Monday, March 30, 2015

Guest Post with Helen Pollard & Giveaway

The Glimmer of an Idea … by Helen Pollard

Every story that finally makes it out of a writer's head and onto paper (or screen) has to start from somewhere. That first glimmer intrigues me, and it's something I often ask guest authors about on my blog. What was the initial kernel of an idea that got them started writing their novel? Their answers never fail to fascinate me.

Once, I wrote an entire novel based on a single idea for an opening scene that imprinted itself on my brain … which was where it stayed for years and wouldn't let go, until I stumbled across the perfect location for it and could let the idea take off. Sometimes it's a character that comes to mind first, and his or her personality will dictate the story. And sometimes it's a place that stays with me, until my imagination comes up with the characters and story to go with it. That's what happened when I wrote Warm Hearts in Winter.

I wanted my hero and heroine to be isolated in the midst of winter - long evenings by a log fire with nothing to do except get to know each other. After all, it's a common enough romantic fantasy, to be cozied up with a handsome hunk while the wind howls outside, isn't it? (… or is that just me?!)

I already had a suitable location in mind - the beautifully bleak winter landscape of the Yorkshire moors near Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters. I only had to add a forbidding stone house, a handsome man in need of company and comfort, a woman willing to give both … and enough bad weather to keep them snowed in together.

It's said that you should write about what you know, and Haworth is a location I know well. When I was a child, my family took a day trip there every year just before Christmas, so the village and the moors around it have always been a 'winter' place in my mind's eye. On the drive, I would gaze out at the passing scenery and wonder who on earth would want to live in those old stone houses looking out over the wild landscape.

Fast-forward ahem-number of years, and with that landscape in mind, my imagination dreamed up Jack Blane, a widowed novelist who uses his house as a retreat for solitude, writing, and nursing his broken heart … until temporary personal assistant Abby comes along to break him out of that solitude and maybe help mend that heart. They go on plenty of snowy walks from the house, and when the weather lets up, Jack takes Abby to visit the Bronte parsonage museum and lovely old church, then down the steep cobbled main street with its eclectic mix of little shops ... something I remember from my childhood and still enjoy every so often.

A place can't always dictate the story, and you can't necessarily drum up a plausible plot just because you visit somewhere and think it might make a good setting for a book … but in this case, the wintry moors fit perfectly with my characters and the romance I wanted to write.

About the Author:
Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor - to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love ... and we all need a little love, right?

A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When Helen’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

Helen's next romance, Holding Back, is due for release on 28th April 2015.

Find out more about Warm Hearts in Winter here.

And be sure to enter below to win 1 of 5 pdf copies of Warm Hearts in Winter by Helen Pollard.

Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm April 3/15.
Winners will be drawn April 4/15.
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.

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Sophia's Secret by Julie Ryan

Title:  Sophia's Secret
Series:  A Greek Island Mystery #2
Author:  Julie Ryan
Published:  July 1/14
Length:  266pgs
Genre:  mystery
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

My Review:

This author’s writing style sets the tone for the story right from the get go. Readers can easily picture the world surrounding the characters. The plot of the novel is intriguing and unique. The premise had me quite interested. Unfortunately the flipping between the separate stories was distracting for me, especially while trying to get to know the characters. I found that when I’d start to really get into the story it would change to another character, and their story. I regularly wondered what all of the tangents had to do with the main plot, what they added to the story. Everything did tie together in the end.

Ryan’s characters were well developed and likeable. I appreciate how we could understand all sides of the story. Ryan does develop a large cast, many of whom we get to know very well. Each has their own life and story to tell. There were a couple of times where I found it muddied the overall plot, but in general it was great to see so many individuals.

This was an enjoyable, unique read that had me thinking. There were a few times where the plot’s meandering caught me up, but overall I had a good time reading it.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mystic Mountain by Pippa Giselle

Title:  Mystic Mountain
Author:  Pippa Giselle
Published:  September 2/14 by Squarebits Studio Inc.
Length:  252pgs
Format:  ecopy
Genre:  teen fantasy
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

When sixteen-year-old Connor is unwittingly entangled in a robbery perpetrated by the school bully, he jumps off a building to escape the police. Committed to the local run-down mental hospital for attempted suicide, Connor is shocked when the Fablekin Council steps in and whisks him away to a magical institution for the rehabilitation of characters from rejected fantasy books. What happens next is something out of Connor’s dreams—literally.

My Review:

I found the story to be quite interesting and original. Giselle develops her world in a very enjoyable manner, giving readers insight into it in a multifaceted way. The descriptions bring the world to life while the intricate narrative creates a very well thought out whole. I did find the writing to be a bit simplistic for the storyline at times. I never felt as if the author was talking down to me, but the story is definitely geared to an early teen audience.

The characters in this novel were quite well developed. Giselle presents them in such a manner that readers can easily get to know them. They were fun and unique individuals who drew me in. The characters are directly geared to readers around the same age.

This was an enjoyable read. Giselle creates & presents a complete world to her readers. It would be perfect for teens who enjoy fantasy.

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An Orkney Murder by Alanna Knight

Title:  An Orkney Murder
Series:  A Rose McQuinn Mystery #3
Author:  Alanna Knight
Published:  June 1/08 by Soundings (1st published February 27/03)
Length:  288pgs
Genre:  mystery
Shelf:  borrowed
Rating: ★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

A long awaited holiday for Rose McQuinn, visiting her sister Emily in Orkney, takes on an unexpected and sinister twist when an archaeological dig for the grave of a 13th century princess, the Maid of Norway, unearths a corpse of a more recent date.

My Review:

This was a very compelling novel. As the mystery unravels I became more and more entrenched in the intricate world created by this talented author. Knight’s descriptions develop the scenery to the most minute detail. She also has a fantastic and solidly developed history and mythology behind the story. She takes readers to Orkney in a very big & real way. Not only are readers transported in space, but in time as well. I quite enjoyed the slightly different look at the times, where cars were just arriving on scene & bicycles were akin to the most dangerous of horses.

I found the main character in this novel to be fun from the get-go. This well-traveled, worldly individual was a joy to get to know. I loved how more layers were revealed the more we got to know about her. Knight has also developed a stunning secondary cast to back her up. The variety of personalities and positions makes you feel like you’re really in this small town, meeting everyone.

This novel is a solid example of what a mystery should be. Knight has told a tale that many will enjoy.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Warm Hearts in Winter by Helen Pollard & Giveaway

Title:  Warm Hearts in Winter
Author:  Helen Pollard
Published:  September 30/14
Length:  175pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Can two hearts thaw on the midwinter moors?

Forced by circumstance into the world of temping, when Abby Davis accepts an assignment in the wilds of Yorkshire as personal assistant to a widowed novelist, she assumes he is an ageing recluse.

Thirty-something Jack Blane is anything but. Still struggling to get his life and writing career back on track three years after his wife’s death, Jack isn’t ready for a breath of fresh air like Abby.

Snowed in at his winter retreat on the moors, as the weeks go by and their working relationship becomes friendship and maybe more, Abby must rethink her policy of never getting involved with someone at work … and Jack must decide whether he is willing to risk the pain of love a second time.


Footsteps sounded from inside, a jiggling of keys, and finally the door was wrenched open. A shaft of light lit the doorway, silhouetting a tall frame there.

Blinking against the sudden light, Abby held out her gloved hand.

“Mr Blane, I presume?” She tried for the most professional manner she could manage, but it wasn’t as successful as she would have liked due to the snowflakes catching in her mouth and her teeth chattering.

When she gave an involuntary shiver, a hand shot out to quickly shake hers in response.

“Yes. You must be Miss Davis. For goodness’ sake, come on in out of the cold. This is no time to be standing on ceremony.” He stood aside for her to clump over the doorstep, showering snow as she came. “I’ve been caught up in my work. I had no idea the weather had got so bad,” he said apologetically as he closed the door on the icy wind. “Let’s get you out of those wet things and into the warmth.”

As her eyes adjusted to the bright hallway light, Abby froze - but not from the cold. Oh, no. This was not what she had expected, not at all. She’d spent the car journey creating an image in her mind’s eye of what her new boss would be like, in a desperate attempt to reassure herself that she would be perfectly safe working alone with a strange man out here in the wilds. That image was of someone much older, much stuffier. Casey had led her to believe he was a loner, some sort of unsociable hermit hunched over his writing all day. A widower, she’d said, implying someone middle-aged or even elderly. Someone harmless.

Jack Blane was anything but.

My Review:

This was a bittersweet, romantic tale. Pollard has crafted a fun yet emotional story about a second chance at love. She brings emotions forward, allowing you to feel for and with her characters. At the same time, Pollard sets the scene well. Readers are able to visualize the secluded setting as if they were there. I appreciated the fact that the suspense in the novel didn’t go over the top. Yes something happened, but the main character is a thriller writer. But it happened and then it was over. Pollard’s writing focuses on the characters and their choices and decisions, not on external forces beyond their control.

Pollard had created some cute and quirky characters to carry this story forward, and they definitely carry it well. It was really neat to see the writing process as part of who a character is. This imaginative, goal oriented task is what defined the male lead of this story. Combined with the raw emotions that he portrays, this is one character that you won’t soon forget. The female lead had me perplexed for a while. Her secret overshadows a great many things, but her genuinely warm heart shines through and I couldn’t help but feel for her as well. The fact that these two carried this story forward almost singlehandedly worked perfectly with Pollard’s plot and readers aren’t left feeling like something’s missing.

Overall this was a cute, sweet story. Pollard drew me into her world and I found myself caught up in the plot of the story, and falling in love with the characters.

And be sure to enter below to win 1 of 5 pdf copies of Warm Hearts in Winter by Helen Pollard.

Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm April 3/15.
Winners will be drawn April 4/15.
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...

Wickedly They Dream by Cathrina Constantine

Title:  Wickedly They Dream
Series:  Wickedly #2
Author:  Cathrina Constantine
Published:  November 5/14 by Black Opal Books
Length:  258pgs
Format:  ecopy
Genre:  YA
Shelf: review
Rating: ★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

After Seeley is possessed by an evil wraith, Jordan must dig deeper into the Satanic realm. Against Markus’s direct orders, she offers herself, body and soul in a blood covenant to rescue Seeley from the clutches of hell. Jordan assumes her guardian angel will not leave her to fight alone. But there’s trouble in paradise, and Markus has been reassigned. Can Jordan defeat both her internal and external demons to win him back? Or is he gone for good this time?

My Review:

Constantine’s eloquent writing flows to bring this story to life. Her picturesque descriptions are vivid & realistic. She brings this fantastic world to life in a big way. It is the perfect backdrop for this nail biting storyline. This combination of good, evil, & romance is not only satisfying but also wildly imaginative.

Constantine continues to develop the characters that we met in Wickedly they Come. I appreciate they how they continue to grow as individuals, never stagnating. I also enjoyed meeting the new characters that Constantine brings to life. Each adds its own aspect to the novel, enhancing the story.

This novel was definitely a fantastic sequel in Constantine’s series. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Protection Detail and Q&A with author Shirlee McCoy

Q&A with Shirlee McCoy 

1. PROTECTION DETAIL is the latest in the Capitol K-9 Unit Series. Where did you get the idea for incorporating lawmen and their canine partners?

The series was thought out and put together by Harlequin. I’m the first of six authors asked to participate in the series. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that we were doing a K-9 Unit series! The other authors and I worked closely together to connect the books and the characters.

2. The heroine, Cassie, is a foster mother. What is your special connection to her?

My youngest daughter was adopted. We met her when she was seven. She’d been in an orphanage in China for three years and then in foster care there for four. My husband and I were able to meet her foster family in a hotel room in China. I’ll never forget the way Lizzie hugged the little girl she’d spent four years raising. It broke my heart and filled it. I was so happy to see that my daughter had been loved, and so sad to realize that Lizzie and Qian would probably never see each other again. When I wrote Cassie’s character, I spent a lot of time thinking about that moment. I thought about the care and love that had been poured onto a child who would be adopted and loved by someone else. What a beautiful and astounding thing that is. It takes very special people to foster children, and I wanted to do Cassie’s character justice. Hopefully, I did!

3. What first draws Gavin and Cassie together?
Gavin is working on a case that brings him in contact with Cassie. Cassie is leery of police officers, so Gavin has his work cut out for him! He’s a by the book guy, but he can’t keep from falling for Cassie. They were such fun characters!

4. What inspired you to start writing romantic suspense?
I have always loved the genre. My mother is a huge fan of gothic romance, and she let me read her books when I was a young teen. I cut my teeth on Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, and I still love a good gothic novel. I think romantic suspense was just a natural progression of that love.

5. How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I often use names of people that I know. Or, I’ll use quirky names that aren’t very common. I love fitting the name with the character’s personality, and that can be a challenge. Once or twice, I’ve changed a name a few chapters into a book because it just didn’t seem to fit.

6. Do you have any say in the design of your book covers?
I give cover ideas and send photos to my editor. These are used to help design the book.

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A pantser who has had to learn to be a plotter? I sell on proposal now, so I have had to learn to outline my books before I write them. It often takes me as long to write the synopsis and first few chapters as it does to write the book! I’d like to say that I follow the outline closely once I finish it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! I tend to write the synopsis and then go on my merry way being a pantser and writing whatever comes into my head. So….maybe I am both.

8. How would you describe your writing style?
I’m like a truck driver. I push through to the end. No veering off onto other roads or taking little side trips. I have a goal and I stick to it. I don’t go back and edit until I’ve completed the first draft. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one, but it works for me.

9. If PROTECTION DETAIL was turned into a movie, which Hollywood actors would you cast for your characters and why?
Oh. Wow. Can I say that I have no idea?! I watch documentaries on the history channel or cooking shows on the cooking channel. And, I read books. The last movie I watched was…I don’t even remember! :0)

10. What are you working on next?
The fourth book in my Mission: Rescue series. The heroine’s name is Harper, and the hero is Logan. She’s a potter, and he’s a hostage rescue specialist. They make an interesting and challenging pair!

About the author:

SHIRLEE MCCOY knew early that she wanted to write inspirational fiction and began writing her first novel when she was a teenager. Still, it wasn't until her third son was born that she truly began pursuing her dream of being published. Three years later she sold her first book.

Now a busy mother of four, Shirlee is a homeschool mom by day and an inspirational author by night. She and her husband and children live in Maryland and share their home with a dog and a guinea pig.

Praise for Shirlee McCoy:

“McCoy packs a lot of action into a short amount of time. The well-crafted characters show that struggles can often lead to a reward.” – RT Book Reviews

“Shirlee McCoy's writing style flows smoothly and this is a very easy story to get lost in.” –Fresh Fiction

“McCoy’s writing is descriptive and contains a well-balanced blend of action and romance.” – RT Book Reviews

Title:  Protection Detail
Series:  Capitol K-9 Unit #!
Author:  Shirlee McCoy
Published:  March 1/15 by Love Inspired
Length:  224pgs
Genre:  romantic suspense
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:


After a prominent senator's son is murdered, Capitol K-9 Unit captain Gavin McCord wants answers. The senator was a mentor to Gavin, and he'll stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice. With his team of elite K-9 cops and his loyal dog, Glory, at his side, Gavin discovers that a child at Cassie Danvers's nearby foster home may have witnessed the murder. He's drawn to the determined and beautiful woman, but she doesn't want him interviewing her traumatized charges. Yet trusting Gavin is the only way to stay one step ahead of the deadly gunman when Cassie becomes a target.

Capitol K-9 Unit: These lawmen solve the toughest cases with the help of their brave canine partners.

My Review:

Emotions and suspense both run high in this one of a kind romantic suspense. The intricately crafted plot draws readers deep into the complex world that the author has created. McCoy drops bits of scenery into everything that happens, until readers can picture the entire world. Even though this title is from Harlequin’s Love Inspired line & you can easily see the presence of God in the lives of the characters, McCoy doesn’t go over the top with it, nor does she try to hide it. It’s the perfect balance for all readers. It also adds sweetness to the romance itself. This story is about falling in love, the real, lasting kind, not about falling in lust.

I found that the working canine aspect added a great deal to the tale. It took the concept of law enforcement hero to a whole new level. This made the already loveable male lead into a man with even greater depth. His caring and compassion for others was backed up by the aura of competence and reassurance brought by an officer of the law. Combined with a female lead who’s had a difficult life and an even more difficult few days and you have a couple who will turn heads. I loved the strength of character in the female lead. She stood up for those in her ‘family’ beyond all else. I appreciate how McCoy takes the time to develop the world of the foster children that we meet. They aren’t simply a backdrop to the story but real individuals with real (and heartbreakingly realistic) stories of their own.

As a whole, this was a remarkably complex tale that combined suspense with real romance. McCoy will capture your heart, your emotions, and your imagination.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Darkling Lord by Shona Husk

Title:  The Darkling Lord
Series:  The Court of Anwynn #4
Author:  Shona Husk
Published:  March 19/15
Length:  219pgs
Genre:  fantasy romance
Shelf:  Netgalley
Rating: ★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

A darkling with a lust for power…
Henry Saint shouldn’t exist. Every year on his birthday, he kills someone and takes their soul so that he may live another year. He is a darkling, not fairy… but not human either. Yet he is bound by the laws of both worlds. With a new King on the throne of Annwyn and the mortal world trying to rebuild after plagues killed so many, Henry seizes the opportunity to carve out a place of his own. He wants Detroit.

A spy without a soul…
Darah was Felan’s spy before he became King of Annwyn. Now he has one last mission for her. He wants her to join the darkling’s Court and discover what Henry’s endgame is. No one trusts the Banished when they gather in great numbers. As Darah gets drawn into Henry’s world she realizes he can give her the one thing she could never find in Annwyn—love. But is love worth betraying her King?

My Review:

This is a remarkably vivid fantasy tale. Husk uses her words to paint this world before her audience. The world surrounding the characters becomes vividly real, allowing readers full access to the story. The plot was well thought out & presented. Romance & chemistry vie with courtly intrigue for centre stage. The story was well developed & well rounded. I simply found that this instalment had a hard time holding my attention throughout. I repeatedly found myself putting it down and wandering off to do something else.

I really enjoy Husk’s take on fairies. She develops them and their world well. The different types are individually developed, allowing readers a sense of who everyone is and what they believe. The difference, and chasm, between the fairy court & the human realm is also very apparent here. The difference between those from the court of Anwynn and those residing in the human realm was also apparent and the basis of much of the lives of the characters. In fact, it was the basis of much of the tale, to the extent that one could almost sum up the main characters & the plot this way.

As a whole, this was an intriguing novel. Husk has returned to her well-developed & thought out world to create another adventure for her readers.  Many readers are bound to love this story,  I enjoyed it, but it simply didn't capture all of my attention.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dawn of Destiny by Lee Stephen & author Guest Post

Being a Lone Wolf by Lee Stephen

If you read very many of the guest blogs I post or follow me on Twitter, then you know I’m a pretty strong advocate of being oneself. My circle of writing friends consists of one other writer, I don’t do group critiques, and I generally shy away from fellowship with other writers. If you pressed me hard enough, you could probably get me to confess that I think most writers are dishonest and self-absorbed, but for the sake of having something constructive to say, I’ll just go ahead and label myself a “lone wolf” kind of person. Unless I’m directly collaborating with other writers (which has only ever happened on screenplays), I generally like to be a party of one.

There’s no question that the big reason why I’m like this is simply because I’m wired differently. I like to work alone—it’s just personal preference. However, I do think there’s a benefit to be had by occasionally shutting out the rest of the literary world.

Quite simply, the more we look at others, the more we feel pressured to be like them. They have great Amazon reviews…they must write better than us. They have 90,000 Twitter followers…they must tweet better than us. The more we look, the more we see what others are doing, and we live in an age where we can look everywhere. So the pressure is always on us to adjust the “business” of writing as if we were fine-tuning a piano. What many of us don’t realize, though, is that our pianos may already be in tune—for us.

There’s an irony in that today, when everyone is being encouraged to be themselves, we’re losing our individuality. Much of our time is spent trying to see what others are doing it so that we can do it too, with the goal of matching their success. And honestly…doesn’t that sound like a good idea? If you were running a corporation and competing against a rival, I’d agree. But you’re not. You’re an artist. Your job is to be you.

There are few advisors more trustworthy than the human gut. Rather than spending all your time peeking over the fence to see what the neighbors are up to, listen to what your gut is telling you, then do that thing. It’s going to be what you’re passionate about, it’s going to be what you’re good at. It’s going to serve you better than following someone else’s advice about what works for them. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it’s going to let you take a deep breath and chill out.

You don’t have to worry about how many sales that other writer is claiming to get (which may or may not even be true), thus eliminating the stress on your shoulders telling you you’re doing something wrong, or not doing enough. You don’t have to cry with your face in your hands because that other author has 90k Twitter followers, and you have 16. I got news for you…if a self-published author has 90k Twitter followers, that probably means they dropped a Benjamin at a site like Alleviate yourself of the stress of trying to match that. Instead, spend that time working on your craft. Your craft. Not someone else’s to tweak or critique. Be you.

We are most content when we feel satisfied, and we live in an era of dissatisfaction. The grass is always greener somewhere else. Someone’s always doing better, which means we’re not living up to our potential. But maybe they’re not doing better. Maybe they bring in six figures, but they’re miserable. Money and popularity don’t equal contentment.

I’d offer anyone who feels pressured to keep up with the Jones’s of the writing world this challenge: for a week, turn it all off. Stop looking to see what other writers are doing, and if you can manage it, stop caring. Write, or don’t write, or just go for a walk. Give yourself permission to take back the reigns of your life and career from the grasp of professional peer pressure. There’s no room for that when you’re creating artwork. Have confidence in your own ability, and it won’t let you down.

I realize that some people will be vehemently opposed to this advice! That’s okay. It’d be hypocritical for me to say, “stop focusing on other writers” while simultaneously imploring you to focus on what I’m telling you. So just see if anything I’ve said strikes a chord with you. If it does, you might just be a lone wolf. And there’s nothing—absolutely nothing—wrong with that.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Cajun country, Lee Stephen spent his childhood paddling pirogues through the marshes of South Louisiana. When he wasn't catching bullfrogs or playing with alligators in the bathtub (both true), he was escaping to the world of the imagination, creating worlds in his mind filled with strange creatures and epic journeys. This hasn't stopped.

Now a resident of Luling, Louisiana, Lee spends time every day delving into the world of Epic, the science-fiction series that has come to define him as a writer and producer. Alongside his wife, Lindsey, their son, Levi, and their dog, Jake, Lee has made it a mission to create a series that is unique in its genre—one unafraid to address the human condition while staying grounded in elements of faith.

In addition to writing, Lee works full-time for the Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness. He has also spent time as a church deacon, guitar hobbyist, and New Orleans Saints season ticket holder. He is a graduate of Louisiana College in Pineville.

Connect with Lee: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Title:  Dawn of Destiny
Series:  Epic #1
Author:  Lee Stephen
Published:  November 4/06
Length:  312pgs
Genre:  SciFi
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Some men go to war for the glory. Some men go to war to escape. For Scott Remington, war is entirely different. It is a belief. It is a calling. It is a destiny. Leaving everything behind-his fiancée, his future, his life-he embarks on a mission of faith into a battle he can barely understand. This is his story. This is his war. This is only the beginning.

Audiobook Description:

The Dawn of Destiny audiobook project is a full adaptation of the first book in the Epic series. It's not your typical “audiobook,” even though technically that's what it is. When people hear “audiobook,” there’s a certain type of thing that usually comes to mind. Most likely it’s the thought of someone reading a book to them, occasionally with music playing in the background. This isn't that.

What you’re going to hear in this project, is more of an audio “experience,” the audio equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie. Over thirty voice actors played a role in this. This is ear-splitting sound effects, bombastic music, and characters shouting back and forth in the middle of a war zone. This is unlike anything you've ever heard.

My Review:

This novel is so vivid and larger than life. The story is fast paced and suspenseful. It is an in-depth and intricate story that will blow your mind. Stephen’s straightforward writing style lends itself to the story well. The possibilities opened by the premise of this novel are endless and frighteningly realistic. Stephen definitely took the stereotype of Eden and turned it on its head. Stephen brings some of humanity’s worst fears to life in a wildly imaginative way.

There is lots of scene and world building in this novel, transporting readers directly into the novel. The beginning is a bit slow as we get to know the characters and the world is built before our eyes, but once this happens, Stephen takes us on a journey that’s out of this world. Everything became so real that I didn’t simply picture the battles as they occurred, I could hear, smell & feel them as well. The inclusion of maps of the major battle sites made it easier to visualise the who, what, where & how of the situations as well.

I also appreciated the fact that ‘Earth’ isn’t a single people in this novel. Sure, humans fight together against this outside threat, but they don’t magically become a single people. The countries remain independent entities with separate cultures and values. This lends itself not only to an extra sense of realism for the reader, but also to a well-defined cast of characters. Many of these individuals really stand out, and there were quite a few that I would love to consider friends.

Oh Veck! What a tale & a half. My final thoughts? ‘Please Sir, may I have some more?’ (That’s right; Stephen has me cracking out some Oliver Twist to beg for the sequel).

Be sure to enter this tour wide giveaway!

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Air: Merlin's Chalice by Meredith Bond

Title:  Air: Merlin's Chalice
Series:  Children of Avalon #1
Author:  Meredith Bond
Published:  March 18/14 by Anessa Books
Length:  322pgs
Format:  ecopy
Genre:  fantasy
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

In one day Scai has gone from an ordinary outcast in her little Welsh village to learning that she is a member of a magical people called the Vallen. Left on the church steps by a strange couple to be raised by the town priest, she knows nothing of her history—or her abilities. Did she really stop the rain just by wishing it to stop? But she is determined to learn all she can. Travelling alone to England to find her family seems to be the only way she’s going to find the answers she seeks.

Her journey leads her to the funny old knight Sir Dagonet, the handsome squire Dylan and the fiery Bridget. Together, Scai, Dylan and Bridget are the long awaited Children of Avalon, destined to save the world from Lady Nimuë, formerly known as the Lady of the Lake—unless she kills them first.
Along the way, Scai finds magic - both in the wind and air that she can control at will, and in the sweet ache of a first love that she cannot.

My Review:

The premise for this novel was very interesting. It had great promise that should carry forward well into the rest of the series. Magic and fantasy abound throughout, bringing fantasy to readers in a big way. However, I found the author’s writing style a bit difficult to get into. It was enjoyable, yet because I couldn’t fully get into the writing the story couldn’t fully hold my attention. Bond’s flowery writing lends itself well to descriptions that bring the world into a stark visual clarity.

Bond develops some rather interesting and larger than life characters. They were definitely fun to get to know. Although these characters are well developed, I found them difficult to identify with. Their connections to one another were quite superficial as well.

As a whole this was an enjoyable novel, especially once I got further into it. It is a good start to the series.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview with author Zara Keane

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Irish but I currently live in Switzerland with my family. I love coffee, chocolate, board games, and books. My professional background is third-level teaching — university and adult education. At the moment, I’m a full-time wrestler of small people and a part-time writer. I’m hoping to shift to full-time writing over the next couple of years.

Q ~ If you could go anywhere, real or imagined, where would it be and why?

Norway. I’ve planned to go three times but my plans always fell through.

Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?

My favourite genres are romance and crime fiction. I’ve written in various genres and subgenres over the years but I’m concentrating on contemporary romance and urban fantasy romance at the moment.

Q ~ Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?

I’m enjoying Genevieve Turner’s Californian-set historical romances. The first book is Summer Chaparral. I used to read a lot of historical romance but got burned out by all the Regency and Victorian settings. Turner’s series is fresh and different.

I binge-read Ruby Lionsdrake’s Mandrake Company science fiction romances over the holidays. The series begins with Mercenary Instinct. I loved Linnea Sinclair’s books back in the day and these are similar.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?

Definitely a series of events. I co-wrote a truly terrible romance with a school friend when I was fifteen, complete with an anatomically incorrect sex scene. It was rejected by Mills and Boon — surprise, surprise! My dreams of becoming a writer were put on hold when I went to university. I started writing for fun while I was doing postgraduate studies and amassed an impressive collection of unfinished stories on my hard drive.

NaNoWriMo 2009 was the turning point for me. I had two children under the age of two, one of whom never slept. I’d just quit my job to stay home with them full-time and was slowly but surely losing my mind. Around the 30th or 31st of October 2009, I read a blog post by Katiebabs of Babbling About Books on National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to complete a 50,000-word first draft in November. That works out to be around 1,667 words per day. Participants aren’t allowed to go back and edit — each new day means new words. I was intrigued by the challenge. Shutting off my pesky internal editor was one of the reasons I wasn’t finishing the stories I started. Scheduling regular writing time was another. I’d spent fifteen years coming up with excuses for not finishing stories and those excuses were always legitimate: school exams, university commitments, moving countries, broken relationships, work commitments, difficult pregnancies, small babies. I realised that life was never going to present me with an ideal time to write so I might as well try writing through the chaos.

The book I wrote in November 2009 was an unsalvageable, unpublishable mess. However, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. More importantly, the challenge of NaNoWriMo got me into a writing routine. It taught me to keep writing even when I didn’t feel like it and was convinced every word I typed sucked. Since then, I’ve finished six novels and three novellas.

Q ~ Do you have a personal support system? Who are your biggest supporters in life and in your endeavours?

My husband has always supported my writing and helped me to carve out time in my weekly schedule to fit it in. I’m fortunate to have a group of writer friends with whom I can brainstorm ideas and share the ups and downs of the business. I’ve also had the same critique partner for five years. I value her support and feedback enormously.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?

I end each writing session with a sentence or two describing what needs to happen next. This makes it easier for me to get back into the flow of the story when I return to my desk. I try not to snack while I’m writing but I drink too much coffee, especially when I have a deadline looming.

Q ~ When you write, do you try to reach a specific word count or simply write until you are done?

If I’m working on a first draft, I set specific word count goals. Once I start revising material, I’m less concerned with word count and prefer to track my progress by the number of scenes I’ve rewritten or revised.

Q ~ Love and Shamrocks will be out in April 2015. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Love and Shamrocks is the fifth story in the Ballybeg series. It’s a full-length novel and stands alone well — Happily Ever After guaranteed! Here’s the blurb:

Trouble in Dublin…
Clio Havelin needs a lucky break. Desperate to protect her child, Clio accepts her estranged mother’s offer of a refuge in Ballybeg. What can go wrong in a place with more cows than people? Her hope for a fresh start is smashed to smithereens when she’s blackmailed into facilitating the heist of the decade. So the last thing Clio needs is a sexy cop underfoot, especially when she’s one crime away from freedom. Too bad she’s already slept with him.

…True Love in Ballybeg.
Seán Mackey wants his life back. The former police detective is now stuck apprehending errant sheep in Ballybeg — population 3968, pubs 35. After months of frustration, he’s finally on the scent of a real case. When he's sidelined into playing bodyguard for his nemesis, talk show hostess Helen Havelin, he’s pissed. And when his gorgeous one-night stand turns out to be Helen’s daughter, Clio, pissed turns to horrified.

Q ~ Have you written an outline for the Ballybeg series or do you make it up as you go?

I have an outline for each book and a series bible with notes on each character and location in the town. However, I leave myself plenty of wriggle room to come up with new ideas and locations in the town to include in later stories. Similarly, I have a timeline with events from previous books. I don’t want a pregnancy lasting thirteen months, for example!

Q ~ What prompted or inspired you to write these stories? Are any of them rooted in some sort of truth?

When I started writing contemporary romance, I tried setting my stories in a generic no-name town in America. The result was a dull story with unconvincing dialogue. My very wise critique partner suggested that I write what I knew. Once I shifted the setting to Ireland, the stories flowed.

Yes, there’s an element of truth in every story I write, even if it’s not my truth. I get story ideas everywhere: from books, TV, films, magazine articles, friends, family members, and personal experience. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, let alone gotten married there, but I know someone who has and she read and commented on an early draft of Love and Shenanigans. I have a child on the autistic spectrum and I drew from this experience to create the Luca storyline in Love and Leprechauns. I’ve never run a pub in a small Irish town but one of my cousins does and I was able to hit him up with questions when I was writing Love and Blarney. I grew up as the only child of a single mother and this helped me to write the mother-daughter dynamic in Love and Shamrocks.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?

Character names come to me the moment I start brainstorming their personality. I only wish coming up with book titles came as easily!

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?

I have a soft spot for Olivia from Love and Leprechauns. She’s been through a lot yet she still retains her sense of humour. I’m also having a blast writing Sean Mackey’s story in Love and Shamrocks. He’s the most alpha of the heroes I’ve written so far and he has an intriguing backstory.

Q ~ If you were stranded on a desert island with one of your characters (from any novel you’ve written) who would you choose and why?

A secondary character from Love and Shamrocks named Lar Delaney because he’s smoking hot. :D I’m going to have to give the guy his own story! He appeared on page in an early draft of Love and Leprechauns but those scenes didn’t make the final cut. His role in that story was reduced to what it needed to be: a reference to a guy on a motorcycle. He plays a larger role in Love and Shamrocks. Hmm…yeah, he needs his own book.

Q ~ Of the works you’ve written, which is your favourite? Is there also a character that holds a special place in your heart?

So far, I don’t have a favourite. There are elements in each story that I particularly like. I feel I’m honing my craft with each story I write.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?

I’m working on two separate projects. The first is an urban fantasy serial featuring Celtic symbolism, a dragon, and a sexy hero. I have no release date for this yet but it will probably be out in the second half of 2015. I want to stockpile episodes until I have the final one written. The second project is a spin-off featuring some of the settings and/or characters from the Ballybeg series. I’m referring to the spin-off as the Ballybeg Bad Boys series. The first story is a novella called ‘Her Treasure Hunter Ex’. It will be released it in July as part of a multi-author boxed set. The second story is a full-length novel called ‘The Rock Star Next Door’. I’m hoping for a Fall release date.

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you’re struggling to finish a story, a group challenge like NaNoWriMo might help to give you the push you need to get to ‘The End’. Whatever you do, don’t give up! You can’t polish words you haven’t written.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

About the author:

Zara Keane grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but spent her summers in a small town very similar to the fictitious Ballybeg.

She currently lives in Switzerland with her family. When she’s not writing or wrestling small people, she drinks far too much coffee, and tries – with occasional success – to resist the siren call of Swiss chocolate.

And in honor of St. Patrick's Day...
Be sure to enter our giveaway for 2 X 2 book sets of the 1st 2 Ballybeg stories: Love & Shenanigans and Love and Blarney.

Contest is open internationally, where applicable by law.
Entries close at 11:59pm March 27/15.
Winners will be drawn March 28/15.
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.

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Summer Spark by Ginnie Carmichael

Title:  Summer Spark
Series:  Sour Seasons Serial #1
Author:  Ginnie Carmichael
Published:  December 11/14
Length:  69pgs
Format:  ecopy
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Desperate to keep her teenage daughter from running with the wrong crowd again, Elsie Anderson makes the painful decision to leave Seattle for good. For her, solitude is a small price to pay for keeping Sophie out of trouble. Love is the last thing on Elsie’s mind, especially in a small town like Smithfield, Virginia.

Alex Becker is the star of Smithfield's firefighting department. He may be a hero, but at night he sees a broken man in the mirror. There was a time when he believed in love, but that all disappeared after he unexpectedly lost his wife late last year.

They both need a second chance at love. Will Elsie be able to overcome her fear of getting another broken heart? Will Alex ever be able to love again?

My Review:

Carmichael has created a well written, entertaining introduction to her new serial. The story is uniquely thought provoking while also being a sweet read. Unlike so many serials that we’ve seen as of late, Carmichael writes this short story so that it can be read in and of itself. Sure there is a large lead in to the next story in the serial, but this is also an enjoyable read in its own right.

We get to meet some intriguing individuals in this story. Carmichael develops her characters well, allowing reader to interact with them on a deeper level. I may not agree with some of the decisions made by the characters, but I could always understand them.

Overall, this was a great introduction to Carmichael’s serial. I’m definitely interested to see what happens next.

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