Thank you NetGalley and Land of Oz LLC for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book. I am giving this honest review freely.
Shrewd ex-con Kat Lundquist has made mistakes – big ones – but she’s done her time and takes full responsibility for her poor choices and the followout from them. But she doesn’t feel she should die for them,.So she skips parole and goes on the run from the bloodthirsty cartel she testified against and that wants her dead.
Strange things begin to happen at the abandoned farm where she’s holed up, and she’s no longer sure what is the biggest threat: her old mentor and his new boss? Or the restless spirits and haunted past of the old house itself?
There is a lot to love about this book! Cailyn Lloyd has done an exceptional job of creating believable characters that you want to root for. From the beginning I wanted Kat to win, to survive, and to thrive in a new life. I really liked the way each new character was introduced independent of Kat and how they were slowly woven into the fabric of her story. Ms Lloyd skillfully built suspense and kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. It was exciting and well-executed.
I do feel there were a few aspects or plot points that had terriffic potential but that were left hanging without any resolution. Repetition from chapter to chapter made it feel more like a serial that had been cobbled into novel form, like the author was reminding the reader what had happened in the last installment, and the way characters kind of shared knowledge was a bit convenient.
All in all, I really enjoyed the story and hope to read more from Cailyn Lloyd.
Haunted Ground: The Ghosts of Laskin’s Farm is available for preorder and will be released on April 25, 2023.
Why yes, yes I DID just read this book in roughly 6 hours.
This was my first – but most definitely not my last – Denise Williams book. I have so many feelings about the story and the characters and I’m not sure where to start. I dig her sense of humor and the things that she finds romantic and the terrible jokes (that I fully laughed at, not gonna lie).
The sex scenes were spicy and plentiful and I am here for it. (Is there much that is sexier than a partner finding pleasure in giving pleasure?) The lack of game-playing and the vulnerability and the goofy puns and jokes all make this MMC so appealing.
Naya’s character growth was wonderful and realistic and, to me, a reminder that we don’t always have to be so tough and so independent that we never ask for help. I adore the strong, intelligent women and the men who are so secure with themselves as to expose their soft underbellies with no fear.
And I admire Denise for shining a light on intimate partner violence and showing that it can – and does – happen to strong, smart, educated women of all ages and backgrounds. Naya’s behavior regarding her trauma – while maybe not the best way to handle things as evidenced throughout her arc – felt true and organic and will resonate with far too many readers. Nothing between those two characters felt gratuitous or over-the-top, either.
If this was her debut novel, I can’t wait to devour the rest of her writing!
In the past week, I’ve participated in several Twitter writing prompts. The challenge is to share or write a 280-character blurb using a specific word. This has been tremendous fun for me – and more than a little stressful. These blurbs have inspired me to start several new story ideas.
There are already ten or more story ideas or mostly-written novels languishing in my files.
Another result of these writing challenges is that I need to examine the way I look at romance: in movies, in books, in television, and in my own life. My reality is that I have been married to the kindest, sweetest, least toxic man for nearly 30 years. He is an artist and has the soul of a poet and is FAR more romantic than I, and I know I am exceptionally lucky that he hasn’t run for the hills – yet.
Why do I – why do WE – swoon over these characters?
This last week has been all about Logan Echolls, one of my ultimate examples of the bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold. He is introduced as the “obligatory psychotic jackass” in the first episode of Veronica Mars and yet, before the end of the first season, he becomes irresistible. Then I started thinking about Heathcliff, who is half of one of the most toxic couples in literary history. Oh, how he made my little 14-year-old heart flutter. (Not gonna lie, he still does.) Despite his – and Cathy’s – boorish behavior, he is still romanticized.
And I loooove writing the bad boys; the ones who push everyone away as a defense mechanism, who sacrifice their own chance at love and happiness for the greater good, the misunderstood dark hero who just needs someone to see the real him that only true love can reveal.
Why would anyone with a rational mind think these brutes are so desirable? One of my dearest friends tried to read Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier last year and she hated it. HATED it. The protagonist was weak and Maxim de Winter was a bully. I loved that book and movie growing up and never really thought of it that way. But my friend is considerably younger than I am, and that got me thinking about how the different worlds we grew up in had an effect on the way we see romance.
Here are some of my thoughts:
At a young age, I watched old movies from the 30s and 40s where that kind of uber-masculinity ran rampant. Women were women and men were MEN. They were dismissive and rude and sometimes downright cruel, but any tiny spark of kindness had the leading lady following him to the ends of the earth. Even beloved George Bailey declares his love for Mary by grabbing her arms and snarling in her face that he DOESN’T love her.
I was in middle school when I read Wuthering Heights and the writing sang to me, the words flowing so beautifully into my soul. Having had only my adolescent crushes, the all-consuming need between Cathy and Heathcliff seemed to be everything I wanted. Even now, there’s something about that kind of desperate love, that irresistible possessiveness that grabs people, even though we know it’s toxic. (Yes, Twilight, I’m looking at you.) There is a very fine line between passion and obsession, and stories like this not only blur it but almost rub it out.
As little girls we were told that if a boy picks on you, pulls your hair (like Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables) it just means that he likes you. The fact that we were taught a little boy trying to hurt you was actually sweet and something to be happy about is crazy in today’s world. I’m sure there’s psychology behind it, where our little ape minds don’t know how to handle the strange feelings we have toward another little ape, so we poke it. I don’t know; humans are weird.
Looking back, it seems to me that we were taught, subliminally, that it was our responsibility to ‘fix’ these broken people and not to give up on them. That the more nurturing of our species bears the brunt of molding and bettering the beings around us. That all they need is the good love of a partner to steer them right. This is also, I believe, how we continue to have such a catastrophic level of domestic violence. But make no mistake: abuse is never the victim’s fault and only the abuser has any control over their actions. You can’t fix them.
While I have definitely seen a trend for healthier relationships in entertainment media, there is still a market for bad-boy romance. I can’t help but wonder why. There is a case for ‘nurture’ where that kind of trope is front and center in tv, movies, and literature, and our subconscious gobbles it all up. But is there also something deep inside us that craves that kind of addiction? Is it because the writer lets us see inside the bad boy and know he’s actually virtuous? Maybe it’s because we love a challenge and are obsessed with ‘fixer uppers’? Or do we want so badly to know what it feels like to be someone’s captivating ideal, the flame that entices the moth?
A little deep for a Saturday morning, I know, but I can’t stop thinking about why I’m drawn to these characters, even if I would never put up with it in real life. 🤔
Why do you think we love bad boys (or girls)? What kinds of characters, tropes, or love interests pull you in? Leave a comment or drop an email!
Are you struggling to find a gift for your coworker, neighbor, sister, nephew, random gift grab bag?
Support small business and indie authors and give the gift of a book!
There are a ton of options out there and even looking through various best-seller lists or celebrity recommendations can be overwhelming. How on earth do you find something good by an author you’ve (likely) never heard of before?
You let me make some suggestions.
Following is a collection of books from different genres written by people I personally know who are self-published or independently published and don’t have the marketing clout of one of the major publishing houses. I have read almost all of the books listed – I haven’t finished all the series, unfortunately. Take a look!
Laura A. Barnesis a Des Moines area author I met by doing NaNoWriMo in 2017. (Turns out we were on the same United Nations trip when we were in high school but never met – small world, right?) Laura writes steamy period romances and currently has three series available for purchase. Whether you’re looking for pirates and spies, noble scoundrels, or matchmaking madness, Laura has got the goods to get your pulse racing.
Sarah Latchaw lives near me and is one of the most delightful people I know. Her Hydraulic Series is full of relatable characters, swoon-worthy romantic moments, humor, and a view of mental illness from a place of true love. Her writing style pulls you in and her characters are so real that you can’t help but laugh and cry right along with them. This trilogy isn’t the spicy type, but will get your heart racing.
I met Jethro Weyman through the writing platform Channillo and we became friends via the Twitter #WritingCommunity. I was struck by the amazing prose of his writing and the unique and wickedly clever ways he explores some dark and existential themes. Bang to Begin is a gorgeously written collection of stories that seem unconnected on the surface. Kind of mind-bendy deep stuff.
Taylor Hohulin is a local radio celebrity and all-around terrific human. the first time I read his writing, I was pulled in and have devoured pretty much everything of his since. I met him through NaNoWriMo, as well, and was lucky enough to get encouragement from him through a small critique group and I learned a lot from him.
The Marian Series follows a young man who gets unexpectedly transported to a pirate ship in another world where water is the ultimate prize. This trilogy is kind-of steampunk and has both human and supernatural dangers and lots of terrific science fiction gadgets.
TAR is probably my favorite, though. If you like cybernetic body modifications and a dangerous, living infection that ravages anyone it comes in contact with in horrific ways, set in a post-apocalyptic alternate future, you’ll dig this. It’s a tale of a traveling wizard with a shotgun but told through the exploits of a sometimes-likable survivor.
Your Best Apocalypse Now will have you chuckling almost immediately. In this humorous light fantasy novel, a struggling author jumps on the bandwagon of best-selling doomsday books, making it up as he goes along. Or so he thinks. When he correctly predicts the end of the world, a group of other-worldly beings take him on a journey that he could never have predicted.
Kelly Fumiko Weiss is another tremendous talent that I discovered through Channillo. I have read two of her books, from vastly different genres.
Her science-fiction-esque novel, The Cube, is set in an alternate near future where a mysterious cube has changed the way the world works. The main character and his best friend, Molly, start out on a fun treasure hunt for a series of mysterious symbols, but the fun turns to unexpected romance and danger for them and their friends.
Her other novel, The Stories We Choose Not to Tell, is a story of familial relationships and racial identity for a Japanese-American woman who learns about herself and the roots of her strained relationship with her mother by exploring the life story of her late Obachan (grandmother) who lived in a World War II Japanese internment camp on American soil. Well-written characters that had me crying along with them at the end of the book.
I am lucky enough to know many other talented authors with terrific books available, even if I haven’t read them all yet. Inspirational romance, memoir, poetry: If you don’t see something listed here that tickles your fancy, comment below or send me an email with the genre or type of story you’re looking for and I will give you a suggestion based on my own personal knowledge of the book and/or the author.
Keep checking back here for updates on my own publishing journey and please don’t be shy about reaching out – I’d love to hear from you!
After a whole lot of upheaval that included my daughter’s wedding, my older son’s engagement, my youngest son’s move to Chicago, and my publishing agreement for my first novel, I’ve struggled to write.
Currently, I have three unfinished manuscripts languishing on my laptop. They are all very different, ranging from a fantasy novel to a ghost love story, a coming-home romance on a horse ranch to a suspense story where nothing is what it seems. Each one holds a special place in my heart, but every time I sat down to make edits or to finish the story, I floundered and only managed to make a mess.
But, thankfully, NOVEMBER APPROACHES!!
I have learned that, left to my own devices, I am a master procrastinator and a chaser of the new and shiny. When you throw in a foot injury that limited my mobility, lingering COVID concerns that kept my writing support group from meeting regularly, and a knee injury that further limited my ability to do almost anything, it’s no surprise I couldn’t focus on writing – or much else – or more than a fleeting moment.
Mama needs a little structure, a deadline, a goal to reach.
Just like a toddler who needs limits and a schedule so they don’t become overwhelmed, I need parameters to work within. So the impending bustle and demands of National Novel Writing Month provide a kind of solace for me.
A daily word count goal!
Regular Zoom writing events!
A 50,000-word finish line to reach!
And a definitive reason to sit down every day and prioritize writing!
Not only that, but I get to connect with my found family again – this crazy hodgepodge of creatives that I miss seeing IRL, hugging, eating, writing together. No matter what form NaNoWriMo takes, it’s still 30 days of fun, encouragement, creativity, and support and I’m so very grateful that it exists.
Are there other writers out there who can’t function properly under a loosey-goosey kind of atmosphere? Or do deadlines and benchmarks make you break out in a cold sweat? Drop your comment below!
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Guys. You guys. I have exciting news, and I’m having a hard time believing that this is real life.
I’m going to be a published author!
You read that right! My first novel, tentatively titled I’ll Call You Mine, is slated for release in the fall of 2022 through TouchPoint Press, thanks to my brilliant agent, Katie Salvo. I will hold a physical, printed copy of a story I wrote, where I can pet it and smell it and hug it, in less than 18 months. I’ve seen videos of other authors opening the box containing copies of their new book and choking up the first time they get to hold it.
I already know I will sob like a baby.
I’ve had some friends congratulate me with, ‘It’s been a long time coming!’ But, to be honest, in my case it really hasn’t. Yes, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was probably twelve years old. But the idea of trying to get published didn’t take seed until 2018. I joined my local NaNoWriMo group the year before as a challenge to myself to meet people and maybe make some friends. I had no plans beyond reaching the 50,00-word goal. I kept my head down and had a hard time speaking out loud to give my word-count update when asked. I was shy and quiet.
The people who currently know me are probably scoffing at ‘shy’.
While I’m no wallflower now, that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about what comes next. This is all uncharted territory for me. I have a rough idea: I’ll get an editor, we’ll make changes, a book cover will be designed, and BAM! We’ll have a book baby. Of course, I know a lot more goes into this process. There is so much I’ll have the opportunity to learn, and I am chomping at the bit to get started!
I want to share this new adventure with you all.
I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into a warm group of creatives who were more than generous with their knowledge about writing and querying, and I want to pay it forward. As we dive into next steps please don’t be shy about asking questions, and I will answer everything I can. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from all of you.
Make sure you don’t miss any future posts! Subscribe HERE so you’ll be one of the first to read any new announcements, including everything about my upcoming novel release. And, as always, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email!
At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to read more, so I got a membership to the Book of the Month Club, joined a book discussion group, and signed up for two different reading challenges.
It has been a formidable task. But also amazing.
I have read – and loved – several books that I normally wouldn’t have given a second glance, including Matthew McConaughey’s autobiography, the first book in the Bridgertons series, a collection of essays on Basquiat’s Defacement, and the haunting The Death of Vivek Oji.
To say my selections have been eclectic is putting it mildly.
Of the twenty-three books I’ve read so far in 2021, these are only a few of my favorites:
Rewinder by Brett Battles This is an interesting take on time travel and I loved the moral dilemmas the characters faced. In an alternate reality, the United States doesn’t exist, but is still part of the British Empire. With caste systems and a lack of modern technology, the world the main character, Denny, lives in is somewhat bleak. Instead of working in the factory with his father as his place in society dictates, Denny’s intelligence earns him an invitation to become a Rewinder for the Upjohn Institute where he will verify personal histories. But instead of getting stuck in a library with dusty tomes, he is tasked with observing history. In person. As you can guess, decisions made create some fascinating challenges.
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch This trilogy is considered Young Adult, but I have always been a sucker for a good fantasy adventure. I devoured this one in a weekend. Orphaned as an infant when her kingdom of Winter was conquered, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, training to be a warrior. She’s desperately in love with her best friend and future king, Mather, and will do anything to help them return to their home. When she learns that the key to restoring their magic is within reach, she goes after it herself – but the mission doesn’t go as planned. The Winterians are forced to beg for help from another kingdom where she meets the charming Theron. Yes, it’s a teenaged love triangle, and yes, I have a favorite, and NO, I’m not ashamed of that. My only 5 star review this year.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown This was a pick of my book club and I loved it. I could see it as a movie as I read, and I would love to see it made! Growing up with a single mother who struggled to keep them afloat through various cons, Nina has plans to leave that life behind with a fancy art history degree. But when her mother gets sick, she starts stealing from rich, spoiled, L.A. brats with her boyfriend, Lachlan. At the same time, heiress Vanessa’s life is thrown off course by family tragedy and she ends up becoming an internet influencer – a life she realizes is shallow and lonely. After a failed engagement, she retreats to her family’s mountain estate, Stonehaven. Nina, Vanessa, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, and the result is a delightfully twisty tale of lies, love, and revenge.
The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
I consumed these three novels via audiobook, and I’m so glad I did. The incomparable Soneela Nankani narrated all three novels, The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, and she was amazing! The story starts in Cairo, with our heroine Nahri, an orphan with no memory of her past who uses her unsurpassed talents as a con artist just to survive. When she accidentally summons an ancient djinn warrior during one of her cons, she is drawn into a world of magic, danger, and mystery. The warrior brings her to the enchanted city of Daevabad, full of strange creatures, dangerous politics – and a love she can’t have. I adored the characters and my heart broke for the horrible choices each one had to face throughout the three novels. I was satisfied with the ending, but if there’s a spin off following Darayavahoush I wouldn’t be mad…
What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Please leave a comment or send me a message – I’d love to discuss them with you!
Where has the time gone? It seems that with every year I am on this spinning rock, the days fly past with increasing speed and decreasing recollection of what, exactly, I’ve been doing. But I have been doing stuff – I swear! Mostly waiting. It’s been difficult to move solidly forward with new things when the old things haven’t quite landed yet.
There’s a good chance I’m not the only one who’s still a bit anxious and uncertain about what comes next – what to DO next – after the unpredictability of last year. I’ve had a hard time fully re-engaging with life and plans and all of that. I think Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham expressed this state of mind best:
I wouldn’t dig in there if I was you. Next one might be at your head. I don’t know where it’s gonna go. Swear to God!”
My little baby novel is still on the hunt for its perfect home. I knew when I started that this process would be a lengthy one, and that I would need to be patient. But doggone it I am not very good at being patient! If I’m honest, I don’t know which is worse: getting all the ‘no thank you’ replies or hearing nothing at all. Recently, I was convinced that this whole writing thing had been a silly little diversion; that it had been fun to play around and learn new things, but the time had come to walk away.
I think my agent would have been less than thrilled with that idea.
So, instead, I’m working on the third or fourth iteration of a romance novel that I’ve been toying with for what seems like forever. I’ve joined a small critique group and, once a month, we share part of what we’re working on and give each other feedback. This has been invaluable as the echo chamber inside my own head can get pretty ugly. On top of that, I’m in a book club that has led me to read some amazing novels that I wouldn’t have picked off the shelf on my own. The club leader spins a wheel to select that month’s genre and then another wheel for a title within that genre. Then we meet to share treats and to “talk about the book.”
Yes, the quotations are intentional. Don’t judge.
But I think my favorite thing is that my writing group has started to cautiously meet in person again. Over the past year, we kept in touch through weekly video conferencing, but there is nothing like being in the same room with some of your favorite creative people. I swear that when we’re all together, the air is different and we seem to gain strength from one another.
Coffee and muffins help, too.
All of these things have helped to fuel my creativity and push me to get back to what I love doing: creating stories. Although it may falter at times, I still believe this is the right path for me and, when everything falls into place with the right story, the right editor, the right publishing house, and the right planetary alignment (you think I’m kidding) my sweet little book baby will venture out into the world and into the hands of people who will love her like I do.
So, I wait.
How is 2021 is treating you? Drop a comment or send me an email and fill me in on your last six months, what’s different, how you’re feeling about, well, everything! I’d love the chance to start a conversation!
There is no way anyone filled a BINGO card this year. If they did, I would look askance at them as potentially masterminding some of this nonsense. Reviewing the things that happened in 2020, I find it difficult to believe that was all in the past twelve months. If you’ve been on TikTok, you’ve undoubtedly seen one of the many videos of a misunderstanding between God and an angel regarding a decade of disasters in one year. Watch it here – some language near the end.
I’m not so sure that isn’t what happened.
Here’s a quick rundown of the 2020 events I can recall:
Australia caught on fire.
Tiger King was everywhere.
COVID-19 made its debut, and refuses to leave.
Murder hornets crashed the party in the U.S. and a plague of locusts devastated East Africa.
Racial injustice was given a much-needed global stage.
California, Oregon, and Washington caught on fire.
Iowa endured a rare ‘land hurricane’ and now everyone knows what a derecho is.
We lost a multitude of actors, musicians, authors, politicians, athletes, scientists, and cultural icons including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eddie Van Halen, Chadwick Bosemen, Kobe Bryant, Grant Imihara, John Lewis, and Alex Trebek.
Presidential Election. ‘Nuff said.
My family and I have been beyond fortunate, and we’ve even seen some shining lights in this year’s darkness. Our youngest moved to Chicago for college, our middle earned a prestigious academic opportunity, our oldest got engaged, and I signed with a literary agent. (Those last two events happened the same weekend in March, at the same time the world fell apart.) The summer was spent planning a small wedding and editing my first novel, and I can’t say there weren’t tears during both. In January, we’ll watch our daughter marry her best friend, then my novel will be sent into the world to find a publisher who will love it as much as I do.
Not such a boring start to the new year for the old Clark Clan.
Tomorrow is January 1, 2021. I hope against hope that the new year will be different. That it—and we—will be better. Perhaps all the trials we’ve been through were stepping stones or growing pains or lessons to be collectively learned. This year, I plan to take what the universe has to offer and make the best damn lemonade the world has ever seen.
My wish for you is that you’ll be able to take a deep breath, hold your loved ones close, and snuggle under a blanket of health, safety, and peace in 2021.
There are ten days left in November and I am sitting pretty at just over 45,000 words on my current project. I feel fairly confident that I’ll tip over 50k this weekend and win my 4th NaNoWriMo.
But I had a bit of a ‘day’ earlier this week. I woke up Sunday wondering what gave me the audacity to think I could be an author? There are millions of writers out there that are way more talented than I, have degrees in creative writing and literature, and have meaningful stories to tell. Who did I think I was?
Imposter syndrome, am I right?
I have struggled with this NaNo for a few reasons, I think. First, and foremost, 2020. There is so much going on, so much to worry about, that I get overwhelmed. It’s so chaotic and hopeless sometimes, that writing feels frivolous. Second, I signed with an agent, and even without having a publisher, I feel tremendous pressure to write something GOOD. It’s all imagined pressure, of course, but it makes me second-guess every line of dialogue and every plot point. Thanks to these mounting stressors, my scenes stalled, the action wasn’t moving forward, the dialogue was stilted and unnatural and pointless.
Then I remembered why I write.
I don’t yearn to author the Next Great American Novel. I don’t even write to be published – although that would be pretty sweet. Writing is something I love, something that’s a part of who I am. I can’t envision my life without it anymore. If I write with love of the craft and continue to learn and improve as an author, what more do I need?
So, I retraced my steps. I wrote an outline, fleshed out the characters, started and restarted this story multiple times before finding the right path. After removing my self-imposed and outlandish expectations, it’s flowing better and I feel good about what I’m creating.
In the end, isn’t that what matters?
Why do you write? What are your goals as an author? Leave me a message, send an email: Let’s talk!