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A Merry Reading Holiday to You!

The Longest Nine Months by Carol Balawyder

Longest Nine Months

When I read about the release of this latest installment of “A Getting to Mr. Right” series by Carol Balawyder, I hurried to order my copy. When I received it, I put aside the book I was reading to start right in and I was glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this novelette. In fact, there are so many good things to recommend about this story that I decided to give it the 12 Days of Reading treatment.

Day One of Reading – In “The Longest Nine Months,” Campbell and Chand agreed not to have children. But a surprise pregnancy reveals Campbell’s change of heart; she wants the child, and thus I was reminded that “it is acceptable to change one’s mind as long as the change is an authentic one.”

Day Two of Reading – Early in the story, Campbell quits her job and spends much time thinking about her next career move. She doesn’t bow to her husband’s pressure to “find a job, already.” Courage and self-love lead her to the career opportunity that makes her heart sizzle, reminding me that discontent is a symptom; investigate the root cause.

Day Three of Reading – The other series characters, Felicity, Missi and Suzy, make guest appearances in this story. What a treat to read about the updates in their lives; what a treasure to be reunited with them even for a short time.

Day Four of Reading – Like real people, even fictional characters live with regrets and bad decisions. Campbell does but she engages in an annual ritual whereby she acknowledges the mistake while honoring the person she has evolved into. I thought this a healthy, freeing ritual; one to adopt in real life.

Day Five of Reading – I am a fan of culture and diversity and in this story, part of the focus is on India – their food, traditions, family dynamics and fashion; aspects neatly layered into the story, giving the tale freshness and interest.

Day Six of Reading – This is a love story at its core. The story of a man and woman in love, who struggle to overcome major obstacles. Every love story is a human story, and “The Longest Nine Months” hits both notes – love and human.

Day Seven of Reading – I once heard someone say that “authenticity is as necessary as air.” In this story, Campbell makes some pretty bold moves, but she is equipped to do so because she knows herself and makes moves based on her inner needs. For siding with authenticity, she is rewarded.

Day Eight of Reading – One of my favorite scenes in this story is when the friends gather to share conversation and truth. How blessed we are when we have friends who speak truth and share wisdom.

Day Nine of Reading – There’s a reason the story is titled “The Longest Nine Months.” It takes about that much time for Campbell to decide on motherhood and the next phase of her career. She didn’t rush her decision-making. She didn’t fall into desperation. She took her time and in the end, created the right life for her.

Day Ten of Reading – Campbell certainly had her share of difficulties but she looked for the positives in her situations and found them. A reminder that a frown can be turned to a smile with the right attitude.

Day Eleven of Reading – Through Campbell’s long nine month journey, I was reminded that endings and beginnings are connected. In Campbell’s case she experienced several endings that opened the door to beautiful beginnings. Just like in real life.

Day Twelve of Reading – A satisfying ending. That’s what Carol, the author left me with. Carol is an expert at writing engrossing stories that are full of believable characters and challenging story situations. I am so happy to have discovered her line of books and I encourage you to buy “The Longest Nine Months” or any of the stories in her series.

Carol Balawyder

Carol Balawyder

Until next time, have yourself a merry reading holiday!

New (to me) Author Profile

It’s always exciting to meet a new author (new to me anyway) who lives in my vicinity and writes in the same genre (well, almost) as I do. Now you can meet him too…

James Reid

James Reid, Author

I met James Reid through a local writers group – the Writers Guild of Texas, where we are both members. I didn’t know initially we were in the same group because I don’t attend every meeting even though I should given the interesting and educational workshops they conduct. So when I finally attended a meeting (ah-hem!) and met James, we chatted and decided the value of a good writers group is well, invaluable. James followed up our brief discussion of “the value of a good writers group” with a blog post that I found wonderfully affirming.

Please take a moment to cyber-travel to his site and read what he has to say. And when you’re done, hyperlink to Amazon and check out his five-star rated murder mystery, Monsters Behind the Gates. I read it and wow!, two thumbs up.

Loving Lady Lazuli – A Book Review

I do most of my reading in the early morning hours between two and four a.m. So since I’m sacrificing valuable sleep to engage in my absolute favorite pastime – reading – I want to make sure the book is really, really good. And I’m happy to share I’ve only had a few misses. Most of the stories I’ve read this year have been great, enjoyable, recommendable. As is the case with Loving Lady Lazuli by Shehanne Moore.

loving-lady-lazuli

When you have a story where the heroine has a wicked background and the hero, too, there are soooooo many interesting ways the story can work itself out. So many interesting ways for the characters to grow and change…or not. So many interesting ways to put a nice, red bow on the ending. And that’s exactly what Moore has done: created an interesting story that is ripe with potential and the fulfillment of expectation; one that doesn’t disappoint.

Page three puts the main characters—Devorlane Hawley and Sapphire—in a forced encounter, which we quickly learn is not a first for them. Their attraction is rekindled immediately, and readers, hold on to your e-readers because it goes fast from there. In the next few hundred pages, there’s lies, sex, betrayal, bloodshed, sex, conditions, misunderstandings, sex and finally, love (breathy sigh!).

I won’t spoil your enjoyment by sharing story details but I do want to point out that this is a historical fiction novel. Moore expertly blends English customs, various dialects, and factual points of history into the telling of the tale. All combined, it adds even more depth to a story pregnant with strong story conflict, a cast of savory and unsavory secondary characters, humor, and an ending to please.

You’ll be glad you read this one and here’s an additional bonus (drum roll!)…it’s book one in the London Jewel Thieves series. That means there are more gems (characters and books) to come.

Loving Lady Lazuli is a creatively-thrilling and engaging read. I hope you’ll join me on this wickedly jeweled reading adventure.

To learn more about Moore and additional titles she’s written, click here.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Halloween Reading

In about three weeks, one of my favorite holidays occurs–Halloween. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural writer. Naturally, it’s a favorite because I am a paranormal/supernatural reader. So considering all this, I thought it appropriate, not to mention fun, to feature a paranormal book this week. I choose…

maledicus-final

Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

by Charles F. French

The paranormal/supernatural genre chose me through weird circumstances so I am always curious how other authors fell into this particular genre. I posed this question to Charles and his response is below. I hope you find it as revealing and interesting as I did.

Why I Write Horror, Paranormal, and Speculative Fictioncharles-french-maledicustee

“I am Charles F. French, a writer of speculative fiction, including horror, paranormal, and young adult fiction. I have had an interest in the genres of Gothic, horror, and science-fiction since I was a youngster. As a young teen, I read Dracula by Bram Stoker and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and these books immediately appealed to my youthful imagination.

I continued reading works in these genres throughout my life, including in my academic studies, as well as for pleasure. Now I teach some of these books in various courses as an adjunct professor at Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University.

One of the great strengths of books in these genres is that their authors are able to make social critiques about their real worlds but offer them as metaphor in the fictional environment. The plots capture the readers’ attention but then often go deeper into discussions of life and societal concerns. Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, deals with such issues as limits of scientific research, abandonment of children, the position of women in the 19th Century, and justice/injustice.

While I am not placing my writing on the level of Mary Shelley, I hope that I both create a compelling story and also include important themes. It is in the writing of speculative fiction that I can work simultaneously on both creating interesting plot and characters but also speak to matters that I find important about the world. But always, story comes first. If the piece is not interesting, if I lose the reader, then nothing else will succeed.

I believe that in Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, I have created a novel that will capture the readers’ interest and imagination and also aid them in considering important thematic issues.”

I am in total agreement with Charles’ thoughts on writing and reading paranormal/supernatural fiction, and am pleased to feature his book. If it’s been a while since you’ve indulged in a paranormal read I can think of no better time than now, what with Charles’ new book and Halloween. Click here to purchase your copy. Go on, I dare you!

Book Review – Not by Design

Not by Design “Not by Design” is the latest offering from multi-published women’s fiction author Carol Balawyder. It is a sequel to “Getting to Mr. Right,” which you should read if you haven’t. “Getting to Mr. Right” is the story of four women who meet at a support group (the focus of which is women who have men/father issues) and form lasting, sincere friendships.

“Not by Design” is Felicity Starr’s story. She is one of the women in the support group, and she has it all—looks, youth, a rich father, talent, true-heart friends and the love of a handsome, successful man. She is living a fairy tale life in France, studying art and pursuing a career in art, while enjoying an active social/love life. But even fairy tales are wrought with obstacles and that’s exactly what our heroine encounters—one setback after another. There’s the death of her father, a dwindling bank account which brings on financial woes, an art career that has stalled, and the painful decision to end her relationship with her fiancé and call off the wedding. But that’s not all. The biggest blow of all—a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With all this dumped on her, Felicity makes the hard decision to release her dream of being an artist and living in France. She returns home to Canada to try and piece a life together.

The move back home is met with more bitterness. She fights to recover her reputation in the work world. She has disagreements with her mother and step-mother. She gambles on several romantic interests and loses. And, she must make a slew of difficult choices in regard to her living arrangements and medical treatment, decisions made more difficult because of her limited funds. One wonders if Felicity will ever catch a break when…help arrives. At the strong suggestion of her doctor, she attends a MS support group meeting and finds the support and acceptance she so desperately needs. With the encouragement of the group, she shares her medical condition with her friends, who surround her with love, care and acceptance. The end of the story details the good life Felicity has finally secured. No, it’s not the one she would have designed for herself, but it works. She’s happy.

This is a story that will take you low on the scale of human emotions and then pick you up. You will feel despair, then happiness; fear, then joy. This emotional seesaw is achieved in part by the story’s conflict—dreams and desire versus medical and financial worries, a situation many readers may relate to. I certainly did. And then there’s the overall story question: are we willing to release our version of our dream or life in exchange for an uncertain version? This is the question Felicity struggles with throughout the story but I dare say it is one many readers struggle with as well.

There are many things to appreciate about this story. It is inspiring, well written and has relatable characters. But the one aspect I appreciated the most was the focus on MS. Reading about the symptoms, the various treatments, the expense, and how it requires life adjustments was a real education. Thank you Carol for that.

I finished reading the book and shut down my e-reader thinking, I can’t wait to read the remaining sequel. The other three—“Café Paradise,” “Missi’s Dating Adventures” and “Not by Design”—have been purely enjoyable. Check ‘em out and see for yourself.

Justice True, Crime Fighting Vamp

A few months ago, I was in Bowie, Texas as part of the Texas Writes program. Texas Writes sends published authors to rural libraries throughout Texas to conduct workshops on writing. These libraries and their patrons don’t normally receive instructional workshops because of budgetary constraints. When I learned this, I jumped at the opportunity to present a workshop on editing. It was great fun! The librarian was so welcoming and I met so many talented writers and authors.

One of the authors I met was Dianna M. Castro. I enjoyed conversing with all of the authors and writers but particularly Dianna because we both write in the paranormal genre. Her novels feature vampires; mine, spirits. When I learned Dianna had a published book I rushed to buy it and just recently finished reading it.

Below is the review I wrote on her book, Forever Justice. If you’re looking for a vampire story to read as a warm-up to Halloween (it is less than five weeks away), this is the one.

Forever Justice by Dianna M. Castro

…is the story of vampire, Justice True who has been around for centuries and throughout those centuries has worked as a U.S. Marshal. She mostly works serial killer cases as well as violent, sexual crimes, and has a stellar arrest/conviction record. In this story, we follow Justice as she investigates three deviants who are committing ruthless, bloody murders, targeting women and children. As if that isn’t enough stress, she is also searching for the “master” vampire who bit her, turning her into a vampire against her will, so she can kill him.

I was immediately hooked into the story with the author’s portrayal of how Justice was “turned.” There was good description, strong characterization and equally strong rationale (internal conflict). However, as I continued reading, moving from Justice’s past to the present, I discovered that her vampire life paled (no pun intended) significantly. It was greatly overshadowed by her criminal investigations, which resulted in a story that did not have enough balance or tense, suspenseful conflict to make it a page turner. Yes, there were scenes that snagged me (usually when tracking the criminals), but I wanted more conflict between protagonist (Justice) and antagonist (Alexander). In addition, I wanted to learn more about her vampire sect, the movements and background of Alexander, his family, etc. Knowing more about her opponent and pitting them against each other would have created amazing page-turning conflict. I will say though that the crime storyline was developed well enough to make the book worthy of finishing.

Forever JusticeA variety of cast members gave this story added dimension. A bevy of law enforcement officials were offset by ordinary citizens–senior citizens, teenagers, victims, family members, regular Joes, etc.–a diverse group that provided moments of laughter and awww. I was bothered by the naming of her second string characters though. In most cases, their names were a direct correlation to their profession, an obvious character trait, or a situation the character was in. This practice I found too obvious.

The author was, however, creative in how she handled the conventions of the vampire culture. I was curious how she was going to handle a law enforcement officer working nights when the bulk of criminal investigations takes place during the day. She did an excellent job of answering this and other questions related to travel, sunlight, garlic, drinking blood, invitations to enter a home or business, biting, physical strength, turning friends and family into vampires, and her long tenured career.

I must warn you…this is not a book for the weak of heart, mind or stomach. There are a number of gritty scenes and the details are disturbing.

When I finished the book, I felt like this could be a series and I do believe the protagonist’s strength and enough crime (unfortunately) exists to sustain a series. However to embark on a series, the author will have to strengthen the supporting cast and ramp up the tension.

Paranormal readers who enjoy a good vampire story…this one is for you.

It’s Official…Lyrical Darkness

I am so excited!!!

Today, Lyrical Darkness, an anthology of short stories based on songs which have dark lyrics, is available for pre-order. I’ve had other book releases (2014 – Voices from the Block & 2013 – Fuller’s Curse) so why am I even more excited about this book? Because Lyrical Darkness is my first attempt to create a story from a song.

When Donnie Light, the publisher of Lyrical Darkness contacted me about participating in this anthology, I of course said yes, yes, yes, but I was very nervous. I had never created a story from a song before. My previous stories were all culled from life experiences, inspiration and imagination; they were never so intentional.

To make it easier for us, Donnie allowed us to select our own song and he put a 10,000 word limit on the stories. The ten  contributing authors, all paranormal writers, scurried to find the right dark song that would generate 10,000 words, a plot and characters. And our work continued at a feverish pace through the holidays to meet the February 2015 deadline.

Below is the cover for Lyrical Darkness. Beyond this inviting cover are eleven dark short stories based on disturbing song lyrics; samples of which include “Angie Baby,” “Hotel California,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (this is the song I chose, click here to listen). I am proud to be a part of this collection and I hope you will read our take on these songs. May I suggest a visit to YouTube before or after reading so you can compare the story to the song?

You can order the ebook today and the print/paperback version will be available June 15th.lryical_SMALL

Thanks for being part of this journey with me and oh, by the way, happy Black Music Month (June)!