Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Club's Best of 2013 Picks

Every year our book club compiles lists and categories of the best books we read together and on our own over the last year. I compile all our lists into one comprehensive list for your viewing pleasure.
Here they are...
Book Club's Best Of
2013
picks
 
 


 
 
Best Books We Read Together This Year
 
Just Her Luck By Kelli Evans, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates
 
 
Best Books We Read On Our Own This Year
 
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood, Sisters of the Quilt by Cindy Woodsmall, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, and Slave by Sherri Hayes
 
 
The Books That Gave Us A New Perspective
 
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey & A Class Divided: Then and Now by William Peters
 
Honorable Mentions: When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge
 
The Book With The Ending You Didn't See Coming
 
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
 
Honorable Mentions: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn & Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
 
The Most Suspenseful Book
 
The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates
 
Honorable Mentions: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Five Mile House by Karen Novak
 
The Steamiest Book
 
Just Her Luck by Kelli Evans
 
Honorable Mention: The Devil's Pawn by Elizabeth Finn
 
The Book That Made Us Laugh Out Loud
 
Just Her Luck by Kelli Evans
 
Honorable Mention: Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
 
The Book That Brought Us To Tears
 
The Christmas Clock by Kat Martin
 
Honorable Mentions: Chasing Dreams by Kelli Evans, and Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
 
The Book We Couldn't Put Down
 
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
 
Honorable Mentions: The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates, A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, and The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein
 
The Genre/Book That We Liked But Didn't Think We Would
 
YA Horror - The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates, and Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
 
Our Favorite Author This Year
 
Kelli Evans (I promise I don't pay them to say this.)
 
Honorable Mentions: Kelly Armstrong, Mary Higgins Clark, Robin Cook, Julie Garwood, Irene Hannon, and Crystal Jordan
 
An Author We Discovered We Liked This Year
 
Nicholas Sparks
 
Honorable Mention: Loribelle Hunt
 
And The Books We're Most Excited About This Year:
 
The Bible, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, Unforgiven by Elizabeth Finn, It Had To Be You by Jill Shalvis, Hot Shot by Julie Garwood, and Playing With Fire by Kelli Evans    

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Want to meet my latest hero?

I've been working on something a bit different lately. First of all it's a SHORT story and I've never in my life been able to write one of those. (Let's keep our fingers crossed.) Also this story flirts a little with that paranormal line. I hope you'll enjoy it.
You'll have to wait until probably around Mardi Gras to read it but I figured I might as well throw you a bone and introduce you to my hunky, sweet, slightly broken hero.
 
Meet
RenĂ© Dubois. Dedicated uncle. NOLA firefighter. Adorable dimple flasher. Lonely widower. And possibly under our heroine Ryce Bebeau's spell... "

Thursday, October 31, 2013

10 Spooktacular Reads For Halloween

Are you staying in tonight? Passing out candy? Are you trying to think of which movie you're going to watch? I'm suggesting you skip the movie and dive right into one of these creepy, spooky, or nail biting, and hair raising books. 
Let's count 'em down.


10.)  Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman  - Kingdom of Childhood makes the list because it's dark, disturbing, and Rebecca Coleman constructed a downright creepy female protagonist? Antagonist? Er ... regardless of what we're calling her, I think we can all agree that she was more than a little unhinged.

9.)  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - So maybe you're not the type who needs a lot of in your face frights to get into the mood of the holiday. If so than this beginning to the uncompleted young adult series might be right up your alley. With its supernatural twists and turns, lots of unforeseen events, creepy monsters all paired with real very strange and odd photographs this pulls off just enough spine tingle without getting too gory or too scary.
  
8.) If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker - This book packs a punch and Shiloh Walker plays on our fears. Our heroine is blind, our hero has a bum leg, and there's a serial killer on the loose preying on women. Told from multiple point of view including the deranged criminals makes this read suspenseful, intense, and sometimes downright stomach churning but it's a romance so everything gets all wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end ... or does it?   

7.)  Where Are The Children by Mary Higgins Clark - This classic suspense reads quickly. Easily finished in one setting. Once you start this book you will not want to stop turning pages until you get to the end. It's sickening, it's terrifying, it's absolutely maddening because you, just like their mother, need the question answered. Where Are The Children?

6.)  Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon - Flirting with the edge of reality Jennifer McMahon spins a tail so eerie, so creepy, so strange that you can't help but keep slipping into believing this bizarre and freaky story - you can't help but to peek under the bed trying to spot the Fairy King's door. This thriller will leave you questioning everything and at times even your own sanity. Although you'll have chills long after you finish this book, once it ends you'll be left wishing there was a least one more page to turn.  

5.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - Every year about this time the gloomy skies, the rainy weather, the half naked trees inspire me to pick up one of my copies of Jane Eyre and slip into the gothic depressing adolescents and life of Jane Eyre. There is enough spine tingle in this book to last a lifetime. From children locked in haunted rooms, to deathly orphanages, creepy, eerie noises coming from a secret locked somewhere in the hallows of a large cavernous house to the eventual blaze of fire. Jane Eyre is as classically moody and eerie as they come but for someone whose life has been as miserable as Jane's she never seems to lose the light in her and that might be the actual story of Jane Eyre.  

4.) Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell - Another gloomy, dark look into the life of a young girl, this time one growing up in the Ozarks. The prose itself is beautiful, the imagery stunning, and the telling of this tale is done with breathtaking tenderness and precision. It is not for the faint of heart. It's a chilling, gut-wrenching story. Harrowing. Extreme. Stunning. You will not be able to put this one down. An amazing example of the human strength, the seedy underbelly of life in the forgotten places of America and a strangely triumphant story of taking care of your own.
 
3.) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Twisted. That's the only word for it. It's a little slow at first but it's all necessary information. You just won't know that until you're at the end of the book having one hell of an "Aha! Moment." Twisted. Twisted. Twisted. So dark, so completely messed up and crooked and in your face insane but so unbelievably good.  

2.) The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates - I've never quite read a book like this. The premise is fresh, and what was so great about this book was that I wasn't sure where it was going to go. It's an engrossing read. Twists and turns are abundant. It'll keep you flipping pages, through every creepy scenes and every blood curdling scream. Engrossing and unput-downable.
 
1.) Raven Stole The Moon by Garth Stein - One of my favorite books of all time. Stein himself calls it a Native American Campfire Story and it absolutely lives up to that title. Remember the days of sitting around a campfire, holding a flashlight under your chin, and trying to freak out your friends with ghost stories. This is just like that only on steroids.Stein takes you on spine tingling a tour through the Tlingit folklore and Alaskan countryside that you won't want to come back from. This story is chilling, freaky, heart wrenching, unusually romantic, and absolutely perfect.  

Happy Reading & Happy Halloween


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let's Talk Fifty Shades ...

Yesterday news broke that Charlie Hunnam dropped The Fifthy Shades of Grey movie.
It was a sad, sad, day. I know a lot of people were doubting the pick from the beginning but I was an instant believer. Anyone who has seen any of Charlie's work had to have understood why he was a prime pick. He had the total persona and all the right energy to play the twisted but sexy Christian Grey. 
Now it's back to the drawing bored for the movie execs.
So who do you think they should pick? Who are you hoping the new Christian Grey will be?
Call me crazy but maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt ...?
I mean he doesn't have the copper locks but look - just look. Look at what great shape he's in from Don Jon.
 
 
 And he's definitely got the whole sexy and mysterious thing going on ... it could be good ;)
But go ahead and tell me I'm wrong. Who's your Christian Grey?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Elizabeth Finn drops by to talk about her latest release, Unforgiven

We are talking today about a book I cannot wait to jump into. If I wasn't a little OCD about finishing a book I'm reading before starting a new one I'd be deep into all the deliciousness of Elizabeth's latest release by now.
Thanks for stopping by and chatting with me a bit today Elizabeth!
 

Hi Kelli!! I’m excited to be here, and thanks for having me.
 
Of course!
 
 
 
 
A mistake made long ago…
Pain buried so deep...
When Bailey Trent returns home to her small little Ozark mountain town after being away for nearly six years, she knows she’ll face the ghosts of her past. It does not mean she’s prepared to come face to face with the cruelest of those memories.
Darren Cory’s life is a shell of what it once was, and when he’s forced to endure the cause of his agony, hatred abounds quickly. But hating Bailey destroys him too.
Can Darren find a way to move past the pain and forgive the woman he once cared so much for before his anger consumes them both? Or will he drag them into the hell of an unforgiven past.
 
 
So tell me, what inspired your to write this particular story? Where their parts that came easier to write than others?
 
I can’t say I have a particular inspiration for this book. It is just one of many stories floating around in my head. That said, I feel passionate about the subject matter. This particular plot was actually part of the Brother’s Keeper plot line at one point in time, but it was just far too big for Brother’s Keeper, and frankly, Rowan had enough on her plate and didn’t need this added story line!! My Brother’s Keeper fans might be shocked to know that Jess was once Sara… I know, how dare I?!?! Anyway, there are always ups and downs in my writing. Sometimes it flows like water, other times it’s more like concrete through a sieve. This was actually a fairly quick write for me—about two months if I’m not mistaken, and for 100k words, that’s pretty decent on my schedule.
 
 
What about Darren and Bailey do you think readers will connect with the most?
 
They’re very real, honest, and flawed, and I think I’ve done a good job of writing that authentically and emotionally. At the same time, they’re loveable. They may not be perfect, and God knows they’re not, but you still want to fight for them and believe in them. I love writing those characters—imperfect, but worthy.
 
I have to say you're really very talented at writing perfectly flawed, yet redeemable characters. Are you a plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantster when it comes to writing? What's your process in developing a story?
 
Somewhere between the two. My plots are beyond loose when I sit down to write, but I do have a general plot. It might be safer to say I have a setting and certain elements. I find I’m very much inventing and creating the story as I go, and I have to admit, it stalls me sometimes when I get to part of the story, and I can’t figure out what path to take them down. I don’t do anything to prepare to write at all except sit down at my computer and start typing. I research along the way as needed, and I develop the ins and outs of my story as it flows and as I’m writing. I’m sure some would say I’m going about it the wrong way, but it works for me. I’m a loosey-goosey when it comes to my process.
 
Psst. Same here...
And I know this is such an unfair question but ... Which of your books is your favorite?
 
Unforgiven … and not because it’s my newest release. I truly do love all of my stories and all of my characters, but this one has really stuck with me. I’m obsessed with this storyline and these characters right now.
 
That just makes me about a million times more excited to get into this book! What authors do you think have had the greatest influence on your own writing? Who is your automatic-buy author?
 
I’m a huge Iris Johansen fan, which is odd since I write contemporary romance, but she kind of started it all for me. I fell in love with reading romance from a stack of Iris Johansen books a friend gave me years ago.
 
Do you have a favorite "fan moment" you could tell us about?
 
Not really… Sad really, isn’t it? Maybe I’ve had a fan moment, and I didn’t even know it. That would be like me. OH!! How about being interviewed by the illustrious and talented Kelli Evans??? Does that count?
You get a point for flattery ;)
Who is your book boyfriend?
 
Derek from The Devil’s Pawn. I’ve been in love with him since the moment I wrote him. I love his brooding, dark and mysterious persona. He was terrifying, but amazing, and I LOVE THAT!!
 
Oh I love Derek! Loved every dark mysterious ornery thing about him. *sigh*
So what's next for you?
 
So glad you asked. I have two more contracted books that are both in the early stages of edits. The first, Conflicting Interests, is contracted with Ellora’s Cave. It is a detective/victim scenario. Still loaded with emotion, but there are some great sarcastic secondary characters I had fun writing. And second, The Innocent Liar, is contracted with Musa Publishing. It is a boss/employee set-up with lots of secrets and enemies. The backstory and secrets are revealed throughout the story, so it’s hard to go into too much detail on the plot for that one.
 
Go you. You are one busy lady!  I'm so glad you had the time to stop by here and chat it up with me. I've had such a blast.
 
Thanks so much for letting me crash your blog today, Kelli!! It was fun, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Unforgiven!!
 
I hope you'll stop by again soon. Good luck with everything you've got on your plate.

Here's a little taste of Unforgiven for all you readers.
 
It was a week after Bailey had told him she was leaving, and he was sitting in his car outside her home, staring at his steering wheel. He didn’t know how to do this, and he wasn’t even sure why he was doing it. But he was absolutely going to fucking do it.
He knocked, and he waited. He could hear her feet padding to the door, and his heart pounded. When she pulled the door open, he watched as her lips parted, and her chest instantly stilled as she held her breath.
“Stay.” She stared dumbfounded. “Don’t leave.”
She shook her head as though she could make sense of what he said if she could rattle her gears back into place. “What? Why?”
“I need you here!” His lips trembled as he spoke. “Because I know if you leave then this is the place I’m going to be for the rest of my life.” His hands were trembling and his chest was tight. He felt as though he were breaking apart.
“Savoy?” She didn’t understand.
“No. This.” He shook his head in frustration. “This! Us. I need to deal with this. I have to, or … or I swear to God, it’s going to kill me.” He could feel his eyes tearing. “I hate you. I really and truly hate you.” He looked over her shoulder, seeking understanding that he just couldn’t wrap his head around. “But… I still… Stay. Convince me not to hate you, because… because hating you is the end of me.”
She started crying then, and he stood forcing his diaphragm to work, trying to calm his emotions—the emotions that had been running rampant since he’d heard her say she was leaving and his heart had lodged in his throat. It made no sense at all. He’d been prepared to leave, and yet, hearing her say she was leaving was painful.
“Darren, I…” She was going to say no, and that damn panic hit again. He grabbed her, pushing her against the wall. She gripped his waist, and he groaned quietly. She had to stay. He meant every word of what he said. He could feel it in his core, though he couldn’t rationalize it to save his life.
He dropped his forehead to hers. He was so close to her, and it soothed him in a way he didn’t want to admit—in a way he recognized from another lifetime. “Please stay. Please.” He was almost whispering, but he could feel her head nodding even though he couldn’t see her. He relaxed for the first time in days, and he sighed. Her fingers were still gripping the sides of his waist, and he could feel their tension release as he relaxed, but she didn’t pull her hands away, and he was so infinitely glad she didn’t.
She held her place, and she let him keep her against the wall. It was far too intimate, but everything they did, even what they did in anger, seemed to feel intimate—always had. He needed to walk away, but he couldn’t. He also couldn’t give her more than this. He wanted to. He wanted to collapse against her, pull her into his arms, crumble to the floor with her in his lap, but he wasn’t lying when he said he hated her. Or maybe he was. He didn’t have a fucking clue anymore. He wanted to hate her. That much he knew. He wanted to hate her because it felt right, and it felt powerful even through the helplessness. But he was no longer sure he was capable of hating her.
He still couldn’t figure out why he needed her to stay, but the words he’d said to her were the God’s honest truth. He knew he had to deal with this if there was ever a hope for him. When he was planning on moving away, he was secure in the knowledge that she would be here in Savoy. He could find her when he needed to, when he was ready to. But her leaving, that was intolerable. She could disappear forever, and he wasn’t ready for that. It felt as though his very last chance at redemption and sanity was dissolving, and he just couldn’t handle that.
“What am I supposed to do here? My mom needs to go to Memphis, and I’m not going to ask her to stay. But I have nothing here.” Her voice cracked for a moment.
“I can’t help you with that. Your life is your own. What you do with it is too. Just don’t run away. That’s all I’m asking. I promise I won’t run either.” She nodded. Her eyes were wide, terrified if he were guessing, and he didn’t quite know what that meant. Was she really afraid of him? Was she afraid of what would happen between them? If she was, then she wasn’t the only one. He was afraid too. There was something so incredibly tantalizing about her. To him, she’d always been the most captivating creature in the world. She still was.
“What does this mean for us?”
“Nothing.” He focused on her eyes, studying her reaction. He knew it hurt her feelings to hear him say it, but it was the truth. He didn’t know what to expect from any of this, and he certainly didn’t intend to make up and place nice with her.
“Then why should I stay?”
He leaned to her ear. He could smell her incredible scent. She smelled of subtle shower wash. Not flowery or fruity but warm and sweet like oatmeal and honey. He was guessing it was something like that. He almost stayed there too long, just inhaling against her neck. “Don’t you at least want a chance at redemption?” He pulled back from her.
“Yes.” She nodded, and he finally backed away from her.
“Well, this should be interesting, shouldn’t it?” He could feel his lips pulling up in a smirk. Then he turned and walked away, out her door, and down to his car. He sat for moment, a bit stunned at what he’d done and infinitely relieved that he’d had the balls to do it. He was right. This promised to be interesting.




 Go out. Get the book. Devour it. Don't forget to leave some reviews, especially if you love it. And for God's sake let's give this girl a fan moment! ;) Thanks everyone for stopping by! See you again soon!  
 
Buy Unforgiven now at
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Where do your ideas come from?"

So I'm always getting asked where I come up with story ideas. I have such a hard time finding a way to answer this question. I mean my ideas come from everywhere but people tend to be underwhelmed with that response. Well, today I'm offering a glimpse into a writer's mind ... Brace yourself.
 
So in my neck of the woods it's harvest season. Today we gathered apples for cider. Yum! While spending half the day bent over picking windfalls my big, curious, goofy Great Dane stumbled on an underground bee's nest.
I look over and he's engulfed in a swarm. I immediately start running with him and swatting the bees off. One extra zealous bee even dive bombed me square in the eyeball. After all was said and done, all I wanted to do was get to my keyboard because I had the perfect scenario for my hero to get our heroine out of her clothes ...

And that's how it works.
So my answer is obviously bees.
My ideas come from bees. ;)

Monday, September 9, 2013

11 tips for aspiring authors

Recently I've been asked (frequently) for my professional advice. It's still strange to think of myself as accomplished enough to warrant giving others advice on writing and publishing but here I go anyway.



Advice from one writer to another.

11.) Be blindly optimistic.
It's the only way you're going to survive. There are so many storytellers in the world. There are so many of them who are better skilled with weaving a tale, they are smarter, and just deserve it more. You have to believe without a shadow of a doubt that you are worthy of being published too. You are worthy. Never ever lose this. It is your ticket. It's the only key. If you don't believe you are worthy, you'll never be able to withstand the beatings you'll take before you reach that first finish line. It's a tough ride but it's so worth it. Please believe that. It's worth it and so are you and so is your writing. Don't give up - no matter how hard it seems. Believe. Believe. Please believe.  
 
10.) Grow your characters.
Know your characters, inside and out. Get in their heads. You aren't just writing about things that happen to them you're building people - make them whole. No one is perfect, give them faults, give them a past, give them details that we may never - ever learn about. These are important steps because without knowing your character, you can't possibly know how they would react to whatever it is you're going to make them go through. If you're having trouble finding a plot - finding the conflict, then you don't know your characters well enough yet - keep on digging. Keep on building.
 
9.) Know the rules.
Beef up on your genre, know the rules for the genre, know the rules for writing, understand story arcs, and characterization. Know your grammar. Use the knowledge.
 
8.) Forget the rules.
Everything you just learned - forget. Give us some junk writing. Grab our attention. Illiterate! Fragment some sentences. Make your manuscript exciting to read but don't overdo it. A well paced, fluent, perfectly toned book with some tasty junkfood-type writing is not the same thing as a messy and riddled manuscript. Break the rules for a reason, not just for the sake of breaking the rules.
 
7.)Complete the R&R.
 If you get an R&R (Revise and Resubmit) do it. Revise it and resubmit it. You've got one foot in the door. They're handing you a map to your destination. An R&R is not a no it's a YES ... with stipulations. What's so great about this is that they are telling you upfront what it is they'd like to tweak about your manuscript. It's a heads up and most importantly a giant blinking sign that they are interested! Rejoice in it.
 
6.) Shop around.
Just because you are offered a contract doesn't mean that is the contract you deserve. Please, please, please read your contracts and take them to a professional and have them read your contract. Do not sign anything that makes you nervous. Talk to them about things that concern you, sometimes they will change the part you're having issue with, or at the very least explain to you why it's in your contract in the first place. If it seems fishy, get out, do not sign it. If you're being offered a contract by one publishing house, chances are another publishing house would be just as willing to publish you. Turning down a contract, even the very first one ever offered to you, is better than being locked (possibly indefinitely) into a bad contract - hands down.  
 
5.) Tighten your writing.
Your passion is a muscle and it must be exercised. Edit yourself and edit yourself and edit yourself until you are sick of reading your own manuscript and then stop. No one likes stiff writing and no matter how many times you go through that manuscript on your own you're never going to negate the need for someone else's eyes. You will need an editor. The most skilled and most honed author on the planet would still benefit from someone else's eyes, so long as that someone else has the manuscript's best interest at heart.
 
4.) Let go.
Yes, your manuscript is your baby. You created it, you birthed it, it is yours and no one will ever understand it or love it quite the same way, or with the same intensity that you do. You have the right and the responsibility to protect it but for it to reach it's full potential you'll have to make some tough decisions, and to do this you have to step away from it. Love your manuscript, woo it, treasure it, bask in it while you write and then put it away and pull it out again once you can look at it objectively - objectively enough that you can take a knife to it and start slicing away the pieces that (while probably wonderful and gorgeously written) may not be necessary to the story.

3.) Share only with people you most trust.
This is maybe not only important with your work but with everything in life. Create a vibrant, wonderful, safe environment with the people around you. Let go of negativity and the people who tend to brew it. Protect your work (and yourself) from people who only want to taint it and bring you down. You work hard, you poured your heart into your manuscript, it came from your mind. It's a piece of you. It deserves honesty and constructive criticism - what it and you don't deserve is cynicism and jealousy.  
 
2.) Write.
It's that simple and that hard. Write everyday. Write all the time. Write in your mind even when you can't physically be writing. Write. Write. Write. Write. Especially write when you don't want to. Force it when it doesn't want to come naturally and eventually you'll have it mastered - it'll be tapped and ready for you whenever you need it. Write. That's the most important part of being a writer. Write.
 
 1.) Step away from the keyboard.
I completely understand the allure of that thing. I understand what it feels like to be married to the story. I get it. I really do. But the best thing you can do for you and for your writing is to get away from it every once in awhile. Do not turn down that party invite, I don't care what your inner recluse writer wants or that the tiny quiet introvert voice is whispering for you to stay in, finish the book. No. Get up. Get dressed. Go out. That's where the living are and after all that's what and who we write about. You can't possibly write about anything interesting if you never experience anything interesting. Take chances. Say yes. LIVE! It feels good and your work can only benefit from it.
 
 
Good luck! I'm rooting for you!