Cover Reveal for The Gifted Ones, Book 3

Still lots of editing to do on this puppy, but we’ve got a nice cover done, so I thought I’d float it out in the world and see what people think. Anyone who’s not sighing over this rugged-yet-thoughtful cowboy is clearly not into guys. But if that’s the case, that’s okay, because, as usual, there are plenty more players where that one came from—my stories are nothing if not packed with colorful characters. And if you’re wondering what they’ll be up to in this one, the blurb is up for The Gifted Ones Book 3, The Animator on the series page.
Given that we’ve now got the outside of Book 3 finished, and we’ll have the inside done in another 10-14 days, I’m certain this installment of The Gifted Ones series will go live before Halloween, as promised. The book will be available in all the popular ebook outlets, as I don’t do the whole “exclusive with Amazon” thing. Yes, I wish my books could be available to borrow in Amazon’s all-you-can-read club (“Kindle Unlimited“), but I’m just not willing to help Amazon shut down every other ebook vendor on the planet in exchange, and that’s what they require of small publishers who want to participate.
As always, this book will be in need of reviews when it comes out, so if you’d like a free copy in exchange for a review, just drop us a line on our contact page, and we’ll send you the file type of your choice, straightaway.

Just Another Sample Sunday

Kindle helpHere’s a Sunday Sample from one of the lighter moments in Maria Romana’s Little Miss Straight Lace.
Nic watched with amusement. Clearly, the older woman was just relieved not to have a screaming child in her arms any longer, but all Josie was worried about was soothing the woman’s feelings that the baby preferred a family friend to his own grandmother when he was most upset. Mama K just sighed and headed back out to the porch. Nic resumed drying the dishes, and Josie returned to the sink, but only to lean her back against it, while she held Nate, still comforting him, stroking and kissing the little red curls on his head, and patting his behind. The boy remained alert and awake, but gradually his tense muscles loosened and drooped, one of his legs flopped, and the hand firmly gripping Josie’s hair finally released.
“He is unusually attached to you.”
“Attached, yes. Unusual? I don’t think so. He’s just used to having me around. The twins were still really little when he came along, and twins, as you can imagine, are very demanding. Especially those little girls. I mean, it was just boobs, boobs, boobs, twenty-four-seven.” Nic laughed out loud, and then Josie did, too. “Oh, but I’m serious. Poor Maggie. And then to find out she was pregnant again so soon…” Josie looked up in her head and muttered, “Shawn—horny b*stard.” Nic quirked an eyebrow at her, and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
Nic had to fight not to laugh again. Boobs, twenty-four-seven. Horny b*stard. Being around Josie was like putting on your favorite old pair of slippers.
“Anyhow, there was no way Maggie could handle all three kids with Shawn gone to work all day. He’s a great dad and all, but he works really long hours, and it was just a zoo around here, so I came to help. I pretty much moved in for the first six months of Nate’s life.” She touched the boy’s cheek gently, and he pulled his thumb out of his mouth to clasp onto her fingers. “Granted, I’m not much use in the kitchen or the laundry or whatever, but what these guys need, I got.” She lifted the boy up, so they were face to face, and grinned at him, wrinkling up her nose. He reached gleefully toward her face, then snagged one of the bright purple earrings she was wearing. “Ooh, oh, ouch! Honey, Aunt Jo needs that ear. Sweetie, let go, please…”
Nic quickly set down the drying and turned to them. He gently lifted the hook out of Josie’s ear, leaving the earring in Nate’s hand. “Is it all right if he has it?”
“As long as he doesn’t poke it in his eye.” She lowered him so he sat around her waist while he played with it.
“But how did you work while you helped Maggie with the children?”
She tipped her head slightly, “Oh, I just cut down on my contracts for a while…way down.” She seemed far away for a moment, then came back, “I’d been working too much. I needed a break.”
“You were not worried about your business, or your reputation…”
“No. I’m good at what I do. I figured they’d call back, and most of them have. The ones that haven’t—” She shrugged. “Their loss. Besides, what’s more important?” She looked straight at him.
“The family, of course.”
“You agree?”
“Completely.” He smiled, then intercepted the earring just as Nate was about to shove it up his nose.
Nic nodded to himself—question answered. Five hundred points to the little lady in the t-shirt and sarong. It would be a cold day in hell before Linda Coleridge put family before work. And a bitterly freezing one before she shrugged her shoulders at the thought of losing a client over a friend’s child care needs. Hey, wait a minute—Linda Coleridge? Linda Remedian! He hadn’t thought of his ex by her maiden name in years…
Nic picked up the towel again. Wasn’t there something else that needed drying?
Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.

Pixel of Ink Gets Into Sample Sunday

“Sample Sunday” is a weekly treat for readers in search of new books or new authors. One way to find free samples is to search the Twitter hashtag #SampleSunday. Another is to head over to Pixel of Ink, a popular blog for ebook readers, which hosts its own Sample Sunday event via Facebook. Here is a Sunday Sample of Maria Romana’s Little Miss Straight Lace that was recently linked on Pixel of Ink’s page.
Free eBooks
When Nic returned to the balcony, Nina was bending over the half-wall, apparently looking for Josie. Robert grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back upright. “Hey, Babe, take it easy. I don’t want you to fall. She’ll get here.”
“You see her now?” asked Nic.
Nina spun around and looked at him. She tilted her head. “Purple. I like it, Nic. You needed some color.”
Nic ran his hands down the front of the golf shirt and said, “Josie gave it to me.”
Nina grinned. “Well, aren’t you two cute?” Then she pointed in the general direction from which Josie was apparently coming and added, “Because she’s wearing some lavender dress she said you bought for her. Awwwww.” Nina batted her eyelashes furiously.
“Oh, so that’s her,” said Robert, now leaning on the half-wall himself, and pointing. “Gee, and I thought she was that big lady in the yellow tent dress.” He started laughing at his own joke.
Nic joined them at the half-wall. “Oh, you are so funny, Robert. Now you know why Josie could not drag herself out of bed this morning to meet you before we left.”
Robert turned to Nic and gave him a cockeyed grin. “Somehow, Nic, I doubt my sense of humor has anything to do with how incredibly exhausted your girlfriend always seems to be.”
“Or how hungry,” added Nina.
Nic tried to scowl at them, but couldn’t keep the corners of his mouth from turning up.
Robert pressed a hand down onto the half-wall, and pushed his bangs off his forehead again, as he looked out. “Hey, I can see her pretty well now. Gee, she’s really cute, Nic.” He waved to her. Josie’s walk slowed, and she seemed to stare at him oddly. “Uh, yeah—she doesn’t have a clue who I am. Nic, you wave.”
She was still some distance away and kept coming. Nic waved at her as she crossed the boardwalk and approached the building. He called to her, “Hey, Jos, come on up, honey. You are missing the sunset.” He beckoned to her, but her eyes were focused on Robert. She stopped walking and just stood.
Nina called to her, “C’mon, Josie. We want to open the wine.” She turned to Nic, “What’s wrong? Why did she stop?”
“I don’t know.” He beckoned and yelled down to her again, “Josie! Sweetheart. Come on!” Josie’s gaze drifted over to Nic for a moment. She looked a little pale. Then suddenly, she spun around and headed back the way she’d come, breaking into a run. “JOSIE! Wait! Come back! What the hell is she doing?”
“Maybe she left something on the boat?” offered Nina.
Nic started across the balcony. “I’m going after her.”
“Just wait a minute, Nic. I’m sure she’ll be right back,” said Robert.
But Nic was already at the French doors. “Uh-uh. It is getting dark.” Then he stopped and stepped back to the umbrella table. He snatched his cell phone off it, and added, “Something is not right.”
Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.

Can You Tell a Book by its Cover

Free eBooksAs some of you may have noticed, I recently had a new cover made for Little Miss Straight Lace. To go along with my new look, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the story that recently appeared on Red Adept’s Book Review blog. Hope you enjoy it!
Josie pulled her laptop toward her, but peered out the corner of her eye. Shit. They were sitting right up at the bar. Probably waiting for a table for dinner. Six o’clock, too. Why didn’t they make reservations? Losers. She saw Gary shift in his seat, opening his view to the room. Then, as he glanced around, acting casual, he caught her eye and grinned ever so slightly. A twinge poked in her belly. She quickly shifted her focus back to her laptop. Ignore him, Josie. Your club, your friends, not his.
She looked up. It was Shawn, grinning from ear to ear. She smiled back, “So…did you work it out?”
“Better.” He plunked down in his seat and picked up his wine. “Guy was kissing my ass.” He tossed back the last of his glass. Josie grinned and leaned in to hear the scoop, but before Shawn could say any more, they were interrupted.
“Shawn, Josie, how are you two?”
Goldman. Great.
Shawn answered for both of them, “Gary. Is there something we can do for you? Josie and I are in the middle of a very important meeting.”
Gary brushed the top of their empty wine bottle with his thumb. “Looks like it.” He turned to Josie, “Shawn tells me you’re getting married soon. Kind of hoping I might get to meet your fiancé. Oscar says he’s a real swell guy. Nic, right? Not gone to South America again, is he?”
Pins and needles started pricking the back of her neck. Why was Gary asking about Nic? How was it he cared enough to remember Nic’s name and where he was from? An image flashed in her mind of the day at the airport, of Gary watching Nic load his bags in the trunk of the car. Was he going to do something to Nic? Try to get back at her by hurting him? Not while she was alive! Josie looked up and faced Goldman as she hadn’t before. Stupid sardonic grin. Ice cold green eyes—nothing like Daddy’s. She looked Gary in the eye and answered him, “None of your damn business.”
Both Shawn’s and Gary’s eyebrows shot up. After a second, Gary recovered and reached out toward her, running his finger along the top edge of her computer. “Well now, that wasn’t very friendly.”
Not very friendly, is she? Three guys standing around her and one behind—surrounded!
Huh? What was that? What was she thinking of? Josie felt the color draining from her face.
Before anyone could say anything else, Gina suddenly reappeared at the table. “Josie, hun, sorry to interrupt, but would you taste test these for me? New recipe I’m trying. It’s called chocolate covered golden hearts. See, it’s these little flaky pastries with a layer of…”
But Josie wasn’t listening. Chocolate covered golden hearts. Chocolate covered. Chocolate covers. Gold hearts. Josie could see it—a bed with a chocolate brown coverlet. Windows with chocolate brown drapes. A bathroom with chocolate brown towels. All with gold accents. Where? When? And Gary Goldman. Huh? Why was all this stuff floating around in her head today?
“Josie? Will you, hun? Will you try them for me?”
She tried to focus on Gina’s face and her pretty red hair, but Gina was standing right next to Gary, who was still grinning his stupid grin and no doubt seeing the confusion on Josie’s face. The voices in the room were pulling away, sounding distant. Someone had lowered the lights. And turned up the thermostat.
“Jos, you okay?” Shawn’s voice.
“What is your name? Where do you live? Do you know who I am?” Gary’s voice. But the words didn’t match his lips. How was he asking that? Why was he asking that?
“Doctor, should I increase the dose now?” Gina’s voice. But her lips weren’t moving at all. And why would she call him ‘doctor’? Well, he was a doctor—of finance, right? But Gina didn’t know that.
The room was getting darker still, and the voices in it further and further away. Crap—she was losing it. No, no, no. Not now. Not right in front of world’s biggest jackass. Not right after she’d finally stood up to him. Josie pushed herself up from the table…wobbly as shit. Just need to get out of here, get some fresh air. She backed away from the table, knocking her chair down as she went, and ran toward the veranda door.
Buy Little Miss Straight Lace now.

L.A. Caveman Book Review

Research Triangle PublicationsL.A. Caveman by Christina Crooks. $2.99 from Smashwords or Amazon. From the cover: When corporate reorganization strikes, spirited journalist Stanna keeps her job but discovers her struggle has only begun. The workplace becomes a sizzling environment as she battles her macho, hard-bodied new boss for control of the Men’s Weekly column. She’s determined to reform him. He’s determined to train her. Neither wants to acknowledge the electrifying attraction that pulls at them both. Approx. 56K words. This past week, I read L.A. Caveman from author Christina Crooks. Ms. Crooks has four romance novels to her credit, of which, L.A. Caveman is the third, and the fourth is due out soon. L.A. Caveman could’ve been my kind of book, as it spins a tale of romance and suspense in the modern corporate world, wherein the hero and heroine are continuously at odds over business decisions for the magazine that he owns and she writes a column for. Throw in a sleazy, conniving former editor who intends payback for having been relieved of duty, and you have all the ingredients for a saucy, sexy story that should tickle the brain and tug at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t turn out that way. The novel begins by pitting two strong-willed characters against each other in an emotionally charged situation. Jake Tremere has recently traded his nest egg for the floundering Men’s Weekly magazine, believing that he can breathe life into it by steering it in a more macho direction. One of his first acts toward that end is to fire Stanna Whitland, a spunky writer who presents the feminine point of view in her regular weekly column. When Jake discovers that he can’t fire Stanna, because she has a three-year contract, the sparks begin to fly. Within the first few pages, I was captivated by the author’s elegant writing style, which makes use of crisp, natural language, rich vocabulary, and varied constructs. Between the writing and the strong premise, I expected to really be taken in by this romantic tale, however, the book’s path from there on was not the one I would have chosen. While the plot had the potential for a number of interesting interactions among the major characters, I felt the best scenes were almost always “off-screen”, referred to in passing or summarized after-the-fact, while all the scenes presented to the reader were the ones where Jake and Stanna were either at each other’s throats or rolling around in the hay; I never saw the positive interactions and bond-building scenes that would make me believe these two people had any real feelings for each other, other than animosity and lust. Even at the climax of the story, I felt as though I had missed something–where was the resolution to the enormous issue which had separated the two? They never spoke one word to each other about what had come between them before skipping to the HEA. I would recommend L.A. Caveman to any reader who appreciates a rich writing style and has a taste for pure romance and steamy sex scenes. If you can look past the egregiously inappropriate nature of this owner-employee relationship, you will lose yourself in the crazy ups and downs of their love affair. If, like me, you prefer your romance couched in action, adventure, and mystery, this book will leave you wanting.

The Kissing Room Book Review

Research Triangle PublicationsThe Kissing Room by Cheryl Anne Gardner. $1.99 from Smashwords or $1.99 from Amazon. From the cover: Merle tells us her tale of love, longing, and desperation. As she struggles with the guilt over her husband’s suicide, Merle’s gut wrenching quest for redemption takes her on a downward spiral into a hell of her own making. Resigned to a life of self-mutilation, abuse, and despair, will she find hope in a mysterious stranger, or will she die? Approx. 16K words. I recently had the pleasure of reading Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Kissing Room, a novella of only 16K words. The Kissing Room is not a light, cheery romance for a Sunday afternoon; rather, it’s a dark, disturbing story that threatens to repel the reader with its brutal honesty, but compels him to read on, anxious for resolution. Consider yourself warned—if you dare to sample the first page, make sure you’re in a comfortable chair. This fast-paced story is hardly a chronological one, beginning in the middle of the action, and then alternating between what happens next and what happened before. The story also fluctuates frequently between gentle, romantic, or bittersweet moments and truly ugly, stomach-churning scenes of violence and despair. I would add, however, that even the nastiest situations are not described graphically or in lengthy detail, though neither are they for the faint of heart. The Kissing Room is told in the engaging, first person voice of Merle, a woman whose short life has already seen too much tragedy, making her wizened and weary beyond her years. While the reader may not agree with her choices or even understand her reasons for making them, it is impossible not to sympathize with this character and want to see her prevail. The character of Lain was less clear to me, and I wasn’t always sure I liked him, but that did not seem important; I was rooting for Merle, and if he made her happy, that was all that mattered. The Irish pub setting of the story is unique and authentic, with both the language and the details bringing it to life. I could always see and feel the story happening as though I was a participant, rather than some disconnected voyeur. The only time I felt thrown out of the story was when the point-of-view suddenly shifted from Merle to Lain for a brief passage near the end. I understand why the author did this, but for me, it broke the spell. Fortunately, I was so caught up in wanting to know what would happen, I just ignored it and went on. I think I’ve made the point that The Kissing Room is not exactly a “beach read” with its violence and macabre themes, but I don’t mean to imply that you will not enjoy it. I read the book nearly straight through, and only stopped because of an unavoidable interruption. I was annoyed to have to pause the action going on in my head, and went back to it as soon as I could—I just had to see how it would end. When it is all said and done, Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Kissing Room is a deeply touching love story; you just won’t know it til it’s over.

Rogue Wave Book Review

Research Triangle PublicationsRogue Wave by Maureen A. Miller. $.99 from Smashwords or $.99 from Amazon. From the cover: U.S. Geological Survey expert, Nick McCord cannot account for the destructive waves assaulting the Windward coast of Oahu. The only viable culprit is the new housing development, Manale Palms and its attractive contractor, Briana Holt. Try as he might to find blame with Briana and her site, the truth remains a mystery as yet another threatening wave attacks the coast. Now allies, Nick and Briana narrow in on the source of these anomalies and find themselves in a struggle to save the island coast and their very lives. Approx. 70K words. Maureen Miller’s Rogue Wave is a romantic suspense that takes place against the lush, exotic backdrop of the Hawaiian Islands. Ms. Miller’s style reflects that beautiful background, bringing an almost lyrical feel to the narrative, despite the harsher realities of the storyline, which includes conflict between modern beachfront developers and conservationists, along with some present-day pirating. Ms. Miller presents her setting with a deft hand, describing scenery pithily, yet poetically: “Beyond Aloha Tower, the ocean was turning dusky rose under a violet twilight. The lights of the marketplace flickered on, and further beyond, a freighter moored at Sand Island became an illuminated hulk on the dark horizon.” With characters, she is equally clever, breathing life into not only the traditional good-looking, intelligent hero and heroine, but also the quirky side-kicks and troublesome family members. The central conflict in Rogue Wave is a series of unexplained mini tidal waves that are threatening the coast of Hawaii. As the story unfolded, I was intrigued by the underlying mystery, and would have liked more of that. It seemed that the focus was more on the relationship between the hero and heroine and less on the bad guys’ shenanigans, which I wanted to know more about. In other words, the plot was more like that of a traditional romance than I personally would have liked, but for traditional romance fans, it would be spot-on. From a technical standpoint, the story was well done, with no clunky transitions or shoddy plot holes, and no more than one or two typos. My one complaint was the frequency of point-of-view switches in the scenes between the hero and heroine. While I am a huge fan of multi-character POV, I prefer to spend more than a couple paragraphs at a time in any one character’s head, else I begin to suffer the onset of multiple personality disorder. That little detail aside, if you are in the market for an elegantly written romance mixed with an intriguing mystery, Maureen Miller’s Rogue Wave will not disappoint.

Not What She Seems Book Review

Research Triangle PublicationsNot What She Seems by Victorine Lieske. $.99 from Amazon. Not What She Seems is a sweet romantic suspense, appropriate for all ages. Back blurb: Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law…and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger. Contemporary romantic suspense is probably my favorite type of book, but only if the plot is complex and unpredictable, and the tension is balanced with some lighter scenes and/or humorous moments. Victorine Lieske’s Not What She Seems gets high marks from me in both of these categories. Now, for about the first quarter of the book, I was not impressed. There were only a few important characters, and I thought I had the whole plotline figured out lickety-split. I was wrong. At about that point, the story underwent the proverbial “plot thickening”, like a well-made holiday gravy. Many more locations, characters, and twists and turns began to unfold, and the initially simple plot turned into a roller coaster ride with no easy exit (I actually read everything beyond the first chapter in one 24 hour span). A plethora of potential suspects presented themselves, all with reasonable motives and opportunity, such that I was reminded of a lively round of “Clue”, where everyone from Miss Scarlett to Colonel Mustard was looking good for the deed. With all of those characters and locations, however, I would have liked to have seen a little more development of personalities, interrelationships, and time spent on setting. But I may be alone in this; many readers prefer the fast-paced, plot-focused novel and find the other elements merely a slow down. As this is an indie published work, I was prepared for formatting and technical difficulties in this book, but instead, it was as free of those problems as any traditionally published novel I’ve seen. I only spotted two or three spelling/grammatical errors and no noticeable point-of-view gaffes. There were a couple of minor plot elements that struck me oddly (why did Emily go to the trouble of getting a fake SS number, but continue to use her real name?), and I found the action at the climax scene at Vincent’s house a little confusing, but these were minor flaws that didn’t detract from the overall effect. Finally, as mentioned, I appreciated Ms. Lieske’s moments of humor that broke up the otherwise breakneck pace. She made me laugh out loud more than once, notably at the “Spiderman sheets” comment. If you are a reader who enjoys steady action, a complex plot that keeps you guessing, and prefer to go easy on the life histories and weather reports, your money will be well-spent on Victorine Lieske’s Not What She Seems.