Friday, May 29, 2015

Networking: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life

Positive Writer, which is an unbelievably stellar source of support and guidance for writers, has put together a contest and has invited writers to enter with an essay about what writing has contributed positively to their lives.

A tall order, to be sure, since, for many of us in the profession and industry, writing is something we've always known we had to do, something we were driven to do, something for which the words passion and devotion aren't enough as descriptors and for which the word obsession just barely lands in the running as an indication of what writing is to us.


I was eight years old when I knew I had to write.

I can't even say that I was eight when I "realized I wanted to be a writer when I grew up," because that simply doesn't do the revelation justice.

It was more like being slammed into the ground, forty and fifty and sixty feet down and still falling, through and past everything I thought I had figured out about the world and my place in it (which, of course, as a second-grader, I thought was quite a bit) into a place of utter chaos, movement, color, motion ... and of total stillness, silence, bated breath in the eye of the storm.

I'm still falling.

Those first tentative words I penciled onto a white page, plaintive in their telling the love story of a magician and a princess, convinced me: I was a writer, made and designed and called to write, and it wasn't just a verb, not just something I'd spend time doing (although I do). Instead, it was an identity, a whole new mode of being.

I am writer.

With the knowledge, I didn't have to try to sort out life and its up and downs apart from my writing, as someone who stood there and took whatever life threw at her without a response.

I had a way to respond.

When my brother was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, I wrote. When my mother suffered miscarriages, I wrote. When I gained two younger sisters, I wrote. When my beloved cat died, I wrote. I wrote in public school and as a homeschooled student. I wrote first thing in the morning, through lunchtime, and late, late at night. I wrote as a musician, as an artist, as a scholar, as a journalist, as an historian. When I traveled with my family, the first thing I packed was a spiral-bound college-ruled notebook and five or six pens (you never knew when one might die on you in the middle of a tremendous story idea).


Being a writer is not like being an instrumentalist. (In case you wondered.)

I've been a musician almost my entire life; there are pictures of me as a toddler "playing" my grandmother's piano with my bare toes (a feat I've never once been able to replicate). The piano remains my favorite instrument to this day, though I'm also a cellist and a vocalist, among other things.

Still, when you sit down to play the piano, you invite beautiful music out of the instrument; the strings inside and the network of keys are the conduit through which the music comes. There's something inordinately safe about hiding away behind a piano, knowing that if I press middle C (with any luck and a good piano tuner!) I will always hear middle C.

As a vocalist, I have no such luxury. My voice is the instrument, bound up inside me. I am the instrument. It's innate and beautiful and horrifying all at once, that when I open my mouth to sing, I never know precisely what's going to come.

Writing is like being a vocalist.

You sit down at a blank page, or stand before an audience, and open your mouth or a vein and bleed your soul onto the page or into the air. There's no way to know what will come when you take that risk.

Writing, like singing, is a risk. It's imperfect, imprecise, complicated, overwhelming, stunning, uncertain, powerful, frightening, and entirely worth it.


How about you? How has writing had a positive impact on your life?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: "Not Cool" (Greg Gutfeld)

It takes a certain kind of clear-headed person to comment on the political, economic, and social issues in the United States today.

Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You, the latest work by political commentator, satirist, blogger, and author (among other things, printable and not) Greg Gutfeld, is evidence that when you want to talk about the aforementioned issues, it also helps to have some incisive cynicism, assertive skepticism, and the innate ability to honestly say what everyone else is thinking but, for one reason or another, refuses to verbalize.

Those attributes are also some of the few that will prevent readers from descending into utter despair and hopelessness at the enormity of what Gutfeld concisely and without apology unearths: that in today's culture, what's good and positive are denigrated as uncool, outdated, old-fashioned, and archaic; and what is (or would be, in a society that functioned with a even modicum of the kind of common sense Gutfeld is blessed enough to possess in spades) evil, negative, and deplorable are heralded as the epitome of "cool," meaning popular, likable, and brilliant.

In other words, the most highly favored beliefs (religious, political, economic, etc.) in American society today, in Gutfeld's estimation, are the ones that make the least sense to laud, and are the ones held by a particularly outraged and vocal portion of the U.S. population possessed of a sort of bad-is-the-new-good hive-mind.

Gutfeld writes with the same witty aplomb, droll detachment, and approachable self-deprecation that make him an admired (or at least well-known) commentator with FOX News, where he is part of the panel, The Five, and hosts Red Eye. Topics in the book include everything from the military to the environment. Despite his seeming indifference in general, Gutfeld only needs appropriately outrageous situations or over-the-top people to provoke his well-researched, impassioned, cuttingly written editorials.

Their respective political leanings aside, readers of every generation and outlook will undoubtedly learn from (or at least be entertained by) the libertarian perspective Gutfeld has toward some of the most highly controversial subjects to be addressed in the United States today.

Perhaps his work will incite conversation, at least, among political parties, and if not ... well, Gutfeld doesn't strike me as the kind of person who will lose sleep over those who choose to remain contentious.

A highly recommended read, and not only for the politically minded.

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Author: Greg Gutfeld
Title: Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You
ISBN: 978-0804138550
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via the Blogging for Books program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: "Hold Me Until Midnight" (Christina Phillips)

What is it about a bad boy that gets a good girl's blood boiling?

Wealthy debutante Scarlett Ashford has been the good girl her entire life, trying to win her emotionally distant, politically influential father's approval. Hasn't worked so far. In fact, he seems determined to keep her under his thumb, doing exactly what he wants. Like marrying whomever he picks.

And suddenly, she can't bring herself to live like that any longer. Especially not once she lays eyes on the bodyguard she's hiring to act as her significant other for her father's second wedding.

Jackson Grayson grew up a street fighter, determined to keep himself and his brothers alive in the face of their father's alcoholic rages. Jackson did what he needed to do to survive, and now, he's street smart and the best at what he does: keeping clients safe, and strictly professional.

Until Scarlett walks through his door. She needs him to help her ward off an unwanted suitor at her father's wedding. He's more than willing, much to his shock, especially if it means that he might be able to get his hands on the body he's contracted to guard.

Hold Me Until Midnight by Christina Phillips is an erotic romance published just this month from Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint.

The good girl-bad boy dynamic has been explored in a lot of romances before, from Beauty and the Beast on down. This time around, though, what freshens the setup are the characters involved.

Scarlett is far from the typical spoiled daughter of a powerful societal figure. If you like your heroines pouting, manipulative, and self-centered like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, you'll be disappointed.

Phillips's heroine is a fascinating combination of innocent sophistication, dedicated service to others, and devotion to her family despite their differences ... with the added benefit, as befits a scintillating erotic romance, of also being just a little rebellious. Readers will undoubtedly fall in love with Scarlett Ashford and her sweet quirks.

Meanwhile, Jackson isn't your average bad boy, either. His stint on the other side of the tracks --- his childhood and upbringing, really --- could have resulted in a criminal or someone just as abusive as his own father. Instead, he turned those circumstances around and molded himself to be a better man, committed to his work providing opportunities for underprivileged kids to get off the streets and channel their energy into useful skills.

Combine an equally unique hero and heroine with a sweet story and a raging hot attraction, and you have a sure winner.

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Author: Christina Phillips
Title: Hold Me Until Midnight
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-273-3
Purchase here:

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from May 18-22

5. "Tips for Time Management" on


Don't let the formatting of this post turn you away. It reads kind of cluttered, but the information provided is spot-on to help readers figure out how best to manage and coordinate the time we have each day. There are only twenty-four hours in a day. How can you make the best use of them?

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4. "10 Things You Need to Consider Before Starting Your Freelance Business" on Freelancers Union (Michelle Garrett)


Included in this post is a practical list of things even current freelancers can learn from. Are you taking into account things like marketing, discipline, and networking? How do you know if you're really ready to take the leap? Start here.

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3. "3 Content Tweaks to Increase Your Blog Traffic Without Spending a Penny" on (Jawad Khan)


Agents, editors, publishers, and prospective employers are all looking at the numbers these days. How many subscribers does your blog have? How many hits on your blog can you boast per month? Per week? Per day? What if you could do just a few simple things to see exponentially greater numbers of people coming upon your blog? This post is well-written, easy to follow, and contains some really helpful infographics to boot.

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2. "3 Traps to Avoid When Writing a Rough Draft" on The Write Practice (Marcy McKay)


First drafts are hard. Nobody in the writing world is going to deny that point. There's possibly nothing harder, in fact, than sitting down to face that proverbial blank page and wondering just what the heck you're going to put there. Why not check out this article from the experts at The Write Practice and find out what you should actively avoid when trying to get that first draft on paper? Set yourself up for success going in.

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1. "6 Writing Lessons from William Zinsser" on Ragan's PR Daily


Speaking of writing experts, you won't find many more talented and well-versed in the craft than William Zinsser, who passed away on May 12 this year. His legacies of students and wisdom about writing will undoubtedly remain cherished to those in the industry. Here are six of his best and most memorable guidelines for writing.

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That's the lineup for the last week. What are you currently working on? What do you want to learn more about? What are you sick of hearing about?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: "Delicious Temptation" (Sabrina Sol)

Temptation is easy. Figuring out what to do after you've played with the fire is something entirely different.

For Amara Maria Robles, family and duty have always come first, which makes her a good daughter. She even relinquished her own lifelong goal to become a professional pastry chef to go back home and help her parents' ailing family bakery. If only they weren't so steeped in tradition and stubbornness that they ignore all of her suggestions.

Finally frustrated beyond all reason with being the quiet, well-behaved daughter, Amara's looking for trouble, and when it comes walking through the bakery door one day, she's determined to be bad for once in her life.

Eric Valencia grew up in Amara's neighborhood. In fact, he was her older brother's best friend, until a scandal and subsequent falling out years ago. Now he's back, his demons mostly under control, to make amends and take responsibility for his ailing aunt. There's no way a dalliance with his ex-best friend's baby sister is a good idea for a man trying to redeem himself.

If only Amara weren't so doggone determined to be bad ... 

Delicious Temptation, an erotic romance by Sabrina Sol, has just been released this month by Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint.

Scintillating love scenes take talent and care to write, in order to be effective as erotic romance. Admittedly, and probably shamelessly, Sol is an expert author, certainly up to the challenge ... and she delivers what she promises.

What blows Sol's story out of the water, however, as a beyond excellent book is her careful attention to the cultural dynamics she explores. For those of us who haven't been privy to an impassioned argument --- "discussion," rather --- among members of a close-knit Mexican family, or who don't necessarily understand the importance of good food and good company to that culture, Delicious Temptation paints a fascinating, authentic picture and invites readers in to experience those dynamics first-hand.

Amara is easy to sympathize with: courteous, consistent, dependable ... and chafing to do something really out of the ordinary to break the mundane routines she and her overbearing parents have developed since she returned home to help. Her devotion to her family, despite how they sometimes frustrate her, is one of her most admirable traits, seconded only by her dedication to achieving her own dreams, whatever the cost.

Meanwhile, Eric is the perfect bad boy-turned-good and an excellent, unexpected foil for Amara. With his questionable past, he's the black to her white, and yet they share more than just a roaring physical attraction for one another. Both are committed to family and friends, and committed to their community. Each demonstrates infinite patience and concern, whether for the other or for other friends and loved ones.

Making this romance novel one you won't soon forget, for all the right reasons.

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Author: Sabrina Sol
Title: Delicious Temptation
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-272-6
Purchase here:

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

Book Review: "Falling for His Best Friend" (Katee Robert)

Avery Yeung doesn't have time to go through the whole process --- find a man, fall in love, get pregnant --- the way it usually happens. Two close relatives have been visited by cancer, and her doctor tells her she could be next on the list. Before that can happen, she wants a baby of her own. But where do you go for support when you're planning to be a single parent and your family is so traditional they'll probably shun you for the rest of your life if you go ahead with your plans?

Simple. Avery turns to her best friend ... who just happens to be a guy.

Drew Flannery, sheriff, has been Avery's friend since childhood. There's always been attraction, but neither has ever made a move, content to keep their friendship platonic. Now, though, with Avery threatening to get herself knocked up with just any donor, Drew's seeing red, and determined to convince her that it would be better if she actually knew the baby's father.

But it could take a lot of convincing on his part ... 

Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents the erotic romance Falling for His Best Friend by New York Times bestselling author Katee Robert. (Check out my review of Robert's novel Protecting Fate here.)

The beauty of this story is in its plausibility. Who among us hasn't been shaken by a brush with cancer, whether personally or vicariously through a loved one? Who hasn't felt the desperation that comes when we sense that time might be running out and we still haven't achieved a cherished life goal ... and aren't sure we'll be able to do so in time?

Avery is a beautiful young woman, devoted to her family even when their pragmatic traditions clash with her desires, committed to her friendship with Drew, willing to take a huge risk to accomplish her goals. It's easy not only to cheer for her but also to empathize with her situation. For all her strength and pluck, she's also authentic and vulnerable, making her an even more likable heroine.

Drew, for his part, manages to be both honorable and very, very bad, in a very good way. The sex between he and Avery reads as though they've been denying their mutual attraction for a long, long time, and now that they've turned on the faucet full strength, there's no turning back. Prepare for some of the hottest love scenes in a long while.

Still, there's nothing devious about Drew's motives. He wants what's best for Avery, and to do everything possible not to jeopardize his friendship with her. Their easy interactions with one another, especially early in the book, read almost like a close brother-sister relationship, until they each finally decide to be honest about their attraction to the other.

Nothing like a boiling hot romance to add to your collection!

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Author: Katee Robert
Title: Falling for His Best Friend
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-274-0
Purchase here:

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Hi everyone ... 

I'm on vacation this Memorial Day weekend, which is why my posts have been conspicuously absent. I've got book reviews going live tomorrow, but meanwhile, I'm off this weekend, and I'll be back on Monday as usual with my "Top Five" post of writing articles and tips.

Have a safe weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from May 11-15

5. "Agonizing Over Antagonists" on Writer Unboxed (Keith Cronin)


Antagonists are some of the most challenging characters to draft for your novel. Who would best be able to act as a foil for your protagonist, whether on purpose or coincidentally? Maybe it isn't even a particular person in the story; perhaps it's an organization, or some specific obstacle. Start with this post for excellent tips on creating a worthy antagonist!

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4. "How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan" on Social Media Examiner (Keith Quesenberry)


Businesses create marketing plans to get the word out about their products or services. Today, those marketing plans often include sections that address social media. Why not create an entire marketing plan just for your social media platforms? It's amazing, the ways you can reach people today. Check out this detailed post for specifics!

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3. "The 7 Tools of Dialogue" on Writer's Digest (James Scott Bell)


Expert author James Scott Bell writes frequently for Writer's Digest's website's blogs. This time around, he presents equally applicable information: guidelines for making your dialogue (whether you're writing fiction or a memoir, or creative nonfiction) as realistic and authentic as possible. Chock full of examples, this post is one you'll want to favorite for future reference!

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2. "How to Find Your Audience Online by @nblackburn01" on Bad Redhead Media


It's so nice when excellent posts in the same week dovetail on a particular topic. If you're finished reading #4 above, jump to this post next for even more specific tips on which approach works best with each of several forms of social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Snapchat.

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1. "5 LinkedIn Mistakes You Need to Avoid" on (Alex Pirouz)


Not only does this post include excellent information you might never have heard before about what's wrong with your LinkedIn profile and how to correct it, but also, it contains (scroll to the bottom) an invite to a FREE webinar on how to master using LinkedIn effectively. What's wrong with your profile picture? Why aren't potential employers noticing you? There's always something new to learn!

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BONUS: "How to Rediscover Your Desire for Blogging" on


Maybe blogging has become just another chore on your to-do list. You find yourself procrastinating, putting off writing the posts until the last possible second, wondering why you're even bothering. Are you making any headway? Any difference? If that's you, visit this post for patient, thoughtful advice that will help reset your perspective and take a fresh look at your blogging platform.

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I don't usually include a bonus listing in these weekly posts, but sometimes, there's enough material to warrant that extra shout-out! Which resources resounded with you the most this week? Which ones fell flat for you? What current project are you working on?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Subgenre Boogie!

Today's piece of flash fiction is, again, thanks to Chuck Wendig's terribleminds blog and the weekly prompts he posts.

This week's prompt was to use a random number generator to combine two sub-genres into a single work of flash fiction (preferably as organic as possible, even if the random number generator decreed, for instance, that your two sub-genres to meld together were "superhero" and "erotica").

My number generator turned up the dystopia and whodunit sub-genres. Below is the resulting piece of flash fiction I developed.


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On the day of its own execution, No. 16 stared across the courtyard, out through the bars, glass shard in hand. Smoke rose on the horizon. A score of other numbers stood in two clusters below, divided by a long, empty aisle.

Two Peacekeepers in green robes dragged No. 12 between the other numbers and dumped it in front of the platform. No. 12 lay limp and broken. A faceless Peacekeeper in a purple robe stepped forward with an elaborate urn, dipped out a handful of ashes, and scattered them over No. 12.

The ashes were what remained of the uniform No. 12 had worn in service to The State.

No. 16, barefoot and chilled, with a haze in its memory, canted its head to the side to study the proceedings, which were out of order.

Yesterday morning, no other numbers besides No. 16 had occupied The Pit. Then, somehow, No. 12 had been found out and its execution rescheduled, to take the place of No. 16.

In the courtyard, a Peacekeeper in a red robe stepped out of line, stripped to the waist, and accepted an ax from a Bystander.

Who was the betrayer?

No. 16 glanced down, away. In the straw at its feet, blood dripped from the shard of glass and pooled in a sick, shimmery line.

In the corner, close inches away, a Zero cowered with a quiet moan, face in hands, rocking.

No. 16 looked at the courtyard, the Zero, the glass shard, the blood, the courtyard again.

Sworn to protect ... 

The least suggestion of danger, and No. 12 would defy The State on behalf of one in need.

Like the Zero in the corner.

In the courtyard, silence fell. When No. 16 looked out between the bars, No. 12 stared back across the cold air, knowing.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Review: "Rising Tide: Dark Innocence" (Claudette Melanson)

Teenager Maura DeLuca would rather be like everybody else, with friends, interests, places to go and people to support her.

What she has, instead, is a secretive mother who shelters Maura, her only child, to the point of claustrophobia; an entire popular clique at school who love nothing more than faking her out; an unexpectedly nice classmate who comes to her rescue when she doesn't expect it; and, oddly enough, a whole bunch of weird physical symptoms.

Those symptoms are worrying her the most. Who cries blood? Who craves raw meat? Whose dentist fears that her canines are rotting from the inside out? Whose ability to accumulate and retain knowledge has burgeoned lately?

Maura's. And she has no idea why, or what's going on. But she suspects there are people in her life who do know, and are trying to keep her from finding out.

Author Claudette Melanson begins her paranormal YA trilogy with Rising Tide: Dark Innocence.

It's a challenge, in writing as a profession, to make the old and familiar seem new and exciting. It's an even greater challenge to ensure that the new, exciting spin on that old material is new enough and intriguing enough to capture and hold the attention of our youth, who simply don't have the patience or desire, these days, to slog through a boring or predictable work.

Melanson has clearly studied her target audience with great care, given the success of her work. Her vampires are different than the norm --- not Twilight, not Anita Blake, and not Bela Lugosi, but her own creation ... the old and familiar made new.

The perspective is different, too: Maura is a scattered, hormonal, insecure, unsettled, slightly rebellious teenage girl, with an appealing sweet voice (the story is told in her perspective, first-person) and conflicted desires: for her mother, for her cute classmate Ron, for popularity or at least to belong somewhere, for answers.

Especially answers.

Who among us can't relate to that? Something strange starts happening; we want to know why, and how, and when and where we can find a cure or solution or resolution, whatever it may be, because it's in not knowing that fear is born and takes over.

There's also nothing like mystery to keep a reader turning pages, and the pacing in this novel is such that I read it in just a couple of sittings, intrigued and curious to find out (as soon as possible!) what was going on with Maura, though I had my suspicions by about a third of the way through the work.

A future edition of the work would benefit from a close proofread, and more fully developed subplots and characters to add depth and interest to other aspects of the book than just Maura's romance with Ron and her out-of-control body.

A unique work, "different" in every good sense of the word, Rising Tide: Dark Innocence will no doubt fascinate the young adult reader in your life.

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Author: Claudette Melanson
Title: Rising Tide: Dark Innocence (#1)
Series: The Maura DeLuca Trilogy
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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: "Shatter Me" (Tori St. Claire)

What are you supposed to do when the deepest secret you hold protects the honor and lasting memory of a deceased Purple Heart recipient ... and would completely undermine those memories?

This conundrum is one Reagan Sanders faces even now, with her husband Drew killed in action. She made the mistake, just once, of trying to trust another person with the truth of who Drew was and what he did to her during their marriage. Now she lives as an outcast, a pariah among the townspeople who continue to revere Drew's name.

And then, Drew's best friend and former fellow Marine, Alex McCray, shows up in town to fulfill a promise he made to Drew as the latter lay dying. Alex, who has desired Reagan for a long time, finds her house and reputation in disarray, and despite their intense and obvious attraction to one another, can't bring himself to dishonor his best friend's memory by making a move on Drew's widow.

Still, he's not sure he's going to be able to live with himself if he doesn't do something.

Tori St. Claire's Shatter Me is a scorching erotic romance from Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint, due for release just this month.

It isn't my standard to discuss the sexual content first in a review, but St. Claire's scintillating scenes between Reagan and Alex are hot enough to burn up the pages of the book. The tension between them, the underlying secrets that they each carry and their respective fears, make the sexual tension and release all the sweeter and that much more satisfactory.

Alex is the picture of an honorable Marine, bound by integrity, character, devotion, duty, and his loyalty to his long-time friend's memory. His reluctance to take advantage of Reagan, the presumed grieving widow, is a large part of his appeal, even as he fights desperately to care for her and keep her safe (even from him) the way he assumes Drew would have wanted.

Meanwhile, Reagan hides her own secrets, but for similar reasons. Above all, she knows how much Drew mattered to Alex, and she does not want to taint Alex's memory of her deceased husband, no matter how she knew him when he was alive. That she wants to protect Alex and his innocence, in a way, regarding his best friend makes her a worthy heroine, as does the depth of her strength despite the adverse circumstances she didn't create or ask for.

The pro-military themes throughout the work juxtapose neatly against themes of love, betrayal, trust, secrets, romance, renewal, and restoration. Even Reagan's nearly demolished house represents the ruination of her relationships and her potential future happiness with Alex ... until their walks toward one another change what seemed inevitable.

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Author: Tori St. Claire
Title: Shatter Me
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-258-0
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: "Can't Resist a Cowboy" (Elizabeth Otto)

Isn't it true that only those in your life who have experienced hardship, challenges, devastation, grief, are the ones who really understand where you've been?

Carrie Lynn Waite returns home to the ranch where she grew up to find that the ranch is in financial trouble and that her father has sold a majority share ... to the one man she's never stopped loving, and the one who broke her heart.

Former Marine Levi Haywood, honorably discharged after horrific injuries he was lucky to survive, owns the ranch adjacent to the Waite ranch, along with his two brothers. When he heard that his childhood love Carrie Lynn's family ranch was in trouble, he didn't hesitate to purchase a share to keep the place afloat and among friends.

Now if only he can convince Carrie that they could make a go of it together ... and to trust him with the secret she's carrying.

Allow me to introduce to you Can't Resist a Cowboy by romance author Elizabeth Otto, released just this week from Entangled Publishing's Indulgence imprint.

A successful romance seems to call for a strong hero, and there are few stronger, arguably, than a former Marine-turned-cowboy. Whatever makes that combination inordinately sexy and attractive is one of the finest qualities Levi Haywood possesses in this novel. Granted, he competes with his brothers, equally desirable, but Levi's underlying fear --- not being good enough --- makes him that much more vulnerable and sweetly approachable, even beneath the scintillating exterior.

For her part, Carrie, a diabetic since childhood, allows herself to be ruled by her fears (where Levi seems driven by his). Having been betrayed in the past, and with more diabetic shock episodes in her childhood than she can count on two hands' worth of fingers, she's determined not to put herself back in a situation where something could go wrong.

Of course, when that happens in real life, as in fiction, it means people miss out on what they might otherwise have enjoyed and loved. The thing about regret is that it's universal, and Carrie represents the most anxious among us who walk that fine line between wanting to stay safe and comfortable, and risking comfort to find something even better.

On the other hand, Can't Resist a Cowboy suffers, in its earliest chapters, from a great deal of back story, delivered in "telling" versus "showing" style. That kind of information delivered dryly and in so short a time leads to a far slower pace than most stories warrant, especially toward the beginning when readers expect the pace to be quick and forward-moving (back story stops that forward motion) to keep them entertained and engaged.

That aside, this sexy-sweet romance novel is an enjoyable read, most of all for the depths of character explored therein.

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Author: Elizabeth Otto
Title: Can't Resist a Cowboy
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Indulgence)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-202-3
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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: "Dustoff 7-3" (Erik Sabiston)

Newsweek called it "one of the most decorated missions in aviation history." The mission in question? The near-constant flights of Dustoff 7-3 during Operation Hammer Down, which took place in Afghanistan in June 2011.

Despite a November 12, 2012 spread in Newsweek about the missions undertaken and the unbelievable rescues achieved by the Dustoff 7-3 crew, few people knew the inside story, so to speak, about what had happened during those firefights. Fewer still, among those who did know, were interested in the limelight.

Now, one of them has stepped forward with an offering meant to open the eyes of those who remained stateside, under the protection of those at war, to what happened during Operation Hammer Down, and meant to reveal, plainly and without arrogance, the incredible selflessness of those under fire who fought those battles and succeeded.

Even the very first line of his soon-to-be-published work sets the tone: "I am not a hero."

With great honor, allow me to introduce to my readers the soon-to-be-published memoir Dustoff 7-3: Saving Lives Under Fire in Afghanistan by United States soldier Erik Sabiston.

Sabiston is an unassuming soldier, proud to be a member of the United States armed forces and counted among those who ensure that we civilians stateside get to sleep peacefully at night. His memoir speaks for itself as he highlights precisely what he and his crew managed to achieve, despite adverse circumstances and looming impossibility, during some of the worst fighting to take place in Afghanistan in the war.

His tone is more formal than mere conversation between friends and less exacting (but no less precise) than a work of nonfiction, as befits the accounts he relays with dispassionate focus and a certain blase matter-of-fact slant. He is simply telling the facts as they exist, and whether anyone likes them or not is not his concern. He is unapologetic, a little self-deprecating, and refreshingly able to lace even the tensest moments of his account with dry wit, making Dustoff 7-3 a remarkably approachable read.

The memoir is indisputably pro-military, as it should be, given the circumstances through which Sabiston and his dedicated crew worked, tirelessly and without concern or regard for their own well-being, to perform more than a dozen rescues during the heaviest fighting in late June 2011.

A line from the work itself speaks volumes to the devotion with which medevac units approach their work: "The cargo we flew on medevac missions was America's most precious asset: the nation's soldiers, the sons and daughters who depended on us for rescue and prompt medical attention" (163).

The unbelievable selflessness, sacrifices, integrity, and honor of those Sabiston fought alongside, worked with, rescued, and recovered represents just a microcosmic glimpse of the enormous work of the United States military and its members, every one of them willing to lay down his or her life on behalf of another and to toe the fine line between danger and safety, friendly and enemy, life and death.

Dustoff 7-3 is a work you'll be proud to have on your shelves and in your hands, and one that may remind you not only to be thankful for those who work to keep us safe and out of harm's way, but also to take pride in the greatest military force in the world.

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Author: Erik Sabiston
Title: Dustoff 7-3
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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from May 4-8

5. "5 Lessons on Innovation from Outlander's Diana Gabaldon" on Skip Prichard


Creativity and imagination are crucial ingredients in the world of writing, especially when it comes to fiction. This quick post gives expert writing tips from a bestselling author on failure, focus, and more.

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4. "31 Days of Writing Prompts for May" on The SITS Girls (Tracie Nall)


Sure, we're nine days in to the month of May, but writers and bloggers can ALWAYS use a little inspiration. These writing prompts will get your muse warmed up and prep you to get into the routine of writing regularly, if you're not already there.

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3. "7 Tips for Selecting Your Domain Name" on Nairaland


This offering is actually a really brief post (top of the page) in a forum setting, so as you scroll down, you'll see comments from readers. The information in the post, though, is invaluable by itself. We keep hearing about how authors and freelancers need their own domain names; here, finally, is an easy-to-reference guide for how to pick the best.

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2. "17 Life Lessons from Professional Freelancers" on The Next Web (Shannon Bryne)


Where do you go to find expert advice on the life and world of a freelancer? Start here. This Q&A-style post covers everything from going into freelancing as a career to begin with, to creating a community of fellow professionals with whom to network.

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1. "28 Creative Ideas for Blog Posts [+ Video]" on (Don Nicholas)


Who couldn't use a few more ideas on what kind of content to publish on his or her blog? This excellent post guides you through creating --- and reusing --- content that will keep your readership coming back, gleaning inspiration and material from magazines, books, videos, podcasts, and much more.

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BONUS: "How to Get More Blog Comments [With Examples]" on


Publishers, agents, editors, and the like want to see that your blog is a well-lived community. What can you do to generate more reader interaction and commentary, not just to boost your platform numbers (which would be a pretty surface-level goal) but, even more, to build your brand, get your name out as an expert on your chosen topic, and invite readers to trust your integrity and content? Start here!

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There's the lineup for the last week. What did you learn that you hadn't heard before? What did you hear that you've heard before but needed to hear again? What are you sick and tired of hearing about?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Review: "Angels Fall" (Nora Roberts)

Reece Gilmore, once on her way to stardom as a celebrated chef, has almost no idea how she landed in Angel's Fist, Wyoming ... tiny, tiny town surrounded by mountains and populated with some of the most eccentric people she's ever met.

She only knows she's been running from her past for a long time, and maybe now, it's time to pause. She takes a job at a local diner, despite frequent clashes of opinion between her and the owner of the diner, and leases an apartment on a short-term basis, and starts to feel maybe at home, especially when she befriends a coworker at the diner and then meets Brody, an irreverent, rude, gruff writer who prefers solitude to company (until he meets her).

And then, just as she's getting comfortable, she's out on a hike alone when she witnesses a murder. By the time she gets law enforcement back to the spot, there's no evidence. After that, odd things start to happen, making everyone around her believe she's losing her mind. Before long, even Reece thinks she's going crazy ... 

For a timeless romance with more than one suspenseful, thriller-type twist, I highly recommend Nora Roberts's Angels Fall.

Many romances are relatively predictable, given that the basic formula never changes. Even adding a twist like suspense as a sub-genre is often not enough to drag a romance out of feeling mundane and same-old, same-old. Therefore, it takes an expert author to take a romance novel to the next level.

Roberts is one such author, and Angels Fall, one such work.

The characters in the novel are what truly make the story unexpected, unique, intriguing, and beautiful. Reece is a study in contradictions, from independence, certainty, and the willingness to take risks, to fear, uncertainty, and heartbreaking hesitation. She has a healthy sense of self-preservation, perhaps more so than most, but struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other things, as a result of the trauma she experienced.

She's a stunning example of heroism, strength, and courage, and, as such, a more than worthwhile protagonist with whom to fall in love through an entire novel.

Her counterpart, Brody, is as unusual as she is. Juxtaposed against Reece's neuroses, Brody is the picture of steadfast rationality, cool cynicism, and solitude-loving loner, mostly unsocial and wholly unpredictable in a refreshing, almost comfortable way. His snark and attitude, evident through his one-liners and the firm command he wields over each situation he faces, are startlingly endearing.

As compelling as it is insightful and well-written, Angels Fall is one love story you won't forget.

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Author: Nora Roberts
Title: Angels Fall
ISBN: 0-399-15372-1
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: "Naked" (Stacey Trombley)

Stop and consider something for minute. How bad would your life have to be for you to run away rather than stay and suffer?

It's a question Anna Rodriguez doesn't have to consider because she knows the answer. Thirteen-year-old Anna ran away from an abusive, controlling, and manipulative home life she could no longer stand. What she did to stay alive during her three years away is something that has redefined her, maybe forever.

When she's discovered and returned to her parents by a caseworker who wants the family to make amends, Anna agrees to go back to school, hoping to start over. Between the nice neighbor boy, Jackson; the new family guard dog; and several other social outcasts at school, she begins to build herself a network of support ... 

... until someone at school starts leaving notes in her locker, threatening to expose her past to everyone. The rumors were bad enough before, but now, she doesn't know who to trust. And making amends with her parents isn't going as well as she'd hoped, either. How much more can she afford to lose?

Entangled Publishing's Teen imprint presents Naked by Stacey Trombley, a sweet, contemporary young adult novel that debuted this summer.

In the past, YA fiction has tended to handle sweet teen romances, feuds with parents, "soft" episodes of rebellion against authority, and hearts broken by two-timing (now) exes. Which makes Trombley's offering all the more refreshing and fascinating.

Teens today are dealing with far more than many of us have given them credit for. No longer do their life issues tend to revolve around their wardrobes or what to say to attract the cute guy or girl in the cafeteria today. Those topics, while still represented, are far less common than contemporary teens' real lives. That YA fiction has evolved to lend credence to what today's teens are facing is a testament to its adaptability as a genre.

In Naked, Anna is really an unexpected character. The story is told in her voice, in the first-person perspective, and she is, by turns, sarcastic and kind, self-sufficient and helpless, down-to-earth gritty and dreamy. Indeed, her art class at school is the one place where she feels almost at peace.

She has an otherworldly grownup aura about her, given what she's experienced, but it's clear that she mourns for the childhood she never really got to have. She fears being vulnerable herself but leaps to the rescue on behalf of those who are weaker or being used.

Juxtapose all of that against the usual teenage mood swings and hormones, and pair it with her very adult past, and you have an unusual, unpredictable, beautiful protagonist, someone you're more than willing to spend several hundred pages getting to know.

Interestingly enough, the work is almost a coming-of-age novel. Despite Anna having "come of age" in some ways, emotionally and psychologically, during her time as a runaway, she returns home like an insect trapped in amber, frozen in a childhood time she hadn't experienced in three years.

The story of her rediscovering herself, her limits and abilities, her dreams and hopes, is as compelling and arresting as Anna herself.

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Author: Stacey Trombley
Title: Naked
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Teen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-008-1
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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Review: "Taking What's His" (Jen McLaughlin as Diane Alberts)

All it takes to stop you in your tracks and start your life in a totally new direction, sometimes, is a single moment. Maybe beyond your control.

Former Marine Holt Cunningham knows that better than anyone. After an explosion kills the rest of his comrades and leaves him with a terrible head injury, he winds up stateside as an IT technician. Talk about a fall from grace. Still dealing with migraines, insomnia, nightmares, and more ... all the earmarks of PTSD ... he picks up a beautiful girl in a bar to chase the pain away. Problem is, after one stunningly sexy night together, he can't get her out of his mind.

Lydia Thomas was getting over her own disaster --- a cheating ex --- when she ran into Holt at the bar. He seems familiar, but she dismisses the thought in favor of a steamy night with him, hoping to erase her bad memories. By the time she realizes who he is ... her older brother's best friend ... it's too late. She wants him badly enough to risk it.

Neither wants to be the one to tell Lydia's brother, but neither can deny the mutual attraction, getting hotter all the time. Now what?

Taking What's His, by New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin writing as Diane Alberts, debuted just last month from Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint. If you like your romance hot and the sex scenes plentiful and scintillating, you've come to the right place.

Holt is a study in contrariness, making him a fascinating character to stick with throughout the book. Only part of the dichotomy has to do with the anxiety and panic he still suffers after serving his country. His loyalty to Lydia's older brother is paramount, given their similar backgrounds. 

Still, Holt is a unique combination of selfless and greedy, determined and needy, gallant and deliciously dirty in the bedroom.

It's no wonder Lydia can't get him out of her head, not after the single taste he gave her in the bar.

Meanwhile, Lydia is equally torn between love for and loyalty to her brother, who does genuinely want what's best for her, and her desire for Holt, which starts out as innocent (if it can be called that) sexual attraction and burgeons quickly into concern, care, and then much more than she expected.

With intriguing secondary characters (let's hope there are companion novels in the works!) and an admirable approach to a touchy topic like PTSD, McLaughlin has penned a winning work of erotic fiction.

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Author: Jen McLaughlin writing as Diane Alberts
Title: Taking What's His
ISBN: 978-1-63375-259-7
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, May 4, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from April 27 - May 1

5. "6 Steps to Author Happiness" on Author Marketing Institute


What's your definition of success? How about happiness? How do you plan to achieve those two states in your writing? What benchmark will you use to determine whether you've achieved them? Start with this blog post for one writer's take on achieving author happiness.

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4. "7 Must-Do Tactics for Promotional Tweets" on Books Go Social (Laurence O'Bryan)


We've all heard it before: Don't just use Twitter to promote yourself and your book. No one likes to feel spammed with millions of tweets that say, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" Here's a post on how to tackle that touchy topic delicately and with professional finesse.

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3. "5 Ways to Start Writing Your Novel Today" on (Cheryl Pon)


Afraid of the blank page? Nervous to start a rewrite of your current project? No idea where to begin? Writer's Digest consistently offers fantastic, engaging advice and helpful tips for writers at every stage of their project and in every genre ... so start here.

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2. "A Smattering of Stupid Writer Tricks" on Terrible Minds (Chuck Wendig)


In my estimation, information isn't stupid if it's applicable and bears repeating over and over until all the rest of us get it. Chuck Wendig is a master at delivering useful information to readers of his blog and writers in general. This post is PACKED with tips, tricks, and tidbits to make the writing process smoother.

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1. "Rating Self-Promotional Techniques for Authors and Their Books" on Terrible Minds (Chuck Wendig)


I don't usually include two posts from the same source in my "Top Five" summaries each week, but this week, Wendig has outdone himself. (And trust me, he's renowned enough that he's not paying me for PR ... he needs none!) In his trademark snarky, irreverent style, he catalogs a myriad ways authors tend to promote themselves and rates them according to their usefulness. If you like your information blunt and unapologetic, you'll want to see this post.

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And that's the lineup for last week. What did you get out of Chuck's blog posts? What did you find as you explored the blogs and posts on Writer's Digest's website? Let me know!