Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New York Dolls by Catherine L. Hensley - #bookreview

We all enjoy a good chick lit, so I was delighted to receive a review copy of New York Dolls to read and review recently.  Here's what I thought:

“Never insert yourself into a story. If you do, you have to get yourself out of it, neat and tidy. It can never be about you.”  That was supposed to be the first lesson Denton Hodges learned when she went to work for Glitter Magazine.  Unfortunately she evidently failed that class, because inserting herself up to her eyeballs is exactly what Denton does on her first real assignment.  How she extricates herself from it is what makes compelling and entertaining reading in this chick lit adventure.

At first I was reminded slightly of Wishful Thinking - with Chris (Hollywood superstar) and Amber, the off-the-wall press-darling who exerts a mysterious hold over him, as well as a heroine working in publishing.  It's also reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada, but I'm happy to say it's very much its own story - and a truly engaging one too.  The writing is a cut above what you usually find in the chick lit genre and the author draws you in very quickly and holds you transfixed throughout.

Some of the characters are beautifully drawn.  It's impossible to dislike Amber for all her neediness and lack of consideration.  She has a vulnerable, childlike quality you have to love and want to protect.  She certainly steals the show for me.  There are some other delightful characters, too, including Liz, Denton's mentor at Glitter; the fatherly chauffeur/bodyguard Mr John, and Raymond, the chef at Mamie's Bake Shop.  Less likeable, in my opinion (though it's not easy to pinpoint why), is the gorgeous hero Chris West.  He's a truly nice guy with a caring, protective nature, but remains a little too distant and secretive and, well…perfect, to allow us to get to know him too well.  I suppose that's what super-stardom does to some people.

The New York setting is so powerfully drawn, it's almost like another character and really brings the story alive.  Coming from the UK and never having been to NYC, this is exactly as I would imagine it; how it is portrayed in the most memorable movies. Catherine Hensley's skill with her descriptions is what lifts New York Dolls above average and makes it a visual and memorable story.  I liked the twist at the end, but confess I anticipated it about half-way through.  Nonetheless, it was executed well and provided a satisfying conclusion.

For me New York Dolls was a rewarding piece of escapism and for a d├ębut novel (which I assume this is) shows enormous promise.  I would happily read more from this talented author and award her all five cute cats for this story.


About Catherine L. Hensley

Catherine L. Hensley is a professional freelance editor and writer. From fiction and nonfiction manuscripts to academic pieces, she provides an extensive range of copyediting, proofreading, content editing, and writing services to a wide variety of clients located around the United States and abroad.

A native of south Louisiana, Catherine received her master of arts degree in creative writing and media studies from New York University and her bachelor of arts degree in English from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, with minors in history and mass communication. Her writing has appeared in The Advocate (Louisiana’s largest newspaper), OT Practice magazine, Quiet Mountain: New Feminist Essays, and Mused, the BellaOnline Literary Review. For more, visit www.catherinehensley.com.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Valentine Special Offer: 'With Love' - 3 heart-melting romances

When I produced my boxed set of three contemporary romances, my intention was to make this special officer set available for two limited 2-3 week periods around Christmas and Valentine's Day. The set is now available once again until February 21st only.

For $3.99 plus VAT—that's less than half the price of the three individual books—you can buy all three heart-melting romances during the first three weeks of February.




The individual stories are:

The Apple Tree - Prism Book Group's Grand Prize Winner of 2011

A disaffected young hospital doctor mistakes a successful businessman for a gardener and an unlikely love blossoms.  
But she has a past she wants to forget and he lives by strong principles of truth which drive them on separate, painful journeys of self-discovery. 





Wishful Thinking - Amazon UK's #1 seller in 2012

A struggling single mother and a pop-icon turned Hollywood star meet in unusual circumstances. 
Fate drew them together but the intrigue and trappings of stardom threaten to unravel love's ties.








Shopping for Love

They shop for others out of kindness and naturally fall in love; but he is still raw from his painful divorce and she is his children's teacher.  
Add to the mix a spiteful ex-wife and scheming ex-boyfriend and love may have too high a price tag.


Click on any of the covers to take you to Amazon (US) or any of the links below for more information about each story:

Amazon UK 
Amazon US
My Website

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Writing Mistakes Cost Money

I was recently approached by Grammarly to include an article for them on my blog.  As a former English teacher turned author, I know that accurate and correct English is of paramount importance to success throughout life.

As a teacher, I was often asked by parents how they could help their children's writing skills and my answer would invariably be to foster a love of reading at a very early age.  Lead by example, I would say.  Children who see their parents enjoying a good book are likely to be more inclined to read themselves.  Sadly, all too often adults would tell me they enjoyed reading but didn't really have the time.  Confident readers usually make more confident writers, and confident writers have a greater chance of success in their working lives.  

Careful proof-reading of written work can help rectify mistakes and give the final polish needed to any form of written communication. Students invariably dislike proof-reading, so why should busy working adults be any different?   Yet the importance of accurate writing cannot be stressed enough, and a reputable grammar checker and proof-reading service is invaluable. Grammarly told me:

"We proofread 400+ freelancer profiles from all eight categories of the Elance platform for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. To adjust for quality of work, we only selected freelancers with an average rating of four stars or above. We then looked at correlation between earnings and number of mistakes. We hope the direction the data is pointing in spurs some thought and conversation about the importance of good writing."

Grammarly's infographic elaborates on their findings:


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review - Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration by Tara Fox Hall

I always feel privileged when authors let us into their private worlds and so I entered Tara Fox Hall's world with wonder and some trepidation.   I'd read (and thoroughly enjoyed) her stories before, but not her factual essays.  But I needn't have worried; stepping into Deep Breaths: Tales of Hope and Inspiration was like entering an enchanting new world - and one I didn't want to leave again.

Tara's family
Deep Breaths is a collection of reflections on the author's daily life in the idyllic-sounding environment in which she lives.   She enjoys complete harmony with the natural world around her and with which she communes as she goes about her daily routine, doing her chores or walking her faithful dogs (and cats).  Her extended family of pets is especially delightful and unique, each with their own quirks and personalities as interesting as their names.

Wild creatures, some of whose names I've only ever come across in films, surround the author. Coming from the UK, I've never seen coyotes, chickadees, groundhogs or hummingbird moths, but Hall encounters them every day… and generally rescues them from various dramatic plights. Whether she's saving trapped dragon flies, stray toads, adventurous snapping turtles or opportune starlings nesting in the eaves of her house, her sense of humour and powerful faith shines through her accounts and descriptions, making them uplifting to read.

I found Sunset, in which she ensures a trio of beautiful moths with singed wings meet a dignified end particularly poignant; while Letting Go, her reflections on her beloved, aging dog, Kesteral, had me unashamedly in tears.  And only Tara Fox Hall can make the stacking of firewood into such a delightful subject as in Keeping it Straight.

This collection of writings will draw you into the author's special world, lift your spirits and leave you feeling deeply satisfied.  She writes with wit, perception and immense sensitivity.  Each short essay can be read and savoured in isolation, to raise flagging spirits during short breaks from the mundane routine, or read as I did, in a couple of sittings, because I simply could not tear myself away from Tara Fox Hall's captivating world.  Highly recommended, as my five cute kitties prove.
About Tara Fox Hall

Tara, husband Eric, Legolas and Strider (in black)
Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.





Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Release– End of Lonely Street by Alicia Dean – Plus an Awesome Giveaway

I’m excited to share my latest release from The Wild Rose Press on what would have been Elvis’ eightieth birthday. ‘End of Lonely Street’ is a Vintage Romance Short Story set in 1957, in the era when Elvis first burst on the scene. Like my heroine in the story, I am a diehard Elvis fan. (As you probably figured out, I took the title from a line in Heartbreak Hotel, which was Elvis’ first million selling record).


Blurb:


Can she let go of the past, before it destroys her future?

All Toby Lawson wanted was to go to college to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher and to be free of her alcoholic mother and the painful memories of finding her and the guy Toby loved kissing. But when her mother nearly burns the house down, Toby must put her dreams on hold and return home to care for her. The only time she isn’t lonely and miserable is when she’s listening to her heartthrob, Elvis Presley. His music takes her away, helps her escape from everything wrong in her life. 

Noah Rivers has always loved Toby, but no matter what he says, and even though she knows her mother initiated the kiss, and that he didn’t kiss her back, she can‘t seem to get past what happened. He soon realizes that the true problem lies in Toby’s belief that she’s not good enough for him and in her fear that she will be just like her mother. 

What will it take to prove to her that she deserves to be happy, and that he would give anything to be the man to make her dreams come true?

Excerpt:


Chapter One
Mapleton, Tennessee, November, 1957
Toby Lawson closed her eyes and shut out all sounds of the diner, except for Elvis Presley’s voice. He was crooning about how she was the only one for him…no matter where he went or what he did… he’d spend his whole life loving her…
Rough hands landed on her waist and shattered the fantasy. She caught a whiff of hair tonic and too much cologne, and she snapped her eyes open. Wes Markham’s hateful face replaced the image of Elvis’ beautiful, crooked smile and smoldering blue eyes.
“Let me go.” She gritted her teeth, keeping her voice low. If her boss, Mr. Winstead, knew there was trouble on account of her, he’d explode. He’d barely let her have the job in the first place. Everyone in Mapleton knew the Lawson women were trouble.
“Come on, honey. If you like that hip swivel, Presley ain’t the only one who’s got it. I got it too.” He released her with his left hand so he could run it over his slicked down hair and gave her a big-toothed, wolfish smile. “Only we’d be naked.” He shot a cocky grin over to his two companions—Chuck Stenson and Billy Garfield—who were leaning against the jukebox making kissing and whooping sounds.
Toby gripped his right wrist with one hand, tightening her hold on the utensils she held in the other. “I said let me go. Now!”
“Aw, be a sport, Green-Eyes.”
The bulge of his pelvis pressed into her abdomen, and she gasped in shock. Nausea tightened in her esophagus. “Wes Markham, I’m warning you…”
She shoved against him, but he didn’t budge.
He pulled her tighter. “Your momma’s a whole lot friendlier than you are. They say the apple don’t fall far from the tree, so how’s about you cut the pretense and we go someplace quiet? Winstead won’t miss you for a few minutes.”
Her cheeks heated. She didn’t dare look around. No doubt the customers were watching, listening. Elvis had stopped singing and everyone in the place could hear what he’d said about her mother. It wasn’t like they didn’t all know, though. Constance Lawson hadn’t exactly kept her escapades a secret.
Toby clenched her teeth and brandished the utensils. She spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “Release me this instant, or I swear, you’ll be pulling this steak knife out of your eyeball.”
He held her gaze for a split second, then gave a laugh that was somewhere between nervous and furious. “Sure, sure. Okay.” He released her and stepped back. “I was just foolin’ around anyway. I got better things to do with my time than waste it on a used up chick like you.”
Muffled laughter rose around her. Oh God, she could crawl into a hole.
“How about you apologize to the lady, then beat it?”
Toby whirled at the male voice. Noah Rivers stood behind her, looking handsome and sharp in his police uniform—even with his dark hair in the military buzz cut. Her knees weakened, and tingles swept over her skin. She swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. She’d heard he was back, but hadn’t seen him until now. And what a time to have a reunion.

*** 10% of all of Alicia Dean’s net royalties for End of Lonely Street will go to The Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation http://www.graceland.com/epcf/  ***



Check out End of Lonely Street and enter to win GREAT prizes…

GIVEAWAY: - Entries accepted from January 8, 2015 through noon on January 22, 2015


Three prizes

Elvis Gift Basket including DVD, CD, plus more
$25 Amazon Gift Card
$10 Amazon Gift Card

First place winner has first choice, second place winner has second choice, third place winner receives remaining prize.


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About the Author:



Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She has three grown children and a huge network of
supportive friends and family. She writes mostly contemporary suspense and paranormal, but has also written in other genres, including a few vintage historicals.
Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley, MLB, NFL (she usually works in a mention of one or all three into her stories) and watching her favorite televisions shows like Vampire Diaries, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Haven, The Mindy Project, and Dexter (even though it has sadly ended, she will forever be a fan). Some of her favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Sharon Sala, Jordan Dane, Ridley Pearson, Joseph Finder, and Jonathan Kellerman…to name a few.

Find Alicia here:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Review: An Open Letter to Stephen King and Other Essays by Jenny Twist (@JennyTwist1)

I've been an avid fan of Jenny Twist's stories for a number of years, so, not surprisingly, have also come across her non-fiction writing on various blogs.  She is an extremely talented author with an often wicked and very British sense of humour that really appeals to me and I never tire of reading her work.

It was therefore a real delight just before Christmas to find this collection of essays and articles reflecting on life, people, places and practically everything else.  Even though I've read some of them before, the re-reading was nonetheless a great treat.  In fact, they are probably better in the re-reading because you can appreciate her wit and style more.  It would be impossible to have favourites, but the essays on Spain and in particular the three articles on the Andalusian villages so beloved of the author touched me so powerfully that a visit to them is now high on my bucket list.  I defy anyone to read them and not feel themselves transported in spirit and long to make the experience physical.

But there is so much more in this diverse collection.  Whether she's describing sex education in the (I'm guessing here) early sixties, the generic female inability to read maps, grammar usage and abusage or the journey to publishing success, her penmanship and humour shine through and make them all such a pleasure to read.  On a more serious note, she provokes topical debate over the gun culture in America and attitudes to guns and violence in Britain.  She explores the portrayal of evil in modern fiction and opens her doors and her heart to give us some insights into her own life and struggles, which have provided inspiration for her many stories.
 
And of course, ghosts (and the occasional vampire) infiltrate the pages!  A great horror writer, Twist recounts her own chilling experiences, some of which inspired her stories, while others lie in wait ready to inhabit stories yet-to-come.


An Open Letter to Stephen King and Other Essays makes engrossing reading whether you prefer factual writing or fiction.  It is well worth the read at any time of the year, but I couldn't wait and devoured it immediately.  It certainly was one of my favourite books over the Christmas season and well worth dusting off all five cute cats for.

An Open Letter to Stephen King and Other Essays can be purchased from

About the author:

Author Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's other published works include: Domingo's Angel, All in the Mind, Away With the Fairies, The Mantequero series, Take One At Bedtime, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hot Off the Press and Highly Recommended - Torn by Gilli Allan (@gilliallan)

It's always thrilling to hear a success story in this business, especially when you know the author to be highly talented and deserving.  I've enjoyed Gilli Allan's books enormously, so was delighted to hear that after some years of being a self-published author, her work was spotted by Accent Press, snapped up and is now being republished.  

The first of these stories is Torn, published this week - and I highly recommend it.  If you like contemporary fiction, with an unconventional and edgy love story at its heart - you'll enjoy it too. 

Here is the blurb:

Jess has made a series of bad life choices and all have let her down.
Escaping London, she sets out to recreate herself in the idyllic countryside, and this time she wants to get it right! 

She wants to lead a responsible, tranquil life with her young son Rory, but soon discovers stresses which pull her in opposing directions – conflict over a new bypass, between friends, and worst of all, between lovers. 

Educated, experienced, and pragmatic, James is a widowed farmer whose opinions differ from, and enrage, Jess. His young shepherd, Danny, is an uneducated and inexperienced idealist. Jess is attracted to them both, and realizes if she wants her idyllic countryside life to survive, she must choose her Mr Right. 

Torn is now available from Amazon by clicking on this link.

Gilli Allan - Then and Now:


Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxbridge, but after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College. 

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. She has had three books mainstream published - two further books will be published in 2015. 

Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, Gilli designs Christmas cards and produced the illustrations for the children’s book The Tale of King Harald -The Last Viking Adventure, which was published in 2014.