Thought for the Month: Elements of Surprise in the Life of a Writer

Insecure Writers Group Logo


I’m one of those people who doesn’t like surprises — even good ones. However, as with other facts of life, surprises are inescapable; and the majority of them, at least in my experience, are welcome. It’s the fear of the unexpected that repels those of us who ascribe to the myth that we have control over what happens in our lives. We enjoy inflicting the element of surprise on our loved ones (who may not necessarily appreciate them), and we enjoy seeing those surprise wedding proposals on the KissCam at sporting events, but surprises are for other people, primarily those outside our private bubble.

When I saw this month’s optional question, “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?” the answer was easy. Every. Single. Day. As a debut author, whose only previous works have been unpublished attempts at fan fiction, the inspiration for my first “serious” work might have been the biggest surprise of all.

After dabbling in a disastrous attempt to co-write an erotic suspense novel with another indie author, I thought I might close up my laptop for good. I’d been burned–badly–by someone I trusted like a sister. My contributions were torn apart and ultimately deemed unworthy by my co-author, and I believed her. I felt like a failure, a fraud, and a fool. The betrayal was the worst kind of surprise–the kind that makes you question your self-worth, or worse, abandon your dreams.

I loved that story–and its principal character–so much, letting it go was like burying a loved one. Later, seeing it retitled and published by my former friend added salt to the wound that burned from the inside out. Then came the second surprise.

As I drifted off to sleep one night, a long-buried incident from my past turned into the story that only I can tell, and Where Angels Sleep began to unfold, like buds on a grapevine after the cruelest of winters. At that moment, as I frantically captured thoughts on paper, the characters came alive and guided my pen. The bitterness of previous experience faded and the surprise of self-discovery took hold.

Every time I’m tempted to give up–when I get blocked, the middle gets muddy, or yesterday’s prose reads like utter crap–I remind myself that this story is mine alone to tell. That the tragedy that inspired it infuses every paragraph, but its happy ending is mine to imagine. I remember the young man–my beloved cousin Paul–to whom the book is dedicated, and I resolve to finish it as a personal tribute to his memory. To devote the time, effort and money it takes to make it the best it can be. To publish it and to love it, even if it never hits a list.

As it turns out, the book’s theme has everything to do with what happens when life spins out of control, and how the right surprise, at the right time, can change our destiny. For a woman who’s not fond of surprises, this amuses me to no end.

Today I took a long walk to consider what to write for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) post. (BTW, It should come as NO surprise to those who know me that I’m an insecure writer!) As I walked, enjoying the first cool, sunny day in weeks, a song from the Where Angels Sleep playlist came to mind. It deals with the memories–and associated feelings–that we bury “down deep in our souls.” To me, this speaks to the essence of authentic writing–the surprise of what emerges when we take ourselves to new depths and explore that which we most fear.

Please listen and enjoy. Think about what unique life experiences have led you to tell your stories. Leave a comment about them, if you please. Then go forth and write your next story.

About the IWSG

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Check out the details and sign up on the IWSG website!

The awesome co-hosts for today’s posts are Tyrean MartinsonTara TylerRaimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure.

#ISWG Thoughts for August: Pet Peeves While Reading, Writing & Editing

#ISWG logo

Q: Do you know an insecure writer?

A: Well, now you do…

I confess that I’m a devoted follower of the ISWG (aka the Insecure Writers Group),  a community of writers whose purpose is “to share and encourageeach other. It’s a place where “writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!” If you haven’t discovered #ISWG, click the link above and check us out!

The first Wednesday of every month is #ISWG Day. Members post a response to a pre-determined question, reaching out to readers and fellow group members, sharing their thoughts, support, encouragement, doubts, and fears about a writing-related topic. This month’s question is,

What are your pet peeves while reading/writing/editing?

Our #ISWG Day co-hosts for August are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner.

Be sure to visit their blogs and see what they have to say!

And, after I’ve shared a few of my personal pet peeves, feel free to comment with your own, as a reader, writer, or both.

Pet Peeves While Reading…

Pet Peeves while Reading-Interruption

I know I’m not alone in this one, but being interrupted while I’m reading is the worst. Sometimes I resort to putting my noise-cancelling headphones on, if for no other reason than to broadcast that I’m not available for conversation. Or texts, phone calls, cooking meals, or basically anything other than running from a fire. I will signal my willingness to be interrupted by closing my book. Until I do that, approach at your own risk.

Pet Peeves About Writing

Again, interruption is the worst, and in our house, with an extrovert husband, a greyhound, and two neurotic lap cats, it’s nearly impossible to avoid. I unplug the landline, turn off notifications, activate my Freedom App, and even post a sign outside the door, but some days I’m lucky to get a paragraph done without interruption. I’ve found that I write best on a long airline flight, because, again, noise-cancelling headphones, and a look that says, “back away slowly. There’s nothing to see here.”

I have one other writing peeve, and this one concerns being a writer. Simply put, I’ve found that many folks just don’t think writing is a serious job that requires work and time. Lots of work, lots of time, all the time. When someone asks what I do for a living, and I say, “I’m a writer,” I can feel the blank stare before I see it. And those who show enough interest to ask what I’m writing seem to have no idea what to say when I tell them it’s a contemporary romance. Even when talking about writing with other authors–presumably those who don’t write or read romance–I’m usually on the receiving end of a sigh, followed by an awkward pause. And then there’s the inevitable, immediate assumption that I write smut, which I don’t . . . but if I did — and I might someday — deserve the same respect that every other writer does. Whether it’s Hemingway-level prose, a travel blog, a children’s book, poetry, or Writing for Dummies, it’s hard work. Even more, to serious writers, it’s an investment of the mind, heart, and soul.

**steps off soap box**

And Finally…Pet Peeves About Editing

1) Editing Causes Wrinkles


2) Editing inevitably includes an extended period of time during which my insecurity comes out to play. But I’m not alone in that, either …

Having said all this, the truth is I live for the experience of reading and writing. (Editing my own work, not so much, so I work with an amazing editor who “gets me.”) But, despite the drawbacks, the awkward moments, and the crippling self-doubt, when my debut novel is finally published, it will be totally worth it.

P. S.

If you’re so inclined, you can read the first few, unedited chapters of my work-in-progress, Where Angels Sleepon Wattpad and Goodreads.
Thanks for reading this month’s #ISWG post!


A Summer to Remember — Join the Divine Promotions Blog Hop!

Divine Promotions Summer Blog Hop 2016To celebrate the launch of Divine Magazine’s new author service, Divine Promotions, readers & authors are invited to join their Summer Blog Hop, July 25-August 8!
The theme for this blog hop is: Your favorite summer memories, summer tips, destinations, recipes or activities.
There’s a great GIVEAWAY, with a Grand Prize and several other enticing surprises; authors & bloggers are also hosting their own giveaways, so join the hop, and enter today!

Grand Prizes:

18K Gold Filled Crystal Pearls Heart Party Dress Jewelry Set
Divine Promotions – 10 Days Promo Tour ($90)
Divine Promotions – 3 Day Release Blitz ($35)
$75 credit from Dreamspinner Press
$30 credit from Dreamspinner Press
I decided to focus today’s post on GREAT SUMMER READS. I never go anywhere without a book, and I never have. Reading is and always has been my escape – from the heat, from boredom, from airport noise & crowds…there’s nothing that a good book can’t cure!
My favorite summer reads are usually shorter, “lighter” reads, generally in the romance genre — but not always. Some of the books on my favorite summer reads list this year are anything but light – but others are absolutely hilarious. Most are reasonably shorter, easier reads — I tend to hold back on reading complex stories, thrillers and ‘heavier’ fiction until the days get shorter and cooler.
Here’s a partial list of books I’ve loved this year – and a few that are on my TBR list for the rest of the season. Check them out, then enter the Summer Blog Hop Giveaway at the end of the post!

Contemporary Romance:

The Hudson Valley SeriesNuts and Cream of the Crop, by Alice Clayton
(hunky farmers, snarky heroines….fun, funny, sexy and sweet!)
The True North Series:  Bittersweet and Steadfast, by Sarina Bowen (deeply romantic, with beautifully conflicted heroes and strong heroines…sexy and literally ‘bittersweet’ – with guaranteed HEAs)
The Royals Series: Paper Princess and Broken Prince, by Erin Watt (the pseudonym for two best-selling, favorite authors — Elle Kennedy & Jen Frederick!)  Heartbreakingly beautiful, incredibly hot, and intense. There are cliffhangers, but don’t let that stop you from reading these books now!

Romantic Comedy:

Going Down, by Katherine Stevens, a new author you need to read! (She also contributed to Felony Ever After, below…) – This is #1 of her Elevator Series, and I laughed until I cried.
Felony Ever After – Thirteen fantastic authors, and one hilarious story! Authors include Helena Hunting, Debra Anastasia, Liv Morris, Vi Keeland, Nina Bocci, Penelope Ward, Tijan … and more!
Hard Luck, by Liv Morris – Baseball is THE summer sport here in the U.S., and in Hard Luck, cocky chases sassy around the bases. Prepare to laugh. Hard. (<— pun intended.)

M/M Erotic Romance:

Him (2-book series), by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. This story is unforgettable. A sports romance with humor, tenderness, and so much more. Your heart will swell, and break a little, but you’ll laugh so often it won’t matter. I’ve read these more than once and will read them again before summer is over. If you’ve never read a M/M romance before, start here.
The Burns-Fitzgerald Mysteries – a boxed set of 4 novellas, and two recent releases by Erin O’Quinn.  A historian and a cop solve mysteries together, but the greatest mystery of all is their relationship. Set in Scotland, the series weaves a tapestry of deep passion and suspense, with compelling characters and lyrical descriptions that bring their stories to life.

Some other great debut authors & books to discover this summer:

QUAKE, by Jacob Chance – A private investigator discovers more than he bargained for…it’s sexy and funny on the outside, suspenseful and tender on the inside.  Erotic Romance.
Like A Boss, by Logan Chance – Yes, he’s Jacob’s brother, and writing talent runs in the family! A workplace romance set in Miami’s South Beach…this book has all the feels, and is as hot as the Florida Sun. Erotic Romance.
Billionaire Takes All by Jackson Kane – Two brothers face a crazy challenge to claim their inheritance…and the results are as wild as the terms of their father’s will. A story of second chances. Erotic Romance.
122 Rules, by Deek Rhew — Crime, Witness Protection, Breath-taking Suspense…this book has it all. A stunning debut novel by a promising author. Mystery-Suspense, with a hint of romance yet to come…

Now for the Summer Giveaway…

To enter the Grand Prize Giveaway:
Visit the Divine Promotions Website:
leave a comment — your best summer memory, favorite summer tips, activities, foods & drinks…whatever you like!
To enter the Passionate Reads & Reviews Giveaway:
Leave a comment on today’s blog post: In one word, list ONE book you’ve loved this summer (include the author, too, please!).

Hop Along With Us … Check out the Blog List on the Divine Promotions Website!

Divine Promotions Summer Blog Hop 2016


Best of the Best – Favorite Passionate Reads from 2015

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So many books — so little time! 2015 was a wonderful year for new & old favorite authors, debut authors, new and continuing series, standalones … and the list goes on.  It was nearly impossible to narrow down my list of favorites – so, as usual, I procrastinated. But I’m so eager to share my favorite reads – and hopefully introduce you to some books & authors that are new to you, that I’ve done my best to compile a list of “winners” and “honorable mentions” from my favorites in every romance genre.

I’d love to read your comments on this list – and your recommendations for some 2015 books I can add to my TBR for 2016.

My sincere thanks to the bloggers, publishers, publicists and authors who introduced me to their new books this past year – and I look forward to reading and reviewing more from these and other authors in the new year.

The Best of the Best: Favorite Reads in All Romance Genres

Favorite Male Author:  

Traditionally Published: Sylvain Reynard – Sylvain has been a favorite author since page one of Gabriel’s Inferno. I have re-read this trilogy, and his latest collection, The Florentine Series, is a new favorite paranormal romance that will continue with The Shadow in 2016.

Indie: G. G. Carver – is one of the most promising new male authors I’ve read in the past year. I had an opportunity to meet G. G. at signings in the UK in 2015. His stories have great depth, with unforgettable characters. Check out Whiter Than White, his best-selling erotic debut novel, and Lucky Numbers, another Amazon best-selling contemporary adult romance.

Honorable Mentions:  Jake Malden, Andy S. WilkinsAl Daltrey (all write edgy erotica, erotic romance, and/or BDSM)

Favorite Female Author:

Traditionally Published:  My all-time favorite female author is Deborah Harkness; her All Souls Trilogy literally changed my life. She didn’t publish in 2015, but has a new series in the works based on All Souls, and if I could order it TODAY, I would.

That being said, this has to be THE most difficult category of all for me. I have so many favorite female authors – authors  that I would one-click before I even read the synopsis or see the cover – it’s nearly impossible to select only one. But I did it anyway, and this year it’s Emma Chase, author of the Tangled Series and the Legal Briefs series. All of my honorable mentions are among the best of the best, in my passionate opinion – and there are some best-selling traditionally published authors I’ve yet to read (they are on my TBR, my Kindle and my bookshelf at home).

Indie: It’s a 3-way tie, and I make no apologies… Kendra Leigh (erotic romance/suspense), Stephanie John (erotic romance), and Erin O’Quinn (M/M) 

Honorable Mentions (Traditionally Published):  Emily MarchHelena HuntingElle KennedySarina BowenGeorgina GuthrieChristina LaurenAlice ClaytonLiv MorrisKristen Callihan, and Riley Mackenzie   (Indie):  Rebecca SherwinTracie Podger

Favorite Debut Author: 

Traditionally Published: Colleen Oakley (see the “Ugly Cry” category… Before I Go made me sob more than once.)

Indie: Because she published not only one best-selling book, but three – an entire series – this one goes to Kendra Leigh

Honorable Mentions: Stephanie John – Salvation, book 1 of the Heal Me series, has some of the steamiest scenes – and one of the sweetest billionaire BBFs ever.

Favorite Book Cover: This is a totally subjective category – visual appeal is not universal. The book cover is the first thing that attracts me to a new read, and I want it to promise me something about the story – something I’m looking for, more than the cover model – the “feeling” of the book.

Traditionally Published: *TIE* The Game Planby Kristen Callihan and Hard To Forget, by Bella Jewel

Indie: *TIE*  Red, Red Rose, by Erin O’Quinn and Travisby Tracie Podger

Honorable Mentions: (Traditionally Published) Markedby Charisse Spiers; Pucked, by Helena Hunting, The Mistake, by Elle Kennedy (yes, I love shirtless men); (Indie: Salvationby Stephanie John, Bound For Salvation by Kendra Leigh, Thrive, by Rebecca Sherwin, )

Favorite New Series – Full-length Novels

Traditionally Published: The Florentine Series, by Sylvain Reynard

Indie: The Bound Trilogy, by Kendra Leigh – an erotic romance/suspense/mystery/thriller with complex characters and a riveting storyline that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Explosively erotic, stunningly suspenseful – this series has it all.

Honorable Mentions: Pucked, by Helena Hunting; Legal Briefs, by Emma Chase; Off-Campus by Elle Kennedy, and the Hudson Valley series, by Alice Clayton

Favorite New Series – Novellas/Short Stories: No contest here, it’s the Burns Series, by Erin O’Quinn!

Honorable Mentions: His Assistant, by Sharon Cummin (a guilty pleasure)

Favorite Series – Continuation/Conclusion

Traditionally Published Author: *TIE* –  Beautiful Secret, from the by Christina Lauren; The Record of My Heart, from the Words series by Georgina Guthrie* (* this is one of my top 3 all-time favorite series, by the way…)

Indie Author: Bound For Nirvana, from theThe Bound Trilogyby Kendra Leigh – one of the most heart-pounding conclusions I’ve ever read – with everything you want at the end — namely, the Happy-Ever-After.

Honorable Mentions: Sustained, from the Legal Briefs Series by Emma Chase (bonus – may be read as a standalone!); Heartsong Cottage, from the Eternity Springs series by Emily March.

Favorite Male Lead Character:

Traditionally Published Author: *3-way TIE*  Daniel Grant, (just his name makes me sigh)- The Record of My Heart (The Words Series, Georgina Guthrie); Jake Becker – the reluctant, uber-sexy hero of Sustained (Legal Briefs, Emma Chase); and the dark prince,William York, The Florentine Series by Sylvain Reynard..the second hottest vampire I’ve ever read…and the series isn’t finished yet.

Indie Author: Ethan Wilde, truly one of the hottest BBFs in the indie world – and the alpha billionaire from The Bound Trilogyby Kendra Leigh

Honorable Mentions: Traditionally Published – Alex Waters and “Buck” Butterson from the Pucked series, by Helena Hunting – two of the sexiest, funniest sports romance heroes anywhere. Indies – Thomas Fitzgerald, my very favorite M/M hero – an Irish cop with a passionate soul and a body to die for, from the Burns Series, by Erin O’QuinnNate Blake, the tender, sexy, smitten billionaire from Salvation, by Stephanie John; and Donovan Hart, another hot billionaire from A Gentleman’s Fate, the fourth and final installment of the Gentleman’s Series by indie author AJ Linn.

Favorite Female Lead Character:

Traditionally Published Author: Violet Hall, who takes sass and snark to a new level in Puckedby Helena Hunting

Indie Author Author: Angel Lawson, one of the most tragic heroines I’ve ever read, from The Bound Trilogyby Kendra Leigh

Honorable Mentions: Chelsea McQuaid, the strong, sassy heroine from Sustained (Legal Briefs, Emma Chase)

Ugly Cry:  You’ll need more than a box of tissues for these reads – a stack of towels might do it.

Traditionally Published: Before I Go, by Colleen Oakley

Indie: Lucky Numbers, by GG Carver

Honorable Mentions: Seventh Wonder, by Renae Kelleigh, Darkest Before Dawn, by Maya BanksDreamweaver Trail, by Emily March.

Ugly Laugh:  You’ll need towels and tissues for a different reason in this category…I cannot read this book without choking up until I can’t breathe and can’t speak: Fire Down Below, by Debra Anastasia (this book DOES come with a warning…).

Honorable Mention: Pucked, by Helena Hunting (The Locker Room scene is one of many that will embarrass you in public)

Other Favorite Reads, by Genre

Action/Adventure: Markedby Charisse Spiers – a gritty, erotic suspense story that will make you tingle in all the right places.

Honorable Mention: Darkest Before Dawn, by Maya Banks – the latest breath-taking, heart-pounding novel from the KGI Series.

Crime: Poughkeepsie Begins, the conclusion of the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood series by Debra Anastasia – combines a coming-of-age dark romance with the suspenseful story of a tragic hero who is drawn into a life of crime for the sake of survival. WARNING: Possible ugly cry

Honorable Mention: Mastered,  by Maya Banks. Drake Donovan is a powerful, dangerous man, and an ultimate alpha. He’s also a tragic hero that will capture your heart. Dark, suspenseful romance that comes with a WARNING – there’s a cliffhanger that might make you cry – but the sequel is coming – the sooner the better.

M/M Romance – Standalone:  Himby Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy – a beautiful, tender, sexy, funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of best friends who become lovers when they are reunited for a summer at hockey camp. Utterly amazing – and there’s a sequel coming in 2016!

Honorable Mention: The Darkest Flame, a M/M MC Romance by Christina Lee (a standalone within the Roadmap to My Heart series)

Paranormal Romance: The Raven, by Sylvain Reynard – A dark, thrilling romantic adventure set in Florence, Italy, this book – and this series has everything. It’s prequel, The Prince, bridges the best-selling Gabriel trilogy and the new Florentine series, bringing the beloved Gabriel and Julia Emerson back to the Uffizi Gallery, where the action begins. Forbidden love? Art? Music? Literature? Vampires? What’s not to love? You can pre-Order the next book in the series, The Shadow, right now – and experience for yourself one of the most anticipated novels of 2016.

Sports Romance:

Hockey: Pucked, by Helena Hunting

Honorable Mentions:  The Deal and The MistakeBooks 1 & 2 of the Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy. Up Next? The Score! You can pre-order this soon-to-be 2016 favorite now!

Football: The Game Planby Kristen Callihan – Fear the Beard! This book has it all — pro football, steamy sex, comedy and angst — loved it!

Fighter: Thrive, by Rebecca Sherwin – Indie author Rebecca Sherwin truly hit her stride in this compellingly sexy and suspenseful third book of her Twisted series.

Source Unknown - found it on Facebook....
Source Unknown – found it on Facebook….






Make Your Life Miraculous

Photo of a hand reaching up to the sky as if reaching for a miracle

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

I rarely publish anything other than book promotions on this website, but since my author blog isn’t operational yet, I’m making an important exception to honor a friend who passed away very suddenly this weekend. His life mattered more than he probably realized – in fact, he would be shocked to know that I wrote about him. But in his life, and now in his death, I learned something about living that needs to be shared – either as a reminder, a cautionary tale, or both.

Rich was a manager at our local Starbucks. We live in a relatively small town in a rural area, with a major highway that separates the east and west side of the valley – and with Starbucks directly off a popular exit, it stays busy all the time. Tourists, truckers and hundreds of locals keep it hopping day after day. Writers set up shop in the café to take advantage of free refills and complimentary wi-fi; local business people catch up there to network – even conduct job interviews – and some, like me, simply escape there for a change of scene, or to have coffee with a friend. It’s not uncommon – at any time of day – to see the drive-thru line wrapped around the building. The parking lot is always packed, with drivers jockeying for the spaces that haven’t been claimed by the other businesses in the complex.

But Rich never appeared to let it get to him. He greeted the locals by name and usually knew their favorite beverage. He often prepared mine as soon as I walked through the door. When I had to suffer in the drive-thru line, hearing him say, “Good morning, Paula, are you having your tea today?” felt so familiar and so comfortable I couldn’t help but smile. No matter how busy things were, he had a way of making you feel like you were his only customer. I didn’t realize how much I counted on it until yesterday, when he wasn’t there and I was told that he had passed away. I can’t adequately describe the emptiness I felt at that moment, or how I concerned I was that I didn’t tell him often enough how much his friendship meant to our family. I woke up thinking about it this morning, and first thought it might have been a dream. But when I passed the Starbucks this morning on the way to the hospital, the emptiness grew – it felt like it filled my soul.

To look at Rich – young, strong, vibrant and apparently healthy – you’d never know he was living with a secret, because it was never about him – it was always about you, the customer who was next in line — or the employee who was struggling under a boatload of orders. He was as dependable as clockwork, as fast as the best barista in the house, and he led his crew with unparalleled passion.

It was only yesterday that I learned he had survived a heart attack long ago – when he was incredibly young – and his heart was so damaged he had a transplant. As a nurse, I knew exactly what that meant – a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs, regular check-ups, being susceptible to every germ in the known universe … living with the ever-present possibility of sudden death. He was literally the picture of health – until he wasn’t.

Last night I wondered what else I didn’t know about Rich, especially how he managed to carry such a burden, but always with a smile. He could have been bitter about the genetic hand he was dealt, or self-centered, or unmotivated, just going through the motions. But he was none of those things.

And then it hit me.

He was doing, every day, what we have all been advised to do — living like there was no tomorrow. He lived each day as though it could be his last, because he’d been there, done that. He’d been given a second chance at life, and he fully understood what that meant. His encounter with serious illness and near-death made him more aware of his surroundings, more grateful for the little things. . More thoughtful, generous and kind. He’d had his miracle, he knew it, and he lived his life as the miracle it was, taking nothing and no one for granted. 

I am better for having known him, and every time I pass the Starbucks on Perkins Street, I’ll think of what a blessing it was to have had him for a friend. If he can live his fragile life as a miracle, how easy should it be for me to do the same? I feel like I owe him that. I owe my family and friends that.

It’s so easy to make life more bearable for someone else, with simple acts of kindness and words of encouragement. You can be someone else’s miracle for a moment in time, or a lifetime. Life is a series of choices. Make sure they’re the right ones.




Writer’s Wednesday with Charming Man (aka author A. S. Wilkins) – A Guest Post!

Author A. S. Wilkins, aka Charming Man, shown as the drummer in Synthetix.
Charming Man performing with Synthetix … he’s the man behind the beat … a man full of surprises.


Authors are often asked what they do when they’re not writing; what they do to unwind, to spur creativity, or just simply to have fun. Creativity has many outlets, and talented authors often have other talents – other outlets for creative expression, other sources of inspiration. Author A. S. Wilkins – or as you may know him, Charming Man – is one of those talented individuals whose outlets include music – but not just music in the comfort of his own home – musical performance as a member of a band! I had the pleasure of watching a video performance while visiting with him earlier this year – he truly rocks! So for this Writer’s Wednesday I asked him to tell us a little about himself as a musician. Here’s what he had to say…

A Beat-Crazy Guy…

I’m often asked about my life outside of writing, as if it’s assumed I’m a full-time writer who must have some form of private indulgence that allows me unwind from the daily stresses of constructing creative prose. Sadly, writing is not my full-time profession; I have a day job in IT (which I yearn to cast aside), and it’s without doubt more applicable for one of my work colleagues to ask the question “So what do you do when you’re not cutting code?”, to which I might reply “Oh you know, I dabble in writing sensual romance and the like!”

However, whether I perceive myself as an aspiring writer or an ageing IT geek, my other main outlet in life is music, and my love of playing the drums. I’ve been playing on and off for over 30 years; it all started back in Portsmouth when, at the impressionable age of 13, I met the late Keith Moon on the set of the rock opera ‘Tommy’. I then formed my first band with school friends aged 16, having persuaded my parents I wouldn’t make too much noise in the house if they allowed me to buy my first drum kit; they should’ve known better!

Over the years I’ve been a member of a number bands wherever I’ve lived, across a variety of genres including soul, R&B, rock, pop, new wave, punk and indie – will give you a little more of an insight if you’re interested in the details.

Right now I’m playing in two bands, both of which are fairly active at the moment, and each having a strong following in the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire/Hertfordshire area of the UK. Waiting For Katherine is a four-piece, high energy, indie punk outfit that plays very catchy original songs, and The Synthetix is a covers band, dishing up the sounds of late 70s new wave era – many of the songs that feature in my novella The Hitcher from part of the band’s repertoire.

It’s true to say that as I get older, I seem to be dedicating more of my time to my artistic bent; whether this is because I’m now able to do so, or some form of mid-life crisis, I’m not sure. What I do know is my writing and music play a big part of my life at the moment, and I am thoroughly enjoying both in equal measure. If only they paid the bills!



waiting for katherine
Charming Man behind the drums during a performance by Waiting For Katherine. If you think it’s sexy to read about rock star heroes, what about a rock star hero who’s also an erotic author? Hmmm…I may just have to write THAT story myself! (I think I know where I can find an expert source…)

Bonus! A Video….!

Want to Know More About Charming Man?

Charming Man, aka author A. S. Wilkins explores the thought-provoking world of sensual romance through themes such as encounters between strangers, sexual fantasies, illicit relationships, voyeurism and more.

A S Wilkins has been writing sensual romance for over fifteen years. It all started quite by accident, following the tragic death of his wife in 1998, when he was left with two small children to bring up alone, as well as manage his own software consultancy.

While still in a state of shock and running on auto-pilot, he settled into a daily routine of dropping the kids off at day care, fulfilling his nine to five obligations, collecting the kids in the evening, feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed with a night-time story, before collapsing in front of the television and crying into a large glass of red.

He had neither the opportunity nor desire to meet anyone new, yet he craved companionship.  Posing as Charming Man, after the name of his favourite song by his favourite band The Smiths, he began to trawl online chat rooms, striking up conversations with anonymous individuals who may or may not have been who they said they were; it made little difference to him.

A S Wilkins wears his heart on his sleeve, and it soon became apparent he was able to engage openly with people from all walks of life, be they male or female; but mostly female it has to be said.  Many of his early conversations on the net were innocent in content; he would pour his heart out to anyone who would listen, and in return he would provide a shoulder to those who were equally going through difficult times.  He found the process very therapeutic and saved him a fortune in counselling!

Before too long, these intimate exchanges left him wanting more, such is the nature of making a new acquaintance.  However, charming by name and charming by nature, he chose never to cross the line until encouraged to do so by others.  This led to many a cat and mouse war of words with many a like-minded soul, which both intrigued and excited him.  It was during this time he wrote his first short story, Night Vision, detailing his longing for the next love to enter his life.

The more he chatted, the more he became obsessed with the notion of sexual encounters between strangers. Still not in a position to embark on a new relationship in the real world, he continued to engage women in cyberspace, and together they would contrive a variety of scenarios from the respective comfort of their laptops. Many of these scenarios were later to become short stories; Beach Encounter, Mid Air Collusion, Ariana, A Greek Tragedy and The Hitcher, to name a few.

Fast forward several years and A S Wilkins has found happiness once more, having settled down north of London with a new partner and their combined family of four children.  The release of Fifty Shades of Grey in March 2012 prompted him to dust off his short stories for his partner to read.  She was impressed and managed to persuade him to publish them.  Shortly after, was born.

Writing as Charming Man, A S Wilkins is always on the lookout for the next encounter to write about.  When two individuals make eye contact across a room or on a crowded train, and a connection is made, this is often the green light that sets his imagination on fire.  A knowing look is all it can take; a word might never be spoken. However, the minute an affinity is perceived, a scenario is hatched in his head, which is then honed over the coming days and weeks into a believable idea for a story.

And this final point is key; whereas it’s true to say that many of his works are clearly fantasies, it’s important to him that these fantasies are believable.  The idea of a twenty-seven year old billionaire meeting a twenty-one year old virgin just doesn’t cut it for Charming Man.

Find out more about Charming Man by visiting his website at

Other Stalker Links

Twitter @charmingxman
Facebook Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads Profile

Email –

Next week: Charming Man’s Official Launch Tour for First Encounters,

a sensual collection of short stories from a man’s point of view!

Guest Post by Colleen Oakley: A Debut Author’s Take on Reader Reviews



Yesterday I had the privilege of reviewing Colleen’s debut novel, BEFORE I GO, at the invitation of Stephanie DeLuca, Public Relations Manager at Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.  I was also given an opportunity to ask Colleen to do a guest post for Paula’s Passionate Reads – a real thrill for me. As a passionate reader and equally passionate reviewer, I am always curious about what authors think of reader-generated book reviews. Are they important? Are they welcome? What works? What doesn’t?   Colleen is an experienced journalist and editor, and now a debut author, and I believe this experience makes her exceptionally qualified to speak to the subject.  She also has a sense of humor that puts it all in perspective.

Thank you, Colleen, for taking the extra time to offer your insights here today!

About Colleen Oakley

ColleenOakleyPicAn Atlanta-based writer, Colleen Oakley’s articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in the New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings.  Before she was a freelance writer, she was editor-in-chief of Women’s Health & Fitness.

BEFORE I GO is Colleen’s debut novel, released on January 6, 2015 by  Gallery Books.

Connect with Colleen on Facebook and Twitter

image of doughuts with the quote, "Keep Calm and Eat Doughnuts"

    Colleen’s Thoughts on Reader Reviews

Being a new author is kind of like being a new mom — I get tons of advice from other authors who have paved the trail before me. And probably one of the most common refrains is: DON’T READ THE REVIEWS.

To which my response is: “No, I totally won’t. That makes perfect sense.” All the while thinking: OF COURSE I’M GOING TO READ THE REVIEWS.

Maybe it’s a new author thing, but how can I NOT look at what other people are saying about my book? The authors who don’t read their reviews must be the same people who can pass a Krispy Kreme when the Hot Now sign is lit and not stop. Who are these people? And where do they get their willpower from?

I get the reasoning, of course. Not everyone is going to like your book; bad reviews are inevitable. And subjecting yourself to reading them is kind of like stepping on the scale in the morning and seeing a number that’s 15 pounds higher than you expected. It can ruin your whole day.

But obviously, I like to torture myself. And then go eat doughnuts.

So now that I’ve established that I actually read the reviews, I want to say that I’m grateful to every reader who picks up my book, spends hours of their time reading it and then more time writing a review— yes, even when it’s a bad review — because there are millions of other books you could have chosen, but you picked mine.

That said, bad reviews still sting, so here’s the unfiltered version of what I think when I read reviews, from the best to the worst:

5-star: It goes without saying that the people who write these reviews are the SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD and obviously know that I’m the BEST WRITER IN THE WORLD and we should totally all be best friends. And I want to buy them all the doughnuts.

4-star: These are great, too, and they make me feel all warm and fuzzy. But there’s a small part of me that still wonders: What was missing? What was the one thing they thought the book lacked that could have pushed it up to 5-star status? And it’s kind of frustrating when the reviewer writes something like: “Couldn’t put it down! Totally related to the characters! Cried buckets at the end! Will definitely recommend to friends! 4 stars.” In those instances, I tell myself that they just accidentally clicked the wrong star button when rating it and I count it as a 5-star.

3-star: I find that these are usually the people who just had a different expectation of your book. “I thought it was going to X, but it was Y, so it was just OK.” It happens. But honestly I don’t mind these reviews when they’re thoughtful or if the reader still emotionally connected to the book in some way. Like one reviewer was really frustrated at my main character and wanted to throttle her for most of the book. I kind of thought that was cool, because she still connected with it, and to me, that’s what reading is all about.

2-star: Ouch. OK, I know not everyone is going to like my book. There is no book in the history of time that has 100% 5-star reviews. I get that, logically. But emotionally, it’s like this person just balled up their fist and punched me in the gut. And then laughed at me. I’m gonna need a dozen more doughnuts.

1-star: One star. One star? ONE STAR? As in the WORST BOOK YOU’VE EVER READ? I mean, shouldn’t I get points for the effort? For spelling my name right? For writing 320 pages of a story with a beginning, middle and end and putting all three bits in the correct order? I feel like this rating should be used for only two types of books: ones that are literally incomprehensible —like maybe they’re written in a made-up language that only the author can understand — and books by Rush Limbaugh. Bottom line: No doughnuts for you.


Now that you’ve heard from Colleen, click here to read my 5-star review of BEFORE I GO…and pass the doughnuts.

Would You Like to WIN a copy of Before I Go?

Simple! Start a discussion on this topic – comment on the post – and one random winner will win the book!!! (I might even throw in a box of tissues.)