Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Melanie Atkins talksa bout the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of my favorite places, and that's why I set my Keller Cops series there. The county in the books is made up, as is the town of Hunter's Bayou, but the setting is still on the coast in an area that's surging back since Katrina knocked it for a loop back in August of '05. The town I used as a model for Hunter's Bayou is perched on the edge of a bay. It stretches down to Highway 90 and on to the Gulf of Mexico. That highway is of the main drags that's also known to locals as The Beach. In the books, I call it the beach road.

Most of the stores along the beach were leveled by the storm when a thirty-foot wave swept ashore there, that broke my heart. So many fun little shops, restaurants, and beautiful homes just dragged out to sea never to be seen again. I don't know how many people died there, but I know a good many did. Several law enforcement officers survived by hanging on to a tree. Katrina was a truly horrifying event.

I look forward to visiting the coast now, but I do miss seeing and visiting the landmarks that are no longer there. The stately homes in Pass Christian, Gulfport's library, the Gulfport Grand Casino's giant neon buildings, Treasure Bay Casino's pirate ship, Valentino's… I had so many good times there. Treasure Bay had absolutely the best bread pudding I've ever eaten, and I loved browsing for gifts and fun little treasures at Valentino's.

The bright white sand on the gorgeous beach is still there, however. As are the centuries-old oaks and the Biloxi Lighthouse that has withstood many, many storms, not to mention a multitude of new hotels, restaurants, gift shops, stores, and casinos -- all this time built on the land side of Highway 90 away from the water.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast really is a visitor's mecca. I love to go down, stay at a hotel on the beach, and write. You won't find a more beautiful view in too many places. Ya'll come down!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Author Spotlight - ABC's Castle - Melanie Atkins drug of choice!

Everyone in the universe should know by now that ABC's Castle is my favorite TV show. Lord knows I've put it out there enough. On Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and as part of Lee Lofland's weekly Castle blog (Tuesday mornings after a new episode has aired) on The Graveyard Shift at

I love the drama, the comedy, and the romance. Especially the romance -- and that makes sense, with me being a romance writer, right? I mean, seriously. I hang out on one of the main Castle boards, read Castle fanfiction -- some of it is really, really good -- and rewatch the best episodes time and again. I'm what's known as a Caskett Shipper, and no, that doesn't mean I export coffins. It means I want the show's two leads, Castle and Beckett, or Caskett, to get together... sooner rather than later. All this waiting around is killing me.

Some people talk about the Moonlighting Curse, claiming that if a couple on a show gets together, the show will tank -- but I disagree. Relationships are fluid, and even if Rick and Kate become a couple, they'll still have plenty of conflict to keep the show interesting. I think it will be even better, if you want to know the truth. We'll still have the drama, comedy, and crime solving… with some hugs and kisses thrown in. I'm all for that.

Anyway, I find TV to be great motivation for writing. I watch a lot of other shows, too, nearly all of them crime dramas, with a couple of comedies and a fluffy guilty pleasure or two throw in. I love Justified, Dexter, In Plain Sight, Unforgettable, Person of Interest, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, The Big Bang Theory, The Closer, Blue Bloods, Law & Order SVU, and Southland. Yep, that's a lot of TV. Thank goodness for DVRs! I only watch TV at night, except for checking in on the news and enjoying the Golden Girls while I eat breakfast, but I get plenty of motivation in the evenings. And I love it.

I've gotten a good many story ideas from bits of dialogue and the way a character in a particular show might bite the dust, and I've also learned a lot about what not to do… and a lot of that I've learned from Castle and Lee's next day assessments.

Still, goof ups aside, I love that show. Can't wait for the next episode, one we won't see for a couple of weeks thanks to March's basketball hiatus. Bring on the Caskett! I'm ready.

To buy Quest for Justice:

Monday, 27 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A With Melanie Atkins

STEPH: I don't know much about "Quest for Justice." What's it about?

MELANIE: In this story, Detective Abby Ryals goes behind the sheriff's back to accept an undercover assignment with another agency to avenge fellow detective C.J. Bowman's death, and is stunned to learn he's very much alive when he leaves witness protection and follows her undercover to help keep her safe. Together, they must race the clock to defeat a notorious drug lord before he can discover their true identities.

STEPH: "Quest for Justice" is in the Keller County Cop Series. Can you give us an overview of the series? Where is it set? The time frame?

MELANIE: This contemporary romantic suspense series set in the fictional town of Hunter's Bayou on the Mississippi Gulf Coast features the tough, handsome men who work for the Keller County Sheriff's office. Can you say hot heroes?

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MELANIE: Took me months to write this book. I got stuck at one point and put it down. They usually go much faster for me. Everything came together at the end, though, and I'm very happy with the way the story turned out.

STEPH: What was the inspiration for this story?

MELANIE: I read about a drug bust in the paper, and that kicked things off. I admire law enforcement and appreciate the job they do to help us stay safe.

STEPH: Abby is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

MELANIE: Abby is a cop herself. She's smart, resourceful, and brave. I'd say her weakness, however, is C.J. Bowman. She'll do anything for him... including risking her life and going undercover to avenge his death.

STEPH: What does CJ find attractive about Abby?

MELANIE: Even with her gritty determination and kick ass attitude on the job, she's still all woman. He appreciates that.

STEPH: How did you come up with the title, "Quest for Justice?"

MELANIE: That's what Abby and C.J. are after: justice. Makes sense, right?

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MELANIE: It's a mess! I write jammed in the corner of my bedroom in a recliner with a laptop on my lap. Works for me, though. It's comfortable.

STEPH: How important is setting to the story?

MELANIE: Extremely important. The setting helps set the mood, and that grounds the reader to the tone and flow of the story. I love using sultry Southern settings.

STEPH: How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

MELANIE: By going to a parade! We have the fabulous Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade here in Jackson, MS every year, and it draws crowds of 30-40,000 people. It's amazing! And so much fun. It's like a Mardi Gras parade.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Love Stories Wrapped in Mystery and an excerpt from "Goodbye Noel"

Thanks so much for supporting Nike during her Spotlight Week. Leave a comment on ANY of Nike's posts and she'll choose a winner to receive a PDF copy of her novel. Winner will be announced next Monday, 27 FEB. Please leave your email addy in the post so we can get ahold of you.

Moderator Steph


Love Stories Wrapped in Mystery

By its very nature, writing Christian romance is a challenge. Traditional wisdom has it there are all kinds of unwritten and written rules outlining what can't go into the book. I usually disregard all of that.

And yet, I definitely want my story to fall squarely into the realm of Christian romance. To achieve that goal and still have a thrilling romance, I strive to write a love story rather than a romance. Does that make sense? I create a romance by writing a love story.

They say a romance must have a happy ever after ending. To me, a love story must go to the depths of the heart, to an everlasting love. A Christian love story must go to the marriage altar and beyond...all the way to heaven.

And since I write romantic thrillers, my aim is to write a love story that is central and intertwined with the mystery story. I've been told I did exactly that in GOODBYE NOEL, the second story in my Sanctuary Point series. Katrina Lenart and Detective Ian Daltry have such a deep love they have no secrets from each other. As the story progresses they bare their souls to each other in the most intimate manner, totally exposing themselves and their vulnerabilities. And of course, they have great desire for each other in every way.

So, what makes this novel a love story? Well you can have romance without love and love without romance, but what makes a story exciting is when you have them both. GOODBYE NOEL definitely has both.


The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother's flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she's willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant's best interests at heart, even the man she's growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he's drawn to. Is there's something he's overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?


Chapt 5, scene 1
Long Island, New York
Late December, 1946

Katrina wanted to throw Detective Daltry into a snow bank. The nerve of him, barging into their house twice in two days, demanding she bundle the baby up and take him into the cold. How could that man not recall their harrowing, nighttime drive through the storm of the decade? She tossed her hair back over her shoulder, and with great difficulty held her tongue.

Momma apparently had no such reservations. "Detective, what you are doing is very wrong."

Katrina came up beside her mother, to show a united front. "This is outrageous." Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms over her chest. She hated the tone of her voice, but this baby wasn't a ping-pong ball to be batted back and forth as the detective moved forward with his murder case.

He ignored her and continued addressing her mother.

"I'm sorry, ma'am." He removed his fedora. "Chief Ferguson has already made the necessary phone calls and arrangements have been made. I must take Leslie Janos Bauer with me to the home of his aunt in Bay Shore. The chief would prefer your daughter come along in an official capacity as a nurse. It's up to her, but I have to take the baby."

Momma's face flushed beet-red, a sure sign she'd become enraged. "This is not good for him… this hustle from place to place."

"With all due respect, ma'am, a child belongs with his family, if at all possible." The detective took a step toward Katrina. "Now, will you please fetch the baby." It wasn't a request.

Katrina made sure she stood tall. "Yes, I'll get Leslie." She clenched her fists at her side and jutted her chin. "This is disgraceful.
You are using this infant to solve your murder case. Perhaps your own tragic life experience clouds your judgment?"

His mouth fell open and he took a step back.

"If you have it within your heart, give me one minute. I'll get him ready and get my coat and boots on." Without giving him a chance to reply, Katrina turned and stormed up the stairs.

Leslie lay sleeping in the baby-doll cradle Poppa had made for her when she was a little girl. Poppa had that kind of talent. He could make anything. In her heart she knew, he'd figured it would be her baby's bassinet. At least now, it had a real purpose.
She ran a finger over the hand carved leaves in the headboard.

"Milachku, time to wake up." She took the infant into her arms inhaling the smell of baby, sweeter than the most expensive imported perfume.

Leslie yawned and she snuggled her nose in the soft folds of skin between his head and shoulder, kissing his neck. He cooed, so safe in her arms.

She brought him to her heart, holding him, rocking him and spoke softly to her reflection in the mirror above her bureau. "Fat chance I'll ever walk down the aisle or have a family of my own with the man shortage since the war." Something deep in the core of her female-self rebelled, a throbbing turbulence, from which deep hunger erupted.

She stroked Leslie's cheek and made a funny face. The softness of his skin melted her heart.

He smiled at her and kicked.

"I'm so sorry. I promised I'd protect you and I can't." She forced a smile and made clucking noises.

He grabbed her hair and yanked.

"Ouch." She laughed, removing strands of her hair from his little fist.

A tear escaped and ran down the side of her cheek. "I can do this." She lifted her chin, sucked in a long breath, wrapped Leslie in a heavy quilt, and picked up his tote bag.

Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista

Goodbye Noel (Desert Breeze) ~ Winter themed (1946/47)
---murder, mayhem, an orphaned infant, kidnap and romance. Can Katrina Lenart and Det. Ian Daltry catch a kller before he strikes again?

Burning Hearts (Desert Breeze) ~ Historical Romantic Thriller
---arson/murder and romance. Can Erica Brogna and Lorne Kincaid catch a wanton killer and thwart those who are trying to frame Lorne for the crime?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Get a Clue with Nike Chillemi

One of the things I've been told about the second book in my Sanctuary Point series, GOODBYE NOEL is that readers could not tell who the killer was until the very end. For some it was a real surprise. Yippee! That's exactly what I hoped to achieve.

I love to put up red herrings, but they have to be plausible suspects. The reader has to think, yes that one might be the killer. I also subscribe to the classic British theory of murder mystery writing. The killer must be introduced in the first quarter of the book. I can't stand it if I'm reading a mystery and the killer drops in out of the clear blue sky at the very end. I'd never do that. The second part of ye olde British theory is that the clues have to add up, not only for the real killer, but also for the red herrings.

I hate namby-pamby killers. What I want to see is a three-dimensional killer. When they've followed the clues and get to the end and are presented with the killer, I'd like my reader to feel that all along they've had a good idea of what types of food the killer eats, or hobby the villain might enjoy, or what book might be chosen for bedtime reading, if the murderer enjoys reading.

I worked hard on the killer in GOODBYE NOEL and I think although most won't have a clue until they get to the end, when they do reach the end of the story all the clues will add up.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Characte look at Katrina from "Goodbye Noel"

One of the best things about writing the character of Katrina Lenart in GOODBYE NOEL, the second in the Sanctuary Point series, is that I never knew what to expect. She was the type of character that sort of rewrote things if they didn't suit her. She's feisty, competent, beautiful, and she made sure she was smack in the middle of Detective Ian Daltry's murder investigation. One of the most fun scenes to write is when Katrina insists on going along with Ian to the weekly meeting of a group called The Children of Wisdom, a cult who may have been hiding the killer. As it turned out this was a scene that wrote itself with unexpected moments of humor. It opens when a woman in a red skating outfit is knocked down at an outdoor rink and Katrina and Ian come to her assistance.

Here's an excerpt from chapter twenty-four of GOOBYE NOEL.

Ian pumped his arms, rushing to help, but Katrina reached the lady first and knelt beside her. "Are you all right?"

This didn't surprise him. Katrina could skate rings around him. He stifled a smile on behalf of the woman.

Katrina smoothed an errant piece of hair out of the woman's face. "You went down pretty hard."

The little boy whirled around, making a tight turn and came back. "Sorry."

The skater smiled. "I'm fine, really. Accidents happen. No harm done."

She couldn't weigh more than a hundred pounds. Ian bent to help her up, hoping he wouldn't topple over on her. "Give me your hand."

The woman accepted his help and rose to her feet. A gold pendant on a chain slippedfrom beneath her neckline. The Egyptian all-seeing eye with rays emanating from it. Verysimilar to the tattoo on Red's arm.

Ian blinked. "What an interesting medallion."

Once upright on her skates, the woman held the piece up for him. "I'm rather fond of it."

He kept his voice neutral. "I've never seen a piece of jewelry like it."

The woman beamed. "It is compelling, isn't it?"

Katrina leaned toward the piece. "Does it come with a story?"

Ian bit back a smile. She should've been a detective.

"Well." The woman moistened crimson lips and excitement flashed in her eyes. "Since you asked, as a matter of fact, it does."
She paused and enthusiasm fought with caution in hergaze.

Drawing upon years of experience in getting people to talk, Ian pulled away from her slightly. It was a tactic he used when people wanted to tell all, but something stopped them.

She took a long breath through her thin nose. Her passionate interest in the story won the battle Ian read in her eyes. "Have you ever heard of the Descended Masters?"

Ian shook his head. "No, can't say that I have. What are they?"

"Who, actually. They are people of great wisdom. There are only four in all the earth. Here in Rockville Center we're blessed to have two Descended Masters living among us."

Katrina shot him a look and arched an eyebrow slightly.

Ian gave the woman a courteous smile. "I certainly can see how that would be a huge deal."

Katrina shot him another look, this one more urgent. He moved toward her, took her hand, and gently applied pressure mashing her fingers together. She surreptitiously maneuvered her hand and pressed back against his fingers, her facial expression now placid, but her gaze boring into him.

The woman waved her black-leather gloved hand in an arc. "I'm Madeline Edwards. Would you and your wife like to learn more about the Descended Masters?"

"That would be very interesting. Yes, I would like to." He turned toward Katrina and frowned. "But, I'm afraid my..."

Katrina threw Madeline a huge smile. "I'd love to. We'd both love to." She slanted her head toward him. "Wouldn't we, dear?"

He was going to have to kill her later. "Yes, we'd both love to. Is that the name of a group? The Descended Masters."

Madeline chuckled, as if she were speaking to beings of a lower form of intelligence. "No, no." She chuckled again, softer this time. "We call ourselves Children of Wisdom. The Descended Masters are our leaders."

Katrina nodded with solemnity. "This is all so very interesting. We're so lucky to have met you."

"Yes, it's fascinating actually and providential." Madeline eased closer and lowered her voice. "As a matter of fact we're having our weekly meeting tonight. Would you like to be my guests?"

"I would." Ian closed his fingers around Katrina's hand with some pressure. "But I'mquite sure the little woman here has another obligation this evening."

Katrina offered a demure smile and crushed his fingers with full force. "Nothing of great importance. I'd love to come along. A person should always try to gain enlightenment. Don't you think so, Madeline?"

He steeled himself against the pain in his fingers and nodded. He was definitely going to kill her.

Madeline's eyes glistened. "Why, yes, I do."

Ian cleared his throat. "By the way, I'm Ian." He avoided Katrina's insistent gaze.

Katrina knitted her brows. "I'm Katrina, but Madeline, I must clear something up for you."

"Oh?" Madeline withdrew into herself.

Katrina took the woman's hand. "We're not married yet."

"You're engaged. How exciting." High color flushed Madeline's cheeks, and she clapped her hands. "Tonight is going to be perfect. I can't wait."

Katrina raised her knee to relieve pressure on her injured ankle and then lowered it. "Where should we go? What time should we be there?"

Madeline fished in the jacket pocket of her skating outfit and came out with a dog-eared card. She handed it to Ian. "The meeting starts at eight o'clock sharp."

Ian gritted his teeth and took the card. It had a sketch of the Egyptian eye on one side. On the other side was an address. He glanced at Katrina, who stood there with a sly smile on her face. He forced the corners of his mouth to turn upward. "This is my lucky day."

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Nike Chillemi talks about writing her love for writing romantic thrillers

I've been told that what I write is lodged somewhere between the romance genre and the crime fiction genre. It's the romantic thriller.

Of course, my hero and heroine will fall in love. That's the romance part of romantic thriller. They will have lots of romantic tension between them. In my current historical romantic thriller, GOODBYE NOEL, the story starts with a strong attraction between Detective Ian Daltry and pediatric nurse Katrina Lenart. But there's also antipathy. The sparks fly. Boy do they.

My stories deal with crime (particularly murder), intrigue, scandal, and revenge. The pace is such that, hopefully, it keeps the reader on the edge of her/his seat. The two co-protagonists engage in a battle with the villain, fight for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Their intelligence and talents save them repeatedly. My heroes and heroines are engaged in the business of hunting down a killer. None of my heroines are shrinking violets. In my GOODBYE NOEL, Katrina is put at risk a few times and either saves herself, or Ian saves her. In the process of struggling with a cunning villain, Ian and Katrina are falling deeper and deeper in love.

I like to write romantic thrillers because there's double suspense. Will the guy get the girl? That's the romantic suspense part. The thriller part pushes the suspense to the max. Will the hero and heroine save themselves, each other, and those they love in time? There's usually time pressure in a thriller. The killer is one-step ahead of them and has a lethal agenda. Or the killer has an unrelenting time table and the hero and heroine must beat the clock.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Nike Chillemi

STEPH: I don't know much about "Goodbye Noel." What's it about?

NIKE: One of the major themes of Goodbye Noel is second chances...the ability to make something new out of what might be a disaster. As the story opens, the first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Katrina Lenart, a young pediatric nurse is determined to make it on her own and to be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered. She must escape the killer who has struck again and has to decide if she can she trust Detective Ian Daltry as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

NIKE: About a year ago, I had the basic story line outlined and about half of it written in a bad first draft. I wrote the second half and cleaned it up in about six months. So, all told about a year of writing to get it into its final form.

STEPH: What was the inspiration for the novel?

NIKE: I've got a really vivid imagination. I just make this stuff up. Really. Stories pop into my head in the weirdest places. I could be sitting in the dentist's chair and I want to make notes on the bib around my neck because I've got a new plot.

STEPH: Katrina is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

NIKE: Her strengths are that she's really intelligent, she's competent, and she thinks for herself. Those were also her weaknesses when it came to men. She scared the daylights out of most men she met. Even though she's considered to perhaps be the prettiest gal in the village of Sanctuary Point, everyone thought she'd wind up a spinster. That is until she discovered a body under a Christmas tree and Detective Ian Daltry came to investigate. A widower with a small daughter, he had no intention of falling in love again, but he can't get her out of his head.

STEPH: What does Ian, the hero, find appealing about Katrina?

NIKE: Ian finds all the things in Katrina that intimidate other men attractive and compelling. In the beginning, she's a hand full to him, but he's one to love a challenge. He has to have a woman who knows her own mind and who could stand up to him if she thinks he's wrong about something. And he's not disappointed in that. Katrina does stand up to him. In fact, in the beginning of the story the sparks fly.

STEPH: What do you hope readers take with them after the reading the story.

NIKE: The idea of second chances is what this book is about. Starting over. Taking a disaster and making something good out of it. On a more spiritual plane, it's about God giving us second chances, and third and fourth.

STEPH: Goodbye Noel is the 2nd book in the Sactuary Point series. What's the underlying theme that ties the series together?

NIKE: The large overarching theme in this series is the idea that love conquers all. Romantic love that leads to marriage, of course. A parent's love for a child, the family's love for its members, love of neighbors, and LOVE. God's love in us. Nothing can defeat pure love.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

NIKE: Cramped. I have a tiny computer desk with everything I need crammed there. I dream of having a large office with a fine oak desk. Oh, and while I'm dreaming let's put that home-office in a beach house with a veranda that overlooks the ocean.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

NIKE: I penned my first fully illustrated story when I was a child. It was about horses and actually written in Crayola. In my teens and early twenties I wrote the requisite bad poems filled with angst. My thirteen year old is writing those types of poems now and it touches my heart. I think that's a right of passage for certain female types. I started writing seriously for publication about six years ago. I bumped into Steeple Hill (now Love Inspired) authors Cheryl Wyatt, Margaret Daley, and Janet Tronstad among others and they cheered me on, tirelessly. I took free writing lessons Harlequin offered at the time and still use a version of their suggested character bio sheet. A word to any newbie writers…if there are any free writing workshops or classes offered, take them.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you wear green on St. Patrick's Day?

STEPH: Usually yes. I have a green Vera scarf that was a gift from a wonderful woman who was a mentor to me. I guess a life coach before that term was popular. She taught me to be true to myself. I usually wear that scarf on St. Patrick's Day. Sandy came from poverty and a minority background. She taught herself to become a refined lady. She put herself through college and when widowed, in the second half of her life, realized her dream to work as a RN on The Good Ship Hope. Every St. Patrick's Day I think of her.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Excepts from "Burning Bridges" and "Land of Misfit Teens"

Thanks so much for supporting Kassandra and Katie's time in the spotlight. Enjoy these excerpts from their releases.
Moderator Steph



"It wasn't that easy, Kirin."

He knew her better than anyone with the exception of Mackenzie. She was strong enough to handle just about anything so there was no way she would allow her uncle to do this without a reason. She slid her hand across the bed to him and he took it, pulling her to him and wrapping his arms around her until their foreheads were leaning against each other. Rose took a deep breath before looking into his eyes and starting what he assumed would clear the air of confusion.

"I had to keep Josie safe..."


"Just listen. I don't pretend to understand their sick minds, but Jonathan and Shawn got off on my rebellion, I guess you could call it. I figured that out quick, and I knew if I could keep them coming at me they'd leave her alone."

"So you took the brunt of it for her?"

Rose tipped her head to look him in the eyes. "Wouldn't you? To protect Evan or Lauren, wouldn't you." He wished he could argue with her logic, but he knew she was absolutely right. If there was a chance one of his siblings could be hurt, and he had any way to stop it, he'd do it.

"But, when your Nana reported the abuse, why didn't both Jonathan and Shawn go to prison? Didn't she tell the authorities both of them were involved?"

"My mother," she answered simply, and Kirin arched an eyebrow. She chuckled, just a little. "She threw him under the bus more than the media ever could. She wasn't going to let him damage the perfect family image she had worked so hard to form. Shawn tried to turn state's evidence against Jonathan, take him down with him, so he could strike a deal with the D.A. But with the amount of money Jonathan could throw at a team of lawyers, and the control he had over media and various other connections, Shawn didn't stand a chance."

Kirin looked into her eyes as she spoke, wondering how she ended up so amazing when she had this kind of childhood. She paused long enough to catch her breath and look at him. Did she think he would judge her?

"Keep going," he said gently, touching her cheek. "I'm listening. I want to hear, but understand this, nothing will change how I feel about you. I just need to know."


From :

“Sometimes love means you go above and beyond...and Emmaline Rose certainly does that in this novel by Kassandra Cooper. And she finds that same depth of love with her boyfriend Kirin, and Mack, her best friend. I was so into the story I found myself wanting to jump right into the book and help Emmaline Rose too.

Everything about this story showed Kassandra Cooper clearly understands sometimes you have to burn a bridge in your life if it will stop you getting dragged back into your past, but can Emmaline really do that?

I believe this novel has a message for us all, teens to seniors, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.....and I will be "electronically" in line for the next novel by this new young author.”

From Amazon:

“Everyone should have someone in their life who loves them to the degree Emmaline Rose loves and protects her sister Josie in Kassandra Cooper's novel. The story line grabbed me as I followed Emmaline Rose's journey. I found myself pulling for her and Kirin, and loved the depth of friendship between Rose and Mack, her BFF. Kassandra certainly seems to have amazing insight for such a young author to the ups and downs of overcoming a trauma in your life, and that each positive step Rose made also gave a possible opportunity for Jonathan to drag her back into her past. There was quite a cast of interesting characters in this book, and just a few of their "stories" still left to tell, so I hope Kassandra is going to bring us some of their stories in the future. Although I am not a young adult anymore :( I completely lost myself in Rose's story. Awesome first novel.....”




They walked to the gate and handed the man one of the tickets. He smiled and opened the gate and they walked into the pen. Baby deer, not even big enough to have antlers, where jumping around and playing with each other, then scampering back to the people inside the pen to nuzzle and beg for nibbles of the pieces of fruit and vegetables available to feed them. Drake let go of Amelia's hand and dropped to his knees to pet one of the baby deer. Amelia smiled watching him make of the little animal, then looked around the pen. One deer lingered on the other side of the pen against the wall, away from the others, lying on the hay-littered ground with his legs curled under him. No one pet him or fed him, and he didn't play with the other deer.

Something tugged at her, and she brushed her way through the prancing deer to where the lonely deer kept himself separate from all the others. She spoke softly, making little cooing sounds as she approached, and lowered to her knees in front of the wide eyed deer. She stuck out her hand for the deer to smell.

"What are you doing?" Drake asked behind her.

"Petting the deer. He's all alone," she said softly so she didn't frighten him. The deer shoved its head in her hand and she pet it.

"Why this one?"

"Because it's alone," she said again, looking up at him. "He reminds me of Rudolph, minus the red nose."

Drake came beside her and crouched. "How do you figure?"

"Rudolph was alone. He was made fun of and left out. Like this guy," Drake reached out his hand to pet the deer as well. Amelia smiled, watching him. "He's the misfit."

"So he's the weird one?" Drake said. Amelia nodded. "But weird is such a harsh word. Think of the deer as us." "How are we like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer?"

"Goodness, Drake. It's a metaphor. The deer is left out because he is not like the others. Like us. I'm not saying we're left out, but we don't fit in. I'm fine with that, I personally would rather be who I am and not fit in than change who I am and fit in, but the deer here isn't."

Review from Amazon:
This is an amazing book that perfectly captures the teenage condition. The characters are highly believable with all the insecurities and angst that is a reality of the high school experience. I read the book straight through and couldn't put it down. Ms. Charles' main character Amelia not only has to deal with losing her mother, but also the upheaval of moving to a new school and basically a new life. Her new friends help her adjust but the horror of going to the worst school in the state along with the gang trouble that seems to dominate their school doesn't make it easy.

Review from B&N:
Before I read this book, I heard Katie Charles was a teenager herself and that both interested me and made me wonder what I'd read. I can't express enough how impressed I was with Ms. Charles. Her book packs a punch from the beginning, and hit me on an emotional level that drew me in immediately. Her entire message comes down to four words "Be who you are." When she finds herself the 'new kid' in school, add to that she's the daughter of the geeky, quirky English teacher, she could have tried to fit in and be like everyone else. But that's not who Amelia's parents raised her to be. By the end of the story, she's found a group of friends -- the misfits -- who would be her friends forever and a great boyfriend, too. :-) I loved the dialogue between Amelia and her friends. Overall, a quick but emotionally satisfying book. I found Katie Charles has a short story in an anthology and I'm going to go hunt that one down next.

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(Desert Breeze Publishing)

(Video trailer)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Kassandra Cooper

STEPH: I don't know much about "Burning Bridges." What's it about?

KASSANDRA: Emmaline Rose Jones has protected people her whole life; whether it was her sister from her family or her boyfriend from her life, she did all she could to keep them separate. But when the live she’s tried to keep secret from everyone cross under some unfortunate circumstances she has no choice but to fuse her lives together and explain. But when Rose’s life gets more complicated than even she can handle she has no choice but to run and hide, seeing no way to get away from the twisted life her parents have created. She finally decides to cut all connections with her previous life and its numerous trap doors.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

KASSANDRA: All together the final drafts took about six months including edits but I started with the very first draft about two and a half years ago.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

KASSANDRA: I normally block everything out around me and plug into my music, that way it doesn’t matter where I am.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for the story?

KASSANDRA: I was working on a trauma unit in my English class and going through many of my own trauma’s I figured I would be able to draw on personal feelings.

STEPH: How did you come up with the title?

KASSANDRA: Some of the experience’s I was going through at the time of writing the very original ended with someone asking if they could rebuild bridges with me. My response was always that they had burnt their bridges with me.

STEPH: Emmaline is the main character. What's her strengths?

KASSANDRA: I would say Emmaline’s strengths are her ability to stay calm under distress, the strength she held up for the sake of her sister and her extreme protectiveness for her loved ones.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the novel.

KASSANDRA: Emmaline Rose/ Josie: Emma Stone
Kirin Matthews: Zac Efron
Mackenzie: Emma Watson
Evan Matthews: William Mosely
Lauren Matthews: Julianne Hough
Jonathon: Matthew LeBlanc
Abigail: Julianne Moore

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one. What was the last novel you bought for your book reader?

KASSANDRA: I don’t own an actual ebook reader but I have the nook, kindle and ibookstore between my ipod and smartphone.

STEPH: Do you listen to music while you write?

KASSANDRA: Don’t write without it.

STEPH: Fun Question: Do you have a favorite reality show? If so, which one? What's the appeal?

KASSANDRA: I don’t really watch reality tv, I’m more into shows with a story line instead of just random stuff being thrown at contestants. They hold my attention better.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Katie Charles

What is Land of Misfit Teens?

KATIE: Land of Misfit Teens is about a girl name Amelia MacDonald who is dealing with the recent lost of her mother, and to make matters worse the local university her father taught at closed down without enough students to keep it open. He finds a new job, but they are forced to move to the gang-ridden projects of Chicago. Amelia does her best to keep true to herself in a school where you are either part of the cool crowd or your not. She finds that being a ‘misfit’ is better than being part of the majority of the school. They are misfits for a reason, right? They have to have something cool about them. And that is what attracts Amelia to the group, and more so, to Drake.

How long did it take to write it?

KATIE: It started as an idea for the longest time without any real substance. I think I restarted it at least three times. But once I got to the point where everything clicked and I liked I was doing, it took me about a month to write the book.

Writing space.

KATIE: My writing space is everywhere. My messy desk, my bed, the grass outside my window at college. I even wrote 7,000 words on an airplane. I don’t have a consistent writing place. It all depends on what I am writing and how I am feeling.

Inspiration for Land of Misfit Teens

KATIE: It was pointed out to me that my book is similar to my own life experience. I moved across the country after my freshmen year of high school, and Amelia moved during her senior year. I found myself in a spot where I was demanded to change. And I refused to. Amelia in the book does the same thing, staying true to herself. I hope that this book provides inspiration to those teenagers that are asked to change, so stay true to you.


KATIE: I came up with the title as I was writing. There is one part of the book where Amelia references the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Island of Misfit Toys, and how she and her new friends were kind of like all those misfit toys. It worked.

Amelia’s Strengths.

KATIE: Her strength is her strong sense of self-awareness and confidence in who she is and where she comes from. She's strong enough in who she is not to conform to the ideas of others and what they think she should be. She knows who she is and she is not going to let anyone change that; a trait I think is lacking in teenagers these days.


For the three main people . . .
KATIE: Amelia – Emily Browning. I see her most as Violet in “The Series of Unfortunate Events.” Clearly the eye color and hairstyle needs to be different to fit Amelia.

Drake - Nolan Gerard Funk. I had never casted Drake for inspiration before, and let me tell you, looking for someone who had Drake qualities was a challenge! Out of everyone I looked at, he fit the best.

Liam MacDonald – David Tennant. I had him planed from the start. I had no problem with this one. In fact if I need inspiration I looked at his photo or watched a few minutes of Doctor Who -- I am a huge Doctor Who fan. David Tennant is quirky and eccentric and 'out there'... a bit like Da.


KATIE: Yes I have an E-reader. I love it! I have the Nook. It has been a while since I have bought a book because I am wicked busy with school. I'm a BioChem major, and the workload is pretty heavy. But I have recently been reading Mistaken Identity written by Desert Breeze Author, K. Dawn Byrd, and I really like it.


KATIE: Yes, I love music when I write. In fact, I have different play list on YouTube for what I am writing. Fanfiction, Land of Misfit Teens, anything else. Music is key to my writing, and I have a wide range of likes, from Lighthouse to Nightwish to my grandfather singing outlaw country.

Reality TV.

KATIE: Well, I don’t watch TV all that much, but when I have nothing to do in the middle of the day I like watching Jerry Springer, just so I can watch how messed up people can be and be thankful it's not me and my family. HA HA HA. Not sure if Jerry Springer can really qualify as 'reality TV', but that's about as close as I get.


(Barnes and noble)


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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Young Adult authors Kassandra Cooper and Katie Charles share their thoughts on Valentines Day

Kassandra Cooper:

I don’t know if I have an ultimate Valentine’s Day or any idea of what it would consist of if I wanted one but I do know what I’ve experienced. I can’t date until I’m 18 which leaves me about 4 months shy of that these days. However last year’s Valentine’s day was pretty spectacular. No huge romantic gesture’s happened but the guy that asked me to prom last year, this year, is waiting to date me and who I made my last dedication to in my book did make it memorable. He had hockey practice so as always I went to watch and support him the same way he supported me in my writing and everything else. See I’ve known and had a crush on this guy since 7th grade and he simply wouldn’t admit to liking me back. So I went to practice with no expectation, just to support him and hang out. His team gave him a hard time about me as always, of course amping it up since it was in fact Valentine’s Day.

After practice we talked, something it would seem is rare between teenagers now a day. Face to face communication, it’s so obsolete. But what I didn’t know what that he got me a box of See’s Candies and a teddy bear, which to be honest I’m still smiling about a year later. Even as I’m writing this I have a ridiculous smile on my face.

Anyway, I don’t have any traditions but if seeing him every Valentine’s Day – or even better, seeing him everyday – became a tradition I would be one extremely happy young lady.


Katie Charles

Single Awareness Day! That being said from a single girl in college, I can move on. I think all the sappy romance stories happen on the 14th of February, that and Christmas Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of Valentines Day: Saint Valentine writing a love letter to his loved one right before he was going to be killed. Well, maybe not the getting killed part, but the love letter.

When I think of this day I think of The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Is that weird? It kind of has the feel of it. He was telling his wife their love story she couldn't not remember. Yes, in the end they died but they loved each other to the end. Well, in the movie version anyway.

That is what I think of when I think of Valentines Day. Loving someone until you die. That is what Saint Valentine did… so, yeah.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Young Adult authors Kassandra Cooper and Katie Charles talk about finding inspiration

Kassandra Cooper
Personally I don’t think I’m old enough to write adult romance, seeing how I don’t have any experience being an adult just yet. However, adding that small detail to the passion I have for youth, the fact that I want to reach youth in the future with my words and being a young adult myself it made my decision easier. Now this all started when I was a freshman and went to a church winter camp and felt the Lord pressing on my passion for helping young adults/youth.

I’m sure writing for high school would seem like the best way to reach them, being on their level and all that but I haven’t had a ‘normal’ high school experience and frankly high school can be overly dramatic and frustrating. I know that might sound terrible but taking into account that I attend high school on a college campus I spend most of my time around young adults/college level people. So in short, for me writing for young adults was not only easier for me but it was also the best fit for who I am.

Kassandra's book is: Burning Bridges with Desert Breeze Publishing.


Katie Charles

Mainly what inspired me to write for young adult was the fact that I was sick of what was out there for YAs. Don’t get me wrong, Twilight was good at first, but then it became so overplayed, and you can only read Harry Potter so many times. I wanted to write something teenagers could relate to. Life is hard and it sucks sometimes, and too many of the young adult books now are too perfect. The people in it are described as perfect, and everything always turns out perfect, and that is not true to life.

People have faults and sometimes they don’t deal with things the right way. In my book Land of Misfit Teens, that theme was one of the main things I wanted to get across. It shows how things just get worse when not acted upon the right way. And as much as youth want to blame it on someone you have to look at yourself and see your own faults.

I also read a lot growing up, and before I was a "young adult", I was reading books with that label. As I kept reading I saw that they where turning into the same book, but with different names for the main characters. So I wanted to write with a different voice, one that I hope will ring true to teenagers today, and one that is not just lost in the swamp of similar books.

**Katie's book is Land of Misfit Teens with Desert Breeze Publishing.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "The Emerald Dagger"

Thank you to everyone who supported Barbara this week. She's giving out two prizes this weekend. Her local writers group did a anthology of Valentine stories that Desert Breeze published called "Scattered Hearts." (Wednesday's post) Barbara is giving away a copy of a CD of the book. She also have a talented friend who makes greeting cards, and she's giving away six of her friend's Valentine cards as a gift also. Remember to leave a comment today, Saturday, and Sunday on this post. On Monday I'll pick out the two winners. Leave your email address when you comment. It will make it easier to get in touch with you.

Moderator Steph


Like a silver shadow, Da'kar slipped before Rourk and Kelsey. No, not a shadow, Kelsey thought, a spirit. They followed no path, but wove in and among the trees.

She ran her hand through her dripping hair. A sudden storm had drenched them, and the returned sun did not penetrate the thickened canopy of leaves. All around them was an ever darkening dimness. A chill wind gusted into her face, goose bumps rose. A sudden sneeze exploded from her. Just ahead, Da'kar stopped and turned to stare at her. Feeling her face heat, Kelsey looked a silent apology in his direction. The unicorn dipped his horn in acknowledgment and continued onward.

Queen's-Commander, hell. She couldn't believe she hadn't blocked the sneeze. Maybe she didn't belong here anymore. She glanced behind her. If Rourk looked angry or, worse yet, amused, she'd throttle him. But he only nodded and urged Cloud forward.

The trees thinned and then opened into a small, flower-dotted meadow, awash in sunlight. Kelsey reined in Freya and waited for her eyes to adjust to the new brightness. When she could see clearly, she shaded her eyes with her hand and surveyed the area before her. She saw nothing but patches of rain-flattened grass and flowers. At its edge, Da'kar waited. As Kelsey came alongside, she saw the unicorn's nostrils flare and his ears twitch.

He stared into her eyes. "They come."

"Who? What comes?" Kelsey turned in her saddle and swept a gaze over the peaceful meadow again.

"Wolf things. We must flee before them."

She reached for the sword upon her back. "No, we'll fight."

"What's going on?" Rourk said, reining in beside them.

"Da'kar says we're going to have company."

Rourk freed his own sword. "Do we face them astride or afoot?"

Kelsey eyed the open square of grass and flowers. Which would give them the biggest advantage?

"No," Da'kar sent. "There are too many of them. We flee."

"To where?" Kelsey said. "Where can we go out here in the middle of the woods?"

"We go to Zara." The unicorn reeled to the left and dashed into the trees once more.

Kelsey sheathed her sword. "Damn."

"What?" Rourk said, copying her action.

"Too many of them. We're going to Zara." She nudged Freya in the side and raced after Da'kar.

Running full out, the unicorn zigzagged through the trees. Behind them, a full-throated howl filled the air. Another answered it ahead of them, and then more from their right.

Da'kar wheeled to the left. Kelsey leaned close against Freya's neck and gave the mare her head. Trees flashed by. She ducked first left and then right to avoid the low-hanging branches. The blood-crazed howling rose in volume as the wolves gained ground. A dark shape sprang from the left, straight into her path. Kelsey sawed back on Freya's reins. The mare reared, and then came down on her front feet only yards from the snarling wolf.

Its silver eyes stared at Kelsey in naked hunger. Saliva sprayed from the corners of its mouth as it snapped at the air. Then it sprang toward the mare's legs.

A white blur streaked between them. Da'kar kicked out with his back legs. His hooves struck the wolf's shaggy head. It dropped and writhed on the ground, shrieking its pain. Kelsey felt the mare gather herself and, with a forward lunge, Freya sprang over the wounded wolf.

They raced from the trees onto a twisting mountain trail she'd never seen before. She pulled back on the reins, but Freya's speed did not alter as she ran up the path.

"Slow down," Kelsey panted, but Freya did not respond to her tightening hold. With a quick prayer, Kelsey gave Freya her head again and trusted the elven-bred mare. The path widened and ahead Kelsey saw Zara's cave. Da'kar screamed an alert and a low rumble answered from within the cave. Da'kar raced into the opening.

Kelsey risked a glance over her shoulder. A wall of shaggy bodies charged at Rourk's heels. She leaned over Freya's neck. "Run, girl, run."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shaggy head. With a hoarse cry she kicked out, catching the wolf on the shoulder. It stumbled and went down. Ahead, the dark entrance beckoned. "Come on, Freya, come on."

She felt a jolt through her body as Freya sprinted into the cave. Kelsey pulled back on the reins and swung the mare around. Not waiting for the mare to stop, she vaulted from Freya's back and sprinted toward the mouth of the cave. She whipped her sword from its sheath as she ran. Rourk and Cloud charged by her. She watched Rourk spring from Cloud's back. With his sword in his left hand and his fighting blade in the other, he rushed to stand beside her.

The wolves came up short at the front of the cave. Snarling and howling, they paced with stiff legs and twitching ears.
Kelsey cut the air in front of her with her sword. Dragon spoor must be keeping them out.

Somewhere inside their deformed minds there's still a lick of natural fear. But it was a respite, nothing more, and she knew it. Whatever had shaped them would not let the game stop here. They would attack. But how long would they wait? She got her answer as a wolf leapt. Rourk met it with a sweep of his sword. Its head went sailing with the teeth still snapping.

Kelsey risked a glance to the side. Where was Da'kar and Zara? Had she dreamed the rumble she'd heard earlier?

Another wolf charged. She stepped forward, waited until the beast started its snarling leap, then thrust her sword out with both hands. The wolf impaled itself three-quarters down the length of the blade. Blood gushed from the body and coated her hands with slippery warmth. A coppery scent, thick with the reek of wet fur, filled her nostrils. She kicked out, catching the wolf against the side of its head. It crashed to the ground, taking her and her sword with it. White-hot pain arced into her shoulder. Her fingers went numb and the sword slipped from them. She rolled to the side and her forehead came up hard against a wall of rock. Black spots danced before her eyes and warm blood trickled down her cheek. Swiping at her temples, she scrambled to her feet, then leaned against the wall as the world dipped in front of her. She dug her fingernails into her palms and blinked her eyes, willing the dizziness away.

Through a curtain of haze, she saw Rourk. He stood in the middle of the cave, surrounded by five wolves. They circled, snarling and snapping. One, braver than the rest, darted in. Rourk swung his sword and caught the wolf full across its muzzle. It slunk back, its moment of courage gone.

Kelsey heard a growl and whirled. Two wolves crept toward her. Heart drumming, she crouched and waited. Out of the darkness beside her, a pale form charged. Da'kar's horn sank deep into the chest of the nearest wolf. With a swing of his head, the unicorn sent the wolf sailing. Kelsey sprang for her sword. She screamed as the pain in her shoulder knifed deeply into her body. Da'kar reared and struck with his hooves. The second wolf howled and dropped.

"To the side," Da'kar sent. "Zara and Lilith come."

"Hug the wall," Kelsey screamed to Rourk. "The dragons are coming."

Rourk lunged with his sword and slashed with his knife. A wolf crumpled, and he leapt to the side of the cave. From behind them, a dragon issued a trumpeting challenge, the walls trembling with the force of the rage within it.

For a moment, the wolves were a frozen tableau. The one nearest Kelsey whined and ducked its tail between its legs. Then its silver eyes changed, became a flaring red. The fangs parted and a voice shouted from within. "Attack. I want them all dead. You may feed, but bring me the unicorn's horn."

Dirkk, Kelsey's mind screamed. Rourk's gaze sought hers, and she saw the same recognition in his eyes.

As the wolves gave full vent to another howl of rage, Zara emerged from the darkness of the cave. Her golden body filled the cavernous space. She lashed out with a taloned foot and dismembered a wolf from throat to tail. Like an open-sea barge, she surged forward, pushing the wolves like flotsam before her. Those who did not move fast enough were crushed beneath her. Behind her came a smaller russet-hued dragon.

That must be Lilith, Kelsey thought. The smaller dragon eyed the wolves as she passed and, when one still twitched, trampled it into death.

Da'kar, Kelsey and Rourk fell in behind Lilith. At the cave's entrance Zara hesitated and swung her massive head from left to right. Then she bugled her victory and exited the cave.

Lilith rumbled low in her throat and followed.

Outside, there was only silence. Zara's head swung their way and Kelsey and Rourk pressed back against the mountain of rock. Huge golden eyes surveyed them as her tail swished, like an irate cat's. Lilith pressed against the side of her mother and growled softly. Zara looked at her daughter. An answering growl came from her throat, but there was nothing soft about it. Kelsey felt her knees begin to shake. She felt Rourk tense beside her. The unicorn stepped in front of them and looked into Zara's eyes.

"You need not speak for this one of Thea's blood," Zara sent.

The words lashed across Kelsey's mind. Gasping, she pressed her palms against the sides of her head. "I don't understand."

"Call and I will come, but once only."

Zara turned, walked to the mountain's drop-off, and launched skyward.

The russet dragon rumbled a sigh. "Human, the saving of your life will be at high cost."

"You are Lilith," Kelsey said.

The dragon nodded. "We fly to the land of fairies."

"But it's Dirkk who formed the fairy demons. It has to be him. The fairies--"

"It makes no difference. The fairies are used. They must be destroyed so no more can be made. Tell this to Thea at once." Lilith followed her mother into the sky.

Kelsey sank to the ground. "Oh, my God. I broke the spell holding them inside." She reached inside the neckline of her shirt and grasped the pendant. "Regan. Regan, answer me." But no voice responded in her head.

Kelsey scrambled to her feet as Da'kar led Freya and Cloud from Zara's cave. "Come, we must ride," the unicorn sent.
"No, I've got to get back to Raya and warn Regan."

"We go to find Daniel. It is Regan's wish," Rourk said.

"But the dragons. They're going to the fairy land. They'll kill them all. And it's my fault."

Rourk swung up onto Cloud's back. "You do as you wish. I will find Daniel." He turned to Da'kar. "If you will show me the way."

The unicorn dipped his horn in acquiescence.

"Dirkk has Daniel," Rourk added.

Kelsey looked from the man to the unicorn. "Damn." She mounted Freya and then glanced at Da'kar. "How far?"

"We are close." ." The unicorn turned and headed downward toward the trees. buy link

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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Dirkk from "The Emerald Dagger"

STEPH: So, Mr. Dirkk, tell us a little bit more about yourself. Where were you born and what kind of education do you have?

DIRKK: I came from my mother's womb in Castle Crag in the kingdom of Daradawn. My education? I was born the son of a Baron. My tutor taught me mathematics and how to dance. My father schooled me in sword work, hunting and how to woo the ladies. He bought me my first women when I was eleven. At twelve I became engaged to Tessa De'Amberville, the future queen of Daradawn.

STEPH: Where did you find this emerald dagger?

DIRKK: The dagger found me, or should I say Darodah, the demon that dwells in the emerald dagger, drew me to him. I had to prove myself with an offering of blood, not mine of course, but once accepted I became one with the dagger.

STEPH: Who's your best friend in Daradawn?

DIRKK: Friends, surly you jest. I have no need of friends. I have those who do my bidding. Once upon a time when I was young and stupid I had friends, Tessa and Peter, but they turned against me, now they are enemies and must die.

STEPH: What's your spell-casting room like? Messy or Neat?

DIRKK: You make me laugh. I don't cast spells. I am a blood mage. I summon. I conjure. I do not cast spells like an herb witch.

STEPH: Is it true you're secretly attracted to the High Mage's wife, Regan?

DIRKK: You insult me. I have killed for less. Regan desires me. She has the power of the blue flame. I will take her, use her, when I am finished she will die…but attracted to, I think not.

STEPH: What evil plan do you have find for the fairies? I won't tell. Promise.

DIRKK: Of course you will not tell, not if you wish to continue breathing. The fairies are flesh for my forming. They will become only a small part of my legions.

STEPH: Have you ever traveled? Left Daradawn and come back?

DIRKK: The bastard mage has closed all of the rifts, but one, and that he has made poison to me, but with the emerald dagger and Regan's power, all will change.

STEPH: Any parting words for us curious minds?

DIRKK: Remember my words to you and remember my face. For soon I will be ripping the fabric between our worlds apart. When I come calling, remind me of our time together, and perhaps I will make your death less slow and less painful.

********* buy link

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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Barbara Hodges talks about Scattered Hearts and Valentines

February and Valentine's Day, you can't seem to think of one without the other. One of the contest giveaways I am offering is a c.d. of Scattered Hearts, an anthology of valentine stories, The Word Wizards, my local writers group wrote, oh, and it's published by Desert Breeze. I thought I'd tell you how it came about.

It was my idea to showcase the great writers in our group. When I first offered it, an anthology of Valentine's Day stories, the response wasn't great…ugh, hearts and flowers. No, I wanted something beyond the usual fare, just somewhere in the story you had to mention February 14th. Skepticism was still the reigning emotion.

Randolph Tower, who is one of my co-authors, came to the rescue. At our next meeting he came in with a story for Scattered Hearts. His story, Baby Bottles, told of a young pilot during the Viet Nam war. The pilot used small baby bottles, filled with water and frozen to take with him on his missions, the bottles kept him cool and provided water when they melted. The young pilot's wife gives them to him on Valentine's Day, pink ones with a red heart drawn on each.

It was all we needed. The stories in Scattered Hearts involve a senior lady dealing with dementia, a young widow needing to know why her husband went on a tragic Valentine's Day cruise without her, and a bi-racial couple fighting prejudice in the 1950's. If you are the lucky winner, you are going to love the stories and poems in Scattered Hearts; they are all a different way of looking at love. Happy Valentine's Day! buy link:

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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Barbara Hodges talks about her favorite movie

I'm fighting a head cold. My husband is out of town on a business trip and I'm feeling abandoned. So the first thing I do is call my mommy, and then I dive into my stack of feel good movies, they're almost like chicken soup for me when I need cheering up.

I choose Gidget with Sandra Dee and James Darren. Gidget wins out by just a hair over The Incredible Journey. Gidget does the trick, has me smiling, but if she hadn't worked I'd given into a good cry by popping in Old Yeller or maybe Dumbo.

What's in your stack of feel good movies? I seem to have favorites for every mood, and then there are some I can watch over and over no matter the mood I'm in. Dirty Dancing is one of them, and Chicago and Grease.

So what makes a movie speak to us? I think it's the same thing that makes a book one we read over and over and never get tired off; involvement with the characters, the plots, the need to be taken somewhere else.

I've watched Gidget at least fifty times since I first saw it when I was sixteen, but still I get caught up in it. And even now that I'm a few years past 16 I still identify with her struggle and determination to get what she wants. Good messages huh? Give me a happily ever ending any time and that's whether I'm feeling bad or not. buy link

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Barbara Hodges

STEPH: I don't know much about "The Emerald Dagger." What's it about?

BARBARA: The Emerald Dagger is the second book in my Daradawn Fantasy series. It is high fantasy and a classic good versus evil storyline. In the tale, Dirkk, the dark mage has formed demonic creatures from fairies and mountain wolves. His plan is to use them to destroy Queen Tessa and subjugate all of the kingdom of Daradawn. To do so he must either master or kill the four dragons that live in Daradawn. Aiding Dirkk is Darodah, the demon that lives inside the emerald dagger.

The only thing that stands in the way of Dirkk's desires is Regan Canterville. Regan is a chosen of the Power and the avatar of the Goddess. Marked with a small blue flame upon her shoulder, she is able to speak to all animals in Daradawn, both mortal and magical and has formed a bond with Zara the golden dragon.

But that does her little good when Dirkk's creatures attack and kill one of Zara's children. The dragon will not settle for less than complete destruction of all of the fairies, an act that the others of Daradawn cannot let happen.

The Emerald Dagger has magic, suspense, and a touch of romance, what more does a great read need?

STEPH: Where did you get the inspiration for the story?

BARBARA: I love a great fantasy. I love basset hounds. I wanted both.

STEPH: I understand "The Emerald Dagger" is book 2 in your YA fantasy series, "The Daradawn Series." What was the inspiration for the series?

BARBARA: The series came about because I couldn't find a story out there that had everything I wanted. I wanted magic, romance, dragons and a basset hound. So I wrote my own.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write the story?

BARBARA: The Emerald Dagger appeared quickly, compared to The Blue Flame which I re-wrote five times. Since The Emerald Dagger is part of a series, I already had my created world and my main characters, so I was able to write the book in a year.

STEPH: Did you have to do any research for the story? If so, what kind?

BARBARA: Since I see the time and setting as being medieval I did do some research in castle structure and outlying buildings.

STEPH: Kelsey is one of the heroines of the story. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

BARBARA: Kelsey loves deep, she also hates deep. She is loyal, but head strong, and will push forward when her emotions are in control, even though her head says to do so is crazy. She is compassionate and caring. With her you are a friend for life, or an enemy until your death.

STEPH: What does Rourk find appealing about Kelsey?

BARBARA: Kelsey is his soul mate. She completes him. The very things she feels are weaknesses in her are the things he loves. Rourk loves her strength, both in body and heart. He loves that she loves so completely. Kelsey does nothing halfway.

STEPH: Do you cast your characters? If so who are Kelsy? Rourk? Peter? Regan?

BARBARA: No I don't cast my characters. I've tried, but could not come up with any out there now to fit the bill.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

BARBARA: Right now I have a Kindle and a Sony tablet that I read on. Before that it was a Sony Reader and before that it was a Rocket. I've been a fan of ebooks for at least 15 years.

STEPH: Fun question: Valentines are in the air. Chocolate, Roses, Cards, or Flowers?

BARBARA: An easy choice, chocolate and a card. I prefer my roses growing on a bush in the back yard. buy link

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Friday, 3 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Except from "Deadly Revenge"

Thanks so much for supporting Nancy during her spotlight week. Leave a comment on this post today, Saturday, and Sunday and I'll pick a winner on Monday to receive a PDF copy of Nancy's novel, Deadly Revenge. Don't forget to leave your email and contact info. Enjoy this excerpt. Moderator Steph


After Culinary Herb Gardener Ada Blaine loses the love of her life, she avoids men and spends years turning a beloved hobby into a thriving business. Former Marine Rich McConnell left behind a nasty divorce and traded a promising military career for a hardware store with no complications. He discovers he can't keep his hands off the elusive gardener, and her determination to remain independent falters when the ever-charming Rich weakens the wall Ada's built around her heart. Then just as late-in-life second-chance love seems possible, Ada is threatened by a sniper's bullet, and Rich's past comes back to haunt him.

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EXCERPT – Deadly Revenge

"What's on your mind today, Rich? You seem fidgety. On second thought, we'll both have tea. Coffee might just make you jump out of your boots." The storm door bounced shut behind her.

Rich squinted into the sun topping the trees along the lakeshore. Best to quit thinking about what he'd like to jump out of, and it sure as hell wasn't his boots.

Months ago the bottom dropped out of his comfortable, predictable world when Ada strolled into Tom and Mary McGraw's annual Christmas Eve gathering. Damn. He'd known Ada for years and always pictured her as trim, and... well, sturdy.

That night she'd looked sleek, all curvy in some kind of clingy getup. Not her usual chinos and denim. Plus, she'd done something to her eyes that made her look drop dead gorgeous. Hell, he'd never noticed her eyes before. Nor had he gawked at her extremely attractive backside. This morning while watching her pull weeds his gawking had gotten him in deep shit.

The door creaked open. Ada returned, carrying a tray. "Here." She moved forward. "I'll set our tea on the table against the wall and--"

The tray flew apart like an exploding grenade!

Scalding hot liquid stung his face, and thick cream arced like a fireworks display. Cups, saucers, and teapot crashed to the floor. In one fluid move, Rich pushed off the steps.

Frozen, Ada was staring at what remained of the tray in her hands when he slammed into her. He twisted, taking the impact as they hit the floor. Together they rolled across the porch and crashed into the wall of the cottage. Pinned beneath him, she lay motionless.

"Are you hit?" Rich scanned the woods north of the cabin. He ran a quick assessing hand over her body.

"No... I mean, hit? What are you talking about? You hit me," she accused in a tense whisper, and began to struggle.

"Lie still." He ordered, blood pounding in his ears. His words halted her frantic efforts. He laid a hand on her cheek and turned her head, forcing her to look at him. "That was rifle fire."

Like a snared rabbit, her eyes grew wide.

"Don't move, Ada," he repeated, softening his tone. "We're protected here, and I've got to find out what the hell is going on before we stand up like targets."

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Nancy Kay talks about why she writes romantic suspense

I write Romantic Suspense because I’ve lived Romantic to speak. Of all the ‘writing rules’ we face as authors from the day we select writing as a career, write what you know ranks high on the ‘pay attention’ scale.

Who doesn’t like Romance? One of the first Romance books I ever read was one entitled ‘I’ll Find My Love’ circa 1957, published by Berkley Highland Books. The story was simple, sweet, and had conflict plus all the other elements we strive for in the genre.
However, the story lacked suspense, something which didn’t enter my life until years later when I fell in love and married a Marine who went on to become a policeman.

Suspense with a capitol ‘S.’ His position in the Corps had day to day tension, not to mention it was the mid sixty’s and Viet Nam was an issue. He’s my go to source when I need to get into the head a character with a military background, but most of the suspense and danger elements in my stories relates to his 28 years on the job as a Pennsylvania State Policeman.

I can attest to how lines of fatigue etched into his face at the end of a shift affected me. I saw and felt his frustration, his fears and sometimes anger. We celebrated when justice prevailed, or a family walked away from a horrific accident. And there’s a sense of humor amongst policeman that serves to diffuse tension and helps men and women on the job cope with what they must face every day.

So when I create a character, be it military, law enforcement or even the despised villain, I have a built in consultant. I write what I know, and being there first hand so close to the mystery and suspense, all that was needed was Romance.

After 46 years as man and wife, we’ve got that covered!


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Author Spotlight - Nancy Kay dishes up a recipe for a cover

When I type ‘The End’, it means words floating around in my head have come together to create a story. Doing so is equivalent to the oven timer signaling ‘done’ for a carefully crafted dish. Suspense, a touch of mystery, and a generous dash of romance combined for readers to enjoy. Previously I mentioned the where of cover images, but what about the how?

Upon completing ‘Deadly Revenge’ - the second in my Deadly Triad series - I wanted my cover to entice readers, to send a message, to provide that subtle hint. So, I sent Jenifer Ranieri, a multi talented lady who designs covers at Desert Breeze Publishing, several turbulent lake photos taken by my husband, a better than average photographer. I thought a male silhouette holding an M14 rifle beside the crashing lake would send a strong message about my story.

Jenifer tweaked the lake scene, admirably so, but the man holding the gun just wasn’t working. The M14 is a sleek-barreled weapon with a gracefully curved wooden stock. The inserted silhouette grasped a heavy, scope laden weapon with a super large ammunition clip and looked like he had on a helmet. I shot off a stock photo of an M14 which resulted in a passable weapon, but the shooter image still lacked conviction to me.

A hurried call and a quick trip across town to Bob’s Gunshop and Indoor Range followed. Former Marine, now photo bug husband, was thrilled to get his hands on an authentic M14. The gun shop owner, another former Marine, was ready and willing to help. He switched out the ammo clip for one I preferred and provided the perfect spot by an open window to take pictures. The lighting was just right to catch the image, and after a few adjustments to his digital camera, my husband handed the camera to me and became a Romance Novel Model!

A couple of pictures and a great cover artist. A recipe I’ll share for a fantastic romance novel cover!