Friday, July 31, 2015

Networking: Why I Write

As is often the case, my thanks to Chuck Wendig and his terribleminds blog for a compelling prompt this week.

What is new about this week's prompt, however, is that it isn't for flash fiction. Instead, it's for nonfiction ... a personal essay, so to speak, on the subject of "why I write."

That's a loaded question if I ever heard one, but one that nonetheless should be answered by everyone who writes, whether you do so as a career or a hobby or catharsis or something else entirely. It has similarities to a recent question asked by Positive Writer, but it's far from the same.

Here's my answer.

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Imagine that you live on another planet, somewhere else in the solar system or, heck, another galaxy. (It's not like there aren't a lot to choose from.)

You've always lived there, and while its year-round subzero temperatures, bare and unforgiving landscape, and colorlessness aren't exactly enjoyable or comfortable, it's what you know, and that makes it home.

Until the day something changes.

Maybe it's a thunderbolt out of the blue. (Or an asteroid, or whatever would be the equivalent on a godforsaken planet in the middle of nowhere.)

Maybe it's a night you're staring up at the sky and a comet streaks overhead and you see it differently than you used to.

Whatever it is, you're looking around differently. The planet on which you live hasn't necessarily changed. Nothing there has to be different.

You're different.

I write because it's the way I explore the difference.

The difference between where I am and where I want to be.

The difference between the ideal and the real.

The difference between men and women.

The difference between culture and society.

The difference between what is and what could be.

The difference between music and noise.

The difference between love and obsession.

The difference between hate and indifference.

The difference between poetry and prose.

The difference between that which is life and that which is the absence of life.

The difference between darkness and light.

I can't just let the difference go unacknowledged, unexplored, unlearned. I have to know, categorize, reconcile, and I do that by writing.

For me, there is no other way.

Book Review: "A Haunting Desire" (Julie Mulhern)

New Orleans, 1902, and someone is eviscerating men in the streets and leaving their bloodied bodies behind for investigators like Zeke Barnes to find and solve. Zeke's getting more than a little tired of all the bodies in his life, even if he is an occult specialist in the law enforcement field. So far, his sources tell him that the one person in the city who can help him is the one person who wants nothing to do with him.

Trula Boudreaux is a renowned madam, known for her higher class establishment than many others in the city, and for the care and fairness with which she treats her girls. She doesn't want to have anything to do with a man who's planning to walk out of her life again and leave her behind, and Zeke Barnes has that intention written all over him.

But the body count rises higher, and the ghosts in the city become more and more distressed, and before long, Trula can ignore neither her attraction to Zeke, nor the danger that even she may face.

Entangled Publishing's Select Historical imprint presents the romantic supernatural historical novel A Haunting Desire by Julie Mulhern.

Any novel that opens in a cemetery immediately has my attention, and this one was no exception. Rich with New Orleans culture, from voodoo and gris-gris to ghosts and crushed oyster shell paths, the work is obviously well-researched, and each of the carefully incorporated historical details only heightens the authenticity of the setting and characters, and the tension in the work as a whole.

Speaking of characters, these, collectively, constitute a cast you won't want to miss. Trula is the most unexpected of them all, given the stereotypes surrounding the madams of ordinary brothels. Instead of being harsh, abusive, vengeful, or greedy, Trula is kind, compassionate, patient, and willing to go more than the extra mile to keep her girls safe and her clientele happy. Such an unusual character is already one worthy of admiration.

Zeke seems almost too contemporary a hero for the historical novel, to have existed more than a hundred years ago, and yet his edgy cynicism combined with his selfless service and devotion to the cause of justice (and the judicious application of mercy, on his own terms) make him an equally likable and realistic character.

Picture the heat level between Zeke and Trula as somewhere between smolder and open flame ... not quite hot enough to be called erotic romance, but certainly a palpable and very present attraction that culminates (more than once) in a hotly satisfying scene that will please romance readers, in particular.

Nonetheless, the work is, overall, one of historical suspense, and the unexpected plot twists juxtaposed against the stunning, almost-too-real-to-be-believed setting of a decades-old New Orleans makes for a truly enjoyable read.

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Author: Julie Mulhern
Title: A Haunting Desire
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Select Historical)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-384-6
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.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: "Written on My Heart" (Cole Gibsen)

Six months ago, Ashlyn Daniels lost everything ... all her possessions, her family, any semblance of security or safety or affection, however little she might have had. Now she's working her fingers off to make ends meet, living in a dump with an unpredictable and carefree stripper as a roommate, and trying to manage her recurring panic attacks and nightmares. She doesn't need any more complications.

Of course, she gets them anyway.

First comes a puppy. Then comes an invitation from her coworker that leads her to meet Lane Garrett, a talented tattoo artist who can cover up the tattoo on her arm she got in a moment of impulse and now regrets. He's also off-limits because it's clear he's got his own secrets and issues.

So why does she feel safer with him than with anyone else?

Entangled Publishing's Embrace imprint presents the newly released New Adult romance Written on My Heart by author Cole Gibsen.

Part of what I really love about the New Adult genre and the novels classified as such is the way the authors work to exceed expectations and push the limits. Gibsen's work is an excellent example, featuring "his" and "hers" chapters in the first-person point of view for each of the protagonists. It's a unique experience to get inside the hero's perspective, and one I thoroughly enjoyed, given how realistically Gibsen writes in the male point of view.

Themes explored in the novel include consequences and repercussions (good and bad), faithfulness, betrayal, loss, trust issues, independence, creativity, and many more, expertly intertwined in the lives and desires and quirks of the characters and in the sweet and sexy romance that blooms between them.

Obstacles notwithstanding, Ash in particular is a beautiful young woman, compelling, striking, a little reluctant, a little unsure of herself, but determined to make her own way and keep herself safe. Lane is equally full of surprises and unexpected twists, committed to his work, devoted to his family, and almost certainly horrified, to some degree, by how much Ash affects him.

A worthy pair of opponents, indeed.

The only thing that threw me off, really, were the emotions toward the end of the book, as the story built to a climax. Everything got heightened to the extreme, and almost spilled over into melodrama rather than more believable or genuine connections and character actions. It isn't bad enough to warrant eye-rolling because Gibsen is a gifted author, but the outpouring does, in some places, make for an awkward and discomforting read.

That said, I'm honored to have been able to read the work, and equally honored to recommend it to my readers (especially you who love the romance, coming-of-age, and New Adult genres) for your enjoyment.

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Author: Cole Gibsen
Title: Written on My Heart
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Embrace)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-359-4
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: "Chasing Me" (Jennifer Probst)

James Hunt comes from a wealthy, influential family, and has never wanted for anything, but his passion for the visual arts doesn't belong in that upper-echelon world. When he risks losing the woman he loves more than anything else, he moves to Chicago to begin study in his art at the Brush Institute and to be with her, to prove himself worthy.

Maybe he has no idea how to do that, after all. With his art teacher keeping him constantly off-balance and the pressure to support himself weighing more and more heavily on him, stress makes him suspicious and difficult to live with, even for Quinn.

Quinn Harmon is nearing graduation, delighted to be living in Chicago with her boyfriend James. She's working at a rehab clinic, hoping for a full-time position when she graduates, and juggling part-time work in addition to her time with James. But things aren't what they used to be between them. James is secretive, holding back, and she has no idea why.

Can they overcome the increasingly overwhelming obstacles to stay together?

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst presents Chasing Me, the sequel to her renowned Beyond Me in her scintillating Sex on the Beach series.

Though Chasing Me is a sequel, as aforementioned, Probst expertly handled its writing such that any reader can pick it up and step right into the immediate story without having read the prior book, although reading both in order certainly only improves the experience.

She uses the contemporary romance format to explore themes of insecurity, fear, self-doubt, ambition, the definition of success, love, lust, sacrifice, betrayal, and more. In Quinn, readers have a sweet, dedicated, hard-working woman for whom to cheer, as she works to achieve her dreams in her chosen field and to support and encourage the man she loves.

Meanwhile, James is by far the edgier character, not only in terms of his obsessive sexual desire and passion for Quinn but also in regard to his emotional stability, mercurial temperament, and overall cynical outlook, all of which he struggles to pour into his art, to his creations' detriment.

For those who read the first book and perhaps came to know James as someone who had no problems toeing and even occasionally crossing the line between the lip of the precipice and a deliberate dive over the edge, he spends a great deal of this second book playing it safe in all aspects of his life based on a number of false assumptions. (You know what they say about making assumptions, after all.) Chicago certainly turns out to be a different milieu for him.

If you don't mind spicy eroticism, a survey of some of the typical societal issues that new adults face, and a fair amount of emotional and psychological suspense, then Chasing Me is one romance you won't want to miss.

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Author: Jennifer Probst
Title: Chasing Me
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, July 29, 2015

Book Review: "Blood Solutions" (B.J. Smith)

Edward Shaw is a detective with the Des Moines Police Department, and he may be in over his head with his most recent case. One body after another are piling up, each horribly mutilated and, at first, each marked with a message that ties the murders to ... the Sunday crossword puzzles?

In following the bloody, disturbing trail of evidence, Shaw's determined digging unearths a decades-old case that someone --- at least one person, that is --- will stop at absolutely nothing to keep buried, even if it means that the killing doesn't stop.

Author B.J. Smith presents his compelling, gut-wrenching thriller, Blood Solutions, featuring the detective Edward "Red" Shaw.

What will first capture readers of this novel is the constant building tension via the breakneck pace at which events unfold. Within the first few chapters, a dozen different characters are introduced, each playing a vital role in the rest of the story, and it takes a careful eye to keep each of the players straight.

That said, Shaw is a wholly worthy protagonist, certainly up to the challenges posed by the successive and increasingly brutal murders plaguing his jurisdiction. His character strikes a neat balance between the hard-boiled detectives of past noir thrillers (think Sam Spade) and the somewhat less cynical, less worldly, but no less intelligent and capable detectives of more modern fiction.

Each twist and turn in the story line kept me eagerly turning pages, fascinated by the thoroughly and expertly developed plot points. In a novel so securely classified as a thriller, the characters aren't nearly as important as the forward momentum of the suspenseful mystery taking place, and as such are less developed than they might be in a more character-driven genre like literary fiction or romance.

Nonetheless, for those who appreciate the quick intellect, twisted puzzles, and unforeseen plot twists afforded by other authors today like Dan Brown or Lee Child, Smith's Blood Solutions is a very satisfying read.

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Author: B.J. Smith
Title: Blood Solutions
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, July 28, 2015

Book Review: "Overload Flux" (Carol van Natta)

Forensic investigator Luka Foxe is working to unravel the ongoing thefts of a critically needed vaccine for a pandemic affecting the entire galaxy. Unfortunately, he's contending with an out-of-control mental ability that he'd rather keep hidden than make known, as well as a rising body count, and not just from the sweeping pandemic.

Mairwen Morganthur hides her own host of life-endangering secrets beneath the guise of a barely literate or intelligent night-shift security guard. When she's roped into Luka's investigation, her secrets are jeopardized and her past threatens to overwhelm any chance of normalcy in the present or hope for the future.

Together, they face a web of corruption, greed, and betrayal that takes them to the outer limits of the galaxy and their ability to trust anyone, let alone admit to one another their growing mutual attraction.

It's a tremendous pleasure to introduce to my readership Overload Flux, the first novel in science fiction author and playwright Carol van Natta's Central Galactic Concordance series. (Information about her newly released second novel in the series, Minder Rising, is available here.)

I'll begin with a disclosure: I'm not generally a fan of the science fiction genre. I find much of it to be too technical for me, or filled with long, dull descriptions of settings.

Let me assure my readers, however, and with absolute certainty, that it's been a very, very long time since I've read such a compelling, unexpected, suspenseful, and well-crafted work of science fiction as Overload Flux.

This spectacular novel delivers not only a unique and fantastical futuristic universe, down to the very last and most minute detail, but also a thriller of a story line that propels the reader through page after page of rising action, danger, intrigue, and even romance to a conclusion so mentally and emotionally satisfying that I immediately wished that the work was longer just so I could keep reading.

I never once felt bored, lectured, or confused.

Enveloped into the world that van Natta has very capably devised, readers will find highly believable characters, easily related to despite their extensive psychological abilities and experience with spacecraft, warfare, and interplanetary relations.

Mairwen, in particular, most fascinated me. She's a mass of juxtapositions, from masterfully adept and even lethal in the tensest situations to thoroughly out of her element when it comes to human interactions or relationships. Think, in some ways, a sci-fi version of Lisbeth Salander.

Meanwhile, Luka is equally complex, at times vulnerable and desperate, and at others every inch the trustworthy leader he's more than capable of being. When the chips are down, as the saying goes, someone with Luka's foresight and stability makes for a very reassuring hero for whom to cheer.

I can't say enough good about this intricately woven novel. If I might have said anything else to convince my readers of its surpassing excellence and worthiness to be read, I hope they will consider it said and not hesitate to obtain a copy. Then, check out the second in the series, which I have no doubt will also exceed every expectation.

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Author: Carol van Natta
Title: Overload Flux
Series: Central Galactic Concordance (#1)
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, July 27, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from July 20-24

5. "The Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing, and Why You Should Pick One" on Serious Vanity (Dana Detrick-Clark)


Everybody's talking about content marketing today, but did you know that there are two types to take into consideration? This post, with its accompanying videos, explains so you know which one will be most effective for your intended purpose.

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4. "Is the Future of Working Going Solo? More Companies and Workers Are Saying Yes" on The Record (Joseph Pisani)


Did you grow up with the traditional 9-5 work arrangement? Perhaps watching your parents leave every morning and return every evening? How many people do you know who still fit that pattern today? Fewer and fewer, according to this insightful post. Are you, or will you be, one of them?

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3. "105 Tips to Make Your Blog Rock" on Jeff Bullas


Many authors, businesses, corporations, non-profits, freelancers, and others today have blogs. Here's a fantastic, thorough list of doable things you can do, regardless of your industry or profession, to make sure that your blog is the best it can possibly be.

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2. "Developing the Romance in Your Romance Novel" on Virginia Kantra


If you write in one of the most popular fiction genres --- that would be romance --- then this post is for you. Learn about different levels of romance in relationships and, most importantly, how to incorporate those elements throughout your romance novel to ensure the utmost reader satisfaction.

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1. "9 Ways to Use Blogging to Rank in Local Search" on (Jayson DeMers)


Blogging has more uses than just to reach an audience with insight, tips, and reviews. How about turning blogging into a means with which to make sure your business comes up when customers search for your industry? Check out this article to learn more!

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There's the lineup for last week. What steps are you taking to improve your blog? Do you use inbound or outbound content marketing, and why? What current project are you working on these days?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: "Untouchable" (Cindy Skaggs)

Sofia Capri knows how to play the game necessary to stay alive in the criminal underworld. After all, she's the ex-wife of one of its most notorious characters. She still has all the right connections, waiting for the right moment to put them to use and accomplish her own agenda: freedom for herself and her son, without having to look over their shoulders.

And then her son is kidnapped, and suddenly, the stakes are beyond anything Sofia could have imagined.

Logan Stone, FBI agent, has been keeping an eye on Sofia Capri for months. When she approaches him with an unexpected offer, not realizing that he's law enforcement, he can't quite resist her allure ... especially not when it turns out her son is missing. His checkered past driving him onward, Logan will stop at nothing to get Sofia's son back, even if it means denying the undeniable attraction he has to an untouchable woman.

Entangled Publishing's Ignite imprint presents the sensual romantic suspense novel Untouchable by Cindy Skaggs, newly released.

The novel begins with an intriguing premise: what would appear to be the former wife of an infamous crime boss playing, in essence, both sides of the fence to get what she wants. For the first several chapters, readers may wonder whether Sofia really does know what she wants.

But nothing is as it first appears.

Logan is the most straightforward character, perhaps as befits his law-and-order, black-and-white, good-versus-evil outlook on the world, given his chosen career, at which it's obvious he excels. Nonetheless, even the security of following the rules doesn't outweigh his sense of honor and obligation to Sofia when she trusts him to help her.

Sofia is a scattered character, at turns diffident and needy, closely controlled and out of control, determined and uncertain. What makes her most human, actually, is her undeniable love for her son, combined, in fact, with an ongoing internal monologue in which she second-guesses almost every decision she makes. Who hasn't been there before?

The work would benefit from a close edit, and not necessarily for typos. I found myself stumbling over awkwardly worded sentences, less-than-genuine character emotions and reactions, and descriptive phrases meant to be fresh rather than cliched but which, instead, read as improbable and distracting.

Further, I was often confused as to some of the characters' desires, intentions, and motives. While, admittedly, some portion of that could be attributed to the romantic suspense (emphasis on suspense) genre, it frustrated me, as a reader, not to be allowed inside the main characters' heads for critical information that would have made everything much clearer ... information that wasn't, in some cases, revealed until two-thirds or more the way through the book.

I usually enjoy romantic suspense very much, since it takes a keen eye and an expert hand to incorporate elements of both genres successfully into one novel. Unfortunately, I could have given or taken this story, for the aforementioned reasons. The premise is compelling, yes, but the execution left me more confused and doubtful than entertained.

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Author: Cindy Skaggs
Title: Untouchable
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Ignite)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-362-4
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, July 23, 2015

Book Review: "No Kissing Allowed" (Melissa West)

Cameron Lawson, recent college graduate with a degree in marketing and the drive to prove herself more than just a small-town Southern girl, has a new job in New York City with a top advertising agency. A one-night stand to cap off her final day before starting work turns out to be a really, really bad idea. When she shows up the next morning for her first day, she realizes that the man she left in bed the previous night is her new boss's boss.


Aidan Truitt is an advertising icon, and he has eyes only for Cameron, which would, she decides, be okay except for that whole ethical and moral question of hooking up with colleagues. When she agrees to see him in secret, he reveals something that might completely ruin her growing attachment to him, but only after her heart gets involved.

Entangled Publishing's New Adult imprint, Embrace, presents No Kissing Allowed, by Melissa West.

Contemporary, romantic, erotic, sweetly Southern, and more, this New Adult novel is a refreshing amalgamation of elements designed to entertain not only recent college grads and young professionals but also those readers who were once that young, excited, and eager to face the world.

Protagonist Cameron narrates the story from her first-person point of view (POV) throughout, thereby drawing the reader very intimately into her world and worldview. We cheer for her as she slowly discovers that her Southern roots still matter to her, dives with enthusiasm into work at the ad agency, and learns how to love a man again after a devastating breakup when she was younger.

In other words, everything that defines a new adult's life is flawlessly incorporated into Cameron's story, making her a stellar character and author West a consummate expert in her field.

For hot romance and passionate devotion to work in the life of a New York City young professional, pick up a copy of No Kissing Allowed, an excellent read.

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Author: Melissa West
Title: No Kissing Allowed
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Embrace)
ISBN: 978-1-62266-558-7
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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: "Even the Score" (Kate Meader)

What would you do if you found yourself in a position of power and influence over someone who once ruined your life?

Probably exactly what Hunter Dade would do: take advantage of the situation and try to get some of his own back. The property tycoon from Texas wants to get his hands on a piece of land that has personal significance for him. Problem is, the man who owns it is traditional to the core and will expect Hunter to be in a committed relationship, which he isn't.


Tess McKenzie is wasting her acting talents in a two-bit dinner theater, biding her time until she can open her own some day. When Hunter Dade reappears in her life a year after she broke up his wedding and encouraged his bride-to-be to ditch him at the altar, Tess wants nothing to do with him. Until she hears his offer: pretend to be his significant other for a long weekend, and in exchange, have the funding she'll need for her new theater.

One caveat: No sex. Hunter isn't the commitment type. Telling herself that's fine will only work for so long.

Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents the sexy contemporary erotic romance novel Even the Score by Kate Meader.

Readers will appreciate Tess as a representation of everyone who's ever had to fight his or her way to the top. Her fierce determination and independent streak juxtaposed against a mostly internal snarky attitude make her extremely likable, worth rooting for. It's always easiest to cheer for those who are sacrificing everything to pursue their dreams.

Hunter seems the more tortured of the two, but perhaps that has to do with the grudge he holds against Tess for destroying what would have been a socially advantageous marriage for him. His pride and ego, more than anything, were the victims of her interference, and he isn't going to be the one to let her live that down if he can help it.

And then the attraction between them, banked for a while, flares and sizzles back to life with their close proximity. And what is it, really, about setting "no touching" limits that makes staying out of bed absolutely impossible?

Scintillating, funny, poignant, this novel strikes all the right notes.

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Author: Kate Meader
Title: Even the Score
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-333-4
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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: "Silence and Circumstance" (Roy Dimond)

December 1926. The second World War brews in the not-so-distant future, threatening to wipe out all semblance of independent thought and imagination. And a motley assortment of artists, intellectuals, authors, and other like-minded individuals stand in the gap between the total annihilation of the crucial importance of words and thoughts to culture, and the preservation of the same.

When one of the leading intellectuals --- none other than famed mystery writer Agatha Christie herself --- vanishes, the others, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Sayers, and many others, fear foul play and leap immediately to solve her disappearance before it's too late.

The mystery novel Silence and Circumstance by Roy Dimond is a remarkable work of historical fiction based in fact and peopled with an unbelievably diverse cast of (for the most part) actual historical figures, such as the aforementioned, along with D.H. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ian Fleming, and more.

The work is largely narrated in the first-person perspective of Agatha Christie's daughter Rosalind's governess, Charlotte Fisher, who finds herself unwittingly involved when a confidential errand for her employer turns into an adventure that spans eleven days of that same employer having gone missing entirely. Others of the more prominent intellectuals feature as perspective characters periodically throughout.

The amount of research that under-girds the mysterious goings-on in the novel is staggering, and author Dimond is to be commended for such substance and authenticity in rendering the historical characters who make up his work. Every so often, there is an occasional line of dialogue, internal thought, or descriptor that doesn't really seem to belong, accurately, in the year 1926, but for the most part, the setting is richly devised.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the mystery, however, is in the incredible cast of characters, each with his or her own respective quirks, preferences, beliefs, and contributions to the forward momentum of the story. Widely read readers will recognize without hesitation the real-life authors and artists of some of their most beloved novels and paintings, in particular, though scientists and other intellectuals also feature as a matter of course.

Unique, unexpected, suspenseful, Silence and Circumstance will delight those who love historical fiction, mysteries, other cultures, and timeless works of art.

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Author: Roy Dimond
Title: Silence and Circumstance
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, July 20, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Posts from July 13-17

5. "How Do I Become ... a Literary Agent" on The Guardian (Sandra Haurant)


Fascinated by the literary community and the publishing industry? Find out here what you can learn about literary agents and the process by which they become professionals. For instance, did you know that many literary agents start out as authors, themselves? No wonder they can sympathize!

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4. "Reducing Your Guilt About Not Being Productive" on Psych Central (Margarita Tartakovsky)


In today's go-go-go society, everyone worries about productivity, and how to get more done, which means multitasking at the best, and cutting corners at the worst. Perhaps, then, this article will catch you by surprise, with its purpose being to remind you why it's okay that you haven't crossed every single thing off your to-do list today.

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3. "5 Effective Twitter Tools That Will Make You a B2B Social Media Marketing Pro" on Business 2 Community (Sarah Greesonbach)


Twitter isn't just a good way to keep in touch with your platform audience or community. These days, this social medium is finding another niche in the world of business. Read on to find out how your business savvy can be improved with just a few Twitter resources.

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2. "6 Steps to Content Marketing Domination" on Content Marketing Institute (Joe Pulizzi)


In today's online world, it's all about content. It's no longer enough to post or tweet several times a day to keep in touch with your followers. Instead, you have to make sure that what you're posting and tweeting is worth their while. How to do that? Start here.

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1. "This Neuroscientist Says Deadline Crush Your Creativity" on Science of Us (Melissa Dahl)


Last week, I cited this excellent post from a writer who holds that creativity can be encouraged with enough constraints. A deadline is a stellar example of such a constraint. But here, this week, is a quick read contending that deadlines actually stymie creativity. Who's right?

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And that's the lineup for last week. What Twitter tools do you use to ensure success? How do you reach your followers with excellent content? Do deadlines inspire or destroy creativity? What's a job in the literary community you've always wondered about?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Networking: On Preaching to the Choir

The blog for the Steve Laube Agency is one of my favorite resources for an industry perspective on Christian fiction. This week, one of their contributors published a post titled "Please ... Preach to the Choir" about the need to write faith-based fiction about tough issues because everyone faces those issues, whether churchgoing Christians or not.

I both agree and disagree with the stated position.

Here's the thing. Yes, of course, everyone suffers in this world, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, background, or anything else. Everyone struggles with job loss, cancer, setbacks, divorce, betrayal, war, hunger, and more. It makes sense to write Christian fiction with those kinds of real-life troubles and obstacles in mind.

Being a Christian does not mean a carefree life.

But "preaching to the choir," in my experience with Christian fiction, usually means that the following components will be present:

> a protagonist who epitomizes the ideal of what a Christian "should" be like (no desires, no sexual temptation, no curse words, no checkered past, no experience with real-world issues like drugs or alcohol or addiction or divorce)

> a central issue for the protagonist that involves briefly doubting his or her faith and then quickly recovering that faith, with serious repentance for having doubted in the first place

> a picture-perfect world in which very few real troubles touch or affect the protagonist

The word that often comes to mind when I read Christian fiction is "perfect." As in, this is a perfect protagonist, in a perfect world, with a perfect family, perfect opportunities, a perfect past.

The problem is, it isn't realistic. Either for preaching to the choir of Christians who might pick up such a book, or for people who aren't Christians.

When was the last time you slammed your hand in the door and said, "Hosanna" instead of letting loose with a ripe comment? If you're a Christian, sure, you're working on cleaning up your language since you came to Jesus, if that's your thing, so you repent later, but it probably still slipped out of your mouth.

I've never in my life read a Christian protagonist who was that real or genuine.

Maybe you met your now-husband or wife at church and dated through college before you got married. Can you honestly tell me that it never once crossed your mind to push the physical boundaries? That you never once went too far? Again, as a Christian, you repent later, set up accountability, whatever you needed to do ... but the thing is, you were there, in the midst of that temptation, the heat, the want, the passion.

I've never read a Christian protagonist who faced that.

Did you grow up with an abusive mother? An alcoholic father? An adult friend of the family who couldn't keep his eyes or hands to himself?

Christians face things like that.

Did your best friend commit suicide in high school? Did you see a girl in the hall with scars on her wrists and wonder what could drive her to do that to herself? Did you ask? Did you see a guy with hollow cheeks and bloodshot eyes and his arms full of track marks because he tried to escape the hell his life had become?

Were you that person?

Where are the Christian protagonists like that? People who are broken, shattered, scarred, scared, wounded, real.




I'm tired of reading about perfect or near-perfect Christians who never curse, never desire, never make poor choices or mistakes, never try drugs or alcohol or another addiction to escape from a really hard life, never get addicted to prescription drugs or painkillers, never find themselves sliding into an emotional and then physical affair after a rough spot in their marriage.

If you're going to write to preach to the choir, then please, remember that the choir is full of these kinds of people, and we don't want to read about perfect Christian protagonists anymore.

I don't know about the rest of my fellow Christians, but I close books peopled with those kinds of protagonists and feel inordinately ashamed as I do, because I'm not perfect.

None of us is, and we'd do well to remember that.

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What's your take on Christian fiction? Those who write to preach to the choir? Those who write for other reasons? What are some of your favorite works of Christian fiction, and why?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: "Baby's Got Bite" (Candace Havens)

A one-night stand, by definition, doesn't linger in any way. Certainly not with an actual physical reminder.

Like a pregnancy.

And yet that's exactly what Bennett Langdon has in exchange for one night of passion with bad boy fashion designer Linc Monahan. She's not the commitment type, and with a baby on the way, it's time to face the music, along with her fears, insecurities, and growing attraction for the man she can't possibly have.

Linc, meanwhile, is shaken beyond description by Bennett's revelation. He's a werewolf. He's not supposed to be able to get a human pregnant. Which means ... way more than he wants to think about, let alone try to explain to Bennett about who and what she really is.

Then her estranged father turns up expecting to rejoin his daughter's life, but Linc has a bad feeling about the whole thing. Not that he's feeling protective of Bennett or anything. He isn't the commitment type either.

Entangled Publishing's Covet imprint introduces the sexy contemporary paranormal romance Baby's Got Bite by Candace Havens.

As paranormal romances go, this offering is one of the more eclectic I've read. Imagine meshing high fantasy with your usual garden-variety paranormal, plus a few unexpected twists, and you come close to the world Havens has created, with a thorough and admirable attention to detail.

And characters ... let's say I was immediately drawn to both Bennett and Linc, though for slightly different reasons.

Linc is an incredibly sexy persona. He exudes sophistication, and power, along with a certain rough, edgy class that bespeaks the secrets he keeps for his brethren. In general, his attitude suggests someone who feels most at home in black leather on a motorcycle, and while I have no doubt that he could pull off that look with aplomb, he also manages to carry himself with the kind of easy confidence required of someone in his position, both in the fashion industry and among his pack.

Meanwhile, Bennett is equally likable, a woman to whom readers will be inevitably drawn, not only because of her plight but also because of her steadfast determination (some might call it hardheadedness) and her unquestioning loyalty to her friends and family. When her dire straits demand that she be initiated into a whole other world she doesn't even believe in, she becomes even more sympathetic.

Havens weaves her story threads together with healthy doses of humor and suspense: How will Bennett and Linc reconcile their respective worlds and differences? What happens now that there's a baby on the way? Will they be supported or rejected by their friends and family? What defines a family? Pick up a copy to explore these and many other intriguing themes, all intertwined with some scintillating romance!

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Author: Candace Havens
Title: Baby's Got Bite
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Covet)
ISBN: 978-1-63375-294-8
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, July 13, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from July 6-10

5. "How Social Media Is Becoming a Way to Spur Transparency at Workplace" on The Economic Times (Varuni Khosla)


Ever imagine that companies would embrace rather than spurn or forbid social media? Check out this refreshing article on several corporations doing just that ... allowing and even encouraging social media involvement and use both to appeal to younger workers and to dissolve the usual hierarchy that has historically kept the CEO and the floor manager light-years apart.

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4. "Help Others, Help Yourself - On Being a Book Club Member" on Archer's Aim (P. H. Solomon)


Book clubs are great opportunities for authors to build community, gain encouragement and inspiration, stay up-to-date on the craft and the newest writing techniques, survey a wide array of genres possibly beyond their own chosen niche, keep reading, and even do some promotion. This post provides valuable insight into one writer's book club participation and what others can do to be as effective.

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3. "3 Common Author Platform Mistakes - Plus How to Fix Them" on the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents blog by Chuck Sambuchino (guest post by literary agent Maria Ribas)


As a writer, you're actively building your author platform, and like many of us, you'll probably assume you're doing all the right things until someone tells you otherwise. Think of this excellent post as just that: an industry professional sounding the warning about these three common errors so you can make your platform the best it can be.

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2. "Creative Constraints in Writing" on R.S. Mollison-Read


Perhaps I should begin to indicate, if it hasn't already become obvious, that this weekly post sometimes highlights articles or blog posts that were published prior to the last week. When I do so, though, it's because the post or article has such memorable and useful content that it's still being touted on social media, and I can't ignore that.

Which is why, this week, I've included Rachael's compelling and well-argued perspective on what putting some limits on yourself can do for your creativity. Think about it: stare at the blank page with a blank mind, and it's rare that something comes to you. Start with (as one method) a writing prompt ("Include these three words somewhere in your story ...") and often, creativity will spark from those boundaries. Try it!

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1. "7 Things I've Learned So Far" on the Writer's Digest There Are No Rules blog by Brian A. Klems (guest post by author Stephanie Feldman)


I know I've said it before, and will say it again: there's so much to be learned from professionals in the industry that I'm always thrilled to be able to include an author interview or guest post in this weekly list. Today's published professional is Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses, and her advice --- from writing what you want to know to why writing is never easy --- is as applicable to new authors as it is to previously published ones.

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And that's the lineup for last week. What professional authors do you follow? What book club are you a member of? What do you think about Google encouraging social media use in its work force?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: "The Spaniard's Kiss" (Nina Croft)

Isobel Sinclair emerges from mourning her husband's death with a plan: she wants to create her own family by having a baby. Her husband's best friend, the wealthy and influential Rafael Sanchez, is the only available man in her life, and attraction between them isn't a problem. Besides, her heart will always belong to Gary, so it's not like she wants a commitment.

Meanwhile, Rafe isn't a settle-down-with-a-family type. He has new women in and out of his life every few weeks. He's had his eye on his best friend's wife for a long time, but loyalty to Gary meant never laying a finger on Bella. Now, even with Gary gone, Rafe can't bring himself to bridge that gap. He also can't imagine letting Bella have a baby with any random stranger.

But there's more to Rafe's carefree, no-strings lifestyle than he can share with Bella. Reasons that prevent him from ever giving her children. If he doesn't, though, he'll lose her forever.

Entangled Publishing's Indulgence imprint presents The Spaniard's Kiss, a smoky contemporary romance by gifted author Nina Croft, debuting this month.

It's probably happened to you before: your best friend or sibling or close colleague introduces you to their significant other, and you're struck by your own attraction to that significant other. Friendship, and peace of mind, demand that you stand down. But what happens when the obstacle between you vanishes?

That kind of psychological and relational tension is what drives Croft's novel for both main characters. Bella and Rafe, respectively, battle the fear that being together is disloyal to the memory of the man they both loved and respected.

For Bella, desperation to build her own family and have the kind of stability she dreamed about and then lost with Gary's death drives her past her fears first. She's loved Rafe for a long time, and something about him sparks a heat inside her that Gary's steady, patient love --- while wonderful --- didn't.

Rafe, on the other hand, remains determined not to give in to what Bella wants, since he knows that to have children with her would only be to invite heartbreak, given his own family history. Still, terrified of losing her and the friendship he so carefully cultivated with her, he deceives her into believing he'll give her a baby.

Deception can't be condoned in ninety-five percent of circumstances, of course, but readers will understand Rafe's uncertainty and feel for his situation. He's obligated to protect Bella, even from herself and even from him, for Gary's sake. He desperately wants Bella but can't give her a baby. That kind of psychological chaos is ripe with tension and makes for a really compelling character.

The heat level in this contemporary romance is somewhere between smoky and singed. Readers will find the attraction between Bella and Rafe, and their subsequent ventures in bed, one of the most satisfying parts of the book.

I urge you to pick up a copy of The Spaniard's Kiss for your library. Nothing sexier than forbidden love!

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Author: Nina Croft
Title: The Spaniard's Kiss
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Indulgence)
ISBN: 978-1-62266-701-7
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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review: "Remember Me This Way" (Sabine Durrant)

Lizzie Carter thought she knew her husband Zach. Before he died in a terrible car accident, one for which she blames herself, they spent every possible second together, very much in love.

Then, on the anniversary of his death, she visits the site where he died and finds a bouquet of flowers left for him ... by another woman.

Thus begins a nightmarish mystery as Lizzie recalls her relationship with Zach, with all of its unexplained surprises and unexpected turns, and works to convince herself that her husband really is dead, and not still alive somewhere, watching her to make sure he still has her all to himself ... 

Author Sabine Durrant's dark psychological thriller Remember Me This Way debuted in May this year.

You think you know someone, the person you married, the person you dated, the person you've lived with for five or ten or thirty years. You think you've got that person figured out, all his or her quirks, ticks, habits, hobbies, likes, dislikes, and patterns.

Durrant's work is a testament to the fact that sometimes, you really can't say you know someone until you've seen that person in a whole different light.

That's what happened to Lizzie, the protagonist in this page-turner of a suspense novel. Sweet, likable, and willing to believe the best about everyone, Lizzie never even suspected something might be wrong with Zach's mental state until he was gone and she was faced with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.

The novel works both sides of the story. In one half, Lizzie makes increasingly frantic attempts to track down who her husband really was while remembering one conversation, event, or circumstance after another about their relationship that should have told her Zach was growing more and more unstable and controlling.

In alternating chapters, Durrant feeds readers Zach's point of view about those same memories Lizzie revisits, except that Zach's is an immediate "happening now" perspective on each of those events, while Lizzie is only recalling them from the "now" present future.

The glimpses into Zach's psychological makeup are some of the most fascinating and compelling in the whole novel. He is truly a troubled character --- very much an active force on Lizzie's present circumstances, even in death --- and therefore truly frightening for his constant neediness and insecurity, which gradually manifest themselves as jealousy and then even more. He is the most dynamic character in the work.

For Lizzie, change comes slowly as she fights her way through years of denial (hers) and deception (his) to realize the truth about Zach, their marriage, and his death. If anything, Lizzie sometimes comes across as so naive and innocent she seems almost unbelievable. Could anyone really live with so much faith in humanity that he or she didn't see the reality that actually existed?

Then again, how many of us could actually say that we know, really know, those to whom we are closest?

Every twist and shocking revelation in this novel is guaranteed to keep readers turning pages into the night.

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Author: Sabine Durrant
Title: Remember Me This Way
ISBN: 978-1-4767-1634-3
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.