Guest Post: Author Jennifer Burrows – INTO THE LIGHT

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to play host to Jennifer Burrows, author of Into the Light. Ms. Burrows will be providing some great tips to many of you would-be writers. Without further ado, I give you Jennifer Burrows.

Starting Out As A Writer –
5 Things You Should Know

I love this topic! Everybody wants to know the secret to becoming a successful writer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set road map for everyone. If there was, it would be much easier. It’s different for each individual based on the genre, networking capabilities, and if your story is what people are wanting. With that said, let’s dive in.  

Number Five: The chances you’re going to become mega successful are slim to none. My husband always says, “I can’t wait for you to make it big so I can quit my job.” I just smile and nod at him. Of course it would be amazing. I’m going to do everything I can to get there. But in the back of my mind, I continue to focus on what I love—writing. I get the opportunity to do what I am passionate about. That’s the reward and I’m lucky.  

Number Four: You don’t need a publisher to publish your book. I had a publisher for my first book and I self-published my second. I’ve been more successful with my second book than I ever was with my first. My publisher didn’t do a lot for me except create headaches. I’ve done all the marketing and networking on my own. Oh, and self-publishing is incredibly easy!

Number Three: Find a good group of beta readers. Your friends and family are not an asset where this is concerned. My husband is a lit major. No help there. My best friend is an avid reader and is very critical when it comes to books. Not really a lot of help there. These people are too close. You need someone who is objective and doesn’t give a crap about hurting your feelings. These are the people who will tell you honestly if your story sucks.

Number two.  Networking is your best friend. Go to writers conferences, join an online group, become a part of a writing club, etc. Make friends. Share your experiences. That support group is so necessary. Writing can be a lonely profession.  If you find a person to share your ideas, fan bases, and tips, it will make things easier for you. One of my author friends did a giveaway of my book on her website. I got almost 100 new likes on Facebook in one day.
The number one thing you should do is make friends with the bloggers. People told me this over and over. Common sense told me I needed to. The problem I had is I’m no one. I’m a new author. The bloggers get tons of inquiries a day to read and review books. One by one, I was shot down. Most didn’t even write back. 

In order to get their attention, I started giving them things to give away on their page. Mostly ecopies of my books. They love this. It gets you exposure while making their fans happy trying to win free items. It’s a win-win.

About the author:

Jennifer is a Registered Nurse, and she holds a Master’s degree in Nursing Administration. She has 15 years of experience working in the Emergency Room and the Intensive Care Unit of a major trauma center. While she is equally adept at all facets of patient care, Emergency room nursing is her passion, and is the inspiration for this story and A Shot in the Dark. Currently, she resides in Southern California with her husband and their three amazing boys. A Shot in the Dark was her debut novel with Into the Light following as the sequel.

Connect with Ms. Burrows:

Twitter: @jenburrows234

Into the Dark by Jennifer Burrows
ISBN:  9781495370700 (paperback)
ASIN:  B00I3S7UVI (Kindle edition) 
Publisher: author
Publication date: February 25, 2014

After Laney is shot at point blank range, Josh works tirelessly to repair her life threatening internal injuries from the gunshot wounds. What’s worse is he is forced to inform Laney’s parents about the tragic accident. Having only just begun a relationship with the woman he knows in his heart he will spend the rest of his life with, he now has to reveal to her parents that a stalker has been tormenting their daughter. While his only mission is to save Laney’s life, her parents have other plans for their daughter, none of which include Josh. They are determined to find a new doctor for Laney, and if her parents have their way, she will be taken thousands of miles away from him.

Just when Josh thinks his entire world has been turned completely upside down, he finds his sister Jillian has stopped taking her psychiatric medications and has become a person unfamiliar to him. Dealing with her psychotic world becomes even more of a shock, leaving Josh in a horrible dilemma. He is torn between trying to save Laney’s life, keeping her parents from moving her away from him, and providing his sister the attention and help she desperately needs before she has a complete psychotic breakdown.

Will Josh be able to save the love of his life and prevent her parents from taking her away? Will he be able to help Jillian through her mental illness before it takes over her life? Will Laney’s relationship with her parents ever be salvaged? Will Josh and Laney have their happily ever after, or will the hurdles they have to jump through prove to be more than they can handle?

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The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6) by Alan Bradley
ISBN: 9780385344050 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345539694 (ebook)
ASIN: B00E2RYTJU (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear.

Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd…

Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. 

Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself.

Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office – and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit – Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

Harriet de Luce is finally returning to Buckshaw. The de Luce family solemnly awaits Harriet’s return via train at Buckshaw Halt station. Harriet’s return is with much pomp and circumstance, as she is accompanied with a military guard, numerous political dignitaries — including Sir Winston Churchill. The former Prime Minister takes a moment to commiserate with Haviland de Luce, Flavia’s father, and turns to Flavia and asks if she has acquired a taste for pheasant sandwiches. What should be a solemn event is marred by tragedy when a man is pushed under the train as the train leaves the station. To add to the intrigue, this strange man has given Flavia a message, a strange, possibly coded message before his demise. What does the question from Sir Winston Churchill mean? Who was the strange man and what does his message mean? Why is Harriet’s death such a blow to the British government? Needless to say these and other questions lead the indomitably curious Flavia on a search for answers.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth installment in the Flavia de Luce series. This book finally answers the question of where Harriet de Luce has been all these years. She was missing and presumed dead, but her death has remained an unanswered question until now. Flavia’s father, Colonel Haviland de Luce is clearly heartbroken at the return of his beloved’s body. As family, friends and colleagues gather at Buckshaw to mourn Harriet’s loss, more questions than answers arise in Flavia’s mind. Her quest for answers leads to answers that are more shocking than the answers and puts Flavia on a path of service to her country.

Just as with the previous five books in this series, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. This book was much more solemn in tone due to the return of Harriet to Buckshaw for burial and the grief of the de Luce family. The reader is given even greater insight into Haviland de Luce’s grief and epic sense of loss. We see Flavia attempting to assuage his grief by finding answers to questions she feels important. In her own way, Flavia is trying to sort her way through the grieving process the only way she knows how, by seeking answers to questions and unraveling puzzles. Flavia is a little more reserved in this book and shows an increasing maturity. If you’ve read any of the previous Flavia books, you’ll delight in this installment. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for Flavia and hope that we’ll be able to watch her intrigues for many years to come.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 7: IN THE BLOOD Review

In The Blood by Lisa Unger
ISBN: 9781451691177 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781451691191 (ebook)
ASIN: B00APJ0XNK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Touchstone


Lana Granger lives a life of lies. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is that the truth is like a cloudy nightmare she can’t quite recall. About to graduate from college and with her trust fund almost tapped out, she takes a job babysitting a troubled boy named Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, the manipulative young Luke is accustomed to controlling the people in his life. But, in Lana, he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

When Lana’s closest friend, Beck, mysteriously disappears, Lana resumes her lying ways—to friends, to the police, to herself. The police have a lot of questions for Lana when the story about her whereabouts the night Beck disappeared doesn’t jibe with eyewitness accounts. Lana will do anything to hide the truth, but it might not be enough to keep her ominous secrets buried: someone else knows about Lana’s lies. And he’s dying to tell. 

Lana Granger is not your typical college student. She has friends, goes to the occasional party, and even joins in on the occasional pub crawl. What she doesn’t do is date . . . ever! Lana is a senior at Sacred Heart College in The Hollows, New York. Her major is psychology, she’s somewhat androgynous in appearance, not really a nerd or geek, but she does have a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She avoids opening up to anyone, including her suite mates. Lana’s background is filled with horror. Her maternal grandfather was a convicted mass murderer. Her father is a convicted murderer and is on death row. Not many know these details of Lana’s past, except her best friend – Rebecca “Beck” Miller, her college advisor – Prof. Langdon Hewes, her family, and her psychologist – Dr. Maggie Cooper. Now that Beck is missing, Lana is targeted by the police as a suspect if not key person of interest due to the lies of omission she has told. It also appears that Lana’s family secrets are about to be revealed. If that’s not enough to deal with, Lana has an afternoon job taking care of an emotionally troubled, highly gifted, and potentially violent eleven-year-old, Lucas “Luke” Kahn, and she’s just been informed that her father wants to have contact before his execution. Lana feels that she can help Luke, but he seems to be keeping secrets not just from her, but from his mother, his educators, and his counselors. Everyone has secrets, but Lana’s secrets might be hazardous to her health.

Ms. Unger has crafted an amazing psychological thriller with In the Blood. The reader is provided a glimpse into the psychology of a psychopath, especially a child psychopath with Luke. He comes across as highly intelligent, but he’s also very manipulative and vindictive in his outlook. The reader is also introduced to an anonymous journal kept by the mother of a highly disturbed male child. As the story unravels, the volatile relationship between Beck and Lana is revealed. It is also revealed that another classmate of Lana’s disappeared and was found dead two years ago. Is it possible that Lana had something to do with both disappearances? Why does Lana’s college advisor seem to pop-up whenever Lana goes out after Beck’s disappearance? Why is Luke so interested in Lana and her past?

I found In the Blood to be a gripping, emotionally stirring, and fast-paced read. I liked Lana and felt empathetic toward the problems she was enduring in college. I felt sorry over the fact that she couldn’t really open up emotionally toward her family or friends. I never really liked Luke or Professor Hewes, as I felt they were both playing mind games with Lana. (Were they in reality doing this, read the book to find out?!) Beck has a history of running away, so at first I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with her disappearance. It is clear that Lana really liked her suite-mate, even though they didn’t agree on everything. The ending is quite a surprise and neatly ties up all of the “loose-ends” throughout the storyline. I felt the characters were realistic and well developed, and the action quite plausible. This was one read that I didn’t want to end. If you enjoy reading thrillers with a twist, then In the Blood is definitely one you’ll want to read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley and Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Showcase: ON GRACE by Susie Orman Schnall

On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall
ISBN: 9781940716138 (paperback)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: April 8, 2014 (Second edition)

Grace May is actually excited about turning forty in a few months. Now that her boys are both in school and she has a stimulating new writing job, the next chapter in her life can finally begin. She can’t wait to rediscover the intelligent woman buried under the layers of mother and wife. But when Grace suddenly loses her job and receives unexpected news, she stands to lose everything: her marriage, her best friend, and her sense of self. By her fortieth birthday party, Grace will realize who and what matter most. With laughter. With tears. With grace.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I am not planning on waking up tomorrow and feeling completely different. But I’m certainly not planning to feel the same as I do today and every other day. Tomorrow when I wake up, brilliant sunlight streaming through my windows, I’ll feel as if nothing can go wrong. It will be a momentous day. Sure, momentous is a big word, usually saved for things like fiftieth wedding anniversaries and retirements that come with gold watches, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use that word and own it. Momentous. I like the way it sounds. 

Today is the last day before I start the rest of my life, because tomorrow is the first day that both of my boys will be in school all day, every day. It’s been eight years since I’ve had my days to myself all day, every day. Eight years since I’ve taken my own wants and needs and put them first. I’m not one of those coddling, helicopter moms, but even us good-enough moms can’t really put our own wants and needs first. At least not all day, every day. 

So as I prepare for momentous, I’m getting all the last-day-of-summer stuff out of the way. Today is haircuts, prepping backpacks, and the last day of collecting colorful summer bugs in glass jars. We’ll take one last carefree bike ride in flip-flops and celebrate with a final late-afternoon trip to Longford’s for ice cream where we’ll probably see lots of other moms who can’t wait for tomorrow and lots of other kids who can. 

But for now, the boys are out back playing baseball with some neighborhood friends, and I’m standing in front of the open fridge, trying to figure out what the hell to make for dinner. When my phone rings, I check the caller ID and answer excitedly. 

“Hey, Cam!” I practically sing into the phone.

“Hey, Grace! How’s it going?” 

“Going great. I really can’t wait for tomorrow. I know I’m going to feel so free, and joyful, and in control of my own life,” I say. 

“Wow, that sounds promising! Good girl,” Cameron says enthusiastically. 

“One more day and then I can start getting my life back in gear.” 

“What exactly is out of gear?” Cameron asks. 

“Well, my marriage, my stalled career, my lack of any sort of fitness, and other miscellaneous things,” I tell her. “Not necessarily, but possibly, in order of importance. I kind of have a little plan formulating in the back of my mind.”

“How much of this is because you’re freaked out about turning forty in a few months?” Cameron asks. 

“I’ve told you, I’m not that freaked out about forty.” 

“You know, Grace, you’re allowed to not be excited about it.” 

“But I am excited. I see forty as more of an opportunity to regain control of my life. Sort of like New Year’s Eve. But with much less champagne.”

“Well, I’ll toast to that,” Cameron says. “And while we’re toasting . . . ,” she adds with an unmistakable lilt. 

“What? No! What?” 



“Seven and a half weeks officially today.” 

“Oh, Cameron. Congratulations! And here I was rambling on and on about me, and you had such good news.”

“Grace, its fine. Really. I called as much to tell you about me as I did to find out how your day before the big day is going.”

“Well, I’m so happy for you.”

“I know. Sorry I didn’t tell you right away. But you know with my history and all, I just really wanted to make sure. And today is a day longer than I’ve ever been pregnant before. Not that I wouldn’t have told you if I had miscarried again. I just had some sort of weird superstition thing going on.”

“No need to apologize. I completely understand. But to make amends, will you meet me for dinner tonight for a proper celebration? Tengda at 7:30?” I ask. 

“Don’t you have to be home with the boys tonight? Last day of summer and all?” 

“I’m taking them on a long bike ride this afternoon so they’ll be tired. And they’ll think it’s more special anyway if Darren is in charge of bedtime. So Tengda?” 

“Raw fish.”

“Right, raw fish. Méli-Mélo then?”

“It’s a date. And you can tell me more about your so-called plan,” Cameron says. 

“I will. See you later. And Cam, I’m really so happy for you. Give my love to Jack.”

And with that, I do a little jig for my best friend who has been trying to get pregnant for five years. I boot up my laptop to email Darren the good news and the heads-up that I’ll be going out tonight. 

As I wash the lunch dishes, I think about the part-time job I’m starting on Monday. I’m going to be the new “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly, our county’s glossy and hip-enough attempt at New York magazine. Each week, I’ll file a 500-word article on something new and noteworthy in the county that’s perfect for families, and I can’t wait to start. It’s nowhere near my old salary, but it’s something. Plus, this job is more about the opportunity to rediscover the woman who’s been deeply buried under the labels of “wife” and “mother” for the past eight years. 

I met the Weekly’s owner/publisher, Matthew O’Donnell, in June at a friend’s beach club. He and his wife, Monique, had just moved to our neighborhood in Rye (a leafy suburb of New York City where you would be confident no one would steal your car while you leave it running to dart into the post office, but you never would leave it running because people would be all over you about the toxic fumes released from idling). When I told him I had been an editor at two different fitness magazines before I had my kids (when I was still, well, fit), he asked about my writing and why I wasn’t still working. 

I wasn’t sure what was the more pleasant surprise: the fact that I was actually having a meaningful conversation with a man other than my husband (something that doesn’t usually happen at these beach club gatherings where the men all gather around the bar to discuss the double S’s—sports and stocks—and the women hover nearby in their strappy summer wedges to discuss the double N’s—nannies and nips and tucks) or that I might have a connection at a publication I’d love to write for. And he was right, why wasn’t I still working? Well, I had two really adorable answers, but they were starting school in a couple months. 

So, I told him, “I put my career on hold, because I wanted to be home with my kids. But they’ll both be in school full time this fall, and I’ll be ready to focus on my work again.”

“Grace has done an amazing job with the boys,” Darren said to Matthew. “They’re lucky she chose them over her career, but she’s not one of those women who is going to be happy playing tennis every day while they’re in school. She needs more than that.” 

I looked at Darren and smiled, feeling so fortunate that he was so supportive. We had talked that afternoon about how I was feeling apprehensive about getting a job. How I worried I would feel overwhelmed managing both a job and my family. I knew I would be no good at all that Superwoman stuff. But I also knew that I ached to be creative again. To use my brain for more than just organizing soccer practice carpool schedules and finding innovative ways to sneak green leafy vegetables into mini meat loaves. 

Matthew and I talked for a while, and I told him I thought the magazine could use a section dedicated to things families could do together, besides just the events listings in the back. When he agreed with me and said that was something his editorial department had been considering, I boldly—with a little help from my Riesling—suggested that maybe I could be the one to write it. A few phone calls, emailed clips, meetings with the editor, and trial columns later, and I was hired as the “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly. 

I hear my cell phone ring so I wipe my hands on a dish towel and rush to find my phone in my disorganized purse. I find it just as the call is about to go to voicemail, notice it’s an unknown caller, and quickly touch the screen to answer. 

“Hello?” I say, completely unprepared for what’s about to come.

About the author:

Originally from Los Angeles, Susie Orman Schnall graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Schnall has written for national and local publications about parenting and health. She lives in New York with her husband and their three young boys. ON GRACE is her debut novel.  

Connect with the author:       

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter 

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Guest author post: Danielle E. Shipley – INSPIRED

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from Danielle E. Shipley, author of Inspired. Today Ms. Shipley will provide some food for thought for all of you that are trying to make the leap from reader to writer.

From Reader to Writer 
By Danielle E. Shipley

Thinking about taking the leap from lover of books to writer of books? Anyone can tell you that there’s no one way to go about it. But if you’re looking for a little inspiration to get you started, you can always consider Annabelle Iole Gray’s 5-step plan to authorship!

Step One = Hang around a bookstore. If any muses are on the hunt for brand new authors with which to start up a creative partnership, it’s probably the first place they’ll look. And hey, even if a muse doesn’t show up right away, there’s still plenty of inspiration to be found. It’s a store full of books!

Step Two = Keep an open mind. Your muse is on your side and wants to fill your head with brilliant ideas. The sparks of those ideas may come to you in a dream, in a snatch of a music, in a glimpse of something out the corner of your eye… You never know where, when, or how inspiration will strike, so don’t dismiss anything out of hand. What seems pointlessly silly one second may have you shouting “eureka!” the next.

Step Three = Write everything down. All those brilliant ideas won’t do you much good if you can’t remember them. There will always be distractions and non-writing responsibilities clamoring for your attention, so whenever possible, jot your ideas down right away. Feel free to think out loud – or rather, on page. Let yourself ramble, “stream of consciousness”-style; the good stuff may be hiding somewhere in all those messy, half-formed thoughts. This sort of note-taking also makes a good warm-up for actually tackling the book. Writing is writing, after all, so keep the muscle loose!

Step Four = Fail a lot. Writing a book is hard. You may enjoy it, you may even be a natural at it, but it will still be hard. There will be plenty of times you can’t find the words you’re looking for, or the story doesn’t seem to want to make any progress. This is both frustrating and perfectly all right. Just keep writing it wrong until you find a way to write it right. Try to be patient with yourself, even if the people in your head are getting cranky at the delay.

Step Five = Succeed at last! You may have to spend weeks, months, or years on Step Four, but if you give it your ninety-nine percent perspiration and that last one percent of inspiration from your muse, you will have the triumph of a completed book. A published book? Well, that’s another bucket of fish entirely, to be saved for another day. In the meantime, you lover of books, you, guess who’s just created a brand new book to love? That’s right. You. Right on, and write on.

Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. …Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home-schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing young adult novels, she’s probably blogging about it.

Connect with Danielle: 

Twitter: @DEShipley

Inspired by Danielle E. Shipley
ISBN:  9781937744434 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781937744441 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00IWBT898 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: J. Taylor Publishing
Publication Date:  March 17, 2014

For a muse like Lucianíel, one story’s end is another’s beginning. 

In the wake of his author’s sudden death, Luc takes ownership of her surviving creations—four fantastical characters with tales yet to be told—saving them from unwritten lives crumbling around them and giving them a second chance at a literary future. 

Luc finds that chance in the unsuspecting mind of Annabelle Iole Gray, a quirky teen with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and imagination ripe for a brilliant muse’s inspiration. 

Or so he hopes. 

Neither Luc nor Annabelle, however, realize all they’ve undertaken. Even with a to-write list including accounts of a shape-shifting cat creature, gentle knight-in-training, vigilante skater girl, and a mystery boy smothering in unspoken fear, the most remarkable saga created between author and muse just may turn out to be one stranger than fiction. 

Their own.

Read an excerpt from Inspired by clicking here.

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Book Blast & Giveaway: SHATTERED EMBRACE


Shattered Embrace – PROMO Blitz

By PR Newton

Contemporary / Women’s Fiction

Date Published: 3/14/2014

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Bethlehem took her first breath as her mother took her last.

Left to survive in overcrowded Ethiopian orphanages, she developed survival skills rivaling a warrior – a fierce, independent fighter before she could walk or talk. As she approached her second birthday, Bethlehem lived her days guided by two rules: everyone leaves and trust no one.

A world away in Canada, Tory Witcraft is trying to adopt from Ethiopia with her husband, Matt, when her adoption agency goes bankrupt, threatening her dreams of becoming a mother. Against the advice of many, including government officials threatening to revoke the adoption, she goes to Ethiopia, and her new daughter, Bethlehem.

When they finally meet, both mother and daughter struggle to connect, each trapped by their own fears and demons. Emotions and tempers run hot. Hearts and dreams collide, shattering a family before it could fully form. 

The adoption journey was difficult, but no one expected the hardest part of the journey would begin once they met.


An itty bitty little thing of a girl came running into the room. Bouncing high with each step as she flew at them and promptly threw herself into Matt’s lap. Tory’s hand clutched her face, her breath stopped in her chest as she watched Matt draw the little girl close. His body rocked as he held her, his face split into a smile of pure joy.

“Daddy!” she cried out in a squeaky voice. She grabbed Matt’s face kissing each cheek with a big, slimy, open mouth kiss.

“Bethlehem!” Matt breathed out as he hugged her and kissed the top of her head.

“Bethlehem,” Tory whispered the name, as if saying it for the first time as she took in the face of the little girl she had studied through pictures for months. Blowing up the pictures until she could examine every facet of the the little girls features. Seeing her up close, face to face, finally close enough to touch left Tory breathless. Her skin itched to touch her. With a tentative hand she stroked her back.

About the Author:

P.R. (Piper) Newton is a proud geek mom of two little boys, one through birth, one through adoption. She has a background in psychology and continues to take post-grad courses in childhood trauma and development. In her writings she loves to explore the human mind, putting her characters through unthinkable things, just to see how they react. She is a full-time author, who believes in the magical, creative inducing powers of arm warmers and stripy socks.

Author Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Showcase: MIND ME, MILADY

Mind Me, Milady by Anne Rothman & Kenneth Hicks
ISBN: 9781622060269 (ebook)
ASIN: B00IVV22AG (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Barbarian Books
Publication date: November 2013

As the book begins, the life of thirty-five year old Eve Petersen is in upheaval. She is an attorney who is in the process of winding up her recently deceased mother’s law practice, and she has just broken up with her control-freak boyfriend. She now has a new client to protect: a sweet but troubled young woman named Susan, who is struggling to understand both her foggy memories of the past and her constant sense of unease and danger in the present. And, as if all that weren’t enough, Kate herself keeps receiving unsettling phone calls from an Upper East Side serial rapist who has named himself “the Gentleman.” Each time he calls, the Gentleman casually discusses his latest victim in his eerily even, British-accented voice, hinting all the while that Kate will be the next one. 

Read an excerpt:

It was almost noon when he looked out to the street and saw her stepping from the cab. A familiar pounding rush ran through him—a blood rush of fear, of anticipation. 

He could hear her running up the stairs as he had expected she would. She was an athlete, after all, and desperate for this apartment. Rent controlled, one bedroom, East Side, dirt-cheap. Run, Natalie, run. 

On the third floor she saw the door was open and came right in. This was one of the reasons he was drawn to her—her confidence, her self-esteem. There was not a tentative bone in her body. 

“Hello?” she called. “It’s me. Natalie.” She looked around, pleased by what she saw, no doubt; floors newly sanded and stained, walls freshly painted, kitchen appliances all scrubbed clean. For the rent he had quoted her, it was more than a steal. It was highway robbery. And she was carrying cash for a promised “bonus,” as she put it, because a bribe would be so tacky. 

She stepped into the bedroom and heard nothing as he slipped the wire over her lovely head, pulling it tight around her lovely neck. She struggled, but not for long. A knee pressed against the back of her legs forced her to the floor. Lovely legs. 

“Mind me, Milady,” he whispered in her ear in the British accent he affected for occasions like this. “Mind the Gentleman.” 

There was no choice. Denied breath, she was seconds from dying. 

Quickly, he placed a wide piece of tape over her eyes and another over her mouth. Two longer pieces bound her wrists and ankles. Only then did the wire slacken. Air rushed in through flared nostrils. What was she thinking? Was she grateful just to be alive? And how many more times would he have to bring her to the very edge of death before she learned who was in control? 

His hand disappeared inside her jacket. She tried to pull away. A whimper emerged from beneath the tape. 

“Mind me, Milady,” he repeated. “Mind your master.”

About the authors:

Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks first started writing books together while Anne was a student at Bryn Mawr College and Ken was a student at Haverford College — a long time ago, when, as their children like to say, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Ken grew up in Abingdon, Pennsylvania and Anne in both New York City where she was born and in Scarsdale, New York.

In 1973, they began to live in New York City while Ken was attending law school at Columbia University and Anne was working in publishing. They wrote their first novel together in 1976, hoping that it would be a success and Ken would not have to even start working as a lawyer. Alas, that book is still in on the upper shelf of their closet, but they kept at the writing business. In 1984, they published Theft of the Shroud, a novel, through Banbury books, distributed by Putnam. That same year they also published a series of 10 books based on the most popular boy’s and girl’s names, and a book about the stars for children. At this time, Ken stopped practicing law for two years as they devoted themselves fulltime to writing and their children. However, children need to eat and be clothed and go to school, and these things all cost money, so Ken went back to practicing law. Still, they continued to write, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. 

In addition to Mind Me, Milady, in 2013 Anne and Ken published Kate and the Kid, through Wings ePress. Another novel entitled Praise Her, Praise Diana will be published by Melange Press in 2014. A book for middle grade readers called Things Are Not What They Seem will be published by MuseItUp in early 2014 as well. Finally, Anne and Ken have also published two small-format photography books which are available on the Apple iBookstore – Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City and Picture Stones.

Between projects, they started a web site In case you were wondering about the address, “R” is for Rothman, “H” is for Hicks, and “71” is the year of their marriage. No secret codes or numerology anywhere. 

Connect with Anne and Kenneth on Facebook.  

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Also available at Barbarian Books

Bookish Ramblings and a Book Giveaway

I had the pleasure of attending a reception at the West Virginia Culture Center yesterday for participants of the West Virginia Reads 150 program. I had a wonderful time with friends from several of my local book clubs. I also got to meet some wonderful WV-based authors and make some new bookish friends. For those of you that are unaware, the WV Reads 150 program took place from January 1 through December 31, 2013 in honor of West Virginia’s Sesquicentennial. The goal was to read at least 150 books throughout the calendar year as a team or individual. I participated on several teams last year, and fortunately we all succeeded our goal to read 150 books. The program was such a success that it is being continued this year as WV Reads 150+.

I reconnected with my bookish friend, co-leader of one of my local book groups, a librarian extraordinaire, and an esteemed author, Sarah Title (pardon my sunglasses, but I was dealing with another migraine). Sarah’s first book was published in 2013 by Kensington, Kentucky Home. What?! You haven’t read Kentucky Home? Well, what are you waiting for? Grab a copy today and read it! Sarah’s other titles include: Kentucky Christmas, and, “Full Moon Pie” in Delicious with Lori Foster & Lucy Monroe. Her book, Home Sweet Home, is scheduled for release on April 3, 2014 (review coming soon). Connect with Sarah at her website:

Kentucky Home (A Southern Comfort Novel):

In this warm and witty new series, author Sarah Title introduces readers to the down home Kentucky hospitality of the Carson family and their Wild Rose Farm and Stables. It’s a place where love is always possible–and sweeter than ever the second time around . . . 

Mallory Thompson and Keith Carson are far from impressed with each other when she arrives at his family’s horse farm, fleeing an abusive marriage. Mallory sees nothing but a gruff man who’s as patronizing as her soon-to-be ex-husband, and Keith has no time for a city girl who’s afraid of dogs. But the struggling Wild Rose is too small to allow anyone to keep their distance . . . 

As one by one, Mallory wins the hearts of his family, from his cranky father to his headstrong younger sister and three-legged dog, Keith finds himself more than a little attracted to her stubborn charm. And the longer Mallory stays, the more she realizes Keith is nothing like the overbearing bully she married–and the more she fantasizes about being in his strong, loving arms. Maybe some folks get a second chance to make a first impression after all . . . 

Home Sweet Home (Southern Comfort #2):

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a ramshackle house must be in want of a handyman.”

Just because English professor Grace Williams is a woman whose “new” house is crumbling around her doesn’t mean she needs an arrogant, condescending man’s help, even if he does look gorgeous in faded jeans and a tool belt. What she needs is a working bathroom, not a ridiculous crush.

Jake Burdette has no use for the university types who stumble around Willow Springs, with their noses in the air whenever they’re not in a book. He may not be a scholar, but he’s proud of the hard, honest work he does—even if he would appreciate a little more of it. He doesn’t need Grace’s pity, even if he does wish she wasn’t so adorably sexy.

They’re all wrong for each other. But Grace’s troublesome house seems to feel differently…

I’ll be giving away a copy of Delicious, signed by Sarah Title, to one lucky blog follower (see the rafflecopter form below to enter).


With a full moon hanging over the apple orchards of Delicious, Ohio, romance is in the air, and three couples are about to experience the magic of falling in love. 

Down on Jonathan Avenue, the shy proprietor of the quaint bookstore can’t seem to keep her fantasies about a famous writer to herself.

While at The Old Orchard Inn the tempting smell of spiced hot cider lures an out-of-town investor to investigate the magnetic attraction of his sultry but strangely old-fashioned manager.

And over at Apple of My Pie a play-by-the-rules accountant wants much more than tasty treats from the pop up food truck’s capricious baker.

Satisfaction is just a bite away. 

I got to meet local author Eric Douglas. Mr. Douglas has quite a number of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books published. Here are just a few of his titles: River Town, Wreck of the Huron, Guardian’s Keep, Flooding Hollywood, and Cayman Cowboys. To learn more about Mr. Douglas and his wonderful books, please visit his website:

I got the opportunity to reconnect with Marilyn Sue Shank, Christy-award winning author of Child of the Mountains. This book was simply amazing and so captivating that I read it in one sitting. To learn more about Ms. Shank and her book, please visit her website:

Child of the Mountains

It’s about keeping the faith.

Growing up poor in 1953 in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia doesn’t bother Lydia Hawkins. She treasures her tight-knit family. There’s her loving mama, now widowed; her whip-smart younger brother, BJ, who has cystic fibrosis; and wise old Gran. But everything falls apart after Gran and BJ die and mama is jailed unjustly. Suddenly Lydia has lost all those dearest to her. 

Moving to a coal camp to live with her uncle William and aunt Ethel Mae only makes Lydia feel more alone. She is ridiculed at her new school for her outgrown homemade clothes and the way she talks, and for what the kids believe her mama did. And to make matters worse, she discovers that her uncle has been keeping a family secret—about her.

If only Lydia, with her resilient spirit and determination, could find a way to clear her mother’s name . . . 

I had the pleasure of meeting Marie Manilla, author of Shrapnel, Still Life with Plums, and the upcoming The Patron Saint of Ugly. One of my friends read and recommended Still Life with Plums, so I’ll be reading that over the weekend. I’m hoping to get an advanced reader copy of The Patron Saint of Ugly to review before its release on June 17, 2014 (if not, I’ll review it after the publication date). To learn more about Ms. Manilla and all of her writings, please visit:

The Patron Saint of Ugly (coming soon)

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia, with a mop of flaming red hair and a map of the world rendered in port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari is used to being an outcast. With her sharp tongue, she has always known how to defend herself against bullies and aggressors, but she finds she is less adept at fending off the pilgrims who have set up a veritable tent city outside her hilltop home, convinced that she is Saint Garnet, healer of skin ailments and maker of miracles.

Her grandmother, the indelible Nonna Diamante, believes that Garnet’s mystical gift can be traced back to the family’s origins in the Nebrodi Mountains of Sicily, and now the Vatican has sent an emissary to Sweetwater to investigate. Garnet, wanting nothing more than to debunk this “gift” and send these desperate souls packing, reaches back into her family’s tangled past and unspools for the Church a tale of love triangles on the shores of the Messina Strait; a sad, beautiful maiden’s gilded-cage childhood in blueblood Virginia; and the angelic, doomed boy Garnet could not protect.

Saint or not, Garnet learns that the line between reality and myth is always blurred, and that the aspects of ourselves we are most ashamed of can prove to be the source of our greatest strength, and even our salvation.

I don’t have space to mention all of the wonderful WV authors that were at this reception, but I just want to give them a quick “thank you” for giving up a beautiful Saturday afternoon to spend some time with fellow book lovers. A big “Thank You” and congratulations are offered to the West Virginia Library Commission and the Kanawha County Public Library for hosting a wonderful reception. I can’t wait to read books written by many of these new-to-me authors. Who knew little old WV had so many amazing authors within its borders?

My apologies to all of my loyal followers as I wasn’t able to truly celebrate my 3rd blogiversary with you. This has been a rough year starting with my father’s emergency admission on New Year’s Eve, followed by two surgical procedures; then there was the local water crisis, which seems to be never-ending; and, last by no means least, my own medical issues. I simply did not have the wherewithal to celebrate anything earlier this money and my finances really didn’t allow for much more than a token cupcake. This giveaway may not make up for the missed blogiversary, but I hope the winner will enjoy reading some wonderful stories written by Lori Foster, Lucy Monroe, and the wonderful Sarah Title. This giveaway is for one paperback copy of Delicious featuring stories written by these three wonderful authors, and it has been signed by Sarah Title. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada, and will end at midnight ET on Saturday, March 29th, 2014. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 30th by 10:00 AM ET.

Book Review: THE MEMORY CHILD by Steena Holmes

The Memory Child by Steena Holmes
ISBN:  9781477818428 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781477868423 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FG6AF4Y (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: March 18, 2014

When Brian finds out that his wife, Diane, is pregnant, he is elated. He’s been patiently waiting for twelve years to become a father. But Diane has always been nervous about having children because of her family’s dark past. The timing of the pregnancy also isn’t ideal – Diane has just been promoted, and Brian is being called away to open a new London office for his company. 

Fast-forward one year: being a mother has brought Diane a sense of joy that she’d never imagined and she’s head over heels for her new baby, Grace. But things are far from perfect: Brian has still not returned from London, and Diane fears leaving the baby for even a moment. As unsettling changes in those around Diane began to emerge, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. 

A woman’s dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama.

Brian and Diane seem to have the perfect relationship. They’ve been married for 12 years and both enjoy their chosen careers. Brian’s in a job that requires him to travel a minimum of 30 weeks each year. Diane is a workaholic in a career that she loves. Her hard work has definitely paid off because she’s just been named CEO of her company. Although Brian and Diane have discussed having a child, Diane is wary of pregnancy due to her mother’s history with postpartum psychoses. A pregnancy at this time in her life is the last thing she wants. Brian is ecstatic at the notion of becoming a father. Can this loving couple resolve their issues and make the transition from a loving couple to a loving family of three?

I found The Memory Child to be a fast-paced read. I kept turning the pages to find out how things end. The story is revealed in alternating versions as told by Diane and Brian. I had some difficulty at first resolving the two different Dianes portrayed in the story. The antepartum Diane is a headstrong (yet not stubborn), resolute and a hardworking career woman and loving wife. The postpartum Diane is emotionally fragile and seems to be overly afraid of everything. However, as I continued to read the two seemingly different Dianes gradually merged into one.

The Memory Child is not a happy story, but it did provide a fascinating glimpse into postpartum depression and the more severe postpartum psychosis. I really liked and came to admire the antepartum Diane and Brian, and empathized with their postpartum difficulties. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the nurse/nanny character Nina but came to like her by the end. The Memory Child has been described as a gripping family drama and it is exactly that. If you enjoy well-written, intense stories about survival mixed with family drama and romance (yes it is possible to have romance even after 12 years of marriage), then you’ll definitely want to add The Memory Child to your reading list. You may also want to keep a box of tissues handy.

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via SparkPoint Studio. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the author:

Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a bachelor’s degree in theology. She is the author of eleven novels and novellas, including Finding Emma, for which she was awarded a National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012. She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters, and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.

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Book Showcase: OVER MY LIVE BODY by Susan Israel

Over My Live Body by Susan Israel
ISBN: 9781611881189 (paperback)  
ISBN: 9781611881196 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GQFBOBC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 18, 2014

Delilah is accustomed to people seeing her naked. As a nude model – a gig that keeps food on the table while her career as a sculptor takes off – it comes with the territory.

But Delilah has never before felt this vulnerable.

Because Delilah has an admirer. Someone who is paying a great deal of attention to her. And he just might love her to death.

The debut of a shockingly fresh voice in suspense fiction, Over My Live Body will work its way inside of you. 

Read an Excerpt:

I’ve gone from posing in one studio to posing in another in less than an hour. Ordinarily I don’t complain about the cold. I don’t move before I’m told to. I try to be the model I’ve never had the good luck to hire. But today I feel like I’m lugging around a portfolio of hypersensitivity along with my usual artist supplies and it’s not even justified. Here, I’m among friends.

The instructor of this class has drawn a chalk outline of where I’m supposed to lie and indicates the pose she wants me to strike, that of a classic come-to-my-casbah odalisque. I feel my calf muscles tighten as I scrunch up into the framework of the drawing on the floor. There are no new faces in this class, no surprises, I’ll be forgiven if I twitch or scratch an itch. Morgan, one of the best artists and my best friend, has brought poppy seed pound cake and stops what he’s doing to tiptoe over and feed me morsels of it. “Should be grapes,” the instructor says. Someone down the hall is playing Carmen on a boom box. “Should be Scheherezade,” Morgan says, winking at me.

The wink isn’t misunderstood, wouldn’t be even if Morgan wasn’t gay. 

We artists are like a cast ensemble in repertory. Many of us have seen each other nude in classes. I’m dressed in the part I’m playing. It’s when I change locations, freelance in other schools, that I’ve felt uncomfortable and I’ve tried not to do that too often. I try not to, but sometimes I need the money to buy extra supplies or pay off mounting bills and I have to do it, like I did last night. I sometimes say never again, never again! What do I need this aggravation for? I feel smarmy; it makes me fight with Ivan more. Except, like a new enrollee in some 12-step program, I’m learning to recognize what I have and haven’t the power to change and ironically now that I’ve decided to kick Ivan and his half of the rent money out, I’m going to have to pay more bills than ever, starting with the new lock I’m having installed.

“Delilah, you moved!”

I look down and see my arm and leg protruding from the smeared outline marking where they’re supposed to be. “I’m sorry.”

“Delilah rarely strays,” Morgan says with a smile, holding a pencil up to me to gauge the span of my body stretched out in front of faded brocade. Another artist, Keith, moves in for a closer look, so close that I can smell the eucalyptus cough drop lodged in his cheek that I first thought was an abscess. 

The others take turns approaching me, walking around me, appraising me with the dispassionate curiosity they would exhibit while looking at a piece on display in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The instructor, their tour guide, calls attention to my posterior as the center of gravity upon which all else rests. She points to my right shoulder with a well-sharpened Conté crayon and lightly touches it, then moves on to the sole of my right foot. My toes curl. “Notice how the light is distributed here and here, how opalescent these areas seem compared to this.” I feel the pencil glide along the base of my spine. “I want you to pay attention to these tonal differences in your drawings as if you were painting them because you will be.”

The door bangs open suddenly, unexpectedly; no one casually walks in and out of this studio. “Phone call downstairs for Delilah,” someone hollers, retreating down the hall.

“She can’t come to the phone right now,” the instructor bellows back. “Take a message.”

“Tell whoever it is I’ll call back,” I add, “unless it’s Ivan.” I know it’s Ivan.

One of the graphic arts students backs into the studio and looks around furtively, like one more step and she’ll be accused of breaking and entering. “He said he’d call back.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugs. “Beats me. He didn’t say.”

“Another member of your burgeoning fan club, Delilah. Maybe someone who’s seen your exhibits and wants to buy all your sculptures,” Morgan suggests, smudging the charcoal on the page with the heel of his hand.

“I wish.”

“Hey, you never know.”

I know it was Ivan on the phone. He’s the only person who has ever called me here. I can feel his heavy breathing impatience wafting all the way up from Wall Street. He knows a call from him will unsettle me, make me put my clothes on to rush to the phone at the very least and not be able to get back into the right pose and the right mood afterwards. He gets off on this. I’m not taking any calls until I’m through for the day.

“Delilah!” someone else calls. “Telephone!”

“Jesus, again? Doesn’t he take a hint?”

“It’s okay, take a five minute break, you’re marked,” the instructor says as I scramble to my feet clumsily. I grab a blue-and-white pinstriped man’s shirt from the back of Morgan’s easel and throw it on and pad down the cold corridor and down the stairs, pulling the shirt closed around me, grumbling, steeling myself for what I have to say to him and that is, “Leave me alone!”

“Is that any way to answer the phone?”

I look down at the way I’m dressed. Is that any way to answer the phone? “Who is this?” It’s not Ivan’s voice. He’s the only person who has ever called me here, but it’s not him. Someone he put up to calling me, though, I’m sure of it, one of his co-workers wearing an oxford shirt not unlike the one that I’ve got wrapped around me like a toga, only fully buttoned down and fit to be tied. “Get him to come to the phone.”

“You don’t want to talk to anyone else,” the voice declares. “It’s me you want.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t say that!” the voice snaps. “You do. At least you will.”

About the author:

Susan Israel lives in Connecticut with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette and she has written for magazines, websites and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. She’s currently at work on the second book in the Delilah Price series, Student Bodies

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