July 31, 2012

delving into the mystery plot

Blogger's Note: Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons author Denise Grover Swank gives insight into plotting a mystery novel. Read my review of the novel here. Read an excerpt here.

I’ve loved mysteries since I was a kid. I devoured Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, trying to figure out who did it before the big reveal. It was a test of my logic and my smarts to see if I could figure it out. (Sadly, I didn’t have enough or either back then.) So when I decided to do-or-die and write my first completed novel, it was only natural that I wrote a mystery of some kind. (It was a romantic suspense and it remains unpublished. You’re welcome.) The only problem. How did I write a mystery???

It was a daunting task, the layering of clues, the false leads, but the truth is, with my first mystery I just started writing it with some plot points I knew I need to hit. I’ve since learned the best place to start is at the end. I don’t actually write the end, but it’s helpful to know who did it before you start writing. Surprisingly enough, when I wrote Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, the first Rose Gardner Mystery, I knew who did it, but I wasn’t sure why in the beginning.

I don’t recommend this.

For one thing, it was stressful. Trust me, I have enough stress in my life without adding to it. So I spent a good portion of the book working it out as I wrote. Then going back and fixing it to make it work.

When I wrote Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons, I decided to make it easier on myself. I knew who did it and marked out places along the way I planned to reveal clues. My plan worked brilliantly, but I still wasn’t done. Part of writing a mystery is trying to trick your reader. You throw out fake leads and clues. You want to distract them from who really did it. These are the fine nuances that come later.

Writing a mystery for me is really about layering. You lay your foundation of bigger clues and then layer and layer smaller clues and hints until you have this finished pile of bones and... oh wait. Wrong kind of book.

About the Author
Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.

You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at denisegroverswank@gmail.com.

Contact the Author
www.denisegroverswank.com
www.rosegardnermysteries.com
https://www.facebook.com/deniseswank
https://twitter.com/DeniseMSwank

Buy the Book
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Nine-Reasons-Gardner-Mystery-ebook/dp/B008FBXF4E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341974412&sr=1-1&keywords=twenty+nine+and+a+half+reasons
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-nine-and-a-half-reasons-denise-grover-swank/1111829183?ean=2940014641968

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July 30, 2012

book review: twenty-nine and a half reasons

Trouble finds a southern sweetheart -- again -- in Denise Grover Swank's Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons, book two in the Rose Gardner series.

Rose is called in to jury duty, which she assumes will cause her little headache beyond having to ask off time from her power-tripping temporary supervisor. Those thoughts quickly change when she is selected to serve on the jury of a murder case.

Thanks to her gift of visions telling her the potential future, Rose realizes the defendant is innocent, and finds herself pulled into the case more deeply.

At the same time, Rose is still trying to become more independent after years of answering to her mother and sister, Violet. She is also trying to figure out the next step for her relationship with Joe, the hunky detective from Little Rock, Ark., who she met in book one. Could there be competition for her affection from a new source, too?

In short, the increasingly complicated life of Rose Gardner makes for good reading. The story moves fast and the character's voice is likeable and appealing, making it fun to follow.

The supporting cast is just as entertaining -- from Rose's nosey, God-fearing neighbor to her pesky sister to the super adorable men who find their way into her life. By the end of the book, I had a big enough crush on Rose's boyfriend and the district attorney involved that I could see how the girl might end up torn in book three. (Though I'm going to go ahead and go on record as Team Joe... for the moment, at least.)

Swank captures the spirit of the Deep South, making it a character of its own. Anyone who has been to Arkansas can imagine these people and stories unfolding in their midst.

As far as the story itself goes, the mystery kept me guessing and the naturally progressing tension kept me interested.

Though told well enough that a reader can jump right into the story without having read the first book, I enjoyed it so much I want to go back and read it regardless, and I am anxiously looking forward to the next installment. I highly recommend this for mystery lovers looking for a quirky and fun series to follow.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Read an excerpt of Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons here. Return tomorrow for a guest post from author Denise Grover Swank.

About the Author
Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.

You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at denisegroverswank@gmail.com.

Contact the Author
www.denisegroverswank.com
www.rosegardnermysteries.com
https://www.facebook.com/deniseswank
https://twitter.com/DeniseMSwank

Buy the Book
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Nine-Reasons-Gardner-Mystery-ebook/dp/B008FBXF4E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341974412&sr=1-1&keywords=twenty+nine+and+a+half+reasons
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-nine-and-a-half-reasons-denise-grover-swank/1111829183?ean=2940014641968

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excerpt: twenty-nine and a half reasons

Blogger's note: Enjoy this excerpt of Denise Grover Swank's Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons. Check back at 9 a.m. for my review.
Mr. Yates sat on the corner of his table and crossed his arms, staring straight at me. “Ms. Gardener, since you’ve been a victim of a violent crime, we’re concerned you’re incapable of being impartial. This isn’t a judgment on you or your character. We think it would be best if you recuse yourself from the case.”

My face burned, not believing what I’d heard. “Excuse me?”

Mr. Yates leaned forward and enunciated his words. “Recuse means to excuse yourself.”

Resentment at his insult burned deep. “I know what recuse means. What I’m confused about is why you think I can’t be impartial.”

“I’ve already explained that to you.”

“Then I obviously didn’t understand it. Maybe you should explain it to me again.”

I caught Mr. Deveraux smirk as he gave the paper on the table in front of him his full attention.

“All right, Ms. Gardner.” Mr. Yates stood and walked toward me. “My client has been accused of armed robbery and murder. Since you were the victim of an assault and your mother was a murder victim, I’m having some trouble believing that you can judge him without bias. Wouldn’t you say that you’ll be more inclined to find him guilty and suggest a stiffer penalty because of the ordeal you yourself have been through?”

The fact I’d had the worst morning in the history of mornings didn’t help me hold back all the things I wanted to say to that shortsighted, arrogant man. But every eye in the room was focused on me, waiting to hear how I was gonna answer. That is, with the exception of Mr. Deveraux, who looked like he was choking on something. I refused to embarrass myself.

I plastered a sugary smile on my face and looked the defense lawyer straight in the eye. “I’m sorry, Mr. Yates, but I was under the assumption that Mr. Decker was innocent until proven guilty. Are you sayin’ that he’s not?”

Mr. Deveraux broke into a coughing fit as half the courtroom burst into laughter.

Judge McClary banged his gavel. “Order in the courtroom. Settle down, people.” He turned to me. “Ms. Gardner,” he exhaled my name in a long breath. “You must understand Mr. Yates’s concern.”

“I do, Your Honor, but he has to understand mine. Although I’ve never served on jury duty before, I was taught the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Isn’t the juror’s duty to listen to the evidence and make a decision based on what’s presented?”

“Well, yes…”

“How can I be biased against the defendant if I believe he’s innocent until it’s been proven otherwise?”

“I’m sure you feel that way, Ms. Gardner,” Mr. Yates drawled. “But once you start hearing evidence about crime scenes and victims’ testimonies, memories of your own unfortunate experience are bound to resurface, makin’ it difficult to for you to concentrate on the case at hand. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. No one thinks badly about you recusing yourself.”

“I’m a lot stronger than I look, Mr. Yates, and I never said I was recusin’ myself.”

“Ms. Gardner—”

I lifted my chin. “I’m not gonna do it.”

Mr. Yates turned to face the judge, clenching his fists at his sides. “Your Honor!”

Judge McClary leaned forward on his elbows and rubbed his forehead with his hand. “Ms. Gardner. No one’s doubting how strong you are, but when evidence is presented, you might experience some fear or animosity toward the defendant.”

“And I might get struck by lightnin’ in the next thunderstorm, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen.”

The judge rubbed his eyes then looked up with a pained expression. “Ms. Gardner, can you see how it would be in everyone’s best interest if you’d just recuse yourself?”

“Your Honor, with all due respect, you’re askin’ me to lie, which you told me only a few moments ago was perjurin’ myself.”

Raising his eyebrows in frustration, Judge McClary looked at Mr. Yates. “Short of throwing in her in jail for disrupting the court, I can’t make her do it. And considering the fact she thinks she has to lie to recuse herself, I’m gonna let this stand. If you don’t want her on the jury, Mr. Yates, just put her on your exclusion list.”

Mr. Yates looked flustered with the judge’s decision. He took his seat and tapped his papers on the table before he asked another juror a different question. Mr. Deveraux tilted his head to look at me, his earlier disdain replaced with something I couldn’t decipher.

Their voices faded to a murmur as my hands began to shake in my lap. I couldn’t believe I’d stood up to Mr. Yates. What had gotten into me over the last month and a half?

Check back tomorrow for a guest post from the author.

About the Author
Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.

You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at denisegroverswank@gmail.com.

Contact the Author
www.denisegroverswank.com
www.rosegardnermysteries.com
https://www.facebook.com/deniseswank
https://twitter.com/DeniseMSwank

Buy the Book
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Nine-Reasons-Gardner-Mystery-ebook/dp/B008FBXF4E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341974412&sr=1-1&keywords=twenty+nine+and+a+half+reasons
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-nine-and-a-half-reasons-denise-grover-swank/1111829183?ean=2940014641968

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July 28, 2012

getting past the block

By Randi Sherman
Guest blogger

Out of necessity, I am able to work on tedious, complex issues with a heads-down approach – but this is the result of years and years of experience running a business, working from a home office in a bustling city, with two dogs a partner who also works out of the house and countless deliveries, and visits from solicitors and friends (who thinks just because you’re home, you’re available) and crazy people who just like to press the doorbell.

Sure – I can state the obvious: If you are blocked, do something else. Change modes or tasks. Change from creative to mechanical mode, vice versa. Set achievable goals, concentrate on a piece at a time – and have small wins.

But instead I’ll tell you what I do.

Balance is the key.
I treat writing as a friend. I schedule time to be with it. I appreciate it. There are boundaries around our relationship. I do not prioritize it over other responsibilities. Writing is not a mistress. We don’t steal cheap moments together.

Weather I am writing or working at my other business (Healthcare Consulting for 20+ years), I have a daily routine. It includes getting up early, walking the dogs, planning my work day, going to the gym and cooking and eating dinner with my partner every night. I take regular vacations which do not include writing or book promotion.

For me, following a routine, allows me the time to relax and think.

Some of the most creative problem solving time I have is when I am on a treadmill at the gym, looking out the window. I listen to music and think about the overall story (nothing in particular), rejoice in my own genius and then a character, idea, transition or story flow issue will present itself. I just listen to my thoughts. I don’t push or problem solve. I don’t have a special formula. I remind myself that I write fiction and every aspect of the story is within me. I just wait and listen. Sometimes it’s as simple as pithy dialogue, other times it’s introducing a new interesting twist, or an additional chapter to work out a problem or revisit a theme.

As you might imagine, the times that those Pulitzer moments and the critical editing ideas, additional chapters and dialogue occur to me –only happen when I do not have a pad and pencil or recording device handy. Isn’t that always the way?

Give yourself a break

Take the pressure off of yourself. You are not at war or in a race. Remember there is no war or competition if there are not two opponents. Your story is not fighting with you.

Writing is not about who finishes first, which book is bigger or more important. Being a writer is about following a dream, creativity, and accomplishment. It’s about inspiring, informing and entertaining. Don’t make something you love into something you hate.

Read my review of Paula Takes a Risk here.

About the Author
Randi Sherman, a native Californian, lives in San Francisco. With her tremendous grasp of the obvious, Randi has always had the ability to find humor in the mundane and share the laughter. She dares to examine and discuss everyday foibles, which obliges people to stop taking themselves too seriously.

Developing characters and writing have been a part of Randi’s life since she was a teenager, umm-mmum-mumm years ago. She spent time performing stand-up comedy at Los Angeles club amateur nights and studied Improvisation in the Bay Area. Realizing that she preferred having an income, living indoors and eating regularly, she reluctantly put her dreams on hold and entered the corporate world, yet never left behind her sense of humor and creative storytelling ability, skills which were not always appreciated during budget and strategy meetings.

Now, after living indoors for a while and eating, albeit too much, her book, Paula Takes a Risk is here. Randi’s unique wit, writing style and candor will surely make the reader sit up, stand up, roll over or assume an interested leaning position and take notice.

Randi would never claim to have a genius IQ, the body of a super model or always have the right thing to wear. However, she can spell the words, “smart” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Randi maintains a trim, well-toned body that is cleverly concealed beneath twenty pounds of soft protective layering and she has the appetite of a bird. (By “bird” I mean vulture.) Her entire wardrobe consists of black, black and varying degrees of black, except for those items that are covered with lint because she put them through the wash with a tissue.

Things that Randi cannot live without: people to laugh with, her car horn, a gym membership where there are chubby women who break into a sweat while putting on a jog bra, wine, waist capes, and her partner, Carol.

Randi does not like mean-spirited people, liver, left-overs, communal dressing rooms, tight underwear, and people who point.

Randi is five-foot-seven.

Connect with Paula
paulatakesarisk@gmail.com 
http://paulatakesarisk.com 
http://randimsherman.blogspot.com/

Buy the Book
http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000004536283/Randi-M.-Sherman-Paula-Takes-a-Risk
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=paula+takes+a+risk 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/paula-takes-a-risk-randi-m-sherman/1108568694

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July 27, 2012

book review: paula takes a risk

A thirty-something's life undergoes drastic changes fast, and she is left with changing course quickly in Randi Sherman's Paula Takes a Risk.

On the same day, Paula Tenenbaum loses her job and is dumped by her boyfriend. She is accused of being average and boring on both counts. Depressed her lackluster life has lost even more shine, the heroine realizes she needs to make change happen and fast.

Before she can decide what exactly to do with her life, Larry, her conniving neighbor, takes advantage of her fragile state and takes her life in a completely different, and not boring, direction.

Fast-paced from the get-go, Paula Takes a Risk is a quick read packed with details that resurface throughout the story, which means no skimming allowed for this story. With the natural humor in the story and dialog, Sherman is a witty writer who knows how to keep a story moving.

Though a story about a woman who has had her life fall apart and wants more excitement, the book quickly veers from the obvious. I found myself continuously surprised and never knowing just what to expect throughout the story. It is always fun to find yourself surprised, even if you do not always like the outcome.

The filled with plenty of unlikeable characters, you can still relate to the main character from the beginning. She is content, but not happy. Then she is miserable and confused. Even when I was frustrated with the decisions she made, I could still understand her point of view: she is someone who has been beaten and will do whatever it takes to put together some resemblance of an existence.

With more and more people in our generation having to settle or knowing what it is like to be scorned by someone you trust (or don't completely trust), Paula Takes a Risk is a great read for anyone looking for a distraction from their own life. 

Rating: 4 of 5

Check back tomorrow for a guest post from the author, Randi Sherman.

About the Author
Randi Sherman, a native Californian, lives in San Francisco. With her tremendous grasp of the obvious, Randi has always had the ability to find humor in the mundane and share the laughter. She dares to examine and discuss everyday foibles, which obliges people to stop taking themselves too seriously.

Developing characters and writing have been a part of Randi’s life since she was a teenager, umm-mmum-mumm years ago. She spent time performing stand-up comedy at Los Angeles club amateur nights and studied Improvisation in the Bay Area. Realizing that she preferred having an income, living indoors and eating regularly, she reluctantly put her dreams on hold and entered the corporate world, yet never left behind her sense of humor and creative storytelling ability, skills which were not always appreciated during budget and strategy meetings.

Now, after living indoors for a while and eating, albeit too much, her book, Paula Takes a Risk is here. Randi’s unique wit, writing style and candor will surely make the reader sit up, stand up, roll over or assume an interested leaning position and take notice.

Randi would never claim to have a genius IQ, the body of a super model or always have the right thing to wear. However, she can spell the words, “smart” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Randi maintains a trim, well-toned body that is cleverly concealed beneath twenty pounds of soft protective layering and she has the appetite of a bird. (By “bird” I mean vulture.) Her entire wardrobe consists of black, black and varying degrees of black, except for those items that are covered with lint because she put them through the wash with a tissue.

Things that Randi cannot live without: people to laugh with, her car horn, a gym membership where there are chubby women who break into a sweat while putting on a jog bra, wine, waist capes, and her partner, Carol.

Randi does not like mean-spirited people, liver, left-overs, communal dressing rooms, tight underwear, and people who point.

Randi is five-foot-seven.

Connect with Paula
paulatakesarisk@gmail.com 
http://paulatakesarisk.com 
http://randimsherman.blogspot.com/

Buy the Book
http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000004536283/Randi-M.-Sherman-Paula-Takes-a-Risk
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=paula+takes+a+risk 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/paula-takes-a-risk-randi-m-sherman/1108568694

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July 26, 2012

before the beginning

Blogger's note: p.m. terrell shares her planning process, today, as part of her Goddess Fish blog tour. p.m. will be giving away gift baskets from the real town of Lumberton, where Vicki's adventure takes place. (US/Canada only) Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. Find tour dates here.

By p.m. terrell
Guest blogger

I am often asked if I ever get writer’s block and I can honestly say that I never have. I believe it’s due completely to the fact that I pretty much formulate the entire book in my head before I begin to write. This often means that I am researching and thinking through one book while finishing another and editing a third.

I am a voracious reader and it’s often the little known, overlooked facts that grab my attention. For example, when I read a tiny article buried deep in a thick newspaper about uranium in Afghanistan and its importance to China and Russia. That got me into a research mode in which I learned about the strategic importance of the region and also the fact that both Afghanistan and Tibet have the highest sources of uranium (used for nuclear bombs) of anywhere on earth. I knew this would have to factor into an international suspense plot.

I also comb through the CIA’s declassified records. They have them on their own website and there are many other websites that provide additional information on virtually any subject. When I stumbled onto the real psychic spy program that began during the Cold War and is still in use today, I knew I had to include a psychic spy in my Black Swamp Mysteries series of books.

Based on those two plots, I began writing Vicki’s Key, the story of a psychic spy who decides to start over in a small town assisting an elderly woman after a psychic mission goes very wrong. I had been speaking with a book reviewer, Donna Coomer, who travels the world working in a variety of jobs in return for room and board. I made the comment to her that I could never do what she does—if I tried to, it would be just my luck that my first assignment would be with an axe murderer.

That began the premise for Vicki moving to a small town. When she arrives, she finds that Laurel Maguire has suffered a stroke and is confined to a bedroom on the third floor of a rambling, old house. Her charming nephew Dylan has arrived from Ireland to care for her and Vicki very quickly falls in love with him. But all is not what it seems to be in the haunted house, and when the CIA arrive to recruit Vicki for one more mission, she finds that her past and her future are about to collide—in murder.

It was important for the plot to have Vicki as somewhat naïve; she had been separated from her siblings after her parents were killed in an airplane accident. The separation would have her looking for her sister and two brothers throughout the series. The romance was very important in this book for several reasons: it gave me the opportunity to introduce a man who is emotionally Vicki’s opposite and it also helped to further the plot.

Dylan Maguire became so popular with the editors and advance readers that it was decided he had to remain a main character. So in the next book in the series, Dylan is back in his first assignment with the CIA: to interrogate recently captured Brenda Carnegie. That book, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, will be released this fall. I decided to have about five main characters who are tied together through circumstance or blood so I could easily move between them as the plot warrants.

I am currently researching the next book in the series, Dylan’s Song. I know the personal history that will unfold and have been researching Ireland in the period before the United States becomes involved in World War II. The research will have me going to Ireland, particularly the rural areas, which I am really looking forward to. I know the trip will inspire a lot of books set in that mystical, beautiful country.

About Vicki's Key
Following a flawed CIA mission, Vicki Boyd leaves the Agency to begin a new life in a new town assisting an elderly woman. But when she arrives, she finds Laurel Maguire has suffered a stroke and her nephew has arrived from Ireland to care for her. Vicki quickly falls in love with the charming Dylan Maguire, but all is not what it seems to be at Aunt Laurel's house. And when the VIA arrive to recruit Vicki for one more mission, she finds her CIA past and her new future are about to collide... in murder.

Read an Excerpt of Vicki's Key here.

About the Author
p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of thirteen books, including six suspense/thrillers and two historical suspense. Suspense Magazine says "p.m.terrell gets better with each and every book she writes" and Midwest Book Review says, "p.m.terrell is a master at skillfully combining drama, action, suspense and romance to engage the reader in an adrenaline rush of page turning adventure." PBS television host Barbara Berlin says, "p.m.terrell is the next John Grisham." A full-time writer for more than 12 years, her latest series, Black Swamp Mysteries, combines international intrigue and adventure with the CIA's psychic spy program, resulting in a series that appeals to lovers of suspense, romance or the paranormal. Prior to becoming an author, terrell operated two computer businesses focusing on computer intelligence and white collar crime. Her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. For more about terrell and her books, visit www.pmterrell.com.

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

excerpt: vicki's key

Blogger's note: p.m. terrell joins Change the Word, today, as part of her Goddess Fish blog tour. p.m. will be giving away gift baskets from the real town of Lumberton, where Vicki's adventure takes place. (US/Canada only) Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. Find tour dates here. Read a guest post from p.m., here.

From Vicki's Key:
Vicki let the end of the towel drop so it brushed against her knees as she held the top against her breastbone. With one hand, she pulled the shower curtain back.

Dylan stood barefoot in the doorway, his back against the doorframe, his long legs stretching toward the opposite side, one hand planted against the opposite doorframe as though he’d been semi-reclining there for some time.

She gasped instinctively. “How long have you been there?” she asked, tugging the towel to cover herself.

“Long enough.” Without taking his eyes off hers, he moved deliberately across the bathroom until he stood in front of her. Without speaking, he took her towel and wrapped it around her. As the bath sheet was draped around her slender body, he took the corner and began to gently rub her hair with it. He stopped after a moment, his hand against her face and gazed at her cheek as he brushed it with his thumb.

“What were you cryin’ for, Woman?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“‘I don’t know,’ she says. Same thin’ me mum used to say. ‘What are you cryin’ for, Mum?’ I’d say. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Well, you do it every night. Seems like you’d have figured it out by now.’”

She didn’t answer and after a few seconds, he stopped rubbing her cheek and looked into her eyes.

“I have to tell you, Darlin’. I can’t handle a woman’s tears. Never been able to. Most likely never will. Does somethin’ to me heart that I just can’t abide.” He spoke with his lips pressed close to hers, as if he could smother the tears.

About Vicki's Key
Following a flawed CIA mission, Vicki Boyd leaves the Agency to begin a new life in a new town assisting an elderly woman. But when she arrives, she finds Laurel Maguire has suffered a stroke and her nephew has arrived from Ireland to care for her. Vicki quickly falls in love with the charming Dylan Maguire, but all is not what it seems to be at Aunt Laurel's house. And when the VIA arrive to recruit Vicki for one more mission, she finds her CIA past and her new future are about to collide... in murder.

About the Author
p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of thirteen books, including six suspense/thrillers and two historical suspense. Suspense Magazine says "p.m.terrell gets better with each and every book she writes" and Midwest Book Review says, "p.m.terrell is a master at skillfully combining drama, action, suspense and romance to engage the reader in an adrenaline rush of page turning adventure." PBS television host Barbara Berlin says, "p.m.terrell is the next John Grisham." A full-time writer for more than 12 years, her latest series, Black Swamp Mysteries, combines international intrigue and adventure with the CIA's psychic spy program, resulting in a series that appeals to lovers of suspense, romance or the paranormal. Prior to becoming an author, terrell operated two computer businesses focusing on computer intelligence and white collar crime. Her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. For more about terrell and her books, visit www.pmterrell.com.

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

July 25, 2012

interview with the author of 'seattle delight'

Bloggers note: I am pleased to welcome Seattle Delight author Charlotte Stout to Change the Word as part of her Goddess Fish blog tour. Charlotte will be giving away a $75 Amazon gift card and encourage your readers to follow the tour and comment; the more they comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for Seattle Delight?
Charlotte Stout: Seattle holds a special place in my heart. It is where I met and married my husband; where I completed my Bachelor’s degree; where I met so many wonderful people and where I had the best time for over ten years.

The following is going to sound like such a cliché. While living in Seattle, my husband and I worked hard but played even harder; laughed long and heartily and loved often. This was a magical time for us. I wanted to write a story about the magic that happens between two people who meet and fall in love in Seattle.

Of course, I am not as quirky as Charly (in my mind) and my husband is not French; nor do we have access to yachts, private planes, helicopters or other accoutrements of the very wealthy. But, we are happy in our simple life together. I do take French lessons because I am interested in everything French and I love the sound of the language.

Charly and Julien make me smile. Their story never lets me forget what a delight it was to live and love in such a fabulous city.

CTW: What kind of prep work did you do before writing? Are you more plotter or panster?
CS: My prep work consisted of living in the remarkable city of Seattle and learning how to love another person so completely, courtesy of my husband. Boy, if that compliment about my husband doesn’t generate a bauble of some proportion, I don’t know what more I can do. LOL.

I am definitely a “panster.” I feel constrained by an outline. When a story idea hits me I sit down and write a first chapter. If I like the first chapter, I may spend some additional time penning names or characters and the ending of the story. I may even write the closing line.

What comes between the first chapter and the final line of the story is my panster hard at work creating as we go along. Being a panster allows me so much freedom. I have a difficult time imagining working any other way. Granted, the road to the end of the story may look like the most crooked street in America but it all gets straightened out during the editing process. I’m a random girl and being a “plotter” wouldn’t work for me. I would need to spend more time with my psychiatrist if anyone forced me to be a “plotter.”

CTW: What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing the novel? How did you overcome it?
CS: The biggest challenge for me was completing the book and publishing it. I wrote Seattle Delight in 2007 while my husband and I were living in Hong Kong for a year. It was another wonderful period in our marriage. I was not working while we lived in Hong Kong. With time on my hands and a strong desire to write, I decided to pen a novel that captured the essence of the romance we shared in Seattle.

Shortly after completing the novel, but while still living in Hong Kong I developed some health issues. By the time we returned to the States in late 2007, I was very sick. In January 2008 I moved to Arizona to be close to my doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. For all of 2008, 2009, and 2010 I was too ill to do anything but concentrate on living one day at a time.

In the beginning of 2011, when I was feeling strong enough to spend very short periods of time at the computer I looked at Seattle Delight again. With a lot of help from my husband, I sent the book out to be edited, considered and incorporated suggested changes by the editor and finalized the book in June 2011.

My husband knew how important publishing this book was to me. He took the lead and set up my web page and blog; he worked with Amazon to ensure we met the specs for listing the book for sale on their site; and he ensured the book was in the proper format to download to the Nook® or Kindle®.

The book I wrote is available for others to enjoy because my husband knew how important this was to me and he helped make it happen. I never gave up and neither did he.

CTW: What is the best lesson you have learned as a writer?
CS: I have learned a couple of important lessons. Work hard and never give up is primary. That’s also the lesson we learn in life, isn’t it? Never give up on your dreams. Fulfillment of any dream may not come in a conventional way, but if you are determined enough you will find a way to make it happen. I believe this to my very core.

Writing requires incredible discipline. I knew if I was serious about my writing I needed to treat this endeavor as I would any other job, because that’s what this is. When writing, editing, publishing or marketing a book, I work several hours each day.

Writing is more than just putting words on a page and uploading the book to the web. Writing the story is important, but it is a small part of the writing process. Editing, publishing and marketing the book are major endeavors that require more focus and time. That has been an eye-opener for me. I thought I could just write the book and the rest of the work would be easy street. Boy, was I wrong.

CTW: What books would we find on your bookshelf?
CS: I have an eclectic mix of genres on my bookshelf.
Tess Gerritsen – Rizzoli and Isles series
I adore a good mystery. Tess Gerritsen is able to create complex who-dun-its that keep me guessing until the end of the story. I love Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles and Jane’s family. The interaction and dialogue keep me on my toes and puts a smile on my face.

JR Ward – Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Ms. Ward is a master story teller. She created the most interesting and hot group of men, The Black Dagger Brotherhood. The BDB are almost too hot to even think about without spontaneously combusting into flames and dust. The storyline is interesting and the action is non-stop. I adore this series.

Bruce Cameron – “A Dog’s Purpose”
I am a total push-over when it comes to dogs. I would adopt every single dog living in a shelter if I didn’t have my husband to face every day. This story touched my heart. It made me laugh, cry very hard and often, and cheer. Make sure you have plenty of tissues on- hand if you have a sensitive spot for dogs. The story is about a dog who experiences several reincarnations until he understands his purpose in this world. It is a wonderfully touching story.

Lieut. Colonel Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth – “From Baghdad, with Love”
This is another dog story but this one is a true story. A band of Marines in Fallujah, Iraq find a dog in an abandoned house. They take the dog back to their camp unsure what they were going to do with him since keeping animals in camp was against the rules. Thus begins the herculean efforts by a group of Marines to not only rescue this dog but to get him back to the United States. It is an unbelievable story that will have you balling and cheering.

Garth Stein – “The Art of Racing in the Rain”
A third book about a dog but with a different twist. The story is told from the dog’s perspective. It is about love, companionship and the humane treatment of all creatures.

Dr. Wayne W Dyer – “Excuses Begone! How to Change Lifelong Self-Defeating Thinking Habits”
Everyone can benefit from reading books such as Dr. Dyer’s that encourage us to focus on positive affirmations. I need a reminder now and again and I have found this book to be a good one to keep my thinking on track.

Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh – “Van Goh – The Life”
This book gives the reader a fresh look inside the life of Vincent Van Goh, his approach to painting, letters he wrote, his alleged attempt at suicide and his ultimate death. It was a wonderful literary experience with well written luxurious sentences.

CTW: If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be and why?
CS: My very first thought was to say “Julien” from Seattle Delight. Then I thought that might sound selfish. So, here are two other men I would love to spend time with.

I would love to spend an afternoon with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. He is well-bred, an intellect, well-read, an accomplished rider, and very wealthy.

I would love to ride across the hillside with him, have a picnic under a large oak tree and talk about a variety of topics related to the period.

On the flip side of the lovely Mr. Darcy, I’d love to spend an afternoon or night in the presence of Michael Cyprien from Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn series. He is one hot vampire. He doesn’t need to talk; I would be happy if he just carried me around in his arms all night and let me touch his hard body. Oh, that would be so lovely.

CTW: What’s next for you and your writing career?
CS: I am working feverishly to complete the editing of my first romantic suspense novel. It is set in Minnesota and Alaska and I hope people find it to be a fast moving, yikes – I’m scared, kind of book.

I am also working on finishing the first novel I ever started. I had finished one hundred twenty pages of that first novel and shared it with two girlfriends when we were on one of our trips to the Grand Canyon. They loved what they read and have been asking me since that weekend back in 1997 when I would have the book completed. I want to finish it not just for me but for them.

Then there is the sequel to Seattle Delight. Julien and Charly are not finished with their journey together. I actually love both of these characters and it is so fun to pretend I’m Charly when I am writing.

I have started a blog, continue to work on my website and spend time with friends, or do some physical exercise to expend all my pent up energy from sitting behind a desk all day.

CTW: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
CS: Don’t give up. If you have a dream of publishing a novel or a work of non-fiction, then do it. You may not go about it in the traditional way but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you fulfill your dream. Don’t let anyone quash your dream. It’s your dream, not theirs.

About the Author
Charlotte lives in Arizona with her hunky husband Warren, and her spoiled Silky Terrier, Tess. Her life has been filled with serious endeavors, including earning a Master's degree, owning her own business, consulting and working in the corporate world as a human resources executive. Before penning her first novel, Charlotte had written several practical guides for business applications, not exactly steamy stuff. Luckily, she never lost sight of her dream to write a novel that would encompass her passion for gorgeous men, adventure and a love of life. Enjoy.

Website: http://www.charlotteastout.com
Blog: http://www.charlotteastout.com/blog

About the Book
Charly’s life was simple and uncomplicated, just like she wanted it. Or so she thought! One chance encounter with a devilishly handsome stranger in her local coffee shop would turn her world, and her heart, upside down. She would be thrown into a realm of privilege and romance, and more than just a little danger.

How will she handle the dark gorgeous man who has inserted himself into her domain? When danger threatens those she loves, will she have the strength of heart and spirit to do whatever it takes to save them? Share Charly’s adventures as she navigates through the quickly changing landscape that has become her life.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

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excerpt: seattle delight

Bloggers note: I am pleased to welcome Seattle Delight author Charlotte Stout to Change the Word as part of her Goddess Fish blog tour. Charlotte will be giving away a $75 Amazon gift card and encourage your readers to follow the tour and comment; the more they comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here.

Excerpt of Seattle Delight
Charly walked into Shuckers at precisely seven o’clock in an emerald green silk dress, her sister found on the sale rack in Nordstrom’s Individualist and gold stiletto heels from her own closet. Charly had almost choked at the original price of the silk dress but she knew that at one hundred dollars it was a bargain and more in line with what she could afford.

Charly saw her parents and Lisa and made her way over to their table. She sat down feeling a bit glamorous and sexy – not that she wanted to feel sexy in front of her parents. Ew!

Seated between her parents Charly looked for the waiter. A glass of wine was just what she needed to add a little natural glow to her cheeks.

“For heaven’s sake, what are you looking for?” her mother asked, as she sat primly in the high-back armchair.

“The waiter, I’d like a glass of wine.” Charly replied.

“Charly honey–we are in one of the finest restaurants in Seattle, please show some decorum and manners, for me.”

“Sorry. But you each have a drink,” she replied somewhat defensively.

Josie sat forward, “Yes dear, but we got here at seven – you did not. So, you’ll have to wait for your drink until the waiter comes by.”

“Hey, it was seven by my clock when I parked the car.”

“Then your clock is off – my dear. You really should have all your time pieces synchronized.” Her mother said with a smile and a wink.

Her dad didn’t say anything. He just listened and grunted periodically, which left everyone wondering whose side he was on. Then he started sniffing the air around him. “Do any of you smell that?”
Read an interview with Charlotte Stout here.

About the Author
Charlotte lives in Arizona with her hunky husband Warren, and her spoiled Silky Terrier, Tess. Her life has been filled with serious endeavors, including earning a Master's degree, owning her own business, consulting and working in the corporate world as a human resources executive. Before penning her first novel, Charlotte had written several practical guides for business applications, not exactly steamy stuff. Luckily, she never lost sight of her dream to write a novel that would encompass her passion for gorgeous men, adventure and a love of life. Enjoy.

Website: http://www.charlotteastout.com
Blog: http://www.charlotteastout.com/blog

About the Book
Charly’s life was simple and uncomplicated, just like she wanted it. Or so she thought! One chance encounter with a devilishly handsome stranger in her local coffee shop would turn her world, and her heart, upside down. She would be thrown into a realm of privilege and romance, and more than just a little danger.

How will she handle the dark gorgeous man who has inserted himself into her domain? When danger threatens those she loves, will she have the strength of heart and spirit to do whatever it takes to save them? Share Charly’s adventures as she navigates through the quickly changing landscape that has become her life.
 
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July 24, 2012

advice a writer wants

Blogger's note: I asked What a Texas Girl Wants author Kristina Knight to share the best piece of writing advice she ever received and what advice she would offer aspiring authors. Read my review of her book here and an excerpt here.

By Kristina Knight
Guest blogger

The best advice I've ever gotten as a writer actually came from one of my English professors when I was still in college. She said treat writing like a job from this point on and you'll never have deadline issues in the future.

I'd taken an advanced creative writing elective my Senior Year, every other student in the class was an English major with plans to go into some area of publishing. I think they all had the Great American Novel idea; I was the lone journalism major.

Just after the mid-term, our professor took an entire week to talk about creating a writing schedule before it was needed. When you're young/still in school, you look at life as always having 'time'. Heck, I've been out of school for a few years now and I still think that way. But in the real world there are obligations on your time – there is a 9-5 job for most of us, there are friends who want to go out, family who need attention, a spouse who shouldn't be neglected. During that week she must have implored us ten times to find a way to make writing part of our lives every. Single. Day. Because one day of skipped writing can lead to two and that can lead to a week or a month and then…your editor is very not happy with you.

Before my publisher bought my first book, I had all the time in the world. The only deadlines I had were self-imposed (I still met them, I'm competitive that way. Even with myself). No one cared if I wrote 500 words or 5,000 on a given day. Now that I've sold my first and second books, there are even more demands on my time:
  • I'm a freelance writer for a business publication
  • I have a busy 4-year-old and husband
  • I have a radio show
  • I have extended family and friends who want a little bit of my time
  • I have two books contracted and in the writing phase
  • I have edits for the completed books
  • I have interviews that need to be completed and blogging and social media to be tended to
The list goes on, and I'm not complaining. But because of my early influences, I'm more prepared than I would have been had I not taken that class in that year and heard that week-long lecture series. I made time for my writing when I had a 9-5 job, now my writing is my 9-5 job but it isn't just writing the books – it's the marketing of books and the writing of new books.

Except some of the big authors like Stephen King and Nora Roberts, I think all authors now have to do more than write the books. The writing should be a priority, but the day-to-day 'extra' can seem a little more important. There are days when I look at my word count and then compare that with the other constraints on my time and I want to focus on those other things – because I could clear 5-6 To Dos in the time it would take to write my 5,000 words (or whatever the goal is). It can be exciting to look at it that way. The downfall is when you realize skipping those 5,000 words can put your deadline in jeopardy.

I took that advice to heart, although there have been times my daily writing is more of a journaling/free write than work on actual fiction. Making writing part of my everyday life, though, prepared me for publishing in a way that I'm thankful for now – years after that lecture series. There are still days when I'd rather take a swim in the pool than write my words, there are days when I have a number of blog posts to write or when I'm trying to work up a new marketing plan for my books and those tasks seem much more pressing than writing toward a deadline that is weeks away. But I still make my word count the priority – because those publisher deadlines just don't move.

Read my review of What a Texas Girl Wants here and an excerpt here.

About the Author
Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Happily ever after.


Contact Kristina
Website: http://www.kristinaknightauthor.com
FB: http://www.facebook.com/kristinaknightromanceauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/authorkristina

Buy the Book
AMA: http://www.amazon.com/What-Texas-Girl-Wants-ebook/dp/B008195BIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336496939&sr=1-1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-a-texas-girl-wants-kristina-knight/1110496096?ean=9781440544637
Crimson: http://www.crimsonromance.com

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July 23, 2012

excerpt: 'what a texas girl wants'

Jackson Taylor's toes clenched as he came abruptly awake, the left side of his body shivering. The right, however, was delectably warm. A soft weight held his shoulder down, the feel of a woman's curves pressed hard against his chest. Cold water tickled his feet and wet sand dug into his butt. The tangy, salty smell of the ocean filled his nostrils. Another tickle of water. A slight shiver came from the curvaceous woman beside him before she settled back into sleep.

A flash of red hair, spinning lanterns and Latin dance music raced through his mind before it went blank. The infernal pounding started again behind his right temple.

Must have been a great night. The naked body lying next to his on the beach said as much.

Jackson levered his eyes open as the first fingers of yellow touched the white sand beach. He winced as intense sunlight hit his eyes. Another postcard perfect day in Puerto Vallarta. He would be perfectly happy spending it with the drapes closed and a couple gallons of hair of the dog. If he could just get back to his hotel room.

Damn. Thirty was years too old to be waking up, hung-over, not knowing where he was or how he had gotten there.

Pretty chestnut hair hid the woman's face. At least the woman he almost remembered seemed to be the woman he was with, but for the life of him Jackson couldn't draw a mental picture of her. Just what the hell had he done last night?

Read my review of What a Texas Girl Wants here. Check back tomorrow for a guest post from the author.

About the Author
Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Happily ever after.

Contact Kristina
Website: http://www.kristinaknightauthor.com
FB: http://www.facebook.com/kristinaknightromanceauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/authorkristina

Buy the Book
AMA: http://www.amazon.com/What-Texas-Girl-Wants-ebook/dp/B008195BIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336496939&sr=1-1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-a-texas-girl-wants-kristina-knight/1110496096?ean=9781440544637
Crimson: http://www.crimsonromance.com

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book review: what a texas girl wants

After indulging in rum, vodka and tequila, two college friends wake up on a Mexican beach with more than a hangover. In Kristina Knight's What a Texas Girl Wants, Kathleen Witte and Jackson Taylor are less than thrilled to find themselves hitched at the end of a multi-day bender.

Kathleen considers marriage an irresponsible act that may cost her inheritance: her family's horse ranch near San Antonio. Not to mention, she is embarrassed to find herself attached to the man she foolishly crushed on her freshman year of college. Jackson has no plans to tie himself down to Kathleen or anyone, instead planning to live the single life.

For their own reasons, Kathleen and Jackson decide to keep up the pretenses of their marriage for a few weeks, until each can take care of personal business, which a quickie divorce might disrupt.

While pretending to be a happily settled couple in their honeymoon period, Kathleen and Jackson each find themselves feeling more than either intended.

I'm a sucker for romance novels, especially one where long-time acquaintances unexpectedly find themselves together -- especially in a legally binding sense. What a Texas Girl Wants delivers on what it promises as a quick and entertaining category romance. A fun story idea, it was a quick read, though a little predictable.

A little heavy on background too soon in the story, I would have liked to see the circumstances of Kathleen and Jackson's respective histories -- both together and on their own -- revealed later in the story at a slower pace. The natural obstacles between the characters was believable, especially with the supporting characters in place to add tension.

I did find myself questioning how Kathleen and Jackson's relationship progressed once they reconnected in Mexico. Chalked up to forgotten memories courtesy of too much alcohol, most of their memories from their first few days together are hazy or plain lost. Both had latent feelings remaining from their college days, but what was it that happened during their reunion in Mexico that led them to jumping into bed, and ultimately, marriage with each other? I don't need to know every detail, but a little more development here would have been nice.

As far as characters go, Kathleen and Jackson were likeable, which made rooting for them easy to do.

Always a fan of a good cowboy and cowgirl story set in the Texas hills, I enjoyed the hours spent reading What a Texas Girl Wants and would check out another Knight novel in the future.

Rating: 4 of 5

Check back at 8 a.m. for an excerpt of What a Texas Girl Wants, and return tomorrow for a guest post from the author.

About the Author
Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Happily ever after.

Contact Kristina
Website: http://www.kristinaknightauthor.com
FB: http://www.facebook.com/kristinaknightromanceauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/authorkristina

Buy the Book
AMA: http://www.amazon.com/What-Texas-Girl-Wants-ebook/dp/B008195BIS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336496939&sr=1-1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-a-texas-girl-wants-kristina-knight/1110496096?ean=9781440544637
Crimson: http://www.crimsonromance.com

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July 20, 2012

book review: lust on the rocks

The courtroom gets sexy in Dianne Venetta's Lust on the Rocks. Tasked with winning a major case in the hoped of earning partnership at her law firm, Samantha Rawlings is focused on her career and determined to succeed. A wrench is thrown in her well-oiled machine when a new addition to the law firm is assigned to the case, too.

More frustrating than that is the fact that Sam finds herself attracted to Victor Marin. It isn't long before the two are mixing business with pleasure, only to complicate it with unplanned emotions.

Their lives grow more complicated when a secret from Vic's past threatens to compromise their case.

I had a tough time getting through this one. Though the story started fast enough, later parts dragged a little for me. Though entertaining, I found myself wishing it would hurry up occasionally.

In all fairness, it might have a little to do with a certain development about a quarter of the way through.

Forgive me while I indulge on an insane tangent. I'm no prude -- romance novels have graced my shelves since I was 12, and I devoured the Fifty Shades books during a longish weekend -- but I did find myself quite shocked once Sam and Vic made it to the bedroom. For one thing, these two are entirely too chatty in bed. I prefer less, "What's your fantasy?" and more action. I don't know why, but dirty talk in fiction makes me feel like I'm being invasive to a private moment (as if straight sex isn't intimate enough). If you like that, then you'll love this book, because Venetta does this well.

Even this would not have stuck out so much if Vic had not committed a serious faux pas. He named his penis. I was still giggling uncontrollably (in public, mind you) when the name registered with me. Vic's penis has the same name as my friend's boyfriend. Do you know how challenging it is to read a sex scene once you have that in your head?

End of my giggly school girl rant.

Compared to Jennifer's Garden, the main protagonist in this story is seemingly stronger and more confident. Until she develops self doubt and questions her life plan thanks to her new man. Watching her falter a little and build herself back up was enjoyable to watch.

I also liked that Vic is a younger man who is subordinate to her at work. As a future cougar (I plan to marry Josh Hutcherson, who is six years younger than me), it is a welcome twist to have a female lead in power, both in age and career. Though it raises a bit of an issue, in the grand scheme other factors are ultimately play a bigger role in complicating their relationship.

The plot was also interesting, and the author developed the case at the core of the book well. She seemed comfortable with the legal jargon and lawyer talk, which made the story more believable.

Overall, Lust on the Rocks was an entertaining read, and a solid sequel to the previous book in the series.

Rating: 4 of 5

About the Author
Dianne Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children -- and her part-time Yellow Lab (Cody!). An avid gardener, she spends her spare time growing organic vegetables. Surprised by the amazing discoveries she finds there every day, she wondered, "Who knew there were so many similarities between men and plants?" What began as a brief hiatus from writing has blossomed into an ever-expanding home garden and blog at BloominThyme.com -- stop by and share some tips! When she's not knee-deep in dirt or romance, Dianne contributes garden advice (challenged!) for various websites (a crazy existence to be sure). But at the end of the day, if she can inspire someone to stop and smell the roses -- or rosemary! -- kiss their child and spouse good-night, be kind to a neighbor and Mother Earth, then she's done all right.

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July 19, 2012

the dark knight: who wore it best?




I always wanted to work at a fashion magazine. Granted, I wanted to be the person who did all the stories about health and safety with a dabble in celebrity profiles, but the desire was there regardless.

Channeling the Cosmo girl I suppressed inside of me the moment I sold out and went into corporate communications, I decided to take what little fashion savvy I had and pose a question just in time for the release of The Dark Knight Rises (in theaters at midnight tonight).

That's right, it's a Batman Faceoff, and you get to weigh in. Who wore Batman best?

I'm attending the midnight premiere with a few friends. I went to the midnight showing of the last film and had a great time, so my expectations are pretty high, movie industry.

If anyone else goes to see it this weekend, I'd be glad to dish on it with you later. Give me a shout on FB or Twitter... or here.

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on the banks

At the spot where the Ingalls' dugout was before collapsing in the 1920s.
My recent trip to Mankato, Minn., with my mom offered more than a few days with fellow Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiasts. It brought us within two hours of Walnut Grove, Minn., the setting of On the Banks of Plum Creek.

The road from Mankato
to Walnut Grove literally
has LIW's name on it.

I am told it is also where the TV show took place, but in my smug devotion to the books, I have not seen Michael Landon's prairie creation and cannot personally attest to this fact.

Originally Mom and I planned to visit the LIW homesite with the other LauraPalooza attendees, but in our anxiousness to get home, we decided to skip lunch and stop by on our way home.

I was excited, because unlike my visits to Pepin, Wis., and De Smet, S.D., this time I had a partner in crime. Not only would I have someone to share the experience with, but it also meant I had another person on hand to take photos of me. I am pretty good at self portraits, but at some point you feel a little ridiculous.

In all seriousness, having another person there to share in my excitement made the visit all the more fun. For the past several years, I've kept my LIW admiration and Little House obsession mostly quiet and personal (except for the occasional blog post). But after a few days of talking about her at LauraPalooza and sharing it with my mom made me realize how awesome it is to be part of a community like that.

But back to the adventure...

Mom leads the way to the museum.
We started our adventure in town at the museum. With the local pageant in progress, Mom and I decided to skip the full tour and poked around the gift shop. We wanted to visit the sites relevant to the book, and though I am sure interesting, the museum was not a must see for me -- especially not when we had to fight a crowd..

Besides, I will visit more thoroughly someday. I have a big vision of touring all of the sites on one whirlwind trip when I have kids (there I go jinxing myself).

Why would I want to spoil all of the fun before then? 

The church bell Pa helped buy.
After a few minutes poking around the gift shop, Mom and I drive to a church a few blocks away. Thanks to my handy, twice-autographed guidebook courtesy of William Anderson, I knew that the bell in the tower is the same one Pa Ingalls helped buy in the book.

The original church is no longer standing, but the significance of the bell made the stop worth making. Even if you are not a fan of the books, knowing that the bell has been part of the community for so many years is an amazing thing. It's history and a gift from our ancestors to the future.

The site of the Ingalls dugout is a little more than a mile north of town. The Gordons, the owners of the land, allow people to check out the area for $5 a car. Well kept, informative and the homesite that looks most authentic to the time period of the book, that money was worth the experience. As an added perk, I managed to keep my crazy together and avoid crying at this spot. Go me!

Now for a few more photos:

The Gordons are gracious enough to let people tour the grounds and have even added a few walking trails with natural prairie restored in spots for our viewing pleasure.

 
Mom and I on the Banks of Plum Creek. Such a pretty spot and exactly like I imagined it from LIW's descriptions in the book.


Harnessing my inner prairie girl. 


Wading through the waters of Plum Creek just like Laura. This was maybe my favorite LIW home site visit activity and one I insist you try. It's worth dirtying your feet and having to awkwardly scrub and dry them clean in a truck stop restroom.


 The beautiful flowers growing. I wanted to channel my inner LIW and pick them, but, as Mom reminded me that if I did the next people to come would not get to enjoy them, too.


More photos from my LIW adventures are posted on Facebook if you would like to see them.

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July 18, 2012

book review: manhunt

What if you woke up in a hospital bed wondering how you got there or why a strange man wants you to leave with him?

In Lillie Spencer's debut romantic suspense, Manhunt, Nikki Wright finds herself in that situation when Michael Brennan shows up at her bedside determined to get her out of the hospital as soon as possible. Unknown to her, Michael is her childhood friend turned boyfriend turned ex, but she inexplicably trusts him enough to go on the run with him.

Nikki soon learns she was hospitalized after being abused by Sebastian, another ex-boyfriend, who was found dead in her home. All signs point to Michael as the murderer, but still Nikki finds herself drawn to him, wanting to believe his intentions were good.

She slowly relearns her life and the circumstances that led to her present while they try to evade the police. At the same time, Michael and Nikki rekindle their romantic feelings toward each other while wondering if happily ever after is even in the cards for them.

One fact is for sure, nothing is what it seems by first appearances.

Manhunt starts fast and keeps moving at top speed until slowing toward the end, which was a good thing. I found myself so captivated in the story, I could not put it down and finished it in one sitting.

Though the main characters have a lot of history, the amnesia element ensured that those aspects were not revealed too quickly, which added to the suspense.

The characters were easy and enjoyable to follow. Michael was definitely crushable, and Nikki's plight had me captivated from the beginning. Their best friends and family members added to the intrigue, and I especially liked their friend Christian.

My only complaint as far as characters went was that there were a few good ones who we did not meet until late in the book. I would have preferred to see them introduced a little sooner so we could have bonded better, but it did not ruin the read by any means.

A solid read and an even more excellent debut, Manhunt is a great find for readers who enjoy their romance laced with mystery and intrigue.

As a side note, our heroine Lillie and I both share a love for baking, which means you can look for a Manhunt-inspired Reading in the Kitchen post soon.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

About the Author
Lillie likes to joke that she is a mother, author, and wife - usually in that order. Although her background is in Wildlife Biology, writing has always been her passion. She was a teaching assistant for English Composition and English as a Second Language in college, and wrote countless stories in her free time before she was brave enough to submit one for publication. A preview of Manhunt was an editor's choice recipient at textnovel.com in 2009, where it is still No. 10 on their "Most Popular" list, and was a semi-finalist in the Dorchester Next Best Celler (sic)contest. Lillie was also recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2011 RWA-Passionate Ink's Stroke of Midnight competition for her work-in-progress, The Circle, a paranormal romance. When not writing or freezing at soccer games, Lillie loves to cook and play video games with her family.

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