everything you read is considered a ‘resource’. As you buy a book or periodical during the year, even if it is for pleasure reading, ask yourself this question: “Could I use even ONE sentence in this as an idea/prompt/quote/research for the pieces I write?” The majority, if not all, of the time the answer will be yes. I could read a Sci-fi book and like the way the dialogue works or the way the characters take turns telling a story – and use this as a lesson for how I want my memoir to appear. I could use a children’s story to pick up the moral for a romance novel. It all relates. Magazines, even pictures – provide prompts and, sometimes, research material.

 For the current year, every time you purchase any of the above [books, periodicals, e-media, etc], you can just save the receipt, or even better – pay for it with a credit card for easy tracking.  Notice the subliminal plug? Yes, Kitchen Table Stories is still available for purchase – visit www.Storycircle.org for details about the book. Back to the article: Add up all the charges, and at the end of the year – you have your total to use for current year purchases.

 What about older purchases, such as one year, two years – even twenty years? I may have mentioned this before; but there is a tax term called ‘placed in service’. If this is the first time you have ever written off books, you can go back and use older books and write them off as well. There are several methods of doing this and several methods of getting the value of the books. You can use them as a direct expense on the current year tax return, the next year’s tax return or amend a prior year tax return [up to 3 years back before the current year]. You can use a lump sum [say, $10,000] and capitalize it and write it off over a period of years. Your options need to be discussed with your tax preparer so that you get the best benefit of this write-off.

 Basically, the way you can get the write-off value of a book that comes from a prior year is to start by looking at the cover and the published date. If the book was printed in the past 2-3 years, then you would use the face value [or your cost] of the book. For older books, you can use the replacement value of the book or half the cover price. Generally, the suggested retail price is printed on the book [spine or by UPC code] in the case of paperbacks, on the front or inside the front page with the index & editor information [periodicals], or on the inside of the front fly leaf of most hard cover books. For an older book or a hard-cover book that shows no price, you can do a little research and see if the book is available on-line and that would be your ‘replacement cost’ or value of the book. For very old books, or out-of-print and rare books, I would get them appraised. These are going to be few and far in-between and on a case by case basis.

 One thing you DO have to be aware of: when you write off any printed material, you have to keep a record of each book you have written off for the required period of time that you must retain tax records – that is three years from the date you filed the return. You would not want to list a couple dozen books, write them off, then in a couple years use the same book and write it off again. For your own peace of mind [and your tax preparer] – make a list of the titles/authors of the piece you are going to use.

 One other short mention about books: give them away when you are done with them. Take them to your local library, to a school, a veteran’s home, a nursing home, or a charitable organization such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and churches. To get an idea of how you would value the books as a donation, use 50% of the face value. If your college books cost you $40 way back when – they are worth a $20 deduction to charity now. If your year subscription to National Geographic costs you [whatever they cost], use 50% of that price. Magazines – yep, you got it – half the cover price. This is called the ‘thrift shop’ or ‘comparable sales’ method for those of you who may prepare your own taxes and have tried to understand exactly what the software is asking you for.

 Okay, another real quick mention: books as gifts. If you buy books and give them out to family and friends as presents, you may write those off as well, even if you don’t read them yourself. Same with gift subscriptions. But that is a subject for another discussion, or something for you to talk over with your tax person. As always, these ideas are only general discussion/thinking topics and persons who may not be fully trained in the application of tax deductions as applies to your individual case should not use this information without first checking with your own tax preparer.

Posted in Tax Talk, Writing | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »