A Slice of Orange


‘The Orphans of Berlin’ is now on NetGalley by Jina Bacarr

October 11, 2022 by in category Jina’s Book Chat, Writing tagged as , , , ,

It’s always exciting when a new story you’ve labored over for months… and months finally makes its debut… like a Broadway show opening out of town.

Philadelphia has had its share of out-of-town openings, so it’s only fitting THE ORPHANS OF BERLIN with my Philly debutante heroine had its opening this weekend on NetGalley.

To celebrate, I pulled out memorabilia from Berlin… my red cloche hat and red leather driving gloves… Berlin postcards.

And three of my favorite dolls that I carried around in a special pink trunk when I was a kid every time we moved.

My childhood ‘posse’.

Doll friends I could hang with since I was always the new kid in school (I went to 15). I’d eventually make friends, but these 3 ‘sisters’ were always there for me as they are today when I introduce you to the three Landau Sisters during WW2, Jewish girls in danger when the Nazis come to power…

Rachel, Leah, and Tovah.

Through a twist of fate, their fate is changed forever by Kay Alexander, a candy heiress with a dark secret that haunts her. Kay has no idea what’s in store for her when she visits Berlin in 1937… once she meets the Landau family, she’ll do anything to help them survive.

I spent part of a summer in Berlin years ago, visiting the city’s museums and shopping on the Ku’Damm, but the most memorable part was visiting East Berlin before the wall came down. I remember what the hotel clerk told me when I asked him for directions to Checkpoint Charlie. ‘They’ve forgotten how to smile,’ he said. I didn’t understand then what he meant until I was lost in that world of gray between East and West like a lost shadow.

During WW2, the Landau Sisters also forget how to smile as their freedoms are slowly taken from them because they are Jewish. In The Orphans of Berlin, you’ll meet Rachel and watch her grow up during the 1930s until the day her parents make the hardest decision a family should never have to make.

To send her and her sisters away… so they may live.

But how? Will they survive? Where will they go? Find out in THE ORPHANS OF BERLIN.


If you’re a book reviewer and you’d like to request an ARC here’s the NetGalley info:


UK http://netgal.ly/JraDUM

US https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/270880



UK https://amzn.to/3Qjp5mB

US https://amzn.to/3TMKZlf

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How to Plan a Writers Retreat by Kitty Bucholtz

October 9, 2022 by in category Writing

Yesterday, I was so happy to host another in-person and Zoom writers retreat at my home. I’ve been to lots and hosted several over the last few decades, and I just love all the creative energy driving people to get more done faster in a fairly stress-free environment.

In case you want to host one but don’t know where to start, this is what I did.

  • Look over my home and guesstimate how many people could comfortably work on laptops for a day, and how many people could comfortably eat together
  • Make a list of local friends who might be interested and decide if I wanted to open it up to non-locals via Zoom (or any of the other video services)
  • Contact friends individually and add the interested ones to a group chat (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)
  • After double-checking my calendar, offer three dates to the group and ask which ones work, choose the one that works best
  • Decide if I wanted to prepare the food myself, or if we’d do a potluck; make sure everyone posted allergies, then create a menu; decide if I wanted to take on the cost or distribute it evenly
  • Send reminder messages a few weeks before and create a schedule so everyone knows what to expect and we don’t accidentally talk most of the day
  • Send final reminders in the few days before with a list of things to bring: laptop, cords, chargers, extension cords (if I don’t have enough), food/snacks/drinks if applicable, sticky notes, pens, etc.
  • Do a little housecleaning the day before, and set the coffee on about ten minutes before the arrivals
  • Have some encouraging words ready, remind people of the schedule and where to find drinks and snacks, open Zoom if applicable, and start on time
  • Ask everyone what they accomplished at the end of the retreat and celebrate everyone’s successes!

For me, the key to success was to make sure I created an atmosphere where I, too, would get a lot of writing done. That meant that I picked my writing friends carefully and didn’t have too big a group. (We found that 4-6 additional people besides me and John fit comfortably in our apartment.) After we did this successfully once, THEN I asked if they wanted to do it again.

When first asking the group about a date, I found it was better to limit the date choices to a few I knew would work for me rather than to look at the entire calendar and ask everyone to pick one date that they could all commit to. (I made that mistake first!)

I also made sure that my husband John and I only committed to the amount of hospitality we wanted to provide. In our case, John loves to cook and he chose to make both breakfast and lunch! But he chose meals that were easy for him to prepare and easy to clean up after. (If you’re wondering, yesterday we had peanut butter chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and his amazing grilled cheese with sweet potato soup for lunch!) For the first two retreats, yesterday and this past July, we decided to buy all the groceries and prepare all the food and ask everyone to chip in a set amount that was approximately equal to what we’d spent. Next time, we’ll do a potluck because now all my different friends know each other and everyone wants to contribute and work together.

We have a “great room” rather than separate areas for kitchen, dining room, and living room, so everyone was able to spread out over that whole area, and I connected my laptop to the TV so everyone could see our Zoom friends and they could see us. John and I worked in our offices, giving the others more room and allowing us to work in a setup we already enjoyed. Both times we started about ten minutes late because we were all happily talking over pancakes for an hour. Haha! But some friendly nudges every time it was time to start again got everyone back to their computers and we completed all the sprints close to the times on the schedule. (I set an alarm on my phone for each sprint.)

My schedule, in case it’s helpful as you’re planning your day, was:
9-10am Breakfast
10-10:30 Sprint 1, shorter to give people time to get back in the writing mindset
15-minute breaks between them to stretch, etc. and to share accomplishments
10:45-11:30 Sprint 2
11:45-12:30 Sprint 3
12:45-1:45 Lunch
1:45-2:45 Brainstorming, plotstorming, etc. (we used part of this time to do a “How to Create a TikTok Video”, and everyone who wanted to created an account and followed each other)
2:45-3:30 Sprint 4
3:45-4:30 Sprint 5
4:45-5:30 Sprint 6, getting tired, asked people if they want to do one more or stop, they always continue
5:45-6:30 Sprint 7 — Done!
6:30 – Ask each person what they accomplished for the day, CELEBRATE! Then some people have to leave, ask others if they want to order pizza, collapse on the couch and decompress, eventually everyone leaves, YOU finally collapse and tell yourself you’ll clean up the kitchen tomorrow 🙂

My little group works so well together that we decided to do this quarterly, so our next one will be in January. For friends outside my time zone who want to sprint via Zoom, I tell them the time and they decide when they want to arrive and leave. One person was going to write from when she woke up until we finished, about noon her time. Another is a night owl, so she wrote with us the entire time — 3am until almost noon her time! A few of us will probably get together at my place a couple Saturdays in November now that we know this will work — but for that we’ll get pizza or sandwiches or takeout so no one is cooking and we can write even more.

I hope this was helpful as you consider what you could do to create a writers retreat. Remember that one of the main points is that YOU also get a lot of writing done! Enjoy!

Writers retreat over breakfast
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October Featured Author: Denise M. Colby

October 7, 2022 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, and engage whether it’s in her blog, social media, magazine articles, or devotions. With over 20+ years’ experience in marketing, she enjoys using her skills to help other authors.

Denise Colby |The Writing Journey

She treasures the written word and the messages that can be conveyed when certain words are strung together. An avid journal writer, she usually can be found with a pen and notepad whenever she’s reading God’s word. Denise is writing her first novel, a Christian Historical Romance and can be found at www.denisemcolby.com

She’s a member of RWA, OCC/RWA, Faith, Hope & Love Chapter of RWA, ACFW (where she is a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest Historical Romance Category), OC Chapter of ACFW, and SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference.

In addition to Denise’s column The Writing Journey on A Slice of Orange, you can read some of her magazine article here.

 Denise M. Colby’s Books

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What’s Your Heat Level?

October 5, 2022 by in category Writing

Happy October. I’ve got a question for you. What’s your heat level? Recently, I was asked a similar question about my books and I have to admit I was a little off base on a few of them.

A few posts back, I mentioned I had hired a PA. She’s been extremely helpful. In the beginning of our working arrangement, she asked me about the heat level on one of my books. I have to admit I was at a loss. What I thought and the reality were completely different.

In the past, when someone asked me that question I would refer to my books as more sensual sometimes a little steamy. However, there was a book my PA was setting up a swap for and I wasn’t quite sure of the heat level. She sent me a heat level chart and I was a little surprised where some of my books landed on the chart.

Talk about an eye opener…this little chart revealed a truth I didn’t really want to know, the majority of my books are not just Steamy, they’re also Sexy. Sometimes very Sexy. However, I have a book that unbeknownst to me, lands in the gray space between Sexy/Steamy and Erotic. I really didn’t want to admit this so I asked my godsister who had read an ARC for the book and she agreed it fell into the gray zone.

The heat level of some of my books is the reason I had to hire a new editor. In my defense, not all of my books fall into the Sexy/Steamy category. I have some that are Wholesome/Clean and Sweet. Those are either novellas, prequels or series starters.

Here’s how I write some of my series. I loop you in with a Sweet book and as the series progresses the stories get steamier. It’s like a slow build up. I’ve hinted at the sensuality so by the time the reader gets to book three or the end of book two [if it’s a big book], they are begging for the characters to go further.

Now I will admit, sometimes I don’t see the intense heat some of my readers see. I’ve had reviews that were a little shocking but that’s a matter of opinion. I had one review that said they couldn’t make it past chapter four. She went so far as to call it soft porn. I may write a little steamy, but I don’t write porn. No offense to those that write and read porn. Back to this review, I felt sorry for her, because she missed out on a great book. I also had a review praise me for the sexy love scenes. That one makes up for the other review. When it comes to heat levels it’s a little subjective. What one person finds Sexy/Steamy someone else considers Sensual/Medium Heat.

I have one book to this day I really don’t know how Amazon managed to class it as Erotic Poetry. My mother and I have had several conversations about it, however she agrees with Amazon. She said it’s the implied tone. Just last week, my book LOVE NOTES, was the #1 free book in three categories…Love & Erotic Poetry, Poetry About Love and my personal favorite category…One-Hour Parenting & Relationships Short Reads on Amazon.

I can understand Poetry About Love and I’ll even acquiesce to Love & Erotic Poetry. However, I’m flabbergasted at One-Hour Parenting & Relationships Short Reads. My mother told me to stop complaining, because the book gets me noticed. She’s right. I’m also often trading top spots in the Love & Erotic category with The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. So I guess I’m in great author company.

Back to my original question…what’s your heat level? Check the chart below and see where your books land.


Chats kisses, holding hands, and hugging. No love scenes – not even closed door. Just lots of emotion

! !
Sex is implied. Closed door/morning after for intercourse. Any sexual activity would be vague on detail, heavy on emotion

Sensual/Medium Heat
! ! !
Sexual chemistry is heating up. Love scenes on page and described but still lighter on detail with strong emotional component.

! ! ! !
Sex is man component of the plot and is on-page and explicit. Swearing/dirty talk is frequent. Light kink/user-friendly sex toys might make an appropriate appearance. HEA.

Erotic Romance
! ! ! ! !
LOTS of sex, graphic, detailed, often kinky, non-conventional, and boundary-pushing. Sex is a big part of story line but still a HEA.

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New Release: Dark Wine at Halloween

October 4, 2022 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Spotlight tagged as , , , ,

Dark Wine at Halloween releases today, October 4th.

Dark Wine at Halloween

A Hill Vampire Novel Book 8

Jenna Barwin

Buy from Amazon

After Henry and Cerissa discover a two-day-old vampire in the last place they expect to find one—a Halloween funhouse—they have no choice but to hand him over to the town council who will decide whether he lives or dies.

At almost eighteen, the youth didn’t ask to be turned and hates being a vampire. As heart-wrenching as his situation is, the Hill can’t endlessly accept new residents.

Placed under house arrest until his fate is decided, the teen bites Cerissa while seeking her help to escape the community’s walls, and Henry’s jealousy flares. Then an ex-girlfriend of Henry’s suddenly appears in town, and Cerissa fights against her own green-eyed monster.

With dead bodies stacking up in a neighboring city, Henry and Cerissa must pull together to help the teen accept his situation and recover his memory, so they can identify and stop the crazed vampire who turned the teen—before he or she kills another mortal.

If they don’t, the killer’s actions might reveal to mortal police the wicked truth: vampires really do exist

P.S.: While you can read Halloween as a stand-alone mystery, I want you to have the best reading experience possible, so dive into Dark Wine at Midnight first—book one in the Hill Vampire series—before reading this one. You won’t regret it.~Jenna

The Hill Vampire Series


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


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Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!
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