Regular Books Are Cool readers will know that I’m a great fan of R Peter Ubtrent. Dark Pilgrim Fallen brings his amazing Dark Pilgrim series to a dramatic close – dramatic both in the sense of the author’s achievement in creating this incredible imaginary universe that has held us transfixed for six novels, and also Ailanthus’ dramatic final achievement. Rivalled by Mishi to take the role of Emperor of the Imperium, there’s really precious little to be emperor of. The Ynos have destroyed most other lifeforms in the galaxy and even Earth is preparing to be evacuated. The Restoration continues to attack the beleaguered Church of the Blessed Prophets. There is rivalry between prospective empresses.  Anolis returns with bounty hunters in tow to avenge his brother’s death on Ailanthus and Tethys, whom he holds responsible, forgetting their once close friendship and loyalty. B’cha the Kroor assassin is another familiar figure to reappear but this time fails in his mission. When had the galaxy gone so wrong? he wonders to himself as he fall. It’s the question everyone should be asking. Why has the universe set itself on this course of self-destruction?

Again, a tightly woven, many layered plot entertains us as the Imperium’s reluctant saviour embarks on a desperate, dangerous plan. Characters, cunning, treacherous, loyal and brave, perform the actions and win the reader’s and each other’s disgust or admiration. In this novel, even more than the others, it seems that strong females emerge, which is perhaps fitting as the need to save and nurture the remnants of humanity becomes more pressing. The surviving friends from the first Dark Pilgrim adventure are scattered, yet still bonded together, a tiny focus of hope for the future. Beyond powerful, this book, like the whole series, is a must read.

One Last Class by Karen Mueller Bryson is from the ‘Short on time book’ series, characteriesed by fast paced, fun novels for readers on the go. And that’s exactly what this book is – entertaining, absorbing romantic comedy that keeps you happily busy for an hour or two. Zak, ex-Malibu Boy and TV star, suddenly realises he’s a has-been, now that he’s 32. Should he cling desperately to his previous fame or head off in a new direction? He eventually decides to enrol in school to finish the studies he abandoned to become famous. He plumps for English so he and Elvis, his dog, move into a student flat. Chay, another ex-Malibu boy but without Zak’s angst, moves in too. Enter the love interest in the form of roller-skating free-spirit Nora and slightly prim Amy, the English teacher. But out of the blue Zak gets offered a part in a movie that will ensure a successful comeback for him. What should he do?

 

This is well written story, told with a skillful, humorous touch but actually includes some pretty deep issues. Facing up to the thought that your best years are over is never easy, especially when you wonder if you spent them that wisely after all. Making a major change in the direction your life is taking is also a huge deal, and we have both these elements in this story. The characters are rounded. Even the initially po-faced Amy proves to be an interesting person. But Chay and Nora are the most engaging couple for me, although Zak develops through the book too. Highly recommended for amusing yet thought-provoking escapism.

Here is another wonderful book from author Lauren Clark. She made a brilliant debut with Stay Tuned which, if you haven’t, then you really should read.

The heroine of this book is Julia Sullivan, a travel writer for a magazine, and let’s just say she hasn’t been as on the ball with her articles as she should have been. But she has also had to deal with her mother’s death and that has taken its toll. It’s also fair to say she has got used to swanning around to exotic locations and eventually turning in a few less than inspiring columns about them.  All that suddenly changes when a new editor takes over – Julia’s father, David. Julia hasn’t had a good relationship with him recently so probably the last things she needs is an ultimatum from him to pull her socks up or lose her job. And no more predictable, popular places to visit. Julia’s next assignment is to Eufaula in Alabama. Julia is frankly horrified.

So Julia finds herself in Eufaula where her initial contact is Shug Jordan, who has a typical sweet Southern Belle on his arm. But appearances can be deceptive. Not only does Eufaula, home of sweet tea and the annual pilgrimage, begin to surprise Julia with its complexity and its generally friendly and caring attitude, but she learns not to judge people too quickly either. There’s more than meets the eye to all the people she comes across. She also discovers something rather shocking.

Never predictable, always entertaining, this is a classy, sassy story that’s sure to have a very wide appeal. I love it!

If you enjoyed Stay Tuned, then here’s an interesting interview with Lauren about that book. Lauren is an imaginative, committed and enthusiastic author.

Buy the book here!

Lauren has a website at www.laurenclark.com.

 

I’m delighted to be taking part in Dana Rongione’s virtual book tour for her children’s book The Delaware Detectives. This is a highly enjoyable mystery story for children.

This book is a wholesome and intriguing tale which will keep young readers hooked. Narrator Abby and her little brother Jamie are spending time in the holidays with their grandfather Pop-Pop. They discovery something fascinating in the attic of his house. And then, when Uncle Harold has to put his house up for the sale and the children go and help clean it up, the mysteriousness continues. Helped by friends Phyllis and Scott, the children carry on their treasure hunt …

As a child I loved adventure stories like this, and my ten year old son is following in my footsteps! We read this book together and it’s hard to say which one of us enjoyed it the most. Ruadhri loved trying to solve the clues. He enjoyed the very realistic minor brother-sister squabbles that flare up between Abby and James. He was also very pleased by the part where Scott pulls a spider off his sister’s hair. Phyllis wants him to kill it, but Abby points out it’s one of God’s creatures that we should be kind to. They let it go outside. It’s nice to see a little reminder about how we should treat each other and the rest of the world. Rors wants to be a naturalist so he was delighted that the characters in the story shared his respect for wildlife.

I asked Dana some questions about her book and writing. I’m delighted to discover that as well as a talented author, she’s a chocoholic  – like me!

1.  What inspired you to write The Delaware Detectives?

I first began writing The Delaware Detectives as an assignment for a course I took through The Institute of Children’s Literature.  Through the course, I had learned to write about what I know and what I’m passionate about.  As a mystery lover and elementary school teacher, I could think of no better story for me to write.  Based on some true life experiences, The Delaware Detectives was born.  Sad to say, that was six years ago.  Yes, it took me six years to finish and publish the story, but now that’s it’s finished, I can’t wait to begin the next one.

2. Are the characters based on yourself as a child? Did you have an annoying little brother or older sister?!

Actually, I had a younger brother and an older sister.  Yes (sob, sob), I’m a middle child.  My characters, however, are actually based on my niece and nephew, though I tweaked their personalities a bit for the sake of characterization.  Much of the story is based on my own childhood.  My family did move from Delaware when I was very young, but I remember countless hours spent in my Pop-Pop’s (Grandfather’s) attic during vacations, uncovering the many mysteries it contained, including some old and rare stamps, just like in the book.
3. The Delaware Detectives has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

The cover.  Now, that is a tale.  Let’s say it was a collaborative effort.  The original artist did a wonderful job on most of the drawings, but he struggled to draw the children to my specifications.  In fact, in the original drawings, the two main characters looked like they were in their late 30’s rather than mid- and early-teens.  So, I kept his other drawings to use and hired another illustrator to “fix” the original picture with the characters  in the attic.  Once she provided me with a color picture, I used one of the cover templates provided by CreateSpace to design the cover.  I must say, after all that work, I was rather pleased with the way it turned out.

4. Do you like solving mysteries?

I love mysteries!  In my mind, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with a good mystery.  While I enjoy the “who-done-it” mysteries, my favorite mysteries are those that involve a lost treasure, a secret place and/or a valiant quest.  And may I say, I never, never read the last chapter first.  Where’s the fun in that?

5. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I actually just finished “The Gift of Magic” by Lynn Kurland, one of my favorite authors.  I’m about to begin “Depth of Deception” by Alexander Galant.  It’s a mystery based on the Titanic.  I’m excited to get started.  With my morning devotions, I’m reading through the book of Psalms in the Bible and reading a chapter in the book, “40 Days to Healthy Living” by Danna Demetre.  During devotions with my husband, we’re reading through Mark Gungor’s book, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.”  You’re probably wondering if I ever read just one book at a time, and the short answer is “no”.  It is not at all uncommon for me to be reading four to six different books at once.  And still, my Kindle library is overflowing with books I haven’t read yet.  How does that happen?

6. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

Hmm, that’s a tough question.  I’ve always loved to write.  Yes, I was the geek in school who relished a good book report or term paper.  I enjoyed the research and delighted in putting words to paper (or computer).  However, all of my life, I dreamed of being a teacher.  It was all I had ever really wanted to do.  So, after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, I fulfilled my life-long dream and became a teacher.  For nine years, I poured my heart and soul into teaching, but sometime during the eighth year, something changed.  I didn’t enjoy teaching anymore.  Every day felt like a duty rather than a delight.  I dreaded going to work and became easily frustrated at the most minor things.  To make a long story short, I finally discovered that my uneasiness was coming from the prompting of the Lord.  He had a new direction for me to go, and He made His will quite clear.  So, with great fear and trepidation, I walked away from a solid career and steady paycheck into the world of writing.  And while the pay is still not great (or even good), I can honestly say I’ve never regretted it.  Yes, things can get hard and discouraging, but writing is such a joy. . . and it is never, ever boring!  (And I must admit, I love being able to work in my pajamas and bedroom slippers.)

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

Never stop trying!  It’s so tempting to look at the success of other authors and say, “How come I can’t sell books like that?”  Some days are filled with rejection and disappointment, and unfortunately, sometimes that disappointment lasts for a while.  But you’ll never reach your writing and publishing goals if you stop pushing forward.  Don’t be distracted by the success or failure of others.  Focus on yourself and the goals you have set for yourself.  Success won’t happen in a day, and to be honest, it may not happen in a decade, but it certainly won’t happen if you give up.  Write, write and write some more.  Get your work out there, and let others know what you’ve accomplished.  Then, instead of waiting for success to happen, work on the next project.  If you haven’t figured it out already, I have a secret for you:  there’s always more to do in the writing world!

8. What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing about self-publishing to me is that I get to spend more time doing what I love (writing) and less time doing the grunt work (queries, manuscript submissions, e-mails and follow-up letters, etc.)  It’s downright frustrating to spend more time sending your manuscript off than it is to write the thing in the first place.  I don’t miss that at all!

The worst thing about self-publishing is the stigma that is associated with it.  The term “self-published” carries with it the idea that the book was not good enough to be published by a traditional publisher, leaving the author with no choice but to self-publish.  And sadly, many self-published works are pure junk.  Thankfully, though, the self-publishing stigma is wearing off as more and more authors are turning to self-publishing instead of traditional publishing.  Still, the self-published author faces more difficulty in getting books accepted into stores, schools, libraries, etc.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

9. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate with nuts, chocolate with peanut butter and chocolate with chocolate

 

10. And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!

Oh, that’s easy.  My perfect day away from work is a family hiking trip.  Depending on the weather and my current physical state, my husband and I will pack our backpacks, load up the dogs and head out for a hike in the mountains.  We generally prefer less popular trails of anywhere from four to twelve miles in length.  We hike and talk, stopping for lunch and sometimes a “rest time” at a gently flowing creek or powerful waterfall.  Our pace is unhurried and all negative conversation (arguments, financial stress, problems at work, etc.) is strictly forbidden.  At the end of the hike, we travel home for an evening of pizza, a movie and some snuggle time (where usually at least one of us drifts off to sleep).  There’s something about a good hike that clears the mind and stimulates the body.  It gives us a time to get away from everything and everyone except each other.  It’s the perfect family time because there are little to no distractions.  Ah, yes, the perfect day indeed!

 

 

I’d intended to be doing a blog hop today. It’s St Rita’s day and she’s the patron saint of the impossible. Indie authors do the impossible in my view by finding the time and motivation in their busy lives to write, self-publish and self-promote on top of everything else. It seemed a good day to choose. So I set things up about a month ago but annoyingly I’ve been under the weather and also suddenly, but nicely, snowed under with editing work, so I didn’t do enough publicity and had very few prospective hoppers so I cancelled. I’ll be rescheduling though, definitely. Blog hops are brilliant.

But why? What’s so good about them. Here are five reasons:

  1. They bring new readers to your blog. Most blog hops offer freebies to readers so there’s lots of interest out there. If someone lands on any one of the blogs in the hop, they’ll be able to get to yours quickly and easily, and usually they bother. I’ve been in a couple of blog hops now and my readership figures have soared each time.
  2. They’re fun! There was certainly a great atmosphere surrounding the expat blog hop I organised in April. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, both bloggers and hoppers alike.
  3. You meet new people – not just new visitors to your blog, but also fellow bloggers in the hop. I always visit everyone one else involved and I’ve discoverd some great blogs that way, and some great new cyber friends!
  4. You learn things. I picked up some handy hints about expat life from that blog hop, and through a writing related blog hop I signed up to I found some new sites and learned some great tips on marketing.
  5. You give and get freebies and goodwill. If you’re blogging then you give some freebies, for which people are grateful, and you can get some too by visiting the other blogs involved. I’ve accumulated lots of great short stories that way and definitely feel loyalty to those writers who were kind enough to hand out some of their work for free. They’re at the top of my ‘to buy’ list now.

So, I’m all for blog hops. What do you think of them? And do watch this space, because I’ll be running one very soon …

 

Window Above The Porch by Kevin Constanzi Angel is set in and around Baghdad in 2005. Iraqi Angel leads one group of insurgents whose task is to leave a bomb in what’s called the Green Zone. In the process they  meet up with another more extreme insurgent group led by Arab Qasem on the same mission. Meanwhile some Americans led by Grant and Ra’ad are staging a hostage rescue, for which they feel unprepared, in the same area. It’s invevitable they’ll collide. The book’s intriguing title represents Angel’s spoken wish to watch over the world in safety and protect what is innocent. For Grant too this phrase is about protecting the weak from a random and violent world. Can either of them acheive their wish?

This is an incredibly powerful book. Seeing inside the minds and motivations of opposing forces is eye opening. True, this is a work of fiction, but it’s based on Constanzi’s experiences in Baghdad so we can accept that it reflects the reality there. The insurgents are not all out of control fanatics. George C says he has ‘no desire to kill myself in God’s name’ and Angel wants to return to his wife and daughters. But the insurgents resent this ‘infidel invasion of Iraq’ and have to fight it. The occupying  American soldiers know they could be killed by insurgents. “It had happened before. It could happen again.” They have to cope with this pressure and the knowledge that everything they do will be ‘Packaged examined and judged by the press’ and people and governments all over the world. There is incredible pressure on all sides to perform and achieve.

There aren’t that many of us on the street, but we turn up a lot in books. What, editors? Struggling indie authors? (I’m both of those!) No, redheads. (Yes, I’m one of those too.) The most popular hair colour for literary heroines is red, and to go with the fiery locks they often have green eyes. I’m as guilty as the next person. I’ve created a green-eyed redhead leading character, Fiona, in Something Fishy, a book you’ll find in blovel form here under the pen name of Rorie Stevens. I hadn’t realised I was being so predictable  until a message thread on an author’s forum alerted me to the fact that many of us have similar looking heroines. Since then I’ve come across hundreds more in books I’ve read! We redheads make up a lot less than 10% of the population, even in Celtic countries such as Ireland and Scotland, but around 50% of the fictional population I’d guess!

Not that it matters. I think authors tend to go for redheads because that colour hair is unusual, attractive and has the associations of a certain feistiness. Red hair has long been thought to be a sign of a hot temper, but there’s no proven biological explanation for this. The idea probably grew up, in England anyway, due to the invading Vikings having red hair as did the brave and troublesome Scots.  Another myth is that redheads have a higher libido than other people. Another good reason to have a redheaded hero or heroine if you’re writing in the romantic genre!

Rose Thorne of Gary Vanucci’s short fantasy novel A Rose in Bloom is therefore both a typical yet very unusual literary heroine. She has long red hair and green eyes, a strong personality and works in a bordello. So far she fits the bill. But add to that her various special gifts which include light-fingeredness and the ability to merge in and out of the world of shadows at will, and she becomes a formidable ally, or if you’re unfortunate, enemy. Arm her with a magical daggers and you could have a problem! You can read about Rose for yourself for free today and tomorrow – 18th and 19th May – since A Rose in Bloom is free on Amazon here (and on the other various Amazon sites). Gary Vanucci is a brilliant author. He creates wonderful characters and exciting situations for them, so you’re in for a treat with his books. And if you fall under Rose’s spell, which I am confident you will, then you can follow her adventures in Gary’s Covenant of the Faceless Knights, where she plays a leading role.

Gary’s books are illustrated by the talented William Kenney. I’m a huge fan of his artwork.

Can you spot Rose?

I’ve just read Chrissie’s first novel, Living Sensitive, and I loved it. I enjoy paranormal romance and this is a particularly original and fun book of this genre. And great news! There are more books to come in this series.

Here’s my ‘official’ review:

Delia Rhodes is a feisty and fascinating heroine who shares her flat with a ghost. She works at a waitress at Katzenjammer’s bar (German for hangover!) alongside humans, pixies, vampires and hybrids. She’s fun, strong and sensitive. A sensitive, in fact. She can sense people’s emotions and from touching, relive experiences they have gone through, a gift which she doesn’t always appreciate but others do. She also does a little shapeshifting on the side. From being single for a long while, suddenly two men enter her life – Seamus, long-time friend and sexy Irish vampire-human hybrid, and Draven, another drop-dead gorgeous hybrid, new employee at Katz. Delia now finds herself torn between two lovers who between them drag her into a dangerous situation. Draven has chosen to fight in the Cage as a sort of ritual and suddenly Delia finds she is forced to fight for her life. And how does this tie in with pixie kidnapping?

This book by an exciting young author is an interesting and entertaining take on the paranormal romance theme. Pixies certainly don’t crop up very often in this genre. The dialogue is modern and spirited, the characters are complex and credible and the settings and situations are intriguing and well thought out. It’s not just surface entertainment. The issues of loyalty and trust are strong subthemes. Good versus evil and tolerance versus discrimination are explored. There are a few sinister hints in little things like the way everyone is categorised at birth, with some sort of secret system reserved for vampires. And the characters face death. There is darkness to match the lightness of this novel. It’s a great read and an impressive start to a series. I thoroughly recommend it.

And now let’s meet Chrissie. She’s a busy mum and determined perfectionist, as you’ll see.

I asked her rather a lot questions about Living Sensitive, writing and herself and she was kind enough to take the time to answer them all.  Thanks Chrissie!

 1.      What inspired you to write Living Sensitive?
The idea for the story has been stuck in my head for awhile now. It’s actually based off of a dream I had a few years ago.

 2.      Which character from the book are you most like – Delia, Eli, Seamus or Jocelyn?
I think I’m most like Delia. We both have a pretty sassy attitude. I enjoy writing her and Eli the most.

3.      Living Sensitive has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?
Thank you. Yes, I designed it. I bought the background and tweaked it in Photoshop.

4.      Would you like to have supernatural powers? And if so, which ones?
I would love to have supernatural powers! I think I would want to be a vampire-human hybrid. I’d have super strength, speed and hearing but I wouldn’t have to give up the sun or coffee!

5.      Which of your personal qualities help you as an author? Which ones don’t help?
I have a lot of determination. Once I set my mind on something, I have to see it though. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, which helps and hinders my writing. I have deleted entire chapters before, multiple times because I wasn’t satisfied with how they turned out. The thing that helps the least is that I’m easily distracted. You might say I have the attention span of a squirrel. That makes it very difficult to write sometimes.

6.      You have two daughters. Is it easy finding time to write on top of being a Mom?
My girls definitely demand attention. They decide how I spend my days. I usually wait until they’re in bed before I sit down to write. I’m a night owl anyway so writing all night, in to the early morning, is pretty normal for me.

7.      What are you writing now?
Right now I am writing the second book in the Delia Rhodes series. She has a lot going on in the next book. I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

8.      Are book reviews important to authors, in your opinion?
I think they are very important. Unfortunately, they aren’t that easy to get. In my opinion, reviews can make or break your book. People are less likely to give your writing a chance if you have bad reviews, or no reviews at all.

9.      Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?
I talk to myself when I’m writing. It helps me workout scenes I’m having trouble with. I’ve also used dolls to help me keep track of ‘what’s where’ when writing steamy scenes. The last thing you want, when you’re reading a sexy scene, is to end up confused about how certain things are happening or how they got there.

10.     When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?
I have been thinking up stories for as long as I can remember. It was just a matter of getting the confidence to share them with others. It’s a scary thing, putting your heart into something you love and then showing it to the world. One day it just clicked, I woke up and I had my mind set on making this happen.

11.     What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
I would say to stay persistent. Don’t get discouraged if you hit a few bumps, just plow right through them and don’t give up. It’s not easy, and you will have your bad days, but if this is your dream It will be worth it.

12.     OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?
Cheesecake, Brownies, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos…. and I know it’s not a food technically, but I can’t live without my coffee!

13.     And finally, what would you not be seen dead wearing?!
Crocs, hands down, ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen in my life. I hear they’re comfortable, but there is no amount of comfort on this planet, to convince me to wear them.

Chrissie has a website at www.cmrawdon.blogspot.com.

 

A Secure Heart by Charity Parkerson is a clever and entertaining series of four interwoven romantic stories. Not only does the Smith Security Services team of Shannon Smith, and twins Bob and Weave Sparks feature in each of the four vignettes, but the other characters that appear are connected in various ways. Gracie and Jacob are brother and sister, but they bump into Flower and Genie and Kera along the way. You look into different people’s lives on the way and see how they interconnect and influence each other. Each story is original, touching, funny, sexy and absorbing. You might think you can predict where it’s headed, but there’s always another twist waiting around the corner. The characters are complex and strong, yet also comfortingly flawed and human.

Flowers, Chocolate, Wishes and Sparks, the four stories in this book, might appear a little glib from their titles at first glance but touch very deep emotions and issues – Can you ditch a facade you’ve worn for years? What happens when two close friends and colleagues love the same woman? Can a relationship survive when a job separates you for long periods? Each one works brilliantly well and there is no drop in quality in the writing. Parkerson creates all her characters with equal care and affection and there is clearly no end to her imagination in the settings and situations they find themselves in. Sparks fly and wishes are fulfilled in this book which is like a bouquet of flowers with a few thorns included,  or a box of sweet and sour chocolates!

I’m always reviewing and promoting other people’s books. I decided it was time to promote my own! Heads Above Water is the account of our first couple of years living the expat life in France with a family, no income and an awful lot of work to do …

Here’s a review of the book from the wonderful Steve Bichard:

“This is a real life story warts and all, about a family moving to France from Ireland. If you really want to know how hard that it can be surviving the freezing cold winters without decent heating, having to deal with never ending paperwork, settling your kids into a whole new school environment and so much more, then ‘Heads Above Water’ is just the book for you. Full of first hand advice and many of the idiosyncrasies of French life explained, Stephanie has created the perfect novel for anyone thinking of moving to France.
To take on a dilapidated farm with 3 lakes and acres and acres of land, then turn it into a successful business with a gite, llama farm and wonderful fishing lakes was certainly some undertaking. But the Dagg’s did it with sheer hard work and a great deal of persistence. Luckily they managed to keep their sense of humour which comes across so well in the book and as I have said, one not to be missed by any budding or resident ex-pats.”
Thanks, Steve. So please, do grab yourselves a copy of Heads Above Water from the Kindle Store of your local Amazon and read about our adventures for yourself. And let me know what you think about it too.