New Reviews

Remember the saying “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”? Well, that’s what’s been happening to me and I apologize for not getting reviews posted faster. But I am reading as fast as I can among everything else I need to do. So… here are the new reviews for this week:

Under Nonfiction: Gluten Free Instant Pot Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen – a really good GF book to add to your cookbook shelves.

Under Fantasy: The Angel by the Tower by Marla White – a great fantasy with angels and demons and legends and more.

Under Mystery:

The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder Mystery by Marla White – a cute, short murder mystery with a satisfying ending.

Under Romance:

Covert Exposure by Valerie J. Clarizio – not bad but definite editorial issues and a steamy bedroom scene. Romantic Suspense.

Craving Vengeance by Valerie J. Clarizio – not bad, but not great. Second in series and has the same issues.

September 30 Tips

Birthdays: Cecelia Ahern (1981), Eileen Chang (1920), Laura Esquivel (1950), Margie Orford (1964), Ta-Nehisi Coates (1975), Tea Obreht (1985), Truman Capote (1924), Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (1898), W.S. Merwin (1927), Elie Wiesel (1928), Carol Fenner (1929), Jurek Becker (1937), S.M. Stirling (1953), Nicola Griffith (1960)

Tip: Tighten your manuscript by cutting adjectives and adverbs, wordy passages, and personal opinion.

Thought for the day: “I say write what moves you. Write what you feel compelled to write about. Unless they come naturally to you, ignore trends such as vampires and erotica just because they’re popular and focus on what you feel your heart has to say. It’s important to write for yourself, move yourself and then the reader will hopefully feel your passion and identify with those emotions.” – Cecelia Ahern

Jumpstart: You’re on your way to Bermuda for a vacation, complements of your boss for a big deal you finalized. Then a strange storm comes up out of a clear sky and…

Spotlight: Karen Guzman

When the recipe for a new life is bittersweet…

Ellen Cahill’s financial future rides on the success of her new pastry shop. A bruising divorce has drained her bank account, along with her spirit. A man enters her life promising love, but Ellen, haunted by the past, questions whether she can pull off this new beginning.

College student Rosa Escamilla has her own culinary dreams—and a difficult mother who’s dead set against them. Rosa won’t be deterred. She scrapes up the money to enroll at a prestigious culinary school, setting out to prove everyone wrong.

When hidden betrayals by the people they love most surface for both Ellen and Rosa, can they overcome the blows they never saw coming on the road to where they want to go?

Buy links


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Author bio

Karen Guzman is a fiction writer and essayist. Her new novel, Arborview, is being published on September 29 by The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Homing Instincts,was published by Fiction Attic Press in 2014. Karen’s short fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines, and her story collection, Pilgrims, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award. Karen is a regular contributor to the Collegeville Institute’s Bearings Online magazine. She is the recipient of a 2021 writing fellowship at the Collegeville Institute.

Karen has worked as a journalist at the Hartford Courant in Hartford, Connecticut, and at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is presently a writer at the Yale School of Management.

You can find Karen’s books on herAmazon author page.

September 28 Tips

Birthdays: Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856), Piper Kerman (1969), Rosario Ferre (1938), Simon Leys (1935), Simon Winchester (1944)

Tip: If you must use brand names in your story, be sure they’re used in a positive light and acknowledge the trademarks in the front matter. When possible, use generic terms instead of actual brand names. For instance: sports drink instead of Gatorade.

Thought for the day: “This may sound silly, but I attach a little counter to the corner of my computer so I know I have to produce, say, 100,000 words by December. If I’m ahead one day, I take a break; if I’m behind, I keep working.” – Simon Winchester

Jumpstart: You were in a horrible accident and have been in a coma. What nobody knows is that you can hear everything they say. What do you hear from various friends, relatives, doctors?

September 27 Tips

Birthdays: Martin Handford (1956), Bernard Waber (1924), Grazia Deledda (1871), Nicholas Mordvinoff (1911), Louis Auchincloss (1917), Ernest Becker (1924), Paul Goble (1933), Irvine Welsh (1958), Jim Thompson (1906), Jonathan Evison (1968), Katie Fforde (1952)

Tip: Different types of editing include: Developmental (checks for weak scenes, boring parts, plot inconsistencies, structure—the big picture); line editing (word choice, sentence construction, tags, etc.); copyedit (nitty gritty of grammar, punctuation, spelling, trademarks, etc.), and proofread (final overall look). If you hire an editor to go over your work, be sure you know what you’re getting.

Thought for the day: “If you are prepared to persevere, listen to good advice, recognise bad advice, read a lot and accept it may take many years, you probably will get published, eventually.” – Katie Fforde

Jumpstart: You wake up one morning, ready to start the day, but when you go into the bathroom, there’s a message on the mirror in your handwriting. It tells you not to go out. There are more notes over the house warning you not to go out. But it’s a beautiful day and you’ve been cooped up for days. What do you do? When did you write the notes and why?

September 26 Writing Tips

Birthdays: TS Eliot (1888), Max Ehrmann (1872), Jane Smiley (1949), Mark Haddon (1962), Bernice McFadden (1965), Minette Walters (1949), Will Self (1961)

Tip: Remember that setting can reveal character. There’s a big difference between someone living in squalid conditions and a posh high rise. The setting helps define the character. Especially if there is a disconnect—someone raised in luxury now living on the streets or someone living in a mansion who grew up in squalid conditions will have very different opinions than someone who’s been there all their lives.

Thought for the day: “While plot and theme and pacing and every other element in fiction are important, the really key element in fiction is characters. Because if you’ve got characters that come alive, they tell your story.” Jean Auel

Jumpstart: You’re listening to the local news while cooking dinner. A news flash comes up about a dangerous criminal who’s wanted by the police…and it’s your name and picture they’re flashing. What do you do?

September 25 Writing Tips

Birthdays: Jim Murphy (1963), James Ransome (1961), Charles Edward Russell (1860), William Faulkner (1897), Robert Laxalt (1923), Shel Silverstein (1930), Luanne Rice (1955), Kristin Hannah (1960), Bell Hooks (1952), Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1964)

Tip: Don’t make enemies of other authors by doing selfish things that benefit only you and hurt others. It will come back to haunt you and only give you a bad reputation among your peers.

Thought for the day: “Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of writers come and go — published and unpublished — and what I’ve learned is that the ones who make it keep writing no matter what. When life is tough, they write; when the kids are sick, they write; when rejections pile up, they write.” – Kristin Hannah

Jumpstart: You’ve been named in the will of someone you didn’t even know. A very rich someone. You will inherit everything, but only if you…(what?) and why did they leave it all to you?

September 24 writing tips

Birthdays: David Drake (1945), Eavan Boland (1944), Eleanor Catton (1985), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1940), Horace Walpole (1717), Richard K. Morgan (1965), Robert Lewis Taylor (1912), John Brunner (1934), John Kessel (1950)

Tip: Figure out the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) in your story. Every story should have this. In fact, each scene should have this. Try: (who) wants (what) because (why) but s/he can’t because (why not). For instance: Dorothy wants to go home because there’s no place like home but can’t because she needs to defeat the wicked witch and learns running away doesn’t help.

Thought for the day: “All fine prose is based on the verbs carrying the sentences. They make sentences move.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jumpstart: “I’d never have done that with you if I’d known…”

September 23 Tips and More

Birthdays: Anne Desclos (1907), Emmuska Orczy (1865), Frank Cottrell Boyce (1959), Jennie Shortridge (1959), Justine Larbalestier (1967), Wesley Chu (1976), Euripides (480 BC), Jaroslav Seifert (1901), Jerry B. Jenkins (1949), Bruce Brooks (1950), Peter David (1956), Bill Phillips (1964)

Tip: Different genres usually have different lengths. For instance, category romances tend to be around 60,000 words while a high fantasy can be 110,000 or more. Like everything, there are exceptions to this, but in general, check the standard word lengths for what you’re writing.

Thought for the day: “Do not despair when you are rejected. Welcome to the club. There isn’t a writer in the world who hasn’t been rejected. Many, many times.” – Justine Larbalestier

Jumpstart: You’ve just won a three-minute shopping spree at your favorite store. Where do you go and what do you buy?

Spotlight: Darlene Fredette

This summer, ice cream entrepreneur Carly Redd’s only focus is expanding her business—until she’s coerced into attending her ex’s engagement party. Showing up without a date is unthinkable. She reluctantly agrees to be escorted by her brother’s co-worker, although doing so breaks her rule of not dating firefighters. The daughter of the town’s fire chief should wear a Do Not Touch sign, but firefighter Noah Harding’s interest blazed the moment he saw Carly. Agreeing to be her fake boyfriend is a no-brainer, but convincing Carly to trust him with her heart is harder than extinguishing a fire. Overstepping the platonic-only rule is as dangerous as fire and ice swirling into a tempting combustion.

The premise and research for this story were so much fun because who doesn’t like ice cream!

In my story, Cherry Red, the heroine, Carly Redd, creates new flavours of ice cream. While going to college, she worked as a bartender. She blended her knowledge of ice cream and alcohol and came up with several favourites for her adult customers.

While anyone can make their own ice cream float, it is important to pair the right flavour of ice cream with the equivalent beverage.

Here is one of Carly’s most requested ice cream creations.

Mimosa Float


1-1/2 cups champagne

1/2 cup no-pulp orange juice

1 cup vanilla ice cream

Shaved chocolate (optional)

Maraschino cherries (a must)


Pour 6 tablespoons champagne and 2 tablespoons orange juice into a 6-ounce champagne flute. Stir in 1/4 cup vanilla ice cream. Add a sprinkle of chocolate shavings. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Top with remaining chocolate shavings and cherries.

Author Bio:

Darlene resides on the Atlantic Coast of Canada where the summers are too short, and the winters are too long. She writes contemporary romances with a focus on plot-driven page-turners. When not working on her next book, she can be found with her husband, her daughter, and her yellow Labrador.


“This might seem like a strange question, especially since we’ve just met, but would you be interested in going out for a coffee? Or an ice cream?” Noah rested an arm on the bar.

Carly glanced down at her jeans and black T-shirt embroidered with the company name and logo…a cluster of red cherries. In a room full of women all dolled up in fancy—and some a bit scanty—dresses, why would this incredibly handsome man ask her on a date? “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not interested…”

Noah raised a brow. “I know you like ice cream, so is it the coffee, or me?”

“What? No. I mean, yes.” She took a second to collect her scrambled thoughts. “I like coffee. I just don’t hang out with firefighters.” Not that he was a real firefighter. Did impersonators count in her rules of men to avoid? She never dated a stripper, but she wasn’t sure she could have a relationship with a guy who was paid to take off his clothes and have other women fawn over him. Not that the guy asked her on a date…just a simple coffee. His frown made her feel badly. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal.”

“Burnt in the past? No pun intended.” He smiled.

She couldn’t help but smile back. “Something like that.”

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