Sunday, February 18, 2024

Reading and Reviews (Henderson and Abrams)

I'm an author, but I'm also a reader. From time to time, I'll share my reviews of present and past reads. My available time to read is limited because I write, but I love to curl up with a paperback or an eBook at night for the last hour of my day. 

I tend to read what I write, but not exclusively. Besides Romantic Suspense and mystery, I read crime and law novels, once in a while a true story, WWII historicals, romance, and mainstream character driven books.

Here are some of the books I've read recently or in the not-too-distant past. Maybe you'll discover a new book or author.

Snapshot of a Murder by Alison Henderson 

Isadora Munro can take a hint. After being laid off from her job, dumped by her fiancé, and ousted from her home—all on her fortieth birthday—Izzy packs up what’s left of her life in San Francisco and heads to the picturesque beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea to lick her wounds. To her surprise, the cottage she’s inherited from her Great Aunt Dora comes complete with a built-in roommate—a bossy Burmese cat named Bogart.

After a local baker and chocolatier collapses in Izzy’s arms at the town’s annual Halloween parade and later dies, a colorful trio of Aunt Dora’s friends rallies to her side. The whole village is on edge with a killer on the loose, so Izzy and her new friends team up with an old colleague, a former SFPD homicide detective, to solve the murder before one of them becomes the next victim.

My Review:

I’ve read most if not all of Ms. Henderson’s romantic suspense. This is her first venture into cozy mystery, and I’d say she’s succeeding. She has a great cast of characters, including the cat, and a twisty path to find the murderer. My guess is Izzy will have more entertaining adventures in future books. 


Unexpected by Laylah Abrams 

Claire Morgan is a beautiful, rich heiress, and the paparazzi love to track her. Although she holds degrees in business and computer science and works hard at her job, the only thing the public is interested in is who designs her gowns and her latest date. Claire has learned to play the part, hiding behind an image that keeps her heart safe and everyone out of her personal life. Then she meets Nick Holden.

 Nick is a struggling artist, waiting tables to pay the bills and his college tuition. He’s following a dream, but he’s in the middle of a creative slump that jeopardizes his grad school scholarship. When Nick is tasked with waiting on famous Claire Morgan and her equally famous best friend and their dates, a spark ignites neither of them sees coming.

 My Review:

When I started reading Unexpected, I have to admit, I expected a shallow boy meets girl story in the world of the rich and famous. There are so many “billionaire romances” floating around. But only pages in, I realized this story was anything but superficial. 

Nick and Claire live in different worlds, and they assume the gap can’t be crossed. But their physical attraction is strong, and they act on it. They jump into a love affair they consider a carnal convenience. What they both miss in the beginning is the deeper draw to each other. What Ms. Abrams is adept at is writing the slow revelation of their characters. 

One note on style. Ms. Abrams used clips from news articles to begin each chapter. The effect was fun and insightful for the story. 

I love character driven fiction. When an author can grow a character, immerse the reader, and complete the arc, the end result is satisfying. The story has depth and kept me turning the pages. Claire and Nick inspire each other to be complete. The fact remains, they are still a rich celeb girl and a no-name artist. Can it work? I encourage you to pick up this book. The ending will leave you feeling good.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Life's Adventures

Blogging about life's adventures and the next book...

Adventures past, present, or future. And the next book--as it happens. 

This week we had a food gift card adventure. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like adventure, but I love road trips which this was. For the last year, we've been fairly homebound with FDW's various medical issues (a whole different adventure he would not appreciate me blogging about). We missed the wedding anniversary weekend and an overnight trip for my birthday. As a result of celebratory dates, we received gift cards to several restaurants. I came up with the idea to hit the road for a couple of days and eat our way through the drive for free.
San Francisco Peaks

The largest of the giftcards was for Chef Dahl's restaurants in the Sedona area.
These are high end establishments. We aren't the white table cloth and crystal chandelier type people so we settled on Butterfly Burger...gourmet of course. We also had Panera, Chili's, and Texas Roadhouse in my wallet. Our intentions were Panera for lunch the first day with dinner at Butterfly Burger. Second day we'd do Texas Roadhouse for lunch and Chili's for dinner back in Payson on our way home.

Mistake number 1: don't bother calling or checking locations. Just head out. 

Not too far out of Sedona, I started Googling where Panera's was located. Surprise! No Panera's in Sedona. Okay, no worry. We'll drive on to Flagstaff, get a good view of the snow covered peaks, and  eat there. We took the freeway route, and I Googled the location on the way.

Hand-tossed pie

Mistake number 2: don't assume Flagstaff has a Panera's. Apparently, the sandwich place is only big in the valley and Prescott.

Changed the plans. We headed to Chili's because we knew where it was in Flagstaff. I then called Butterfly Burger because I was feeling like things were
going wonky. And they were. Back to mistake number 1. Butterfly Burger's recording said they were closed on Wednesday. What?! Good thing Chef Dahl has more than one restaurant. We decided on Pisa Lisa featuring upmarket wood-fired pies.

View from our deck
Our hotel was actually in Oak Creek Village, right next to Sedona. In fact, you can't really tell them apart. Pisa Lisa had a location just up the block. The Sedona Village Lodge where we spent the night was so quaint, yet roomy and nice. They allowed doggies, for a hefty price, and the location was beautiful. But then, the whole area is spectacular. On the very short drive to Pisa Lisa, we passed Butterfly Burger with a lit open sign in the window. What? After burgers at Chili's, we couldn't. Frank had to hold me back from marching in there and blasting them for an erroneous phone message. As it turned out, the pizza and wine were fantastic. We had no trouble spending the $90 in giftcards.

Oak Creek Canyon
The next morning, we lounged in the room feasting on pastries. Since we had to go to Flagstaff for a late lunch at Texas Roadhouse, we took the scenic drive along Oak Creek through the canyon. The last time we did that was decades ago. The leisurely drive brought back memories of when the creek was more accessible for fishing, slide rock wasn't a park but a stop along the road for high school and college kids, and picnics. 

Oak Creek
We hadn't planned on a Flagstaff to Sedona to Flagstaff trip, but I'm glad the food gift card fiasco happened. A simple drive to Sedona turned into an adventure up north.

Sedona behind us

Along Lake Mary, headed home


Thursday, February 8, 2024

The Next Book

Blogging about life's adventures and the next book...

Adventures past, present, or future. And the next book--as it happens. 

I don't know if all authors enjoy putting a face to their characters, I mean a face outside of what's in their heads. I don't like using people on my covers. Giving readers a preconceived idea of what a character looks like takes away some of the joy of reading, in my opinion. If I do my job, paint the picture, create my characters so they conjure visions in the readers' heads, how much more fun. And more than likely, from one reader to the next, they could possibly "see" the characters differently.

But as an aid for writing, and for fun, I search out famous or well known individuals to put a face to my character. I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the characters Joyce and I visualize for our Chocolate Martini Sisters cozy mysteries. 

First off the sisters. Joyce writes in the POV of Emma (Em) Banefield. My sister is Nicole (Nic) Earp. We each chose the likeness of our POV sister. Joyce chose Carrie Coon:

Em is actually mid-forties so age Carrie just a little in your imagination.

I chose Laura Linney (also mid-forties) for the likeness of Nic: 
Book 3, Cornbread, Ribs, and Murder will release in April, not March as first planned. We have some real characters in this story. Bettina Mayweather is a bit of a wacko:

Her male counterpart is Bradley 
Brannigan, known as Bear. He owns Bear Ribs, a less than enticing barbecue
 ribs dive: 

And we can't forget the self-proclaimed ladies' man Leo Ragazzi. But alas, Leo meets a fate no one would envy:

There are plenty of other outstanding characters in all of the Chocolate Martini Sisters adventures. You can find them all here:

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Life's Adventures

 Blogging about life's adventures and the next book...

Adventures past, present, or future. And the next book--as it happens. 

I don't know what daily adventures other authors encounter, but here's a glimpse of this author's trek through daily Life's Adventures using entries from my calendar. After I rise and have a cup of coffee, check email, and take a mile and a half walk with Amigo, I tackle my tasks on my daily calendar. Closing down January:

January 29, 2024

**Create QR codes for promotional handouts

Done. Yay. Now when I do book fairs and someone wants an eBook instead of print, I can hand them my post card or business card with the link to find my books using a QR code on their phone. 

**Reevaluate all of Gaughran’s webinars and emails I’ve saved to determine if I want to invest the time in listening and reading them.

I know I need to. David Gaughran is one smart guy when it comes to marketing. I’ve read two of his books. No time today. Push it forward 

**The Amazon Ad Class I took all last week – files are closing today if I missed any

Huff and puff, I skimmed through all 6 because, yeah, I didn’t look at them last week. It is much of what I already know but there were a few gems I will review in a few days. 

**Pay personal bills

Done and paid and logged into the spreadsheet in my computer. 

**Get set up in Payson with a primary care doctor on my new insurance.

No time today. I’ll call on another day

**Call GoDaddy, my domain provider for my website, regarding authentication of my email and website so my newsletters don’t get bounced.

The writing community is going crazy over this. I have NO idea what it is, but I thought I should pursue it. Hold time was 46 minutes. I just can’t worry about it today

**Day One of getting back on weight lifting


January 30, 2024

2:30 AM awoke with a pinching pain in my chest. I got back to sleep around 3:30. Up again at 6:00. Only ½ mile
walk. So sleepy.

**Find out why no reviews on Amazon for Amanda in the Summer

Spent nearly an hour on texting with Amazon to no avail. I finally said forget it. I’ll try another day and disconnected. 

**Make sure Amanda in the Summer is on BookFunnel, BookBub, and GoodReads

BB and GR had it already. I uploaded a copy to BookFunnel so I can give a free copy to my newsletter subscribers in February. 

**Upload the corrected copy of A Legacy of Love and Murder to Amazon

Done. Found a small mistake. This is the free book my newsletter subscribers can have.

**Start revising Amazon Ads

I’m still fuzzy headed from the lack of sleep with the chest pain thing. Push this forward

**Read advice from a fellow author on Amazon Ads saved in email of 11/20/2023

Too fuzzy headed. Push this forward

**Call Colorado Credit Union regarding personal online account


**Sign up for more BookFunnel promotions

I managed a couple. I need sleep. 

**Edit Cornbread, Ribs, and Murder

Ah, yes. This was relaxing and fun. I put in a couple of hours. I am so excited to get this third book in the Chocolate Martini Sisters Mysteries published in April. 

**Remind FDW to call the VA billing department

Done! Suckers are overbilling us for his prescriptions. 

**Defrost the small refrigerator

I couldn’t face it today. Push it off until tomorrow

January 31, 2024

Looking back on pushed forward items: 

The chest pain kind of scared me so I set my butt down and got set up with a primary care doctor in Payson. But I’m fine, you know. Done!  

I dug into defrosting the fridge. We let it go so long it took me all day…done! 

Still not enough time to delve into Gaughran’s advice. Push it forward yet again.

Found the online chat feature for GoDaddy and spent 45 minutes getting my domain authenticated. I guess. It’s all Greek to me. (Update: days later discovered I am still a fail on one aspect. I tried MailChimp and couldn’t get a response. I tried GoDaddy again and had to give up that day after a half hour since I had an appointment. Still unresolved. This kind of stuff gives me a major headache.) 

Searched in KDP and Author Central for who to help me to get my Amanda in the Summer reviews to show on Amazon. Hit dead ends on both sites. Push it forward yet again

I got halfway through revising Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder ads on Amazon. I can see this is going to take a while…like weeks. I also need more knowledge beyond what I learned in the Amazon Ad class. I purchased Publisher Rocket. FDW has committed to helping me. Yay! 

**Schedule more BookFunnel promotions


**Edit Cornbread, Ribs, and Murder

Aw, yes, again. I’ll be at this for the next week and a half. These hours are truly my enjoyable time. 

February1, 2024

I needed a break after those last 3 days of January. FDW and I headed north for lunch and shopping in Pine. Elk
roaming through town, a hippie shop full of fun stuff to walk down memory lane, delicious fudge and coffee, and a lunch in a high-country café. A satisfying adventure.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Next Book

Blogging about life's adventures and the next book...

Adventures past, present, or future. And the next book--as it happens. 

With an expected release date in March, Joyce and I are heavy on the editing stage for Cornbread, Ribs, and Murder, the third book of the Chocolate Martini Sisters Mysteries. Editing is not nearly as sexy as's more like slugging through the trenches. Here's the latest from Joyce:

I checked overused words. 
This is my list: gaze (48) move (57) bring, brought, purse, pull, press, reach, went (43) saw (56) felt, watched, thought (123), noticed, knew,
heard (51), decided, and realized. Except for the numbered words, the rest were in the low digits. Did replace/reduce some of the frequently used. BUT was used 312 x. THAT used 274. As I went along, I changed up some that, but ha ha didn't touch the buts. 

Now, the manuscript is back in my court for the next round. No doubt I'll find some words that hit me as overused, but what other stumbling blocks? Maybe...but.

Cornbread, Ribs, and Murder

It’s a rib cook off…with a recipe for murder. 

Nicole Earp and Emma Banefield are celebrating another birthday at the Dulce Inn with the added fun of a rib cook off in the park. Not only are chocolate martinis in their plans, Nic has her heart set on winning the cornbread contest. But as the excitement bakes, someone is stirring up trouble for the inn and its employees. 

Strange occurrences at the Dulce are on the rise. Slashed tires, menacing phone calls, and unsavory characters add a vibe that threatens the sisters’ anticipated fun-filled stay. When the hot-headed hotel owner is caught wielding a bloody letter opener over a dead coworker, the sisters are embroiled in a caper to help the one person who finds their sleuthing as welcomed as a rattlesnake in her bed. But is she innocent? 

The Chocolate Martini Sisters are primed to find out. First, they’ll have to eliminate a host of suspects that includes a dishonest restaurant owner, a jilted girlfriend, an ex-wife, the barkeeper, and a masseuse with a crush. If they can stay off the radar of the surly chief homicide detective long enough, they can put out the fire…unless the killer burns them first.

You can find all of the Chocolate Martini Sisters Mysteries here: THE CHOCOLATE MARTINI SISTERS COZY MYSTERY BOOKS

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Life's Adventures

 Blogging about life's adventures and the next book...

That's been my intention, and this year I'll make that happen. Adventures will be past, present, or future. And the next book--as it happens. I hope you'll join me this year.

When my granddaughter was bullied in school, I worried it would leave permanent impressions on her. There's no way of knowing. She seems perfectly healthy and happy now. But it got me thinking about the things that happen in early life and how long we can hang onto a diss or a compliment.

In fourth grade, a teacher used me as an example of why she always let Betty read aloud to us and no one else. She stuck me in front of the class with the book. After several minutes of my unsteady and erratic recitation, she asked me to sit down. Betty was brought back to finish the story. Could that be why I strove to excel in school? Why I made sure in later to life to be glib and outgoing in front of an audience?

In high school, one of my close male friends told me I was cute above the knees, but from the knees down, I was wasted. I avoided dresses after that and love boots to this day.

In the fifth grade, I decided my nose was too big. I declared I was going to get a nose job when I got old enough. My Uncle Dwain did his best to soothe me. He told me I had a regal Roman nose. But in the eighth grade, when talking to a male friend about high school, I stated when I started dating I'd like to date a letterman. He scoffed. He told me my nose was too big to score a letterman. That stuck with me...not what Uncle Dwain said. A side note: phooey on him--I did date a letterman. Of course I found out he wasn't any more special than other high school boys.

So, where am I going with this rambling? Life's adventures can be moments or momentous. How we treat each other, what we say to someone, can possibly affect them forever...or not. One person may crumble. Another might rebel and grow stronger, sending them on a life adventure. But we can't know which. Be careful.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Strong Women of Fact and Fiction #girlpower

 What's Your Definition of a Strong Woman?

Would you define female strength different than male strength? In days gone by, I think we did, but the lines have blurred especially in fiction. Kick-ass women heroines are extremely popular. There are tons of books with female detectives, cops, bodyguards. Girl Power! 

The fact is, even in real life the lines have blurred. Take for instance, FDW and me. For the first thirty-seven years of our marriage, my husband always surprised me with a gift or greeting…surprised because I never remembered the date. Now, that’s just backwards. Women are the sentimental ones, right? Then we moved into a house in Robbinsdale, Minnesota with a new phone number. The phone number ended with 22. At last, something I could relate, make a connection, give me a hint to the date we were married. FDW is mushier than I am. Nowadays, we can admit such things. 

The heroines of my Wild Horse Peaks books have varying degrees of physical strength, but, for me, inner strength makes for a more compelling story: living through the deaths of parents and a husband; standing up to a stalker; facing a Nazi mad-woman; leading a double life to avoid a murderer; surviving abuse. Each woman endures hardships and comes out on the other side with a shining inner strength. Actually, one of them is pretty daring and goes after her stalker with a gun, but she has even more emotional strength. 

So what is your definition of a strong woman? Do you prefer the muscle variety packing a gun? Do the women of the west, enduring hardships and loneliness strike a chord? Do you enjoy reading about heroines whose attitude says everything about strength? 

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