31 December, 2014

#BookReview :: The Symbol by Varun Gautam

A perfectly written script goes awry when Arjun encounters the unexpected. His belief in occult injustice solidifies when he, on one hand, fails to clear the much coveted IMS entrance exam and on the other hand, his friend Mohan gets more than what he deserved in life. Unable to cope up with this unfairness, he becomes directionless. With no way forward and some strained relations, he reaches the peak of monotony in his life and has nowhere to draw his inspiration from. One day suddenly he gets hold of a device called The Symbol which promises to solve all his problems.
Can The Symbol help him come out of his woes?
Will he be able to rise above the so called injustice and prove his mettle?
It is a journey that takes a peek into finding a new perspective and chartering inspiration from unknown territories, where none was thought to have existed. 



This is essentially the story of Arjun and his journey of life. Like most youth today he is street smart and ambitious. But he feels that life has dealt him a bad hand when he fails at the most important, to him, things in life. For instance, all his hard work goes into waste when he fails the IMS exam while his counterpart, Mohan, Makes it through. To make matters worse, he meets with an accident. It is then, that he comes across the Symbol and things start taking a turn.

The character of Arjun has been drawn flawlessly and the growth that he shows over the time is also good. From an arrogant and overconfident person who cares very little about others, he becomes this modest guy who sees and understands the reality. I started off hating Arjun but ended up liking him anyway for the changes he went through. Another factor that made me like this story is the fact that the story is not narrated by Arjun but by his cousin Dhruv. It gave a third person view to the story and Dhruv has a very honest voice that I found endearing. The plot itself was somewhat predictable after a while. Though it lacks the strength to keep the reader indulged, it is the story in general that makes up for it. The author has done a great job with both the characters and the story. It is the narrative of the story and the simple language used makes it really easy to get into the story.

On the other hand, I would have loved to read more about the ‘Symbol’ that plays such an important part in the story. The concept that the author established was interesting, but I feel that it should have been explored a bit more. Also, the ending of the book could have been handled in so many different ways that I feel that the ending that the author chose did not really do justice to the way the story was built up.

Overall, this makes for an interesting debut novel with many flavours.



30 December, 2014

#Interview with Shatrujeet Nath, #Author of Guardians of the Halahala


Shatrujeet Nath has sold ice-creams, peddled computer training courses, written ad copy, and reported on business as a journalist and assistant editor at The Economic Times. His first book, The Karachi Deception, was published in 2013. The Guardians of the Halahala is his second book, and the first in The Vikramaditya Trilogy series. He divides his time between writing fiction and poetry, reading, playing with his daughter – and dreaming of buying a small castle in Scotland. Till that happens, he plans to continue living in Mumbai.

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When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Everything about writing happened to me by chance. I don’t recollect ever having written anything original or creative through my entire childhood. I had no ambitions of becoming a writer – ever.
I became a copywriter in my twenties by a stroke of luck. The regular copywriter in the poky little ad agency where I used to work was on leave, and a brochure had to be written for a very demanding client. The task fell on me, and I guess I did a reasonable job. Somebody then decided I was good at this stuff, so I kept writing ad copy. Then, when I tired of advertising, I sent my resume to a Delhi-based business magazine. I have no idea why I did that, but the mag hired me as a sub-editor. That’s how I became a journalist.
It turned out I was well suited for journalism. But after a little over a decade, I wanted to do something else. I quit journalism and started working as a consultant for a new TV production house. I guess that’s where the thought of developing a story of my own first occurred to me. I began penning what was supposed to be a film script, but as I knew nothing about the grammar of filmmaking, I ended up writing a novel – The Karachi Deception.

What inspires you to write?
That’s a tough one to answer. Different things serve as inspiration at different times. When it comes to poetry, for example, the inspiration could be something as simple as a phrase that crosses my mind. Or it could be a visual or a metaphor, or just something that I have read in the papers. With short stories – and I confess I haven’t tried my hand at too many – the inspiration could be a dramatic scene or something that strikes me as poignant about the human condition.
But with longer fiction, the inspiration is either story or character or both. When I set out to write The Karachi Deception, I knew that I had a good story on my hands, one that could potentially surprise readers and make them look at what they have come to believe as the truth in a new light. The only challenge there was in being able to build a compelling narrative. On the other hand, The Guardians of the Halahala was the synthesis of a premise and a rich set of characters. The Guardians is very simply the result of my fascination with king Vikramaditya and his legendary navratnas. Without these characters, the book and the series would never have happened.

What was the general response to The Karachi Deception? Did it live up to your expectations?
I think The Karachi Deception has done reasonably well. Has it lived up to my expectations from a sales point of view? Not really. Has it lived up to my expectations from the point of view of its appeal among readers? Most definitely yes. All you need to do is look up the book’s stats on Goodreads and Flipkart to see for yourself.
The Karachi Deception is a fine example of a good product being done in by poor marketing and lousy distribution. While I’d be foolish to believe the book doesn’t have its share of critics, the fact is that an overwhelming majority of those who’ve read it have loved it. I even have readers from Pakistan who have rated the book four- and five-stars on Goodreads. I have readers here who wonder why the book isn’t among the Top 20 in India. All that is very encouraging, but the numbers are nowhere close enough to make it a commercial hit. Yet, nearly two years after its launch, the book is still selling steady numbers, only because of favourable word-of-mouth. What The Karachi Deception has given me is a bunch of extremely passionate and loyal readers who have come to expect good books from me, and I believe the numbers will keep swelling.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story – The Guardians of the Halahala? 
The Guardians – and the other two books that are to come in the Vikramaditya series – is the outcome of how the mind makes strange connections between disparate ideas that float around aimlessly in our heads. The thing is that I had been playing with the idea of an epic fantasy on Vikramaditya and his navratnas as a band of superheroes. The idea had taken firm root and just couldn’t be shaken off, but my problem was that I didn’t have a story to weave around these characters. At the same time, I was also thinking of developing a thriller around the Halahala, the poison that emerged from the Ocean of Milk during the samudramanthan. I liked the idea that Shiva hadn’t been able to destroy all that destructive poison, and that some of it is still around, which can turn into a nightmare if it finds its way into the hands of the wrong people. I was exploring different things around this idea – making it a Dan Brown-like thriller with terrorists, doing a period piece set in the Second World War where the Nazi’s under Hitler are in quest of the Halahala… But somehow I wasn’t happy with the options I was considering.
One day, while working on something totally different, it struck me that I could combine the Halahala and the Vikramaditya ideas. Here I had a king and his band of heroes looking for a story idea, and there I had a premise of the Halahala that was seeking a context. The moment I put them together, the whole story kind of unspooled in my head. And from being a single book, the thing evolved and took a life of its own and became a trilogy.

You have taken quite a few liberties in this book with the characters… do you think the general audience will accept it?
As I have said in my foreword in the book, I have indeed taken many liberties in the telling of this story. I believe that mythology has the capacity to accommodate many parallel narratives at the same time. If we look around at our existing mythology, we will find many versions of the same story, each version varying from the others on so many little points. This is what makes mythology so rich and fascinating. What I have done in this series is bring in variations of my own to further a story and a philosophy that I want to communicate.
My point of view in this story is that the cosmos is all about equilibrium, and that both positive and negative need to be in balance to keep this equilibrium intact. So my story is not about good triumphing over evil – it is about both trying to vanquish one another, and Shiva entrusting Vikramaditya with the task of making sure neither succeeds. The story is about two forces trying to gain something that can ultimately destroy the universe, so both devas and asuras are the so-called bad guys. Both are devious, both are ruthless, both have agendas. Will people accept this? I think so. Everything is about context. Here are two extremely powerful forces who want to take something from a human king, something that the human king has sworn to protect. The human king has given his word to Shiva, but the devas and asuras still have the temerity to try and take the Halahala from him. I can’t see the devas and the asuras winning any friends among my readers.

Also, the Gods felt very human at times. Was it intentional? Why?
The thing about all ancient mythologies is that the gods were never perfect. Whether it is Hindu mythology or Greek or Egyptian, the ancient storytellers always imbued their gods with human flaws and foibles. Gods were given to rage, lust, jealousy, deceit… the entire gamut of human failings. It almost seems as if for the ancients, gods were merely superhuman and not necessarily divine. It is only much later that these flaws were either papered over or airbrushed with rationalizations and justifications in the quest to make gods into divinities. I get the strong sense that our own increasing moral bankruptcy forced us to make ideals out of our gods.
So to answer your question, I chose to portray the gods – or the devas and asuras – with human qualities because that is the way they have always been portrayed in ancient mythology. Partly that, and partly because the devas and asuras in my story are petty in their greed for the Halahala. Their hunger for power is human-like, their desire to use any and all means to achieve their ends is human-like.

Why did you choose to move on from mystery/thriller to mythology/fantasy genre? Was the overall experience any different?
The idea was not to move away from any genre – as I said, I was exploring the telling of the Halahala story as a Dan Brown-like thriller. But the moment I was able to put the Halahala and Vikramaditya together, I knew I had a story, and for me story is what matters, not genre. I am not one of those who likes to be defined by the genre I write in. I would much rather let my nose follow a story and take me wherever it chooses to. I want to explore stories in multiple genres – horror, historical fiction, satire. But the story I like and want to tell will determine the genre. It’ll never be the other way around.
Overall, I liked exploring a different genre. Every genre has its own rhythm, its own pace, its own conventions. Finding the beat for fantasy was as much fun as it was for a spy thriller.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
It is hard to say, but the part that I liked writing the best was probably the Ashvins’ siege of Ujjayini. I remember struggling quite a bit there trying to make the battle work, but the moment I was able to figure out what made the Ashvins such dangerous adversaries, I started having a blast. I think that entire siege stretches over two chapters, and most importantly, it laid the foundations for Vikramaditya’s Hellfires, which have a significant role to play in the third book of the series. All in all, that part is packed with action and drama, and I enjoyed every ounce of it.

I know you read quite a bit. Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
The authors I admire a lot for various different reasons include John Steinbeck, Frederick Forsyth, China Mieville, John le Carre, Graham Greene, Jack Vance, Stephen King, Mario Vargas Llosa and Keigo Higashino. Of late, I have discovered Peter James, Conn Iggulden and Gillian Flynn, and I’m waiting to get a taste of Paolo Bacigalupi and Robin Hobb.
I cannot honestly say how all these authors have influenced me. I can only hope their influence has worked into my writing in some small and meaningful way.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
Kurt Vonnegut’s all-time classic: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. This one line sums up human motivation, which is what creates conflict and drama, and drives the narrative forward.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
The difference between wanting to write and having written is one year of hard, relentless labour. It’s a bridge you have to build all by yourself, all alone, all through the night, while the world goes about its business without giving a damn. The only way of making this perilous passage is by looking at it as a pilgrimage.

How long before the sequel comes out and what else do you have in store next for your readers?
I am hoping to have the second book in the Vikramaditya Trilogy out for September. Then, in 2016, I want to make the third book of the trilogy available. After that what? I haven’t thought that far into the future – Vikramaditya still demands a lot from me. But as I have told you, I want to do historical fiction and horror. Maybe an idea will strike that allows me to do one or the other. There’s also a strong germ of an idea for another mythology-based book. Apart from all this, quite a few readers of The Karachi Deception have been pestering me to write a sequel to that book with Major Imtiaz Ahmed and his Unit Kilo commandos as its heroes. So anything can happen between now and the end of the Vikramaditya Trilogy.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Please keep reading. You are the reason we authors pick writing books over well-paying jobs that can guarantee annual holidays in the French Riviera and the Swiss Alps. You are the reason we’d rather be hunched over our laptops contracting spondylitis instead of cracking a shinbone skiing on some Alpine slope.


The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction.
But was the Halahala truly destroyed?
A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it.
As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos!
A sweeping tale of honour and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend. 

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29 December, 2014

#SpecialFeature :: Interview with #Author Linda Lee Schell


*** Special Feature December 2014 ***


An Interview With the Author

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
 Looking back to the days of yore, at five years of age I saw a broken typewriter in my aunt’s attic, and wanted to start writing then.  After that day every time I saw a typewriter I wanted to write.  I didn’t have access to a typewriter until I was a junior in high school.  By then I had put my writing ideas aside.  

What inspires you to write?
The thought I hold continuously in my mind is that as a world community we all need to have an appreciation for the history and cultures of those outside our borders.  I hope to point children and their parents to that end through writing fantasy.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
An enchanting travel log about the city, St. Petersburg, The Crown Jewel of Russia, inspired me to write my first fantasy adventure book, Come Along With Me.  I wanted to bring an appreciation to American children and their parents for the magical city known for its culture, architecture, tree-lined parks, and its bridges by the hundreds.  The first fantasy book led me to my second, The Palace Buzz, a wacky romp coated in outrageously true history.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
No.

Tell us about your writing process.
In school we were taught to start with an outline.  I think that’s a mistake.  How can an author prepare an outline before the author knows how his story will end? In Janet Evanovich’s How I Write: Secrets Of A Best Selling Author, Janet tells her audience that she hates middles. There are authors who start out with a story idea for an end, but have neither beginning nor middle.  
In my case I had no middle or ending. Intuitively I devised a way to address the conundrum. I wrote scenes that I thought were interesting. In the beginning many of the scenes were not related.  As I continued to write I found that I could connect certain scenes to others.  In some cases I threw away the scenes.  Later I read in a magazine article that my intuitive flash for plot solving is an actual method used by some authors.  

What is your favorite scene in the book?  Why?
That’s a hard question.  That’s like asking a parent who is their favorite child. Come Along With Me is packed with adventure and wild, visual scenes.  Pressed for an answer, I’ll say the delightful August evening of the barn dance when Gibson the cat and Gracie ’roo rest on the old stone watering trough in the barn, and look out the fly-specked window at the full moon while they listen to the lovers song, “Some Enchanted Evening”.
The song, the two friends and the cows, the soft smell of manure, and the moon are comforting.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Gracie is ditzy, and I’m Attention Deficit.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
There’s nothing interesting or quirky that I can think of.  I feel fortunate that I have a Bose radio in my office, and sometimes I like to listen to radio stations from other countries while I write.  I listen to audio books when I’m driving.  Frequently my mind will zoom away from the audio book, and that’s when I’ll get some good ideas for a book.

What is your usual writing routine?
I used to like in the morning, but since I have committed to the gym, my best time to write is after 7:00 in the evening.

Do you read?  Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
Since I started writing, I read more, and always have an audio book in the car.  
Kate Di Camillo’s The Tales of Despereaux, and other multigenerational stories gave me confidence to pursue Come Along With Me. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder taught valuable life lessons.  Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza series deals with tough childhood problems in a humorous way. Humor is a very important ingredient in my books.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?
A blogger suggested that the best thing a new writer can do for himself is to keep writing, and not expect to see interest in his work until about the fifth book.  In other words, authors shouldn’t write one or two books, and then put all their effort into marketing those books.  Keep writing.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Have a thick skin, and be glad to have someone who is capable of giving you constructive criticism. The most important advice I can offer is to pay a professional to have your manuscript edited, and not just for typos and grammatical errors.  A house built on sand will never make it.  All the marketing in the world will not save a mediocre or messy manuscript.

What would be the Dream Cast for your book if it was to be turned into a movie?
What a great question.  The mother, Sally Field, the farmer, George Clooney, the grandmother, Mary Tyler Moore, Justice of the Peace Alabaster Armbuster, John Goodman. I have no one in mind for the little girl. In The Palace Buzz, Catherine the Great, Meryl Streep, zany Czar Peter, Robert De Niro, General Orlov, Christopher Walken.  

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
- Since I couldn’t carry water or food, I’d like to have lipstick on when the rescuers find me dead or alive.  
 - Since a radio would be worthless on a deserted island, maybe pencils and lots of paper.  Pencils or paper might keep me busy longer than the few books I could carry with me.  Scratch the pencils and paper. 
 - I’ll need a hat and suntan oil.

How do you spend your free time?  Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I love movies first, and reading second.  I like to eat out, go to plays, and listen to good music. Our Moose Lodge here in Venice, Florida as far as I’m concerned is the “best in the west”.  I work in our yard, and when I’m in the mood I like to clean house.  The gym is a good source of relaxation. Researching historical details for my fantasy adventure stories entertains me.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Writing one book.  Book two is a bonanza.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I’m drawing a blank on this one.  If I ever hit the big time, I’d love to be interviewed by Jon Stewart, although I can’t imagine that he’d have any interest in Gibson and Gracie. That interview will happen in my dreams.  Oh, my husband grew up with Eddie O’Neil on the North Side of Youngstown, and my brother-in-law knew Boom Boom Mancini. 
My (at least 5 greats), uncle, Col. David Espy in Bedford, PA lent his house to President George Washington to use as his headquarters to combat the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.  That’s my one claim to fame, and the event is certainly fun for me to know.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m working on the third volume in the Gracie Series.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
If the readers want to become authors I would suggest finding a writer’s group to learn about social media, marketing, and basic computer advice.  Expect l0l advice; we all have to start somewhere.  If a writer finds himself in a writer’s group that delves on negative personal criticism and the leader of the group is weak, move on.  There are lots of writers’ groups out there.  
Here’s one thing I want to share with everyone everywhere in the world.  Please don’t forward malicious chain letters on to your friends and relatives. With the Internet it is so easy to fact check. The letters fuel unnecessary anger and outrage. If we need anything in this world it is tolerance.  




About the Books


Meet Gracie, a ditzy dwarf kangaroo from the Thirty-sixth Universe--a creature who lives in a perfect realm. Because she is bored, Gracie longs for an adventure to St. Petersburg, Russia, a place she imagines is filled with beauty and enchantment. Much to the tiny ‘roo’s surprise, her ability to transport herself to the land of the czars has failed. She ends up at a dairy farm in St. Clair, Pennsylvania, where she saves the life of Gibson, an abandoned Maine coon cat. 
The unlikely pair become fast friends. While Gracie tries to find her way back home, Gibson carves a life for himself on a farm with his newly adopted mistress, the farmer’s young daughter. There’s one hitch: The overworked farmer demands that Gibson earn his keep. Gibson’s task is thwarted somewhat when he experiences strange visions. But are these visions the result of a thrashing he received from the farmer’s two dogs? Or, maybe Gibson sees parallel universes? 
As outsiders the little kangaroo and the cat from the city negotiate the perils of farm life. They meet two malicious rats who hate anyone who is happy. The two devoted friends must contend with stampeding cows and a barnyard of critters that have little use for newcomers. 

Will Gibson keep his sanity and become the little girl’s pet? Will Gracie ever see the splendor of the Russian Versailles? Will the farmer survive the evil machinations of the rats, Bratwold and Eastman? Drift back to the days of Barbie dolls, hula hoops, and Sputnik to find out. 




Here she goes again! Gracie, a dwarf kangaroo from the thirty-sixth universe, is skipping across the cosmos to her dream destination: St. Petersburg, Russia. She's traveling with Gibson, a Maine coon cat whose life she saved when he was unceremoniously dumped in front of a Pennsylvania corn field. Expectations and reality quickly collide. What she expected to find was a city of wintery white nights, a city dotted with a hundred islands linked by dozens of imposing bridges, all book-ended by majestic sculptures cast in bronze. She expected to feast her eyes on historic buildings splashed with pink, yellow and blue pastels. Instead, she finds herself back in the 18th century, in Russia's Imperial Golden Age. This is not the city I expected, she laments as she stands bewildered near the entrance to the city's center of activity, the perpetually busy post office. Then, when Empress Catherine arrives in her royal carriage and points a bejeweled finger at the ever-so-handsome Gibson, and declares: I want that cat...the fun begins.


Buy the Books from Amazon

About the Author

Linda's favorite children’s genre is fantasy/adventure.  Her goal is to encourage children to think creatively and critically, and to expand their imaginations while simultaneously exposing them to a variety of cultures and histories through fantasy.
Combining childhood innocence with historical verisimilitude and a dash of magical fantasy--that was Linda's impulse behind writing her first book, Come Along With Me.
Linda was born in Youngstown, Ohio and moved in 1977 to St. Clairsville, Ohio, twenty minutes from Wheeling, West Virginia. Linda left her employment to help her husband establish a classic and collectible car business. While in St. Clairsville Linda was active in the Chamber of Commerce and The Merchant’s Association.  Her husband of forty-four years and one son now live in Venice, Florida. 
Linda is the daughter of an Ohio dairy farmer and an elementary school teacher. Her working years were in a competitive sales and business environment.
Active in Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, she is a Paul Harris Fellow. 

Giveaway
2 sets of the Gracie Series through Amazon’s Kindle (Come Along With Me &The Palace Buzz equals one set)

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27 December, 2014

#Interview with Lana Moon, #Author of Awake

About the Author:
Lana Moon grew up in Southeast Missouri. She has a background in Medieval and American folklore, and spent a brief period moonlighting as a ghost hunter. When that group dissolved, she still had a strong desire to explore old buildings and abandoned properties in Missouri and Illinois. As a result, many of these "forgotten" places are settings in her stories.

Moon has been writing for over a decade and contributes regularly to the Shorties Blog which features free short stories and book excerpts.


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Interview with the Author:

When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a kid, the books that drew me in were those fun adventure stories where you could pick the ending. That created a spark—and suddenly every ghost episode of Unsolved Mysteries gave me ideas, only I could tweak or change the endings inside my head. And eventually the writing part took off. And here we are!

What inspires you to write?
Growing up in a small town, we had dozens of urban legends and ghost stories that were passed around. I love twisting some of those tales with other folklore to up the creep factor or just heighten the drama. And then I’ll throw some broken people into the mix and make them fall in love. It’s fun! 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I was talking to a woman who had lost her husband. Devastated with this loss, she said she sold the home they shared and moved into an old house. She lived in it for seven years and claimed that every night she felt a presence climb into bed with her. There was nothing sinister to it, she said, but it provided the peace she had been looking for. I was enthralled. I couldn’t get her story out of my head. For seven YEARS she felt something crawl into bed next to her! And whether it was just her grief or a real phenomenon, that was a story I wanted to write. And that story became Awake.  

Is there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Once I had an idea to write about one of the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz. He was going to have a backstory that involved a sort of Oedipus tragedy, but with enchanted monkeys. It’s probably best that it stays locked in the vault. 

Tell us about your writing process.
I’ve never written a book the same way twice, and I don’t know if there is an exact science to writing. I was writing a short story once and became so frustrated with the beginning that I scrapped it and started writing the ending—so that story was literally written backwards. The one consistency that probably all writers will agree on is coffee. 

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
My favorite scene in Awake is probably the mock wedding night between Victor and Eve. Here were two broken individuals running from their pasts, and I really wanted to just freeze a moment for them. So my dowdy heroine Eve buys this lovely white dress, and Victor (the incubus who’s rarely clothed) shows up in a polished suit, and they share a really beautiful and perfect moment. 

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Living in the Midwest, I’ve always had a fear of tornadoes. So much of Eve’s fear of storms (despite her secret) is definitely my own coming through. Nature always reminds us every season how deadly it is—but tornado season is the worst. 

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Every time I finish writing a book, I throw up. Every. Single. Time. It’s a sexy quirk. 

What is your usual writing routine?
It’s taken a while for me to figure out that the more you write, the better the writing becomes. So I’ll work several hours in the evening, or I’ll get up at 3 or 4am and work for a few hours before starting my day job. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. 

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m currently revising my first full-length novel, To Hold and to Keep. It follows a man who loses his wife in a freak accident. Years pass, but the man remains in a deep state of grief . . . until he meets a woman who looks exactly like his late wife. The story is very heavy on the romance, but there’s also a great deal of supernatural touches throughout, as well as a huggable butler, a precocious little girl, and one peculiar doll . . . and I’ll leave it at that.  

About the Book:

RESTLESS
Tormented by nightmares since the death of her family in a devastating tornado, Eve has returned to her Missouri hometown to face her painful past. There, in her aunt’s long-abandoned cottage, she meets an unlikely healer: a gorgeous incubus on the prowl for a mate. Victor offers Eve innocent comfort and soothing caresses, but his demonic nature won’t long be denied.
WANTING
For thousands of years, Victor has preyed on women’s hidden desires while his own longings have gone unfulfilled. Now, at last, he’s met the woman of his dreams. But while their passion is quick to ignite, their future is far from certain. Eve’s feelings of guilt and Victor’s own dark deeds still haunt them. If Eve gives him her body yet withholds her trust, an enemy from Victor’s past could end their love—and him—forever. 




26 December, 2014

#BookReview :: Gut Instinct (The Campbells of Creek Bend #2) by Barb Han

Reunited…by a murderer 

FBI agent Luke Campbell has never been more determined to catch the serial killer who's eluded him for two years. Because this time the monster is after Julie, the ex he walked out on when he returned from Iraq, emotionally scarred and burdened by a secret. Now Luke will do anything—even risk his life—to protect Julie and regain her trust. 
But it's a tense race against time. Defying FBI rules, Luke keeps Julie by his side throughout a harrowing chase. Once they're finally at a safe house, it's clear to him that the passion they once shared hasn't cooled. Can Luke redeem himself and keep evil away from the woman he refuses to let go of again? 



Julie Davis had tried her best to help her husband when he had returned from Iraq with PTSD. But Luke had shut her out and then walked out on their marriage. The divorce had left her distraught but she had slowly recovered from that loss by focusing all her energy into her business. But when her work takes her to cross paths with a serial killer and brings back Luke in her life, her life is upturned once again. Pursued by the serial killer, she has only Luke to depend on. Will the closeness rekindle her suppressed love for Luke or will the hurt of his desertion take over? 

Luke Campbell was very much aware of the fact that he had taken the coward’s way out when he had walked out on Julie instead of working on his problems together. Now with Ravishing Rob, a serial killer who turns murder into art, on her trail – Luke will do anything to keep Julie safe. But their shared past complicates things as Luke defies FBI regulations to keep her with him and ensure her safety. With a life on the line, will Luke finally admit to what’s in his heart?

Barb Han has created two amazing characters in Julie and Luke. Luke has served a number of years in the army and after struggling and coping with PTSD, he joins the FBI. If that isn’t the sign of a strong man, I do not know what is. He is very much aware of his mistakes and is prepared to do anything to not repeat them. Julie on the other hand matches Luke with her strength. It is hard enough to be a military wife, but to have her husband return with PTSD and then walk out on her… she had done well for herself. And even under life threatening situations, she doesn’t hang back and let Luke do all the work. She isn’t stubborn and is very caring and loveable.
The plot is not as straight forward as one expects from a romance novel. The author has handled the mystery/intrigue part quite well. With simple language, attention to details and detailed description of events, the author has done a great job of creating a story that indulges its readers on many fronts.

 Full of action, this fast paced novel with intimate moments is a fun read. 









#BookBlast :; 32 Seconds by Johanna K. Pitcairn

To the average onlooker, the city of Los Angeles represents glitz, glamour, and the celebrity lifestyle. But to seventeen-year-old Julie Jones, the city is a vast host of problems she’s longing to get away from. The latest? An unfortunate disagreement with her ex-boyfriend Mark—one that could land her in some serious hot water.

So rather than face the troubles that torment her, Julie decides to run away from her old life and start fresh somewhere new. But her parents aren’t on board with the plan, and she soon finds her bank accounts frozen and her wallet empty.

With just seventy-five dollars and a full tank of gas, the troubled teen is far too stubborn to turn around and head home. So what’s a girl to do?

What Julie doesn’t know is that her travels are about to take her somewhere unexpected—a place where she’ll be forced to come face to face with the ghosts of her past in order to secure her future.

A tale of redemption, hope, and freedom lost and found, 32 Seconds is a thought-provoking exploration into the human spirit and the nature of forgiveness.



Available on Amazon

Random Fun Facts:
1) To trigger my inspiration, I binge on Netflix. I pick shows from any genre, and study the dialog and the plot. I also watch video game walkthroughs on YouTube. It's a great help to develop my characters.
2) I can't remember the last time I've had a bad case of writer's block. Plotting helps eliminate that issue. 
3) My biggest pet peeves: misspellings, grammatical errors, and inconsistent formatting. 
4) Julie Jones has named her car "Bubble", and when she swears, she says things like "shizzle", "shizzle nizzle" or "crapola in a peanut butter jar".
5) The original title for the first draft of the story, before it became 32 Seconds, was Death by Chocolate. 
6) Julie Jones loves In&Out burgers, and strawberry milkshakes. 
7) Julie is also a surfer. Her favorite beach is the one in Oceanside, CA. 
8) I'm a cat lover. I have four cats, and they all distract me from writing by taking turns and lying on top of my laptop.

About the Author:

Johanna K. Pitcairn has dreamed of becoming a writer since childhood--authoring her first novel at the age of nine, and countless poems, stories, and screenplays by the age of seventeen. Later, rather than pursuing a career as a director and screenwriter, she decided to go to law school, driven by her father's opinion that "writing does not pay the bills."

Ten years later, she moved to New York City, which inspired her to go back to the excitement, wonder, and constant change of being a writer. Pitcairn is a huge fan of psychological-thriller novels and movies, and delves into her hopes, fears, friends, enemies, and everything in between in her own writing.





Contact the Author:




25 December, 2014

#BookReview :: The Kidnapped Christmas Bride (Taming of the Sheenans #3) by Jane Porter

All he wants is a Christmas memory…

Trey Sheenan has cultivated his reputation as Marietta’s resident bad boy, until one day he lets things go too far and he loses everything—his freedom, his fiance McKenna Douglas, and his infant son.
McKenna has loved Trey since they were kids, but she’s had enough. When Trey is sent away for five years, McKenna is determined to do what’s right for her and baby TJ, which means putting her mistakes—namely Trey—behind her, and move on.
When Trey is released early, he returns to Marietta determined to beg McKenna’s forgiveness and become the father TJ needs him to be, only to discover that he’s too late. McKenna’s marrying local insurance agent Lawrence Joplin in a candlelight Christmas wedding.
Or is she?
Once again, Trey risks everything, but this time it’s for love….and the memory of one perfect Christmas together as a family.


Trey Sheenan always finds trouble and has earned the reputation of being the local bad boy. But his last stint at the Deer Lodge, a correctional facility, he is determined to turn his life around. He plans to win back the love of his life and be a part of his son’s life. But as his brother drives him back from the facility he learns that he may be a bit too late as McKenna Douglas is getting married to a local insurance agent. McKenna had been dating Trey since high school and has stood by him through thick and thin. But with the responsibility of a kid, she decides that enough was enough and broke up with Trey while he was still at the correctional facility. Though she never really got over Trey, she tried to move on with Lawrence who holds the promise of a stable life for both mother and son.

Is Trey too late to woo back McKenna? And will McKenna find it in her heart to trust Trey again? Read ‘The Kidnapped Christmas Bride’ to find out.

The thing with the characters in this novel is that every one of them are, well at least the major ones, flawed. That helps the characters feel more human and more relatable. Trey has his heart in the right place, but he seems to get into trouble a bit too often. McKenna has her own faults too… for leaving a man when he is down isn’t really nice. And Lawrence, well what do I say? Little TJ seems more observant about him than anyone else around. But the thing is that the characters remain a bit flat and lacks the amount of growth that I would like to see.

Ofcourse, the plot is very much predictable. But the author has managed to make it her own by setting her own pace of narration. The language is simple and the flow of the story is nicely done.

Overall, this is a light and entertaining read.







24 December, 2014

#BookReview :: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2) by Robin LaFevers

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for... 





I have no idea why it took me so long to catch up to this series... I love kickass heroins and especially lady assassins!

Sybella runs away from home with cruelty and brutality as a driving force. When she finds herself at the doorstep of St.Mortain Convent, the sisters take her in. The convent serves Death as its master and thus Sybella is trained in various aspects of death and seduction. As a trained assassin, the convent sends her back to the place she first ran away from. Under the reign of her cruel father and back in the confines of the monstrous ‘love’ of her brother, each day is a struggle for Sybella. Will she be able to serve the convent as is expected from her? And what of the prisoner she has returned to set free.

When I finished reading Grave Mercy, I was in awe of Ismae and St.Mortain. But Sybella's story takes things to another level on the whole. I cannot even begin to imagine how she could stand her own life. Sybella’s story touches something really deep inside the heart of the reader. She is damaged and there is no doubt about that. But she still has the spark of life inside her that helps her fight on, live life and even find love to be whole again. The bond between Sybella and Ismae is nice and it made me feel better knowing that they have each other (and Annith) -- YES I know I am talking about fictional characters! And the Beast… OMG! What do I say about him? He is such a strong character who makes me swoon over him right from the beginning. To see two sides of the same man – one that inspires men into going to battle and the other that is so sensitive with Sybella – both extremes! It was really fun to read about him and to fall for him along with Sybella.

I cannot wait to read Annith’s story. It is going to be so awesome.




23 December, 2014

#BookReview :: The Sales Room by R.T. Manu Ramesh

Rajesh Iyer, a young, ambitious salesperson, returns to ñThe Sales Roomî of Oregon Software Technologies after an aborted attempt at getting into a business school in the US, only to notice the metamorphosis of the software start-up which he had earlier been an integral part of. What used to be a rat-infested hole in the midst of a vegetable market is now a swanky, state of the art facility owned by an upcoming Bollywood star. The enthusiastic and compact team firing on all cylinders is replaced by a sclerotic and bureaucratic set up. Sales review meetings, once rife with passionate discussions, are now replete with profanities. The ill tempered angel investor's scream can be heard all the way from his villa in New York.Rajesh, now shunted into an innocuous role finds every effort made to alleviate the condition of the demoralized sales team, met with resistance. As revenues dwindle and tempers rise, Rajesh realizes he is running out of time and options. He either toes the CEO, Venky's line and becomes party to a sham or quits citing a host of plausible reasons. This hilarious narrative takes the reader from plush corporate boardrooms of Bangalore to the seedy hotels in Delhi as Oregon meanders in search of illusory customer wins. Rajesh meets several interesting characters ranging from the busty Polish graphics designer to the loquacious pimp masquerading as a taxi driver. 


Come and meet Rajesh Iyer. His aspirations were ha of achieving a MBA degree from US but when that doesn’t happen he gets a job with Oregon Software Technologies. His experience in the Sales department opens up the state of corporate affairs in India to the reader.  With a host of other colourful characters, Rajesh takes on the corporate world. Follow Rajesh as he struggles to make his career. Will he survive the rats’ race?

The blurb of the book indicates that the book is much more than just about a salesperson’s life and it is right. The book focuses a lot on the sales department of Oregon Software technologies and the organizational structure. It also gives us a glimpse into a sales person’s life and how such people struggle on a daily basis to save his job. But at the same the book also focuses on Rajesh’s personal experiences as an individual and his observations. There are a lot of characters included hat bring in a variety of flavours, including Rajesh’s boss and his belief in Vaastu. Then there’s Girish, Rajesh’s best friend whose rants are entertaining. The plot is simple, true to life and yet entertaining. The author’s sense of humour has added to the story well. I particularly enjoyed the way the situations were described and painted out for the readers. And the author has handled the closure very well.

I have to say that I hated some of the very sexist discussions included in the book. Being a girl, it was sometimes a bit insulting even though I am very aware that men do have conversations like that. Yes, the author has on reflected the reality of our society and while I see that fact, I didn’t really like some of the comments. We live in such a society that really needs to change its outlook towards women and situations described in books don’t really help as it just gives out a validation that men will always be like that. I just hope that the men who read this book will see it from a perspective of an outsider and realise that it is simply cheap talk.

Overall, this book did make for an entertaining read that had lots of moments that would make a reader smile.



Candle Magic Release Day Blitz


Note from author:
Thank you for hosting ‘Candle Magic’ on your blog today. Thank you so much to all my readers. I write from my heart so you have a piece of it. Happy Holidays.

About the book:
I got the idea for this story very late at night as I shivered in a sudden downpour of rain on my way home from work. It was still summer at the time and although late, the sky was still quite light. That happens in Britain where I live and often dawn comes in at around 3.30 a.m. How do I know this? I’m often still up writing or playing around with graphics for book covers. I’m lucky because my day job is in shifts so often I can grab a few hours’ sleep and still get to work on time.




Here’s the blurb:
When Simi finds a pretty old candlestick among the discarded props in the company storeroom, she never imagines it will grant her dearest wish. There’s something mysterious about the carved candlestick, but Simi is drawn to it. She’s saved a red candle from a box she bought years ago in an antique shop, and intends to use the candlestick to hold the last candle and make her solitary Christmas lunch more festive. It’s Christmas Eve, there’s sleet in the wind, Simi slips, but Jason catches her. Who is Jason? Where has he suddenly appeared from in the night?
Simi looks into the eyes of this gorgeous man and sparks fly …

Erotic fantasy romance from Siren Publishing and Elodie Parkes


Excerpt

At around ten, the party guests started to thin out. Simi cleared away some empty dishes and bottles. She was bent over the table when someone came up behind her and grabbed her around the waist. Surprised, Simi gasped and squirmed around to find it was Carl.

His beery breath hit her full in the face. “Hi, Simi. Christmas kiss?”

Simi wanted a Christmas kiss, but not from Carl. “Where’s Angie, your girlfriend?” She eased out of Carl’s grasp. He let her go. His eyes filled with sadness and he shrugged his shoulders. “We broke up. Sorry, Simi, didn’t mean to be obnoxious. You looked so inviting bent over the table. Nice dress, lovely stockings. Where’s your man of the moment?”

Simi felt sorry for Carl. “Sorry to hear about the split. I thought you two were a done deal.” She didn’t remind Carl there hadn’t been a man of the moment for the three years she’d been at the firm. A huge sigh escaped him before he answered. His voice dripped sorrow. “I thought so, too. I love her. She said I was a flake and so untidy it was driving her mad. She stormed off on Monday and won’t answer my calls.”

Simi didn’t know what to say as his eyes filled with tears. He was untidy, but he wasn’t a flake at work. She gazed at him sympathetically, her own eyes spiking with tears in response.

He blinked. “I’ll help you clear up a little.”

Protected COPYRIGHT ELODIE PARKES and SIREN PUBLISHING 2014ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DECEMBER 2014 RELEASE.

Book Links


BUY the book:
http://www.bookstrand.com/candle-magic

ADD to your TBR:
Check Elodie’s blog for other distributer buy links http://elodieparkes.blogspot.com


Follow Elodie on Twitter on Facebook see her Amazon page and Google+

22 December, 2014

#SpecialFeature :: #GuestPost - Do’s and Don’ts for Querying Bloggers for a Review by Linda Lee Schell


*** Special Feature December 2014 ***

Do’s and Don’ts for Querying Bloggers for a Review

DON'Ts

- Don’t address the Blogger by the name of their Blog, or simply say:  Dear Madam.  If an author cruises the Blog the writer will find the name of the Blogger. Blogger’s names are usually found behind the ABOUT Tab.

- Don’t query a Blogger without reading their Review Policy.  The policy will tell the author exactly what information the Blogger must have to consider a book for review. Bloggers have individual needs.

- Don’t send a query for a book for middle grade if the Blogger specifically says he/she reads YA, NA.  When a Blogger indicates he/she reads almost any genre, I have sent my middle grade chapter book, sometimes with good results.

- Don’t SPAM a Blogger.  Send individual queries.  It’s worth the time.

- Don’t send anything the Blogger specifically says he/she doesn’t want to see. They have their reasons. Many times, if a Blogger doesn’t express a preference, I send a PDF of the first chapter and a PDF of the book cover as an attachment with good results.  

- Don’t pay hefty prices for a review.  I have author friends who have paid as much as $450 for a review with no results.

- Don’t challenge a negative review.  The author will come across like a “newbie.”  No matter what, suck it up and move on!

DOs

- Do type in the SUBJECT LINE:  Review for your consideration for ABC BOOK, by Jane Doe.  This simple gesture helps save the Blogger time.

- Do review the Blogger’s introduction to who he/she is. If an author can relate to experiences the Blogger has had or to the Blogger’s interests, it is a kind gesture for the author to make a sincere one sentence comment.  If the author cannot be sincere, the author should not make the gesture.

- Do mention where the Blogger’s website was found.  Bloggers like to know what’s working for them.

- Do tell the Blogger the genre, the name of the book, the number of pages, and the year the book was published. Most Bloggers request a Blurb.  If the Blogger doesn’t request a Blurb, I send a Blurb. The only time I don’t send a Blurb is if the reviewer asks the author not to send one.

- Do keep a “cheat sheet.”  Many Bloggers will ask for the author’s website address.  At this time I use the website that Create Space gave me.  Have the Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter addresses handy, as well as any other social media the author may be using.

- Do leave the Blogger alone!  Once the author has made the query, the ball is in the Blogger’s court. The Blogger may be drowning in TBR books, and is taking on the author’s book out of the goodness of the Blogger’s heart.  Be prepared to wait six months or maybe longer for reviews. Some Bloggers never get back with the author with neither a “yes” nor “no.”  That’s the way the mop flops. Authors should accept the reality of the business, and move on to the next query letter.

- Do say:  THANK YOU!

Contact the Author



Meet Gracie, a ditzy dwarf kangaroo from the Thirty-sixth Universe--a creature who lives in a perfect realm. Because she is bored, Gracie longs for an adventure to St. Petersburg, Russia, a place she imagines is filled with beauty and enchantment. Much to the tiny ‘roo’s surprise, her ability to transport herself to the land of the czars has failed. She ends up at a dairy farm in St. Clair, Pennsylvania, where she saves the life of Gibson, an abandoned Maine coon cat. 
The unlikely pair become fast friends. While Gracie tries to find her way back home, Gibson carves a life for himself on a farm with his newly adopted mistress, the farmer’s young daughter. There’s one hitch: The overworked farmer demands that Gibson earn his keep. Gibson’s task is thwarted somewhat when he experiences strange visions. But are these visions the result of a thrashing he received from the farmer’s two dogs? Or, maybe Gibson sees parallel universes? 
As outsiders the little kangaroo and the cat from the city negotiate the perils of farm life. They meet two malicious rats who hate anyone who is happy. The two devoted friends must contend with stampeding cows and a barnyard of critters that have little use for newcomers. 

Will Gibson keep his sanity and become the little girl’s pet? Will Gracie ever see the splendor of the Russian Versailles? Will the farmer survive the evil machinations of the rats, Bratwold and Eastman? Drift back to the days of Barbie dolls, hula hoops, and Sputnik to find out. 



Here she goes again! Gracie, a dwarf kangaroo from the thirty-sixth universe, is skipping across the cosmos to her dream destination: St. Petersburg, Russia. She's traveling with Gibson, a Maine coon cat whose life she saved when he was unceremoniously dumped in front of a Pennsylvania corn field. Expectations and reality quickly collide. What she expected to find was a city of wintery white nights, a city dotted with a hundred islands linked by dozens of imposing bridges, all book-ended by majestic sculptures cast in bronze. She expected to feast her eyes on historic buildings splashed with pink, yellow and blue pastels. Instead, she finds herself back in the 18th century, in Russia's Imperial Golden Age. This is not the city I expected, she laments as she stands bewildered near the entrance to the city's center of activity, the perpetually busy post office. Then, when Empress Catherine arrives in her royal carriage and points a bejeweled finger at the ever-so-handsome Gibson, and declares: I want that cat...the fun begins.


Buy the Books from Amazon

Giveaway
2 sets of the Gracie Series through Amazon’s Kindle (Come Along With Me &The Palace Buzz equals one set)

a Rafflecopter giveaway