What Have I Been Reading?

Woman Reading a DiaryIf you’re wondering how I find time to read, what with a full-time demanding job, and writing a novel at the same time. That doesn’t include attending my writing groups’ (two beloved RWA chapters) meetings. On top of all that, I’m a hockey fan, and I watch every game my team plays (GO PREDATORS!), and go to games when I can. And even more important is my family who I love most of all and deserve my attention.

But I’m a book-aholic. So I find time.

How you ask? Well, I read between hockey periods, during commercials, before turning in for the night, at doctor appointments, sitting out in the parking lot before walking into work, during lunches, while cooking or/and eating. E-books are great when it comes to finishing one book, you can immediately start a new one. Feed that addiction. Plus I listen to audio books.  (All of that and writing!)

Now for the recent books I’ve read. Just a reminder, I only mention the ones I enjoyed.

A couple of the books by Zavarelli surprised me with her unusual heroines and unique plot choices. I’m rarely surprised and ended up enjoying them, especially Ghost.
Boston Underworld series by A. Zavarelli
Crow
Reaper
Ghost
Saint

I guess I’m on a criminal kick.  Enjoyed the first one that came in this set.
Romanian Mob Chronicles (series) Books 1- 3 by Kaye Blue
Keep

Here’s one from an old original favorite author, and it’s been several years since I read one of her books. This one I enjoyed because the heroine was hated by so many people, including the hero, but she persevered and won over the hero and many others.
Make Me Love You by Johanna Lindsey

Many others books, I kind of enjoyed, but not enough to recommend here. Some, I couldn’t finish. When I don’t finish a book, it is often because I became bored with the plot or characters or both. Rarely, does it have anything to do with the quality of writing. Amazon’s Look Inside feature helps me check that out before I purchase.

Here are the audio books I enjoyed recently.
Roman: Cold Fury Hockey Series Book 7 by Sawyer Bennett
A Rouge By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
Three, Two, One (A Dark Suspense) 321 by J.A. Huss
The Darkest Night: The Lords of The Underworld Book 1 by Gena Showalter
The Duchess War: The Brothers Sinister Book 1 by Courtney Milan

One series I’d listened to on and off over the last three months or so is Sylvia Day’s Crossfire. I have to say she did a wonderful job layering the personalities of the hero and heroine. She did hook me into listening to all five books. Heck, I couldn’t get further than Outlander’s Voyager. So that has to mean something. But by book three (even after breaking it up with other authors’ books), I became tired of hearing how beautiful they thought each other were. I really wish she had condensed them into three books. If so, they probably would have been one of those I listened to over and over again.

I do need to stay away from series that have the same main hero and heroine throughout. I have a tendency of getting fed up with the characters and story. Totally my hangup there.

Audio Book Favorites

Iphone-headphone-jackOn and off for many years I’ve listened to audio books from cassettes to iTunes to Amazon’s Audible. Overall, the narrators have gotten better. At one time, authors wanted well-known actors narrating their books. You can even see a few still do. But I have to say they are not always the best choice.

The ones I enjoy the best is 1) a female or male who can change their voice enough to sound like or make you think of the character they are speaking for.

My favorite audio books

I’ve actually listened to these more than once (partly because I enjoyed the story so much and partly for the savings. HA!)  You may notice some of the audio books below are repeats of my favorite books to reread. Goes without saying, I loved these stories.

Alex by Sawyer Bennett
Cris Dukehart did a great job on the female narration. The male narrator, Graham Halstead, has the kind of voice I love. Since the character is in his twenties, he has a young, but still mature, sexy voice.  He’s the narrator in all of Sawyer’s Carolina Cold Fury books. Smart move on Random House’s part. Hockey!!  Love hockey, but not all hockey books are equal. Just as the teams. Go, PREDATORS!

Lord of Wicked Intentions by Lorraine Heath
The narrator, Faye Adele, did a fascinating job. I completely forgot it was a woman talking during the male parts.

The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Ditto above, but the narrator is Angela Dawe. I don’t know how the women narrators do it.

Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren
I love it when they have female and male narrators. It appears they only do when it is first person. Grace Grant did a wonderful job narrating for the female voice. Jonathan R. Cole is the male narrator, and his British accent is perfect to me. Very sexy, and I quickly learned not to listen to the male narration in the dark, before going to sleep. It felt like I was cheating on my hubby.  LOL!

Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Kristen Potter did a great job of giving us a little of the Scottish accent but not overwhelming.

What am I listening to now

Easy Love by Kristen Proby; narrated by Sebastian York and Rachel Fulginiti.

I enjoyed the female narration most the time, except when she spoke with a “New Orlean’s accent” for the hero and his family. Horrible. She really shouldn’t try. The male narrator did not, thank goodness. As always for Sebastian, he has a sexy voice, but I cannot tell when it’s the hero’s thoughts or if the hero is speaking it. His voice doesn’t distinguish between the two.

The story was cute, hot, and laugh out-loud funny at times. Loved the Taylor Swift drinking game. The only problem I had with the story was the heroine was late often to work and never called in when she wasn’t going to show up at all (I don’t care if she was sleeping with the boss. Her co-workers were not to know.) Working in an office for most of my life, the girl would be fired before the month was out and her co-workers would resent her. They would have to do her “pretend” job. Someone had to. Plus I kept wondering how the heroine was going to find out who was stealing money from the company if she never worked? And how did she expect to keep her affair with the boss a secret if they were running around town?

I kept telling my inner, anal reader to shut up and enjoy the story. I did and I did. Besides, it is fiction and for pure entertainment. Certainly worth listening to one time. I bet if you’ve never worked in an office, you’ll enjoy it a hundred times more.

Side note about listening to Outlander.

Davina Porter is the narrator. I have to say, if not for her, I would’ve never gotten through the whole book. Well, her and Jamie. The author did great on him. But so many stretches were so boring with unnecessary details and don’t get me started on Claire. That review/comment post will be for a later time. It’s written, but I prefer letting it sit for a while. So far it’s been over a year. Anyway, Davina is a wonderful narrator and deserves every dime she receives.

Recommendations

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. In the past, I’ve done a few blog posts on books I’ve loved but nothing consistently. In fact, the few I’ve done are on my old blog if I remember correctly. So I thought every once in awhile, I’ll recommend books and let you know what I’ve recently read.

But first, I’ll start with a few favorites of mine that I love to re-read. I was talking with some readers the other day and was actually shocked to hear a couple say they never do. Too many other books out there to read the first time they said.

Oh, well. I do know that I find a new book at least once a year that I enjoy re-reading. I guess because I learn something from each one that can hopefully improve my writing.

So here are a few.

The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory (aka Candace Camp) 1989 – a bad boy wanting to improve his life and he falls for a good girl. Yet, the girl believes she’s not so good as she’s in love with her brother-in-law. I love wounded misunderstood bad boys and good girls who are not quite good.

The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie by Jennifer Ashley 2011 – an man with autism (I believe) who pursues a widow. So well written and oddly because of his extreme concentration on the heroine, it’s quite sexy. And unique. I love unique.

All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard 1999 – A super spy asks for help from a former female associate and during their new mission they fall in love. Doesn’t sound exciting, but the hero is awesome and Linda has a wicked sense of humor that comes out in her books. This book is the one that encouraged me to write Circle of Desire. My female assassin book. I love spy/assassin/mercenary books.

It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips 2002 – A ditzy blonde (smarter than everyone thinks) inherits a football team. The coach isn’t happy but finds love with the new owner. It’s funny and unique. At the least, that’s what I think.  If you get a chance, read the first line. It’s a hoot!

Ryker by Sawyer Bennett 2015 – A goalie and the team’s female manager fall in love. This book has so much heart. Ryker is the near perfect man and the heroine isn’t no wimp. Strangely, I’ve listened to this at least three times. So it edged out the true favorite of this series, Alex. Alex is the bad boy of the series and you know how I love bad boys.

There are more, but it’s getting late and I need to go to work tomorrow.

Hope you’ll check them out. Just remember the older the book, the older the style and some people don’t care for them. Then again, I consider them classics even if they’re a year old.

A Growth of a Series

PrintFirst, I love reading books with bad boy heroes. Hell, I married one. If you’ve ever read my Circle series, you’ll know how much I love writing about dangerous, ill-tempered (HA!) men.

When I began writing the Brothers of Mayhem series, I had already read a couple MC (romance/fiction) books and watched all of the Sons of Anarchy. Click here to read my post about researching the series.

So I thought readers of MC books would be interested to know that the first book (HIDDEN HEAT) of the Brothers of Mayhem is not the typical MC story. The majority of the bikers in that story are not good guys. But you will see a shift in book two (FULL HEAT – Storm’s story). It has a mixture of good and bad. New blood.

By book three (NAKED HEAT – Wolf’s story) you’ll see more of the brotherhood that you come to expect in a MC romance. And in the fourth book (RAW HEAT – Cutter’s story), the club heals and the brotherhood tightens.

It’s like this, throughout the series, each book can be read separately as stand-alones, but like the romance in each story, the club has a path to take with all of the ups and downs. The growth of the club as an unit will ensure its survival. In the end, it will have the right guy in place and everyone will be happy. *sniff* I do love for my people to have a happy ending.

And you could say each story has something for everyone, from the unique MC story to the hard core.

What Model Of Alpha Do You Want?

tumblr_myfffeXLM61srko8to1_r1_500Reviews are a double edge sword. Authors want and need them to get the word out about their books, but reviews with low ratings and pure hate for a book are not helpful in my opinion. The reason I say it that way is that I had a well-known blogger tell me even horrible reviews can help sell a book. You know, everyone wanting to see if a book is really as terrible as everyone is saying. Heaven forbid, if that ever happens to me. I’m all for the positive hook.

Anyway, reviews per se is not what this post is about.

Occasionally, I read reviews from some of my favorite authors. Why you ask? Whenever I’m feeling down about my writing (what the fuck am I doing?) and need to see even my favorite NYT bestselling authors have a handful of disparagers among their hundreds of five star reviews. Yesterday, I was looking at an author whose publisher had released her backlist in ebook. So thrilling because now I can get copies for my iPad and the paperbacks can stay on my shelves in good condition.

On one hand, I was surprised by the many one stars (and anger) for books I love of hers. As I read the reviews, the main theme appeared to be the way the heroes treated the heroines.

See, from 1970s to 1990s, it had been popular for the heroes to be what I call supreme alphas. It started with the bodice rippers (literally, and by the way, I freaking hate that term for current day romance in general). Yes. Historical romances were queen in the beginning and the heroes thought nothing of ripping the bodice off the heroines. It was so different from what women had been reading before then. I can get into the dynamics of the sexual revolution and birth control and woman finding out they loved sex when there was little fear of pregnancy (only 2% to 9% fear as pills are 91% to 98% effective), but that is still not what this post is about.

In my dear favorite author’s earlier books, the heroes bossed and took over the heroines’ lives as if the women had no sense at all. At the time, and to a point nowadays, I love reading books with those types of heroes. But from what I’ve read in other articles, reviews and in general conversations with twenty- to thirty-something readers, they do not want a hero to act that way. In real life, I wouldn’t either, but, folks, this is fantasy. Anyway, onward and upward…

I thought that was interesting considering how many readers love kinky doms (BDSM), demanding billionaires, and dangerous bikers (MCs). So I compared the differences and realized in most cases, the older romances with dominating males, the heroes came across as cold and unfeeling at least until the end. While the new wave alphas show tenderness and often sweet talk their heroines, they are the same type of heroes, but they have smoother edges.

Both have pluses and minuses. I have found that sometimes when I’m reading a new author’s male point of view, the guys sound a little girlish. More of how the author wished a male would be. From what I know of most men, they are straightforward in speech and action and rarely think about how so-and-so feels about something. They believe they do what must be done and not worry overmuch about it. They have gut feelings and realizations. Not all of that touchy, feely, (I’m not talking about sex) I-have-to-talk-it-out stuff. Of course, there are the exceptions, but they are usually the villains.  HA!

Oh, if you’re reading an old romance, be sure to keep all of this mind. Hopefully the publisher (or author, if self-published) will show the original published date. It would be best in the end. Fewer rants by readers. Geez!

Researching My Next Series

Hidden Heat_Swafford

Release date: February 16, 2016

A couple times recently, I’ve been asked about my research on my latest series, Brothers of Mayhem. First, let me say that most writers love to do research. We love to read about other people’s lives and the way they handle certain situations. Hey, we love to sit in a mall or in front of stores and watch people walk by. We will assess their way of life by the clothes they wear, how they hold themselves (their stance), the way they walk, and often they will show up in our books.

So when writers research a book or new series, it’s a win-win. Books and reading about other people lives, we’re in hog heaven.

For my next series, I did research about outlaw motorcycle clubs. Youtube was helpful. There are lots of documentaries, specially for each outlaw MC known to man. Well, it feels that way. I probably watched ten of the videos, including just general ones on riding motorcycles. And of course, I watch shows on TV. Previously, Sons of Anarchy along with whatever shows that have popped up on TV (e.g. Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels).

Then I bought two romances with the central characters being in outlaw MCs. I quickly realized that was a mistake. They are NOT the kind of heroes I want to write. I love alpha heroes, but I don’t want them crude or just downright mean. That was all confirmed when my beta reader mentioned she started reading MC stories after my first three chapters hooked her, and some of the stories she read were waaaay over the edge. She liked the milder but still sexy ones.

I also bought two autobiographies about undercover agents in MCs and one about a confidential informant. Here are the books.

  • No Angel by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton – “My harrowing under cover journey to the inner circle of the Hells Angels.”
  • Under and Alone by William Queen – “The True story of the undercover agent who infiltrated America’s most violent outlaw motorcycle gang.”
  • Gods of Mischief by George Rowe – “My undercover vendetta to take down the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang.”

And I drew from my misspent youth for a few other aspects of the book. I’ve talked a little about that before. Click here.  When I was younger, I had ridden on a few motorcycles (passenger only – chopper, touring bike, and dirt bike – yep, it was rough bitch-riding on the last one), but never felt the need to buy one or keep riding.

Research can become addictive. So you have to learn to limit it. I felt I have it covered now.

Three Types of Alphas

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Release date 2/24/2015 Amazon.

Over the years, I’ve heard debates on the plus and minuses of Alpha and beta heroes. Personally, I prefer Alpha heroes, and strangely, as unchanging Alphas appear to be, they have been changing with the times. Maybe it has to do with women liberation and the younger generation.

Geez, that last part makes me sound so old.

I guess it’s because I don’t have a problem with a man being a man. For a man to beat his chest and open my doors never bothered me. But at the same time, why are women still referred to as Mrs. in the business world or if I’m purchasing something? Hell, I’m proud of being married to my hubby (love him dearly), but what does my marital status have to do with my work? Men are Mr., no matter if they’re married or not. Never understood it. Equal rights and all.

Sorry, got off track. Back to the three type of Alphas.

1.  The Tarzan Alpha.  Loved watching Tarzan movies on TV when I was a kid (they were re-runs of re-runs), but as an adult in the present PC environment, the movies from the 1930s for sure show a hero Tarzan11who’s not really very nice to Jane. Even in one film, he tears her clothes off. Of course, he’s just curious about the clothing. Yeah. Right. It was the same movie (Tarzan and His Mate) along with a few others that helped bring about censoring movies in Hollywood during that period. The Johnny Weissmuller ones were my favorites. By the way, Tarzan’s English name was John Clayton. Thought I would throw that in.

Now on to this Alpha. At times, he can come across as being not the smartest cookie in the pack. Maybe because he’s raised by apes/wolves/lions/etc., from a different planet or time. Isn’t that a great excuse to do whatever he wants? But when he’s in his environment, watch out! You’ll look a fool if you underestimate him.

The other side of the same coin, this Alpha can also be super-smart, and you’ll know it from the start. Often he’s that way because he’s lived a horrible life. Cruel biological or foster parents/guardians, bad choices or friends, etc. So he grows up thinking women are nothing but sex toys for him to play with. That is, when he’s not busy taking care of business. He often plays a brutish hero, steam rolling over the heroine, forcing her to do what he says. “For her own good.” Hey, I enjoy reading this type, but no way do I want to be around one in real life.

What authors write this type? Lori Leigh, Anne Stuart (she has some scary, delicious ones), Beth Kery, and Nalini Singh (some I’m told).

2. The James Bond Alpha. This is the category where most Alphas fall. They’re self-James Bondsufficient and don’t believe they need a woman until they meet The One. Sometimes they have a hard time recognizing her. That’s the part we find so much fun: watching him come to terms, that he can’t live without her. Oh, yeah. The mighty falls hard.

And don’t be hating my favorite James Bond. Even today, wrinkles and all, Pierce Brosnan is so sexy.

The authors for his type? Linda Howard, Maisey Yates, Debra Webb, Anne Stuart (her Ice series has this, mixed with the Tarzan) and Carla Swafford (of course, I had to add mine).

3. The Jamie Alpha.  Yes. Simply stated. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you haven’t read, watched or listened (audio) to any of the OUTLANDER books. The author has created a new alpha. He’s strong, gentle, and reasonable. Expects his woman to be as honest as he is and to stand by her man. But he’s willing to sacrifice his life or even give her up to protect her. Jamie

The authors with this type of Alpha? Diana Gabaldon (duh!), Betty Bolte, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Victoria Dahl (some), and my next book will have a lot of this Alpha in the hero. The book is due out February 2016 and should be titled BURNOUT [update: title has been changed. More about that later.] More info to come in the next few months.

As you noticed, the authors I mentioned have a mixture of Alpha heroes (including mine), but they appear to gravitate to the types I mentioned.

Something I noticed when I finished writing this post, all three Alphas are named after characters from the U.K., and all have “J” names.  Funny. HA!

Anyway, comment and let me know what authors you believe match up to the Alphas above. Chances are I’ll love to read them.

Keeping On Track

Woman Reading a DiaryA fast pace, well-written book encourages me to write. I get excited and want my books to be just as fun to read.

A book that doesn’t satisfy frightens me; I’m afraid I’ll pick up their bad habits. So, I quit reading and pass it on to the used book store or delete it off my e-reader.

Do you delete books ever?  What are your reasons?