Monday, March 31, 2014

First Page Friday Follow-Up, Silver Linings Review, & My First CD Review!

First of all, if you had a First Page Friday critique done by Angela Eschler, you can sign up for free industry-insights at their website and be entered to win one of several editorial consults.  A really great prize from an awesome company!  All you have to do is go to and sign up!

Early next week they''ll be picking the winners, so don't delay!

Second, I want to tell you about this amazing brand new CD from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called He Is Risen.  When I first put the CD in, it was a gloomy, cloudy day and I'm afraid my mood was matching the weather.  This CD really lifted me, like sunshine breaking through the clouds.  It was especially moving for me as I prepare for the upcoming Easter season.

I liked how the songs went from a majestic He is Risen, with the full impact of the Orchestra at Temple Square, to a sweet rendition of In the Garden.  That is one of my favorite songs and the choir really gives it something special.  I thought the choir's voices hit all the right notes and this is a CD I will play long after Easter is gone.  A definite must-have for your own collection.


The 360 members of this remarkable choir represent men and women from many different backgrounds and professions and range in age from 25 to 60. They reflect a medley of unique lives and experiences and are brought together by their love for singing and their faith. Their incomparable voices are the common chord that unites to form the choral group known all over the world as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Updated Silver

Last, but not least, today I'd like to tell you about the second novella in the Ripple Effect series.  This one is about Drew Westfall, a minor character briefly introduced in the first novella, Home Matters.  Drew is traveling to Colorado after he's given up his family fortune. He's looking for a new direction in life and at first, is like a fish out of water.  When we are introduced to him in this book, his luck goes from bad to worse when he crashes his car in a snowstorrm, is only wearing an expensive leather coat with dress shoes on while he wades through inches of snow trying to find shelter. To top it off, some teenagers throw soda on him instead of helping him.  You can't help but feel sorry for this guy.  But that isn't even the worst of it.  He finds shelter at an assisted living center and while trying to find someone to help him get to his friend's house, he trips over a walker/wheelchair and whacks his head.  Yeah, talk about a bad day.

But the best thing about Drew's character is the way he gets up each time he's knocked down.  He's trying to overcome his past and really do something worthwhile with his life.  He's got a determination to him that I really liked and an easy manner.  He wasn't overbearing and when he meets our heroine, well, things get complicated fast in a good way.  

Our heroine, Eden, is so sweet and trying so hard to care for everyone around her.  She's in a tight spot with having to put aside her dreams to take care of her sick mother, and yet there's a fire inside of her that wants to reach for it.  She has a boyfriend, but when she meets Drew, well, let's just say I was turning pages as fast as possible to see how it would all turn out! I love a really good romance.

The story has a sweet cast of characters in the assisted living center and a really great message underneath the romance.  I like the author's writing style and thought the novella had it all---great characters and a solid story.  So excited for the third one! 

Here's the back copy:

Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin Drew Westfall wants nothing more than to forget what he had to do in the name of "smart" business. Cutting off all ties with his parents—including handing over the entire contents of his trust fund to a charity—he takes off for Bridger, Colorado where his best friend has an extra room for him. It doesn't take long for him to realize that his business degree won’t do him much good in a town as small as Bridger, but he's broke and has nowhere else to go.

 Eden Torresi has every reason to wallow. Not only did she have to sell her house to pay for her mother’s medical expenses, but she also had to drop out of school and is in a relationship with a guy unwilling to commit. But Eden isn't the wallowing type. Instead, she chooses to spend most of her time taking care of the seniors at Silver Linings Assisted Living. When she learns that her boyfriend's new roommate is down on his luck, her caring nature makes her want to reach out to him and offer what help she can. But the more time they spend together, the more complicated things get, especially when the seniors of Silver Linings decide to play matchmaker.


Author Kaylee Baldwin When Kaylee Baldwin isn’t writing, she’s usually chasing after her four children, checking her email, trying to get motivated to train for that race she shouldn’t have signed up for, hanging out with her pretty awesome husband, and reading whatever good book she can find. She graduated from Arizona State with degree in English Lit. Her published books are Meg’s Melody, Six Days of Christmas (part of the All I Want collection) and Silver Linings.

Updated Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series Enjoy this exciting new series of clean novellas by six critically-acclaimed authors. "Like a pebble tossed into calm water, a simple act can ripple outward and have a far-reaching effect on those we meet, perhaps setting a life on a different course—one filled with excitement, adventure, and sometimes even love." Book 1: Home Matters by Julie N. Ford Book 2: Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin Book 3: Righting A Wrong by Rachael Anderson Book 4: Lost and Found by Karey White Book 5: Second Chances 101 by Donna K. Weaver Book 6: Immersed by Jennifer Griffith
Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/14/14 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Freebie--Rising

Today's Friday Freebie is Rising by Holly Kelly.  I haven't read this one, but it has some great reviews.  And who wouldn't want to read a mermaid story?

Here's the back copy:

In a war between the humans and the inhabitants of the sea—humans will lose. Xanthus Dimitriou—the most lethal Dagonian to rise from the ocean—is on a mission to save mankind from annihilation. But first there’s one small thing he needs to do… kill a beautiful young woman in a wheelchair.

Killing her doesn’t start out as part of his plan. He entrenches himself deep in the human world. Aligning himself with his enemies, he prepares to send them to Triton to face their punishment. Then Sara Taylor rolls onto the scene. Xanthus knows at once she’s a criminal. And her crime? Being born. She’s a human/Dagonian half-breed, an abomination. Killing her should be an easy job. All he has to do is break into her apartment, slit her throat, and feed her body to the sharks. Simple, right? Wrong. If only she weren’t so beautiful, so innocent, so sweet...

Saving the world may have to wait. It appears Xanthus has a woman to save. But protecting her may cost him his own life.

If this looks like a book you might be interested in, click here to download your free copy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Negativity and the Writer

Several years ago I had a woman tell me that I shouldn't be a writer when my children were small because I was missing out on the joy of being a mother.

That floored me.

I felt defensive.  How could she judge me like that? She didn't know me or my family schedule or how hard I work to write in tiny snatches of time because I need to be a mom first.

And then I thought, if I waited for my kids to grow up to develop my talent in writing, I might very well lose that talent and my children would never have the opportunity to see their mom working hard on something that she loves and developing what she's been given.

But the truth is, being a writer can be hard sometimes.  It's hard to find time, it's hard to get in the zone, it's hard to learn how to refine your craft.  On top of that, you get negative reviews, rejections, people feel comfortable telling you to give up.  Some days you just can't dredge up the imagination or creative energy to write even one page.  

But then there are those glorious moments where you write a scene that is amazing and you feel it right down to your toes.  When you get a five star review, when you win an award, when you get an acceptance.  When someone tells you they loved your book.  Yeah, there are definite rewards of being a writer.

So, what do you do when you're feeling judged or down or defensive?

I found this quote going around Facebook and I've been thinking a lot about it lately.  I really want to print it out and put it by my desk to help me remember that I know what's best for me and my family.  To never compare and to be wise in using my agency.  And whenever I meet people who are interpreting how my time is spent, I can tell myself, hey, I'm making the best decisions I can.  And that's what counts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Word Count Wednesday & Villain Names

Well, my friends, this week kicked my butt and I barely made 1500 words. It is so hard to get in the zone when you've got a million things going on! Hopefully this week will be better.

I did end up changing my villain's name and fleshing out his character a bit more, so that was productive I think.  Although I was a teensy bit sorry to see the name Dennis go.  I think Dennis could be a great villain's name under the right circumstances.  (Apologies in advance if your name is Dennis.)

So, how did you do this week?  What's the best villain name you've ever heard?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Castle Recap--Where We Meet Gates' Sister

Well, this one starts out with a gory murder scene of a guy on his bed, shot in the chest. Ick.  The killer is taking a picture of the body. Double ick.

Then we head over to Castle's where he's floating the idea to Beckett of getting married on the Cyclone. Like, the roller coaster.  Since it would be metaphorical, ups and downs of marriage, etc., haha.. Oh, Castle I love you.

The gang gets called to the murder scene and told that the victim is a Wall Street trader who died of a single gunshot wound to the chest and the only lead is that a woman called it in from a pay phone a block away. Espo tracks down security footage of her and the quest to find out her identity is underway.

Castle and Beckett go to his place of business, JP Morgan company and talk to the boss. He's trying to motivate his employees by dumping a million dollars on the table and telling them to go steal accounts from competitors.  He tells Caskett that he saw the victim in the stairwell with a tattooed guy giving him a package, but that's all he really knows. Yeah, right. He seems suspicious from the start.

Lainey tells the crew that the guy had adhesive residue on his chest---yeah, he was wearing a wire.  Beckett puts out the info to other law enforcement agencies and then guess what? The pay phone lady strolls into the station on the arm of Gates' sister.  And there's bad blood between them since she's a U.S. attorney and Gates is well, Gates.  (I still have a problem with liking her character.  She just doesn't fit in with the rest of the cast and never has.  Giving her family members won't help that, either, in my opinion. But I digress.) Anyway, the U.S. Attorney's office has a big undercover thing going on and the victim was their inside man. They're trying to get proof that the boss over at JP Morgan is doing insider trading and such. I kind of zoned out here. They ask to be kept in the loop, blah blah blah, and then leave.

This is where it got a bit boring and convoluted.  The team investigates the boss guy a little more, find out he had an argument with the victim two hours before he was killed. They find the tattooed guy and he tells them how his old friend, the victim (I forgot his name, sad!) called him up and asked him to deliver an envelope to a bank. Weird. The victim watched the transaction at the bank from an internet cafe. He was trying to get a Venezuelan passport under his old name. He had a bank account with $25 million in it that is now unaccounted for.  The team thinks he was playing the U.S. Attorneys office and was going to skip town, but then they find out something verrrry interesting.

The pay phone lady who works for the U.S. Attorney's office said he didn't hand in his wire that night, but the boss man (who knew all about the investigation) said he did.  The team finds it, realize the pay phone lady set up the victim and then when he didn't want to listen to her explain why he shouldn't skip town and should help them, she murdered him.  Surprise!  Yeah, it felt rushed and convoluted for me.

The sisters Gates make up and Caskett decide to narrow the list of wedding guests down to who would make them happy. They each say YOU on their list.  *awwww* Then they start to name off people, dad, mom, Alexis, Lainey, etc.

It was an okay episode, but the ninja one would be hard to top, so maybe that's why this one felt a little flat. Still enjoyable as always, though.  Did you see it? What did you think?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: Glimmer of Hope

Today I want to tell you about a book by Sarah Eden called Glimmer of Hope.  I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book, even though I'm an avid Sarah Eden fan, because I had heard that it was really depressing.  I picked it up, though, and was hooked at the first page.

Our heroine, Miranda Harford, is coming home from a walk when her estranged husband of three years, Viscount Devereaux, appears suddenly.  She's under the impression he wanted nothing to do with her and can't imagine what's really going on.  The Viscount tells her he's hosting a house party and she better be ready to put their differences aside and act like the hostess she should have always been.  He wants to put her in her place, to show her what she walked away from, but has a hard time when he sees how hard she's trying to please him.  His mother and guests arrive and there are complications galore.  As a reader, I was kept turning pages by the misunderstandings between the couple.  Each thought the other had left them, and there were huge gaps in communication that I couldn't wait to see resolved.

It was a tender love story and I won't reveal any spoilers, but I have to admit I was moved to tears several times throughout the book.  I didn't find it a depressing book, however, but an emotional one, that shows the human condition and draws you into the intricacies of human relationships.  Sarah Eden is a master of romance and I found this novel to be no exception.  Just have a tissue handy!

Here's the back copy:

Stunning Miranda Harford once had the world at her feet. She was young, carefree, and desperately in love. But when her new husband left for London without her, her world fell apart. Devastated by his abandonment, Miranda fled their home, taking residence at her husband’s rarely visited countryside estate. For three years, she lived alone. But now, as the holidays draw near, an unexpected visitor arrives . . .

Carter Alexander Harford, Seventh Viscount Devereaux, is a man driven to succeed. His work is his life, and the position of Prime Minister of England is within reach. But in truth, Carter is a man haunted by lost love. Estranged from his beautiful wife, Carter is shocked to find Miranda—the woman he’d loved and who he believes has left him—in residence at his country home.

As plans for a holiday party move forward, the uneasy couple realizes that to avoid further scandal, they must keep up appearances in a charade of marital happiness. Thrust together by fate, it quickly becomes clear that they have both been living beneath a conspired cloud of misunderstanding. As family, career, and social pressures threaten to keep them apart, can love have even a glimmer of hope?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Freebie--Sun and Moon

Today's Friday Freebie is Sun and Moon by Lee Strauss.  I read and reviewed this book, (you can see that review here) and it was a fresh romance with a twist of mystery.

Here's the back copy:

She has a past. He has a secret.

Katja’s a risk-taking singer-songwriter hoping to make it in the indie music scene in Dresden, Germany. Micah’s a brooding uptown banker on a quest.

There’s an undeniable attraction between them, a gravitational pull they both struggle to resist. Katja knows she mustn’t fall in love with this handsome enigma. There’s something dark lurking beneath the surface. He could be dangerous.

And even if her life isn’t on the line,
her heart most definitely is.

To download your free Kindle version click here

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When You Want to Give Up, Just Believe

"Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure."-Napoleon Hill

Lately, I have seen blog posts by some authors who are feeling down about their writing careers.  They want to give up and quit altogether.  Writing and publishing weren't what they thought it was going to be.

Honestly I think every writer goes through that at one time or another.  As you all know, I was in a writing slump for several months last year.  But now, I'm writing every day, feeling the joy in the words that seem to be flowing out of me faster than I can type.

Everyone needs some down time.  Everyone needs time to rest and reflect.  Our imagination needs rejuvenation. And sometimes we have to align our priorities or shelve our expectations and make new dreams and expectations.  That's okay.  It doesn't mean we have to quit.  It just means we need to do something different for a while.

In most every aspect of our lives we have hopes and dreams, but it doesn't always work out the way we thought it would. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that if we want it bad enough, if we're willing to work for it, and we persevere, we will achieve it---whether it's a writing career or anything else in life.

So, don't give up.  Don't get down.  Pick yourself up.  Write something every day, even if it's just a journal entry, and muddle through the down time.  It will get better.  The joy will come again.  

You just have to believe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

Well, critique group was highly motivating.  My partners pointed out a plot hole and gave me an idea for adding a characteristic to a character that will really resonate with readers.  So I've been busy changing, adding, and editing.  I only added 3834 words, but I'm really excited about the changes.

The best thing about being in the throes of a new manuscript is that my desk seems to be more organized and I walk a lot which helps in my weight loss efforts.  I get all my best ideas on a treadmill, so when I'm stuck, I go walk, and voila! the problem is fixed as I walk and walk and walk.  (Now I have that pioneer children song running through my head, haha!)

I also sit in my desk chair and think through character issues while I'm "tidying" up my desk.  So, you can imagine how awesome it is for me to get out of my own head and look down to see a very clean desk.  Or a shrinking waistline.  I love writing! I love being a writer!  (Okay, well, today I do, anyway.)  *grin*

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Castle Recap---The Ninja Episode

Last night's episode was funny, filled with twists and turns, and NINJAS!  It was so awesome.  I watched it with my kids and we had so much fun with this one.

A Japanese woman named Jade is killed in an abandoned warehouse and not much is known about her. She's dressed up like she's going out, but there's not much nightlife where she's found.  But our fearless team is on it.

The body is found with a drop key to an elevator of an abandoned cookie factory warehouse, so Beckett and Castle go to check it out.  They find a shrine and the murder weapon (a dagger) is there.  Castle picks it up, but before he can theorize about it too much, they hear a noise.  Beckett goes to see what's what and then poof! a ninja appears and takes the murder weapon then leaves in a puff of smoke.  The look on Castle's face was so FUNNY! Beck-ett. The ninja took the murder weapon.

No one really believes Castle about the ninja and even the lady the Japanese consulate sends tells him there aren't any ninjas anymore.  Poor Castle.

The team is led to a fellow ballet dancer (the victim was a ballerina) but he tells them he was just frustrated with Jade's lack of professionalism. Jade's phone records take them further to the Miyago Tea Import company where the guys get entertained by some hostesses. When Ryan pushed the hostess over to her own seat instead of his lap, I chuckled. I love Ryan.  (By the way, Beckett is meeting up with an old friend, so she isn't there. That was sort of a weird part of the storyline with Kate being worried about how awesome her friend's life always seemed. Whatevs. She's Kate Beckett for crying out loud!)  Anyway, one of the hostesses tells Castle if he buys private time she'll tell him about Jade, which she does.  Jade was trying to get into some muckety-mucks named Saito high end party and when she did, she ended up dead.  The guys get thrown out of the hostess bar (right in the middle of Ryan's karaoke number, too!) but they got the Saito lead, so the $6000 tab Castle got stuck with is worth it, right?

Before they can do anything, however, two ninjas attack.  Oh man, it was such a great ninja fight, too, and Ryan and Espo hold their own, but both ninjas disappear. It. Was. Awesome.  Anyway, they go to visit Saito (after Castle explains to Beckett why he didn't call and get her out of her dinner date with her old friend early) and Saito is a Japanese Yakuza guy.  He tells them nothing except he wants to see a search warrant, so they go back to the precinct to do a little more investigating.

They get a clue from Lainey when she tells them that Jade has scars on her body that show she was in an explosion at some time in her life.  Which leads the team to realizing who she really is---Jade's family was killed for double-crossing the Yakuza and their house was blown up.  (Hey, Saito was Yakuza . . .) Oh, and when they catch up with the consulate officer, she admits that she's really Jade's sister. Surprise!  Wowza. The sister says Jade had been trying to find the "Green Dragon" that killed their family and said she recognized his voice and was going after him.  (What a terrible assassin the Green Dragon turned out to be if both sisters lived.  But I digress.)

They all go back to Saito's house, and while they're questioning him about the whole situation, he's killed, a ninja comes in and Jade's sister takes him down in another ninja fight!  They unmask him and the Green Dragon is Jade's boyfriend's dad. So, so good.

They wrap up how it was such a perfect disguise to have the "Green Dragon" be a white guy because no one would expect that.  At least Jade's sister got some closure and her sister's dagger back.  Bittersweet.

Beckett tells Castle her friend is now boring and she's afraid they'll get boring after they get married.  Castle points to the case they just solved with ninjas and says, um yeah, no, we will never be boring.

A really great episode.  Did you see it?  What did you think?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Home Matters

Home Matters Updated

I am excited to be part of a blog tour for the Ripple Effect Romance series.  The first novella in the series is Home Matters by Julie Ford.  It was a sweet romantic story of a small town girl who makes it big when she lands her first TV gig.  Everything seems to be going her way, but the life she'd always dreamed of starts to turn to a nightmare.  She has the most sought after bachelor in the nation on her arm, but she can't stop thinking about the handsome lead contractor on the show.  And when push comes to shove, which man will truly help her reach for her dreams?

I loved the characters, especially the heroine, Olivia Pembroke.  She was smart, but lacked some self-awareness, which is where she experienced growth in the book.  I loved Pete and how down to earth he was, although I've never seen a man described as "wanton" before, so that was new. (And interesting to think about *grin*) The relationships Olivia builds are well-done for a novella, although some events are skipped over and talked about in backstory instead of experienced with the reader. Obviously I wish that was done differently, but it's common in novellas and Ms. Ford does well in hitting all the major story beats so it's easily overlooked.  There were a few editing errors, but Ms. Ford does a great job with the story and the characters.  I can't wait for the next one in the series! (I do hope we get to hear more about these characters in subsequent books, like a little update or something, although I'm not sure if they connect at all. That's just me, hoping out loud that they do.)  

Read on for the tour schedule, rafflecopter, and back copy!

Home Matters by Julie N. Ford According to her mother, Olivia Pembroke was born to be a star. But how is she supposed to be famous when she can't even get a decent acting gig? Her lucky break comes when she lands an audition for a wildly popular home improvement show. Even though she has no design training and has never even held a power tool, she refuses to let that stop her. She's confident that her destiny is finally within reach. When her affections are torn between her heartthrob co-host and the irritating, yet somehow endearing lead contractor, does she continue to reach for the stars? Or does she design a new happily ever after? One that leads not to the fading lights of fame and fortune, but to a love that will burn forever.


Author Julie N. Ford Julie is a forty-something, dangerously close to becoming a fifty-something, graduate from San Diego State University with a BA in Political Science. In addition, she has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama, which has only made her better able to recognize the unhealthy, codependent relationship she has with writing. Professionally, she has worked in teaching and as a marriage and family counselor. She is the author of four women’s fiction novels, including Count Down to Love, a 2011 Whitney Award finalist. When she’s not writing, she entertains delusions of being a master gardener, that is, when she’s not killing the unsuspecting plants in her yard with her good intentions. She lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two daughters, a Betta named Bob, and a Scottish fold kitten, Ardweal.

Updated Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series Enjoy this exciting new series of clean novellas by six critically-acclaimed authors. "Like a pebble tossed into calm water, a simple act can ripple outward and have a far-reaching effect on those we meet, perhaps setting a life on a different course—one filled with excitement, adventure, and sometimes even love." Book 1: Home Matters by Julie N. Ford Book 2: Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin Book 3: Righting A Wrong by Rachael Anderson Book 4: Lost and Found by Karey White Book 5: Second Chances 101 by Donna K. Weaver Book 6: Immersed by Jennifer Griffith
Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 3/31/14   Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Freebie--House of Secrets

Today I want to tell you about House of Secrets, the first in the Shandra Covington mystery series that is free on Kindle today!

I loved this whole series and the writing is stellar. I love a mystery that has great twists and turns and chills galore.  Here's the back copy:

Shandra Covington simply assumed her grandmothers' house was sold after her grandmother hastily moved in with Shandra and her mother two decades ago. Yet, here it was, deeded to Shandra in her grandmother's will.

Shandra, single, aggressive, and an accomplished journalist, has tender memories of the time spent as a young girl in the old house on the hill, and her curiosity and sentimentality lead her to a final visit to the forgotten home. What she discovers shocks Shandra to her very core. Not only is the house still filled with her grandmother's old belongings, but there is also a body, long since dead, and covered with the same thick layer of dust as the rest of the items in the house.

Returning with the sheriff and his handsome deputy, Clay, they find the body missing. In its place is another body—this one dead less than 12 hours. And all evidence points to Shandra.

Desperate to clear her name and uncover the truth behind these troubling mysteries, Shandra puts her journalistic training to use. Between the reluctant townspeople, ominous warnings, and physical threats, Shandra learns the truth, little by little—knowing full well that someone is determined to keep old secrets buried, even it means burying Shandra as well . . ..

From Jeffrey Savage, the author of Dark Memories

If this looks like something you're interested in, click here to download your copy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Want To Be A SWAT Team Member?

Julie's SWAT team (since I write Suspense With A Twist) is part of a closed group on Facebook for easy access and posting and I think it's amazing.  Each week we have SWAT missions, (should you choose to accept it), with goals and monthly prizes and tons of opportunities to work and get to know each other.

What do you have to do to be part of it?

I am looking for people who are readers, friends, or reviewers who:

  • love my books 
  • are willing to promote them in their part of the universe 
  • and have fun doing it.  

Which means you could spread the word on your blog, use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus etc), and provide honest reviews---you know, just help me get the word out about my stuff by doing the weekly mission.

In return, I will offer you

  • first looks
  • insider stuff like deleted scenes
  • contests only open to the SWAT team for free ARCS, ebooks, signed books, character naming
  • and the best thing of all about being on my team? You'll be meeting new people with a love of reading.

I'm really excited about this.  If you know someone who might like to be part of my SWAT team or if you are interested, please email me at for more details. Get ready for some team fun!

Grab this button!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

Well, since I'm on a deadline I did great this week! I got 3930 words and am right on schedule.  My critique group will be getting the first peek at my new novel tomorrow and I can't wait to hear what they think about it.  I know they will have some good feedback for me, and as hard as it is to hear sometimes, it definitely makes my books better. Plus, we always eat great food and gab and laugh until late, so I'm looking forward to that.

How did you do last week?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

McRoll Fanfic #5---Let's Go Home

This is for all the Pink Ladies and McRoll fans.  Love you guys!  (And yes, someday I may extend this one. *wink*)

These characters are not mine and this is for purely entertainment purposes. I own nothing and no copyright infringement is intended.

McRoll Fanfic #5
(What I wish we'd seen last week instead of McGrover)

Let’s Go Home

Cath pushed opened the door to Steve’s office.  “Long day?” she asked as she walked in and leaned her hip against the edge of his desk.

“You have no idea,” he said, standing up and circling the desk to pull her into his arms.  “You’re a sight for sore eyes.  How did it go with Navy intel?”

“Fine. I got what we needed.”  She snuggled in closer, loving the solid feel of him under her cheek. They’d been working so hard lately, it felt like ages since they’d been able to just be together and not talk about work.  Cath wanted to change that, but was warring within herself.  Did she confront Steve about the nightmares? Or just enjoy a night off?  “You ready to go home?”

He hesitated as if he were having an internal battle as well.  “Not yet.  I’ve got to finish up here.  It’ll probably be a while.”  He stroked her hair, then drew back to look her in the face.  “Sorry.  I don’t want you to wait up for me, though. I know you’re exhausted. You should go home and get some sleep.”

Catherine looked up into his eyes, knowing the decision had been made for her.  “Steve, you’re not fooling me.  I know you’re not sleeping.  We need to talk about this.”

He released her and turned away, running a hand over his face.  “I can’t.”

“I know it’s about Freddie.  You call his name out whenever you do finally shut your eyes.”  She kept her voice low and even.  He needed to get this out, to talk to her.

“I just can’t, Cath. Not yet.”

His voice was raw, wounded, and she literally ached to take some of the pain away from him.  She ran her hands up his back and pressed herself against him from behind.  “It’s not your fault, Steve.”

He turned in her embrace and tucked her hair behind her ear.  “I know.  I’m just trying to work this out on my own.”

“I want to help you,” she said, placing her hands on his chest.  She could feel his heartbeat under her fingers, steady and strong.  It reassured her on some level. No matter what was going on, he was still the same man she’d always known.

“I can think of a few ways you can help me.” He grinned, then lowered his mouth to hers. 

She gave herself up to the kiss, letting the subject of Freddie drop. For now.  Her hands slipped over his shoulders and followed the familiar path through his hair. She pulled him closer, suddenly wishing they weren’t in his office, surrounded by glass walls, visible to any prying eyes that walked into the office.  Her hands ran lightly over his chest, then dropped to his side of their own accord. She fisted his t-shirt in her fingers and drew him toward her, while still holding her ground.  He pulled her back until she was a little off-balance, which is how she always felt around him anyway.  When they were like this, when he kissed her, the world always faded away. There was nothing but him and her, their mouths, their souls. Only them.

He undid the clip in her hair and ran his fingers through it, gently tugging it back so he could get a better angle as he trailed kisses across her jaw and down her neck. “Cath,” he said, his voice low and husky in her ear.

“Mmmmhmmmm?” It was hard to think about anything else except him and the moment.  She guided his mouth back to hers, needing him to be closer.  His hands trailed down her spine, the warmth searing her even through her shirt. He walked her backward toward the door, pressing her tight against it as he deepened the kiss.  He was demanding and gentle all at once, and she responded with all the love and trust she had in her, and wanted him to know.  They were both breathless when they finally came up for air.

“Maybe we should go home,” he murmured into her hair.  “We can talk . . . work through my insomnia issues . . .”

“Best idea I’ve heard all day.”  She let out a breath and put her arms around him, hugging him to her for a moment.  “Especially the going home part.  We’re a little exposed here.”  She looked around at the glass walls to make her point.

He chuckled.  “We wouldn’t want that now, would we?”

“No.” She gave him a quick kiss.  “But Steve . . .”

He put his finger on her lips.  “Cath, don’t worry, I know you’re there for me and we’re going to get through this thing together, okay?”

She smiled. He’d read her mind.  “I like the “we” part.” 

He trailed a finger down her cheek, slowly, then he cupped her face and put his forehead to hers.  “Me, too.”  They stayed that way for a moment, just feeling the other person, constant and secure, right there in front of them.  He finally pulled her to his side and opened the door.  “Let’s go home.”

Want to read some of my other McRoll fanfics?  

Click here for Breathless

Click here for Safe Harbor

Click here for The Long-Awaited Dinner

Click here for Always

Ring Around the Rosie---More First Chapter Revealed!

Since my readers were sad I didn't post the entire first chapter with my cover reveal of my new novel, Ring Around the Rosie, I thought I'd post it today.

Click here for the first part.

Here's the second part!

Ring Around the Rosie
Chapter One
by Julie Coulter Bellon
copyright 2014 

“Sarah?” he croaked.  He tried again.  “Sarah?”  His legs felt like lead and the urge to just lie back was stronger than ever.  No. Keep moving.  “Claire?”  He coughed and tried to catch a breath, but couldn’t get the oxygen to his lungs.  With a shallow intake of air, he turned over on his stomach and used his arms to raise himself to a sitting position.  The inside of the diner looked like a destructive madman had rearranged it.  The booths were toppled or stacked on top of each other.  The hostess station was next to him now.  The only thing that was still standing where it had before the blast was the four walls, the ceiling, and the antique counter.  “Sarah,” he called again.  “Bart? Colby?” The little girl. Was she still in the back with her mother?
No one answered.  Where is everyone?  He crawled forward. Sarah had been nearly right beside him. Now there was no sign of her.  He rubbed his eyes and coughed.  Moving slowly, he prayed she was alive.  It didn’t take long to find her sandwiched between an overturned booth bench and the podium for the hostess station.  With some effort he managed to maneuver close to her, the adrenaline kicking in as his blood pounded through his system.  Don’t let her be dead. Not like this.
“I’m here,” she said, looking up at him in a daze.  From what he could see she had a cut on her head, her cheek was already turning red with a large bruise and she was curled up, not moving around a lot.  But she was alive.
“Are you hurting? Broken bones?”  He bent over, trying to hear her over the alarms going off inside the restaurant and from several cars in the front parking lot.  At least he hoped that’s what the ring was and that he hadn’t lost his hearing.
“I don’t think so.  My face . . .” She lifted a hand to her cheek and winced.  “What happened?”
“I’m not sure.” Black smoke curled around them now, making it difficult to see much of anything.  “Claire? Colby? Bart?” He coughed and tried to wipe his watering eyes.  “We’ve got to get out of here.”
“Captain, you all right?” Claire called out from somewhere behind him.
“I’m okay. Can you see Colby or Bart?”  He squinted, his professional instincts kicking in to assess the possibility of going out the front door.  The glass in all the windows and door was shattered and a hole gaped in the wall, letting in oxygen to feed the hungry fire that was now headed toward the ceiling.  That kind of damage could have meant a gas line explosion or other accident, but the burning car visible in the front section of the parking lot told him different. 
But who would car bomb a diner? 
His head was still fuzzy, but even in his condition, he knew he didn’t want to move Sarah in case she had spinal injuries.  She, however, had other ideas and started to sit up.  “Wait for the paramedics,” he cautioned her, holding up a hand.  “They should be here any minute.”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” she said, obviously irked at his advice.  She gingerly leaned on the overturned hostess station as she pulled herself upright.
Ron resisted the urge to roll his eyes, turning to the people who would accept his command of the situation.  “Claire, let’s go out the back to avoid the fire,” he shouted.  “Colby, Bart, you with us?”
“Bart’s down, sir,” Colby called out.  “We need an ambulance.”
“I called 911,” Eli said in his booming voice, coming out of the kitchen with a fire extinguisher.  He waded through the debris like it was fall leaves under his feet, heading for the flames. Safety sprinklers kicked on overhead and had a good start on putting the fire out, but they also made everything an even bigger mess by plastering wet soot and debris to any flat surface. 
The alarms were still screeching and combined with the hiss of the fire it was nearly impossible to speak and be heard.  Or maybe it was because Ron’s ears were still ringing from the blast and smack on the head.  He opened his jaw, trying to relieve some of the pressure in his ears, and his hearing did seem to get stronger with his efforts.  The squeal of the alarms got louder anyway.  But then he heard a pop reverberate through the air.  A sound that he knew well in his profession.
“Get down, Eli!” Ron shouted.  He drew his 9mm from his ankle holster and found cover behind an overturned booth.  The smoke was choking him, obscuring the way out, but they had to leave.  Now. “Colby, we’ve got a shooter. We need to get everyone out, but stay down!”
Eli came out of the smoke like an apparition.  He staggered toward Ron and clutched his chest, his mouth opening and closing, but no words coming out.  Is he having a heart attack? Realization dawned as soon as he saw the red stain forming in a grotesque sort of circle on Eli’s white apron. He started to topple, so Ron pushed forward and tried to grab him.  Juggling the large man’s weight was overwhelming, but he got him to the floor.  He could hear the diner owner’s groans and knew he didn’t have long before he bled out.
Ron crouched over Eli, trying to get his bearings.  Get help in here.  He had to move, get clear. But before he could even draw another breath, a man dressed in full combat gear stood over him, an assault rifle aimed at his heart. 
“Hello, Ron,” the man shouted, as four other men dressed identically gathered around the perimeter of the room.  “I’ve been waiting for this moment.”  He crouched down to Ron’s eye level, but Ron couldn’t get a clear view of his face in all the smoke.  “What do you think?  Did I get your attention?”

That voice. Where had he heard that voice before? Ron stared down the barrel of the rifle, then back up at his captor.  “Yeah, I’d say you got my attention.” Now what?

Click here to read a sneak peek of Chapter Two!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Timeless Romance Anthology Love Letters Collection

As you all know, I'm a fan of the Timeless Romance Anthology collections. I've read them all and loved how well-developed each novella is in each collection and how sigh-worthy they are.  This one was no exception.

The others all had themes and this one has a theme of love letters.  The thing I liked about this one is that the stories weren't restricted to anything modern or historical, the only thing that connected them was that each story had love letters in them---and some of the ways they used love letters was really unique.

The first story is Maggie's Song by Karey White.  This one is about backpacking trail guides who have known each other for years.  Maggie has also loved Lucas for years, but is afraid to act on the feelings in case she loses her friendship.  The setting in this one was fresh and fun and there were a few twists that really made me smile.

The second one is Just Fly by Krista Lynne Jensen.  This one starts out on a sad note, with Wren's grandfather dying. During the notification period, they come across an old school friend of her grandpa's. Wren feels like she has to tell the woman in person and ends up finding out more of her grandpa and more about herself than she ever dreamed.  Of course it doesn't hurt that her grandpa's friend also has a charming grandson to help with her new adventure.  A cute romance.

The third one is How to Rewrite a Love Letter by Diane Darcy.  I'd never read anything by Ms. Darcy and I really enjoyed her writing style. It was set in a high school, and as a former English teacher, it took me back to my teaching days.  This one is about a high school teacher who has feelings for the principal, but when she tries to let him know, she gets shot down.  It's a series of misunderstandings, but full of some really great moments.

The fourth one is A Thousand Words by Sarah Eden.  This one was so sweet and poignant.  Irish immigrants trying to make a life for themselves on the frontier, dealing with very little money, fear of railroad accidents, and yet bound together by love.  Sarah's emotional connection to the reader is what makes me love her work and this story had depth to it that is usually hard to find in novellas.

The fifth one is Between the Lines by Annette Lyon.  I loved this story because it's about a girl who believes herself plain and doesn't really belong in the society that she exists in, even though she tries.  Her club starts a pen pal thing and Jane quickly finds herself drawn to her pen pal, but also to Thomas who seems to be really seeing her for the first time.  There's a little twist, but it's such a sweet "love triangle" with plenty of sigh-worthy moments, this one was hard to put down.

The last one is Blackberry Hollow by Heather Moore.  This one had it all, a bit of mystery, some tragedy, and a really great romance.  It's about a woman who has inherited an English manor and goes to England to sell it.  That is, until she meets her mysterious neighbor and finds out about an old feud between her family and his.  The more she digs, the more intrigued she becomes and when she uncovers the truth, well, I won't give it away, but I stayed up late to see how this one ended.

This collection was one that will go on my keeper shelf to read on rainy days.  If you enjoy sweet romance, then this is a collection you won't want to miss!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Three Small Books Worth Reviewing

As you all know, I usually review books on Mondays, but there was a bit of a mix-up and I was scheduled to be part of a blog tour on a Friday---two weeks ago.  I feel terrible and I deeply apologize for not posting on the correct day, but I hope this makes up for it.

Today I want to tell you about three Time Out Classics.  They are by some of my favorite authors and are just the thing for when you're discouraged, need a smile, or just want to read for a few minutes and feel your spirits lifted.

The first book is Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Home by John Bytheway.  I love John Bytheway's talks because he usually takes normal, everyday things and applies them to gospel principles. This book is no different and he takes things/phrases he learned at home like wash your hands, clean your room, change your attitude, ask your dad, help your sister, come and eat and applies them to the simple basics doctrine.  (And when I was reading, I heard my own mother's voice echoing some of the same things his mother did!) I love how down to earth he is in his comparison and how I can learn and read things in a different way after I've read his perspective.  The chapters aren't long, but I've definitely thought a lot about the words inside after I've closed the book.

The second book is Making It Through the Middle by Emily Freeman.  She talks about how when people discuss their trials, they usually focus on the end and how everything turned out and not how it was for them in the middle, which is usually the hardest part.  She had several recommendations like turn to the scriptures, recognize His mercy, Trust God's heart, and continue to minister to name a few.  The thing I liked best about this book was the little quotes sprinkled throughout that really soothed my heart as I've thought about my own struggles.  Sometimes making it through the middle is just about endurance and knowing tomorrow will come and how it is what we do when we encounter the unexpected that defines us.  There were some really great stories that add depth to the discussion.  Highly recommend this one for anyone who's ever struggled. (And who hasn't?)

The third book is Habits of Happiness by Wendy Ulrich.  This is a quick read but filled with great nuggets to help improve the happiness in your life.  Dr.Ulrich has a way of turning everything you've ever thought about being happy and turns it around, like, celebrate your failures, don't get motivated to exercise, stop hoping to find friends, and don't endure to the end.  (Which makes you think, what? doesn't it? And if you want to find out how she turns those topics around to happiness, you'll have to read the book!)  It's a short book, but it has exercises within the chapters so you can evaluate yourself, and I think this is one I'll be reading again and again.  So many great bits of information and help to bring a little more sunshine and happiness into your life.

So if you have a spare moment this weekend, these are definitely some books you'll want to pick up! You won't be sorry!

Here's the back copy:

Habits of Happiness – Wendy Ulrich

When happiness doesn’t enter our days automatically, and when life isn’t going as planned, sometimes we are quick to equivocally gauge our overall happiness in life. In this book, filled with scientific research, practical advice and engaging anecdotes, Dr. Wendy Ulrich invites readers to look at happiness in a new way.

Making It Through the Middle – Emily Freeman

Life is full of challenges, and it’s easy to feel the end of our trials will never arrive. But is it the end we should be spending so much of our time focusing on? In this book, Emily Freeman shares six lessons, and various personal experiences to assist readers in staying strong when they are right in the middle of a hard time.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Home – John Bytheway

Sometimes the smallest phrases we use in everyday language can be eternal principles that get us through our lives. In this book, John Bytheway makes an inspiring and insightful connection between everyday phrases spoken at home and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Free Books---Great Marketing or Not?

There has been a lot of controversy over whether free books are really a great marketing tool, but for me, there are several pros and cons.

On the plus side, many authors say that having the first book in a series for free results in greater sales for the subsequent books, so the hit they take on having a free book is off-set.

A free book will let readers who wouldn't normally be in your target audience download something of yours to try and, if they like it, they may buy your other books.

Your visibility and rankings on Amazon can increase, resulting in sales in the long run.

On the downside, when I have downloaded free books, it is rare that I find a well-edited, great story. It's like searching for that needle in a haystack.  And often, I get what I paid for when the free books I've gotten are riddled with errors and needed a good content editor.

The market is currently saturated with free books.  It seems hard to get noticed these days when there is an avalanche of free books advertised every day.  My kindle alone has so many downloaded books that I know I will probably not get to in my lifetime.  So downloads don't automatically mean it will be read or result in reviews or other sales.

Lastly, authors spend hours and hours crafting a story, putting their heart and soul into it, and giving it away results in loss of royalties.

So what is an author to do?

I think if you are going to give away a book for free, make sure you have clear goals.  You want new readers.  You want to be noticed.  You want your series to sell so you're sacrificing one book.  And be clear that it might not work well.  Of course, it may work great for you and be a wonderful marketing tool.  The key is to know the risks before you make the decision.

What do you think of free books?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

I have the first quarter of my work in progress going to my critique group next week, so I've been writing like the wind this week.  For word count, I got less than last week, but more than the week before, with 4589 words, so I'm a happy camper.

There's something very motivating about seeing the word counts go up each week and the story being built into what you imagined in your head.  I can hardly tear myself away from the computer these days.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beckett Undercover---Oh My!

Did you SEE Castle last night?  It was so good. I was seriously on the edge of my seat.

Of course the writers start us off with the warm fuzzies of Caskett lounging around the loft and Beckett reveling in not having anything to do. They're talking about fonts for their save the date cards and being all cute and cuddly.  Then Beckett gets the phone call---come down to the precinct, alone.

She does, and there's a mission waiting there for her.  Go undercover to try to help bust a shadowy drug ring.  They don't know much about the woman she'll be impersonating, but since she's a low level courier, it should be a quick in and out.  Beckett agrees, gives Castle a phone call to say she'll be home for dinner and she loves him, and then she's gone.

Beckett goes to the meet, but in the elevator a gun is pulled on her and she's whisked away in a white van, hooded and hands behind her back.  Uh oh.  When she's frantically trying to talk to anyone who can hear her through the wire she was wearing, while the scene is cutting back to the precinct where the team is trying to figure out what to do to find her, was especially good at ramping up the tension.

Beckett is taken to some mansion where she goes in to meet a creepy Glasses guy.  He offers her a permanent position in the "company" for $50,000 per week and she says she wants to meet Lazarus (the main guy) before she says yes.  Glasses says he'll check with Lazarus and let her know, but until then, she'll be their "guest."  The men step outside to talk for a second and Beckett lunges for the phone to get a message through to the precinct.  Seriously heart-pounding.  She gets through and is able to talk to Espo for a second before the men come back.  Whew.  She's taken to a nice room where she pricks her finger and leaves a little blood trail for CSU so they'll find the letter she's left for Castle talking of her love for him.  So sad!  Stana Katic was amazing in that scene.

Castle has figured out something is wrong by this time and when no one answers his calls, he goes to the precinct.  The captain brings him into her office and tells him what's going on.  Poor Castle.  He looked like he'd been sucker-punched.  Beckett's message gave them a clue that Elana, the woman Beckett is impersonating is more than a low level courier, so the team turns their attention to her.  The guys go to question her, but when they get to the hospital, the police guard is dead and she's gone. Ruh roh.

Meantime, Beckett is given an assignment that, if she completes it, Lazarus will meet with her. (Because the real Elana is an accomplished killer apparently. Yikes.)  So all Beckett has to do is kill a guy for the organization. They take her to his house and give her a gun.  She tries to stall a bit, to find out more about the target, but they aren't having any of it and tell her to get it done.  Beckett goes in, the guy sees her, and we cut to two shots being heard.  She runs back out, but her escort tells her to show him the job is done.  We go back in and the guy is lying on the floor, there's blood spatter everywhere. Everyone's happy but the dead guy.

Only he's not dead.  He calls the precinct to tell them the story about how this woman said she's a cop and went into his kitchen to get ketchup and beets and that she better do what she says if he wants to live.  So the team has a clue that she's alive at least.

Beckett goes back to the mansion (and she does manage to get a partial text message to the precinct from a bimbo's phone) and is taken to this creepy staircase to a basement.  Here is my advice---never go down a creepy shadowy basement staircase.  Shiver.  Beckett does and sees a bunch of women counting money.  Lots and lots of money.  She's taken down a long hall and to a door where a man can be heard screaming.  After a minute she's allowed in and when Lazarus turns, it's a moment of recognition for both of them. He was that massive guy that she questioned in her mother's murder, Vulcan Simmons.  Yeah, not good for Beckett.

She gets tortured for information with her head dunked in ice cold water.  When she doesn't give anything up, he gives the order for her to be killed and dumped in the woods.  As she's kneeling there, just before the guy pulls the trigger, the real Elana comes out of the trees and kills the guy, saying she was sent in because "he" wants her alive.  Bet you can't guess who the "he" is.

Beckett is rescued and during her statement they realize they can't prove anything.  The mansion has been cleaned out, Vulcan Simmons has an alibi, there's nothing solid.  But Beckett remembers lots of money being funneled to something called Future Forward so the captains starts looking into that.

We get a really sweet Caskett moment with Castle saying, look what happens when I leave you alone and Beckett telling him she wasn't alone, that thoughts of him and their future life together kept her going.  They do realize that Vulcan wasn't Lazarus, and after Beckett watches Senator Bracken on TV they all realize who the real Lazarus is---him---who has a big super PAC full of drug money to fund his run for the presidency.  But the bigger problem is now the debt is paid, she saved his life once, he saved hers.  So the next time they meet, well, the gloves are off.

Such a great episode---angsty, twisty, and part of the over-arching mom death plot that seemed fresher than the rest of the times they've visited this storyline.  Loved it!

Did you watch?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review: One Little Match

Today I want to tell you about a sweet children's book by Thomas S. Monson, called One Little Match. There are two things that really struck me about this book. 

First of all, the illustrations are incredible.  It's about two little boys who are enjoying their summer holidays in a cabin with everything a little boy could ever want---fishing, running through fields, collecting treasures.  The pictures of them are good enough to be framed.  I loved them!

The second thing was the message of the story.  I loved reading it to my children because the story was so relatable (and my kids loved the pictures as much as I did!).  We were also able to talk about how seemingly small decisions can have very real consequences for not just the person, but everyone around them.  I also was able to start a conversation on how rules are in place to protect us, not limit us.

This is a great story for all ages, really, and is one our family will treasure. Especially with all the boys I have in my family!

About the Author:

Thomas S. Monson was set apart as the sixteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2008. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963 and served for twenty-two years in the First Presidency. His ministry has been characterized by his compassion for the needs of individuals and his gift for one-on-one service.

Book Description: 

Thomas S. Monson loved spending summers at his family's cabin in Utah's Vivian Park. One summer day, he and his best friend, Danny, decided to clear a field so they could gather with their friends and have a campfire that night. The tall, stubborn weeds would not pull out easily. So Tommy had the idea to burn them up instead.

He knew he shouldn't use matches without permission from his parents. But he ignored the feeling that warned him of the danger and raided the matchbox in the cabin. Back in the field, he lit one little match and prepared to set the parched June grass abaze...

Readers of all ages will resonate with this wonderful true story that demonstrates the blessings of obedience and "the dangers that can come from something as small as one little match."