New Beginnings #amwriting

There is nothing quite like starting a brand new story. I love all the aspects of writing – plotting, wording, editing, publishing. I complain about some of it. There are parts I like more than others. One of my favorites is plotting.

I talk about plotting on my own blog on a semi-regular basis. From cool tools to use, to the things I do for my stories. I’m not here to chat plotting today, but actually writing a new story.

I recently wrapped my second book in the Bona Fide series (the first book is coming out on March 6th), but I once again digress.

New stories (my top five things about them):

  • Fresh characters – these are new people, with new flaws, wounds, misconceptions, traits, and histories. I love digging into their backgrounds and discovering the things that make them tick.
  • Discovering the world – there’s something special about a new book’s world. Whether revisiting a previous setting from a series story or visiting a new one – if it’s a different pair of eyes certain things will stick out more than others.
  • The endorphin rush – the slow burn, the first kiss, the falling in love, the simmering attraction. It hits all my high notes.
  • The pet name – every book I write the hero has a pet name for his heroine. Most of the time I don’t know what this is in advance. It’s a discovery as I write.
  • The chapter hooks – it’s a special art to write a good chapter hook. I have no problem hunting for them and my brain is pretty fast at picking up on how a chapter or scene should end. Let’s hope it translates to the reader in the long term.

For my writers – what are your favorite parts of starting a new story?

For the readers – what do you like about reading a new story? Is it tropes? Is it the possibilities? A favorite setting?


Bona Fide Beauty ~ Coming 3.6.18 ~ Book 1 in the Bona Fide Series


She’s going to lose her house.
Kathleen Baum has four months to complete the city’s required code changes to her grandma’s home. Otherwise, she loses it. Strapped for cash, Kat’s only way to get the funds is to bargain with her devil cousin. She agrees to an unwanted makeover, but she’s not good at taking direction, pretend or not.

He’s going to lose his business.
Devid Esposito has worked all his life to build a successful image consulting company, but if he doesn’t start bringing in new clients the business will be bankrupt in three months. The board is ready to oust him when his partner, Kat’s cousin, enters with the opportunity to get his mojo back; all he needs to do is help Kat, with a makeover. Unfortunately, Dev doesn’t take on female clients anymore since the last one broke his heart and used his tips against him.

When they find out they have a common enemy, his heart-breaking client is her code-breaking-whistleblower, and the easiest way to bring the foe down is to accept the other’s help. Losing their hearts to each other was the one thing they didn’t plan for.

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

A Month for Beheadings

February is the month we celebrate Love. Isn’t it funny that Saint Valentine [the first and the second] were both beheaded? So, I did a little digging to find out more…why do we celebrate love and couples and this bond between two people on a day where we also remember the life of people who were beheaded for doing what was right? [so much more on that in a minute, btw!] [Also, excuse the history lesson. I don’t mean to bore you.]

And I read this, “Today is the feast day of St. Valentine.  Did you know St. Valentine was a real person?  Well, actually there are at least 2 St. Valentines in the ancient martyrology of the Catholic church.  While very little is known about Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, we do know that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th his feast day in 496.  He is the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people….

It is believed that Valentine was a priest arrested by the Emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples secretly during a time of persecution in the Church.  Legend has it that while he was imprisoned and waiting for his martyrdom, he sent letters to his fellow Christians signing them, ‘From Your Valentine.'”

Okay. I get it now. It makes me think of this odd world we live in where people are persecuted every day. Through history, since the beginning of time, we have needed a HERO. Someone who would break the rules for justice, for belief. I think, as romance novelists, we see those stories. We find hope in the memory of the people who fight–hero or heroine. Already, I’m thinking of people from the 6th century who wanted to get married but weren’t allowed! LOL 😀 There’s a story there.

I kept reading….and found so much more!

During the Medieval Age, a common belief in England and France was that birds began to pair on Feb.14, “half-way through the second month of the year.” Chaucer wrote in his “Parliament of Foules” (in Old English): “For this was on Seynt Valentyne’s day, When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” For this reason, the day was dedicated to “lovers” and prompted the sending of letters, gifts, or other signs of affection.

Another literary example of St. Valentine’s Day remembrances is found in Dame Elizabeth Brews “Paston Letters” (1477), where she writes to the suitor, John Paston, of her daughter, Margery: “And, cousin mine, upon Monday is St. Valentine’s day and every bird chooseth himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.” In turn, Margery wrote to John: “Unto my right well beloved Valentine John Paston, Squyer, be this bill delivered. Right reverend and worshipful and my right well beloved Valentine, I recommend me unto you, full heartily desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve until His pleasure and your heart’s desire.”

Such passionate writing for a woman of those times… or is it? The idea that passions are greater now because we are freer now, seems to be a myth, yes? I love hearing stories from other centuries about love and the call to become one with another soul.

It makes me smile to know that humanity is ingrained with the need for a soulmate and meant to share life with a person. Centuries have gone by and more centuries will pass, and romance and love and the pain and conflict that comes with it, will thrive…it will make stories worth reading.

Aren’t you so excited?!

Now, I must go document another wonderful, powerful story of Love.

Have a great week!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Get Caught Up in the Fifties #MFVB

It’s been two years since I wrote the post about the resources I used to write my trilogy of novellas set in Las Vegas, 1958. Yesterday, the first book debuted and I can’t tell you how much I love these stories.

1958 Las Vegas. She can ruin his career. He can save her freedom. What’s a little blackmail between strangers?

Layla Rosas has been burned too many times—by her cheating ex, her narcissist mother, and now her father who’ll put her in an asylum, for good this time, if she can’t settle down and be a good girl. She needs a quality boyfriend—now—to convince her dad she’s back on the straight and narrow.

Jace Russell is good at his job: keeping the wealthy elite who visit his casino safe and happy. When a photographer snaps career-ending shots of a client, it’s Jace’s duty to do whatever it takes to stop those photos from hitting the press.

Layla didn’t intend to take compromising shots, but that doesn’t mean she won’t use them. When Jace realizes a few fake dates are all she wants in exchange for the negatives, he’s all in—with the added agenda of getting the crazy but beautiful woman between his sheets. But Layla refuses to gamble her heart on the toe-curling kisses of a fake boyfriend. It’s just a few dates. How hard can it be?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

You can find the first chapter on my website, here.

Fashion plays a big role in my stories because women looked a lot different back then they do now. I can assure you, no one went to the department store in their PJs. For one thing, they had bullet bras, which made the breasts appear to be rather… cone shaped. Think Madonna, but less extreme. Then there were the capris, the pencil skirts, the sweater sets, and the side-button jeans. You can learn all about these staples from the fifties here.

(Fun fact: in edits, my wonderful editor asked me about side-buttons jeans–had I meant to make them jeans? I sent her a link to these retro jeans you can buy from Freddies of Pinewood in the UK. Clothes then were just so much fun!)

And then, there was the lingerie. In the first scene, my heroine’s horrible mother comes downstairs, hair in a bouffant, dressed in an ankle-length negligee and a robe with a full circle skirt. The next day, Mom comes out in a sinfully scant bikini. Which probably looked more like this one from ModCloth than the barely-there bikinis of today.

Can you tell I absolutely reveled living in this world? I hope you’ll check it out and you’ll enjoy visiting as much as I did.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

4 Books to Help Improve Your Writing Craft #writing #writetip

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

I talked a little about one-word goals last month. But this month I wanted to talk about some individual goals I have for the year.

Here within my critique group every year, we all post writing and personal things we’d like to accomplish.

One of mine was to improve my writing craft.

Even though I am a published author, I still feel as if I have only scratched the surface of what I know and where I want to be as a writer. So in conjunction with me attending conferences and taking online courses, I also made it a goal to read at least FOUR craft books this year as well. In fact, I’ve already picked them out and read one of them.

Here are the four I’ve chosen to Help Improve My Writing Craft this year:

Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scenes by C.S. Lakin

I liked this book. It gave loads of examples from various books on how authors build upon their plots.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson (Goodreads Author), Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Goodreads Author)

I just started this book. But I chose it because I heard good things about it and was interested in going “deeper” with my writing.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)by Lisa Cron

Picked this beauty up because of a critique partner who was reading it. I’m about halfway through and so far I’ve been nodding and agreeing with everything that was said.

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)  by Orson Scott Card

I picked this one up because I was looking for something beyond plot. I wanted to work on my characters. I hear this author is a master on this subject so I’m looking forward to reading it.


Hopefully I’ll be able to read more than just 4, but I haven’t found any other craft books that interest me.

Maybe you have some suggestions of your own! If so, please let me know!

Until then,




About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

Shape Up or Shape Out

January is notorious as the month people eat healthier and attempt to deploy healthy habits. From quitting smoking, giving up soft drinks, working out, taking up a new hobby, becoming more organized – I can think of how every January I came into the month determined and by the last day I was ready to give up.

So far, I’ve been shaping up. The shape out is not in sight. My shape up goals include getting organized (my 30’s have revealed a forgetfulness I don’t want anymore) and to be more active. This gal, who’s the heaviest she’s ever been, needs to start moving and grooving if I don’t want to have a heart attack before 40.

What’s the point of this silly post?

I’m going to give you my tips for Shaping Up – sticking to your goals throughout the year.

1. One day at a time. It’s scientifically backed that a person has to consistently do something for a minimum of 30 days to form a habit. Take one day at a time, and you’ll get there.

2. Set reminders. We’re human, life happens, and we forget. Set the reminder on your phone.

3. Prepare for Rain. There’s this movie I love, Facing the Giants, the movie is about a high school football coach’s faith and strength, it’s tested to capacity. There is a good quote from the movie that I believe in, though this is a shortened/paraphrased version – “I heard a story of two farmers praying to God for the rain to come. Both prayed but only one prepared the land. Who do you think trusted God more to send the rain?” In whatever you plan to do, you have to prepare for it to succeed. You want to work out, get a bag of those clothes together to take with you. You want to eat healthily, make a Pinterest board and clear out the cabinets of the foods that won’t help you. Want to get organized, purchase the journal, take it with you everywhere, etc.

4. Don’t procrastinate. The more you put off the one task  – Making the lunch, scheduling the work out appt., getting up from your computer and going to the work out room. We, as humans, are quick to believe there will always be tomorrow. This is your goal, how important is it to you?

5. Get some accountability. Another thing a lot of us have a challenge with is completing a task when there is no riding our butts about doing it. If you have a workout group, an app, a single person, the cloud – there are dozens of options to choose from. No matter your goal something exists to assist.

6. Develop Tangible Rewards (if needed). I don’t follow this practice because it doesn’t work for me, though I find it’s harder to commit to something where the results may not be visible right away. If that’s a problem for you, if you need instant gratification, then set some up. From a special cheat day to a new book or movie. Whatever you need to do, do it. There are apps out there that require you to put money into them and if you don’t reach your target weight you don’t get the money back – scary crap – for the right person that’s a tangible, motivating, reward.

Finally, 7. Be kind to yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and success is not instantaneous. Goals are accomplished in small steps and they build to bigger ones, but that won’t happen if you put yourself down. Nor, if you give up at the first sign of weakness. It’s important to know that you are capable of everything you want to do and so much more.

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Life on the other side of January

I gave up doing New Year Resolutions a few years ago. The pressure to keep up and succeed was always a disappointment to me. And 2017 was an eye-opening year for me… I moved in unexpected directions–even without those resolutions. I moved away from writing, which is a funny thing to say since I published three books between January and December! But I only wrote one book, Strike Force, and even that one I started in 2016.

The rest of the time, I worked on editing and promoting and releasing.

…and Real Life. I hate calling everything non-writing Real Life, because for me writing is Real Life. But, it’s one of those phrases we use that helps everyone understand exactly what I mean: momming, wifing, lifing, faithing…

I turned to other things. I joined a church group. My husband took command of a squadron and I stuck my toe in a spouse group and helping out with a FRG [family readiness group]. Eeek! What am I doing? I’m filling my life again. And you know what? It feels good to not be so focused on one thing.

January is almost ending, but in a way, it barely started. The entire month is more of a transition and I’m looking forward to what the New Year will bring as I get into the rhythm of juggling writing and work and family. 🙂 I hope your year started off with a bang and filled you with anticipation and joy.

With Love,





PS LOOK FOR STRIKE FORCE for FREE in FEBRUARY! And all of Hawk Elite ON SALE with the Give Me Books Blog Tour for February 13. <3

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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