Guest Post: Book Review: The Only Skill That Matters (Jonathan A. Levi)


We all at some point in our lives find it difficult to focus, memorize and recall. We tend to forget what we read in just a short span of time. We get too frustrated at times when we can’t remember what we thought we knew and read very well. 

So what can be done about it?? 

Jonathan Levi, in his book The Only Skill That Matters, gives us very simple, practical and realistic techniques for reading faster, to remember what you read for a longer time. 

This book is really a game changer for anyone who wishes to improve these skills.

Jonathan Levi in this book walks us through his own challenges with learning and his ADHD problem growing up. He was not the one who was set out to be a topper in his class. Sometimes he and everybody around him felt he was not fit for the school. With many challenges throughout his childhood, he later in his life meets Lev and Anna Goldentouch, who taught him the learning techniques which helped him read faster (almost 3x), memorize information more efficiently and attain success. 

He explains these learning techniques in a detailed manner. At first it feels too good to be true, but if you practice these techniques, you will be able to triple or at least double your reading speed.

He explains what you need to know before learning, something which while saving your time doesn’t compromise on your comprehension. 

He explains techniques like subvocalization, brute force learning, creating memory palaces and how to use those. He not only explains these methods, he backs it up with facts. These techniques are really simple to practice. It might seem difficult at first to teach yourself how to use it, but with consistent practice you will be able to master it. 

 I will not be explaining those techniques to you in this post because that would be basically intellectual plagiarism, but I would recommend you all to give this book a reading and understand the science behind it. Trust me, you will not regret it. 

So will you be able to double your reading speed and memorize everything that you read just after finishing reading this book?? 

Well, the answer is absolutely not!! 

You need to be honest with yourself and be consistent with your practice in order to master any skill. You can’t just learn something by just reading a book. You need practice for a longer time until you master it.

Some people may need a month, some may be need six months to learn. But don’t be in a hurry to learn everything so soon that at the end you don’t remember what you read. It will only increase your problem. Just stay calm and focused and practice these techniques. You will see a remarkable change in your learning skills. 

I myself have tested these techniques. I’m still in a starting stage, but the effects on my reading speed, focus and memorization are incredible. I am now able to focus more, memorize things better, get more work done in less time. 

So go ahead and grab the book, read it and practice it. 

Practice. Practice. Practice. 

Only then will you be able to achieve success. 

Guest Blogger Bio:

Priya is a book blogger and a stay at home mom and loves reading and writing about books. She blogs on book reviews and motivational tips. She loves reading fiction, fantasy and motivational books. When she is not reading , she spends her time with her baby and her family. 

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Book Review: Stuck in a Rut (CJ Bower)


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If you liked Little House on the Prairie and City Slickers and dive into billionaire romance novels with happily ever afters and regional flavor every chance you get, Stuck In A Rut, a Cityscapes: Wyoming adventure romance by CJ Bower is your new bff. There’s a billionaire and a ghost, too. I devoured it in just about eight hours, life permitting. If books were pies, this would be my country grandmother’s blackberry cobbler – one pan, all mine. Portion control can take a holiday.

City girl Susan and her bff Liz finally take a much-needed vacation – a pioneer pilgrimage on the Oregon Trail, of all things. Dressing, working, walking and riding with a wagon train camping tour, to re-enact and get the full experience, with a few conveniences. Spotty signals and no climate control or hard tack, but plenty of strong coffee and bacon – and a few seriously hot cowboys, especially Caleb!

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And therein lies the problem. Susan and her bestie have to somehow last the whole week without the young single female campers getting kicked off the tour for cat fighting over the hired hands, who are off limits to guests. No vacation romance allowed. So, of course…

Poor Caleb is still sore from the last man-eater who took him for a ride, and would very much like to keep his job with his bff’s family business and not be the focal point of all the trouble on this trip. He still rides his first horse, an adorable Appaloosa filly with personality plus, who turns out to be the only person Susan can trust.

But can Susan trust Caleb or her own bff amidst all the conflicting signals and evidence?

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CJ Bower is one of my favorite authors writing in the competitive field of billionaire romances and contemporary romance novels, because she does her homework, and it shows in the artisanal attention to detail in her storytelling. The landmarks and historical figures, lifestyle and events are factually real. The fictional characters are completely believable and easy to identify with. You will find yourself right there with them on that trail ride: feeling the breeze on your face, seeing the sunrises and sunsets, interacting with the horses and oxen, embracing the adventure. The love scenes are enthralling, too.

Available at Amazon only, as this book will be part of the KU program.


DISCLOSURE: I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest book review. The above is my personal opinion.




If you’re a fan of Supernatural or Kerry Adrienne’s Shifter Wars series, you will love Blood Instincts by Marie Lavender. It’s an adventure of self-discovery, fantasy, parental love, world-saving and vampire romance that left me beyond breathless!

This was my first of Lavender’s vampire romance books, and she totally delivered with a mild-mannered office worker heroine who’s far more powerful than she knows. For her long-lived vampire, what his observations indicated would be an average night’s feeding on an average human female leaving an average establishment alone after dark, turns into a one-of-a-kind love so strong, he’s hard-pressed to get his needs met by another ever again. That’s hard on vampires.

The beauty is in the details, and to me, Marie’s hallmark as a vampire romance book author is research and how she applies it as a painter uses their palette to blend and add color, depth, highlights, shadows and character to a portrait, still life or landscape, which gives her stories that memorable sparkle that makes me smile long after I’ve finished the last page.

If you have kids, you’ll fall right into the first chapter. Blood Instincts opens with Myah’s parents, a financier and author, on the run and her mom experiencing dreams and visions about certain harm coming to their only child. How do you protect your grown daughter who’s making a decent, if lonely, normal life for herself as a single professional when she thinks you’re dead – as do the rest of your family and society?

Like Ranger and Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money, reclusive artist Oliver King is tutor, companion, and protector to the naive and lovely Myah, who just wants her normal life back. Her level of knowledge and mastery and the development of their love drive the plot. It took me about a week to read it, because life was going on, but it was an engaging respite that I eagerly returned to at every opportunity. The sex scenes are all fabulous, increasing in intensity, but the final one is a twelve-alarm panty melter!

So if you’re stocking up on vampire romance books for adults, grab Blood Instincts.

From out of nowhere, a dark figure materialized at the foot of the bed. For a moment, it
grasped the iron rail with black claws. At least, she thought they were. The shadow was tall and through the darkness, she could detect a pale gaze. Impossible. She shut her eyes tight, sure it was her imagination screwing with her head. Or at least a dream’s remnants. When she opened them once more, the figure was gone. Like it had never
been. Her breath whooshed out in a relieved half-laugh. “Been hitting the vodka again, Myah?”

A masculine chuckle nearby made her body freeze.

She gasped, scrambling back against the headboard. Scanning the room, she couldn’t see
the intruder. “Wha…who are you? What do you want?”

Duh, Myah. What else could a man want if he broke into her apartment? Money or use of
her body, willing or unwilling. Then she saw him again, the dark figure closer, standing beside the bed. She opened her mouth to scream, but was tackled across the mattress. Before her mind could track the motion, a hand clamped over her lips. He’d moved so fast. Terror propelled her movements and she bucked, trying to throw him off. Only it was impossible. He was too strong, and a corner of her mind informed her it wasn’t just because he was a man.

“Shh. Relax, darling. Don’t scream. I won’t harm you.”

Yeah, right. Let me take your word on that one.

I swear I won’t hurt you, a low, masculine tone echoed in her brain.

Even in the darkness, his eyes seemed to burn into hers. “I mean it, you know. I can’t hurt you.”

Though her chest rose and fell beneath him with panicked breaths as he pinned her, she
heard his grave vow. “If I move my hand away, do you promise you won’t yell?”

Maybe, but I won’t promise not to bite.

Her teeth ached, and she dismissed it as the fact that his hand was fastened across her
mouth. She managed a tight nod in reply.

The intruder eased his hand off her. With legs split open beneath him, his hard weight
registered. His scent was unusual, like an orange and spices, and when his solid form urged up against her, she shook her head. Deep inside her was a strange quiver. In fact, her entire body was tingling like some internal warning system. She knew no matter what happened tonight, she might not escape this alive.

“I really won’t hurt you, Myah Sullivan.”

“I can’t be sure of that,” she rasped. “Perhaps you’ll murder me and no one will ever

She saw the shadow as his head shook. “I cannot harm you. You have my vow and the
pain it causes me to even imagine it.” His voice was deep, yet it had an achy pitch, and she couldn’t help wanting to believe him.

Stop it, she scolded herself. There was no way to know what he intended. Myah wet her suddenly dry lips. Keep him talking and don’t piss him off. That was the smarter move here. “H-how do you know me?”

He shrugged and his mouth caressed her cheek.

Had he been stalking her for a while? Her breaths sped up – a combination of what he
was doing to her as well as the thought that he’d planned this for a reason other than theft. When his lips brushed her throat and the cold air he released through his nose whispered over her ear, she wanted to moan. His tongue traced the soft depression beneath her lobe, then his lips traveled the curve of her neck. Her body warmed. Mouth agape, it took a second to recognize she wasn’t repulsed. Far from it. Little by little, she realized her fight-or-flight response had turned to desire.

He still held her immobile though. As she resisted, kicking out at him, he slipped into the
softness between her hips. A bulge that shouldn’t have been there, pressing into her again.

Instead of incapacitating her wrists on the mattress, he held her hands in his. She clutched his larger ones in return and had no idea why she experienced such a response to him. Suddenly, she was willing, felt urgent.

“You want me,” she stated. Why it’d spilled from her mouth, she had no idea. It wasn’t
like she had any intention of encouraging him, his impressive erection aside.

His laugh was self-derisive. “But that’s not why I came.” He used his teeth to scrape
against her neck gently.

Myah shuddered with a foreign anticipation. “Please,” she whispered. Her entire body
grew increasingly warm beneath his ministrations. What on earth was happening? She should be fighting back, or at least bide her time until she could locate a weapon. But the flashlight inside her bedside table wouldn’t hurt him. Besides, it wasn’t like she could reach it with him holding her down. Damn it.

The man groaned when he inhaled hard, his face in her neck. The sensation tickled her
skin. Welcome warmth moved through her body. As he nuzzled her, her eyes automatically closed, head tilting in response as if to supply him better access. Part of her, the sensible half, stiffened in horror. No! What was she thinking, letting him do God knew what to her? “Pl- please,” she found herself saying once more.

“Please, what? Please stop or would you like me to continue?”

Her brain seemed to stall out. “I…ah, I don’t know.”

He chuckled. “It appears we’re in the same strange mess.”

She couldn’t manage a reply.

He lifted his head to stare down at her. “I’m going to ask you an important question,
Myah. Will you answer me?”

She nodded, returning to her conversational plan. That was best. Probably for both of
them if her reaction to him was any indication. “If I can.”

“Fair enough. Do you know what you are, Myah? Who you are?”

“I don’t understand. You know my full name.”

“But do you know what are you? A part of you, somewhere inside, knows you’re
different from everyone else. I smell it on you.”

She frowned, tempted to ask what he smelled exactly, other than her perfume. She was
meticulous about bathing. Gazing up at him, she felt she was on the precipice of comprehension, something monumental. But his words were foreign. They didn’t make any sense to her addled brain. Especially when combined with the fact that she understood she wanted him closer, much closer. But, she wasn’t sure what he wanted from her. Hell, maybe the guy was crazy.


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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Blood Instincts in exchange for an honest review.

About Marie Lavender

Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love, and 18 other books. Reached the Top 10 Authors list on for the last 4 years. Listed as one of TOP 5 Authors Who Write Compelling Romance on Wiki Ezvid. BLUE VISION made the TOP 10 on the Science Fiction and Fantasy category of the 2019  Readers Poll, and also reached TOP 10 status in the Romance category. Featured interview in the January 2018 issue of Womelle Magazine. BLOOD INSTINCTS reached TOP 10 status in the Romance category of the 2018 Readers Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART reached the semi-finalist round in the 2018 AuthorsDB Book Cover Contest. Voted TOP BLOGGER for 2018 on the Romance Lives Forever Blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2018 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated and made it past the first round in the 2018 Author Academy Awards. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 Readers Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the Broken Heart themed contest and the I Love You themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 Readers Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in
the 2014 MARSocial Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Readers Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for the first edition of UPON YOUR RETURN. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 21 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, romantic comedy, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. An avid blogger on the side, she writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She also contributed to several anthologies. Though she has some standalone titles on the market, her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series, The Misfits Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

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CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Second Chance Heart (Marie Lavender)


Second Chance Heart - final cover

Today I’m interviewing Dana Nelson, redhead heroine of Second Chance Heart, the new romance short story by award-winning, best-selling author Marie Lavender. Welcome, Dana. Let’s begin with the blurb, to give readers a chance to understand what’s going on.

(Readers, please note that I have not yet read the whole story, only the blurb and excerpt. However, I did research book reviews and an author interview from Google page one results to prepare for this, my first-ever character interview.)

BYH: So Dana, tell us a little about yourself. Like me, you’re a blue-eyed, freckled redhead. What do you do? Are you self- or other-employed? Home or office? How do you take your coffee? What car and devices are you traveling with? How much do you travel? Do you have any pets? If so, do they work with you? Do they travel with you at all? What’s your housekeeping style? How easy would it be to fit a partner into your present lifestyle?

DN:  Whoa…all right, I’ll tackle one question at a time. I specialize in criminal law, and work in Charlotte. However, I usually represent the victims of heinous acts, not the criminals. I work pro bono, if necessary, to get the job done. And I love coffee! Back on the farm, it was the only thing that kept me going, having to get up at the crack of dawn every day. I take it straight black with a hint of sugar. Since my time in the city, though, I have to admit, I’ve warmed up to the idea of cappucinos and frilly beverages like that. I travel now and then for my job. As an attorney, my job can take me into a lot of different places. I own a red Chevy Cruze, and I can’t leave town without my laptop and my iPhone. No, I don’t have any pets right now, but we had a lot of animals on the farm. I miss my mare, Serenity. I am a pretty organized person so my house is spotless. I guess having a romantic partner would work all right, though I’m not exactly looking for anything serious.


After a wild storm forces her to take shelter in a small town inn, Dana Nelson thinks that all she has to worry about is a brief stay before she heads back to the city. She gets far more than she bargained for…

The last thing she expects is to run into an old flame, and even worse, the man who broke her heart twelve years ago. She’s sure that the only thing remaining between them is a strong attraction for another.

She can’t be more wrong…

The more time she spends with Vince Reynolds, the more she begins to believe she can trust him again. But, can she put her faith in the one man who captivates her, body and soul, or are some wounds too deep to heal?

BYH: So you’re safely checked in and in comes your old flame, Vince Reynolds. Tell us about him, then and now. What are your likes and dislikes about him?

DN:  Vince is…complicated. And I don’t mean that he is just because he came from a rough background. He rose above all that, and turned into a great guy. He was always loyal, and a bit overprotective when we were kids. And still, he had these moments when he was incredibly impulsive. It was a dangerous combination for a girl with stars in her eyes, for sure. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into happily ever after. His dark eyes were the worst, though. They still are. I can’t close my eyes without seeing them in my dreams.

BYH: Your story is the same as my grandmother’s and many others: childhood friends become sweethearts, then the guy cheats and crushes her heart. What were your dreams back then? What did you do when those plans changed? How did you pick yourself up off the floor and move on? How long did that take?

DN:  I imagined myself as Vincent’s wife. Well, after we got involved romantically. Even though I had ambitions to study law, I thought that our careers would fit well, that we could create a life together. I was wrong about a lot of things. When he cheated, I was broken at first, but I wouldn’t let him destroy the rest of me. I ran from Hertford and never looked back. I tried to make a life for myself in Charlotte. I guess I’m still working on that…


Let’s enjoy the most generous excerpt of this story that I’ve seen, courtesy of the author, Marie Lavender.


The rain seemed like it would never stop, pounding incessantly upon the roof, mocking her. The storm refused to let up. Dana Nelson cursed her circumstances. Just over five hours on her trip back home, she couldn’t see the road well in the onslaught of the rain and was forced to pull into Banner Elk Inn, an establishment off Highway 194. Many others had had the same idea.

It was supposed to be a simple business trip to Lexington. Instead, she was stranded there at the inn, which, according to the proprietor, was named after the town, sitting in the lounge with the last person she ever thought she’d see again. Her ex.

The silence was deafening as they measured one another, and then glanced away as if afraid to get caught. Dana clenched her jaw on the rise of anger. How dare he invade her trip like this? Everything had been fine until they’d stumbled into each other in the hallway. She had already settled in, and he’d just come in the door.

Water droplets dotted his face and he was fairly soaked everywhere else. She remembered those eyes too well. Dark, mysterious eyes to drown in. And, of course, Vince Reynolds still had the muscled physique that would make any woman sigh with longing. He wasn’t just a jock. He had a hard intelligence to him, partly born of the street smarts he’d learned at his father’s side. The rest was from his schooling. But, she also remembered the pain, the heartache he’d left her with. The betrayal. Those feelings came rushing back along with her fury.

He frowned, and his face was hard, unrelenting. He appeared a little older, his dark hair a tad longer. His manner was also more arrogant, much harder than she remembered.

They both exclaimed in the same breath, “What the hell are you doing here?”

And since that moment, after the civilized explanations and after he’d checked in, they’d been sitting in silence. It was unbearable, awkward. If it weren’t for the storm, she would have demanded that he find other accommodations. As it was, all the extra rooms and cottages were taken due to a wedding planned for the upcoming weekend. Before, Vince would have agreed to leave, been considerate of her feelings. But, he was hardly that man anymore. He’d changed, or maybe circumstances had changed him. Besides, she didn’t want him out in that storm any more than she wanted to be. That didn’t mean she cared or anything.

Dana couldn’t care less how he’d fared over the years. She just wanted the moment over so she could go back to her life. She had better options waiting for her back home, including the proposal that Finn Alexander had sprung on her before she left. She had yet to give him an answer, but she knew he was a good man. His compassionate responses to her ideas were evidence of that, and any woman would have accepted his proposal. Her hesitance had nothing to do with the emotional hang-ups of the past. She was just surprised, that’s all. Next time would be different.

She began to wonder what she would’ve said if Vince had ever asked her to marry him. It probably hadn’t even crossed his mind. When she’d been serious about him, she’d found him with another girl. So that was the end. She had shut him out of her life until now, though she had occasionally wondered if he’d regretted his actions. It didn’t matter. She was so over him. Besides, he was like a different person now, definitely someone she wanted nothing to do with.

“I’m going to bed,” she stated with finality as she rose from her chair.

“Fine,” he replied.

She went upstairs to her room, still unsettled, plagued by those dark eyes of his. As she was still in her business suit from the trip, she undressed quickly and donned a pale pink knit nightgown, yanking it over her subtle curves. She glanced around the bedroom. She’d been given the Peach Room, painted in its namesake. It gave off a Victorian appearance with a walnut bed covered in a fine white spread, which was quite soft to the fingertips. Nearby sat an antique desk for writing letters. A Baroque, gilded mirror was nailed against one wall, and she caught the light dusting of freckles upon her nose and cheekbones in the reflection there.

She released a breath, shaking her head at the way her heart raced. It was infuriating that the man still affected her. She’d thought Vince was out of her life for good. She slashed a brush through her thick, shoulder-length mane of flame red curls, and told herself to relax, that the past couldn’t hurt her anymore.

A soft knock could be heard then and with a frown, she went to the door.

Vince stood on the other side. His wavy, dark brown hair was ruffled, as if he’d mussed it with his hands, a habit of his she remembered quite well.

He sighed, didn’t speak for a moment. “I’m…so goddamned sorry, Dana.” His dark eyes were strangely haunted. “I’m sorry.”

She tried to block his view of her nightgown. “For what?”

“You know what for.”

Dana froze, her heart skipping a sick beat. He was apologizing now? After all this time? “It doesn’t matter now,” she said in a hoarse tone.

“The hell it doesn’t. You don’t think I know you, Dana? I know what it looks like when you’re hurt. And that look you gave me downstairs nearly killed me. Those blue eyes of yours always did.” He rubbed at his chest absently, and she looked at the movement like his hand was a foreign object.

She doubted part of what he said, and wondered if he was trying to appear more considerate. Why couldn’t he stay mean? She could hate him easier. “Fine. You said your piece. Now go away.”

She began to shut the door, but he blocked it with his hand. Even as she gasped, he shouldered his way inside and kicked the door closed. He reached for her when she would have backed away, his lips blocking her protests. It was a mistake, a total mistake, she thought in a stunned instant. But, the lure of his mouth was too strong, and she sank into his kiss anyway, whimpering as his tongue swirled over hers. His dark flavor was too enticing. Her breath caught up in her throat, and her body began to burn, to come alive. She remembered the passion between them very well. If she was totally honest with herself, it had been missing with Finn.

“You’re mine,” he muttered hoarsely against her mouth. “I should never have forgotten that.”

Caught between his body and the wall, she could hear the remorse in his tone, but her mind just seemed to stop working. None of it seemed to matter as he kissed the hell out of her. His heat was familiar, so welcome close to her body, and she curled up to it. His arms encircled her and there was a sense of safety, not danger. When his mouth moved over her throat, her eyes closed automatically. After a few moments, her thoughts began to coalesce into something a bit more logical. “This is wrong,” she whispered.

He grunted. “It feels right to me.”

“I won’t be your toy,” she complained, “or a way to pass the time on your vacation.”

“I don’t recall saying that at all.”

It took a moment to find the words. “Vince, I’m the one who’s not free this time.”

He lifted his head at last, his dark brown eyes searching hers. He released her, but rested his hands upon the wall on either side of her. His scent, a mixture of fresh rain and musk, teased at her senses. “Are you implying I wasn’t free when I was with you?”

She hadn’t considered that. “No, but it would make a lot more sense.”

His soft curse was hardly a surprise. She remembered that, too. “I made a terrible mistake, Dana. I know that now just as I knew it as soon as it happened.” He sighed. “The truth is you terrified me.”

“How?” she whispered, hating that she suddenly cared to know the details.

“Things were going well. We had outlined quite a future together, and I…I panicked. I wasn’t ready to get that serious.”

It took her a moment to reply as her emotions went careening into strange territory. She’d be a complete idiot to believe anything he said. “Oh.”

“I’m not explaining my actions away. What I did was inexcusable and I should have talked to you about my misgivings. It still happened. I am sorry, more than you can ever imagine, but it is in the past.” His eyes never left hers and she began to tremble. “Now, you said you aren’t free? You have a man at home?”

She nodded. “I do.” But, a small part of her wondered if Finn had only proposed to her because she claimed she didn’t want to move in with someone without it being serious. Would he have done that? She wasn’t sure. He didn’t seem like the kind of man to be so impulsive.

A flicker of pain crossed Vincent’s face. “Are you happy, Dana?” She hesitated for a moment longer than necessary and it must have shown because he smiled. “That’s rather telling, isn’t it?”

“It’s none of your business,” she snapped, raising her chin. “Don’t be a bastard. Do you want me to be miserable for the rest of my life? Would that assuage your guilt?”

He shook his head. “No, that’s not what I meant. You don’t understand, Dana. Whatever we went through, I do want you to be happy, to find what you’re looking for. If it’s not him, then you need to face it. If it isn’t me, that’s fine too.”

She didn’t like that he was interfering. “So, what was that kiss about?” she managed.

Vince lifted a shoulder. “I was testing myself.”

She cocked her head. “Testing me too, I’d guess.”

He didn’t seem to deny it as the seconds ticked past, the soft click of the nearby clock a mild annoyance.

She sighed. “Look, Vincent, I imagine there will always be a spark between us. But, I can’t exactly overlook what happened.”

He nodded. “I never expected you to.”

“Good, because I’m not sure I can ever forgive you. You broke my heart.” Dana’s voice cracked and tears pressed against the backs of her eyes. She hadn’t realized he still had the power to hurt her. Like he said, that was fairly telling. But, you didn’t exactly get over your first love, she reasoned. Or maybe she should have.

“I deserve that. I really do.” He eased back, and then swept a hand through his hair. She watched as he dug in his pocket, brought out a wallet and unearthed a crisp, white business card. He handed it over to her. “Look, my life is different now. Whether you believe me or not, I’m not that idiot who would throw everything away anymore. I still care about you, Dana, and I always will, though I know you probably think I’m lying. I’m not. Why would I need to? We’ve always had honesty between us. Christ, I still remember you in pigtails at eleven years old.”

He sighed. “Now, I’m leaving in the morning, but if you ever want to talk, I’m here. I’m not asking to get back together with you; that’s far too much to demand of you. I know I hurt you and I deserve any punishment you see fit. But, I am asking you to consider me being your friend. You look like you could use one right now.” He caressed her cheek with a fingertip. “Take care of yourself, kid. Goodnight.”

“Night,” she murmured, blinking in confusion as he left the room. She softly shut the door behind him, then locked it for good measure. Kid. He’d always called her ‘kid’ when they were younger because she was two years his junior, and it was a running joke between them. That he’d remembered that fact perplexed her. But then, they’d had a long history together. Twenty years would do that, though. They were friends as children first before they’d begun to explore the growing attraction between them. They’d played together on the wide open spaces of her family’s Hertford farm in North Carolina. She still recalled swinging on the tire strapped to the tree, which her Daddy had rigged up, and Vince pushing the swing for her. She often reminisced about those innocent days, when they’d explore the woods and creeks together nearby, and walked close to the river on the edge of town. Because she remembered so much, it wasn’t likely he’d forget everything about her either.

She’d tried to put it all behind her. She’d moved away, dated other men, even found Finn. Yet, how could one simple kiss bring it all to the surface again? It had been twelve years since she’d seen him last. The betrayal went deep, though. He’d betrayed more than her trust; he’d done more than hurt her as a lover. He’d killed their connection, their friendship as well. She wondered if he realized that too.

Dana imagined she would never know, and she shouldn’t even worry about it. She grasped his card, about to crumble it and toss it in the nearby trash can. Then a weird urge made her sweep her thumb across the white cardstock and inspect the gold lettering. He was a financial consultant now. Funny, she’d always imagined him at a job more exciting in the end, though he was always good with numbers. Perhaps he had changed, even matured in a way. It didn’t matter in any case. She was just going to move on. Still, something compelled her to slip the card into her purse.

As she went to bed a half hour later, her night was restless. Flashbacks from the past danced on the edge of her consciousness and namely, she remembered the passion she’d had for Vince. Since then, no one had managed to tap into it or bring her to life in bed. She had thought it was about emotional hang-ups, but what if there were just a few people in the world capable of being that kind of fit for her? Even more terrifying, what if only one man would do the trick? One man she really shouldn’t be thinking about. With a groan, she knew she needed to forget Vince…

BYH: Ah, so now there’s an offer on the table from a guy named Finn. That complicates things. How long have you and Finn been an item? You’re concerned that his proposal is more about moving in together and less about love. How do you figure that?

DN:  I guess I thought Finn understood that I wasn’t looking for anything serious. I’m loyal to Finn, of course. We enjoy each other and talk a lot. But, beyond that, I don’t know that I’m ready for anything else. He didn’t really pop the question until after I refused to move in with him. That’s what made me wonder.

BYH: Now you find yourself back in Vince’s arms after twelve years. How does it compare to before? There’s a whole lot of pain in the past. How are you dealing with that? How’s forgiveness looking? Is he truly worthy? What’s he doing to earn it?

DN:  I think we both have a lot of work through. I don’t know that I’m ready to trust him yet. A few stolen kisses here and there can’t spell out a future. There has to be more than that. I think I need to figure things out on my own first. I know, in some ways, I do want to trust him again, but I can’t go through that heartbreak again. I was convinced Vincent was my soul mate. Now? I don’t know if a soul mate even exists.

BYH: What does the future look like from where you’re sitting now?

DN:  Uncertain, for sure. I think that’s why I’ve spent so much time away from home. But, I think I’ll figure it out eventually.

BYH: Tell us about your relationship with your author, Marie Lavender. How did you meet? How exactly do you work together? How do you and her three cats get along? What do you do while she takes a break? Describe a work session with her from your perspective. What do you like/dislike about her writing space(s)?

DN:  Marie has been toying with the opening of my story for years. It was only this year when she decided to posit the idea of regret and forgiveness, and if a happy ending was even possible with that kind of premise. I met Marie a long time ago, but this year I guess I finally let her know the deep, dark secrets of my life. It has been a professional relationship that works fairly well. I love her cats! But, then I love all animals. Well…truthfully, her cat Emma has quite an ego so we don’t always get along. LOL. I go to my job while Marie is not writing. And when we reconvene for coffee, or tea in her case, she is like a reporter, asking questions even I don’t feel comfortable answering. As for her writing spaces, some are very nice. But, her desk? Eek! She is messy! However, her method of organization seems to work for her, so who am I to judge?

BYH: How do you feel about the length of your story?

DN:  I think it works for me. The thing is, most readers know that stories don’t end with books. They continue on in a reader’s imagination, and that’s what Marie was going for.

BYH: Who would you cast as yourself and Vince on the big screen?

DN:  I’m not sure, but Marie has her own ideas. She’s thinking Deborah Ann Woll for me, and Taylor Kinney for Vince. I guess that could work. The man certainly has that ruggedly handsome look, and that grin which makes a woman forget what she’s thinking. Vincent always did that to me.

BYH: Any final thoughts?

DN: Read the book and see for yourself! No, I’m kidding, but I’m sure you’ll find out more in the story…;)

Thank you for joining us to chat with Dana Nelson, heroine of Second Chance Heart, the new romance short story by award-winning, best-selling author Marie Lavender. Thank you for stopping by and sharing with us, Dana. And thanks also to author Marie Lavender for the incredibly generous excerpt.


Purchase Links


Amazon Universal link:


Barnes & Noble:



Book trailer:


Author Bio


Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.


Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.


A list of her books and pen names are as follows:


Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor; Second Nature; “Lovers Like Us” (featured poem from the book anthology, Poets & Writers in Action); A Little Magick; Second Chance Heart


Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night;Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace


Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life


Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things


Author Links


BOOK REVIEW: There Goes the Galaxy (Jenn Thorson)



Douglas Addams fans rejoice! If you enjoy avant garde scifi satire, like Dr. Who, the original Star Wars movie, and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, you’ll tumble down the rabbit hole into author Jenn Thorson’s world of misadventures and misfits. Life As We Know It is in danger. Only everyman Bertram, a grad student kidnapped en route to his PhD by an alien Indiana Jones and now bouncing like a human pinball through the Greater Communicating Universe, can save us. Help!


Bertram came-to lying at the bottom of a ramp, and any embarrassment at having fainted was nicely smoothed by terror, as the ramp rattled to life and grinded its way back inside the spacecraft.

He leapt to his feet, fear of abandonment tossing aside his nausea, prickling limbs, worries about breathable atmosphere and any other more practical concerns. Being abducted by aliens was bad enough. But being abducted and then dumped off on a planet that wasn’t even yours? He found himself waving his arms at the craft, a lumpy, graceless ship that bore more resemblance to a brachiosaurus in need of a diet than Earthen concepts of alien transport. “Wait! Wait!” he shrieked. “Don’t go!”

He sprinted to the slowly retracting ramp, getting a foot up onto it, then another, before the ramp slipped out from under him, burying itself into several thousand tons of metal. Leaping to his feet, Bertram pounded on the ship’s hull with bruising fervor, before realizing that all had gone silent. No rumble of rockets. No whine of turbine.

Bertram stood. He paused.

“We don’t have big skulls you know,” a voice said from behind him. And Bertram Ludlow turned, squinting up in the burning sunlight to see his extra-terrestrial kidnapper. Under the blazing suns, the stranger’s short, untamed hair looked precisely as full of white light as his clothes didn’t. And in a single spidery hand, he clutched some sort of remote control.

Bertram’s knees wobbled. “Uh…?”

“Big skulls,” repeated the alien conversationally. “We don’t have them. And very few of us are actually green. That,” he continued, “should be made abundantly clear.” He dropped the gadget into a pocket at his thigh.

“My God,” Bertram breathed. Because now it was clear. Now he understood that this was never about alien abduction. It was never about stun rays and parallel evolution, worm-holes and other too-slim probabilities. It was about only one thing…

Bertram Ludlow had cracked under the pressure of getting his Ph.D. It had been known to happen. He’d just expected to pick up on some warning signs first.

“It’s what you Tryflings are always flapping on about, aren’t you?” persisted the figment of Bertram’s imagination, wiping his brow. He patted his pockets and, after one trial-and-error, withdrew a pair of sophisticated-looking binoculars. “Aliens: the hairless little slaggards with big heads and eyes, dialing home and giving everyone enemas? I mean, you people, you’ve got the universe just dripping with rampaging acid-spitters, half-breed progeny, and lizard babies, don’t you?”

He peered through the binoculars, scanning the vast empty horizon. “In my experience, only one species bears lizard babies. And you wouldn’t want to call them that. Unless you were up for one fragging huge fight… Ah! Hello—there we are!” The man tucked the binoculars back in a pocket and motioned. “Come on, then.”

“Why? Where?” Bertram shielded his eyes. The rust-colored landscape was bone-dry, exhaustively rocky straight to the horizon and completely devoid of life. It didn’t even have a smell. There were no wafting blossoms, or the territorial musk of skulking beats. If there were a smell at all, it was the scent of hot. The only sounds? The crunch of gravel underfoot.

But his abductor just pointed to an area every bit as flat and rocky as the rest, differing only by the long, mysterious shadow that fell beyond it.

And as they approached, Bertram glimpsed two figures—rather big-skulled, he thought—until closer inspection proved them to be their own distorted reflections in the wall of a tower.

The tower was rendered virtually invisible by mirrored glass. Its walls were built on an outward angle, reflecting the earth below. And its roof was angled to catch the sky. From a different position now, the structure was almost blinding.

A tower. Bertram had expected more from his subconscious than such blatant Freudianism. An age-old symbol, representing any of a variety of control issues, he supposed, though none sprung to mind for him personally. At twenty-eight, single, and with his own key to the psych lab, Bertram Ludlow had all the freedom necessary for academic excellence. He’d wrap up the thesis this semester, defend and then, barring some unforeseen setback—like, say, a severe psychotic breakdown—graduate to a prime research position in the university of his choice.

There Goes the Galaxy grabbed me from the get-go, much in the same way Bertram was grabbed in his sock feet by Rollie. And unlike Bertram, who at one point is abandoned at an alien spaceport, author Jenn Thorson never released me, not even at the end of the book, when I was ready for the second course, the sequel The Purloined Number. The pacing is outstanding, with the two leads on the run and time running out, it’s mostly fast, but things like characters preparing in intriguing ways for the next scene still happen in the lulls, so there’s never a dull moment. Infopills between a few chapters give necessary background info in the style of Ben Bova, but more humorous..Plenty of celebrity references provide belly laughst in the course of this satire, much in the manner of Futurama and the Simpsons, only better! This book lasted me about a week, reading on breaks, at mealtimes and bedtime. I’ve now read it three times and probably will again. It’s action-packed fun, like a graphic novel, only it’s a word comic you can’t put down. For scifi lovers, it’s a gift that will never be forgotten!

Buy There Goes the Galaxy at Amazon.

DISCLOSURE: I bought my copy of this book on my own dime. I received no compensation whatsoever for this review. I just love the hell out of this book and I can’t shut up.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 1 and 2 and Living Proof. Her next lesbian romance, a sequel to Blues in the Night featuring a disabled veteran U.S. Army nurse and a younger attorney, will be released Thursday, November 12, 2015, so watch this blog. Belinda enjoys classic rock and chocolate, candles and incense, bubble baths and beading.

BOOK REVIEW: Killer Cupcakes (Leighann Dobbs)



Lexy Baker’s muffin tops are truly scrumptious, but they’re landing her in trouble, and in love! She’s at the top of Detective Jack Perillo’s list, both as a murder suspect and potential girlfriend. Her passion for sexy designer stilettos isn’t helping either of them. Read on for a free excerpt from this first book in the Lexy Baker cozy mystery series by Leighann Dobbs.



“How can I help yo…?” Lexy’s words were cut off, her mouth forming a surprised O when recognition dawned on her.  Standing on the other side of the case was Jack Perillo, her neighbor.  Somehow, he looked different.  It took her a minute to realize the difference was the official looking badge he was holding in front of her face.


“Oh…Hi.”  She said, her mind whirling.  Did he come just to visit her?  And what was flashing the badge all about?


“Hi, Lexy.”  Lexy saw a look of discomfort pass his face. He quickly added, “I’m a detective with the BRPD, and unfortunately, I need to ask you some questions.”


“Questions?” Lexy felt her face eyebrows knit together in confusion. “I don’t understand.  What’s this about? Did something happen to my grandmother?”  


“No, Mona is fine. It’s about your boyfriend Kevin.”


“Kevin?  He’s my ex-boyfriend. I haven’t seen him in almost two years.”  


“Well, I’m sorry to tell you he was found dead. Murdered.” 


The impact of the news hit Lexy like a ton of bricks.  Murdered? Kevin?  Even though they had broken up two years ago, and he had treated her badly, she still felt a pang of sympathy for him.  


“Murdered?  But what does that have to do with me?”  


“Well, that’s the thing,” Jack said, his face a mask of stone. “He was found face down in a box of your cupcake tops. They were poisoned”.


Lexy felt a jolt of shock, her head swam, her ankles starting to wobbled.  She grabbed the side of the display case to steady herself, wishing that just for once she had the good sense to wear shoes with a lower heel.

I love a good cozy mystery and this was a convenient quick read with a sweet theme, romance, a hot cop, gorgeous shoes, cute clue-finding dog and genuinely helpful grandma. Plus the decadent recipe at the end, which I hope to someday convert to a gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan recipe on my food blog, if that’s ok with Leighann.

Author Leighann Dobbs just updated the series with new cover art and Killer Cupcakes, the first in the Lexy Baker Cozy Mystery series, is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle!

Buy Killer Cupcakes at Amazon

Belinda Y. Hughes is a book reviewer, blogger and author of Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. Her vegan jewelry designs are available on Etsy. She is currently working on the lesbian romance sequel to Blues in the Night.

BOOK REVIEW: Tess’s Tale (Donna Joy Usher)



How does mafia wife Tess explain her decades-long disappearance – to her daughter, her ex-husband and her cop boyfriend? How does she choose between two men fighting to the death over her? This is the story of a blues club singer and the gorgeous construction worker who never wanted to run the Vegas mob.

When she showed up on Madame Liss’ doorstep, Tess was the victim of an abused alcoholic mother and her abuser, the Las Vegas Mafia King’s money man, Lou the Brain. Little did she know at the time that her mother’s voice held the power of life and death – and prosperity. Or that she was good with gore – and a gun.

When Harry first laid eyes on Tess, her hair was perfect, except for one stray strand that refused to stay in place as she passed his site. Then he saw her walk into the club. So he walked into the club – a few hours later with his father and associates, including Tess’ twin sister. Then two million dollars went missing and over the next few weeks – and years – everything hit the fan – whenever the Big H and Tess weren’t making mad, passionate, true love.

Tess’s Tale is a departure from Usher’s earlier book, the Seven Steps to Closure. Seven Steps was more of a rom com. Tess’s Tale has more of a 40’s detective noir feel to it, despite seeming to be set between the 1990s and 2000-teens, which actually, I quite enjoy. In addition, as an American, it’s rather an interesting experience to read a casino heist novel set in Las Vegas but written in Australian English. Almost like reading along on the left side of the road. After a bit you become accustomed to it and it’s more of a laugh that balances the nature of the noir. While many details are accurate, the author explains her few liberties in the preface.

The story takes off and rolls along rather well as Tess goes back in time to explain herself to all concerned. It turns out she’s far more adventurous than her young adult daughter thinks her to be. For me, it’s as decadent as a chocolate fudge sundae with extra cherries on top.


Harry had promised me a night alone. Just him and me. Like it used to be before Tweedledee and Tweedledum came along. Mickey and Riley were almost impossible to get rid of.

I said goodbye to Liss, who was getting ready for a night out with Thor. Being the only night the club was shut, Monday nights were sacred. A warm breeze blew over my skin as I walked back home, but the sun was close enough to the horizon that I wasn’t covered in sweat.

Normally when I walk, I’m in my own little world. Thoughts of Harry or singing keep me so occupied that a comet could land and I might not even notice. But today I kept an eye out for Tristan Penn. I wasn’t ready for an encounter with him yet. My self-assurance still hadn’t recovered from the last one.

I turned the last corner warily, poking my head around to check the street was clear. If I hadn’t, I may not have noticed the strange men coming out of Harry’s and my house.

I’d had a lot of men in and out of my house over the last couple of weeks, but I knew these were strange because they carried three, limp bodies. Harry, Mickey and Riley.

A white van was parked out the front of the terrace, its door already open. They threw the bodies in the back and while four of them scrambled in after them, one slammed the door shut and jumped in the front passenger seat, and the other climbed into the driver’s side and started the engine.

The few minutes it had taken them to kidnap my husband had been the longest of my life. My heart banged around in my chest like a ping-pong ball as cold sweat broke out over my body.

Please let them be alive. Please let them be alive.

Sadly, all I had to cling to was the knowledge that Giuseppe would want to torture them before he killed them. I had to hold onto the very small hope I could rescue them before he got to that part.

As soon as the van left the curb I rushed up the road, running as soon as I was sure they wouldn’t notice me. I dug around in my handbag hoping I had put the spare set of car keys in there that morning with the house keys attached.

My hands closed around them and I shoved them into the driver’s side door and wrenched it open. The van was slowing for the corner at the end of the street as I started the car. It turned left as I roared away from the curb.

Six of them. There were six of them. I was pretty sure it had been Giuseppe who’d climbed into the driver’s side.

Fear, panic, nausea – I pushed them all away as I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles.

Six of them.

I stayed far enough back that they wouldn’t notice me tailing them. The growing shadows from the setting sun helped. We drove for what seemed like forever but I’m sure was not that long.

Please let Harry be alive. Please.

Finally they turned up a side street and into the back of a building. It looked like a warehouse.

I drove past the entrance and around the corner and then jumped out of the car. I wished I’d had time to get the gun. I wished I’d had time to ring for help. But who would I have rung?

Liss and Thor? I would never forgive myself if something happened to them.

But, six men!

I walked back past the end of the driveway, risking a quick glance as I went. Riley was halfway out of the van, struggling ineffectively at the men holding onto his shoulders and feet. Neither of them saw me.

I waited another minute and then walked back in the other direction. The lane was empty.

Before the logical part of my brain could register what my feet were doing, I darted up behind the van. A quick peep inside showed me it was empty. Any moment now they were going to start torturing them. Chopping off fingers and toes. Working their way around the bodies till there were no more small bits to cut off. Then things would get really serious.

I wouldn’t let them steal my husband away from me. Not like that. Piece by piece. Scream by scream.

The back door of the warehouse was closed but there was a small window to the left of it. I poked my head up until I could see over the window sill. The back room was empty except for one man.

I let out a small gasp as I ducked back down. An anxious couple of seconds passed before I was certain he hadn’t heard me. I’m sure he was meant to be guarding the back door, but from what I’d seen, he was more interested in what was happening in the next room.

It was going to start any moment. I had to hurry.

Buy Tess’s Tale at Amazon.

 Read my review of Donna Joy Usher’s earlier book,

The Seven Steps to Closure.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. She is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.


I received an advance review copy (ARC) of this book for the purpose of writing this review. Opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Not Without Risk (Sarah Grimm)


Not Without Risk

Not Without Risk by Sarah Grimm is an edgy suspense thriller and sizzling romance. Featuring classic cars, police procedure and the outrageous twists and turns of the devious criminal mind, the chemistry between a sexy single detective and his prime suspect brings it all together. If you love cops, murder mystery and romance, you’ll be proud to own this book and read it again and again.

Paige had been a good Boston girl, obeying her parents right up until she balked at law school. Instead, she became a photographer and fell in love with a cop. Just days before the high-end client appointment that will set her career soaring, Paige gets a mysterious call that turns her world upside down – again. Not just because the caller ends up dead, not just because her own life turns out to be in danger from an elusive, game-playing madman, but also because the investigating detective is the cop of her dreams and she doesn’t date cops anymore after her fiance’s death.

Justin was the job. For thirteen years, he’d busted butt and stayed focused to earn his shield and make it home alive every night. Only to lose focus after a tough day on the job and not make it home. Six months later, his first case on his first day back turns out to be his undoing. Not just because he came back too soon and is still wracked with pain that’s exacerbated by job stress, not just because time is running out to solve the case and he can’t do it after reading through the file thirty times, but because his prime suspect is a devastating Boston beauty well versed in investigation tactics who could take his career and his life down with her.

Not Without Risk is the third book by Sarah Grimm that I’ve read and I can hardly wait for more. It’s evident from the start that Grimm has done her homework on police procedurals, classic cars and criminal behavior. And she weaves it all together so beautifully with her distinctive style, letting the romantic tension build between the MCs while the detectives and suspect/victim investigate in the aftermath of the worst kind of murder – a fallen fellow officer. If you bleed blue, get this book and tell all your friends, male and female. It’d be a great gift for anyone on the force and romance lovers alike. Enjoy the free excerpt.


“Sergeant Simmons, I don’t know if Justin has mentioned anything to you about my break-in last night?”

“He did and call me Allan.”

His attention appeared hung up on her face. Suddenly self-conscious, the urge to hide behind her sunglasses flared to life. She’d done her best to camouflage her bruising under a few layers of makeup. Had believed she’d done a credible job. His distraction made her wonder if she shouldn’t have just left it alone.

“Okay. Well, Allan, last night there seemed to be some question about whether or not someone had been in my home. This morning, I received proof.”

“What kind of proof?” Justin ran his hand through his hair and then shoved it into his front pocket in a move she was beginning to understand indicated his level of tension.

Briskly, she unzipped her laptop case. Without glancing at them, she passed the photos she’d printed just that morning to Justin. His steady stream of expletives, spoken under his breath, brought the tiny hairs on her arms to attention.

“Where’d you get these, Paige?”

“When I checked my e-mail this morning, I found them.”

Justin fell silent, a muscle flexing in his jaw as he flipped through the photographs one by one, studying each one individually before passing them to Allan.

“Look at the way the body’s positioned,” Allan said as he studied the first picture.

“Body?” Paige couldn’t stop the shiver that passed through her. “That’s not just any body.”

“It’s you,” Justin growled.

“Yes. You have to stop this guy.” The irony of this latest threat hadn’t escaped her. The fact that this man had used photographs against her—a photographer. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“The message is clear,” Allan began, taking the remaining photos from Justin and shuffling through them. “He took the time to manipulate her, but left her unharmed.”

“Is it? I’m not certain I’m getting it. If he wants me dead why—” Shock slammed through her system as his words registered. “Wait a minute. What do you mean by manipulated?”

“Did you eat or drink anything out of the ordinary last night?”

“No. No, of course not. Why?”

The expression that settled onto Justin’s face had Paige stepping back. Tension pulsed off of him in waves. His hand fisted against his thigh.


Allan looked up from the photographs in his hands. “These pictures are similar—”

“Frighteningly similar.”

“Yes,” Allan agreed. “To the shots we have from the St. John homicide.”

“Leroy.” Nausea rolled in her stomach as she saw him again, stomach down, sheet tangled around his legs.

It hadn’t registered. Not when she opened her email and discovered them, or later as she’d developed them. She hadn’t realized just what about those photographs froze her heart with fear. The thought that someone had been in her home, standing over her bed for God knew how long before she came awake was terrifying enough. But now…

The images shifted in and out of focus—images of her, deep asleep, face buried into her pillow, sheet riding low on her hips. Shock snapped across her nerve endings.

“N-no.” Her gaze swung between the two men. “The similarities don’t mean anything.” They couldn’t mean anything. This put a whole new spin on things. One she couldn’t accept. “I did not sleep through some…” What was the word she wanted? “Person positioning me like the body of one of his victims. That’s just how I sleep.”

Justin and Allan’s swift exchange of looks spoke as loudly as their silence.

“I’ve always been a stomach sleeper. The rest is just coincidence.”

“I believe this goes a step beyond coincidence.”

Buy Not Without Risk at Amazon.

Read my reviews and excerpts of Sarah Grimm‘s

Black Phoenix rock star romance series:

After Midnight and Midnight Heat.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

Disclosure: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I paid for my copy of this book out of my own pocket. Opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: To Win Her Love (Mackenzie Crowne)




If you love football, chocolate chip cookies and Meg Ryan movies, you’ll adore To Win Her Love by Mackenzie Crowne. I never thought I’d like a sports romance novel, but this one stole my heart with its absolutely magnificent storytelling. Crowne’s three generations of characters play the games of professional football and love from every angle with exceptional skills and strategy. Are the X’s and O’s players on a board or kisses and hugs? Which team will you root for?

For twelve years, sports blogger Gracie Gable has been denying herself her heart’s deepest desire, a family of her own. Now it’s been handed to her on a silver platter, along with a farm and the sexy football star of her fantasies – and the chance to finally meet her father. But can she play a dead man’s crazy game to win or lose it all?

One day Manhattan Marauders’ Outlaw Tight End Jake Malone is endangering his career in a war of words with the Gridiron Girl and her minions. The next, he’s forced into a custody battle with the tall, leggy blonde for two little girls he never even knew existed. Can he keep his head in the game and save his career while sharing a roof with a violet-eyed temptress with her own playbook?

This is the first book of Mackenzie Crowne’s that I’ve read. Her writing style stands out as unique, inspiring and easy to read. If you’re thinking of trying your hand at romance writing, this book is a fine example to learn from. If you read to relax, escape or get in the mood, To Win Her Love will warmly embrace you, exercise your heart and leave you refreshed, energized and happy. I say get it – along with some chocolate chip cookies and Kleenex.


Like pure, walking sin, Jake Malone closed the distance in a deceptively lazy saunter. Gracie Gable fought the nearly overwhelming urge to take off running. Clenching her jaw, she lifted her chin. Without knowing her true identity, the various press publications flooding her blog’s inbox with requests for interviews had been stymied in their attempts to track her down physically. How the hell had Jake?

And oh, God, why now?

A horrified groan rumbled deep in her chest. Having no idea what was in Pete’s will, she couldn’t afford to do anything to jeopardize her guardianship of the girls—like going toe-to-toe with the Manhattan Marauders’ Outlaw Tight End right here on her brother-in-law’s front lawn. She shot a worried glance down the historic farmhouse’s long driveway, relieved to find it empty. With a little luck, Pete’s attorney would be delayed long enough for her to deal with the famous all-pro’s justified, but still overblown ego. She’d promise him anything—apologize profusely for insulting his integrity, offer him a bribe, whatever would get rid of him before Anthony Spinoza arrived.

Six foot five, with a fallen angel’s face and the body of a god, Jake continued to approach. Gravel crunched beneath the heels of his boots, marking his long-legged swagger, as his thigh muscles flexed and stretched under faded blue jeans. A worn and battered leather bomber jacket rode his yard-wide shoulders. His trademark black Stetson and snakeskin boots completed the image of the Outlaw who held his own against opposing defensive lines and cast him in countless feminine fantasies. Hers included. She’d enjoyed more than her share of secret imaginings concerning the Marauders’ number one tight end.

Though his nasty insults during their disastrous exchange on her blog the other day should’ve dealt a death blow to her foolish infatuation, the two-dimensional image she’d admired on her TV screen couldn’t have prepared her for the flesh and bone temptation that was Jake Malone. Dismay crowded panic as every double X chromosome in her body quivered with giddy, XXX delight.

The X girls danced with anticipation, and the erratic thump of her heart increased with every fall of his size fifteen feet. Down, girls. He may look like every woman’s deepest sexual fantasy, but those boots are more likely to stomp us into the ground than end up under our bed.


Buy links:


Barnes & Noble:



About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

DISCLOSURE: I am a member of Mackenzie Crowne’s Street Team. I received an advance review copy (ARC) of To Win Her Love for the purpose of doing this review. Opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Ithaka Rising (LJ Cohen)


Need diverse scifi books for diverse readers? Look no further than the YA novel Ithaka Rising by award-winning and best-selling author LJ Cohen. Featuring a feisty lesbian heroine, a multicultural cast spanning three generations and a search and rescue mission involving a handicapped pre-teen, a wounded woman warrior with a prosthetic limb and a crone coding goddess, Ithaka Rising delivers diversity in spades.

Who Should Read This?

I would very highly recommend Ithaka Rising to librarians, teachers and parents wanting to motivate student interest, particularly girls and minorities, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, occupations of the future and leadership roles. Today’s veterans, especially wounded warriors, who love scifi and space will also enjoy this adventurous read. LGBT teens and adults will appreciate the relationship issues and community situations. Aspiring writers looking for great literature to learn from should grab this book with both hands. For adults and teens, it’s an exciting space opera flavored with Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who and M*A*S*H!

Racially Diverse Characters

Ithaka Rising is Book Two in Cohen’s Halcyone Space series, which began with DERELICT. The series follows the misadventures of a core group of four to five pre-teen through young adult human main characters, including a Hispanic-Asian lesbian couple, two black brothers and a Caucasian guy. No aliens, yet, but I’m waiting.

Star Wars Similarities and Departures

The space exploration series is primarily set aboard the battle fatigued freighter Halcyone and her asteroid-bound base, Daedalus, which is the Siberia of the Commonwealth government. Halcyone is similar to the Millennium Falcon in that repairs are constantly ongoing, nobody else would want her for anything but scrap recycling and her renegade captain has a determined spirit and often finds herself in complex challenges, surrounded by players of varying loyalties, danger, a shoestring budget and a ticking clock, much like Han Solo. The big difference in Halcyone and the Millennium Falcon is her fusion of artificial intelligence, emotion and music, aided and abetted by First Mate Barre. Barre lives, breathes, thinks and communicates in music. He is genuinely gifted, but unappreciated by his career military physician parents, although respected by his younger brother, Jem the resourceful coding genius. Jem exceeds Halcyone Captain Ro Maldonado’s coding talents by light years, which is saying something. Dr. Adiana May makes her entrance in Ithaka Rising as the Obi Wan Kenobi of coding. Her Jedis are, of course, Ro, Barre and Jem.


Ro had no idea how long it had been since her confrontation with Barre when her micro buzzed, pulling her out of her latest battle with Halcyone’s jump drive programming.

Shit. She had never called Nomi. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.

Blinking through layers of virtual windows, each running a custom diagnostic, it took her a few minutes to locate the small device. By the time she snatched it from where it lay on the main nav console, the call had ended, leaving a high-priority message scrolling across the screen.

The call had been from Commander Mendez. She wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or upset that it hadn’t been Nomi.

Ro had known this was coming. There was only so long she could lean on the station’s resources before Mendez’s gratitude expired. Sighing, she pushed away her guilt before sending a reply. Mendez first. And then try to fix things with Nomi. Her father would have ignored the call and the messages—both the explicit one and the implicit one behind it. Maybe she wasn’t entirely like him after all.

Shift change turned the corridors and the nexus into a traffic jam. Or at least the equivalent on Daedalus. The outpost station had few enough staff that even Ro was able to put names to all the faces she passed on her way to command. What surprised her was how many of them looked at her, smiling and nodding. It was unsettling.

Lieutenant Commander Emma Gutierrez stood at attention at Mendez’s office, her uniform crisp, her sidearm gleaming in its holster, her expression neutral. Older than Mendez by at least a decade, Gutierrez had the look of a lifer and the scars that marked her as having seen hard combat, probably in the war that had downed Halcyone. Part of her left arm and hand had been reconstructed—old battle tech that Gutierrez had never bothered to replace with more natural-looking prosthetics. But there was nothing wrong with how they functioned.

“The commander asked to see me?”

Gutierrez nodded and the door opened. Ro stepped through, feeling the intensity of the lieutenant commander’s gaze, like the laser sight of a gun on her back. The last time Ro had been in this office, Mendez had given her Halcyone.

“Ms. Maldonado. Please sit down.” Mendez came around the front of her desk and waved Ro toward a small table and two chairs in an alcove at the rear of her office.

She studied the commander, wondering what kind of meeting this was to be. So far, it didn’t seem like any kind of hearing or disciplinary action. Then again, Ro was not technically under Mendez’s command. The commander sat and Ro followed her lead. The woman had always seemed stern and distant, but Ro saw the lines of fatigue at the corner of her eyes and the deep furrows across her brow, legacy of the mess that led to an ongoing Commonwealth investigation into her father, the smuggled weapons, and the war they were meant to spark.

The door opened again and Gutierrez entered, carrying a tray with two steaming coffees. Ro frowned, but watched as the old soldier easily set down a cup next to each of them with her bio-electronic hand, not spilling a drop.

“That will be all,” Mendez said. Gutierrez nodded, turned crisply, and left.

Ro waited until the commander picked up her cup before taking a sip of the coffee. It was the real deal—a smooth, dark roast, imported from the Hub at great expense. And served black, just the way she liked it.

“There’s been no word on your father.”

He was out there—Ro had no doubt about that. Alain Maldonado was too smart and too vindictive to be dead. She knew she needed to find him before he came for her.

“There was enough evidence just based on dereliction of duty to strip him of his rank in the engineering guild and his Commonwealth citizenship.”

It was far less than he deserved after what he had done to Micah, what he had threatened to do to her and Barre. Ro focused on the welcome burn of the coffee as she swallowed.

Mendez put down her cup. “They also confiscated his assets.”

Unfortunately, Ro had also expected that. She finished the coffee and carefully placed her cup on the small table, waiting for Mendez’s third and final blow. A freighter without jump capability was space junk. Sure, she could live aboard Halcyone. The water recycling worked, as did the air scrubbers. The ship had enough aduronium to fuel the interstitial engines for a thousand years, or until the base metals disintegrated back into star stuff. But being forced to drift through the sector where Daedalus Station orbited felt like slow suicide.

“As little as Halcyone draws from the station, there is a cost.”

Ro kept her gaze steady, but she couldn’t help the heat that rose to her cheeks. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been expecting this. That’s what drove her to work nearly through all three shifts during the past long weeks, irritating and alienating both Nomi and Barre in the process.

And for nothing. The ship was likely irretrievably broken. And there was a good chance her relationships were, too.

“I appreciate all you’ve done for me, Commander Mendez.” Ro was shocked at how steady her voice was. “I understand. Thank you for your time.” She pushed her chair from the table and stood to leave.

“Sit down.” Mendez’s command filled the room.

Ro sat, the heat spreading out from her cheeks to her whole face.

“You need resources. I need an engineer.”


“Until this mess with your father is straightened out and Commonwealth Command decides to fill my staffing request, I am short one chief engineer. You have the skills to do the job and a ship that won’t fly.”

“You’re offering me a job?”

“Such as it is. My budget is stretched thin. When they claimed your father’s resources, they also froze his salary. I can manage to continue your intern’s stipend, along with supplies for Halcyone in return for a part-time commitment.”

“But I’m not military.”

“Consider yourself an outside contractor.”


“I’ve taken the liberty of pushing a standard agreement to your micro. Am I correct in assuming you’d prefer to stay aboard your ship, rather than return to your previously assigned quarters?”

Ro nodded. One of the first things she had done on her return to Daedalus was to salvage anything of value from the small living space she had shared with her father. At least the Commonwealth didn’t get the contents of his workroom. Though if they knew she’d taken his notes and his spare memory cube, they would come knocking. It was encrypted and locked, but Ro knew her father as well as anyone and given enough time, she was going to crack it. And then she was going to go after him.

To find her father, she needed a ship with a jump drive. To fix the ship, she needed to step into her father’s old job. Mendez had assured her she was not her father. She hoped the commander was right. But now she would have even less time to work on Halcyone and to try to repair her damaged relationships.

“Welcome aboard, Acting Chief Engineer Maldonado.”

Ro jerked, unable to quell the involuntary response of looking for him over her shoulder.

Mendez studied her carefully. “You are not to blame for your father’s crimes. And you will not be judged by his actions, but by your own.”

The coffee soured in her stomach. “Thank you, sir.”


What thrills me most about Ithaka Rising is the character diversity on so many levels: age, ethnicity, disability, military (active duty, veteran, wounded warriors), survivalism and sexuality. I especially enjoyed the steamy lesbian shower scene. Of course, what is character diversity without a great story? Ithaka Rising is chock-full of edgy, page-turning, plot-twisting action balanced with humor, compassion and democracy. There’s even Greek poetry, a New Louisiana and gumbo!

Special Note: Ithaka Rising author LJ Cohen is committed to diversity, literacy and reader access. She has donated a signed set of her books to the Ferguson Library.

Grab your copy of Ithaka Rising at Amazon.

Read my Author Interview with LJ Cohen on DERELICT.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana lesbian author of Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. Her poetry has been published in the Odessa Review, New Day Publications and Long Story Short. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on Amazon, Goodreads and Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: Midnight Heat (Sarah Grimm)


Just finished reading Midnight Heat by 2015 RONE finalist Sarah Grimm and I’m blown against the sofa cushions with a stupid grin on my face, speechless beyond “Wow!” And this is only Book 2 in the Black Phoenix Series. Goddess, help me!

The first time British rock star Dominic Price wakes up in Dr. Rebecca Dahlman’s ER isn’t the first time he’s laid eyes on the freckled redhead. Three years ago, he left her feeling like she’d had heart surgery. When the tall, muscular rock star with too-long black hair and a goatee walks into the ER on his own two feet, dressed to impress Becca, but popping female eyes throughout the unit, he jump-started her heart again. According to her father and his chosen mate for her, the best trauma surgeon in the state of California, they’ve got to stop meeting like this.

From Dom’s perspective, life before Becca was full with wine, women and song. Although music was still his meal ticket, family and one of his only two talents, the wine and women had become identical and meaningless. Becca had been the last, but neither identical nor meaningless, as Dom had found out the hard way over the last three years. Now he has a chance to make his amends and win her back. Can he do it without running scared again? Can he compete with her father’s idea of Dr. Wonderful? Can he claim the lifelong, trust-filled true love that two of his band mates have found?

What happens in and around all that? Well, no spoilers, rest assured, but here’s a juicy excerpt:

The last thing Dominic wanted to do was have this conversation with Rebecca. He never had this conversation. Not with interviewers, the other members of the band. Not with anyone. Talking about that time in his life would be equivalent to exposing a festering wound that never healed, then handing the person a knife to add another.


No. No way. Not going to happen.


He looked at her and had no idea what to say. No bleedin’ clue how to get her off this topic and onto one that didn’t require revisiting a place he tried very hard never to go. She didn’t want to hear about his childhood. That he’d been raised by his grandmother, a sweet woman who on more than one occasion had gone without in order to provide for him. That he went commando, something she’d once confessed to finding sexy, not based on comfort, but because food had been of greater importance than underpants.


Dom didn’t care to see the look of pity she would surely have if he admitted he’d been a loner, not by choice, but circumstance. Kids didn’t want to be friends with the poor kid, the one whose clothes were always a bit too big, a bit too small, or a bit too ratty. It was far more fun to make that kid the butt of jokes and ridicule.


“Dom,” she said with terrifying gentleness.


Well shit, there it was. Compassion. She knew there was something behind his silence and had already softened to it. “Like I said, I don’t remember.”


The soft look vanished beneath a mask of frustration.


He let out a long, slow breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.


She shifted away from the article, then wandered over to the wall of sales certificates, more commonly referred to as gold records. Hung in chronological order from their first album, Awakening, through Ascension and ending at Immortal. Three albums, three levels of success. The sales numbers and awards themselves didn’t seem to hold her attention, which shifted to the album art and corresponding official group photo. At each photo she would stop, lean closer, then run her finger over his image.


And each time, he felt it like a physical touch.








She turned to the wall opposite and once again he found himself letting out a long breath. This wall was safer territory. Much safer.


“Those are Isabeau’s.” Her awards, platinum and double platinum discs, for each of her four albums.


“She told me she used to play, but I never made the connection.” She tapped one of the awards. “I have this one.”


He did his best to keep his voice neutral so she wouldn’t pick up on his inner turmoil. “Most everything she owned was lost in a fire. Those were at her father’s place along with her piano.  She tried to lock them away in a closet when she moved here, but Noah wouldn’t have any of it.”


“Why would she want to lock these away?”


The same reason he didn’t like talking about his past. “Bad memories, I suppose.”


“Hmmm.” She kept moving, circling the room, finally stopping in front of the collection of guitars. “Which is yours?”


There were a few of his there, but the one he preferred was, “On your left.”


“This one? It’s beautiful.” She settled her hand on the headstock, trailed it over the tuning pegs and down the strings. She dipped the tips of her fingers into the cutaway not once, but twice before circling the neck and sliding back up.


Dominic shuddered, his mind conjuring images of her stroking something other than his bass.


“I thought basses only had four strings?”


He had to clear his throat to speak. “Traditionally yes, but you can get them with five, six, or more. It all depends on the range required, mode of playing, or just personal preference. That one is my favorite.”


“Because of the number of strings or the instrument itself?”


“Both. The small string spacing makes it a bit difficult to slap, but the neck is incredibly fast, and the tones I can crank out of it are bloody spectacular.”


She locked her gaze with his and gave him the ghost of a smile. Then slid her hand back down the neck, easing the tip of her finger between the strings and teasing the fretboard.


Christ. She was driving him crazy. He’d much rather experience her touch on his skin, the tips of her fingers slipping along the length of his erection.


There was only a few feet separating them and Dominic closed it. He covered her hand with his.


She rolled her eyes. “Are you one of those guys?”


“What guys?”


“The ones who get all over protective about their possessions. Especially their cars.”


“It’s not my car you’re stroking, Rebecca.” No, it was him. Literally and figuratively.


The instrument beneath their hands is what made him who he was. Saved him from poverty, a miserable childhood, and a lonely existence. Maybe not that exact instrument, but one like it. It woke him up to the skill he could have never imagined he had—a natural ability to create music and make people happy. It took him away. Made him forget.


It was an extension of himself. A part of him that no one, no one, was allowed to touch. Yet here she was. She’d picked up his guitar much like she’d picked him up. Without hesitation.


Dom stared at her, his heart pounding hard and fast in his chest as he was struck with the realization that she’d touched more than his bass. She’d touched a place deep inside him, filling a void he’d spent years pretending didn’t exist.


Buy Midnight Heat at Amazon.

Read my review and a free excerpt of

Black Phoenix Book 1: After Midnight by Sarah Grimm.


About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write more LGBT books in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on Amazon, Goodreads and Twitter.

(DISCLAIMER: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I bought my digital copy of this book from Amazon. Opinions are my own.)

HAIKU: Rough Drafts from a Chinese Restaurant



I was out running errands and just sitting down to enjoy a late lunch when the Muse grabbed me by the scruff and made me write these stream of consciousness haikus about the experience. Please, let me know if you like any of them.



egg rolls are said to be

but are they vegan?


The soy sauce bottle

reads water, wheat, soybeans, salt

so not gluten free.


After lunch veg plate

steamed white rice, egg roll, great sauce!

crisp vegetables


Soy Sauce and Essence


Bamboo, broccoli,

carrots, celery, mushrooms,

water chestnuts, gin-…


Fork and spoon only

were wrapped in my napkin.

A knife would be nice.



Blue and white ombre

highlights the Asian design

on my dinner plate.

Vegetable Lumpia


The clear plastic glass

says Pepsi-Cola, but it

holds my tea just fine.



The color red coats

the dining table and seats

at Buffet City.



A black plastic tray

holds salt, pepper, sugar, sub,

and still the salt lists.



The tasseled kanji

means ‘Good fortune’ or ‘All’s well.’

I don’t know Chinese.


© 2015 Belinda Y. Hughes All rights reserved.


Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of the new lesbian vegan interracial romance, Blues in the Night (Amazon), Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 (Amazon), a lacto ovo vegetarian cookbook, and Living Proof (BookLocker), a miracle memoir short story collection. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda’s poetry has been published in the Odessa Review, New Day Publications and Long Story Short. Her next romance will feature a lesbian disabled veteran.

Follow Belinda at:









UKLGBTChat Knocked Me Up!



How does a single lesbian become impregnated without a sperm donor, sperm bank or Divine Intervention? All it takes is one Twitter chat: #UKLGBTChat. For me, it was the May 31, 2015 episode, which focused on books. That and I was fertile and took no precautions.


That fateful evening, I happened into #UKLGBTChat when it had just begun trending. When I learned the topic and heard some of the convo, I felt like I was among kindred spirits bearing compatible DNA: LGBT readers, reviewers and authors who wanted more LGBT in their gay and mainstream books. They shared reading lists for different countries, stating that US authors were doing fairly well at writing diverse books, including LGBT characters of various ages and abilities and genres beyond coming out stories, such as scifi. UK authors still needed to work at it. I forgot to mention my friend LJ Cohen did very nicely at LGBT and racial diversity in composing her YA space opera, DERELICT. But it was when I heard participants say they wanted to see more age and situation diversity, as well as disabilities in their LGBT characters that I felt that first spark of life.


Once the chat was over much too quickly, like many copulations, my book pregnancy – set in my hometown of Lake Charles, LA – sucked up my attention, time and energy. Ordinary daily tasks, like housecleaning, greenskeeping and grocery shopping, suddenly became secondary to the importance of nurturing this new life inside me. I even had difficulty sleeping and suffered from indigestion, from my baby demanding to be written. There was also a lot of loneliness as a hormonal single pregnant mom. Sex scenes, need I say more?

(OK, I will add that neither of my main characters is pregnant – yet. Who knows what will happen in future books?)

When I sat down to make out a grocery list, characters, settings, situations and plotlines sprouted on the pages, like ultrasounds. As I began writing from my notes, the story flourished. Each day its features grew more defined. Being a romance fan and a member of several award-winning authors’ street teams, it was no surprise to me that my book baby was a love child, too. What might surprise some is her complexion and full genre identity: lesbian interracial romance, yet another request from that prophetic episode of #UKLGBTChat.


As babies tend to do, mine decided when it wanted to be born, regardless of recommendations against premature birth. Thankfully, I had assembled my own street team, beginning with those same award-winning authors – now my midwives – to support me through the perilous labor and delivery process. Mackenzie Crowne administered tips on opening paragraphs as the pains began. Mac, Melanie James, Sarah Grimm,  Vonnie Davis, Marie Lavender, Devika Fernando, AJ Nuest, Dyane Forde, Alison Bliss and Betty Olsen were my Lamaze coaches as the cover art, in the form of a guitar pic by Sarah Bromage, began to crown and had to be turned.

As I shared with her about #UKLGBTChat, Marie introduced me to LGBT authors Dianne and Young. It was rather odd to meet new people in the delivery room, but these are two writers you don’t want to pass up, so I was immensely grateful.

S.A. Hunt, D.W. Metz, Paul Bucalo, Air Force historian Shawn Bohannon, and Bronx Pride’s Peter C. Equality Frank gowned up and gave their feedback and encouragement near the final push.

Alas, she got hung up in the birth canal and I had to stop pushing for a bit for Catherine Ryan Howard to coach me through ebook formatting for Amazon, et al. That was sheer torture!!! Thanks to her, I at last held my beautiful new book baby, Blues in the Night, safely in my arms.

So, to all the above and the members of #UKLGBTChat: Host Faye, Nichola, Jess, Marion, Antonia, Julianne, Liz, Vanessa, Debbie, Nina, Queer YA, Sophie, David, Kam, Michelle, L.D., Keren, Chouett, Sara, the Paisley Piranhas and George, a heartfelt and resounding THANK YOU!!! for knocking me up and seeing me and my book baby through this incredible pregnancy! Let me know when you’re ready to get together again. My next book baby’s already a twinkle in my eye. 😉

P.S. As I was writing the wedding proposal scene, set in New Orleans, I wondered how much longer it would take for same-sex marriage to become legal in Louisiana. At last, after Blues in the Night was born in the wee hours of June 15, 2015, eleven days later, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages MUST be recognized throughout the country! #LoveWins



Nita Nunez was going to hell. As she and Jo basically had sex in front of the whole church, Nita wondered if it was good for Jo, too. As they joined the band of seasoned bluesmen in performing “Learned How to Lean” for the morning worship service, Nita and Jo were getting into it, acting out the song by angling themselves against each other, sparks flying as their heads and shoulders brushed. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine,” thought Nita as their eyes rested in one another a few beats too long before returning to the congregation.

It was all she could do to keep from plucking the neck of her top and fanning herself as they finished the verse, Jo’s body rocking, her face squinching up as she unleashed her power gospel voice. Certainly everybody could see Nita’s nostrils flaring as she wondered if the handsome black woman in the Sunday go to meeting dress and pumps beside her was gay or not. “I found out if I trust Him, He will provide.” Nita sure hoped so, her mind racing as she tried to figure out how to ask Jo about her sexual preferences over Sunday dinner in the fellowship hall, surrounded by people Nita still barely knew.

That “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” t-shirt would come in real handy right about now, she thought…

BUY Blues in the Night at Amazon:














ABOUT the Author

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana lesbian author of the lesbian interracial romance Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, a lacto ovo vegetarian cookbook. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write more LGBT books in a variety of genres.

FOLLOW Belinda at: 











BOOK REVIEW: The Lighter Side of Large (Becky Siame)


Bella’s life is a soap opera: her skinny sister is marrying Bella’s ex-husband, who kicked her out when their youngest was only two weeks old; her pants split in front of her son’s grade school and he got into a fight over it and her dad’s cancer is back again. But things begin to look up when she makes a run to the grocery store in a wrinkled t-shirt and sweats.


I can’t believe I am here. Despite the opposition of the love of my life, despite the incident a few months ago which almost killed me, despite the misgivings of friends and family, here I sit along with several other women who look model-perfect.

A twinge of guilt nags at me, but I stubbornly push it aside. I want this. I need this. I can’t afford it, but I’m doing it anyway.

I look down at my hips, which fit snugly between the armrests of the chair. I have spent most of my life not fitting into chairs, taking up even two at a time. I have looked forward to sitting in a booth without a table cutting into my midsection and to grocery shopping without knocking cans off the shelf with a big butt with a mind of its own. I have borne the muttered insults and disdainful glances of strangers, who hate me because of my size, in silent misery. I lost the weight, but now I need something more. So here I am, waiting.

“What work are you getting done?” A voice interrupts my reverie. I look up at a bust bursting out of a tight, hot-pink tube dress. Only after that do I see the skinny blonde behind the boobs. She looked like she stepped from the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

She shrugs. “They’re fake. My boyfriend gave me his credit card and said to get whatever work done that I want. He’s used to being with really beautiful girls. His ex-wives are all actresses and models. So I figure I need to get rid of my imperfections so that he’ll stay with me.”

“Pardon me for saying so,” I say, “but I think you’re beautiful and perfect as is. Maybe he needs glasses.”

She laughs at my jest. “Well, you know how rich, older men are. I don’t think there’s any harm in getting plastic surgery in order to keep a man, do you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Uh…,” I hesitate. “That’s a long story.”

“Are you here for him?”

“Definitely not.” I shake my head.

“Why are you here?” she asks.

Why am I here? I repeat the question to myself. There are lots of whys which led me here. “It all started nine months ago.”

Anyway, that’s when Bella meets her Prince Charming, Jae, in the produce section. The romance quickly progresses from oranges and avocadoes to four-wheelers and bungee jumping. Theirs is a spicy yet respectful courtship, the exact opposite of Bella’s ex, who plays both sisters to absolute madness and almost costs Bella her new love more than once.

But that’s not all that’s going on in this smoking hot read that will wrap you around its little finger. Somewhere amid all the confusion that is her life, Bella’s personal character grows in fits and starts and cycles back around before finding her inner peace at last. Five stars, no question, and definitely reading again.


Buy The Lighter Side of Large at Amazon.

Follow Becky Siame at Amazon, Author Site and Twitter

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Steps to Closure (Donna Joy Usher)


Discover Romantic Rajasthan with Tara and Matt. After their one night stand that was part of her practice of the Seven Steps to Closure from ex-husband Jake, Tara and Matt are rediscovering each other. A terrorist attack in Mumbai only draws them closer.

I just read the Seven Steps to Closure, the book that helped me discover Australian author Donna Joy Usher, for the fourth time, the first three being after my purchase a year or more ago. She has a new release coming out soon, so I decided to re-read this one in the meantime. It takes me a day or two to consume like a Bee Sting Cake, for which I wish Donna had included a recipe, since I’ve never had the pleasure. Unfortunately, a genuine bee sting brings Tara and Matt a bit closer, as well.


‘Polly want a crackhead. Polly want a crackhead.’

The voice, more piercing than any alarm, dragged me from my slumber.

‘Who’s a pretty boy?’

I peered blurrily at my bedside table. What time was it? What day was it? Snapshots of the night before flashed before my eyes. Dancing on a table?Surely not.

‘Mary had a little lesbian.’

Harrumphing in annoyance I lifted my head and pummelled my pillow into a more comfortable shape. My efforts were rewarded with a spinning head and an urge to throw up.

Ahhh crap. I had a killer hangover.What did I get up to last night? I concentrated hard and finally more flashes of memory assaulted me – bad karaoke, skolling wine out of a bottle, falling over in a bar, telling complete strangers how my husband had left me, and finally being taken home in a taxi while I sobbed uncontrollably.

I groaned in shame.

‘The money’s on the dresser.’

Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention to the problem at hand. It was really no surprise Cocky had ended up at the animal shelter where my mother volunteered, but I was still perplexed as to why she’d given him to me.

‘He talks,’ she’d advised when she’d dropped him off. ‘It’ll do you good to have some proper company.’

‘Show us your knockers.’

It begged the question: just how sad did she think I’d become if this was proper company?

Gingerly, I swung my legs out of bed and sat with my head between my knees as I made my plan. A quick dash across the lounge to the toilet, ten or so minutes of puking my heart out, and then I could deal with the bird.

He waited until I was almost at the bathroom. ‘You’ve got a fat arse.’

I spun menacingly towards the cage.

‘Nice tits though.’

‘Thanks,’ I said, automatically looking down. I stopped and sighed, realising there was a chance that the cockatiel’s compliment was the nicest thing that would happen to me that day. I had obviously reached a low point in my life.

I looked at Cocky bobbing up and down on his perch, obviously very pleased with himself. ‘What am I going to do with you?’ I asked. I was glaring into his beady eyes – determined to outstare him, when all of a sudden a hot sweat and waves of nausea washed over me. Breaking eye contact I rushed to the toilet just in time to relieve the contents of my stomach in a terribly undignified manner. I heard his cackles echoing around the lounge room and into the bathroom where I lay panting on the floor, tears rolling down my face.

Quarter of an hour later, my face pressed to the cold floor tiles, I considered my options. I couldn’t give him to anyone. I couldn’t kill him – I mean really, I couldn’t.

‘Mary had a little lesbian.’

I’d have to let him go. There was no other option.

Tara is Calamity Jane, which provides many of the humorous situations, which also prove to be tests of Matt’s love and Jake’s lack thereof. Fortunately for Tara, her family and friends always stand ready to rally round her when they can. It’s when they can’t that the men get tested. This delicious combination of unfortunate events makes for some lovely storytelling by the most romantic-hearted woman dentist I’ve never actually met, but would enjoy running into someday at ReaderCon or some such event.

I particularly appreciate the manner in which the main character grows through life situations common to us all: dating, breaking up, internal chatter, workaday life, meetups with friends and family, holiday shopping, deciding how much to tell whom and how about one’s love life and living single in the face of the ex’s remarriage and friends’ pairing off. Imagine an Indian elevator alarm that repeatedly plays “The Wedding March” just outside the door while you’re trying to get some rest on holiday. There’s no escape from life, love and the pursuit of happiness for Tara in the Seven Steps to Closure.


Buy The Seven Steps to Closure at Amazon.

Follow Donna Joy Usher on Amazon, and Twitter.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: Leaping Out on Faith (Rochelle Campbell)


Leaping Out on Faith is a short story collection touching each of the four planes of beingness: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Four female protagonists each face a unique challenge of one of these planes and an inescapable, pivotal moment of decision. What’s not clear upfront is which choice each will make. The characters’ backgrounds and situations are all different, yet each is universally relatable to the feminine condition: romance vs. friendship (emotional); sexual abuse and domestic violence (physical, but truly all four); drama of couplehood vs. serenity of singleness (mental) and religious conflicts in relationships (spiritual). You may agree or disagree with the characters’ choices, but each story will strengthen your choices on your own terms as a woman.


“So, you think you love him,” Baba grunted when Salera nodded. He continued, “But he’s a pastor’s son. This Gerard is a devout Christian. He does not understand himself and his place in the scheme of things. How then can he ever hope to understand our ways?” Her Baba watched her and waited.

Salera got fired up again and looked into Baba’s eyes and said, “He’s a wonderful young man. He’s articulate, funny, open-minded…”

“Will he accept you just as you are with your religious beliefs? Or will he cast you and the child aside?”

Salera stopped cold and dropped her eyes. This very thought had plagued her from the moment she found out about her pregnancy.


Buy Leaping Out On Faith at Amazon.

Follow Rochelle Campbell at Amazon Author Page, Blog, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: Feast of Friends (D.W. Metz)


In the spirits of Misery, Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come is the short story Feast of Friends by D.W. Metz. A quick read easily savored over lunch, it follows the journey of the main character from writer’s block through his own horror stories, real and imagined. Metz’s writing style is evocative of respected writers from gentler times gone by. Set mostly in a quiet community of lakeside cabins, Feast of Friends takes some delicious twists and turns along the snowy way. By the story’s end, you’ll be looking around, double-checking your reality.


Katrina set down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy and strong coffee at the table.

“Hope you’re hungry.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I sat for a breakfast. After Helen and Roy died, sitting by myself at the table left me feeling lonesome. I often took my meals standing at the counter or hunched over the sink.

I thought about getting back to the cabin. I thought about the solitude waiting; the desk beneath the window, typewriter before me, staring out at Barter Lake trying to summon the dark muse. It hadn’t finished a story in three years. There were beginnings, but I never followed through.

It had been a Saturday. Helen rushed around the kitchen making pancakes. In his room, Roy had just finished putting on his baseball uniform. As usual, I sat in my office, staring at a blank screen and the vexatious blinking cursor.


Buy Feast of Friends at Amazon.

Follow D.W. Metz at About MeAmazon Author PageBlogG+, Goodreads,  InstagramLinkedIN, SoundcloudTwitter and Wattpad.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

BOOK REVIEW: Black Phoenix One: After Midnight (Sarah Grimm)


A rock star on break from his comeback demo walks into a Long Island bar and sparks the heart of a beautiful piano virtuoso in exile from the music business. Black Phoenix #1: After Midnight by national bestselling author Sarah Grimm is edgy rock star romance done right.

What 40-something front man Noah Clark needs right now is to focus on knocking out his band’s demo on deadline to win a record company contract. What he especially doesn’t need is distractions, particularly not in the form of an exotic young bar owner who’s friendlier to his bandmate than him – and literally untouchable, even by her own father. But Noah keeps going back, even though he doesn’t drink anymore. When an intoxicated customer goes rogue, Noah is at last allowed into Isabeau’s world, for better or worse – and there’s plenty of both.

This is the first of Sarah Grimm’s books that I’ve read. It’s also the first in her Black Phoenix romance series, based on the eponymous rock band. The twenty chapters took me about 24 hours to complete, mostly spent on the edge of my seat. The plot is a fast-flowing river of steamy romance with thrilling murder mystery undercurrents. International, interracial and May-December brushes paint the character descriptions, as well as their professional talents, wisdom and conflicts. Settings flow from Long Island and New York City to London and California and back again. I very much enjoyed this story of true love and adventure and look forward to the next book in the Black Phoenix series.


Isabeau Montgomery sat in the dimly lit bar and shook like an amateur before her first recital. Her gaze, blurred by the sudden threat of tears, settled on the keys before her. Her stomach cramped painfully, yet the need was too great to ignore.

With ability as natural to her as the color of her skin, she began to play. The waterfall of music filled the air, washed over her, completed her in a way nothing or no one else ever had. Against the razor sharp sting of memories, she fought…

She was young, vibrant, and born with a raw talent rarely seen. Classical, jazz, or rock and roll, she played it all. Loved all the genres—loved to create. All that mattered was her joy, her love for the instrument beneath her fingers and the music she was so skilled at creating.

For a good ninety seconds, joy returned, the rush of adrenaline and, conversely, the sense of belonging. In those seconds, time slowed, the lines between the past and the present blurred, and she was a child again. There was no longer pressure to be something she couldn’t be, no fear of what her future would hold.

And with the innocence of youth, no idea that everything she held dear could be lost in the blink of an eye.

The song built to a crescendo then quickly faded as pain, her old friend, returned with enough force to quash her joy. Her stomach roiled. Her breath caught.

Tears gathered in her eyes, and she dashed them away. Isabeau ran her hands up and over her face, pushing her long mass of ebony hair away from her forehead. She struggled to pull herself back together. Her fingers were chilled, cooler than normal, yet perspiration pooled at the small of her back. She closed her eyes, took a deep, slow breath.

“I didn’t expect that old thing to be in tune.”

Sweet Jesus.

She jumped at the deep baritone voice, slamming her knees into the piano. The key cover abruptly closed, and she startled again. Heart racing, she rose and faced the double doors she’d obviously forgotten to lock.

She swept her gaze around the bar’s dim interior until she spotted a dark, male frame. “The bar is closed.”

Her tone was sharp, curt, and left no room for argument. Under different circumstances, she wouldn’t inflict such rudeness on a customer, but he intruded on her privacy, her pain. Her emotions were too close to the surface for niceties.

His voice rang with a clipped British accent and the tone of someone unaccustomed to being questioned. “I was here earlier.”

She remembered the voice and didn’t need him to step out of the shadows to recognize him, which he did anyway. She’d served him a few hours ago—dark lager, no glass—and shared with him a smile as powerful as it was sexy. “We were open earlier. Now, we’re closed.”

His eyebrow shot up. His mouth shaped itself into an ironic curve. “So you have said.”

“Then perhaps you should leave.” Hands unsteady, she bussed the table closest to her and carried the glasses to the bar. His words stopped her cold.

“You’re very talented. How long have you played the piano?”

No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. She closed her eyes on a wave of emotion, doing her best to will him away. But even then she knew. The man at her back was not going away.

She focused her gaze on his reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar. He was tall and lean, with eyes that shone with intelligence, even in the dim light. His hair was a mix of medium and dark blonde, worn long enough it fell across his forehead, nearly into his eyes, and brushed the collar of his shirt. Dark stubble shadowed his jaw.

The fine hairs on her arm stood on end as he crossed to her. She edged to the side and turned to face him. “I don’t play.”

“Of course you do. You were playing when I entered.”

“You’re mistaken.” She countered his step forward with one in retreat, ensuring that she remained out of arm’s reach.

With a frown, he stopped. “You have nothing to fear from me.”

It never occurred to her to fear for her safety, even though the bar was empty but for the two of them, the lights dimmed in deference to the late hour.

“Let me start again by introducing myself.”

“I know who you are.”

“You do?”

Of course she did. He was the person who brought back her desire to create, whose presence in the room made something inside her sing out. He was the reason she’d been driven to play tonight, after years of resistance. The reason the siren song continued to play in her head, louder than ever before. “Yes, I do.”

“And I frighten you?”

“Of course not.”

“Then why do you tremble? You’ve gone pale and look as if you’re ready to bolt.”

She dodged his hand when he reached out as if to touch her. Her breathing grew shallow. She waited for him to comment. Instead, he casually tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels.

His gaze moved around the room before settling on the piano. “What is the name of the song you were playing?”

The walls were closing in on her. Her body trembled so violently she was surprised her teeth didn’t chatter. “I don’t play,” she reminded him acridly.

She desperately needed to put some space between them. However, so far he’d countered every move she made. He moved again, stepped close enough she could make out the intense green of his eyes. It was difficult to hold her ground and not flinch as he took his time studying her features, his gaze lingering on her eyes.

She was not a beautiful woman. Taken separately, her features held the potential for beauty, but together, with her mix of cultures, she had a face like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces didn’t fit together. Her cheeks were too sharp, her lips too large, and her eyes, pale enough they all but disappeared beneath the dark tones of her father’s heritage. Neither blue nor gray, her eyes brought her the most displeasure. Most people spoke of her eyes as “peculiar” and “haunted.”

Isabeau couldn’t handle such a reference from him. “What do you want from me?” she inquired before he could comment.

“That’s a good question,” he replied, more to himself than in answer to her. “How about your name?”

The way he looked at her made it very, very hard for her to look away. “Isabeau.”

“Isabeau.” His voice brushed across her senses like a lover’s caress. His hand settled upon her arm. His very large, very warm hand.

She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Trapped by the contrast of his pale skin against her darker, golden tones, her mind blanked. He dwarfed her, which at five foot three wasn’t all that difficult to do. Her heart raced. His scent snaked into her lungs with each breath she took.

The scent of him broke her from the spell and filled in the gaps. She shifted away from his touch, understanding what brought him back after closing. She’d found it, tossed carelessly into the corner of a booth—his black leather jacket. Soft as butter, it held his scent. Subtle, masculine, and just enough to stir her blood as she’d carried the garment into the kitchen for safekeeping.

Where, with no one to witness the act, she’d pressed her nose to the lapel and inhaled him.

Her cheeks grew warm. She shot him a look from under her lashes. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

She felt his eyes on her as she returned from the kitchen, and crossed to stand before him, his coat in hand. Felt them still as, without asking how she’d figured out what he needed, he removed the garment from her grasp and slid his arms into it. Finally, she lifted her gaze to his.

“I like your place, Isabeau.” His tone hinted he liked more than her place. And even though everything inside her screamed to get him out of there, it was impossible not to get a little bit lost. He was so inherently sexual that any woman would have to be blind not to be affected by his virile good looks and confidence. “Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”

She watched him go, pressing her fingers against her pounding temples. As the door shut behind him, the pain eased, the noise in her skull dropped to a more tolerable level. Five minutes passed before she dared draw a deep breath for fear his scent lingered. She didn’t need further reminders of his visit. The music that pulsed through her system was reminder enough.

He thought he would see her again, but she knew he wouldn’t. Not because the chances of him returning were too slender, or even because a man like him could never truly be interested in a woman like her.

Because she’d been waiting thirteen years for someone to truly see her.

So far, no one had.


Buy After Midnight at Amazon (psst! It’s FREE on Kindle today, Thurs., 5.14.15)

Amazon Author Page




DISCLAIMER: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s street team. Opinions are my own.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

 BOOK REVIEW: The Purple Morrow (Dyane Forde)


A masterpiece of paranormal historical fiction, The Purple Morrow, Book One in the Rise of the Papilion (sic) trilogy by Canadian author Dyane Forde, left me breathless, my heart pounding. It passes the Neil Gaiman literary quality litmus test with flying colors. It made a powerful initial impression, remains in my thoughts like a lover throughout the subsequent days and permanently colored the lenses through which I view my world.

If you liked the movies Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Excalibur, you’ll love the Purple Morrow by Dyane Forde. It also has elements of the Celestine Prophecy and Greek mythology. This is the first book of hers that I’ve read and it won’t be the last. It took me two days to complete, but could easily have been three or four had I slowed down and let any distraction beyond the necessities of daily life come between me and this gripping tale.


“The bite of a parched throat along with the throbbing pain in her head drew Nyssa out of a deep swoon. She lay on the ground, her chest pressed into the dirt and her legs twisted under her. She opened her good eye. Pebbles dug into the side of her face, and slick, black mud pooled around her forehead. Her hair was thick with it. Both legs and one of her arms were asleep.  She pushed herself up, but her limbs quickly gave way, and she dropped back into the dirt and grit like a stone. Exhausted and angry, she gave in to the tears waiting impatiently for release.  They rolled over her forehead and dripped, one by one, into the mud.

 The sun sat high in a cloudless sky. Merciless and malevolent, it beat down on her, provoking her thirst. Nyssa tilted her head, allowing her a glimpse of the stream to which she had been running before her collapse. Her feet throbbed. She hated to think of what state they must be in. When she had awoken in the clearing, alone and barely alive after the terror inflicted on her by the Rovers, fear and rage had enabled her body to push past its natural limits. At the time, she had clung to one thought and one thought only: get as far away as possible from that vile, cursed place.

She did not recognize the forest around her. Thick ferns and dense shrubbery were everywhere she looked, and the air was thick with the smell of rotting deciduous tree leaves mixed in with the scent of the looming pines. Before her, tall reeds and fat clumps of browning grass swished in the wind. The sound of the rushing water made her throat ache. She could not see them, but she heard the calls of the carrion birds that circled overhead, waiting. Patience, friends. She closed her good eye, the only part of her that did not hurt. Only a little while longer and you will have your feast.

The world was no longer safe for her; all her havens were gone, destroyed by the Rovers. In their quest for dominion over the Southernlands, they had erased her people’s existence from the face of the earth. She would never again stroll through the glittering Celebration Hall or laugh with Ada at the beach while the gulls screeched overhead. Never again would she feel her mother’s comforting arms around her or see her father’s eyes light up when she ran along the docks to meet him. Gone. Everyone and everything she knew, gone. 

But not only had she become a Rover casualty, nature itself seemed to have turned against her. Even now, the smouldering sun sought to take her life. And the forest, filled with the trees and creatures she loved so much, had betrayed her. How long had it been since it had sabotaged her, leaving her at the mercy of those Rover dogs? Hours? Days? Her skin burned. Mercy? The beast-men had shown her none. They had broken and crushed her, ground her, body and soul, into the dust. A wry smile flickered across her lips. Wasn’t that what the legends had taught her? That the Spirit had formed men and women from the dust of the earth? It was only fitting then that soon, thirst and dehydration would squeeze the breath of life from her body and that she would return to the very dust from which she had come.

She had one true regret. Only one. After all her prodigious waiting, she would never again look into the eyes of the man she loved. Her sole consolation was that Jeru would never know the truth of what had happened to her. He would think she had perished with the rest of her people at the hand of the Rovers. This belief gave her the strength to die. Quickly, Nyssa pleaded.

She coughed and pain tore through her body. Darkness edged her vision. Death, show me mercy and come quickly.

The sun continued to burn overhead. Its heat was unbearable.”

With an astounding sense of exactly when to lead the reader’s eye to rest on each key detail, to unleash each scene of primal action, to set in motion each piece of business between characters, Dyane Forde spins an intricate web as only a master storyteller can, strengthening the story’s underpinnings as she progresses through the piece.

This book was clearly not blasted out carelessly, rather it was meticulously nurtured, tenderly incubated and properly birthed over time. The quality speaks for itself. The Purple Morrow would make an outstanding film for the big screen. I haven’t felt this blown away by a book in a very long time and will likely read it again while awaiting the subsequent volumes in the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy from this important author of our time.

See Dyane Forde’s Guest Post: Adventures in Indie Publishing.


Book: The Purple Morrow

Blog: Dropped Pebbles

Amazon Author Page




Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Post: Adventures in Indie Publishing (Dyane Ford)


DYANE FORD cover art

It’s been three years since I completed my book, The Purple Morrow, followed by a year spent looking for ways to get it published and distributed, followed by another seeing how things went from there. With how simple self-publishing has become over the last few years, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just skip all that and jump instead onto Create Space or Kindle and do it myself.

The truth is I did try. But years ago, when I was ready to get my book into the hands of readers, the self-publishing companies weren’t as user-friendly as they are now. I tinkered with various platforms: Blurb, Create Space, and Kindle and got the same problem every time: a major case of frustration. I had NO idea how to format. It became so irritating that I abandoned the whole thing and ran without passing go to a company who could do it for me. Now it’s years later and thankfully, times have changed. So has the ease with which one can format and upload their books to a variety of publishing/distribution platforms.

About a month ago, I ended the contract with the company that had published and distributed my book. We agreed on a month’s transition period, and in that time I got busy.  Below are some of the things I learned as well as some tips I thought worth sharing:

Step 1: About ending an existing contract

If you have an existing contract with a publisher, read it carefully to make sure you follow the terms for termination. In fact, make sure there is a clause that ensures you can terminate the contract, should the need ever arise. Try to be respectful. If you are breaking the contract, even if you have the right to, remember that the publisher might be on the losing end of their investment. How you deal with them might make or break a smooth termination: you want them to cooperate, so be nice.

Step 2: Finding a site to publish and distribute the book.

I started with Smashwords, and I’m so glad I did. After numerous failed attempts at formatting in the past, I was stressed about attempting this. But here’s what I did to ease the pain:

a) I asked for help.

I put out a general call on Google+ asking for tips and suggestions from other Smashwords (SW) users and luckily, a couple of friends responded. They shared some of their know-how and also made themselves available to help me if I needed more coaching. It’s good to have friends.

b) I read and reread and reread the SW Style Guide and Template. This might seem excessive, but having a good understanding of what SW expects and why makes the investment worthwhile (i.e., because they upload to various reader platforms, having a simple template that is compatible with all of them makes it easy to gain access to many distributors with one template). The Style Guide is great. There are step-by-step explanations, examples, screenshots, etc. to make things clear. Even when I had problems formatting my chapter headings, I applied the Style used in their Template to my document and poof! Working chapter heads! There are many ways to format your piece, but this one worked for me.

Note, however, the only thing I didn’t like about the SW experience is that they don’t have a Preview option, which means you have to upload the book and then download it on one of the various platform formats in order to see what the final product actually looks like. But that’s a small price to pay for an overall good experience.

Now, via SW, my book is available on Nook, Kobo, iBooks, SW, and for download in EPUB, mobi (Kindle), etc. That’s bang for your buck.  And, since the manuscript was already formatted for Kindle, to get it distributed on Amazon, all I had to do was upload the same formatted file and voilà! Done.

Step 3: Dealing with Create Space

Alright, this was a different beast. I felt a different sort of stress about this because people pay more for a print book, so I wanted to make sure that the end result looked as much as possible like something that came from a traditional publisher. Not knowing anything about typesetting, what was I going to do?

Create Space (CS) now has a formatted template. Essentially, you can copy and paste your document right into it, and your front and back matter are all laid out for you, only needing a few tweaks to personalize. This was a wonderful discovery!

Still, there were issues: the template only provided ten formatted chapters, and I learned the hard way that if you paste chapters into the wrong formatted section weird things happen. Entire sections appear halfway down the page, or page numbers stop suddenly or repeat, etc. And the chapter heads – ! I won’t go there.

I didn’t find a lot of help in the CS forums but Word’s ‘tell me more’ feature on the .docx version is wonderful. Again, I found screen shots and detailed step-by-step explanations that helped me figure out how to deal with messed-up headers and footers, and the other formatting problems I had. By the end, the final version looked just about as good as the version I’d paid for. And I’d done it myself.

Admittedly, this all requires time, patience, and a willingness to learn. It took about a week to wrestle the ebook version, and about as much to handle CS—probably because I had gained some basic formatting knowledge from having dealt with the ebook.

Oh, one more thing. I admit I had outside help with the images, both for the ebook and the print version. This was beyond me, especially the print version, so I asked my husband, a graphic designer, to handle it. That said, SW and Amazon offer templates authors can use, as well as design services, should you need help.

So, overall, preparing my book for both ebook and print formats was a lot less painful than expected, and it even left me with a huge sense of accomplishment. All it took was a willingness to try.

Thanks for reading! What have your self-publishing experiences been like? Do you have any tips or warnings to share? I’d love to hear them.

DYANE FORD author pic

Author Bio

Dyane Forde’s love of writing began with an early interest in reading and of words in general. These sparked a life-long desire to write all types of things, including short stories, novels, flash fiction, and poetry. To her, every story represents new challenges to tackle, as well as a means by which she can connect with people on a level deeper than intellect. Forde is the author of the adult fantasy novel, The Purple Morrow, and its upcoming sequel, Wolf’s Bane. Dyane also hosts a writing blog at where she welcomes chatting with readers and other writers. Stop by and drop her a line!


Blog: Dropped Pebbles

Book: The Purple Morrow

Amazon Author Page



Guest Post: Books From Scratch (Lori Colbeck)



Hello to all, my name is Lori Colbeck and I am the begetter of Belinda and I found each other on Twitter awhile ago and after she signed up for early access to the site, she generously invited me to write a guest post for her blog. As you can see, I accepted!

By way of explanation, Books From Scratch is a website with the intention of creating community between readers and writers. Together, they decide what direction a story will take as it is being written. Ultimately, that collaboration will create a manuscript that will be published.

Essentially, a website member can choose to write, read, and vote for any of fourteen fiction genres. Anyone can share the first chapter of a fictional story they’ve written, and if the community thinks it would be a good starter chapter, then the author of that chapter becomes a co-author of the total story, and the chapter is published.

After voters have selected the first chapter, a call goes out to the community for the second chapter. When submissions close, voting begins. The chapter with the most votes gets published, and the author of that chapter becomes a co-author of the total story. This process continues until there is a completed novel, which ideally fits the Three Act Structure for fiction and ends at a point appropriate for the genre.

Finally, From Scratch Publishing will execute a contract with the co-authors and proceed with the manuscript editing, marketing, and distribution. From Scratch Publishing will only publish books by the Books From Scratch community.

The web developers hope to have the beta version of the site up soon. I have been working on finalizing the publishing contract and website terms and conditions with my lawyer, so that everything is ready to go when the beta opens. Even beta testers will have an opportunity to sign the publishing contract, if their chapter wins!

Speaking of the contract, it will be available for members to view before submitting their work. My highest priorities are that the author’s copyright is protected, that they are paid equitably for their words, and that they are not beholden to From Scratch Publishing or prevented from signing publishing contracts elsewhere.

I want to give new authors a leg up as much as possible. By connecting them with a publishing house, even after contributing a single chapter, they will have a better idea of how to work with other houses. They can put on their resume that they’re published! On the website, there will be a repository of writer resources, forums for various topics, guest speakers, and other challenges to keep things lively.

I have programs in the works especially for Books From Scratch readers. They are in development and will, hopefully, be released mid-2015. For now, I’m hoping that having fantastic writers will satisfy their needs.

I am currently seeking volunteers for forum moderators, beta reading of chapters, and in the collection of writer resources. Please sign up at the bottom of in the Contact Us form if you’re available to help. I am always updating Twitter, rarely updating Tumblr, and occasionally on Facebook (which goes to Twitter anyway). If you would like early access to the site, please submit your email at in the ‘Get Early Access’ field. If possible, I’d appreciate any donations at PayPal (scroll down to the bottom of the homepage and click on the tiny credit card button), as this whole project is self-funded (and I have student loans for my Master of Science in publishing).

Can’t wait to collaborate,

Lori Colbeck
From Scratch Publishing

Author Bio

I love my family more. My house is lived in. I drive my dream car. I am an introvert. I don’t like being marketed to. I want a passport. I am globophobic and peniaphobic. I vote. I do not understand making sweeping generalizations based on one aspect of a person’s life. I believe that once you go Mac, you never go back. I adore clichéd commencement speeches. I revere trees. I do not collect friends, I select them. I despise hiccups. I never pass up an opportunity to take a nap. I am not done.

CYBERMONDAY: TIL 12M: Save on Ferguson Library Wishlist


Powells Sweetest Deal

Now’s your chance for 20% off and free shipping on orders from the Ferguson Library wishlist and more.

1. Go to the Ferguson Library wishlist and make your selections.

There were only 25 left, including a few pre-orders and plenty of romance, after I placed my order just now. I ordered mostly mysteries and children’s books.

Save time by checking your boxes as you go, then click Add to Cart on the last one and it will load all your choices at once.

2. If you order $50 or more retail, click the Shipping Options tab and choose the first option, Economy Mail for free shipping.

3. Order by midnight Dec. 1st, 2014 and use the SWEETDEAL coupon code at checkout for 20% off any subtotal PLUS unlimited free shipping!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to change the shipping address to:
Ferguson Public Library
ATTN: Scott Bonner
35 N. Florissant Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135

Otherwise the books will arrive at your home and you’ll have to re-ship them.

Learn more about the Ferguson Public Library and other ways to help them and Ferguson in general at the Library Director’s Reddit AMA:

Ferguson Scott Bonner

Happy CyberMonday Shopping!

Halloween with the Zombie Queen, C.M. Wright


CMWright pic

‪#‎Halloween‬ with the Zombie Queen, @CMWzombie, author of the Zombie Basics and Zombie Overload series. Tonight at 10P EST on Belinda’s Book Chats at ‪#‎BlogTalkRadio‬. ‪#‎zombies‬ #paranormal Guest call-in: (516) 595-8071.

NOTE: When you call in, please turn down the volume on your computer. Thanks. 🙂

UPDATE: Book or Tweet Giveaways during the podcast: #authorservices #books #beauty #health #WAHM

Must call in to be eligible for giveaways.–cm-wright

UPDATE: Completed show audio recording:

 Listen to my new episode Halloween with the Zombie Queen – C.M. Wright at #BlogTalkRadio

Authors Blog Tour


Marie Lavender tagged me in this blog tour, which is a spin-off of the Writing Process blog tour, a tour I have participated in before.

Mariepic2 - small

Marie’s Bio

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. In college, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. Marie has published nineteen books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her work and her life. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 18 other books. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

A list of her books and pen names:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal;Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit;Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

Upon Your Honor

Marie’s Blog

Marie’s Blog Tour Post


Here are Marie’s blog tour questions for me:

  • If you were beginning your writing career today, what would you do differently?

I would have gone indie and Thoreauvian (cabin in the woods) from the get-go.

  • What’s the one thing about you that might surprise readers?

I’m lesbian. When I read or write straight romance, I mentally transpose the masculine descriptions into butch book boyfriends, particularly Texan, New Yorker, military or law enforcement heroes.

  •  Tell us a little about the main character in your latest book. 

Middle-aged romantic Camille Sallier is fresh out of a bad breakup with her first woman, Jean. They met while singing in the same blues band and were together about a year. Now she’s falling head over heels for the smoking hot detective investigating her ex’s casino heist and the calamity that seems to surround Camille lately. Even as the detective reacts instinctively to protect Camille, Camille often ends up protecting her. Camille’s closest friend is her head-turning Aunt Audrey.

  • What are some of your favorites…


I’m a Pisces, so I love the watercolors: blue, green and purple. I don’t know if it relates to being perimenopausal, but I’m drawn to purple a lot lately. Maybe it’s just because I love my sister’s taste in the pajamas she gives me every Christmas, which are always purple, gorgeous and comfy.


Hindu cuisine takes first place, particularly Shah Jahan Biryani, named for the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife. Whenever I first walked into a Hindu restaurant at age 19 and inhaled the spices, it felt like I’d come home from an incredibly long journey and I could finally rest and recharge.


The Queen of Peace aka Hoa Binh (area of peace) shrine on Ninth Avenue in Pt. Arthur, TX. It’s across the street from the Queen of Viet Nam Catholic Church, surrounded by roses and water lilies from the Buddhist temple around the corner, the 12 Apostles and Stations of the Cross and other beautifully wrought statues. Tucked at the foot of the roses is a simple stone monument to the indigent civilian casualties of the Viet Nam War. The centerpiece is a statue of the Blessed Mother, her feet resting on a globe turned to show Viet Nam, sheltered by a cross-topped pagoda. It’s three times life-size, approaching the scale of Southeast Asian Buddhist jungle shrines. I was born in Spring 1967 and was never consciously exposed to this war in school or at home, except to visit the grave of a family friend I never met when we went to Arlington National Cemetery. He grew up with my cousins and was killed in Viet Nam. This is the only Viet Nam civilian memorial I’ve heard of thus far. It’s so quiet, magnificently beautiful and peaceful. One of my besties and I love to just sit and meditate here for hours. It’s well worth the 45 minute drive.


Now, I am tagging the following authors in this post:

Mackenzie Crowne

Mackenzie Crowne Author pic 2014

Mackenzie’s Bio:

Wife, mother and really young grandmother, Mackenzie lives with her high school sweetheart husband, a neurotic Pomeranian, and a blind cat. She calls Phoenix home because the Southwest feeds her soul. Though her friends claim she’s a princess, she disagrees. After all, one can’t raise two rambunctious boys to wonderful men without getting a little dirt under their nails. A lover of the romance genre, her resolve to share her stories with others was sharpened by a bout with breast cancer. Today she is an award-winning, multi-published author and seven year survivor, living the dream. Her friends call her Mac. She hopes you will too.


Mackenzie’s blog:

Sarah Grimm

Sarah Grimm author pic


Sarah’s Bio:

The youngest of four, Sarah Grimm can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. In fact, her siblings believe she began writing in utero to pass the time. As a child, Sarah wrote constantly, littering the house with bulging spiral notebooks and ignoring the ribbing of her mother and sister who routinely said ‘romances?’ in a somewhat scornful tone. Sarah is a Readers Favorite Award winner, a Romance Through the Ages award winner for Best Contemporary Romance, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence finalist.

Sarah Grimm upcoming release

Sarah’s blog:

Ella Jade

Ella Jade author pic


Ella’s Bio:

Ella Jade has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a child, she often had a notebook and pen with her, and now as an adult, the laptop is never far. The plots and dialogue have always played out in her head, but she never knew what to do with them. That all changed when she discovered the eBook industry. She started penning novels at a rapid pace and now she can’t be stopped.
Ella resides in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. When she’s not chasing after her kids, she’s busy creating sexy, domineering men and the strong women who know how to challenge them in and out of the bedroom.  She hopes you’ll get lost in her words.
She loves connecting with readers.
Ella Jade cover art


Ella’s blog:

A heartfelt thank you to all of the participating authors on this blog tour.  Let’s keep it going!  Feel free to link back to my post and tag other authors!  Happy posting!  🙂

On Censorship and Education


After recent events in Ferguson, MO, I could not believe my eyes when I saw a tweet the other day for a petition against Jefferson County (CO) Public School Board’s censorship of curricula. Since the petition did not contain links to the controversial resolution and teacher-student peaceful protests, which the proposed curriculum review committee would prohibit referencing in classroom materials, I did a little research and confirmed for myself that this is really happening in the United States in 2014.

The primary issue at stake seems to be the censorship of curriculum, aka teaching materials. Since teaching materials include textbooks, software, websites and other media, this amounts to censorship in general, which is why you’re reading about this issue on a writing blog.

One easy way to break free of the censorship grip of elected officials is to homeschool. When you engage in homeschooling, you take back the power to decide who, what, when, where, why and how your children are taught, and give them a democratic voice in their education without enduring political struggle. My G+ friend Lindsey Clements is a prime example. Both a former member of the U.S. Navy and a Navy wife, she homeschools her two daughters using a variety of curricula, including Minecraft. She also allows her daughters to progress according to their curiosity and personal interests. When one daughter asked for a Biology text, Lindsey got online and sought book recommendations from her community, found some she liked and ordered one. The Biology studies took an interesting turn when Lindsey backed a crowdfunding for Period Panties. When the products arrived, the girls asked questions, and that became a teachable moment for female anatomy and physiology, aka reproduction, which extended into the plant kingdom. You just don’t get that freedom in public schools.

Like Ferguson, the Jefferson County (JeffCo) Public School Board situation arose as the direct result of electing officials who do not represent the interests of the public they serve. At this point, it seems the parents, teachers and students of JeffCo have some choices to make. I hope they strongly consider homeschooling. I must add that, if I were a JeffCo AP history teacher, I’d find a way to reward the students who demonstrated under the battle cry of “My school, My voice!” with extra credit for practicing nonviolent protest techniques in the tradition of MLK, Gandhi and Antonio French.


Jefferson County (JeffCo) Public Schools controversial resolution:

Click to access JW%20PROPOSAL%20Board%20Committee%20for%20Curriculum%20Review.pdf

Texas Education Agency policy, from which the Colorado resolution was copied:

Colorado JeffCo PTA opposition to resolution:

Colorado teacher-student protest re curriculum censorship:

(c) 2014 Belinda Y. Hughes. All rights reserved.


Belinda Hughes_9 17 2014

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2: Lacto Ovo Vegetarian Recipes. She also blogs on food, natural health, writing, editing and social media. Belinda is currently working on her first collection of erotic poetry, an LGBT cozy mystery and the third edition of her cookbook. She enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, meditation, yoga, reading and living in the country with her labradachs and wildlife friends.




Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2

Cafe Belinda Food Blog

Writing, Editing & Social Media Blog


Guest Blogs


Cajun Casino Heist and Lesbian Romance (The Notebook Blogairy)

Adventures in Book Marketing (The Write Way)

Yellow Ribbon (Unknown Poetry)

Seniors Don’t Sit Well (PenPaperPad)

Bringing Food to Life (Writing in the Modern Age)


Author Interviews


Writing in the Modern Age


Social Media


Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page












Rescued by a Green Beret


After a meetup with Mom, lunch and shopping on Friday, I turned onto the last street before mine. As I made the turn, the steering went out, my truck died and smoke began rising from under the hood. I called my mechanic, and he said his tow truck was already out on a run, with two more ahead of me. While I waited, a guy in a red truck pulled over and walked back to offer his help. He said he’d be back in a few minutes, but never returned.

After a while a guy in a black truck, who had offered his help in the interim, returned to check on me. When he asked again if he could help me, I finally accepted. Young and agile, he quickly helped me unload my purchases into the bed of his shiny Toyota. When we settled into his cab, my eyes happened to rest upon a green digital camo uniform on the seat between us. In reply to my inquiry, “Oh, are you Army?” he answered with a nod. “What do you do?” I asked. He replied, “Special Forces.” Despite the air conditioning, the truck suddenly grew very warm.

We introduced ourselves and shook hands. He worked at the base nearby, in addition to numerous security consulting gigs throughout a broad region. As I gave him driving directions to my house, my eyes ran along his shaven head and sun-kissed skin. His T-shirt and shorts covered the highlights, without leaving much to the imagination. He had only recently relocated to the area and we shared our experiences and knowledge of the players and circumstances of common local problems my neighbors and I had dealt with earlier in the year.

When we arrived at my place, he wasted no time helping me unload everything from his pickup to my front door. At the same time, he was careful, setting my shopping bags down gently and snatching up an errant room freshener solid that rolled away. In no time at all, we were back in his cab, heading down the road to my truck, sharing about our common interests in yoga and people living with special needs. As he dropped me off, he made sure I entered his name and cell number in my phone, in case I might need help again.

NOTE: This is a reality-based short story, edited and fictionalized out of respect for our mutual privacy. After a teaser, my friend, romance author Vonnie Davis, demanded details and a full story, and I was inspired by another friend, author Becky Siame‘s new reality fiction genre. 😉

(c) 2014 Belinda Y. Hughes

Belinda Hughes_9 17 2014

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2: Lacto Ovo Vegetarian Recipes. She also blogs on food, natural health, writing, editing and social media. Belinda is currently working on her first collection of erotic poetry, an LGBT romance and crime mystery and the third edition of her cookbook. She enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, meditation, yoga, reading and living in the country with her labradachs and wildlife friends.


Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2

Cafe Belinda Food Blog

Writing, Editing & Social Media Blog

Guest Blogs 

Cajun Casino Heist and Lesbian Romance (The Notebook Blogairy)

Adventures in Book Marketing (The Write Way)

Yellow Ribbon (Unknown Poetry)

Seniors Don’t Sit Well (PenPaperPad)

Bringing Food to Life (Writing in the Modern Age)

Author Interviews

Writing in the Modern Age

Social Media

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page









Guest Post: The Writing Life Broken Down (Rochelle Campbell)


Today’s guest blogger is Rochelle Campbell, author of Fury From Hell, a paranormal thriller about good versus evil. She’s worked for the New York Times and been published in Bartleby Snopes and Lit Art magazines. Rochelle is excited to reveal the cover of her upcoming third novel in this post, as well as sharing her personal insights on the writing process, mentoring writers and how to become a successful author. I have long admired Rochelle’s writing posts on Twitter, so if you want to see how irresistible, engaging tweets are done, be sure to follow her there, at her writing blog and at Goodreads. In addition, Rochelle is graciously doing a giveaway – 7 FREE copies of Fury From Hell, the first installment in the From Hell series! Be sure to enter and share this post with all your book friends. – Belinda


What’s your writing process?

My writing process leans towards the left brain once the idea for the story is formed.  However, the initial inspiration for a story is as it should be – very right-brained.

I tend to like a very detailed outline that uses six points.  They are:


            Introduction of Conflict

            Complication of Conflict


            Resolution of Conflict



I flesh out each of the six points with at least a paragraph, or two.  Then, I add a major dramatic question (MDQ) for the story and/or the main character.  This is what the book spins on.  In other words, the theme, or underlying current running beneath the story.  The MDQ addition was something I learned at the Gotham Writers Course I took this past spring.  My instructor, Michael Davis, eloquently taught us that we must give our characters strong enough reasons and inner conflicts to engage them and the reader.

After the crucial portion is written down I focus on the characters, their names and relations to each other within the story world.  This step will often dictate the setting and/or the environment that the story will take place in.

With all of this information, I then feel comfortable enough to begin writing.  With this method, even though I know a lot about the story going in, the story and the characters still move, ebb and flow all on their own, making the writing of the story fascinating.

Have you ever considered anyone a mentor?

My writing mentor is Jacqueline Lichtenberg a phenom in the world of scifi fan fiction.  Ms. Lichtenberg is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Fan Writer (1974), a Locus Award Winner for Best Science Fiction Novel (First Channel, 1981), she coined the term Intimate Adventure and is a Galaxy Award Winner Spirituality in Science Fiction for her second novel, Unto Zeor Forever.  I could go on and on including that Ms. Lichtenberg is the main author of Star Trek Lives! And she is the creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, a large vibrant fanfic community.


Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

I just completed reading Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life, the 3rd book in the All Souls series.  It is a paranormal romantic thriller with aspects of horror.  To set the stage, imagine the world is inhabited by humans, of course, but in and among us are other creatures that blend in – or try to – witches, daemons and vampires.  There’s a Covenant the governs how these creatures can and should behave with humans and with human affairs.  This series explores what happens when the Covenant is disregarded because of greed, personal gain, jealousy and power.

Currently, I am reading a friend’s children’s chapter book called, “Grandma You’re Dead!”  It is the funniest premise – a 13-year-old girl is visited by her deceased grandmother who needs her grandaughter’s help to solve a 15-year-old mystery.  The catch?  The teenager cannot tell her mother anything, or ask anyone for help!  It is already shaping up to be a sweet read.


What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

There are a myriad of tools, software, books, journals and periodicals for writers.  For me, one of the best software packages for the creation of stories, and for help in structuring the story is Literature and Latte’s Scrivener.  You can create a story from start to finish using this program and brainstorm ideas with it as well.

The other ‘tools’ I find most helpful are the writer’s chosen writing implements: iPad, computer, pen and paper, laptop, etc.  Yes, I’m being facetious but a writer…writes.  The truly important tool is to find a supportive group of writers who can provide feedback on your work during all stages.  This group can help the new writer develop his/her voice and writing style while allowing the writer to express him/herself without prejudice.

Some great sites for a community of writers who can offer critique of your work are:

A writer generally develops more quickly when s/he has direct communication and connection with people of like mind.


What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?

A writer is successful because s/he does not stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  If you love writing, the act of writing, the thought of writing and all of the editing, formatting, grammar rules, punctuation and style usage best practices are all you think about then you are a successful writer.  You cannot call yourself a writer if you do not write or, if you do not read.  I suppose that is the philosophical answer.

The practical answer of what it takes to become a successful writer, in terms of dollars and cents (not, sense J) is a lot of work to develop your social platform.  These days, if you seek literary representation, you will be asked if you have a social media platform and how large it is.  While this may not be  a deal-breaker for most agents, it is a major factor.

On another note, if you are an indie writer and then decide to try to publish the traditional route, your indie book sales will be reviewed and taken into consideration of whether the agent, or the publishing company will want to take you on as a client.  If you book did not sell well, they know they have an uphill battle of creating a platform for you so you can sell books for them.

You can see ‘success’ can mean different things as a writer.  Ultimately, you have to define what you want, set your goals and then judge your success for yourself based upon what you wanted not what someone else wanted for you.


What do you love about independent publishing?

As an independent (Indie) author I have the freedom to tell the story I want to tell without having to worry overly much about fitting into a genre, or category.  I also get to choose which book covers will grace the front of my books.  For me, this alone is worth the extra work of creating a book worth reading!   (I hope! J)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only advice I can share would be to write the things that bubble out of you and slide through your fingers onto the page, or the screen.


Do not second-guess yourself.  Get that first-draft pulled together without any editing from your mind.  Once you have a full first draft, put it away and let it ‘rest’ for about 3 – 4 weeks.  Read other books, watch movies, go on vacation; do whatever but don’t look at your manuscript.


Once you’ve let the book rest, read through it with a red pen (or whatever color you’d like).  Adjust the story as you see fit and hen begin working on editing and revising.  Give to your writing group, or writing partner for critique before sending to an agent, or publisher.


FFH Author Pic2_Aug 2014


You’ve told us about your writing process, we touched on indie publishing and resources for writers but we don’t know who you are as a writer.  Can you tell us a bit about you?


I have been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of my career as I currently have, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in my career, I did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, my calling – fiction writing – became apparent after my two-year writers’ mentoring course with Jacqueline Lichtenberg in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged me to develop into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into fully fleshed out written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are


Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind

[] and,


How Charlie Ray Saved My Life



Fury From Hell is technically my third full-length novel.  I have read that a writer’s first novel (the very very very first one written on parchment paper because you were in the kitchen cooking when the idea struck…) is rarely ever publishable.  You generally catch on by the 3/4/5th book!  That is, unless you have help.



Book Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

At the crime scene, Jennifer becomes possessed by Fury Abatu.  Hosts usually die a violent death within weeks of the initial possession.  Detective Holden does not know she is possessed…

With her own demise on the line, Jennifer must fight for her life and her very soul – something she’s not sure she even believes in – to rid herself of the dark force surrounding her and her friends.

Can Jennifer be saved from the demon?  Will she be able to find the faith to believe in something greater than herself and her material things?

Read this first installment of the From Hell series to find out!


Where can readers find you?








Where can readers purchase Fury From Hell?





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Review: Blogger Abroad (Bryan and Dena Haines)


Image credit Bryan Haines

Image credit Bryan Haines

If you want to become a better blogger, make money with a home-based, online business, get insider info on the latest tech and photography tools, visit the hottest international travel spots off the beaten path and enjoy your life more, you need to subscribe to Bryan and Dena Haines’ Blogger Abroad.

Bryan and Dena are embracing the digital nomad lifestyle as expat Canadians based in Cuenca, Ecuador with their daughter. As a family, they try out new cameras and accessories in exotic locales, test web tools and techniques for blogging and business development and take web fasts, too. They are who you want to grow up to be – healthy, balanced people living a universal dream.

If I have one complaint about Blogger Abroad, it’s that I can’t just stop my world and binge read everything there. Whenever I dive into their latest blogging, photography, travel and business tips and ideas, I feel well fed, yet eager for the next seating time. It’s always easy to read, implement and share. The layout is exquisite, there’s no wasted space, yet it has great flow.

So get over there already, experience it for yourself and start improving your online and offline lives today. My fave posts so far are

100 Gulls, 2 Loaves of Bread, & a GoPro,

How To Auto Restore Your Crashed / Hacked WordPress Site and

Parkinson’s Law: How We Get More Done #48HoursOffline.

DISCLOSURE: This blog review was neither solicited nor compensated in any way, shape or form. The above opinions are my own. I simply cannot recommend this blog highly enough.

Guest Post: Why Research Is Important and How to Do It (Marie Lavender)


Impreial Federation c maps bpl org

Image credit

When my friend Belinda suggested the topic of how to do your homework when writing historical romances, I thought I’d take it a step further since I have done all kinds of research in my writing career.  Research is a dual-edged sword.  It can be a total blast if you’re into learning about new things.  On the other hand, it can be a real pain when it’s difficult to find the right information.  No matter what stage of writing you’re at, you will, at some point, need to look something up.

First of all, let me get the big question out of the way, the one I was arrogant enough to ask myself so many years ago.  This coming from someone who wasn’t a fan of history class, but loved reading historical romance.  Cue the irony.

“Why is research so important?”

Indeed!  Why should we go to all that trouble?  For a number of reasons, of course. I suppose we should do it to avoid appearing ignorant with regards to the topic we’re writing about.  You can’t know everything.  It doesn’t matter what your background is.  During the course of writing, while you’re planning a novel or even in the midst of writing a scene, you are going to (gasp!) come across something you need to research.  If you don’t realize it, then someone else is going to point it out.  Hopefully, it’s a critique partner, beta reader or editor.  God forbid it be a reader after you’ve published.  So, let’s just avoid that little trip into Humiliation Land, shall we?

Why else should you do it?  If you’re unsure at all about something you wrote, isn’t it better to check, just to be sure it’s right?  You can avoid a lot of headaches later.  For example, let’s say you wanted to set your story in a specific location.  Your character goes walking along and stumbles across a strangle-looking plant.  The next day he ends up with a bizarre rash.  Well, what was it?  Are you sure you want to call it (insert name of plant here), if it does exist?


Image credit judgmentalist

Image credit judgmentalist


“But, Marie, don’t I have creative license?”

  1. Yes and no.  It depends on the genre of your story.  Are you writing a fantasy?  Is your story contingent upon this bizarre species of plant no one has heard of?  Is there a science angle to your story?  Then maybe you can create a plant name!  Did you answer ‘no’ to the previous questions?  Maybe you should at least consider authenticity.  If the town/city does exist on a map, what is the likelihood that you’ll get a reader from that area who decides to read your book?  Do you want them leaving a review that says, ‘I am native to that area and I know it doesn’t grow there!’?  Do you really want to take that chance?  I don’t.  I know you probably think it’s trivial, but this is just an example off the top of my head.  What if the issue in question was more detailed than that?  At least consider finding out the right information.  Besides, you might learn something new in the process (Shock!).

“Marie, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh?”

Am I?  I’m just telling it like it is.  Look, this is kind of a universal thing for writers.  It’s one those “rules” we can’t skirt around in the industry.  Some publishers will even state it in their submission guidelines. They want something that has not only been edited enough, but has also been researched. For the most part, it’s just common sense.  Even if you don’t go for a traditional publisher, do you want readers avoiding your book because of all of the mistakes?

Well, I think I’ve made my point.  If I haven’t convinced you by now how important research is, then I guess I won’t, and you can look at one of my other articles about writing instead.  If, however, you’re still with me after that spiel, then I can tell you how you can go about this nutty thing called “research.”

Now is about the point in my writing project where I dread that word.  Research.  Why?  I enjoy the process.  I like learning new things.  I don’t mind exploring new places and figuring out what way the characters will do something.  It’s all part of the writing process, and I do love it.  It can appear overwhelming at first, though.  Just like with any problem in life, if you inflate it or lump a bunch of things together, it’s bound to make you crazy.  So, what is my solution?

Break it up.

That’s right.  Break it into tiny, manageable pieces.  Suddenly, what seemed impossible is something you can knock out in the span of twenty minutes to an hour, depending on what that small task is.

“How do I get there, though?  How do I break it up?”

Well, I approach it in one of two ways.  I am both a pantster and a plotter, so this is the point where I have to break down and plot.  I have to be stern and make myself do it.


Image credit Marie Lavender


  • Write an outline for your story or novel, a detailed one. Be as detailed as you possibly can.  Sometimes I do a basic one, then go back and do a detailed outline after that.  This detailed outline should then give you an idea of what topics you need to start researching. Put them in the form of questions, if you have to.


“What did sailors wear during this time period?” or “What exactly does an accountant do other than the obvious?”


  • If you are a pantster (which isn’t unheard of, so just relax), you can also do research as you go along. Somewhere in the middle of a scene of chapter, your writer’s instinct is going to say, “But, I don’t know what that thing is called!  And how do I describe it?”  Don’t panic.  Take a break, save your work and do some research.  Find out the answer to that question or you’ll probably drive yourself crazy.


Some writers hate to interrupt their train of thought, so they make a note somewhere, sometimes directly in the text, to go back and research it later.  But, sometimes not knowing the answer effectively halts your creativity and you may be doing yourself a favor by looking for the answer, after all.  Once you come back to the story, you’ll not only have fresh eyes, you’ll be energized that you learned this tidbit of information.  It can be quite exciting!

Let’s see…  What haven’t we covered?  Ah, yes, the most essential question.

“How do I do research?  What techniques or resources can I use?”

All good questions.  Ultimately, you should go with what makes you comfortable.  Here are some options to help you get started.

  1. Some people prefer to go the traditional route and use libraries for information.  They are a good resource, and should not be overlooked.  You can look in books (fiction or non-fiction), newspapers or archives to find information.

Other books.

“Uh, what does that mean, Marie?”

Well, I have found a ton of resources on Amazon, just by looking up certain keywords.  Whether the books are about writing or they cover topics specific to your story, there are a lot of non-fiction books out there that can help.  Some writers will buy up a lot of them.  You wouldn’t believe how long my research Wishlist is.

“But, Marie, I am a starving artist.  I can’t afford a bunch of books all at once.”

Well, I understand.  I’ve been there.  And how would you know which one was the best book, even if you could afford one or two?  That would be a hard choice, and there’s a risk in any purchase.  Not to worry, though.  Libraries are free.  And here’s another option.

Use what’s at your fingertips.  You know that genre you’ve been reading, the thing you’ve been training yourself to write for a long time?  Read it!  Some of those books have great facts in them.  The author has done his research.  Should you take everything at face value?  No. Definitely double check things, but it’s not a bad place to get some random facts.  And don’t be afraid to get creative.  That actually leads me to my next point.


Image credit Mr.TinDC

Image credit Mr.TinDC


Unusual places.

“Huh?  Marie, are you smoking that funny stuff again?”

Nope!  Take an inventory of the weird, old books you have lying around.  The covers are worn, the pages are yellowed, and they probably smell old and musty.  Maybe you can glean something of interest there.  Don’t forget to check your relatives’ places too.  Call them up and ask if they have a box of old hand-me-down books they want to get rid of.

After my grandparents’ deaths, we went through the house.  Something began to bleed through my grief, however.  The writer, the constant observer in me, was awake.  I found it interesting, the kind of reading material my grandmother kept (she never parted with anything).  I mean, there were such a variety of topics.  And, if I ever wanted to know what a proper housewife in the 40s or 50s did to raise her family, keep her house clean and still entertain dinner guests, well, there was a book for it.  It just goes to show that you never know what you’ll find.

Did you just move into an old house?  Look in the attic.  Check the nooks and crannies.  There is a good chance you’ll find some interesting things.


Image credit umjanedoan

Image credit umjanedoan


And don’t discount using physical items in your research.  Pay attention to the texture.  What does it make you feel?  What comes to mind when you look at a Victrola?  Or a mid-20th Century vinyl record player?  Do you have memories tied to music?  Use life as your research.  How you feel about something can be translated into how the character might have felt in a certain time period, or even in the present.  As Frank pulled the wallet from his pocket, the smell of new leather permeated his senses.  He recalled the reins on his favorite horse Thunder, back on the old farm, the smell of fresh hay in his nostrils as he brushed the stallion.  That leads me to my next topic.

  1. Both old pictures and new photos can be used for research. In my historical research, I often use this technique to get a sense of place for that time period.  I use my impressions.  I try to imagine how it was and I paint the picture.  You can do the same with contemporary locations.  Of course, some writers travel and that’s useful.  If you can’t travel to the location in which your novel is set, use photos to put yourself there.  Found the place in a National Geographic article?  Great.  Use those pictures well.  Give your impressions.  Feel the dust in the air and the smells around you.  Imagine it and picture it the way the photographer did.  Sometimes you can find photos on Wikipedia or Chamber of Commerce sites, even on official regional tourist sites, Lonely Planet, and travel blogs.  Don’t dismiss points of interest, like restaurants and other businesses, and events and Off the Beaten Path sections on travel booking sites.  They ground a reader in a time and place.

Writing about a hotel?  Use the ‘photos’ or ‘gallery’ section of their website.  It’s even better if they have a 360 degree view option.  This gives a basis to start from.  Remember:  creative license can be used, but you want some of it to be authentic.  Did you create the hotel in your mind?  Even the name?  Great!  But if you don’t know much about hotels, you’ll still want to do a little research.  Who knows?  By doing that, you could make that imaginary hotel come alive with certain amenities and sensory details.  I use Google Images a lot.  Don’t know anything about evening gowns?  Get inspired!  Look at pictures, tons of them.  Find out what color and type you want.  You can do the same with cars.  I just love looking at pictures.

Remember:  detail is everything.  It’s not just a tree.  What kind of tree is it?  An elm?  A maple?  How are the leaves shaped?  What color and texture are they in the season your scene takes place in?  Describe it to the reader and make it real.  Those details will really help and pictures will, too.  Of course, nothing is a substitute for the real thing.  If you can touch it, smell it and taste it, that’s even better.  And your readers will experience it with you.


Image credit ladyb

Image credit ladyb


The internet.

Ah, the big topic.  Yeah, the internet is overrun with quite a bit of unnecessary stuff these days.  However, there are still some good sources.  Wikipedia is a good source in many aspects, but you may want to back up some of the information by using additional sources.  Can’t travel to the location you’re writing about?  Don’t hesitate to use Expedia or whatever the latest travel site is to check out places to stay.

  1. Maps are your go-to resource for a location. You will need to know the layout of a city, so that natives to the area don’t give you the eyebrow.  You also might want to pay attention to the culture, sayings or customs used there, but that’s not exactly related to maps, is it?

“Marie, you’re bouncing around again.”

Sorry!  I got excited.  So, maps are a wonderful resource.  Google Maps, in particular, has been my friend for a long time.

“Why?  There are other resources.”

For the street view, of course!  Nothing gives me a better idea of the layout of a town or city block than looking at ‘street view.’  It’s almost like being right there.  This tool has saved me in a lot of situations.  Recently, I did a lot of research on Baltimore for a work in progress, and that really came in handy.  However, if you’re doing historical fiction, you may need to find old maps.  Why?  Because some town names have changed.  So have entry points.  It’s not going to make sense if a lot has changed in the area.

If I am doing historical research, I try to keep everything period specific, even down to the year, if I can.  You may wonder why.  When I wrote Upon Your Honor, my latest release, it was the difference of a year.  Fencing was outlawed in New Orleans in 1890, but the book was set in 1891.  In short, I had to make careful use of this fact in order to make it seem authentic, another reason why research can pay off.  Also, during edits with my publisher, my editor pointed out a minor flaw in one location.  So, I ended up changing that.

Did she notice anything else?  No, because I did my research.  Editors won’t catch everything, however, and you can sure as hell make their jobs easier by doing yours.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Other sites to use.  It really depends on what you’re researching.  My advice with historical fiction is to stick to historical sources.  Old newspaper clippings, even ads, are very helpful.  Make sure it’s from the area where your book is set.


Full Moon c Andy Rogers


Sometimes a basic internet search can unearth the best possible sources.  In everything you choose, be as authentic as possible and evaluate your sources.  If you see the same fact mentioned in various locations, it is most likely true.  I used this technique with Magick & Moonlight when I researched the Wiccan religion.  As with any kind of research, you can’t be 100% accurate, but you can do your best.

“Okay, Marie.  But, what do I do if I have trouble finding a specific thing?”

If you have exhausted all of your options, my advice is to go straight to the source.  Can’t find out how a police procedure works?  Contact your local police department and see if they will let you talk to someone.  Want to know how criminal investigation works?  Maybe they’ll let you pick the brain of a detective.  If your subject is related to history and you still can’t find what you’re looking for, there is one other option.  There are history forums in which history experts will try to help you.  Granted they are usually for students struggling with a class, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to help you with your research.

“Where do I put everything, Marie?”

Make a file and put it all in one place.  I use OneNote.  It’s a fantastic little tool to organize everything.  If you want, you can even go old school, as I used to do, and keep it all in a physical file folder, as well as various notebooks.  Whatever keeps you organized.  Who knows?  You may want to back to that research for another book.  It’s likely you’ll still have a lot of information stored that you didn’t get to use.

If you’re still here, clearly you see the value of research.  The fact that you bothered to do your research at all tells the publisher and your reader that you not only care about the story and the characters, but you also care how it’s received.  And if someone mentions how well-researched your book is, you can only thank yourself for all the hard work you put into it.

Curious about some of my research on various projects?  Here are some related articles I’ve written.  I hope I’ve helped you here today.  Good luck on your projects, and happy researching!

Mariepic2 - small

***Be sure to visit Marie’s Writing Process Blog Tour post and this May 2014 interview,

featuring three excerpts from Upon Your Honor.***



Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 18 other books. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. In college, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. Marie has published nineteen books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her work and her life. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

 Upon Your Honor

Please connect with Marie on your favorite social media channels. Thanks again for joining us, Marie Lavender, to discuss the whys and hows of research for writers. We look forward to seeing you again soon.


Author Interview: D. W. Metz (Discovering Duluoz)


 Discovering Duluoz cover art

Today we’re getting to know another G+ writing friend of mine, D.W.Metz. Doug and I share interests in poetry, Asian forms in art and poetry, natural healing arts and Buddhism. We were cabin mates at Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2014 edition, but he got quite a bit more writing done. Doug is a Renaissance man and modern-day Kerouac, introspective, meditative and a nature boy during weekend web fasts. He blogs at unknown poetry and recently released his first independent poetry collection, Discovering Duluoz, after Kerouac. Please join me in welcoming him, and remember to show Doug some follow love. – Belinda


Recently you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. What was your experience like?


Overall I would say it was a success for me. It did confirm that I am absolutely horrible under pressure when it comes to forcing myself to write. What I liked about the “camp” experience is that the goals were much more flexible and you didn’t have to commit to writing a full novel. I wound up working on a short story I’ve had brewing for the past year. Well that was my chosen assignment at least. Most of the time if I was doing anything writing related it was working on finalizing my first solo poetry publishing, Discovering Duluoz.


What can you tell us about Discovering Duluoz?


Discovering Duluoz is a collection of poetry based off several years worth of journals I wrote in the early 90′s. The poems cover the period when I was first exposed to the writings of Jack Kerouac as a teenager on the beach at Long Beach Island, and culminates with me hitchhiking (in true Kerouac fashion) from my home in New Jersey to his birthplace in Lowell, Massachusetts several years later.


What is your experience with poetry anthologies?


I’ve been published in a couple anthologies but for the most part they were all 20+ years ago. Most recently I responded to a solicitation for poems on a Google+ post and was very pleased to have been included as a result in Scattered Voices: A Collection of Poems Shared by Strangers on the Internet published by Rotting Horse Publishing. What I really liked about this experience was that because all the poets featured were from Google+ I’ve gotten to know a few of them better after having been included in the anthology with them and gladly consider them friends now. I also have a piece that’s coming up in an upcoming anthology surrounding the Fukushima disaster in Japan.


Why do you write poetry?


I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember. When I started it was a lot of “roses are red” and such. If it wasn’t so successful with the girls I pursued as a young man I probably never would have continued with it. As I got older it became less about the wooing and more about the catharsis. I’ve used poetry as an expression of art therapy to get me through the most difficult situations in my life. For me poetry is like a hurricane of emotion. The ‘event’ comes on with a storm, black clouds and lightning. Water whipped against you so hard it feels like stones. In the eye the poem comes out. Tranquility. Clarity. Then it rips back through you again for good measure. You pick yourself up, hopefully, and stand up to survey the wake. From that moment life starts again.


Do you have a favorite poetic form?


Not particularly. Most of what I write tends to fall under ‘free verse.’ Sometimes I find myself in the midst of a rhyming poem and if that’s the way it comes out I tend to go with it, though I’m always apprehensive of the rhyming sounding forced. I also like to experiment with several Japanese forms of poetry – specifically senryu and choka.


What’s your writing space like?


For the most part my writing space is very mobile. The majority of my poetry in the past few years was actually composed and published from my phone. I use a laptop or tablet when I’m working on longer fiction pieces. I do have a desk that I write at but only when I’m dedicating a lot of time to writing. I also tend to do most of my spoken word editing at my desk.


How long have you been doing spoken word poetry?


When I was in high school and college I would often participate in open-mic readings wherever I could find them. When I started publishing my poetry online a few years ago I got hooked up with a Google group that was doing spoken word workshops, which led me to experimenting with Soundcloud. Over the past couple years I’ve recorded a large percentage of my poems as well as some recordings of other famous poems. I enjoy doing spoken word because I think it allows the listener to experience poetry from a different dimension. Recently I’ve been adding music and effects to the recordings as I experiment with the abilities of the artform.


Do you have any favorite writing tools?


My phone/ipad are probably my favorites as I’ve always got one of them with me. I use a plain text app, iA Writer for poetry writing which I backup to Dropbox. For fiction pieces I use Google Docs. I like the piece of mind knowing that if one of my devices were lost or destroyed I’ve got a backup online whether the piece has been published or not.


What’s your most recent publication?


Most recently I published the short story I was working on for Camp Nano. The story is about a character who is down when he inherits a house from an Aunt he didn’t know he had.  The inheritance proves to be more than he bargained for when a secret room is discovered in the basement.


What are you currently working on?


At the moment I’m working on another short story. This one is about an antique typewriter that has some haunting characteristics.


DW Metz Author pic 


If someone wants to read more of your writing where should they go?


My two poetry books are available in print and kindle editions via amazon and other book retailers. You can visit my author page on Amazon for links to purchase. I’ve also started promoting my work on Goodreads and would be grateful for any reviews there. In addition to those I publish my poetry, spoken word  and fiction at


 Thanks for visiting, Doug, and for hosting me at unknown poetry. We look forward to hearing more publication updates from you.

Guest Post: What I Learned While on Life Support (LaRae Parry)



Today’s guest blogger is LaRae Parry, aka the Crazy Lady. Formerly an artist, LaRae found herself on life support due to medical errors. In the course of learning to read again, she gave birth to a successful writing career. LaRae joins us today to share a heart-warming, rib-tickling excerpt from her eye-opening book, Life Support Dang Near Killed Me. – byh


In 2005, I was on life support after a routine gall bladder surgery went terribly wrong. Part of the medical debacle was sort of my fault. The other 90 percent was the surgeon’s.


I had been warned by that protective intuition that we all have within us not to have the surgery. I was sick with a sinus infection—too sick for surgery. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned . . . but, and here’s the hard part—I trusted the surgeon over my premonition.


We all do that at some point, don’t we? Trust other people rather than our instinct? We shouldn’t do that, you know. We’re all equipped with that gut cautionary instinct—why don’t we trust it more often?


But . . . I digress.


There are some things I learned while being on life support that I’d like to share:


  • Your underwear doesn’t matter. The people in the ICU will rip it off and leave you naked as a jaybird. Then they slap on a flimsy gown that doesn’t have a back and a bunch of necessary holes in the front. So, dismiss your mother’s counsel to always wear clean underwear.


  • Being able to breathe is very important, because if you stop, someone will straddle you and pound on your chest.


  • While on life support, my ears worked really well. I eavesdropped on just about everyone.


  • 80 percent of what goes through a feeding tube is laxatives. No kidding. It’s rude.


  • Sponge baths were just as awful with my eyes tightly closed as when they were open.


  • There are many excellent people in the medical field. Doctors and nurses provide life-saving services that cannot be repaid.


  • Angels are real and all around us, especially when we are sick, lonely or sad.


  • Listen to my gut feelings—they’re always right. Even when I don’t heed the warnings, great lessons still come from it.


  • I believe my life was spared so I could share the message that we need to listen to our inner voice for comfort and protection, and not worry about what our so-called specialists might think.


  • The world is filled with goodness. It really is!


  • Mostly I learned that prayers DO NOT need to be spoken in order to be Heartfelt prayers are answered in the ways they should be. I asked to be completely healed, so I wouldn’t have to wear supplemental oxygen for the rest of my life. Even though the answer was, “Not now,” I learned to accept that answer.


Author Bio


LaRae Parry is a published artist with 12 books in print. She considers herself to be a “very famous art has-been.” She now would like to be considered a “very famous author who nobody knows about.”


In 2005, she suffered a major medical ordeal, which landed her on life support, because of multiple organ failure. After years of therapy and hard work, her mind began creating again. She was able to comprehend some words, but struggled with reading.


It was through her struggle to learn to read that her writing career sprouted. Even though she’ll always struggle with reading, writing brings her great joy and is what inspires her to get out of bed in the morning—when it would be so much easier to stay.

Image credit LaRae Parry

Image credit LaRae Parry

Read Reviews & Buy “Life Support Dang Near Killed Me”


Follow LaRae Parry:

Crazy Lady Advice Column (Blog)




Amazon Author Page

Humor Book Press Release

Book Review: Dream Warriors (D. Robert Pease)




As an Egyptology fan since childhood and an eternal Piscean dreamer, Dream Warriors thrilled me to my bones! A field trip to an Egyptian exhibit at the Met, combined with a forced tour of a New York City sewer, open 15-year-old Joey Cola’s eyes to a world beyond his upcoming entry to MIT. His dreams of making a difference increasingly turn into a full-time job of saving the world. Along the way, Joey picks up a few new skills and learns some fascinating, fun and difficult truths. He is forced to re-examine everything he believes about identity, relationships, trust, reality and dreams.

In this colorful, urban fantasy YA novel, D. Robert Pease breathes new life into the immortal words of Walt Disney, “If you dream it, you can achieve it.” If you like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Mummy and DERELICT, you’ll love Dream Warriors.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book for editorial review purposes. The opinions above are my own.

Read More Reviews & Buy Dream Warriors:



Evolved Publishing


Belinda Y. Hughes is a cookbook author, blogger, freelance content writer, poet and artist. She enjoys gardening, cooking and meditating in the country with her labradachs and wildlife friends. Having given up clocks and watches, she now relies on an alarm cardinal and the sun.



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Bringing Food to Life (Writing in the Modern Age)


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Guest Post: About the Shaping of an ‘Angry’ Black Woman (Tamara Woods)


Image credit Tamara Woods

Image credit Tamara Woods


Today’s guest blogger is Tamara Woods, poet, proud hillbilly in Hawaii and so much more. She generously hosted me on her blog, PenPaperPad, some time ago and I’m excited to share her with you today. Please remember to show her some follow love and be sure to check out her newly released, first book of poetry, The Shaping of an Angry Black Woman. Aloha, T! – byh


Thank you so much Belinda for allowing me to chat with your readers. I’m so excited to share my work with a new audience.

Hello my name is Tamara, and I’m your resident poet for the moment. Please bring your own beverage, have a seat and let me talk to you a little about what being a poet means to me and a little bit about my new collection of poetry, “The Shaping of an ‘Angry’ Black Woman.”

In my head being vulnerable ranks right up there with death, speaking in front of groups of people and finding one of those huge tropic cockroaches in my bed. To share your inner thoughts with the world for possible judging judgertons to well…judge…horrifying.

Sure, I have a vlog and now two blogs, but I’m an incredibly private person. I don’t talk a lot about my past- my personal history, except through poetry. Actually, I don’t really talk a lot about my life period. I’m slow to open up. I keep people at a distance until I feel comfortable to let them in…a little.

I find with my poems, I can’t help it. That’s how you learn who I am the most. My emotions and thoughts just won’t keep to themselves. I suppose everyone needs an outlet, and poetry is mine.

Sometimes there’s thoughts that linger with you for years. Words that you scribble within the full flush of heated emotion, editing in the calm of the next day. Sometimes, you observe life’s patterns and as you chat with people, you realize you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who sees things this way. And maybe other people see it too. So, you scribble it down, too.

This collection is a bit of that and more. I write first as a person, then as a woman and then as a black woman. That’s how I see myself. I’ve noticed with others, my race seems to supersede all other aspects of myself. I needed this conversation to be larger than that. I discuss love, jealousy, domestic violence, writer’s block as well as race issues. I wanted to write about things that were both personal and observational. My experience and any woman’s combined, which is what lead to the cover of the book.

Let me tell you a little about how I came to the name, “The Shaping of an “Angry” Black Woman.”

I wanted a chance to talk about myself and give an idea of who I am as a person and as a writer. To allow people a bit more access to me and to share. Even though it’s scary, sometimes it’s necessary. I’m going to share one of my poems with you.

Here’s one of my favorite poems from the book. I decided a few years ago to stop putting relaxers in my hair. I had been putting home kits in my hair since I was 12, and my hair was starting to show the wear and tear. It was breaking off, didn’t have a luster or shine to it. To put it bluntly, it looked like shit. I decided I needed a change, and stopped with all the processing. I noticed people’s reactions to it, and then I started noticing how other black women treat each other about hair, and how society judges hair choices period. And so this poem was born.

Rhonda Lee, the meteorologist I referred to, fired for cutting off her hair, was just hired recently. She was fired in 2012. That is an incredibly interesting story in itself.

I find myself going back to spoken word often, which that poem was an example. There’s an inherent freedom in having no real form, but still trying to make it sound lyrical. Putting things in perspective using voice and body, as well as word choice and rhythm. Many of the poems in The Shaping of an Angry Black Woman are spoken word poets, and others are just poems.

Do any of you write poetry or like to read/watch poetry? Who are your favorite poets? Maybe there’s someone who’s new to me on your list. Thank you again for having me, Belinda, and it’s nice to meet you all.

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Image credit Tamara Woods

Image credit Tamara Woods


Tamara Woods was raised (fairly happily) in West Virginia, where she began writing poetry at the age of 12. Her first poetry collection is available at Sakura Publishing and at Amazon.  She has previous experience as a newspaper journalist, an event organizer, volunteer with AmeriCorps and VISTA, in addition to work with people with disabilities. She has used her writing background to capture emotions and moments in time for anthologies such as Empirical Magazine, her blog, PenPaperPad, and writing articles as a full-time freelance writer for places like LeftyPop. She is a hillbilly hermit in Honolulu living with her Mathmagician.

Blog Review: Roads Less Traveled (Emily and Mark Fagan)


Image credit Emily & Mark Fagan

Image credit Emily & Mark Fagan

This is the debut post in a new topic series: blog reviews. Between networking and web research, I’ve come across many blogs, some good, some not so much and some that really strike a chord with me. Bloggers have varying degrees of experience, training, expertise, level of commitment and reasons for blogging. Emily and Mark Fagan’s blog, Roads Less Traveled, is among my favorites.

I first discovered Roads Less Traveled when Emily shared a post on G+. What made me click the link? The high quality photo, full-time rving theme and fun, yet direct tone. Full-time rving and sailing around the world is one of those things generations of us have longed for, thinking of it as mostly a retirement activity. Today, at least three generations, from Boomers to Millenials, are making it their reality – and at every point on the budget, footage and experience spectrum. Emily and Mark decided to just do it and their blog conveys that adventurous spirit.

Once you get to the blog, you’ll notice the clean, well-organized, easy to follow layout. They’ve developed mad photography skills and, coupled with their writing, it makes you feel as if you’re right there in the middle of each experience with them. Some of their work has been published in major RV and travel magazines, and the Fagans share those links, as well as the blogs of friends on certain important topics, like composting toilets. They post regularly and respond to comments in a timely manner. There are ads and a gear store, but they’re absolutely relevant and useful, and give you an opportunity to support indie authors.

When I asked Emily about getting started on the full-time boondocking rving lifestyle, she promptly replied with a link to their page on that subject, featuring all the resources a newbie needs. Is it any wonder I’ve subscribed for email updates and regularly share their posts throughout my social media network? Some of my favorite posts include the RV/MH Hall of Fame, How Big an RV Do You Need, and Smoked Out by a Wildfire.

Give Roads Less Traveled a look-see. Be sure to explore their books and CDs on full-time rving and sailing, as well as that Gear Store I mentioned earlier. Every second there is well spent.

DISCLOSURE: This review was neither solicited nor compensated. I just plain love this blog and wanted to do something different.

Belinda Y. Hughes is a cookbook author, food, writing, editing and social media blogger, freelance content writer and poet. She enjoys cooking, gardening and meditating in the country with her labradachs.



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Book Review: Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever (R.J. Minnick)


Country music, love, jealousy, secrets, gambling and drugs weave a tangled, murderous web. Diminutive Dr. Mackenzie Wilder and her sweetheart, Detective Lt. Bryan Jamison, are back and hot on the trail. Someone’s killing the family and friends of country music star Tory McCloud, and framing her and her brand-new husband Jason Fields for the crimes. Can they catch the killer before something bad happens to Tory? And who the heck is joyriding in Mackie’s beloved antique wooden boats? Follow the trail from Nashville to rural upstate New York, Charlotte and Las Vegas in this gripping whodunit. Oh, you’re also invited to the quickie Vegas wedding and the Hallowe’en party back at Mackie’s place, so be sure to pack accordingly before you open the book.

In this second book of the Mackenzie Wilder Classic Boat series, the author alternates narration between Tory and Mackie in certain chapters. The complexity of the alternating narrative and the similar naming of the brother-sister country music duo lead to a few slips. In the last line of the Chapter 16 news story, for instance, the State Police are investigating the murder of the surviving sibling Tory, not the late Tyler. In Chapter 4, where Mackenzie is the narrator, there is an abrupt switch to Tory’s storytelling (using .pdf page numbers, it’s p. 25, para 7 in my editorial copy) for two sentences. There are also a few grammar items, like missing opening quotation marks, spaces between words and commas, but only a light sprinkling. The plot, characters, settings and development are all rock solid. I can’t help having read it three times now, and I’ll probably be back for more.

As stated in my previous review of Where the Bodies Lie Buried, I feel the cover art could be improved by substituting the chapter heading classic boat art for the photograph currently in place in the series header. Also, while the posters certainly pertain to the character’s passion for classic wooden boats, in thumbnails they don’t come across well. I can’t make out the words and art in the body unless I blow it up. However, the cowboy hat, guitar and treble clef are just enough to indicate the unique theme of this book. The ideas are good, they just need professional help. A crowdfunding campaign could take care of that and move these books to head and shoulders above the rest, where they rightfully belong.

I’m chompin’ at the bit for book three! C’mon, now…


UPDATE 7.9.2014: I’ve just been informed by the author that a) the first draft of book three is completed and b) new copies of books one and two are forthcoming, complete with proofreading and professional cover art. It may be a little while, but they are coming.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary editorial review copy. My opinions are my own.


Buy Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever at Smashwords

Book Review: Tiago and the Masterless (Charles Barouch)



If you like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, War Games, 2001: Space Odyssey and Star Trek, you’ll enjoy this sci-fi comedy by Charles Barouch. Tiago has stolen a starship and managed to evade his pursuers for months, but at a price. Not only is all remaining onboard food vegan, there’s also no human companionship. However, improving his quality of life has its price, too. Tiago must re-learn relationship skills in order to deal with the increasingly complex thoughts and feelings of the digital simulation he modeled after an ex-girlfriend. In addition, he faces faulty logic from hostile alien sims.

I particularly enjoyed the developing male-female relationship dynamics in this book, as well as the space exploration storytelling and human-computer comedy dialogue. Ship design-centric Trekkies and world-building authors will appreciate the schematics for the massive Interrogative. Being more of an intuitive, I looked at it, but didn’t find it necessary to understand the story, more like bonus material.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book for editorial review purposes. My opinions are my own.

Buy Tiago and the Masterless: Book 1 on Amazon Kindle

yellow ribbon by Belinda Hughes


Checkout my first senryu, a guest blog at unknown poetry. #senryu #poetry

D. W. Metz

growing closer still
the path from food to self
is a yellow ribbon

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover
2, a vegetarian cookbook with vegan options. If you like to cook, visit Café
Belinda. If you like to read or write, check out her WordPress blog. This is
the first time she’s committed senryu in public.

View original post

Health Writing Markets


Image credit Ron Sombilon

Image credit Ron Sombilon

Calling all health nuts:

  • yoga, meditation and martial arts enthusiasts
  • runners, walkers, hikers and bikers
  • vitamin, herb tea, smoothie and juice lovers
  • health, fitness and food bloggers & Twitterchat/HOA hosts
  • nutritionists, fitness instructors, midwives, nurses and massage therapists
  • home cooks who serve only well balanced meals
  • cookbook authors, organic gardeners and water drinkers
  • preppers who plan, can, dehydrate and freeze
  • vegetarians going vegan or considering it
  • parents of vegetarian progeny
  • fur parents who cook for four-legged kids


If you one or more of the above labels describe you, get ready to write! Whether you’re an experienced blogger, author, journalist or haven’t the faintest clue where to begin, there’s a health magazine looking for the contents of your brain.


The six publications listed below serve a variety of audiences, from childhood to retirees. With a wide variety of health concerns touching each stage of life, these editors need high quality, original content, namely the benefit of your experience. Whatever your walk of life has been or your latest discovery, there’s something you have to share with their readers.


Beginners, I’ve included a key to help you decipher abbreviations and terms commonly used in writers’ guidelines. As for experienced professionals, only paying markets made the list. So go forth, click and get more details, then write what you know and let your bank account grow!


DISCLOSURE: I certify that I did not copy these travel writing markets from any other articles, lists, blog posts or directories. They are the direct result of a Google search for “health magazine guidelines payment.” All information in the notes below is directly from each magazine’s official website.


Abbreviations and Terms Key:


Clips: physical tear sheets or electronic links to previously published material by a submitting author, with bylines if possible

Esubs: email submissions

Lead Time: preferred period of time to receive work prior to desired publication (re issues or manuscripts tied to themes, seasons and events)

Mss: manuscripts, the written work being submitted

PP: previously published

Query: sent prior to manuscript, usually a cover letter with a concept outline and clips of previously published works

Response time: usual period of time to hear back from editors

Simsubs: simultaneous submission (to multiple venues)

Snail mail: U.S. Postal Service or similar

Unsolicited: submissions sent w/o query or editorial request


Rights: publication rights

First rights: the work may be resold after publication

All rights: the work may not be resold after publication

Electronic rights: the right to publish the work via email or web

Archival rights: the right to store the work perpetually, usually on the web

Web rights: the right to publish the work anywhere on the web, archival rights may or may not be included




Vibrant Life

Payment: $100-300 upon acceptance

Rights: first world serial, reprint and electronic



U.S. Kids

Payment: $25-70+ upon publication

Rights: all rights, incl. web

Submissions: no queries exc. nonfiction for Jack & Jill; snail mail preferred; sim subs ok with notification



Eating Well

Pay rate: up to $1/wd.

Rights: all rights, incl. web

Lead time: 3 to 6 mos.


Narrative Magazine

Payment: $25-1,000; $4k annual Narrative Prize

Submissions: via site submission system only, no snail mail or email; sim subs ok; unsolicited mss. incur nominal submission fee, split between admin costs and annual prize

Response Time: 4-12 wks.


Georgia Family

Payment: $20-80 plus tear sheet within 30 days of publication

Rights: first rights

Submissions: esubs only
MOAA (Military Officers Association of America

Payment: .80/wd. (1k-2k wds.) upon acceptance

Rights: first rights, incl. web and reprint

Submissions: esub and snail mail accepted; query first, no unsolicited mss.

Response time: 3 mos.


byh profile pic

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, a vegetarian cookbook, available on Kindle. Her food blog, Cafe Belinda, serves up dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, Kosher, vegetarian and vegan recipes, giveaways and lifestyle tips with a vegan slant. Her writing blog features author interviews, book reviews, guest posts and writing markets. She welcomes opportunities and inquiries from other bloggers, ink slingers and SM (social media, get your mind out of the gutter!) practitioners. If you follow her everywhere (on social media), she will not call the police.



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Author Interview: L.J. Cohen (DERELICT)




Turning to the observation port, Ro stared out at the craggy surface of the asteroid the station called home. Sunlight glared off the pitted surface of the derelict transport ship that had crashed here decades before Daedalus had been built. A field of solar panels glinted in the harsh light outside. This side of the structure always faced its star, the other side showed the night sky. She, too, was trapped in a synchronous orbit on Daedalus, always subject to her father’s gravity.

He’d moved them to Daedalus Station three years ago, only telling her he had voided his previous contract moments before dragging her onto the transport. Two years before that, he cut off her access to the Hub’s Virtual School, insisting she had everything she needed and refusing to “waste” any more money on it. He’d yanked her from anything she had gotten comfortable with over the course of too many years and too many postings to count.

“Hey, Ro!”

She looked over her shoulder and shot the doctor’s younger son a polite and not-in-the-mood-to-talk look. “Jem, Barre, Doctor Durbin.”

Jem would hit escape velocity as soon as his test scores got transmitted off station. All the best Unis in the Hub, maybe even the ones on Earth, would be tripping over themselves for him.

He smiled up at her, teeth very white against dark skin, his brown eyes puppy-dog eager. “Didn’t you see my message? I ran into a problem with the program I’m working on. Can I come by later and show you?”

Ro shrugged and didn’t miss the frown that pursed the doctor’s lips. The daughter of the station’s engineer didn’t reach anywhere near the Durbins’ professional league. Everything about Leta Durbin came off as severe and elegant, from her sharp cheekbones to her close cropped tight black curls to the tailored bronze jumpsuit that brought out the highlights in her smooth, brown skin.

“Come on, Ro,” Jem pleaded. “You’re better at debugging than me, and you know it.”

She glanced at Dr. Durbin and turned back to the slim boy. “I’ll see if I have time later this week.” He beamed up at her. She smirked as Dr. Durbin’s frown deepened.

A syncopated tapping filled the silent nexus. Ro turned toward the noise. Jem’s older brother Barre stared out the viewport, his gaze unfocused, his foot beating against the floor, his head bobbing to a rhythm no one else could hear. She and Barre were the same age, but Ro didn’t think they’d ever said more than a few words to one another.

The two brothers had the same dark eyes, sculpted cheekbones and defined nose, courtesy of their mother. Barre had the woman’s dark skin tone and hair, but sported dreads that hung past his shoulders. His unruly hair must have driven her mad. Jem kept his hair short and tight like his mother’s, but his father’s Afrikaner heritage gave the boy lighter skin and softer curls.

Dr. Durbin scowled at Barre. “Turn it off. Now.”

Sighing, he shifted until he looked directly at Ro. She started before realizing he wasn’t actually focusing on her but on a spot hanging in the air between them. His gaze shifted up and to the right before he blinked twice with deliberate slowness. Son of a bitch had a neural interface. They were pretty sweet and, if she could even hope for a chance at one, she would use it for a lot more than listening to music.

“Coming to dinner?” Jem asked. “We could go over my design, now.”

“Sorry. Busy.” Ever since Ro had made the mistake of answering one of Jem’s endless questions about coding on the ed-list, he’d pestered her with more and more complex problems. Encouraging him only led to more questions. Despite herself, she grinned, convinced if he stayed on Daedalus long enough, he’d come up with one she couldn’t answer.

The Durbins headed to the opposite airlock into the core and the communal dining room most of the transient staff preferred.

Alone again in the nexus, Ro stared out the viewport, seeing past the rocky ground covered with tilted solar panels and the pre-fab domes of the station’s segments connected by lengths of shiny corridors. She imagined the field of stars beyond the asteroid and all the inhabited places she could reach if only she had her freedom.

Anywhere would be better than here. Anywhere she could escape her father would do. It didn’t have to be Earth. Maybe she could hopscotch her way closer to the Hub. Ro stared out across the star field. There had to be jobs for someone like her.


 Today’s guest is Boston-based bestselling author L.J. Cohen, here to discuss her space opera/space exploration novel, DERELICT, released June 2, 2014. Lisa is another member of my G+ writing family. She recently celebrated the 1,000th post on her blog. Soon afterwards, DERELICT sold over 1,400 copies in four days on Amazon. Check out Lisa’s official site hereIf you’re planning to be in the Boston area July 10-13, 2014, you can meetup with Lisa and get signed copies of DERELICT, FUTURE TENSE and THE BETWEEN at ReaderCon. Welcome, Lisa.


What was your inspiration for this bestselling space exploration/space opera?

All my stories begin with my version of the old board game, Clue, but instead of Miss Scarlet in the drawing room with a candlestick, it’s a character in a world with a problem. For DERELICT, it was Rosalen (Ro) Maldonado, a brilliant and isolated teen computer coder/hacker, stuck on a space station, needing to escape her abusive and controlling father.

Once I had that core idea, the story emerged as I asked myself a series of who/what/when/where/why questions.


How did you choose the period and location settings?

I’ve always loved the potential of science fiction and a spacefaring future. Deep in my story ideas file, I had an old idea of an ensemble piece with the tensions between the children of diplomats and the children of station staff on a deep space platform. Some of that conflict – a town/gown split – informed DERELICT.


What gave rise to the characters? 

One character does not make a story and I knew I needed to surround Ro with people to work with/bounce off of. I’ve been a fan of Firefly and  Farscape, so the idea of having a mismatched crew was really appealing.



Other than a few night-shift staff heading to their quarters, the corridors were empty this early in the morning. The computer lab was empty, too, except for the AI’s blinking red oculars. Barre logged into his syllabus, swallowing the resentment he always felt when he asked his little brother for help.

He remembered a time when Jem turned to him with questions. It hadn’t lasted very long. Once Jem mastered the computer interface, he quickly pulled past him and never looked back.

Barre called up the module he struggled with and turned down the music. Conceptual math didn’t get any easier with a soundtrack and Jem would be ticked if he thought Barre wasn’t paying attention. He could compose complex pieces in his head for a fully tricked-out band even without the neural. If you needed it rewritten for an old-school orchestra, he could do that, no problem. Transposing was as simple for him as theoretical physics seemed to be for Jem.

But his parents only had room for Jem’s talents in their lives. The first time Barre had played something he wrote just for them, they nodded politely and couldn’t be bothered to listen to the entire song.

“Focus, Barre.”

He sighed. “Sorry.”

Jem tapped the monitor. “Is this what you’re having trouble with?”

For the moment, he couldn’t find a sarcastic reply.

“Okay. Watch.” Jem pushed away the ancient keyboard in favor of the holo display. Watching him use the heads-up module was like watching Judicious Monkey play the multi-synth. His hands moved in a blur and the equation danced in front of them. “Look here,” Jem said, and exploded the view, showing the problem in three dimensions.

Barre stared, his mouth falling open as Jem built a representative construct, each piece linking to a part of the problem. Then he simplified the building, collapsing multiple layers of structure into a simple cube.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Barre said.

“What do you mean? If you do it this way, you’ll always get the right answer in the fewest steps.”

There was no way he could ever replicate what Jem had just done. “I swear Mom and Dad bought you from Dynamic Machines and had you programmed by an evil genius.”

“But Barre, it’s simple. Just look—”

He cut his brother off before he could wipe the display clean and start again. “Wait. Listen.” He linked his neural to the computer and played a few bars of the piece he’d been working on last night. “Now score it for twelve voices. And use a microtonal scale.”

Jem stared at him open mouthed as the simple melody line played over and over. Part of Barre’s mind had already started to create a counterpoint and a rhythm track.

“I can’t. You know I can’t.”

Barre thrust his arm in the middle of Jem’s display and sent fragments of equations flying around the room before the computer extinguished them. “But it’s easy. Simple even. Since I can do it.” He pulled up a reproduction of old-fashioned staff paper and with a few economical gestures, wrote the melody line out. “There, easier now?”

Jem glared at him, the anger in his expression a smaller reproduction of their mother’s face.

“Never mind.” Barre wiped his music away with an open-handed gesture and flicked off the playback. The room fell silent. “I need some space.” He left Jem to the work he’d rather be doing anyway and stormed off into the corridors of Daedalus Station, trying to look like he had some specific destination in mind.



 LJC graduation


Lisa, when did you begin writing? 

I was the kid who always got in trouble for daydreaming in school because I was telling stories in my head. I was the kid who turned her vocabulary list sentences into short stories and read through the entire children’s collection at the library by the time I turned ten. I’ve kept a journal since I was eight or nine years old. There isn’t a time in my memory where I wasn’t reading and writing.

However, most of that writing was poetry and short stories. I didn’t start my first novel until the summer between high school and college. I wasn’t able to actually complete a novel until decades later, and that novel is still ‘trunked’ on my hard drive.


How do you juggle your outside job, home and family with your writing life? You recently had a houseful of visiting family and a graduation at the same time DERELICT shot through the roof. 

It’s easier now that my sons are 18 and 20. When I first started writing as more than a hobby, they were 8 and 10, and I had a 20-30 hour a week physical therapy practice. That’s when I set myself a goal of writing 1,000 words a day, for an average of 5,000 words a week. That amount of writing (2-3 pages a day) was doable, especially in the short increments of time I could carve between work and home, during lunch, and while my kids were doing homework.

Now that the boys are grown and the youngest is college-bound, it’s both easier to find the time to write, and harder to write without giving in to endless distractions. Sometimes knowing you have time is a kind of trap. In some ways, I was more productive when I had less writing time.

Because I do have more time, I can organize my writing so that I can take time away from it for family occasions. And even in the midst of visitors and chaos, I can typically steal away to my computer for a little while.

It was quite an exciting time to have my in-laws visiting, and both kids home while DERELICT took off! Everyone wanted to watch the book’s ranking!


How do your dogs fit into your writing life?

Their job is to cock their heads as if in awe at the sound of my voice.


Do you have a dedicated time and place that you regularly set aside for your writing career? 

I do have a dedicated office with the world’s largest desk. (Well, maybe not the world’s, but the long, narrow rectangular room I use is the only room in the house it will fit in reasonably!) It’s lovely to have space that is mine and where the piles of papers, notebooks, and sticky notes will stay where I put them and not get confused with someone else’s things. However, I can write anywhere.


What is your writing space like and how do you settle into it when you’re ready?

My office is a small room off of our living room. It used to be the repository of kids’ toys and arts and crafts supplies. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have a door – there’s an open archway that leads directly into the living room. What’s lovely is that there are two walls of windows, so the room gets a lot of natural light. My only ‘ritual’ for writing is to turn off wireless on my laptop and either set a timer for 30 minutes, or find an instrumental album to play. My goal is to write until the music stops (a la musical chairs!) or the timer dings. Then I take a stretch break and/or give myself some social media time.


Do you favor a certain genre? 

In terms of reading, I read widely. SF, F, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Thrillers, Mysteries, you name it. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction, though I will read it when I’m doing research.

I love to write anything with a touch of magic or the fantastic.

LJC pets

Dustin and Tigger, Lisa’s rapt audience



“You’re growing bittergreen.”

“It grows fast and hybridizes easily. Unless I plan to dry it and sell it, I haven’t committed a crime.” It wasn’t the authorities he needed to worry about anyway. If they discovered a farm even as small as this one, they would just dust it with defoliant and move on. If the cartels found him, or even caught a rumor of what he was trying, Micah wouldn’t have to worry about his plants anymore. They’d execute him. Like father, like son, he thought, flashing Ro a grim smile.

“Get the hell out of here before I call Mendez.”

He couldn’t even muster the anger to snap back at her. What did it matter anymore? “Fine,” he said, turning his back on her and walking out of the display. “I don’t care what you’re doing. It doesn’t involve me. Besides, I’m getting off this rock in two weeks. You can have the space all to yourself.”

Ro didn’t respond, but he could feel her staring at him.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch someone die in pain?” The words slipped out before Micah realized he’d said them, but once he started, he couldn’t stop. Memories blasted through him like an ion storm.

“No,” Ro whispered.

“What would you do if you knew there was one thing that could make it better? But that thing is illegal and when you buy it, the men you buy it from happily take your money. Then they discover who you are. Who your father is. And they threaten to cut off your supply unless he works for them.” He squeezed his eyes shut, but the images of his father’s face when the cartel chief hand-delivered his son along with a fresh week’s dose of bittergreen for his dying wife would haunt him for a lifetime.

“I’m sorry.”

Micah refused to turn around even when he felt Ro standing close behind him.

“Call Mendez or don’t. I don’t care.” He gestured to the doomed plants, still happily growing under the more intense light. “This was my last shot to get back at the people who ruined my life.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you care?” he shot back. She didn’t answer and after a long moment of uncomfortable silence, he turned to face her. “Go back to your work,” he said. “I have to salvage what I can in the next two weeks.”

“And then what?” This time he didn’t hear any challenge in her voice.

“My father gets another chance to fuck up.” And Micah would be right there with him.

Ro met his gaze with her own and he struggled not to flinch or look away.

“My father’s been restoring this ship. I don’t know for how long. Or why. Or even how far he’s gotten, but he couldn’t get the AI to work. I stole his plans. I’m going to wake it up.” She continued to stare at him for several more minutes of silence before turning back to her work without another word.

“Wait,” he called out, his heart beating with a possibility he was afraid to look at too closely. “This thing can fly?”

Ro paused, her arms upraised. “Not yet. But it will.”

“And then what?” he asked, too softly for her to hear.



Space isn’t the only thing explored in DERELICT. Your teenage/young adult main character is the object of another young woman’s affection. Your cast is further diversified with the South African doctor and her family, as well as the main character’s love interest being Asian. Tell us more about your decisions to create a diverse book.

It was important to me to have an ensemble cast that mirrored the world in which we live, and I couldn’t imagine a space-faring future that would be less diverse than our planet-bound present. Having grown up on a healthy dose of Star Trek, what else could I believe?

It was interesting to me to turn some assumptions on their heads in having the station doctor be of South African descent, for example, with her sons (Jem and Barre Durbin) clearly described as Black. Representation is important, especially in stories about the future.

I didn’t pre-plan any of the characters to any great extent, with the exception of Ro. And her sexuality wasn’t one of the things I pre-planned. Her relationship with Nomi grew out of their interactions and the needs of the story.

My own sexuality is privileged in our society and I’m very conscious of that. My goal was to present a relationship that was utterly normative within the world of the story. It’s not a coming out story. It’s not a bullying narrative. It’s just a relationship. In 2014, that shouldn’t be subversive, but somehow it still seems to be.

I was concerned about writing about characters in a same-sex relationship initially for the same reason I struggled with writing any character who isn’t me. But if all I risked writing were incarnations of a 50-something white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, Jewish, suburban mother, I’d die of boredom long before I finished a single story.

So I stretched myself with this book, the way I hope I have stretched myself as a writer in each book. One of the things I take to novel writing from poetry is making the specific and the personal universal. I have strong memories of being a lonely teen, of wanting friends and love in my life, but not knowing how to open myself to it. That’s the universal. I hope I have succeeded in bringing that experience and those memories to Ro and Nomi.

The other worry was that I’d have parents sending me nasty-grams for hiding a “gay agenda” in a science fiction book, or some such. Although, on second thought, maybe it would be great for someone to try to ban this book. . . hmmm. Bring on the pitchforks!



Your main character Ro encounters numerous challenges, responsibilities, rewards and sacrifices. These contribute to her personal growth as an individual, a young adult, a woman and a leader. Where did all this empowerment content come from?

The main job of adolescence and young adulthood is to find one’s own voice and power. Far too much of our media is the media of submission and powerlessness, of passivity and of victimhood. We are conditioned from an early age to look outside ourselves for satisfaction and validation. How can that ever lead to empowerment? (Yikes – I should have put a soapbox warning on this!)

In all the talk about the ‘strong female character’ in fiction, there’s something missing. True choice. All characters – all people, really – need to be able to make authentic choices that yield tangible benefits in their lives. The ‘choice’ presented to so many female characters in love triangle tropes, for example, is a passive choice between (typically) belonging to one of two men. I utterly reject those kind of paths for my characters in the way I reject false choices in my life.

I also blame Meg Murry from Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I read that book as a pre-adolescent and I’ve often said I imprinted on it the way a baby duckling will imprint on the first thing it sees out of the shell. 🙂

 LJC pottery1


Who does your editing and cover art? 

When I made the choice to wear multiple hats – author AND publisher – it meant that I needed to make sure either I could perform all the tasks of a publisher or outsource those I could not.

As I can’t draw my way out of a box, that meant hiring cover artists. Jade Zivanovic, the artist for THE BETWEEN, was someone I had been in an on-line writing group with. She had started as an artist, moved to writing, then shifted back to focusing on her art. Chris Howard, the artist who created covers for FUTURE TENSE, DERELICT, and the PEN-ULTIMATE Anthology is also a skilled and talented writer, who I was fortunate enough to participate in a workshop with. I found an artist on Deviant Art whose work I fell in love with and contacted her to find out how to purchase the rights to one of her paintings to use as a cover for a short story collection.

In terms of editing, I’ve done different things with different books. I’ve worked with peer editing, I’ve bartered for editing, as well as hired developmental and copy editors, depending on what a project needed. RJ Blain is the developmental editor I’ve used, and I found her on Google+. Like any service, word of mouth and recommendations from someone you trust are the best sources of information.


How do the three of you function together to produce a bestseller? 

Communication, communication, and communication. 🙂 It’s important that everyone involved in the production of a book is working towards making the book the best it can be. It can be hard for the writer who is also the publisher to get the necessary distance from the work to have a wider perspective. Having the right members on your team can really help with this.


Do you have any favorite authors or fellow authors you look up to? 

I am a huge fan of Patricia McKillip’s writing. Her fantasy trilogy starting with THE RIDDLEMASTER OF HED is probably my favorite work of any author in the genre. Her prose is drop-dead beautiful, and the characters compelling and real.

Lynn Viehl is a mentor. I have loved her STARDOC books and read them over and over. She’s also a class act as a writer, and she’s the model I strive to emulate in learning how to be a true professional.


What are you working on at the moment? 

I was set to complete the sequel to THE BETWEEN (working title TIME AND TITHE) before DERELICT happened. I got distracted. 🙂 I have somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words to go in the story and will be finishing it over the next few weeks. I’m also chipping away at the series bible for DERELICT so I can draft the next book in its world without having to look up all the small details all the time.

 LJC Pottery2


Congratulations on your 1,000th blog post! How did you achieve that mile marker?

Lots of small goals and consistency. I’ve been blogging 2-3 times a week for 9 years, and the words do add up.


Why do you blog? 

Blogging was a natural extension of journaling. For me, it’s the equivalent of my ‘morning pages’ a few days a week. I love the public accountability aspect of it, as well as the interactivity. Though I probably break every rule on blogging as an author because I write about whatever I feel I want to in the moment. Like as not, that will be something related to pottery, poetry, food, dogs, or nerd stuff. I don’t tend to write a lot about my process, because I don’t think my potential readers really care much about that, and I blog because I enjoy the random aspect of writing what strikes me. If I had to stick to a proscribed number of topics, I’d have gotten bored of it long ago.


As part of your celebration, you gave away some lovely pottery you made with your own two hands. What did your readers have to say about that? 

I’m pretty active on Google+, and I probably talk more

about my pottery and food (two of my hobbies) than about my writing. My pottery pictures routinely get the most plusses and reshares of all my posts there. I love to work in the studio and people seem to really respond to me talking about what I make and how, so it was a natural fit to give away my pottery to celebrate. Besides, if I didn’t give it away, my shelves would collapse under the weight!

 LJC Pottery3

How long have you been creating ceramics? How does it relate to writing? Why don’t you sell any? 

I started working with clay when my now-18yo son was entering middle school. He had aged out of the kid classes, but wanted to continue with pottery and the only class he could take was an evening parent/teen workshop. So I was his partner. I had never really considered myself any kind of artist, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the work. Eventually, my son got busy with his true passion – music, but I never left the studio. It’s been six years of playing with clay.

What I love about the process of making pottery is how single-tasked it is, and how physical. Writing keeps me in my head. Pottery brings me into my body. It’s meditative. I know I need both to keep balanced and creative.

In terms of why I don’t typically sell my work, it is important for me to keep my ceramics as a hobby. One of the things I love about it is that I can be free to experiment and make mistakes, without worrying about someone’s commission, or having to have a shelf full of matching items to sell. I put enough pressure on myself in my writing; I didn’t want to see that happen with my hobby. While I do the (very) occasional commission, I vastly prefer to give the pottery away as gifts or do art trades. I have traded pieces for beautiful work – jewelry, blown glass, fiber art, paintings, and wooden spoons. I love surrounding myself with handmade art.



DERELICT recently had a sales surge of 1,400 copies in only four days at Amazon. Unlike many other successful authors, you consciously chose NOT to do a blog tour. Why did you skip the blog tours? What did you do instead? 

I’ve watched author friends of mine struggling with massive promotional campaigns for very little gain. Judging by the income generated by my first two books, I wasn’t willing to spend even relatively small amounts of income I didn’t have on promotion that would likely not pay for itself. And even when bloggers allow guest posts, there is a cost in terms of time. I did a large number of guest posts/interviews/giveaways/review copies for THE BETWEEN in 2012. It was months of work and didn’t lead to any measurable increase in sales. Admittedly, at the time it was my only published work, so perhaps with three books out, a blog tour would have been effective, but there was so much going on in my life and my family, that I knew I didn’t have the time and focus to work on one. 

Instead, I sent an issue of my occasional newsletter to its subscribers, asking them if they’d be willing to spread the word and if they were interested in DERELICT, if they would be willing to either purchase it or place it on their wish lists in its first week after publication. I shared the information about the book on Google+ as well. 

Behind the scenes, well before publication, I had sent messages to several writers I admire, asking for cover blurbs. These weren’t exactly ‘cold calls’, as I had some relationship with each of them, primarily through social media, before I reached out to them. In addition, I had read through Lindsay Buroker’s blog, that it was helpful to use strong keywords in the Amazon submission, so that they would place your book in several sub-categories. I used ‘space exploration’ and ‘space opera’ in DERELICT’s listing. I believe this turned out to be key in its success.

 LJC Pottery4

What passive factors, things you did not personally carry out, do you think contributed to DERELICT making the bestseller list? 

While I have my books on all the available platforms, far and away, Amazon is responsible for most of my sales. What allowed DERELICT to succeed and become a ‘hot new release’ on Amazon, was that those first few days after publication where my fans were buying the book, even modest sales (10-20 a day over 5 days) were enough to push the book up in the first page of sellers in a small category under Science Fiction (Space Exploration). Once a book is in the top 10 or top 5, other people buy it. Usually this wave of buyers is made up of people who are simply browsing and have no specific connection to you. Those sales are enough to add the book to the top sellers of a second sub-category. Then Amazon’s algorithms notice it.

When Amazon added DERELICT as a ‘hot new release’ in their newsletter to SF fan subscribers, sales rose dramatically and consistently for the next several weeks. On that first day of the listing, it sold over 550 copies. In one day!!! That was one of the most exciting days of my writing life. While sales have declined since then, the book is still selling in the 80-100 copies a day range, nearly 2 weeks later.


What book marketing techniques have you learned the hard way that you wish you’d known when you were just getting started? 

Nathan Lowell (SF author, G+ friend, and one of my blurb contributors) talks about how the best marketing is writing the next book. I’m not sure I would have sold so many copies of DERELICT had it been my only published work. I think readers are less willing to take a risk on a new author, and having several books in the marketplace helps let them know this is more than a hobby. So rather than focus on marketing plans and promotion, just write the next book.

So much of being an author is about luck and timing. The best thing to do as a writer is to position yourself to take advantage if and when lightning strikes. Lightning did strike with DERELICT. A lot of eyeballs saw the book – and its amazing cover! – through Amazon’s newsletter.

My job was to do everything in my power to make sure the story lived up to the promise of the art, the synopsis, and the cover blurbs.


Tell us about ReaderCon. It’s July 10-13, 2014 in Boston. 

There are two SF&F (Scifi and Fantasy) focused literary cons in the greater Boston area every year: Boskone in February, and ReaderCon in July. I’ve been going as a fan for several years. I was fortunate in that I pitched some panels at both cons a few years ago and both put me on the program.

I go to network, to see old friends, and to get energized about the genres and my writing.

This year, I’m participating in some fun panels, including one on issues we might face living in space. As a physical therapist, I’ve long been interested in disuse problems related to a reduced gravity environment, and I suspect that space medicine will bring its own unique issues.


What are some book marketing strategies you might try in the future? 

Honestly, I don’t know. It might be fun to have a sweepstakes for naming rights to a character or spaceship. I’d love to hear what your readers would be interested in. 

 LJCohen author pic


LJ Cohen is the writing persona of Lisa Janice Cohen, poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. Lisa lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa can be found working on the next novel, which often looks a lot like daydreaming.



(Re-shared by Belinda with permission from Ilyanna Kreske) When our mutual G+ friend Ilyanna Kreske took her family to their local ComicCon, her 12yo son, who was ten chapters into DERELICT, “was alternating ‘OH LOOK THERE’S…’ with walk-reading his book. DERELICT was good enough to compete with Star Wars, Star Trek, LoTR, Dr. Who, AND the entire Marvelverse at the same time. It’s that good.”


Thanks again for joining us, Lisa Cohen, to discuss your sci-fi bestseller, DERELICT. We look forward to seeing you again. 

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Book Review: Where the Bodies Lie Buried by R.J. Minnick



Fans of JoAnna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Mysteries with Recipes, Kasey Michaels’ Sunshine Girls Capers and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman will enjoy Where the Bodies Lie Buried by R.J. Minnick as much as I do.

Where the Bodies Lie Buried is the first book in the MacKenzie Wilder Classic Boat Mysteries. Mackenzie, Mackie to her truest friends, is easy to identify with. She was the smart girl with the frizzy hair with a broken home and no boyfriends back in school. Now, she’s a middle-aged childless widow who used her late husband’s life insurance to become a family doctor. Her dream is to go home to rural New York State and restore her parents’ farm, along with some classic wooden boats.

Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to restore a farm once it’s been designated a crime scene, with no resolution in sight. Skeletons, whether tucked away in a closet, a trunk, the medical examiner’s office, around the farm or all-too-human memories, have a way of complicating things. Particularly if your character of a dad, who’s presumed guilty of the 20yo crime, is no longer alive to defend himself. Add a divorced cop and a brilliant wealthy outsider competing for your attentions, as well as a baseball mom and her cousin blaming you for yet another party’s ancient crimes, and you’ve got Mackie’s welcome home. She could take the easy way out and just leave, but would you?

At first, I found the end of every fifth chapter to be a natural pause. However, from the end of Chapter 16 to the finish, it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The cover art could be a bit better, maybe a photo of an old farm house, barn and flowery fields with the burnt orange boat graphic used in the chapter headings centered above like a publishing imprint, all on a white background, possibly with a different font style and size. At the moment, the words on the cover seem to overwhelm it. There are a handful of punctuation and other minor typos that Word would have caught, and one repeated error that it would have missed (planning versus planing, regarding wood), but they don’t interfere with the quality of the story. I only noticed them as an English major does. Character development, setting and plot are as flawless as the shine on Mackie’s prized wooden boats. I’m looking forward to diving into the next book in the series, Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. The above opinions are my own.

UPDATE 7.9.2014: I’ve just been informed by the author that a) the first draft of book three is completed and b) new copies of books one and two are forthcoming, complete with proofreading and professional cover art. It may be a little while, but they are coming.

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Author Interview: Marie Lavender (Upon Your Honor)




Leaving had proven to be very difficult. Chloe had no allies in the house. All of the servants worked for Lamonte now, so she couldn’t enlist the help of any maids. Her own nursemaid, Veronica, had quickly become controlled by her fiancé after her father’s bout of pneumonia. He made it clear that it was better to be loyal to him than to Chloe. Therefore, when she began planning her escape, she did it alone. She had to wait until Veronica had gone to her own quarters and everyone else in the house was asleep as well. Of course, as she’d assumed, Lamonte would be preoccupied with his own pleasures and so he wouldn’t notice her leaving.

She gathered what she could and wrapped it in a makeshift sack that she slung over her shoulder on a pole. She had retrieved the items while observing the gardeners a few days before. That was also when she had discovered the extra men’s clothing lying about. They were clean and simple, but they would do. She hid everything under the bed so that a maid wouldn’t find them. She had left the house tonight and had taken one of the spare horses to the docks. Luckily, the boy who guarded the stable was asleep.

Chloe chose a ship called La Voyageur. It was large enough and it appeared to be a cargo ship of some kind, but she could not be sure. She figured she could hide easily enough among the shipments or pretend she was a sailor at least for a while until she could find a way off.

Now, on the ship, she tried to look busy or move out of the way of the sailors moving crates around. She ducked her head to avoid eye contact with any of the men. She feared that if enough attention was drawn to her, they would notice she was not who she claimed.

Chloe moved towards the back of the ship and went down the companionway below only to shrink back when a massive form came into view. His dark auburn hair was rakishly drawn in waves over his head and he had the darkest eyes she’d ever seen. Her heart raced, and her breath came in small gasps. Stunned, she tried to get control of herself, but she came to the realization that she wanted to drown in that gaze.


Today I’m interviewing Marie Lavender, about her new release, Upon Your Honor. We’re going to cruise back into the New York City and New Orleans of the late 1800s. Please be sure to check out Upon Your Return, another fine work in this historical romance series. Marie is a dear writing friend of mine from G+. She is also a prolific, best-selling and award-winning multi-genre author and blogger. I highly recommend subscribing to her writing blog and keeping up with her books, if you want to see how a professional author does her job, while carrying on a real life with a family and job outside the home. Welcome, Marie.



Please introduce us to your latest romance, Upon Your Honor. What inspired the concept for this particular book?

I guess you could say that one day the first scene of the first chapter came to me.  Chloe Waverly, in non-descript costume, goes aboard La Voyageur, the ship that was also mentioned in the previous book.  Suddenly, I knew that I wanted to write sequels to Upon Your Return.

How did you choose the period and location settings?   

I had to do some math to figure out what date I wanted it set in, a date that would coincide well with Chloe’s introduction into the series.  As for locations, I did some research to figure out possible routes the ship might take and I explored everything I could about the ports in that time period.

What gave rise to the characters? 

As aforementioned, Chloe’s character automatically came to me.  More of the facets of her personality and background came out as the book progressed.  I did have to explore Gabriel Hill, the hero, a little more.  He was introduced in the first book, as were other characters.  Some new characters came along in Upon Your Honor as well, and it was fun to create names for them and go into more detail about who they were.



She thought it was morning when she woke for the light streamed bright through the porthole, casting sunrays over the bed. She sighed and turned over only to squeal. Gabriel Hill was sitting beside her on the bed. “What are you doing? Are you mad?” For a moment, she was reminded of Lamonte and how he’d entered her bedchamber once or twice without permission. And she did not know this man. What if he was just as bad? Good Lord, he’d nearly seen her unclothed, hadn’t he? Of course, he had sworn it was platonic, but some men were prone to lying. Her heart raced erratically, and her cheeks grew warm under his steady gaze.

He chuckled. “No, chére. Just concerned about you.”

She took a deep breath. “Well, your concern could have knocked, you know.”

Gabriel laughed at her, amused for some reason. “Perhaps you’re right. It might be remiss of me, however, if you were lying here unconscious and no one knew.”

“And if I were not decent? How would you explain yourself?”

“The benefits would outweigh the consequences, of course.”

“Pardon me?”

His eyes narrowed. “Saving your life would be more important than your maiden’s sensibilities, I assure you.”

Chloe was miffed by his comments, but tried to calm down. He meant well, she supposed. “I am well enough. You may leave.”

He cocked his head, as if he didn’t think she had the authority to dismiss him. Well, she had usurped him. It was his cabin. But, it was hardly proper to allow him that kind of behavior.

“How can I be sure? Perhaps you are just saying that to be rid of me. Perhaps you are not well at all.”

She frowned. “I am not foolish either.”

“Did I say that? I am simply saying that you might be gravely injured, yet you wish to save me from the truth.”

“Don’t be daft. If I was truly unwell, you would know.” Was the temperature in the room warmer now? Perhaps she did have a fever after all.

“Would I? I’m not so sure, Chloe Waverly. You are a mysterious lady.”

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Marie, how long have you been writing now?

I’ve been writing for over twenty years.  I started when I was nine years old.

What is your writing space like and how do you settle into it when you’re ready?

I try to get as comfortable I can, but it is not out of the ordinary for someone to find me sprawled across my bed or hunched over a notebook when I’m sitting somewhere.  When the moment comes, when I am in the “zone”, there’s no stopping it.

Why do you favor the romance genre?

I love “love”!  There is something completely appealing to me about romance.  I love watching the characters fall in love in books and movies.  As a child, I was fairly obsessed with it.  Even my childhood fantasies included princesses being whisked away by knights.  I think it’s even better to find out that it’s not all pretend, that there are actually good men out there, though they are hard to find.  I found one of them, and he has been very inspiring to me.  I wrote love stories way before I met him, but truly loving a man has helped me to understand romance better.



How do you juggle your outside job, home and family with your writing life?

Good question.  It is very hard to do.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy.  I guess I just try to make time to get everything done.  If I know I can’t do a task right then because something else has taken priority, I write a note to myself as I reminder.  It is not out of ordinary for me to have post-its everywhere.  Also, if I am working on a writing project, I try to keep myself organized with major outlines or notes on what sections I need to work on next.  That tells me if I need to tackle research first or just start writing.  I do run three blogs, and I moderate different groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Would I like to write full-time?  Of course.  But, that’s not feasible right now so I just do what I can.  Sometimes tasks get put off until the next day, but as long as it’s not something with a deadline, you do what you have to do to get it all accomplished.  A virtual assistant would be nice though!  LOL.

Do you have a dedicated time and place that you regularly set aside for your writing career?

Two or three locations stick out to me.  I write in a journal before I go to bed, I compose on my computer or I write in a notebook while sitting on the couch.  The couch is a really dangerous place because my cats get curious and want to sit on my papers.  LOL.  As for time of day, anytime I can is good.  Some of my best writing comes at night as I’m settling in bed, however.  I have to write to get my mind to shut off sometimes.  I also love to write outdoors when I can.

Emma the Instigator and Cutie Pie

Emma the Instigator and Cutie Pie

How do your cats relate to your writing activities?  Help you access your Muse?

Their names are Emma, Smokey, and Katerina (or Kit Kat for short). I have written about cats occasionally in my stories, but as for how they relate, I would say that they like to keep me from writing by being dramatic or causing trouble.  Emma likes to start fights with the others to draw me away from what I’m doing.  Or, she will climb in my lap and act her cutest, which sometimes tears me away from writing.  If I am really in the writing zone, I will sit her on a pillow next to me so that she feels comfortable being close to me, but won’t distract me too much. 

Do they help paper come out of the printer?  Play with discarded crumpled pages?

You asked about the printer; that’s funny.  Yes, Emma will sit on the printer and mess with the buttons.  There have been many times where she forces a print or copy of something.  If paper comes out, it usually scares her and she runs away.  Yes, they love discarded pages.  I have one cat who likes to bat paper balls around.  She also lays across my desk and takes up the space so I can’t use it. She also enjoys knocking my speakers over.

Keep you company once the house is quiet?

If the house is quiet though, they are very comforting.  Actually, I would have to say that a cat is a great companion.  When you don’t feel well, they want to be near you to make you feel better.  It is very calming to have a pet.


Magick and Moonlight


Chloe was charmed further when Gabriel stopped her beneath a tree, bent to pluck a lavender flower and placed it into her rarely pinned up hair. “Thank you,” she murmured.

“How can anyone resist such a picture?” he said in accented English. There was a bright quality to his eyes that she wondered about, but he reached his hand out to her.

She took his offered hand. Her breath caught when he lifted her hand to his lips in the ancient gesture of respect. Even through the fine material of the glove, she could feel the brush of his lips over the surface of her hand. His eyes were trained on hers, and she could not look away. There was no denying the man had done it well. But, what was more compelling was the fact that his steady gaze made her want to press her lips to his. She briefly entertained it, despite the fact that it was so wrong of her. How much that would shock him. He was utterly proper most of the time. But, she sensed an untamed quality to Gabriel as well, that perhaps he was not driven by propriety always, that he might be compelled by something else at times.

She imagined leaning forward, raising her mouth in invitation, waiting for him to kiss her. Would he do that? She could not be sure. In her dreams he would lower his mouth to hers, move his lips moderately over hers until she opened to him. He would band his arm around her back to draw her closer, so close that she couldn’t remember who she was. There was only Gabriel.

Chloe leaned forward without meaning to, and Gabriel’s gaze dropped to her mouth. His eyes became very dark, and the rapid thud of her heart against her chest was unnerving. And it happened so swiftly she had no time to react. He drew her to him and set his lips to hers. On a confused breath, she opened her mouth. Their tongues danced gently. His kiss was so compelling and she blinked when he quickly drew away.

“Forgive me,” he whispered. “You did not ask.”

She opened her mouth to protest, then thought better of it. He had no idea how wanton her thoughts had been. Perhaps it was better not to voice it. She nodded. “No harm done. Shall we go to dinner?” she asked, noting that the park had grown a bit dark.

“Of course.” He led her back to the hansom cab, where he handed her in.





Who does your editing and cover art?  How did you find them?

With my self-published books, I did my own editing and cover art.  I purchased royalty-free images and gave credit to each photographer.  I used sites like Stock Xchng, Pixabay, Fotolia, MorgueFile, 123RF and others.  As for my traditional books, released through Solstice Publishing, the publisher hired editors and cover artists to handle the work.  Kayden McLeod did the cover art on Upon Your Return.  Select-o-Grafix did the cover for Magick & Moonlight.  Deborah Melanie was the cover artist for Upon Your Honor.  The editor for Upon Your Return was Shawna K. Williams; she also did the editing for the Discreet Gentleman series by Kris Tualla (I totally recommend that series if you love historical romance).  And my other editors were Cynthia Ley (for Magick & Moonlight) and Kathy Collier (for Upon Your Honor).  I also had numerous critique partners and beta readers for all three of those books; I found them on Yahoo! Groups, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Exactly how do you work with them to accomplish these optimum results?

In most cases, the results were achieved by suggestions.  With the manuscripts, the editors made suggestions and I corrected them.  If there were occasional typos, I fixed that.  If there was something that needed more description, I fixed that as well.  With the cover art, most of the covers came from a simple method.  I put out my initial thoughts of what I might like, the artist came up with something and I approved it based on what I knew the characters should look like or the theme I wanted to convey.

Do you have any favorite authors or fellow authors you look up to?

I have a lot of favorite authors:  Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward, P.C. Cast, Kerrelyn Sparks, Chloe Neill and Kris Tualla.  The list goes on.  As for anyone I look up to, I admire any writer out there who has made it through the tough publishing journey and come out a success.  Some such writers I have met on my journey, just to name a few, are Linda Lee Williams, Aubrey Brown and CJ Heck.

What are you presently working on?

Right now, I am working on a paranormal romance about a woman who stumbles into the world of vampires.  In the process of falling for one of them, she learns more about herself.


Mariepic2 - small


Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 18 other books. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She
has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress
than she can count on two hands. In college, she published two works in a
university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online
student journal. Marie has published nineteen books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her work and her life. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things


Please connect with Marie on your favorite social media channels. Thanks again for joining us, Marie Lavender, to discuss Upon Your Honor. We look forward to seeing you again when you get the chance.


Scifi Romance Spotlight: Blue Vision (Marie Lavender)


Had enough of current affairs? Run away on a romantic winter vacation with your brand-new book boyfriend of another color! One-click Blue Vision, the new scifi romance by Marie Lavender and step into the snowy woods of Montana – and the extraordinary eyes of Colin Fielding. You’re welcome.

Brooke Sanders just wants to get away from her life for awhile. A remote cabin in Montana fits the bill. She doesn’t expect to encounter a mysterious stranger with unusual blue eyes, or events that cannot be explained…


Colin Fielding is on a mission – scout a planet and return home to Endhivar. Simple really. What he doesn’t anticipate is that fate has a pretty twisted sense of humor. Suddenly, this human calls to him, every part of him, like the call of a true mate, and he can’t deny the connection as he gets closer to her.


Little do they know, someone is out to do them harm, as well as the world Brooke holds so dear. Can they stop what’s coming before it’s too late? Or will the universe lose a perfect gem?


Genre:  Science Fiction Romance

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Author Bio

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

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Cover Reveal: Gaga for the Geek (Belinda Y. Hughes)



I am pleased to reveal the cover for Gaga for the Geek, a lesbian romance. The cover artist is Marie Lavender of Ambrosia Innovations.


Back in June, I had the idea to do a geek romance and polled my readers. The title Gaga for the Geek was the winner. At the time, Marie was launching Ambrosia Innovations and offered to do the cover. Being a successful romance author herself, I knew she understood my needs, so I agreed to give her a try.


She sent me several stock images until we found two that worked. At every stage of the process, Marie was professional and customer service oriented. She listened carefully to my requests and did her best to fulfill them. Once we agreed on the couple images, she added the background and titles. The results speak for themselves.


And she surprised me with the red velvet stage drapes and spotlight effects, which I absolutely adore!


Click here to check out Marie Lavender’s gallery of gorgeous stock covers and learn more about her custom covers at Ambrosia Innovations.


So tell us in the comments below – what do you think of this cover?

Paranormal Romance Review: Magick and Moonlight (Marie Lavender)

If you liked Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, one-click Magick & Moonlight by Marie Lavender. Both Jessie and Ethan are hiding in small-town Oregon from something in the past. Can they resolve their mutual reservations about magick and learn to live – and love – again?

Small businesswoman Jessie was taught the ways of Wicca by her beloved late grandmother. While privately practicing the rituals of her faith in the forest, she is interrupted by a strange man. Is he worth the risk of her heart, her career and her life?

Ethan is a former cop laying low in a secluded cabin while seeking new direction in his life. Romance is the furthest thing from his mind when he chances upon a woman in the woods. Is their love real or is he simply spellbound?

View the Magick & Moonlight trailer: Click here.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“A spell?”  His eyes flew to the black cauldron.  He remembered the strange chanting he’d heard before.  “You’re practicing witchcraft?  That’s a new one.”

“Wicca, actually, is a religion based on the elements of nature.  It’s a way to harmonize with our environment.”

“Is that right?”


Unnerved again by her naked body as well as her suggestion, he shrugged out of his barn coat and approached her.  He draped it around her shoulders and buttoned it over her, aware that he might as well be caressing her, he was so close to her.  He realized that his coat was touching her luscious, naked body, her most secret spots.  The thought made him clench his fists.  “Can I give you a ride back home?  My truck is nearby.”

A long silence fell.  Her gaze on his, it seemed to take her awhile to decide if she could trust him.  “All right.” She dropped the knife she held.

Inwardly relieved, he sighed.  “We need to put the

fire out,” he pointed out.

He took a stick and nudged the cauldron enough so that it spilled its contents onto the fire.  A puff of smoke filled the air, causing them both to cough at the whiff of herbs and something else that smelled burnt.  He began to doubt if she was really a witch after all.  It was likely she was dabbling in the arts because she was bored.  When she gasped, he turned, alarmed.  “What is it?”

She pointed to the mess he’d created with the broth and the campfire.  “I wouldn’t have done that if I were you.”

“Oh?  Why not?”

She opened her mouth as if to explain, then suddenly closed it.  “Never mind.”

“Fine, then.  Let’s get out of here.”  With a hand against the small of her back, he nudged her gently toward the path he’d taken to find her campfire.  “So, how long have you been dabbling in—”

“In what?  Magick?”

He wondered if her contrariness was borne out of the urge to make him more uncomfortable about the subject than he already was.  “Yes.”

“All of my life.”

He raised his eyebrows.  This woman was getting more interesting by the moment.  And for all he knew, she might be crazy.  “I see.”

“I doubt it.”

Not only was she sexy as hell, she was feisty.  He fought down the response of his libido to that deadly combination.  Perhaps she was a witch.  She would be nearly impossible to forget now that he’d met her.  “Maybe you could tell me your name?”

“You can call me Jessie.”

He grinned.  At least now he could put a name with a face.  Or a body.  “Well, nice to meet you, Jessie.  I’m Ethan Hamilton.”

“Good to meet you too.  What are you doing out here though?”

“I have a cabin not too far from here.  I was by the shore when I saw the light from the campfire.”

“Oh.  Sorry for disturbing your peace.”

“Believe me.  It was no bother.”  At least not if he didn’t want to sleep tonight.  His body was as hard as a rock, clenched in anticipation of what he could share with this woman if she let him.  And that wasn’t likely, considering her reception of him.  “We’ll reach the truck soon, I promise.  You’ll be home in no time.”


“No problem.”  He cleared his throat.  “Is there a reason I found you naked out there?  I mean, you lost your clothes somehow, right?”

The secret smile she gave him made his throat feel dry.  “Do you want me to lie?”

“Of course not.”

“The ritual was best practiced in the nude.  Skyclad rituals are very common, you know.  The Goddess tells us, ‘You shall be free from all slavery, and as a sign that you be truly free, you shall be naked in your rights.’”

He lifted a brow.  “Even if that were the case, you didn’t walk there naked, did you?”

“Didn’t I?”

Maybe she was crazy after all.

“I didn’t walk at all.”

He thought she might be saying that she was transported by magic.  Yep, she was batty as hell.  He was so not touching that one.  He cleared his throat again.

A sharp cry startled him and instinctively, he reached forward and grabbed her when she started to fall. Unfortunately, she ended up right in his arms.

Or maybe it was fortunate after all.  With her luscious lips so close, he could almost taste her.  And her scent…dear God, she was intoxicating, like a mixture of night air and jasmine.  “You all right?” he managed.

She nodded.  “My foot caught on a rock, I think.”

“Is it bleeding?”

“My foot or the rock?”  Her cheek dimpled.

He laughed.  “Your foot, of course.”

“No, I don’t think so.  It’s all right.”

“Good.”  He realized his mistake immediately.  Some strange instinct caused him to keep her close.  Stepping back would be a crime and she was seductive.  Knowing she was naked underneath his coat didn’t help anything.  She was way too accessible.  Heedless of the costs, he plunged a hand into the soft waves of her dark hair and lowered his mouth to hers.

She tasted like wine, potent and sweet.  He explored her mouth slowly, allowing her the chance to pull away or slap him.  He knew he’d deserve it.  He’d never stolen a kiss before, and he couldn’t think why he’d done it now.  But, she tasted delicious.  And her body felt so good against his.  He groaned and drew her closer.  When she moaned in return, he kissed her deeply and moved a hand down her back.  His hands wanted to roam further, but he held himself in check.  If he was a real gentleman, he’d pull away now.  Reluctantly, he did.

He drew back and tried to get his libido back under control.  “Ah…sorry.  I wasn’t thinking.”  He swept a hand through his hair.

He thought she looked just as shaken.  But she smiled a little.  “It’s okay.  No harm done, right?”

This is my first read of Magick & Moonlight. It’s the third book I’ve read by Marie Lavender, the others being Second Chance Heart and Blue Vision, which I also enjoyed. Lavender takes a hapless couple in a rural setting, stirs in some well-researched and rich details and sprinkles them with her gifts for romance, storytelling and language. The result is a delicious love story that will leave you satisfied, yet coming back for more of Marie Lavender’s works.

Buy Magick & Moonlight by Marie Lavender at Amazon or Solstice:

Universal Amazon:


Reviewer Bio

Belinda Y. Hughes is an author, blogger, editor, proofreader, reviewer and unit study developer. Her vegetarian cookbook, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, and lesbian romance, Blues in the Night, are available on Amazon. Her latest project, Unit Study: DERELICT by LJ Cohen, is available at Apple (iBooks), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Inktera and Kobo.

DISCLOSURE: I paid for this book out of my own pocket.

Book Review: She’s Got Dibs (AJ Nuest)



If you savored every moment of Sex and the City and the Wedding Planner, be sure you one-click She’s Got Dibs. Can men and women be just friends? Does love always end in heartache? Or — dare we even think it? — can two broken hearts mend one another and find their happily ever after in each other’s arms? These are the questions author AJ Nuest seeks to answer in this contemporary billionaire romance novel.


Tessa is an event planning entrepreneur in the Windy City, protecting herself from the heartbreak of the farce called love via one-night stands filtered through five categories she invented out of necessity. After the biggest presentation of her career, a fateful blizzard traps her in New York City. With no luggage beyond her briefcase and purse, she joins forces with the guy in the next chair at the airport to snag everything from hotel rooms to seats for dinner at the hotel bar. From the moment he catches her eye, her well-laid plans are doomed.


Dibs is a Chicago-based, hands-on international philanthropist – and the hottest, most eligible bachelor in America. He can’t move a muscle in major U.S. cities and the usual getaway spots without being recognized by the public – and harassed by his family, who prefer to mix high-end corporate mergers with matrimony. Dibs is like Diogenes, looking for an honest, real woman to share true love with, money and mergers be damned – and look, there she is in the next chair! Now, if he can just convince the apple of his eye to let him into her world.


“Dibs.” He extended his hand.

Frowning, she accepted his greeting. “Dibs on what?

“No.” He chuckled. “That’s my name. Or well, actually, my nickname. Either way, it’s what everyone calls me.”

“O-o-okay…” The guy definitely had the smolder covered…and those incredible ice-blue eyes. Yikes!

“And you are?”

“Oh, Tessa Adams.” She laughed.

“And everyone calls you…?”

Her frown returned. “Tessa.”

“Oh.” He scanned her face. “No nickname, huh?”

“Not that I recall at the moment.”

He pressed his full lips together as if restraining a smile, eyes twinkling with merriment, and handed her the notepad. “Here’s your confirmation number. The room’s at the Waldorf Towers over on Park.”

Two suites at the Waldorf? In this mess? What was he, a wizard? “Wow, great. Thanks so much for the help.”

“Glad to be of service.” He retrieved his briefcase and started down the corridor, abruptly stopped, and peered at her over the perfect slant of his shoulder. “And don’t worry, Tessa, I’ll think of a good nickname for you.”

She offered him a blank stare. “Hey, knock yourself out.”

Mischief danced along his lips before a grin broke free and he continued down the hallway.

“What a whack job,” she muttered.


I have probably read She’s Got Dibs at least five times now. It’s a comforting old friend when you just want to snuggle in – or have to – for a few days. The sensory details are absolutely scrumptious! There are hot showers, steaming tubs of bubbles, blankets and fireplaces to counter the cold outside. AJ Nuest treats her characters to rustic home cooking, gourmet banquets and junk food on movie nights – just don’t fall asleep during the chick flick or you WILL suffer the consequences. And oh, the flowers! AJ Nuest also knows her way around the bedroom and boardroom arenas of romantic drama and comedy, as well as good, solid storytelling that carries you away. Whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day, She’s Got Dibs will work out the kinks and leave you satisfied. I’ve heard a next in series may be in the works, and it can’t get in my Kindle soon enough!

Buy SHE’S GOT DIBS on Amazon


DISCLAIMER: I am a member of AJ Nuest’s street team. I bought this book with my own money. Opinions are my own.

Reviewer Bio

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues 2: The Colonel, Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 1 and 2 and Living Proof. She enjoys cozy mysteries, hot romances, aromatherapy bubble baths and hiking in the woods. Upcoming books include Blues 3: The Twins, a Louisiana lesbian military romance, in which Sam and Ace will take advantage of newly expanded MOS opportunities to further their military careers while trying to maintain their love lives. A new spa mystery series will begin soon.

Buy SHE’S GOT DIBS on Amazon.



If you like Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Xena and Wonder Woman, you will absolutely love Mayan Blood! A band of teen superheroes, mentored by their leader’s uncle, travel in and out of time to Central America, Europe and more to battle the dark side for priceless artifacts and the fate of the world.


His breath hitched when she rested her hand on his chest. She shifted closer, her eyes searching his. “This isn’t a good idea.” She traced the curves of his muscles.

His heart raced under her touch. “I know.”

“Someone’s going to get hurt.” Her gaze landed on his mouth.

“Maybe.” He wound his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. Time wasn’t like the butterfly field. Rather than pushing him away, she curled her fingers around his shirt, her body temperature rising. He could smell the adrenaline coursing through her. The hairs on his arms stood on edge. “It won’t be you.”

She smiled softly, as if teasing him to kiss her. “It’s always me.”

He tucked strands of hair behind her ear, his hand lingering over her jaw. “It won’t be you.”


Mayan Blood fits several genres: young adult (YA), New Adult (NA), paranormal, romance, magic, time travel, adventure and then some. To me, time travel seems the most challenging to write, with cultural, legal, financial and personal preservation issues and shifting sub-missions between time-place combinations; methods, risks and rewards of time travel and the whole timey-wimey thing, but Dalayne proves herself worthy with this first book in the Stone Legacy series. She deftly weaves characters’ superpowers, personal agendas, relationships, roles in the missions, voices, wardrobes and weapons across time, place and situations, while remaining true to their unique identities throughout. And the villains! They’re in cahoots with each other, have grievances against one another, make deals and time travel with the teen superheroes to various ends. In addition, Dalayne intuitively drips information at just the right flow rate. I never knew who would do what to whom around the next page corner and was frequently surprised, especially at the fight scenes.


“The stone is not simply a rock. It is a miracle. A one of a kind gesture bestowed upon all Riyata by the heavens. Once you bond with the stone and become its guardian, it will be your soul mate. It will feel your pain, and you will feel its pain. When you are sorrowful, it will show compassion. When you are joyful, it will celebrate your happiness. It becomes a part of you, since you are, in fact, a part of it.” – Eleuia


Ohio author Dalayne has a knack for creating and solving problems for her characters. Not having a blue police box or flying DeLorean, the team addresses the issue of breathing during time travel by acquiring a primitive, yet highly effective and flexible, biological apparatus. If I told you what it was now, you’d never believe me. Sleeping arrangements are a constant question, between the teens’ attractions to one another, the need for protection against the villains, who strike in dream time as well as any other, cultural mores and seasonal considerations. Elsewhere, a girl warrior must deal with the ban against selling weapons to women in Victorian London using nonviolent means. There are also the questions of which two of the teens should go to the ball, how to get in and what to wear.


In honor of the engagement of Princess of Helena Augusta Victoria, Her Majesty the Queen Alexandrina Victoria requests your presence at the celebration ball. Mesdames and Messieurs holding invitations are invited to join. This event will be held at the Grosvenor Hotel, on the day of Our Lord, the 12th of December, year 1865.


Mayan Blood addresses sex, feminism and mental health in YA literature with a kickass young female team captain, chemistry between the teen characters, the boys battling the charms of a sensuous Russian witch and the main character Zanya’s humble Harry Potterish beginnings in the loneliness of an asylum orphanage, where she is misdiagnosed, misunderstood and truly does not belong, but was secreted there in hopes of keeping her safe from the dark side. Fortunately, it is there that she meets her best friend forever. Then, like dear Harry, the team finds her and the ride of her life begins. By the end of this adventure, you’ll feel satisfied, yet beg for the next installment, which is Interlude, already available at Amazon. Mayan Blood is a truly unique story fit for mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and YA lovers to read alone or together.


“My destiny? You want to help me fulfill my destiny…with a rock?”

“You are a natural-born leader, Zanya. You have a great responsibility, one that you must first understand, and then accept.”

Zanya laughed, mostly from nerves. Renato’s expression didn’t waver. She blinked and her smile vanished. “Oh, you’re serious.”


(DISCLOSURE: I am a member of Theresa Dalayne’s Street Team. Opinions are my own.)

Reviewer Bio

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues 2: The Colonel, Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 1 and 2 and Living Proof. She enjoys cozy mysteries, hot romances, aromatherapy bubble baths and hiking in the woods. Upcoming books include Blues 3: The Twins, a Louisiana lesbian military romance, in which Sam and Ace will take advantage of newly expanded MOS opportunities to further their military careers while trying to maintain their love lives. A new spa mystery series will begin soon.



Book Trailer:


Amazon Kindle edition:

Amazon Print edition:







Colonel Marty is back and under the gun. The church elder from Blues in the Night returns to rescue bullet-riddled lovers from the frontlines in the Korean War and back home in Louisiana. Can the retired Army nurse make it through the fire to her wedding day? Read on for a free excerpt from Blues 2: The Colonel.

Add Blues 2: The Colonel to your Goodreads TBR list: The Colonel (Blues #2)

Dear Readers,

I’m pleased to announce the release of my fifth book, Blues 2: The Colonel, a lesbian military romance with cover art by S.A. Hunt, available excusively at Payhip. The first in series, Blues in the Night, will soon be available at Payhip, free of charge for a limited time. Follow me on Twitter for notification.

Some of you are shaking your heads and asking, Why is she skipping Amazon altogether? You’ll find the answer here. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki, I’ve decided to explore alternative indie publishing venues. I hope you’ll support me in this choice and buy a copy.

As an author, I appreciate Payhip’s secure setup, easy editing, simplified sharing and new developments. They even pay the VAT (Value Added Tax), so Blues 2 can be had everywhere. As a reader, I hope you’ll take advantage of the blue Preview button in the top right corner of the cover, three available formats (epub, mobi and pdf) and the convenience and comfort of Paypal.

What about ratings and reviews? you ask. See the Blues 2: The Colonel page, the Blues series page and my author page on Goodreads. Need an editorial e-copy? Contact me here .

Now, how about that excerpt?

Blessed be,



I’m gettin’ too old for this, thought Marty as she threw her eighty-five-year-old frame to the pavement and low-crawled from the gas pumps to the glass-walled convenience store. From her vantage point behind the ice cooler, she peered around and assessed the situation. The shooter’s back was to her, good.  No sign of the cashier or Martha, not good. The shooter probably had them down on the floor, with at least one bleeding from a bullet wound to God-knows-where. Not Martha.

Marty was bird Colonel Dr. Marty G. LaFleur, U.S. Army, RN, Retired. She’d served in Korea and Vietnam then rotated through Stateside base hospitals. She’d retired to her family’s farm in Livingston, LA and gotten her master’s and doctorate at LSU, then taught at McNeese State University, whose nursing school and partner hospital’s Regional Cardiac and Trauma Center were as respected as she was. It wasn’t Boston, Chicago or New York, but it was home, and a lot more comfortable for her old bones in winter. She’d only had to contend with a couple Category Five hurricanes, but she’d just tucked her citations and uniform into her rolling duffle, packed a few flats of food and water from her pantry, saddled up with her animals and their gear in her Jeep Cherokee and holed up with the skeleton crew and local media at St. Patrick’s Hospital. Once the winds passed and EMS, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Marine Division and the high-wheeled Louisiana National Guard vehicles began their operations, Marty swung into action, evaluating and assisting with trauma cases and anything else that presented itself. Just another day at the office.

Due to the incredibly stormy night, there wasn’t much traffic on the knee-deep street or at the store on its elevated pad, just her Jeep and the cashier and shooter’s cars. At least that minimized additional casualties. Although she was in a great position to tag the shooter should he run to his car, she couldn’t see inside for the counter and merchandise. No sooner had she eased around and gotten a half decent view, thanks to the corner mirrors by the drink coolers, then she heard the tap of the handgun’s muzzle against the store’s glass door and looked into the eyes of the idiot. Slowly raising both hands out and over her head, her cane dangling from the right, she limped inside, the shooter keeping the gun on her as he indicated that she should join the other two women on the floor by the reach-in coolers.

As she passed him, Marty pretended to stumble and tased the shooter with the custom cap on the tip of her cane. Then she punched him in the face, knocking his head back against the hard tile floor. Tucking his gun into the waistband of her jeans, she turned to check on the victims. She found Martha lying in an expanding pool of blood, her face pale, clothes soaked and a hole in her chest. And barely there, but definitely a pulse. The cashier was out cold with an ugly lump on her head and a slightly stronger pulse. Marty grabbed some hand sanitizer and a couple boxes of tampons off the shelf, ripped off the packaging and packed Martha’s wound open, then pulled out her phone and dialed one while she applied pressure.

Buy Blues 2: The Colonel.

About the Author

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Blues 2: The Colonel, Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 1 and 2 and Living Proof. She enjoys cozy mysteries, hot romances, aromatherapy bubble baths, beading, baking and hiking in the woods. Upcoming books include Blues 3: The Twins, another lesbian military romance, in which Sam and Ace will take advantage of newly expanded MOS opportunities to further their military careers while trying to maintain their love lives. A new series involving natural health-themed cozy mysteries will begin and there might be some poetry and erotica. Follow Belinda on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and Twitter to stay abreast.