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Criminal Confections, by Colette London (I do not own this image. Image belongs to Kensington publishers.)

Criminal Confections, by Colette London (I do not own this image. Image belongs to Kensington publishers.)

Colette London is a best-selling novelist with dozens of books to her credit. Her newest book, Criminal Confections, is the first book in the decadent Chocolate Whisperer series.

Chocolate is more than a dessert to Hayden Mundy Moore and the elite of the chocolate world, it’s a necessity of life, like breathing. Hayden is The Chocolate Whisperer; she goes into troubled chocolate businesses, finds out what the problem is, and helps them right the wrongs. When her current employer invites her to an elite chocolate retreat, she expects a fun time, and plenty of chocolate, of course.

What she gets is murder.

The chef winds up dead the first night, and as Hayden discovers more, she starts to wonder if perhaps she was the real target. Determined to find out, she starts asking questions. As the body count climbs, so do Hayden’s suspicions. Is it her demanding new boss? Perhaps the senile former boss? The rival chocolatier who knows too much? Or maybe her attractive best friend, Danny, who has a hidden dark side from his secret past?

The only two things Hayden knows for sure are that she really wants to solve this mystery before she winds up dead, and she wants to meet Trevor, her financial advisor with the sexy voice, in person after listening to all his good advice over the phone for far too long.

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

This light-hearted cozy mystery will have the reader hungry for more: more romps set in Hayden’s whirlwind world, more adventures with Danny by her side, more flirty conversations with Trevor, and more chocolate. Scrumptious recipes are included in the book, so at least there won’t be a wait for those, even if the next book in the series isn’t out until September.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington via NetGalley.)

How is it that my to-do list is longer now than it was before the semester ended?  Seriously? It’s summer. Aren’t I supposed to be relaxing and doing nothing? Ha. Hahahaha. Not so much.

On the up side, at least it isn’t full of homework! And 2/3 of the items on the list are now writing-related, so that’s a huge improvement. Granted, it’s not actual writing, but at least it’s related. I gotta have a little bit of relaxation, too, so there’s some of that. Planning on seeing the new Avengers movie later today. And hopefully a brief (3-mile) workout, too, if the weather will cooperate. I swear Noah will be here any minute, which makes it difficult to train for the 20+-mile hike of the Grand Canyon I’m going on…two weeks from tomorrow!

On a side note related to my to-do list…does anyone know anything about either elance.com or odesk.com? I’ve seen a few things, and I’m curious/interested. Just looking for a bit of hands-on info.

Have a blessed day!

This semester is finally over! I’m thrilled, to say the least. It’s funny, I couldn’t focus on writing with school stuff floating in the back of my brain, but the last two weeks, I’ve been feeling the writing itch going stronger, so I know the Muse is ready to get back to work. And so am I. This first “off” week, I plan to get everything situated and organized, and figure out exactly what I intend to work on this summer (Yes, I have to have a plan.). Then I’ll get started.

I can’t wait.

The Spinster Bride, by Jane Goodger (I do not own this image. Image by Lyrical Trade.)

The Spinster Bride, by Jane Goodger (I do not own this image. Image by Lyrical Trade.)

Jane Goodger is an author in love with all things Victorian: houses, clothes, carriages, so it’s no wonder she writes Victorian romances. Her latest book, The Spinster Bride, is the last book in the Lords and Ladies series.

Marjorie Penwhistle was once the belle of the Season, with men at her feet and the world on a plate. Now, at the ripe old age of 23 and still unmarried, she’s on the verge of becoming a spinster. Good thing Marjorie doesn’t care about that. She wants to live her life, travel, and care for her brother, who’s a bit different and the recipient of their mother’s ire. When Marjorie isn’t the recipient of it herself, that is, since her mother insists that she marry a man of title and wealth, and won’t take “no” for an answer.

Charles Norris doesn’t have a title. What he does have is a war wound that makes him bitter, and a desire for a wife and a family of his home. He also has a tendency to fall in love with completely the wrong women, so he blackmails Marjorie into helping him find a suitable bride.

Clandestine meetings, secret notes left in hidden spots, and covert plots draw the two together as they search for the perfect wife for Charles. Along the way, they become friends, and fully appreciative of the stellar qualities of the other. It’s a good thing they are entirely unsuitable for each other. Or are they?

The Spinster Bride is a humorous tale of romance and light intrigue, and characters that will make you laugh, sigh, and root for them to see the light. The relationship that develops between Marjorie and Charles shows real depth as the characters show their secret selves and realize perhaps the one they were looking for was right in front of them all along.

(Galley provided by Lyrical Trade via NetGalley.)

So, finals are next week, which means I’ll (hopefully) getting back into the writing thing in a couple of weeks. Until then, I have essays to revise and a portfolio to put together. Eep.

It’s strange, considering I’ve never thought about a piece of writing as representative of my capabilities as a whole. Perhaps that’s because I generally write novel-length fiction, not short pieces. Long pieces of writing are easier to see as a whole, not as pieces of a whole, so looking at my writing in that slightly different way has been a learning experience.

I’ve finished the first draft of my long final essay–about my feelings on organized religion and why I feel the way I do. I’ve selected two essays to use in the portfolio–one a fictionalized account of two brothers in Hurricane Katrina, and one an account of my experiences with race in my hometown. (That one is pretty personal, but I am so happy with how it turned out.) I have to pick at least one more piece to include, which will probably be a literary analysis. Then I have to revise all of them and put the portfolio together.

So, I’ve been doing writing. Just…a horse of a different color, if you will.

So, I got feedback from my other essay yesterday, the one I was wondering about while waiting for feedback from the first free-form essay. It was highly favorable. The professor loved it, except for my next-to-last-sentence, which was, he said, the only one he would change. That sentence was a cliché, which slip into my writing without me even noticing.

Should I have caught it? Definitely. Was he right? Absolutely. Am I upset about the feedback? Are you kidding me? I’ve learned a lot from this class, especially from his comments. I got very detailed feedback, several paragraphs long, on this essay. He took the time to tell me how much and why he liked my voice, my setting, my characters…and what I did at the very end that erased all of that hard work. Knowing the positives about the essay, and what negated them, allows me to actually learn this lesson, instead of just getting the grade.

The point of his feedback:  cliché= laziness. Laziness is bad and undoes all of your hard work. So….don’t be lazy:  avoid cliché!

The Wicked City, by Megan Morgan (Courtesy of Lyrical Press).

The Wicked City, by Megan Morgan (Courtesy of Lyrical Press).

Megan Morgan writes fantasy and paranormal romance. She’s an airport lounge bartender as well as a writer, and knows a thing or two about people. Her latest novel, The Wicked City, is the first book in the Siren Song series.

June Coffin is tired of the jokes about her name. She’s tired of people judging her for her tattoos and her smoking habits. She’s tired of being judged for being a Siren, able to influence people with her voice. But when her twin brother, Justin, is kidnapped by Chicago’s Institute of Supernatural Research, her attitude has a whole new focus.

Desperate to rescue Justin, June takes a walk on the dark side. To oppose her powerful enemies, she’ll need some powerful friends, so she teams up with a non-paranormal man who’s always supported paranormals. Too bad his wife just died, and June accidentally erased his memory. Oops. Her other teammate is a troublemaking paranormal leader who wants a little publicity for his cause, and isn’t afraid to go to great lengths to get it. With friends like these, what could possibly go wrong?

The Wicked City is a gritty paranormal romance with an intriguingly different premise. June is feisty and foul-mouthed, full of attitude, covered in tattoos and piercings, but she has a good heart and will stop at nothing to save her brother. The setting is dark,and the novel is steamy and sassy, with a twist.

(Galley provided by Lyrical Press via NetGalley.)

(I do not own this image. Image by Alquiler de Coches courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.)

(I do not own this image. Image by Alquiler de Coches courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.)

It’s funny to me, just how big an effect your brain can have on the creative process. Like, I have no problem at all with conjuring up worst-case scenarios. They often keep me awake at night, actually. You would think that being in a mental funk wouldn’t interfere with the brain’s ability to be creative, since it’s so good at picturing horrible things.

But that’s not true. Instead, for me, it seems to have the opposite effect:  if my mental state isn’t optimal, I can’t be creative to save my life. It just isn’t happening. The Muse goes on a (mental) vacation, and is not available for comment.

Currently, my Muse is probably on the beach somewhere in Bora Bora. Hammock. White sand. Blue water. Refreshing drink. Sounds about right…

Glad one of us is enjoying ourselves.

Hidden Deep, by Amy Patrick (Courtesy of Oxford South Press).

Hidden Deep, by Amy Patrick (Courtesy of Oxford South Press).

Amy Patrick is the author of several contemporary romance novels. Her first young adult fantasy novel, Hidden Deep, is the first book in the Hidden trilogy, and is available now.

Ryann Carroll and her mother have just moved back to the small Mississippi town her grandmother calls home. After her father’s affair, they needed a change. Ryann loves the change, and the deep woods surrounding her grandmother’s home. Ten years before, she became lost in those woods and almost froze to death, but a mysterious boy saved her life. A boy that everyone convinced her never actually existed.

Which she believes, until he shows up out of the blue one day, while she’s skinny dipping, naturally. All grown up now, Lad is the most attractive boy she’s ever seen, and Ryann is drawn to him more than any boy she’s ever met. But there’s something different about Lad. He says he’s home-schooled, but Ryann suspects something a little more…exotic.

Lad has thought about Ryann for years, even though he risked his life and those of his people when he saved her life. Now she’s back, and Lad is torn between his love for Ryan and the safety of the people he’s sworn to protect.

Hidden Deep is a young adult fantasy novel set in steamy rural Mississippi, and the steam spills over to the attraction between Lad and Ryann. The characters are great, and the unique setting comes to life on the pages of this engrossing read.

(Galley provided by Oxford South Press via NetGalley.)

A Pretty mess, by Carla Caruse (Image courtesy of Aus Impulse).

A Pretty mess, by Carla Caruso (Image courtesy of AUS Impulse).

Carla Caruso is from an Italian family, but she lives in Australia. She loves romantic comedies, so it’s no surprise that she writes them as well. The first novel in her Astonvale series, A Pretty Mess, is available now.

Celeste Pretty is a bit of a neat freak. You have to be, when your father is a hoarder, and you don’t want to die a horrible death, smothered under a pile of old newspapers and busted tools. Celeste has turned her organization gift into a new business: professional organizer.

Landing a major celebrity client is great news for a new business, so Celeste is thrilled when fitness guru Natalia Samphire signs on. If she can impress Natalia, she’ll be all set. But this job proves a bit tricky: she finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items, and Natalia is acting strange. Not to mention, hunky builder Lenny Muscat is a distraction that Celeste doesn’t need. She has to make this job a success if she’s going to make it out on her own.

So no distractions from sexy men. And no clients acting oddly. Even if she has to figure out what’s going on all by herself, and put a stop to it. No matter how dangerous that is.

A Pretty Mess is a fun, light-hearted tale of love and chaos. The writing is breezy, the characters are engaging, and the story itself has moments of humor and mystery intertwined with romance.

(Galley provided by AUS Impulse via NetGalley.)

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