Cover Reveal: Back to You by Jessica Scott

We first met Trent and Laura in “Because of You” and “Anything For You”

Coming soon from Jessica Scott, Trent and Laura’s story “Back to You”

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From the back cover:

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family—so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reaches its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

to win back his only love.

            Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together.  But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried—and a love that won’t be denied.  But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

Pre-Order your copy today!

To Read and Re-Read: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare

As some of you who know, Pamela Clare is one of my absolute favorite romance authors and for those of you who are part of her I-Team Facebook group know, Breaking Point is my favorite book by her. I first discovered Pamela Clare last year when I read Skin Deep an I-Team novella (Book 5.5 of the I-Team Series). I was so impressed with her writing and the characters that I went back and read the entire series (in its proper order) within the following sleepless week.

So what is it about Pamela Clare’s writing that has put her near the top of my favorite romance authors list? There are so many reasons. Pamela was herself an investigative journalist. She evidently uses those research skills in her fiction writing. But in her books, she does not necessarily give a passing glance to some important social issues, rather she expertly weaves the story and characters in a way that leaves the reader guessing as to who is responsible and what their motivations may be. Her research is thorough and the reader will find himself/herself learning about issues that the mainstream media, with its current obsession with all things pointless and celebrity related, chooses to ignore. But it is not only the social issue that she researches so thoroughly but also the characters and their backgrounds. The result is truly authentic characters who behave in ways consistent with their backgrounds and current contexts. She does not only present the good qualities that her heroes and heroines possess, but also the qualities that may make that character flawed. As her stories progress, the reader can truly see the relationship between the hero and heroine evolve to one of trust and love. Pamela takes pride in her work and this shows in the authenticity and realism of the story and characters. Reading her stories is a true pleasure. Of all of the books I own and have read, I re-read her stories more than any other among my romance genre collection. On the re-reads, one picks up on subtleties that were overlooked on the first reading. And if you like audiobooks, all of her audiobooks are narrated by Kaleo Griffith. His expert narration is an auditory delight. It is based on these reasons that I will automatically pre-order and purchase all books and audiobooks by Pamela Clare, be they romantic suspense or historical romance genre.

Of all of Pamela Clare’s books, my absolute favorite is Breaking Point, book 5 of the I-Team series. By far, I have re-read this book more than any other in my collection. I am drawn to the characters as they struggle to survive and attempt to understand the motivations behind the drug cartel responsible for Natalie’s kidnapping. Their captivity forces Zach and Natalie to trust each other beyond what would be otherwise expected of two people who first meet. Their experience while captive and during their escape and evasion from re-capture bring them closer together, beyond the simple sexual attraction they initially feel for each other. Zach and Natalie are challenged not only physically but psychologically as they deal with the internal scars of their individual pasts, Zach’s as a former US Navy SEAL and Natalie’s as a survivor from Hurricane Katrina. Through their respective work, Zach as a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal and Natalie as an investigative journalist, we are given insight to the brutality, corruption and reach of drug cartels.

I am not easily brought to tears by a read, but Pamela’s masterful writing elicits tears and laughter from me at every re-read. It is a book that I highly recommend to all romantic suspense fans and therefore, I am so excited that from October 23 until October 30, Breaking Point is on sale.

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Kindle: http://amzn.to/16rdJX1
Nook: http://bit.ly/17eGjeR
Kobo: http://bit.ly/HgsOi1
iTunes : http://bit.ly/1gD3sv7

Here is the description from Pamela Clare’s website:

While investigating border violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Denver journalist Natalie Benoit is caught in a bloody ambush and taken captive. Alone in the hands of ruthless killers, she will need every ounce of courage she possesses to survive.

Betrayed by another operative, Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride has endured a week of torture and interrogation at the hands of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Ready to give his life if he must, he remains unbroken—until he hears the cries of an American woman.

Although Natalie is only a voice in the darkness of their shared prison, her plight brings renewed strength to Zach’s battered body. With her help, he overpowers their captors, and they flee through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun.

But past loss and tragedy leave both of them reluctant to follow their hearts, even when the passion between them reaches its breaking point. Faced with feelings neither expected, they fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both…

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Cover Reveal: “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Jessica Scott

I am pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Jessica Scott’s upcoming release on November 5, 2013. I’ll Be Home For Christmas is Vic Carponti’s Christmas novella. For those of you who have read Because of You and Anything For You, I am sure that like me, you found Carponti’s wit and humor irresistible and perhaps had you begging (or stalking) Jessica Scott for his own story. 😉

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Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/14B1EbK
If you have not read anything by Jessica Scott, I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is her contemporary romance steamy but her non-fiction writings are profound. For more information, see her website.

Obsessed with Fictional Characters

Have you ever read a book that just speaks to you? What about characters that keep coming to mind in your everyday life? I run into these problems on a fairly regular basis. At times, I find myself looking up movies or television shows or even books mentioned by characters in other books. Those who have watched the 2007 film, “The Jane Austen Book Club” know what I am talking about. Some characters just latch on in my psyche and don’t let go. I recently found myself watching the television show, “Storage Wars,” because it was mentioned repeatedly in a book I recently finished reading and I’ve added “Summer Nights” by Van Halen to my summer playlist on my IPod after it was noted in another recently finished book. But there are some books and some characters that I cannot get enough of nor seem to get enough of re-reading their stories.

My recent obsession has been with Pamela Clare’s “Breaking Point” novel, part of the I-Team series. It is the story of U.S. Chief Deputy Marshal, former Navy SEAL, and Medal of Honor recipient, Zach McBride and Investigative journalist Natalie Benoit. I absolutely love the heroes of the I-Team series but Zach has truly become my absolute favorite. As far as heroines go, Natalie is at the top as well. Their love story is one that pulls at my heart strings. I have re-read this book dozens and dozens of times (I am not exaggerating here at all) and I have the audiobook downloaded on my IPod so I can listen to Kaleo Griffith tell their story while I work around the house, painting, cutting the grass, etc. This is truly my favorite romance novel of all time; so far, the next I-Team book is set to be released in November 2013.

I find that reading “Breaking Point,” while it resets my book hangover, also serves as a great palate cleanser after reading one or more mediocre or disappointing books. I find it helpful after reading a lot of intense theoretical or biographical nonfiction as well.

There are some characters that appear in multiple books within a series that continue to cross my mind as well, namely Vic Carponti of Jessica Scott’s “Because of You” and “Anything For You” novels. Keep in mind, Carponti is a secondary character in all of these stories but he will be getting his own novella this Christmas and I cannot wait! Carponti has the best sense of humor and I have a lot of his dialogue bookmarked on my kindle to look at when I need a little cheering up.

When I look at the range of fictional characters that call me back to their stories, some of the traits that they share include their protective nature, courage, they tend to be wounded in some way, physically or emotionally, and finally they are very passionate about their work, their love interest, their hobbies, etc. I also like intense heroes, which is why Shane Garrison from “Because of You” and “Anything for You” by Jessica Scott is also among my favorite heroes. As far as wounded souls are concerned, Kayne Dobrescu of “Razing Kayne” by Julieanne Reeves tops the list. In addition to Pamela Clare’s I-Team series, there are series that have so many amazing heroes that it becomes difficult for me to rate them although I do tend to revisit them on occasion, including Julie Ann Walker’s BKI series, Lori Foster’s Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor and Love Undercover series, and Maya Banks’ KGI series. [By the way on the Favorites page of this site, I have hyperlinks to the author pages of the authors I have mentioned here]

What about you? What books or characters do you find yourself re-reading or thinking about? What characteristics draw these characters to you?

The Authentic Character and Plot

One of the things that irks me when I am reading any book is when I encounter the inauthentic character, dialogue, and/or plot. You know what I’m talking about. The female cop who cries incessantly, trembles in fear when she draws her weapon, and doesn’t know any hand-to-hand combat. Then there’s a hero who is former military helicopter pilot who has flown in numerous missions under fire and during sandstorms but cannot seem to pilot a helicopter through a windy city. Really? How do these characters keep their jobs? It is not to say that certain professions require perfect behavior 24/7, but there is something about making sure a character’s personality characteristics are consistent with the demands of the profession you assign them. Yes, even are most trained soldiers may encounter panic during a firefight, but not during every single firefight. If they did, they would not survive. Lapses are understandable, but consistent behavior that lies in opposition to the task or job at hand is inauthentic.

Authenticity issues are not necessarily reserved for professions and personality characteristics, rather, it applies with dialogue as well. If you have a character who can barely read due to some learning disability, don’t have them reading Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” without any trouble. Additionally, keep terminology and language consistent with the character’s education attainment and reading proficiency. That is not to say that someone with only a high school diploma cannot handle reading high-level, scholarly books, but you need to build in the believability aspect. I have a friend who is a construction worker with only a high school diploma but he reads all the time and challenges himself with his reading material and it is plainly evident when you have a conversation with him that he is well-read regardless of the absence of a college diploma. Within dialogue, the author may feel compelled to write with the appropriate dialect, however, an English teacher will not “axe” someone a question. Yes, there are issues of dialect but not at the expense of demonstrating language proficiency, grammar, and speech.

Do not mistake my critique to include characters that I find annoying. There have been several novels and films where I found main characters to be extraordinarily annoying, however, if I am invested in the plot and/or the other characters, I overlook it. I never would’ve finished watching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy if I let myself get hung up on an annoying or whining personality. In some cases, the annoying nature of the character is still important to the overall plot and relationship with other characters of the novel, film, or television show. So back to authenticity…

Sadly the inauthentic character, dialogue, and/or plot is something we find in a wide range of genres and sometimes, unfortunately written by popular authors. Depending on the level of disconnect I feel between the character’s personality and profession or behavior not only determines whether I finish the book, but also whether I will read any future novels written by that author. Some may argue that I am being too harsh, that when reading fiction or watching any fictional visual media, there is the willing suspension of disbelief. For me, that does not mean that I will accept the improbable as fact. If you are the only survivor of a catastrophic event, it is improbable that you will have electricity and running water. Who is working at the utility companies maintaining and operating the equipment if you are the last person alive? I do recognize that Samuel Taylor Coleridge acknowledged the reader to believe the unbelievable and place enjoyment above realism, but for me there are limits that I reach in which the object of my entertainment, be that a book, movie, or television show where I no longer find enjoyment or entertainment, rather just annoyance at the absurdity of what is being presented. This being said, I do not write reviews on works that I find to have authenticity issues. Just because I have limits to my willing suspension of disbelief does not mean that anyone else will see the characters, dialogue, and plot in the same way. That is the important part that makes us unique and I always encourage people to critically analyze any information, factual or otherwise, and come to your own conclusions.

These are my personal standards as a reader, however, I try to keep this in mind as a writer. I hope that I achieve the level of authenticity within my character development, dialogue, and plot that my readers will find to be believable.  I hope to meet the standard set by so many of my favorite authors, and they indeed have set the standard high, although I am not complaining. If it were easy, it would not be worth doing.

Is Self-Publishing the Non-Peer-Review Journal Publishing of Non-Academia?

I think I have reached the point where I am about 95% positive that I will self-publish but there remain issues that seep into my psyche as I work on my revisions. Until now, my professional writing experience has been within the realms of academic social science writing. For those not familiar with peer review, it is a process that some journals require where a researcher submits her work and several experts in the field read and review the work before the work is accepted for publication. In many cases, the work may require some mechanical editing issues and in other cases, the work may be flat out rejected due to design flaws, data collection issues, validity issues, ethical issues, etc. To avoid this, a researcher does have the option to pay to have their work published in a non-peer-review journal. Basically, you are paying to have your work published and the publisher is not going to thoroughly review your work for the abovementioned issues. That is not to say that poorly designed and conducted research never gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, only that it is very difficult to have poor research published in peer-reviewed journals. Because of the rigorous requirements among peer-reviewed journals, as an instructor, my students are required to cite journal sources from peer-reviewed journals for any research they do. I do allow my students to utilize information from non-peer-reviewed articles, however, they understand that the conclusions from such articles may be limited and in some cases, flawed.

Moving into the fictional publishing arena, I found myself comparing the peer-review process to the publishing options out there. With the increased popularity of the e-readers, self-publishing has risen in recent times. I wondered if the self-publishing option is akin to the non-peer-review publishing option and in a non-scientific way, tried to explore this comparison. I wondered if readers’ expectations of a novel would be based on publication type and so far, I have not gotten this impression. I must admit that I thought I would tend to hesitate on purchasing a more expensive novel if it is self-published rather than not, but in the interest of full disclosure, I look over the customer reviews and reviews on my favorite book review websites before I purchase any book. I tend not to seek out publishing information to start with and really only become aware of it if a reviewer comments on the publishing type. For me the reviews tend to tip the balance as to whether I will read a book or not.

My initial concerns regarding self-published books were not only concerning reader reaction and support but also issues of quality. I was concerned that self-published books would be poorly written, not only in terms of storyline but in mechanics which drives me up a wall. What I have found is that how a book is published may be independent of these issues. My initial instinct was to believe that the highest quality works would be published through publishing houses however; I have found as a reader that even large publishing houses release books riddled with grammatical, storyline, and anachronistic errors. Based on my non-representative reading sample of contemporary romance, I found that definitely quality is not necessarily correlated with method of publishing, which was a very surprising finding. I found a much higher correlation between author and quality than publishing and quality. This finding was also consistent when looking at authors that both self-publish and use publishing houses for their novels. Quality remained consistent regardless of publishing process.

What have you found in your experience? Do you think that self-published authors are akin to the non-peer-reviewed academic writers?

To Hire a Literary Agent – Yes or No?

With my first novel finished minus editor and critique partner revisions, I am faced with the next dilemma as an aspiring author. While working on this novel, I have spent a lot of time researching the pros and cons of using a pen name or using my real name. Based on the current economy, I did not want to risk my job in any way and thus decided on using a pen name. Following my decision on a pen name, I started working on my author brand and then I moved on to researching and taking an online workshop about publishing options (to go through a major publishing house or try to self-publish as an e-book).

For me, the reason I wanted to write this novel and publish it are personal and I am not seeking any particular notoriety for writing. I enjoy writing in the romance genre and will continue, but there is no aching need for me to see my name in print, my book on a store book shelf. That is not to say I dismiss those who do aspire and enjoy reaping the rewards of their success. Rather, my expectations remain grounded in my own personal reality and that is that I am writing for myself and hope that someone out there likes what I have to say. I am not about to ditch my day job and jump into the deep end thinking I will be an immediate success. I love my teaching too much to give it up without a fight. By my writing is fulfilling and until recently, has been so even in the absence of having any one else read what I have written. This novel will be the first time in 21 years that anyone has ever read a piece of my fiction writing and I must admit that I have been very anxious about releasing this novel for others to read.

As I have researched and worked through all of my options, there is one area that I am still struggling with and that is whether to find an agent. If I decide to self-publish and use freelance editors and design teams for covers, I retain a lot of control over my work. Not to say that I am unwilling to consider constructive criticism, rather, there are parts to my novel that I will remain rather firm on. Most of the advantages that I have found regarding retaining an agent is strongly connected to publishing with large publishing houses, ease at securing strong editing and design teams, and public relations issues including book readings and signings along with other promotional opportunities. I am sure that I am missing some important aspects and so I turn to you and ask, what the advantages and disadvantages are to having an agent?