Tattoos and Tangles, by Melinda Di Lorenzo, book review


I was very caught up in this story right from the start. The voice of the heroine is young and edgy, yet vulnerable. The hero is very strong. And even though I was right in his head, the twist at the end came as a surprise. 

The characters’ life stories were painful and realistic, making for well-motivated actions. This is a romance, and follows the story arcs expected in the genre, but does so in a convincing and natural way. Such organic arcs flow from strong, realistic character motivations.

Along with the characters, the suspense, and the mystery, I enjoyed the author’s light touch with the romance. Feelings grow naturally and realistically while intimate moments are written sparingly. Actually, all the writing is quite spare, making for a strong contemporary fiction feel and fast romantic-suspense pace.

We have the author here today to answer a few questions.

Melinda, welcome! Great book. Tattoos and Tangles is a real page turner. Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

Melinda: A friend said to me one day (half-joking), “You know what the world needs? More tattooed bad boys. That’s what you should write!” So I laughed and replied, “Fine. I can do that.” So I started with the opening scene.

Nia: I was going to ask what came first: the characters, the situation, the plot, the livelihood… Apparently the tattoos. Can you elaborate?

Melinda: The tattoo parlor came first, and Cass’s story. I knew exactly what had happened to her from the first page.

Nia: You wrote in multiple first person. I was excited to see how you handled this point-of-view (POV) choice because my co-author John Holland and I decided to go with this POV for our novel. We went back and forth with POV, sometimes writing in third person but always coming back to first. First just felt right. Why did you choose first person and did you write it another way and change it or decide on first person from the start?

Melinda: I almost always write in first person. It feels natural to me. I wrote Cass’s first two chapters, but knew as soon as I was done with them that John needed to get up close and personal, too.

Nia: Where are you in your writing career? How long have you been writing, what else have you published and where do you hope to go?

Melinda: I feel like I’m just getting started in the part of writing that equals a career, but I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you that my room was covered with story notes from the time I was about 8 years old. In addition to Tattoos and Tangles, I have two Indie novels, Snapshots by Laura and Long Way From Home, both available on Amazon. I have a New Adult Romance coming out with Harlequin in the early summer. I’m currently working on another Romantic Suspense and just hope to keep going forever!

Nia: Congratulations. You are off to a great start with the career phase of your writing. Can you tell us why you write?

Melinda: I have a lot of stories in my head. I feel like I have to get them out. Like REALLY have to.

Nia: What do you like to read?

Melinda: Just about everything. I love historical romance and romantic suspense. I also enjoy a good thriller. I decided a while back that I was going to write a Young Adult novel, so most recently I’ve been diving into those. Last year, I read 55 books!

Nia: Thank you for joining us, Melinda. Bloggees, you can find Tattoos and Tangles at the link below, and you can find Melinda on the web at the links below as well.

Tattoos and Tangles, by Melinda DiLorenzo


Twitter: @melindawrites


Book review, A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute


Having a book loaned to you by a friend is special. When a person loans you a book they think you will enjoy, they are matching the wealth of their own experience with their understanding of you. This was loaned from a critique partner who is a very special kind of friend. A critique partner knows what is closest to a writer’s heart, because she knows what the writer is writing about and therefore passionate about.

My friend and her husband worked hard to find the book in the shelves of their new home when we were visiting for dinner. Because they had just moved, their home is still settling, and it took some looking to find it, but they were determined I shouldn’t leave empty handed! He found the book and gave it to my friend and she held it to her heart as she told me a bit of what it was about.   

I am co-authoring a novel with an Australian poet and my husband and I recently spent time in Townsville so that we could meet and work together in person. This novel mentions Townsville and goes into a lot of detail about Queensland, and some about the Northern Territory. The book starts with the remarkable survival of the main character of a death march she and many other prisoners took through Malaysia during World War II. Though a heavy topic, Shute handles this part of the story with a matter-of-fact tone devoid of emotional manipulation and it is based on a true story, though the actual march took place in Sumatra, not Malaysia. The way Mr. Shute handled the story, in this simple, straightforward manner, made this harrowing part of the tale interesting and not too horrific.

The rewards for reading this part of the story are great. The novel contains my favorite story line, the triumph of hard working people of strong character overcoming circumstances to create something of meaning and lasting value.

This book was copyrighted and first published in 1950 by William Heinemann, Ltd. I read the edition published in 2000 by House of Stratus, Ltd. The copyright is held by the Trustees of the Estate of Nevil Shute Norway. I mention this because the copyright page is a good reminder to authors to make sure you take special care to provide for your estate. There’s a lot to consider and prepare for if you want your chosen heirs to continue to benefit from your work. I attended a lecture on this topic recently at a Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting and was regaled with tales of literary estates ranging from the good, the bad and the ugly. This recent re-release of this classic work looks like Shute Norway’s estate planning fell in the “good” category.

You need to designate who will be responsible for handling future publishing of your work as well as who will receive the royalties. They can be different people. Your work will live on long after you are gone and can be a source of pride and happiness, or pain and disappointment.

No, I have not set up estate planning for my published work yet, which at this time consists of my romantic short story! But I do plan to handle this if and when more work is published. But regardless of the size and significance of your work, you might want to think about how you want future royalties paid out, who will inherit the copyright and future royalties, who will be responsible for future releases and subsidiary products, and who will handle your online presence, like your websites and Facebook page or if you want those shut down.

A Town Like Alice is such a good example of how your book will continue on and influence more people than you can ever know. This book was a marvelous experience for me, I was moved, I learned a great deal, and it opened up my mind to new possibilities. And the author died 53 years ago!

Reading, Wheels Within, by John Holland

This poem had a profound impact upon me as a beautiful and mystical articulation of my own philosophical bent. My husband and I traveled to Australia recently to meet the poet, John Holland. Afterward, I was inspired to record this reading of Wheels Within, at dawn, at my husband’s and my apartment in Townsville.

“Are we all interconnected by a cord/twisted from the strands of pure/white fabric no man can truly name?”


Book review, Return to Audubon Springs, RoseAnn DeFranco


Homecoming, past lovers and secret baby… this book hits a lot of romance themes that I enjoy. Brimming with passion, conflict and humor, this book made me laugh and bite my nails and brought a tear to my eyes. Emma returns to a beautiful family house left to her as an inheritance with a big catch. She has to live there for 2 weeks a year and share the house with her very sexy ex-lover, Rafe. She tries to make Rafe leave by driving him crazy. Her ruse of being on a macrobiotic diet in order to drive him crazy had me in stitches.

The secondary characters, Rafe’s family, Emma’s friends, Emma’s mother and brother and especially the love child, Elana, populate this book with a rich, vibrant and realistic community.

This book is free on Amazon Kindle from 11/5 – 11/9/13!

Today, the author is here to answer a few questions. RoseAnn, welcome! I have a lot of questions for you, so here goes.

First, my favorite of all: are you a pantser or a plotter?

RoseAnn DeFranco: Hi Nia! Thank you so much for having me here. I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed the book.  I’m a plotting pantser.  My stories start with the characters. I take my time, live with them for a while, and figure out what makes them tick. From there, I naturally see the BIG MOMENTS or Turning Points FIRST. I tend to write or at least sketch out those moments and then go back and write to those points.

NS: That sounds like a great technique. I noticed you made effective use of a realistic and emotional device: the special kiss shared between mom and daughter. Did this come to you as you wrote it, did you layer it in later, or did you plan it ahead of time?

RDF: It came to me naturally in the first draft. I loved reading the book The Kissing Hand to my daughter. The exchanges you see between Emma and Elana are right out of my own history with my daughter.

NS: Wow, no wonder the mother/daughter relationship was so tender and realistic. You’ve lived it. Tell us, what came first with the idea for this book – setting, conflict or characters?

RDF: Setting definitely. Audubon Springs is based on my personal favorite Jersey Shore town. A couple of people that hail from Jersey already correctly guessed the town! Emma and Rafe’s house is actually a combination of my two favorite homes on Ocean Ave in the town.

NS: That’s wonderful. I used to spend summers in Manasquan with my family growing up. Those summers are favorite memories for my sister and me so your book was especially enjoyable.

Let’s talk about the conflict. The conflict is pretty explosive. I was biting my nails wondering if I could forgive Emma! You did it, though! It was a bold plot. Were you nervous about handling the secret baby, being able to redeem the heroine after keeping such an important relationship from the child’s paternal family?

RDF: It was definitely a concern of mine! I once attended a seminar about conflict with Eloisa James.  She said that it is the Author’s job to make the conflict so horrible that you can’t imagine how the H/H will work it out. At the start of the book, Emma feels very justified in her previous decisions.  As the story progresses, this secret creates a lot of internal conflict for her.

NS: Wow, that’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing it. How long have you been writing?

RDF: I’ve been writing for about seven years, seriously for about four.

NS: What other books have you written?

RDF: Return to Audubon Springs is the first in a three book Contemporary Romance series scheduled for release in 2014. The Series is called the Brothers of Audubon Springs.  I wrote two other Contemporary Romances prior to starting this series. I pretty much got my feet wet and worked out my writing chops on those stories.  In addition I have a Young Adult Fantasy, Forbidden Signs, which is the first in a planned three book series.  It was a finalist in two writing competitions in 2012. I’m currently seeking the right home for it in traditional publishing, but if that doesn’t happen, I have plans to self-publish it.

NS: I am in awe. What are your goals and dreams with writing?

RDF: Ultimately I’d love to be one of those Authors who can give up my day job to focus exclusively on my writing.  I have plans for a lot of stories, and as you know, writing takes time. Something I always seem to be short on!

NS: Wow, you are this prolific and you don’t write full time. I am so happy for you… you will get there. Thank you for joining us here today. We look forward to having you back as you publish more books.

RDF: Thank you! It was my pleasure to chat with you about Return to Audubon Springs.

Amazon Link (free today through 11/9!):

Goodreads Link:


RoseAnn DeFranco

RoseAnn DeFranco grew up in upstate NY with her nose in a book and a song in her heart. Following the pursuit of a musical theatre career in NYC, she turned her creative energy to writing funny, steamy romance with heart. A NJ shore transplant, she enjoys time spent at the beach with her family and would love to one day live in a quaint shore town like the fictional town from her BROTHERS OF AUDUBON SPRINGS series.  More information about these Contemporary Romantic Comedies can be found at


When Emma Grant returns to her family’s Audubon Springs beach house to fulfill the stipulations of her father’s will, she has every intention of forcing her former lover out of the house for good. She’s never fit into her wealthy family and would prefer avoiding her past, but with her brother threatening to reveal her young daughter, she has no choice.

Rafe Iuliano has other plans. The wealthy Grants tried to bribe him out of Emma’s life years ago, but he’s determined to prove once and for all that a master carpenter is worthy of Emma and the house.

Their ridiculous and steamy battle for the house reignites the love and passion that bloomed between them years ago. But when Rafe discovers she’s kept their daughter a secret for two years, can he overcome anger and pride to claim his family and the love of his life, or will the deception drive a final wedge between them?


“This is your fault!” Emma shouted.

“My fault?” Rafe blinked through the thick coat of flour. “You’re the one who started this.”


“Yeah, you—Miss Macrobiotic Princess!” They used the barstools for support, and pulled themselves up from the slippery floor. “You’re immovable just like your mother.”

“And you’ve got about as much depth as a toenail. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I was ever with you.”

With a predatory look in his eyes and gait, Rafe advanced. In two long strides he pinned her to the counter, his hands grasping her hips. “Don’t!” His voice, low and dangerous, and his near proximity overwhelmed, charging her body with a jolt of electricity rendering breathing impossible. His gaze locked on hers for an eternity, then without warning, he dipped his head and licked lavishly at the syrup on her chest and neck.

Need and heat consumed her at his touch, fraying what was left of her nerves. She dropped her head back, shivered, and her knees buckled. He held her steady, fully pinned against the counter and continued to feast on her neck. Then with a shake as if waking from a dream, he stepped away, taking his heat with him.

Emma swayed and gripped the counter. Goose bumps rose on her flesh at the storm brewing in his eyes.

“Say or do anything you want to push me out of this house, but don’t ever say you don’t remember.”

Book review, Poor Man’s Orange, Ruth Park


Poor Man’s Orange is a touching and humanistic novel, the final installment of a family-saga trilogy published in 1949.

I avoided reading about the book ahead of time and experienced some surprises, such as discovering the book contained a hero and a heroine only deeply into the novel. I was also surprised and delighted to discover at the end I had just read an “Ugly Duckling” story.

Australian author Ruth Park uses vignettes to show life in the slums outside Sydney and through various character’s points of view. The biggest craft take-away for me was showing character through scene.

The environment rises to the level of character with its vibrant, detailed reality created through the reactions and coping mechanisms of the various characters. Park shows the absolute impossibility of keeping a clean house when impoverished. Mumma is burdened and defeated by filth, Roie destroyed by it. Dolour fights it, but of course she cannot defeat it. The most Dolour ever accomplishes is cleaning one small corner. Park manages to keep the heroine above the grip of the slum by showing us the unconquerable cleanliness of her spirit. But the inevitability of dirt reigns supreme in this book. The slum never gets cleaner, never improves, never changes, until the land owners, who have extracted every penny possible from these hardworking residents, cap their exploitation by knocking down their life-long homes for more profit.

Park shows Dolour through what and whom Dolour admires: The nuns who maintain inner tranquility and order amid chaos. In this tiny scene, Dolour and her friends wonder what the nuns take in the small travel valises that hold all their worldly possessions. Delour’s romantic sensibility is shown by contrasting her romantic guess with the cynical guesses of her friends.

Park also builds long character arcs like Charlie’s, whose story unfolds like a slow motion bungee jump. The reader wonders for pages and chapters about whether that rope is going to be the right length or will he slam headfirst into despair and ruin as do so many people in the slum.

I’ve talked about some craft technique here, but really this novel is a masterpiece of feelings. The feeling the author has for the characters and the feelings the reader has for them as well. Ruth Park made me understand and feel for these people who live in poverty as if they were my own family.

Author interview, Cynthia Harrison


Today, we have author Cynthia Harrison.

Cynthia, welcome! Your background shows that you are a real book lover. You teach English, including creative writing, have written a manual on writing, and have written hundreds of reviews, features and short fiction. Have you written in other genres besides romance?

Cynthia Harrison: Yes, I started as a poet and short story writer.  I tried a few literary novels, a mystery, and a historical romance. They were practice books. Nothing felt right until I turned to contemporary love stories, novels of self-discovery, set in small towns.

NS: I know you also read outside the genre. What do you like about reading and writing romance?

CH: I like the parameters. I like working within a structure and twisting it for a bit of edge.

NS: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

CH: Pantser, to my dismay. I do begin plotting in earnest at about 30K words, but until then it’s whatever comes out of the fingertips that day.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

CH: I love losing myself in worlds that I can control, lol.

NS: What is the hardest part about writing?

CH: Finding the time and energy to keep going  when I really want to read a good book.

NS: How long have you been writing?

CH: 45 years. Junior high star journalist.

NS: What are your dreams for your writing?

CH: I love this series idea, because I love writing series. But, if I can finish and publish this one I’m writing now, the book of my heart, I’ll be satisfied.

Cynthia Harrison
Cynthia Harrison

To learn more about Cynthia:

Links blogging for 11 years on A Writer’s Diary.

facebook fan page: Cynthia Harrison

Twitter: @CynthiaHarriso1

Author interview, Robena Grant, Desert Exposure

Today we have Robena Grant who has a cool book trailer for one of her romantic suspenses. Check it out… it really captures the mood of the novel.

Robena, welcome! What prompted you to get the book trailer made, how did you do it, and do you feel it is helping increase awareness of your book?

Robena Grant:

Thank you for inviting me, Nia. This is so sweet of you. Desert Exposure was my RWA®Golden Heart® finalist book from 2012, so it was special to me. I had not done book trailers for the first two books in the Desert Heat series. I had a friend who had hired GWExtra for hers: and I liked the result. I’m not sure trailers do anything toward selling a book though. : )

NS: This is the third in the series — how did you do the research to create the town of Almagro and the neighboring towns?

RG: I moved to the Coachella Valley in Southern California, which is a desert oasis, about eight years ago. I love exploring and became fascinated with the disparity between the poorer small farming towns butting up against the flashy vacation, golf-course-ridden bigger towns. I created Almagro based on my own town, but I moved its location further east.

NS: You created a villain that had real motivation and was three-dimensional. Kudos! Was that a deliberate effort and what made you want to spend the time to develop the villain instead of falling into the common pattern of making villains pure evil?

RG: Thank you. I believe there is good and bad in all of us. I’m interested in what might motivate a person to choose a life of crime. I wanted to show my antagonist’s good side through his loyalty to his family, his brother.

NS: Many of the minor characters were also richly nuanced. Did you work up character sheets for them? (Grandpa, Manuel, and Fernando?)

RG: I don’t do character sheets. When a character first appears to me I’ll flesh him/her out, try to figure out what makes him tick, choose one or two things that make him different from other characters in the story, and then I let him evolve as I write.

NS: Which leads me to my favorite question, are you a pantser or a plotter?

RG: I’m basically a pantser in that I think the story through as I walk, drive, exercise. Then I write a rough draft. With romantic suspense there has to be some plotting as you need to weave both the romance and the suspense. Plus there’s usually a subplot or two. : ) I focus on writing toward the major turning points.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

RG: The discovery part of having a character show up and whisper in my ear that they have a story to tell. Then discovering who he/she is, what they’ve done, and how I can do justice to their story.

NS: What is the hardest part about writing?

RG: For me it’s grammar. I still make ridiculous mistakes. I’m getting better at finding them, but thank heavens for editors.

NS: How long have you been writing?

RG: I started in the summer of 2000.

NS: I’m pretty close. I started in the spring of 2001. What are your dreams for your writing?

RG: To be a hybrid author. I adore The Wild Rose Press and I’m currently working on my fifth romantic suspense title for them. I hope we have a long career together. However, I have a couple of contemporary romances already written, and I’d love to secure a contract with a big house, just for the experience, and I’d also like to dabble in indie publishing.

NS: I see you are a nurse. Do you plan to ever try writing a medical romance?

RG: I retired from nursing in 1980. There are many medical stories in my head, but I’m not sure how they would sound on paper.  Medicine, technology, all of that has changed so much in thirty years that I doubt I’d ever get it right. I have friends who write for HM&B and there is a real art to the storytelling. Thanks again for hosting me, and I hope you and your readers have a great day.

Robena Grant
Robena Grant

To learn more about Robena please visit her website: Click on My Blog for her weekly ramblings on writing, interviews, and rants, or follow her on FB or Twitter.  Robena’s books are available at Amazon or through her publisher The Wild Rose Press:

Author interview Barb Han

Barb, welcome! Caught in the Crosshair was a terrific romance. The hurricane sequence was fantastic. Have you ever been through a hurricane or was it all research?

Barb Han:

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I’ve cruised around three hurricanes, all at a safe distance. Even so, the swells were large enough to make the ship sway. The captain joked that if we wanted to talk straight, we should drink.

NS: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How long have you been writing?

BH: Thank you so much. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for nine years. Before that, I worked as a journalist and a freelance writer for a number of years.

NS: No wonder you’re so good. That’s a terrific background. What made you want to write fiction? Romance?

BH: Great question. I love romance because it’s fundamentally about love. Love heals. If you want to see the effect of the absence of love in people’s lives, visit a prison. It’s filled with people who grew up without it. Love is powerful.

NS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

BH: I’m a hybrid. Now that I’m writing under contract with Harlequin Intrigue, I pretty much have to plot my stories. But then, as I’m writing, the story takes over and doesn’t always stick to the plan.

NS: Congratulations on writing for Harlequin Intrigue. What is the hardest part about the craft of writing?

BH: Letting go.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

BH: When I first started out, I used to love the creating part of writing. I didn’t plot, so I’d just run with an idea and let it take me where it wanted. Editing was a nightmare and I’d end up cutting quite a bit later. That was painful. As I’ve matured, I actually began to appreciate the revision process. I accept the fact my first draft is going to be awful because I’m getting the big ideas out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Once I get through that, I get to play with language, sentences, create nuance, etc. That’s what I love doing. That’s when the story really comes alive.

NS: That describes me as well. Do you have any tips about the writer’s life or craft that you’d like to share with us?

BH: I once heard an author say, “Discipline is more important than talent.”

I wrote it down and taped it next to my computer. It’s my mantra.


Barb loves to connect with readers. Connect with her at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Her newsletter has prizes and cool things just for subscribers.


Author interview Mackenzie Crowne

Welcome, Mac! Can you tell us a little about your writing process, from idea to finished product? Do you plan and plot in detail or “pants” it or some combination of the two?

Mac: I’m a complete pantser. I start out with an idea, a conflict, and a location and the rest comes to me as I go along. Let me tell you, that can be a real pain in the butt at times, but I can’t seem to write any other way, and really wouldn’t want to. I love the status quo.

Nia: What are your long term goals and dreams for your writing career?

Mac: Just to keep writing and sharing my stories. I didn’t take up this craft to get rich, though, of course, I wouldn’t mind. Storytelling is compulsory for me. Even if I never sold another book, I simply couldn’t stop. That would break my heart. So wherever my writing takes me, I’ll be smiling.

Nia: What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing craft?

Mac: Staying on track to get to where I plan to go. As a pantser, I’m often tossed off in a direction I didn’t expect. Sometimes that’s awesome. Sometimes it’s a disaster leading to writer’s block.

Nia: I hear you. But if it’s any comfort, I’m a plotter and I hit disaster and writer’s block too. What are your favorite parts of writing?

Mac: A good, juicy scene fueled by dialog. I always learn the most about my characters when I let them talk and love how that happens.

Nia: Ditto! Thanks for coming by today.

Please follow, friend or like me. I love making new friends.

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