Review of “Hardened Hearts”


I finished this collection the day after Valentine’s Day, which was kind of perfect.  These are not your typical love stories, although “love” is the general theme connecting them.  I was very impressed with each writer, and I didn’t feel like there was a weak story in the bunch.  The writing is solid.  The range of genres in the collection is cool, too.  Most of these stories are so uniquely weird in their own way, and yet how the stories are organized makes them cohesive, like they naturally belong in the same collection.

A few of my favorites were “Heirloom” , “Dog Tired”, “The Heart of the Orchard,” and “Matchmaker.” Honestly, I liked something about almost every single story.  Despite many being short, they packed emotional punches. The immediate weirdness of many drew me in and held my attention.

If you like your love stories a little on the dark side, definitely check out this collection.

4.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

#AuThorsday with Barbara Chioffi

51ptOb6M2oL._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Barbara Chioffi, romance/horror author of Angel Mine, Lycan Heart, and Trickery.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I’m all about romance, except for Trickery.  The horror trilogy indulged my childhood love of horror comics.

Is your horror writing targeted towards a younger audience, then?  Who would you say is your target audience?

Target audience, I’d say 18+ due to the sexy parts, although in my last work, Dark Lycan, the sex was toned down a bit.

What are you working on currently?

Two novellas for anthologies, three poems, and the next in my Mystic Hearts series.

That’s quite a bit all at once!  What is your favorite thing to work on and why?

Paranormal romance will always be my favored genre, due to the many possibilities, the twists and turns it can take.  Horror is my second choice, thanks to Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and earlier, those horror comics I mentioned.  I discovered them when I was ten while going to the corner grocery for my grandmother.  If my memory is correct, they were ten cents.  She would always ‘tip’ me for making the short trips.  My treasured stash of those illustrated ‘comics’ grew with those runs to the store.  Several years later, the government decided they were too explicit for young minds, and they banned them.  My stash disappeared over the years.  I’d love to have them now.

That’s a great story.  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Be true to yourself, be honest, and play nice with others.  That’s it.

Have there been times in your writing life when you’ve felt like you were changing your writing for others (i.e. NOT being true to yourself)?  Why do you think some authors struggle with this?

I write what I love.  Writing to please an audience would betray one’s voice.  If you can’t embrace your story, there’s no point.  There is a tendency to follow the current trend for some, reaching for success, and I wish all those the best of luck.

Who inspires you to write?

My mother…people I’ve known and admired…dreams

Can you give an example of a dream that’s inspired a story?

Since childhood, I’ve dreamed of wolves, first as vicious attackers, and later, in college, as a date at the door, complete with suit, hat, flowers, and candy.  In recent years, a large, white wolf appeared in our yard, traveling through the adjacent wetlands on his journey.  They’ve appeared in dreams lately, in the form of comforting messengers.

Interesting that wolves have been so recurring over the years.  In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

Justin and Jared, twin sons of Robert Flannery from my lycan stories, would be Angel Macho, a male model and software engineer.

Julia, from Lycan Heart, would be Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries, and Tara, from Dark Lycan, would be Emma Stone.

Do you picture different actors when you’re writing these characters?  Or do those actors just happen to fit best with your idea of that character in your head?

I write my story with certain features in mind… hair, eyes, build, etc.  As the character develops, his/her personality takes shape, along with talents and quirks.  After these are in place, then I look for one to fit what’s been created.  It’s often difficult to find an actor or picture with the ‘look’ I want.  For instance, Julia is a sweet, young woman and Tara has a little bit of fire.

Thanks, Barbara, for sharing!

51tMi4DND+L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_WHERE TO FIND Barbara Chioffi: 
Goodreads:  Barbara
Amazon Page:  Barbara Chioffi
Facebook:  Barb’s Angel Mine
Twitter:  @starlite42

My Last Valentine’s Day as a Single Person (Knock on Wood)

FullSizeRender (20)A year ago today, I was in Key West with my boyfriend.  By mid evening, in a Key-West-inspired stupor, I mentioned that he didn’t have to do anything for Valentine’s Day for the next 3 years because I appreciated the trip so much.  Conveniently for him, this is one of the things I’ve said that he actually remembers.

So here we are a year later, at home, spending Valentine’s Day pretty much the same way we spend every Sunday… Me working in pajamas; him on the bike trainer.  We’ll probably lounge around and relax all day, maybe feign some work on wedding planning.  Later we’ll attempt to cook a decent meal.  We ARE adding the romantic event of changing my car battery at some point, but I expect that to be the highlight of the day.

And all of the above is exactly what I want.  Nothing about this relationship has been over-the-top mushy.  We’re a little goofy.  And it works.

As he wrote for our wedding website:

We first met at a local brewery in Grand Rapids, all thanks to a dare.  After that came a year’s worth of movies, board games, hiking adventures, and a few trips to Florida.  Finally on a warm November day the question was popped, and in true Sunny and Pat fashion one of us didn’t know that the other was proposing.  While far from the storybook romance, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Now, here’s the thing:  I was a perfectly happy single person.  Granted, a lot of this happiness was because it was a better reaction than horror to the options involved in my love life.  But I really was just fine on my own.  I’ve always thought that it’s important to be a complete, self-fulfilled, functioning person on your own without trying to make some other person make your life “whole.”  Granted, maybe this made me a little picky when it came to choosing anyone to share my life with.  But I think it’s better to be alone rather than being with someone just because you feel you HAVE to be with someone.

I’m marrying Pat because he was finally someone who brought more to my life than I’d ever have had on my own.  I don’t know if I believe in “The One” because that makes it sound like fate has nothing better to do than limit our love lives to only 1 option.  But, I know he is THE person I want to share my life with.  He’s unpredictable and possibly more quirky than I am, and the fact that I’m constantly on my toes makes for a fun life.  The fact that our “Brangelina” name is “Punny” is all too appropriate, though I try not to focus on the fact that he and my father have the same sense of humor.  He can stand up to me, which (let’s be honest) is something I needed in a mate.  Best of all, I loved my life before, and Pat fits INTO it without making me feel like I’m settling or changing myself.

I’m so glad I waited until my life was full, THEN accepted the perfect person for me. If Pat hadn’t come along, I’d still be happily single.  But he’s the one person who makes me even happier together.  I’m glad I took that dare of joining, and I’m glad he  responded to my not-taking-this-seriously message of “The Sting!” in acknowledgment of his favorite listed movie.  A year from now, if all goes as planned, I’ll be his wife, and that’s pretty great to think about as I sit here in pajamas finishing work on Valentine’s Day.

#AuThorsday with Karen Mossman

10409103_1581453055461368_5958199906931279768_nToday I’d like to welcome Karen Mossman, romance author of Star Struck and also short stories. 

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

Love.  Passion.  Secrets.

That does indeed quickly get the point across.  What drew you to write about these themes? 

It was the era that drew me initially and the short story evolved as I wrote it.  I’d read many romance stories since I wrote it and starting learning from the way people wrote.  I found I could do passion, and secrets are great to write about.  They can be anything and as people we are naturally curious.

What are you working on currently?

A love story set in the 1970s, but it is full of dark secrets and frustration.

Are you drawn to love stories set with a darker spin, then?  What are some similar stories that inspire you?

I like love stories, but it must always have something more like an element of suspense, although not necessarily dark.  Danielle Steele inspired me because she had great heroines, a good love story, and there was always some tragedy in the past.

What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

My two main characters are in a joiner’s workshop.  He is showing her where he works and they have come down on a Saturday when the place is empty.

Draw me? I didn’t expect that. Was I disappointed? Did I think he was going to make mad passionate love to me right there on that table top?

I managed to giggle and stood on the chair, then onto the table and lay down feeling a bit silly. I let him manoeuvre me into position and felt even sillier.

“Relax Kerry.”

“Do you know how hard this table is?”

He pulled out a chair and sat down a little way from the table. Producing a sketchpad from somewhere, he began to draw.

“Well, this is nice,” I said, feeling the back of my head on the edge of the table as I peered at the ceiling and my hair hung down towards the floor.

“You’ve no idea,” he said, glancing up at me and then down to the sketchpad as his pencil moving quickly.

“Hmm, I wonder what’s for tea tonight. Wood chips? Or wardrobe sausage?” I pondered.

“Keep still.”

“I am still; in fact I’m so still you can hardly tell I’m breathing.”

“Your mouth is moving.”

“Can you draw an open mouth?” I puckered it.

“Not in the way you mean, shut up a minute.”

I mentally started counting to 60 and then said, “My back is aching.”

“Okay,” he said, standing up and snapping the pad closed. “Finished.”

“Can I see it?”

“No, you can’t, I need to finish it first.”

“I thought you just said you’d finished.”

“Hmm,” I loved the rumble sound his voice made. “These are just the bare bones,” he said with a grin, “I’ve to fill it in yet.”

“God!” I huffed, feigning annoyance. “I’ve been called many things, but bare bones!”

He swatted my bum with his hand. “You’ll see it, eventually.”

We were laughing as we made our way back outside to his bike. Is this too soon to fall it love? Because I was falling right over!

Your dialogue flows very naturally.  I quickly feel like I have an idea about who these characters are as people.  And there’s a nice infused bit of humor.  Do you use a lot of dialogue in your writing to move things along, or do you use more description?

Oh, definitely dialogue.  I like having the characters tell it, rather than me describe it.  People tend to be humorous when they speak and I especially wanted it in this story to lift the dark side of it.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

Lol!  By walking away and leaving it.  I then spend the time before I go to sleep thinking about it.  I usually come up with the answer and get back to it the next day.

That seems like a good  system you’ve worked out.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

I have in this book.  I was a teenager in the 70s and I did have a biker boyfriend who was a joiner.  He never drew me, but I do remember visiting his workshop on a Saturday when nobody worked at the weekend.

Wow, that’s very specific!  So how much of Kerry is Karen (you)?

lol – none at all.  Everything that happened to her was not my experience, just my imagination.  But as I was a teenager in the 70s, I once lived in the area that Kerry does.  I wanted to bring some realism to the story.  All the places are real and for those readers of that era, they will pick up on things that were around at that time, fashion, music, local shops, food and drink, etc.  As for other readers, they may like to immerse themselves in that decade.

Thank you, Karen, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND Karen Mossman:
Goodreads:  Karen Mossman
Amazon Page:  Karen Mossman
Facebook:  Karen Mossman – author, writer
Twitter:  @KarenJMoss

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: