bluemoonThe Blue Moon Café: Where Shifters Meet to Drink by Ioana Visan is a collection of seven short paranormal stories. The short story is not an easy genre to market, especially given the proliferation of novellas these days. However, this collection works almost as a short novel, given the unifying underlying theme of shifters, and the characters who are common throughout, although the disparity in the stories’ lengths mean they don’t really equate to chapters. Werewolves – mutts – and the less common were-eagles who double up as crows are the main characters we meet, but there are humans and “smoking hot vampires” too. The Mayor is trying to keep things calm in his town with a rather volatile mix of different shifter species and has various levels of success.

There are plenty of humourous touches and lots of imagination in evidence in these quirky, tightly plotted stories. There’s romance, tension, craziness, suspense, threat. Each story in the collection has a slightly different tone, from comedy in Once in a Blue Moon, with the added moral of ‘be careful what you buy off someone in a bar’, to tension and conflict in A Mutt Problem, to definite foreboding yet optimism in The Day We Shot the Moon out of the Sky. The various characters are sparsely yet adequately portrayed. This author concentrates her writing energy where it matters most – in creating atmosphere and entertainment. The book would benefit hugely from a more original title. There is a sea of books with Blue Moon Café in the title, many of them collections of short stories, and I worry that this book could drown in them. It deserves to stand out from the crowd. Sadly, the cover doesn’t do the book full justice either and doesn’t reflect the class and quality of Ioana Visan’s writing. But this is definitely a book worth reading.

Dynasty OShea new cover 7(2)Title : Dynasty O’Shea

Author : Clarissa Cartharn

Length : 389 pages

Genre : Fantasy

Jack and Rachel O’Shea and their children are ordinary people living ordinary lives – or so it would seem. But everything changes when Jack turns up at Rachel and the kids’ home with a mysterious jewel. One of the kids accidentally creates a portal to another world, Spassenia, while messing around with the jewel, and Jack and Rachel are thrown back into a world they thought they’d never see again. While the children struggle to comprehend their newfound status as royals, their parents must battle to regain the throne of Gammalion. Through many incredible adventures through magical kingdoms complete with their own legends, peoples and fascinating creatures, the O’Shea family learn some vital lessons about themselves and become closer than ever before.

This is a promising debut novel. It includes everything you might expect from an epic fantasy – mythical creatures, incredible landscapes, bloodsoaked battles, heroic characters and even some romance. The various realms of Spassenia are richly populated with diverse and fantastical tribes and animals. Each member of the family is uniquely characterized and learns much about themselves and their family.

From the epilogue of the book, I gather we can probably look forward to a sequel, so those readers who have fallen in love with the world of Spassenia will surely be delighted to have another chance to explore that world with their favourite characters.

 

NightBuddiesStickerCover300dpiThe content of this book is spot on for a young audience. John Degraffenreidt has exciting adventures at night-time when, of course, adults think he’s in bed and asleep. Outwitting grown-ups is always appealing to kids! John’s buddy, the red crocodile Crosley, is in a bit of bother. Some imposters that look like him are causing trouble so Crosley and John need to stop them.

This book offers likeable and intriguing characters, with the larger than life, irrepressible Crosley, a crazy, imaginative plot and plenty of fun. However, it’s the presentation that’s the controversial element in this book. I love the way different typefaces are used to make each page look as lively as story it’s telling is. That’s a nice touch and it works brilliantly. Less so, in my opinion, the language. Most of the characters have their own dialects and what they say is spelt how it sounds, at least to the author’s head. As Crosley says in the introduction: “If there’s a word ya can’t understand, just say it out loud an’ then ya’ll get it. Hey, just don’t spell it that way at school or in a spellin’ test! If ya want, make a game outta findin’ all the misspelled words in the story!”

A touch of over-eagerness there to make it acceptable to spell words wrongly? Maybe. Confident readers won’t have any problems with it but kids who find reading more of a challenge may be a little perplexed. The danger with writing in a dialect is that it becomes annoying after a while. It’s a fun, well-intentioned ploy that would work perfectly with an older audience, but can be very hit and miss with younger kids.
Also, fermez la! isn’t something French kids would say anywhere near an adult! Teachers don’t tolerate it in the schoolyard either. (I live in France and have three bilingual French-English kids.) I’d have preferred to see ‘Taisez-vous’ so a bit more research there would have been good. My last minor moan is that there are rather too many very long dashes around the place too. Any mannerism used more than moderately becomes irritating.

However, pedantry aside, this is a lively, fast paced book that is fabulously illustrated by Jessica Love and makes for entertaining read.

You can buy the book here:

 

silver sphereThe Silver Sphere (The Kin Chronicles) by Michael Dadich is exciting YA fantasy. Shelby, Zach and four other youngsters are unexpectedly called to help the planet Azimuth and are transported to Meridia, one of its countries. They discover that each of them is Kin to a member of Azimuth’s Aulic Assembly all of whom have been captured by the wicked Malefic of the Nightlanders, who personifies the ancient evil Biskara. The humans – the Kin who are linked to the assembly by psychic links – inherit the special abilities of the assembly member they replace and have to lead the battle to keep Azimuth, and ultimately also Earth, out of the hands of the enemy. They need the help of the Silver Sphere to do this, an armillary sphere, an old astronomical device, that gives the co-ordinates of where to find Biskara, so it’s crucial to them. But only the Assembly members can operate it.

This is a very interesting and entertaining story. The Kin, none of them particularly special or promising to begin with, rise to the challenge they are suddenly faced with quickly and develop strengths and qualities they never knew they had. They prove to have been good choices. Azimuth is a fascinating new world for us to discover, with much that is good as well as true evil in the form of the Nightlanders. We meet witches and demons too. The story is gripping and has depth to it. Fantasy and science fiction intermingle to create a complex plot that moves at a sharp pace and grabs your attention from the very beginning. There’s more to come in this series which is already a very impressive addition to this genre.

 

 

 

Something exciting for you to read today! Here is the first chapter of Brink of Eternity by Caris Roane.

The story: Warrior Gideon swore he wouldbrink never see Elise Jordan again even though they’d been passionate lovers for two years.  Her human nature couldn’t survive in his ascended vampire world; she would be vulnerable to attack on every front if he tried to continue a relationship with her.  But when Elise starts having visions of the future of Gideon’s sister hunted by death vampires, Gideon can no longer ignore that Elise is in her Call to Ascension, her call to become a vampire.  Though determined to keep her at bay, the infamous breh-hedden, an all-consuming vampire bonding ritual, wraps him up tight and demands that he protect Elise.  As he strives to keep her alive during her Rite of Ascension, love threatens to overwhelm his carefully ordered, war-weary world.

Chapter One

 While standing in her office, preparing to leave for the night, a vision came to Elise Jordan, a sequence of events that threatened the life of someone she knew. She tried to shut the images down, to stop the flow, something she could normally do. But this vision would not be denied. She saw it through to the end, which was not an end at all, just that point at which the woman, if left on her own, would surely die.

Now she had a decision to make and a vampire to contact, something she had promised herself she would never do.

Elise thrived on order and routine. She enjoyed having a firm schedule. She was the only person she knew who had a genial relationship with her alarm clock.

Everything about this vision, however, invited chaos, the very thing she strove to avoid every day of her existence.

She sighed. She didn’t really have a choice, not if she was to live with her conscience. Funny how her conscience, and not desire or drive or hope or even fear, would dictate her future. Just guilt. Good old-fashioned guilt.

She finished up in her office, going through her ritual: wiping down the counters, checking the optical refractor, frowning because she needed to buy a new one, bringing forward the small trash can beneath her desk to make sure the building maintenance people found it and emptied it. She stared at the trash can. Would she even be here after the weekend?

On Friday night, a single woman should be going out, maybe with girlfriends, maybe to a regular bar, meeting men, meeting normal men, not tracking down former vampire warrior boyfriends from other dimensions. Two or three expletives, a habit learned from said boyfriend, flowed through her mouth and hit the air.

She took off her professional white coat, folded it up, and put it in her tote. She had a stock of coats so that she could rotate them through the cleaners. She never wore the same coat twice in a row. She liked everything fresh, clean, in its place, which meant that what she was about to do went against the grain.

She never went against the grain. Except for Gideon. Gideon in all respects, in every sense, had been totally and irrefutably against the grain.

The last one to leave, she set the alarm, then locked the door to the building. She had a thriving practice that she shared with several other optometrists. Imagine, a clairvoyant setting up shop as an optometrist. Talk about overkill.

She headed to her car, her very sensible Audi, white, of course, against the endless months of strong Phoenix sunshine.

Once inside, she buckled up. In April, the temp hovered in the mid-eighties during the day, so she needed a couple minutes of air conditioning to take the day’s heat off the vehicle. She started the engine and powered up the A/C.

She sat for a minute staring through the windshield at nothing in particular. She leaned her forehead against the steering wheel. She took deep breaths. The hum of the motor and rush of air eased her nerves. Sort of.

Oh, God. Was she really going to do this, open the lid to Pandora’s box, let out all that chaos?

Courage, Elise.

Whatever.

She didn’t have a choice. She really didn’t. Someone’s life hung in the balance. If she felt the routine of her life slipping away, too bad.

She sat back in the seat and withdrew her iPhone from her simple gray leather purse. She touched the screen and brought up Gideon’s number. She touched the screen again. The ringtone chimed along, not caring that she resented the hell out of this conundrum.

“Elise, what’s wrong?”

Oh, God his voice. So deep. Her body knew that voice, every varied resonant timbre. She rocked her hips forward, trying to get more comfortable, trying not to feel so damn much, trying to push all that sudden familiar desire away.

“Elise?”

“Sorry.” Her voice sounded hoarse. “I never meant to use this number.”

“I know. But that’s why I gave it to you. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“I had a vision.”

“What? Wait a minute. You … had a vision?”

“Yes. Long story, that.” She wanted him, just this once, to go with the flow. Fat chance. Neither of them really understood the concept of flow.

“What do you mean you had a fucking vision? As in, you saw the future?” Yep, no flow.

She rolled her tongue around her mouth. More guilt. “In all our time together, I might have forgotten to mention that I’m clairvoyant. I get visions. I see the future.”

She heard him breathe for the space of eight long seconds. “You’re fucking clairvoyant and you’re just telling me now?”

She had to pull the phone away from her ear. All those familiar expletives rattled through the airwaves and burned up the inside of her car. She sighed again. A cursed tear slid from her right eye. Another from the left made the same unhappy journey.

“Can you be mad later?” she asked. “I don’t like this any more than you do. But I have something critical I need to tell you.”

Another eight seconds passed, filled with his muttering this time, deep and low. “Fine.” Crisp, brittle, mad as hell. “Give.”

The issue rose up, a solid wall in her chest. She had nothing to give, except guilt. “I had a vision about your sister. About Rachel.”

“Fuck.”

She cut through another string of expletives. “Some really bad guys will be after her tomorrow at dusk; you know, longish dark hair, pale-bluish skin. You call them pretty-boys.”

“Elise, you’re killing me here. Are you saying what you’re saying? Are you telling me that you know about death vampires?”

Dread worked claw-like fingers into her chest and grabbed hold. She really didn’t want to do this, to reveal the truth. “Yes, Gideon, I retained all the memories you believe you wiped. Death vampires, otherwise called pretty-boys because of their overall beauty, alignment of features, extraordinary power, long dark hair, and glossy black wings, evidence that these monsters drink people to death in order to get at the highly addictive dying blood. And they’re known as ‘boys’ because most death vamps are male, though women cross the line, too, just not as often.”

No seconds this time. “Shit.” He repeated this word a few more times and again she pulled the phone away from her ear. She let him mull all these truths around, unspoken from the beginning of their relationship, that she knew all about the multi-dimensional world of ascension, that she had a boatload of preternatural power, and that she had never truly been honest with him.

The long silence that followed brought a couple more tears.

“Okay,” he said. “What exactly happens in this vision of yours?”

“Three death vampires fly over a ridge of tall trees, pines maybe, or redwoods. I don’t recognize the place, but there’s a clearing, a small river, bigger than a stream, lots of rocks on the banks, hills, more trees, a real forest. And there are two bridges, small bridges.”

“You said this takes place tomorrow? How do you know?”

“I just know. Late afternoon, almost at dusk.”

Long, long pause, “Meet me at the Blood and Bite. Tell me when you can get there.” He didn’t ask. He commanded. But what else was new?

“An hour and a half. I have to go home and change.”

“Fine. And Elise?”

“Yes.”

“We’re going to talk.”

More commands, but then Gideon wasn’t just your average Militia Warrior serving Second Earth. He was high in the ranks, answering only to Colonel Seriffe, who headed the Militia Warriors in Metro Phoenix Two, and when the occasion demanded, the militia worldwide.

This time, she paused. After a couple more deep breaths, she said, “I don’t want to, but I will.”

The time had come.

 

 

* * *   * * *   * * *

 

 

Gideon hung up. He stared at his phone. Jesus, his hand shook.

He stood in the stone foyer of his home in north Scottsdale Two, Second Earth, like a suit of armor, unmoving and rigid. He couldn’t even blink. He didn’t know which thought to have first, that Elise possessed previously unacknowledged preternatural power or that his sister faced certain danger.

When some life started flowing back into his limbs, he touched the screen of his Droid a couple of times. He waited. His sister’s voice came on the line.

“Hey, Gid.” Okay, she sounded upbeat but he knew Rachel. She could front with the best of them, a family trait. She hid her unhappiness about living on Second Earth really well.

He worked his jaw, then finally said, “You’re not thinking of doing anything foolish, are you?”

When silence returned, he pressed the phone against his thigh, closed his eyes and shouted one long “fuck” at the ceiling. He drew his phone back up to his ear. “Please don’t, Rachel, I’m begging you. Don’t do it. How can I keep you safe if you do this?”

“First, it’s not your job to keep me safe. I’m a big girl. Second, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The slight tinny quality to her voice failed to escape his ear.

“Liar.”

“I’m late for my yoga class.”

“On Friday night?”

“Why not?”

He debated his next course of action for about three seconds. “You might be in trouble, as in big trouble.”

She laughed. “As in you’re giving me a Seer warning.”

“Maybe.”

“What?” She said it in that tone of hers, with the pitch angling up at the end. “Why would I show up in the future streams?”

“More like a clairvoyant vision and no, I don’t really know the difference, but my source called it a vision. Beyond that, you know why. You have more power than you’ve ever admitted.”

“More Second Earth bullshit, brother.”

“I know you’re not happy here.” Rachel believed that no human should even possess, not to mention make use of, any form of preternatural power, and she thought Second Earth, as an ascended world at war, was one huge-ass piece of hypocrisy. She was into peace and love and vegan food. And she really hated that her own brother served as a Militia Warrior. So, yes, she was unhappy.

“Understatement,” she said.

“Okay. Fine. But could you stay put for a day or two until I figure out a couple of things?”

The night was full of dead air spaces. He heard her take a deep breath through her nose. “I’ve heard of a rogue colony in northern California, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

“Rachel, no.”

“Well, gotta go. Love you, Gid, so much, but my instructor scowls if I cross the threshold past seven.”

“Whatever,” he responded, but only because he was talking to the screen of his phone. Rachel had already hung up.

Sweet Jesus. Every word out of his sister’s mouth just confirmed at least part of Elise’s prophecy. He didn’t doubt for a second that his sister was going rogue.

Thousands of vampires left Second Earth to live in exile on Mortal Earth. He just never thought his sister would join those ranks.

And how the hell was he to protect her if she went rogue? She could say whatever she wanted to say, but death vampires hunted vulnerable women who tracked life alone, like culling the weak from the herd.

He also knew that powerful ascenders like Rachel had light signatures that could show up on HQ’s electronic surveillance grid. He could contact Bev, who worked the grid all night, and have her start checking for power signatures over northern California.

He withdrew the thin, credit card–sized warrior phone from the pocket of his jeans. He swiped the front and a moment later Bev came on the phone.

“What’s doin’, Gideon?” He smiled. Bev’s voice soothed him, but then the women chosen to work HQ’s command center had that special calming quality, a necessary skill when dealing with disaster and horror on every other call.

“Hey, Bev. I have a situation.”

“How can I help?” There it was, the words he needed to hear.

“I’ve just been tipped off about a rogue colony in northern California.”

“Is it possible this is a lair?”

“My source indicated there were no death vampires present. Definitely a colony.  And … this is critical.”

“I’ll set up the grid right now. May take a few hours to identify significant power signatures.”

“Give me a shout when you find something.”

“Will do.”

He hung up and sucked in another deep breath.

Now for the other side of the equation.

 

 

* * *   * * *   * * *

 

 

An hour later, Gideon leaned against the tall side of the nearest red velvet booth at the Blood and Bite. His skin twitched.

Fighting and making war shaped his days and nights. As a Militia Warrior, he battled death vampires six nights out of seven every fucking week of his life, serving and protecting. He could handle wielding a sword, but waiting for his ex gave him the scratch.

Beyond that, could he believe a woman so made up of lies?

This last thought went straight to his hands. He watched them ball up into fists. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then shook out his hands. He needed to calm the hell down.

He hadn’t seen Elise for a month. Talk about hell. He had no special attachment to her, but he couldn’t exactly sleep at night and his thoughts ran to her more often than not.

Fuck. Breakups were hard. That’s all.

He opened his eyes and once more scrutinized the entrance to the club in case Elise had arrived.

Unattached Militia Warriors milled around waiting for the next female to arrive. Mortal women came in droves to the Blood and Bite. Once they left, they might have foggy memories of exactly what happened on the club’s premises, enthrallment being a beautiful thing to a vampire, but rarely did a woman leave without a smile on her face. That fulfillment brought them back every time.

For the most part, the warriors held to the rigid club rules: no deep enthrallment, consensual sex only, mind-altering mist over the openings to each booth to sustain privacy, no voyeurism except in the case of a superior officer checking out rumors of misconduct.

As a section leader for the Phoenix Two Militia Warriors, he had to investigate even the whiff of an infraction. Every once in a while, he prosecuted warriors who crossed the line.

He glanced to his right in the direction of the dance floor. The DJ kicked up the Black Eyed Peas and the strobes made those couples dancing look like zombies on crack.

He caught a scent and stiffened from head to toe.

He knew Elise had arrived because the air in the hot, sweaty club suddenly smelled of strawberries, ripe, lush, sweet, juicy strawberries. She had a scent meant just for him, an anomaly in their relationship, since specific mutual scents didn’t occur in the usual course of ascended vampire life. In fact, the only known case of the phenomenon had occurred recently when a myth, which proved to be not a myth, afflicted one of the elite Warriors of the Blood.

That Gideon could scent Elise had always troubled him. What did it mean that she gave off a scent he could detect? Was this a case of the infamous breh-hedden? Impossible, on so many levels. For one thing, the breh-hedden was supposed to be a myth. And for another, only Warriors of the Blood were known through all those ancient myths and legends to have experienced the ritual.

What-the-fuck-ever.

Even thinking about the WOTBs, otherwise known as WhatBees among his ranks, also gave him the scratch. Those assholes just couldn’t stay out of Militia Warrior business. The next time he found one of them disciplining one of his men, he’d not hold back, not even a little. Sure, the WhatBees had a place, but not on his turf. They served Madame Endelle directly, answered only to her as the ruler of Second Earth.

Right now, they were lined up at the bar, pretty as you please. Assholes.

Okay, so he was a little on edge and he should think nicer thoughts, because they did lay it on the line every night. That they had advanced powers was just the luck of the fucking draw. But courage for courage, give him a Militia Warrior every damn time.

When Elise’s strawberry scent once more rolled in his direction, his body reacted, as it always did, as though her scent punched into all his pheromone receptors at exactly the same moment. Punched, then punched again.

Thank God for the strobes. He didn’t have to worry about any of the other Militia Warriors thinking he was interested.

He pushed away from the bank of tall-backed red velvet booths and headed toward the entrance. When he reached her, two Militia Warriors hovered over her, attempting a thrall. He might have laughed, because no way could either of these bozos bust past her shields.

But amusement didn’t exactly sum up his feelings right now. Instead, the sight of two men hitting on a woman he would always think of as his woman brought his head down and his fists up.

“Move it or lose it,” he said. “This woman’s taken.”

The first warrior jerked back in his direction ready to do battle, then looked up. “Shit, Gideon. Sorry.” He turned and headed toward the dance floor.

The other one backed away almost as fast.

Smart vampires.

He looked at the woman whose body he knew every which way from Sunday, and all those familiar sensations rushed back at him, her under him, her on top of him, her lips around him, taking him deep. God, he missed her. Even standing in front of her, yeah, he missed her. And he blamed her for his goddamn celibacy as well. For the last month, since their breakup, he’d been off blood and sex, which might just account for his current temper.

“Gideon,” she said, in that controlled way of hers. Her voice, low and melodic, did him in every damn time.

The music had just cranked up again. More Black Eyed Peas. He leaned close and spoke against her ear. “I’ve got a booth.”

She drew back and nodded. She looked tight around her eyes, even angry. What the hell did she have to be angry about? He was the wounded party here.

She moved to the right, in the direction of the booths. He crowded her, his hip up against her hip, his hand at her back, then around her shoulder, pulling her close to keep her from touching other men. Shit, he couldn’t control his instincts around her. But how was that anything new?

He was so screwed.

When he drew her up next to the booth, she looked up at him and frowned. “You actually reserved this booth?”

He nodded. “Why, not? I figured you owed me one helluva an explanation, so why not here? After all, this is where you spoke and acted out all those fucking lies.”

 

 

* * *   * * *   * * *

 

 

Elise stretched her preternatural vision just a little so that the strobes didn’t impact her view of him. She saw him as though bathed in a warm light. But this was a mistake, because she could see him, really see him, and what she saw struck her down as it had from the beginning, as though she was looking at the only man on two earths that could ever do it for her.

His sheer physical presence never failed to surprise her. He was warrior tall at six-five, lean and heavily muscled. He wore a snug T-shirt and jeans, a look she loved on him. He had broad shoulders and thick pecs made for biting and sucking. She knew his biceps well; they were fit for holding on to when he drove into her.

She loved his dark blond hair, which flowed away from his face, neither long like  the Warriors of the Blood, nor short like most Militia Warriors’, but somewhere in between as though Gideon was in between.

But of all his many physical attributes, she loved his eyes the best. They were dark blue and stormy like waters in some northern sea. He had only to look at her, hold her gaze, and he could command her—not because he enthralled her, but because looking into his eyes was like looking into his soul and that was the real problem. She liked what she saw.

Gideon was like no man she knew. He was a warrior, a Militia Warrior, who were also called Thunder God Warriors after an Apache expression. He served the ruler of Second Earth as a frontline soldier in the war against death vampires. He had the commitment and dedication of the disciplined military mind.

She turned, ready to slide into the booth, but there, waiting for them both, was the usual: her reddish Cosmo and his Glenlivet neat.

Memories rushed back to her and she weaved on her feet so that he caught her elbow. “Hey,” he whispered. “You okay?”

Damn and damn. Why did he have to prove his worth by having their drinks ready and waiting and why did she have to remember all the ways he’d made love to her as though time was just one big well-oiled, revolving door?

A shiver traveled straight through her and a wave of his scent, his gorgeous, sexy, toffee scent, flowed over her shoulder. A few of her learned expletives once more  sped through her mind.

She swallowed hard, pulled her elbow out of his grasp and half scooted, half fell into the booth. She caught herself with hands on the strong red leather of the seat. She turned her near-topple into a quick glide and move to sit at the back of booth. Hopefully, he would keep his distance and sit adjacent to her. The last thing she wanted was his body next to hers.
She slid her Cosmo toward her, then took a drink. She should have sipped, but right now she could use a little added courage.

She took a deep breath.

Now to explain all the lies.

 

About the author

Caris Roane has published over fifty Regency romance novels and novellas under the pen name, Valerie King.  In 2005, Romantic Times gave her a Career Achievement award in Regency Romance.  Having had a long-time love affair with vampires, Caris tackled the paranormal genre and built a unique vampire world based on ascending dimensional earths.  Her series is called Guardians of Ascension.

Her most recent self-published project, The Blood Rose Novella Series, launched in May of 2012 with the first title:  Embrace the Dark. 

Currently, Caris is working on a new vampire series set to launch in the Fall of 2013:   WARRIORS IN CHAINS with the first novel, BORN IN CHAINS.

Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her two cats, Sebastien and Gizzy.

Caris Roane Links:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

 

 

I recently worked with Don Rush on his delightful and very unusual children’s books which wife Cathy has been involved with too. Robby’s Quest for Seed and Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound are about a group of courageous birds. We have Robins, Sparrows, Mourning Doves and a Blackbird making up a small loyal flock who find themselves facing very big adventures for such little birds. They face long journeys, nasty cats, lost children and natural disasters. But this tight-knit band of feathery friends overcomes adversity through sticking together and using their ingenuity. Kids will learn a little about birds without realising as they read these lovely adventures.

I talked to Don about his stories.

robbyquestTell us briefly about Robby’s Quest for Seed and Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound

Robby’s Quest for Seed is a story about a close-knit group of birds that decide to migrate south from Ohio for the winter. Everyone in the group has a role; Robby is the leader and Benny makes sure none of the little birds fall out of the formation. They are diligent about performing their responsibilities. The birds vote on most of the important issues they must decide.  During the trip, Joy is lost and nearly becomes lunch for a cat names Hershey. Ultimately, the searchers save her. Later when the birds arrive in Florida, they find that a hurricane has destroyed the entire area. The birds get some advice from a Dalmatian and they head west. After some drama on the way, they finally arrive in Arizona, safe and sound. Ricky steps up his role and becomes a leader.

Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound is about the same flock with a couple additions, Ruby and Josie. Ruby is Ricky’s new girlfriend and Josie is Joy’s new best friend. This time Ruby suggests the flock fly to San Diego because the Arizona summer is too hot. Again, they have their roles and a specific formation. They arrive in San Diego and split up to investigate their new home. Ricky and Ruby fly to Coronado Island, the Doves fly to the pier and Jay and Josie fly to the beach. Later Joy and Josie fly out to a cruise ship where they fall asleep and end up lost at sea. They get some help from Wanda the Whale and eventually are found in Mexico.

What’s the story behind these stories? Why did you write these books?

I tried a couple times writing books about management styles but the words escaped me. I’m medically retired and on disability. I had too much time on my hands. My wife and I would sit outside in Arizona and watch the birds. We put up a birdfeeder and the little birds would kick the food to the ground so the bigger birds could eat. The other birds would sit on the block wall and patiently wait their turns. We really enjoyed watching them and one day decided to write a story. We finished the first book the day Riley, our grandson in Minnesota, was born.

Were they easy stories to write?

Once we began writing the books things went fairly well. My wife and I would kick around ideas about the birds and what they might do on a trip like this. Once the characters had a personality it seemed to go pretty well. We tried to come up scenarios that a child would enjoy reading about. We modeled the birds and the other characters in the book from people and household pets. We had a blast writing the books.  I published the first story on Amazon KDP. Several people suggested they wanted a paperback so I self-published on Createspace. We learned some hard lessons like don’t ever publish a book until you are ready. I’m not a patient person and that’s probably why I have health issues. I wanted to publish the books to leave something behind for our kids and their kids. After getting some help from yourself editing these books and building new covers we re-published a nicer looking product than previously.

robbyoceanWhich character are you most like? Robby? Benny? Naughty Joy? Hershey the cat?

I’m more like Robby because I always liked being the manager or leader.  and our daughter in her younger years was like Joy, high-maintenance. Benny was created after my real brother Benny, somewhat grumpy but actually friendly once you get to know him. The cats Hershey and Nomi are our household pets. Hershey actually is a big, fast and strong cat with a mischievous streak. The Dalmatian Sammy was my daughter’s favorite pet.

The covers are fun. Tell us about them.

I was looking for an illustrator on the internet and found Kaui on Craigslist. She actually only lives about an hour from me so I liked the idea of having a local do the drawings. Kaui made some sketches and we agreed on the appearance. She came up with the idea of the U.S. map in the background with Robby and the others on the cover. We were talking about a picture with the maple tree and bird feeder but this cover seemed appropriate. The illustration was actually the front cover of the first book until I learned how to make a cover. Then I inserted the illustration in the cover so it looked more professional. I really liked the covers especially the watermark on the back cover. Our thought is to have a different color cover on every book we publish.

What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

We are writing Robby’s Quest: Return of the Cat. Hershey and his family decided to move to Nevada. At the same time, the birds are traveling to Las Vegas for a few days. At Lake Mead near Vegas, they run into Hershey once again. After they escape (a near miss once again) the birds fly to Vegas and meet a Pink Flamingo named Penelope or Penny for short. Joy wants to see the world and Penny tells the birds where to see the sights like the Eiffel Tower, pyramids of Egypt, skyline of New York with the Statue of Liberty, all right down the street. Joy is excited to be able to visit all these wonders of the world all in one town.

We are not doing very well marketing tour books and with the illustrator, book reviews, editing, promotions, the cost is making publishing the third book more difficult. I’m trying for spring 2013. I already have a sketch for the third cover from another artist. I think she captures the Lake Mead scene very well.

Why do you think there are so few books with birds as their characters?

I’m not really sure. I never paid much attention to birds until I had the time to admire them. I’m hoping to change that if I can get our product in front of the kids.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I don’t think I’m an author just yet. To me an author is someone that can write a novel. I like Stephen King and I really liked the style of Capotes “In Cold Blood”. I can see myself writing crime novels someday. I love CSI, Criminal Minds and other similar shows. I think my books are mainly just short stories for children. Personally, I think my vocabulary is somewhat limited. Even though I took three semesters of English in college, I still struggle with my words. Over the years, I thought about writing a story but never felt I had the ability. I wanted to prove myself wrong. If nothing else, I managed to publish something and I’m proud of that effort.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

I think self-publishing is the way to go. I hate the thought of sending my work to a publisher. These people live in their own little worlds. They are unresponsive and generally difficult people to get in with. A publisher won’t read your work without submission from a literary agent and literary agents won’t even call you back.

OK, I’m stepping off my soapbox. The new author should make sure their product is ready, edited properly and looks appealing. Then get the social media thing going like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, etc. Building a website is critical. The website serves as the hub to everything. Once you have the hub you can direct traffic to it and the reader can learn where to buy the books or what you are working on, all at one site.

OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite bloke’s gadgets and why?

I like my cell phone, especially since I learned how to send texts and pictures. I’m like a kid in the candy store.

rushpicI’ve always been partial to computers. Cathy and I use to build computers back in the day. We ran a bulletin board from our computer called the Dawg Pound where people could call into our computer, leave messages to each other, play games or download files. We learned a lot about computers as a result. We had three phone lines and would take 50 to 100 calls a day. This was all before the internet. We just bought a new computer with Windows 8. I hate learning new software!

We love our car. We bought a 2012 Chrysler 200 and it’s awesome.

Can’t forget our pets. Hershey crawls up on my lap and lies across my chest. He is a cool cat.

What food can’t you resist? Probably not seed I imagine!

I like popcorn and that starts as a seed! I really like shredded beef tacos and steak with hashbrowns. I am a diabetic so I have to watch what I eat. I love pie and cake but don’t touch them anymore.

Please describe your perfect day away from writing.

I enjoy taking day trips and driving to San Diego for a couple days is my favorite. I love the area. I use to live there back in the early 80’s. I certainly couldn’t afford to live there anymore but I love the ocean. Coronado Island is probably my favorite stretch of beach in the world. I can watch the ocean for hours and forget everything going on in my life at the time. We use to enjoy driving to Laughlin, Nevada to spend a day or two but gambling just isn’t much fun anymore. It’s very difficult to win anything.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

I never expected to make a million writing and selling our books. I would be happy if we could cover expenses. I really enjoy doing this and it fills my day. I told my wife that even if we won the lottery I would still write and market these books because it’s been so much fun and I feel good about leaving something for the kids. Our books can stay on the market forever and hopefully our children and their children will keep these titles up and running.

Where to find Don, Cathy and their books:

His website is here.

 

Here’s his Smashwords page.

Twitter: @dcrushbooks

And you can buy Robby’s Quest for Seed here:

And Ocean Bound here:

pamperedThe Pampered Prince: Tips and Techniques on Building a Great Relationship with your Son by C. Lynn Williams is a thoughtful and thought provoking book on the subject of bringing up boys. It’s specifically addressed to mothers, but it wouldn’t hurt dads to read it either.

The book starts with an interesting foreword by Reverend Dr Jeremiah A Wright Jr which mentions other books about parenting that are worth knowing about and explains how he, as a pastor encountering many young men and their mothers, has seen the truth and value in C. Lynn Williams’ book. He sees how this book can help the reader in “avoiding the pitfalls of modernity while establishing core values” whilst raising a son.

Faith is very important to this author, and Christian values are often referred to, but even if you don’t consider yourself a religious person, this is still a book for you. The element of faith in the background simply makes this book all the more comprehensive. It is written very much from the author’s own experiences, but there are plenty of general truths in it. You can see your own mothering being talked about at various times, and recognize things your own kids have been up to.

From the word go, C. Lynn Williams is encouraging. And pushy! And thank goodness she is. We do need to be building a solid, lifelong relationship with our sons, and we do need to operate with integrity, and we do need to be their hero.

The first chapter warns us not to be smothering as mothers. If we try and make out they belong solely to us, and not to their fathers too, then we’re setting the scene for disaster. We mustn’t spoil them. It won’t do them any good in the long run. Do we really want a pampered prince on our hands?

Subsequent chapters take a long hard look at the Oedipus complex some boys experience, at single parenting a son (where there’s a look at how we shield our sons from responsibility to their detriment), at how we try to keep our boys dependent on us. Peter Pan, male role models and the need to push our boys come under scrutiny too. Can you really marry tough love with wise parenting? You can after you’ve read this book. Discipline and letting go are discussed to, as is that all to common attitude of mothers that no girl is ever going to be good enough for their son. Truth be told, aren’t we all guilty of harbouring that belief? Finally, we take a look at the good old fashioned values of respect and honour and see how incorporating them into the upbringing of our sons will be to everyone’s benefit.

There are study guide questions at the end of each chapter, an inspiring epilogue at the end and a valuable list of resources.

This is a very thorough, genuinely intended and very well written book. It’s a fresh dose of common sense delivered in a manner that’s easy to digest and act upon. You benefit as the parent reading this, and your son will benefit from the new perspective you’ll gain on your relationship with him.

guiniEarlier this week, I featured Cheryl Carpinello’s historical fiction for children King’s Ransom. And here’s another one by this enjoyable author. Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend is the story of young Guinevere and her friendship with Cedwyn. She knows the important role she will have to play one day as Queen but for now is happier playing with her best friend. She has encounters with real and mythical animals and generally enjoys running free. However, that can’t last, as she knows, but when the time comes for her to be married to Arthur, she prefers to run away than give up her freedom. But trying to feed herself soon loses its appeal and it’s up to Merlyn to help her reconcile herself to becoming Queen soon. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all.

Cheryl Carpinello fills in part of the Arthurian legend that we don’t hear about. It’s a ‘before they were famous’ look at Guinevere, and it’s sweetly done. A book for all children, girls may enjoy it more than boys with such a feisty young heroine to identify with.

This book is a sensitive combination of education and enjoyment and children will learn more about history and legend as well as be thoroughly entertained.

You can buy the book here:

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Stone Kisses by Tessa Stokes is a gentle yet very sensual paranormal romance. Stella makes a trip to the garden centre, and takes a fancy to not only to a stone statue of the handsome Mercury but also to the assistant there, Justin. However, Mercury is well out of her price range but Justin sees how struck she is with the statue and so delivers it to her. An act of incredible kindness? Yes, and no. There’s an ulterior motive and a bet which involves Greek and Roman gods winning the hearts of mortals. Stella is caught up in this, but not detrimentally. She loves both the men who enter her life, even though one is a garden ornament. Little by little he becomes more than that, and the fun and adventure really begins. Mercury goes missing and it’s surprisingly tricky to find a large, lost statue.

This is a quirky and very imaginative story. Tessa Stokes has a rather understated style, so the whole story appears more simple than it is. It develops slowly but surely and the reader is pulled into this modern fantasy. We gradually learn more about our sympathetic characters and become very involved in their lives, mortal and immortal. There’s plenty of fun at the heart of this story, but there’s sadness, seriousness and real tension too at times. It’s entertaining, unique and far from predictable thanks to the author’s bright creativity. A highly enjoyable novella.