A Day Late & a Million $$ Short: Episode 1 #Survivor #Shelfie

Let this post also serve as my Shelfie for Tara Tyler & Co.
It's hard to see, but writer freinds' books are next to my head.
Bobbing head dolls & classics on top shelf
Book I'm reading by Erik Reichenbach, former Survivor
I'm doing it! For the longest time I've been wanting to start a Survivor blog, and...well, I'm not doing that, but I'm starting up a Friday feature here in which I spew my take on the week's episode. As you see, I'm calling it "A Day Late & a Million $$ Short" because #1: I'll be posting a day later than most Survivor pontificators, and #2: I obviously can't win the cool mil until Probst finally breaks down and casts me.

If you're a regular visitor to my blog and you don't watch Survivor, please don't feel bad about bailing on the DLM$S posts (look at that---it's already an acronym!). I'm going to write these posts as if readers have watched the episode, so if you're not in that crowd, they won't have much meaning to you. I know that the right thing for me to do would be to start a separate blog for this sillynes; alas, I'm far too lazy to do that.

Alrighty then, who's still with me? Let's get into Suvivor 29, Blood versus Water: San Juan Del Sur.

My one-sentence assessment: Despite Jeff Probst constantly asking the Survivors about their feelings, this was pretty good for an opening episode.

The thing I shouted at my TV: There are no feelings on Survivor! 

My favorite thing: What really struck me about this cast was their genuine comaraderie. Even Jeremy, who walked around making alliances with everyone, seemed sincere in his interactions. I think he's going to have a tough time acutally cutting anyone loose. Usually there are at least a couple of people who paint themselves as vindictive schemers from the get-go. But this group seems to want to feel each other out before getting too strategical. I like that. Don't get me wrong---I enjoy a good villain, but I don't like it when people are schemy just for the sake of being schemy.

Not cool: I didn't like how the women of the Coyopa tribe stereotyped Josh and Dale as the gay guy and the old (and therefore weak) guy, respectively. Yes, Josh is gay but that doesn't make it right for Nadiya to refer to him as "one of the girls". And yes, Dale is two decades older than most of his tribemates, but he's only 55 and competed just as well as if not better than most others in the challenge.

Also uncool was the way the massive John Rocker remained empty-handed as he walked leisurely beside a struggling, sweating, three-times-smaller Wes while he lugged a huge and awkward bundle of palm fronds/branches. That's the other thing I shouted at my TV: "Help him!"

The voting: Can anyone explain to me Josh's thinking when he voted for Baylor? What was the point of voting for the person who appeared to be your closest ally in the game? Why not just vote for Nadiya? By not voting for either Dale or Nadiya, he betrayed both the guys and the girls so it seems to me it only hurts his position in the game. Also, I think it was foolish of Val to feign as if she had the hidden immunity idol. The only thing that accomplished was letting her tribemates see that she's sneaky. But I like how the vote ended up. Nadiya has a great personality and was fun to watch (despite her clueless offensiveness), but I was glad to see the tribe act on getting rid of the known threat right away. Most of the time they just talk about making a move like that but wait until too late to actually do it.

Nicki has spoken. Now it's you turn---what did you think of the episode and what was Josh thinking?


Underrated Treasures: The Big Picture

Today is the newest of Alex J. Cavannaugh's famous & fun blogfests: Underrated Treasures, in which we tell you about movies, books, TV shows and/or songs that don't get the attention we think they deserve. I'm sure no one will be surprised that my underrated treasure dates back to the 1980s.

The Big Picture (1989) fell victim to the Hollywood politics it pokes fun at and was only in theaters in limited release before going to video. According to IMDb, it had a box office take of a measly $117,000. The movie is about a promising film school graduate (Kevin Bacon) who is seduced by Hollywood's ways and doesn't see the big picture until everything falls apart. It's got a good message for creative types who hope to make it big one day, but mostly I like it for it's sarcastic, quirky humor. Martin Short, anyone? It's been a long time since I've actually watched the movie, yet I think about it often and still make The Big Picture references---which nobody gets because it seems hardly anyone else has seen the movie. Have you?

A fun scene from The Big Picture:


The Big C Blogfest #Cancer #Laughter

Today is the Big C Blogfest created by Michael Di Gesu and Melissa Bradley, who is currently laughing in the face of cancer as she gets treatments and kicks the nasty disease's bum. The funny and uplifting stories told today will be put together in an eBook to help Melissa offset her medical costs and also to benefit Gilda's Club Chicago, an organization that helps women fight endometrial, cervical, and ovarian cancer.

"Snow Treatment"

My family was struck by the big C earlier this year when my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The man never smoked a day in his life and felt great and healthy, so when the doctor saw something strange in Dad's routine bloodwork and scheduled him for an X-ray of his lungs, we thought nothing of it. When they saw that his lung was surrounded by fluid and wanted to do a CT scan, it was like a small slap in the face. When the results came back and the bottom of the X-ray showed several "nodes" on his omentum, it was like getting smashed square in the gut with an anvil. The day we received this news is when my story takes place...

We didn't know-know yet that this was advanced cancer, but we knew, you know? As had been planned weeks earlier, my kids had stayed overnight at Grammie's and Poppie's (my parents are the kind of amazing people whose teenaged grandchildren still ask to have sleepovers at their house) and I drove through the suburban Chicago tundra to pick them up. We'd also planned on Mum coloring my hair that day. When she answered the door with tears and the horrible news, we cried and I told her to, of course, not even think about doing my hair. But she said it would be good to do something instead of standing around crying all day, so we ventured forth. 

There I was in the zebra-striped beautician's cape, my hair slathered in deep, rich dye, looking like the Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez had its way with it. My strands were getting darker by the moment. Mum announced that it was time to rinse and lifted the lever thing in the sink, and...no water. No water! Guys were up the street working on a busted pipe, and there was no water. And did I mention my hair was getting darker with each millisecond that passed?

"Snow!" I shouted, pointing toward the door. The glorious snow that I'd been cursing on my drive there turned out to be a savior. My kids and dad grabbed pots and buckets and filled them with the fluffy stuff. Then my mom and I melted it on the stove---and then we melted more and more and more because have you ever seen how snow shrinks when it turns to water? FYI, it's also riddled with tiny sticks and stuff. And when it's on the burner for too long, it gets really, really hot---scalding, some might say. 

All of this was poured over my head in small batches that felt like they would never end. As I was bent over the sink, trying to ignore the cramp in my neck and the slight sizzling sensation on my scalp, I asked my dad, "Hey, could ya spare some of that liquid around your lung?"

And...he laughed. We all did. We didn't let this thing become "that which we do not irreverently joke about" and therefore, we haven't given it power over us. I wholeheartedly believe that God turned off the water that day as a practical joke to push us over the edge into ridiculous, and that crazy weird day has helped set the tone for how this family has faced our new reality---we're doing it together and with plenty of humor. Which isn't to say that each one of us hasn't been brought to our knees at times, but we always get up, smile, and take what's next.

My advice for those of you with the big C in your lives is to not be shy about asking for prayers. They work, and en mass, hoo boy, they can be downright miraculous. The answers we get aren't always the ones we hoped for...but sometimes they are. Months ago I came on my knees to my blog and elsewhere asking for prayers that my dad would be among the less than 15% of people with one of two mutations that would allow him to be treated with a highly successful pill. More time passed than expected to get the answers, but guess what---he has one of the mutations. I can't even type that without welling up with grateful tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who spared a prayer for him. Someone is clearly listening.

Visit Michael's blog to find the list of other hoppers. To help Melissa focus on getting better rather than her mounting medical expenses, please donate to the Melissa Bradley Medical Fund.


The Settler (all is not as it seems)

I was invited to Settler, OR by M. Pax to celebrate the launch of her Rifters Series. I've learned much about the beautiful and unusual town of Settler since my initial visit and will learn even more now that I've downloaded The Rifters for FREE onto my Kindle, but on my first visit, I was a little,,,eh...let's say, naive. Here's what happened...

The helicopter spins a whirl of dust all around me as it takes off. Grinding the granules between my teeth and spitting out what I can, I take a look around at where the whirlybird has brought me. It's pretty here---gorgeous mountain peaks all around, lots of serene nature. Lot's and lots and lots of nature, as a matter of fact. But no bachelor in sight. Oh, excuse me, no "settler" in sight.

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by M. Pax---great name for a Hollywood producer, right? She asked if I'd be interested in coming to Settler. I'd naturally presumed it was a twist on The Bachelor. You know, because the guy's ready to "settle" down, but as I look around, I wonder...do you think it might be a cross between The Bachelor and Survivor?

I see a rocky road just ahead and follow it. Along the way, I pass a place called Settler RV Park with rows of dented and dusty trailer homes. Huh, that's probably where the crew stays. I must be getting closer. I don't spy any cameras around at the moment, so I go ahead and slip off my chunky wedge sandals. Someone could'a warned me there'd be a long hike to the mansion.

I morph my scowl into a shiny, though somewhat gritty, smile. You never know when the Chris-Harrison-wannabe host or The Settler himself will appear from behind one of these pine trees---and I want that first-impression rose. Though in this case, it might be a first-impression thistle. This guy better be worth it.

Aha! I see a building just ahead marked Settler Outfitters. That must be where I get to pick out fabulous outfits to wear on all the amazing dates I'll be going on. And yes! That sign points to Gold Lake Lodge. I like the sound of that. Throw in a diamond, and me & Mr. Settler will be all set.

The sun slips beneath the mountain peaks just as I arrive at a row of small buildings. Strange lights ripple across the darkened sky before fading so completely that I wonder if I actually saw them. Pretty creepy. No! Not creepy. Romantic is what it is. The rushed tinkling of bells makes me jump, and a guy sticks his head out the doorway of a studio for some show called The Chemist. "What are ya doin' out there all alone? Do you want to be phantom bait?" he asks.

Phantom bait? Oh, I get it---he's not a fan of reality dating shows and thinks I'm making a huge mistake. Well, he can just go back to his Bill Nyesque programming and not worry his pretty little head about me. Phantom. Pssht.


How gorgeous are those covers? 

Book 1, The Rifters, is FREE on AmazonB&NiTunes & More.  

Book 2,The Initiate, is available for pre-order for only 99 cents at

A junction erupts between the worlds. 

The Gold Rush trickles to a fool’s quest and a string of stagecoach heists. In 1888, Earl Blacke decides to make a new start and become a better man. He escapes into the mountains, heading north. In the wilds of Oregon, a rift inside an ancient volcano opens and sends him into the future, into the present day. It also shaves forty years off his age, forty years to live over again and atone for what he’s done. 

Starting over is hard to do. In current day New York, Daelin Long’s dream job at a publishing house goes the way of the dinosaurs her sister chases. With no money and nowhere else to go, Daelin accepts the librarian position in her sister’s dinky town in the middle of Oregon. Nestled inside ancient volcanic peaks, the town of Settler holds onto many secrets. Residents roam the streets with weirdly fashioned devices, and odd lights pulse in the night skies. People whisper of a phantom outlaw and start dying, murdered and missing their heads. On top of it all, Daelin’s sister is missing, and Daelin doesn’t know who to trust. 

Earl knows more than he’s saying. He shares a notorious history with the phantom, one he’ll see remains buried. Keeping Daelin’s sister’s secrets is his only chance at redemption, and the only way to keep this world safe.


Coming Out #IWSG

Welcome to the September 2014 edition---which also marks the THREE YEAR anniversary---of Insecure Writers Support Group, brainchild of the one and clonely Alex J. Cavannaugh (thank you, Ninja Master!).

We've lamented more than once during our monthly meetings about the scariness of releasing our literary babies into the world and the fear of what reactions we might get. I won't have to face those fears full-on for a few more months with my upcoming novel, but as it makes its way through the publication process, the time has come to give my family a few more details beyond my "oh, it's just a silly office romance" copout. Today I thought it would be fun to share their reactions with you.

The first two sentences of the book's summary should clue you in to why sharing the deets with my family was a somewhat stomach-churning prospect for this mild-mannered suburban mama: Lyssa Bates doesn’t need a man. Not when the world is fully-stocked with double A batteries and a wide array of options in Amazon’s health and sexual wellness category.

And here I give you, the family reaction upon learning Vibrizzio's premise:

18 year old daughter: "What's wrong with you?"
(My response: "Oh, grow up." )

16 year old son: "Hehe. That's pretty funny."

Husband: Offered to help me review my research.

Mother: "When are you going to write a nice mystery novel?"

Father: He was in the room with me and mom when the subject came up but pretended to neither hear nor understand. He's the wisest of the bunch, methinks.


Now THAT'S what I call revealing: Blocked by @JenLaneBooks

It's cover reveal time! This time it's for Jennifer Lane's upcoming New Adult novel, Blocked. Because Jennifer and I are close writing buds, I got to be a pre-reader of this story, and let me tell you, it's so much more than regular college romance. These two co-eds not only have the pressure of being varsity volleyball players, they're the offspring of presidential hopefuls---in opposing parties. The story isn't afraid to address hot button issues, and it does so in a way that truly respects both sides, not something we see that often in politics anymore (or ever, really).

But the main focus is the unlikely romance. The politics are woven into the narrative in a way that never detracts from, only adds to, the relationship's development. I fell in love with both of the leading lady and man. Lucia is so sweet and endearing, completely relatable and huggable, and Dane at first seems like a typical college jock...but then we find out he has a heart as soft as his body is hard. Well, enough babbling out of me, eh? On to the...



By Jennifer Lane

New Adult Contemporary/Sports Romance

Releasing October 21, 2014

College freshman Lucia Ramirez has a secret crush on Dane Monroe. He’s a tall drink of water — blond, brash, and one hell of a volleyball player. Hijole. Lucia hopes her volleyball scholarship to his school will make him notice her.

Too bad what’s noticeable is Dane’s obvious hatred for Lucia. Her family’s politics contradict everything he stands for. And politics are front and center in both their families. Dane’s mother is about to face Lucia’s father in the race for US President.

When Secret Service throws them together, Dane can’t deny his frustrating attraction to Lucia’s athletic curves and sweet faith in the world. Amid the intense pressure of college athletics and presidential politics, can opposites not just attract, but overcome overwhelming odds to be together? Or do their differences block their match from the start?

If you would like to participate in the Release Event and/or Request to Review BLOCKED, you can find out more information HERE.


Jennifer Lane is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card and an Advanced Reader Copy of BLOCKED on her Facebook page! You can enter HERE.

About the Author

Get psyched for romance with psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane! By day she witnesses growth in her psychotherapy clients, and by night she wrangles misbehaving fictional characters as she writes sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist. She can’t decide which is more fun.

A swimmer and volleyball player in college, Jen wove some of her own experiences into Streamline—a military mystery about swimmers. And readers can dip their toes into Jen’s world of swimming romance by sampling her free New Adult novella Swim Recruit. (optional link to include: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/swim-recruit-jennifer-lane/1113038601?ean=2940044896642)

College volleyball romance Blocked is Jen’s newest release, launching 10-21-14. Peek inside big-time college sports and even bigger national politics when the offspring of two presidential candidates find out whether opposites really do attract, or their match is blocked from the start.

Stories of redemption interest Jen the most, especially the healing power of love. She is also the author of The Conduct Series, a romantic suspense trilogy that includes With Good Behavior, Bad Behavior, and On Best Behavior. Ultimately, whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry.

In her spare time she enjoys exercising, attending book club, hanging out with her plus-size, “I’m not fat, I’m big-boned” Izzie cat, and visiting her sisters and their families in Chicago and Hilton Head.

 photo AToMRPRomotionslogo_zps7a14e565.png

Jennifer also has some other exciting news---her CONduct series is now available as a boxed set! All three books of this sexy, fun, romantic suspense series set in Chicago for only $4.99.


Sassy Trollops & Revealing Music + #Giveaways with @RumerHaven

Pop the bubbly for sassy trollop Rumer Haven as she celebrates the release of her debut novel, Seven for a Secret! The story goes back and forth between the Roaring Twenties when the “New Woman” was born and the modern Noughties when she really came of age. Lucky me got ahold of an advance copy and spent an entire weekend thoroughly engrossed in this suspensful and romantic tale.
Read my full 5 star review at Goodreads

Now for my revealing one-question interview with Rumer:
If you had to choose one song that best captures the essence of Seven for a Secret, what would it be and why? 

What a fun question. :)

If I had to choose one song, I instinctively think of "Tonight You Belong to Me" by The Bird and the Bee. As a modern-day cover of a 1920s song, it's the perfect bridge between the past and present story threads and what I could hear playing as the final scene fades to credits if Seven for a Secret were a movie. The 1926 original features in the story because it's such a sweet love song yet also presents a romantic conflict between old and new flames, which relates to my characters' own struggles. And to me, the 2008 synthpop version has a sort of celestial, standing-in-line-for-Space-Mountain-at-Disney-World effect, which suits Kate's planetarium job and all the stargazing throughout Seven for a Secret.

Working in the reverse, though—a 1920s-style cover of a modern song—my publicist tweeted a while back that Postmodern Jukebox's rendition of Jason Derulo's "Wiggle" featuring Snoop Dogg would be a great companion song for the story. I'd never heard that one before and absolutely love it as another great blend of past and present!

Seven for a Secret at Amazon * Barnes & NobleGoodreads
Rumer on Twitter * Facebook * Blog * Website * Goodreads

 Seven for a Secret Release Day Facebook Party 
Join Rumer and many other authors (including moi) at this fun event that will be roaring all day long with giveaways & triva.

Seven for a Sweepstakes!

Omnific Publishing is giving away seven ebook copies of Seven for a Secret and 4 adorable key charms (keys are the key to Olive's mystery!) There's a *secret* entry for a very special prize: Send proof of purchase or review on Amazon to Traci.Olsen@OmnificPublishing.com to enter to win a custom made 1920's style cloche hat from www.annachocola.com. You, too can dress like Eva Hughes!

Congrats, Rumer & thanks for answering my question!

Who else has those adorable songs playing in their heads now?


Historical Fiction Meets Contemporary RomCom #iwsg

I'm tacking onto to yesterday's post for this month's contribution to Insecure Writer's Support Group (brainchild of Alex J. Cavannaugh. Visit Alex and the IWSG website to learn more about the group, join it & find the full list of participants). This month I'm wondering about sub-genre mixing. What I'm wondering is---can readers handle it?

It seems like guidelines for genres and sub-genres have become more like rules, and when they're broken, readers act like something is wrong rather than simply different. Since my first novel was published over four years ago, I've become aware that many readers believe certan things shouldn't coexist in a book. Sex and religion, for example. This sincerely confuses me because sex and religion coexist in many, many, many people's lives, so why shouldn't those real-life aspects be merged in a book? But if readers don't like them together, should I refrain from mashing them in future stories I intend to publish?

Have you ever found that there are elements in your own writing that readers balk at combining? How do you respond to that?

By now you might be wondering why I'm tacking onto yesterday's post. It's because yesterday I revealed the cover of a book that does an excellent job of combining two sub-genres that you don't often see together: Historical Fiction and Contemporary RomCom. Seven for a Secret by Rumer Haven breaks molds in a way that I think readers are going to love, and I hope it gets lots of people rethinking the "rules".


 Today I'm taking part in a cover reveal for a story that I'm particularly excited about. Before I tell you anything more than what's in this post title, zee cover...

Coming August 12, 2014

Simple and elegant, yes? What does this cover say to you without knowing anything else about the story?

To see how close you are to the actual plot, read the blurb at Goodreads. You can also add it to your to-read list while you're there AND enter to win one of 5 paperback copies.

Now get to know a little something about the author:
Rumer Haven is probably the most social recluse you could ever meet. When she’s not babbling her fool head off among friends and family, she’s pacified with a good story that she’s reading, writing, or revising—or binge-watching something on Netflix. A former teacher hailing from Chicago, she presently lives in London with her husband and probably a ghost or two. Rumer has always had a penchant for the past and paranormal, which inspires her writing to explore dimensions of time, love, and the soul. Seven for a Secret is her debut novel.

Say hi to Rumer at her blog, on Twitter, or at her Facebook Page


Broken Branch Falls Review @TaraTylerTalks #MiddleGrade #Fantasy

To describe Broken Branch Falls by Tara Tyler in one word: delightful.

To describe it in a lot of words...
Gabe the Goblin's life isn't really all that different from that of the average teen---grappling with the cliques at school, feeling like he doesn't quite belong where everyone expects him to be, and crushing on the unattainable girl. I adored the little touches added to the Broken Branch world, like Looky Links and MeStar, that make it like our world but with a silly twist.Tara balances Gabe's teen angst with wry humor that made me like him immediately, and I kept that connection with him the whole way through the story, even when his circumstances became very different from anything human teens have to deal with. 

What starts out as fun, teen hijinks takes a surprising turn when Gabe finds out that his peaceful little town is a lie...sort of. And if he doesn't do something, it's going to disappear. Here's where the story takes off on a great adventure. A sort of "fellowship of the Falls" assembles along the way with each new member being an imaginitive creature with a distinct and entertaining personality.

I thought the pacing of the story was perfect. It was packed with action but it never becomes overdone. We're given a chance to catch our breath before the next thing happens, I was grinning like a fool pretty much the whole way through at the clever and often hilarious scenarios. And then, when the secret they'd been searching for is revealed, it was totally gasp-worthy. It's a revelation that will get you thinking---far deeper than I ever expected from a Middle Grade novel.  

Broken Branch Falls is all around a wonderfully crafted story that I recommend to adults as well as middle-graders.

Broken Branch Falls is available at
Add it to your to-read list at Goodreads


Ask the Acquisitions Editor: What's She Looking For? #amediting

Hey, hey, here we are at the last installment of Ask the Acquisitions Editor with CK Wagner, acquisitions editor with Omnific Publishing. I'm so glad you've all been enjoying it as much as I have. If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can find them here:

We'll finish up this series with questions from Nick & Donna regarding the type of stories she's looking for: 

Nick: Are you looking for fresh ideas? Is another vampire story a turn off or turn on?

CK: We are definitely looking for fresh ideas that embrace our “Romance without Rules” tagline. This is bearing in mind, however, that there is nothing new under the sun. Every story will have elements that have been done before, but the way those elements are mixed and matched (and told through an engaging sense of voice) can create a special X-factor that does set a story apart and make us want to give it a platform. I do initially groan when I see a vampire/werewolf query, only because as a consumer I’m quite done with that for now. But as an editor, I would never reject it on that basis alone. Even if the current market for it seems exhausted, those stories continue to be told because people continue wanting to read and write them. So basically the same expectations apply: If the story is told in a fresh and non-formulaic way, we will consider it. We actually have a vampire novel in our current publication queue that’s pretty cool.

Donna: Do you accept women's fiction? Its hard to tell on the submissions list.

CK: I generally say yes, but it depends. Our “Romance without Rules” tagline reflects that we are not interested in formulaic, old-school romance, and I would argue that much of what we end up publishing as a result of that is women’s fiction. We look for strong, smart, and independent heroines who can save themselves. And a story doesn’t have to be sexy to be romantic (some of our best books fade to black), but we do require that a romantic relationship be at the core of the story. Our hero doesn’t need to be an alpha male who rescues the fair damsel in distress, but we should see growth in his relationship with the heroine and believe in the substance of their emotional connection. The emphasis can still be on the woman’s personal journey, but her love interest should somehow be central to that and ideally result in a happily ever after (or at least happy for now) ending.

Thanks a million gazillion, CK!


Sidelined with @KLennonWrites

Kyra Lennon is wrapping up her blog tour to celebrate the release of her latest addition to the Game On series, Sidelined, and I get to be a stop today. The question I typically ask authors goes a little something like this:

If you could choose one song that best captures the essence of Sidelined, what would it be and why?

She's already answered this question in her tour post over at Alex J. Cavannaugh's place last week, so I shall send you to there for the full answer. But I'll give you the video here. Kyra says "How Long will I Love You" actually makes a good fit for the entire Game On series. Go on, stop over at Alex's to find out why.


At the age of twenty-one, Bree Collinson has more than she ever dreamed of. A handsome husband, a fancy house, and more shoes than Carrie Bradshaw and Imelda Marcos combined. But having everything handed to her isn’t the way Bree wants to live the rest of her life. When an idea to better herself pops into her head, she doesn’t expect her husband to question her, and keep her tied by her apron strings to the kitchen.

Isolated and unsure who to turn to, Bree finds herself falling back into a dangerous friendship, and developing feelings for the only person who really listens to her. Torn between her loyalty to her husband and her attraction to a man who has the perfect family she always wanted, she has some tough choices to make.

While Bree tries to figure out what she wants, a tragedy rocks the Westberg Warriors, triggering some dark memories, and pushing her to take a look at what’s really important.

About the Author: Kyra is a self-confessed book-a-holic, and has been since she first learned to read. When she's not reading, you'll usually find her hanging out in coffee shops with her trusty laptop and/or her friends, or girling it up at the nearest shopping mall.

Kyra grew up on the South Coast of England and refuses to move away from the seaside which provides massive inspiration for her novels. Her debut novel, Game On (New Adult Contemporary Romance), was released in July 2012, and she scored her first Amazon Top 20 listing with her New Adult novella, If I Let You Go.

Find Kyra online: Website/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Goodreads/Join My Mailing List

Congrats, Kyra!


Ask the Acquisitions Editor: Manuscript Turn-ons & Turn-offs #amediting

CK Wagner is back to answer more of your acquisitions questions. CK is an acquisitions editor at Omnific Publishing (yes, the Omnific Publising that just signed a sweet deat with Simon & Schuster). For previous Ask the Acquisitions Editor posts, see:

And now we get down to today's nitty gritty regarding manuscripts.

Jackie: You've read the first chapter of a manuscript... what makes you want to keep reading and what would make you pass?

CK: We’re always looking for something fresh and non-formulaic. If we feel like a story’s premise or voice doesn’t offer anything new or intriguing, it’s risky to take a chance on; so much goes into bringing a book into being that it has to be worth everyone’s time and effort. We’re even less inclined if we can’t authentically connect to the protagonist and situation straight away due to shallow character and conflict development. One-dimensional characterization is unrealistic and unsympathetic—even more so without clear signs of growth and rising tension. The most difficult stories to finish are those with flat character/story arcs.

Crystal: What turns you off fastest about a submission? What are the big red flags you watch for?

CK: To start with the basics, frequent spelling and grammar mistakes truly hinder the comprehension and enjoyment of a story. It could be a great concept and well-written otherwise (stylistically and developmentally), but an unpolished manuscript tells us that someone was too eager to dash the story out and send it off to earnestly value the integrity of his/her work. The same goes for awkwardly phrased or superfluous content—that trips up the flow or drags down the pacing, and the reading becomes tedious. I’m not saying submissions should already be professionally edited—we expect to tackle this stuff in our editing process—but a good first impression is easily achieved through diligent proofreading, by you and at least one other set of eyes.

LD: What is your number one turn off, something that would make you stop wanting to read on?

CK: I think my biggest turn-off is immaturity in style and perspective. Too much telling-vs-showing, unnatural-sounding dialogue, or lack of variety in sentence structure, for instance, can contribute to a juvenile, See-Spot-Run sound. And nothing screams “juvenile” to me more than a story rife with inaccuracy, implausibility, or stereotype. Thoroughly think through the logistics of what you’re expecting your readers to believe or you risk pulling them out of the story. There’s a lot of creative freedom in writing fiction, but even fictional settings/situations/people need grounding in reality.

Thanks, CK!

And in another bout of shameless self promotion, I'll be tremendously grateful to anyone willing to share this graphic and/or text in any way you like:

It's a different kind of love story: #DivineTemptation by @NickiElson3 http://goo.gl/AGjBLI


The Most Awesome Summer Playlist Ever #SongsofSummer

Welcome to my stop on the Songs of Summer Bloghop, hosted by The Armchair Squid, Suze at Subliminal Coffee, and Cygnus at Servitor Ludi. Their fabulous idea is for each of us to name 5 songs that scream summer to us for one reason or another. By the end of this hop, we shall have the most awesome summer playlist ever. Please feel free to add your name to the linky below and play along. Here are my contributions (song links open in a new window in case you want to listen while you read):

Never Tear Us Apart; INXS  This one played many a time on my boom box with twenty-year-old me slathered in baby oil, catching maximum rays on my parents' back deck...despite all of my wise father's warnings against the practice. I was in a major angsty, melodramatic phase (dark mood to go with my dark skin coloring, I guess) so this song was my absolute fave.

Lava; B-52s  'Tis hot and not to be taken too seriously, just like summer. I saw the B-52s one summer at the World Theater in Tinley Park, IL. The memory is a melancholy one because the concert was supposed to be a birthday gift for my baby sister, but the little tyke was sick and couldn't come with. :(

Dani California; Red Hot Chili Peppers  This one brings to mind family road trips. RHCP is one of the few of my husband's musical preferences that I don't whine about, so when we're stuck together in a hurtling tin vessel, we listen to them a lot.

Soma; The Strokes  Reminds me of summer simply because Julian Casablancas's voice makes my temperature rise. Grrrrr

In Summer: Olaf  C'mon, I can't be the only one to have this on my list. I know the movie's become highly overdone, but this li'l snowman's naive charm and spunky 'tude are as fresh as a...wait for it...summer's breeze.


Ask the Acquisitions Editor: Query Letter Do's & Don'ts #amediting

As promised, I'm back with more answers to your questions for CK Wagner, Acquisitions Editor at Omnific Publishing (who just announced a super exciting deal with Simon & Schuster). You can read her answers to questions about cold querying, crazy queries, and the importance of online presence & past sales in last week's Ask the Acquisitions Editor post. Today's questions are all about queries and synopses.

Liz: What do you love to see in a query?

Donna: What three things do you look for in a query that piques your interest every time?

CK: I personally like to see a query letter that gets right to the point. The fundamentals I care about most are:

1. Summary. Keep it clear and concise (two to three short paragraphs usually suffice. A cover letter shouldn’t exceed one page when printed; the synopsis is your chance to elaborate). Set up your main character and conflicts so we understand what drives the story and can already establish a connection. An effectively condensed blurb also shows how much grasp you have on the plot—a good indicator of how tightly controlled it is in the actual manuscript.

2. Stats. Specify word count, genre, subgenre, and intended audience. I automatically reject anything that doesn’t meet a minimum of 60,000 words or doesn’t fall within the romance genre. It’s also good to know whether your story is paranormal, contemporary, historical, dystopian, sci-fi, etc. (we consider any number of subgenres) and if it’s intended as young adult, new adult, adult, or erotica.

3. Bio. A concise paragraph about who you are and what you do is helpful for simply getting to know you as well as seeing if perhaps your professional background lends itself to your writing and/or content (a plus if so, but still okay if not. We’re just curious).

L. Diane: When is a query letter too long?

CK: Anything beyond what's listed above is icing on the cake—which is too sweet for my taste, if I’m honest. :) Beyond being unnecessary, flowery explanations of your passion for writing and aspirations as an author are my number one turn-off. Your love of writing and dreams of being a published author are implicit in the act of querying. And, really, I don’t regard one writer’s passion as more distinctive and special than another’s.

Margo: Does personalizing the letter at the beginning really make any difference, or do agents/acquisitions editors prefer you just get to the story description?

CK: Oddly enough, I’m also not swayed by specific praise for Omnific because, really, how do we know you’ve read our books and enjoyed them? People can say anything to butter us up. I’m more interested in knowing that you’ve done your research on us, which is at least reading the submission guidelines on our website. This doesn’t have to be stated explicitly in the query—show your awareness of our genre specialization by querying a romance. Show your awareness of our process by not submitting anything more than what we request of you. For our first stage, we only accept cover letters and a synopsis; unsolicited chapters or full manuscripts aren’t considered unless we ask for them as the next step.

CK: Every publisher/literary agency is different, of course. If a business’s website clearly specifies certain content and the order/length of such, you need to follow those instructions to a T. Inboxes get flooded with queries every day, so being a stickler for submission guidelines is another means of filtering. Seeing whether someone has read and followed the rules is a pretty black-and-white way for editors/agents to gauge how much thought and diligence was put into querying their company specifically—the logic being, if you can’t be bothered to read their website and honor their requests, why should they bother reading your submission when there are so many others to consider who have put forth the effort? Are you serious about being represented/published by this particular company, or are you just playing a numbers game and blasting a one-size-fits-all query to everyone regardless of what they’ve asked for?

Feather: All agents have specific submission criteria. Some even state the required information must be in a specific order. I have also been advised that all query letters should have specific information in each of the four paragraphs. There is such a wide range of formats. Why? Is it possible to create one well written query letter that will be accepted by all agents?

CK: I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. As a fellow writer, I completely understand the frustration of having to tailor every query to every publisher or agency. I wish the industry would adopt a universal standard. But unfortunately, it’s just not the case, and so we adapt. I think there’s generally more difference in expectation for synopses than cover letters, though, so there’s at least that. If you draft a letter that contains the three pieces of information listed above, you should be good to go for many places. It probably wouldn’t hurt to tack on the bit about the company itself, too, just to be safe. While I don’t personally prioritize it as an acquisitions editor, others out there do want to hear what you know about their company and why you think your story would be a good fit.

Bonus commentary on Synopses:

CK: And where the synopsis goes, I quite like that Omnific doesn’t dictate a maximum length. That allows some freedom, though I do prefer within five pages. Anything in excess of that alerts me that your story might not be tightened either. (As a rule of thumb, I’d say a 60,000–80,000-word story can be effectively summed up in two to three pages. 90,000+ can understandably stretch to four or five if the plot is rather complex.)

CK: Also, don’t paste actual story excerpts into the synopsis. I think some people do that for filler or to sneak in a writing sample. But if you’re writing the synopsis correctly, the story’s tone and your style should show through without that. Also, like I said about the query letter summary, the synopsis demonstrates your command over your own story. If your synopsis is a long, rambling hot mess, we have every reason to believe your manuscript will be, too—and it’s one thing to read a few pages of that, quite another to entertain a few hundred.

Isn't she great? Thank you so much, CK for your forthright and honest answers. I'm taking away a lot from this series and I hope everyone else is too! 

On a different note, I want to do something with the schnazzy new graphics I just made for my books,so if you're of a mind to Tweet, Tumbl or Facebook the text & image below, please have at it. Thank you!

"A laugh out loud romance that will keep you smiling" #ThreeDaves http://goo.gl/nPGZEF

CK Wagner will be back to answer more questions as follows:


Ask the Acquisitions Editor #IWSG

Holy stromboli, it's already time for the July meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. During the May meeting I took questions from a bunch of you that I passed along to CK Wagner, an acquisitions editor at Omnific Publishing. Sometimes the not knowing fuels insecurity more than anything else, and CK's marvelous answers will definitely shed some light on the querying process and hopefully help alleviate a bit of anxiety.

I'm going to post her answers on Wednesdays throughout the month of July, starting with a few choice questions as part of IWSG:

Mary: Are you more likely to accept from an author you've met or a cold query?

CK: For me, story and style are king, so I’m indifferent to whether I’ve met the author or not. Existing Omnific authors, of course, have the advantage of being a known quantity—we’re familiar with them, their work ethic and cooperativeness—but even they can (and have) been rejected if the story is not what we’re looking for at the time.

Elizabeth: Do past books and online presence matter very much when submitting or does just the book you're selling at that minute matter? (Answered along with Jennifer's question)

Jennifer: How much attention do you pay to the writer's prior publication record/sales?

CK: It’s nice to see if someone already has an online presence and publication history, but truthfully, that doesn’t make or break our decision. I’ve rejected writers with massive followings simply because their queries were all over the place or their writing left something to be desired. Social media and sales numbers don’t necessarily equate to a high quality of work. We also love to launch the writing careers of debut authors, so not having previously published work is not an automatic strike against anyone. And in the case of those first-time authors, it’s understandable that they might not have a robust online presence yet—but they’ll be expected to develop it on being contracted.

Stephanie: What is the craziest query you've ever received?

CK: It’s probably a toss-up between the 20+ page synopsis (that had story excerpts and dialogue and everything) and one that read like five different stories/genres in one—it went from contemporary rom-com to something almost Jane Austen, and then a ghost showed up in the middle of it (but only for the one scene, it seemed), and then the whole thing kind of shifted to international action/adventure. I’m pretty sure there was some other random twist in there, too, but I can’t remember it now.

No offense to either of those authors; in both cases, I think they just lost sight of what they wanted for the story and tried to cram in too many ideas that weren’t ultimately in its best interest. One thing to remember is that you can always save an idea for another story! Killing your darlings in one manuscript doesn’t mean they can’t find new life in another.

Jennifer: What's the weirdest place you've read a manuscript? 

CK: A cemetery!

Please come back for more of CK's wisdom throughout the month.
Here's the schedule:

Thank you so much, CK, for taking the time to answer all these questions!


Congrats @taratylertalks on the release of Broken Branch Falls!

Today is the release of Broken Branch Falls by Tara Tyler!! I was the lucky winner of an ARC duirng the cover reveal, so I was able to read it early, and oh my goodness what delightful story it is. I can't even tell you how many times I laughed out loud at Gabe the Goblin's hilarious inner thoughts. (I'll save my full 5-star review for my August 1 blog tour post.)

This is a fantasy story written for a Middle Grade audience, so I'm not sure what it says about me that I enjoyed it so much---actually, I think it says more about Tara's writing that it can be so eagerly devoured by adults as well as kids. Such great adventure mixed with lighthearted teenagery angst.

Broken Branch Falls is now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Publisher Curiosity Quills.

 Gabe is an average fifteen-year-old goblin. He’s in the marching band, breezes through calculus, and gets picked on daily by the other kids at school, especially the ogres. Gabe’s closest friends are goblins like him, but Gabe is tired of being a goblin – he’d like to try other things. And he has his eye on the new ogress at school. It’s against all beastly rules, but there’s just something about her.

When a prank goes wrong, Gabe is forced to join the football team as punishment – but finds a way to make it work. Soon the whole school is getting in on the rule-breaking fad of mingling with other species. Too bad the adults have to step in and ruin things by threatening to destroy the school and split up Broken Branch Falls. And Gabe is their scapegoat. With help from friends, old and new, Gabe sets out on a quest for a relic of their mysterious past, which hopefully holds the key to saving Broken Branch Falls. After all that trouble, it better work.

Add it to your GOODREADS list!


Versatile...or Inconsistent?

The marvelous and loveable Janie Junebug has given me an award! The Versatile Blogger Award. I looked up versatile in good ol' Merriam-Webter, and here's what I found:

(1) capable of turning forward or backward
(2) capable of moving laterally and up and down

As I am capable of both (1) and (2), I shall hereby accept this award in good conscience. All I have to do is tell you seven things about myself. Prepare to be fascinated...

1. My favorite job ever was being a lunch lady at my kids' school.

2. I can't STAND to leave my toenails unpainted.

3. I complain about bunnies eating my plants, but truthfully I like it (I figure it's repayment for all my enjoyment of their cuteness).

4. There's only one show on TV that I must watch: Survivor.

5. I've watched every single season of it.

6. And I'm chuffed when people who've never watched a full season get all snootyish about it.

7. I wish Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon would stop vying to take over the world and each just stick to doing what they're truly good at.

I am now to tag 15 more bloggers, and I choose to tag the first 15 people to comment here. But please don't let that discourage you from commenting!  If you'd like to be immune from making an acceptance post, simply state "I found the hidden immunity idol" in your comment. :)


Then and Now: The Sure Thing

Today is the the "Then and Now" blogfest, hosted by Armchair SquidSuze, Moi & Nancy Mock. Squid & Suze were the instigators, and I thank them for letting me tag along. The idea of this here hop is to reflect on a movie that meant something to us at an earlier stage in our lives and explain how we view it differently now.

Before I jump all the way into my post, I want to apologize to visitors of my Insecure Writers post last week. I appreciate all of your lovely comments for Carol, and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to repay your visits yet. Y'see, right after I got that post up, I had to pack my bags and make a road trip for my daughter's college orientation. I know! I can't beleive she's leaving me either. Anywho, it's crazy what just a few days away from everything can do to my good intentions. But I still have them, and I'll see ya very, very soon.

The time on a college campus was fun and totally gave me a hankerin' for my undergrad days (apparently writing Three Daves didn't quite get it out of me). It also helped me to finally land on which movie to focus on for this post...

I loved this movie in the 80s and I love it now. But I have come to see the male lead, Walter Gibson, a/k/a Gibb, in a different light. Back then he was perfect, the kind of guy who would keep his woman laughing and laughing and happy forever. As I said in my Grown Ass Man post last fall, I've learned that Fun Guys aren't always so fun. So while I'm glad the Gibster helped remove the giant stick that was stuck up the leading lady's arse, I no longer imagine that the two of them will make the perfect couple forever and ever. I imagine his jokes growing old and her moving on to someone more mature and more serious, someone more like herself.

Not that he won't mature over time, but I guess what I don't believe in anymore is that people can or should change for each other. I'm not saying that two people have to be exactly alike to be compatible---the differences can be what keeps a relationship interesting into old age, and every successful relationship requires compromise and learning from each other, but I don't know...too much of the growth in The Sure Thing relationship seemed to depend on her becoming more like him and him becoming more like her instead of them each being who they were and appreciating what the other was. It makes for a great movie and is an entirely realistic scenario, but I don't think it has potential for long-term happiness. Does that make any sense?


IWSG: 4 Things I've Learned about Publishing in 4 Years from @CarolOates

It's Insecure Writers Support Group tiiiime. This monthly hop is one of my favorite things on the internet and was founded by Alex J. Cavannaugh. It also has its very own websiteThank you all for your Ask the Acquisitions Editor questions last month. I've passed them off to CK, and my grand plan is to post the answers during next month's IWSG. 

This month my biggest insecurity is time and my inability to beat it into submission, but that's for another post. Because I just happen to have the perfect IWSG post already in my back pocket---written by Carol Oates, a wonderful author of supernatural Young Adult and New Adult stories. I originally posted these 4 publishing wisdoms from Carol at my Facebook page to celebrate her recent release, Shades of Avalon, and she's graciously agreed to let me re-post them in one volume here for your benefit. 

You can tell Carol thanks at her blog, on Twitter, or at her Facebook page. Alrighty then, shall we let Carol take it away? Yes, yes we shall...

It’s been four years since Shades of Atlantis began the editing process. I’ve developed as a writer. I’ve also mellowed a little about the daunting publishing industry. Here are a few things I’ve figured out.

1. It takes a village to raise a book

I’m sure most people realize that the book fairies don’t magically transform the (scrawled by hand in my case) first draft of a manuscript into a shiny, beautiful book. But, before I decided to publish, I really didn’t understand the extent of work required from so many people. Up to that decision, I was writing for my own pleasure and I didn’t much care if I had missing words or plot holes. Publishing is like an iceberg, only 10-20% is visible, the rest is below the waterline. When I decided to plunge in, it involved gathering trusted people around me that I knew would point out the flaws in my work. That’s before the manuscript even hit an editor’s desk. Manuscripts go through many hands even before distribution and promotion come in to it.

2. Publishing doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing 

I used to thing publishing and writing were the same thing. When I set out years ago to publish, I had this fantasy of sitting at my desk in my writing cave all day…writing, or attending bookish events to commune with readers and bookish type people. All while someone else took care of everything else—see point 1. Those book fairies, maybe. In truth, only a portion of my time goes on writing books. The rest is spent doing the production stuff in getting from manuscript to book, communicating with readers(fun bit), organizing promotions(fun bit), keeping up to date with the industry(can be filled with drama lamas). And reading, of course(back to fun bit).

3. No one knows the right way to publish a book

Lots of people will swear they do, but the truth is there is no one way, no sure fire route to success. Every author is different in what they want to achieve with their career, if publishing is even a career to them. Each project can demand a completely different approach. When looking at an individual project, we’re talking a glass slipper being tried on by every disappointed girl in the village, rather than one-size fits all slipper socks. What one author claims worked for them may only work for them, that one time.

4. The opening night nerves never go away 

Shades of Avalon is release seven, and its feels like a special one because it’s the sequel to my debut, Shades of Atlantis. You’d think, I’d be used to release days by now but my tummy still flutters wildly every time I think about my work being out in the world on those first few days. The outpouring of support in the book community can be wonderful and overwhelming in the best possible way. It goes a long way to soothing my frazzled nerves.

Have a great rest of your week!


Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell

As proof that I'm just not cut out for this club---I'm still about 85 pages pages away from finishing the book I want to feature. And I JUST got a message from the library prompting me to renew. Again. Urg. Nevertheless, I shall push forth...

This month's read is Redcoat, an historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell set during the British occupation of Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. Historical fiction is how I prefer to get my history, and Cornwell does a great job of working in the minute details of the time and place to make that piece of history come alive for me.

Did you know that it was considered a luxury to have dentures that were crafted from teeth yanked from the heads of soldiers who died on the battlefield? Cornwell's detailing gets delightfully nasty like that without going overboard, just enough to make me cringe and put me in the rawness of the period.  He also tosses in sublte touches of humor and romace without getting the least bit gushy about it.

This paticular story has lots of main players, and their stories are nicely woven together. There's one in particular that has me intrigued---he's bad, but he's also got potential for greatness. I don't think it's going to happen, but I'm so hoping he reaches a glorious moment of redemption before the story is done. That kind of depth of character is what keeps me turning the pages of any book.

One thing that chuffs me about Cornwell's stories---I've noted it in other books I've read by him as well---is that the female love interests can't just be plain or regular pretty, they're all bestowed with astounding physical beauty that nears perfection, as if they couldn't possibly be worth capturing a man's heart or notice without that all-important quality.

I also noted something odd on the copyright page---the copyright isn't held by Bernard Cornwell but by something called Rifleman Productions, Ltd. I Googled it, but my search only led me to an Australian dance company. What do you suppose the reasons are for the copyright not going to Cornwell? Does this mean it's actually written by a team of ghost writers or could there be other business reasons?

To see what the rest of the Coffeehouse gang is reading, click around below. Thanks much to The Armchair Squid for hosting.


WRiTE Club Submissions Due This Week #WRiTEclub2014

DL Hammon is at it again, and this is the last week to submit your 500-word piece to WRiTE Club 2014. Get the full low-down on what the contest is all about by clicking here.

Here's the quick 'n dirty: a group of readers will rate all anonymous submissions, and the top 32 will face off in head-to-head bouts. Winners move on to face off against other winners, and so on and so on until there is one winner standing with arms raised at the center of the ring. The final round will be decided by an impressive panel of celebrity judges from the publishing world. Entries are due by May 31. You can submit absolutlely any genre of writing---the only rule is that it can't have been previously published anywhere else for public consumption.

Not only is WRiTE Club wicked fun, it's a great way to get invaluable feedback on your writing in a totally anonymous way. As another perk, I've found that readying my pieces for submissions in past contests has given me great tools for polishing future works. The venture has even caught the attention of the DFW Writer's Conference!

Also, my upcoming sexy chick lit from Swoon Romance was put up on Goodreads over the weekend! It's not expected to release until spring of 2015, but if you think you might want to give VIBRIZZIO a whirl, please do add it to your to-read list.