Thursday, December 29, 2011

Come Back to Me by Melissa Foster

Come Back to MeCome Back to Me by Melissa Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will get under your skin and stick with you for a long time. Believe me, it left me reeling and it was several days before I could calm down enough to write this review.

On the surface, it started the way I expected. Tess and Beau are two people who are very much in love are separated by war and ambition. Along comes the potential replacement love interests. And just when you think the story will be resolved, small and minor mistakes made by the characters careen the story on a heartbreaking roller coaster to the final touching scene.

Life is not always about getting what you want. And Ms. Foster delivers a gritty but sentimental tale about people caught in circumstances that spin out of control despite their best intentions. Great personal heroism often ends in tragedy. The most perfect love may not conquer all. But sacrifices are made and people live on to love and hope again.

This story is realistic, heart-rending, and ultimately uplifting. If you love Nicholas Sparks, you'll love Melissa Foster more. Her characters are more energetic and genuine and Ms. Foster does not pull any punches, nor shade the characters to "make them likeable". She presents them as real people reacting in real bad situations and allows the reader to draw her own conclusions. I'd love to see a movie made. It has all the ingredients. War, women refugees, heroic men, personal sacrifice, true friendship, and lost-and-found love.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chasing Amanda by Melissa Foster

Chasing AmandaChasing Amanda by Melissa Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How many times have you been a bystander to a situation that felt uncomfortable, where you wondered if you should have done something to intervene, but you stood back for fear of offending someone or seeming to be a Nosy Parker?

Molly witnesses a man struggling with a girl in the parking lot. The man explains that the girl didn't get a doll she wanted. Later on, she learns the girl "Amanda" was kidnapped and murdered.

Chasing Amanda is the story of Molly's triumph over her repressed guilt to solve a mystery in the small town that her family retreated to. This time, Molly is dogged and determined to find Tracey. She is not dissuaded by efforts to put her off, least of all by her husband and the police. Molly is my kind of heroine, damaged but not beaten-down, big-hearted and caring yet suffers from insecurities.

The story moved at a fast pace and twisted and turned in unexpected ways. I must not be a very perceptive reader because the author had me so fooled that I imagined an entire different story, set of suspects and motivations that turned out to be untrue. Looking back I can see how I fell for every trap. But I enjoyed the story anyway.

My favorite line of the book: “Okay,” Molly said, believing she’d found someone crazier than herself.

Foster, Melissa (2011). Chasing Amanda (p. 273). Solstice Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Pondering PlotWriMo

Today is Day Nineteen of Martha Alderson's PlotWriMo. I have thought through my NaNoWriMo story organically, nailed the protagonist, her internal conflict and her two opposing goals, and strengthened my Hook and Climax. I've linked the beginning and end with character motivation and change. And I'm excited about the rewrite. But, what about the middle or the muddle?

The middle of my NaNo draft was too easy, they coasted along from one manufactured disaster to the next. Now is the time to analyze it for cause and effect. Did I throw a bomb just because I, the writer, needed one? Couldn't think of anything else? Or did the antagonist have a good reason for doing this?

Ah... this is the hard part. The middle is the world of the antagonist, and everything the antagonist does must make sense, even if in a warped manner. Otherwise, I have a paper tiger, conveniently throwing roadblocks and complications just to thicken the plot. Cause and effect have to line up from Hook to Climax logically from the point of view of all characters, protagonist, antagonist, and everyone involved. Time to do some hard thinking.

For those of you interested in the revision process, check out

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Overtaking by Victorine Lieske

The Overtaking (The Overtaking Series)The Overtaking by Victorine E. Lieske
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful sci-fi romance and great start to an engaging series. Victorine Lieske has gathered a personable cast of characters, Shayne, Danielle, Nolan, Celeste, Jennaya, Kellec, Asia, and Gita to fight an evil empire bent on mind controlling a peaceful planet and raiding it for their resources.

I look forward to the next book and a continuing series as this fight will take many episodes to resolve.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

PlotWriMo Road Bumps

Martha Alderson's PlotWriMo is a journey designed to wrestle those hastily created NaNoWriMo novels into shipshape. So why the sad face?

Ah... well... the exercises call for finding scenes and events to fit into the major plot points--all done from memory. And knowing me, it's not that I can't remember, it's that what I remember, I no longer like.

1) Set-up
2) Inciting Incident
3) End of Beginning
4) Halfway Point
5) Crisis
6) Climax
7) Resolution

I have two plot sequences so far. Dramatic Action and Romance. The Dramatic Action's #4 point has changed. I just made up a scene that does not exist in my draft to make my protagonist more heroic and less wimpy.

The Romance? The entire middle has been changed. #4, #5, and #6. The heroine no longer wimps out with a tell-all letter. Show, not tell, right?

Who knows? By the end of December, I might have an entirely new story at hand. And this, I surmise, is the whole point of taking a month off between rewrites.

For more, check out

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles

Moonlight in OdessaMoonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just about fell in love with Daria, from her cosmetically enhanced teeth to her mouth covering shyness. Her love for Odessa is obvious, and she and Boba take pride in whatever little they have. Daria is spunky, observant, versatile, world-wise, yet still naive when it comes to men and love.

Her relationship with her boss changes from predator/prey to a friend that fits like an old leather glove. Then there's the sexy mafioso boss Vlad. And the family curse and her loving relationship with her grandmother, Boba.

I found her letters to Boba especially poignant as things devolve in the land of the opportunity. Yet Daria wrestles with uncertainty and doubt, and emerges triumphant at the end, in charge of her own destiny.

5 stars. I loved this book. The first POV character has a witty and smart voice. She doesn't pull any punches, least of all to herself. Bully for you, Daria!

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Here's Daria talking. I'm sure we can all relate.

I longed for love. For passion. For ecstasy. I knew what the words meant, but not how they felt. Love. Was it dancing in the moonlight to music only two people hear? Was it washing socks and peeling potatoes? Was it sex? Was it tender? What were the exact ingredients? How do you make it grow? How do you kill it? How long do you have to suffer when it dies? I’d read Russian novels full of beauty and anguish. I’d discovered American romances with their happy endings. But nothing in my life was like that. Love. Boba said love was blind, deaf, and dumb – mostly dumb. She also said that the minute a woman fell in love was the minute trouble began. And that the women in our family were cursed. But that didn’t stop me from longing. I wanted a husband. I wanted to hold an infant to my breast. I wanted a real family – the kind I’d never had. The kind with a mother and a father.

Charles, Janet Skeslien (2009). Moonlight in Odessa: A Novel (p. 21). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition.

What's in a Name? by Terry Odell

What's In a Name?What's In a Name? by Terry Odell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book combines a cagey heroine with an off-his-kilter hero. What can Blake do? His usual knockout smile wasn't working on Kelli. No, not when she's busy hacking, changing her identity, and digging the 411 out of him. Sure, he was sent by his boss to check up on her. But once he is incapacitated, she drags him off on a cross-country ride when all he could think about is his head, his aches, and his bladder.

This story is written in Deep 3rd POV, and it dragged me along with Kelli and Blake as they try to stay one step ahead of an unknown killer. Kelli is running from her past, but someone is running after her. But which one of her identities is he after? Kelli is portrayed as independent, smart, and sassy. But it was Blake who I really connected with. He was more honest with his feelings, and although knocked-off-his-game, he opened his heart and remained steady and cool under pressure. I mostly felt sorry for him the way Kelli kicked his feelings around, especially when she returns only to use his Internet connection at the end. Blake deserved a happy ending, and I truly hope Kelli will not change her mind or identity again.

5 stars for POV immersion, fast pace, twists, and a hot steamy romance.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011 Word Count Art

Wordle: Michal's Window
Folks on Critique Circle are talking about a java applet that runs through your document and generates a Word Cloud, or visual representation of the most frequently use words. Try it at

I ran my draft of Michal's Window through the applet and found that "David" occurred most often. What's surprising is that "back" occurs so much. A quick scan showed I'm using "back" in many ways, "come back", "look back", "step back", the body part, visceral reactions, "back off", "back away", "held back", "turned back", "I'll be back", "back to bed", "when will he be back" and of course, Michal is on her back a lot, just kidding! Other common words are "face" and "eyes. "kissed" is the most commonly occurring verb, hmmmm....

Hit "Randomize" and the applet will generate different colors, fonts, and patterns.
Here's another one:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Twenty Weeks by Melisa Hamling

Twenty WeeksTwenty Weeks by Melisa M Hamling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a cute story, yet hard-hitting and poignant. I love it! From the very first line to the very last word, this book will enthrall you and drag you into today's teen reality. Maya and her boyfriend got more than they bargained by eating "candy" at a party. In a single moment, she is plunged from sweet sixteen to a series of heart-rending decisions and consequences.

The language is spot-on, and will have you laughing your head off one minute, and then screaming the next. You'll cheer, you'll worry, you'll cry, you'll rejoice. But one thing you won't do is put down this book.

Ms. Hamling delivers a tale that should be required reading in high schools. While spinning a romance, she manages to delve into controversial topics in a tasteful and convincing manner. She does not preach at you, but allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusions, whatever his/her viewpoint. You may not agree with everything every characters says or does, but she presents all sides fairly, even with the division between Maya's own parents. I cannot spoil it for you. But it will not be a book you'll soon forget.

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Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers: PlotWriMo ~~ DECEMBER: INTERNATIONAL PLOT WRITING ...

Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers: PlotWriMo ~~ DECEMBER: INTERNATIONAL PLOT WRITING ...: As many of you know Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers hosts the International Plot Writing Month , also known as PlotWriMo or as my ...

I'm doing Martha Alderson's PlotWrMo to whip my NaNoWriMo story into shape. I've got her book and am watching her cool videos with scenes of California beaches in the background.

Join me!