Wednesday, August 28, 2013

AGAINST THE MARK by Kat Martin


From the back cover:

The perfect murder is a work of art.

 In one catastrophic instant, Haley Warren's estranged father was taken from her. She never got the chance to reconnect with him, so now she's doing it the only way she's got left: by proving the explosion that killed him was no accident. 

When Tyler Brodie, the provocative and handsome P.I. hired by Haley, discovers that her father was investigating a suspected art theft, he knows his death is no coincidence. After all, tens of millions of dollars worth of stolen art could motivate a thief to go to any lengths-including getting rid of anyone poking around where they don't belong. 

As Haley and Ty get closer to the truth, the truth gets ugly: Did Haley's dad know too much...or was he in on the take? And although Ty's a consummate professional, he's having trouble focusing on the facts of the case, and not the figure of his gorgeous client. The two are determined to get to the bottom of the case, even if it means they die trying.


I don't read a lot of romantic suspense so I wasn't sure how how I would feel about this book. But once I started reading, I couldn't put it down!

When Haley is contacted by her father's second wife - the one he left her and her mother for - she isn't at all sure what to believe. Could her father's death really have been a murder? And attracted as she is to Ty, she doesn't believe in abiding love and happily-after-afters. She just wants to learn the facts, tie up all the loose ends, and get back to her regularly scheduled life in Chicago.

Lucky for us readers, the truths of the situation - and Ty's charms - make that impossible. With its great characters, fast pace, and plot twists to keep you turning pages until the very end, this is a great end-of-summer read. Recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Love trumps fear. Every time.


There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
~ John Lennon

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.
~John 4:18

Saturday I went to the August meeting of the Georgia Romance Writers, the local chapter of Romance Writers of America. It was the fourth anniversary of my very first visit. During these four years, I have attended almost every monthly meeting, workshop and conference offered by Georgia Romance Writers. I have learned a lot; mostly, I have discovered how much I have yet to learn.

On Saturday, for example, our featured speaker Maggie Worth talked about fear and how we let it stop us from living fully. Maggie shared deeply from her personal experience in this powerful, inspirational presentation; it really helped put things into perspective for me. The next time I am tempted to  be less than I am capable of because I am afraid I might make a mistake or someone won't approve? The next time I am on the verge of throwing myself a big ol' pity party because of my sorry lot in life or my failures of the past? I am going to think back on all the things Maggie said, get over myself, and do the next thing.

And one of those things is finish the book. Since I began this writing journey, I have spent too many weeks and months sitting on my hands, paralyzed by self-doubt. But on Saturday, Maggie challenged us with this: "Out there is someone who needs to read your words, otherwise, you would not have been given the words. You were put here for a reason." So two full months after submitting to the Unpublished Maggie Awards for Excellence contest, I am back to work at last on my manuscript that finalled in the young adult category. Called Finding Home, it is about a sixteen year old girl who suddenly finds herself homeless. I believe this is a story that needs to be told, one that might really make a difference to young readers. Although I still have long hours of hard work ahead of me, I am truly about finishing this story and sharing my pitch at agent and editor appointments at the upcoming Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. With less than seven weeks between now and the Maggie Awards Ceremony, I have no time to waste.

But that's not all. I have 44 piano students on my teaching schedule, a November piano ensemble concert to prepare for, three conferences to attend, and jewelry to make. I can feel one of two ways about all this: desperate and overwhelmed, or motivated and excited. One response is fear-based; the other is love-based. One attitude leads to anxiety and exhaustion; the other leads to anticipation and euphoria. As long as I remain in alignment with my true purpose in this world - to use whatever talents I have to help others along their paths - I will find the energy to do the things that need to be done, and the work will feel like play. The moment I start to struggle, the moment I begin to feel like I am drowning in water over my head, I will STOP, figure out what excess weight is pulling me under and LET IT GO. Otherwise, as long as I keep my body properly fueled and well rested, I should be just fine.

Also on Saturday, I was awarded a purple rose from the Unpublished Maggie Awards for Excellence chairperson in recognition of being a finalist in the contest. My heart pounded and my hands trembled as I made that long walk to the front of the room. But the happy cheers and warm applause from my fellow GRW members brought a smile to my face and thrilled me to my very core. As long as I keep doing the work I was put on this earth to do, approach it from a place of love, and keep my heart open to my fellow travelers, I will end up exactly where I am supposed to be. And find joy in the journey.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WHOLE LATTE LIFE by Joanne DeMaio


From the back cover:

Sara Beth and Rachel have been wishing on stars for as long as they've been friends. Sara Beth dreams of her own antique shop, with lace curtains hanging in the windows. For Rachel, a little beach cottage will do, where sea breezes and salt water might inspire her sketches. From sharing wishes to cups of coffee at a cherished cafe, they've stitched pieces of their lives together like a patchwork quilt - a soft quilt of friendship they thought they'd hold close forever.

But while celebrating their birthdays in Manhattan, one makes a decision that will alter the course of their friendship. At a midtown lunch, Sara Beth excuses herself to use the Ladies' Room, and never returns. Instead she slips the waiter a note to pass along to her dear friend, asking Rachel to cover for her disappearance.

Sara Beth's escape begins a summer of change, one that eventually brings her antique shop to life, with a price. Though her decision pulls at her marriage and children, the strongest effect is on Rachel. For her, Sara Beth's disappearance brings a solitary Mounted Police Officer into her life, one who gladly shows Rachel that it isn't always stars that deliver wishes.

Winding from the hidden gems of Manhattan, to a weathered cottage at Anchor Beach, to an opulent New England carriage house, Whole Latte Life promises that redemption is a tender road worth taking, that secrets and ice cream are worth sharing, that true friendship has the same sweet magic as stardust.

Click HERE to read my review of Joanne DeMaio's second book, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans; I loved it so much I jumped at the chance I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review her debut novel, Whole Latte Life.

Following the death of her mother, Sara Beth goes off the deep end, abandoning her friend at a New York City restaurant as they celebrate their fortieth birthdays and leaving her husband and small children in limbo. Recently widowed, Rachel is dealing with struggles of her own; the last thing she needs is to be ditched by her best friend at this important milestone and left to deal with her distraught husband. Fortunately, the mounted police officer who helps Rachel search for Sara Beth just might turn out to be more than another hot man in uniform.

Exploring the themes of love, friendship, and the search for oneself, this book is a wonderful reminder of what matters most in life. Recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Flying Solo

It is only alone, truly alone, that one bursts apart, springs forth.

~ Maria Isabel Barreno

So much of what I do is solitary. Whether I'm playing the piano, making jewelry, or working on my novel, it's just me, myself and the work. 

Heck, since my divorce twelve years ago, I haven't even been able to make a go of a relationship. But that's a different subject for another day.

As a piano teacher, I do what I can to make studying music less lonely. I play duets with my students; I organize in-studio workshops with other children; I provide incentives to earn scholarships, trophies and awards; I host an annual spring recital. As a musician, I am privileged to be a member of a professional piano ensemble. I believe it is important to play well with others.

As a writer, however, it is easy to get lost. I joined Georgia Romance Writers on my 50th birthday; I will turn 54 on Thursday. Yes, I have been an active member of the group and have enjoyed the camaraderie of the writer friends I have made there. But the daily grind of putting words on the page is a solitary pursuit - and one that often feels completely pointless. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to acquire an agent; all my requests for partial or complete manuscripts have resulted in utter rejection. Sometimes I wonder whether that time wouldn't be better spent cleaning the house. Or baking cookies.

Or reading something wonderful.

Last week, though, the first thirty-five pages of my young adult manuscript finalled in a prestigious regional competition. I am still trying to wrap my head around that. I am thrilled; I am terrified. Now that I have the affirmation I have been seeking, I know I need to up my game. All that time I have spent not writing? Cleaning the house? Or baking cookies? Or reading something wonderful? 

I need to spend it writing.

My dream is to be a traditionally published novelist; I want this as much as I have ever wanted anything. There are no short cuts; hard work - and a little bit of luck - are essential to the process. There have been days I have been tempted to throw in the towel. But I can't quit now. 

Writing a compelling work of novel-length fiction is the most difficult thing I have ever attempted to do. More than 80% of people claim to want to write a book, but fewer than 1% actually do.

I am a part of that tiny 1%. And if fate is kind, and luck is with me, perhaps I will join that even smaller percentage of authors who are published in novel-length fiction.

I believe. 

I. Truly. Believe.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

GOOD NEWS!

I just found out that my Young Adult manuscript is a finalist in the Georgia Romance Writers 2013 Unpublished Maggie Awards for Excellence. I am still in shock! Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony during Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolias 2013 conference on October 5, 2013. First place winners receive the Maggie Award for Excellence silver medallion. Wish me luck!