Review Archive

I’ve been a book reviewer over at All About Romance for over a year now. The following are the reviews I’ve contributed.

Grade Title Author Book Type Sensuality Published Reviewed Reviewer
D- Straddling the Line Jaci Burton Contemp Hot 07/2014 07/28/2014 Haley
A- Suddenly Last Summer Sarah Morgan Contemp Warm 07/2014 06/27/2014 Haley
C Hope Ignites Jaci Burton Contemp Hot 04/2014 06/26/2014 Haley
C- Shadow Spell Nora Roberts Contemp Warm 04/2014 05/12/2014 Haley
C Teach Me A Lesson Jasmine Haynes Ero Rom Burning 04/2014 04/16/2014 Haley
C+ The Wife He Always Wanted Cheryl Ann Smith Eur Hist Warm 09/2013 03/27/2014 Haley
C+ Melting the Ice Jaci Burton Contemp Burning 02/2014 03/19/2014 Haley
D- The Pirate Bride Sandra Hill Viking Hot 12/2013 03/14/2014 Haley
C The House on Main Street Shirlee McCoy Contemp Kisses 11/2013 03/12/2014 Haley
B- Wildest Dreams Toni Blake Contemp Hot 12/2013 01/24/2014 Haley
D Candlelight Christmas Susan Wiggs Contemp Kisses 11/2013 01/08/2014 Haley
B+ Searching for Someday Jennifer Probst Contemp Hot 11/2013 12/23/2013 Haley
C Hope Flames Jaci Burton Contemp Hot 01/2014 12/16/2013 Haley
A Finding It Cora Carmack New Adult Subtle 10/2013 12/04/2013 Haley
B+ Sleigh Bells in the Snow Sarah Morgan Contemp Warm 11/2013 11/25/2013 Haley
C- A Song at Twilight Pamela Sherwood Eur Hist Subtle 10/2013 11/21/2013 Haley
A- The Naughty Corner Jasmine Haynes Ero Rom Burning 10/2013 11/01/2013 Haley
C+ Dark Witch Nora Roberts Paranormal Warm 11/2013 10/28/2013 Haley
F My Favorite Mistake Chelsea M. Cameron New Adult Warm 2013 09/27/2013 Haley
C+ Lost to the Desert Warrior Sarah Morgan Series Hot 09/2013 09/11/2013 Haley
Grade Title Author Book Type Sensuality Published Reviewed Reviewer
C I Only Have Eyes for You Bella Andre Contemp Hot 09/2013 08/26/2013 Haley
B The Marriage Merger Jennifer Probst Contemp Hot 08/2013 08/19/2013 Haley
B To Sin With a Viking Michelle Willingham Viking Hot 08/2013 08/06/2013 Haley
C- Honey Pie Donna Kauffman Contemp Warm 05/2013 07/25/2013 Haley
C Three Little Words Susan Mallery Contemp Hot 08/2013 07/22/2013 Haley
B+ Siege and Storm Leigh Bardugo YA Subtle 06/2013 07/12/2013 Haley
A Carolina Girl Virigina Kantra Contemp Warm 06/2013 07/01/2013 Haley
C+ Nautier and Wilder Anthology Rom Susp Hot 04/2013 06/20/2013 Haley
B The Look of Love Bella Andre Contemp Hot 06/2013 06/14/2013 Haley
D A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and
Curses
Molly Harper Paranormal Subtle 06/2013 05/24/2013 Haley
B+ Half Moon Hill Toni Blake Contemp Hot 05/2013 05/17/2013 Haley
C+ True Erin McCarthy Contemp Warm 05/2013 05/09/2013 Haley

The Dreaded Writing Sample

Since I have been applying to writing programs, I have had to prepare a writing sample. I decided to pull a little excerpt from a longer piece I wrote a few years ago. Sending this out to other people (when so far maybe 3 people besides myself have seen it) was fairly nerve wracking. I was already accepted to one program and I am in the process of applying to a few others so I will have a good set of options. In celebration of my first time really putting my writing out there for others to see (and judge) I decided to be bold and share my writing sample here as well.

This is the introduction to a magical realism type romance set in Texas. Although just this tiny portion could indicate that it is a true paranormal, that is not the case.  Enjoy and keep in mind that the version I am posting here is not proofread. 🙂

         For as long as anyone could remember, the tiny town of Willington had always had a witch. Everyone young or old that had ever lived there, and even the people living two towns over, knew that without a doubt. No one knew when the tradition started; maybe the first witch came with Gavin Willington himself on the railroad all those years ago when the town was founded. If you were to stop by the Curl up and Dye hair salon and ask any of the old biddies sitting under the hair dryers they’d all tell you the same thing: every town needs a witch. It’s essential to the health of a town just like every town in the south needs a church or a barbeque restaurant. That’s not to say that the occasional person hadn’t had their quibbles over the local witch at one time or another, and probably would again, but at some point they had come to view having their own witch like winning a blue ribbon at the fair; something to make you just a little better than your friends and neighbors. In the friendliest way possible that is. Even the staunchest holy-roller that denounced the witch as evil five ways from Sunday could be seen sneaking across town some Friday night when their husband started coming home late from work one too many nights and they wanted that little something to steer his attention back to his wife. Try as they might to deny it, having a town witch was a commodity.

Now the interesting thing about the Willington witches was that not a single one had any connection to any other as far as anyone could figure. An outsider might expect that the witches all came from the same line of women, passing their magic from mother to daughter, generation to generation, but not in Willington. It always seemed that once one witch grew too old, just when the town might start to fear that they could become witch-less (just like everyone else), a new witch would come to take her place. No one could ever predict when or how she would appear, but in the history of Willington, one always had. The last witch to grace Willington was Ms. Colleen Badgley. Colleen had died only a year before, a tiny silver haired woman that anyone would be proud to call grandma. If there had ever been a Mr. Badgley he had passed away too long ago for anyone to remember him. Some say he died during the Second World War, before Colleen moved to Willington. She had lived in a tiny house just at the outskirts of the township, where people stop saying they live in town and started saying they live in the country. For years, if you had a fussy baby who wouldn’t sleep, if your garden always shriveled up no matter how much you watered, or you wanted to catch the attention of the cute young man who worked at the grocery store, you went to Colleen. Now, no one who knocked on Colleen’s squeaky old screen door looking for luck, love, or a winning pie recipe for the church potluck ever told what exactly she gave them, but rather just that “it worked.” Every niece in Willington, crying her eyes out over her first broken heart, heard from her aunt; go see ole’ Colleen Badgley, the second house to the left on Fuller street. Everyone knows that first love is like sitting in the sun, and she’ll have something to take the sting out of that burn. Generations of Willingtonians could vouch for Colleen’s cures.

It was when old Colleen left this earth at the ripe age of 93, that the citizens of this little township took notice of one of their newest residents; the young woman who had just started renting the yellow house on the corner of Ellis lane, just one street over from Main. If not for the timing in moving to Willington, she might have had a chance of just going on as a normal person just like anybody else, but she came in March and everybody knows March is the most volatile month. The citizens took it as a sign that, during the time when winter tries to hold fast to the Earth as spring blows in and battles it for the weather, Colleen Badgley took ill and Leah Clowder moved in. She seemed to blow in like a Texas thunderstorm, sudden and strong. It was, the beauty parlor biddies would say, as if you blinked and Leah had already settled in to the little yellow house and signed a lease for a shop right on Main street. She might still have been left alone, if she hadn’t painted the door to her house a vibrant teal and dotted the front flowerbed with little gnomes and sun catchers between her plants. That was when the neighborhood children started to linger around her picket fence, hoping to glimpse some proof that she might be the new witch. Can you even imagine growing up in a town without a witch? Certainly not.

As everyone knows, there are several ways to detect whether someone is a witch or not. Firstly, they’re always a woman. Willington might consider itself a progressive town ever since they’d voted to allow beer and wine sales, but even they wouldn’t abide by a male witch. They should have, without question, a cat. Every witch needs her familiar. Their gardens are always lush, no matter if there’s a drought or frost. Loose dirt and leaves never collect on their front porch. They love bright colors and things that twinkle and sparkle, and they’ll invite you in for tea at any time of night or day. For Leah, it started with her bright door and sun catchers and soon everyone seemed to be stopping by to peek over her back fence at her garden. It seemed that every neighbor popped by with a welcome basket of some sort, and she never failed to invite them in for some iced tea. And so, it began.

No one is quite sure if the witches find Willington or if the town makes the witch. Surely, no one has stopped to ask them. Or how they come to learn that they’ve been appointed the town witch, but so it has happened since the founding of Willington.

***

            It was a night just on the brink of fall, and everyone knows that’s the time when anything is possible because the world is sliding from one season to the next. If nature hasn’t made up its mind then there’s always time for change to occur. The kind of night where the air starts to take on it’s very first chill and it’s possible to believe that summer would finally release its hold on the world. The moon that night hung low and heavy in the sky, lighting up the world with its golden glow. Children would stare at it, fascinated, ignoring their mother’s attempts to call them in for the night. Who could go in and sleep when the earth and the moon seemed ready to collide? It was the kind of nights where lovers would sneak out of their beds to meet somewhere and steal kisses. How could you not fall in love when nature was perched at the edge of possibility? Tonight, widows would fall asleep and dream of their lost husbands as the young, handsome boys they once were. Why be lonely, when the moonlight itself was thick enough to keep you company?

Soon the leaves would start to turn and fall from the trees. Pumpkin patches would pop up on the side of the road, the shiny-skinned gourds waiting to be transformed into Jack-o-Lanterns. In Willington, the city council would start dragging bales of golden hay to the center of town to set up the display for the annual Fall Faire. Old Town would be spotted with scarecrows, pumpkins, and hay along the sidewalks and in the shop windows. Pies would be baked and cider mulled and it would seem that no one in town could resist that charm of autumn. People would even start to pull their sweaters and jackets from the back of the closet, anticipating the first morning chilly enough to wear them.

It was on a night such as this, in late September, that Eric Grayson stepped off the bottom step from his apartment over the Malt Shop on Ellis Street and failed to notice the wide-open face of the moon watching him. Had he looked up, he would have seen her move coyly behind a layer of clouds, like a woman behind a veil. He failed, also, to notice the new chill in the air as the wind rustled the leaves of the trees. His mind was preoccupied and heavy with troubles. Troubles that, he hoped, tonight might begin to solve. His Chuck Taylor’s crunched across the gravel behind his building as he made his way to the car, his sister following close behind him, her dark hair falling in her face. They were silent as they climbed into the sedan and drove away, stopping a short distance away, on the first residential street outside of Old Town.  Eric looked up toward the tiny house, a frown creasing his dark brow. The house was small, the siding painted a creamy yellow with white trim and a white porch. It wouldn’t have stood out from the neighboring houses, all of which had all been built in the twenties and thirties, if not for the bright teal door. It stood out like a vibrant jewel, even in the dim light. He scoffed as he turned the key to shut off the car’s ignition. He couldn’t believe he was actually doing this. Beside him his baby sister, Cara, let out a little whimper. Her brown eyes, that had once been so rich and alive, looked frightened and unsure. They always looked that way these days, wasn’t that exactly why they were on this fool’s errand? Eric slid his hand over to grab one of hers from where it was tucked, bunched up in her lap. She stopped wringing her hands to accept the modicum of comfort just for a moment.

“We don’t have to do this, Care Bear.” He said, his voice shattering the air around them like glass.

“I want to. I really do,” She replied “LeAnn Phipps went and saw the witch when she was havin’ that custody battle with her ex. She helped her. She told her what to do.” She sounded so resolute about this decision that Eric would’ve been the worst kind of fool to tell her no, to say that all this magic business was just gossip from gullible house fraus. He could only hope that playing along with this farce would do more help than harm and then maybe, just maybe, his sister could be the happy, carefree woman she used to be.

The siblings slipped from the car and slowly approached the house. A soft glow shown through the window in the front door and a window at the right side of the house. The witch was awake. They each hesitated for a moment, making brief eye contact as though daring the other to chicken out, before Eric knocked. A few moments passed in anxious silence before the door finally opened.

And Suddenly… She Leapt

After roughly six months of agonizing over writing classes and MA/MFA writing programs and money and time and everything else… I just did it. I sent in an application for the online Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. Although I had been leaning toward an MFA program instead, and even though I don’t relish taking literature class, I do know someone currently finishing up this program that has had a great experience. So, I just stopped thinking and applied.

This included doing one thing that has terrified me all along, sending in a creative writing sample. I pulled up a piece of writing from a few years ago, did a quick proofread, and hit send before my self-doubt could overcome me. Something kind of magical happened. As I sat there reading over the roughly seven pages of writing that three-years-ago me typed into existence I thought, “This is really good. Who wrote this? Oh wait… me!” I was actually getting drawn into the story and forgetting to be critical of myself. I really felt as though some other person had written these words and I had to remind myself; not only did I write it, I could do it again.

There’s still some technical things to sort out paperwork-wise with my application as well as the nasty thought of actually paying for the classes. And I won’t even consider the “will I actually finish this program?” or “do I really feel like doing homework again?” lines of thought.

Frankly, I’m proud of myself for this little venture and that’s enough for now.

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Comparing Writing and Knitting

Writing is the most terrifying of hobbies, for me.  I always find myself with these ideas for stories floating around in my head and I want, so badly, to write them. Then, I sit down to write and think “I have no idea what I’m doing. I shouldn’t be trying.” I end up walking away.

The thing about writing is, its damn near impossible to know if you’re any good at it. You could compare it to knitting. With knitting, it is easy enough to know whether you’re doing it correctly. You can look at other people’s knits and know whether you can reproduce them. You take the pattern and either you understand the stitches or you don’t, you either struggle with following the pattern or you don’t, either the finished the product looks like the examples or it doesn’t. Writing isn’t like that. You can write and write and write, never knowing whether its readable. All words on paper look about the same but, as we al know, some are far more enjoyable to read than others. The only way to know whether what you’re writing is to give it to others, which is a challenge in itself.

Several years ago, I rediscovered my love of writing. In a very short time, I wrote about 35 pages of a story idea. I was pleased as punch about my ideas and what I had gotten on paper, but I really wanted to know whether it was any good. I passed it along to a coworker and my significant other. My coworker was pretty adamant about how much she liked it. My significant other was less enthusiastic (he wasn’t a person that was particularly prone to outbursts of emotion) but said he thought it was worth continuing. The problem is, people who care about you will almost always give you positive praise. So how are you to know the truth? How do you find an unbiased opinion?

In college, I never once took an English class. I did a dual high school/college enrollment when I was a senior and got all of the credits I needed, plus three extra hours from the AP test for English. So I have had all of no writing training or critique. My only basis for thinking I might have some sort of talent comes from childhood. I was frequently praised for being one of the best writers in class and I even won the UIL competition for Persuasive Writing two years in a row. Of course, that isn’t creative writing, but I’m proud of teen-me all the same. I had thought recently that it would be a good idea to take some creative writing classes. I’ve spent hours looking through online MA and MFA Creative Writing Programs, continuing education schedules,, a community college catalogs. I decided to try my had at an online Creative Writing class through my county’s community college. Sadly, I went online tonight to register and the class was already full. None of the continuing education classes seemed like what I really want. I would consider getting a Masters in writing but I would be nervous to start a program with no prior writing experience. The thought of sending out a writing portfolio to be evaluated by a real professor makes me want to break out in hives.

I feel at a loss for understanding how to overcome this anxiety that keeps me from writing. I cannot seem to turn off that inner voice that tells me to not bother, tells me I’ll never write anything that anyone would enjoy. Yet I also cannot find a way to assuage that voice or prove it wrong. With knitting, I took a class and taught myself at home until I could recreate the patterns I saw. Even now, I hit stitches I’m not familiar with and have to seek out videos to learn from. It is so simple to know I’ve done it correctly when I see the stitches unfurl into something recognizable. I cannot seem to find a way to do that with writing. I am a person that is cripplingly afraid of failure, so putting myself out there with something so so unsubstantiated does not seem to be something I can make myself do.

So instead of writing, I find myself knitting for comfort and safety. I also find myself browsing online classes again and again wishing I was brave enough to take that leap. To decide that, even though I already have a Masters and don’t need one, I deserve to give myself the opportunity to try for MA/MFA in writing. Of course, I might be more willing to make the leap Masters programs didn’t cost about $30,000.

Eventually, I will need to reconcile myself to the thought that I’ll never write and these characters will forever fester in my mind, or I will need take a chance.

Busy Season

Fall is my favorite season but it also tends to be the busiest. In the month of October I have a wedding to attend and will most likely be hosting two parties at my house. November is when we usually go to the Texas Renaissance Festival and then there’s Thanksgiving.

In addition to the regular activities that keep me busy as the weather cools, I have given myself a number of goals for the upcoming months.

  1. Finish the Promise Me shawl

 

I started this on the 18th of this month with the goal to finish it before October 1st so I can started number two on the list.

2. Morticia MKAL

I’m going to be knitting a big, beaded lace shawl throughout the month of October. The final clue is released the 22nd and I would love to have it done for our Samhain party on the 26th, but we’ll see.

3. National Novel Writing Month

This will be my first time participating in this activity in November. I won’t be starting from scratch, instead I intend to work on a story idea I started back two years ago but gave up on after only about 30 pages.

Also, in November, I need to knit a hat for my coworker that requested one.

4. Wrap Cardigan

This is a goal I just came up with, but I’d like to knit this cardigan so that I can wear it at Yule.

5. Finish Cuddly Blanket

I have about a foot worth of blanket knit so far, but I am happily letting it hibernate while I work on more pressing projects. I would like to get this one done by January, since it is the coldest time of the year.

 

* Clicking any of the pictures will take you to the page for that pattern or event.

A Day Without Knitting (So Far)

What I wanted to do today was spend my time off relaxing around the house and maybe running some errands. Instead, I spent the day doing homework. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did let myself sleep in and then hung out in bed reading Graceling by Kristen Cashore. Then the day was devoted to homework. I’m currently working on my Master’s Degree in Library Science and Sunday is when assignments tend to be due. I had to write  a historical research paper that, admittedly, I put off to the last minute that slowly fell apart as I was working. It’s very unusual to struggle with writing a paper, for me. Especially one that is only two pages, but the research wasn’t coming together. Now, what’s done is done, as they say. I also had 3 other quick assignments to get in under the wire, but I did it.

What didn’t happen today was any knitting. Last night, I cast on a hat from the pink yarn I dyed with the Kool-Aid. It’s… certainly pink. I may work on it a bit more tonight but it’s hard to say.

I just wanted to do a quick post to say I’m still alive since tomorrow is going to go much the same way. I have a 15 page paper due tomorrow night…