Thursday, July 13, 2017

BOOK SPOTLIGHT w/ GUEST POST: Searching for Irene by Marlene Bateman Sullivan


Anna Coughlin is a modern 1920s woman, armed with a college education and a partiality for numbers. Now, within the walls of a fantastic castle-like mansion in the hills of Virginia, her skill will be tested as never before. Hired to serve as financial advisor to wealthy Lawrence Richardson, Ann finds the welcome she receives anything but warm. Lawrence's handsome but antagonistic son Tyler wants nothing more than to send her packing. The household staff isn't much better, but who can blame them, considering the way Lawrence's last advisor, Irene, disappeared...

Convinced that one of the enigmatic members of the household had something to do with Irene's disappearance, Anna doesn't dare trust anyone—not even temperamental Tyler Richardson, who, despite her best intentions, is beginning to steal her heart.

A series of frightening incidents ensnare Anna in a maze of intrigue, putting her life in peril. But even as Anna begins uncovering the secrets hidden within the mansion's stone walls, she harbors a secret of her own. Now, the only question that remains is whether she will disappear as mysteriously as Irene.

NOTE: My review will be coming next week.


Marlene’s website:


Marlene Bateman Sullivan grew up in Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other cozy mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House, as well as the romance, For Sale by Owner.

 Marlene has also written a number of non-fiction, LDS books:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.


The tallest parts of the mansion—fanciful turrets and a circular tower—were visible only in glimpses Anna caught between lofty oaks and towering pines as her cab wound through the knolls and hills of eastern Virginia.

When the cab turned up the long driveway lined with dogwood trees in full bloom, Anna Coughlin reached for her handbag, gripping it with a tension that had knotted her muscles ever since getting on the train.

The vast estate stood on a hilltop, like a castle—and she craned her neck to better view the starkly impressive gray-stone mansion of Ashton Hall—where she hoped to be hired. With its arched, leaded windows and slate roof with numerous chimneys, the house rivaled pictures she’d seen of castles in Europe.

Instructing the driver to wait, she climbed out, patted her hat in case it was askew, then smoothed her gray suit with gloved hands in hopes of presenting a professional appearance. Anna had no confidence she was clever enough or bold enough to pull this off, but she had to try.

Her eye was drawn by a tall man—more than six feet—who came from the side of the house. Since the man was striding toward her so purposefully, Anna stopped and waited. As he drew near, Anna noted his deep-set eyes were as black as his hair. His skin was tanned, his thin, long-fingered hands brown and strong.

“Miss Coughlin?” He stretched out a hand and shook hers, but there was no warmth for her in his eyes. “I’m Tyler Richardson. Unfortunately, your services are not needed after all.” A touch of arrogance marked his manner, as though he was long accustomed to command those around him.

“Your father called only last week to have someone come out,” Anna blurted in dismay. “May I ask what caused him to change his mind?”

A fleeting glimpse of discomfiture crossed Mr. Richardson’s face. “I wasn’t consulted about his hiring another secretary to replace the one who left so suddenly. My father isn’t in good health, and the last thing we need is someone coming in and upsetting him by making a muddle of things.”

His words kindled a fire that glinted in Anna’s eyes. How dare he make such an assumption? It was difficult to hang on to her temper, but there was too much at stake to let his boorishness sidetrack her. “Since I’m here, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep my appointment. After all, your father is the one who requested my services. I’m sure he’s expecting me.”

Her words hit home.It took a few bitter seconds, but he finally acquiesced. “Come in, then,” he muttered ungraciously before leading the way up the steps and opening the door.

Following his rigid back down the narrow hall, Anna’s brows furrowed as doubts crept in. How wise had she been to come to this remote place? Especially when the previous secretary had disappeared so mysteriously? Even her employer thought it odd that no one in this mansion seemed to know where Irene had gone or where she was now. It was as if Irene had vanished into thin air.


To Write Well—Show, Don’t Tell
 by Marlene Bateman
Author of Searching for Irene
"Don't tell us that the old lady screamed.
Bring her on and let her scream." -- Samuel Clemens

We've all heard the phrase "Show, don't tell" but exactly how do you do that? First, you need to know the difference between telling and showing. Telling is passive, slows down your pacing, takes away your action and pulls your reader out of your story. On the other hand, showing is active and creates mental images that brings your story—and characters—to life. When you have writing that is vivid, evocative and strong, there is plenty of showing in it. Showing is interactive and encourages the reader to participate in the reading experience by drawing her own conclusions. Here are a few other advantages:

  • Showing is more interesting to read.
  • It creates a sharper mental picture.
  • Showing provides more precise information.
  • Showing is more convincing. If I say it was a hot day, you'll probably trust me, but if I say Lois is horribly messy, you might wonder if she's really that bad. But if you show Lois crumpling an empty potato chip bag and tossing it on the floor beside empty pop cans, candy wrappers and stinky socks, you can judge for yourself.
  • Showing allows you to do two things at the same time. You can show the reader how hot the summer sun is when your character wipes the sweat off her brow as she pulls weeds out of the garden and tosses them into a pile.

Not sure you’ve got the difference between showing and telling? Here are two signs to look for:
If you’re using an adverb, you’re probably telling. One example of this is; "You are such a jerk," he said angrily. Always try to avoid modifying "said" with an adverb.  Adverbs are not evil little words that have to be avoided at all costs, but they should be kept to a minimum. It's far better to show emotions in concrete ways. And while showing does take more words, it’s worth it. For example: “You are such a jerk!" Dan slammed the phone book shut and threw it at the couch before jumping up, moving so fast his chair skidded against the floor and dented the new drywall.

You may be telling if you use any forms of the verb "To Be,” such as; am, is, are, was, was being, will have been, could have been, et al. Using these verb forms not only puts you in passive tense much of the time, but they also can remove your reader from the action. You don’t have to cut them all out of your writing, but if you can make your writing stronger without using the word "was" or other forms of it, you'll show more than you tell.

Here are a few other examples that will help you understand the difference between showing and telling;

Telling: The lawn was covered with leaves.
Showing: Summer had ended and I would be the last one to leave the cabin. I sat alone, holding a mug of hot chocolate without drinking, and stared out the back window, watching the red, gold, and brown leaves pile up against the sparse shrubs and worn out fence.

Telling: The temperature had fallen overnight and the heavy frost reflected the sun's rays brightly.
Showing: The morning air was bitter ice in her nose and mouth and dazzling frost lay on every bud and branch.

Telling: The taller man was a carpenter, complete with the tools of his trade.
Showing: A saw and hammer dangled from his belt and an adze was hooked into it. One thumbnail was black, and when he bowed, she saw several long wood-shavings caught in his curly hair.

Telling: They stood close and wrapped their arms around each other in a passionate embrace, so that she became aware that he had been riding, and then that he was as nervous as she was.
Showing: They gripped each other and the tweed of his jacket was rough under her cheek. His hand came up to stroke her hair; she smelled leather and horses on the skin of his wrist. He was trembling.

Telling; The room was perfect. She saw it and was immediately transported back to her childhood because it had all the elements she remembered.
Showing: She threw open the wide oak door and stepped into a past from twenty years ago. The bedroom she remembered, down to the last detail. Pink candy-striped walls with white trim. A thick white shag carpet, two plush maroon velvet chairs flanking a silent fireplace. An enormous canopy bed, draped with a sheer white veil. Linda pressed a hand to her mouth. What were the chances? Another room, just like the one she'd had, years ago, before she'd grown up and grown out of the one space that had brought her happiness.

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