Author Spotlight: James L. Weaver

Name: James L. Weaver 

Author of: Poor Boy Road; Ares Road; Blackbird Road (Lakewater Press)

Jack & Diane

From: Olathe, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City, a mere 250 miles from the geographic center of the United States)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

The first story of any real length was a handwritten tale of a monster versus a knight that I did for a high school English class – Sir (something or other) and the Gorgon, I believe it was called. I still have it in a box in the basement and it is pretty horrible. Maybe when I become a New York Times Best Selling author, I’ll auction it off for charity. Maybe. It’s pretty bad.  Though, I did get an “A” on the assignment!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve always had the thought it would be “fun” to be a writer. I’d written a lot of short stories and a couple of novels, and I tried to unsuccessfully land an agent. I didn’t really have an inkling that it could be a possibility until I finished the first draft of Poor Boy Road. I still didn’t have an agent, but I had a vision of a series featuring Jake Caldwell that might just get me to where I wanted to go. I still can’t quit my day job, but I’d love to be able to write full-time.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Number one above anyone else is Kate Foster at Lakewater Press. She’s the one who came to me and said she loved Poor Boy Road and wanted it. She guided me in carving and polishing that lump of stone into an award winning novel I’m very proud of. She’s a fantastic cheerleader and I’m so glad she took a chance on me.

Do you exclusively write crime thrillers or have you written in other genres?

I love crime thrillers, but I had an idea years ago about a coming of age love story between a boy and girl in Kansas City. I wrote the manuscript and went through the agent hunting process with no success. I let it sit in a drawer for a number of years and discovered it again when I was looking for tax records or something. After I read it again, I decided it was too good a story to just sit and rot in the bottom of a drawer. So, I polished and went agent hunting again. About that time, my mom was diagnosed with cancer with a bleak prognosis. She’d always encouraged my writing and I could think of nothing she’d love more than to have my book in her hands, so I decided to self-publish it. Unfortunately, the cancer was vicious and she died three months from diagnosis, so she never got to see it. It’s gotten great reviews and I’m proud of it. I have someone sniffing around for a movie option of it, so I reworked it and had professional editor Rebecca Carpenter work her magic on it. So, the new and improved Jack & Diane is now available on Amazon. It really is a sweet story and anyone who grew up around the 80’s will love the references.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I have a full-time job, a great wife and two active teens involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. As such, I don’t really have a set schedule, but write when I can squeeze it in – most typically between 10 pm and midnight when everyone else goes to bed and a few hours squeezed in on the weekends. It really depends on what stage of the writing process I’m in and if I’m binge watching anything on Netflix or Amazon.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

First draft has typically been about five to six months and then another month on the first round of revisions. It depends on how hung up I get on the plot. The plot for Poor Boy Road crystallized in my mind in a fifteen minute car ride. For my upcoming Jake Caldwell novel Blackbird Road, I got really hung up on a few of the plot points and it took me much longer to work through those road blocks.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

The process has grown. With Poor Boy Road, I didn’t outline the book at all. I just wrote it because I had a clear line of sight of where I wanted it to go right from the get go. Ares Road was a more complex plot and I made it a little more than halfway through it before I realized I was confusing myself and mucking the story up. I sat down and plotted it out and the story flowed much better. Blackbird Road was even more complex with Jake going up against two different villains, each with their own plotlines and I got seriously locked up trying to work through things, even with a formal outline. The book Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot by Jane Cleland really helped me burst through the roadblock and provided me with a different methodology to map out the entire book. I’d highly recommend the book and her process if this is something you struggle with.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Not that I can think of. I’m a pretty regular, down to earth guy.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

My books are set in Kansas City and around Warsaw, Missouri which is a small town in Benton County around the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s an area where my dad and his family grew up and I spent a lot of time in the area as a kid. While I was writing Poor Boy Road, my dad and I hopped in the car and he drove me around the area and told me a lot of stories about the area and his life, some I’d heard and many I hadn’t. We hit the nice areas with sprawling ranches with pretty white fences, and some areas with trailers and houses in such shambles that you’d think they were abandoned until you saw someone moving about or laundry hanging on a clothesline. I don’t know if you’d call that a literary pilgrimage or not, but it spurred my writing and is one of my favorite memories with my dad.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

I had the character of Jake Caldwell mulling in my head for months, but couldn’t come up with the right setting to place a leg breaker for the mafia who wanted out.  When I traveled back to Warsaw for my grandmother’s funeral, the beautiful setting of the area mixed in with the seedier aspect of the county’s drug problem seemed a perfect setting to establish where Jake came from. The inspiration and the entire plot literally developed in the car ride from the cemetery back to my dad’s house.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love thrillers, but am evolving to other genres. There’s really three authors that I will immediately buy anything they write – Stephen King, Lee Child and John Sandford. Give me a good supernatural King tale, or an intense ride with Child’s Jack Reacher or Sandford’s Lucas Davenport and I’m on cloud nine. A few other authors that knock my socks off are John Hart, Jonathan Tropper and Fredrik Backman – my Lord can those guys write! They make me feel like a kindergartner with a crayon and a Big Chief tablet.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? There’s some nuggets hidden in that only a select few will catch. The fun part is when they call you out on it.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

You can’t craft a character out of thin air that doesn’t take on some semblance of real people in your life. You pick a trait here and there from different people and mold them into a relatable character. As a tribute to friends and fans, a lot of the character last names in my books are based from real life people. The characters themselves are not, but people seem to get a kick out of seeing their name in print. The bad part comes when you have to kill off their “character”! I had two friends whose last names I used as FBI agents in Ares Road and they actually were arguing over a beer one night about which character was better. That was a really cool moment.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. It’s a teenage love story of vampires and werewolves, but Meyer wrote a really compelling tale. I read them all.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Google myself? Maybe once a year. Check my reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Probably twice a day.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Scene setting. I think I’m really good with dialog, but setting a scene is sometimes a challenge. That’s why writers like King, Hart and Backman blow me away – their scenes are so incredibly vivid and I turn green with envy reading them. I’m working on it, though!

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

TRUTH. Find someone who will tell you what sucks and what they love (and they need to do both). Early on, I had beta readers who would hand a draft back and say “That was really good” and that was it. THAT DOESN’T HELP ME! I want someone to tell me they laughed out loud because something was so funny in one part and they laughed out loud at another point because a plot point was so ludicrous. Does it hurt to get that blunt feedback? Hell, yes! But, I’d rather have them tell me so I can fix it, than to have the novel rejected, or get a one star review on Amazon or Goodreads. Find someone who will tell you the truth!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? MARKETING. Unless you have an agent who is going to do it for you, you’d better figure out a marketing plan. It’s taken me a while to get that through my thick head, but establishing a social media presence and marketing yourself will be key to your success. I still struggle with it, but am getting better. There’s so many great and unknown writers out there – how are you going to make your voice heard through the noise?

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I’m happy to talk with someone or give a critique of a sample of their work.

Want to know more about James?

  • Visit James at his website
  • Like his Facebook page
  • Follow James on Twitter
  • See what James is posting on Instagram
  • Check out what he’s reading–and writing–on Goodreads  (look for Jack & Diane, Poor Boy Road, Ares Road, and Blackbird Road as there’s a couple other authors by the same name whose books keep showing up on my profile)

 Poor Boy Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 1)

ONCE YOU START RUNNING, IT’S HARD TO STOP.

Mob enforcer, Jake Caldwell is in the dark business of breaking kneecaps and snapping bones. But each job sends him one step closer to turning into the man he swore he’d never become – his violent and abusive father. Leaving the mob is easier said than done, so when his boss offers a bloody way out, Jake has no choice but to take it, even if it means confronting ghosts of old.

Arriving in his Lake of the Ozarks hometown, Jake has two things on his mind: kill ruthless drug lord Shane Langston and bury his dying father. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love all over again and team up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of Benton County, to take Langston down. Racing through the countryside searching for Langston, the web of murder, meth and kidnapping widens, all pointing toward a past Jake can’t escape and a place he never wanted to return – Poor Boy Road.
An AWARD FINALIST crime thriller! Book one in the Jake Caldwell series.

For fans of Jack Reacher and The Prey Series by John Sanford, this “great suspenseful read” is “more truth than fiction” that you won’t be able to put down

Get Poor Boy Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Ares Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 2)

With his days as a mob enforcer behind him, Jake Caldwell’s trying to go straight.

But it seems his past won’t let him go.

His first job working as a private investigator turns up a teenage girl screaming down a dead man’s cell phone, and Logan, his mentor and the only man with answers, beaten into a coma.

Now Jake’s taking it personally.

The only clues Jake has to unravel the mystery are a Russian with a stolen, silver briefcase and three names: Snell, Parley and Ares. Teaming up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of his home town, and an attractive FBI agent, Jake quickly discovers they’re not the only ones looking for the briefcase and its deadly contents.

It’s no longer about seeking revenge.

The “thrilling second book in the JAKE CALDWELL series” is a “heart-stopping ride” that won’t disappoint fans of Lee Child’s JACK REACHER and John Sandford’s THE PREY series.

Get Ares Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Blackbird Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 3)

With his wedding day fast approaching and his PI boss heading out of town, ex-mob enforcer Jake Caldwell decides to take one more job before a much needed vacation. But in a matter of days, his client is assassinated and her six-year-old son kidnapped.

With just a few clues, Jake calls on old friends to help track down the person responsible. Only this time his fiancée Maggie, desperate for Jake to leave his violent history behind, can’t guarantee she’ll be there when, or if, he comes home.

But Jake can’t turn his back on those who need him. It’s in his blood.

A perilous plot of lies and secrets unfolds, and Jake encounters criminals more brutal than ever. And when a threat to thousands of innocent lives is uncovered, Jake once again dives back into his past, requesting favors from some unexpected and unsavory contacts.

Jake needs to stay one step ahead of the bad guys if he’s to have any future at all.

The third book in the award-winning JAKE CALDWELL series is an intense, complex, and frantic race against time. Weaver has done it again in this raw and riveting read set in the Ozarks.

Get Blackbird Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Jack & Diane

When his best friend moves away, nine year old Jack Phipps is sure nobody can replace him in the house across the street…until Diane Riven moves in. Their friendship and romance takes us on the journey of their lives, to the sweet places where they learn to love and trust, and the dark corners where bullies terrorize and hearts break. It’s the coming of age story of a boy and girl who discover that together they can accomplish anything, but that even true love has its limits.

Get Jack & Diane on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

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CTP Fall Book Sale & Giveaway

We’re one week away from Fall and CTP wants to celebrate with their Bring On Fall Free Book Sale and an Author Sponsored $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway! For one weekend only, they have selected a handful of titles throughout their different imprints that will be listed as free on Amazon from 9/14 to 9/16. This is a limited time promotion as the price will go back up to $4.99 on Monday. Take advantage of this exciting sale this weekend and Fall in love with some new books to cozy up with while you drink your Pumpkin Spice Latte, or tea, or wine, or whatever you love to sip on while reading. Enjoy!

FREE BOOKS AVAILABLE 9/14-9/16:

From YA to steamy romance, witches, queens and everything in between, there is sure to be something for everyone!

This group promo runs from 09/14/2018 to 09/16/2018 ONLY.

Some of the authors listed below are also offering Kindle Countdown Deals on their sequels, which means you can snag sequels or even a few series for the low, low price of $.99 each during this sale!

Get your Kindles ready, or download the Kindle App on your tablet or phone and prepare for an amazing FREE reading extravaganza!

HAPPY READING! LET’S BRING ON THE FALL Y’ALL!!!

Unspeakable - Michelle Pickett Vampires Rule - K.C. Blake The Woodlands - Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Skin And Bones - Susan HarrisResurgence - Sharonlee HolderThe Second Window - Erica Kiefer

Never Forgotten - Kelly RisserPrelude - Nely Cab

Queen of Someday - Sherry Ficklin

Minutes Before Sunset - Shannon A Thompson

Milayna - Michelle Pickett

Lady of Sherwood - Molly Bilinski

Dating An Alien Pop Star - Kendra L. Saunders

Dreamthief - Tamara Grantham

Extracted - Tyler H. Jolley & Sherry D. Ficklin

Crushed - Kasi Blake

Catalyst - Kristin Smith

Broken Fate - Jennifer Derrick

Bait - K.C. Blake

Aftermath - Sandy Goldsworthy

Bad Bloods - Shannon A Thompson

A Shine That Defies The Dark - Jodi Gallegos

 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card sponsored by our amazing authors!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t see the Rafflecopter form? Click HERE to go straight to the form. Best of luck!

Bloodthorn - Tamara GranthamSpellweaver - Tamara GranthamRiven - Sherry Ficklin

Smoke And Mirrors - Susan HarrisCollateral Damage - Susan HarrisSilverwitch -Tamara Grantham

Afterlife - Sandy GoldsworthyNever Back Down - Susan HarrisNight Of The Hunter - Susan Harris

Aftershock - Sandy Goldsworthy

CoverThumb

Milayna's Angel - Michelle Pickett

The Innocent - Michelle PickettCreatura - Nely CabFinding Willow - Michelle Pickett

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Announcement: The Light at Finnigan’s End (Rum Runners Book 2)

I am so happy to announce that my second book, The Light at Finnigan’s End, is going to be published on November 5, 2018. I am again working with the wonderful team at Changing Tides Publishing and this novel will be a follow up to A Shine That Defies the Dark, as well as #2 in The Rum Runners series.

 

Here is a little about The Light At Finnigan’s End:

Irish immigrant Deirdre Cassidy is determined to find out what happened to her brother, Finn. With the Great Depression sweeping the nation, Finn turned to the Moret Gang as a means of earning money and now he’s missing.

Deirdre manipulates her way into the depths of the most brutal bootleggers in southern Louisiana and one thing is clear, nothing happens without the approval of Claude Moret or his brother Jack. Before it’s over, Deirdre is determined to kill them both, even if she dies in the process.

The one thing Deirdre never counted on was Mo Moret. Claude’s son is as dangerous as he is magnetic, but Deirdre isn’t convinced he’ll ever be able to set aside his Moret loyalty for love. And Deirdre is determined to see the end of the Morets, however that end must come.

 

For those who are subscribed to my newsletter you’ll get a special sneak peak within the next week. If you’d like an early look at the first two chapters you still have time to sign up for my newsletter here

Many thanks to everyone who continued to ask for a second book and everyone who helped me along the way.

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Author Spotlight: Lucinda Stein

Name: Lucinda Stein

Author of: Jadeite’s Journey (Inkspell Publishing) and Minnie’s Antique & Curiosity Shoppe

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

My first writing was free verse, but after all these years, I couldn’t tell you what I wrote about. I went on to write a novella (to be forever buried in a drawer!)

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

In the beginning, I wrote for my own enjoyment. Later I joined a writers’ group and discovered how much I needed to learn about the craft of writing. With the encouragement of other writers, I eventually worked to get my writing published.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Two gracious people were willing to look at my work and give me feedback. At that point, I took my writing seriously and became committed to learning everything I could about writing. Note: This is a lifelong process!

Do you exclusively write sci-fi/fantasy or have you written in other genres?

Jadeite’s Journey was my first sci-fi/dystopian novel, but I’m definitely a multi-genre author. I’ve written historical fiction, contemporary women’s fiction, a collection of short stories, and young adult fiction. I’m currently working on a YA magic realism novel.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

While I was working fulltime, I would write for an hour or so after work. Now that I’m retired, I don’t have those same time constraints, but I still need to push myself and keep a regular writing routine.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

My rough draft usually takes four to six months. With historical fiction, the process can take a year to two years. Revisions, which includes my own editing and suggestions from critique groups, can take a year or longer.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I usually have a rough idea how the story starts and ends. I do a character study for the main character. One of the most important things is to determine what the MC wants most deeply and why they struggle to attain that desire. This should be an emotional drive (to discover their true worth, find the strength to forgive, etc.) vs. an outward need (such as a job, relationship, etc.) which can be a subplot in the story.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I don’t spin three times before sitting down to the computer, but I do like to have coffee or a cold drink at my desk. In the beginning, I used music to set the mood, but now I’ve been writing for so long that just putting fingertips to keyboard gets my brain activated!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

My first novel came out of lone hiking trips in the San Juan Mountains. Twice I took a wrong turn—once my German shepherd led me back to the trail and on another trip, a friendly hiker steered me straight! After coming across old mining ruins, I was inspired to write my first book, Maggie’s Way: The Story of a Defiant Pioneer Woman, published by Western Reflections Publishing.
A few years ago, I traveled with my husband to Oklahoma and visited his grandparents’ homestead. After hearing family stories while we were there, I found one particular event kept coming back to me. Soon I was researching the Depression era in Oklahoma and the Comanche tribe of which my husband is a member. The result was Dry Run, Oklahoma, a 2018 Oklahoma Book Award finalist.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Usually a very small thing is the seed for my story, but it’s an event that sticks in my mind until I write about it. Jadeite’s Journey, my YA novel, came out of my concern for the trouble in the world. I imagined a “perfect” future society. Of course to make a good story, this world turns out to have its own set of problems.

My adult novel, Minnie’s Antique & Curiosity Shoppe, was inspired by a young woman who actually lived in the back of her antique store. The setting for my book is my hometown, which made for a lot of fun. The eccentric mother in the story—totally fictional!

 Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Like my writing, I enjoy a variey of books from YA to adult, contemporary to classics.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I don’t intentionally hide things, but writers are definitely thieves. Like that old saying among writers—Watch out or you may turn up in one of my books. (Different names and faces of course!)

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Consciously or unconsciously, I’m sure my characters are composites of people I’ve known.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I loved Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, a National Book Award finalist and a Printz Award winner. The book shows up occasionally on Instagram (bookstagrams, specifically) but for the most part, seems underappreciated. It’s a unique YA book with a great theme.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

This winter, I read Les Miserable, a 900 page classic. I love the theme of redemption and fresh starts. The guilty part? I had to skim and skip the long passages about the French Revolution and other exceedingly long parts of French political history.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Occasionally, I check on the results of a book promotion.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

Definitely an owl. They’re always watching (for mistakes, improvement, inspiration) and wise in making decisions (revision, storyline.)

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

I struggle with finding where to start the story. There’s always the temptation to give too much information too soon. The reader need to be “hooked” into the story more than they need to know the main character or anything leading up to the story. Start with conflict and an inciting event.

 What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

A healthy critique group is essential for growth. Each member should be committed to improving his/her own work. This includes studying the advice of professional writers from books and workshops, and a willingness to take suggestions. In a good critique group, everyone wants to see each other improve.

If a suggestion is made by two or more people, take serious note of that suggestion. There’s so much to learn about the art and craft of writing that the effort can be daunting. Perseverance is required—it’s hard work—but hang in there and never stop learning.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Prepare yourself to be disappointed with book sales. Promotion is grueling and building a following takes time. Learn everything you can about the business and pump other authors (hopefully gracious ones) about things you should be doing.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

Without any financial compensation, I took on a new writer who wanted mentoring. She was so dedicated to learning she quickly grew in skill, became published, and now we critique each other’s work! I am so grateful for the writers in my life who were willing to share what they had learned that I try to pass it on. I encourage new writers to join writers’ groups and also find a critique group with members dedicated to helping each other in a kind, supportive manner.

Want to know more about Lucinda?

 

Minnie’s Antique & Curiosity Shoppe 

After growing up in the back of a secondhand store, Liza swore she’d never return home. But twenty-three-year-old Liza has lost all sense of direction after her divorce. Her mother, Minnie, a product of the hippie era, now resides in an antique store, her eccentricity known to all in the small Midwestern town. To Liza’s chagrin, she’s once again living in a store.

When a toddler is abandoned in Minnie’s shop, Liza takes in the child she calls Sweetie, hoping the young woman who left her will return. Liza soon finds her priorities change. She falls in love with the little girl and refuses to report Sweetie to the authorities. When the young woman who abandoned the child returns a year later, Liza’s force to make a decision—give up Sweetie or go the run.

Buy Minnie’s Antique & Curiosity Shoppe on Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

 

 

 

 

Jadeite’s Journey 

Jadeite’s perfect world comes crashing down on her. In the futuristic world of United Society, her only problem has been how to act around the cute boy on the air shuttle. But Jadeite’s world changes when she comes across a man who looks alarmingly like her father. Clones were declared illegal years ago. When she sees her father, a robotic engineer, headed to the Dark Edge of United Society, she follows him and uncovers her father’s secret life.

Jadeite shadows her father past the boundary of United Society and into a primitive world of canyons and high deserts. She learns her father is a Ridge Runner passing between the two worlds. Even more alarming, she discovers her younger brother, Malachite, is sick and requires medicine only available from over the Ridge. After her father is arrested, Jadeite takes his place in order to save her brother’s life.

But her world turns even more precarious after she breaks up with her obsessive boyfriend, Mattie. Jadeite soon learns his threats are more than words, and she finds her life is in jeopardy.

Buy Jadeite’s Journey from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 

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Author Spotlight: Kim Chance

Name:  Kim Chance

Author of: Keeper; Seeker (coming Fall 2019)

From: Flux Books

 

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

The first piece of original fiction I remember ever writing was a short story about a girl named Katie and a boy named Barry who fall madly and love and get married. It was about three pages long. I was very much into romance and fairy tales when I was younger! I still have it somewhere, though I think I’d be slightly horrified to read it! Can we say insta-love? LOL! 

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I majored in Journalism in college, so I was already on the path of using writing for my career, but I never occurred to me to pursue fiction writing until after I had graduated. I was 22 and newly married. My hubby was deployed and I was living in a brand new town with no friends or family nearby. I started dabbling in fanfiction just for fun, and when a friend suggested I write my own story, I decided to give it a try! The rest, as they say, is history!

 Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

 Not really. I sort of fumbled way through it on my own, to be honest. I did a lot of research and read a lot of craft books. Now, I’m part of a wonderful writing community and I have some amazing people in my corner. However, when I first started this journey, it was pretty much just me, my laptop, and a dream!

Do you exclusively write fantasy or have you written in other genres?

I’ve not written in other genres yet, but I’d like to in the future. I really don’t want to limit myself or put myself in a box. I know they say that writers should stick to one genre, but I’m not sure I agree with that. I plan to tell whatever story I’m most passionate about at the time, regardless of genre. Fantasy is definitely a soft spot for me, so I’m sure I will continue to write those types of stories, but I’d love to branch out as well.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

My schedule is 100% unpredictable. I have two school-age children and a baby. That in itself is a recipe for chaos! J I do the majority of my writing at night once the littles are asleep. It’s not ideal, but it’s the only time I can truly focus without interruptions. I do try to squeeze writing time in during the day if I can (i.e. while the baby naps), but I usually have other responsibilities to manage during that time (laundry, cleaning the house, paying bills, etc.) as well. It is VERY difficult to juggle everything, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve yet to figure out a true work/life/writing balance yet. I’m constantly working towards that though. I think the key is readjustment and trial and error. Just keep changing things up until you find what works for you!

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

FOREVER. I’m seriously the world’s slowest drafter. When I wrote Keeper, I wasn’t agented and I didn’t have a publishing contract, so I wrote on my own timetable. It took me about three years to write the draft that ended up being the published book. For Seeker, the sequel to Keeper, I’m on deadline with my publisher. I have a little less than six months to write and turn in the draft. No pressure! Revisions tend to go much quicker for me because I enjoy the revision process so much more than drafting. I’ll likely get about two months or so to revise Seeker before it gets sent off for ARC printing.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I’m a big plotter, so I do an extensive outline and character profiles before I begin each book. If there’s research to be done, I typically try to do as much as I can ahead of time, but stuff always comes up while I’m drafting too.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Haha! No, not really. I’m pretty boring! I do need music and hard candy though (jolly ranchers are my fav!).

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

Unfortunately, not. I’ve never been outside of the US, which is something I hope to remedy soon! There are so many places I’d love to see and visit—especially for writing inspiration!

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

For me, I don’t think it was one specific thing that inspired the story in Keeper. There were many things! I do remember the moment when a certain plot twist popped into my head. It changed EVERYTHING I had already written, but it was so exciting, I didn’t mind!

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I’m a pretty eclectic reader, but fantasy and historical are my favorites!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I didn’t do that in Keeper, nor do I have anything like that planned for Seeker. However, I do have another WIP that I plan to finish after Seeker is turned in. In that book, there are multiple easter eggs!

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Yes and no. Most of the characters are entirely their own people, but there are some bits and pieces I pulled from real like. For example, Lainey’s name comes from my middle name which is Elaine. I’m named after my grandmother and wanted to honor her in that way. Also, Maggie, Lainey’s best friend, is very similar to my real life best friend, Carrie. Carrie isn’t a comic book nerd, but she is fiercely loyal and protective of me and always has my back—just like Maggie always has Lainey’s! I also used my husband as inspiration for the villain of the story, the Master. That sounds really odd, doesn’t it? Lol! My husband has a pretty dry sarcastic wit and so does the Master. That’s where the similarities stop though!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer. It’s her adult sci-fi and it’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s so undervalued and appreciated, which is a shame because it’s an incredible book. I can’t recommend it enough.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Twilight, of course! (Also, by Stephenie Meyer)

 Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

 Not very often, but I have done it before!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

 I would definitely choose a fox! I think they’re cute and clever!

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Characterization. I always feel like I need to dig a little deeper with my characters. I usually get there, but it takes a while to really get inside their heads.

 What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

 Don’t be your own worst enemy. Writing a book is a difficult process, and it’s very easy to succumb to self-doubt and fear. Don’t stop yourself from doing what you love just because it’s scary. Keep writing and never stop. You can do it!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Don’t read your reviews. I know the temptation is there, but don’t do it. Reviews are for readers not for authors, and while the good reviews are awesome, negative reviews can really hamper creativity. Have someone else send you the good ones, but stay away from the bad ones. Protect your creative headspace!

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

Helping other writers is super important to me! That’s why I started my YouTube channel so that I could share what I’ve learned on my journey with others. I post weekly writing advice videos on my channel. I also host a monthly twitter chat to help writers connect with other writers under the hashtag #Chance2Connect. The chat is on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 9pm CST.

Want to find out more about Kim?

 

Keeper

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

 

Get your copy of Keeper from Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

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Author Spotlight: Katerina Baker

Name: Katerina Baker

Author of: The Corner Office (Self Published)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? I always thought I would be a full time writer in retirement, but until then I am managing to write in my spare time. As to whether I can call it a profession? I am definitely not the writer who has ambition to release many books per year. I prefer to let the books “stew” and grow, add on shape that can only happen when I take breaks from the novel I’m writing.

The first book I completed was started six years ago, which began my journey as an author. I remember sending my very first query letter to a New York City agent–only one because I did my research and I knew he was the perfect agent for me–and waiting for a phone call from him that same day. I think I even moved my meetings around so I would be available when he called.

Right.

That phone call never came, but I made another important one–to the editor who agreed to help me get the book into shape. Many revisions and almost three years later, that book did earn me my agent, which brings me to answering your next question…

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author? God, too many people to count. But a few people did make a tremendous difference in my writing career. First off, my long-time writing buddy and an amazing author Camilla Monk. She was my first true fan who helped me see potential in my work. I remember how high I felt receiving her comments after she read my work in progress. I think all authors needs a few good cheerleaders, and Camilla was that person for me when I was just starting out.

The other people who really helped me are my agents. They worked with me on many gruesome revisions, relentlessly making me kill my darlings and pointing me in the right direction.
Do you exclusively write romance or have you written in other genres? All of the books I’m writing have strong Romantic aspect, but I’ve decided to not market all of them as Romance because some of them are not traditional romance. My latest novel Under the Scrubs, which will be published soon, will be marketed as Mystery, but there is a very strong romantic element and happily-for-now ending.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? I am one of those writers who gets up at 5 am to get a few words in and then revise it on the bus to work. I also write at nights and on weekends while my kids are at various activities. Overall, I find myself more productive when I do a few dedicated spurts of writing rather than doing it continuously for many hours. I need my breaks to produce the best stuff.
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? The first draft might take 3-4 months but revisions could sometimes take years. The first novel in a series always takes longer, but sequels come much easier since I already have the special bond with the characters.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book? I prefer to write about a topic that I know about, and my pre-work is focused around drafting a few-page synopsis.
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? You mean the quirky habits I’d never want to tell anyone but your blog readers? None. Absolutely none. Just kidding. Well, when I get stuck, I like to play “what if” game with my kids. I give them a vague situation and ask them what would they do if they faced it. They win extra points if they find something absolutely ridiculous to resolve it. Under the Scrubs features quite a few of their gems, which is why this novel is that much more special for me.
Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list? I’ve extensively traveled in Turkey for a book I am writing. It’s about two Americans experiencing life in this beautiful country, and I wanted to make it truly authentic.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? The inspiration for Under the Scrubs came when I watched a movie about an FBI agent rescuing a girl-next-door. The movie finished as they walked into sunset together, and I thought, wait a minute. Would it really happen in real life? Would the people like that really get their happily-ever-after and what would it look like? The idea was born: pair up the most different people imaginable and explore their relationship, throw the craziest situations their way and see whether they’d manage to come out together. Would it work out? Would they be able to move past all the conflict? Or maybe life doesn’t really work that way. That’s how the idea started, but it evolved into a really fun novel and some really unusual characters.
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? I love to read all sub-genres of Romance, particularly Romantic Suspense. In humorous mystery, Janet Evanovich is my hero.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I hide a murder mystery in my books, but you’ll need to read all of them to find out. Just kidding.

I don’t know if this is really a secret but I spend a lot of time making up the names of fictional places in my books. A few of my characters also love to give nicknames for things, and I spent quite some time making those perfect.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? The female characters in my books are inspired by the women I knew and admired. I love writing about smart women: they are leaders, scientists, even hackers. They create their own destiny and make things happen. They show me the world I want for my daughters.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. There are so many undiscovered books that deserve more attention. I love Camilla Monk’s Spotless series. I think it’s a new classic that everyone should binge-read. How could you not love a hitman with an OCD?

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. You’ll get me in trouble here. I could spend days binge reading Outlander. I am the type of person who can re-read my favorite books over and over again and never get bored. I do sometimes go to my favorite scenes on my tenth read, though.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Never. I don’t care nearly enough what people think of me. This is the same reason I rarely read book reviews. I always reply to any direct messages sent by my readers, though. Those are truly special.

As a writer, which animal/item would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

It would be a pink pussy hat worn during women march.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? I could improve my world-building skills, particularly when writing imaginary places.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? Never give up. If you want something badly enough, keep at it. Be open to constructive criticism, no matter how hard it might be to hear. Constantly grow and learn from others, and eventually it will happen. If you never give up, it’s not a question of if, but of when.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? Market your book would be the smart advice, but really, do what makes you happy. Write a new book.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I spend a lot of time reading work-in-progress by other authors and providing feedback. I would love to be able to do more collaborations on marketing, but there’s never enough time in a day.

Where can people find more about you?

 

The Corner Office                                                            

Tara Johnson’s sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she’s one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he’s willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.
Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it’s her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it’s the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he’s still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.
But Tara’s increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand her.

 

Buy your copy of The Corner Office on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

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Author Spotlight: Sharonlee Holder

Name: Sharonlee Holder

Author of: Resurgence; Renegade (coming in 28 May 2018; Changing Tides Publishing)

From: Johannesburg, South Africa

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

It was so long ago that I think it involved a stone tablet, hammer and chisel. LOL. I do, however, remember writing a short story for my girls when they were little entitled ‘Betty & Bumper Go Adventuring’. I printed it out, drew pictures for it and stapled its ‘spine’ together. I think one of the girls may still have it somewhere.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I have always written for my own entertainment and spent the last ten years writing characters and telling their stories with others in various collaborative roleplaying communities themed around the world of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern book series. I also participated in NaNo in both 2012 and 2014. It wasn’t until the April Camp Nano in 2016 (during which the first 50k words of Resurgence were written) that I began to dream about the idea of turning my storytelling passion into a profession.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

My family and a couple of close friends. I know, that sounds so cliched. But were it not for their encouragement and support, I would never have had the courage to submit Resurgence in the first place. I must give my mom extra kudos for the hours and hours that she patiently listened to me blathering on about my characters like they were real people. She is still my number one sounding board when I need to brainstorm a plot twist or when I’m having a crisis of word flow.

Do you exclusively write paranormal romance or have you written in other genres?

I have a half-finished contemporary MC romance that is a stand-alone that I hope to complete this year and submit for consideration. NaNo 2012 I started but never completed a high fantasy novel, but even that has romance woven into it 😉

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

As an adult with ADD, maintaining any kind of balance and/or focus can be a challenge at times. This is where my passion for music comes in and helps to centre me during writing sessions. I am also truly grateful to be able to say that writing is my work. While I also design patterns for crochet toys and sell those through my Etsy shop on the side, I am determined to turn my writing passion into a sustainable career. Scary, nerve-wracking but altogether exciting too!

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

Resurgence took me four months to write, Renegade, five months – longer if you count the break I took when I began writing the MC Contemp Romance I have yet to finish. I’m hoping to get book 3 out in four and a half months.

 

As for revisions, I am a lineal writer that starts at Chapter 1 and writes straight through to The End, editing as I go. While this approach does to tend to slow me down so far, it has also served to lessen the need for hefty revisions. I am also a total pantster. While I may know the overall plot and how the book will end, my approach is very definitely that of discovery writing. My little ADD brain would get bored and disengage if it knew too much in advance 😉

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

Since I’m a pantster and revel in discovery writing, I tend to research as I go. Again, it does make for a bit of a stop-start approach but so far, it’s worked for me. That is, if you discount falling down rabbit holes that began with Googling: How long does it take to dig a grave by hand? And somehow ends with: Watching a Facebook video of someone making a three flavour swiss roll. I can’t even claim that I then went on to make said swiss roll for the family. LOL.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I feel like I should plead the fifth here. LOL. Coffee. There must always be coffee! Coffee and a short one-minute track from the band Thousand Foot Krutch called The Introduction that I listen to on my headphones at the start of each writing session. Not sure if it’s because I’m trying to invoke my muse, or it simply helps to clear the cobwebs from my head, but it seems to get me into the space I need to be in. The lyrics:

Welcome. You have activated all systems. Deactivation is not an option. You must find the truth. Remember, not everything is what it seems. If you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything. The end is where we begin.

The link: https://youtu.be/azkL37-ipKU

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I have! Aside from visiting the local graveyard where Ross, Apollo, Ares and Keanu have their little showdown in Resurgence, my #HEA surprised me with a trip to Underberg in the Drakensberg mountains to the exact location that has inspired the compound that Eros and the resistance take over at the end of Resurgence. It was amazing! There is an old abandoned hospital that inspired the one in Renegade (book 2) that’s just down the road from where I live. However, since it’s listed as one of the top ten most haunted places in South Africa I am way too chicken to check it out myself 😉 There I cheated and relied heavily on Youtube videos taken inside the dilapidated buildings by paranormal investigators and Google Earth for a 3D external view. I’ll be sharing some of those links on my blog and Facebook in the weeks leading up to Renegade’s release.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

With my #HEA being a patched member of the Hell Razors bike club, inspiration for my unfinished contemporary MC romance is taken directly from my and his involvement in the biker club life. The inspiration for Blood of The Custodians grew from a series of What Ifs after watching the delicious Henry Cavill in the 2011 movie, Immortals – What if the gods of Greek and Roman times still lived among us? What would they look like? What would their politics be? How would they integrate with us and what have they been up to for the past one thousand years?

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Paranormal romance all the way with a brief tour here and there through high or urban fantasy as well as historical fiction as written by the incredible Ken Follet. When it comes to PNR, I will admit to having a mega fangirl crush on JR Ward, author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and would probably swoon dead away if ever I got to meet her. Ward writes PNR and vampires like no one I’ve ever read before – Edgy, fast-paced, steal-your-breath away, melt-your-bones stuff. Karen Marie Moning, author of the Fever series is a close second – Jericho Barrons is delicious! When it comes to contemporary romance, Lori Foster’s Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor is my all-time favourite series from her so far. In this series, Foster writes the perfect blend of hot alpha males working as white hat mercenaries with steamy romance all while dealing with the grim reality of the modern-day slave trade.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Haha. Yes. Yes, I do 😉 There is a scene in Resurgence where Antara encounters Tryston (The Dark Hunter) for the first time that was inspired by a recurring nightmare I used to have as a teenager living at the coast. In Renegade, there is a scene set in Chicago that briefly touches on a strange little house squished between two modern hotels. Back in March of 2013, during a trip to the States, I stood outside in the middle of a snowstorm opposite the real-life inspiration and told my #HEA that one day, I would write a book and put that little double-storey house in it. Total squee moment when finally, I got to do just that! I only wish I could have written more about it.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Oh, this could get me into trouble. LOL. One or two of my characters are certainly drawn from real-life inspiration. For instance, Hailey, Antara’s BFF, is a composite of the close friend of one of my daughters and a friend of mine from the Hell Razors all wrapped up in the bounce and charm of a Jack Russell 😉 The real-life sources of Hailey’s inspiration are aware of this. Except the Jack Russell who was more interested in chasing imaginary squirrels than hearing how she had inspired a character.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield. I received the first book as a gift from a dear friend back in 2011 and loved reading about Lysandra, a Spartan warrior priestess who fights her way from shipwrecked slave to fearsome victor in the gladiatorial arena facing many deadly foes and circumstances along the way.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Wheels Up (Out of Uniform) by Annabeth Albert. A m/m military romance I thoroughly enjoyed Annabeth’s exploration of the psychology and dangers involved when a pair of new lovers suddenly find themselves thrust into the forbidden territory of a relationship between a commanding officer and enlisted man due to an unforseen transfer. What an emotional rollercoaster! And…hot, hot, hot!

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Haha. Haven’t we all? My results are pretty boring though. It’s all book/author stuff and the various crochet and cross stitch patterns I’ve designed for magazines or that I sell on my Etsy shop.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

Given how dragon obsessed I am, that would have to be it 🙂

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Putting down more words in a day that by the end of it, will survive my daily edits. My greatest aspiration is to be able to achieve a steady flow of between 3,000 and 4,000 words a day that make it passed edits.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Read. Read, read, read! And I don’t just mean novels in the genre you want to write in but everything about the craft of writing and publishing that you can get your hands on! Sign up for newsletters that offer free advice, read articles by other authors, editors and publishers. Follow published authors, editors, agents and publishers on social media as they not only have sage advice to give but will often share articles on all things related to the craft of writing. Things such as the difference between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’, character growth, plot development, query letters, writing a synopsis etc. Angela Ackerman on twitter is a brilliant place to start. She’s always sharing amazing tips and hints.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Social media! That’s two. #mybad. Seriously though, get on social media, follow other authors, book reviewers, bloggers, like their posts, share their stuff, retweet. Reach out. ENGAGE! It’s not just about marketing your book. You need to network and build relationships too.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

While I’m not as good about blogging as I should be, I do like to reach out one-on-one and share what I’ve learned in terms of what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, what info is out there for the taking and where to find it. I know how lonely and overwhelming the journey can be and how much just even the smallest bit of encouragement can help.

Where can people find more about you?

 

 

BLOOD OF THE CUSTODIANS 

RESURGENCE – Book one

It’s been a thousand years since the Fates destroyed Olympus, forcing the gods into exile among the humans. Now, led by Eros, the sons and daughters of the Olympians are preparing for war. They are determined to win their freedom, but the Fates will do anything to keep the status quo. A prophesied weapon—said to be able to destroy the Fates—is sought by both sides.  Eros and the resistance want to use it to win their freedom, while the Fates race to find the weapon first and destroy it.

 

Antara, a hybrid of human and Custodial descent, comes into her ancestral powers as the very Tracker Eros needs to find the weapon. Kidnapped, held hostage and forced to confront the hidden truth about her own heritage, Antara is drawn deeper and deeper into a world she never knew existed. Things would be a lot simpler if she could just hate Eros for bringing her here; if his fate weren’t now bound to her own—and if, despite everything, she didn’t already find herself falling in love with him…

 

Set in modern day urban South Africa, Resurgence is a fast-paced paranormal romance featuring rich, dynamic characters centered on a smoldering love story and timeless themes.

 

One Liner: Love has the power to move gods.

 

BUY LINKS: FREE

Amazon
Smashwords
Nook

 

 

 

RENEGADE – Book two

In the ongoing war between the Fates and the resistance, Colin Murphy, bastard son of Hades finds himself caught between his loyalty to Eros and a past intent on destroying him.

Pursued by Persephone’s bounty hunters with a pissed-off daemon to contend with, there is one thing that Murphy knows for sure – Hailey, the human he now shares his mind and body with, is the innocent in all of it. She is a firefly flickering in the darkness of his black existence and he will do anything to protect her light.

Groomed to be a socialite with a conscience and with her future mapped out for her, nothing could have prepared Hailey for the rude ending to life as she knew it. Or, for that matter, the impact of living in such close, intimate confines with a forsaken son of hell. He’s powerful, dangerous and her only hope of escaping the dark forces after her.

Boundaries will be tested, loyalties questioned, and hearts pushed to the limits in this action-packed paranormal romance that continues the epic Blood of the Custodians saga by Sharonlee Holder.

 

One Liner: He’ll risk his heart to save her soul.

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

Amazon Pre-order 

Nook Pre-order

 

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A Colorado Girl and Harry Potter Fandom

A few weeks ago I was in Scotland. Aside from the castles, thrones, and really old stuff (more to come on that later) I had the chance to indulge in some Harry Potter fandom. Just to clarify, I’m not someone who knows Harry Potter trivia in detail. I’ve read the books, seen the movies, and I’m a fan of both and of the mystique that surrounds all things Potter-ish.

That said, while in Scotland I did engage in some literary fandom. Months before our trip my sister-in-law, Kate, sent me a link to The Elephant House. This (for those who don’t know) is a lovely little tea & coffee shop in Edinburgh where JK Rowling spent some time writing Harry Potter while looking out the windows at amazing architecture of that historic city. After some more research I discovered just how rooted in Harry Potter this little cafe has become. People from all over the world visit and, because it’s become the thing to do, write messages on the bathroom walls. Initially, the owners and staff tried to paint over the graffiti, but it’s rumored that by the end of the day the walls would be covered again. And so they gave up. Now, the walls of the bathrooms, the mirrors, pictures, towel dispensers, even the ceilings have messages to and from Harry Potter fans from across the world.

And so, not only did I have a beverage–Fleur’s Fantasy–and a delicious piece of Victorian sponge cake, I made a point to use the bathroom (and I brought a marker and put my name on the wall!).

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Hunger: A Tale of Courage by Donna Jo Napoli

 

 

 

“Through the eyes of twelve-year-old Lorraine this haunting novel from the award-winning author of Hidden and Hush gives insight and understanding into a little known part of history—the Irish potato famine.

It is the autumn of 1846 in Ireland. Lorraine and her brother are waiting for the time to pick the potato crop on their family farm leased from an English landowner. But this year is different—the spuds are mushy and ruined. What will Lorraine and her family do?

Then Lorraine meets Miss Susannah, the daughter of the wealthy English landowner who owns Lorraine’s family’s farm, and the girls form an unlikely friendship that they must keep a secret from everyone. Two different cultures come together in a deserted Irish meadow. And Lorraine has one question: how can she help her family survive?

A little known part of history, the Irish potato famine altered history forever and caused a great immigration in the later part of the 1800s. Lorraine’s story is a heartbreaking and ultimately redemptive story of one girl’s strength and resolve to save herself and her family against all odds.”

 

I’ve been a fan of Donna Jo Napoli’s writing since I stumbled upon Hush while doing reviews for an old YA book review site. When I saw Hunger listed on NetGalley I requested it right away and crossed my fingers that I’d get approved. I was not disappointed.

Napoli has once again proven that she is a master in historical fiction. Not only has she constructed a well-researched world for her characters, but she’s delivered a heart wrenching storyline that kept me thoroughly tied to the pages.

Hunger is set during the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s. Twelve-year-old Lorraine, awakens one morning to the panicked sounds of her parents desperately trying to salvage their crops from another devastating fungal outbreak. In Lorraine’s small community of cottier farmers—and across Ireland—the Irish tenants face another winter of starvation and disease while their British landlords ignore—and even deny—their plight.

Lorraine soon finds herself walking a line between her dying friends and family and a friendship with the landlord’s sassy and self-involved daughter. Lorraine finds herself trying to convince Susannah as to the reality of the plight of the Irish, but Susannah has been raised believing the Irish have every opportunity if only they would take it upon themselves to fulfill them.

Hunger is filled with heartbreaking realities and conflicting moral decisions that must be made as Lorraine and her friends face a crisis of historical proportions. I was mesmerized, heartbroken, and could even feel the hunger—and guilt—as I read. Donna Jo Napoli has proven again that she is a master of historical fiction.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to review this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Hunger: A Tale of Courage here on Amazon.com

 

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