Friday, September 26, 2014

Author Spotlight: Arie Farnam

Arie Farnam
Introducing Arie Farnam, author of the dystopian fantasy Kyrennei series:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from a remote rural area in Eastern Oregon. I grew up in a family with somewhat alternative values and an earth-based spiritual bent. I also grew up legally blind. Those two influences collided to give me an education in being an outsider as a teenager. Later, I traveled extensively in about 35 countries, worked as a newspaper correspondent in places like Kosovo, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, produced documentary films and generally had a very interesting journalistic career. Now, I live in the Czech Republic with my husband and my two small children. I suppose I am still sort of an outsider, because I'm a foreigner and visually impaired and I often hold minority views. But I've made peace with that. And hence my books, which partly deal with issues of social exclusion and inclusion.

2. When did you start writing, and why? I was taught to type by a wonderful teacher when I was in sixth grade. That opened up a whole new world to me. I've never been all that good at expressing myself orally and handwriting was always difficult. Typing was like freedom. My imagination and expression ran wild. I have basically written something every since. Sometimes it’s fiction, sometimes newspaper articles, sometimes just very long letters but I have never had to make myself write or suffered from writers block. If there weren't other necessary and fun things to do in life, I would write all the time.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

One thing I really love about writing fiction is the feedback from readers. Non-fiction is good too but fiction is really fun to share. Everyone I've heard from has been intensely gripped my series and has fallen in love with the characters. When readers tell me that they meant to just read for a bit and then ended up staying up half the night and wandering around at work the next day daydreaming about my characters, all I can say is, "Yeah, I know. Isn't it bizarre? I had the same problem while writing it."

Right now, I'm finishing up a series that is something between contemporary dystopia and a fantasy thriller. It's my first serious work of fiction. I've had the ideas and characters and much of the plot since I was a teenager but I always dismissed it as being "too out-there", "too-intense" or "too" something else. I was embarrassed to let my fantasies loose on the world. I tried to write all kinds of other fiction and was never satisfied. For a long time, I thought that I must just be a non-fiction writer. But then about a year ago, I decided to try writing this story down, even though I never expected to show it to anyone. I was emboldened partly by recent trends in the dystopia genre, which showed me that my story isn't beyond the pale.

When I started writing it, I was shocked by what happened. I was gripped by what seemed like a "writer's fever." I literally wrote for three months straight. I couldn't stop. I couldn't sleep. I could barely keep the rest of my life together. In three months, I wrote the rough drafts of three novels. I've spent the last few months learning about the new shape of the publishing world, deciding to go independent, creating a website, learning graphic design, editing, editing, editing and seeking out editors and finally publishing and marketing the books. Despite my worries at the beginning, the first book has a five-star average on Amazon.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

Okay, the series is called The Kyrennei Series.

Book One is The Soul and the Seed. It's out as an ebook and will be out in paperback within the next few days.

Book Two is The Fear and the Solace. That will be published as an ebook in early October.

The third book, The Taken and the Free, should be launched at a series party on November 8 if all goes well.

I'm also reworking my narrative non-fiction book Border Crossing Lessons. It is sort of a memoir, sort of just a story about incredible people I met and harrowing adventures I had as a shoestring journalist and traveler in my early twenties. That will be out in 2015.

What if?
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The Kyrennei Series is about a fantasy world that outwardly looks exactly like the real world. The difference is that so many of the problems of today's world that we have a hard time explaining are explained - everything from inter-ethnic wars to high school cliques, as well as political parties, the military industrial complex and corruption. In essence, it's a whopping good conspiracy theory and it holds water disturbingly well.

There is a clandestine force which usurps the wills and desires of individuals, making them fervent disciples of a secret cult of power. A certain portion of the population - including many politicians, business leaders and socialites - are part of what is called the Addin Association.

The Addin is in essence a manifestation of the human desire for power over others. Humans cannot resist the Addin. If the Addin wants an individual, they take them and there is nothing the individual can do about it. Some people can put it off a little longer than others, but in the end, no human can stand up to it. And once taken by the Addin, you desire more power for the Addin and you can take others under its control as well, except that the Addin doesn't want everyone to have that kind of power and thus only strategic individuals are usually "taken."

As usually happens in nature, the world started out with something to balance the Addin. There was a race of non-human people, a parallel species to Homo sapiens and those people, known as Kyrennei, could not be controlled by the Addin without their consent. In ancient times, some humans wanted to remain free of the Addin and they asked the Kyrennei for help. The Kyrennei allied themselves with some of these humans and thus came into direct conflict with the Addin. In around 300 CE, the Addin decided that the Kyrennei were a threat to their power and thus began a particularly bloody period of history, during which the Addin tried to exterminate the Kyrennei. By around 700 CE they had succeeded, given that the Kyrennei were not very numerous.

But Kyrennei mystics put in place two important things before they were wiped out. First, they equipped their human allies with a strange sign made up of very subtle gestures, which would disappear from their memory if they were taken by the Addin. Thus, their allies, now called Meikans, would always know who among them was taken by the Addin and who was free. The Meikans, being human, were more able than the Kyrennei to hide and some of them still survive today, hiding from the Addin in the general population and passing down through the generations their special sign, their quiet resistance to the Addin and a secret international Pagan religion.

Secondly, the Kyrennei mystics attempted to hide their DNA, through the use of what appeared to be magic, scattered in dormant genes among humans. There was a prophecy that some day the bits and pieces would come together and the Kyrennei would return. But in the twenty-first century few, even among Meikans, actually believe in such things. True, myths and legends about non-human people with pointy ears and slight stature still abound in many disconnected parts of the world, mystifying folklorists from Ireland to Vietnam, but they're only old legends after all.

Or are they?

That is the world that the Kyrennei Series opens on. I hope to someday write more books, beyond the initial trilogy, including historical books about how the modern situation came to be.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Aranka is "semi-normal" sixteen-year-old girl. She's a bit awkward and more athletic than most. She doesn't pay enough attention to fashion or social cliques, so she's not real popular in high school but she has a couple good friends. Then, some doctors come to her school to administer a surprise blood test and they claim she's sick with a terrible super virus. Aranka and several other kids are shut away in a quarantine and wake up imprisoned in cages in a warehouse. Aranka doesn’t know the Addin, which holds true power in the world, exists any more than your average kid in twenty-first century America does. And when a young doctor tells her that she is belongs to an extinct non-human race called the Kyrennei, she's pretty sure he's delusional. But after a strange illness and gene therapy, she does now have pointed ears and her body has changed in other ways... and the people keeping her in a cage are killing others who look like her.

Kenyen is the young doctor who tries to tell Aranka about the harsh realities of their world. He's an undercover agent for an international group of outlaws who actively resist the Addin. The leaders of the resistance have prepared him for this ever since he was a kid, including putting him through medical school. The modern study of genetics has given the Addin access to the dormant Kyrennei genes hidden deep within the human genome and they have decided to force the Kyrennei to return on their own terms, so that they can easily eradicate those who defy their power. Kenyen's mission is to infiltrate the Addin laboratories and participate in killing Kyrennei at first. Then once the scheme has picked up speed, he is supposed to use his inside position to spearhead a raid by resistance fighters that should free a great number of Kyrennei. The problem with that plan - other than the fact that it’s insanely dangerous to try to infiltrate a group that can control your will in an instant if they ever find out you're not really one of them - is that he's a doctor and he has to help kill innocent kids. And it's destroying him.

Beyond Aranka and Kenyen, the main characters are the members of J. Company, a diverse group of resistance fighters. There's Thanh, the young Vietnamese Meikan outlaw who narrates a good part of the first two books in the series. He's just an incredibly awesome character and whenever I was stuck for a voice, I settled on him. Then there's Jace, the Australian mastermind of J. Company. Jace's second in command is a tough-as-nails, middle-aged Russian lesbian named Dasha. There's also Cho, a Japanese medical student who’s in love with Thanh; Rick, Kenyen's Arab foster brother; Kwasi, an East African musician and mechanic; and Radek, a Czech cartographer with a suspicious streak.

The primary bad guy isn't actually the boss of all the Addin. One problem with the whole Addin puzzle is that there isn't really a boss. The Addin isn't just the people controlled by it and can’t be that easily destroyed. But one Addin figure does stand out, at least for Aranka and Kenyen, because he's the kind of guy who really hates it when someone small and weak stands up to him or makes him look less than invincible. And this guy Bradley becomes obsessed with torturing Kyrennei prisoners, particularly Aranka, because they resist his domination without even trying.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

Many of the locations in the book are real, so you can read it and have fun navigating with the characters on GoogleEarth.

The Pagan religion of the Meikans is fictional but similar Pagan belief systems now make up the fastest growing religion in the United States.

The Soul and the Seed
THE SOUL AND THE SEED (Book One of the Kyrennei Series)
What if your very existence threatened the heart of power?
It's the 21st century, right now, in America and on the surface everything looks just fine. But the commonly accepted image of society is an illusion. A clandestine force usurps the desires of individuals, and those who won't conform must be crushed to preserve the appearance of free will.

Aranka is just a sixteen-year-old girl but a fluke in her genes makes her a threat. Those with power will stop at nothing to protect their supremacy. She is kidnapped by doctors who claim she´s sick but it´s only a matter of time before it´s her turn to die.

A diverse band of outlaws from every corner of the globe represent the only hope of resistance. Kenyen, a young doctor, infiltrates to the heart of the oppression but he can't stop the terror. He just wants to save one life. In the process he uncovers "the Seed," the first flicker of hope in a thousand years.

"This could be the next big thing! It presents a dystopian, world-shattering vision while taking place in the recognizable here and now. The characters are flawed, angst-ridden, and totally believable. The plot is instantly engaging, carefully laid out, and strewn with unexpected twists. Subtle yet apparent undertones surrounding issues of race, politics, language, geography, and urban vs rural culture all contribute to the rich, aromatic "stew" in which this story bubbles. ." -George Lederer, school librarian and radio actor

"The Soul and the Seed is a well-crafted tale, full of dynamic characters and showcasing some of the best aspects of fantasy literature: world building and meaningful social commentary by way of holding up a fantastical mirror to our own world. This is modern fantasy, with no vampires or werewolves or inane teenage romance, and it succeeds where so many similar books fail." -Damian Roache

The Fear and the Solace
THE FEAR AND THE SOLACE (Book Two of the Kyrennei Series)
What if you had to fight a war you knew you could never win?

Twenty-two-year-old Cho is temporary commander of the J. Company compound in Montana when disaster strikes. The scouting team in Portland, Oregon has been ambushed on the 205 bridge. If they're captured, their souls will be usurped by the malevolent Addin Association. Then Cho will be on her own in a secret world war that cannot be won. Two of her closest friends are dead, the man she loves is at the epicenter of the peril and the one who carries the first hope in a thousand years is lost, almost certainly killed in a rain of bullets.

Hope is a fragile thing and fear is constant companion. It's the twenty-first century, right now, in America, and a clandestine force controls the highest seats of power. It will stop at nothing to stamp out resistance. Meikans like Cho have lived in terror of the Addin for generations and those who dare to stand up to its power are shunned as outlaws by their own people. Then a mere girl fulfilled an almost forgotten prophecy and hope briefly flowered in unlikely places. But does a giant even notice the crushing of a single flower? One girl is easy enough to kill.

The Fear and the Solace will be published in the first days of October 2014.

The Soul and the Seed is available at Amazon.

Where to find Arie Farnam:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Author Spotlight: Jennifer McDonald

Into the Veil
Introducing Jennifer McDonald, author of the YA Urban Fantasy trilogy The Veilwalker Trilogy:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: There isn’t a terrible amount to tell. I’m married with two children and three cats. Most of my free time is spent arguing with my characters in front of the computer. I’ll read just about anything but my favorite books are those I can share with my friends and family. While literature has been the first love of my life, music is definitely the second. My tastes range from classical (which I listen to when writing) to punk and metal.

Q: When did you start writing, and why? A: Inspired by the horror novels I read as a teen, I spent a lot of time writing short stories in school. They were always quite dark and twisted though, and my teachers were always trying to curb me toward contemporary ideas. They really never took.

Through the Gloom
Q: What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write? A: I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Books for me have always been an escape, so I think it’s natural that I was seduced by the imagination and worlds of impossibility that fantasy offer. Though I enjoy adult novels, the YA genre allows me to explore minds still growing and maturing. The teenage years are a powerful time. Characters are learning who they are, beliefs are forming and changing, and the future is wide open to an abundance of possibilities.

Across the Blood Red River
Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books? A: Across the Blood Red River was released in August 2014 and marked the end of my Veilwalker Trilogy. Completing my first series was gratifying, but after nearly two years of writing about Lyric and Lincoln, it was a little sad to say goodbye. I’m now working on a multi-book series titled The Helios Chronicles that follows a rebel warlock clan as they fight against the archaic royal families of the magical world.

Q: "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series. A: The Veilwalker Trilogy is a YA Urban Fantasy that takes place in modern day. The mythology goes…
Magical creatures and humans once lived together in peace and harmony. But six thousand years ago, when the humans were most brutal and magical folk most arrogant, a great war broke out. Humans had always possessed vast numbers, and the magical factions lost the earth because they couldn’t work together.

Their kind faded from memory over the generations—becoming history then legend and myth and fairy tales. Now they live as a secret civilization hidden amongst the humans and still locked in eternal battle.

Into the Veil
Q: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them? A: Lyric is a teenage veilwalker. This means she has the ability to cross realms and enter the land of the dead. Along with her twin brother and father, Lyric has been hiding from those who seek to use her gifts for their own gain. She’s a driven young woman, focused primarily on being a good little soldier and keeping her family safe. Her brother Lincoln is the charismatic of the pair. He’s easy-going, calm, and a bit of ladies’ man. Then we have Gemma – the ghost who was accidentally enthralled and trapped in the living world. Gemma is certainly the most fun to write. She’s snarky and sarcastic, and constantly at odds with the twins. But when things get tough, Gemma makes for a great ally.

Q: A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book. A: Lincoln and Lyric had actually appeared in an unpublished book I wrote years ago. They were only children then, about seven or eight, and played a small role. But I loved the other character’s reactions whenever the twins were around. Everyone was intrigued - fascinated by their odd presence and eerie demeanor. Little by little, Lyric and Lincoln’s roles grew until I realized I was writing about the characters.

Across the Blood Red River (Veilwalker Trilogy, #3):

To lost souls, the veil is a cold, tragic existence. But for Lyric Yama, the living world is so much worse.

Lyric has finally uncovered the truth of her mother’s brutal murder. Now her hands are stained and her mind is plagued with the bitterness of regret.

Soon she will have bigger problems. A grieving warlock is closing in. He’ll stop at nothing to reap vengeance on the young witch.

As the consequences of her past march closer, and the illusion of safety is abandoned, Lyric must decide whether to run or stand and fight.

But when the full power of a veilwalker’s magic is unleashed, no one—living or dead—will ever be safe again.


I smirked at the melancholy in her sigh, and tossed in a twenty to kick off the betting. “Tell us about yourself, Ray-Anne. I barely know anything about old souls. Or incubi and empaths for that matter.”
Sure, I’d heard rumors like everyone else—the unfair and untrue reputations tacked to each race in a blanket stereotype. Veilwalkers were spies, conjurors thieves, and werewolves were mindless beasts. Succubi were sluts while seers were nothing but trouble. But I hadn’t heard much about empaths or old-souls, good or bad.

“What would you like to know?” She draped her arm over the back of her chair, watching me with eyes that held far too much knowledge.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Do you look the same in every life? Are you always a girl?”

“Heavens, no. I’ve been born into families of every skin color on every continent, and though I’m usually female, I’ve spent four lives as a boy.” She grinned as if conveying top secret information. “Being a boy is amazingly fun, Lyric. A hundred years ago, women couldn’t do anything without everyone getting a bug up their asses. But men? Opium and orgies were expected of men. I can’t begin to tell you how many fresh young maids I defiled…”


The Veilwalker Trilogy is available at Amazon

About the Author:
Jennifer R. McDonald resides in Canada with her husband, two children, and three cats. Urban Fantasy is her favorite genre to write but she enjoys reading Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and anything with great antiheroes, cunning villains, and flawed characters.

Jennifer’s first YA Urban Fantasy series, The Veilwalker Trilogy follows the misadventures of a young witch with the power to separate her soul from her body and cross into the land of the dead. After its completion, Jennifer began work on a spin-off series. The first installment of The Helios Chronicles (still untitled) will take a darker turn and feature a teenage witch raised within the treacherous warlock royal palace.

When not writing, Jennifer loves to read, paint, create music, and watch old horror movies.

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Author Spotlight: Inge-Lise Goss

Tegen Cave Book Tour
Inge-Lise Goss
Introducing author Inge-Lise Goss, here with Saskia Book tours to tell us about her novel The Tegen Cave (and don't miss the giveaway down at the bottom of the post for a free ebook copy of The Tegen Cave, a signed paperback of The Tegen Cave, or a $25 Amazon gift card!)

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was born in Denmark, raised in Utah, and now I live in Las Vegas.  I have four grown children. When I’m writing, I completely block out the world. Unfortunately, if someone asks me a question during that time, they’ll probably get the wrong answer.  “I said what?” could be stamped on my forehead.  So I definitely try the patience of my husband, but he always supports me in whatever I’m working on. Besides writing, I love to read, row, golf and enjoy the sights and sounds of the awesome world we live in.

Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: I thought about writing a novel for five years before I actually put a word on paper. Each year the desire grew, but so did the uncertainty that I could accomplish that task. Then my muse insisted I get start, and she wouldn’t let up. Finally in December 2009, I couldn’t take her badgering me anymore. I sat down at my computer and the words flowed onto the pages. Since then I have written six manuscripts.

Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
A: The Tegen Cave was my first published novel. My second novel, The Cost of Crude, a mystery/thriller, was released in May by the same publisher, Silver Tongue Press. It’s about Gwynn Reznick thrown into a world of corruption after her best friend and co-worker dies in a car crash that turns out to be a planned murder. Determined to find the perpetrator, she works undercover with a private investigation team, led by Ruben Dordi, to acquire evidence. As they delve deeper into the crime, they find a trail of victims among Wilton Oil and Gas Company employees linked to a conspiracy that threatens a catastrophic pipeline disaster.Right now, I’m editing Tegen Justice, a sequel to The Tegen Cave. In it Sara Jones will be using her tegen abilities to go after another crime family that deals in the drug trafficking business. She’ll encounter unexpected obstacles along the way and come face-to-face with a tegen enforcer, a guy no one wants to come knocking on their door. And, of course, there will be spiders!

Q: "Welcome To My World": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
A: The Tegen Cave is set in a present day United States, but with a few paranormal features:  mutant spiders with poisonous venom that can paralysis a victim within a minute; and Tegens, immortal beings who use the spiders and nourish them.

Q: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
A: Sara Jones is an independent, 24-year-old woman who fell in love with a member of a crime family. Realizing the truth about her lover, she leaves him and hopes she has covered her trail well. After she becomes involved with another man, her 25th birthday approaches and her bodily needs become uncontrollable. But, when she discovered he’s a member of a dangerous group, she flees. I like this character because she grows both mentally and physically as the story unfolds.

Brett Daborel is a strong, gorgeous-looking man who possesses paranormal abilities, and he’s deadly. He befriends Sara right after she checks into a hotel in Billings, Montana. He has secrets. One is to keep track of Sara. While he is busy doing his job, he falls for her and he gladly takes care of all her uncontrollable physical desires.  Brett can easily attract a woman’s attention, but to get involved with him could have deadly consequences.

Conner Crussett is the youngest son in an organized crime family. He kept the family’s real business hidden from Sara for the three years while they lived together. He loves Sara and wants her back. When they were a couple, he treated her well, but others weren’t that fortunate. He has a ruthless side and doesn’t think twice about terminating anyone who causes trouble for the Crussetts. Sara has caused trouble, but in this case, he is determined to keep her safe.  Unfortunately, his older brother, Cameron, wants her dead.

Q: A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
A: I know how to bend spoons and raise tables. I learned those skills in Lily Dale, New York.

The Tegen Cave The Tegen Cave:After running from her boyfriend's powerful organized crime family, Sara Jones starts a new life in a new town. But when people around her start dying from poisonous spider bites after she receives a mysterious package with a spider concealed inside, she worries that the family has found her. Life takes an even more bizarre turn when she seems to be not only immune to the spider venom, but also surrounded by a sinister group of people using spiders to incapacitate their prey. Even her new boyfriend starts acting suspiciously. Just who can she trust?

Then to make matters worse Sara's twenty-fifth birthday approaches, and her dark heritage begins to emerge. She is forced to make a life-or-death decision. And somehow, she must find a way to deal with the crime family.

Available at Amazon

About the Author: I was born in Denmark and became the youngest member of the Danish Resistance. When I was an infant, papers were placed in my pram and concealed by a blanket with me on top. The papers were documents to help Jews reach a safe haven in Sweden. Whenever a German soldier looked into the pram, I cried loudly and he backed away. Mother loaned me out to friends for the same purpose. I worked from dawn to curfew.

Shortly after World War II, my family immigrated to the United States. I was raised in Utah and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Utah. I'm a Certified Public Accountant and audited oil and gas companies for over twenty years. I now live in the foothills of Red Rock Canyon with my husband and our dog, Bran, where I spend most of my time in the den writing stories dictated by my muse. When I'm not pounding away on the keyboard, I can be found reading, row, or attempting to perfect my golf game.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon author page

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall Into Romance Blog Hop

Fall Into Romance Blog Hop Come on over to my main site for the the Fall Into Romance Blog Hop, put on by Hops With Heart! Enjoy some magical falling in love moments from my stories, and be sure to enter the giveaways! I'm giving away an ebook Love and Magic 3-pack (containing my novels Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song) and there's also a grand prize giveaway sponsored by Hops With Heart for a $75 Amazon gift card! Also make sure you check out some of the other great blogs participating in the blog hop - the Linkup list is at the bottom of the post.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: The Chocolatier's Wife

The Chocolatier's Wife
The Chocolatier's Wife, by Cindy Lynn Speer

Really lovely fantasy-romance-mystery. When William is seven years old, the magical spell used to choose future spouses reveals that his future bride is Tasmin, a newborn baby girl from the magical and dangerous north. Despite his family's misgivings, William begins a correspondence with Tasmin, sending her letters and gifts. As they grow, William to become a sea captain of some renown and Tasmin to become an herb mage and teacher, his kindness and honesty win her heart even though they haven't yet met. So when Tasmin hears that William, now retired from the sea to open a chocolate shop, has been arrested for murder, she refuses to believe it, and sets out to rescue him. Together, William and Tasmin discover a nefarious plot to destroy William's family and, although romance is considered an irrelevant frivolity when it comes to marriage, fall in love.

Beautifully written, interesting magic, engaging and likeable characters (except for the ones you love to hate! But even they have multiple dimensions, and aren't just cardboard cutouts). The world is also interesting, a setting reminiscent of late 18th/early 19th century Europe. I always appreciate fantasy that isn't set in the standard pseudo-medieval setting. The mystery is well-plotted and kept me guessing. My only quibble is that some of the tensions between Tasmin and William, such as Tasmin's jealousy, seem contrived, as though they were put in just to keep the relationship from seeming too "perfect". It isn't necessary; the relationship between William and Tasmin is charming and quirky enough without those elements, and they don't really fit the characters and story.

The Chocolatier's Wife is sweet romance, with some sexual references but no on-screen sex.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Chocolatier's Wife, and highly recommend it for those who like romance in their fantasy, or fantasy in their romance, along with an intriguing mystery.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Author Spotlight: Mandy Lou Dowson

Introducing Mandy Lou Dowson, author of multi-genred paranormal romance:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.I'm an Irish Mother (no, don't be scared - we're not that bad), and I'm thirty-one.  I'm the kind of person you'll see smiling for no reason, or laughing away to myself about something that happened ages ago.  I'm never as happy as when I'm learning something new.  This time around I'm learning to drive - yes, I know I'm a late starter - and I haven't killed anyone yet, even though roundabouts freak me out and I sometimes forget to break 'cos I'm daydreaming.

When I'm not threatening the public with my vehicle, or writing, you can usually find me curled up on the couch with a good book or a movie.  I don't really watch much TV and I wouldn't even have cable if I didn't have children, preferring the smell of ink and paper to the sight of full color on screen.  Sometimes I even go out in public haha.  I've been known to enjoy the odd night out, karaoke et all!  I love to dance, and Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Last year I made my own costume using styrofoam, paint and a bed sheet.  I was... the Ghostbusters sign!  I won three competitions with that haha.

2. When did you start writing, and why?I started writing as soon as I could form a sentence, I think.  Of course, when I was a kid I wasted my talent - and my emotions - sending love letters to unattainable guys.  Don't we all?  No?  Just me, then.  Anyhoooo, I read a book when I was very young, called Under the Hawthorn Tree, about three Irish children trying to survive the Great Famine, and it just struck such a cord with me, and instilled in me the adoration of books I still have today.  That was where my love affair with the written word began.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write Paranormal Romance, but I hate labelling it so - it's so much more than that.  I'm not your typical boddice-ripper-writer.  Imagine if you will, a veritable genre orgy.  Romance is there, Paranormal is there, but they also hook up with Thriller and Horror, Comedy and Mystery, and Urban drifts around the edges, taking it all in.  It's a feast for the eyes, the senses and will leave you longing for another go around.  That's what I love about writing.  The total enthrallment of my captive audience.  When someone comes back to me to let me know they loved my book, and can't wait for more?  That there is the sole reason to do what I do.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

I recently released the first in a series.  Bound by Fate, a Moon Bound Series novel. I'm currently working on book number two in the series, Bound by Revenge, and by the way fans are reacting to the first, I know they're going to adore this instalment.  It's due for release in February.  But if I have all my duckies in a row, it could release as early as January.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
My world has a modern day urban setting, for the most part.  A lot of my characters live completely ostricized from humans, but there are also a few dotted around who have integrated a little more with the humans' way of life.  Magic is prevalent in my world, and the presence of The Great Mother - She who created them - is always near.

The mythos of my world is this... In the beginning, The Great Mother cleaved our spirits in two, sending each one to earth in a separate vessel to find each other.  But before these, there were others, which She calls the Lonely Spirits.  As a young deity, She knew no better, and sent spirits in their entirety to earth in just one vessel, not knowing that they would turn into twisted and evil things, and there they remain, causing havoc, destroying spirit halves, and generally being a pain in Her holy butt.

But things are about to change, as She takes a more active approach in their destruction.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Aside from my main character, Beth, and the two males in her life, there are so many different characters that I have loved creating.  There's the pair of cackling old she-wolves who remind me of my dearly beloved and recently passed Nan and her sister.  There's Alanna, the seductive and sinuous Mistress of Dance.  Mickey and his ill-fated conquest September.  Bradley - everyone loves to hate him!  But I have to say, I have such a soft-spot for Donovan - one of the two males Beth must choose between when her mating ceremony goes wrong in every way.  He's such a softy, and gets himself into more situations than he should because of that.  Gareth is your typical tough-as-nails, if-looks-could-kill Alpha in the making.  Between the pair of them, Beth is driven to distraction and I, as their creator, was driven to the point of madness when they wouldn't behave on paper! :P

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I wrote the first half of this about five years ago, and then got bogged down with other projects, so it languished in the vaults of the unfinished until earlier this year, when suffering from serious Writer's Block, I dusted it off and immediately immersed myself in the familiar waters of this world.  Ever since, the ideas just keep flowing, and I've got the bones of at least six more books in the series rattling around in my brain.  They won't let me sleep at night.

Bound by Fate:
Giving her Guardian the slip has never been a problem for Beth. Even for a wolf, she is wicked fast and almost impossible to track. Then she meets Gareth, her new Guardian. Gareth is ruggedly handsome, unfailingly stubborn, and seems determined to sniff Beth out, no matter where she runs.

After a disastrous night of passion with Gareth, Beth has no choice but to put herself forward for mating. Although, it's not just Gareth that has his eye on this female. Donovan, a wolf from a neighboring pack , has his own reasons for wanting this she-wolf, and when Beth makes the wrong choice, she finds out exactly what happens when you're "thrown to the wolves".

Secrets are revealed and choices are made. Will love conquer all, or destroy everything Beth has ever known?

Review Snippets:
"This book was truly amazing. I ran the gamut of emotions while reading it. (Seriously TWO Kleenex's)"

"For rate right at the very top."

"I honestly can't wait for the second book in the series and I highly recommend this book"

"This is an excellent start to a new PNR series and I look forward to seeing what else Mandy Lou Dowson has up her sleeve."

"I hope this will be a long series"

"You have ruined me I don't know who I love more in Bound By Fate so many choices to ponder upon!"

The first book in the Moon Bound Series, Bound by Fate, which is garnering 4 and 5 star reviews across the board, is available on all good online retailers.

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Picture About the Author:Mandy Lou Dowson was born and raised in a small town in Ireland, in 1983. Family is a huge deal to Mandy. She has three wonderful children, and two dogs - a Siberian Husky who only does what she's told if there's something in it for her, and a little white Pomeranian who loves nothing better than to roll in mud, or worse.

In her spare time, she likes to relax with a few glasses of wine and some karaoke. She has a keen interest in special effects make-up and is part of a dramatical society which puts on one show and one concert each year.

Mandy started reading at quite a young age and her appetite for the written word has only increased with time. It would not be at all surprising to find her reading anything and everything from shampoo bottles to Edgar Allan Poe.

Like The Great Mother, I can be found in a lot of different places.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

COYER Book Review: Secrets

Secrets Secrets (the Guardian Trilogy #1), by Liz Schulte

Exciting and entertaining paranormal suspense/romance. After Olivia has a chance encounter with a handsome, compelling stranger, frightening and tragic things begin to happen all around her. In the meantime, she and the stranger find themselves irresistably attracted to each other - against both their better judgments - and Olivia is faced with a destiny she doesn't want and a heartbreaking choice.

This kept me reading to find out what happens next. It's clear from the beginning that Holden is no ordinary human; the hints and suggestions that are dropped during the chapters in Holden's point of view make an entertaining puzzle, and, for me, the big reveal comes at exactly the right point in the story.

I liked the alternating sections in Olivia's and Holden's points of view, overlapping so we see the events of the story through each character's eyes. Most scenes aren't repeated; usually it's done so that a chapter takes place in one character's point of view, then the next chapter overlaps the end of that bit of the action so we get the other character's reflections and reaction as the story moves on. I thought that was very well done.

The characters of Holden and Olivia and engaging and likable, as is Olivia's best friend Juliet. The other mysterious guy involved, Quintus, doesn't have quite as much personality, he seems kind of smug and perfect, but that seems to be on purpose - he's supposedly a force for good but without real empathy for human emotions. I did have a little trouble with Olivia; she seemd kind of stubborn and prickly, with a tendency to sometimes make not very smart decisions. This is something I've noticed in contemporary urban fantasy/paranormal (though I'll admit I haven't read a lot in the genre) - orneryness being used to show that a female character is "strong". However, I did like how thoughtful she is in evaluating the realities of who Holden is and if she can deal with that. And I liked it that when confronted with Holden's supernatural identity, she was able to accept it without denying what's been right in front of her all along. It bugs me when characters refuse to accept the magic or supernatural things that are happening even when they see them happening right in front of them.

There's some pretty depressing stuff that happens in the book, which made it a little hard to get through, and the ending is inconclusive. But I enjoyed it enough to download the sample for the next book right away.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.

Friday, September 5, 2014

COYER Book Review: Snowbound and The Lady of the Woods

Snowbound, by Mark P. Kolba

Exciting fantasy short story. Lleyyanir, an elven messenger, has a vital message to deliver; at stake are the lives of thousands of innocent people. But a shortcut through the mountains turns into disaster as he's trapped in a cave with no way out. Honor struggles with necessity as he must decide whether to open the message he was given - an unforgivable crime - and learn the truth of the errand he was sent on.

Tense and exciting, with a real sense of claustrophobia as Lleyyanir comes to terms with his plight. Lleyyanir and the other characters are distinct and interesting, and just enough of the world and the back story is given to fill in the blanks without having to wade through lots of infodumping. Like all of Mr. Kolba's short fiction, the world is interesting and the characters engaging. I've enjoyed all of his short stories I've read so far, and I'm lookng forward to reading his longer works.

Lady of the Woods
Lady of the Woods, by Mark P. Kolba

Cute story about magical beings living in the woods, and how sometimes a threat is only a threat if you think it is. Kind of short on plot, but as with all of Mr. Kolba's short fiction, I enjoyed spending time in his fantasy world with the engaging, interesting characters he writes.

And while I'm at it, here's a plug for Mark P. Kolba's other work. I've read "Dragon's Draught" and "The Power to Heal", and enjoyed them both muchly, and I just now bought "The Star of Amalore". You can also get all five of his stories in the collection Fantastical Tales. I'm also looking forward to reading Awakening from the Shadows, the first novel in his Mirynthir Chronicles series, and he also has an interesting-looking thriller out, Shattered.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Author Spotlight: Rachel A. Brune

Rachel A. Brune
Introducing urban fantasy author Rachel A. Brune (don't miss the giveaway link at the bottom of the post, to win a signed paperback copy of Cold Run!)

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

When I learn something, I like to learn it all the way. I love reading, so I write. I like baking so I learned how to make bread from scratch. I like knitting, so I am learning how to spin. I enjoy German and Russian literature, so am learning the languages. All these random hobbies come in handy when I sit down to write a new project.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
My mom has a story I wrote in Kindergarten about Santa Claus and a pie.  I think the jolly old saint got it in the face... I've always had an interest in writing, both creative and journalism. After college, I joined the Army as a combat journalist and had a chance to travel around and get experience writing about different subjects as well as producing work on a deadline. I don't know where this compulsion to put words on paper comes from, I just enjoy telling stories.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
Currently I write news articles for a military-interest Web site, Task and Purpose, as well as short fiction and novels. As before, I enjoy reaching out to people, talking to them, learning what excites them, what they're passionate about. This goes for fiction, too — I enjoy getting to know my characters, finding out what makes them tick, what drives them crazy, and why they do what they do.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My novel, Cold Run, launched August 4 from Untold Press. It's a bit shifter urban fantasy meets action spy novel. I'm currently working on a sequel, as well as a separate urban Fae fantasy.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Cold Run
 is set in our contemporary world, with the little added detail that the main character is a werewolf. His shifting ability gives him an advantage in sneaking around, so he spends a lot of time working for a covert organization, MONIKER, fighting crime and criminals. His abilities were discovered in WWII, so various groups of scientists have had a shot at analyzing and studying him. Some of this information has been leaked to some unsavory characters, with just about the results one would expect. The world as a whole, then, is a world of science with undertones of things that can't be explained.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
The three characters we spend the most time with are Rick Keller, our resident werewolf secret agent, and his partners John Tell and Karen Willet. Rick is kind of a pain, grumpy all the time and not really a team player. But he has a strong sense of loyalty, and will bend over backwards to help a friend, or someone who's getting a raw deal. John is an experienced agent, who used to be an NYPD detective. He's not very forthcoming about his past, and has an over-fondness for making shaggy dog jokes at Rick's expense, but when there is a job that has to be done, he will make sure it gets done. Karen has a military background, but is also a bit of a scholar. She is a legacy member of MONIKER; her grandmother was a founding member. When things — and Rick — are falling apart, she is the one to put them back together.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
One of my tattoos is based on a short story featuring Rick Keller that was published in the Dark Oak Press anthology, Luna's Children: Full Moon Madness. It was the tattoo that came from something I wrote, but probably not the last!

Cold Run
Cold Run:

It is amazing how quickly a phone call can interrupt your life, even when you're a werewolf. Rick Keller hangs up from the unwanted call, but the shadowy organization he once belonged to doesn't take such an answer lightly. Waking up collared and caged by MONIKER is a quick way to learn retirement isn't always permanent. Death will be if he doesn't accept their assignment.

Keller and his new team follow a group of human traffickers on a thin trail across the globe. Their only hope is in a man who hasn't had much practice being a werewolf in a really long time, a sadistic agent who loves making dog jokes, and a beautiful operative who is better with guns than relationships.
If being forced back into service wasn't bad enough, he quickly discovers they have many new experiments to try out on their pet wolf. Even worse, MONIKER now isn't the only one who knows his secret.

Hopefully an old dog can learn some new tricks, especially if he wants to stay alive.



The man behind the weapon was a ghost, a black tactical suit concealing his form, expensive scope mounted on some sort of rifle. I howled again and lurched at him, brought down short by another surge of the change. I struggled to remain upright but found myself on my knees.

Another man appeared to the side, shining a bright, piercing strobe light at my eyes, disorienting me as I tried to turn to face the new threat, my traitorous body rendering my reactions unreliable.

I scrambled to get my feet under me, but the final throes of the change robbed the ground from me. I flailed my paws against the last remnants of my work clothes, now torn and scattered on the ground.
I heard the explosion of gases from the chamber of the first man's rifle a split second after the bullet pierced my side. I yelped and fell sideways, trying to relieve the pressure. I rolled to all fours and lunged toward the man, intent on relieving the pain by ripping the screams from his throat.

He shot again and again as I reached him, bowling him over and aiming for the soft pieces exposed to my grip.

Instead of soft viscera beneath my teeth, the next sensation I felt came as intense pain, which slowed and disjointed my movements. I raised my head, snapping and gnarling in vain against the folds of the net suddenly enveloping me. Ignoring the second man–stupid mistake. From the burning the lines of the net raised against my hide, I could tell the wires were laced with silver filaments.

The man with the rifle scrambled away from me. I let him go, rolling on the ground, trying to escape the clutching net.

"He's a big one." The second man spoke the words, looking down on me from an impossible height as the pain began to outweigh the panic. I could feel the silver working against my struggling.

"He always was." The first man hocked and spat. It smelled of Copenhagen. "It's going to be a bitch dragging him down to the truck."

The words made no sense. I listened, but could not understand.

"If we let you up, do you promise to be a good doggie?" The man with the rifle prodded the barrel into my side.

I growled, but it was mostly wishful thinking, the energy from the night and the change suddenly sapped by the ensilvered net. I lay on my side and simply lolled.

"Good boy." The man kept his rifle trained at me as his partner knelt down and fiddled with the edge of the net. Grasping a loop from the edge, he pulled. The line must have been attached in some ingenious way so when he pulled on it, it contracted the net into a small, compact circle around my neck.

"Come on." The second man jerked at my neck, holding the line as a leash. "I'm not carrying you down this hill in the dark."

The net continued to burn against my neck as he dragged me to my feet. Head hanging, I padded after him through the snow.

Cold Run is available at Amazon.

About the Author:
Rachel A. Brune graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in May 2000, and was immediately plunged into the low-stakes world of entry-level executive assistant-ship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. After five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her MA in Political Communication, and her commission as a second lieutenant in the military police corps. Although her day job has taken in her in many strange, often twisted directions, Rachel continues to write and publish short fiction. She released her first novel, Soft Target, in early 2013. She blogs her thoughts about reading and the writing life at

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Click the picture to go to the giveaway! Prize: signed paperback copy of Cold Run (one of five copies)
Giveaway runs through October 1, 2014.
Cold Run giveaway

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Author Spotlight: Montgomery Mahaffey

Montgomery Mahaffey
Introducing Montgomery Mahaffey, author of Ella Bandita and the Wanderer:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Besides being a writer? I'm also a storyteller. I love to dance. I love hot springs. I especially love telling stories while sitting naked in hot springs. I've moved some and travel often, and gravitate to the more mythical places in the American landscape. In fact, I'm on a road trip right now. I left St. Augustine yesterday and will head to Savannah tomorrow..

2. When did you start writing, and why?I've made up stories since I was a kid. In 3rd grade, we'd get a list of new vocabulary words every week, learning how to spell and use them in sentences. But the crowning achievement every week was the piece we had to write by Friday, using all the words we had learned. Most of the kids wrote essays, but I made up stories where my classmates were characters.

 As far as my adult writing career is concerned, I started writing almost 15 years ago because it was what I always wanted to do.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I'm considered a fantasy author. This I accept, albeit reluctantly, because I don't read the genre. But I devour folk tales and fables. I consider my work to be fairy tales for an adult audience. My reasons for writing in this genre/style are because there is something about using elements of magic and suspending the rules of mundane reality that makes it very easy for me to say what I want to say. The stories come out effortlessly and they feel good to write.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?Right now, I'm promoting "Ella Bandita and the Wanderer" - the first in a 4-book series of the Ella Bandita Stories. The novel as a whole is offered only in paperback form through Amazon. Through ebooks, "Ella Bandita and the Wanderer" is broken down into 4 novelettes that will be released every 3-4 months - "Birthing Ella Bandita;" "The Bard Speaks;" "Challenge;" and "The Heart of the Lone Wolf" are the 4 parts that make up "Ella Bandita and the Wanderer." I'm currently working on the 2nd novel in the series, "The Shepherd and the Courtesan." I plan on promoting that the same way as the first, and I expect it to be out by Summer 2015.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.Well, the story is set in the past but the themes are modern. The time is pre-Industrial Revolution in unnamed places in Europe. The settings are very specific to the natural world, rather than being bound to named places and times in history. An agent tried to talk me into changing the stories to Urban Fantasy, when that was all the rage. But I didn't follow her lead because I believed the character of Ella Bandita was more unique and more powerful in her sexual freedom if she lived in a time when women did not have that as an option.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?Ella Bandita is a macho slut who is mad, bad, and dangerous to know. She's a fun character to work with.

The Wanderer is a rare breed - a nice guy with a troubled past, charisma, and sex appeal. He's also really stubborn and I love him for that.

The Shepherd is the great, humble wise man - what's not to like about that? In this novel, the reader doesn't meet him until Part 4: "The Heart of the Lone Wolf," but he's one of the main protagonists in the 2nd novel.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.I wish I could be a macho slut like Ella Bandita - but I'm too emotional to pull it off.

Ella Bandita and the Wanderer
Ella Bandita and the Wanderer:
They were fated to collide, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. This complex fable about a predatory seductress and an adventurer frozen in grief explores the darkness of the human heart and the allure of erotic obsession over love. The story begins when an outcast young woman tries to kill herself. Yet a sorcerer intervenes with a last chance to change her destiny. But she must be his lover and give him her heart to transform into the immortal Ella Bandita. All his life, the Wanderer hears stories about Ella Bandita, the ruthless thief of hearts. But he never believes she lives and doesn't recognize her when they meet. Driven by lust, he follows Ella Bandita into a battle of wills that threatens to destroy him. The Wanderer wants nothing more than to avenge himself on a woman he loathes, the vagabond seductress who stole his heart.

The Patron found her past the wide bend in the river in the same spot where she and the Trainer used to fish. Crouched on her haunches, she wore crude trousers tied at her waist, the fine stitches of her blouse grimy, her hair in a long braid to her waist, strands tousled around her face. Although she’d grown taller and now had the curves of womanhood, she looked just as she had that season seven years ago. Scanning the trees, he almost expected to find the Trainer, but his daughter was alone.

One thing had changed. She’d never worn a holster back then, but now had one belted below her waist. He raised his brows when he saw one of his pistols at her hip. He hadn’t heard the shot when she caught the squirrel, but she was skinning the carcass with one of his daggers. So intent was she on her task she didn’t hear him approach. Her eyes grew wide when she looked up and her hand slipped, the blade slicing into her wrist. The Patron leaped off his horse and reached her in two strides. Gripping her arm, he sunk her hand in the water. The girl resisted, but he held on tight and squeezed her wound to stop the blood flowing into the river. He brought her hand out of the icy water and pressed his scarf against the side of her wrist, pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket. He heard her labored breathing and felt the taut muscles of her arm while tying the bandage around her wrist. The Patron glanced over, ashamed when he saw the girl pulling as far from him as possible, her eyes narrowed to slits. It had been years since he last touched her.

Ella Bandita is available at Amazon.

About the author:
Montgomery Mahaffey is a fantasy writer who has told her stories all over the country. Alaskan winters shaped Mahaffey as a writer, and her work is built off of the myriad of personal and collective experiences formed underneath that mystical landscape. Born in the south to a family of storytellers, Mahaffey has developed her own voice that is suffused with the temperament of the wanderer instinct. Set in a world where magic is at once subtle and pervasive, her novels bring to life symbols and stories of the old fairy tales told with wry humor and passion. In 2005 she was granted the Individual Artist Project Award from the Rasmuson Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska. Ella Bandita and the Wanderer is her first novel.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August 2014 Wrap-up and September Preview

Picture Mostly book reviews and author spotlights on the blog lately; now it's time to check in with what I'm up to.

In August, I more than doubled my reading goal for Clean Out Your eReader Summer Vacation, with 20 books on the list and a few more to add before it's all over. Still catching up on the reviews; they'll be up later in the week. I also finished reading Midnight Tides, book 5 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson.

I also had a goal to write 500 words a day, for a monthly total of 11,500 (allowing for several days of not writing) and finish the Tales of Azara collection. I also hoped to plan my next project (working title: The Source-fixer) and start writing that. On the days when I wrote I averaged well over 500 words and I did finish Tales of Azara (or at least the stories I had planned; I'm not calling the whole collection finished because I might come up with a couple more ideas), but I ran out of stuff to write before I got to 11,500 words.

I also hoped to finish the revision of Daughter of the Wildings, but it's going to end up taking another week or so. The main event in August was taking our younger son to Northern Arizona University, where he's starting college. We were gone for a few days, and they were busy days, and the whole thing -- traveling, the youngest leaving home, adjusting to not having the same involvement in his life as before and to my changing role -- took a greater physical, mental, and emotional toll on me than I expected it would. So I just haven't been getting much done. I'm a little more than halfway through Book 6 and expect my pace to start to pick up again.

So I didn't quite hit all my goals, but considering that I overestimated my ability to deal with other things going on in my life and underestimated the demands all that other stuff would make, I guess I did ok.

And now, here are my September goals:

1. Finish my COYER book reviews on or before the event ends on the 5th.
2. Plan The Source-fixer and start writing 500 words/day when it's ready
3. Finish the revision of For the Wildings (DoW book 6) by Sept 13 (being generous here; hopefully it won't take me that long!)
4. Start the final revisions and editing on Beneath the Canyons (DoW book 1), aiming for publication later in October.

Also in September, the 19th-22nd, I'll be participating in the Fall Into Romance blog hop. Be sure to check it out for some falling-in-love moments from my books, giveaways, and links to other romantic posts!