Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Book Review: Montana Secret Santa, by Debra Salonen

Montana Secret Santa (Love at the Chocolate Shop, Book 3)
by Debra Salonen
Published by Tule Publishing, December 2016

About the Book:
Ad exec Krista Martin, while feeling more Grinch than elf, still jumps at the chance to co-chair Marietta’s Secret Santa Society. Why not? Especially since brilliant, attractive, and innovative tech wunderkind Jonah Andrews has agreed to help. He's well connected and Krista's hoping for some advice on rebooting her career.

Jonah knows Krista has a not-so-hidden agenda, but sparring with her over cocoa at their Secret Santa meetings is the most fun he’s had since returning to his old hometown. Krista may come across as all business, but Jonah’s positive he’s glimpsed a little girl inside her who wants to believe in Santa... and in love.

This book is part of a 12-book series set in Marietta, Montana and centered on a local chocolate shop. Six different authors must have divvied up the months of the year and come up with these full-length stand-alone stories of love and sweet romance set around the chocolate shop. It's a cool concept in general - and after reading this sweet holiday story, I'm really tempted to grab up a few of the others in the series. But right now I'm all about the Christmas romances. This one fit right in with my reading agenda.

The blurb doesn't give the story justice, although it's a well written and intriguing back-of-book grabber. Krista isn't as self-serving as the blurb leads us to believe, nor does she jump at the chance to be part of the Secret Santa society. As the child of two actors who are still married but live on opposite coasts, her holidays have always meant a bitter family tug-of-war. As a grown woman, her last holiday in NYC included a breakup with a boyfriend who was trying to use her to further his own acting career.

Jonah is jaded when it comes to relationships, but not to Christmas. He grew up in a warm, loving family right there in Marietta. As a tech genius he's made billions with his inventions, but hasn't been as lucky at love. His last two relationships ended in lawsuits and big payouts, so he sees women as always wanting his money instead of his heart. He's in town for the holidays to take care of his parents home and their rescue dogs, as well as taking his parents spot on the local charity board, the Secret Santa Society. While walking the dogs, he runs into Krista - literally - on the sidewalk in front of the chocolate shop and the chemistry between them is palpable.

The author keeps the story firmly in "sweet" territory, not showing us what happens in the bedroom (or anywhere else) but the story has enough drama (little d) to keep a reader invested and turning pages.

If you're looking for a sweet Christmas romance, or a new series in a beautiful semi-rural setting, give this book and this series a shot. Grab a copy on AMAZON.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Mark your calendar!

Book Launch Party at BOOKSMITH in Orleans, MA 
Saturday, December 16
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Books ~ Balloons ~ Cupcakes ~ Champagne ~ Fun

Author K.R. Conway will be joining me and signing her UNDERTOW series books as well.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Genre Hopping

We all have certain genres we like to read. And certain genres we like to write. Sometimes those are the same and sometimes they're different. Just because I like to read first person POV New Adult books once in a while doesn't mean I'm writing them.

Which brings me to my Question of the Day:

Can an author write in different genres under the same author name? or does that confuse readers?

Some authors use two different names - like Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb. Same author, different genres.

Or Bella Andre and Lucy Kevin. Same author, one spicy and one sweet. In fact, with some of the stories, Andre gives us the same version with one "cleaned up" and one with all the "naughty bits." Something to please every romance reader.

Stephanie Meyer was a huge success with her TWILIGHT series - but her adult book HOST, which she penned under her same name, was castigated right and left. (I actually read all her books when they each first came out, yes in hard cover, and liked them, including HOST.)

J.K. Rowling made a fortune on the Harry Potter series, but again, when she tried to break into adult fiction with A CASUAL VACANCY, readers rebelled. She's since written a critically acclaimed detective series for adults, but under another name - Robert Galbraith.

But then there's Carl Hiasson - he writes quirky fiction for both teens and adults, both under his one and only name. The same guy who delights middle school readers with HOOT, a story of triumphing over bullies, also writes stories like SKINNY DIP, where a bale of Jamaican weed figures prominently into the plot.

Dave Barry writes decidedly adult humor in his columns and books, but also co-wrote the PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS series for young teens.

So is it only men that can get away with genre hopping?

The question has come up a lot lately for me because I write romance AND young adult. Is that confusing, or should a reader be able to read the blurb and know what the story is about and whether they'll enjoy it? Similar to sweet versus spicy romance - another author was recently laughing about a bad review she received because there was *gasp* sex in her romance novel. Really? I've received a few of those myself - but now I wonder if it's my own fault for muddying the waters.

I'm really interested in what other authors think about this.

I know tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., but if you've got a minute, chime in.

Happy Writing - and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Book Review: Breaching His Defenses, by Allyson Lindt

Breaching His Defenses: A #GeekLove Contemporary Romance (Love Hack Book 1)
by Allyson Lindt
Published February 2015 by Acelette Press

About the Book:
What happens in Vegas… can break hearts and destroy careers.

Years ago, heartbreak corrupted Jared Tippins’s outlook on love. He spun the betrayal into a rapid climb up the corporate ladder, and swore off any relationship with a morning after. Luckily, the playful siren who rescues him from singing a duet alone in a karaoke bar doesn’t want anything long term. If only he could stop fantasizing about ways to make her moan. Sure, she could’ve mentioned he works for the competition. At least she’s not behind the security concerns that have plagued his company for almost six months.

If she were, he’d be screwed on a whole new level.

Mikki Elford is determined to have the fun she missed out on when she fast-tracked her way through college. But school had its upside, too. She’s qualified to legally hack corporate networks. Best job ever. She also gained an appreciation for the legends in computing — Gates, Jobs, and Tippins. When she meets Jared Tippins and realizes he’s sexy and fluent in programming languages older than she is, no consequence will dissuade her from an impromptu fling. Fortunately, he doesn’t mind that six months ago she compromised his network to land her job.

Oh, crap. He doesn't know.

My Take:

My day job includes tech writing about encryption and computer security, so when I figured in the first few pages that this was going to remind me of work, I almost put it down like a hot potato.

I'm glad I didn't.

Fun and fast-paced, Allyson Lindt knows her way around both contemporary romance and the high tech world she's writing about. Her characters are both believable and sympathetic, and the sex scenes are sizzling. The Las Vegas setting is not well utilized, serving more as an it-could-be-anywhere backdrop for the tech convention to be held, and although she tries to add touches of place when the characters walk around town, it fell a little flat if only because I've been to Vegas and the setting didn't feel true.

Luckily, most of the action happens inside the convention center and their hotel rooms, which are interchangeably ubiquitous. Written in alternating he said/she said third person POVs, the character interactions and conversations are well written and spot on, and the sex scenes sizzle. The main conflict is an event that happened six months prior to the start of the story, and the main characters have totally different understandings of the issue. As in, Jared has no idea that Mikki hacked his company's security during an interview for a rival tech company.

The author makes the story accessible to all but adding little touches and inside nods to her techie readers that slip by the average reader (thus, the "insider" nature, I guess.) (i.e. the reference to dreaming in two hundred and fifty six bytes) (which stuck with me because I got it. I'm sure I didn't get all of it, which almost makes me want to go back and read it again.)

Fast paced, I started and finished this book Saturday, and almost clicked back to Amazon to buy the second book in the series so I could keep reading these characters. Alas, feeding the family won out over reading a second book, but I would definitely read more from this author.

Grab the first book in this series on AMAZON.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Book Launch Parties

So... my next Young Adult mermaid book releases next month, and I'm all about trying to prepare for the launch. Yeah, I know I'm not great at promo - it's on my list of resolutions for next year, but the book comes out December 15 so I need to institute some of this NOW.

We all know that WRITING and reaching "THE END" are only the beginning of the publishing process. The book launch party is not quite the "real" end but it is a celebration of getting your book baby from conception to its first public appearance.

* Cue the champagne! *

Even a YA book deserves a little bubbly, but I'm thinking it should probably be sparkling cider at the launch party instead of actual alcohol. At least for the readers under 21.

For the launch of the first mermaid book, I held more than one launch party (I was pretty excited to be a new author!) I held the first one over Memorial Day weekend at an indie bookshop on Main Street in Chatham. My sister the chef provided mini cupcakes and my entire extended family came from as far away as Colorado. (well, they were in town anyway.) All the cousins each got a copy...
I had a few other "book launch" parties that summer at various locations around the Cape (Harwich, Hyannis, Provincetown, Brewster, Dennis....) Like I said, really excited.

This time around, I'm trying to be more realistic, as well as realizing there are fewer people on Cape Cod this time of year, so I'll probably sell more online than in person.  I did schedule a "party" at a local indie bookstore in Orleans, and asked about bringing food/treats into the store.  My YA publisher, who is also an author, will be coming with me and signing her own YA series as well.

7 Party Essentials:
1. Copies of the New Book 
2. Copies of Other Books in Series (if it's a series, which mine is)
3. Tablecloths, table decorations that fit story theme (so for me it's mermaids)
4. Postcards, rack card, bookmarks... something for readers to take with them that has your name and book cover on it... even if they don't buy book. Especially if you also have ebooks available online.
5. Candy, pens, some kind of little giveaway to draw in passersby. (good ideas welcome...)
6. A favorite pen to sign with
7. Your smile.
But now that I've been at this awhile and done lots of booksignings at various locations over the last 5 years, I'm wondering how to make this more EXCITING. What sets a Launch Party apart from a regular book signing?

I know a lot of authors stick with Facebook and Twitter launch parties these days - I've participated in several, including for Hunks to the Rescue, and while it can be fun, I also like the hands on visceral experience of being there IN PERSON with readers.

Have you held physical in-person launch parties for the public? What have you done that's different, exciting or drew new readers? Or do you swear by the online variety, because it makes more sales for less investment of actual promotional dollars?

Would love to get some new ideas and conversations going - the holidays are coming up and even if your book isn't brand new, hosting a book signing party might be a fun way to get out there in your community and boost your sales and your author profile.

Happy Writing - and Party-ing - to All!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday Book Review: Going Down Easy, by Carly Phillips

Going Down Easy, Billionaire Bad Boys Book One, by Carly Phillips
Published by CP Publishing, July 2016

About the Book:
Meet Kaden Barnes.

Alpha-licious in the most unexpected ways, Kaden Barnes always gets what he wants.

Enigmatic and exacting, he's unable to keep an assistant for long. Until Lexie Parker arrives. She's no-nonsense, efficient and all business… She’s also hot as sin and soon starring in Kaden's dirtiest fantasies.

When their passion for each other reaches a boiling point, Kaden may think he’s calling the shots, but for this billionaire bad boy, going down easy has never felt so good.

My Take:

Carly Phillips is a master at sexy, steamy contemporary romance, writing series after series of alpha males and the strong women who love them, tantalizing readers for over a decade. I've been reading her books for years, and she is one prolific writer, with over 50 contemporary romances to her credit as well as the monikers of both USA Today and NYT Bestselling author. After starting her career being traditionally published, she made the leap to indie pubbing her own work, which means she's able to put out many more books each year and keep her price points low.

While some of her books are more sex than storyline, this was a really great read, with a strong heroine whose largest problem is not an ex but a bipolar twin sister - talk about a unique twist! Going Down Easy is the first of a 4-book series set in the high tech world, with corporate espionage mixed in with the sizzling sex scenes. Unlike many of her other book series (The Wild Boys, The Dare Boys) these are not intertwined stories of brothers from a big family but rather four college friends who came up with an idea and worked hard to bring it to fruition and hit the big time.

Kaden Barnes and his three best friends came up with a killer app that "changed the face of social media" and are about to take their company public, but there are complications. Kaden may be a tech genius, but he's also demanding and hard to work for, hiding his anxiety and ADHD behind a gruff exterior and scaring away his last three PAs.

Lexie really needs this job, having lost her last few because of her sister's mental health issues, and having gotten this one because her dad is one of the company's financial investors. She's not about to let Kaden run her off with his bossy behavior and exacting demands about how hot his coffee should be or how his desk should be properly arranged, or how many slices of avocado should be on his sandwich. She's well versed in caring for those with mental health issues, with a depressed mother and bi-polar twin, and realizes her new boss has issues but is able to work with and around those issues, surprising the hell out of Kaden.

Things heat up quickly, as they often do in a romance novel, but it never feels forced or untrue. As I said at the beginning, Carly Phillips is a master of this genre. Well paced, well plotted and steamy as hell, this is a satisfying contemporary romance with just enough intrigue in the plot to keep the pages turning fast.

Grab your copy on AMAZON.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Self-Editing, or "Words We Love to Overuse"

Good morning - and to all you NaNoWriMos out there...why are you surfing the internet and reading this blog???? You should be writing Right Now!

Which brings me to my topic. Overused words. One of mine, as it turns out, is "now."

Seems innocuous, right? But somehow I used it more than 300 times in 300 pages, and that doesn't include the other 100 times it appeared as part of the word "know".... so yeah, you can't just "find/replace" for trigger words, you need to page through each one to see how it fits into your sentence.

Another oldie but goodie is of course the ubiquitous "that" (more than 800 times) and "just" (283, give or take)... my list goes on.

Why am I talking about this today? It would sound more like a "me" problem than a general "writer" problem, right? Wrong. Each and every author has their go-to words that slip into their writing almost unbeknownst to them. Do you think I realized all my characters were being so whiny and living in the "now" so much they needed to whine about it once a page? Um, no.

The problem is, these "extra" words, these "crutch" words that we use without thinking about it slow the flow. Our brains may slide right over them, but another reader will stumble... and perhaps fall right off the page, as in, close the book and move on to the next one on their reading list.

Even before you send that manuscript to your editor, you should do a bit of self-checking. Start with "that." Unless you've done this search before, or you're a perfect writer, I'll bet you have no idea how many times you've already used it in your current WIP. Depending on your topic or genre, I'm sure there are plenty of other trigger words you can search for too. Like me with the word " Just" - I simply removed more than 200 of them without having to reword a thing about those sentences. And you know what? The sentences all read better now. Smoother.

That little binocular icon on your Word program is really useful for this, but don't fall into the trap of Find/Replace All. Things are never quite that easy.

Now share. Tell us what some of your crutch words are - and/or share a Find/Replace uh-oh moment.

Even you NaNo-ers are allowed to comment, since you're already here and procrastinating.

Happy Writing (and self-editing) to all!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Monday Book Review: Marrying Mr. English, by Katy Regnery

Marrying Mr. English, (The English Brothers #0.5) by Katy Regnery
Published December 2015

About the Book:
Trust fund playboy, Tom English, was supposed to find a "good woman" and marry her by midnight on his 32nd birthday. If he didn't, his grandfather promised to disinherit him. Unfortunately for Tom, three days before he was set to get married in Vail, his fiance elopes with her skiing instructor leaving Tom high and dry. With only a week before his birthday, it looks like Tom will forfeit his millions.

When Eleanora Watters, a smart, sassy - totally broke - waitress, spies down-on-his-luck Tom English in the breakfast-all-day diner where she works, she doesn't think much of him. He's at least ten years older than she is and he looks like another trust fund jerk with a silver spoon shoved up his...a-hem. But Tom surprises her. Set up on a blind date by Eleanora's cousin, the two bond over books, and after spending just a few hours together, Eleanora offers to marry Tom in order to help him secure his fortune.

After a whirlwind marriage in Las Vegas, Tom and Eleanora begin to realize that they're not as unlikely a match as they once seemed, and their feelings for each other deepen. But when Tom's grandfather sees through their scheme and threatens to cut them off, Tom will have to decide if he wants the money more than the Colorado waitress who seems to be something between "a dream and a miracle."

This full-length, standalone prequel can be read before OR after the six English Brothers novels!
My Take:

This was my first official Christmas read of the season and it gets two thumbs way up. I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it, and while it wasn't over-the-top filled with Christmas spirit, the sweetness and love and genuine affection made it a totally fun read.

I first discovered Katy Regnery's English Brothers series a while ago, reading and reviewing Book One of the English Brothers series, BREAKING UP WITH BARRETT - you can find my review HERE on my blog. When I saw her name pop up again on my list I remembered liking her writing, but I didn't quite remember why. I shrugged it off and dove into MARRYING MR. ENGLISH, finishing it up in a few hours and going right back into my Kindle archives to find the first book to re-read. Yes, I like it that much. (and Yes, I should have been writing at the time.)

Light and breezy writing combines with strong-minded yet slightly quirky characters to give a satisfyingly real story of love and compassion. Third person POVs that shift between the main characters give us insight into how they think and feel, and how those emotions evolve throughout the course of the story. I like that Regnery's women all speak their minds and are honest about who they are. I really like that her men are all both strong and vulnerable at the same time, able to listen, learn and grow without seeming any less of a man. They may not be Navy Seals, but they are truly swoon-worthy hunks.

The stories don't have "big drama" but are more social dramas, the kind that fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey will totally appreciate. Don't get me wrong, these are not period dramas or old-fashioned tales, but rather a modern take on an age old story that will keep you turning pages faster than you realize even without any blood or guns or Navy Seals or vampires.

It's simply good storytelling.

This Christmas book starts out in Colorado, giving us the untold back-story of when the parents of the English Brothers first met. And given the way the rest of the series plays out, the mother's origin story is both unexpected and heartwarming (perfect for Christmas, right?) The device is that this is all in the past, interspersed with chapters set in present-day, on Christmas Eve, where Eleanora is telling the story out loud to her daughters-in-law as they decorate the Christmas tree.

Grab a copy of this heartwarming story on AMAZON.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Feature: November and December Releases!

FIRST - As of November 1st, Breaking the Rules is now available as a stand-alone on AMAZON for $2.99. It's a fast-paced read set on Cape Cod in early summer, and I totally love this story and hope readers will too! This was my contribution to the Hunks to the Rescue anthology over the summer - now out there on it's own. Happy Book Birthday!

SECOND - I have a release date for DECEPTION! The third book in my Son of a Mermaid series will hit bookstores and ebook retailers on DECEMBER 15. I'll get the pre-order thing going soon, but for now I just wanted to share and squeeeeee! For those who can't wait another month, here's another excerpt from the story - enjoy! And Happy Reading to all!

As the mermen slowed their approached, he saw a mixed group of both Nerine and Adluo, all five with weapons drawn. Obviously not searching for a mere human with that many swords. More likely hoping to capture him and Shea. Zan didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted that someone thought it would take five armed mermen to capture a sorcerer of his power.
Definitely insulted. The more he thought about it, the angrier he grew. He’d been used like a tool all his life, doing the bidding of others. Carrying out orders. Living in Demyan’s shadow, as if he didn’t have thoughts or powers of his own. In the last few days, he’d felt more valued by his new companions than he had in the last seven years under Demyan’s command.
Perhaps the world forgot how powerful he actually was. Zan languished in that prison for months under a dampening spell, unable to even break simple chains. But the magick lived inside him, not Demyan. He felt it now, sparking at his fingertips, itching to show this group of goons what one sorcerer could do.
All the frustration he’d felt while in prison, all the raw emotions he’d held so tightly, all began to bubble to the surface.
The repressed anger at the guards when they beat him for no reason.
His deep-rooted fear that the Lord Magistrate would uncover Kae’s secret.
The intense longing he felt for a mermaid who loved someone else.
The endless guilt over his starring roles in each of Demyan’s twisted plans.
The emotions swirled through him, the water around him warming and churning in response. Zan glanced toward the surface, and saw the last of the scuba divers finally pull their legs from the water. Perfect timing.
He didn’t want Shea or Kae to feel the power he was about to unleash. He’d tried it their way. Tried to be “one of the good guys,” as Shea put it. But what good would it do to allow these mermen to get away? They’d swim back to the Lord Magistrate and reveal what they’d seen. Or tell Demyan his human prisoner had escaped. Zan couldn’t allow either of those things to happen.
Besides, bottling the magick inside himself was no fun.
Dead men tell no tales.
He turned to face the guards, a dark smile beckoning them forward.
“Come and get me.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~