The TBR Tag

Nov 17, 2014 by


The “To Be Read Ta”g was created by the wonderful Dana @Danasquare. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to participate. So here it is…


1) How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

I have a bookshelf were I keep all my new books. I grab one from there when I finish my current book or I order a new one if something I don’t own catches my eye. I use Goodreads to virtually add books to my list. I used to try to keep TBR list there in order, but it really was a waste of time. I always change my mind about what to read next O.o


2) Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Print books! I avoid the temptation of buying too many ebooks even when they go on sale. I really love owning the print copies and seeing how pretty they look on my bookshelves *pets the spines of several beautiful books*


3) How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I read based on my mood. Sometimes I want dystopia, other times fantasy, or sci-fi, what have you. So when I finish a book, I’ll look at what’s on my shelf or Goodreads list and pick something to suit my current mood. I also belong to a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book club and read books from author for interviews, so sometimes those take priority.


4) A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?

Based on my Goodreads TBR shelf, I’ve had The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook on my list since July 2011. Hmm, not sure I’ll get to it now. Too many books come out EVERY week! I do love steampunk, though. *sigh*


5) A book you recently added to your TBR?

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I’ve been on a Sci-Fi mood lately :)


6) A book in your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

That would be Pulse by Patrick Carman. Something about that floating tree just sparks my imagination!


7) A book on your TBR that you plan on never reading?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I know I should read this book. I mean it won a Pulitzer prize and all, but too many people I trust have commented on its pages and pages of minutia detail and, frankly, I’m bored to tears by too much description. If it wasn’t SO long, I would risk it, but I’d hate to lose that much time in a book that’ll probably bore me.


8) An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Right now I will say A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, though this is likely to change when my mood changes and something else catches my eye. So fickle!


9) A book on your TBR that everyone has read except for you?

That’s gotta be Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I guess I just got tired of vampires and werewolves before I got to this book. Maybe the mood will come back at some point.


10) A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

That is the book that has now become one of my favorites: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Wow, the writing and storytelling in this series. Now I’m the one pestering everyone to read it. C’mon, go ahead! I dare you. Just know Akiva is all mine ;)


11) A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. The idea just sounds fantastic and Dreamworks has pre-emptively acquired the rights for the trilogy. That’s gotta tell us something.


12) How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

There are 231 book in that list, but many need to be removed and many more added. It really isn’t a very helpful list anymore. The lists that matter are the “read” and “currently reading” lists. The TBR list is more of a suggestion and reminder list :)

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“Bared To You” Giveaway

Nov 12, 2014 by



Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness…

He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily…

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds…and desires.The bonds of his love transformed me, even as i prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart…

Amazon Goodreads




Praise for Bared To You

“Full of emotional angst, scorching love scenes, and a compelling storyline.” – Dear Author



Giveaway Details

Win a SIGNED paperback copy of Sylvia Day’s Bared To You

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Book Pet Peeves

Nov 2, 2014 by


Do you have pet peeves that will cause you not to read a book? The more I talk to readers, the more I realize that this is the case for many of them. We have to come with ways to rule out books, after all. It would be nice if we could read them all, but alas! So it got me thinking, do I have pet peeves? And if so, what are they? Well, it didn’t take me long to come up with a list.

By the way, this also gave the idea of starting a book review vlog focusing on common pet peeves. You should check it out :)


Yummy prose
Just this past week I opened a book I’d been eager to get my hands on for a while. I read the first chapter and, after that . . . I had to stop. I just couldn’t keep on reading. The story line wasn’t terrible, but combined with the bland prose, it just fell flat. It doesn’t have to be poetry, but the prose has to be engaging. It needs to have a little something, a cleverness with the words, something that lets me know the author didn’t write the first flat sentence that came to mind, but one that came from a deeper place within their creative brain. If that kind of yummy prose isn’t there, then the plot better get me by the throat—otherwise, I will set the book down.

This isn’t a requirement either. I can read serious topics, no problem. However, a little effective humor can get me rooting for the characters very quickly.

Non-jerk hero
Is this too much to ask? Maybe it is the feminist in me, but I’ve read enough “bad boy” books. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if the female protagonists paired up against these guys weren’t so willing to put up with the abuse. I understand the appeal in “taming the badass,” but, personally, I wouldn’t hang out long enough to put up with it. I would say Adios very quickly. Instead, give a hero that knows how to treat a woman, and I’m in!

Original concepts
Vampire, werewolf, dystopia books . . . anyone? I’ve enjoyed a few novels in all of these categories (in dystopia more than any other) but my tolerance for reading the same types of books is low, now. Give me a book with a fresh concept (i.e. a being of the author’s creation—such as Morphids in KEEPER) and I’m hooked. I want to visit worlds no one else has imagined before.


Protagonist moving to a new town/school
I write YA and, as everyone knows, the concept of the poor protagonist in a new town and school is overused in the genre. Maybe it is due to everyone trying to copy Twilight. Who knows? Whatever the case, it has become a huge turn-off for me.

If dreams is an big ploy device in a book, forget it! I’m not reading it. Nope. I’m already in a book so, to me, a dream is like fiction within fiction. I think dreams are an easy way out. I use them sparingly in my writing, if I must—never more than a couple of paragraphs.

Flimsy plot logic
The plot HAS to make sense. I won’t lose interest in a book any quicker than if a flimsy explanation is offered to support big plot points. No, just no!

Cocky characters – much talk, no action
You know those characters that just talk about how mean they are and all they are going to do to kick butt, yet they don’t do much of anything? Yeah, those guys. I can’t stand them.

[Image attribution: Photo by Brenda Clarke, used under CC/No changes]

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Meet Jack Heckel

Nov 2, 2014 by

Jack Heckel

Today on the blog, I’d like to introduce you to the duo that together comprise the author of Once Upon a Rhyme (Volume I of the Charming Tales), Jack Heckel, they are John Peck and Harry Heckel.

To share a bit about this talented team, I can tell you that they live in opposite sides of the USA, John in the west coast where he works as a lawyer, and Harry in the east coast where—as a IT QA team lead— basks in his ability to break computers and make programmers miserable. They were roommates in college and were each other’s best man at their weddings.

Their novel ONCE UPON A RHYME was published by Harper Voyager Impulse and released in August. After reading it, I can tell you that these guys have an incredible sense of humor and can make you laugh out loud. You can read my short review of his novel on Amazon or Goodreads.

Now, let’s learn a bit more about John and Harry:


You are the first co-authors I’ve ever interviewed and I find myself very curious about the process. How does a typical day go for John and Harry as they twirl to become Jack Heckel? Or do you guys go in a telephone booth?

H: Unfortunately, we can’t give away our secret identities, but we have been writing together for five years. A typical day would be one of us writing a chapter while the other one edits a previous chapter, plans out the next chapter or does an article or social media work.

As far as the process of creating a novel, we always start with an outline. Once we discuss the outline at length, we agree on what chapters or story arcs each of us wants to initially write. After each chapter is completed, we send it to the other person for a rewrite. After the rewrite, it goes back to the original writer to review. This way the book sounds like it’s written by Jack Heckel, rather than Harry or John.

J: It is a fascinating process, because at the end of the day we often can’t identify who wrote what. Early on we would share our material with a writing group and they would try to guess who wrote what. I’m not sure they ever got it right. We always took that as a good sign that we’d gotten Jack’s voice right. And the uncertainty extends to us as well. Several times I’ve complemented Harry for some turn of phrase only for him to tell me he thought that I’d written that.

Sounds very cool! Living in opposite sides of the USA, how do you breach the distance and work together?

H: We do a lot of texting and emailing. However, that doesn’t make up for talking on the phone. We talk a lot when we are working together, often after midnight on the East Coast. When we really need to get through a milestone, we meet in person and have a writing retreat.

J: Harry is definitely the one impacted the most when we are under the gun, because he has to wait till I am free to talk, and that is often very late his time. But, for the most part the time change actually works well for us. Often times Harry can finish his work or edits on a chapter just in time for me to get started for the evening.

What advice would you give others considering co-authoring a book?

H: The most important rule is to have mutual respect. You need to be able to give and receive honest feedback and take 100% ownership of the work. Don’t worry about who wrote what or how many words. Be willing to compromise. Also, be willing to ask your co-author for help. I’ve had times when I was stuck and John bailed me out, either by writing part of my chapter, giving me an idea or just acting as a sounding board.

J: And on that last point, I can remember entire sections of the book where I would stare at a blinking cursor for a day or two and then call Harry and beg him to take over. Often all it takes is a few words for inspiration and that gets you going. In many ways I find it MUCH MUCH harder to write on my own. I think another key, beside respect, which I think goes without saying (though I’m glad Harry said it), is that you actually have to enjoy writing with your co-author. If there is any jealousy or bad feelings they are going to come out in the process of writing and the project will likely fall apart.

Do you see each other writing other series together? Any plans for solo projects?

J & H: Absolutely. In fact, we already are writing other series. We have a proposal for a set of novels in a similar vein to the Charming Tales but focused on epic fantasy. The first book is tentatively called (ominous music) . . . The Dark Lord. The main character, Avery, not only has to face down everything that can go wrong in a fantasy world, but also find a way to complete his thesis before he’s kicked out of school. And did we mention that he’s (ominous music) . . . The Dark Lord?

Additionally, we’ve been working on a set of YA novels about what happens when Rigel, the daughter of Orion, one of the world’s greatest superheroes decides to start her heroic career. She’s invited to join Freedom Squad, a team assembled to pay homage to the Victory Squad of World War II. Once she arrives at their headquarters, she finds herself surrounded by an earth elemental who can’t talk, a malfunctioning alien robot and a guy who claims not to have any powers at all. Oh, and then the mayor of the city appoints her team leader . . .

H: On the solo front, I’ve written a few small press books as Harry Heckel, including In the Service of the King (A Crimson Hawks Adventure), which is a swash and buckle story of a mercenary company who accepts an offer that’s too good to be true, and a black powder and sorcery series called the Krueger Chronicles. I’ve got several other novels waiting to find a publication home, including an epic fantasy and “A Greek hoplite goes to mythological Egypt” tale. Additionally, I write pen and paper role-playing games, notably in the past for White Wolf Game Studio and currently for Black Onyx.

J: I am definitely the junior member of Team Jack when it comes to writing. At present I don’t have any completed projects, but I do have several in the works that I will be publishing (or trying to publish) under a still to be determined pen name, including an urban fantasy that I hope will reestablish demons as the bad-ass villains they should be, and a YA dream trilogy that was inspired by a single line of prose that I could not get out of my head: “When I was ten and he was twelve we went to war, my friend and I.”

J and H: However, no matter what might happen in our solo careers, we plan for Jack Heckel to be here to stay. There may be side projects, but we are both committed to keeping the band together long term. We are having a blast.

It sounds like you guys will be busy. All these projects sounds wonderful! ONCE UPON A RHYME is absolutely hilarious. Humor—especially in the written form—isn’t easy to accomplish, what is the trick?

H: I really think that John and I are funniest when we start playing off each other. Life has a certain inherent ridiculousness to it, plus, we have plentiful source material in fairy tales. I’m not really sure what the real trick is, but I’m just glad that whatever we are doing works.

J: The phone calls are key. When we were in college we used to sit in the dark at night and stare up at the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling (yes we are so old that glow-in-the-dark stars were still a novelty) and tell each other stories. There is really no difference in our process today. That many of our stories turn out to be funny is something alchemic. It can’t be explained. I’ve told the story before, but my initial vision for The Charming Tales was a dark brooding exploration of the prince’s descent into madness. I’m so glad Harry pulled us back from that, because these novels have been so much fun to write.

How many more volumes are planned for the Charming Tales? What else can you tell us about upcoming books to whet our appetite?

H: We are currently planning for three more, if you include Happily Never After, which releases on November 25th. I could easily see that number climbing as long as we have material and enjoy visiting the characters. Happily Never After is really the second part of the story that began in Once Upon a Rhyme and we find out the results of Gwendolyn’s schemes as well as finding out if Charming will ever achieve couplet again. There’s a bit more romance as well.

As far as books after that, I don’t want to say too much, but Book 3 is tentatively called Pitchfork of Destiny and it starts with the Great Dragon of the North coming to Royaume and discovering that his love, the Great Wyrm of the South is dead.

J: And Book 3 ends with the teaser for Book 4, which I won’t speak of at all, but for which we already have a basic storyline sketched out. As for inspiration for more beyond that, I think fairytale is limitless in its potential. Between the Grimm Brothers, Perrault and Andrew Lang you have nearly a thousand stories to “borrow” from.

Rapid Fire Questions

Who is funnier John or Harry?
J: Jack.
H: Charming.
J: Can I change my answer? I like Harry’s better.

Did you outline ONCE UPON A RHYME or did you pants it?
J and H: We outlined first and then pants’d our way through the outline.

Favorite ONCE UPON A RHYME scene?
H: I love the whole book, but if I have to pick one scene, it’s what happens to Will while Charming is battling Gnarsh the Troll.
J: No doubt, for me it is the confrontation between Will and the Scarlet Scoundrel. Aha!

Thanks so much for visiting, Harry and John!

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