Book Gems

Guest Post by Maria Schneider

Oh, to sort the wheat from the chaff, to find those special books, the ones that you chortle and gloat over, the ones you read more than once because they are just that good! Some gems are hidden behind odd covers. Some gems sparkle right from the start, while others pull you in slowly until you’re caught up in the sparkle. I’m a reader. Like the gold hunters of the Old West, I pan for the best and brightest. Kobo Writing Life has invited me to share a few of my favorite finds.


Genre: Humorous Mystery – Jana DeLeon

I’Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]m particular about my cozy mysteries. I need a lot of action and require an intriguing career to hold my interest. There’s knitting needles, tea parties, and then there’s Jana DeLeon’s Miss Fortune series featuring an undercover assassin. This is one of those series that grabbed me right from the start. Not only do we have a fascinating protagonist, we have some of the funniest side characters ever written. The first book, Louisiana Longshot, is free. I highly recommend it. Even better? So far every book in the series has continued to earn five stars: I loved both Lethal Bayou Beauty and Swamp Sniper. I’m hoarding book four, Swamp Team 3, for that special day with chocolate cake and uninterrupted reading.

If you’re looking for more great authors who write humorous mysteries check out these gems: Aimee Gilchrist (The Tell-tale Con) and Karen Cantwell (Take the Monkeys and Run).


Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy – Frank Tuttle

TheFiveFacesEvery now and then, an author comes along who writes more than one series, and I end up loving every single book regardless of the style or setting. I was first introduced to Frank Tuttle’s work when I read Wistril Compleat, a collection of stories that is much like a novel because each story involves the same wizard and his trusty apprentice. I’ve also heard a rumor that due to popular demand, a new novel with the same world/characters is due out this year! I can’t wait! Meanwhile, Tuttle is also the author of the Markhat series, a wonderful urban fantasy diversion. His writing is spooky at times with just the right atmosphere to send chills down your spine, funny enough to have you laughing out loud and always a page-turner. I enjoy spending time with Markhat, Mama Hog, Darla and…well, the banshee, I’m still getting used to her.   I highly recommend Wistril Compleat and Markhat.

Need more great urban fantasy? Try Lindsay Buroker (Torrent) or Chris Strange (The Man Who Crossed Worlds). Five stars all the way!


Traditional Fantasy – Andrea Host

TheTouchstoneTrilogyI don’t read a lot of traditional fantasy these days, but when I do, I really appreciate a multi-layered plot with intriguing characters. Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea Host has all that and a great setting too.

It’s not so traditional that I’d felt I’d read it all before, either. The adventure, mystery and magical elements saw this novel through from beginning to end. Highly recommended if you like fantasy reads.


If fantasy is your favorite genre, you should also check out Laura Underwood (The Hounds of Ardagh)


maria_schneider_authorpixMaria Schneider is the author of the Sedona O’Hala humorous mystery series and the Moon Shadow urban fantasy series. [EDITORIAL INTRUSION:  We recommend you check out BOTH in this unique combo of short stories from both universes:  Executive Affairs and Under Witch Ghost]

Maria is an avid reader, cook and gardener.

She often reviews book on her blog,

Check out Maria’s books on Kobo here!


Back to Basics

You might have a great story idea and are ready to get it down on the page, but there is so much more than the actual plot line you need to figure out before the book is complete. With text messaging and spellcheck we might not be fully aware or even remember the basics of the written word.Here are some books that might help. They will refresh your memory on punctuation, grammar and dialogue. 


shut up

“Shut UP!” He Explained: A Writer’s Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

By: William Noble
“Shut Up!” He Explained (the title comes from a Ring Lardner poke at the way some people overwrite), William Noble shows you how to write dialogue that sounds right and contributes. Fiction or Nonfiction With liberal use of anecdotes and examples, Noble develops six “Master Keys to Dialogue,” each of which is crucial for the fiction or nonfiction writer to understand and use. You’ll learn how to use dialogue to: • create tension • develop your characters • establish setting • move the plot • create flashbacks and transitions.
painless grammar

Painless Grammar

By: Rebecca Elliott
Optimized for use on the KOBO, this very approachable text combines instruction in parts of speech and sentence structure with down-to-earth examples, funny illustrations, and examination of some of the more amusing and peculiar words in the English language. Painless Grammar covers a chapter on clear e-mail communication and etiquette which is brand new in this edition, as are many of the authors challenging Brain Ticklers.
eats shoots and leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

By: Lynne Truss
Anxious about the apostrophe? Confused by the comma? Stumped by the semicolon? Join Lynne Truss on a hilarious tour through the rules of punctuation that is sure to sort the dashes from the hyphens. We all had the basic rules of punctuation drilled into us at school, but punctuation pedants have good reason to suspect they never sank in. 
emotion thesaurus

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression

By: Angela AckermanBecca Puglisi
One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them.
conflict and suspense

Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense

By: James Scott Bell
Ramp up the tension and keep your readers hooked! Inside you’ll find everything you need to know to spice up your story, move your plot forward, and keep your readers turning pages. Expert thriller author and writing instructor James Scott Bell shows you how to craft scenes, create characters, and develop storylines that harness conflict and suspense to carry your story from the first word to the last.Learn from examples of successful novels and movies as you transform your work from ho-hum to high-tension.

Kobo Writing Life New Releases – Hot Edition

Here are some new KWL Romance and Erotica titles that are sure to keep your summer nights hot, hot, hot.


All for You By: Kate PerryAll For You (Laurel Heights series)

By Kate Perry

Anna Godwin likes it spicy.

At least she used to. Somewhere between law school and real life, she lost her sparkle. Now she wears boring business suits to boring dates in her boring life.

The last time Anna remembers feeling that sizzle was with the one man who’s all cayenne and passion: Max Corazao, the one who got away.

Except Max still sees Anna as a woman full of spice. And Anna intends to do whatever she can to be that woman again—with his (unknowing) help…

Redesigned (Off the Subject #2) By: Denise Grover SwankRedesigned (Off the Subject #2)

By Denise Grover Swank

While fashion design major Caroline Hunter may have been born economically unlucky, in college, she’s been lucky in love. Until her senior year at Southern University. She’s gone from a serious long term boyfriend to a string of crappy dates.

Then she meets mathematics grad student Reed Pendergraft.

Reed is everything she’s not looking for. Serious. Headed for a low paying university job. Boring. Caroline spent the first eighteen years of her life wondering where her next meal was coming from. She sure wasn’t getting trapped in that life again with a man living on a professor’s salary.
An encounter with Reed in a club proves she might have pegged him wrong. He brings out a lusty side she never knew she had. But just when she’s about to give in to her hormones, Reed makes a fool out of her.

When she shows up for the first committee meeting for Southern University’s Fall fashion show, a fundraiser for underprivileged kids, Caroline’s horrified to discover the insufferable Reed is the committee chairman.  While she refuses to tolerate his totalitarian rule of the committee, she’s not sure she’ll survive the month with her heart—and her pride—intact. Just when she thinks she has everything figured out, she finds that her entire life has been redesigned, thanks to Reed Pendergraft.

The Arrangement 7 By: H.M. WardThe Arrangement 7

By H. M. Ward

When Avery learns Sean’s dark secret, everything changes. His confession blindsides her. Sean has a shady past, she knew that from the beginning, but this is so much worse than she thought. There’s a dangerous side to Sean. It’s alluring and frightening at the same time. Avery has to decide if love can overcome anything or if she should protect her heart.

Genre: New Adult Romance
This story unfolds over multiple volumes of approx. 20,000 words each.
~The Arrangement Vol 1 – 7 are on sale now.~


With His Love (For His Pleasure, Book 16) By: Kelly FavorWith His Love (For His Pleasure, Book 16)

By Kelly Favor

Three different women have gone through a journey of self-discovery and found true love. And now, the journey finally comes to an end, as Book Sixteen, With His Love, brings the curtain down on the For His Pleasure Series.

For the first time, Nicole, Kallie and Scarlett’s viewpoints will all be shown in one book, as we catch up with our favorite characters and see how each of their lives and romances continue to evolve.

Many questions will be answered, shocking events will unfold, and passions will boil over. Read this extra-long finale to find out how everything ends.

With His Love (For His Pleasure, Book 16) is a tale of lust, submission, power and ultimately–a love story for the ages.

Tie Me By: Olivia Cunning Tie Me (One Night With Sole Regret series)

By Olivia Cunning

His heart is tied to his past…
When Sole Regret’s rhythm guitarist, Kellen Jamison, vowed to be faithful to his fiancée and love her forever, he meant it. He never expected to lose her to cancer so early in life. He’s certain he’ll never love again, but destiny has another plan for him.

Her heart is tied to her work…
Grammy-winning classical composer and piano virtuoso, Dawn O’Reilly, is overwhelmed with music-writing deadlines, a fickle muse, and high-expectations. She doesn’t have time to find love, but chance seeks to interfere with her carefully devised plans.

They’re bound to become entangled…
From the instant Kellen hears Dawn’s latest musical composition, his spirits rise. The stirring melody and the remarkable woman responsible for its creation are impossible to resist. His attraction is undeniable; her passion unquenchable. Kellen teaches Dawn there’s freedom in bondage, while her sensuality drives him to unleash his tightly controlled self-restraint. Will the ropes Kellen uses to secure Dawn’s body be the force that binds them together or ultimately sever all ties between them?

Happy Fathers’ Day: Good Dads, Bad Dads, and In-Between Dads

Some are good, some are bad, Daddy issues almost always make for interesting reading when you write about them well. Here, in honour of Fathers’ Day, are a few of our favourites, the good, the bad, and the in-between.
Good dads…


 Image.ashx Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Robert M. Pirsig
The narrator of this story gives his son Chris both a solid philosophy of life and the best road trip any father and son have ever gone on.
 Image-5.ashx The Tender Bar
J.R. Moehringer
When Pulitzer-prizewinning memoirist J.R. Moehringer was growing up, he desperately wanted a dad. But he finds a whole room full of them when he starts follows his bartender uncle Charlie to work in this incredibly touching book.
Bad dads…


 Image-1.ashx Lullabies for Little Criminals
Heather O’Neill
Left to her own devices by her heroin-addicted father Jules, Baby, a dangerously naïve Montreal kid makes her way though the city alone.
 Image-4.ashx A Wolf at the Table
Augustin Burroughs 9781429937658
With his uncanny talent for delivering frank accounts of harrowing experiences, the author of Running with scissors turns his attention towards his enigmatic and terrifying father. 
In-between dads…


In-Between Dads
 Image-2.ashx About a Boy
Nick Hornby
Will, who has spent most of his life free of responsibility, emotional or otherwise, finds himself an unwitting father figure to an eccentric young boy, and manages to grow up as a result.
 Image-3.ashx Shit My Dad Says
Justin Halpern
Plenty of us find our parent’s unique turns of phrase to be funny, but only writer Justin Halpern has created a hit out of his dad’s, and anybody who reads his book is very glad he did. 

Writing Motherhood

Whether she was Mrs. March or Medea, everybody had a mom, and no matter what her strengths or foibles were, she had a huge part in shaping who you are. The relationship between mother and child is one of the most challenging to dissect that there is, but some writers manage to do just that. For this mother’s day, we’ve put together a list of some great books by mothers and about mothers that explore the challenges of being–and loving–a mom.


 Dunk Mom Drunk Mom
Jowita Bydlowska
Bydlowska’s harrowing description of the tug of war between maternal love and alcohol addiction she experiences after giving birth to her first child is both a grim page-turner and a lesson in frank self-examination.
 White Oleander White Oleander
Janet Fitch
Fitch’s Ingrid, a brilliant but dangerously unstable poet imprisoned for murdering her lover, looms large in the mind of her daughter, Astrid, as she struggles through a girlhood in the foster system, and in the memory of anyone who’s read this book.
 Knocked Up Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be
Rebecca Eckler
Eckler pulls off a candid but unflaggingly stylish account of her unplanned pregnancy, and the glamorous career and high-living lifestyle where new motherhood finds an unlikely place.
 Love You Forever Love You Forever  
Robert Munch
Robert Munch’s masterpiece illustrates the lifelong relationship of a mother and son with the deceptive simplicity and emotional power of a favourite lullaby.
 Still Point The Still Point of the Turning World
Emily Rapp
This deeply touching and insightful memoir of raising a terminally ill child raises questions about  what being a good mother and living a meaningful life is.
Light Oceans The Light Between Oceans
M. L. Stedman
Not for the faint of heart, Stedman’s heartbreaking novel pits a mother’s love for her child against her sense of right and wrong to fantastic result.
Mom & Me & Mom Mom & Me & Mom
Maya Angelou
One of the greatest memoirists alive tells the story of her and her mother’s complex, imperfect, but deeply loving relationship.

Want a smart, fun read? Try some chick lit

By Samantha Stroh Bailey

I write chick lit. Okay, are you still reading or have you screwed up your face in distaste? Well, before you judge, do you actually know what chick lit is? For some reason, after the pink explosion of chick lit in the late 90s, it seems to have gotten a misconstrued reputation for fluff and froth. Now, don’t get me wrong, the covers are delicious and flirty, the female protagonists do imbibe some fruity cocktails and there may even be some shopping. But, this is not what chick lit is all about.

Chick lit, a sub-genre of women’s fiction, is usually about the journey of a strong, independent and sassy female main character. She may be searching for a new career, moving to a new place, getting married, divorced or looking for love, and she often has an amazing group of friends that you might wish you had. The chick lit heroine is smart, funny and headstrong. She screws up repeatedly but doesn’t let it stop her from finding whatever it is she wants. In my debut novel, Finding Lucas, Jamie Ross is looking for a way out of her five-years-long toxic relationship with maniacal metrosexual, Derek. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she ends up on a frenzied hunt to track down Lucas, the “friends with benefits” she hasn’t seen or spoken to in ten years. Crazy? Yes. Hysterically funny? Yup. Smart and edgy? Absolutely.

Chick lit is a wonderful escape from the trials and chores of daily life. Got laundry? Relationship woes? Family struggles? Download a pastel-covered book and lose yourself in someone’s life that is only slightly crazier than your own. Reading a book with a high heel or purse on its cover doesn’t make you less intelligent. In fact, you might find a main character you instantly connect with and have a friend who just gets you when you most need it.

Perhaps the word “chick” is the issue. It is a word that can seem derogatory, pejorative and demeaning. Yet, since it is the authors themselves who dub their books chick lit, maybe it is actually a post-feminist view of what it is to be a woman, be it single, married, divorced or widowed, in today’s society. The evolution of chick lit follows women from their late teens until after retirement and it gives voice to those issues we deal with on a daily basis.

So, before you assume that chick lit is a genre you would be embarrassed to read, check out a few of our brightly-covered books. They will make you laugh, cry and call your best friend, all while reaching for a chocolate martini.


Samantha Stroh Bailey is a published author and former English teacher with over 15 years of writing and editing experience. Her website, Perfect Pen Communications, offers full service writing, proofreading and editing.

Check out Samantha’s book, Finding Lucas, on Kobo!

Writing memoir

Everyone has a life, and maybe everyone has a compelling life story. Here’s how to turn memories into memoir:

 WritingLifeStories  Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorbach. From drawing a map of a remembered neighborhood to signing a form releasing yourself to take risks in your work, Roorbach offers innovative techniques that will trigger ideas for all writers.
 61ZfJlnbpUL._SL500_AA300_  How to Write your Life Story, Ralph Fletcher. Although written for young people, this little book is packed with great instructions on everything needed to start writing. 
 memoir-pagepic  Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Judith Barrington. A practical guide to the craft, the personal challenges, and ethical dilemmas of writing your true stories. 
 Inventing-the-Truth  Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser. Zinsser is author of the inspiring writers’ bible, On Writing Well. Here he digs into the craft of telling your own story.
 9780312382926_p0_v1_s260x420  Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, by Lisa Dale Norton. A compact little book that shows how to use “shimmering images”–those memory pictures we can’t get out of our heads–as a starting point.



Memoir has become one of the hottest genres in books, and within that genre there are genres. Here’s a brief list of some notable examples of the various ways to tell a life story.

The Misery Memoir

The start of the flood of these woeful yet utterly compelling tales that demonstrate mother was right “it could always be worse” can likely be traced to Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.

The Addiction Memoir

The most famous of these isn’t actually a memoir as it turns out, but a great fraud on readers. We mention A Million Little Pieces by James Frey anyway.

As for a real memoir of this type, we suggest Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Dry by Augusten Burroughs, and More, Now, Again by Elizabeth Wurtzel who also wrote Prozac Nation, a game changer in itself.

The Rock Star Memoir

Closely related to the addiction memoir is the rock star memoir. There’s Life, by the amazingly-not-dead-given-the-drugs-he’s-taken Keith Richards; the surprise hit Does the Noise in My Head Bother You by Steven Tyler,  and of course Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace.

The one we love and the one that really got the ball rolling by giving the rock memoir a gravitas we might have missed is Patti Smith’s Just Kids. And, while not a rock star but a star nonetheless, there is the utterly compelling Open by Andre Agassi.

The Crazy Childhood Memoir

People who grew up where most of us didn’t have great stories to tell. Check out The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (growing up in extreme poverty, seeing your mom dumpster-diving as you’re driving by in a cab on 5th Avenue) or Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, both by Alexandra Fuller, stories of growing up with eccentric parents in tumultuous Africa.

The Crazy Memoir

Madness makes many a plot thicken. Prozac Nation was among the first to be forthright about being a little off; or maybe it was Girl, Interrupted.

The nerd in a cool world memoir

While David Sedaris’ hilarious books could fall into a number of these categories, at the end of the day he’s a fish out of water and so are the rest of the writers in these examples. Try absolutely anything by Sedaris for a good laugh and a good read, but maybe begin with Me Talk Pretty One Day. Then there is Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess and her wonderful Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, or Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

The realign, readjust, rediscover memoir

Maybe the short form is “middle age crazy” – the memoir about realizing that your life is living you and it’s time to get it back on track. The triple whammy of this genre includes the mega hit Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; Wild by Cheryl Strayed, also known and loved as Dear Sugar, and Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood by Melissa Hart.


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