Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Feature: On Writing YA

Yes, I write Young Adult books. They are "regular" novels. They are as hard to write as "regular" novels. You can't "dumb down" your language or your topics for middle schoolers or teenagers. The books themselves aren't a heck of a lot shorter than "regular" books. And lots (and lots) of adults ready YA books.

YA authors are "real" authors.

Just like romance authors are "real" authors.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Writing Wednesday: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

As an author, the title of my blog post is not all that encouraging. I use words to paint images, not photos or other visual media. And yet, it's the way our brains are wired. Visual images draw our eyes. Admit it. When you're scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, you're more likely to look at a post with a photo than one without. Thus all the memes.

One image to tell a story. Convey your message. Make someone smile. Spark a conversation.
There once was a big lazy dog...

This might seem like a good segue into the importance of good cover art... but it's not. It's more a commentary on the power of images, and learning to use them to grab attention in the crowded seas of social media. Studies show that more eyes will see and linger on your post if there's an image. Use the same image too often (like your book cover) and the number start to dwindle again.

I mentioned this to an author I was doing a library talk with last summer, and he's since put images in every single one of his Facebook posts. Nice images, but they have little to do with anything related to his books or even the topics he's writing about in his post. For example, a cool shot of the beach 
alongside a pitch about an upcoming book signing. A book not set at the beach.
Does this make you think about attending a book event?

How about this one?

When I was a magazine editor, we knew the article with images got more "time on page" than articles that were text heavy. Reigning in the graphic designer was another story, and we also learned that even if the writer provided the images, we needed to confirm where they'd come from. (those Getty people can be ruthlessly persistent.) If you don't own it, don't use it.
"O" for OWN it.

I wish I were more talented with creating memes - I love the pictures authors post that contain a quote or phrase in addition to their cover, etc. The Hunks anthology had several of those we could choose to tweet and share, created by one of the talented authors in the collection. I've tried to create a few of my own, like my Writing Wednesday graphic or the one below, but they don't seem as eye catching without the hot men. Although, that might not be appropriate for Writing Wednesday - or my YA series!
Anyway, you get my point. Pictures draw the eye. Pictures engage a reader. Pictures with a call to action are more interesting than a plain ol' "buy my book" plea.

How do you incorporate pictures into your social media stream? How do you use them for marketing? What are your favorite websites/tools for creating images? (I use picmonkey. What are some other good ones?)

Happy Writing - and Tweeting - to All!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Book Reviews: A Model Engagement, by Charlotte O'Shay

A Model Engagement, by Charlotte O'Shay
Published September 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Lacey Reed jumps at the chance for independence with a career in the big city. But her naivety and ambition blind her to the lure of a blackmailer. With her savings gone, she has nowhere to turn when she literally runs into financier Connor Devlin.

Though dazzled by Lacey, Connor sees the desperation she tries to hide. His gut tells him to help, and he hires her as his fake fiancée. Now Lacey has a job, and Connor has put a bandage on a family crisis.

When the blackmailer ups the ante, Lacey resolves to face him down—no matter what the consequences. Does that mean Lacey will lose the only man who’s ever seen who she truly is?
My Take:

Charlotte O'Shay gives us a heartwarming story of two very different people who aren't looking for love, but end up being the perfect fit. This is a slightly different take on the fake fiancé story line, and the he said/she said alternating third person narrative makes for a fun, fast read.

Lacey Lee Reed was a minor character in O'Shay's debut novel, The Marriage Ultimatum. Here we get to look inside the facade she presents to the world, and discover that the former model is not as carefree as she would lead everyone to believe. In the very first chapter, we find out she's being blackmailed and practically broke because of it. And getting desperate.

When Connor Devlin sees Lacey at his friend's wedding, he's more than a little intrigued by the voluptuous maid of honor. He's not a "relationship" kind of guy, but there's something about Lacey that makes him want to know more. He's sitting next to her when she gets the news that she didn't get the job she was counting on, and ends up impulsively offering her a position as a caretaker for his aging mother. The catch being that his mother is proud and stubborn and won't allow a nurse in the house, so Lacey will have to pretend she's Connor's fiancé, a fact Connor neglects to share until it's too late for her to back out of the deal.

I'll stop there because I don't want to give away any of the twists this story takes. Suffice it to say the story keeps the pages turning, and the reader routing for both of the main characters to swallow their stubborn pride and figure out just how well they fit together in so many ways.

In terms of star ratings, this gets 4.5 stars for an engaging story and characters, and 4 out of 5 for readability. I think the editor should have wielded a firmer hand in several instances and taken out a few repetitive phrases, but otherwise this is a charming story and well worth the read.

Grab a copy of this book on AMAZON

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Feature: Excerpt from DECEPTION, Son of a Mermaid, Book 3

My YA publisher called me this week. On the phone. Because yet another deadline slipped for Book 3 of this series. Today is the first full day of Autumn, so saying the book will release "Summer 2017" is no longer an option.

So we talked. And she made me commit to a hard and fast deadline, no more of this wishy-washy finish-it-when-you're-ready stuff anymore. Family crises be damned. Well, not really, but she lit a fire under my backside and I committed to meeting her deadline, and being in her holiday release brochure as a December release.

Yup. DECEPTION will be arriving in bookstores and
on Amazon  in DECEMBER

When the release party is organized, I'll post about that too, but for now I thought I'd share another little taste of what I've been working on....
* ~ * ~ *

Shea wanted to believe that Kae hadn’t been lying to him from the beginning, but it was getting harder and harder. His heart thudded against his ribcage in an unfamiliar way, his teeth clamping tighter as he swam down the murky hallway.
Once upon a time, he thought they shared everything and nothing could come between them. That illusion was slipping away like the pastel clouds over the ocean at dawn.
Kae had secrets, a fact that hurt more than he wanted to admit out loud. How could he trust her? Should he trust her?
When they reached the end, he faced a large stone door with no windows, only elaborate metal strapping bolting it shut on both sides. The key slid smoothly into the first padlock on the right, which he dropped to the ground before trying the second. With another click, the metal hinges creaked open. Shea dropped the key next to the locks on the ground and pushed the door wider. The inky blackness of the cell made it hard to see anything, but he heard the rattle of iron chains.
Kae put both hands on his arm to peer around him into the darkness. “Alexander? Are you in there?”
Alexander? Since when did she call the sorcerer by his given name?
“Go away,” came the hoarse reply. He could barely make out the words, and could only assume it was the sorcerer’s voice. “You shouldn’t be here, Kae. They’ll be back any minute.”
“There’s one thing we agree on,” Shea muttered, earning an elbow in the stomach from the mermaid.
The chains clattered sharply, echoing in the darkness. “Who’s there? Who’s with you?”
Shea didn’t answer. Kae unhooked one of the lanterns from the corridor wall and entered the room, casting a pale glow into the gloom of the windowless cell. Shea flinched when the light found Zan huddled in a corner, arms bound over his head with chains attached to a hook on the ceiling. His bruised and swollen face was barely recognizable. Kae set the lantern on the floor before swimming to his side. Cradling one of his cheek in her small hand, she used the other to inspect a nasty bruise along his ribs. “This looks so much worse than I thought.”
Shea crossed his arms over his chest, trying not to feel pity for the battered merman. “Why would they beat you?”
“Because I gave the wrong testimony.”
“Wrong?” Shea frowned and swam closer. “You mean you lied under oath?”
Zan’s swollen eyes cracked wide enough to stare up at Shea. “No. I told the truth.”

* ~ * ~ * 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Quoting Quotes...

"You Never Realize How Strong You Are Until Being Strong is Your Only Choice."

Do you know who said that line? Have you seen it on a random inspirational poster and thought they made it up? How about this one:

"It is What a man Thinks of himself that Truly Determines his Fate."


"No Fate But What We Make."

Okay, those last two were from wildly different sources, saying the same thing. The second one is from Sarah Connor, but from the second Terminator movie when the annoying son quotes her. It's the quote that kept running through my head as perfect for my WIP character to spout, except... well, it's a Terminator reference and would take more explaining than I wanted to get into for the story. So I looked up quotes about fate and found the other, which is from Henry David Thoreau and the character would've studied it in high school. Same idea, easier to slip into the narrative.

Do you use quotes in your writing? In GHOSTS DON'T LIE I had two character arguing over the famous "of Mice and Men" quote, which actually originated with a poem by Robert Burns and was originally "schemes" and not "plans" ...

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”

but colloquially we often hear, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

I'm not even sure if John Steinbeck even uses the entire quote in his novel OF MICE AND MEN but everyone knew what he meant. And it signaled to the reader that things were not going to go according to plan for the main characters.

In my own work, I was going for literary foreshadowing. The character's mother had schemes that didn't work out the way she planned. The abusive husband made plans to kill his wife that went horribly wrong.

I like it when a character quotes a book or movie or song, with a line that adds meaning and depth to what's going on in the bigger picture of the novel. But I draw the line at the in-depth quotes. If you can't do it with a phrase or a sentence, should you be adding the quote at all?

It was popular for a while in romance novels to have song lyrics running through chapters, you know, where the rock star hero is writing and singing songs about the protagonist, trying to win her heart. Or maybe it's just that string of New Adult rock star books I binged on last spring... but it didn't work for me. I tended to skip over the paragraphs of lyrics. If they were there to further the plot, I skipped right over it anyway and don't feel like I missed something.

What about you? Do you use quotes or phrases in your own writing? Do you like reading them in other people's work? How long is too long? What's your favorite source for finding the perfect quote?

And who wrote the quote at the top of the page? I already answered the question on Peggy Jaeger's Facebook page, since she posted one of those "inspirational poster" memes this morning to start off my rant. So I know. Do you?

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Book Review: Beyond the Mist, by Casi McLean

Beyond the Mist, by Casi McLean
Published September 15, 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist?
My Take:

Casi McLean gives us another intricately plotted time travel, filled with romance and suspense that spans the years, and takes the reader back to one of the most devastating dates in recent U. S. history, 9/11. 

The author lovingly paints a well-researched portrait of 2001 New York City, in the days leading up to the catastrophic event, with great attention to detail. The characters who travel back in time are the only ones who know the horrors about to unfold, filling them with emotional upheaval on so many levels. How would it feel to know thousands are about to die horrific deaths and not be allowed to stop the terrorist event? Would you be able to walk away? This is the moral dilemma the characters face, and we as readers struggle along with them.

Nick Cramer is a man haunted by this particular day in history, and when he figures out time travel is real, he jumps at the chance (quite literally) to go back in time to fix his mistakes and change the past, despite the fact that absolutely everyone tells him not to affect any changes, that ripple effects have unforeseen consequences. When it becomes obvious in the future that Nick has messed with the past, they send one more traveler through the void - Piper Taylor - to figure out what went wrong. Can she figure it out and stop him before it's too late? Can she heal his misery and guilt? It's a race to save the future, amidst the shattering reality that was 9/11.

I'm a sucker for anything with time travel, and I enjoyed this story. I have to admit that Nick's character bothered me a lot, as he was weak willed and kept doing the absolute wrong things, even if it seemed like it was for the right reasons. Piper had been such a flibberdigibbet (love that word) in the first book that I was happy and surprised to see her inner strength emerge in this book - great growth of character.

I do have to disagree with some other reviews I've read, though. You really should read the first Lake Lanier mystery first in order to fully enjoy this story (like Piper's character arc, for example.) Yes, you could read this as a standalone story. It has a definite story arc all its own and an ending that doesn't leave the reader dangling.


The characters are too intertwined and the time travel anomalies too twisted to get the full impact without reading the first story. In fact, now that both are available, you can even read them one right after the other.

Grab a copy on AMAZON.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Feature: Calling for Tales of Ghostly Encounters

The weather is starting to shift and the leaves are beginning to turns... which means... It's almost time to break out the Halloween decorations! Fall means raking leaves and having firepits on the beach, and telling spooky stories... or reading them while curled up with a cup of hot cider...

This past week, I helped a fellow author celebrate her new release with a Facebook event, and one of the games I hosted was "Ghost Encounters" - telling us about your close encounters with the spirit world. And a lot of people have these stories to tell, stories spookier than my own real-life encounters.

When I was writing GHOSTS DON'T LIE, I had a regular feature on my blog called "Ghost Tales for Tuesday" and I invited friends and fellow authors to share their ghosts stories. I'd love to revive that type of feature this fall, and invite you all to be my guest. Tell us your story of a brush with the paranormal! Whether you're a ghost whisperer like my psychic heroine or just living in a haunted house... or visited one that still gives you a shiver when you think about it... share your story.

Email me (or leave your contact info in the comments and I'll email you) and share.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for a ghostly tale to get you started, check out GHOSTS DON'T LIE, available on Amazon, B&N or direct from the publisher.

AMAZON link:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Pay It Forward

I don't really have time to rant today, believe it or not, because I spent his morning's rant-time actually  >gasp<  writing! This summer took more dips and twists than a roller coaster on steroids, throwing all my best laid plans right over the cliff.

And yet.

Even though I had to cancel a few book events, and had a few really slow events, I had one awesome signing at the pirate museum that restored some of my faith in readers. And I received a few bits of much needed praise for my writing that helped propel me forward.

So I'm chugging toward another finish line. Finally.

I know I've said this before in a more rant-y and perhaps negative way, but authors need encouragement like flowers need to be watered. We don't thrive without it.

If you're reading this post, I want you to think about the last book you read that made you smile. That touched your heart in some way.

Pay it forward. Leaving reviews or writing emails to the author is one way, but there are other ways to spread the love:

*  Mention the book and/or the author on Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler.
*  Recommend the book to a friend.
*  Give a copy of the book as a gift.
*  Donate a copy - or copies - of the book to your local library.
*  Donate a copy - or copies - of a middle grade / young adult title to your child's classroom.

Reviews are awesome. But there are other ways to share the love of reading, and in particular, pay it forward for an author who stirs your emotions.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, err, my desk - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

Happy Writing (and Reading) to all!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Book Review: Pride Meets Prejudice by Rachael Anderson

Pride meets Prejudice (Meet Your Match), by Rachael Anderson
Published April 2014

About the Book:
After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn't afraid to show him that he doesn't. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.
My take:
Cute and sweet, this fast read will have you smiling and wishing for your own stubborn Jane Austen hero like Mr. Darcy, or in this case Dr. Kevin Grantham.

Emma Makie worked her way through art college, landing at the top of her class through grit, determination and talent, but had to give up her dream job when her brother's wife dies in a car crash and she steps up to help him with his two adorable little girls. (Honestly, there are many times in sweet romances where the kids can either be cloying or seem like paint-by-numbers background. This author uses them as fresh-faced secondary characters that act like kids and help further the plot.)

Emma is on the razor's edge of broke, but too proud to accept help from her patronizing new neighbor, Dr, Grantham, who jumps to the worst assumption about every situation. Thus, the Pride and the Prejudice. And the fun part lies in watching each of the characters change. Well, of course the Mr. Darcy character has the most changes to make, but Emma learns to accept help from others and that her stubborn nature is not always an asset.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which kept me flipping pages well into the night. It's a quick read and totally recommended as a fresh, fun take on a familiar storyline. 4.5 stars

Grab your copy on Amazon

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chatting with Casi McLean about Time Travel and her new novel, BEYOND THE MIST

Hey there and welcome to AUTUMN! Yup, summer is over and fall is in the air. September is one of my favorite months for a whole slew of reasons... and today I'm "celebrating" by welcoming Casi McLean to my blog to talk about her latest release BEYOND THE MIST. It's a time travel romance, and a sequel to her earlier novel, BENEATH THE LAKE.

But my question for Casi is - - Why Time Travel? How did you choose this genre?

Why do I enjoy writing time-slips?

Ever since my childhood imagination discovered Madeleine L'Engles, A Wrinkle In Time, the idea of time travel intrigued me. H. G. Wells' Time Machine added to my fascination. Then adult books drew me in, like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. Whenever a time travel movie released, I was mesmerized. From Back to the Future, Somewhere in Time, The Lake House, and Time Traveler's Wife to made-for-TV stories like Two Worlds of Jenny Logan and The Philadelphia Experiment. [If you love time slips, the last two are DVD's available on Amazon.]

The intrigue for me was the domino effect and the infinite possibilities of the "what if" concept. Some people can't wrap their head around the paradox...they get lost between worlds and shut down. Those are the people who say time travel bores them. In truth, it takes a creative mind to entertain the paradox. And writing time jumps isn't easy. If one tiny stepping on a butterfly in the past...doesn't happen because someone travels to the past, the consequences could have devastating repercussions.

As an author, if you choose time travel as your genre, the options are endless, but if you don't generate a believable portal, or confuse any event's details, you'll lose your readers. They want to believe in the "what if" possibility, if only in the corners of their mind. And they look for mistakes, falsies, and the absurd. So, writing time travel is challenging...but extremely satisfying and a wonderful way to escape stress, because you're so drawn into your story and the lives of your characters.

Atlanta's Lake Lanier, a man-made lake with fascinating history, eerie lore, vanishings and odd occurrences, presented a very plausible theory. What if construction explosions required to excavate the lake induced a seismic shift and, given enough energy, could open a portal to a different dimension or a rip in time. I loved the possibilities. What a perfect setting for my romantic time-slip suspense series. 

The birth of Lacey Montgomery, heroine of book one in the series––Beneath The Lake––evolved through my young adult love for Jude Deveraux's A Knight In Shining Armor, a time-slip novel of course, and her endearing Montgomery family. I hope my writing honored her inspiration. The character Lacey's persona, inspired by my high school friend, Hilary Johnson, slipped perfectly into position. A lawyer, discouraged with defending criminals, yearned to help honest people in trouble, and some of her finer qualities naturally became part of Lacey––but her dysfunctional relationships came from my own personal experiences. Once those elements entwined...Beneath The Lake blossomed with an energy and life of its own.

I'm really excited about the release of Beyond The Mist. Though a stand-alone novel, the novel carries the story further with two minor characters from book one. The portal beneath the lake spirals the hero and heroine into 2001 New York and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. I hope your readers will be fascinated enough to read my stories.

Thanks for having my on your blog, Katie!

Oh, you are so welcome, Casi! Thanks for being my guest! And for the record I LOVE time travel stories, and have ever since reading A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT by Mark Twain, way back in 5th grade. Of course, my tastes today trend toward Outlander...

Here are the details about Casi's latest time travel, which takes us back to the near past, to an infamous date - September 11, 2001 in New York City. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this can remember exactly where they were the moment they heard about the terrorist attack. And where their loved ones were. Casi captures the anxiety of the day so perfectly... but here's the official blurb:

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.
The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.
Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist?
And if you're not familiar with Casi, here's a little more about her and her books:
Casi McLean
Romantic Suspense, Time Slips, And Mystery with a Sprinkle of Magic ….

Award Winning Author
2016 Best Romantic Suspense
Winner Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 
Winner 2016 Best Heroine Still Moments Magazine
2016 Aspen Gold Finalist for Best Romantic Suspense
2015 Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews
2015 Chicago Fire and Ice Finalist
2014 Winner 2014 AWC Short Story Award

Author Bio:
Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense, like Beneath The Lake, WINNER: 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.

Casi's powerful memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, shares an inspirational message of courage, tenacity, and hope, and displays her unique ability to excel in nonfiction and self-help as well as fiction. Known for enchanting stories with magical description, McLean entices readers in nonfiction as well with fascinating hooks to hold them captive in storylines they can't put down.

Her romance entwines strong, believable heroines with delicious hot heroes to tempt the deepest desires then fans the flames, sweeping readers into their innermost romantic fantasies. Ms. McLean weaves exceptional romantic mystery with suspenseful settings and lovable characters you'll devour. You'll see, hear, and feel the magical eeriness of one fateful night. You'll swear her time travel could happen, be mystified by her other worldly images, and feel heat of romantic suspense, but most of all you'll want more.

Buy Links:

Universal worldwide Amazon buy link: