Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Book Review: Lie Catchers by Rolynn Anderson #TWRP

Lie Catchers, by Rolynn Anderson
Published August 2015 by the Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Two unsolved murders will tear apart an Alaska fishing town unless a writer and a government agent reveal their secret obsessions. Treasury agent Parker Browne is working undercover in Petersburg, Alaska to investigate a money scam and a murder. His prime suspect, Liv Hanson, is a freelance writer struggling to save her family's business. Free spirited, full of life, and with a talent for catching liars, she fascinates Parker. Trying to prove she's a legitimate writer who cares about Petersburg's issues, Liv pens a series of newspaper articles about an old, unsolved murder. When her cold case ties in with Parker's investigation, bullets start to fly. Parker understands money trails, and Liv knows the town residents. But he gave up on love two years ago, and she trusts no one, especially with her carefully guarded secret. If they mesh their skills to find the killers, will they survive the fallout?
My Take:

Set in a small fishing village in Alaska, this mystery has several layers including an unsolved cold case that the heroine resurrects for her newspaper column, which dredges up old ghosts. The story starts slowly, and didn't grab my attention at first, but once the mystery sucked me in I devoured the rest of the book in one sitting.

Liv is an unlikely heroine with way too many secrets. I found her frustrating at the beginning because of it, because she didn't allow the reader to understand her motivations or her reasoning.  Parker is the Federal Agent sent to Alaska to solve a murder, and who has a few secrets of his own, but from the beginning he comes across as more of a straight shooter and easier to sympathize with. The slow burn between their characters is delicious to watch.

If you enjoy small town mysteries with a cast of interesting characters and possible suspects around every corner,  try this one on for size. Even though its set amidst the natural beauty of Alaska, it's the rainy fall season and not much attention is paid to the surroundings. The author's true focus is psychological, delving into character quirks and motivations to bring her ensemble to life.

Find a copy on AMAZON.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Writing Wednesday: The Art of Blurbs, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I posted about writing blurbs and the difficulty in crafting them down into a catchy sentence or two. I complained in this week's Book Review about the overly long back-of-book blurb from the debut novel I reviewed. I thought maybe another quick post about whittling and crafting might be in order.

So, the background to my blurb writing frenzy it my participation in an upcoming anthology, available for pre-order in March and being released in June, entitled Hunks to the Rescue. My story is title "Breaking the Rules" and is about 35,000 words long. A novella, not a whole long book. Should be easy to write something quick and catchy for a quick read, right?

I tend to like the he said/she said type of story and type of blurb. Two paragraphs, one from each POV. My first pass at a blurb (and believe me, when I say "first" I don't mean I sat down and wrote this all at once. I mean, worked at, thought I'd whittled down and honed...) looked like this:
Boston police detective Jake Campbell isn’t great at following rules. Then again, what’s the rule for finding your girlfriend in bed with her yoga instructor? After the heated breakup leads to a botched arrest and an Internal Affairs investigation, the undercover assignment on Cape Cod sounds like a perfect opportunity to hit the restart button. Catching a few drug dealers sounds like a vacation after the pressures of the city… until he meets a suspect who makes him want to break all the rules.

The only female chef at a five-star resort, Abigail Duncan knows a thing or two about pressure and rules. When she’s forced to hire an inexperienced prep cook, she has no intention of trusting the blue-eyed hunk with anything more than peeling potatoes, let alone her heart. Then people start dying, and Abbie realizes Jake might be the only one who can keep her safe. Whether her heart is safe is another matter.
Shorter than many of the blurbs you read on Amazon, definitely shorter than the book I featured Monday, but when I read the guidelines, it said 300 Characters. That's 2 tweets. Think how hard it is to write a concise tweet to promote a book.

No room for wasted words.

I had to think about it more like a tweet. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Why do I care? Why should anyone care enough to want to read the book? All valid questions.

When I help other writers with edits, I ask them to make sure the reader cares about the characters. If I don't care about the hero and heroine, why spend my time with them?

My editor thought the "where" was important too, that Cape Cod is a selling feature to a story.

So I tried a few more:

Undercover at a 5-star Cape Cod resort, Detective Jake Campbell can’t resist falling for a suspect. But is she willing to break her own rules to be with him?


Undercover at a 5-star Cape Cod resort, Detective Jake Campbell can’t resist kissing one of the suspects. But will she ever trust him with her heart?


The only female chef at a 5-star resort, Abigail Duncan knows a thing or two about pressure and rules. She has no idea her new cook is an undercover cop, but when people start dying, Abbie realizes Jake Campbell might be the only one who can keep her safe. Whether her heart is safe is another matter.

Jake Campbell isn’t great at rules. Then again, what’s the rule for finding your fiancé in bed with her yoga instructor? Undercover at a posh Cape Cod resort sounds like a perfect chance to hit the restart button…until he meets fiery suspect Abbie Campbell, who makes him want to break all the rules.

While undercover at a 5-star Cape Cod resort, Detective Jake Campbell can’t resist the fiery red-headed suspect. With a body count rising around her, can Abbie Campbell trust him with her heart?

I liked the question aspect, and argued that it added a certain amount of anticipation to the teasers and promos. I also argued that since the anthology is "Hunks" the blurb should probably be about him. Abbie's no damsel in distress (although as I work thru edits, she does end up in tears several times, but people she cares about are dying...)

What I finally submitted was this:


Jake Campbell hates rules. When he accepts undercover work at a posh Cape Cod resort, he can’t resist red-headed chef Abbie Duncan, even if she is a suspect. She makes him want to break all the rules. With a rising body count, he must keep Abbie safe…but can she trust him with her heart?

I thought I nailed it. Then, when the anthology's edits came back to me, I was a bit surprised, but she was right.

Jake Campbell hates rules. When he accepts undercover work at a posh Cape Cod resort, he can’t resist red-headed chef Abbie Duncan, even if she is a suspect. She makes him want to break all the rules. With a rising body count, he must keep Abbie safe…but can she trust him with her heart?

Why is she a suspect?
Suspected of what?
Why can't she trust?
What's wrong with her?
Turn up the heat.

These simple questions made me read the blurb in a whole new light, and realize I might be too close to the story. I also realized when I asked for help on my blurb, that person knew the story too.

When you ask for help, it might be better to ask someone who DOESN'T know your story. I hadn't considered that. The blurb is to pull in readers - they won't know your story, your characters, your plot - and you need to convince them they're interested.

So I went back to the drawing board a little. Not from scratch, mind you. But tried to answer the questions and punch it up...

Jake Campbell hates rules. Undercover to stop a drug ring at a posh Cape Cod resort, he can’t resist the fiery Head Chef, Abbie Duncan. She may be on the suspect list, but he can’t keep his hands to himself. With a rising body count, he must keep Abbie safe…but can he trust her with his jaded heart?

1. to stop a drug ring: adding these 5 words gives the reader context and ups the stakes. Now we know why he's on the Cape and what she's suspected of being involved with.

2. he can’t keep his hands to himself: To me, this implies there will be touching. Kissing. S-E-X. I'm hoping that's what it implies to the reader as well.

3. can he trust her with his jaded heart? In the first version, I may have tried to mash the prior blurbs together and turned around the last question, but the focus is clearly on Jake. He's an undercover cop, busting drug dealers fro a living. As a reader, I would expect him to be jaded. To have trust issues. He spends his life lying about who he is, right? Makes more sense this way and keeps the focus on Jake.

I'm still waiting to hear back and see whether this version passes muster. Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Book Review: Taking a Chance, by Lori J. Nelson

Taking a Chance, by Lori J. Nelson
Published January 2017

About the Book:
Jake Sinclair had a relentlessly harsh life. Growing up, his mother barely acknowledged him as her battle with the bottle took priority over her youngest son, while his father’s drunken rages left him with broken bones and a battered soul. He managed to escape from that life, but as the years went on he never believed anything good could happen to him.

The only bright spot in Jake's life was his friend Mike Granger. Mike had the family and loving parents that Jake had always wanted. At sixteen, after a brutal fight with his drunken father, the Granger's made him part of their family and he never forgot it.

That was one of the many reasons he agreed to be Mike's best man when he proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Michelle. Only later, did Jake find out that the wedding was going to be in Las Vegas. The bright lights of Sin City seemed like a whole new world to Jake. He had never been out of Georgia and now he was flying to place this country boy never imagined going. That once in a lifetime trip would change his life forever.

At the airport, Gabrielle Parsons, the bride's best friend, struts into his life. The lowly country mechanic and the gorgeous marketing executive clash on their unexpected cross-country road trip they end up making in order to make it to the wedding on time. Between the bickering and insults, lies an intense attraction that they can't deny. Las Vegas bonds them in ways that they never imagined and it follows they all the back to Georgia. Their lifestyles are two extreme opposites, so they both will need to compromise in order to make it work between them, but can they? The motorcycle riding, Jake doesn’t fit into the box that Gabrielle has her life planned in, while Jake had never wanted to get seriously involved with anyone. As much as they try to fight it, their natural chemistry for each other upsets the balance in both their lives. Is their sexual attraction to each other enough to make it work between them? Figuring that out involves a lot of ups and downs for Jake and Gabrielle. Can they handle it?
My Take:
First of all, I need to admit my bias. I've known Lori since I was 5 years old, and her little brother was my best friend growing up. When I saw her mom posted on Facebook that Lori had published her debut novel, I didn't hesitate to order up a paperback copy. I know how it feels to finally realize a long held dream, and want friends and family to share in your excitement. To cheer you forward in your new adventure. So Lori, big congratulations on being a published author!

Now, to be honest again, if I didn't know Lori, I'm not sure I would've given this book a second glance. The cover art is interesting enough to make me read the blurb, but the blurb itself is a bit of a hot mess. It gives both too much background and not enough about the actual storyline to make me want to know more. Writing blurbs is really hard, as we all know, and something that only gets easier (and better) with lots and lots of practice. I'm sure as the author writes more, she'll get the hang of writing a more concise and teasing blurb.

The other thing I should mention up front for those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis... I kind of have a problem with head hopping. Multiple points of view are fine - hey, I like to give both sides of the romance too - but jumping back and forth or into someone's head for one thought drives me crazy. In this book the author breaks that rule repeatedly. If that makes you crazy, this isn't the novel for you. If you're okay with a bit of rule bending, it really is a cute, sweet read.

Okay, on to the official review...

Taking a Chance is a debut novel by a brand new author. The story line is by turns sweet, sizzling and suspenseful, and revolves around four people from Georgia. It starts on the way to Las Vegas to celebrate one couple getting married. Jake and Gabrielle (or Princess, as Jake calls her) are along as the bride and groom's best friends and have an instantly contentious relationship (as hinted in the blurb)...until they get drunk and end up married.

Jake and Gabby came from similar poor backgrounds, each trying to make their way alone in the world. Finding each other seems serendipitous to the reader, but it takes the characters longer to figure it all out. All they see in the beginning are the differences between them, but the undeniable chemistry keeps drawing them back together.

The story hops between points of view, mostly between Jake and Gabby but showing us all four points of view of the friends, as well as some of the other points of view as the story goes along, like Jake's troubled brother. The plot twists  keep the pages turning as the relationship traverses a roller coaster of highs and lows, the characters fighting their own insecurities as well as each other.

I look forward to reading more from the author in the future, as she hones her skills and grows as a writer.

Congrats on a solid debut, Lori!

About the Author: (from her Amazon Author Page)

I don’t remember when I wasn’t reading a book. Going to the library to take out the next book in the Nancy Drew series was a highlight in my younger years. I'm always reading and that's why my home has books all over it. My mother is a constant reader too, so maybe I got that from her. I just love to read a good book. It’s that simple.

Contemporary romance is my genre of choice, it always has been. Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, and Janet Evanovich are a few of my favorite authors. To me, they are the crème of the romance writers of today.

About fourteen years ago I wrote my first story. It was short and I thought it was wonderful. It wasn't. I was reading several fan fiction stories about a band I followed and thought, "I could do that." I ended up writing about fifteen stories in total and each one got better and better. Then I started my first novel, but quit. Who was I fooling? I wasn’t good enough to write a book…a real honest to god book. I stopped writing then, but never lost that file with the book in it.

Fall of 2015, I found the urge to write again. I was still writing fan fiction, but I was inspired by a whole new topic. I wrote nonstop for over a year. The world of writing had changed so much in the time I was gone. There are now websites that you can post your work and get feedback, reviews, and comments from the readers. Everyone loved my "stories." I worked hard to make each one better…each one professional. Strangers loved what I was putting out.

Finally, a close friend told me that I needed to write a real book. She's the one that made me think hard about finally doing it. She's an avid reader like I am and if she didn’t think I was good enough, she would have never said anything. So I listened to her and wrote. That's how I became an author. I published my debut novel, "Taking a Chance" in January 2017 through Amazon.

I am currently working on my next novel that should be ready for the summer of 2017. 

Grab your copy of Taking a Chance on AMAZON.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Feature: When Ash Remains by Dena Garson, #NewRelease, #Giveaway, #Excerpt

When Ash Remains
By Dena Garson
A paranormal, Native American, historical romance
Release Date:  March 2, 2017
Available for Presale:  Feb. 12, 2017

About the Book:

A warrior with a mission
There isn’t a buffalo or deer that Kajika cannot take down. So when his cousin is slaughtered he relishes the chance to track down the killer. The trail leads him to a woman with gifts he has trouble believing in. Despite their differences he cannot fight his instinct to protect her from all threats – even those he cannot see. That drive even rivals his desire to explore every inch of her body.

A woman with a destiny
Knowing the spirits will protect her, Ahyoka allows the handsome warrior to take her to be questioned by his chief about the unexplained deaths in their village. He may not believe in her abilities but he is one of the few who doesn’t treat her like something to be feared or shunned. He awakens feelings that make her yearn for things she thought she’d never have. Her biggest fear is that once he learns the full extent of her gifts he will reject her like most of her tribe did.

A killer twisted by hurt and anger
Kajika and Ahyoka must work together to find the one responsible for the string of deaths in and around their villages. Faith, trust, and even a little bit of love will be needed to defeat the killer and right the wrongs committed in the pursuit of power and revenge.

Copyright @DENA GARSON 2017

Awake Spirit Talker.
A man.
He watches.
A man.
He comes.
A man.
He hunts.
Ahyoka listened to the sounds of the spirits around her. Even without their warning, she would have sensed the presence in the shadows.
She rolled to her side and looked to where she knew he crouched. The darkness hid his features from her eyes, but his spirit radiated from the fire that burned within him. Never before had she met someone with such a potent life force.
Even her brother’s wasn’t as intense as this man’s, and her family descended from a line of powerful shamans.
Did he mean her harm? Or was he just passing through?
Without taking her eyes off the place where he hid, she groped behind her for the knife she had been using before she dozed off. The apples she ate sat heavy in her belly as she contemplated whether she should run or just face whoever it was.
The crunch of leaves from her left drew her attention. No sooner had her vision shifted than a blur from the place the man had hid raced toward her. She rolled as her father had taught her to do in order to minimize the impact of the assault. At the same time, she pulled her knife and tried to put it between her and her attacker. The man grabbed her wrist and pinned it to the ground, rendering her weapon useless.
Her heart pounded in her chest and a roar sounded in her ears. Who was this man?
She fought to free herself from his hold but found he outmatched her in size, speed, and strength. In an alarmingly short span of time, she found herself pinned beneath one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. She pushed aside her shock and renewed her efforts. “Get off of me!” Even the attractiveness of his face didn’t deter her from ramming her head into his nose.
He loosened his grip on her and covered his face as he mumbled some expletive.
She used this distraction to her advantage and bucked him to one side so she could wiggle free. Before she could get to her feet and scamper away, he grabbed her by the ankle.
“Let go!” She kicked at his hand with her other foot, trying to break his hold.
As she struggled with the warrior, two more men appeared from out of the surrounding trees. “Do you need help, Kajika?” the taller of the two men asked. The laughter in his tone suggested their struggle amused him.
Ahyoka renewed her efforts to break free of the first man’s grip. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The warrior kept his hold of her even as he climbed to his feet. “Who are you and what were you doing in our village?”
Ahyoka stopped struggling. “In your village? What village?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. We tracked you here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She pointed to the bank just behind them. “I’ve been following the river all day. I stopped to rest when I realized how far I’d come. Where is your village?”
Now that he had released her, she could see the rest of the man who had interrupted her peace and quiet. Her eyes traveled up the length of his legs. She skimmed over the short deer skin he wore about his waist and tried not to speculate about what might be hidden beneath. His bow hung across his broad chest, making her wonder how he managed to squeeze into such a narrow span. Every line of his chest and belly could be seen clearly. If she wanted, she could count each one even from where she sat.
Something stirred within her and made her heart skip a beat. That same something counteracted her impulse to escape.
* * *

About the Author:

Dena Garson is an award winning author of contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance. She holds a BBA and a MBA in Business and works in the wacky world of quality and process improvement. Making up her own reality on paper is what keeps her sane.

She is the mother of two rowdy boys, two rambunctious cats (AKA the fuzzy jerks), and a loving Labrador. When she isn't writing you can find her at her at the sewing machine or stringing beads. She is also a devoted Whovian and Dallas Cowboys fan.

Social Media Links:

Sign up for Dena’s Newsletter at -

Buy Links: 
Amazon  / Kobo  /  iBooks 

And there's a GIVEAWAY: