Monday, March 31, 2014

Apologies

Due to an unexpected occurrence, no post today.  My apologies.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This I know for sure...

There are certain things that frustrate me to no end even though I know I should expect them to happen. For example, my hours for my day job are from 7:30am to 3:00pm. It never fails on those days that I need to leave work exactly on time for a doctor or dental appointment, my manager will find something that needs to be done before I can leave. Twice in the last two weeks, I've had to leave on time and both days, he decided at 2:30pm that projects with deadlines two or three days in the future must be completed that day instead of the original deadline date. I get completely frazzled and stressed out trying to get everything done so I can get to my after work appointments without being late (though I was a couple of minutes late for one of them), that I get a tension headache and end up lying awake at night wondering if I did everything and included everything in the packets that was supposed to be included before they were sent out. 

I don't mind that he changes the deadline dates, I just wish he would tell me in the morning so I can give those projects priority instead of waiting until it's almost the end of my work day to decide to tell me.

I read a quote somewhere that I unfortunately can't remember who to attribute it to but it went something like, if you live on the beach and hate the sand, don't complain about the sand, learn to expect the sand. I'm trying to learn to expect my manager to change deadlines at a moment's notice on a whim, but it's hard.

(Sorry for the rant.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week's review is No Good Duke Goes Unpunished: The Third Rule of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean. (This is the third book in the Rules of Scoundrels series.)

Blurb
A rogue ruined . . .
He is the Killer Duke, accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for twelve years, wealthy and powerful, but beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara resurfaces, offering the one thing he’s dreamed of . . . absolution.
A lady returned . . .
Mara planned never to return to the world from which she’d run, but when her brother falls deep into debt at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world what only she knows...that he is no killer.
A scandal revealed . . .
It’s a fine trade, until Temple realizes that the lady—and her past—are more than they seem. It will take every bit of his strength to resist the pull of this mysterious, maddening woman who seems willing to risk everything for honor . . . and to keep from putting himself on the line for love.

ReviewI'd like to start the review by saying I'm a fan of Sarah MacLean. I read and enjoyed her Numbers series released prior to this series. I also enjoyed the first two books in the current series so when this book was released, I bought it without a second thought. (The previous books I'd borrowed from the library.)

I loved Temple. I felt his guilt, his pain at the thought of killing someone and not being able to remember what happened that fateful night. In spite of what happened to him, he retained his ability to care for others, his sense of humor, and his ability to love and love fiercely.

I liked Mara, sometimes. I liked that she opened a home for the bastard sons of the aristocracy. I liked that she felt responsible for her brother because she left him to deal with the aftermath of her supposed death. I loved that she had a pet piglet named Lavender. Unfortunately there were things she did that made it hard to see her as a sympathetic character or sometimes to even like her.

I enjoyed the book, but...

I had a hard time suspending disbelief that Temple was thought to be a killer just because he woke up in  a bloody bed belonging to Mara but there was no body. Didn't anyone wonder or ask what happened to it? If he was truly believed to be a killer why wasn't he brought to justice?

I also felt Mara could have been more forthcoming with Temple. She wants to trade her anonymity for her brother's gambling debt but she seems to enjoy holding the past that Temple can't remember over him. It's obvious he felt a great deal of guilt over killing her even if he couldn't remember doing it and she seems to jab him with that guilt whenever she gets the chance. When he asks her if certain things happened that night, she either evades the questions or gives half truths instead of just telling him what happened. If she feels terrible about what she did to him, why does she hold the truth hostage and use it against the person she's trying to make amends to?

Despite the above, I would recommend the book but have to say the first two books in the series are much better. I also plan on reading the Chase's story which is the next book in the series.

Rating4 Stars

Monday, March 24, 2014

Contests, Are They Worth Entering?

When I first started writing, I entered contests hoping to get feedback that would help make my manuscripts even better. And of course, I entered hoping to win. Who doesn't?

But after entering 8 to 10 contests within a couple of years, I decided they weren't worth the expense. Back then you not only had to pay the entry fee which usually ranged anywhere from $25 to $40, but you also had to mail 3 or 4 printed copies of 30 pages or more plus a story set up or synopsis and include return postage so your entries and scores could be sent back to you. There was no electronic entry option at the time.

Pretty soon all those entry and postage fees added up and I didn't feel I was getting anything of value out of them. Most of the time, I'd get one or two really high scores, one good score, and usually one bad or terrible score. The scoring and comments varied so widely that it was hard to tell what worked in the story and what needed to be changed. I'd get comments like, "great characterization" and "characterization is dismal and needs work" or "great opening hook" and "needs a better opening hook" from the same contest entry. So was the characterization and opening hook good or not? Who knew? From such contradictory feedback, it was hard to tell. Then there were the contests where you got little to no feedback at all and it was hard to tell why you received the scores you did.

Knowing all this, I've decided to dip my toes back into the contest world. I'm entering one of my published novels in a contest within the next couple of weeks. I'm not entering expecting to win, but I will admit I'm hoping to be one of the finalists. I'm entering because the judges are readers and booksellers and I'm interested in hearing what they have to say.

Wish me luck. :o)


Friday, March 21, 2014

This I know for sure...

Though I'm a writer, I've never considered myself a creative person. I can't look at an every day item and envision it as anything other than what it is. And then there are the people who make art out of those items.

I came across a great example of this at an indoor street fair. A gentleman had taken empty beer bottles and changed them into fun and interesting pieces of art. A friend and I stood and watched him work and asked questions. In the end, I couldn't resist buying one of them for my brother who likes beer and what the artist had made one of the bottles into...

Here's what he did with an ordinary beer bottle:




Pretty cool, huh?
And a fun way to recycle too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Sorry no review this week. Instead I'm sharing a Jello recipe that's different than the ever present Jello molds and fruit salads.

Jello Cookies

1 package 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I usually use Philadelphia brand.)
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 package 3 ounces Jello Raspberry gelatin
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (also known as Confectioner's sugar)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well blended. You can do this by hand or by using a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and raspberry Jello granules. Gradually add the flour mixture to the cream cheese mixture, stirring well after each addition. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray baking sheets with cooking spray. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheets 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. (I've omitted this part with no complaints.)

Makes 60 cookies or 30 - 2 cookie servings

Monday, March 17, 2014

Advice To My Younger Self

(Orginally supposed to be posted on Leanne Tyler's blog on 3/3/14 but due to technical issues wasn't posted.)
    
 In the December 2013 issue of the Romance Writers Report (RWR) there was an article titled, “What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self” that started me thinking. What advice would I give my younger self if possible?

     The first piece of advice would be “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting your time pursuing something they think you don’t have a chance of attaining.” I stopped writing for ten years before I gathered the courage to try again. Oh I still wrote here and there – snippets of dialogue, bits of scenes, things about characters that wouldn’t leave me alone until I put them on paper but that’s all they were – random thoughts that languished for too long in a hanging folder in the back of a desk drawer.

     The second piece goes hand in hand with the first. “Don’t waste time.” Write every day or if you can’t, write as often as you can even if it’s only in 10 or 15 increments. I lost those ten years that I can’t get back. Who knows where I’d be in my writing career today if I hadn’t put my dreams on hold.

     My last piece of advice would be to soak in all the advice and all the how to’s you’re given by those writers who’ve already been where you are now. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When other writers offer to share their knowledge, take them up on it and then pay that generosity forward by helping those who ask questions or advice of you.

I practice the second and third pieces of advice daily. They both have made a world of difference in my writing and my attitude toward it. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Friday, March 14, 2014

This I know for sure...

I try to keep these posts to more random topics and not writing related as those are usually my Monday posts. That being said, today I want to write a bit about promoting a book.

I can't tell you how often I've heard, "You just need to promote your book and the sales will come." Um, no, not necessarily. You can tweet, post on Facebook, post on various loops, do giveaways, have friends help spread the word, but if no one shows up to purchase, all that promotion is wasted. There are hundreds of thousands of books on the market and trying to get your voice heard and attention focused on your book is a time consuming, often thankless task that may generate a few sales but without people reading your book and spreading the word about how great it is, sales won't grow.

Let me qualify that, my sales are okay but what writer wouldn't like them to be better? In my case, I want them to grow to the point where they will allow me to quit the dreaded day job and write full time. I don't need an 8 figure contract like the one Sylvia Day just signed, I'd just like make about the same income I make from the day job so I can quit and write full time.

What I do know for sure is that book reviewers are amazing at getting the word out to their followers on how great a book is or how much they enjoyed a particular book and encourage others to purchase a copy. It's one of the reasons I started posting reviews of the books I've read rather than just listing the book's title, author, and summary.

So to all the blogging book reviewers, I just have one thing to say -- Thank you for reading and posting reviews, good and bad, and helping authors spread the word about their books. It's appreciated more than you know.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Giveaway

A different post today than my usual "What I'm Reading Wednesday" review.



An Unexpected Gift received a great review from The Blushing Reader. Link: http://www.blushingreader.com/2014/03/anunexpectedgift.html  Due to some technical issues, it didn't post until Monday night.  There are still 2 chances to win either a digital copy of the book or a $5 Amazon gift card for the next few days so go check it out and enter the drawing.  I'll be checking back on that website every day for comments and such. :o)

Friday, March 7, 2014

This I know for sure...

 Some days I start the day with great plans of getting things accomplished. And then somewhere between the time I leave the house for the day job and arrive back home, things have popped up that change those great plans.

This week has had a number of those days. I've only managed to write one day this week. I carved out a few minutes a couple of days to do some promotional things, write some blog posts for upcoming visits to other blogs, and read a really good article about writing and time management. Something that I seem to need given recent days.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

The week's review is Asking For Trouble by Jannine Gallant.

Blurb: Daycare owner, Miranda O'Neill, isn't looking for a miracle. But that's what it'll take to convince Cole Matheson the American Dream isn't a trap designed to suck the life out of him. She wants a house with a white picket fence. He wants adventure. She yearns for babies of her own. He's perfectly content claiming his aging hound as his only dependent. The one thing they agree on--they can't keep their hands off each other.

Six months ago, they'd admitted love wasn't enough and parted ways. But when Cole finds himself in charge of his nephew for the ten longest days of his life, only one person can save him.

Will Miranda put aside her heartache to jump into the fray? Can Cole find any redeeming qualities in a demon in a diaper? Either way, both know they're just asking for trouble.

Review:  Please note this is a novella with approximately 110 pages. I point this out because some readers buy a book and don't realize that it's of short length and then give a terrible review because it wasn't a full-length novel.

I felt like I knew Miranda right from the start. It's rare that I can identify with a character within the first few paragraphs. Miranda makes the right decision though it feels like the wrong one - she broke up with the man she loves because she wants children and he doesn't. Knowing a couple in my personal life who went ahead and married then made each other miserable, the push/pull between Miranda's need for a child and her love for Cole was completely believable. I found her to be brave and strong, strong enough to know that while Cole is the love of her life, by denying her longing for a child she'd grow to resent him eventually.

I have to admit, at first I wasn't sure I liked Cole. Some of the remarks he made about kids choking the life out a man and such bothered me. As I continued to read, I grew to know him better. While he loved Miranda, he lived a pick up and go lifestyle that he was worried a child would change. Having lived a lifestyle where that was the norm, I could understand his concern. As he spent more time with his nephew, Jackson, he became more comfortable being around him and caring for him. Cole went from a man who knew nothing about caring for a child and had no desire to learn to a man who kept a level head, administered the necessary aid, and got the baby to the hospital all without a panicked moment.

The best part of Asking For Trouble is not the ending but the journey Miranda and Cole take the reader on. It's at times funny, maddening, and heartwarming. Reading this novella is great way to spend a winter afternoon.

Rating5 Stars

Monday, March 3, 2014

Visiting?

I'm scheduled to visit Leanne Tyler's blog today - Link: http://leannetyler.com/blog/ but my post hasn't been put up yet. I'll keep you updated and let you know when it's posted. Sorry for the inconvenience. :(