Minerva’s Bird Sanctuary by Minerva Spencer

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Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, this is a review for adults. No kiddies allowed.

I’ve read a lot of reviews comparing Hoang’s debut to Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game (which I LOOOOOVED) Yes, both books are hilarious and peopled with characters you really care about, but I think The Kiss Quotient pulled ahead of The Hating Game on my list of favorite contemporary romances.

Why? Because I’ve never read a romance novel where the characters are so honest. Seriously, Stella’s reaction to Michael is so refreshingly REAL I just couldn’t get enough.

And Michael? He is nuclear meltdown HOT. And not just his body, he is also funny and hard-working and responsible and self-aware–yes, he is the freakin’ UNICORN of men!!!! But you believe in this unicorn because of Hoang’s deft development of his character. Mainly it is his family that makes you believe.

He has a PILE of sisters who keep him from getting conceited (these girls need their own book. HINT. No, I’m serious. I want a book about Janie. Now.) I love his family.

But back to Michael. Not only is he hot, he is also smart, sensitive, and he knows his way around women’s clothing (see, unicorn, right?) He is a decent, funny, witty (and did I mention HOT) guy who gets better and better the more you get to know him.

My favorite part of the book (other than the sex scenes, which are not only plentiful but SCORCHING) is the fact there are no “too-stupid-to-live” misunderstandings. These guys are about as honest with each other as you can get, which doesn’t mean they don’t both have their secrets, but the things they DO keep from each other you can understand.

This book is a mo*&%$#ing blockbuster. I can SO see it being made into a movie. Just two words about that: Daniel Henny.

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Sign up for a FREE copy of DANGEROUS!

It’s time for FREE advance reader copies of DANGEROUS!!!

You can sign up for a copy either on NETGALLEY or GOODREADS. 

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What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands . . .

Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—not since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own . . .

 

Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage . . .

But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart . . . 

“Minerva Spencer’s writing is sophisticated and wickedly witty. Dangerous is a delight from start to finish with swashbuckling action, scorching love scenes, and a coolly arrogant hero to die for. Spencer is my new auto-buy.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt
 
“Readers will love this lusty and unusual marriage of convenience story.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter
 
“Smart, witty, graceful, sensual, elegant and gritty all at once. It has all of the meticulous attention to detail I love in Georgette Heyer, BUT WITH SEX!” 
RITA-award winning author Jeffe Kennedy

Book Review: Don’t Call me Cupcake

Don't Call Me Cupcake (The Holloway Girls, #1)Don’t Call Me Cupcake by Tara Sheets

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s not often that a house steals the show in a romance–or in any book–but that’s what happened in Sheets’s debut novel. I LOVED the house. I want the house.

Okay, enough about the house and back to the book….

Emma’s baked goods come with secret ingredients and the fun starts when she sells the wrong magic to Hunter, who winds up being her competitor. Enemies to lovers is one of my all-time-favorite tropes and Sheets handles it with some magic of her own!

This was a fun, romantic, page-turning book from beginning to end. I thought maybe the characters might be too “sweet” but Sheets delivers sweetness with humor and clever charm that keeps anyone from being saccharine. And let’s face it–Hunter is a hottie, so he can be as sweet as he wants…

I don’t usually read “paranormal” romances, or romances with magical elements, but I found this done so well I could actually believe in the power of Emma’s magical food.

In addition to the very amusing house there is Juliette, Emma’s sister, who gets center stage in the next book. I liked Juliette as much as Emma and can’t wait for her story.

One warning: Make sure you are well-armed with snacks before you start this book because you won’t want to put it down to go in search of baked goods!!!

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Yay! I’ve sold a 4th book to Kensington Zebra!

I’ve known about the sale of my 4th book, NOTORIOUS, for a while but I’ve had to wait until all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed before I could spread the good word.  My agent Jessica Alvarez just announced the deal in Publishers Weekly so now I can celebrate the good news!!

Here is the PW blurb:

Minerva Spencer’s NOTORIOUS, a Regency Era romance and Book 4 in the Outcasts series, in which one man discovers that a London Season is even more dangerous than being a sultan’s heir, to Alicia Condon at Kensington, in a nice deal, for publication in Late 2019, by Jessica Alvarez at BookEnds (World).

The four books in the series and their publication dates are:

DANGEROUS June 2018

BARBAROUS November 2018

SCANDALOUS 2019

NOTORIOUS 2019

I’ll be posting more information as it becomes available.

Cheers,

Minerva

Debut Author Anna Quinn Talks About Her Creative Process

And the interviews just keep on rollin’! Today I’m talking with Anna Quinn, author of The Night Child, a work of psychological/literary fiction that will debut January 30, 2018, and is published by Blackstone Publishing.

I’m sticking with my theme of “What’s Your Writing Process” and Anna will answer a few questions about her creative process right below a blurb for the book and cover shot.

The Night Child is the story of Nora Brown, a young mother and high-school English teacher, whose unremembered childhood trauma returns to threaten her sanity in the form of a child named Margaret. This exquisitely nuanced and profoundly intimate novel examines the fragile line between past and present—it is a story of resilience, hope, and the capacity of the mind, body, and spirit to save itself despite all odds.

Teaser:  “Her past—a malevolent undertow she cannot escape from simply by swimming parallel to and waiting for release; no, this is a force demanding a surrender she cannot allow.”

Psssst! If you’d like to pre-order The Night Child, you can order it HERE!

cover final The Night Child_finished cover

Minerva Spencer: How long did you take to write this book?

Anna Quinn:  I wrote The Night Child in only a year, but that’s because I used a great deal of content from my previously written memoir. It took another year to edit The Night Child, and yet another year to call up the courage to submit it. I queried twenty-four agents and within a month, received nine requests for partial manuscripts and three requests for full manuscripts. Soon after, two agents expressed interest in representation—one NY agent, and Gordon Warnock from Fuse Literary in San Francisco. The NY agent wanted significant developmental changes that involved sensationalizing certain scenes for commercial purposes, and Gordon loved the book enthusiastically as it was, so I accepted his offer. Nine months later he called to say Blackstone Publishing had offered a fabulous contract. After an additional three months of editing with Blackstone, my book was ready for publication and will be released Jan. 30th, 2018.

MS:  What kind of research did you do for this book?

AQ:  I used notes from my own personal history of dissociation, and spent hundreds of hours reading about psychiatric therapies, and interviewing psychiatrists and people who had experienced, or were experiencing dissociation.

MS:  What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

AQ:  I’m a fairly spare writer (my poet husband calls me a haikuist novelist) and I often need to elaborate rather than cut. However, the editing exercise that helps most regarding cutting words is to read the entire manuscript aloud underlining all the places that cause me to falter or lose attention. Later, I go back and either cut those sentences or rewrite the passages. I also used Microsoft’s Word Usage and Frequency add-in, to find repeated words. The words “actually”, “shrugged” and “sometimes” were my top three most overused words. I also removed an excerpt of Hemingway’s, Clean Well-Lighted place because my publisher and I agreed it would be too much effort to secure the copyright from Hemingway Estates as they are known to be a pretty tough crowd.


MS:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

AQ:  One of the most exhilarating things about writing is the mystery and complexity of it, so while I have a sense of big what if questions when I begin, I allow my imagination free rein during the first draft— I become a combination of interviewer, recorder and witness. I observe my characters, follow them around, ask them things along the way like: What do you want? Why does this matter so much to you? What are you looking for? What’s standing in your way? What are you afraid of? and What next? Over time they lead me into scenes, into answers, and a story emerges—the structure revealing itself as I write.


MS:  What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

AQ:  Revision thrills me—re-visioning a draft from a critical perspective, listening to the sounds of language, playing with rhythm sentence by sentence, magnifying the abstract for an  unambiguous detail, cutting irrelevancies (even if it means pages and pages) adding complications, and creating metaphor completely absorbs me. The first few drafts allow me to discover the story—what it’s really about, where the vulnerability of being human lives. Revision allows me to clarify and deepen the emotional truth of it.

 

MS: Okay, one last question, and one that many aspiring writers find interesting: what is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

AQ: Finishing a piece. But really, is any story ever finished?

A huge thanks to Anna Quinn for joining me to talk about her fabulous new book, which will debut January 30, 2018.

If you’d like to contact Anna about her book or with questions you can do so with the below addresses:

Website:annamquinn.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anna.quinn.9277

Twitter:@annaquinn55

Instagram: annaquinnpt
Pinterest: annaquinn5480

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35390279-the-night-child

Book Review of Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

Never Dare a Wicked Earl (Infamous Lords, #1)Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a great way to kick off a holiday in a good mood!

I loved Hayden and Sophia (and also Lady Olivia) and their romance was fraught with enough delicious tension to keep me flicking the pages on my Kindle like a junkie.

The part of Miller’s writing that impressed me the most (okay, there are 2 parts) was her ability to evoke the era (or certainly what felt like a “bygone” era, to me) and also her delightful turn of phrase (GREAT similes which made me alternately smile or move to the edge of my seat). Miller does an excellent job of injecting historical fact into the story without beating the reader over the head with it.

Great sensuality and tension throughout, with lots of secondary characters to bring depth to the story and make you care what happened to the H&h.

The author also did a fantastic job engaging my sense of smell, something I don’t often experience reading books. From the seamier smells of London’s impoverished back alleys to a gourmet breakfast that made me get out of bed and ransack the kitchen at 10 o’clock at night.

This book is a Victorian adventure that will engage and satisfy all your senses.

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March 24-26, 2017: Los Angeles RWA California Dreamin’ Conference

The conference was the ostensible reason for the bike journey (but really it was to meet George and Marla, my fabulous beta readers!!)

After collecting my name tag and bag-o-swag I headed off to find and meet my internet pal, Marla.

Here I am with a goodie bag:

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Marla and I finally met that first night and she was just as wonderful as I’d suspected she’d be! Sorry, no pictures of that emotional first meeting…

Anyhow, she brought her wonderful husband Murph along with her and I’m already trying to figure out ways to get them to move to New Mexico!

Here we are Saturday morning drinking coffee and discussing our plans for the day (Brantly is the camera man):

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I finally got to wear the skirt that took 400 hours of my life to crochet, so here is a close up below…

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The question I was asked most often was where I bought it. Right after that came, “What are you wearing under it?”

Yoga pants. Nothing more exciting than yoga pants.

The conference had a lot of interesting speakers and workshops, but my two favorite parts, hands down, were California Readin’ and getting to dress up in period clothing!

Marla scored tickets to the California Readin’ event, which was apparently a first at the conference. Both attendees and fans purchased tickets and were seated at tables with seven others, two of whom were published authors.

The event was billed as reader appreciation and they weren’t kidding. There were 60 authors total and each gave out a gift basket. The tables themselves were loaded with cool swag and we got to play. . . BINGO!

No, I didn’t win, but Marla scored a huge basket of romance novels and an ice cream maker. Also lots of candy and desserts everywhere. . . Tons of fun.

Not only that, but afterward was a monster book signing sponsored by the Ripped Bodice book store. I got to meet one of my favorite historical romance authors, Tessa Dare, as well as contemporary romance queen, Robin Carr. Lots of fun meeting and chatting with authors.

Marla went to an afternoon session and I went to play dress up. The people offering hair/makeup/costumes were in the business of shooting book covers but on Saturday they were beautifying the contest attendees and taking cover shots, as well as dress up, fun shots.

I had a blast. My only complaint is that it didn’t last all day and I didn’t get to try on every dress.

Here is a shot of me in one of their masterpiece creations:

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This was a photo Brantly took before the photographer stepped in and posed, moved, and generally made me look far better.

The dress was 8 layers of skirt in addition to the top, which was another two pieces. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I’m hoping the photographer shots will show the colors and craftsmanship.

After I took off my 10 layers of clothing I was off to the banquet hall for dinner, where NYT bestseller Robin Carr was our keynote speaker.

Sunday’s highlight was our lunchtime speaker, Sarah MacLean, who gave a wonderful keynote speech on the place romance novels hold in modern life.

By the time lunch was over I was beginning to suffer from conference fatigue and ready to head over to Marla and Murphy’s house for a couple days of R&R LA style. Here we are ready to take off:

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LA is a huge city. And I mean huge. One of the favorite topics of conversation is the state of the freeways. Getting anywhere takes 2 hours. Even with all that traffic, the Los Angeleans are almost scarily happy. In fact, everyone in that part of the state seems really happy.

Anyhow, the next three days of relaxation were blissful after the chaos of the conference and road trip.

We hung out, chatted, went to see a magic show at the Magic Castle, checked out Santa Monica Pier and the neighboring beach, and beaded! Yes, I got to savage Marla’s fabulous bead collection and make myself a lovely bracelet.

Here we are getting ready to enter the Magic Castle:

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The Castle is a members and guests only establishment and it felt like we’d entered a secret world. From the moment you say “Open Sesame” to the bookcase to enter the house, to the ghostly piano playing of Irma, to the wonderful prestidigitation of LA luminaries such as Pop Hayden, the experience was a one-of-a-kind.

Here I am destroying Marla’s pristine living room:

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This was a wonderful trip and WAY too short.

Here is a photo of my long-suffering photographer and SAG wagon driver with his new friend:

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Thanks to both Marla and Murphy for being such lovely, generous hosts. We’re coming back next week…

 

 

March 23, 2017: Day 13-The Last Day! Alpine, CA to San Diego, CA

Not much happened last night except losing $40 at the craps table. We’re not even sure how or why that loss happened, either. Craps is hard-like, calculus hard. So, even though we didn’t know what the hell was going on we couldn’t resist getting involved. Chatting with Robert and Mark, two of the craps dealers, was very entertaining, so that was worth the forty bucks.

Map from Alpine, California to San Diego, California

Anyhow, the next morning I woke up before first light and was the rain coming down pretty heavily on the well-lighted parking lot outside our window. Went back to bed and woke up at a decent hour.

The trip down the mountain was short (less than 30 miles) and almost all down hill. It was also a bit terrifying in spots because of the slick roads. According to Zach, my bike guru, my bike was not the best performing in ice, snow, or rain. After breaking on a particularly steep hill and skittering to the left, I finally knew what he meant.

The good news? I finally got to wear a lot of that expensive rain gear I bought in preparation for the trip.

Here I am coming down the hill from Alpine:

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What d’ya think? Too much gear?

Hey, it’s the last day, I had to wear it all. Cars were swerving and retinas got burned, but I got to wear every damned piece of biker garb I purchased.

Here’s another:

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At the bottom I got my reward:

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Yes, I took a wrong turn somewhere along the line and ended up back in New York, or maybe Phoenix? Anyhow, look who was waiting for me…

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Yeah, we hung out.

So, after a bit of a carb extravaganza I got back on the bike and onto Ye Olde Hwy 80 (that’s really what the signs say!)

Most cyclists keep going through the city and stop at the water’s edge to dip a bike tire into the Pacific Ocean. Snoopy put the kibosh on that idea as he’s not overly fond of water. Also, it was time to get our butts to Los Angeles.

This was the end of the road for me:

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I got lost multiple times on my way to this park entrance. I kept following the bike lane, thinking it was THE bike lane. It took me a while to figure out San Diego has a whole pile of bike lanes,  not just the one. Huh.

I flipped a coin with Snoopy to see which of us got to ride shotgun and who got to ride on the rack.

Guess who won? (I tried not to gloat. . . )

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For whatever reason Brantly thought this photo was hilarious:

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I really had no idea that my normal smile looked so . . . demented.

Anyhow, after loading up we got on our way and headed north to LA. After a quick stop for fish and chips in Oceanside I got to meet the first of two people I came to see: my fantastic beta reader George!!

Here are Snoopy and me with George and his wife Bette, who kindly put us up for the night before the conference began:

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Brantly and I had a great time with George and Bette and took an evening lake cruise graciously provided by George’s brother Bob and his wife Deb.

Thanks so much Bette and George for having us at your house!

Onward to the conference, where I get to meet Marla! My other fabulous beta reader . . .

 

 

March 22, 2017: Day 12. A day of rainy, cool, chocolate-filled rest!

Today I did nothing and there are no pictures of me doing it, either.

Brantly took a day trip into San Diego to ferret out a stamp shop while I lounged and ate junk food and watched it rain.

I wish I could say I won big at the tables but all I managed to do was throw away $5 on a video poker game. After underachieving at the all-you-can-eat buffet yesterday we decided to give it a wide berth today.

See you bright and early in the morning.