Sunday, July 24, 2016

Guest Post with author Robert Eggleton

Why does it Matter: the Prevention of Child Maltreatment? One Author’s View by Robert Eggleton

After over forty years in the field of child advocacy, I probably would have put off my dream of becoming an author even longer, maybe forever, if I didn’t feel that something more needed to be done to help maltreated children.

Did you realize that the United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations in protecting kids – losing on an average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect/ I bet that few of us would have suspected this embarrassing standing.

Another embarrassment for the greatest country to have ever existed, twenty-six years ago, 190 members of United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the U.S., along with Somalia, still hasn’t joined by signing it. Weird, huh?

Maybe I’m just a retired children’s psychotherapist from an impoverished state, but, personally, I think that these realities are too embarrassing to tolerate. About a year ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions. But, I couldn’t leave the heart-felt cause of children’s rights. Here’s why and how I became an author:

One day at work in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.

This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held in since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.

Writing came easy, but finding a publisher and promotions has been difficult. At one point I needed more to sustain my drive. My wife and I talked it over. That’s when the idea of donating author proceeds to the prevention of child abuse became a commitment that has sustained my discouragement to this day. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel.

At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished state in the U.S. with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. I worked there in the early 1980s and stand behind the agency.

Since the novel was published, five book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited having read the story. They wrote glowing book review, one of whom publicly disclosed that she had been a rape survivor as part of her review , and one reviewer also promoted Rarity from the Hollow on a radio show broadcast from the U.K.

Other glowing book reviews, and a few not so positive, started rolling in. Privately, I reacted. Since Rarity from the Hollow is a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment, and many abused kids have demonstrated resilience that has amazed me, I’ve used the message in the story to enhance my own resilience as an author in a very tough marketplace.

While there is only one violent scene in the novel, the third, it’s intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical and the novel won a Gold Medal from Awesome Indies as a “…hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – a science fiction comedy: “…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.”

Rarity from the Hollow recently won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….”

More recently, a book reviewer from Bulgaria named Rarity from the Hollow as one of the five best reads of 2015. This finding strengthened my resolve.

I promote the novel on Facebook: If you use that popular site, you may know that it has anniversary posts that pop up as reminders of one’s life. The other day marked my one year of devoting mine to increasing awareness of child maltreatment through a satiric and comical science fiction adventure: “ the most enjoyable science fiction novel that I have read in several years….” This review, written by a retired Editor of Reader’s Digest, was the beginning of what proved to be a longer than expected journey into the crazy world of books and their promotion:

“…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I'd recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.”

Maybe the above book review excerpt refers as much to me as an author as to my debut novel. I might be a lunatic, but I will never give up on my dream that much more could be done to prevent child maltreatment.

About the author:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next -- never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children's psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Author Contacts: website - goodreads - Facebook - Lacy Dawn Adventures Facebook

About Rarity from the Hollow:

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn't great. But Lacy has one advantage -- she's been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It's up to her to save the Universe.

To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. She doesn't mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.

Will Lacy Dawn's predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children's story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Available now, the original, uncut version. Coming soon: the 2nd Edition!

Purchase links: Amazon (US) - Amazon (UK) - Doghorn Publishing


From chapter 13, Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My Fiancé:

…..…Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn's name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.

I hear her voice. Why won't she answer me?

“Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.

Nobody responded. The trees weren't supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.

I will always love you guys.

Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.

Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front.

Jenny looked to the left of the path.

There ain't no cave Roundabend, but there it is.

She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face. Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn't exit and into a blue light that did.

“All right, you mother f**ker!”

“Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you're supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story)."

DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner. Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.

"Grrrrr," emanated from Jenny. It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn's dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house. It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate. No one moved. The spaceship’s door slid shut.

“Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”

“You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.

Stay between them.

“Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I'm old enough -- like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend -- what you call it -- my fiancé.”

“You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.

“MOM! Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”

Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.

He ain't got no private parts, not even a little bump.

“DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”

Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.

“Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”

I will need much more training if I'm ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.

“Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”

Jenny's left eye twitched.

DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…

…(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There're a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain't complained since the shots started -- not even with an upset stomach.”

"He's a doctor?" Jenny asked.

“What's your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know. You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that's different -- even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”

“Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.


Mommy's right. Maybe I need a different argument.

A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.

"What's that?" Jenny asked.

She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.

“But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.

“Mommy, I'm so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn't talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he'd be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain't had no chance to talk. All I know is that he's home and I'm sooooo happy.”

“Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….

It's unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that's a good sign. Maybe she's right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They've been together for a while and I ain't seen a mark on her. That's unusual too. He ain't got no private parts and that's another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I'd better play it smart. I don't want to lose my baby.

“What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.

“I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”

“My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition -- the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said.

They both glared at him.

"Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.

“Okay, Mommy.”

“I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her.

“I love you too,” DotCom said.

Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile -- at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.

Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up. My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”

Continue Reading...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Q&A with author Katie Ruggle - Giveaway

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Until last year, when I moved to Minnesota to be close to my elderly parents, I lived in an off-grid house in the Colorado Rockies. Despite…ah, unusual neighbors and temperamental generators and winters that stretched from October to June, I loved it there. It fit well with my favorite things to do—horseback riding, target shooting, SCUBA diving…okay, maybe not so much on that last one, although I did get certified in cold-water rescue. While taking law-enforcement classes, I worked on a police crime-scene team. That turned me into a bit of a forensics nerd, as you can probably tell from my books. Currently, I’m getting up very, very early to work at a bakery, and I live in a 150-year-old farmhouse with my dogs, cats and chickens.

Q ~ If you were stuck in a dingy floating in the middle of the ocean, who and what would you want with you and why?
As far as the “what” goes, I would want paddles (or, you know, an outboard motor), sunscreen, a lot of bottled water and a radio (or cell phone—I’m not picky) with reception. And the “who”? I’d pick a strong paddler with a good sense of direction. Any other positive qualities in my dingy-mate would be a bonus.

Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors in general? How do you think that Canadian authors stand in the grand scheme of things?
I believe that many people (especially voracious readers, like me) view authors with a bit of awe. After all, these are the creators of our favorite worlds, the ones who allow us to escape to amazing places. Despite my new home being in a state bordering Canada (“Hi, Neighbors!”), I’m probably not the best one to ask regard where Canadian authors stand (although I do love Kelley Armstrong). I don’t really lean toward a specific country or area when choosing books; my favorite authors are spread all over the world.

Q ~ What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? 
When you arise in the morning, give thanks
For the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself.
--Tecumseh, Shawnee Warrior and Statesman

I’m all about gratitude and counting my blessings. It helps me to keep things in perspective.

Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?
I tend to be a bit fickle in my book choices. One day, I’ll be reading a young-adult book, and the next an urban fantasy. If it’s a good story, I’ll read it, regardless of genre. That said, I’m usually up for romantic suspense (of course), YA/NA (my maturity level stalled out a long time ago), urban fantasy, mystery, nonfiction (especially about alternative energy systems or horses), and contemporary romance. My favorite to write is definitely romantic suspense—I love the potential for tension!

Q ~ Do you have a favourite author? Do they influence your writing?
I have so, so many favorites! Right now, I’m loving Karen Lynch, Donna Augustine and Helen Harper. My bookshelves are filled with my “comfort reads,” books that I’ve read and reread many times. It’s an odd assortment, ranging from Deerskin by Robin McKinley to The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White to On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman to Phase by E.C. Newman to Sheltered by Charlotte Stein to Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series to The Self-Sufficient Life by John Seymour. In very different ways, each one has earned its place among my favorites. I can’t see the direct influence of any one author, but all the books I’ve read over the years have molded me into the writer I am now.

Q ~ Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?
They aren’t really new-new, but they’re new-to-me authors: Tracey Ward, L.H. Cosway, E.E. Holmes and Danielle L. Jensen. Why? I just like their stories.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?
I’ve always thought, “I want to be a writer someday.” A few years ago, it occurred to me that, in order to fulfill that dream, I needed to actually write something (kind of a duh moment for me). So I started writing. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure out that connection.

Q ~ What’s the best thing that’s happened since you began writing? The worst?
The best thing is working with Sourcebooks. Everyone there is behind my books a hundred percent, and it is an incredible feeling to receive that much support. My editor has been especially amazing, managing to act as editor, cheerleader, teacher, counselor and life coach.

Worst…hmm. That’s probably my current schedule. I’m working the 1am to 9am (or 10am or 11am if the bread is not cooperating) shift at a bakery. When I get home, I take the dogs for a run and then settle in to write or edit or do whatever else needs doing in author-land. At 5pm (or 6pm or 7pm), I head to bed. As much as I like baking for the masses, my dream is to write full-time eventually. Until then, I grab sleep when I can get it.

Q ~ What are your biggest influences in life? Who are your biggest supporters?
The answer to both questions is my amazing family: my parents, horde of sisters and little brother.

Q ~ What are your five favourite verbs to use during a love scene?
I don’t really have favorite words to use during love scenes. In fact, I try to avoid reusing words, although sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it until one of my editors mentions that I’ve used the word “definitely” 187 times during the past three paragraphs, and would I consider changing a few? My answer: Definitely.

Q ~ Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release?
Gone Too Deep features my favorite of my heroes (I know, I know—I’m not supposed to have favorites (but I do)): George. He’s the epitome of the strong, silent type, and he kept me on my author toes while I was writing his and Ellie’s story. I really had to work on showing Ellie (and readers) how he felt, rather than just telling, because the man is a miser with his words.

Ellie Price, a city girl from the top of her styled head to her stiletto heels, needs to find her estranged, mentally ill father before he’s lost in the snowy and vast expanse of the Rocky Mountains. Since she can’t do it alone, she hires Search and Rescue volunteer and wilderness expert, George Holloway, to be her guide. Ellie never expected she’d fall for her silent-but-sexy mountain man, but sparks fly in their two-person tent. Natural dangers aren’t the only ones stalking Ellie and George. Someone is trying to kill her father, and they won’t hesitate to use Ellie to get to him.

I won’t give anything away, but be ready for a bang of an ending.

Q ~ Do you prefer to write in a small town or big city setting? Why?
I’m definitely (there’s that word again!) a fan of setting my stories in small towns. I love the claustrophobic yet secure feel of living in a tiny community, and it’s fun to have reoccurring quirky characters.

Q ~ Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a total Pantser, which is strange, because I plan every other detail of my life. I love lists. If I try to outline my stories, though, my writing stalls horribly, and I start banging my head against my desk (or kitchen table, where I do most of my writing).

Q ~ Of the works you’ve written, which is your favourite? Is there also a character that holds a special place in your heart?
Although I like all four of the Search and Rescue books, I must admit that my absolute favorite character is George. Why? Because he’s so…George. You’ll see what I mean in Gone Too Deep.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?
I just finished the first book in my new Rocky Mountain K9 series. There are women on the run, hot cops, brave dogs, lots of explosions—what more could you want?

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
Finish the first draft of your book/short story/essay/poem. Get all the words down, even if you’re worried that they might be terrible. Once you have the raw material in front of you, then you can edit it. The hardest part, I think, is getting that first draft done. It’s scary, because it’s perfect in your head, and, if no one can see it, then no one can tell you it sucks. Be brave, though, and write your story.

Title:  Gone Too Deep
Series:  Search and Rescue #3
Author:  Katie Ruggle
Publication Date:   August 2nd 2016 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Length:  448pgs
Genre:  romantic suspense
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★★
Book Links: my reviewGoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play

Back Cover Blurb:

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He's the best survival expert Search and Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There's just one problem-Ellie's everything George isn't. She's a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate,small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe.

With a killer on the loose, he may have no choice.

Ellie's determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey...

And now, exclusive to Pure Jonel followers,
enter to win a copy of Hold Your Breath, the 1st novel in Katie Ruggle`s Rocky Mountain Rescue series.
Contest is open ti residents of Canada & the US only, where applicable by law. 
Entries close at 11:59pm July 27/16. 
Winners will be drawn Jul 28/16. 
Winners will be notified via email to the email provided to the giveaway and will have 72h to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.

Continue Reading...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Puppy Love for the Veterinarian and Q&A with author Amy Woods

What’s your favorite part about writing in Texas?
I grew up, and still live, in Austin, a place with a healthy writing community and many events for writers at all levels. From the Texas Book Festival to Writer’s League of Texas classes, to the local chapter of RWA, I feel like I’ve always had plenty of publishing resources available at my fingertips. Not to mention that Texas, and the south as a whole, is full of interesting characters. I’m never short of inspiration!

List two books you’ve read more than three times.
-Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
-Starting Out in the Evening, by Brian Morton 

Is anything in your new release based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
While I never actively try to base my books on real life, I think little parts of my experience do sometimes work their way into my stories. For example, though the hero, Ethan Singh, is not based on anyone from my life, he does share a heritage with someone I knew growing up. My best friend in high school was from India, and I absolutely fell in love with her family and their culture. I’ve always wanted to write about an Indian-American character, and Ethan became that person. 

How much research goes into your books?
The amount of research required varies with each book. Actually, one of my favorite parts of the writing process is researching interesting jobs for my characters. I’ve had a blast populating my little fictional town of Peach Leaf, Texas with: an elementary school principal, an astronomer, a pioneer museum worker, an art therapist, and a baker, among others. Because I am an absolute lover of animals, studying the basics of clinical veterinary medicine and polar bears for Ethan Singh’s job as a veterinarian in my latest book was immensely rewarding.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from readers fairly often, and it’s always wonderful to get an email from someone who’s taken time out of his or her busy life to dip into one of my books. I’m happy to say I’ve received only kind words from readers so far (*knock on wood*). The very best compliment I’ve gotten is that my book was hard to put down, and the reader stayed up late to finish it; there are no sweeter words for a writer. I encourage anyone who enjoys a book not to hesitate to contact that writer or to leave a review—it’s such a privilege to discover that someone has taken joy in your story.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading is my absolute favorite thing to do when I’m not writing (and, let’s be honest, sometimes when I’m supposed to be writing!). I especially love Regency historical romance. My husband and I have a rescue dog, Maggie, and playing with her and taking her for long walks is a favorite activity. We just moved to a busy new neighborhood, so we have lots of new places to explore together. And when I’m not reading or spending time with Maggie, my husband and I absolutely love going to the movies. There is a dine-in cinema within walking distance of our condo; they have great food and all the movies we could possibly want. I will be spending a lot of time there this summer!
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try my best to keep somewhat normal work hours when I’m drafting a book, though occasionally life does get in the way. The beauty and challenge of being a work-from-home writer is that I get to choose my schedule, and it’s great most of the time to be able to set my own hours; however, it also means that I have no boss to make sure I stay on task. Keeping a disciplined writing practice is not always easy, but I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. Except maybe professional puppy petter—anyone know of any openings? :)
Do you have a favorite book cover from your series?
Harlequin has done a fabulous job with the books in my Peach Leaf, Texas series, and I’ve been super pleased with all of them. It’s always so much fun to get that email saying my cover is ready. Having said that, the cover for Puppy Love for the Veterinarian has won my heart. The designers captured June and Ethan so beautifully—I couldn’t have asked for more perfect models for my hero and heroine—and the puppies are border collies, like in the book. You can see the delight on the models’ faces as they hold the furry babies, and it’s just delightful to look at! I challenge you to take a peek and not smile.
How do you decide on the setting of your book?
All of my books for Harlequin are set in fictional Peach Leaf, Texas. Because readers love series, because Texas is a favorite among readers of small-town contemporary romance, and because I grew up in this state and know it well, I’ve opted to stay in that setting for the time being. In the future, I’d also love to write books set in some of the places I’ve traveled and enjoyed—particularly Estes Park, Colorado, and San Diego, California.
What is your favorite summer read?
Texas is so hot in the summer that it’s the perfect time of year to stay inside (with the air conditioning on, of course!) and curl up with a good book and a tall glass of iced sweet tea. For me, summer books are all about escape from everyday life. I mentioned before that I love Regency romance—give me anything by Mary Balogh, Sarah MacLean, or my new favorite, Vivienne Lorret, and I’m in heaven for the afternoon. I’d only stop to take a dip in the pool!

Title:  Puppy Love for the Veterinarian
Series:  Peach Leaf, Texas
Author:  Amy Woods
Publication Date:   July 1st 2016 by Harlequin Special Edition
Length:  240pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play

Back Cover Blurb:

A New Leash On Love
When June Leavy finds two puppies abandoned outside during a storm, she immediately feels a bond with the adorable animals. Swindled out of her life savings by her no-good ex, she, too, was left with nothing but heartache and struggles of her own. But when she arrives at the local veterinary clinic, June is met by dangerously handsome Dr. Ethan Singh, whose sexy smile threatens to disarm her hard-won emotional strength.

Back in Peach Leaf, Texas, to recover from an ugly breakup, Ethan gently tends to the puppies and their charming caretaker. But as the storm rages, so does the electric attraction between Ethan and June. Is this real, or a cruel phantom of lost love? Stranded alone at the clinic, only one thing is certain: they've got all night to figure it out…

My Review:

Woods has created a cute and cuddly read with this one. The plot was heartfelt, if a bit slow to progress at times. Woods gives a brief overview of the town in which these characters find themselves. Small town charm is present, but I found that I didn’t quite get the whole picture. I love how integral animals are to this story. Yes, I know. It’s about a vet, but still. Animals aren’t a side issue, but rather an intrinsic part of the lives of the characters.

I really enjoyed the way that Woods developed her characters’ backstory. I found the entire tale easier to appreciate when their roads to the present are taken into account. And the romance between the pair was quite realistic, making for an enjoyable read.

All in all, this was a fun, sweet read. The characters were cute and the puppies adorable.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Texas Soldier's Family & Q&A with author Cathy Gillen Thacker

1) What’s your favorite part about writing books set in Texas? 

 It brings back memories of the 18 years my husband and I lived in Texas. (The Lone Star State is still my most favorite place in all the world.) I love the fact that in Texas, no dream is too big to hold—or achieve. Hard work, authenticity, not being afraid to stand up for what you believe—these are all things that make Texas great. And let’s not forget the legendary kindness and tremendous hearts of the people who reside there.

2) List two books you’ve read more than three times—
GONE WITH THE WIND. It was my first and favorite romance of all times. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. That book really resonated with me—and my daughter, who was diagnosed as a young adult and is now a ten year cancer survivor.

3) Is anything in your new release based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? 

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports over the years, waiting to board a plane, and trying to board a plane. I always wonder who is going where and why, and I always get annoyed when I’m hit in the head with someone else’s bag. Those two things are in the opening scene.

4) How much research goes into your books? 

Quite a bit, actually. For this story, I had to research what crisis managers and public relations teams do to mitigate the damage in any situation. In the next book of this series, TEXAS LEGACIES:THE LOCKHARTS—A TEXAS COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS, I researched German holiday baked goods and the care and training of bucking bulls. I’ve also researched Texas law, (helps to have a daughter who is a lawyer), caring for a premature N-ICU housed baby, topical allergies, the latest in tractors and berry-picking machines, how to help a failing newborn pup, who has been rejected by its mother, survive. I try to find something interesting and educational to write about in every book.

5) Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? 

I do hear from readers, mostly on Facebook—although if you send a handwritten letter to my publisher, it will work its way to me. Most letters are complimentary. Which I really appreciate! Sometimes readers want to know when a certain book is coming out, or how/where/when to get it—and the best source for that is my website, It has series explanations, covers and titles, and excerpts from every book still available. (A few are out of print.) Links to free on-line-reads and places to purchase my books are also there.

6) What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Walk my golden retriever, Daisy. Spend time with family. Garden. I love to bake. I’m crazy about good tv and movies. I also spend time on an exercise bike—which is set up in front of a tv/dvd/dvr so I can bribe myself to get on it, and then have the time pass quickly while I work-out.

7) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 

It depends where I am in the course of writing a book. At the beginning I spend a lot of time making notes, and thinking, and creating storylines and conflict, and also doing the research, which plays into the plot. When I start writing the draft, a few weeks in, I spend about 8 hours a day, broken up into 2-3 hours at a time, at the computer, writing, 5-6 days a week. When I finally get the rough draft done, which can take 6-8 weeks, I spend the next two weeks at the computer, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, polishing and perfecting the story.

8) Do you have a favorite book cover from your series? 

Favorite cover is THE RANCHER NEXT DOOR. Favorite all time book is TEXAS VOWS: A MCCABE FAMILY SAGA.

9) How do you decide on the setting of your book? 

I created a fictional west Texas town of Laramie. It’s the home of the famous McCabes and Lockharts, Carrigans, Monroes, Briscoes, Andersons, and Cartwrights. I like to think all roads lead back to the utopian Laramie, even if some of the family members now live in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. So, to answer the actual question, for the last decade, I usually start figuring out what the hero/heroine’s connection to Laramie, Texas is. (Including this new series, I’ve now authored 46 books set in or linked to Laramie, Texas.) (Out of 121 published novels.)

10) What is your favorite summer read? 

Anything that can make me laugh out loud and forget the sizzling summer heat and humidity! Last summer, my favorite book was THE ROSIE PROJECT.

Title:  A Texas Soldier's Family
Series:  Texas Legacies:  The Lockharts
Author:  Cathy Gillen Thacker
Publication Date:   July 5th 2016 by Harlequin
Length:  224pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play

Back Cover Blurb:


On the last leg of his tour of duty, Captain Garrett Lockhart is summoned home to Laramie, Texas, to handle an urgent family matter—a scandal that could destroy the enduring legacy of the Lockharts. Except it's already being "handled" by Hope Winslow, a professional crisis manager.

Hope is also the beautiful single mother of the most adorable baby boy the Army doctor has ever seen. Garrett is resisting Hope's efforts at damage control—and pushing her clearly defined boundaries. Too bad she can't resist him…and fantasies of a future with her Lone Star soldier!

My Review:

Family drama meets romance in this intimate tale that I enjoyed during a rainy afternoon. Thacker’s vivid descriptions and solid narrative bring everything to life in a big way. The plot was interesting and unique, without ever becoming convoluted. This was a nice, quick, crisp read.

Although I quite enjoyed the characters that Thacker develops, I did find them rather superficial at times. There seemed to be very little to them outside of the immediate events of the story. At the same time, they were interesting individuals. My heart went out to them more than once.

This novel was a good introduction to Thacker’s new series. I love how she develops the overarching plot while also fulfilling readers with this intimate plot.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Colton Cowboy Hideout & Q&A with author Carla Cassidy

Q. What’s your favorite part about writing in Texas?
A. Texas always brings to mind wide open spaces and hot, handsome cowboys! For me, cowboys are solid men of honor who love their women, their land and their horses. And let’s be honest here, who wears a pair of jeans better!

Q. List two books you’ve read more than three times.
A. Judas Child by Carol O’Connell and The Door to December by Dean Koontz. While neither of these books is in the genre I write, I’m fascinated by the psychological aspects of them.

Q. Is anything in your new release based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
A. Most of the events in my books are from my imagination, but what is based on real life experiences is the emotions. I always try to tap into my own emotions when I’m writing my characters.

Q. How much research goes into your books?
A. As little as possible! I’m one of those odd writers who don’t like research, which is why I usually have fictional towns as settings. I do have to occasionally look up something, but I do it with a lot of whining.

Q. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
A. I hear from some of my readers regularly, although now it’s through social media rather than through letters. Many of them want to know what happened to the characters after the book ended, which I consider one of the highest compliments a writer can get!

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A. Read, sleep and watch reality television. I have to confess I love the Housewives of anything. However, I consider writing not only to be my work, but also my pleasure.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

A. I am not one of those early birds. I generally start my writing day around nine in the morning.  I work fairly hard until noon and then throughout the afternoon I alternate writing with the daily housework. Around five-thirty I’m back in the chair and work until about ten at night.

Q. Do you have a favorite book cover from your series?

A. Honestly, for the most part I’ve been very blessed by the covers I get. Each time I see a new one I decide it’s my favorite! But, ask me about the few I hate and we’ll talk!

Q. How do you decide on the setting of your books?
A. Writing cowboys, it’s easy to choose either Texas or Oklahoma as the states. What I really like is small town settings. Having spent my childhood growing up in a small Kansas town, I love writing about a place where everyone knows everyone else and there’s a real sense of community. And let’s talk about small town secrets…

Q. What is your favorite summer read?
A. With a July release this summer, do you really think I’m going to mention somebody else’s? book? Heck no, I’m going to take this opportunity to do a little shameless self-promotion. I highly recommend Colton Cowboy Hideout as a great summer read! 

Title:  Colton Cowboy Hideout
Series:  The Coltons of Texas #7
Author:  Carla Cassidy
Publication Date: July 5th 2016 by Harlequin
Length:  288pgs
Genre:  romantic suspense
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play 

Back Cover Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy kicks off another gripping Colton romance in cowboy country!

After years in hiding, Josie Colton has her life back. But to settle a family promise, she must find an old clue buried at the Colton Valley Ranch. She enlists the help of ranch foreman Tanner Grange—in exchange for working as his twin toddlers' new nanny. On their search, the single dad soon begins to lasso Josie's heart.

Tanner agrees to assist Josie and is alarmed by how the Colton beauty fits so perfectly into his life. He's got his hands full investigating the disappearance of his boss and caring for his little girls. When it's clear someone will kill to stop Josie from uncovering the clue, Tanner vows to protect her…for life!

My Review:

This was a fantastic tale. Cassidy melds sweet romance with heart pounding suspense in a manner that kept me hooked throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed how seamless the plot was, with each aspect blending into the next. Family and friends weren’t add-ons, but rather integral parts of the main characters lives. Intimate moments vie with heart stopping suspense for centre stage, while vivid descriptions bring it all to life.

Tanner’s protective nature drew me to him from the very beginning. The way that Josie becomes part of his life, and the lives of his daughters, warmed my heart. This was a heartfelt cast of characters that I really enjoyed getting to know.

I love how each novel in this series can easily be read as a standalone, but at the same time, they also tie together quite nicely. Cassidy has created a novel that is a great beach read, a fantastic read for a rainy afternoon, and a novel that would also go well curled up on the couch with a glass of wine.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dirty for Me by Jackie Ashenden

Title:  Dirty For Me
Series:  Motor City Royals #1
Author:  Jackie Ashenden
Publication Date:   July 26/16 by Kensington
Length:  288pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  Netgallye
My Rating: ★★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play

Back Cover Blurb:

Ezekiel "Zee" Chase has a complicated past. Born into a family whose wealth grew from the seedy world of big-time crime, he ran away as a teenager and made a home for himself on the streets of Detroit. By day, the mechanic works at a local garage. But by night, he throws down with the best of them in Detroit's gritty underground fighting scene. With all those muscles, he's never had trouble with women--until he meets one who challenges him to the greatest fight of his life. . .

Tamara Eliot is a hardworking corporate high-flyer who appreciates the finer things in life, from her expensive perfume to her designer handbags. More than anything, though, she likes to be in control--and when Zee explodes into her life, she feels anything but. He's the definition of a bad boy: brash, fiery, and of course, irresistibly hot. And there's a darkness about him that keeps her coming back for more. As Zee takes Tamara deeper into a world she never knew existed, she just might prove to be the one opponent he won't be able to dominate--at least not without some pleasurable convincing...

My Review:

From the epically drool-worthy pic on the cover to the very last sentence Ashenden had me completely captivated. From hard core fights to dark and dangerous men, this novel has it all; right along with a healthy dose of extra steamy chemistry and sex scenes that both add to the story and make the pages sizzle. This is all backed up by vibrant descriptions that allow you to both see and feel your surroundings. This is writing that really engages your senses.

The hard core characters really pop in this novel. The aura of both danger and safety that surround Zee had me drooling and glued to the pages. The hardness emanating from him makes it all even more tantalizing. At the same time, the hints of vulnerability make him oh so very real. Tamara’s ability to bend yet to stand up for herself were remarkable. I simultaneously felt for her and wanted to cheer her on through her journey of self discovery.

This was an earth quaking, soul shattering start to a series that I can’t get enough of. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

Title:  The Ventifact Colossus
Series:  The Heroes of Spira #1
Author:  Dorian Hart
Publication Date: January 8th 2016 by Jester Hat Books
Length:  344pgs
Genre:  fantasy
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA)

Back Cover Blurb:

A tale of epic fantasy begins…

Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.

Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.

Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.

None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.

What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus.

My Review:

This novel was both imaginative and unique. Hart has created a niche all of his own in which his intricate plot unfolds. He brings individuals and locales to live in turn. Hart has seamlessly combined the art of fantasy world building with multiple character perspectives to give readers a full sense of the tale as it unfolds. I loved seeing things from multiple points of view while also getting in-depth sneak peeks into certain events. The manner in which the different lives merge and diverge gives a flowing feel to the tale.

The characters were also very well put together. I loved how I had different reactions to each of them based on their varying personalities and feats. The way that they come together on their quest yet still remain individuals was fantastic.

All in all, this was a great start to Hart’s series. The world comes to life in vivid clarity as the characters wind their way into your life through their unique stories.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Windmill Keepers by A.I. Kemp

Title:  Windmill Keepers
Series:  Windmill Keepers #1
Author:  A.I. Kemp
Publication Date:  August 10th 2015
Length:  290pgs
Genre:  dystopian
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N

Back Cover Blurb:

The Windsor Miller Corporation has taken over the turbines of Europe and is set to eliminate their competition with cheap energy. Unknown to their consumers, the root of the company’s success lies in their social service program. Throwaway children are forced to maintain the colossal windmills with no regard for their safety or lives. Sickness, abuse, and bloody accidents are a dark reality for these children, known as Keepers.

When her father suddenly dies, Kite Lyons is resigned to spend her life as a slave to one of Windsor’s windmill farms. As a sixteen-year-old Keeper, Kite has two years left before she is moved to a Windsor factory. But when an accident claims the life of a close friend, the trauma of her companion’s death drives Kite to make a bold decision. Armed with a set of notes and the genius mind she inherited from her father, Kite teams up with her four mill mates to craft a daring escape plan. But the road to freedom is filled with detours, and before Kite can save anyone, she must come to terms with her greatest loss and find the courage to defy an oligarchy.

My Review:

Kemp develops a dystopian world that really hits hard. The plot is imaginatively thought out and well executed. The believability of the story made this tale a much more hard hitting novel. Kemp develops a world and a concept that one could easily picture happening in the near future.

The cast of characters in this novel was a perfect fit for the tale. I enjoyed the varying levels of character development based on their role in the story. I also liked the variety of personalities, from strong to meek, energetic to accepting. Together they present a clear picture of society in this dystopian world while also being individuals whose lives you feel invested in.

This novel was a fantastic start to Kemp’s series. Solid world building combines with a suspenseful tale for a whole that with keep you coming back for more.

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