Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Rocky Road

 
rocky road



Today I am happy to be part of the blog tour for Rocky Road by Josi Kilpack.  This is a continuation of the Sadie Hofmiller cozy mystery series and I have to say, I think this might be my new favorite one.  Sadie has come a long way in this journey and her last adventure on the cruise ship has left her worn out.  She's meeting her friend Caro for a girls' weekend in St. George, Utah, when Caro presents her with a mysterious disappearance of a local doctor.  Caro wants to investigate it, especially when she comes across some evidence that the police might not have all the information they need, but surprisingly, Sadie says no.  She just wants to turn the evidence over to the police and be done with it.  Until she meets the man's ex-wife and kids at his memorial service.  She promises only to get involved until the police call them back, but then, in true Sadie fashion, she is drawn into unraveling another mystery.

The thing I liked the most about this book is how easy it was to see how Sadie has grown. She's not impetuous anymore and knows the ins and outs of working a case, letting the police in on what she's doing, and how far is too far.  I love the new side of Sadie and it didn't detract at all from the mystery, only making me work harder to figure it out.  And I have to say it sounds so silly, but there's someone in the book who is mean to Sadie, and I felt oddly protective of Sadie!  I really do love her character. (And yes, I know she's fictional!)

This mystery had it all, great twists and turns, a great supporting cast (I love Caro!) and even though Pete doesn't make an appearance we still get a zing! every time Sadie thinks of him.  (Awwww.)  I really do think this is Kilpack's best book yet, although there is a sneak peek of her next novel in the back that looks just as good.  I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in the series!

Here's the back copy:

Rocky Road It was supposed to be a girls’ weekend in scenic St. George, Utah that would include shopping, trying out the local cuisine, and participating in a breast cancer fundraiser. The fact that one of the organizers of the fundraising event, a local doctor, disappeared two months ago was not supposed to be Sadie’s problem. In fact, she refuses to participate in the grassroots investigation her friend Caro, and Caro’s cousin, Tess, have put together prior to her arrival. But then she meets the ex-wife of the missing doctor. How could she not ask a few questions . . . that lead to a few more questions . . . that lead to a small town and yet even more questions. Before she knows it, Sadie is in the middle of yet another murder investigation and trying to piece together a convoluted trail of good intentions, hidden motivations, and philanthropy turned big business.
 
Rocky Road

Author Josi S. Kilpack Born and raised in Salt Lake City Utah, I met my husband in high-school--well, he wasn't my husband then, just the cute guy in weight training with the permed mullet--and we married in 1993. I wrote my first book while on bed rest with my third child and have gone on to publish 20 novels, the most recent being part of The Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series. I currently live in Willard, Utah with my husband, children, and cat.  
 
Culinary Mysteries by Josi Kilpack
culinary mysteries

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Recap and Review of Hawaii Five-O Season Premiere

Now THAT was a season premiere.

We started right where we ended last season with Steve visiting Wo Fat in the maximum security prison. Unknown people are breaking in to kill Wo Fat so Steve saves him by hiding behind a pillar and when they enter, he goes Jack Bauer on them and kills them all.  The next shot is of him dragging a guy through a hall, barking orders to Danny on what to do with Wo Fat because Steve's going to question the one guy who's still breathing.  (On an artistic note, that was a well put together scene, too, with the lights crackling, the music, and Steve's face. Very balanced and visually stunning.)

When Danny finally makes it to the interrogation room, he's brought a clean shirt for Steve.  So thoughtful. They talked about something during the shirt change, but I can't remember what. (Maybe I'll have to watch that part again to clear that up.)  Chin figures out the guy they're interrogating is part of the NLM terrorist group and they're probably getting payback for when Five-O thwarted the San Francisco attack. More NLM people break into the Palace and take a bunch of hostages. Since my new series of novels is about a Hostage Negotiation Team, I've done a ton of research on hostages, hostage-takers, and law enforcement who deal with it, and what they did onscreen was amazing and actually quite realistic, which I loved.  (Did anyone else go awww when Kamekona wanted to go in because he had ohana in there?)  

Steve is trying to treat the bleeding man they've been questioning, administering CPR while Danny tells him about his "moment" with Gabby that never happened. Steve's all, what, were you going to tell her you love her? And Danny says, Maybe.  Then Steve says something very telling.  "Maybe you should be sure.  Saying that is serious and something you can't take back."  I loved that.  He doesn't take 'I love you' lightly and you KNOW that when he finally says those words, it will mean something to him.  *le sigh*

Steve brings the guy back to life, but someone is coming.  That sets it up for probably one of the ickiest/cool things I've seen on TV in a while.  The hostage-taker's minion comes into the room and the bleeding guy is propped up in the doorway.  The minion steps forward and is shot FROM THE BULLET HOLE the bleeding guy already has and there is actually a frame of Steve removing the gun barrel from the hole. Ew and awesome all at once.  Steve, Danny, and bleeding guy end up having to go upstairs so more hostages don't get shot. Steve and Danny are made to kneel and the main hostage-taker puts a gun to their head, saying he knows it's not just the two of them. (How? These two are pretty incredible all on their own.)  Chin comes down and joins them.  (And Chin was amazing all night, luring one of the terrorists upstairs and taking him out. Love action Chin!)

But there's a twist.  Main hostage-taker guy goes over and shoots bleeding guy everyone thought they were rescuing.  Then all the hostage-takers surrender.  The look on everyone's face was probably the same look I had on mine.  What just happened?  

They all come out with the hostages (Chin carrying a wounded woman, aww).  Steve's phone rings and he sees it's Catherine and answers with, "Catherine, we're fine."  A male accented voice says he's glad to hear that. Steve's face practically turns to stone.  "Where's Lt. Rollins?"  Of course the NLM have her and want Steve to give back the terrorists he just captured in exchange for Catherine.  Catherine shouts to Steve not to do it and gets punched and kicked for her trouble.  Steve is listening to her cries through the phone and says this only ends one way, with the guy who's taken Catherine dead. Yeah, bad move NLM guy.

While Steve is on the phone with the terrorist, he gives Danny a look and he comes right over, knowing something is wrong.  They head out and their "cargument" is more "what are we doing?" and ends with Steve's admission that "I lost my father dealing with people like this I'm not going to lose Catherine, too." *le sigh* He was helpless in the situation with his father, and even though he's feeling a bit of that now, he's determined to save her.  They overtake the van with the terrorists in it, take down the new SWAT guy, and the terrorists are free to take the Camaro. *sniff*  Poor Camaro.

Once that's done Steve finds out where Catherine is and they head there.  He gets out of the SWAT van calling her name and when she isn't immediately found, he's yelling her name.  He throws his hand up to Danny in frustration, saying they said she'd be right here and Danny tries to calm him with, we'll find her, come on.  They search a bit longer and then Danny sees her in the gully below them.  Steve practically runs down that hill calling for her.  He reaches her, frees her hands, asking her if she's all right, obvious relief on his face to see her in front of him. Danny asks if she's okay and she says she's good before Steve enfolds her in his arms. It almost sounds like she's saying, "I was so . . ." but then her face is in his shoulder and he's pressing her to him.  They stand there, holding each other, his hand cradling her head, and it is a sigh-worthy moment. (Steve McGarrett is a good hugger.)  He asks her several times (four) if she's all right, reassuring himself by looking over her wounds.  She's worried about what he had to do to secure her release and he's all, "Come on, I wasn't going to lose you."  So much feeling behind those words and honestly the emotion was the best part of this whole scene.  Alex O'Loughlin and Michelle Borth were amazing and seriously SOLD IT.  I love them together.

They find the burned out Camaro (sad) and the SWAT guy catches up with them.  Steve mentions that they do things differently in Hawaii, (ha!) and they realize that the terrorists are using a helicopter and probably went over to Aloha stadium.  There is a really great car rollover and most of the terrorists die inside, but one is missing.  As soon as they say that, Catherine says, "Where's Steve?" And of course he's chasing the missing terrorist.  They all hear the gunfire and it's like, "oh there's Steve."  Haha. 

Steve shoots the terrorist heading for the helicopter, but his goons manage to load him on the helicopter and take off.  Steve grabs on and pulls himself up (hats off to Alex O'Loughlin, since he really did grab that helicopter) and McGarrett gives a new meaning to flying takedown.  When everyone is taken care of in the air, Steve manages to land safely and the team surrounds him.  They all head off to get a drink together after discussing whether they're going to have trouble with the new SWAT guy.  (Ya think?)

The ending sequence is of Steve boarding a plane with Wo Fat being held in a cage in the middle of it.  He asks Wo Fat about his connection to Steve's mother and ends up slamming his head against the bars to get a blood sample.  He wants answers, but I really really hope that one of the answers isn't that Wo Fat is related to Steve because I would hate that.  

Danny and Chin are trying to reconstruct the computer and find out that Kono's location has been compromised.  Chin calls her, but it's too late, gunman are already there.  Dun, dun, dun.  

This was one of the best season premieres I've seen yet and I can't wait to see what the rest of the season has in store.  It's like watching a mini-action movie every week with explosions, stunts, emotion, connection. For this girl, Hawaii Five-0 really delivered last night.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Freebie

Well, today I want to tell you about a novella that I got free!

It's The Daisy Chain, An Aliso Creek novella.  It's part of a series, but you don't have the read the books in order and I loved the characters I've read so far.  This is the only one I haven't read, and I'm excited to sit down and see what happens with Jess.

So I am passing this along to you, in case you enjoy a sigh-worthy romance that you can read in one sitting.
Click here for the Kindle link to get your free copy.

Here's the back copy:

Can true love strike twice in a lifetime?

Welcome to the Aliso Creek Novella Series...

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone... if perfect is even possible.

Actually, Jess Giles has found her perfect match, but since Charlie is several years older than she, they never have a moment of harmony from his adult kids who protest the marriage. When Charlie dies in a tragic accident, his kids add insult to injury and sue Jess for her share of the inheritance. The only person Jess trusts for financial advice is Charlie’s financial planner, Preston Michaels. Just talking to Preston on the phone makes Jess feel flustered, yet strangely comfortable at the same time, so she puts off meeting him for as long as possible. When Jess has to attend the formal hearing, she’s about to find out if the man she’s been talking to over the phone for several months lives up to the voice that she’s grown attached to.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Announcement & Some Whining

I found out today that my novel Ashes Ashes was nominated for a Whitney Award!  Since I am in the midst of crazy edits that are KILLING ME, this was welcome news.

Okay, that's exaggerating a bit.  They won't kill me, but I did think about killing off the characters that are causing me the most aggravation. Ha!  As you all know, I'm in the final stage for editing Pocket Full of Posies and I'm so excited to share this book with you, but I want it to be perfect.  I added a new scene and an epilogue, which caused some ripples that have to be smoothed.  Hopefully all this effort will be worth it in the end, though, and you will love the story of Bart and Lucy.  Can't wait to show it to you!

Thanks for being so patient with me during this stressful last stage right before the book comes out.  I appreciate all my bloggy friends so much!  Let's have a big party when this is done, k?  I'll bring the chocolate (if there's any left by then.) Ha!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We're Sprinting!

Yeah, here I am again. I hope someone else is here with me, too!

Check in at 8:15 and tell me in the comments how you did.

Ready, Set, GO!!

McRoll Fic #3---The Long Awaited Dinner

This is meant to be after the episode where Steve came to get Catherine from Kamekona’s shrimp truck, dressed in a tux and he carried her away for a romantic dinner.  Hope you like it, my McRoll friends!

As always, this is just for fun.  No copyright infringement is intended.

The Long Awaited Dinner

Steve carried her to the car and set her down.  Taking a handkerchief out of his pocket, he pulled it lengthwise.

“What are you doing?” Catherine asked, quirking an eyebrow.

He put the cloth over her eyes and turned her slightly to tie it in the back.  “I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

He opened the car door and helped her in.  When she could feel him in the driver’s seat next to her, she held her hand to the blindfold.  “Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise,” he repeated, starting the car.  "You'll like it."

“I don’t think I’m really dressed to go anywhere, you know.” 

He leaned over, his breath tickling her ear.  “Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of everything.”

She shivered.  He usually did take care of everything.  She sat back in her seat, smiling.  He reached for her hand and intertwined his fingers with hers, letting his thumb caress her knuckles.  Butterflies in her middle sprang to life at his touch and she leaned closer.  “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet.”  He braked, slowing the car down a bit and she could tell they were leaving a paved road.  Where was he taking her?

She didn’t ask that question again, deciding to go along with his “surprise.” “Well, if nothing else, I’m thankful there’s no 80s hair bands playing on the radio.”

“Tonight is all about romance.”  He lifted her hand to his lips.  “Relax.”

The car stopped and Catherine tilted her head upward, trying to peek out the bottom of her blindfold.  Nothing.  He’d tied it too tight to see anything.  “Now what?”

“Wait there.”  She heard his door open and shut, then felt her own open seconds later. 

Before she could blink, he’d lifted her out of the car.  “Steve, I can walk,” she protested, starting to take off the blindfold.

“Don’t take it off,” he commanded, shifting her in his arms.

“Okay, but only because you said please.”  She slipped her arms around his neck, as a chuckle rumbled through his chest. 

“Please.”

His voice was husky and he held her tighter when he said it.  She sighed.  The way he’d walked toward her in the tux ran through her mind.  The man had a swagger about him that was nearly irresistible.  She relaxed in his arms.  This was a side to him that she loved and she was going to enjoy every second.

From the sounds around her, they weren’t in a restaurant.  Or, if they were, it was outside dining.  Wind rustled through the trees and every now and then a branch or something would crunch under Steve’s feet.  Even knowing that, she felt safe and secure in his arms.  She kissed his neck, deciding to make the best of her position while they walked.  She worked her way up to his jaw, her lips touching every inch she could, simultaneously running one hand through his hair. 

“Catherine,” he warned after a few seconds.  “We have this history of not making it to dinner.  If you keep going like that, I can’t make any promises.”

“Why break a good streak?” she murmured against his ear.  The blindfold was definitely heightening her other senses.  His arms around her, his body balancing her weight so easily.  Her free hand moved over his upper body, slipping underneath the layer of his suit jacket to his shirt, reveling in the feel of him under her palm.  He slowed to a near stop.

“What about dinner?” The question meant he was considering her words and it made the butterflies in her middle start up again.  “We’re almost there you know.”

“If I go along with your dinner plans, will it be worth my while?” she asked, playfully, wishing she could see his face.

“Definitely.”

“I’m trusting you on this one.”  She could hear more crunching leaves and the rush of a waterfall as he started walking again, a little faster than before.  It was obvious now he’d opted for a dinner outside, which was totally him.  He loved the outdoors. 

“Are you ready for this?”

“I think so.”  Finally, he put her down, keeping her close to him with his arm around her waist.  He took the blindfold off and she sucked in a breath.

“Steve, this is beautiful.”  A table with candles and food was all set for two on the banks of a waterfall and pond.  A waiter stood smiling next to it.  She smiled back at him, but before she could say anything else a violinist began to play, coming out of the trees to her left. 

Steve led her to the table, watching her reaction.  “I had it catered from your favorite restaurant.” 

She looked at all the food laid out, so touched at all the effort he'd gone to for her.  “All the way out here? How did you . . .?”

“I called in a few favors.  I wanted to take you to one of the most beautiful places on the island.  Well, to me anyway.  And you said you wanted a table.  With a waiter.  Romantic music.”  He waved toward the waiter and violinist to make his point, before he pulled out her chair.  The waiter handed her a cloth napkin as she sat down. 

When Steve sat down right next to her, she leaned over to kiss him.  “I love it,” she breathed out. 

He sat back a bit to unbutton his jacket, a sexy smile on his face.  “I knew you would.”

“Oh, you did?”  She raised her eyebrows.  "You're that sure of me?"

He leaned across the table, his blue eyes holding hers.  “I know you, Catherine.”

Yes, he does.  She curled her toes as his hand reached for hers, caressing her palm.  She couldn’t take her eyes off that smile and his warm hand on hers was making her all melty inside. 

The waiter’s voice startled her.  “Ma’am.”  He took the lid off the food, but she barely noticed.  Steve’s hand was moving up her arm and her pulse was beginning to pound.

“Thank you,” Steve said when the waiter was finished.  “I don’t think we’ll be needing anything else.” 

She grinned, his thoughts obviously mirroring hers.  The violinist was still playing behind them, his notes floating above them to the star-studded sky.  “It’s so beautiful here,” she managed to get out as he moved closer, his hand traveling to her shoulder and over to her neck.  Everywhere he touched lit a fire, leaving a burning trail behind. 

“I like to come here when I need to think.”  His thumb moved over her jawline.  “I’ve wanted to bring you here for a while.”  He leaned in and she could smell the scent that was uniquely Steve McGarrett.  Clean.  Outdoors. Masculine.  She closed her eyes as he kissed her forehead, her cheek, and worked his way over to her ear.  “Are you still hungry?”

She smiled and turned his face back to hers, hovering a breath away from his lips.  "Oh yeah."  

That was all it took.  He pulled her into his lap, nearly toppling over the table.  His kiss was hard, intense, and she returned it, running her fingers through his hair, and pressing him closer to her.

“Steve, you worked so hard on our dinner,” she whispered, suddenly wondering where the violinist had gone. The only sound around them now was the waterfall, the only light, the stars above and the candles on the table.  It sent delicious shadows over them both.

He pushed her hair back and tucked it behind her ear.  “We always seem to have a hard time making it to the dinner part.”  

His hand slid over her back and she smiled before she bent to kiss him again.  “Why mess with a good thing?”

Want to read some of my other McRoll fanfics?  

Click here for Breathless

Click here for Let's Go Home

Click here for Safe Harbor

Click here for Always


Word Count Wednesday

Well, it was actually a really good week for me.  I added about 2000 words to the manuscript and have one more edit to go through and we are DONE.  Yeah, baby.

I am going to do another sprint tonight and I hope you can join me.  I'm still not going for massive word counts or anything, just getting my butt in the chair and working steadily for one hour.  It's motivating to have a set time, so I will be here at 8 p.m. MST. Come!

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review of Castle Season 6 Premiere

There were so many things to love about this premiere.  Let's get started.

Of course we picked up right where we left off last season, with Castle and Beckett on the swings and then he gets down on one knee (awwww) and proposes.  Funniest reaction ever was Beckett, "you're proposing!"  and Castle's "You seem surprised by that."  Haha.  I loved how she said yes and he said he couldn't imagine his life without her.  Love, love, love.  They said they'd try to work it out with her new job in D.C.

Then we jump ahead two months.  A heart-stopping chase scene that ends in Beckett's shooting.  All part of her training, thankfully.  No more shooting Beckett for reals.  She's feeling bad about not realizing the hostage wasn't really a hostage, and we are introduced to her new partner, boss, etc.  Doesn't have the same feel as the 12th and I miss that camaraderie.  Meanwhile, back in New York, Castle comes home from his book tour to find Alexis has brought home a boyfriend named Pi (funniest line of the night was Pi to Castle: "that whole spelling thing stifles creativity."  Haha!)  Anyway, we then find out that Caskett haven't seen each other in six weeks and Beckett has to cancel their romantic weekend.

Oddly, Castle seems a bit concerned about the new boyfriend staying at his home, but he hops a plane to see Beckett.  Whatever, I guess. He can't resist getting involved in Beckett's case, even though it's classified and is against the law for him to even know about.  He gets her in trouble with her new partner and promises to back off.  Only the damage has been done and the bad guy has seen Castle with the Feds, so he kidnaps him.  (Second funniest line of the night, when the bad guy collapses while driving and Castle is shouting 10 and 2, TEN AND TWO!)  Haha, any parent who's ever taught a teen to drive has shared that sentiment.

The bad guy dies and Castle is questioned by Beckett's boss.  Of course, he gets Beckett into more trouble and goes home to New York. Pi is in his kitchen making papaya steaks because he's a fruitarian.  LOL Castle does go down to the station to talk to the guys and that was the second worst thing about the episode, is how little Ryan and Esposito we got (although Ryan swaddling the doll was funny) and no Lanie at all.  Esposito fills in the blank a bit when he gives an insight into Dreamland (mentioned by the bad guy before he died), that it's a secret military ghost base of some sort.  It sounded awesome for this writer anyway.

Castle googles Dreamland and then two federal agents come and take him away.  He gets taken to the same interrogation room he was in earlier and Beckett comes in looking pretty grim.  She pulls a chair over to him and tells him that the real thing stolen was a chemical agent and that's what the driver died of.  And Castle was exposed.  He's got enough of it in his bloodstream, that he's going to die in 24 hours.  End show.

WORST THING EVER!!!  You know how I hate cliffhangers and to have one on the season premiere was HORRIBLE.  We waited all summer and that's what we get?  No bueno.

So, to sum up, I liked all the action, the twists and turns of the case, Beckett being on point and proving herself without Castle.  I like where they're at with their relationship.

I didn't like the cliffhanger ending, new characters that weren't that relatable, feeling like Castle had nothing to do except get Beckett in trouble and try to see her, (it was definitely more of a Beckett-centric ep), I just miss their gelling together on a case, if you know what I mean, and barely any Ryan/Espo/No Lanie.  I wonder if they'll try to merge the two locations or some of the characters somehow?  How long are we in D.C.?

What did you think of the episode? Did it meet your expectations?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Double Book Review: My Own Mr. Darcy & Not Even Once Club

I apologize for the late post, but Blogger is having issues with me today! What a nightmare.  Ugh. 

I have two books I want to tell you about today.  The first one is a children's book Not Even Once written By Wendy Watson Nelson.  (Fun fact: She went to school with my mom in Canada!)

It's about a little boy who moves to a new town and is invited to a neighborhood treehouse.  He climbs up and the kids tell him about their club and, if he passes a test, they'll give him membership in the club.  The test is about the Word of Wisdom and making decisions about what you will or won't take into your body even if people are pressuring you.  Then he's given a scroll with other promises of things he won't do "Not even once."

I read this book with my five year old and she didn't really get it.  She liked the pictures a lot, though, and once I explained to her what some of the promises meant, she agreed with what they were saying.  My ten year old got more out of it, and the discussion questions in the back were helpful.  It's more like a story I'd use in Family Home Evening as a visual aid than a bedtime story I'd read over and over.  Great artwork and a good teaching concept for sure.

Here's the back copy:

The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them. Not even once.


Children will meet Tyler, an energetic boy who is excited to make new friends in his Primary class. They have invited Tyler to join their special club, but first he has to pass the test and keep the club promise.


With illustrations from bestselling illustrator Brandon Dorman, The Not Even Once Club is a fun and engaging way for parents to help teach their children the importance of keeping the commandments. Included in the back of the book are additional teaching helps for parents and leaders.

About the Author

Wendy Watson Nelson holds a Ph.D. in family therapy and gerontology. Prior to her marriage to Elder Russell M. Nelson, she was a professor of marriage and family therapy for twenty-five years. Sister Nelson has served as a stake Relief Society president, stake Primary president, and chaired theBYU Women’s Conference. Currently, she is an institute instructor and visiting teacher. Sister Nelson was born in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, to Leonard David and Laura Byrde McLean Watson.

 

About the Illustrator

Brandon Dorman is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestsellerThe Wizard. He graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he studied fine art and illustration. He and his wife, Emily, have three children and live in Washington, where he enjoys working as a freelance illustrator. His work has appeared in children’s books and on numerous covers, including Pingo, The Candy Shop War, and the Fablehaven series. See more of Brandon Dorman’s artwork at BrandonDorman.com



The other book I want to tell you about is My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White.  When I first started reading it, I was immediately drawn to the main character Elizabeth.  She was funny and quirky, but knew what she wanted.  I also liked that she was "real" in the way that she was confident enough in herself to not be ashamed she worked at a bank and liked to wear her own "look" with colorful tights.

The best part of the book was the romance, though.  At first I was thinking, oh man, I hope this isn't going to be a lame triangle.  Love triangles only work if both men are viable options.  It didn't look that way at the beginning, just because of the heroine's obsession with Mr. Darcy, but it totally kept me turning pages to see how she got out of the mess she made for herself.  I loved the hero (I won't say who because it might give something away) and there were some really sigh-worthy, romantic moments.  A quick, satisfying read that made me say "awwww" at the end. (It's currently $3.99 on Kindle, just FYI).

Here's the back copy:

After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth’s life changes when Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie falls hard and makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. This ill-advised pledge threatens to ruin any chance of finding true love. During the six intervening years, she has refused to give any interested suitors a chance. They weren’t Mr. Darcy enough.

Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. That guy is Chad, a kind and thoughtful science teacher and swim coach. While she’s dating Chad, her dream comes true in the form of a wealthy bookstore owner named Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. Of course she has to follow her dream. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she’s forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.


Author Karey White

Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist.

She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two Great Reviews to Tell You About!

Yesterday I got two wonderful reviews of All Fall Down and Ashes Ashes and I couldn't wait until Monday to share.

The first one was for All Fall Down from Dawn Allen.  She highlighted me during the Indie-Credible Event and I really enjoyed getting to know her.  She is a very busy woman, but took time out of her schedule to interview and review me and get to know me a bit better.  I'm so glad to have a new writing friend.

I was a little nervous about what she would think of All Fall Down, but she thought Claire being a hostage negotiator was a "unique angle" and was "immediately engaged" since we start in a crisis and "ramp up" the tension from there.  I loved her take on things.  You can read the entire review here  Thanks, Dawn!

The second review was of Ashes Ashes by Genre Book Review.  They had some really great things to say like "straight action" don't know whether to call it "suspenseful romance" or "romantic suspense."  I loved that!  It was a very fair and balanced review of what she did and didn't like and I really enjoyed it.  If you want to see what else she had to say you can read it here  Thank you Lynn!

I am so grateful to reviewers who take the time to read my books and leave reviews.  They are worth their weight in gold!

I hope you're all having a great weekend.  We're gearing up to watch the rivalry game in my state.  Should be fun!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last First Page Friday

It is with some sadness that I announce today is the last First Page Friday.  We have been down in submissions for a while and we didn't have any others for the month.  After consulting with our amazing editors, we came to the conclusion that this feature has run its course.  (We've been doing it for over two years now.) I have learned so much and have been so grateful to the authors who have submitted their work and to Ms. Shreditor, Angela Eschler, and Heidi Brockback.  I really am indebted to these women for donating their expertise to help aspiring authors. I will miss working with them.  

I'm not sure what will replace First Page Friday yet, so if you have any ideas, let me know.  Thank you for being such great bloggy friends.  

See you next week!

The Entry
Untitled
by Kasey Tross

Kate opened her closet door and pulled out the garment bag. She laid it on the big canopy bed and unzipped the front to check its contents, trying to ignore the muffled undertones of the intense conversation going on in her parents' bedroom next door. Half the time she preferred it when they just yelled so she could at least hear which issue they were arguing about.

She pulled out the bib number from her last horse show and tossed it onto her desk, then fished around in the bottom of the bag for the rest of her show clothes. She found them crumpled up with her boot socks inside her black velvet helmet. Catching a whiff of their aroma, she wrinkled her nose, and tossed the bundle into her dry cleaning basket to be sent out the next day. As she zipped up the now empty garment bag she heard a door slam, followed by quick footsteps across the hallway's hardwood floor. Her door flew open and her mother stormed in.

Kate glanced up in surprise as her mother walked right past her into her closet. Kate's leather luggage set began hurtling out of the doorway, and she had to jump out of the way to keep from getting bowled over by the bulky suitcases coming at her.

"Mom, what are you doing?" she asked in alarm.

Her mother marched out of the closet and began picking up the suitcases from the floor and heaving them onto the bed. "Pack," she said. "You need to pack. We're leaving."

"What are you talking about?" Kate asked. "What do you mean we're leaving?"

"We're leaving," her mother repeated. "We're moving out."

Heidi Brockbank from Eschler Editing Comments

First Impressions: 

You’ve got some great elements that have potential for a strong start. The primary one is the fighting parents. That creates instant tension. Young readers will be able to empathize with Kate’s situation, and feel concerned at the situation of a possible divorce or separation. That could definitely get their attention. Kate is also a character with some intriguing personality traits, but with a little creative rearranging, you’ll be able to add more pizzazz to the start of your story. Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Clear up the confusion:

When someone pulls out a garment bag or suitcase, the first thought is that they are packing. So I had to go back over this a few times to get that Kate is actually unpacking. Which was confusing when I thought she was already packing, and then her mother tells her to pack. If Kate is just getting back from a trip, why put the bag away before she unpacks? Or has it been awhile since the last trip and she is just now getting around to unpacking? But that doesn’t track if she needed her horse-riding gear for lessons or practice. So you’ve got some logistical issues to rethink and clarify.

Getting Hooked:

Nothing terribly wrong with your start, but it doesn’t dazzle yet. We’ve got a teenage girl (I’m assuming, but you don’t give much indication, so reader is left to guess) whose antagonist parents apparently are splitting up. That’s inferred. If that’s wrong, you’ve got to clarify things for the reader. We have no idea how old Kate is. Her mom comes in and starts packing for her, which would seem to indicate she is too young to do it for herself, but the tone suggests teenager. There is a sense of too much telling. Kate does this. She does that. The mom storms in. It comes across as rather matter of fact. What you need is something to make us care more about the character and what is happening. In order to make that happen, we need more context, and it would be helpful to get Kate’s thoughts. (The only place we get them right now is in the first paragraph when we get her reaction to her parents’ fighting.)

Capitalize on Your Strengths: 

The first sentence lacks intensity. A better place to start may be with the parent’s arguing. What are they arguing about anyway? You’ve given a hint of Kate’s response—the parents obviously fight a lot, to the point where Kate has gotten a little blasé about the whole business. A fight is a natural curiosity point. Who hasn’t eavesdropped on an argument? If someone in my family is having a fight, everyone else always has ears to doors, trying to figure out what’s up. Why isn’t Kate doing that? If this is a more intense argument than usual, Kate would notice it.

What’s different about this fight that suddenly the parents are quits? Something must be different, because even spouses that are hostile and used to fighting won’t get out of their comfort zone unless there has been some escalation in their hostilities. So you could use that to crank the tension and conflict.

Show and Tell: 

Perhaps you could show more about Kate. Did she win the horse show? Why do her parents fight? Does she think it is about her (whether that’s true or not)? Is it about money? What if they are fighting over her and her horse shows? She is careless with her horse stuff which makes me think that she doesn't really care about it, but that it is more of a burden to her. She tosses her bib on the desk, her clothes are crumpled and dirty for who knows how long. There is also a lot of activity that is unnecessary, when we would rather have Kate’s thoughts: She opened the closet and pulled out the bag, she laid it on the bed, she zipped it back up, etc.

What we do know about her: Kate is a bit sloppy. She left her dirty clothes in a bag in her closet for who knows how long? And yet she has a dry cleaning basket in her room? That is an interesting contradiction. While you don’t want to slow the impact of your opening with too many extraneous details, any information that gives insight into the character or the situation is always helpful at the start. And conveying this information by helping the reader see it through the main character’s eyes is even better.


Next Steps: 

Inject some tension, conflict, and curiosity into the opening, especially the first sentence.

Show more—the parents’ fight would be a good place to start. And give more conflict.

Give us more of Kate’s thoughts and reactions. Give us a better picture of what is happening and why. Have the parents fought her whole life, or is this a more recent development?

Give us more info about Kate. Is she an only child? Does she have siblings? Is she rich? Is money tight, and stuff like the riding lessons has only put a strain on the budget? Besides a bored resignation to her parents’ fights, what else does she feel? Even if your parents have a pretty stable, happy relationship, I’d guess most kids absolutely feel sick when their parents fight. This is a subject I think everyone can identify with Kate with on some level, so use that to your advantage by getting the reader inside Kate’s head and heart and letting them experience her thoughts and feelings.

How else could you start the story? Kate coming in from a riding competition ready to share her victory, only to find her mom has already packed the bags? Kate’s mom picking her up from the airport with her packed bags already in the car? Kate coming home to walk right in on the argument? And maybe pausing in the entry way and hearing some of the confrontation?

Give us more info, period. Unless we know more about Kate, her parents, their conflict, and what spurs the mom to decide to leave, it’s hard to care deeply about the story.

I can see lots of exciting places you could take this opening. Put some of these suggestions in place, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much stronger you can make an already promising start. Good luck and happy writing!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I, Spy Book Blast--Great Prizes, Including a Preview of Pocket Full of Posies!

I am so excited to tell you about Jordan McCollum's book blast today.  I loved her debut novel I, Spy.  It reminded me of my favorite spy show Alias.  Great characters and a story that won't let you put it down. You won't want to miss this one, especially with all the prizes she's offering.  (And the sneak peek of my new novel is there, too.  Awesome!)  Here's all the details:

To save her country and her secrets, CIA operative Talia Reynolds must sacrifice the man she loves—but your choice is much easier! Just buy a copy of I, Spy during the book blast AND receive awesome prizes!









What you have to do

Step 1: Buy the book any day from September 19 to September 22. Any retailer will do! Click here for the Amazon link

Step 2: Email Jordan a copy of the receipt (jordan at jordanmccollum.com). Yes, even if you buy the book from Jordan's site, we need to know you want to receive the freebies.

Step 3: Wait with bated breath.

What you're going to get

EVERYONE who participates gets fabulous prizes, including 13 free books and samples from wonderful authors!

The fabulous prizes!


a free copy of A Body in the Backyard (A Myrtle Clover Mystery) by Elizabeth Spann Craig

a free copy of Rose, Undercover (Dead Roses #1.1) by RaShelle Workman

a free copy of Anasazi Intrigue: The Adventures of John and Julia Evans by Linda Weaver Clarke

a free copy of Writing Your Family Legacy by Linda Weaver Clarke (Isn't she awesome?!)

a free copy of Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston

a free copy of Dead Running by Cami Checketts

a free copy of First Kiss (Confessions of a 16-Year-Old Virgin Lips 1) by Cindy Hogan

a preview of A Change of Plans by Donna K. Weaver

a sneak preview of The Witnesses by Stephanie Black, out next month!






a sneak preview of Pocket Full of Posies (Hostage Negotiation Team #3)
by Julie Coulter Bellon, out next month!


Christmas ornament
an exclusive look at "I'll Cry for Christmas," a short story by Rachelle J. Christensen


a free copy of Mr. Nice Spy (I, Spy Prequels) by Jordan McCollum



PLUS!

An exclusive sneak preview of Spy for a Spy (Spy Another Day #2) by Jordan McCollum

What if I've already bought I, Spy?

First of all, THANK YOU!! If you take a picture of you with your copy of I, Spy (or the cover on your reading device) and post it somewhere public on the Internet— Facebook (or maybe on Jordan's Facebook page), a Tweet, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, sky's the limit—send Jordan the link and you can have these fabulous prizes too!

So spread the word! The more, the merrier!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We Are Sprinting!

All right, friends, (at least I hope there's some friends here tonight) we are sprinting!  I"m mostly here for motivation, so I know my word count won't be great, but I'm in the chair and ready to go.

See you in fifteen!  Ready, Set, GO!!!

Word Count Wednesday

Well, as you all know, I'm neck deep in final edits, but I did think of a scene to add for Bart so that will bring up my word count by a few hundred words for sure.  (Poor Bart.  He's in trouble.)

Anyway, I will be doing a sprint tonight, not for word count per se, but because it motivates me to sit in my chair and do some work.  Plus, I have a babysitter for that hour and I don't want to waste it.  So, if you can come, all the better for me! As always 8 p.m. MST.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Randomness and Theme Songs

I am revising like a madwoman today (the muse has appeared and I must take advantage!)

So, in light of this, I am posting this wacky song that has been going through my head all day as I've been writing.


It's just so sincere and so funny and weird.  I can't stop singing it.  "fish go blub"  And the grandpa in the forest cracks me up every time.

And then I was listening to this song and realized that it pretty much feels like a theme song for Pocket Full of Posies.


I love Imagine Dragons and this song touches something in me.

So there you have it, a peek into my strange creative process today.  What are you listening to?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: The Janitors Series by Tyler Whitesides

 As you all know, we have a Bellon Family Book Club and sometimes it is really hard to find a book that both me and my 11 year old will like, but Tyler Whitesides has solved our problems for us.  We discovered The Janitors series and honestly, it's been a race to get everything done so we can have reading time together.  These books are so good!  Funny, witty, lots of twists and turns in the plot.  Great characters that kids relate to, it's a story that has it all.


Janitors, Book 1: What a great beginning to a series.  Spencer is having some troubles at home and getting bullied in school.  Dez, the bully, writes on his face and Spencer, who's a little particular about cleanliness, goes to get it off and uses special soap.  And then when the soap stops stinging, he starts seeing creatures that roam around the school.  These creatures get into schools and inhale brainwaves of students and exhale things like distraction and apathy. (It started some good convos with me and my son on these topics, too!) There is a rebel underground to stop them, but the monsters and their friends are pretty powerful.  Thankfully a girl named Daisy believes Spencer's story, and after she uses the soap, she can see them too, and helps him try to figure out what to do.  Then the adventure really begins!  I am glad Book 2 was already available, because this one had a bit of a cliffhanger ending. A great beginning to the series for sure.



Janitors, Book 2: Secrets of New Forest Academy

This one had a lot of depth to it and really sucked up deeper into the story.  Spencer finds out that the Bureau of Educational Management wants a package from his missing father and so he's sent to the New Forest Academy.  Unfortunately, the bully Dez is also sent there which adds another stress to poor Spencer. Probably the best thing about the books are the everyday cleaning tools that are turned into weapons. Mops, brooms and toilet plungers have a lot of uses I had never thought of!  When the kids get trapped in the school all sorts of questions come up in their quest to stop the monsters and save education.  (Plus, I just love the ingenuity of the plot.  It's so clever!) This book was so fast-paced and really kept us up way too late just to read one more page.  Loved it.



Janitors, Book 3: Curse of the Broomstaff

To tell you the truth, we haven't quite finished this one yet.  It is SO good and it's easy to see how the characters have grown as they follow the clues that seem to be leading to the big battle between good and evil.  I can't wait to see what happens and neither can my son.  This is such a well-written series, I am thoroughly enjoying myself.  Two thumbs way up.  Highly recommended for anyone who loves middle-grade fantasy or wants to read one with their kids/family.

Here's the back copy:

Janitors, Book 1

No one takes Spencer Zumbro seriously when he tried to warn his classmates about the mysterious things prowling the halls and classrooms of Welcher Elementary School. But when he sees Marv, the janitor, going after one of the creatures with a vacuum, he knows he's not the only one who can see them.


With the help of his new friends, Daisy, Spencer has to find out what the janitors know. The children's search uncovers the magic taking place behind the scenes of their seemingly ordinary school, where a battle is being waged for the minds of the students. Who can be trusted – and can Spencer and Daisy protect their school and possibly the world?


Janitors, Book 2: Secrets of New Forest Academy


No one takes Spencer Zumbro seriously when he tries to warn his classmates about the mysterious things prowling the halls and classrooms of Welcher Elementary School. But when he sees Marv, the janitor, going after one of the creatures with a vacuum, he knows he's not the only one who can see them. With the help of his new friend, Daisy, Spencer has to find out what the janitors know. The children's search uncovers the magic taking place behind the scenes of their seemingly ordinary school, where a battle is being waged for the minds of the students. Who can be trusted – and can Spencer and Daisy protect their school and possibly the world?

Janitors, Book 3: Curse of the Broomstaff

A secret society of Janitors with wizard-like powers continue their battle, and now, the stakes are even higher. The Bureau of Educational Maintenance is after Alan Zumbro and this time they mean business, deadly business. Spencer, Daisy, and their little team of rebels must find the source of all magical Glop and destroy it before it can destroy the world as we know it. No small task with the BEM and their monster toxites at their heels. It s a wild and dangerous ride as they follow the trail of clues all the way to the hiding place of the mysterious aurans: guardians of a secret landfill. What they discover there will change the way Spencer sees himself, not to mention the fate of the rebels.

About the Author

Tyler Whitesides worked as a janitor at an elementary school to put himself through college. He graduated from Utah State University with a degree in music. In addition to writing novels, Tyler is an avid composer and arranger of instrumental music. He and his wife, Connie, who teaches third grade, live in northern Utah.


McRoll Fanfic---A Safe Harbor

A Safe Harbor

During the roller derby episode, after Steve bursts into the office to find Catherine, the thing that struck me is how tired he looked¾bags under the eyes, etc. and that got me thinking.  I bet after their little “fight” he had a sleepless night.  This is how it played out in my mind.  Not as fluffy as Breathless, but I hope my McRoll friends like it.

*These characters do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended. Purely for entertainment purposes*


Steve stared at the ceiling, his mind unwilling to let him sleep.  Why didn’t she tell me?  He turned over and grabbed the other pillow, her pillow, tucking it under him.  It still smelled like Catherine’s shampoo and he inhaled deeply.  He missed her.  Somehow when she was next to him he always slept better, deeper.  Catherine was his safe harbor, but what had happened tonight made everything feel stormy and unsure.  Not something he normally associated with Cath.

He went over the conversation in his mind once more.  There was an incident. I made a promise.  Doris didn’t want you to worry.

Doris.  That was the problem right there.  His mother didn’t know how to tell the truth and probably never had.  Old resentments rushed through him.  Would he ever be able to trust her even a tiny bit?

He groaned and gave up on sleep.  Throwing back the covers, he sat on the edge of his bed to pull on a t-shirt.  Maybe a run on the beach would clear his mind before he confronted Doris.  She was the root of all this and it was time to tell her to stop playing him and using Catherine against him.  He’d had enough.

His feet pounded the sand and the surf until the sun rose in the sky, but it hadn’t helped his mood much. After a quick shower, he looked in the mirror and shook his head.  Rubbing a hand over his stubble, he knew he was tired and it showed.  He couldn’t keep going like this.  He had to get this situation under control. Now.

A few quick phone calls didn’t turn anything up on Doris’ whereabouts, but Chin called to say Catherine had sent over some new info on the case. Steve let out a breath.  He needed to go in to work whether he wanted to or not.  Even if things weren’t settled between him and Catherine, they were still working a case.  Besides, anything was better than sitting around at home stewing about something he couldn’t fix at the moment. 

It wasn’t long before he pushed the Five-O headquarter doors open.  Danny, Chin, and Kono were all there and he nodded in acknowledgment before going to his office. Danny gave him a questioning look as he walked past, but he ignored it.  What could he say?  He was having mommy issues?

He came around his desk to see if his mother had returned any of his messages.  She hadn’t.  Tamping down his frustration he saw Chin pulling something up on the computer.  It was obvious what needed his attention right then so he joined them. “What have we got?

The pictures of the nearly unconscious girls popping up on the screen made his stomach turn.  This is what he’d gotten Catherine into?  “Who is this scumbag?”  He folded his arms, trying to quell the worry building inside as Chin and Kono put together the timeline of when the GHB was given and when Dicey had died.  Taking out his phone, he dialed Catherine.  No answer.  The adrenaline started to pump into his veins, and his heart rate picked up.  Where was she?  “I’m going down there.”

“I’ll come with you,” Danny offered.  Steve nodded, not missing the concerned looks between Chin and Kono.  They were worried, too. 

“Let us know, boss,” Kono called before they headed down to the car. 

“Will do.”

It was tempting to turn on the sirens with so many scenarios running through his head as to why she wasn’t answering her phone.  What if Banks had caught up with her this morning when she’d broken into his computer files?  What if she’d been given a shot of GHB disguised as cortisone? What if her cover had been blown?  Keep calm, keep it together.  She can take care of herself.  That was one of the things that attracted him to her.  She had a good head on her shoulders and a strength about her, no matter what the situation was. 

It was a rare silent ride, as if Danny knew he needed some space on this one.  They pulled into the roller derby parking lot and Steve was out of the car before Danny had opened his door.  The arena was dark, but Steve scanned the room for her.  She wasn’t here.  “Catherine.  I don’t see Catherine.  Or Banks.”

And then he heard the gunshot.  “Danny!” he shouted over the noise of the skaters.  The memory of the gunshot he’d heard on the phone that killed his father charged into Steve’s mind.  No.  Please don’t let Catherine be . . .

He couldn’t even think of losing her like that.  He just ran.

“Catherine?” he shouted, gun drawn.  If Banks had hurt her, in any way . . . 

“In here,” she called.  Relief washed over him so fast and hard he paused for the space of a heartbeat to let it sink in.  She was alive.  Danny ran past him toward her voice, but Steve wasn’t far behind.  He had to see for himself. 

He rushed through the office area and took in the scene when he finally found her.  She was okay.  Still dressed in her derby outfit, she was there, whole and beautiful.  Danny touched her back when he went by as if he, too, needed to know that she was all right before he took the suspect in custody.  Steve knelt to help Catherine free the woman still taped to the chair. “You’re safe, okay?”  He knew he was saying it for Catherine’s benefit as well, but he couldn’t help himself.  He glanced at her, trying to take in any injuries.  Had she been hurt at all before she’d shot Banks?  “You okay?”

“Yeah.” 

He watched her for a moment, wanting to walk around the chair and take her in his arms to reassure himself that she wasn’t hurt, but he couldn’t.  Not yet.  He had to talk to his mother first before he could settle things between them.

When Banks was secure at HPD, Steve went home to dress for Dicey’s funeral.  His mother finally texted him just as he was leaving the house.  He felt the anger surge back, wondering where she’d been all day, but he replied, “Need to talk.  Be here in an hour.”  Then he turned the phone off.  She’d better show up, was all he could think.

Catherine and the team met him at the funeral service.  No one spoke much, but he felt Catherine’s eyes on him every now and then.  He wasn’t sure what to say just yet, so he concentrated on the service.  So many things were running through his head as he listened to the eulogy.  He’d had so much loss in his life, could he afford any more?  He thought of Doris and Catherine and knew he didn’t want to lose either of them, but some things needed to be said.  He had to have some answers, ASAP.

Doris was sitting in the living room with a magazine when he got home.  “Tea?” he asked, knowing he needed to rein in his anger before they talked.  Waiting for tea would be just the thing.  He went over a few possible ways to bring up Mangosta while the water boiled, but decided he’d do what he did best.  Just be direct.  When the water was done, he brought her the tea and sat down.  “Mom, we need to talk.” 

But no matter how direct he was, the more questions he asked her, the more frustrated he got.  She wanted to protect him.  Her leverage was gone.  He stood.  There wasn’t anything left to say.  He wouldn’t be getting any answers out of her.  In the end, all he had were more questions. 

He got in his car and texted Catherine.  Meet me.  You know the place

Walking toward her, silhouetted on the beach, he couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was.  She turned, her expression questioning, sad.  The words on his tongue died.  What could he say?  Don’t make any more promises to my mother?    

But before he could say anything, she met his gaze and said exactly what he needed to hear.  “I’m sorry.  I should have told you.”

Cupping her head he kissed her, long and sweet.  She knew him.  She was part of him.  That’s what mattered.  He looked into her eyes, seeing only sincerity. He pulled her against him, dipping his head to her shoulder, engulfing her in his arms.  The water lapped on the rocks and the wind blew all around them, but Steve just held Catherine even tighter.  In one area of his life he felt anchored again.  He’d come home.

Want to read some of my other McRoll fanfics?  

Click here for Breathless

Click here for Let's Go Home

Click here for The Long-Awaited Dinner

Click here for Always

Blackmoore Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered to win a copy of Julianne Donaldson's new book Blackmoore!  Your names were all put in a hat and by random drawing the winner was . . .


*drum roll*




TJ Butler!!


Woohoo!  TJ, if you will email your snail mail address to juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com I will make sure you get your prize.

Friday, September 13, 2013

First Page Friday

Well, my friends, it is Friday and time for First Page Friday!  This author was critiqued by Heidi from Eschler Editing last month and made the suggested corrections before submitting to Ms. Shreditor for her take. Ms. Shreditor put in her longest critique today and I, for one, am applauding her for all she does in her attention to detail and in helping writers.  Thank you!

See you all next week.

The Entry
Entangled
by Ellen Bahnsen

Jillian McConaghy and her supervisor, Raina Goldstein, walked toward the elevators the Friday evening before Raina’s long awaited, one-month vacation.

When they reached the elevator bank, Raina pushed the call button for down. She looked straight into Jillian’s eyes and asked, “Are you ready to take on Graham Parker by yourself Monday morning?”

Jillian hesitated, turned, and looked at the floor. “Yes, I am.”

Raina looked over her shoulder to assure no one else was around. “Remember what we discussed yesterday. Watch your back with Neal Bosch. Even though he is Graham’s brother – actually, half-brother – he is sneaky and a slacker. Graham doesn’t want him in his office. I really think Neal wants to get rid of Graham and take his CEO job. Do you understand the challenge of working with them every day?”

“I get it, Raina.” The elevator door pinged open. Jillian followed Raina onto the elevator.

A deep voice yelled in the distance, “Hold the elevator, Raina.” Jillian’s heart thumped in her chest. She knew that sexy voice belonged to the man she secretly loved.

Raina put her hand out to stop the elevator doors from closing as their boss jumped in. “Thanks, Raina.”

Graham put his arm around his lead secretary’s shoulder and presented his most adoring smile. “You know I’m going to miss you. Is it too late to change your mind?”

Graham feared working alone with Jillian for the next month. He needed Raina’s mothering demeanor to guard Jillian and to restrain him from his secret passion for Jillian. She was unlike any woman he ever met with her youthful beauty and innocence.

“Not this time, Graham. My vacation is long overdue.”


Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This week’s first page is a resubmit from last month. Heidi wrote a comprehensive critique that addressed key problems and provided some great solutions. What we see this week are the fruits of that amazing feedback.

The first thing I noticed: this week’s sample was a more appropriate length given Julie’s submission guidelines. Last week’s first page weighed in at 389 words and ran nearly two double-spaced pages. This week’s sample is much more in keeping with the First Page Friday guidelines, and I cannot stress enough how important those guidelines are to follow in the publishing world.

Another key change: The author has followed Heidi’s advice and dialed down the information dumping on this page. No longer are there endless names and complex relationships flying at the reader in rapid succession. Instead, the author introduces us to just a few characters at a time, making the information much more manageable for the reader.

In this week’s version, I think that the first sentence needs to do more. It sets the scene and introduces Jillian and Raina, but there’s no dramatic impact here to hook the reader. I actually liked that last week’s version opened with a meaty piece of dialogue that established immediate conflict. This first sentence doesn’t tell us much about the story about to unfold beyond a passing mention of Raina’s upcoming vacation.

Point of View

My problem with the first few paragraphs is that it’s unclear whose story/point of view this is. We don’t really get inside anyone’s head until Jillian’s heart thumps and she reveals that she’s secretly in love with Graham. That’s more than halfway down the page, so the reader spends the first few paragraphs trying to figure out whose story this is. Just when we’ve figured it out, the story head-hops to Graham without a change of chapter or scene. It is so important to keep perspective consistent within a scene or chapter; the reader must be clear at all times who is narrating.

Dialogue

You also want to make sure that your dialogue flows naturally. Read it out loud to yourself and ask yourself if this is how you and your friends would talk. When Raina discusses Neal with Jillian, it feels more like an information dump disguised as dialogue. Unless Jillian is a brand-new employee, which she certainly wasn’t in the original first page, she would already know a lot of the basic information Jillian shares—e.g., Neal’s last name, that he and Graham are half brothers, that he is a sneaky slacker, etc. You might try recasting like this: “Remember, watch your back with Neal. I really think he wants Graham’s CEO job. Can you handle being in the middle?” Of course, a writer strikes a fine balance between dumping too much information or providing not enough. What I’ve tried to do with my edit is make the dialogue sound like something someone would actually say out loud in conversation.

Characterization

I think that this first page is on the right track. It has zeroed in on a smaller set of characters, but we still need to understand these people better. Jillian meekly stares at the floor and listens to Raina as she speaks. She’s a very passive participant in her own scene, and just when we get a pulse (literally), the perspective shifts abruptly to Graham.

We do get inside Graham’s head a little, but we need more. The story tells us that he is in love with Jillian and offers up the perfunctory explanation that she’s innocent and beautiful, but there has to be a deeper connection here to hook the discerning romance reader—a friendship, private jokes, shared pain or workplace stress. He has to love more about her than just her appearance. Moreover, we get some
troubling cues from the text about him that I suspect were inadvertent. He slings his arm casually around Raina in the elevator, behavior that violates employee conduct rules in most workplaces, particularly given that he’s Rain’s supervisor and in a position of power. What’s more, he implies that if it weren’t for Raina, he’d have trouble controlling himself around Jillian. I think you want to be careful not to let Graham’s workplace interactions cross the line into inappropriateness.

Overall Impression

The author has put in a lot of hard work to create a first page that only resembles the original in the barest of ways. We’re getting to know key characters a little better, and we’re getting to the meat of the story—the blossoming romance between Graham and Jillian—right off the bat. You just want to make sure to hook the reader from the beginning with an attention-demanding opening sentence and present your characters in the third dimension from the outset. Keep up the good work, because you’re definitely on the right track.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Want To Win Lots of Books and Canadian Chocolate?

Today, as part of the Indie-Credible event, I am offering a Book Lover's Basket with THREE of my books, (your choice of titles) and if you want to wait for your prize until mid-October, you may choose all three of the Hostage Negotiation Team series, (which would be All Fall Down, Ashes Ashes, and Pocket Full of Posies) along with Canadian chocolate bars and gourmet hot chocolate for those crisp autumn nights coming up.

Isn't that AWESOME?

So, how do you enter, you ask?  You stop by Dawn's blog and enter the rafflecopter giveaway!  Easy peasy.  Just click here  The contest ends today, so don't delay!  (I know, I'm terrible at rhyming.)

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We're Sprinting!

All right guys and gals, we are sprinting!  You know the drill, come back in fifteen and tell me what your word count was.

Ready Set GO!!!!

Word Count Wednesday, Indie-Credible, & September 11th


There are so many things going on today.

In the real world:  So many tender feelings about September 11 and the sacrifice that was made.  I hope you find a moment today to contemplate on the freedom we have and those who sacrifice to preserve that.

In my writing world: my word count was small this week because I'm in revisions, but my story is looking stronger every day.  I had critique group last night and am so motivated to get this thing knocked out of the park.

In my book world: I was interviewed by Dawn Allen!  I'm part of the Indie-Credible event and she's doing a giveaway of my books, a review, and an interview.  The interview is posted today and I might have revealed a secret or two.  You can see it here.

How are you doing today? Are you coming to the sprint tonight?