Review Excerpts

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Women and Storytelling (and TV, I suppose)

There's not much to report on the writing front over here, and then when I decided to check in and write a blog post anyway, I was having issues with Blogger loading. I know, excuses, excuses. So I figured I might as well grab some of my tags to use as a title and ramble a bit about what I've been doing to entertain myself recently.

I believe I've mentioned it on here before at least once, but I'm a fan of Orange is the New Black. Gone are the days of binge watching stuff, as I'm a boring adult who has other obligations/responsibilities, but we still got through all 13 episodes in about a week. And it was SO GOOD. Like, the kind of good that makes you want to run around shouting it from the rooftops, or just shout in general because your body simply can't contain the level of good-ness it just experienced. Was this season flawless? No, of course not. But it was some damn fine television.

I'm in the camp that does believe the show is/was groundbreaking, as it went against a lot of what the entertainment industry believes people want to see (or what they tell people they want to see, anyway). Right off the bat, stories with a female lead are often a harder sell than those with a male lead. And when it comes to the stories OITNB tells, that's just the tip of the iceberg. I found this quote about the main character from an NPR interview with Jenji Kohan (the show's creator) both a little sad and not surprising at all:

"In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful."

I'll admit to being similar to Piper in terms of background and privilege, so I'm not going to spout off about a lot of things I have little personal experience with. But I hope the fact that the show has been so successful will mean good things in the future when it comes to storytelling and how women are portrayed in the media. There's a large audience filled with people who will now demand diversity in what they want to see and who will refuse to believe that such stories aren't marketable, because there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Which, in turn, will mean good things (I hope) for those of us who create art and want to find an audience of our own, even when what we create is different from "the way things have always been done".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nothing to See Here!

No, really, not much to see here. I finished Mass Effect: Andromeda, and it was very good; while I will replay it soon, I haven't felt the burning need to start over again yet. I've also been reading for a change, and paying attention to my neglected knitting. Edits haven't started yet for Seductive Suspect, so I'm trying to spread the love between my other hobbies in my limited free time.

I feel like I should start a new writing project soon, though. I have one idea pretty much completely fully outlined, and two more that need a little more baking. I'm debating whether to start the former and work on it whenever I feel like it (and try to get back into good writing habits), or wait until I'm feeling really fired up and attack it head on. There's no good answer, of course. And let's face it, with two rambunctious toddlers running around, a day job that's in an upswing on the busy spectrum, and some lingering issues with my chronic illness, sometimes I am just TIRED. But one way or another, writing always manages to worm its way back onto my list of priorities. I'll get there, I promise!

(Oh, and I suppose I could write a better follow-up post about ME:A, but all in good time!)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Setting the Pace

As promised, here are some spoiler-free thoughts on Mass Effect: Andromeda. The game's been out for almost a month and I'm not finished with it yet (how's that for pacing?), and I'm really not sure how much I have left to go. Based on the level requirements to unlock certain things, I think there's still a decent amount left, but I can't say for sure. That said, I've played enough of it to spout off some of my thoughts and how they relate to storytelling.

So far, I'm really enjoying the game. Some parts of it have been frustrating, but the good stuff more than makes up for it. While I do love Dragon Age: Inquisition, as we all know (the previous BioWare game), I wouldn't say the game was without its faults. MEA has improved on the elements I took issue with, which I appreciate.

As the title of this post indicates, I'm going to talk about pacing. That was my number one qualm with DAI, in that the pacing seemed really uneven and There are certain plot points you have to hit in order to progress the main plot, and in some cases, you can choose the order in which you do them, but the sheer number of side quests (many optional, to be fair) killed the sense of urgency for me. And what really bugged me was that the main plot quests were SO GOOD. Like, I distinctly recall staying up way too late while playing one of them because I HAD to know what happened next (a mark of good storytelling). I wish there had been more of that instead of Fetch Quest #2837.

To be fair, the structure of MEA isn't too dissimilar, but something about it flows better for me. Maybe it's because all the little side quests add up to a bigger whole, or contribute more to the overall story. It's funny, in DAI, the Big Bad is established relatively early on and you know your goal is to defeat him. In MEA, I'm pretty sure, though not positive, I know who the final boss is going to be, but the overall goal is just making a safe place for your people to live. You'd think that the game with the more defined goal would be the one with better pacing, but it's not working out that way for me.

Moving on! The other issue I had with DAI is that I thought there were way too many characters, and as such, not all of them felt as developed and well-written as they could have been. (For the record, I said the same exact thing about Mass Effect 2.) MEA pared down the number of companions and as a result, I don't feel like any of them are useless or redundant. Sure, there are some I like better than others, but even my least favorite has a detailed background and has had some good moments.

I'll stop here before this gets too long. I know you're all wondering about the romances, because obviously that's the main reason people play these games ( ;) ). I've chosen who I'm going to pursue the first time around, but the romance hasn't progressed super far, so I'll get back to you on that!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring into Romance Blog Hop and Giveaway!

Spring is here! What better time to share our favorite reads for the season? Join in and tell everyone about what new reads you're excited about!

For my stop on the hop, I'm giving away an e-copy of Elysium. The book takes place in the spring, and for good reason—themes include new beginnings, taking a chance on a new romance, and all sorts of other ideas we associate with the season. (Heck, the heroine's name is even April!) All the participating sites are hosting giveaways, so be sure to check them all out!


And here's the blurb and giveaway for Elysium. Good luck, and happy spring!

Two years have passed since April Patterson’s husband was shot and killed in the line of duty, and she’s trapped in a haze of grief and uncertainty. Having grown frustrated by all other efforts to engage her in activities where she could meet new people, her cousin pays for a date via 1Night Stand. Not thrilled with the idea, April nevertheless contacts Madame Eve and requests the impossible: a date with her deceased husband.

Brilliant software engineer Drew Monroe created his company, Elysium, to help give closure to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, through the use of virtual reality. Though passionate about his work, being constantly surrounded by heartache and death has taken a toll on his mental health. When he accepts the case of a young widow referred to him by Madame Eve, her tragic tale depresses him further, but he commits himself to programming April the romantic date she desires.

April arrives at Elysium and prepares to enter Drew’s virtual realm. Will she find the solace she seeks within? Or will she discover she doesn’t need a fantasy world to discover happiness again? 

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Seductive Suspect - Coming Soon!

One little revision later, and the paperwork's all done for Seductive Suspect! Watch this space in the future for more details like the cover, the release date, and other fun things. For now, have a blurb, which might change since I'm still terrible at writing them*:

When Veronica Campbell agrees to take her sister’s place at a murder mystery weekend getaway, she has no idea what’s in store for her. The events at the mountaintop lodge get off to a good start, especially when she meets Adam, the handsome man staying in the room next door. By the end of the first night, however, the role-playing games take a dark turn when one of the participants is killed for real.

Violent storms and sabotaged cars trap the guests at the lodge with no escape. In addition to the danger lurking around every corner, Veronica must deal with her growing attraction to Adam. Despite trying to keep her distance from him, she struggles to resist his flirtatious charms.

One by one, the number of guests dwindles as the murderer continues to strike. The longer they survive, the more Veronica worries she’s falling for Adam. Can she trust his intentions, or has she wound up in the arms of a cold-blooded killer?

*I'll be totally honest here, this blurb was originally scribbled on a piece of scrap paper while I let the kids watch The Price is Right. I did edit it, at least, when I went to type it up. :P

Friday, March 31, 2017

Promo - Fiery 10-16, by Lea Bronsen

I'm taking a short break from playing Mass Effect: Andromeda (more on that soon, just know that it's GOOOOOD) to bring you a hot Hot HOT new release from Lea Bronsen. Seriously, there's plenty of fire and heat in Fiery 10-16, a dark romantic suspense. Keep reading for the blurb and featured excerpt!

Runo Wiggins is a scarred man, the wounds etched into his psyche deeper than those on his skin. But he loves his job: fighting fires helps reenact his survival of a house fire as a teen, one that killed his mother and brutal stepfather.

Dawn Caravello is married to a psychotic drunk. She can take his beatings as long as he doesn't touch their children, and she'll do anything to put food on the table, even if it means stealing from the town hero.

When Runo meets the fiery Dawn, sparks fly. But he suspects she is victim of the same abuse as his mother was. As day turns to night, the past and the present blend in an exhausting, nerve-wrecking chase to prevent another death.

Dawn's eyes shimmered with a mix of stubborn pride and extreme sadness. They seemed to be made of molten brown stone. Runo had never seen eyes like these. So vibrant, saying so many things. They revealed her life, her endurance, her dreams, her combats, her despair. And she was still so young.

While he stared, she leaned forward and kissed him, an act a whole lot more intimate than he was comfortable with. A short, hard peck, a statement. Not the tender gesture a kiss was supposed to be, but one telling him her gratitude as well as her dignity. She thanked him, but was going to go back to her life and continue fighting.

He stood shocked, his entire body rigid, didn’t know what to do. She, such a small woman thing a whole head shorter, shook him, a giant of muscle and stupid testosterones inside a hard shell.

He would definitely take care of Dawn and her kids. Any way possible. Alert the authorities and make sure they got the protection they desperately needed.

She stepped backward, her features softening, and turned on her heel.

Not so fast.

He cleared his throat and called, lifting a weak hand. “Hey, wait!” His heart hammered in his chest, blood pulsed in his ears.

She turned. “What?”

“Promise to be good. Promise it’s the last time you do it.”

“Do what?” Her eyes gleamed with humor. “Kiss you?” In the midst of this emotional turmoil, she found the strength to tease.


And lie.

She pursed her lips, looking like a disappointed little girl. Maybe she still was a child inside. A child taking care of children. A child beaten savagely.

He swallowed. “Promise.”

After several long seconds, she nodded. But her gaze told a different truth.


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About the Author:

I like my reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strive to give my own stories the same intensity. After venturing into dirty inner-city crime drama with my debut novel Wild Hearted, I divide my writing time between psychological thriller, romantic suspense, and erotic dark/contemporary romance.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Everything is In Order

While I didn't hit my original deadline of finishing up Seductive Suspect by the end of February, I did get it done before the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda next week. We'll put that in the win column! So that's all taken care of, and I have another ten days to loaf around (and maybe replay some Dragon Age: Inquisition on my shiny new laptop that I bought for ME:A).

I've mentioned it before, but I'm the type of writer who needs to write in order. That method has its pros and cons, and I'm certainly not going to argue with the people who write their scenes as they come because hey, whatever gets the words on the page. For me, though, when I go in order, I wind up thinking about the final, climactic scenes SO much, by the time I get there, writing is just plain fun. The words fly out of my fingers, and it's a far more enjoyable process than "okay, how am I going to connect Point A to Point B here?" I don't mind waiting for the reward as opposed to getting the fun stuff done first and then having to tie it all together. (But again! Whatever works!)

(Incidentally, the knitting project I'm working on now is similar - the body of the cardigan is done in one color in plain stockinette on tiny little needles, and I'm not going to lie. It's been a bit of a slog. But once I get to the colored yoke, HOLY CRAP IT'S GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN!)

(My knitting friends may think I'm a bit nuts, too.)

Getting back to writing! Interestingly enough, despite all the nights I lay awake hashing out every single detail about those last thrilling chapters, I did wind up tweaking a few details once I got there. Nothing major, just some bits I thought made the plot flow a little better. I suppose it just emphasizes that no process is perfect. Either way, I'm happy with the end result, so stay tuned for more updates!