Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Tour, Giveaway, and Review: In the Garden Room by Tanya Ely

Historical Suspense, Gothic
Date Published: July 18, 2016
Publisher: Blunder Woman Productions

It is Chicago. 1910. Eleven-year-old Lillian March looks over her mother’s dead body with a sense of relief.
As a poor woman, her mother, Cora, never had any real choices or happiness with her life. Cora and Lillian flee to the bustling city of Chicago, where she is certain she will have the life of opulence she deserves.
Cora and Lillian face deep hardships in turn-of-the-century Chicago as Cora’s mind continues its downward spiral. With no money and no hope for income, Cora sells Lillian to The Garden Room, a brothel, where young girls and desperate women are kept like flowers in a jar.
John March comes looking for his daughter and his wife in an attempt to rescue them, but even if he finds them alive, is rescue really possible?
IN THE GARDEN ROOM is an exploration of madness, desire and two women’s choices in a time when they weren’t really allowed to choose.

In the Garden Room is a dark historical story of life around the turn of the 20th century. The story mostly alternates points of view between Cora, a wife and mother, and her daughter, Lillian.
Cora has never been satisfied with her life. Her husband, John, is a fisherman and she must work as a servant for her richer neighbors. Lillian lives a fairly carefree life going to school and studying to be a scientist one day. 
Cora is enticed into running away to Chicago by a man visiting her small town, mostly because he wants Lillian though she doesn't realized it. Lillian is forced into a new world where she works for pennies at a meatpacking plant to support her mother who dreams of a better life, but does nothing to achieve it. Eventually, Cora is so desperate that she sells Lillian to work in a brothel, the Garden Room. 
Meanwhile, John has come after his family, hoping to save them before it's too late.
This is an excellent read. The story is heartbreaking and engrossing. The choices made and how they impact the lives around them make for a fine, though sad, story. In the Garden Room is gritty, sad, loving, and hopeful.

Tanya Eby is a writer and an award-winning audiobook narrator. She has published a variety of novels from romantic comedies to mysteries to dark historical pieces. While her writing crosses genres they all share quirky characters and complicated relationships. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @Blunder_Woman.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

The Butterfly Garden is a psychological thriller that makes you keep reading late into the night. The story starts with two FBI men interviewing a victim though there is some doubt that she possibly participated in the atrocities of the Butterfly Garden. Victor and Eddison play the good cop, bad cop routine in an effort to elicit Maya's story which she tells in a series of flashbacks over two days.
Maya also gives them a lot of detail about her life before the Garden.
While it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the girls - there are a great number of them in the Garden as well as in an apartment share from earlier in Maya's life - each story is poignant, horrific, and well-told.
The Butterfly Garden is a giant greenhouse filled with lovely plants on an estate somewhere in Maryland. The Gardener is an older man who abducts the girls, tattoos elaborate butterfly wings on their backs, then rapes them repeatedly. His older son is more violent and tortures the girls as well. The Gardener is totally delusional, believing that he is saving these girls, his butterflies, but also believes that a butterflies life is short. Once a girl dies, he embalms her body in resin and displays it as part of his collection.
The concept here is enthralling and while there are a number of inconsistencies (why couldn't twenty or so girls overcome one old man to get out), I could gloss over them as I read, hoping they would be resolved eventually. I was hovering between a 4-5 star for this book until the last few pages.
The ending just ruined this book. It was not believable to me and such a huge disappointment. The inconsistencies were never explained either. Still, the author tells a good story; I just wish she had a better twist at the end.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Darkmage by M.L. Spencer

Darkmage is a dark fantasy, richly written, and filled with fascinating characters. The action starts
almost immediately and takes the reader on a journey through a detailed and nuanced world.
Darien Lauchlin is an acolyte, called back to Aerysius, the city of the mages after a stint on the frontier guarding against the enemy in the Dark Lands. It is his time to rise up to the level of mage, an occurrence marked treason from within and the destruction of Aerysius as the Well of Tears is opened and chaos reigns supreme.
Darien has incredible powers but is bound by his oath as a mage not to unleash his magic despite the temptation to do so. Accompanied by the priestess of Death, Naia, and his new acolyte, Kyel Archer, Darien sets out to save his world without losing himself at the same time.
The detailed world-building is amazing. It is very easy for the reader to picture each scene in the various lands they travel through. The characters are diverse and always engaging. There is great poignancy in the romance between Naia and Darien, as well as his lost love, Merien, who was sacrificed to open the Well of Tears. The pressures on Darien are immense, but his responses are believable as well as his befuddled acolyte, Kyel.
I can't wait to read Darkstorm and the other coming books in the Rhenwars Saga. If you like dark fantasy, this is a book you want to read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cover Reveal: Alive at Sunset by Kayla Krantz

The sequel to Dead by Morning!

"My mistake was that I didn't kill you."

Join the Facebook Event for Alive at Sunset:

And pick up a copy of Dead by Morning!

Obsession is deadly. No one learns that better than Luna Ketz, a pessimistic high school senior. She wishes more than anything to graduate but things don’t always go as planned. Luna quickly finds herself trapped in a web of lies and murders, spun by the least suspected person in her hometown. It’s not long before she realizes she’s being targeted by the person she despises most in the world. When Luna figures out who is behind the killings, things make a turn for the bizarre when she is contacted by a friend she has not heard from in years. It is then Luna realizes she is very much in danger, but although she can avoid the killer in reality, she cannot avoid him in her dreams.

Dead by Morning - now on Amazon

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Release: The Brave Jungle Kitty by Angelique S. Anderson author and Angel Esqueda, illustrator

In 'The Brave Jungle Kitty' we meet an amazing kitty who was adopted by four loving little girls. They soon find out she is no regular kitty, and charming antics ensue! A great read aloud for children and parents, alike. You'll want to know all about this feisty gray kitty!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Giving Feedback to a Writer

Almost every writer I know has at one time or another thrown some writing out in social media or a critique group and asked for feedback. Most of the time, it’s a useful exercise and very helpful to the writer.

Occasionally, the scenario goes like this:
I write:
It was a dark and stormy night.
Now I wait anxiously for feedback to my masterpiece.

The first one comes from my friend known as the Red Baron.
This is better: Clouds roiled through the darkness and lightning slashed the skies.
Hmm, I think. That sounds pretty dramatic and if I’m honest, much better than what I wrote. Still, it’s not “me”, not what I wrote. So while I like what the Red Baron sent me, I’m uncomfortable.

I get another response from my friend, Snoopy.
I like what you wrote, but there’s a lot of telling. Show me how the night was dark and stormy in your own words. Use your five senses – what sounds do you hear? What do you see? How do you feel?
Right away, I feel better. Snoopy’s response gives me some ideas in how to rewrite the line myself and improve it. I think a bit, then go ahead and rewrite it myself in my own words and style.

I was drenched by the pouring rain. Lightning lit the path in front of me as the sound of thunder made me jump.
I study what I wrote and compare it to the Red Baron’s suggestion. Not quite the same, but the second one is ‘Me’. I’m not only happy with what I’ve written, but I also learned something about the craft of writing in the process.

I understand that these are very simplistic examples of giving feedback. I can also sympathize with those who don’t want to spend precious time writing out how to do something when it can be much easier to write it oneself.

The definition of feedback (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary) is helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc. If someone just writes it themselves rather than helping the author, I think that the feedback is no more helpful than just replying ‘Good job’ or ‘Needs work.'

Feedback is the opportunity for a teaching moment, a chance to help a fellow writer improve their craft. Just imagine if your editor didn’t just correct your writing, but rewrote your novel. You would be irate. As an editor, I’ve made suggestions for different wording in places, but I strongly believe that to do anything further without trying to work with the author and teach them to write it in their own style is not editing but ghostwriting.

Of course, it is always the writer’s prerogative to opt not to make the changes you’ve suggested. But isn’t that better than that writer taking your writing example and putting it in their manuscript?

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Walk Tall in the Wind by Dennis Swan

Walk Tall in the Wind is a fictionalized account of the settling of Eaton Rapids in Michigan in the early 1800's.  If you like history, then you will thoroughly enjoy this narrative.
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Simon and Olive Chatfield are Quakers who ran a tavern along the Erie Canal in New York state. When the opportunity arises, they pick up and move to the Michigan territory and build a trading post. Olive is aided in the birth of her youngest child by Indians who live nearby and the family becomes very friendly with them.
The story is told through the viewpoint of different characters and some flashbacks to older occurrences: Simon's experiences in Tecumseh's wars or Olive's ancestor who was a spy in the Revolutionary War. As more people come to the little settlement, attitudes to the Indians change though the Chatfields remain firm friends.
I learned some new bits of history; for example, I knew about the Aroostook Wars, but I hadn't heard of the Patriot War of 1837 and found it very interesting.  I hope the story of the Chatfield family is continued in another book. I'd love to read about what happens to them in the Civil War.

About the Author:

Dennis was born sixty years ago on a dairy farm in Brookfield Township in Eaton County, Michigan on land his ancestors took up from the government. He attended Eaton Rapids Schools and worked the family farm with his father after graduation. Dennis started working at the US Post Office in Eaton Rapids after his marriage to his wife, Kathi. Soon after, they switched from dairy to raising beef cattle. That gave them time to pursue their passion for antiques. They became dealers with booths in several antique malls, as an outlet for the treasures found that they no longer had room for. They soon opened their own shop in the old grist mill in Eaton Rapids. Poor health forced them to close their shop, and retire from the Post Office. Dennis always had a love for history, especially local history. He knew his family had lived in the area for a long time, from the stories he heard growing up. Through genealogical research conducted by Kathi, which is her love, he soon found out his forefathers were some of the first settlers in Eaton County. One was the first lawyer in Eaton Rapids, started the first newspaper, became the prosecuting attorney and went on to be a State Representative. Since Dennis has been an avid reader since a young child and comes from a long line of storytellers, he decided to spin a tale of what might have happened. Using what history he found by researching the local library, he blends together historical facts and fictional characters. With no diaries to read or journals to aid his research, he had to use his imagination to what it was like living on the Michigan frontier in 1835, and what kind of people would have been living there, among the Native American Indians to weave a charming tale of life in the early days of Eaton Rapids.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Virtual Book Tour: 4Ever Girl by Marian Cheatham and Review

Young Adult Contemporary
Date Published: July 14, 2016

4Ever Girl, Book Two in the Stratford High Series. Inspired by Shakespeare’s controversial comedy, The Merchant of Venice.
 Benji Merchant, has only one desire – to take the beautiful and spirited, Portia Belmont, to their senior prom. But first, Benji must win her heart. He enlists the help of his twin sister, Toni Merchant, in a wild scheme to impress Portia. Toni has reservations, especially when she learns that her brother’s plan involves the elusive tattoo artist, Shiloh Lender. Shiloh agrees to help Benji, but only if Toni concedes to Shiloh’s unbelievable terms. Will Toni accept the challenge and support her brother in his quest for Portia’s love? Or will Toni refuse Shiloh’s conditions and let her brother down? 
This cute and clean high school romance is based on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. It has all the attributes of his comedies with various couples involved in different schemes as Senior Prom approaches. Shiloh has a crush on Toni whose brother Benji likes Portia, but Toni has a long term boyfriend though there isn't much of a spark between them.
They work out a deal where Toni will go to Prom with Shiloh if he details Benji's car so he can impress Portia. The story is told in multiple POVs so you see what all of them are thinking. There's also a sweet puppy love between Toni's English bulldog and Shiloh's dog.
The story kept me reading; it was nice to see teenagers acting their ages for a change. This is a fun YA romance novel that readers of all ages will enjoy.

Marian Cheatham is a full-time writer of YA novels and screenplays, part-time everything else - spouse, homemaker, volunteer, and animal guardian of five pets. In her free time, she loves to read, walk, garden, and travel. Not necessarily in that order. She and her husband work hard (and have fun) ticking off items on their Bucket List.
Her YA series, Stratford High, revolves around modern retellings of Shakespeare’s plays. Ruined, Book One, is inspired by the Bard’s classic romance, Much Ado About Nothing. 4Ever Girl, Book Two, is inspired by Shakespeare’s controversial comedy, The Merchant of Venice.

Marian’s debut YA, Eastland, is based on the real-life story of the 1915 Eastland boat disaster in Chicago.

Purchase Links


Ruined and 4Ever Girl will be $0.99 on Kindle during the week of 9/06 - 9/13

Barnes and Noble:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

New Release: Bestial by Arielle K. Harris

Yvaine was once a spoiled child reigning terror on her parents and servants alike until an enchantress changed her into a creature whose bestial form matches her beastly nature. 

Beau is a young man of singular beauty and virtue who must look after his family when misfortune brings them into a ruin of their own making. 

Beau and Yvaine’s ill-fated paths will meet, and they will change each other irrevocably. But how can love last when lovers change beyond recognition? 

This is the story of a Beauty and a Beast, only not as you know it. Set in a pre-revolutionary France where magic abounds, the tale does not end with the Beast’s transformation. In many ways, it is only the beginning…

About the Author:

Arielle K Harris spent her formative years in Scotland, which has irreversibly confused her accent and spelling conventions. Lately she has returned to her hometown in Massachusetts, where she finished her first novel, Bestial, and is raising her young son. Arielle writes stories which focus on the human experience through the lens of fantasy, posing questions about reality through the means of unreality.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A story about the real Antrim, Maine

The fictional town of Antrim, Maine is set in the Oxford Hills in the western part of the state. It is loosely based on Norway, a small town with nearby Norway Lake substituting for Antrim Lake. So imagine my surprise when I came across this article about the Weary Club of Norway. I think the story embodies what makes Norway such a charming town and why the whole area is a magnet for tourists.

New Release: Lady of the Bridge by Laura Kitchell

Historical Romance
Date Published:  September 2016

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Forbidden love between a warrior princess and an elite samurai makes for an adventure set during the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Join this couple in a race across 17th century Japan where political unrest has created dangerous ronin, civil uprisings, and war-ravaged castles. Caught in the middle of the struggle between Shogun's rise to rule and the old regime, this warrior princess is forced to battle for her life.
In the end, she must choose between family honor and her heart's desire.
Other Books by Laura Kitchell:

Lady of the Imperial City
Published: May 2015
Historical Romance

Love isn’t forbidden to Lady Kirei as long as it’s with a proper gentleman of Kyō and she doesn’t mind sharing him with his wife. Her provincial upbringing makes her socially unacceptable as a true wife, yet as a lady by birth and a court favorite, her position makes it impossible for her to seek a match below her station. She’s trapped.

When a nobleman of similar provincial upbringing arrives in town and becomes an instant favorite of the emperor, he is sent to Lady Kirei for tutoring on city ways. Lord Yūkan is smitten, but she’s not a conquest to be won. She’s a woman of substance and worth, and she’s off limits.

Despite his unrefined manners, Lord Yūkan’s aristocratic bloodline shows through his fine taste and quick mind. It doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome, too. As he begins to touch her heart, Lady Kirei is ever mindful that they can’t commit, especially when her uncle schemes to make her a consort to a prince.

Will her family’s honor relegate her to the shadow-life of a consort, or can love find a way?

About the Author

Laura Kitchell lives in Virginia. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Chesapeake Romance Writers. She lived in Japan as a child and has a love and respect for Japanese history and culture.

Contact Links

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Cover Reveal: Sanity's Threshold by Angela L. Lindseth

Sanity’s Threshold tiptoes along the extreme and is not for the faint of heart. Delve into the paranormal, the horror, the obscene, and the odd. It will harness your imagination leaving you to question the slivers of your twisted mind.

Coming Soon!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Author Toolsets and Apps

There was a point in a writer's life when all the tools one needed was a pen and paper. Typewriters and computers came along and have certainly enhanced the ability to get one's story down on paper.

Today in the self-publishing world, an author is also a marketer. One must work with editors, cover designers, website designers, and a whole world of 'helpers' yet still find the time to write. I've found some apps that have helped me with time management and thought they might be useful for you also.

An essential marketing tactic is collecting and maintaining a mail list. There are a number of services around, but I use Mailchimp. It's free and fairly easy to use. I can set up custom forms for responses to a email signup or use the templates that come with Mailchimp. It integrates with my blog, with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media I use on a daily basis. While I'm still exploring its potential, I've found it a terrific way to communicate with the people who have chosen to follow me.

BookFunnel is a service that lets you manage book giveaways, whether to an ARC reader, a contest winner, or from a lead-gen campaign. There is a small minimal annual cost, but it is so worth the price. If you've ever struggled to help a reader load a Mobi or ePub format onto their reader, you need BookFunnel. They make the process easy and best of all, all questions go to them and their excellent help staff. This is a great time saver for me.

I happen to be in wide distribution for my books and it's a struggle to list all the various links to books when setting up marketing. Books2Read combines all those links into one handy-dandy link that takes you to a landing page where your customer can find the store he uses, whether Amazon, Kobo, or a host of others. It's free to use and while it takes a bit to set up depending on the number of books you have, I've found it handy as a place to refer to easily when I need the link to iBooks for a specific book. Here's one of my landing pages:

Book ratings are the bane and joy of an author's life. Many authors ignore them, but I feel it's important to see what my readers are saying, especially when a critique is useful to me. RatingsCatcher is a terrific service that lists all your reviews in one place, and I mean all your reviews (pretty much). While Amazon can't seem to collect reviews from various locations together, Ratings Catcher allows me to see all my Amazon reviews, whether UK, Canada, Germany, etc. They notify me when a new review comes in via email. This is so handy when setting up a promotion and you want to find a good quote for your ad. They are adding more sites all the time.
With their help, you can translate a review into other languages. You can set up a link with a review that also shows the buy links and allows you to embed it into a blog or website. There is a small fee (a couple of dollars) to use this, but I've found it extremely helpful.
Here's a screenshot of a review landing page:

Blasty is a service that monitors Google for you to find fraudulent websites claiming to carry your books. I got in as a beta tester and it does all that it claims. It sends me alerts when a new site pops up and I can "blast" it to Google to have it removed or decide that the site is fine (it's important to check because a page for a blog tour may show up and that's perfectly fine). It's free right now.
I'll be honest; while this is a good tool to have, I myself am not that concerned about those fraudulent sites. That's just me though and I know lots of author friends who want a tool like this.

Disclaimer: None of these tools are essential to writing or marketing a book, but I have found them great timesavers and helpful to me. While I've worked with some of the companies in beta-testing or making suggestions for improvement, I don't receive any compensation. I just happen to find them useful and I'm passing that onto you.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: King's Ransom by Tabitha Ormiston-Smith

This was a very enjoyable retelling with 'embellishments' of the Robin Hood legend. The story
centers on Prince John, a much more likable character in this story than he ever was during his lifetime. He has acquired a deerhound named Pansy who is integral to the story. Richard the Lionheart has just become king and is off to the Crusades leaving John to cope with the denizens of Sherwood Forest.
This is a very funny twisted story. The history is pretty accurate, but the author has managed to bring out different aspects in a very humorous manner.
A very entertaining book for a different view of the Third Crusade and what was going on back in Merrie Olde England.
Link to Amazon

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: Bad Reception by Shannen Wright

Bad Reception is the first book in the Sanctuary series and I found it a pleasant surprise. The story is well-paced, the characters are quirky but engaging, and the author has written a new and different paranormal YA book.
The story is all told as Kana is riding on a train with a baby. She confides in a stranger, Theo, by telling him the story of how she got to this point in her life in exchange for a mug of soup for the baby from Theo.
Kana  goes back to the day she was celebrating her nineteenth birthday and it wasn't going the way she wanted. Still living at home with her nagging mother, she fell down the stairs and broke a leg. Her mother and sister grudgingly take her to the hospital and it's there that Kana's day takes an unexpected twist.
There are all sorts of paranormal/supernatural creatures introduced into Kana's life at this point. The story is fast-paced but always interesting. Each creature has their own characteristics and we learn about them along with Kana.
I'll be honest; I'm not sure what I was expecting in this book, but it turned out to be so much more.  The story is fresh and the characters are a lot of fun. I can't wait for the next book and see what happens next.

Link to Amazon

Back to School Book Blast!


Click on any of the below book covers to be taken to the page that has more information on the novel as well as the Buy Links! Please make sure to scroll down as each page will consist of many titles in that same genre!

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