Monday, March 30, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from March 23-27

5. "15 Reports About Digital Magazine Publishing You Should Bookmark" on (Ed Coburn)


What do you know about the digital magazine publishing industry? Just the basics? Nothing at all? How about what people are liking (or not) about digital magazines? Check out this list of reports to find out more!

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4. "How to Work on a Big Project: Set Habits First, Then Time-Box" on The Self Leader


You've heard how an ant eats an elephant ... one bite at a time. Tackling a huge project, whether writing or freelancing or blogging or anything else, is no different. Here's a quick breakdown of the process into three simple, easy-to-follow steps.

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3. "Is a Part-Time Job the New 9-5?" on Levo League


Your parents and grandparents worked from nine in the morning to five o'clock at night. That was a typical work schedule ... eight hours a day, five days a week, made a forty-hour, full-time job. Nowadays, the part-time job is gaining ground far more quickly. Is it the new "full-time"? Your thoughts?

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2. "10 Punctuation Essentials for Every Writer" on PR Daily (Maeve Maddox)


This post features excellent writing reminders for everyone, from fiction authors to poets (unless you prefer your punctuation like e e cummings) to freelancers and bloggers to business personnel. Every industry requires writing. Find out how to punctuate nonessential information, direct quotations, noun clauses, and more.

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1. "14 Surprising Ways to Boost Creativity" on Daily Good (Ed Decker)


So much to write. So much content to create. So little time and, sometimes, inspiration. Here's an excellent take on fourteen ways (you might not have considered before) to get creativity flowing.

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And that's the lineup for last week. What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Networking: What to Do About Kids and the Decline of Reading

If you've tuned in to my blog before, you know that the Networking posts are relatively new and are my direct response to and/or input on a recently published post from another writing-related blog. (Check out the first Networking post here.)

Today's post at the Writers Helping Writers site is (frighteningly) titled "Kids and the Decline of Reading, Part 1: What We Can Do At Home" by excellent author Becca Puglisi. (Read her full post here.)

It's no secret that younger and younger generations of kids --- while, admittedly, able to operate every single form of technology in existence (and some that have yet to be fully realized) straight out of the delivery room after having been born --- are less and less enamored of reading as a pastime, hobby, or (heaven forbid) required activity (in, say, a classroom). Puglisi herself sites a graphic from Jane Friedman's blog that explains how popular reading is for kids in various age groups compared to other activities.

The results are fairly horrific, especially to someone who not only works in the reading and writing industry but also loves what she does.

I grew up loving reading. My mother was a children's librarian, and we always had shelves and shelves of books around the house, easily within my reach. From birth, I had access to dozens of board books, on which I (quite literally) cut my teeth. To this day, I can still recite Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton without ever opening the book.

My mother tells a story that when I was eighteen months old, I trotted into a new library with her, bee-lined to the children's books section, pulled a book off the shelf, and said, "Mommy, look, it's Tomie dePaola." The librarian shelving books nearby nearly fell off her step ladder in her shock, but I would have recognized the beautiful illustrations and iconic font anywhere.

Remember Strega Nona and Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato? How about The Quilt Story, and The Legend of the Poinsettia, which is still a Christmas tradition in my family?

I credit my mother with my love for reading, which outlasted every tool the public school system and assorted undergraduate and graduate college courses tried to use to convince me that books were to be analyzed for Deep Meaning and Symbolism (yes, with capital letters) and not enjoyed. (But that's another blog post entirely.)

My mother gives credit to providing us kids (my siblings and me) with endless access to all kinds of books in nearly every genre known to man. She left books laying around everywhere for us to pick up, including the bathroom, the car, and our bedrooms. Large antique baskets filled with seasonal and holiday picture books were as crucial a part of the living room and family room decor as were the furniture pieces.

And she read to us. For years, at lunch time or after school, we sat at the dining room table with a meal or our snacks, and my mother sat across from us with a pile of books we had chosen for her to read ... usually six or eight, if memory serves. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr ... Rechenka's Eggs and Thunder Cake and Chicken Sunday and Babushka's Doll and Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco ... Mouse Paint and Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh ... Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak ... Bread and Jam for Francis and A Baby Sister for Francis by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban ... 

And millions more.

It absolutely breaks my heart that kids today don't want to read anything, if they can help it. Fully one-third of high school graduates never read another book after graduation. More than 40% of college graduates never read another book after graduation. And 7 out of 10 (think about that) adults have not set foot in a bookstore in the past year. (See more recent, eye-opening statistics here.)

Good Lord. Something has to change.

Why do you think reading is declining among kids?

Is it public school? Parental non-involvement? The increase of technology? The fact that kids are getting access to technology practically from birth ("Here, Junior, play with my iPhone and stay quiet while I finish dinner")? Something else entirely?

And what do you recommend to fix the problem?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: "The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook" (Marlisa Brown)

Being gluten-free is common enough nowadays in society to look at it as just another diet, another fad, something that will quickly go the way of other outdated fads.

On the other hand, though, a number of people suffer from gluten-related illnesses and conditions that prevent them from eating anything with gluten in it. These are legitimate diagnoses, and to cater to the growing need for safe food to eat, cookbook writers have taken up the challenge.

One such author is Marlisa Brown, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, and her work, The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook.

The work is not only a cookbook but also a testament to a lifetime of experience cooking and a thorough, well-researched guide for those unable to consume gluten-related products. Brown herself is gluten-intolerant and developed the recipes in the book herself, with much (self-deprecating) laughter and through trial and error, some of which she documents very openly in the book.

Further, to accommodate other common allergens, there is a guide included that denotes each recipe as being not only gluten-free (GF) but also any one of a number of other categorizations, from milk-free (MF) to fish-free (FF) to peanut-free (PF).

Some of the most helpful information in the entire book is included in the introduction, where Brown breaks down a number of foods that are safely gluten-free, along with warnings and reminders to watch out for certain brands or types. She lists items that she keeps in her gluten-free pantry, just to have on hand for whipping up a quick meal. Another invaluable section covers gluten-free flour blends, such as those that could replace the all-purpose (gluten-containing) flour in baked goods and more.

Her recipes are divided by meal category, from breakfast to desserts and everything in between, including (I noted with relief) an entire chapter on breads and biscuits ... yes, it's often still possible to consume bread products!

Each of her recipes has been carefully tested over and over to ensure repeatable results, and you'll be amazed and gratified at the incredible array of food types and styles Brown tackles, from rolls to main dishes and more.

For all those interested in a gluten-free diet, for whatever reason, I highly recommend this cookbook for your collection!

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Author: Marlisa Brown
Title: The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook
ISBN: 978-1-617052-32-3
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: "Breaking the Bachelor" (Maggie Kelley)

Remember playing Truth or Dare as a kid? What if you played it once as an adult ... and find both your reputation and career are on the line as a result?

Now you can imagine how Jane Wright feels. She's a matchmaker based in Manhattan, who believes that relationships are based solely on scientifically measurable standards of compatibility, and not on anything remotely emotional or physical (like attraction). And her competition has cornered her into a bet: that her scientific system can find a match for Charlie Goodman, sexy bartender and Manhattan's most desirable bachelor ... and Jane's ex-lover.

Charlie, meanwhile, has zero interest in letting Jane match him with anybody. He's still desperately attracted to him, even though she dumped him via cocktail napkin. In his opinion, revenge is a dish best served heavy on the compatibility characteristics Jane is so against: attraction and good old-fashioned lust and desire. If he can seduce her and show her how it feels to be dumped, she'll get a taste of her own medicine.

He just doesn't count on falling for her all over again.

Entangled Publishing's Lovestruck imprint presents Breaking the Bachelor by Maggie Kelley, debuting just this month. For a romance simultaneously sweet and intriguingly sexy, this offering delivers.

One of its most unique selling points is the way each chapter opens with Twitter messages, quick exchanges that set the scene and provide context for the chapter contents. It's a different (in a really good way) technique with which to maintain reader interest and tension, especially as Jane and her competition in the matchmaking industry exchange increasingly biting Tweets.

Charlie, especially, is a multidimensional character ... who ever heard of a bartender being voted the best-known and most eligible bachelor in the whole of Manhattan? And yet he wears his notoriety easily, even as he works his charm and skills to his advantage over Jane. He is her perfect foil: determined to prove to her that love is something that can be felt, not necessarily scientifically analyzed and proven.

Jane, on the other hand, falls flatter as a character. She's not as well-rounded as her lover, even as she excels at snarky dialogue effectively designed to put Charlie in his place more than once. Indeed, their exchanges are one of the most entertaining aspects of the story.

Also a challenge to what would otherwise be a suspenseful (in the romantic and sexual senses) read is the great deal of back story included in the first few chapters as the stage is set for the characters to act in their present setting and situations, and the lengthy paragraphs of explanation throughout the work. Such aspects slow the forward momentum of the story regrettably, and the pacing suffers for it.

Still, for a feel-good love story based on an intriguing premise, Breaking the Bachelor fits the bill.

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Author: Maggie Kelley
Title: Breaking the Bachelor
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Lovestruck)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-089-0
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "The Makeover Mistake" (Kathy Lyons)

The publishing industry is a cutthroat place.

Nobody knows that better than Thea Danelle, an acquisitions editor at Fresh Fiction, where she works to find and court young, undiscovered, talented creative writers to publication with her superior marketing plans for their works.

But the last four ... wait, make that five ... young authors she's courted have betrayed her and contracted with Chang Smart Books via one of their acquisitions editors, a sleazy man whose wiles have nearly eliminated Thea's job altogether. If she ever got her hands on a higher-up at CSB, she'd give that leach a piece of her mind.

Enter Michael Thomas Chang, CEO of Chang Smart Books, a family business he owns and operates with his brother Jonathan. They've suspected for some time that one of their editors --- the same one with whom Thea's clients have contracted --- has been playing underhanded tricks to win new authors, but they haven't been able to prove it.

When Michael goes undercover in Vegas as a piano player at a bar during a publishing event to gather intel on their wayward editor, he isn't prepared for Thea, or the pain he feels at having inadvertently caused her distress ... or the sexy, brazen woman he finds beneath the dowdy clothes she wears.

The Makeover Mistake, by Kathy Lyons, debuts this month from Entangled Publishing via its Lovestruck imprint. If you like your romances sultry and a little cheeky, with attention-getting characters, look no further.

Lyons's characters are the lure in this contemporary romance. Michael Chang is the quintessential stuffed-shirt CEO, a fixture in the publishing industry in his business suits and with his briefcase ... until he discovers a side of himself previously unknown (or thought long since lost) when he strikes out as a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy undercover.

Perhaps it's no surprise that both he and Thea find themselves presented with an open door of opportunity into not only a sensationally sexy one-night stand but also a longer-term relationship when they each choose to climb out of their respective comfort zones and take a plunge into something different and unexpected.

And unexpected is the word for Thea. Her archetype is the frumpy librarian (once bitten, twice shy) who hides her beauty and sensual desires beneath the ugliest, baggiest clothes she can find, all in the name of professionalism and (in her case) the determination that she won't let herself be hurt again.

Which is likely why her transformation from dowdy to desirable is so praiseworthy. Readers won't be able to help but cheer her on as she throws aside her inhibitions and businesslike manner and cuts loose ... and then will sympathize when she thinks she's been betrayed again and runs to protect herself.

Don't miss this romance from Entangled Publishing. You won't regret it!

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Author: Kathy Lyons
Title: The Makeover Mistake
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Lovestruck)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-244-3
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from March 16-20

5. "So Thou Wantst to Write Old-Timey Speech" on (St. Ridley Santos)


Historical fiction is a popular enough genre, but have you ever picked up a work purportedly set in, say, medieval Italy, and found yourself jarred out of the story by a character saying, "Okay"? It only takes one slip-up like that to yank your reader right out of your story world, which is just what you don't want. This post provides excellent (if tongue-in-cheek) information about the differences between "thee," "thou," "thyself," and the rest of those historic words.

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4. "Freelancer Tips: How to Use Social Media to Attract New Clients" on Business 2 Community (Daniel Green)


You're a freelancer looking to add to your clientele. Where to start? Begin with your basic social media: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Each of those formats needs to be treated differently, though, so have a look at this quick-read post for specific tips.

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3. "2 Secrets to Writing a Story That People Can't Tear Themselves Away From" on (Charlie Jane Anders)


What are the two things you need to know and/or remember to keep your readers riveted on your writing? Here's one blogger's stance on the answer. Do you agree, or disagree? Why?

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2. "Text Speak Makes Your Spelling BETTER, Claims Top Linguist Who Says Technology Is Making Teenagers Read More Than Ever" on Daily Mail (Jenny Awford)


Many people I know rant about how "text speak" (the LOL and TTYL acronyms, for instance, that teenagers use today) is ruining teenagers' ability to write ... but this well-known linguist suggests otherwise. A controversial piece, to be sure. On which side of the debate do you land?

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1. "Writing Is a Profane, Irrational, Imperfect Act" on (Chuck Wendig)


What do you think of when you think about the act of writing, the idea of writing? Something idyllic and beautiful: sunshine pouring in through a window, birds chirping outside, classical music seducing your muse to work, the words flowing from your quill pen onto smooth, perfect parchment paper? How many people know that that ideal is rarely equivalent to reality? This post tells it like it is about writing ... not surprising to hear from Wendig, who has always believed in torching bushes instead of beating around them.

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There's the list from last week. What did you like? What spoke to you? What's your current project? What do you need more of? Inspiration? Prompts? Creativity? Tips?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: "The Apple Cookbook" (Olwen Woodier)

Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the United States, with orchards in dozens of states and hundreds of varieties ... and that doesn't even include all the heirloom varieties that many growers still produce on a small-scale today.

Whether you cook and/or bake regularly or not, I cannot encourage you enough to check out The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier (3rd edition) not only for the array of savory and sweet recipes (there are more than one hundred in the book) but also for the background information about the fruit.

Woodier presents the history of apples (did you know they've been around for 750,000 years?) in the introduction to the work, citing familiar and newer varieties and offering basic guidelines for preparing and cooking apples from how to poach or bake them to how to slice, chop, and store them.

Then come chapters of scrumptious recipes, from breakfast and brunch options to main dish meals. Need an early-morning pick-me-up? Try cheddar crepes filled with warm cooked apples Looking for a quick lunch side dish? What about the updated Waldorf salad, unexpectedly seasoned with fresh mint? Sure, you've heard of apple strudel before, but have you ever tried to make one? Here's your chance!

The final chapter of the book is actually an index of apple varieties, including pictures, background information, descriptions, and the best uses for each (e.g., eat Gala apples out of hand and bake with Rome Beauties).

Beautiful pictures grace the pages of this cookbook, some of them visualizations of the recipes when completed, and others just peaceful scenes in apple orchards, so lifelike and expertly photographed that you can almost smell the warm sun-baked smell of the fruit.

If you're looking to add a versatile cookbook to your shelves, look no further than this exquisite offering.

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Author: Olwen Woodier
Title: The Apple Cookbook
Edition: 3rd
ISBN: 978-1612125183
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: "The Called" (Justin R. Price)

Speculative fiction is becoming a more widely recognized and very popular genre. One of the most familiar sub-genres is dystopian fiction, wherein the author fashions a world rife with corruption, deception, fear, oppression, tyranny, and the like. (Think Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy.)

Enter The Called, the first in a series of Christian-themed dystopian novels, by Justin R. Price.

In Price's dystopian world, all religion has been essentially extinguished by the ruling authorities, and a new worldwide government has been created under the direction and authority of a Syrian leader whose motives are not what they seem. Still, despite the oppression of those who espouse any religion at all, Yahweh is still at work, often through some of the most unlikely people and in the most unexpected ways.

The story includes elements of other sub-genres, including science fiction, apocalyptic, futurism, and thriller/suspense, seamlessly blended with Price's long-standing knowledge (personal and professional) of the Christian faith and its tenets.

Told in vignettes, jumping from the perspective and experience of one character after another after another to maintain tension and interest throughout the book, the story is well-crafted and shows a great deal of potential to attract and keep readers riveted.

Follow such characters as John, former Navy SEAL, who has been missing from his wife Maggie's life for months; David, who leads an underground movement of believers in an attempt to overthrow the corrupt government; Liam Cain, President of the United States, who has fallen under the influence of the Syrian ruler; brilliant scientist Charles, a widower after his wife Erica died of cancer, and Charles's colleague Nick; friends Abbie and Jenna; and secret believers Noah and Joanna and their prophetically gifted son, Ryan.

If I had two wishes for the novel's improvement, they would be as follows: first, that one more main character be determined and his/her perspective and story become more the central focus, to give readers someone with whom to sympathize and for whom to cheer in a more personal, less harried way; and second, that a future edition be subject to a close proofread to clear away the typos and errors, which prove unfortunate distractions in an otherwise intriguing work.

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Author: Justin R. Price
Title: The Called
ISBN: 978-1505264760
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "The Pool Boy's Beatitude" (DJ Swykert)

There is, perhaps, nothing so complex as the human mind, and the mental acrobatics through which it rationalizes, assumes, justifies, excuses, explains, and muses.

Jack Joseph has such a mind.

He has an advanced degree in particle physics, and spends a great deal of time thinking about what he knows --- which is that he really doesn't know. Nobody does. Meanwhile, he works as a pool boy for a number of wealthy, eccentric clients.

He's also a functional alcoholic, with a wife from whom he's estranged, an unexpected girlfriend, and a patron to whom he plays "mistress" (if there's such an equivalent in the masculine sense).

The Pool Boy's Beatitude, by talented and eclectic author DJ Swykert, is a testament to the power a single decision can have on someone's life, and the ways in which the consequences of that one decision burgeon to overwhelming proportions.

The work is undoubtedly literary fiction, with elements of romance, dark noir, and the same kind of outlook and ambiance professed by the literary American realism and naturalism movement (think Crane or London).

Rather than an action-oriented work of mass market fiction in one of your everyday genres, Swykert has crafted a character-centered exploration of psyche and internal life, physics and science, humanity and purpose, meaning and love, passion and lust. The themes run thick through the story, seamlessly intertwined.

Perhaps most unusual and arresting is the way Swykert portrays the majority of the characters, from the bartender to Jack's out-of-the-blue girlfriend, as possessing a rich inner life, deeply philosophical, psychological, understated, and poignant. Jack himself is the foremost philosopher, with much of the story underscored by his constant stream-of-consciousness-style thoughts.

As a work of literary fiction, the plot (what happens first, and next, and later) is much less a consideration than each of the characters and their complicated relationships with one another and with themselves. The conclusion of the work, in the same way, is less a triumphant overcoming and more a subtle, concise affirmation of the way things exist: not quite fatalistic, not quite escapist or inherently pessimistic, but certainly not overwhelmingly positive and uplifting, either.

Deep and poignant, different and diffident, wholly unpredictable and familiar, The Pool Boy's Beatitude will force readers to stop and think about reality in entirely fresh ways.

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Author: DJ Swykert
Title: The Pool Boy's Beatitudes
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Review: "The Gleaming Clouds" (Murray Alfredson)

Poetry collections are all too often overlooked unless you're trapped in a literature class in high school or college.

And yet there's something about poetry that speaks to something within each of us that prose simply can't reach. The diction, the mouthfeel, the tone, the voice of a poem heightens meanings both literal and personalized so that reading a poem becomes an experience by itself.

Former librarian, lecturer, Buddhist chaplain, and poet Murray Alfredson captures something positively transcendental in his poetry collection, The Gleaming Clouds, interspersed with beautiful artwork by Jyoti.

Stylistically, Alfredson's poems are free-form, sometimes with end-rhymes (I suspect unintentionally, for the most part) but more often filled with the poignant and evocative sounds that naturally emerge from well-chosen words carefully placed in lines and stanzas: internal rhymes, alliteration, assonance, and more (remember those terms from your last English class?).

In content, the poems range over a wide variety of topics, from mythology to Buddhist belief to Biblical accounts, from social commentary to unexpected perspectives to messages to (or for) friends and testaments to family. Even if all of them do not speak to every reader, each of them will say something memorable and even life-changing to more than one reader over the course of the collection's tenure.

The final section of the anthology consists of translations of poems taken from Old Norse, Middle High German, and New High German time periods and languages. These translations are stunningly rendered into English, with cunning precision and the kind of delicacy only an impassioned poet could wield. Personal favorites include "The Kurenberger's Falcon Song," from the twelfth century, and "Presence," adapted from Goethe's work.

Never underestimate the power of a poem to elevate your outlook, spur your imagination, coddle your muse, frustrate your assumptions, and paint the world a brighter hue than you knew existed. The Gleaming Clouds achieves all that, and more.

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Poet: Murray Alfredson
Title: The Gleaming Clouds
ISBN: 978-1922120410
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Protecting Fate" (Katee Robert)

An unwise career move lands Sara Reaver in serious trouble, as the prime target of some very unfriendly people. Her brother Garrett enlists his best friend and former military man Zebadiah "Z" Loreto as her bodyguard, to keep her safe by whatever means necessary, apparently not realizing that what Sara might need the most is someone to protect her from Z.

Sara thoroughly resents being locked away for her own good and decides to seek out something ... physical ... from Z to try to forget her predicament and feel better. Z would be willing, especially when he finds out that her unconventional desires mirror his own, except that the last time he lost control with a woman, he landed in prison for it. No guarantees that won't happen again.

Lovers of kink and BDSM, take note! Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents Protecting Fate, by Katee Robert, just released this month.

Character Sara Reaver is as different and unorthodox as they come, a walking dichotomy. She manages to be strong, courageous, and self-contained on the one hand, she harbors a secret longing to be dominated, to submit to someone, to lose all control. And she's determined to get her way, even if she has to seduce Z to make it happen.

Z, for his part, is a natural-born control freak and leader, making him the perfect choice to give Sara what she wants. That he's been burned before by his participation in the BDSM lifestyle, though, becomes painfully clear the longer he works to keep Sara at bay (and, true to form, she doesn't make it easy on him). He's also a man of integrity and honor, torn between his desire for Sara and his loyalty to her older brother.

Sometimes, finding oneself between a rock and a hard place makes every doubt fade away and everything come clear in one's mind.

In true Brazen imprint format, the sexual content torches off (quite literally) an open door to a deeper relationship between the characters. If you like your romances Fifty Shades of Grey unorthodox, you may be disappointed, but even this slightly softer side of BDSM proves mind-blowing.

And then there's the snark between Sara and Z, and later with Sara's brothers when they get involved. The story is worth the read for the quick comebacks and devastating one-liners alone.

Prepare for a scintillating read, thick with desire, control, submission, and erotic romance ... probably more than you bargained for.

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Author: Katee Robert
Title: Protecting Fate
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-246-7
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from March 9-13

5. "100 Questions For the Young Creative" on


Asking questions doesn't only apply to young people. This list is worth working through for any creative person, professional or intending to be. Do you really know your strengths? Can you describe your contributions to an industry? Or define your niche? Take time to think about it.

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4. "Social Media Overload Causing Anxiety for Many Teens" on Komo News (Kara Kostanich)


Here's another article I don't think necessarily applies just to teens or young people. Think about it honestly: Could you put down your iPhone or smart phone or tablet and walk away from it for an hour? Two hours? The length of a work day? Twenty-four hours? A week? How many of you just broke out in hives at the thought? What can you do to combat that hold on you?

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3. "Make Your Blog a Local Destination & Win At Local Search" on Search Engine Land (Greg Gifford)


Every blogger is concerned with SEO (search engine optimization). How do you manage to reel in readers via the new "local search" option that has cropped up recently? This thorough article is packed with expert wisdom and tips on how to do just that.

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2. "Making Money From Your Travel Blog" on (Sankara Subramanian)


Travel blogging is becoming more popular. What if you wanted to "go pro" and make money with your travel blog, though? How do you monetize that kind of subject matter? Here's a detailed breakdown that will get you thinking about your brand and how to use it to reach out and build your target audience.

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1. "Your 16-Point Content Publishing Checklist" on Convince and Convert (Arnie Kuenn)


Stop! Don't hit "Publish" just yet on any of your content. You want to make sure what you're putting out there for all the world to see is as effective as possible, right? Then work your way through this checklist, which takes into consideration every aspect of content creation from titles to formatting and beyond.

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And that's the lineup for last week. Let me know what worked for you, what didn't work for you, what you want to see more of, what you hated, and what you're doing to celebrate St. Patrick's day!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: "Dances with Wolf" (Farrah Taylor)

Abby Macready works with horses. To be specific, she dropped out of vet school to take a more holistic approach to her work. Horses usually respond better to her than to other means, especially when physical, emotional, or psychological damage is suspected. The others in her close-knit hometown often call her the "horse whisperer," and not without derision.

Including, at first, Wolf Olsen, rodeo cowboy, known womanizer, older brother of Abby's best friend, and the first one who broke Abby's heart when she was a teenager. Now she's grown up, and Wolf is back in town for a family occasion when he runs into her. He never expected the shy teenage girl to turn into such a stunning, self-possessed woman. Never expected to need her help with his own beloved horse.

And never expected to have to mend longtime fences with her before he can admit that he's falling for her.

Dances with Wolves by Farrah Taylor, just released this month by Entangled Publishing's Bliss imprint, is a sweet, soft romance between the unlikeliest of characters ... and isn't that what makes the best romance story, when two people who should never be able to make it work somehow make it work?

One of the most fascinating aspects of the novel comes from the well-researched and seamlessly portrayed career options espoused by each of the main characters. The behind-the-scenes portrayals of Wolf's work on the rodeo circuit is eye-opening, to say the least, in a contemporary world of corporate types.

Abby's work with horses, especially, proves the read worthwhile. Taylor is to be commended for writing eloquently about such an intriguing and, well, different career choice. What intrigues even more is the numerous dimensions of insight "horse whispering" opens up into Abby's character: her heart, her patience, her Native American heritage, her fierce loyalty, her dedication to work, and more.

As a sweet romance, you won't find heavy sexual content in Dances with Wolves, but the attraction between Abby and Wolf is evident, regardless. And sometimes, it's refreshing to read a feel-good love story in which the sex doesn't take center-stage.

Prepare for an inspirational read.

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Author: Farrah Taylor
Title: Dances with Wolf
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Bliss)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-175-0
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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: "Guarding His Heart" (Annie Seaton)

All Liam Wyndham wants is peace and quiet, to be ignored for a while. As a bestselling author, he can't let it get out that his muse has abandoned him for parts unknown, and he's got a deadline pressing down on him. Half Moon Bay, a sweet, lazy small town, seems to be just what he needs.

Until he contracts with a local hardware store to have bookshelves installed in the house he's renting, and the "handyman" turns out to be a (very beautiful) woman.

Georgie Sacchi is carrying her own devastating emotional baggage (because, really, who doesn't have some to carry?). Having been unceremoniously dumped by her last several romantic partners, she's convinced she's the problem and is determined to stay independent. First step: taking a worldwide tour, going wherever she wants ... alone.

But first, she has to build these bookshelves for this angry, impatient, discourteous recluse of an author. If only he weren't so gorgeous to boot ... 

Entangled Publishing's Bliss imprint presents Guarding His Heart by Annie Seaton, newly published this month. If you like your romances on the softer side, with tastefully discreet physicality and attraction, check out this offering.

Themes in this work include loss, grief, loneliness, pride, independence, love (of course), and the conflicting desires for solitude and relationships (slash community) that war within every human heart ... especially, perhaps, in the hearts of those who have been burned before.

Georgie (and, to a lesser degree, Liam) represents every person who has ever been cut down by a careless remark from a person in a position of trust, or who has faced tragic loss and self-recrimination because of it.

Georgie's nemesis is fatalism ... the determination that because two (or three) men have dumped her, she's the issue (being the common denominator) and therefore should never be in a relationship. Period.

That's the kind of knee-jerk reaction (note: not a rational response) readers can relate to. Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me.

And then, when we've cut off what we assume was the source of the emotional (or other) pain, what if we miss an opportunity that life might have handed us, if we hadn't been hardened?

Guarding His Heart is a careful exploration of what loss can do to a person's heart, and how lingering pain can affect a person's choices ... for better or worse.

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Author: Annie Seaton
Title: Guarding His Heart
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Bliss)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-219-1
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "The Praying Woman's Devotional" (Stormie Omartian)

Author Stormie Omartian, best-known, perhaps, for her books about the power of prayer in the life of a Christian, has a new approach to the same kind of thorough, Biblically based content that so many readers have appreciated.

Check out The Praying Woman's Devotional, newly published this year by Harvest House Publishers.

The work incorporates some of Omartian's favorite Bible verses from all aspects of the Scriptures. For each inclusion, she builds a brief devotional (perfect for a first-thing-in-the-morning quiet time, or a last-thing-at-night meditation, or any pocket of a few minutes during the day) on the subject at hand and includes a prayer to springboard the readers' own communication with God, based on His Scriptural truths.

Subjects addressed include prayer, direction, pain, the fruits of the Spirit, friendship, God's will, endurance, patience, trust, promises, holiness, mercy, wisdom, and much, much more.

These brief but powerful bite-sized snippets will take almost no time to read on a consistent basis, but their impact will remain with readers long after the devotional has been closed for the day.

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Author: Stormie Omartian
Title: The Praying Woman's Devotional
ISBN: 978-0-7369-6341-1
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Tryst" (Alex Rosa)

New Adult is an up-and-coming genre that features a number of sub-genres, from romance to suspense.

If you're looking for something slightly different, how about a New Adult erotic romance?

Following a devastating relationship breakup, Skyler moves in with her brother Josh for her senior year of school. Josh, delighted to have her around, doesn't mind much, but he has one rule: Do not, under any circumstances, get involved with his roommate, Blake.

Skyler is more than willing to obey, especially after several awkward or annoying encounters with Blake, who seems to be a patronizing, womanizing jerk and a general pain in the butt, or with one of Blake's lady friends, who breeze in and out of the shared apartment faster than Skyler can note.

For some reason, though, Blake seems determined to ingratiate himself with Skyler, and she can't deny that there's a mutual attraction there. When he suggests a purely sexual relationship, no strings attached, she's intrigued, but she doesn't exactly have a track record for being a rule-breaking girl.

Then her ex-boyfriend shows up on her doorstep, unexpectedly, and Blake is the one who rescues her without hesitation. Slowly, their physical relationship begins to turn into something more ... but what if Skyler is the only one who has fallen in love?

Tryst, by Alex Rosa, is a breathtaking, scintillating story, complete with one steamy sex scene after another, about a young woman trying to find her way in the world and learning how to put her independence to work for her ... classic trademark qualities of the New Adult genre.

The work is written in the first-person present tense from Skyler's point of view, and her tone and style are conversational, eager, enthusiastic, honest, and entertaining. Skye is funny, quick-witted, vulnerable, and surrounded by a cast of wild secondary and supporting characters, from her gay coworker and friend Tucker to her soccer teammates, also good friends, to her wannabe-boyfriend Richard.

And then, of course, there's Blake: rule-breaker, bad boy extraordinaire, with a laissez-faire attitude and a devil-may-care smirk that just begs to be seduced off his face.

Tryst is a wild, seductive ride through the coming-of-age season of a young woman's life as she learns to define herself apart from what others expect of her.

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Author: Alex Rosa
Title: Tryst
ISBN: 978-0-698-19464-9
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: "Adoptive Personality" (Cassandra Scearce)

Eve Matthews's story begins in the least likely way ... as her abusive father and enabler mother die in a terrible fire that Eve herself started.

Quite deliberately.

Innocent enough and a good enough actress that the authorities don't suspect her of wrongdoing, the teenager is shuttled from one foster family to another without success. Then a safe deposit box that had belonged to her parents falls into her possession, revealing secrets she never imagined about her life and where she came from.

From that moment, her goal to survive isn't enough. Now, she wants revenge against those who set her up for misery, and she'll do anything it takes to gain independence and control.

Adoptive Personality, by Cassandra Scearce, is a difficult-to-classify novel. Its genre includes elements of coming-of-age, erotica, psychological suspense, and perhaps even New Adult. My response to the story was similar to one someone might have when driving past a horrific car accident: the scene shocks and frightens you, but nonetheless draws your total attention.

In the same way, Scearce's work is riveting.

Eve represents every woman or child who has ever been helpless or felt hopeless in the face of sexual, physical, emotional, and/or psychological abuse at the hands of an authority figure who should have been trustworthy and loving. She is a difficult character to like, a classic unlikable protagonist, for her ruthlessness, cunning, and bloodthirsty, uncaring vengeful tendencies.

Still, even as Eve's actions become more and more twisted as she fights --- not to exorcise the darkness inside her, but to embrace and even exploit it against others --- it's impossible not to sympathize with her. At her core, she's a broken, lonely child, frightened of those who could take advantage of her, and lashing out against any threat, however real or perceived.

A future edition of the work would benefit from a close proofread for consistency and to catch the occasional typos that tend to draw the reader out of an otherwise fascinating story.

Here is a work that will undoubtedly be memorable to its readers, whether for the discomfort and shock or for the startling clarity of its content.

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Author: Cassandra Scearce
Title: Adoptive Personality

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Sneaking Candy" (Lisa Burstein)

Hoping beyond hope to become a known creative writer, Candice Salinas starts as a graduate student at the University of Miami. To be taken seriously by her professors and impossible-to-stand academic advisor, though, she has to hide her alternate identity. She is also Candy Sloane, who self-publishes erotic romance novels to help pay her way through school.

And there's more to the secret: she's never felt more like a successful writer, or more capable as a writer, than when she's publishing as Candy Sloan. Somehow, the "serious" literary work expected of her as a creative writing student just doesn't do it for her.

Still, college is a time for young people to spread their wings and try things they normally might not try out in the "real" world, so when Candice runs into James Walker at the local coffee shop, she likes what she sees and decides to branch out of her traditionalist mindset and borrow a few maneuvers from Candy's persona. When she finds out that James is actually one of her students, though, things get even more complicated, and it doesn't take long before her secret isn't a secret any longer.

Author Lisa Burstein writes an exquisite work of New Adult romance in Sneaking Candy, part of Entangled Publishing's Embrace imprint. A fascinating premise; a cast of quirky, likable characters; and all the coming-of-age nuances of the up-and-coming New Adult genre will keep readers turning pages from start to finish.

Candice, in particular, is a memorable voice, as she tells her story with self-deprecating humor and a burgeoning sense of her own responsibilities as an adult and talents as a creative writer. James is nearly her perfect nemesis, in a contrary antagonist type of way.

And the sexual tension and fireworks between the two ... let's just say readers of today's popular erotica won't be disappointed.

For a more-than-worthwhile read, check it out!

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Author: Lisa Burstein
Title: Sneaking Candy
ISBN: 978-1-62266-237-1
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Dobyns Chronicles" (Shirley McLain)

Charles (Charley) Dobyns is the title character in Dobyns Chronicles, an historical novel by Shirley McLain, set in the mid- to late-nineteenth century and early- to mid-twentieth century.

The story begins as Charley looks back over his life, the ancestors from whence he came and the legacy that was left to him. He and his brother and sister were born to devout parents whose livelihood was in farming. When their parents died unexpectedly of yellow fever, Charley became his siblings' guardian, ensuring a home and provision for them, despite challenge, trial, hardship, and uncertainty.

Part coming-of-age, part documentary-style, and all well-researched historical fiction, the novel explores such themes as childhood, maturity, relationships, family, the value of hard work, loss, and the inevitability of change.

McLain writes a well-wrought, thorough tale, almost like an autobiography that follows the life of one man and his family and relations from his ancestor to his progeny (many generations thereof). The characters are memorable, the historical details seamlessly incorporated.

Intriguingly, the work is more of a chronological accounting than an actual novel --- picture it as Dickens' David Copperfield meets Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series, with less of a traditional plot structure (which would have one or more major conflicts to carry the weight of the action) and more of a fictional biography, with the typical ups and downs of an average, everyday life.

If I had a wish for the work for its improvement, it would be that future editions be given a thorough proofread prior to publication, just because the occasional error tends to drag the reader out of an otherwise well-crafted story.

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Author: Shirley McLain
Title: Dobyns Chronicles
ISBN: 978-1499024036
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.