Monday, October 31, 2011

A Spooky Read: Rearview Mirror by Stephanie Black

Happy Halloween!

I don’t normally do book reviews on Mondays, but this is a special occasion. Stephanie Black’s new book, Rearview Mirror, is definitely a book to put on your spooky list. I highly recommend you turn off all the lights in your house and read it by flashlight so you can get a full-on adrenaline rush. It is that chilling. (And I would never do that myself because it would give me nightmares. But some people are adrenaline junkies and this book has what it takes to get that going!)

The main characters seem innocent enough at first. Our heroine, Fiona, (I couldn't help imagining Princess Fiona from Shrek every time she was mentioned. Ha!) has been through some traumatic events in her life that she’s tried to work through and put behind her. She’s living her dream being an English professor at a small university and she has her colleague and friend James to talk to and confide in. But then these strange things start happening to her and when they escalate, it becomes a race against time to figure out what’s really going on before something truly horrible happens to Fiona. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author threw me a curveball and I was practically speed-reading through to see what would happen.

I think the thing that is the most creepy about this book is the way the author can manipulate me into suspecting even the people I really like and trust. She had me wondering who was really behind it all almost down to the last page. The twists and turns of the book all lead up to one really amazing scene that makes you gasp at the end. It’s no wonder that Stephanie Black is a three-time Whitney Award winner. Her mysteries are truly fantastic and will keep you on your toes the entire time. My only complaint was the same one I’ve had for all her books---it comes to the point where I have to read it during the day (yeah, I’m a scaredy-cat) and sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in some reading time!

So, if you want to extend your Halloween rush with murders, mayhem and mysterious men (and women), this is the book for you. Here is the back copy:

On a rainy night eight years ago, Fiona Claridge lost control of her car and crashed, injuring herself and killing her roommate, Mia Hardy. Now, she strives to keep the painful past at bay by staying burrowed beneath the demands of her job as a college professor in a small New England town. But when someone starts leaving her gift-wrapped boxes containing malicious reminders of Mia’s death, Fiona’s guilt and grief come flooding back.

She assumes her stalker is Kimberly Bailey, a disgruntled student, and enlists the help of fellow professor James Hampton. But when Fiona encounters the angry wife of an old flame, it becomes clear her student isn’t the only one with an eye for revenge. Cruel messages escalate to danger, then murder. As past and present become horribly entangled, Fiona struggles to unravel the truth about a determined killer—before she becomes the next victim.

And you can click here for the Amazon link.

I hope you all have a wonderfully ghoulish Halloween and eat a TON of candy. (And if you are a Castle fan, tonight's episode looks epic! And so does Hawaii Five-O. Can't wait!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

First Page Friday

As you may recall, Angela Eschler will be critiquing for us on the last Friday of every month. Isn't it hard to believe we're at the end of October already?

Here is this week's First Page Friday entry.

The Entry
Pilot Error

by Anonymous

“His engines are cutting out!” Jerrod tossed the small wrench to the hanger’s concrete floor and grabbed the handheld radio sitting on the wing of the old plane. Felix Fernandez ran out onto the tarmac along side his mechanic with his hand shielding his eyes from the rising sun. “There he is!” He pointed, his heart pounding up into his throat. “He’s not gaining enough altitude.”

Jerrod pressed the radio's mic, lifting it to his mouth. “Cessna, November, one-three-niner-niner-Bravo, you’re way too low. Are you able to climb at all?” A static squelch bleeped over the Unicom, and then nothing.

“God, please, help him!” Felix pleaded, watching his friend’s aircraft struggle. “Tell Tony to return—clear traffic for him. Do it now!”

“Tony, return to runway two-one. I’ll clear it for you. Sedona traffic—niner-niner-Bravo's experiencing loss of power, executing an immediate return to runway two-one.”

In a moment of hope Felix took a deep breath as the small plane’s wing dipped steadily. “He’s banking.”

“He’s going to make it!” Jerrod lifted the radio again and pushed in the mic, but before he could say a word—the plane dropped out of sight. A sharp explosion cracked like thunder across the high desert landscape.

“He hit the mesa,” Felix whispered, grasping the small silver cross hanging around his throat. “Dios esté con usted, mi amigo.”

Ms. Eschler's Comments

Strengths—Things that Will Capture the Reader’s Attention:

-Great hook in terms of instant tension.

There is something clear at stake, and there are potentially interesting characters to empathize with for whom that thing is at stake. Though there isn’t tons of character psychology revealed in the first couple paragraphs, the details of the scene supply enough reader stimuli that we’re hooked until we do know the characters better.

-Going into specifics on the details that carried the scene:

1) I like that you used actual dialogue with what is said into the radio and not just summarized the interchange; though I have no idea what any of that means, the confusion added to the tension for me. (Just make sure that’s the real deal—and you know what it all means—or some readers will be annoyed.)

2) I also really liked the Spanish at the end of the scene—adds nice flavor to the moment and reveals something about Felix’s upbringing/psychology.

3) Correct terms for scene-specific items, like Unicom, are great, as they really make us feel like we’re in a real place. Again, I am not familiar with these terms, but that’s why I read books—to be introduced to new worlds and learn things.

4) I liked the details of the old plane wing, and the high desert mesa, and the sun coming up, etc., as it gives an idea of what type of town/place we’re in, and that maybe we’re talking about guys who dream big, or who indulge in hobbies, as opposed to guys who just work for the airport/plane company. There’s an intimacy in the scene.

5) And I appreciated that you incorporated all of these little details in snippets as part of the action, not as breaks from or interruptions to it. The reader is sucking in the setting without even knowing it—and without having to be reminded that they are having a story described to them and aren’t really there. (Watch out on the first line or two—sometimes you want to keep the first couple of lines a little less wordy so you can start with a punch. So keep the detail, but drop unnecessary modifiers or split up some lines. Our very first intro to the scene is where you want to be subtle so we can forget we’re reading.)

Questions/Things to Finesse

-Things that were a little confusing—point of view clarifications (POV): Having a really clear point of view through which the reader starts the story eliminates any confusing re-reads that will pull the reader out of the action. Here were some POV issues that made it difficult for me to be fully engaged in the at-stakes issue:

1) Jerrod is introduced without a last name, but Felix is introduced with one. Seems odd and is noticeable. If Jerrod gets first screen time, we assume he’s the POV character. So why is he of less significance than Felix (doesn’t get a surname)?

2) Felix runs out of the hangar with his mechanic, but we’re not sure who the mechanic is—Jerrod? Makes sense after I read it a few times, but since we don’t know that Jerrod is the mechanic (as anyone on set could be wielding tools), we’re momentarily wondering where Jerrod is in the scene, and, since we switched to following Felix as the lead POV (who possesses a mechanic) we naturally wonder who the mechanic is. Switching the POV lead makes it feel as if Jarrod is literally and figuratively being left behind (as a character POV and a person in the story).

3) Starting with Jerrod makes us think it’s going to be his POV in which we first see the scene, but then you switch to making Felix the lead with “his mechanic” now playing second fiddle. This switch seems unclear in purpose. Perhaps start with clarity that we’re going to have an omniscient POV of some kind—that we’ll be watching “the two men” rather than making us switch our alignment from one to the other. For instance, you could do something like this:

“Jerrod stared at Felix as he yelled into the handheld radio. “Oh, come on, man, talk to me . . .” The silence on the other end paralyzed both men. “His engines are cutting out!” Jarrod dropped the small wrench onto the concrete, running behind Felix as they sprinted out of the hangar onto…”

This clarification right up front about the POV and the shared experience that we’ll be focusing on saves reader energy—we’re not jumping from one POV to another, thus trying to figure out relationships, who is most important in the scene, where everyone is physically, etc. If you don’t intend to open the scene with an omniscient narrator, but meant it to be mostly Felix’s POV, then start with Felix observing Jarrod, not just with Jarrod’s lines:

“Felix Fernandez stared at his mechanic as Jarrod gripped the handheld radio, desperately trying to get a response from …”

Putting Jarrod’s name after the title of “mechanic” also makes the connection a little easier to put together. It’s still possible that three men are on the scene here, but we’re more likely to put two and two together and assume Jarrod is the mechanic since his title is in the same line as his name. It also makes sense why Felix would have a last name now, as we start with his POV and use a possessive description with “his mechanic” immediately—thus we know relationships and hierarchies right away; opening with Felix, using only his last name, the possessive with “mechanic,” etc., all demonstrate what we need to know about the scene setup in one line.

Word choice—using precision: Along those same lines, even if the POV lead is only Felix, make sure to use the most clarifying and precise words in your descriptions, especially if they have to do with relationships. For instance, both men seem concerned about Tony in his plane, but in this line—“God, please, help him!” Felix pleaded, watching his friend’s aircraft struggle”—we aren’t sure if Tony is only Felix’s friend. If so, why is Jerrod super concerned? They might have different levels of friendship, but if so, specify that. For example: “watching their friend’s aircraft” or “watching his best friend’s aircraft.” The reason these little word choices matter is because a reader, newly introduced into a world, is sort of like a newborn—overwhelmed and struggling to place themselves. That reader has to find his/her sea-legs, so to speak. They are stumbling upon a scene and have to make sense of it, organizing it so they know what’s going on and who is important to whom and what’s at stake, etc., before they’re comfortable diving into the story. If the opening scene creates any confusion for them, so they have to stumble longer than is ideal (meaning re-reading in order for things to make sense), then you’ve lost the impact that opening hook might have had. They still might continue reading on after all the work they’ve invested in understanding the first page, but maybe not if the confusion continues to plague them. And even if they do read a little more, if the overall experience isn’t totally satisfying, they may not recommend the read to others.

Emotional impact—less is sometimes more: The very last image is of Felix saying that his friend hit the mesa, grabbing his necklace, and saying something in Spanish (which I don’t speak, but which I did study about 2000 years ago in junior high. I vaguely recall the words Felix uses, and think they mean something like “God go/be with you, my friend.”). If I’m right with the Spanish, then the scene loses some emotional impact for me. Granted, everyone is entitled to respond to shock, tragedy, grief, etc., in their own way, but I think most of us, upon witnessing our friend’s unexpected, potential death, would be in stunned shock. Possibly grabbing the necklace as we saw the plane crash down, but staring in silence before running that direction. The feeling I got from the scene, since Felix sort of commits his friend to God, is that he’s accepted Tony’s death in that moment. Now, I don’t know how the story moves on from this point, but it seemed sort of odd to me that he’d just accept it like that. (That type of response does fit, say, a deathbed scene where a best friend is dying of cancer, and everyone on the set knew it was coming.)

If your scene ends there and chapter 2 starts, I think it might be a little problem for the reader. How good of friends were they if he just writes him off to death at that point? If the scene continues with him running toward his friend with the intention of saving him and the delusion that God will somehow make Tony live, then maybe have him note the mesa, grab his cross, and ask for God’s grace while he is running toward the explosion. And maybe a Spanish prayer to God to help him reach Tony in time, as opposed to the other line. When I said “less is sometimes more” I mean that ending the scene with just the crash and maybe Felix grabbing his necklace, but no words from Felix, would supply more of the vicarious shock we’re hoping to attack the reader with. (There are other possible motivations for Felix’s Spanish phrase, of course, that I may not be seeing as a reader, given that the page ends the scene possibly prematurely; an out-there example might be that maybe Tony was suicidal and thus Felix knows this was what he wanted, hence committing him to God, etc., but then other hints would need to come into play. So obviously there are lots of ways the last image of Felix could work.) Anyway, just a thought on this one—throwing it out there.

Characterization: I think your story would be even more unique in its opening if you could use the same strategy you employed for setting details (snippets of the right details mixed in at the right moments without overdoing it) in creating your main characters. While there is good tension, and the bit of Spanish we get gives Felix a little flavor, the main characters are currently a little bit faceless. Even the Spanish and the cross necklace could be considered just a stereotype if you don’t have something else as a foundation. If you combine that bit of Felix with a little bit more individualism in the POV of the main character (word choice or a specific and unique fear/thought that crosses his mind as he watches his friend in danger), and maybe a drop of physical description for Jarrod that gives a hint as to his psychology or individuality, I think you’d have a really strong opening. The more clearly drawn the characters are, the more empathetic the reader can be, and thus the more emotional impact the tension will have on the reader: AKA—the reader will be eager to keep turning pages because they are as vested as the characters in what will happen.


Next to tension, fresh voice is the main thing that readers and agents are hungry for. So addressing the issues I noted above will up the ante on that just a tad, and you should be able to set yourself apart from the mass of stories seeking publication or a fan base. But for now, way to capture the tension element and way to use your description to engage the reader—upward and onward!

I'd like to thank Angela and our submitter. It gave me a lot to think about today. See you next week!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Things Writers Need for Balanced Writing

There are three things a writer should always look at to make sure their writing is balanced--setting, dialogue, and action. Like a three-legged stool, each one is needed and important.

The first leg of the stool---setting. A well-integrated setting is priceless. When the reader can imagine themselves right there in the scene with your character, without being beaten over the head with every little detail, then the writer has done their job. I’ve often used the example of being so incredibly bored by a particular book that described every single detail down to the cracks in the table and the dust motes in the air. If you’re giving too many details, your reader will know you don’t trust their imagination or your writing ability. Just use enough detail to make a setting that is powerful and memorable, yet still in the background. Because in the end, if your reader wanted to read a travel brochure they would. Your setting needs to be balanced with the action and dialogue of characters that we care about within that setting.

The second leg of the stool--dialogue. Dialogue is important to any scene because this is how we come to know the characters in the book and the people around them. Dialogue also says a lot about you as a writer, as well as the characters you've created. Is it sharp and witty? Is it full and descriptive or short and staccato? Does it fit your character? Dialogue done well can really move your story forward, but in order for it to be effective, you have to make sure each piece of it moves the story forward, and has identifiers with it as to who is speaking, and anchors for hints at what they’re doing while they’re speaking. Anchors are especially needed so that readers can imagine the scene. Pages and pages of only dialogue can be overwhelming for a reader. Make sure you have that balance with both setting and action in your dialogue.

And the last leg of the stool is action. Each action, whether it’s large, like the event your characters are dealing with or small like something a character is doing should advance the story. Make it deliberate. Action is the lifeblood of your story whether it’s an action of romance, an action of suspense, whatever it is, your book, your characters are made up of actions. Make it count. And be sure it is in balance with the dialogue and setting. Straight descriptions of actions will bore your reader to tears unless they know where the action is taking place, who it affects and how they're going to deal with it.

When you have a balanced writing stool in your novel, with all three legs carrying the weight, you have laid a foundation for your readers that will set the tone for a wonderful reading experience.

And in the end, your novel should be like a beautiful tapestry full of intricate threads of story including setting, dialogue and action, that all make one beautiful balanced picture.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

Have you ever been in your bed, with the covers just right, your pillow position perfect, and you know you need to get up, but you just don't want to because you are so incredibly comfortable?

Yeah, that's where I was this morning. *sigh*

But I am really excited to tell you I got 3676 words this week. And I'm at a crucial part of my manuscript, a milestone if you will, so that is double-exciting for me.

It was something to get out of bed for, anyway. :)

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and Stephanie Black Freaks Me Out

Today is going to be a bit hodge-podgy. You were warned.

Just for fun, I was spotlighted on the Kelworth files. There were some fun questions on there and one possibly true Greek experience I had on the island of Crete. Go here if you want to read it and decide for yourself if there's any truth to it.

Last night’s Castle felt like old times again. Finally. Spooky and fun, and with no awkward Gates to ruin the group mojo, I was feeling it. Best line of the night, “Don’t say the word ghost.” “Apparition-American, then.”

I also watched Hawaii Five-O and loved all the action scenes. Terry O’Quinn still has some moves! And so does Alex O’Loughlin. That cage match was a little bit of awesome. But I think I mostly loved the little moment with Steve and Lori. I know some fans aren’t liking her, but I do. I think she brings a needed element to the team. Kono has always been the little sister of the group and the boys are still figuring out Lori and how she fits. I like that.

As for Stephanie Black, I’ve been reading her new book, Rearview Mirror. In case you aren’t aware, I’ve had some really freaky experiences in reading Stephanie’s books in the past. For example, this is the book review I wrote in September of 2010 for her book, Cold as Ice.

“Beware the Reach of Stephanie Black"
by Julie Coulter Bellon

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I couldn’t read Stephanie Black’s book, Cold as Ice, at night anymore because I was afraid that the creepiness factor would give me nightmares. Well, I have been having some insomnia issues, and I couldn’t stand lying there in the dark anymore wishing for sleep, so I turned the lamp on and thought I’d just finish the book. I only had a few chapters to go, and I was anxious to know the end anyway, and how bad could it be? Surely that was worth a nightmare or two.

So I picked up the book, and just as I did, the wind rustled through the window and shook the blinds a little, as if warning me not to do it. I ignored that and opened to the page. The crickets that had been happily chirping a minute ago, suddenly were silent and I felt a little shiver of eeriness go up my back. But I doggedly started to read.

Before I knew it I was on the last chapter, and the end was as good as I knew it would be. Stephanie is an incredibly talented writer and her mysteries keep me guessing every time. I closed the book, with a smile on my face, knowing that I had done it. I had made it through a Stephanie Black book in the dead of night, and I didn’t seem any the worse for wear. I clicked off the lamp and snuggled into my bed. Surely I would be able to sleep now.

Not more than thirty seconds after I thought that thought, the rocking chair in my bedroom began to creak. Not a little creak from the wind, mind you, but a creak like someone was rocking in it. Thinking maybe one of the children had come into my room, I looked over, but there wasn’t anyone in it. Deciding it had just been the wind, I closed my eyes again, but no sooner had I done that, then the creaking started again. Feeling a little more than creeped out, I quickly sat up and turned on the lamp. There was no one there. The rocking chair was empty, but even as I looked at it, it started to slowly rock back and forth, the creaking even louder in the light somehow. Just as I was about to wake my husband, however, our cat came waltzing out from behind the chair, and it seemed to me she had a little smile on her face, like she knew she’d freaked me out. She calmly walked away and I turned off the lamp and laid back down. The mystery of the creaking chair was solved, but the adrenaline was running now, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all.

So the moral of my story is, never read Stephanie Black books in the dead of night. And if your pet can be bribed, I have a sneaking suspicion that Stephanie Black would be the kind of author that would definitely bribe them to do something to make her book even more memorable for her readers.

Beware the reach of Stephanie Black.

I’ve had similar sorts of experiences with Stephanie’s other books, so you think I would know by now to expect to be freaked out while I read her books. I’m only a third of the way through Rearview Mirror and I just have to say, I think this is her creepiest book yet. It’s like Stephanie reaches through the pages of the book and just when I can’t take the tension anymore, she taps me on the shoulder just to see me jump.

For example, in the first chapter of Rearview Mirror, there is an English teacher who has an angry student that takes things a bit far. If that weren’t scary enough, just as I finished reading that chapter, the phone rang and, I kid you not, the department head of the university where I teach Journalism (an English class), was calling to inform me that I had an angry student that was demanding a meeting.

I know. Spectacularly spooky.

Then, there’s a funeral scene where the main character has an experience while she’s standing on the periphery of a crowd that almost exactly mirrored something I’d experienced at an extended family funeral a few weeks back.

Yeah, I’m a little worried about reading more.

But it’s also the kind of story that you can’t put down and so I think that, while it’s daylight, I might go read a few more chapters.

I plan on posting the full review next week. Maybe on Halloween, just to go along with the feel of this spooktacular mystery.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's Amazing About You?

Last night I went to my sister-in-law’s house and she was talking about a seminar she’d gone to and how they were put into pairs and asked to sit across from their partner, look into their eyes, and tell that person for ninety seconds something amazing about themselves. She sort of laughed when she was telling us about it, and said how hard it was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Why is it hard for us to see how amazing we are?

When I ask my little girl to tell me all the wonderful things about herself, she can list them off without hesitating. She’s a wonderful artist, she loves everyone, she’s a good mommy to her dolly, she loves to dance, she’s a beautiful princess, and on and on.

I think we were all able to do that when we were little, but as we grow, somehow we lose that feeling that we are amazing and unique. It becomes all about fitting in instead of standing out.

I personally find that sad and wish it wasn’t so. I look at the men and women around me and find it easy to tell them amazing things about themselves. But when I look in the mirror, I stumble over telling myself how amazing I am.

So, this week, I’m going to work on that. I’m going to work on re-discovering amazing things about myself. I’m not going to be vain about it, but I am going to concentrate on things in my life and about me as a person that make me unique. You should try it, too! Let’s list three things, right now. Today. Come on, you know you can do it! We’re amazing!

I’m amazing because:

1. I have a wonderful imagination and can think of great stories.

2. I am a very loyal friend.

3. I love teaching and seeing how something I said sparked imagination or understanding in someone else.

What’s amazing about you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

First Page Friday

There is only two more days to enter to win a copy of my new novel Ribbon of Darkness. Click here if you haven't done it yet!

I also got another review and interview! Click here to see what Sheila thought of Ribbon of Darkness and the answer to her question of whether there will be more adventures for Ethan and Kennedy.

Now on to First Page Friday. For my new followers, every week we have a national editor critique a first page submitted to me by email. If you would like yours critiqued, please submit your double-spaced, 12 pt font entry to

The Entry
Shadow Keeper

by M. K. Yarbrough

After the flash of lightning, I waited for the peal of thunder, but instead, a long pitiful shriek echoed from outside the house. A shiver rippled through me, making my flesh prickle. I threw back the covers and crawled from the bed.

Thunder crashed overhead as I searched for the pullcord in the heavy folds of the curtains. I yanked them open, but only a black void stared back at me. Dark storm clouds blocked all illumination from the stars and moon.

I cracked open the window and pressed my ear against the mesh screen. No shrieking howl, no gusting wind, not even a drop of rain on the patio outside disrupted the silence.

A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and the night turned bright as day. I squinted to shield my vision from the burst of light, but not before glimpsing a shadowy figure lingering at the edge of our yard near the alfalfa field. A mournful howl ripped through the air and mingled with the clap of thunder. The creature twisted lower to the ground and disappeared into a clump of oak trees.

A cold chill snaked up my back. I blinked my eyes. Was that an animal, or a man scurrying into the cover of the trees? Not certain what I’d witnessed, I scratched at the stubble on my neck while backing away from the window.

“Ow,” I yelped when my foot scrapped against a sharp object. I hopped around on one foot while rubbing at the heel of my other.

“Brendon?” my little brother mumbled from the upper bunk.

“Yeah, Stevie. It’s me. I think I just stepped on your dinosaur.”

“Give it back,” he said in a sleepy voice.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This story employs the classic thunderstorm opener to establish instant suspense, but it manages to dodge the dreaded “it was a dark and stormy night” cliché. I actually learned a new word when I was contemplating the usage of the word “peal” to describe thunder. My first instinct was that this wasn’t quite right; I think of a peal as a ringing sound. But the dictionary led me to “thunderpeal,” or a clap of thunder. So thank you to this week’s author for leading me to a new word!

The writing is generally quite strong. I like that the author varies sentence length; it leaves me with the sense that he/she reads passages out loud to gauge how well the text flows. As we all know, I endorse this practice wholeheartedly.

I worry a bit about the pacing here. The thunderstorm imagery feels somewhat heavy-handed in the first four paragraphs, but the shadowy figure in the yard makes for a heart-pounding moment. Then, however, the tension breaks suddenly when Brendon steps on the dinosaur toy, which isn't a particularly suspenseful interruption. Also, did you mean that his foot “scraped” against a sharp object?

So the page achieves a certain level of suspense, but Brendon is still a blank slate to me. Our only real clue is his stubble; I'm guessing that he's in high school. We witness the thunderstorm and the shadowy figure through his eyes, but we never experience what’s behind those eyes, so to speak. Because we don’t learn anything intriguing about Brendon himself, it’s difficult to connect with the story at this point. Also, consider voice when writing from your narrator’s perspective. Would a teenage boy say something like “...making my flesh prickle”? You want to be sure that your syntax always reflects your narrator’s age, personality, gender identity, and intelligence level. It means that, while you're writing, you're going to have to live inside your character's head so that you don't commit the literary equivalent of slipping out of an accent in a theatrical performance.

One last thought: Having a character staring out the window presents a real opportunity for some stage-setting introspection. Try incorporating some of Brendon’s thoughts into his observations of the thunderstorm outside—in a way that hints to the reader what matters to him, what internal issues this story might address for him. Bring him onto the scene in a manner that creates a stronger, more memorable first impression. Readers need to feel intrigued by a character to follow him across 200+ pages of story.

Thank you so much to everyone who participates by submitting, critiquing, or commenting on First Page Friday. I've learned so much from all of you. See you next week!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Campaign Platform Challenge

This is my entry for the Third Campaigner Challenge. Here's what the challenge was:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:

that it’s morning,
that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
that the MC (main character) is bored
that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise." (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).

Death Rains Down

The stale stench of rotting fish and the frantic calls of grounded birds drenched in oil were all around me---filling my nose and making me want to scream myself. I sank down into the wet sand, lifting my hand to run my fingers through my hair, before I took a look at its grimy appearance and decided against it. The sun had barely crested the horizon and I knew this was going to be another long day of trying to clean up the mess of the tanker a few miles off the coast.

Taking a deep breath I tried to muster up some energy to stand and get to work, but I’d seen too much of this type of destruction before. I thought saving the environment would give purpose to my life, but instead it only depressed me. “Synbatec, my little wastopaneer,” my native mother used to say. “Keep your life in balance or you end up synbatec. Tacise, or, as your father says, remember.” I missed her.

With a sigh, I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees while turning my face into my sleeve. It helped relieve the rotting fish smell for a moment and I was grateful. “Snap out of it,” I told myself.

The call of the birds was getting more insistent and woeful and I knew I needed to go. Before I could stand up, however, the hum of a plane buzzed above me and I shaded my eyes, looking for it. It didn’t take long to spot, as the flash across the sky was leaving heavy black smoke trailing behind it. Within seconds, it had exploded into a fiery ball. Scrambling, I headed inland, searching for cover while the flaming debris starting to rain down on the dead fish, defenseless birds, and me.

How Losing a Toenail Relates to Writing

Warning: Squeamish people should probably not read the following post.

A little over a week ago, I accidentally dropped a chair on my foot and my toenail started turning a weird color. It bled and hurt so bad it made it hard to walk, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. You wouldn’t think a little toenail would make such a big difference in the quality of my life.

Last Saturday, my foot felt sort of weird and when I looked down, I saw that my toenail had bent all the way back. Seriously. The whole thing, bent toward my ankle, hanging by a mere corner. I actually have a picture of it, and was going to post it, but I hesitated because, yeah, it’s sort of gross.

Anyway, so my dilemma became, do I rip it off all the way or let the last corner come off by itself? (I ended up cutting it off and currently I have no nail at all on my big toe. It looks weird.)

How does this pertain to writing, you ask?

Sometimes we drop a scene or character or backstory into our manuscript and even though it hurts and bleeds, we shove it in there anyway, thinking it is necessary for the story. The story goes on, but it’s limping and we know the reason why, but aren’t sure what to do about it. Don't we need it in the story?

So after a while of feeling weird about the it, one day you look at your manuscript and realize that the great idea, character, line, whatever, is barely hanging there and you have a choice to rip it out or put a bandaid on it and hope it resolves itself. In a few cases it can resolve on its own, but in my experience, it’s generally better to go with your gut and cut, cut, cut! (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it!)

Once you cut it out, you may feel your manuscript looks like a cat with no hair, pink and vulnerable, but this is a chance for something else to grow there, something better, something wonderful.

And that, my friends, is an analogy you won’t get anywhere else.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

I am LOVING having a critique partner. I have buckled down like never before and squeezed writing minutes out of a day that I didn't think had anything extra in it. It's been wonderful for my work-in-progress.

This week I had 2543 words and, while it's not as much as the last two weeks, I'm really proud of that and feel like I'm making forward progress.

How did you do?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Reviews--Helpful or Not? Opinions Wanted

I’ve been doing book reviews every Tuesday for a while now, but I have a few questions for you. Do you read book reviews? Do you feel they are helpful? What do you like about them? What don’t you like?

For me, I like book reviews because they sort of give me a heads up about the book before I buy. These days my book budget is tight and I like to read what other people have said about a book before I spend that hard-earned money. However, I DO NOT like reviews where they spoil plot points or endings. I am definitely a lover of non-spoilery reviews.

I have a few blogs I depend on for trustworthy reviews, and I do go to Goodreads, (although I’ve cut down on that since a lot of those reviews are spoilery with no spoiler tags). But I have noticed that some people have said they don’t go to Goodreads anymore because the reviews are just the author’s friends and aren’t really objective.

What do you think?

When I write a review, I try to put out there what I would want to see if I was considering buying this book. Was the plot believable? Were the characters relatable? Was it well-edited? Those are the questions I try to answer and of course, no spoilers in my reviews.

As an author, I always appreciate reviews of my books that include these things as well. Even knowing that it may not be positive, I’d rather have someone constructively point out what they didn’t like so that I can improve. I always appreciate reviews that say they liked it, but the question inevitably runs through my mind---what did you like specifically? What didn’t you like? But I never ask because I’m just grateful they did a review at all.

When you read a review, what do you expect from them?

So today, dear readers, I’d like your opinions. Tell me what you really think about book reviews. Helpful or not?

Monday, October 17, 2011

What the BYU Offensive Coordinator Taught Me

A lot of you know that I’m a BYU football fan. I watch their games every week and have for a number of years. Earlier in the season, we were in a sort of slump, but the past few Saturdays have been wonderful, nail-biting games (which we won.) This past Saturday, after the win, they interviewed some of the players, and one of them said something that has stuck with me. They said their offensive coordinator focuses on three things for the offense---unity, efficiency, and fundamentals.

I have thought a lot about that because I think those three words can apply to a lot of aspects of life. In a family, especially a large family like mine, in order for it to work we have to have unity, efficiency, and the fundamentals of family down pat. I started to think about what I could learn from his words and how I currently apply it in my family life.

In the unity department, I think unity in a family begins with us, as a couple, husband and wife. When we can have “couple councils” to plan our week, including our date night where we can get away for a couple of hours, it rejuvenates me and helps me feel not only the love we share and have built on, but I also feel more organized and able to function throughout the week. We also try to have family night every Monday. This is a night that’s set aside for just being together as a family, talking about important things in our home and religion, where we eat dinner together, play games together and just enjoy each other. (Mostly. Sometimes we have to talk really loud over the crying baby, or I have to sit between two children, but you know, we're trying.)

In the efficiency department I have a large calendar on my fridge that lists everyone’s activities and appointments so we can stay organized. (I also have an inexpensive yearly planner with lines under each day so I can write down what’s coming up in the year ahead--school activities, holidays, etc.) The family chore chart is also listed on the fridge and everyone knows what is expected which helps in the efficiency department. Most of the time. (Yeah, I have to remind sometimes. Okay, sometimes a lot of times. But we're trying.)

I believe the fundamentals of my family are/should be love, respect, and service. I have noticed that if we are really concentrating on showing love and respect, and offering service where we can to those in our family and those around us, everything just seems to fall into place. It sure doesn't happen every day, but on the days it does, I do notice a big difference in the tone of our home.

Now, I’m not saying that our family is perfect and we walk around on rainbows, petting our unicorns, but I think that when we are striving to do these things, our family life is better.

And when the family life is good, interestingly enough, my writing life, my teaching life, most every other aspect of my life is good.

So, this week I’m going to take the BYU offensive coordinator’s words to heart and work on our unity, efficiency, and fundamentals---both in my family life and writing life. Of course, it's always a work in progress, but what do you think? Are unity, efficiency, and fundamentals important in any aspect of your life?

Friday, October 14, 2011

First Page Friday

I am so excited to tell you that all of my fiction books are now available on Kindle! I noticed the last two were up yesterday.

My first three books were LDS romantic suspense, Through Love's Trials, On the Edge, and Time Will Tell, and they were spinoffs of each other (meaning a character was introduced in one and appeared in the other--they can be read stand alone.)

My second series of three books, All's Fair, Dangerous Connections, and Ribbon of Darkness are all finally together on Kindle as well! (You can find the links by clicking on the images in my sidebar).

In All's Fair, we have Brandon and Rachel's story, and are introduced to their co-worker, Tyler Winthrop. Dangerous Connections is Tyler's story, but we are also introduced to Ethan Barak in the book and Ribbon of Darkness is Ethan's story. Make sense? (Although just to reiterate, you can read any of them stand alone. You just have a bit more backstory if you read them in order is all.)

Anyway, All's Fair is only $5.59 on Kindle (Dangerous Connections is $9.99) and I was excited to see that my publishing company had gotten the last two up yesterday.

Are you ready for First Page Friday? Let's get to it.

The Entry
Death Comes to the Lunch Gentleman

by Jessica Patterson

I got a phone call this last week. It was from my childhood friend Billy who I hadn’t heard from in fifteen years, although from his blasé tone you’d think we talked every five minutes.

“Hey Mona,” I had to rein in a strong impulse to run out my backdoor and scurry barefoot through the dirt over to the ponds we’d both grown up loving. I was only stopped by the stubborn fact that I lived a thousand miles away from those ponds.

“Billy stinkin’ Wright. How the heck in the world for all that is good and holy are you? Geez I can’t believe I’m talking to you.”

“He’s gone Mona.” I can’t explain it physiologically, but I’m pretty sure all of my internal organs combusted and then ten seconds later, saints-be-praised, miraculously reformed.

“Does it feel different?”


“Just pretend you’re in touch with your emotions and feeling garrulous. What is it like not to have him there?”


“Just because you don’t choose to use it very often doesn’t mean I don’t know you know the English language Billy. Just answer my question. So there was no earth shuddering or volcanic eruptions or stars falling from the sky or thunder or at least some dark clouds?”

“The weather was fine.” I didn’t believe him.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This week’s entry marks the first rewrite I’ve received since assuming the Ms. Shreditor role. I have reviewed the original sample and my critique (from August 19, 2011) so let’s get to work examining what’s changed and what hasn’t.

In my initial critique, I expressed doubt over the choice to begin with a phone call that happened a week ago. The rewrite also establishes that the phone call happened a week ago. Again, is it important that the phone call happened a week ago, or would it be better to begin the story at the time of the phone call?

I really liked this bit: “I had to rein in a strong impulse to run out my back door [note inserted space here] and scurry barefoot through the dirt over to the ponds we’d both grown up loving.” While I liked the original version, this one is somehow more poignant to me. It establishes not only vital details about Mona’s upbringing, but shared history between these two characters.

In the comments of my original critique, Melanie Goldmund made an important point: Make sure that dialogue tags line up with the speaker. In this rewrite, we have Billy greeting Mona and, a few moments later, telling her that “he’s gone.” In both instances, the dialogue is followed immediately by Mona’s introspection. For a split second, I thought that it was the narrator talking. A simple paragraph break here might do the trick and minimize reader confusion over who is speaking. You don’t want your readers to have to jump through hoops and reread a lot of text to determine who is speaking at any given time. That said, I like that this author doesn’t overuse dialogue tags like “he said” or “she said,” a tic that can be just as detrimental to flow.

There’s one addition that was a bit jarring to me: “Billy stinkin’ Wright. How the heck in the world for all that is good and holy are you? Geez I can’t believe I’m talking to you.” Read “How the heck in the world for all that is good and holy” out loud. Is this something that a young person would actually say? And is this the tone you want to set for the conversation? Is this the first impression you want the reader to have of Mona?

I’m still somewhat troubled by the cryptic reveal that “he” is gone. We don’t know who he is, but after a second read, I’ve decided that this adds an element of mystique that will keep the reader turning the pages. This is the beauty of a reworked sample: Sometimes, tweaks elsewhere can help other previously jarring elements to fall into place.

Thank you to everyone who has submitted to First Page Friday. If you would like to submit your sample, please follow the guidelines in the sidebar. See you next week!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mixing the Strange With the Normal & Dan Wells

I got another review of Ribbon of Darkness today from Heather Moore, an author that I admire and respect. If you want to read it, you can do so here.

Also, have you entered to win a free copy of Ribbon of Darkness yet? If not, you should by clicking here.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Book Academy conference. The keynote speaker was Dan Wells, and if you like horror fiction, then he is the author for you. He has written, I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You all available on Amazon here. I want to read them myself, but frankly, I'm sort of a scaredy-cat and haven't gotten up the guts to open the Dan Wells book I own. I mean, even the cover looks scary! (I know, I know, it's silly. I'm working on it.)

Dan began his keynote and honestly, his sense of humor caught me a little off-guard. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. He has such an easy style and really brought the writing process down to earth.

One thing he talked about in his keynote was coming up with ideas. He said that we should be coming up with five story ideas per day, and a few of the people at my table shook their heads. Five? That seems like a lot. But then Dan told us one of the easiest ways to come up with a story idea is to take something normal and put it with something strange. He threw out something normal to the audience, like “buying a dog,” and then the audience members came up with something strange. And boy, did they ever get strange! Radioactive urine that made the grass grow incredibly high and then little people emerged. A dog that can give anyone who pets it superpowers, the dog is an alien, the dog is wanted for a code on its dogtag, the dog is wanted because it’s an assassin dog, the list went on and on. It was fascinating to see how quickly one little idea spread into at least fifty others by just mashing the normal with the strange. It really made the idea of coming up with five story ideas per day more manageable.

That said, I haven’t written down five story ideas a day since the conference, but I think I could. Story ideas go through my head all the time and I have the beginnings of a lot of stories on my computer, but I really like having the normal smashed with strange speech in the back of my mind since that could make my story that much more interesting.

What about you? Do you keep ideas written on your computer or in a journal somewhere? How do you come up with your ideas? And if I gave you one normal thing, like, say, a hairbrush, what strange thing would you come up with to make a story?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

It has been an incredibly busy week and I thought I was going to have put in a woefully low number for Word Count Wednesday today, but then a miracle happened.

My internet, phone, and TV service went down for over six hours.

Honestly, I can't tell you how much work I got done. No one could call me, no one could watch TV, (so I had all my kids' rapt attention) and I couldn't get on the internet to procrastinate anything. I buckled down and got some papers organized and filed that I'd been putting off, my house was clean and dinner made (thanks to everyone doing their chores, since, you know, there was nothing better to do), and I worked on my manuscript with no distractions.

How many words this week, you ask?


So, not only do I have a clean house and organized files, but my manuscript is going full steam ahead! Woohoo!

How did you do this week? And if your TV, phone, and internet were down, what would you do with the "free" time?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: Obsession

I have been anxiously awaiting Traci Hunter Abramson’s new book, Obsession, and it was definitely worth the wait. I was a bit concerned because I knew it wasn’t part of her Saint Squad series, which I loved, but my concern was unwarranted. Obsession is another wonderful suspense with new characters that I grew to love.

Kendra Blake is a popular singer that is used to the spotlight. She comes from a prominent family where her father is an actor, so she’s had to deal with security and bodyguards from a young age. She has chafed under its restrictions until a bomb goes off at one of her concerts and she has to make a choice---accept the stifling security of her father, or go into hiding. She chooses to flee to a remote cabin where she meets Charlie Whitmore, a man who has more to him than meets the eye.

I really liked Charlie and his backstory. He’s one of the Whitmore family, whom we’ve met in previous novels, but Charlie is trying to break free from his own family issues and be his own man. I loved the hints toward some of his angst with what happened to an old partner, and an old love who wanted him more for his name than himself, and I thought the author really pulled it together in how these events affected him throughout the story. I also liked how honorable Charlie was, even in extreme circumstances, and felt the romance was developed at just the right pace. I also liked how vulnerable Kendra was, and thought that her responses to Charlie were quite genuine since she’d never really had a relationship before and was “new” on the dating scene so to speak. Some of the tender moments between Charlie and Kendra were definitely the kind you want to read twice just for the “sigh” factor.

I felt the characters were the strongest point in this story and was pleasantly surprised to see how the author pulled it all together in the end. I thought Abramson did a good job in the creepiness factor and I also thought the book was very well-edited except for one spelling mistake of “Capitol” building in the last chapters. I would even hesitate to mention that one, lest I be thought of as nitpicky, but it is a national landmark and all. Honestly, though, other than that one thing, this book was close to perfect in the editing department.

So, if you’re looking for a great LDS mystery/suspense, this is an exciting afternoon read, a nice escape into the world of FBI and rich and famous singers. Especially not to be missed if you are an Abramson fan.

Here is the back copy:

Pop singer Kendra Blake grew up in the spotlight as the daughter of a prominent actor. Now famous in her own right, she’s had enough with bodyguards shadowing her every move. So when a bomb goes off backstage at one of her concerts, she gives in to her urge to flee. In search of the privacy she’s lacked her whole life, Kendra escapes to a remote cabin in Arizona. Little does she know, FBI agent Charlie Whitmore has been assigned to keep her safe and is staying right across the street.

Stranded in severe weather, the two develop a friendship that hovers on the verge of romance—with Charlie frantically trying to keep his personal and work life separate and Kendra enjoying a new-found freedom from her glamorous world. But when law officials discover that there may be a link between a notorious serial killer and Kendra, she has far greater concerns than her independence

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving for Canadians and, I must say, I am so grateful to be a Canadian who is married to an American. It just makes me extra grateful to have my Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and then a month later, we get another Thanksgiving. Best of both worlds!

So, my turkey is slowly roasting in the oven, the potatoes are about to be peeled, the stuffing and pies are on the counter waiting for me to finish prepping them, the Jello salad is done, and I'm debating whether to try a sweet potato pie this year. We'll see. Out of curiosity, do you have a traditional Thanksgiving dish?

When I think about Thanksgiving and the things I'm grateful for, I first think of my husband and children, my family and my friends. I'm also grateful for the freedoms I enjoy, for the opportunities I have to pursue a career in writing and teaching because those are the things I love to do. I'm grateful for a warm home, food to eat, and for indoor plumbing. I'm grateful for the experiences in my life so far, both good and bad, because they made me the person I am today.

And, of course, I'm grateful for this blog, and the people who read it because I've met so many wonderful friends because of your kind comments to me. Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Page Friday

I had such a great time yesterday at my writer's conference and I'm going to be sharing some of the stuff I learned on the blog next week. It's going to be fun!

But until then, here is this week's First Page Friday entry.

The Entry
So You Don't Want to be an Evil Sorceress

by Janice Sperry

Mysty dreaded her birthdays, especially the part where her grandparents came for cake and presents. The cake was great. It was the presents that made her want to crawl in bed and hide. Her fifteenth birthday present was probably still scurrying around in the sewer somewhere hissing and terrorizing the smaller natives.

She pulled a sweatshirt over her damp hair and shuddered. It already felt like the longest birthday ever. She stared at the clock for a moment before she realized that the dots weren’t blinking. Her sweatpants slid to her ankles as she scrambled across her bed to check her clock. A tiny stick was crammed in the set time button. She checked her watch. Four minutes until the school bus arrived.

“Dominic!” she screamed.

Laughter. He didn’t even have the decency to wish her a happy birthday.

She slipped her shoes on and ran to her bathroom, tying her sweatpants as she went. Toothpaste splattered on the sink as she brushed her teeth with one hand and her hair with the other. She dropped her toothbrush on the counter and untangled her hair from the brush before pulling it into a soggy ponytail. Painful red spots grew on her nose and chin. Lovely.

A horrible smell oozing from the massive black cauldron greeted Mysty in the kitchen. She wished her parents would update the kitchen and removed the bundles of smelly herbs from the ceiling. But that might encourage her mother to cook so Mysty never said anything.

“Why didn't you wake me?” she asked when she reached the kitchen. “I'm going to be late. I don't have time for breakfast.”

Her mom, Cindy, tucked a shiny black curl behind her ear and handed Mysty some black toast. “I sent Dominic to tell you to get moving half an hour ago.” She folded her arms and glared at Dominic, who was suddenly very interested in his breakfast.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

This sample’s greatest strength is its voice. It’s funny. The varied sentence length creates a nice rhythm. Do be careful not to string together too many short sentences, as this can make your writing too staccato. I am currently working on a manuscript that contains a lot of short, clipped sentences. While this technique can be effective in certain narrative situations, it should be used sparingly.

There are some subtle touches throughout this excerpt that exemplify the art of characterization-by-showing. The black toast illustrates Cindy’s lack of culinary ability. The hissing fifteenth birthday present is a masterful piece of insinuation. We can only guess at what creature might scurry and hiss, but whatever it was, it wasn’t a fluffy little bunny. We also learn from the “painful red spots,” which I assume to be acne, that Mysty is in the throes of puberty.

There were some elements that confused me. For instance, the phrase “soggy ponytail” was a bit jarring. I might call my hair “soggy” if I’ve just come out of the shower and not yet wrung out the water. But Mysty’s hair, which is referred to as “damp” in an earlier paragraph, likely hasn’t gotten wetter in her mad dash to catch the bus. I also had to read the sentence about the stick in the alarm clock a few times to understand what had happened. I think I understand now: Dominic was able to stop the clock by keeping it stuck in “set time” mode. This might benefit from a light revision for clarity.

My biggest problem with this page, however, is that it doesn’t build enough momentum. While Dominic’s prank creates some immediate suspense as Mysty rushes to catch the bus, this opening doesn’t set up longterm tension. I wonder if this could be reworked to introduce a measure of tension or conflict right off the bat—enough to root readers in the narrative and keep them turning the pages. I wouldn’t want to dismantle what is here; I’d just want to leave readers with a clearer sense of what they’re in for.

Thank you to Janice and Ms. Shreditor! Lots of things to think about. See you next week!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Are Writing Conferences Worth It?

I will be at the Book Academy Conference today and I’m really excited about it. It is impossible to describe the zing in the air when a lot of writers get together. It is so motivating to be with like-minded people, talking about something you love.

But is the only reason to go to a writer’s conference because you will be with writers? No. There are a lot of good reasons to make the effort to go.

1. Reputable conferences will have classes and breakout sessions that can help you hone your craft and learn from professionals.

2. You can pitch to agents and get to know them in a more informal setting. A lot of times agents will say, you can send your query directly to my email because you were at this conference, and other such perks because of your attendance.

3. You can network with other writers, publishers, and agents in getting your work seen. Conferences often have critique classes, first chapter contests, things like that where your work can be seen and heard.

4. Conferences help you get involved in your writing community. I have met so many wonderful people at writing conferences who have become trusted friends and critique partners. I’ve also been on planning committees for several conferences and have made invaluable contacts that way as well.

5. You definitely get perspective on what’s going on in the writing world, what’s selling, what’s not, what direction agents and publishers are leaning toward, etc. A writers conference is a veritable treasure trove of information on the business end of writing.

Writing conferences motivate me. I can have my work critiqued, I can get fresh ideas, I can throw out crazy stuff to my writing friends and know they won’t judge me. I also get to meet some online friends and it is fun to put a name to a face. Going to a conference is definitely worth your while. Research what ones are close to you and make arrangements to go. You won’t be sorry.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

Have you entered the contest over at I'm a Reader Not a Writer for a copy of Ribbon of Darkness? No? Well hurry on over and do it! You can enter here

Also, if you are in the Orem, Utah area, the Book Academy conference is tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. If you are going, come and find me! I'd love to meet up with you.

This has totally been a week of up and down for me. Six of my eight children came down with a horrible stomach flu, so I have been up every night trying to comfort my babies and doing a lot of laundry all day long if you get my drift. It's been quite a trying week.

Oddly enough, I've also had so many ideas running through my head as I've been the nurse this week, that it's really helped my word count. When everyone was lying weakly on the couches or napping, I took a few moments to write everything I'd been imagining down, and really upped my normal count. I also tweaked my first chapter and gave it to my brand new critique partner. I'm interested to see what she has to say.

So what was my word count you ask? *drum roll*


Can you see my (very quiet so I don't wake the sick kids) happy dance? I hope so. :)

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: The Alias

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack is an LDS romantic suspense with a twist--definitely good if you like books that keep you guessing. (And I really liked the cover art for this book. Very nice!)

Jacey is approached by the FBI regarding her abusive ex-husband and his possible criminal activity. She realizes that if the FBI can track her, then her ex-husband with all of his connections can, too, and she needs to get herself and her young son as far away as possible. She takes on the identity of her roommate and flees to a small town in Utah to hopefully hide until she can decide what to do. What she doesn’t know is that her son is carrying a terrible secret.

I loved the scenes with the heroine’s young son, and the author clearly shows how affected he is by the events surrounding him. His reaction to the farm and the loving people they are staying with rings true and sincere. His mother seems to be the typical abused woman, but she does have a few bright sparks around her as she reacts to the handsome son of the couple she’s staying with. The idyllic farm setting makes a great backdrop for the healing this mom and son must start. But, of course, dark clouds are forming on the horizon, literally and figuratively.

The book takes you to an exciting conclusion and I thought the way the author tied up the “bad guy” storyline was quite clever. Unfortunately, the abusive ex-husband was fairly stereotypical and two-dimensional, but his ties to the mob made him a bit more interesting. The beauty of the setting was also interesting and easy to imagine, yet, at times, the descriptions slowed down the pace and became redundant. But I thought the author did a great job in giving us an ending that would leave anyone breathless.

I loved our hero, Kale, and how vulnerable he was with the trials he'd endured in his life. Everyone knows I love a tortured hero! But the romance seemed a bit rushed to me at times, considering the enormity of the situation and the lies that were told. But, then again, it just goes to show that Kale is a very forgiving peron and who wouldn't want that in a man?

One personal thing that drove me crazy was that the author has several of her characters use the word “babe.” It was really distracting for me because it was used so often, but that's just a small personal thing that probably wouldn't bother anyone else.

Other than those small little things, I thought the story was one I'd recommend to all my friends who love a good suspense. I think Ms. Slack is definitely an up and coming author who will be one to watch on the LDS romantic suspense scene.

Here is the book description:

After a long and difficult divorce, Jacey thinks the worst is over. Little does she know she'll soon be forced to go undercover to protect her family, and in the process, she'll risk losing her identity, her future, and her heart. With a lightning pace, a good dose of humor, and a plot that's full of suspense, this thrilling novel is an edge-of-your-seat read.

If you would like to check out this edge of your seat read, you can purchase it for your Kindle here for the great price of $3.99.

You can also read more about the author, you can visit her website here

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Do Your Friends Mean to You?

I got to have lunch today with a writer friend and can I just say, that is one of the few joys in life that a writer has. There is something so wonderful about sitting down with another person who thinks about plot and characters, marketing and booksignings, and everything else that normal people probably don’t think about. It’s energizing. I came home feeling completely motivated to write something.

I think it can be that way with any friend, really. Isn’t it nice to just be able to chat with someone you have something in common with? It seems to soothe the soul and helps us feel like we’re not alone in this world. I think we all need that.

Sometimes life is hard and choosing writing as a career is made a bit harder because it is full of rejections and critiques and wondering if you’re ever good enough. That’s why I treasure my writing friends, who can buoy me up during the down times and celebrate with me during the good. I also treasure my non-writing friends who know what it’s like to be me and love me even with all my quirks.

So, today, I am feeling grateful for friends. For people who reach out and try to share a bit of themselves with others. If you are my friend, thank you for being there for me. If you are new, please know that I’m excited to get to know you better. I love having friends, and even though I’m a bit on the shy side, I know I’m a good friend to have.

Do you have friends you are specifically grateful for? What do your friends mean to you?