Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Fire Born, by Christina Moore

Click here to purchase on Amazon!
About The Book
Firefighter Chris Paytah has been in the business of battling flames for nearly two decades, but nothing he's faced could have prepared him for the worst thing he could have ever imagined: losing the man that taught him everything he knows. Now he's got to find a way to pick up the pieces, as well as take up the reins as captain of a new fire station in Calvin's place. 

Martie Liotta is the arson investigator assigned by the Montana Bureau of Fire Safety to investigate the fire that led to a 30-year veteran's death. She's hoping that she'll find evidence tying the fire to a shady businessman who happens to be the owner of the burned-out building—and is already suspected of insurance fraud. She's completely unprepared to find herself instantly attracted to Chris, or for the passion that ignites between them to burn so hot. 

While the two of them work to discover the cause of the fire, they're also navigating the precarious terrain of their new relationship. But someone with a more than passing interest in the beautiful Martie causes her to doubt her judgment, leading her to make a terrible decision that drives Chris away in anger. Can he overcome the hurt in time to save her and an innocent woman from suffering at the hands of a madman with a dangerous obsession?

My Review
This was such a sweet read. I loved the honesty and self-awareness Chris displayed throughout the story, and I loved Martie's tough, no-nonsense attitude. The instant connection between Chris and Martie wasn't too heavy-handed and I liked that it felt believable. Most especially, I loved the way these two couldn't resist each other right from the start, and yet the author didn't allow it to feel forced or cheap.

The easy interactions between Chris and the rest of his crew were endearing, too, and the tense-but-mostly-friendly banter between Chris and Tony made me laugh. And wow, I loved Ronnie. I hope she shows up again somewhere in the series! She's had it hard, and she deserves a happy ending of her own.

There were also a few little plot twists throughout the story that had me sitting back and saying, "Huh, didn't see that coming!" All in all, it's a charming story with emotionally believable characters, very good use of foreshadowing, and great pacing throughout.

There are a few editing errors sprinkled here and there, and the language was a little gratuitous in some places but oh, Martie and Chris - these two are definitely worth getting to know! Four stars! Want to follow this author and learn more about her work? You can check her out here: Amazon / Blog / Facebook / Twitter

Friday, December 20, 2013

First Authorversary: Hide And Seek

On the 18th of this month, I privately celebrated my one-year mark. But on the 19th, I went public, and I had a little party on Facebook. As part of the party, I chose places from online, from my personal experience, or from my dream list, and I gave a little riddle/hint on Facebook event page. With the hint, I invited players to guess where I was -- to try to "find" me. The winner of each game got their choice from among my e-book titles, gifted to them through Amazon Kindle.

The party was a lot of fun, and I had a great time on my virtual travels, learning obscure facts about each place I visited so that I could make up the little riddles for each game. For those of you who read here but for whatever reason couldn't be part of the party, here's the breakdown.

First, I recycled an unanswered riddle from my Facebook author page"This place is amazing ... built on dangerous underground fault lines, it is only left standing by feats of engineering genius. Unnoticed and largely unappreciated for centuries, this incredible South American temple is still a remarkable mystery to this day, with much left undiscovered -- even to the millions of people who have seen it."
Machu Picchu, Peru

Next, I moved onto another place which I described like this: "Built in 1874, this pillar of nautical beauty is rife with history and replete with adventure. Open for tours but still also live and ready for action -- though this action has been automated for many years -- this brick and iron structure is amazing to see. Through the doors and up 219 steps, you are presented with amazing views of the rolling Atlantic Ocean. And for those of us with paranormal interests, the site is said to be home to more than a few ghosts."
St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, Florida (USA)

With the lighthouse behind me, I headed across the Ocean and into France, where I found a little place affectionately known around the world as the Lover's Bridge: "For some people, 'locks of love' is a hair charity, but for others, it is a pilgrimage and an adventure, full of romance and old world charm, smothered in the fantasy that love really can be everlasting. Along the banks of the river Seine, young romantics walk hand in hand, and when they get here, they will look upon the beauty of Notre Dame and endeavor to lock in their romance forever, throwing the key into the depths of the water."
Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ©, Paris, France

My virtual hiding trip to France was lovely, but I guess it left me homesick, because this is the next riddle: "Standing proudly in the heart of Knoxville, this symbol of the 1982 World's Fair is still beautiful today. In recent years, the attraction has featured restaurants and nightclubs, but for me, the biggest appeal is in the observation deck, where you can look out on the city I'm proud to call home."
The Sunsphere, Knoxville, Tennessee (USA)

From home, I headed out across the virtual seas again, and landed in a place described thusly: "This fabulously romantic nineteenth century palace stands on a rugged hill overlooking one of the world's most beautiful gorges. Intended for the personal refuge of a reclusive King, it is now a public tourist attraction, and the inspiration behind the dreams of every six-year-old American princess. Too bad the interior was never completely finished ... you can tour this lovely masterpiece, but sleeping in it's royal chambers would be out of the question."
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

After that romantic opulence, I wanted to find something exotic but still beautiful, and now I'm thinking my bucket list has a brand new number one spot. Check this out: "Endowed with abundant natural attractions and antiquities, this quiet paradise is a traveler's heaven. Full of ancient ruins, Buddhist shrines, and magnificent mountains, this fascinating province is filled with natural and cultural wonders. It may not be the capital of the Kingdom anymore, but this piece of the golden triangle is still a wonderful place to escape the troubles of daily life and sink into the laid back style of traditional rural living."
Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The man-made beauty of Wat Rong Khun is truly spectacular and awakens the spiritual side of me, but there's just something about unobstructed nature that makes me feel more connected with the earth: "Thought of as a 'zoo without fences', this breath-taking environment is home to koalas, possums, wallabies, echidnas, penguins, and sea lions, and this luscious island is an adventure in exploration. Boasting beautiful walking trails, guided tours, and magnificent caves, this fabulous 'down under' island will leave you with lasting memories and incredibly beautiful experiences."
Kangaroo Island, Australia

Thailand and Australia can be pretty hot sometimes, and I'm a hot-blooded person. So next I wanted to cool down in a place with a more ... chilly ... climate: "An unconventional vacation, sure ... but with a view of the Northern Lights, this 5,500 kilometer hotel exhibits an entirely different concept that appeals to an entirely unique sense of adventure. This temporary wonder is rebuilt each and every winter, and each summer it slowly disappears, recycled into the Torne River."
Ice Hotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

One last stop on my virtual travel tour, and I guess this hint was a great one, because no one was able to guess it. Here's what I said: "This wonderfully wet tourist attraction is an amazing place to see. It may not be the highest, and it may not be the widest, but it is by far the largest and most impressive of its kind. Situated on the border between two African countries, this location promises the beauty of nature, combined with the exhilaration of adventure."
Victoria Falls, Africa

This is perhaps the best possible way I could think of to celebrate my first anniversary ass a published author - it was fun to have the chance to get to know some new readers, and I loved that I got to interact in a new way with established readers! Part of the party or not, it's never too late to participate - leave me a comment below and let me know which of my chosen hiding spots would be highest on your travel bucket list!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Jewel Box, by C. Michelle McCarty

A mouthy small town girl takes on big city life assisted by her "Spiritual guide through sin city" who pulls a Professor Higgins on Cherie while offering advice on single parenting and multiple affairs of the heart ...

Back in the sixties while Motown hits filled the airwaves, naive Jill Novak acknowledged her knack for choosing losers when boring Husband Number One vanished, leaving her to support their two-year-old. The perpetual daydreamer soon morphs from small town Jill to sophisticated big city Cherie, but a new name does not a better future bring.

In 1969 Houston, Cherie encounters a rogue's gallery of characters unlike those from her small Texas hometown; a drop-dead gorgeous transsexual, a snarling wannabe Mafia hit-man, a hairy cop who incorporates fondling girls into his job, and a ditzo neighbor whose desire for friendship borders on stalking. But it is two distinctly different men - a middle aged gregarious gambler and a twenty-something gruff intellectual -  who jump on board her turbulent thirty-year roller coaster ride and journey with her into the 21st Century and womanhood.

A tough and tender Texas-sized romance with a mild metaphysical slant, The Jewel Box highlights moments from the metaphysical, laid-back Age of Aquarius through the materialistic, high-speed Internet era. Music and references to the times/political climate convey the nation's rocky terrain (and subsequent growth) parallel with that of the main character. This is a story of an engaging and open-hearted woman with no plan, making her way through life by fits and starts, and ultimately succeeding by turning out to be stronger than she thought.

My Review
Based on the cover and the blurb, I'd have probably said, "Sounds good, but not for me." I picked this book up by request, but I was hooked within the first chapter and finished the book completely in love with half the characters. Jill's transition to "Cherie" is early on in the story accompanied by an adventure that takes her pretty far out of her comfort zone. And from there on out, her life comes in fits of happiness, moments of rage, and times of quiet, happy tranquility.

In a conversational style, Ms McCarty takes us on a adventure through the highlights of Cherie's life, leaving out the bland but bringing us face to face with the emotional moments that make Cherie who she is. Full of beautiful prose, talented writing, and lovable characters, this book is definitely a keeper. Were it a paperback I'd been asked to read, it would easily have earned a permanent place on my over-filled bookshelf, but as I received the book by Kindle gift, I'm pleased to say that I'll be reading this one again someday and have already recommended it to friends.

Sometimes, branching out of your typical reading zone really pays off, and it definitely paid off with The Jewel Box. Five Stars, and well worth the time spent.

Want to get to know this author's work too? Check her out: Amazon / Facebook

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Year Later

One year ago today, I was basking in the thrill of having finally written a novel - a full-length novel that I loved and was proud of, with characters that I loved and related to, and a story line that I ... well, that I loved.

One year ago today, I uploaded a file to Amazon and I clicked publish. I anguished over keywords. I sat back in disappointment when I saw that little KDP alert that basically says, "We know you're really excited and this is a huge step for you, but hey, how 'bout waiting another 8-12 hours before other people can see your work?"

One year ago today, I refreshed my KDP bookshelf like a maniac all day long, waiting for my book's status to switch to "live".

One year ago today, my childhood dream of becoming an author technically came true. But I say technically because there's a lot more to being an author than self-publishing one title.

In the past twelve months, I've taken that first novel down, doubled it, and reintroduced it to the world. I now have five active titles, five novels made up of characters close to my heart and stories so completely personal that even I can't tell you how many times or how many ways they intersect with my real life.

In the past twelve months, I've given countless interviews to various bloggers, I've joined Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and YouTube, among other sites. I've connected with bloggers, readers, reviewers, and other book lovers from all over the world. I've connected with other indie authors, and I've made friendships I think will last far into the future.

One year ago today I clicked publish for the first time, but it was just during these last twelve months that I really became an author. My life has changed in ways I can't even explain. I've gotten to know myself so much better, and I've gained amazing clarity in the aspect of knowing where I want my life to go.

As the new year approaches and a fresh start is in front of all of us, I'd like to thank all of you for coming along on this journey with me - for reading my books, for reviewing them, for sharing them with your friends, and for all of your support in so many different avenues that it would take too long to list them all here.

Thank You.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Love And The Goddess, by Mary Elizabeth Coen

The Blurb
'Sex and the City' meets 'Eat, Pray, Love' in a search for love & meaning.

Love & the Goddess: One woman, One myth, Three Goddesses

A woman's voyage of self discovery begins on the internet leading all the way to Brazil and onto the Andean highlands of Peru.

Devastated from her relationship break- up, Kate Canavan is at a loss until she re-discovers a hidden painting of the triple Goddess from Greek mythology. Her interest in mythology and spirituality is re-ignited. A voyage of self discovery begins with internet dating using the names of each of the Goddesses in the triple myth. 

When a health scare intervenes Kate and her friends go together to visit a famous healer in Brazil and a spiritual guru in Peru, where all three friends begin spiritual journeys of forgiveness, gratitude and learning to live in the now.

My Review
For me, this was a slow but pleasant read. It wasn't something that whipped me into a reading frenzy, but that's okay because it wasn't meant to. The story follows Kate Canavan as she struggles to cope and heal from the loss of her marriage to Trevor, a cheating, controlling, jerk that I didn't like right from the very beginning of the story.

In her search for emotional and spiritual healing, Kate travels through bits of South America -- and several different dating sites -- meeting lots of new people and learning more about herself than most of us learn in all our lives. Supported by a cast of quirky friends and family members, Kate feels real, though she is, at times, a bit uncomfortably self-aware. Still, her self-awareness causes the reader to relate, and to look inward in ways that perhaps have not been experienced before.

This story beautifully expresses Kate's journey to self-acceptance and her realization that "alone" doesn't have to mean "lonely," and while there were characters I downright hated in this story, I can say happily that Kate wasn't one of them. I loved watching her date around, experimenting with who she was and who she wanted to be even as she experimented with dating different types of men. In the end, I liked watching Kate become who she became, and I found myself smiling as I read the epilogue, completely pleased with the end of the story.

Four Stars.

Want to check this author out for yourself? Do it here: AmazonWebsite / Twitter / Goodreads

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Turning Angel, by Greg Iles

The Blurb
Turning Angel marks the long-awaited return of Penn Cage, the lawyer hero of The Quiet Game, and introduces Drew Elliott, the highly respected doctor who saved Penn's life in a hiking accident when they were boys. As two of the most prominent citizens of Natchez, Drew and Penn sit on the school board of their alma mater, St. Stephen's Prep. When the nude body of a young female student is found near the Mississippi River, the entire community is shocked -- but no one more than Penn, who discovers that his best friend was entangled in a passionate relationship with the girl and may be accused of her murder.

On the surface, Kate Townsend seems the most unlikely murder victim imaginable. A star student and athlete, she'd been accepted to Harvard and carried the hope and pride of the town on her shoulders. But like her school and her town, Kate also had a secret life -- one about which her adult lover knew little. When Drew begs Penn to defend him, Penn allows his sense of obligation to override his instinct and agrees. Yet before he can begin, both men are drawn into a dangerous web of blackmail and violence. Drew reacts like anything but an innocent man, and Penn finds himself doubting his friend's motives and searching for a path out of harm's way. 

More dangerous yet is Shad Johnson, the black district attorney whose dream is to send a rich white man to death row in Mississippi. At Shad's order, Drew is jailed, the police cease hunting Kate's killer, and Penn realizes that only by finding Kate's murderer himself can he save his friend's life. 

With his daughter's babysitter as his guide, Penn penetrates the secret world of St. Stephen's, a place that parents never see, where reality veers so radically from appearance that Penn risks losing his own moral compass. St. Stephen's is a dark mirror of the adult world, one populated by steroid-crazed jocks, girls desperate for attention, jaded teens flirting with nihilism, and hidden among them all -- one true psychopath. It is Penn's journey into the heart of his alma mater that gives Turning Angel its hypnotic power, for on that journey he finds that the intersection of the adult and nearly adult worlds is a dangerous place indeed. By the time Penn arrives at the shattering truth behind Kate Townsend's death, his quiet Southern town will never be the same.

My Review
This book was absolutely amazing. Although it is not the first in the Penn Cage books, I had no trouble keeping track of the characters or following their various back stories. Turning Angel isn't my first Greg Iles read, either, and I have to say, I am seriously loving his style. His character dialogue feels real and natural, the interaction between characters feels life-like and entirely possible, and the characters themselves are well-planned and beautifully rendered.

Turning Angel is a hefty volume for some readers, with over 600 pages, but I seriously devoured this book in about three days of marathon reading. The plot drew me in immediately, the writing itself was perfectly descriptive without being too much or too little. The blurb describes the story well, so I won't go into too much detail on that, but seriously ... wow. Just wow. I will be looking forward to another Greg Iles book as soon as I can fit one into my schedule.

Five Stars. You have GOT to Buy This Book.

Want To Follow Greg As Much As I Do? Check out the following links: Facebook / Amazon / Website / Twitter

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Dirty is "Dirty"?

I've been taking a bit of a break lately - but my writing life has also been pretty hectic. In the last eleven months, I've released five books (Fat Chance, Prescription For Love, Wrestling Harmony, Selkie, and Fighting For Freedom). I've done a blog tour. I've written several guest posts on different blogs, and I even set up a YouTube channel. I've been active on Facebook (most of the time), and Twitter (sometimes, but I'm still learning to like it).

It has been a busy year for me with a lot of change, and I'm definitely feeling a bit ... tired. So I've been reading - books, blogs, the news. Whatever I can get my hands on, really. So during the course of my reading, I came across a blog post where an author was debating the current lingo attached to erotic fiction.

Erotic fiction is often referred to by more conservative readers using terms like "naughty," or "raunchy," or "nasty." Then there's a looser, less inhibited crowd that uses terms closer to "sexy" or "hot," or even "dirty." For those of us who like the voyeuristic appeal of knowing everything that happens in the story - even the sexy parts - these "dirty" stories invite us into the bedroom, the bathtub, the backseat of the car, or wherever else our favorite couple is getting naked.

Back to the other end of the spectrum, in direct opposition to this type of "dirty" fiction, there's Christian romance, YA romance, and a few other forms of "clean" romance for readers not interested in all the details. For those who don't need (or want) every sexual detail to be included in the story, these "clean" reads give us the romance and the emotional connection - while leaving us tactfully shut out of the bedroom.

They leave us to fill in the blanks - or ignore them at will.

But really, why is one "clean" and the other "dirty?" And how does one choose which type to read (or which type to write)? Generally, the choice is simple enough; if you want all the gritty sexy details, you go for the "dirty" fiction - and you're often thankful to be reading it on a kindle or other e-reader, so the other people in the doctor's office waiting room can't see what you're reading. If that makes you uncomfortable or for some reason you simply dislike the full disclosure of "dirty" reading, then you go for something that tactfully leaves the sex out - even if you're still perfectly aware there's some sexing going on. 

And, there are even extra-"clean" stories where there's simply no sex at all - not even implied.

The romance reading community is obviously a pretty big mashup - so in such a mixed market, how does one choose what to write? On one side of things, if you're a "clean" writer, you might come off as too much of a prude for the "dirty" readers. And if you write lots of really intimate, detailed sex scenes, you might come off as a bit too open. A bit too "dirty."

Throughout the post I was reading (which I would link here, except that it's since been taken down), I kept finding myself pulling back to think on different books that I've read - both "clean" and "dirty" - and how those books reflect on my personal reading style. And while I've read my fair share of both styles - and I definitely have solid preferences - I like to think when it comes to my writing, I'm somewhere in the middle. Maybe not entirely "clean," but probably nothing close to what might appeal to the "dirty" crowd.

Then again, why do I have to identify as either?

I mean, sure - people want to know what they're getting. A strictly "clean" reader would likely be rather offended reading something like 50 Shades of Grey; likewise, a "dirty" reader with an affinity for BDSM, LGBT, or some other such "kink" might be highly disappointed to have picked up something decidedly "clean." So there's that, I suppose - the need to label the work based on the market so that people can find what they're looking for.

There's another side of the issue too, though - in themselves, the words "clean" or "dirty" imply that one style is good and the other is bad, respectively. One is something we can read in front of the children without answering questions about the image on the cover, and the other is something we often feel obligated to read in private, unable (or simply unwilling) to share our favorite new reads with friends if they're too "dirty."

I know a person who reads pretty exclusively "clean" writing. Even my occasional sex scenes are too "porny" for her, and she has told me several times that that while she loves my stories, she skips the sex. I've even had someone send me a message to tell me the generally pretty "vanilla" sex scenes in my writing render my books no better than common "smut." On the other hand, my books really don't contain an awful lot of sex - nor is it generally very adventurous sex. Because of this, I've been told that my books are prudish, and that while they're rich in plot and filled with characters that are emotionally engaging, they leave something to be desired in the lack of frequent and detailed sex.

Somehow, my books seem to fall on both ends of the "dirty" spectrum, depending on the "dirtiness" of the individual reader. And in my own life as a reader, I often find that books I think of as too "dirty" might not be quite "dirty" enough for others.

So really, how Dirty is "Dirty?" What makes a book too "dirty" for you, and what makes a book not "dirty" enough? Have you read any of my books? If so, where do they fall on your personal spectrum? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Milestones Worth Celebrating

Yesterday was a crazy day full of excitement for me! Around noon yesterday, I took the final steps to publish Wrestling Harmony, the third book in the Kingsley Series.

And then began the waiting phase, refreshing my pages, watching for the moment when Amazon approved the files and published the book for purchase.

I needed something to do. Something to distract me from constantly checking to see if Wrestling Harmony had gone live yet. So, like all relatively new authors tend to sometimes do, I thought, "Hey, I'll just have a peek and see how my Fat Chance FREE Promo is going."

And then this happened.

Let me just say that at this point, I was adequately distracted. This has only happened to me once before, when I ran a free promo for Selkie  on September 21, 2103 - and watched as my book made it to:
  • #17 in KindleStore/KindleEBooks/Literature&Fiction/Fantasy/FairyTales
  • #21 in KindleStore/KindleEBooks/Literature&Fiction/WorldLiterature/Mythology, and
  • #1643 Free in Kindle Store.

I was excited that day, too, but Fat Chance has now completely surpassed those numbers. Just watch.
When I first saw this, I was with my cousin Dana - most of you know that she is also my main proofreader/editor. I seriously started squeaking incoherently, and then it took us a while to stop laughing at me before I could tell her what I'd seen.

And then ...

I write for the love of writing, for the thrill and the adventure of the story. I write because it's a part of who I am, and I've been writing since long before I got brave enough to share my words with the world. But it's like being an artist - when you spend your time putting your heart into something that comes straight from the depths of your soul, you can't help but hope that what you've done will touch someone else the way it touches you. That's why this one made me squeak a little, too. I broke the top 1000 free.

And then I broke the top 500 free, made it to the first page of the top 100 in ContemporaryFiction/Romance and broke the top 100 in Romance/Contemporary. I cried.

And this is the last time I checked before going to bed, growing closer to the top 100 free, almost into the top ten in ContemporaryFiction/Romance and close to the top 50 in Romance/Contemporary.

And then I woke up to this.

So I made Fat Chance free for today, too.

Edited to add: just in case you haven't clicked any of the relevant links or somehow still didn't know ... Fat Chance is now FREE all the time! So download it for yourself, tell your friends to get it and read it with you - and then check out the rest of the series here. (July 2018))

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: Departed, by Nick Stephenson

The Blurb
"Playtime's over ... Expert criminology consultant Leopold Blake is having yet another bad week. While tracking a psychopathic serial killer through the streets of London, the reclusive investigator realizes with chilling certainty that history is about to repeat itself - with devastating consequences. Where Scotland Yard and MI5 have failed, Leopold must find a way to hunt down and apprehend a ruthless maniac before he strikes again. 

And the clock is ticking.

Now Blake and his team must face their greatest challenge yet: an unseen force, intent on wreaking havoc throughout the city, is hunting on its home turf - and Leopold is about to realize that the good guy doesn't always win.

Departed is another exhilarating installment in the Leopold Blake series of thrillers, which can be read and enjoyed in any order.

My Review
This book starts out with a hook paragraph that successfully grabbed my interest and kept me turning pages:

"A human body plummeting from a cruising altitude of thirty-five thousand feet takes three minutes to hit the ground.  Low pressure and lack of oxygen cause loss of consciousness for most of the fall, until the last minute or so, where the average person wakes up just in time to see the ground hurtling toward them at over one hundred and twenty miles per hour."

It's a spectacular hook, right? I don't know if the information is entirely true - but honestly, I don't care. I was hooked. I also really like the premise behind the story both in the beginning and as it develops. It's a great idea. However ... the writing left something to be desired in many places, and there are several things about it that hold me back from actually saying that I love it - or that I even like it, entirely. In fact, these things completely disconnected my original hook into the story, and I had to force myself to finish the book, seeking out something that would redeem the story for me.

For one, Leopold, the main guy of the story, is an FBI consultant, contracted to investigate a case for Scotland yard. Though he is one of the main characters and this aspect of who he is as a character is made abundantly clear, he is all-too-frequently referred to as "the consultant" throughout the book. I don't know if the purpose of this is to lend mystery to his character or to remind the reader of Leopold's job, but for me it was almost like the insertion of an entirely new and unnamed character. This is done with a few other characters also, and at times, I found it distracting.

There are also dozens of places where the story and characters are entirely unrealistic, either acting like they know next to nothing when they should be more knowledgeable and well-trained, or spouting off unnecessary details that they shouldn't have known or been able to recognize in the first place.

But in spite of those things being horribly distracting at best and completely annoying at worst, there are also places along the course of the story where, as a writer myself, I would sit back a bit and marvel at the unexpected beauty of the prose. One such example says:

"He took a moment to soak in the beauty of her, always moved by the elegance of the human body in the moments before death, by the stillness and calm that washes over a person when they know there's nothing they can do."

This is a murder scene - and by the description, you're led in your mind to imagine a pretty grisly picture. And yet this man, vicious as he is, is taking the time to enjoy what he sees as beautiful, his handiwork. This particular passage was fairly well written and I liked it.

In the end, the book is somewhat redeemed as being worthy of the free read because the plot sped up and did actually surprise me a little with some of the twists. Still ... it's not five stars. It didn't "thrill" me, and I'd have been pretty mad if I hadn't gotten it on a free day.

In my Amazon review, I gave this book three stars, because in spite of the distracting elements and bits that were unrealistic, I do have to admit that there was plenty of content I did like. And to be fair, if it hadn't be so unrealistic in certain parts, I'd likely have rated it much higher.

Want To Follow Nick, Give His Books A Shot, Or Find Out More About Him? You can do that here: Amazon / Twitter / BlogWebsite

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Addressing My Youth

Several months ago, I had a conversation with a friend; during that conversation, she suggested that I write a letter to a younger me. 

And while I loved the idea, it terrified me too. Young life wasn't always easy for me, and my childhood was about as far from rainbows and roses as it could possibly get. It isn't always easy to talk about, even with the people who know me personally, people that have literally gone through it with me.

But writing is my outlet - has always been my outlet. So I can write to a younger me, can't I? Surely I can find something to say to myself, some wisdom that I've gained through the experiences of my youth?

I let it sit. I let it rest. I let it form itself. And then?

A few weeks ago, I was driving with the wind in my hair (because the a/c in the car doesn't work) and my children were with me, quiet in the backseat (because they couldn't hear anything over the wind in the car windows at 70mph anyway). We were on the way to see my mother for basically the first time in over a year (due to her various illnesses), and I was praying as I drove that at least for that day, she would feel well enough to really be their grandmother, the woman they've known all their lives - and not the sickly, fragile woman I don't want them to think of when they remember her.

The drive to my mother's house is long and scenic, through several wooded areas on the outskirts of Knoxville. I was disappointed to see that the leaves hadn't yet begun to take on the colors of fall, but the green reminded me - as always - of when I was sixteen and Mom and I had just moved to Tennessee from central Florida.

My life at that time was complete chaos which, while chaos itself wasn't new to me, this particular kind was. I was leaving my father behind, which was painful because we had always been very close and I hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye to him. I was leaving my best friend, a girl I had quite literally grown up with - and the pain of us hugging and crying as we said goodbye in the parking lot at her first job was still desperately fresh as I looked moodily out the windows at the passing scenery.

But it wasn't all bad, and I still had hope; there was a boy that I loved deeply, and he was moving with us. We would be staying temporarily with my grandmother, which would put me back in touch with my most favorite cousin, who had always been more like what I imagine the blessing of a sister to be, and who I had missed painfully during the time we'd been apart.

I had no idea how much my life was really changing at that time, no idea how so many moments from that summer would continue to shape who I am now. And I didn't have the wisdom of today to get me through. But now, I can tell the old me that it's gonna be okay - with the knowledge of today's me. With the help of:

"A Letter To A Young And Stubborn Me."

Hey, me,
          Life can get a little rough sometimes, can't it? I bet right now, you're aching because the boy is gone. You're aching because some of your relationships with people that you've counted on to always be there will never be the same. And I'll bet you're just so damn mad at being young that you can't see straight. But let me tell you that it's gonna be okay.
          That boy you're crying over is not the person you think he is. Not yet anyway - but one day, when he isn't angry anymore, the two of you will clear the air. He's not for you though, and you're not for him, so you might as well let it go and move on. Take a lesson from him, carry the good with you as a standard for every man to uphold, and take the bad as a checklist of deal-breakers to protect yourself with. You'll add to both of those lists over time, but the man who fits the list will elude you for a while - so don't be so serious all the time, okay?
          The people who have walked away from you will be replaced by the passage of time, some by new people who will also hurt you. Some will walk away ... but others? There will be many people who will help you to see who are and the potential that lies inside of you. I'd tell you about one of them, but I won't - best to let you be surprised when you realize who it is.
          In the meantime, stop being afraid to fail that one person you've always been dying to impress. It can't be done. Processing that loss will take a while, but loss is part of life. When you've accepted that some things aren't meant to be, take the time to get to know yourself as you are, and stop trying so hard to be what other people seem to require. If you need help, listen to the ones who tell you that you're beautiful, who look at you and see intelligence and good humor, who see talent and an unbelievable spirit of such fine quality that it's terrifying. If you haven't met someone who make you feel like that's what they see when they look at you, be patient. He'll come along, and I promise he'll be worth it.
          As you're becoming me, you're likely to feel a lot of self-doubt; there's no escaping that. You'll experience loss, and love, and more loss. I can tell you that it won't turn out the way you planned, and you won't end up where you expected to. You'll veer off the path, you'll explore what life has to offer. But you'll be proud when you've become me, to realize that you haven't veered too far, you haven't explored enough darkness to get trapped in it, and there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Something to work toward, someone to believe in.
          And I know you don't believe this yet, but it's you.
          Remember to love yourself, accept yourself, and believe yourself. And chase your dreams; they are not as out of reach as you think.
          Love, Me

And this letter? It isn't just for the young me. It isn't just a reminder for the new me. If you're reading this and it speaks to you, then listen to it. Stop waiting for that one thing that will make your life worth living. Stop waiting for that one person that will make you a person worth loving. Stop waiting for that one event that will make it all worth it.
Because just like me, you are already a person worth loving, a person worth living a life that's worth living. And right now, if you use it, this moment is that moment that will make it all worth it. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Twitter Fun, Again

A while back, I blogged about how fun it can be to watch the thread of "trending" topics and hashtags on Twitter. I posted some of my tweets and shared some of the other fun tweets I'd seen with amusing topics and hashtags on my timeline.

And now, I'm at it again - this morning I saw that #20ThingsAboutMe was trending, and since I just recently did a post series sharing 50 Random Things About Me, I thought it would be fun to see if I could come up with 20 new things, which I'm sharing here to save you the trouble of searching my twitter page:

What did you think of these 20 things? Do we have any in common? If so, tell me about it in the comments - and if not, leave me a random fact about you! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

50 Random Things About Me, Part 5

Wow, this is it - and let me tell you guys, it was hard to think of fifty random things about myself! I was trying to stay away from too much "favorite" stuff, partly because I didn't want this list to be too generic but also because I have trouble choosing favorites of most things. Granted, there are a few things that are solid favorites for me (sapphire = favorite gemstone), but with most other things (books, movies, music, etc.), I have so many favorites I can't ever choose just one.

Whoops, guess that last bit there makes it fifty-one random things about me, doesn't it? Anyway, since I've done this list in segments, here are the links to the first parts of this series - One, Two, Three, and Four.

Ad now, let's move on with the final ten of:

  1. I have a small (nearly invisible) birthmark on the inside of my right calf. It looks like this.
  2. I can't sleep unless I'm cold. My whole family complains about me turning the a/c down at night, but I can't help it. I literally cannot sleep unless I'm cold enough to need a blanket, which takes a lot because I'm a fairly hot-blooded person.
  3. I also can't sleep or be comfortable if there is anything too close to my face. I will go into a full-on panic, feeling like I can't breathe. For this reason, I can't pull the covers any higher than my shoulders, and if they creep up too far while I sleep it will actually wake me up. The odd part about this is that I'm not generally claustrophobic.
  4. I am not comfortable with big or sudden changes. I like knowing where my life is going and how I'm going to get there. On the other hand ...
  5. I LOVE SURPRISES. This can be gifts, phone calls, unexpected texts that tell me someone is thinking of me, anything. I just love surprises. As long as they're the good kind.
  6. I come from a musically inclined family. My maternal grandmother used to sing, my father used to sing a little, my mother played the violin, my cousin played the flute. And I played the clarinet. To this day, I still miss it - I keep saying one day I'll buy a new clarinet and re-teach myself to play, but I haven't done it yet. I've also tried guitar and piano, but my fingers are too short to play properly.
  7. I love figure skating. Like, LOVE it. It's completely beautiful, totally graceful, and very relaxing to watch. I've never been ice skating though, and probably won't ever ... I'm too afraid of falling and cutting myself on the blades.
  8. My first car was a grey Buick Century; it was so old I can't even remember what year model it was. The frame was bent on the driver's door though, so every time it rained I'd get soaked if I was driving. I couldn't wash it either because of that. The brakes were somehow always bad, there was always something broken or breaking, and it was about 50 Shades of Grey way back in the early 2000's before that became cool. To this day, it'll always be remembered like this.
  9. I tend to connect songs (and sometimes movies) to specific memories and people. Everyone I know has a song that is "theirs" in my mind, and there are a few people who have movies, also.
  10. My first orgasm was while reading a book, sitting in the closet in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. It was completely unexpected (there was no touchy-feely stuff, just reading, I promise!) and actually rather frightening at the time since I was very young. I probably shouldn't have been reading lady porn historical romance at that age anyway, and can't imagine giving something like that to either of my kids.

Obviously I'm getting desperate for facts, but I figured since I'm a romance author that one would be alright and fully appropriate. And who knows, maybe that's why I love books so much.

And there you have it:
50 Random Things About Me.

So tell me, do we share any of these "things" in common? Anything else you'd like to know? Questions you'd like to ask now that you've read these? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

50 Random Things About Me, Part 4

For anyone coming late to the game, you can check out the early posts in this series as follows:
Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. That should catch you up for part four of:

  1. I have a tattoo of a boutonniere on the outside of my left calf. There are two flowers -- a rose for my oldest daughter, and a lily for my youngest.
  2. The boutonniere is a cover-up. The tattoo was originally a flower already, but it no longer reflected my personal taste and style. There were also several mistakes in it that have made me hate it since the moment I first looked at the finished product. The cover-up, though, is AMAZING!! I still love it completely, and am thrilled to have found such a talented artist to work on me at Synergy Tattoo.
  3. I hate the word "moist," and I generally refuse to use it to describe anything. To be honest, I'm not even really sure why because the word in itself isn't gross or anything. And it really does describe the perfect cake perfectly ... but no. I hate that word.
  4. I can actually say that music has literally saved my life, and I can say it without exaggeration. Music means the world to me; over the years, it has gotten me through the very hardest moments of my life. I can't go a day without listening to music of some kind.
  5. I was born on a Friday.
  6. I can't choose a favorite Disney movie, but my favorite hunky Disney guy was ... well, I can't choose one of those either.
  7. I would like very much to work with an architect to design my own home someday, to pick and choose what I love and make my space perfectly suit my tastes. And then, I'd love to fill it with simple but beautiful furniture pieces I'll design and build on my own.
  8. In contrast with that dream, I am generally very thrifty. It's sometimes literally painful to me to spend money; it makes my heart ache and my stomach burn and all my insecurities shoot right up to the surface. The thing is, I grew up very very poor - there were periods where there wasn't even enough money to eat, let alone pay bills. Because of this, I'm pretty sure I have an actual phobia about being broke, which is unfortunate for me because I'm usually in a position of struggling to make ends meet ... which means I spend a lot of time overly anxious about money.
  9. When I haven't had enough sleep, I am a horrible person. I'm grouchy and sarcastic and generally a complete @$$hole.
  10. I find the craziest things to be utterly hilarious. One time, I found a thing online that made a joke about the Harry Potter line about Page 394, and I laughed so hard I cried and nearly made myself sick. I tend to be a serious person, but somehow I'm also very easily amused.
...To Be Continued...

I can't even tell you guys how fun it has been to think of these! We've just got one more post to go to finish this series, so I'll see you back here tomorrow. In the meantime, leave a random fact about you in the comments!

Friday, October 11, 2013

50 Random Things About Me, Part 3

For the past few days, I've been having fun thinking of - and listing - 50 random things about myself. I've done the first set of ten things, the second set of ten things, and now today we're on to the next set in this series. I hope you're enjoying getting to learn:

  1. I am FRAGILE. Seriously, handle with care. Because in the spring of 2012, I broke my foot just by walking. I stepped my right foot over a baby gate, then stepped my left foot over - and I ended up somehow breaking the fifth metatarsal of my left foot. Until that point though, I'd never broken anything. Hey, I made it to 28 years old though ...
  2. I have two brothers. One is older, one is younger, and I am almost exactly seven years in the middle.
  3. I'm almost painfully shy in new situations, and because of this I tend to end up accidentally looking standoffish. I've even backed out of doing things or going places because I was so anxious about the idea of being there and interacting with people I didn't know.
  4. When I was really little, I was riding my bike and forgot how to work the brakes. They were the kind where you had to push the pedals backward, and I couldn't remember how to stop. I ended up having to stop by running into a tree and crashing my bike.
  5. I'm more than a little bit OCD. When I hang or fold clothes, they have to be a certain way. If someone else does it for me, I will thank them for their help - but then when they aren't looking, I will almost always quietly redo the job. I also like to keep CD's and DVD's organized alphabetically (so I can find what I'm looking for, of course), and my kitchen cupboards usually look like store shelves with all the cans sorted and stacked and facing forward (also for ease of finding things). Most of this can be passed off as just being organized ... but I do also have an odd thing about even numbers for things like volume and stuff. Example: when I order chicken nuggets and they come in a five-pack, I will give one away instead of eating it.
  6. My dream vacation is a year-long, world-wide cruise. But only if there's a way for me to take my cell phone because ...
  7. I am addicted to my technology. I'm on my cell phone constantly, and I use my bluetooth so much that I literally only take it out of my ear to sleep, shower, or charge it. I've even forgotten I had it on and accidentally worn it into the shower. I cried.
  8. Before I had my oldest daughter, I had my belly button pierced. I had to take it out when I realized that I was pregnant; the change in my body shape was causing the piercing to not heal properly.
  9. I have the strangest dreams sometimes. Once, I dreamed that it was the apocalypse and I was with a bunch of friends, trying to find a place to hide safely from the government. Which might only have been "odd" - until you consider the fact that we were all various characters from My Little Ponies. My cousin Dana (who is also my editor) was Apple Jack.
  10. Speaking of Dana, since she lives in a small (REALLY SMALL) town in a county that's kind of backwoods (and she loves it) but I'm thoroughly a big city girl at heart, we have always had a running joke where she is "Country Mouse" and I am "City Mouse." I love that we have this difference between us, because it gives us balance.

...To Be Continued...

If you're enjoying my facts, tell me one of yours in the comments. I'd love to hear something unique about you!