Whatever happened to [insert name here]?

Hello my lovelies!

Wow, what a gap, right? For all intents and purposes, I disappeared from the face of the [writing] earth. But I promise I have a good reason. Several good reasons.

  1. I spent a good portion of the summer just chilling out with my family! We went on vacation, went on hikes, and camping. In between all of that, we had a full schedule of swim lessons, drum lessons, and lacrosse. Kids, right?
  2. I focused on my health and got serious about my fitness regime. If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll notice I competed in a Ragnar race. The Ragnar DC race was a 200-ish mile relay race that started in Cumberland, MD and ended in Washington, DC. I joined a group of 10 runners, slept in a van, and ran this monster of relay over the course of two days. If anything, I recommend going to my Instagram page just to see how exhausted (but happy!) I looked in my photos.
  3. Related to no. 2 above, I’ve hit the weights and the gym hard! My next goal (other than running in next year’s Ragnar race) is to get into Bikini Competition shape. I’m very nearly there, actually, and I’m incredibly proud of my results. It’s not easy to eat clean (and eat often) and get to the gym 5-6 days a week, while also getting in 1-2 high intensity cardio sessions in there. Because of this fitness dedication, and a full-time job (at the Department of Defense), and doing fun summer stuff with the family, I have had zero time to devote to writing.
  4. And finally, in years past, Summer has always been my slow writing season. This summer was slower than usual! However, effective today, I’m back to a somewhat normal weekend writing schedule. The good news is that because my selling short stories over the last 12-18 months, I’ve had a steady stream of short stories published through WMG Publishing, and FictionRiver Anthologies coming out over the last few months.

The Wrong Side of the Tracks,” (a suspenseful short story) is the lead story in Kevin J. Anderson’s Pulse Pounders Anthology. If you want to read a review of this short story, here’s the review on Waynne Hammond’s A Fantasy Muse website

Breaking Kayfabe,” (a wrestling short story) is featured in Mark Leslie’s Editor’s Choice Anthology

The Prism of the Crab Gods,” (tough to define this one… it’s about a young boy in a difficult family situation… and he thinks he has magical hermit crabs that can save him) which is on its THIRD re-printing (!!) and featured in Allyson Longueria’s Legacies Collection. She’s called my short story the best short story she’s ever read.

In addition to the three listed above, I have two new short stories slated for publication. “Flowers in Winter” (a young adult short story) will be released in Nov 2017 (I think) and “One Ballerina Dancing” (a political suspense) will be published in Dec 2017. I’ve sold other short stories, but they will be published in 2018 sometime.

So, what am I working on now? Well, I have dozens of short stories that need editing, and maybe a few re-drafts. For the rest of 2017, I will focus on my short work, and starting in 2018 I plan to dive into a new young adult fantasy world. I sold a (longish) short story titled, “EchoDarling,” (a young adult fantasy) that was incredibly well received (and even fought over as to which editor was going to buy it). Several editors, and a few early readers [independently] said it reminded them of Anne McCaffrey’s work (wow!!). As I pondered the story (months after writing it and already having sold it) I realized I had written an origins story for my character, and her world. I can’t go into too much detail, as what an EchoDarling is, is actually something of a surprise and the main element of this world. However, in order to make it work (expanding this universe) I have to alter the ending. So… I have to have a conversation with the acquiring editor who bought the story in the first place. I think she’ll be on board with my changing the ending, but then again, she may not. (She’s super nice! I think she will.)

In between writing updates, keep up with me on Instagram. I’m on it quite frequently, and I like to post whatever captures my fancy (family, fitness, pictures of flowers).

Until then, be well and read often!

 

Fiction River: Hidden In Crime Anthology

Kelly eating her book

Stories so good, you want to eat them!

Hi Gang! I’m the third story in Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Hidden In Crime anthology. My title is “The American Flag of Sergeant Hale Schofield.”

Here’s what Kris had to say about my story:

Some people come home from war, and others never do. “The American Flag of Sergeant Hale Schofield” focuses on a man whose body returned but whose soul never really did.

Kelly Washington, a third generation soldier, is the perfect person to write this story…. One of the most powerful stories in the volume, “The American Flag of Sergeant Hale Schofield” deals with the repeated desecration of the American flag, an act so controversial that it often finds itself in front of the courts.

Writing this story forced Kelly to figure out why a soldier would burn an American flag. Her answer will touch your heart.”

In addition to my story, you’ll find other fantastic stories from many of today’s top authors, including Anthea Sharp, Ron Collins, and Patrick O’Sullivan; many of whom are best selling and award winning authors. The fact that I’m in a book with them–these talented authors–baffles me.

Do me favor and pick up this anthology. If not for me, then at least to read the talent of everyone else associated with this fantastic volume.

Blurb: Imagine paying a fine for walking across town. Or hiding an illegal marriage. Or losing your life for playing the harp. Strange crimes, dangerous activities, some from the not-so-distant past, return to life in Hidden in Crime. See why Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine says Fiction River’s crime volumes have “high quality throughout,” and why Publishers Weekly states “… fans of the unconventional will be well satisfied.” Join some of the best authors in the business as they uncover once-hidden crimes. “Readers will find many impressive voices, both familiar and new.” —Publishers Weekly on Past Crime

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | GoodReads

FR16 Hidden in Crime ebook cover lighter web

Fiction River: Recycled Pulp

FR15 Recycled Pulp ebook cover webMy short story “Prism of the Crab Gods” appears in Fiction River: Recycled Pulp. This is a fantastic anthology, and I’m incredibly proud to be among the authors below. “Prism of the Crab Gods” was my first pro-sale, and it is a story close to my heart since it is about a a young, disabled and abused boy who clings to the hope that his three hermit crabs will save him and his family.

The editor, John Helfers, had this to say about the story: “In an anthology of excellence, this story stands out for its heartbreaking eloquence, as well as defining a situation that could be happening down the block on your street, and with nary a futuristic or fantastical trope in sight; just the shattering look inside a young boy’s world, and the vivid imagination he uses to keep reality from destroying him completely. I know I’ve been changed by reading it, and I hope you will be as well.”

Publication: September 2015

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Publisher’s Note about the Edition

Editor: John Helfers

The old becomes new again as fifteen talented authors go back to the lurid pulp titles of yesteryear through today’s rich, nuanced storytelling. Enjoy original tales featuring rebel angels fighting a heavenly enforcement squad, a cop whose life might depend on ordering the right deli sandwich, and a wizard who has just three days to pay off the loan on his tower or lose his very soul. Whatever your taste in stories, Recycled Pulp is sure to have something that will amaze, surprise, and delight you.

“…a unique collection 15 tales worthy of the Fiction River name. … Don’t miss Recycled Pulp for a great set of unique and fast-paced tales of the imagination!” —Astro Guyz

Table of Contents

“The Revolt of the Philosophers of Fomalhaut” by Phaedra Weldon
“Marvelous Contrivances of the Heart” by Cat Rambo
“The Flower of the Tabernacle” by Annie Reed
“Lost in the Tarnished Cube” by Thomas K. Carpenter
“Crypt of the Metal Ghouls” by Angela Penrose
“The Imperfect Otter Empire” by Dayle A. Dermatis
“The Unknowable Mansion of the Night” by Sandra M. Odell
“The Portal of Wrong Love” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Sacred Poet from the Future” by Kelly Cairo
“Swamp of the Prehistoric Clan” by Christy Fifield
“The Magnificent Citadel” by Rebecca M. Senese
“Night of the Dancing Champions” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“The Delicatessen from Beyond the Monolith” by Lisa Silverthorne
“Prism of the Crab Gods” by Kelly Washington
“The Gleaming Crater” by Thea Hutcheson

Where to buy: Amazon US Ebook  |  Kobo Ebook  |  iTunes  |  Smashwords  | GoodReads  |  Amazon Paperback  |  Powells  |  Barnes and Noble

5 Stars: Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh's Only Enchanting

Wow! Mary Balogh does it again! I was super thrilled to learn that I won an uncorrected proof from the publisher. It came in the mail a few days later. I had hoped for the version with the actual cover, but it came, instead in a pale greenish-blue cover, rather than the lovely image shown on GoodReads. However, this in no way detracted from the story.

Only Enchanting is the fourth book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series and it centers on Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. Several years back, Flavian was severely wounded during the Napoleonic War, after having received a major injury to his head, which, for several years, rendered him unable to speak properly. He lost a good portion of memory. None of this is helped due to the loss of his beloved brother (which allows Flavian to assume the title of Viscount Ponsonby) as well as his fiancé jilting him in favor of his best friend. All of this renders him something of a lost cause. Thankfully he recuperated with 5 others at Penderris Hall, thus forming an immense bond with the other recovering survivors. Each year they all meet for 3 weeks to rekindle the friendship, bond, and, well, heal. As it is, Flavian speaks with a stutter and is still unable to truly control his anger.

It is during a harvest ball that Flavian meets Mrs. Agnes Keeping, a 26 year old widow who values safety and a quiet life with her older sister, Dora. Only Enchanting starts in her POV, and literally states, from the beginning, “At the age of twenty-six, Agnes Keeping had never been in love or ever expected to be–or even wished to be.”

What a great opening as we meet our heroine. I love it when our characters come full circle and how, at the beginning of a book, we (the reader) know we are on a fun, and enchanting, ride as Agnes not only realizes she’s unhappy, she doesn’t actually realize just how unhappy she is until Flavian comes into her life.

Agnes, as mentioned, is widowed. Her deceased husband, William Keeping, wasn’t particularly exciting or passionate, but she cared for him and still misses him. Perhaps one day she will remarry and have children. She enjoys painting wildflowers in her dear friend, Sophia’s, meadows. Sophia is, of course, Lady Darleigh, Viscount Darleigh’s wife (Vincent’s story is The Arrangement, book 2 in the Survivors’ Club series). You see, there is to be a ball, and as Sophia’s dear friend, Agnes is invited. Agnes isn’t a fashionista. Her dresses are at least 3-4 years old, and certainly not in the height of fashion. Oh well, they will do, she thinks. No one will notice her. No one at all.

Ahem… excuse me while the H and h meet. 😉

They dance.

Twice.

Flavian, with his bedroom eyes, blond hair, and gorgeous looks, calls Agnes “enchanting.” Only Enchanting.

Agnes, who, as you will remember from the first line of this book states she never wished to fall in love, promptly falls in love.

Fast-forward 5 months. All of the Survivors travel to Vincent’s property due to the fact that Sophia is expecting her first child, and Vincent refuses to leave her side (which I love), so Flavian returns to Middlebury Park (the Harvest Ball was held there) and becomes reacquainted with the lovely, if somewhat plain, Mrs. Agnes Keeping.

He remembers dancing with her. He remembers saying he was Only Enchanted with her, but blast it all, he cannot remember her name. Damn his head injury and damn the letter he received stating his former fiancé (who jilted him) was now no longer in mourning after the death of her husband last year, and, hint-hint-hint, available to now marry him. Flavian’s family, in not so many terms, wants him to marry Velma, Lady Hazeltine, and join their families. There is a bond between their families, but Flavian cannot and will not, do any such thing as marry Velma. He remembers Mrs. Agnes Keeping and seeks her out.

Agnes wonders why the handsome viscount seems to be interested in her. Oh, she’s still in love with him, but Agnes is a smart woman and is understandably wary around him. He proposes marriage and, after a week, she accepts. It’s here that the story is drawn out perhaps 50-60 pages longer than necessary, IMO, and things pick up around the ½ mark once Flavian and Agnes are in London and his family (and the newly free Velma) finds out about his marriage to Agnes.

I pause here so that you can imagine fireworks. Good, now continue.

Poor Agnes! Well, turns out she has a pretty strong backbone and I’m extremely proud of the way Agnes handled herself, the situation, and everything in between when she realizes that it is entirely possible Flavian married her in order to avoid marrying Velma. Oh hell no. Guess who’s Lady Ponsonby, biatch? Not Velma, Lady WhatsHerName. ThankYouVeryMuch.

The backbone of Agnes is made out of concrete, steel, and 24 caret gold. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the scene in which Agnes confronts Velma. Actually confronts her. It is priceless and I’m thrilled to read about a Regency-era woman who doesn’t cower behind silly fans and innuendo.

There is much more to Flavian and Agnes’ story as they navigate her mother’s history (there is a scandal involved), as Flavian discovers hidden memories about his brother, and his true history with Velma, and as Agnes learns to trust Flavian again. I also found it refreshing that there wasn’t a true villain in Only Enchanting.

I finished the book, hoping the story would never end, but found myself utterly enchanted with Agnes and Flavian, and utterly delighted that I was lucky enough to read it before publication.

www.amazon.com

A Long Fatal Love Chase

A Long Fatal Love ChaseFirstly, I’ll admit that I “stole” this book from my adoring sister. I don’t say borrowed because I never plan to return it.

Secondly, this review contains spoilers…

Simply put: I loved this story. It has love, intrigue, suspense, heartache, desire, treachery, innocence, betrayal, action, chases, psychological despair, and murder. What is NOT to love in this somewhat slim novel?

Right or wrong, Rosamond gets the fate she uttered in the beginning: “…I’d gladly sell my soul for a year of freedom.”

After my second reading, and after reading this right after reading Jane Eyre, I felt that A Long Fatal Love Chase is what Jane Eyre might have been had Jane stayed with Mr. Rochester after learning about the living Mrs. Rochester. Granted, where Mr. Rochester is passionate and kind-like to Jane (his love for Jane redeems his soul), Tempest loves Rosamond with a zeal that not only borders on psychotic possessiveness, but gives him the authority (in his own mind) to commit murder in order to keep Rosamond from the truth of discovering a Mrs. Tempest, and the fact that their marriage is a sham.

Tempest loves the chase. It keeps the relationship fresh to him. Had Rosamond submitted to him and lived with him as a meek, unloving, limp plant, he would have tired of her quickly, and probably killed her himself (on purpose).

I don’t mind the ending. It fits. The title is, after all, A Long Fatal Love Chase, which is probably one of the best book titles ever.

So, yeah, that first year was the best year of her life. She paid for it dearly, didn’t she?

Time For Some Math (or, the post where I discuss sales)

January 2014 Earnings [& Expenses] Report

I’m starting a new topic on my website that details my monthly earning report. Everything in this post is as true as I know it to be, and is as true as my situation warrants. My goal is to show you a little bit of what happens behind the scenes. It’s not always exciting, but I’ve enjoyed the process thus far.

I’ve been earning money for my writing for a little over three years now, but I’ve been a writer for twenty-six years. I mention this only to give you an idea of my age and to also showcase that while I am a seasoned writer, I am relatively new at self-publishing. I adore having complete control over everything—the covers, my editor (love you, girl!), and, overall, my own schedule.

Right now I am only a part-time writer. My sales will reflect this. I have a full-time job and I am, at this time, the sole earner for my family. I also live in the Washington DC area, and this is a high cost of living area. I’m blessed in the fact that I have a wonderfully paying job and I can afford to pay—out of pocket—for the expenses related to writing (namely, editing is the costliest) with the thought that this is an investment for the future. Yes… my ultimate goal is to become a full-time writer, but this will take many years and I am completely comfortable with this. I consider myself a professional. I care about my writing. I care about the work I put out there. I also care about longevity (the long tail) and I’m not interested in making a quick buck. I care very much about my readership!!

Before I go forward and tell you what I EARNED, I need to tell you what I SPENT in order to earn royalties. As an entrepreneur and one that has complete control over her work, it also means that I have to pay for the services I use (covers, editing) —

January 2014 saw a few publications for me

1)   Falling For Him (The Complete Series) (Kelly Washington)

  • This is a bundle/complete package of 1) Falling For You, 2) Hungry For You, and 3) Ready For You.
  • All three novellas were written and edited in 2012 & 2013. Therefore I did not have any editing costs in the month of January 2014. However, in the sake of transparency, the editing cost for all three novellas was $600, or $200 per novella.
  • I packaged the novellas together and published it on 21 January 2014. I do all of my own formatting with a program called Scrivener, which I have owned since 2011. Therefore I did not have any formatting costs for the month of January 2014.
  • The cover for FALLING FOR HIM is a modification of the existing #3 novella cover. I use a program called Pixelmator to create my covers. I purchased Pixelmater in 2013. No costs were incurred for the cover in the month of January 2014.
  • On January 21, 2014, I filed and submitted the combined Falling For Him series with the copyright office. Price: $35.00.

2)   The Queen Of Scarred Hearts (#2, Reclaimed Souls) (Jean 8. Aeglothecca)

  • This is the second book/novella in my YA/Fantasy/Science Fiction Series called Reclaimed Souls.
  • The first book, The Pale Waters (#1, Reclaimed Souls) was published in November 2013.
  • The entire series (meaning, all FOUR books in the Reclaimed Series) was written and edited in 2013. Therefore I did not have editing costs in the month of January 2014. However, for the sake of transparency, the total editing costs for all four books was $1,300, or $325* per book. * Cost for editing was higher than the Falling For Him series because Reclaimed Souls was much longer, and editing normally is calculated using the word-count for the manuscript.
  • The covers for all four books were purchased (licensed) from istockphoto.com in September 2013. Therefore I did not have cover costs in the month of January 2014. However, for the sake of transparency, covers cost approximately $30, or $7.50 per image. I may be off a little bit in terms of what it costs since on istockphoto.com, the customer (me) purchases “credits” and then uses those credits toward licensing images. I recall that the images I chose for the Reclaimed Souls series were less than 10 credits each. So while $7.50 seems low, I can almost promise you that each cover cost less than $10 to license.
  • On January 19, 2014, I filed and submitted The Queen of Scarred Hearts with the copyright office. Price: $35.00.

TOTAL EXPENSES FOR JANUARY 2014

$70.00

Okay, now that you know that I incurred costs, you’ll need to know that I made one of my books FREE starting the last week of January and this had unexpected results for me. I made FALLING FOR YOU, (#1, Novella of the Falling For Him Series) Free. Within a few days I was #4 in the Gay Romance genre on Amazon. It shocked me! I have no doubt that this lead to many customers purchasing Novellas #2 and #3, as well as the entire Falling For Him Series bundle (the bundle was priced LOWER than if a customer had purchased each book individually). (Note: as I write this, Falling For You (#1) is currently # 29 in Amazon’s Kindle/EBook Gay Romance category.) <pause while I do cartwheels!!>

Based on numbers and my fuzzy math skills, I would estimate that of those that downloaded the free novella, approximately 5% went on to purchase #2 novella, and those that purchased #2, almost 75% of those customers purchased #3 novella. These statistics bleed over into February because I didn’t check my sales until the first weekend in February. I’m not a chronic statistic checker. I’ll admit, however, that I’m paying much more attention than I ever have before.

Next, before I get into the stats that I’ve promised you, I want you to know that during the month of January I wrote two short stories for a science fiction and fantasy magazine submission. If purchased, each short story will earn me $360 per short story, or $720 for both. However, I will not know until later this month (February 2014) if the stories will be accepted. For transparency sake, I actually wrote three short stories for this submission, but the last one was written at the beginning of February, so I’ll mention it more in next month’s report, as well as any earnings from them.

I sell across many e-book sellers: Amazon, Smashwords (which distributes to BN, Kobo, Diesel, and iTunes), and All Romance EBooks. All information contained below is directly from the vendors.

AMAZON (US)

Falling For Him ($.99) (before set to free) Royalty: $8.05

Units Sold/Borrowed                        Units Returned

24                                                            1

Falling For Him ($.00) (set to free) Royalty: $0.00

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

266                                                                        0

Hungry For You ($1.99) Royalty: $16.76

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

24                                                                        0

Ready For You ($1.98) Royalty: $2.78

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

4                                                                        0

(note about the above… seems low, right? Well, I, at some point, unwittingly set #3 also to FREE – probably thinking I was modifying #1, so you’ll see a different story right below this)

Ready For You ($0.00) (set to free) Royalty: 0.00

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

879                                                                        1*

* The return coincides when I accidentally placed the novella for free. While I do not know for sure, I believe the customer purchased it just before the novella became free, realized a couple of days later it was free and returned the purchased version. Otherwise, I do not see a reason of returning a free ebook. <grin> I should also note that I’m super cool with this. If I went to a store and bought a book and then, the next day I went back in only to realize the same book was either on sale or free, you better believe I’d return the purchased book in order to get the free or reduced priced product. Just saying.

Falling For Him (The Complete Series) ($3.99) Royalty: $54.94

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

26                                                                        6*

* This is a 23% return rate. I haven’t investigated, but I think this may be on the high side for return rates. It alarms me. It could be related to the fact that during the same week, Falling For You and Ready For You were both, at times, Free. I’m not sure. I’ll state that when I purchase an ebook, I rarely return to the scene of the crime (i.e., the book’s page on Amazon) to see if the price is different. In fact, I rarely read the book right away. Hopefully these 6 customers went back to see what else I had for sale and realized two of the three books that they just paid $3.99 for were free. I’m probably reading too much into it, tho. I’ll see if February holds the same % rate of returns. Hopefully it will not.

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

2                                                                        0

  • Military Love (Three Erotic Short Stories) ($2.99) Royalty: $2.07

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

1                                                                        0

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

1                                                                        0

Units Downloaded/Borrowed              Units Returned

1                                                                       0

Sadly, I did not have any sales of my Reclaimed Souls series across any Amazon channel for the month of January.

 Total Amazon US Royalty: $86.69

I’m not going to break down Amazon UK, AUS, DE, or the other countries. Across all titles, I earned $17.94 in the other Amazon stores.

Total Amazon Royalties: $104.63

Smashwords

Smashwords distributes to Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, among others. Typically, my sales are much lowers on Smashwords, and January was no different. I won’t break down the titles, but overall I earned $27.29. It appears, however, that I gave away 391 free ebooks. I experimated a little bit with Smashwords on pricing and I did set many of my titles for free for a week or two, to include Falling For Him. I did not see a jump in sales in the non-free titles due to this.

Sometimes, however, Smashwords’ spreadsheets are difficult for me to read. For example, it will list a sale, but it won’t break it down any further, such as delivery fees (authors are responsible for the costs associated with delivering the ebook to your ereader), and the vendor’s cut (anywhere from 30-40%). So, in the “Final Amount Tab”, it is empty and it doesn’t factor when I do the auto-sum. I’ll cut Smashwords slack, however, in that they report it when the vendor reports the sale. So, what I’m seeing in my January report may really be stuff from November, or December. Also, it is very possible that I’m reading it all wrong. That said, I feel comfortable with the $27.29 amount since this is in line with what they pay me quarterly (~$80-90 / 3 months = $26.66-$30.00 per month). However, if the trend I saw in Amazon (where free gained me many new sales) happens, I may not see the numbers reported until next month.

All Romance Ebooks

All Romance Ebooks (ARe) is a new distributor to me. Their uploading system takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve got it down, it’s VERY easy to upload all of your titles. I did this with ARe in January 2014 (in fact, the LAST WEEK of January). I have had no other history with ARe, so January is my first month with them, and I am very happy with my sales!

Note: Nothing was set for free on ARe in January.

  • Falling For Him (The complete series) 29 units sold
  • Falling For You (#1) 42 units sold
  • Hungry For You (#2) 9 units sold
  • Ready For You (#3) 8 units sold
  • Ignite Me (An Erotic Short) 24 units sold
  • Military Love (Three Erotic Shorts) 1 unit sold

I sold 113 units at ARe (in one week) for a total Royalty of $98.64. I’ll hint that February is looking very good already.

January 2014 Royalty Earnings

$230.56

Minus Expenses (copyright filing of $70)

$160.56

So, there you have it. I earned, after expenses, a grand total of $160.56 for the month of January 2014. However, this doesn’t do you much good unless you knew how much I earned in January 2013… $10.20. Yes… ten dollars and twenty cents. <grin> I’d call that an improvement.

2014 looks good for me. I have several more titles to published and several short stories that, hopefully, will be accepted into science fiction & fantasy magazines. February sales are already looking great and I hope the trend continues. I doubt I’ll ever be Colleen Hoover, Amanda Hocking, Bella Andre, or Addison Moore – whom are great and I’ve read their stuff and enjoyed it and they deserve the sales they’ve earned – but I’ll put my work out there and see if it resonates with anyone. I’ll learn along the way. I’ll take risks. I’ll experiment. I’ll dabble in other genres. The great thing about being my own boss is that I get to call the shots, even if those shots only earn me a few hundred bucks a month. It’s worth it.

 

 

Review: Heiress Without A Cause, by Sara Ramsey (5 Stars)

Heiress Without A Cause, by Sara Ramsey

 

Heiress Without a Cause

5 STARS

HEAT RATING: 3 STARS

FORMAT READ: Kindle

so, what’s the book about? This is from Ms. Ramsey’s website:

Madeleine is a spinster with a secret passion for the stage. Ferguson is a duke with a dark past. They both look hot in breeches. But when Madeleine is forced to masquerade as his mistress, will their love survive the scandal?

(Ok, this is Kelly talking now) …. can I say how much I loved this book? Because I loved it bunches. I have no idea when I downloaded this e-book. I must have been when Pixel of Ink was running a freebie because it has been a while since I’ve bought a Regency Romance novel. I’m sad that it sat in my kindle for more than a year (probably) and my eyeballs didn’t get to read Ms. Ramsey’s words. I didn’t get to learn about Mad and Ferguson and their (amazing) families until now.

Madeleine, a “spinster” by Regency era society rules, is probably in her late 20’s (I don’t remember), and the perfect fit to “bring out” Ferguson’s twin sisters (or so Ferguson and his family think). “Bring Out” means they’ll make their Ton debut in order to find husbands. Ton = high (and accepted) society. Got it? Good. I’ve been reading Regency Romance novels most of my life, so these things are normal vocabulary to me. I mean, when I want to get all saucy, I start calling people, “M’Lord” and “M’Lady” in my best cockney accent because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have come from a titled family. Lady Kelly Washington has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? btw: My accent is pretty good. I spoke this way for almost 4 years when I lived in Germany…. but don’t ask why. It is a totally and completely interesting story, but it has nothing to do with this book. Anyway, I digress.

Mad loves to act, but she’ll be shunned from society. She loves the stage, so she does exactly that under everyone’s uppity noses. She goes incognito as a French actress in a theater that’s a bit on the “shady” side and drives everyone crazy. The good crazy. Mad, I’m telling you. Mad with desire to see her. To hear here. To blackmail her. Oh, okay. That part wasn’t fun, but it doesn’t turn out all that bad because Mad gets to keep acting. And this is where the hunky hunk comes in.

Ferguson is a newly titled Duke. Dukes are like freaking high up there and just below Prince. But this means precisely nothing to Ferguson because he doesn’t want the title. A certain family trait runs in his family (madness, insanity, murder) and the rumors about his family keep him up in Scotland for quite some time. His sisters detest him (they have a good reason), so he tries to make up for all of this by asking Madeleine to chaperone and bring out his sisters into polite and proper society. She is above reproach. She is a spinster. She would never cause his sisters a scandal. Well… that is until he discovers that she is the French actress. He confronts her. He aims to protect her. They get all hot and bothered together.

In that good way.

In that really, really good way.

But, wait!!! She’s a spinster. He’s a duke. The two do not compute in Regency era England, I tell you. Okay, I’m telling you wrong. This is probably one of the reasons why I freaking love Regency books, and This Book in particular. Two very different personalities that would never, ever be drawn together, are drawn together in a cool, funny, slightly dangerous scheme. It’s fun. It’s romantic. It’s hot. Society wonders why the hunky duke is paying attention to the spinster gal. I mean, she’s not even all that beautiful, they whisper to each other. But hunky Fergster knows. Hot guys always know, don’t they? (I hope they do…hey, look at me, over here, in the corner!!!)

A couple of things happen to throw them even more together; and by together, I mean without clothes on, and an accusation of murder draws them deeper into this acting intrigue that sets the Ton in a titter.

Add in a masquerade party (I once went to one in Germany where a girl just wore ivy vines over the girly bits… I kid you not and she was freaking gorgeous… I was totally envious… fifteen years later I still remember her – that’s how powerful masquerade parties are, people!!!), a revelation, and a happily-ever-after, and you’ve won me over to buy the next book in the Muses of Mayfair series. And I totally bought the next one the millisecond I finished the first book. That, my romance-lovers friends is how you earn 5 Stars.

Keep up the great work, Ms. Ramsey. You’ve just earned yourself a new fan.

The Christmas Journey (A Short Story)

I’d like to share a very special, and very personal short story with you. I wrote The Christmas Journey more than a year ago, but I was not ready to release it into the world. I wrote it after losing my beloved Grandmother, and now, after re-reading it and editing the story, I have a lump in my throat. I really debated on whether or not to publish this piece. But, after some considerable thought, it felt right when I pressed that publish button. It’s yours now, dear reader. I hope that you enjoy it.

 

THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY

The Christmas Journey

 

On a quiet, snow-filled, Christmas morning, a nine-year-old boy and his red wagon set out on a journey to find his father in H

eaven. Along the way he encounters obstacles that prevent him from reaching his destination, including the supernatural forces of good and evil that make him question his faith. But for every obstacle, his trusty red wagon contains just the thing he needs to overcome the challenge.

THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY is a 23 page short story. While safe for all ages, some scenes might be somewhat scary for children 7 years old or younger. This is a Christian-theme short story.

Available now at Amazon for $1.99

~~ Keep Reading for an Excerpt ~~

CHAPTER ONE

 

IT IS A TINY, muffled squeak on a rocky, snow-covered dirt road that announces the boy’s arrival. The snow is fresh, as if it just fell, and the boy’s footsteps are the first to make a solid impression. The four black squeaky tires of his old red wagon follow suit, leaving their own pencil-thin tracks.

Even though this snow is new, it blankets layers of snow and ice that lay serene. It has been a while since someone has come this way. The boy appreciates the pristine view before him: the quiet road, though picturesque, is disturbingly undisturbed; small cottage-like houses, void of any human activity, bookend each side of the road silently; oak trees, majestic, earthy, and proud—like a formation of aging soldiers standing at attention—line a natural path as if to lead one into a secret kingdom. But all of it, every single thing, leaves a pang in the young boy’s heart.

Surely this isn’t the way, he thinks to himself as he views, beyond this still-life lane, a white-dotted forest in the distance. There, he thinks. There is where I must go.

He pauses, shivers, tucks his mittened hands deeper into his coat pockets and witnesses a hazy white sun decorating the tops of those evergreens far ahead of him.

It is Christmas morning, and the dawn greets him like an old friend.

The boy searches for Heaven and once, a long time ago, his father told him a story. And if it is true, this is how it starts.

CHAPTER TWO

THE SIGN SAYS BROOKFALLS in old, fading letters. This is the right place. He grips the wagon’s handle, reassured by its presence, and walks down the center of the road, never veering too much to the left or the right.

As he looks up, he notices that the lights in the houses turn on simultaneously.

The cold bites into his cheeks as he steps into the town’s city limits. And he feels it. The change, the eerie calmness; as if the air around him starts to think on its own and knows that a stranger has entered.

The air shifts and howls.

The boy is momentarily confounded as a snowy structure slaps together before his eyes. What is this magic? A snow windstorm forms ten feet in front of him.

Don’t be scared. You expected this.

The leafless trees rustle; the solid oak trunks groan like a group of angry men. The boy tries to catch his breath, but the wind steals it, and, for some reason, his eyes focus on the small puffs of smoke twirling out of a nearby chimney.

The wind seems to attack him like a flock of birds. Coming. Swiping. Threatening. But the snowy formation goes around and behind him, as if he were in the way, not the intended target. The boy spins around and watches as his small footprints disappear, as if the air means to erase his entrance. After another moment and a few more threatening-like swipes around the boy, the entire snowy structure dissipates and dies. Tiny plops of snowballs fall lazily to the ground and all is quiet again.

The boy takes back the breath the air stole.

I can go back, he thinks. Then he shakes his head. No. I must go on as my father intended. This is the way to Heaven.

When he turns around again, he nearly runs into an elderly man with shocking white hair and red cheeks, swaddled in a green plaid coat. His colorless, gnarly knuckles grip a walking cane.

“What brings you to town?” the old man asks in a croaky voice.

The Returned, by Jason Mott (A Review) (2.5 Stars)

 

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

The premise of this story is utterly fantastic and I read, recently, in PEOPLE Magazine that Mr. Mott’s debut novel was film/TV optioned by Brad Pitt’s company. This is a good thing because I think the film adaptation will be better than the actual book itself.

I wanted to love this book. I wanted to like this story.

     But I didn’t.

((Spoilers Ahead))

Nothing really happens — And So Much Could Have. This Could Have Been A Great-Great-Great Book.

I felt that Mr. Mott didn’t want the book to be about religion. And it wasn’t. I felt that he didn’t want it to be Political. And it wasn’t. I felt that he wanted it to be a quiet book about a couple in their 70’s that lost their 8-year-old son, Jacob, 50 years earlier who, suddenly, appears on the doorstep with a Government Agent. I have no doubt that parents and loved ones wish for this very fact each and every day.

The plot was great. Execution… well…

I wanted fireworks. I wanted questions. I wanted answers. But not much really happens. Harold Hargrave (Jacob’s dad) doesn’t want the boy. “He isn’t my son” but his wife, Lucille, does.

I kept thinking: Jacob is still eight. His parents are in their 70’s. If I were Jacob, I wouldn’t want to stay with them. They would be strangers to me. But, I digress. This isn’t my main issue with the story.

The Government Agent (Martin Bellamy) gets to know the family, because, you know, there’s a stack of paperwork to fill out. No one asks Jacob how he returned, why he’s returned, or what he knows. And if it is asked, it’s so glossed over and not answered, that many of the scenes do not add to the story whatsoever. Do you want to know what I’ve would have done instantly? I would have dug up that boy’s grave to find out if a body was still there.

Instead Harold Hargrave avoids the boy about as much as Lucille never lets Jacob leave her sight (which made sense, all things considered about this death). And Jacob’s a good boy. Always yes, ma’am this and yes, sir that. But that’s it. Jacob Hargrave # 2 doesn’t have a personality (except his love for candy). No character. Even when Jacob and Harold are locked up by the Bureau of the Returned, it’s just accepted by every single person in the world, Lucille, and the town of Arcadia. It’s nice, however, that Lucille is able to bring them food and fresh clothing. So, there’s that.

A couple of individuals (Fred Green and a few other misfits) have heartburn about The Returned, but their anger doesn’t seem real. It’s mostly juvenile-style actions they take against The Returned (the Wilson family sort of comes out of the blue in the story with zero introduction before that Church scene), and the Hargrave family.

Even Colonel Wallis (once the military roles into town) seems like a menacing guy without much substance behind it. There are a few military-style interrogation scenes that could have ramped up the tension.

Near the end, as violence comes into play, I had hoped that the ending would be explosive (figuratively speaking) in that, once all is revealed, the quietness of the book would make sense; that it was lulling me into a false sense of security. But it ends just as quietly as it begins. There is one part, however, when Jacob Hargrave’s “soliloquy” finally comes at the end, that a couple of things made sense about the river, music, and why the boy might have gone to the river on the day he died, and I was like: “Aha – this should have been closer to the front of the book, not at the end.”

After I finished reading and placed the book down, I was let down by the novel. Was the story about love, parental love, and the love Agent Martin Bellamy had for his own mother?

Yes.

Was it about The Returned?

No.

We never find out why they returned, how they returned, and, after everything ends, why they’ve disappeared into thin air. I felt zero resolution from start to finish.

Was the story about fear? Fear of the unknown?

Yes.

The reaction by many of The True Living was caused by fear. For the few months that The Returned were back and living on this Earth, they were not treated as equal citizens, rounded up, and some, killed.

My disappointment with the book is that I hoped and expected a different kind of story. It wasn’t that story.

If you enjoy quiet, slow-building novels, then I would recommend The Returned to you. If you enjoy fast-paced, tension-filled, suspenseful narratives with an edge to them, then you may not enjoy The Returned.