Happy Book Birthday Accidental Valentine! My Fiction Debut!

13 02 2015

Happy Book Birthday Accidental Valentine!

Accidental Valentine
Author:  Various Authors
Publisher:  Roane Publishing
Release Date:  February 13, 2015
Keywords:  Contemporary, Romance, Valentine’s Day, Short Stories, Anthology, Sweet
Guiding Hearts by Claire Gillian
Description: Is a lonely woman’s GPS sentient or is her subconscious taking her by the hand to help heal a scarred heart?When Jemma Ernst’s GPS malfunctions and sends her to the home of handsome and engaging Gabriel Nash, she writes it off as a fluke. But she can’t seem to reprogram him out of her thoughts nor her GPS.

Better Latte Than Never by Katrina Sizemore
Description: Single and cold on Valentine’s Day, Hailey Merritt is not looking forward to working all day at the coffee shop while everyone around her is cheery with romance and she’s stuck trying to figure out her next step in life.

But, when a special bouquet arrives for her from a secret admirer, she decides to reserve judgment on this holiday and find whomever sent the flowers.

Maybe Cupid has a plan to make this her favorite Valentine’s Day ever.

Dream Architect by S.L. Hughson
Description: Taylor and Sons Custom Design keeps Ashlin Taylor at arm’s length from her dream job. If only she were a son, she could follow her architectural dream. In the Taylor creed, girls get married and boys have careers. Dylan Cutright focuses on finishing college and landing an architectural engineering job in a large firm. Minus emotional ties.

After their accidental encounter, their attraction is amplified during their work interaction. Unlike her family, Dylan encourages Ashlin to pursue her dream by enrolling in college. Which confuses Ashlin since whenever she moves closer to him, he rebuffs her – reasons unknown.

Valentine’s Day might be the perfect opportunity for Ashlin to make him notice her. They are working together – alone – on the most romantic day of the year. Dylan builds her dream of career, but will he ever lower his walls and become more than just the man IN her dreams?

One Hot Angel by Jaylee Austin
Description: Oblivious to Tiffany Jenkins in three short weeks her life will end—unless she makes the perfect choice. Will she chose revenge and expose her ex-husband? Or chose love and surrender her heart to the only man who can save her?

Rock My Bones by Wendy Sparrow
Description: Jared has been eyeing the sexy mural painter from inside the museum’s paleontology lab, but she’s way out of his league. He can’t let her paint that obviously misplaced fern, though…even if it means initiating contact.

You could call her a paleontology groupie, but Shay Meyers is interested in a more modern specimen. An adult male Homo Sapien to be exact—one who needs to be dragged out of his lab for a practical course in mating rituals. If she’s lucky, this will be the Valentine’s Day she rocks his bones.

Purchase Links:



Tour Schedule
Book Blitz & Tour-Wide giveaway: A paperback copy of Accidental Valentine and a $10 Amazon Gift Card!
My Personal Giveaway
An electronic ARC of this anthology
To win, all you have to do is comment on this post before Monday, February 16, 2015, with a romantic anecdote OR one place you love to read on your electronic reader.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

*My apologies for this duplicate post if you follow me at my new blog. I know some people don’t, and I wanted to make sure to share my excitement with them. Everyone loves good news, right???

Please follow this link to my new website and sign up for my newsletter, so you’ll never miss sharing my celebrations again.

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Mixed Feelings about “Allegiant”

4 11 2013

Coming to the end of a series always provokes mixed feelings. If we love the characters, we’re sad to see them go. Exciting plots make us anticipate the final climactic resolution.

Or it might be anti-climactic.

I read the first two books in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series in the Summer of 2012. At that time, waiting a year to get the final installment seemed cruel. Truthfully, I had forgotten much of my earnestness by the time the package arrived from Amazon containing the newly released conclusion to the trilogy.

The craze of dystopian fiction, especially in the young adult age group, may have reached its peak. I have read four series from this genre and half a dozen stand-alone novels in the past three years.

This type of story appeals to me because it’s interesting to see where a creative genius (pretty much any author) takes the question “what if a catastrophe happened?” and runs with it. There might be a society where children fight to the death as a means of keeping the populace cowed. Maybe lawlessness would prevail.

The possibilities stagger me. In reading such an assortment of dystopian fiction, I’ve seen a few common threads and been interested to see some similarities. More on that later. Maybe.

At the end of Insurgent, everyone was in limbo. A video disclosing the truth that the factions inside Chicago were just an experiment of the government floored everyone. It was a cliffhanger. Fifteen months later when I got to read what happened next, all the urgency had vanished.

I recommend rereading the first two books before you pick up this wrap-up to the series. It took me more than 75 pages to reorient myself with the characters and begin to connect with them again. That said, I don’t believe this book has much appeal as a stand-alone read.

The main character we followed in the first book, Beatrice Prior, shares the narration duties with her boyfriend, Four or Tobias. I found the transition between their two minds choppy and I never truly felt they were distinct. The writer’s voice sounded the same inside either mind.

I make it a point never to include spoilers in my book reviews. To me, the purpose of the review is to help you decide whether or not you want to spend money on this book or borrow it from the library.

This book had the weakest plot of the series. The stakes seemed inconsequential until about three-fourths of the way through the book. My disbelief wouldn’t be suspended because I had a hard time with both Tris’ and Tobias’ reactions to their revelations in this story.

Each of them had a separate mission to accomplish at the end. In my opinion, Tobias’ resolution was too contrived and obtainable. On the other hand, I connected with Tris and her actions were much more believable, but I hated the outcome.

If you want to find out what happens to this cast, you should read this book. Story enjoyment is subjective. I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time reading this book, but since I hadn’t recently had my appetite whetted for the conclusion, I could have missed it and lived happily ever after.

Coming Soon: I am in the process of building a website. When it is ready to be unveiled, my blog will be transferred there. I hope to make the transition smooth and seamless because I don’t want to lose any of my faithful followers. Thanks for standing by me.





Sequels: Good, Bad and Ugly

27 07 2013

There’s nothing new under the sun. This is actually a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Hollywood isn’t the only clown in town that seems to think if something was a blockbuster, it should have a sequel. Books in a series are more popular than ever.

In fact, I enjoy reading a series. After all, if I love the characters, I happily follow their trials and triumphs. Unfortunately, “happily ever after” isn’t much of a story.

Recently, we went to see Red 2 at the theater. I will agree that Red wasn’t a stellar movie, but it was funny and lots of things got blown up. Those two elements keep the men I live with enthralled, entranced and engaged.

The story in Red seemed fresh. A retired CIA man gets bored and starts flirting with a girl via phone. Unfortunately, there’s an old case that he worked on that people are getting killed over (because of political aspirations). The targets unite, discover the root problem, blow up plenty of cars and buildings and ride off victorious. Each character has their own sub story, as well, which keeps things interesting.

None of these things can be said of Red 2. The relationship seems stale until there’s a threat to the retired agent’s life. The team thinks they’re completing one mission, but instead, their mission has a mission of his own. Thankfully, there was humor and lots of explosions because the story was dreadful.

This is a problem with sequels. It isn’t enough that we love the characters. They need to be involved in something we can find believable. It can’t be a lame “I liked it better when we were running for our lives” theme. At least, not if you want to engage me.

Another series that seemed to fail to rise to the occasion was The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. This irked me because I looked forward to each successive installment as much as my son, who was in the target audience.

I’m not going to rehash the plot of this series. Let’s just say that he could have told the story in two books. Very few people I spoke with appreciated the addition to Eldest of the cousin’s story. Was it essential for the whole town to move and become Eragon’s army?

Also, this was a case where the hero got a sucky deal. Seriously. I despise when an author ends a series by having the person who saves the world end up with – nothing, nada, zilch. He doesn’t get to be with his family, he loses his brother, the girl he loves can’t love him in return and he leaves the land he just delivered from oppression. Wow. “You’re welcome. I’d love to save your day and then lose everything I worked for. Happy day!”

In fact, I would rather see the hero dead if he’s not going to get anything. I disagree that Eragon having the dragons and being the one to train future riders redeemed the ending. I don’t care if it was prophesied to end this way in the first book.

A hero should walk away with more than the knowledge that he did the right thing. Even if that’s all we earn in real life for some good deeds, it isn’t an acceptable ending for a series.

I remember finishing Inheritance and thinking, “I waited expectantly for this? I read all these thousands of pages only to have him leave it all behind in the end?”

Perhaps you found Paolini’s ending satisfying or thought all the extra information included that made his series stretch from the predicted trilogy to a four-book cycle made sense. I’d love to have a conversation about that (or another series you found successful or repugnant).





Embarrassment: An Effective Teacher

19 06 2013

Some people have embarrassing moments.  I tend to bypass those and move straight for the humiliating.  As an example, imagine breaking down into tears in the middle of teaching a classroom full of teenagers. Embarrassment? I think even humiliation is a kind euphemism.
The first time it happened to me was my first year as an instructional assistant.  The teacher assigned me three reading groups, each reading a different novel aloud and then discussing it together.  Everything seemed fine until I saw the title of one of the books: Where the Red Fern Grows.
“I can’t read this book,” I tell her.
“What?”
“I can’t read this book.” Repetition is often the key to understanding.  For emphasis, I shake the book at her.
“Why not?”
“The dogs die.”
Blank, non-comprehending eyes stare back at me.  What part of “I can’t read aloud a book in which dogs die” is so difficult to understand?
With a heavy sigh, I admit with unapologetic sharpness, “I cry every time.”
She nods.  “I know.  It’s sad.”
That’s it? It’s sad? I think heart-rending, painful and guaranteed to induce tears is more accurate.  My stunned disbelief must be apparent because she asks, “Would you like to take a different group?”
“What are the other books?”
She gestures to the stacks of novels on the round table behind her.  I step around her to peruse the other titles.  The Outsiders featuring gang wars and a boy who burns in a church.  Not really any more appealing.  Next to that is a stack of red paperbacks:  Number the Stars about the Nazi occupation of Denmark.  Not a very exciting story, but at least it has a semi-happy ending.  The final book is The Bridge to Terabithia.  I have recently read this since she hinted that it would be one of the novels we were using.  Do I think reading about a best friend dying will be more palatable than the dead dogs?
“I guess I’ll stay with this,” I tell her.  As unappealing as the thought is, I comfort myself with the fact that it will be weeks before we get to the sad part of the book.  I’m pretty sure I feel a sick day coming.
Instead, the day we read about the coon hunt gone awry is such a summery spring afternoon that we sit outside beneath the tall evergreen trees.  Wind ruffles the pages.  The fresh, pine-scented air brings the reality of the woods at night clearly to mind.  I try to cover up my emotions, but there’s just something about a clot of mucus in the throat that makes speaking impossible.
Three young teenagers are aghast, practically gaping while my tears threaten, unwilling to be quelled.  Understatement:  I feel mortified.  However, their attention has never been so completely focused on my face or words.
“Are you crying?” one girl asks.
Gulping down the infernal throat-frog, I admit, “This part is so sad.  It always makes me cry.”
“I hate when animals die.”
“I cried when we had to put my dog to sleep last fall.”
Who knew overly dramatic, hormone-driven teenagers could be compassionate and empathetic?
The next time, it wasn’t quite as horrifying.  Reading one-to-one with a student decreased the audience.  The scene described a heart-to-heart talk between a misunderstood daughter and her recently remarried dad about the mother’s passing. A few tears fell.
“Are you crying?” my student asked, turning to stare at my face with wide eyes.
“It’s really sad,” I choke out.
Afterward, she tells the whole class how sad her book is and she’s not sure if she likes it anymore.  When she whispers to her friends a few moments later, is she telling them how weird it was when Mrs. Hughson started crying? I refuse to feel ashamed.  My tears prove that effectively written prose can evoke deep emotions.
Today, however, was a completely different ball game in front of the entire class.  How I managed to read about the notification from the army of the young soldier’s death without even batting an eye, I’ll never know.  Stymied at last, the clog begins to form while reading the reflection on the unimpeachable character of the recently departed.  Why is it that “Only the Good Die Young”?
Of course, I must appear strong, so I attempt to struggle through it.  I swallow, blink rapidly and even try to clear my throat.  I look toward my feet so I won’t see 24 eyes staring at me expectantly.  Waiting to hear the rest of the story? Or waiting to see me break down and sob like an over-emotional, pre-menopausal, middle-aged woman?
It’s no use.  I can’t go on.  The teacher who I assist steps in and I have to step out.  Red-faced and red-eyed, my emotions ooze from every pore.  One Kleenex, and then another, before I’m also red-nosed.  What is wrong with me? Did I break down this way when I read the book at home a few weeks ago? Maybe.  It seems the tears have fogged my memory banks.
When I return, the classroom atmosphere is akin to a morgue.  All eyes once focused on the teacher, turn to follow my progress across the back of the room.  I take a seat next to one of the boys.  He’s writing, or doodling, but he looks up.  His eyes are wide, his lips slightly parted, a question obvious in his eyes, “Are you okay?”
“They were as good as gold after you left,” Mrs. Tayler tells me later.
We’re talking about the last period of the day. On any normal day, this group could enter a chat marathon. Today, every one of them understood the seriousness of a single moment.
Just call me Confucius, I guess. I’ve created a new proverb: A teacher’s embarrassment is a great teacher.





Dual-Purpose Novel

20 03 2013

Reading thrills me. Books invite me in, feed my linguistic genius and hold me hostage until the last page.

It would be nice to be able to truly revel in the beautiful language Harper Lee uses in To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’ve got another novel (or three) to read before the month is out.

Considering the limited number of hours in my day (and my physical need for sleep), I hatched a brilliant plan. For one class this term, I had to select a prize-winning book to use for all the assignments. (This week I wrote a press release for it). In my other class, I needed to select a novel that had some theme related to loss of innocence written by an American author.

After a quick perusal of the Pulitzer Prize winners’ listing from the past ten years, I settled on a title. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2011. It sounded like the author used ingenuity in the construction of the novel, so I hopped over to Amazon and purchased it.

With a kleptomaniac and a washed-up music producer mentioned in the description, I knew Egan’s book would fit in the loss of innocence category. Score! I just reduced my required reading by one book.

If you haven’t read (or seen or heard of) Egan’s novel, I have to tell you she breaks every rule ever penned about point of view. Additionally, I’m still wondering if the book should be considered literature since I’m having a hard time identifying basic elements, like plot, antagonist and protagonist.

Do you think I made the right choice by getting a novel that could serve a dual purpose? If you’ve read Egan’s books, I would love to hear your insights about it.





Legacy

23 02 2013

iPhone 218 005 Since I stumbled into C.S. Lewis’ Narnia in fifth grade, I have been a fan of reading fantasy novels. The more magical the place and characters, the more enthralled I am to enter their domain.

Fortunately, I have a nephew who is more of a fantasy buff than I am. This keeps me supplied with reading material (although I’ve been known to purchase an ebook or 50 of my own). Currently, my nightly reading is a chapter in a book from R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms series.

After finishing Legacy, I felt impressed by the author’s ability to “up the stakes.” Salvatore is a master of plot, character, world building and suspense. The books start off tamely enough; I can put them aside after only reading a chapter each night before bed.

Somewhere around the time the “point of no return” happens, the book attaches itself to my hands.

In Legacy, this point came during an epic fight scene where it became crystal clear that one of the main characters wasn’t going to make it out alive. I can hear the swords clashing when I read these scenes. Salvatore brings the reader into the fight.

This is the 7th book in this series and I have seen similar plot constructions in every book.  It goes something like this:

  • Peaceful ruminations are broken by intruders or a needful quest
  • The dark elf and his friends answer the summons
  • Minor complications crop up but Salvatore lets us glimpse what the antagonists are plotting, so we can worry about the big surprise waiting for the heroes
  • Battles, bantering and introduction of interesting magical creatures or places unfold
  • The trap is sprung and the friends are separated
  • Fighting against impossible odds ensues
  • Then the final turning point, where it seems all is lost, occurs (my heart races every time and I know there are 13 books in this series so the main character must not perish!)

Each book can stand alone but the continuity between the books I’ve read thus far is seamless. Characters remain true to their persona, even though they change and grow a little more in every book.

If you’re looking for good fantasy and a character to adore, pick up something from this series. The world of the dark elves will chill you to the bone, but you will eagerly champion the cause of one drow – Drizzt Do’Urden.





Good Reading

12 01 2013

As balm for my writing spirit and fodder for my creative muse, I read four books over my two-week break. One of them was assigned for my job – a book we will be teaching next month. I can hardly keep up with my book club reading list, but one of the titles I read came from there.

Thankfully, the other two books were purely for pleasure. Of course, no writer can read without ulterior motive. I read from the fantasy genre to expand my vision and generate ideas and enthusiasm for my work in progress.

The Grimm Legacy

The last book I read was The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. This novel is one that my book club is reading. With a tag line like “Borrow the magic – if you dare,” I was ready to be hooked.The-Grimm-Legacy cover

A middle grade fantasy, this book offered a fun-filled adventure in a magical place located in New York City. A high school girl gets a job in a depository for all sorts of historical items. If places like this exist, I had no previous knowledge of them, so this was fascinating – almost like a fantasy world.

Objects from a magical collection are disappearing and Elizabeth determines to solve the mystery with the aid of her fellow pages. An atypical quest ensued and I rode along.

While Shulman’s approach to magic wasn’t completely original, the author distinguished herself from others by putting fairy tale items into a new location and with special powers usually reserved for – fairy tales.

The writing was concise and the voice strong. Characters resembled typical teenagers enough to gain my empathy. The plot moved along at a good pace and when I reached the two-thirds mark, I wanted to find out how it was resolved, so the story was a page-turner.

I recommend this book for sixth through ninth graders who know their fairy tales well enough to appreciate the allusions. Adult lovers of fairy tales, magic and a good story will also enjoy reading this book.

Dreamlander

I have been enamored with K.M. Weiland since downloading her free pamphlet on developing characters. That was months ago. I read her blog but had never read any of her books.

dreamlander-200When I read the book trailer for Dreamlander, I tried to resist. “Resistance is futile” sang my Kindle app. Amazon gladly sent the book to me after “one click.” The novel dawdled on my iPad for several weeks.

This is a fantasy story with an interesting twist – it’s all a dream. I know! How did the beginner’s ploy get published and read by many? Everyone lives two lives – the one they remember by day and the one they sometimes recall when they dream at night.

The protagonist has to save Dreamland. Crazily enough, he’s one of very few people who can remember both worlds and therefore can live full lives in both of them. Crazy, as in loony-bin insane, is what he thinks he is when he’s introduced to the idea. In fact, since he thinks it’s all a dream, he makes a life-altering decision in Dreamland. The rest of the story recounts his attempt at restoring the balance to both worlds.

In the back of my mind, I suspected the solution he worked toward wasn’t going to give him the desired outcome. I hoped he would get the happily ever after he dreamed about, but my worst fears came to pass.

I don’t want to spoil this story for anyone, but I must say that even though this book didn’t give me the ending I wanted, it gave me an ending that satisfied. Weiland effectively creates two worlds – Chicago from our world – and leaps between them seamlessly in a way I wouldn’t have predicted would work. But it does.

Her characters are compelling, realistic and relatable. They are just imperfect enough that the reader loves them and cheers for their success. If the reader is me, she cries for several chapters near the end when all hope seems lost.

I will read this book again at my leisure and make notes. How did Weiland make this story work? I’m going to dissect it until I figure out her secret.

If you’ve got a free weekend coming up: read. Read these two books and escape into the alternate reality of fantasy. Is it any wonder this is my favorite genre?








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