Out of the Office

I'm out of the office again this week due to family medical emergency. Will catch up on the blog and other social media as time allows.

In the meantime, please visit Gems In the Attic, a new group blog of which I am a member.

The first post is now live on Gems In the Attic.

Tomorrow, March 1, my first post will publish. Drop by an leave a comment for a chance to win a prize.

Takeaway Truth

Visit Gems In the Attic and meet my friends.

Celebrating the First National Park

On this day, 87 years ago,the Grand Canyon National Park was established in the United States. Hubby and I are planning a trip to this amazing natural wonder.

The beautiful Grand Canyon is located in northwestern Arizona and was carved by the Colorado River over millions of years. The canyon drops more than a mile, and it's about 15 miles across at its widest point. The canyon is a geological portrait of 2 billion years of the planets history.

The first Europeans to see the canyon were members of an expedition sent by Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in 1540. About 300 years passed before any further exploration occurred because it was such a remote area. That was undertaken by John Wesley Powell, an American geologist who dubbed it the “Grand Canyon.” He was the first to travel the entire length of the gorge.

In January 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt designated more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon a national monument. Then on this day in February 26, 1919, then President Woodrow Wilson designated it a national park.

Takeaway Truth

I've traveled more outside the United States than within this great country. I plan to remedy that starting this year.

3 Reviews: Books by Liliana Hart, Josie Brown, Gina Ardito

Welcome to Thursday3Some. Today, I have reviews of 3 books.

Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart is a gritty mystery starring a female coroner as sleuth. This novel has strong romance elements.

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook by Josie Brown is a little harder to describe. It's also a mystery but very edgy with sex and violence and big dose of grim humor.

A Run for the Money by Gina Ardito is a delightful wholesome, heartwarming romance.

Dirty Little Secrets (J.J. Graves Mysteries Book 1) by Liliana Hart

(This was free when I grabbed it, and it may still be. Totally worth the ebook price if it isn't.) I don't know if there are other mortician sleuths out there, but Liliana Hart's heroine could hold her own if there were. Solid story with a hefty dash of grim humor. You know, the kind of humor cops use to get through some ugly situations.

J.J. Graves isn't just in the mortuary business. She's also coroner for a Virginia county, and she seems to have a knack for stumbling over dead bodies. A lot of dead bodies--and most are gruesome.

She's paired with Police Detective Jack Lawson who also happens to be her BFF. Even though she's supposed to be ascertaining the cause of death and dealing with the dead body--not investigating and trying to solve the crime--she always ends up sticking her nose in other people's business. It's no surprise that this gets her in all kinds of trouble and makes her the target of a serial killer.

Throw in a romance, and you have an engaging story for those who love romantic suspense with a bit of an edge.

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook (Housewife Assassin Series, Book 1) by Josie Brown

If you liked the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, you'll probably enjoy this sexy mystery laced with dark humor. If you're a stay at home mom, I'm rather certain you will get a laugh out of this assassin mom who feels she's the worst mom on the block when she's perpetually late in driving car pool and is forced to buy cookies rather than baking her own because her covert assignments put a kink in her parental obligations.

(How well I remember being told that we room mothers HAD to bake cookies, not buy them at the store!)

The comparison of being a housewife to being an assassin at the beginning of each chapter is hysterical. I think if you go into this knowing that this is not a sweet little cozy but a gritty, edgy, sexy book, you'll enjoy it.

A Run for the Money by Gina Ardito

Nicole Fleming confronts life head-on with a smart mouth and self-deprecating humor to hide her vulnerabilities. She's lost the most important person in her life, her step father. Now, because of the terms of his will, she's paired with his grandson Dante. They've each heard of the other through the years, and they each dislike the other based on what they've heard and just on general principles.

Dante is vulnerable too and has his own means of hiding that. Through thick and thin, Dante and Nicole  go from adventure to adventure to solve the mystery that will give them their legacy, their treasure, at the end of their quest. They learn to like each other and then to trust each other. But what will happen after they gain the riches promised them?

This romance is at times funny and at times poignant. It was a delight from beginning to end. If you like The Ultimate Gift, one of my favorite Christmas movies, you'll love A Run for the Money.

Takeaway Truth

Three great books for your weekend reading fun. Better grab them today.

Meet Joseph Bruchac, Author of Brothers of the Buffalo

I'm pleased to welcome Joseph Bruchac, author of Brothers of the Buffalo published by Fulcrum Publishing .

About Joseph Bruchac

Joseph, coauthor of The Keepers of the Earth series, is an internationally acclaimed Native American storyteller and writer who has authored more than 100 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for adults and children. His writings have appeared in
over 500 publications, from Parabola to National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines.

He is the author of the novels Dawn Land and Long River, and other books for children. His work often reflects his Native American ancestry and his more than 50 years of
dedication to traditional storytelling, with a strong emphasis on First Nations history.

He also has a lifelong interest in West African culture, history, and literature with a focus on the nation of Ghana where he spent three years as a teacher in the 1960s. He lives in the Adirondack mountain foothills town of Greenfield Center, New York, in the same house where his maternal grandparents raised him. Much of his writing draws on that land and his Abenaki ancestry. Although his American Indian heritage is only one part of an ethnic background that includes Slovak and English blood, those Native roots are the ones by which he has been most nourished.

Find Joseph Bruchac Online: Website * Twitter and Facebook.

Q and A With the Author

Q1. Your new YA novel, Brothers of the Buffalo, is a historical fiction tale of the Red River War. What captivated you about this particular moment in American history?

JB: Although the so-called "Indian Wars" would not conclude until 2 decades later when the last of the Chiricahua Apaches surrendered, the Red River War marks the beginning of the end insofar as armed resistance to the United States government goes. It was the last major coalition of different tribes put together to resist militarily--like King Phillip, Pontiac and Tecumseh did in previous centuries. The fact that it was largely done to attempt to save the American bison (and the way of life of the Plains nations) from being destroyed makes it even more memorable.

Another part of this story, which has long fascinated me, is that on the United States side a very large role was played by the 10th Cavalry, made up entirely of African American soldiers (with the exception of their white officers), some of them former slaves and veterans of the American Civil War. However, what I think drew me the most to this war is that it led, quite directly, to the creation of the American Indian Boarding Schools that would deeply impact the lives of virtually all Native American communities, an impact still being felt to this day.

Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, an officer of the 10th and the man placed in charge of the Native American POWs sent to Florida after the Red River War would experiment with "civilizing" those men and go on to found the Carlisle Indian School which had the stated objective of "killing the Indian and saving the man," nothing less than cultural genocide.

Q2. Brothers of the Buffalo is written about two drastically different young men, Wolf and Wash. What inspired you to write from both perspectives and did you find it challenging? Did you have a favorite character?

JB: I chose to approach the story from those different perspectives because I felt that the complexity of this story deserved more than one point of view. One of the oldest sayings in a number of Native American communities is that we have two ears on either side of our head so that we can hear more than one side of every story. I believed that a reader would understand the story better by having
more than one voice to hear and that it would provide more depth to the history being told.

What you see often depends on where you stand. I was given a great deal of help in writing this story from any number of directions--people in the Cheyenne community, for example, such as my friend for more than 4 decades Lance Henson.

I also was fortunate enough to have been part of the American Civil Rights movement in the 60s, to have lived in Ghana, West Africa as a teacher for three years, to have had the privilege of teaching African American and African literature and to count more people than I can easily count in Africa and the African diaspora as close, dear friends. All that experience did not make it easy to inhabit such different characters, but it did make it easier.

I'd also been researching and writing about parts of this story or events before and after that tie into it--such as the Civil War and the Carlisle Indian school--for decades before I began to work on this manuscript. Insofar as a favorite character goes, I guess I feel so strongly about both my main narrators that it is impossible to say that one of them was my favorite. But beyond those two young men, I think the person I found most interesting and most fascinating in this story is Richard Henry Pratt even though I disagree DEEPLY with the conclusions he drew about how to deal with the "Indian Problem."

Q3. Brothers of the Buffalo is infused with both first-person letters from Wash and songs and proverbs from Native American culture. Could you tell us what you hope readers will take away from both?

JB. My idea in including the songs and proverbs was to offer greater depth and more insight into both characters and the cultures to which they belong. In Wash's case it is both African and African American. When I lived in West Africa I was often told that every human being is not just part of a family he or she IS their family. And I have also often been told by Native American elders that community, oral tradition, and family make us who we are.

The use of letters is a great way to both tell a story and provide insight into the persons writing those letters, both in what they say and what they do not say as it is projected against the larger canvas of the overall story. In addition, I think those stories from the backgrounds of both my main characters are great stories, worth reading on their own, proof of the sophistication and intellectual complexity of cultures (African, Native, African American) that were usually portrayed as innocent, uncultured, uncivilized and ignorant in the 19th century when this story takes place--and, sadly, still sometimes pictured that way in the 20th and even 21st centuries.

Q4. What motivates you to write for young adults?

JB. I began as a poet, writing for adults, with my first book in 1971. I still write and publish poetry, but when my two sons were born in the 70s I began to write down the stories I told them, largely traditional tales that were lesson stories--enjoyable to hear, but filled with meaning. I was delighted, not just by the way my books were received, but by the effect I saw them having on young people. I then began writing for middle grade and YA readers and had a similar experience.

I believe that some of the best writing being done today is being done for young adult readers. You honestly do not have to hold anything back when writing for them. They are sophisticated enough to understand and appreciate complexity, but also very much in need of good literature. (At this point I could break into a long tribute to reading and what it does for us, young and old, but I shall restrain myself.) I still write for all audiences, from the very young to the adult reader. But, more and more, I am finding the deepest
satisfaction in creating books for YA audiences.

Q5. What are you hoping readers will take away from Brothers of the Buffalo as a whole?

JB. One of my hopes is that they will better understand a period of history that is often neglected and see that history through very different eyes--the eyes of a young Cheyenne fighting for his family and culture, the eyes of a young African American soldier who is just as deeply committed to family and
freedom as is his Native counterpart. In the end (an end of the story that is not at all fantastic but reflective of documented history) the two of them physically arrive at the same place--seeing each other not as enemies, but as equally human. I hope my readers may arrive at a similar place, perhaps with a broader perspective on some of the issues faced by my two heroes--issues of race, class,
Native American and human rights still being played out today.

My Review

Brothers of the Buffalo casts a spotlight on attitudes that, sadly, still exist in too many people in today's world. While that in itself is discouraging, the novel also offers optimism by showing that people of different cultures can co-exist with respect and compassion and subtly implies that education is a way to rise above any circumstance.

Each chapter is introduced by a parable from either American Indian or African culture. Each parable is a precis of the chapter that follows. This literary technique adds a narrative richness to a compelling story about men seeking better lives--whether they be the valiant African American Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry or the Native American peoples striving to walk the narrow path of peace, honoring the word of their chiefs who made treaties with the white men invading their country.

The main characters Washington Vance, once a slave, now a Buffalo Soldier, and Wolf, a Cheyenne trying to feed his family despite the terms of the peace treaty that forced them to stop hunting and live on promised food from Washington. The problem is that food hardly ever arrives, or when it does, it's spoiled and/or insufficient.

The lives of Vance and Wolf intersect throughout the story so it comes as no surprise, yet a pleasant ending, to see them meet again years later. The ending is at once inevitable and hopeful, spotlighting the spirit of endurance and imparting the feeling that people can create better lives.

Add Brothers of the Buffalo to Your Library: purchase from IndieBound * Amazon * Barnes and Noble * Books-A-Million.

Takeaway Truth

Giveaway! If you'd like a free copy of Brothers of the Buffalo, please leave a comment with your email address. One winner will be chosen by random draw. Giveaway closes 02/29.16. Winner announced in Comments on this post and notified by email on 03/01/16.

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I can't believe it's taken me this long to review Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which my younger daughter and I saw on opening day. We walked out of the theater talking excitedly about this mashup of one of our favorite Austen novels and zombies.

I know you Jane Austen purists may be having a case of the vapors. That was me several years ago when I read in Publisher's Weekly about the contract Seth Grahame-Smith received for his book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

However, I looked on this book, which became a New York Times bestseller, as an homage to Austen's novel. It took a few years, but the book has finally made its way to the big screen.

The Cast

The major players are: Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy, Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet, Ellie Bamber as Lydia Bennet, Millie Brady as Mary Bennet, Suki Waterhouse as Kitty Bennet, Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley, Sally Phillips as Mrs. Bennet, Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet, Jack Huston as George Wickham, and Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The fun flick stars Lily James as Elizabeth Bennett and Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy.

About The Story

If you go into this with an expectation of fun, you'll enjoy this. I loved the segue from zombie killing young misses to those young misses giggling over finding husbands then back to protecting hearth and home from the hordes of zombies that are threatening the British Empire with tender romantic scenes interspersed throughout.

This Austen story inhabits an alternative universe that has Elizabeth and her sisters ready, willing, and able to fight zombies. It's the Pride and Prejudice you've never seen but will immediately recognize from the beginning: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that...(This is where it goes off into left field.)...a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Takeaway Truth

Great fun. Believable chemistry between this butt-kicking Elizabeth Bennet and brooding Mr. Darcy. Go see the movie. You may love it too. If so, get the movie tie-in copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which has 16 pages of color stills from the movie.

Review: Headhunters

Recently I watched Headhunters, a movie that left me with my mouth agape. I watched it on Netflix. If you don't subscribe, you can watch this movie on Amazon Prime or rent/buy it from Amazon.

If you like gripping, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, you must see this Norwegian import starring Aksel Hennie of Age of Heroes, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones , and Synnøve Macody Lund.

If you think you don't like foreign films because of having to read the subtitles, Headhunters will change your opinion. That's a good thing because some really great movies are foreign made.  


Aksel Hennie is a high-living executive head hunter, but his avocation as art thief is his passion and how he really makes his high income. He's just looking for one big score because he's in hock up to his eyeballs in order to woo and keep his statuesque beautiful blond wife played by Lund. Hunky Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is the man Hennie robs.

My Thoughts

All I can say is, OMG! The art thief picked the wrong man to rob! The rest of the movie is Hennie trying to escape the relentless stalking of Coster-Waldau. The Terminator has nothing on Coster-Waldau. The man just won't quit. Hennie's situation goes from bad to worse to disaster.

I'm not going to say anything else because you must see this to believe it. The ending is one of those amazing reversals that will have you doing a fist pump in the air.

Takeaway Truth

Headhunters is one of the best thrillers I've seen all year.

Thursday3Some: Books by Morgan, Langston, Johnson

Welcome to Thursday3Some. Today, I'm reviewing 3 romance novels. These reviews are also posted to Amazon.

The Thursday3Some reviews today are for:

Claiming Annie's Heart by Judythe Morgan

Mercy Killing (Affairs of State) by Kathryn Johnson

and Redeeming the Earl by Jenn Langston.

First up is Claiming Annie's Heart by Judythe Morgan, an emotional blend of Women's Fiction and Romance. But let's call this an Irish Romance because it's a sonnet to Ireland. With strong characters determined to do what's right even if it goes against what they really want, this is the kind of emotional book for which Judythe Morgan is noted.

Annie Foster's emotional, conflict-ridden journey will make you wonder if she and Chad Jones can ever be together. How can Annie forgive Chad when he betrayed her in the worst way. Or did he? As in real life, the truth will out. When it does, Annie has a choice to make. Get out the hankies because Morgan always pulls on your heartstrings as she delivers a memorable story, and that's what she does with this Irish romance.

Mercy Killing (Affairs of State Book 1) by Kathryn Johnson is romantic suspense set against the backdrop of the U.S. State Department with all of its politics and maneuverings.

Mercy O'Brien Davis was born into this world. When she married an ambitious politician, she further locked herself into the world. Although she loves her husband, cracks have appeared in her marriage yet she continues to stand by her man.

 Everything changes when her mother disappears and Mercy's husband gets his foreign posting. Thrust into a world fraught with danger and intrigue, Mercy doesn't know who to trust and what to believe. Little does she know that she is in grave danger, but the man she's drawn to yet resists is the one man who might be able to save her. Will she place her faith in him?

Mercy Killing is peopled by a sophisticated gutsy heroine who is determined to get to the truth. If you like international intrigue and woman-in-jeopardy stories, this will delight you.

Redeeming the Earl by Jenn Langston is Regency Romance at its best.

I love a good Regency Romance, and Redeeming the Earl does not disappoint. Fans of Amanda Quick will enjoy this because of the feisty heroine who has a secret life as the author of the famous Unscandal Sheet that seeks to expose the truth behind all the salacious rumors that hit the ton.

Rebecca Doutree finds herself fascinated by the infamous Earl of Dunmore who is looking for wife number 5. Spinster Rebecca, firmly on the shelf and denigrated by her father until she seriously doubts her appeal, finds herself falling for the handsome earl despite the rumors that circulate about the mysterious deaths of all his wives.

Charles Edwards, the Earl of Dunmore, is untouched by emotions. He's never felt the love other men proclaim for women. He just needs an heir. When he meets Rebecca, his interest--and his desire--is stirred even as he tries to control himself the way a gentleman should.

These two are meant to be together, but it's one step forward and two steps back in their romance. When it becomes apparent that Rebecca's life is in danger, Charles will move heaven and earth to keep her safe--even as she fights against him.

Redeeming the Earl is a lovely romance full of intrigue. Don't miss it.

Takeaway Truth

The weekend is coming. Grab these books for some reading fun.

Meet Maddie James

I'm having coffee and chatting with bestselling romance author Maddie James this morning.

MJ: Hi Joan. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today. I’m happy to be here!

Meet Maddie James

This bestselling author is published worldwide in at least 7  languages. Her books, available in ebook, paperback, and audio formats, span the romance genre from contemporary to romantic suspense to paranormal romance.

Landing on all major retailer top-selling lists, she’s been listed as an Amazon Top 100 Romance Author and a Rising Star in Western Romance at iBooks.

Find Maddie James Online

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Google+
 Now, let's discover more about Maddie James.

The Dirty Dozen

1. In which genre do you write and why that particular genre?

MJ: It’s easy for me to say that I write in the romance genre, but pinning me down to one sub-genre isn’t very easy. I started out publishing romantic comedy and short contemporary romances back in the late 90s. From there, I migrated to romantic suspense, time travel, and paranormal stories. Today, I’m still writing in all of those sub-genres plus contemporary western romances, which are my best sellers. I write in these sub-genres because those are the types of books I like to read. It seemed natural to gravitate to writing them too.

2. What inspired your most recent book?

MJ: Tempt Me is my most recent release but it is actually a book that was mostly written over 15 years ago. This romantic suspense is an idea that hounded me for many years. The inspiration came from a newspaper article. The story, of course, veered way off the path of that article, but it definitely was the impetus to write the story. Last year, I pulled out the partially complete manuscript and started re-reading what I had written. The story still seemed fresh, although I had a bit of updating to do, and with the help of my editor, I finished the book, and we took it to market last fall. I think it’s personally the best book I’ve ever written. What the readers think remains to be seen!

3. As an author, what can readers expect when they read one of your books?

MJ: I’ve been told I write humor well, so if there is a hit of comedy in the book, you’re going to get some snappy, funny dialog. A former editor said that I “write suspense like Iris Johansen.” That was a mighty nice compliment and I’m unsure if that is true or not, but readers of my romantic suspense stories tell me I do suspense well—that they didn’t see plot twists coming, and that I keep the reader on the edge of her seat.

4. How did you "become" an author? For instance, was there a moment when you said: "I think I'll write a book."

MJ: Wow. I started writing in the mid 1980s. It took ten years of writing and submitting the traditionally way back then before I sold my first book to Kensington. I’d toyed with writing for years before that—poetry, essays, short stories, articles—but always knew that if I wrote anything lengthy, it would be a romance novel.

5. What's the best thing about being an author?

MJ: It’s satisfying getting to the end of a story. It’s exciting seeing that book in print on the shelf. It’s super-wonderful to navigate the 15-second commute from my coffee maker to my office, while wearing my jammies.

6. What's the worst thing about being an author?

MJ: Loving your craft so much and seeing that wonderful book you wrote, your baby, floundering in the marketplace.

7. Do you have editions of your books available other than ebook editions?

MJ: Yes. All of my books are available in ebook, and the vast majority of them are available in paperback. I’m currently working on getting all of my stories in print in one format or another. If the story is not long enough for a book of its own, I’m combining them into collections and “two-fers” (two books in one print volume). So watch out for those! I also have a few books in audiobook format.

8. Do you listen to audio books? If so, where can readers find them, and what device do you use to listen to audiobooks?

MJ: I have, on occasion, listened to audiobooks but it’s not my preferred way to read. I’m guilty of distracted driving when listening to a book, so driving while “reading” is not an option for me. I like them but rarely make it a choice for me. I imagine it’s because I’m such a visual person—I need to see the words on the page, whether they are digital or in print.

I do, however, have three of my books in audio, and hope to have more in audio in the future. You can find my books, Falling for Grace, Rawhide and Roses, and A Perfect Escape at Audible, iTunes, and Amazon in audiobook format.

9. What device do you use to read ebooks?

MJ: I’m a Kindle gal. I have two of them actually. I also still occasionally read paperback. When traveling extensively for my former day job, I always had my Kindle loaded and in my carry-on bag, ready to read!

10. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

MJ: Read a lot. Write a lot. Keep on doing both. And if it’s your dream, don’t give up.
I would also add that being an author currently is a lot more than putting words on the page. So, educate yourself about all of the publishing options today, and don’t go into any situation without research and knowledge.

11. If you could tell readers one thing, what would it be?

MJ: That we write our books for you, the reader—but sometimes we write them for ourselves. Authors can’t survive without you. We know and understand that you are our bread-and-butter. We also know that sometimes we write books that you shake your head at. Books where you say, “that’s not her usual type of story” or “I didn’t expect that kind of book from her.” I’d like readers to know that even though we love and need you, and we often write books with our readers in mind, we sometimes write books just for ourselves. We write because the story has to be told. And if it’s not the usual type of story we put out, that’s okay. There could be something deeper going on with the author that is the grounding for the story.

12. What is your current big dream (or goal) as a writer?

MJ: I simply want to continue writing, to entertain my readers, and to support myself with my craft.

Tempt Me by Maddie James

Detective Jordan Cross has one thing on her mind—get the bastard killing kids in her small southern city; the person she thinks is also responsible for her niece’s disappearance.

Journalist Tate Walker has a similar goal—keep the people of his city informed about the serial killer, and perhaps write a Pulitzer-worthy story in the process.

When Jordan and Tate’s lives careen together around the case, they pick up the battles of their pasts and carry them forward—battles of trust and mistrust, lust and love, truths and misunderstandings. Determined to keep her focus on the case, Jordan finds it difficult to resist Tate’s sexual temptations. Tate uses every advantage to tempt her back into his bed. Then, thrust into a dangerous situation, those battles suddenly fall away—and the only battle left to fight is for their lives, and their love.

Add Tempt Me by Maddie James to Your Library: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * iBooks

Takeaway Truth

This sounds like a great book. I'm going to grab a copy. How about you?

Reviews: 2 Short Stories by Loretta Wheeler

I've been reading a lot of short stories in several different genres. The ebook revolution has been especially beneficial to the short story form. You can now find these in every genre at very low cost.

That's good news for a literary form that once languished with authors who loved the short, succinct form of storytelling bemoaning the lack of markets for their stories. Today I'm reviewing 2 short stories that you might like.

Mischief & Mayhem by Loretta Wheeler is an outside the box mystery. If you're a cat lover, you'll rave over this little mystery that features a best-selling author who is being stalked in a story reminiscent of Stephen King's Misery. Trust me, no author wants fans like the ones populating this story!

Just when you think you know who the culprit is, the author hits a curve ball into left field. You may think you know what comes next, but you'll be surprised again. Luckily for Whitney Chase, the beleaguered author of this story, her two cats have things under control.

If you're a cat lover, you'll buy into the anthropomorphism aspect of this story.

The Pan Man is also by Loretta Wheeler. This short story is a YA (Young Adult) Paranormal Romance. I occasionally read young adult so I can stay in tune with what my sons' older daughters read. I think this story is still a little old for them, but high schoolers and above will identify with the common elements that one sees in TV shows like The 100 and movies like the Divergent series.

In The Pan Man, likable heroine Christy is experiencing the same dream night after night. Since this is paranormal, then it follows that dreams are significant. Throw in a fortune teller, reincarnation, and a fated love and you have a story older teens will love.

Takeaway Truth

Drop by on Thursday when I'll post 3 more reviews of romance novels for Thursday3Some.

Traveling and Reading

I've been logging a lot of miles in the last few weeks. On Mondays, I drive to my daughter's home and accompany her to her doctor appointments.

This past Friday, my darling hubby and I drove to Corpus Christi to celebrate our older son's birthday. Normally, that is a pleasant drive south that takes about 3 1/2 hours.

Unfortunately, many parts of Highway 59 South are under construction. The 3 1/2 hours stretched into 5 1/2 hours.

No problem. I had my trusty Kindle with me. During all this driving, I've managed to read these ebooks:
* The Pan Man, a short story, by Loretta Wheeler
* Mischief & Mayhem, a short story, by Loretta Wheeler
* Redeeming the Earl, a Regency romance, by Jenn Langston
* Claiming Annie's Heart, Women's Fiction, by Judythe Morgan.

Each of these romances were different from the other, and not just because of length. Each represented a niche genre within romance.

I must say I really enjoy the short stories and short novels that abound in today's ebook world. They're perfect for someone who has limited reading time or someone who wants entertaining reading material during a long wait in a doctor's reception room.

Takeaway Truth

I'll be reviewing these romance offerings tomorrow so check back to see what I think about them.

When Black Women Fall: More Romance Starring African American Heroines

Today we're visiting again with my friend Ines Johnson and her friends and fellow authors of the romance promotional tour: When Black Women Fall.

Organized by Heartspell Media, an author cooperative and independent publishing company, When Black Women Fall is a week long promotional tour of romance novels featuring African American heroines in the contemporary, historical, paranormal, new adult, and erotica genres.

Romance novels are increasingly featuring heroes and heroines of color, from Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series to Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series.

As society and its citizens increase in diversity so does the market. With more and more authors bypassing publishers and uploading these colorful romances on their own, readers, hungry for diversity in romance novels, now have a buffet of books to choose from.

On this tour, you will see that when black women fall in love it’s a magical affair as you’ll discover in these paranormal stories of love. To find the books below, get a free excerpt book, and enter the giveaway, visit When Black Women Fall

In L Penelope's "Angelborn" he gave up eternity for love… and lost. Will Maia be his second chance?

In Laverne Thompson's "Angel Rising" Thalya, a soulless creature, meets her match when she hungers for the love of the man assigned to hunt her.

When black women fall in love it’s a defining moment as this historical romance shows.

In Piper Huguley's "The Preacher's Promise" Amanda Stewart aims to teach newly freed slaves, but meets with the resistance from the town preacher. Can these two put aside their differences and come together?

When black women fall in love it’s full of growing pains as evidenced by this new adult romance.

In Twyla Turner's "Chasing Day" Daylen is the shy cellist who falls in love with her best friend who also happens to be the popular quarterback.

Giveaway Alert

From February 8-14, the intersection of Valentine’s Day and Black History month, check out one of these romances at a discounted price and enter for your chance to win a giveaway basket that includes a Kindle, along with a few quintessential romance novels featuring black heroines, and a gift certificate for the beauty and cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter!

Takeaway Truth

Remember, to find these romance novels featuring African American heroines, to get a free excerpt book, and to enter the giveaway, visit When Black Women Fall.

When Black Women Fall: Romance Novels Starring African American Heroines

Today we're visiting again with my friend Ines Johnson and her friends and fellow authors of the romance promotional tour: When Black Women Fall.

Organized by Heartspell Media, an author cooperative and independent publishing company, When Black Women Fall is a week long promotional tour of romance novels featuring African American heroines in the contemporary, historical, paranormal, new adult, and erotica genres.

Romance novels are increasingly featuring heroes and heroines of color, from Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series to Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series.

As society and its citizens increase in diversity so does the market. With more and more authors bypassing publishers and uploading these colorful romances on their own, readers, hungry for diversity in romance novels, now have a buffet of books to choose from.

On this tour, you will find that when black women fall in love it’s a sign of the times in these contemporary offerings. To find the books below, get a free excerpt book, and enter the giveaway, visit When Black Women Fall

In Farrah Rochon's "All You Can Handle" love was the last thing professional pastry chef Sonny White was looking for, but she finds it in a sleepy town with a motorcycle riding hottie.

In Lena Hart's "Because You Love Me" when an old desire is reawakened Sabrina will discover that even an imperfect love can triumph over all.

In Xio Axelrod's "Falling Stars" Hollywood actress' Val Saunders finds her career skyrocketing which makes her real-life attraction to her on-screen love interest come at the worst possible time.

In Ines Johnson's "Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story" having given up on fairytales after falling for her toad of an ex, Pumpkin is afraid to take a chance on a prince charming who comes to her rescue.

In Kim Golden's "Maybe Baby" Laney must choose between the man who offers her financial security and the one who makes her mind and body sing.

In Victoria H. Smith's "The Space Between" Lacey has dreams of the opera, but life has its obstacles, namely a man who lights a fire inside of her that challenges everything she thought she wanted.

In Harper Miller's "Entwined" there's everything you’d want in an erotic romance quick read including a plot twist you certainly won’t expect.

In Christina C. Jones’s “Inevitable Conclusions” Friends? Lovers? Both? For Kora and Tariq, those lines have been blurred for a long time.

Giveaway Alert

From February 8-14, the intersection of Valentine’s Day and Black History month, check out one of these romances at a discounted price and enter for your chance to win a giveaway basket that includes a Kindle, along with a few quintessential romance novels featuring black heroines, and a gift certificate for the beauty and cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter!

Takeaway Truth

Remember, to find these romance novels featuring African American heroines, to get a free excerpt book, and to enter the giveaway, visit When Black Women Fall.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday

Oh, this isn't a real holiday? My mistake.

Sure seems like it is with all the air time devoted to it and a full week of super bowl mania clogging up CBS at night.

Takeaway Truth

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm going to go watch the rest of the game with my darling hubby.

Vote For Best Book Covers

The JABBIC Readers' Choice (that's Judge A Book By Its Cover) is open to the public.

The JABBIC bookseller judges have had their say. Now it's time for you to have yours.

Fire up your laptop, tablet, or phone and browse to the JABBIC Readers Choice page to start logging your votes. It's easy and fast--and anonymous. (But you probably want to be on a broadband connection. We load up all the entries in each category on a single page.)

Just click the genre category at the top and prepare to be wowed. Don't be shy. If you love a cover, give it a 5. If it doesn't quite turn you on, score it as a 1.

This contest is great if you're trying to figure out what makes an appealing cover since it is judged by booksellers who probably see thousands of covers every year. Their winners will be announced after the public has voted.

If you're thinking about hiring your own cover designer, keep an eye out for the cover artist's name because they're there too. When you contact a designer, be sure to let them know you spotted them in the JABBIC!

The Readers' Choice judging will be open until midnight, February 12.

I'll announce the winners when they are made public so you can see how your selections stacked up against the booksellers' choices.

Takeaway Truth

This is a great contest for readers who have firm opinions about what they like in covers and for authors who want to see what the competition sports. Check it out and remember to vote.

Reviews of Ebook Promotion Sites

Which Ebook Promotion Websites are worth what they charge? Have you wondered that as you click to pay?

Author Sharon Karaa has put together an Excel spreadsheet that will help you figure out which websites are more than a crap shoot.

I'm pleased to say that Sharon isn't jealousy guarding the information.

She's offering to share her analysis with the world. In fact, she's giving the ebook Promotion Sites Review File free to everyone who asks!

Help Her Keep Doing This

Yes, she's offering the January file free, but please click that PayPal donation button on her website and kick in at least $1.00 if only to encourage her to keep doing this. Trust me, I've reviewed the spreadsheet, and it's worth a lot more than $1.00! In fact, I paid $25.00 last year for a similar analysis that turned out to be not very good.

What You Get

The spreadsheet of 125+ ebook promotion sites gives the kind of information you need to make informed decisions about where to spend your advertising bucks.
  • ALEXA rankings which show how popular a website is. The lower the score the better.
  • the number of followers on the most popular social media
  • the price
  • even her ROI she achieved within the last 12 months.
Based on the data she analyzed, she also provides recommendations and categorizes them as:
  • Primary Sites where there is a definite return on investment, time after time.
  • Free Sites where there are free options for advertising so there's nothing to lose.
  • Test ROI Sites where the Alexa ranking or the number of followers on social media sites is enough to make it an interesting site to test.
Like I said, she plans to do this every month if enough people are willing to pay $1.00 a month, but this first spreadsheet is absolutely free.

Please feel free to share this post with everyone in the known universe. You'll find more information at her website and on the page featuring the spreadsheet.

Find Sharon Karaa Online

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Pinterest

Takeaway Truth

Authors, in a highly competitive environment, it pays to advertise. But only if the advertising is effective. That's what this spreadsheet is about. A way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Get it today.

Small Presses vs. Big Publishers by Diana Rubino

Many authors wonder if writing for small presses versus the big traditional publishing houses holds any benefits. Diana Rubino dropped by this morning to talk about this and also to tell us about one of her books.

Diana Rubino, In Her Own Words

My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. My urban fantasy romance, Fakin' It, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society, and the Aaron Burr Association. I live on Cape Cod with my husband Chris. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, play my piano and devour books of any genre.

Find Diana Online: Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter

Small Presses vs. the “Big Houses” – Something for Everybody
by Diana Rubino

Writing for a small press can be a stepping stone to a career leap—or it can be your entire career. Since no author can plan on a best-selling career with a big house, pitching to the small presses can be your ticket to publication.

The independent “indie” publishers are much more willing to take chances on new writers and cultivate their talents. Sure, their bottom line is important, as it is to any for-profit business, but they don’t have the time constraints the big houses have.


This gives their editors the luxury of taking more time to work with authors, and spend much more one-on-one time with them on technical details such as point of view, character consistency, and basic grammatical and style issues. Small presses also accept unagented material, so authors can avoid the Catch-22 of not being able to land an agent because they’ve not yet established a track record.

POD and Local Bookstores

Most likely, your small press book will be POD (print on demand) which means a copy will be printed only when a customer orders one. It’s up to the author to visit his/her local bookstores to get to know the manager and staff. This kind of networking will result in some stores ordering a few dozen copies of the author's book, arrange for a signing, and give your books a valuable promotional push.

Author As Promotions Director

Most small presses run on tight budgets, and the author must take the necessary time and funds to finance a promotion; i.e., costs of designing a website and keeping it current, ads on internet sites such as BTS Book Reviews  and BookDaily, business cards, bookmarks and other giveaways, travel expenses to signings and conventions, etc.

My Backstory

I always like to inspire aspiring authors by telling my unique story: I received my first publishing contract 18 years after writing my first novel. I believe it was my ninth written novel that became my first novel–the first that got published, with British publisher Domhan Books, a small press.

At the time I signed my first contract, it was the fastest-growing publisher in the U.S. Unfortunately, the owner suffered health problems and could no longer actively run the company, but my five-year tenure there earned me many rave reviews and a Romantic Times Top Pick award.

I never gave up on my dream of that big house contract, but continued submitting to small presses, eventually landing contracts with Dreams Unlimited, Stardust Press, Eternal Press, The Wild Rose Press, Solstice Publishing, and Sarah Publishing. Although my agent is currently submitting my most recent works to the big houses, the small presses have been very good to me.

I’ve had my backlist republished with Solstice Publishing and The Wild Rose Press, and I do promotional offers such as offering my Ebooks at discounted prices on significant dates, i.e., the anniversary of the Lincoln assassination or the end of Prohibition. The promo I do with Twitter, Goodreads and the author/reader groups on Yahoo have brought me reviews and sales that I’m happy with.

My editors at The Wild Rose Press and Solstice Publishing are among the best editors I’ve ever worked with. They make my work sparkle. There’s a lot of talent out there in the small press world, and I advise any aspiring author to submit to them, because they offer great opportunities to start your writing career on the right path.

Choose Wisely

A few caveats to look out for are the vanity presses, which require that authors pay to have their books published. Some writers decide to go this route and self-publish. Of course some of these books have become best sellers. But make sure you choose a royalty-paying publisher if you don’t wish to go the self-published route.

Small presses have always been around, but with the miracle of the internet, many more are thriving, and authors have the choice of a great variety of outlets for their work. Some specialize in certain genres. You need to do your research to find the best fit for your work. But never before have authors had such a wide range of publishers; something for every taste.

Now that the Kindle and other E-book readers have come down in price and their sales are increasing, E-book sales have exploded. E-books have been around since the 90s, but never before have they been so popular. With the outlets that small presses have to offer, so many more writers than ever before can now share their talents with the world, which shrinks more and more every day!

From Here to Fourteenth Street, Diana's Latest Book

It's 1894 on New York's Lower East Side. Irish cop Tom McGlory and Italian immigrant Vita Caputo fall in love despite their different upbringings. Vita goes from sweatshop laborer to respected bank clerk to reformer, helping elect a mayor to beat the Tammany machine. While Tom works undercover to help Ted Roosevelt purge police corruption, Vita's father arranges a marriage between her and a man she despises. As Vita and Tom work together against time and prejudice to clear her brother and father of a murder they didn't commit, they know their love can survive poverty, hatred, and corruption.


Diana is giving away 1 Kindle edition of From Here to Fourteenth Street to anyone who can name the bridge in the book cover art. Winner chosen randomly by Diana. Post your answer here because we'd all like to know. Then to be entered to win, email your answer to: Diana @ DianaRubino.com.

Add From Here to Fourteenth Street to Your Library: The Wild Rose Press * Amazon Kindle
* Amazon Paperback

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Diana, for sharing this information. Readers, below is a free LIVE preview from Amazon of From Here to Fourteenth Street. Just scroll down and click Read Preview.

5 Online Tools You Need

I've got 5 online tools that will help you just about every day.

Online Character Count Tool

You know all those forms you fill out online? Most of them are limited to a specific character count. This tool makes eliminates the guesswork. Just paste in the text. It will give you character count, word count, sentence count, and white space count.

Random Name Picker

Need to pick a name for a giveaway? Just enter them in the form, and the picker will randomly select the winner.

Google Translate

I use this a lot. Most recently, I used it to assist in the production of my video promoting my French language novels. See the video, Célébrer l'amour avec des romans de Joan Reeves that's Celebrate love with novels by Joan Reeves, on YouTube or on the blog's video page.

Release Countdown

Post a countdown widget on your website or blog for a book release or other event. Easy app gives you the code to paste in.

Infinite Looper

If you like to write scenes to music, this website is fantastic. Search for a song, and it pulls up a list of videos. Select one, and Infinite Looper will play it over and over.

Takeaway Truth

There are many wonderful aspects of the Internet like these websites that actually help you.

Writing Reality No. 6: Even After Success, You May Get Knocked Down

During the first few weeks of the New Year, I'm posting about some writing realities or truths you should recognize if you want a career as a writer. Previously posted:
Today's Writing Reality Number 6: Even after you have a successful book, you'll still get knocked down.

It would be nice to believe that once you have a publishing contract, or agent representation, or a hugely popular book, that the rest of your career will be smooth sailing.Sorry. This is as far from the truth as anything I can imagine.

You'll still get rejected by publishers or agents or reviewers or readers. Yes, you'll still have books that flounder when you've tried your best to write a page-turning bestseller and have marketed your little heart out.

No one succeeds 100% of the time with 100% of everything he or she writes. Sometimes, there's no rhyme or reason why one book takes off and others don't.

Never pin your hopes on a problem-free career. Markets change. Readers' appetites change. Competition increases. You'll be crushed by the reality of the situation if you're not careful.

Instead, keep your eyes open, and your mind alert to ever-changing markets and trends. Always strive to improve. Never be satisfied with "good enough."

Takeaway Truth

Every professional, regardless of the career field, must learn to roll with the punches if you are to survive.