Why Superheroes need to conceal their identity

Superheroes might live among us. Your mail carrier could be one. Or maybe it’s the nerdy IT guy.

After all, many famous comic superheroes have alter egos. This identity conceals their true abilities and after-dark pursuit of justice.

If they didn’t live double lives, they would be considered vigilantes. Even the men and women of the Avengers who saved Earth from alien domination on two separate occasions were seen as vigilantes by some.

Because they worked outside the law to apprehend criminals.

But they always brought them to the authorities for prosecution (if they lived). Just like the A-team of 80s television, the Avengers never planned to use deadly force. Would they? Sure, if the criminals pushed them into it.

The Avengers were a special task force. And while they answered to a government agency (SHIELD), this was acceptable. Once that agency disappeared, people in power started feeling threatened.

It’s about Controlling the Power

There’s a fine line between being powerful and having control.

The Lamborghini is powerful. The driver leashes that power with a steering wheel and brakes. But what if the little plastic line carrying the fluid to those systems is cut? The power is out of control.

In the newest Captain America film, the governments of the world don’t like the idea that a powerful group of trained soldiers can fight crime and terrorism without paying homage to the local authorities.

Secretary of State says, “Where are Thor and the Hulk? If I misplaced two 30 megaton warheads, you can bet there’d be an investigation.”

So Thor and the Hulk are weapons of mass destruction? Wanda is even called that by her own team member. They aren’t people anymore. Only resources to be used by the powers that be.

And those in power are determined to control them. Were the Avengers out of control? Had they overstepped their mission?

No.

Civilians perished. It was tragic. In the process, a terrifying biological agent was kept from the hands of terrorists who would have used it to kill thousands, or even millions.

But no one’s talking about that.

In past movies, the Avengers kept each other in check. They answered to the team collective.

The Avengers were visible. Everyone knew who to blame if things went awry during the display of superhuman abilities. This visibility acted as accountability.

But that wasn’t enough. Politicians saw them only as a weapon, a tactical force to be deployed. Governments wanted a say in where they would go and who they would dispatch.

Hero_or_vigilante

It’s all in the Media Spin

The media spins the stories in our world (and the comic realities). One day they’re hailing the hero who stopped an insane murderer. The next they scream about stopping the vigilantes who are taking the law into their own hands.

In many places, the government controls the media. They can put the spin on the story so it reads like they want. Focus on the few innocents killed in a bad situation rather the thousands saved from something worse.

Superman, Spider-Man and Batman saw their heroic persona degraded and maligned. Is this why they hid behind Clark Kent, Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne? As long as no one knows who the man behind the mask is, media can only speculate and criticize.

Did they watch the news with the same hurt as Wanda and Cap? Did the fact they weren’t named keep them from feeling responsible when bystanders got hurt?

The writers make it sound like they keep their secrets to protect those they love from retribution. But is that the only reason? Is there ever only ONE reason?

After seeing the way media hype caused problems for the Avengers, it seems obvious that there are other reasons. Having a secret identity keeps them from being controlled by the powers that be.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Should they answer to someone? Most of these superheroes do have contacts on the police force. The masked men and women see themselves as a “special operative.” They must. Why else would they leave those they apprehend trussed up and ready for a reading of Miranda rights?

It’s not super to be a hero in our world. People are threatened by the unselfish pursuit of justice. The media is concerned about twisting things into a story that gets attention.

My hero, Captain America, would’ve been better off flying under the radar. Hard to do when the government creates you specifically to wear the face of their ideal soldier.

There’s no going back now. Cap can’t hide in anonymity.

The real losers in the situation are all the innocents he can’t protect.

Captain America: Vigilante or Hero?

On May 6, 2016, the newest Captain America film hit local theaters. People were challenged to choose a side in this Superhero Civil War. Would you be #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan?

If you read my post after I watched the second Captain America movie, you recall that I dubbed Captain America the perfect superhero. I will be quoting that post here.

After Marvel’s movie makers changed the terms of being a hero, do I still believe Cap is a model superhero? Did the signing of some UN treaty suddenly make following his own moral compass illegal?

Being a Hero

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

In my earlier post, I claimed Captain America was a hero because of these three things:

  1. He fights for justice for everyone
  2. He doesn’t use his power for selfish reasons
  3. He won’t compromise his personal integrity for anyone

However, if the governments of 117 countries decide that he doesn’t have the right to do these things, is he bound to follow them because they are suddenly the majority?

That’s what this movie is all about. Once again, it challenges the idea that a person can be loyal to two people who are at odds with each other. What if they are both right? Whose side do you stand on?

At one point, Iron Man asked Black Widow if she could bring the Hulk in on their team. Her reply, “How do you know he’d choose your side?”

Cap didn’t want his friends to be divided, but they chose to stand with him because they’re friends. This meant friends faced off with friends. Isn’t this something that happens in real life? You side with one friend for whatever reason – and it isn’t just because they’re your friend.

What reason would a hero have for standing against his friends? See number one and three above. He believed it was the just thing and his integrity is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Being a Vigilante

Hero or Vigilante?
Hero or Vigilante?

I’m in the middle of watching the third season of The Arrow on Netflix. The police call him the vigilante. Except for one man – a (police)man who has been rescued by him.

So what does it mean to be a vigilante?

Dictionary.com says a vigilante is “any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.” So a person who seeks their own brand of justice. They take an eye for an eye.

Because sometimes the legal system fails. There is no such thing as a perfect government with only fair laws that are always enforced.

Does that give a person the “right” to take things into their own hands?

Instead of giving you my answer, let me offer up examples. Comic book examples: Batman, Spiderman, Superman and many others. More movies have been made on this topic than almost any other.

In a fallen world, I don’t think fallen people should seek their own brand of justice. I ascribe to this principle “avenge not yourselves, but give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

However, notice that this says to avenge not yourselves.

Captain America did not decide to selfishly help one friend while annoying all of his other friends. Cap saw injustice. He had the power to stop it. So he did.

He minimizes the collateral damage of death to innocents in every way he can. Isn’t that what policemen, and military, and others whose “job” it is to protect the rights of all citizens do?

This is the reason he wouldn’t sign the accord. If he did, suddenly he became subject to a governing authority. Because, let’s face it, those with superpowers are above the average law. We can only hope they’re going to fight on the side of right, because who can stop them?

(More on this issue in my next post.)

No longer without Personal Entanglements

One of my author friends told me that Cap would always put friendship first and that wasn’t always in the best interest of the wider scope of world problems.

And yet…I believe Cap chose only to endanger himself when he went after Bucky. He gave Sam the chance to opt out. When they headed to the final battle, it was only Cap and Bucky facing their foe.

I don’t want to give away anything for those who haven’t seen the movie, so you should stop reading now if that is you. SPOILER AHEAD!

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar
Image credit: technobuffalo

Cap admitted to Wanda that his concern for Bucky compromised the team. He took full responsibility for the collateral damage on the mission where this happened.

Further, he stepped beyond his “no romantic attachments” barrier by kissing Sharon Carter. Whether or not that makes her his Lois Lane, I don’t know. She certainly isn’t a helpless wallflower. After all, she’s a CIA agent with obvious skills. With an aunt like the amazing Agent Peggy Carter, she can probably hold her own against the bad guys who might abduct her to get to Cap.

Still, Cap no longer meets my third qualification. I said heroes with love interests were “forced to choose between their love and the wider world.” When Cap was forced into that situation in Civil War, I don’t think it had to do with his personal feelings. As I said in my earlier post: “he will never compromise his principles and favors no individual as more redeemable than another.”

I don’t believe he favored Bucky above Iron Man in the newest film. They were equally his friend.

However, Bucky needed help because he was being used as a pawn by someone with vile intentions. In this case, what looked like favoritism toward a friend was actually Captain Rogers protecting the underdog.

Because that’s what true heroes do.

**Original image for header on this post can be found here. All credit goes to those artists.

What do you think? Is Cap a vigilante now? Or is he still a hero? Can he be both?

Meet the Author! J. Keller Ford talks about her characters

IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING eBook Cover 2700x1800The awesome J. Keller Ford joins us today to talk about her first novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

I’m beyond thrilled to host Ms. Ford because she is more than a fellow writer. She’s a friend (even though we’ve never met in person) who helped me place my first published fiction. We’ve also traded manuscript critiques (mine were on the second book in this series of hers).

And we both ADORE dragons (enough said, right?)

Without further ado. Here’s Jenny!

Me: How did you come up with the background for David and Eric?

Ms. Ford: I always wanted my two main characters to come from wealth but not have a clue of how they got it or why or even what to do with it. I also knew I didn’t want them to be spoiled brats in the sense that they knew they had all this wealth and always used it to get what they wanted.

Eric and David are “spoiled” for different reasons than being wealthy. They’ve been coddled, sheltered, had things done for them all their lives because of who they are. Both are tired of it. Both are driven to achieve something more than being pretty boys with status. They want their lives to mean something.

We all read stories of poor people wanting to come into wealth. I thought I would turn it around a bit, and take someone who had everything at their disposal, but still their lives were missing important things. Something that couldn’t be bought with money or status such as peace of mind. Honor. Respect. It’s a long process for them get others to see them differently, to be taken seriously.

I hope readers connect with both Eric and David on a personal level because of this struggle. Having wealth isn’t a bad thing. Losing touch with yourself when you do have it is totally another ball of wax.

Me: That’s an interesting twist on the wealth thing. I enjoyed reading about these boys, although I’m Team Charlotte all the way (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, guess you’ll need to read the book so you can find out).

I really enjoyed the pace of the action in your story. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Ms. Ford: I have so many favorite scenes, but there is one in particular that I really like, and it’s the one with David and Trog sitting on a balcony in Gable. David is wrestling with an issue and Trog tries to help him through it, but David doesn’t want to hear. This scene totally took me by surprise as I had no plans to write it. It just came out.

I think it adds immeasurable depth to my knight, Sir Trogsdill and I know personally, I think that’s where I fell in love with him as a character. I mean, like really fell in love with him. I reacted to Trog differently in every scene after that. It was a pivotal moment for me as the author of this book. In that one scene, Trog changed before my eyes. It really affected me. I hope others will feel the same.

Me: I love when minor characters are potent and likable. I admired Trog throughout the story, but I know what you mean about that conversation adding a depth we hadn’t seen before (funny that his creator hadn’t even seen it. That’s what I love about writing).

And for my last question, which character surprised you most?

Ms. Ford: I have to say Trog surprised me the most. I went into this trilogy with a certain vision of Trog. He was knightly, chivalrous, a defender of the universe. But he also has flaws, weaknesses. I wasn’t sure what they were until I started writing the story.

Even in the initial draft, he wasn’t flushed out well. He needed more depth, so I went back and re-wrote scenes. That is when the scene above flowed out of me. I gripped my heart and said to myself, “That’s it.”

As the novel progresses we see scenes that show Trog as a man, not a legend. Not a myth. Not a god. And then we discover a secret, and the explanation for that secret took my breath away.

Trog became larger than life to me, not because he was a warrior or legendary knight, but because he was human. Totally blew me away.

Me: I love that Trog is a valiant knight in the truest sense of the word. His secrets make that even more apparent.

I’m excited to see where the story takes us in the next two books.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Readers, don’t forget to scroll down and enter the contest for a book charm or a digital copy of the book.

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InTheShadowCover

 In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books

Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.

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Meet the Author

J. Keller FordJ. Keller Ford (known to all as Jenny) is a scribbler of Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction. As a young Army brat, she traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights and wondrous magic that permeated her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind and oozes out in sweeping tales of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, screaming on roller coasters and traveling. Jenny is a mom to four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a quirky knight who was silly enough to marry her, and a menagerie of royal pets. Published works include short stories, The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson. IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING is her debut novel and the first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow Trilogy.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest |Goodreads

Giveaway Information:  Contest ends June 17, 2016

  • One (1) winner will receive a scrabble tile book cover charm (US ONLY)
  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford (INT)

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Favorite Fantasy Species: Meet the Authors of Masked Hearts

Masked_heartsToday, I welcome my fellow authors to the blog.

In honor of our latest release, Masked Hearts: A Fantasy Romance Anthology, each of my co-authors will talk about their favorite fantasy creatures. Since we read fantasy (as well as write it), I took our penchant for the genre into consideration when I worded the question.

So, fellow authors, what are the top two fantasy species you love to read (or write) about? Why?

Dana Wright says: “I love shifters and fae. They have a hidden pulse of energy that transcends the mortal world and I can never get enough. Nature and the call of the moon resonate through the mythologies behind them both and I love that. Witches too. They all give us a spark that can be missing from the day to day and I live for that.”

It’s no surprise then when you discover what her story Affinity is all about.

 

A magic mirror and a houseful of ghosts await Kristen when fate leads her to Wanderly House. Secrets and spirits consume her days, but one look in the magic mirror and her heart falls fast. 

Connor is trapped in Faery. With only a view through a bewitched mirror to the real world, his attention is nabbed by a curious cat shifter with a ghostly following.

When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?

Clair Devon says: “When I was a teenager I was fascinated by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern so dragons have long been my top fantasy species of choice.  To this day if given the opportunity I would gladly be a dragonrider. After that it is a little clear although I love the idea of were creatures that are not werewolves, were cats in particular. I’m currently revising a fantasy Christmas story involving a were mountain lion and a Polish fairy.”

You won’t find any dragons or dragon riders in Clair’s story Water Woman. I met some new-to-me magical creatures here.

Sparks fly when a Spanish water woman, and an African two-horned horse shifter meet at a masquerade. Kimoni has gone to ask Isidora to use her skills to aid him with his ailing grandfather. When strangers claiming to be Isidora’s relatives try to force her to share her powers, the pair is plunged into danger. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?

Nemma Wollenfang answers: “Top species? Dragons! Of course. Those flying, fire-breathing, scaly monsters have it all. As to my second top fantasy species, that’s hard to say, there are so many great ones. But I think it has to be… mermaids. There aren’t enough stories about those – especially when they come with fangs. *Toothy grin* I’d like to read many more romantic stories about both species but I’ve found literature of that type to be a little thin on the ground. Which is a shame. But, you know what they say, write what you’d like to read! So that’s what I’m doing.”

A kindred dragon-lover. There’s no big mystery that the one title with the flying force of fantasy is Nemma’s, Dragon Law.

The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath.

For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair. 

Sheryl Winters says: “I’m a dragon lover. Shifters in particular. I wrote Skydreamer with Dragon-shifters in mind. Lately, though, my interest has shifted to Swan shifters. Brooke from Masked Hearts isn’t able to switch to her swan form. I researched Tundra Swans to see what they might normally eat in the wild and the more I read about them, the more I enjoyed writing Brooke and finding unique solutions to her shifting problems.

I’ve read Skydreamer, but I was equally thrilled to read  Feather Fall. Ms. Winters does a fabulous job of bringing her characters to life.

Brooke Adair’s autism has turned the world into a constant puzzle, especially when it comes to men. When she meets fellow swan shifter Blake Landen in a dream, though, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. Can Brooke overcome her fears and take the leap?

My top two: 

Dragons are my number one because…dragons. You can do so much with them, including different species, different abilities, making them good or evil, having them as a beast carrying a rider or as an independent and magical species of dominance.

The second is more difficult, but I think I’m going to go with Pegasus. Mostly because I love horses and the idea of a flying horse is awesome beyond measure. I’ll admit, though, I haven’t written a single story featuring one of these magnificent beasts and can only remember one series I read that included them – in a mostly minor way.

And, no, my fantasy romance doesn’t include dragons. Sorry. Someday, a publisher will fall in love with my young adult dragon story. Here’s the blurb for Duty or Desire:

Alyona Wyrden dwells contentedly in her elven realm, but when her brother disappears, she travels to Earth to bring him home. Camden Kerr hunts down magical artifacts, keeping them out of the wrong hands. The amulet that draws Alyona to her brother is just the sort of object Cam’s after. The way his flesh responds to the lithe, blonde necklace-wearer is a different matter altogether. When their paths keep crossing, Cam decides they can work together-until he discovers her elven heritage.

Can their attraction defeat prejudice? Which will rule—duty or desire?

As you can see, there’s magic and fantasy creatures galore in Masked Hearts. The stories are the perfect length for a fiction reading break.

Need to add a little fantasy to your life today? Pick up a copy of Masked Hearts at your favorite online retailer. Here are some of the links:

Amazon | AmazonUK | ARe | B&N |Bookstrand Createspace  | Roane  |  Smashwords

Also, don’t forget to enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card – perfect for all your reading (or other shopping) purchases.

Enter the Giveaway

Check out the rest of the tour, too. Today, you can read an excerpt from Feather Fall at Bookgirl Knitting.Masked_hearts_tour_button And here is the rest of the schedule:

May 27th

On the Broomstick  –  Author Interviews
Written Love Reviews  –  Review

May 30th

Red Penn Reviews  –  Author Interviews & Review

May 31st

A Moment with Mystee  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway
Scribbler’s Sojourn  –  Promotional  /  Exclusive Excerpt #4 from Duty or Desire by Sharon Hughson

June 1st

Liz’s Reading Life  –  Author Interviews
Musings about the Writing Life  –  Author Interviews / Ebook Giveaway

June 2nd

Books, Movies, & Wine  –  Promotional  /  Exclusive Excerpt #5 of Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang
Alpha Book Club  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway

June 3rd

Book Reviews Virginia Lee  –  Review / Ebook Giveaway

My Fantasy Debut: Masked Hearts is available

Masked_heartsI’m a fantasy author. I’m a fantasy author. *dances around the desk singing* Read my debut story in Masked Hearts today.

Join the fun on the blog tour for the next two weeks. There are reviews and interviews and chances to win prizes. I know you don’t want to miss any of that.

I’m excited to introduce the world to my beautiful woodland elf, Alyona Wyrden, who travels to the earthen realm (you know, where we humans live) in search of her missing brother. I hope you’ll fall in love with the amazing magical artifact detective, Agent Camden Kerr. His job is to protect humans from dangerous magically charged items.

Items like the amulet Alyona is using to travel between realms and track her brother’s location. Will he get the artifact? Will she find her brother? What sort of choices will they make between “Duty and Desire”?

Here’s a sneak peek of their first meeting:

Agent Camden Kerr shoved his fingers through his hair, long layers, mussy. Nothing like he’d worn when soldiering full-time. Staring into the nearly spotless icebox encouraged his stomach to growl. Looked like he needed to grab groceries or head out for dinner.

He shuffled across the kitchen. As his hand covered the coil of keys holding down the newspaper he’d yet to read, a click from the hallway stopped him. He tilted his head toward the sound from the laundry room, and his right hand sneaked along his chest until his fingers rested on the handle of his service sidearm.

Service. As if working as a Recovery Agent for the Magical Artifact Reclamation and Quarantine Society amounted to service. That bunch of stingy, wealthy sponsors had some interesting conspiracy theories about magic. Working for MARQS hardly gave him the same feel-good sense of accomplishment he’d felt while recovering stolen weapons, formulas and documents for the government.

Woodsy air wafted into the room. Hair on the back of his neck prickled. If they were in his office, he knew exactly what they were after. But how did they find him? He’d been careful when he’d lifted the medallion from the evidence room at the police station. Seriously. A drugged-up prostitute shouldn’t have anything so valuable in her possession in the first place. Whoever killed her hadn’t known what it was, or the police wouldn’t have been bagging and tagging it with regulated routine.

Cam eased the gun from its holster. His booted feet slithered over the kitchen tiles as silently as a rattler on rocks. Waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light wasn’t an option. He had a better idea. A grim twist of his lips, and he slammed open his office door with his shoulder, smacked the light switch beside it with his left hand.

“Hands up!”

A slender woman with eyes glittering like emeralds twisted toward him, hands flailing toward the ceiling in a hypnotic, graceful arc. Her chin was a sharp point in her heart-shaped face. High cheekbones, slashed with ruddy shades of sunset, offset her peachy complexion. The mass of beige blonde hair topped off a perfect picture.

“Where’s my brother?” Her accented English wasn’t difficult to understand, its cultured tones free from panic.

His fingers tightened on the pistol’s grip, index finger straightening away from the trigger. He raked her lithe figure with a single glance, noting no suspicious bulges to indicate a concealed weapon. The rise and fall of full breasts beneath some sort of leather tunic didn’t escape his attention. Or the slender legs encased in form-fitting leather, down to the moccasin-like booties on her narrow feet.

“You’ve got the wrong house.” Cam kept the gun aimed center mass, even as he felt the tension drain from his shoulders.

“I don’t think so.”

She shifted away from the desk. Cam stiffened again, finger dropping onto the trigger, eyes honing in on his target.

And a fine-looking target, too. Messing up that chest with an armor-piercing round would be a total waste.

Buy your copy now at Amazon | AmazonUK | ARe | B&N |Bookstrand Createspace  | Roane  |  Smashwords

Not to hog the stage in my excitement over my own story, here are the blurbs for the other four fantasy romances.

What secrets do the Masked Hearts hold?
Dragons, elves and shifters abound in these five sweet, romantic fantasy tales. But, no matter the realm of origin or the race of the species, one theme resonates throughout. To find a love that’s lasting, one must be willing to take off the mask, and reveal their true heart.
Affinity by Dana Wright
Behind the shadows lies the truth…
A magic mirror and a houseful of ghosts await Kristen when fate leads her to Wanderly House. Secrets and spirits consume her days, but one look in the magic mirror and her heart falls fast. A mask, a cloak, and a key leading her to an enchanted evening in the faery garden might be Kristen’s end as all that glitters may well have sharp teeth.
Magic mirror on the wall…
Connor is trapped in Faery. With only a view through a bewitched mirror to the real world, his attention is nabbed by a curious cat shifter with a ghostly following. Can he find a way to break the spell that binds him so he can reach the girl that haunts his dreams?
When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?
Water Woman by Claire Davon
Sparks fly when a Spanish water woman, and an African two-horned horse shifter meet at a masquerade. Kimoni has gone to ask Isidora to use her skills to aid him with his ailing grandfather. When strangers claiming to be Isidora’s relatives try to force her to share her powers, the pair is plunged into danger. Isidora and Kimoni look for a way to fight the ruthless intruders, while also saving his grandfather.
Using their combined powers, they meet the challenge, all the while conscious of the growing attraction between them. It has been a long time since Isidora has met a man who calls to her as Kimoni does. The strong, handsome horse shifter sings to her senses, and she sees a matching spark in his eyes. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?
Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang
The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath.
For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair.
Feather Fall by Sheryl Winters
Brooke Adair’s autism has turned the world into a constant puzzle, especially when it comes to men. When she meets fellow swan shifter Blake Landen in a dream, though, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. If she lets him.
But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. After all, if she doesn’t take this leap, Brooke might miss out on meeting the one man she could actually learn to understand.
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The Paladins Release Tour: Reviewed Here

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my Pen Sisters is releasing a new book tomorrow, May 3. If you’re a fan of young adult romance, you want to pick up your copy of The Paladins by Julie Reece. Go ahead and click the cover photo. You can pre-order it today. As in now.

This book is a sequel to The Artisans. You can read my review of that book here.

When I first learned Ms. Reece was writing a sequel, I thought, “Huh?”

My depth of thought amazes even me sometimes.

The reason I was stymied is because The Artisans is completely self-contained. It doesn’t leave any nagging questions remaining. The problem is resolved and the characters are in their “happy for now” existence.

But that doesn’t mean the characters had nothing left to say. Maybe you wondered what happened with Cole. How did he adjust to life after being trapped in The Void for five years? Did things with Raven and Gideon last?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and so much more if you read The Paladins.

The Blurb

The Paladins CoverThe Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

My Review

I was involved from the first page. And I was enthralled with Cole by the third chapter. He’s a much more engaging character than Gideon.

Reece takes us into the story from the perspective of all three of the main characters. Her narration is exceptional. Each chapter sounds like the chosen narrator. Cole’s voice is fun, engaging and sprinkled with British euphemisms. Raven is snarky, although a little more melodramatic than before. Gideon is dark, but wait! That’s what’s going on inside his handsome head?

Elemental magic makes its appearance here, which surprised me since it didn’t have the same “feel” as the Artisan magic they “destroyed” in the first book. While they were slow to realize the source of the magic, they were quick to determine the keeper of The Void and the entrance into it. That seemed a little too convenient to me.

The romantic angle in this story isn’t as compelling as in the first book. Gideon decides to dump Raven and encourage her and Cole to get together. (I know. He doesn’t even LIKE that guy.)

Raven isn’t impressed to be dumped and pawned off on someone else. She thought Gideon was going to let her start making her own decisions. Why is he trying to manipulate things again?

And Cole is starting to have feelings for the ghost girl he’s desperate to rescue.

I didn’t guess the exact twist to that whole thing (kudos to the author), but I knew that our lovely Desiree (witch extraordinaire from the first book) would have to be involved somehow. If she got the connection to the water element, there was no way she could have been drowned as they assumed.

I was a tad disappointed in The Void’s populace. Zombies? I’m not a fan of them at all. Three witches sharing one eye? Been done before. The minotaur in the labyrinth was a nice touch and well-played by the author. (Although I’m not sure how the earth magic would have created a link to animals. That seemed a little too convenient, too.)

Will Cole get a girl in the end? Can Gideon swallow his pride? Will Raven be able to escape her own dark fears?

Read it and you’ll see.

My Recommendation

You should read The Artisans before you read this book (the eBook is only 99 cents) . It will give you the proper context for the characters and especially the villain. You won’t be sorry. It was a ghost story I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you like fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. Paranormal? You’ll get that here for sure. Maybe you’re more of a mythology buff. Reece has you covered. If you want it, The Paladins has got it.

There is romance, but it’s more like the third story line in this novel. The quest to resolve magical issues is primary and character growth secondary.

Even though I gave it only 4.3 out of five stars, I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Julie ReeceBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with Julie here:    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumbr | Instagram | Goodreads

The Giveaway

Contest runs until May 20, 2016. The prize(s) :

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece (INT)

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This Wedding is Scrap(book)ed!

That’s a wrap folks! I finished the wedding scrapbook.

The most amazing part to me is that it happened within three months of the big day. Others have waited a year after an event before seeing the photographic memorabilia I scrapped together.

Even more amazing, I set my mind to it and finished it off within a week.

What was left to do? Plenty.

Showers

The last bridal shower occurred the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We stopped in to enjoy the festivities on our way to the beach to spend the holiday with my sister.

The pictures my husband took were saved with those pictures. But none of them were on our shared drive when I went looking for them.

Thankfully, the bride’s mother helped me out and sent a few photos my way. I happily used all those and nagged my husband to give me access to the ones he took.

The only shower game involved guessing facts about the wedding dress. Harder than it sounds.
The only shower game involved guessing facts about the wedding dress. Harder than it sounds.

Showers – done.

Why no rehearsal?

Our wedding photographer took several hundred pictures of the decorating and wedding rehearsal. None of those made it into the scrapbook.

Why not? Isn’t the rehearsal important?

Yes, it was a long and important day.

Thad & Kacy Wedding 2016 - 0129

But I was tired. And the BIGGEST day was the wedding itself.

Why spend energy on the rehearsal when I could apply it to the main event?

At least, this is the excuse I’m using. Hopefully, my son and daughter won’t be too unhappy about the exclusion of that busy day of preparation.

Wedding Day

Thousands of photos exist of every aspect of the big day.

A great shot of the entire wedding party
A great shot of the entire wedding party

I’m not exaggerating.

It took me several hours to view them all and pick out the ones I want to use. As I type this, I’m reminded I still haven’t sent the photographer the list of photos I want tweaked and doctored.

*Stops typing on this and opens a Facebook private message window*

I’m back.

It was a beautiful wedding. I’m posting a few photos with this post, but they are weak representations of a wonderful day. (And these are excellent photos, so I guess that tells you something about the wedding.)

The lovely couple getting ready to start the ceremony
The lovely couple getting ready to start the ceremony

How was I supposed to condense the awe and incredulity into a finite number of twelve-by-twelve scrapbook pages?

It took almost as long to select the photos as it did to lay out the pages.

In the end, the actual wedding took up as much space as all the events leading up to it. Which is exactly as it should be.

I’ve got a page for the girls and one for the guys. Some shots of the important implements, like the rings and bouquet. The ceremony has three pages.

The happy couple
The happy couple

How do I decide what portions of the reception to include?

More hours selecting and printing pictures nets four lovely pages for the hours-long reception.

The biggest conundrum was how to finish off the last page since I don’t have any photos of their honeymoon (which would be the natural way to end it).

I settled on an awesome shot of the happy couple being flagellated with the streamer-thingies used in place of rice or birdseed or bubbles. Add some sparkle and encouraging sayings and that’s a wrap.

As always, there’s just enough in the book to incite a full-fledged jaunt down memory lane. Isn’t that the point of a scrapbook anyway?

Time to COLLIDE with Melissa J. Crispin

I’m an author and sometimes I get lucky enough to hang out with other authors.

Such is the case with my guest today. I met Melissa in a critique group on Scribophile. We chatted about life-type things before discussing writing stuff. Well, maybe talked about both at the same time.

I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa is living my dream. Her young adult romance novel is being released by Evernight Teen (these people rejected a short story I sent them, but all is forgiven since they are publishing Melissa’s novel).

Let’s hear what Melissa has to say about her characters, her writing life and what she hopes to gain through this whole writing thing (and it isn’t money or fame).

ME: The main character in your novel COLLIDE is a ballerina. Do you dance? Why did you choose ballet over another kind of dancing? Why dancing at all, since it isn’t something most teenagers do?

MELISSA: I love this question. I took ballet for a few of years when I was little, but I wasn’t good at it. Not by a long shot.

Both my daughter and my niece attend the same dance school, and there’s a big show at the end of every year. When a senior graduates and is getting ready to move on, the owner of the school always does a recap of the person’s history. Many of them dedicated a lot of time and effort, and it showed in their performances. Some started their journey when they were four years old, kept at it through high school, and a few chose to continue with it even after that. My main character, Kayla, was inspired by a mixture of the stories I’ve heard while sitting in the audience.

ME: What motivates you to write for young adults?

MELISSA: Since the protagonists in YA stories are so young, it allows me to create characters that will truly develop and grow as he or she is thrown into a difficult situation. There are so many possibilities when you’re around that age, and so many hardships that you need to work through. I especially love writing about people who discover emotional strength in themselves that they didn’t know they had, and I think that’s a theme that lends itself well to YA.

,ME: What would be your ideal interaction with a reader?

MELISSA: As a new author just starting out, it would bring me great joy just to know that someone read my work and liked it. Whether that’s through some form of social media or someone telling me something along those lines in person, it would definitely bring a big, dorky smile to my face.

ME: How long have you been writing? Can you give us a glimpse into the publishing process for this book?

MELISSA: I started writing about six years ago. I was tearing through a ridiculous number of books, reading like crazy, then decided to try my hand at it. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It took a long time to get to this point with COLLIDE, and I’m so happy that I never gave up. I spent about a year getting the first draft written. I remember thinking that it was taking forever, but I work full time, so finding the time to write can pose interesting challenges. I went through two rounds of beta reads and then worked with a freelance editor. I did another round of revisions after that, and was over the moon when Evernight Teen accepted my manuscript for publication. I went through edits with them as well, and now this baby is finally ready.

ME: Name a Young Adult book/series that you think all teens should read. Why?

MELISSA: Is it okay if I name two?

ME: *quirks and eyebrow before granting a single nod*

MELISSA: First, the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor is awesome. I think any teen that reads it can learn a lot. I know that Fantasy isn’t a genre for everybody, but the subject matter tackled in each of the books is relatable to real life. The main characters endure warfare, love, and loss in this incredible world that is brought vividly to life by the author.

I’m showing that I’m no spring chicken with this next suggestion, but I think every teen should read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved this book as a kid, and I still find myself watching the movie whenever I catch it on TV. The story highlights that people shouldn’t be judged based on where they came from, but who they are. I find the display of loyalty and love the Greasers have for each other moving as well.

ME: Young Adult books have been getting turned into movies right and left in recent years (HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, MAZE RUNNER). Why do you think this genre draws people into theaters?

MELISSA: I think several of the YA books that have been adapted to film share a common thread. Though the stories are very different in nature, the main characters seem to be ordinary teenagers thrust into extraordinary situations. They’re called upon to rise to the occasion and fight. Whether they’re fighting for life (Fault in our Stars, If I Stay) or for a greater good (Divergent, Hunger Games), they are seemingly average people that need to find the courage to go on. I think the ability to watch this kind of struggle and witness the characters transform is empowering for all, whether you’re young or old.

ME: I hereby grant you a movie deal. What actors will play your main characters?

MELISSA: Well, wouldn’t that be awesome. *sticks her tongue out*

For Kayla, I would choose Elle Fanning. I loved her as Princess Aurora in Maleficent and I could picture her in a role as an aspiring ballerina.

I had a tough time deciding on the male leads! This is harder than I thought it would be.

For Alec, I think a younger version of Scott Eastwood would be perfect. Okay, so he’s not in high school, but neither am I, so you’ll have to work with me on that one. 😉 He strikes me as a swoon worthy guy who would be good at protecting his lady.

I’d love to see Theo James, Four, from the Divergent movies, play Luke. Again, not of high school age so it would have to be a younger version of him, but I love how he shows both a tough side and a gentle side in those movies, which is a lot like Luke.

What’s COLLIDE about?

Collide-CoverPreviewWhen the balance between Earth, Afterlife, and Heaven are threatened, the fate of the universe falls on a selfish girl who must sacrifice everything to save it.

Kayla has a plan. She’s moving to the city after graduation and Luke’s coming with her. He’ll eventually become a doctor, she’ll be a ballerina—and they’ll live happily ever after. That is, until dark forces, led by a sister she never knew existed, start hunting her down for a power she never knew she had.

When Kayla starts working with a boy named Alec to learn how to defend herself and to stop the evil from eliminating the worlds, she finds herself falling for him. Hard. Torn between two loves and struggling to do what’s right for Earth and Afterlife, Kayla must decide if she’s fighting to keep her life together, or letting it go to save everyone else’s.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf now by clicking here!

Get your copy of COLLIDE

At Amazon or Evernight Teen website:

A little bit about Melissa

MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPicMelissa J. Crispin lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, and an adorable Siberian Husky. She spends her days in the corporate world, and pursues her passion for writing in the late nights and early mornings.

From micro-fiction to novels, Melissa loves to write stories in varying lengths. But, no matter the story, it’s almost always about the romance.

You heard it from her own mouth. Melissa wants to hear that you read and liked her story and promises to do a goofy grin in exchange. Here’s where you can connect with Melissa:

Website: http://melissajcrispin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaJCrispin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissajcrispinauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissajcrispin/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MelissaJCrispin

NEW: Ashes in the Sky

Fire-in-the-Woods-CoverIf you’re new to the Fire in the Woods series, stop reading. Click here to read my review of the first book, then go pick up a copy and read it first. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Fire in the Woods can stand alone. It tied everything up in a neat package. But there’s a sequel (or three).

Why would anyone want to read on? Isn’t a series supposed to leave loose threads to guarantee readers keep buying the books?

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you’ll know I ding books that don’t have a clear problem that is solved by the last page.

And even though there is another book about Jess and David after Ashes in the Sky, Eaton ties up this story in a satisfying package. Just like the first one.

My Summary

AshesInTheSky.v6-Book2-Final.v3.BNAfter a summer of army interrogations and media appearances, Jess wants life to get back to normal. It’s her senior year. She’s got college applications that need submitting.

When the photographic opportunity of a lifetime comes her way, Jess leaves normal behind. Again. This time, she’ll be shooting aboard an alien spaceship.

Much to her delight, she also gets to see David. But things are different when he’s not wearing the false human skin she knows so well.

Different isn’t a bad thing, but try convincing a hard-headed alien of that. When Jess’ camera catches sight of something she was never meant to see, she and David have to run again.

This time, it’s an alien in pursuit. And rather than fleeing on foot, they’re in a spaceship. And the alien who’s after them is not afraid to eliminate anyone who stands in his way.

My Review

The book started out with Jess, her snarky voice hadn’t been shredded by her awful summer under scrutiny. She and her dad have become closer, and he’s in over-protective mode from page one.

Which causes conflict. And creates irony when he ends up being the one who needs rescuing.

We move deeper into the father-daughter issues but then they get tossed into the back seat while Jess hops aboard a spaceship. By the end, though, this relationship moves beyond one of its stumbling blocks.

The central issue of whether Jess and David can have a future together sprouts in the reader’s mind. More and more roadblocks are revealed. A strange connection goes unexplained (but there’s another book or two).

Once again, the character issues are wrapped into a life-or-death race against time. Although there were some boggy moments in the first half of the book, the story escalated to incredible heights. The bottom dropped out a few times. Things look even bleaker for Jess than in the first book.

Jess doesn’t need rescuing. She actively finds a way to confront the bad guys. This is one of the reasons I adore her so much.

As in the first book, the theme of inter-species interaction gets center billing. For a teenager (like Jess), it’s all about the feels. Unfortunately, there are plenty of grown ups who have more authority and influence over her choices at the moment.

This is the question that remains unanswered. It’s a deep question and an easy resolution would cheapen its significance. I’m ready to read on and find out how Jess can change David’s mind, when all the facts seem to be on his side.

My Recommendation

This book series is for romance lovers. Yes, Ashes reads like science fiction, much more so than the first book. However, the author does an excellent job of dropping in just enough description to ground and interest the reader, without deadening the frontal lobe with too much scientific mumbo-jumbo.

If you like alien stories and cool space technology, you’ll adore this book, too. Even though the relationships are central, there is an excellent adventure element to Ashes in the Sky. Adrenaline junkies won’t be disappointed.

If you haven’t done it already, buy Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky. You won’t be able to get enough of Jess and David.

Like me, you’ll be drumming your fingers and demanding, “When is the next book coming out?”

Some things are worth waiting for. That was true of Ashes in the Sky, and I’m sure the third book will prove to be, as well.

Third Time Charm…is a Fantasy

You heard it here: the third time’s a charm. I’ve sold my third short story to Roane Publishing, and at last, it’s in the fantasy genre.

And by fantasy, I mean elves. And magic. And enchanted objects. Oh, and there’s romance, too because this anthology is filled with fantasy and romance. Because everyone has a romantic fantasy…or is that the same thing?

On to the awesome cover – and story blurbs for this collection of shorts which will be released on May 23, 2016 (just in time to be my anniversary gift to myself).

Masked_heartsMasked Hearts
A sweet romance anthology
By Various Authors
Publisher:
Roane Publishing
Release Date: May 23, 2016

What secrets do the Masked Hearts hold?

Dragons, elves and shifters abound in these five sweet, romantic fantasy tales. But, no matter the realm of origin or the race of the species, one theme resonates throughout. To find a love that’s lasting, one must be willing to take off the mask and reveal their true heart.

Affinity by Dana Wright

Behind the shadows lies the truth…
A magic mirror and a houseful of ghosts await Kristen when fate leads her to Wanderly House. Secrets and spirits consume her days, but one look in the magic mirror and her heart falls fast. A mask, a cloak, and a key leading her to an enchanted evening in the faery garden might be Kristen’s end as all that glitters may well have sharp teeth.
Magic mirror on the wall…
Connor is trapped in Faery. With only a view through a bewitched mirror to the real world, his attention is nabbed by a curious cat shifter with a ghostly following. Can he find a way to break the spell that binds him so he can reach the girl that haunts his dreams?
When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?

Water Woman by Claire Davon

Sparks fly when a Spanish water woman, and an African two-horned horse shifter meet at a masquerade. Kimoni has gone to ask Isidora to use her skills to aid him with his ailing grandfather. When strangers claiming to be Isidora’s relatives try to force her to share her powers, the pair is plunged into danger. Isidora and Kimoni look for a way to fight the ruthless intruders, while also saving his grandfather.
Using their combined powers, they meet the challenge, all the while conscious of the growing attraction between them. It has been a long time since Isidora has met a man who calls to her as Kimoni does. The strong, handsome horse shifter sings to her senses, and she sees a matching spark in his eyes. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?

Dragon Law by Nemma Wollenfang

The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath.
For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair.

Feather Fall by Sheryl Winters

Brooke Adair’s autism has turned the world into a constant puzzle, especially when it comes to men. When she meets fellow swan shifter Blake Landen in a dream, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. If she lets him.
But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. After all, if she doesn’t take this leap, Brooke might miss out on meeting the one man she could actually learn to understand.

Duty or Desire by Sharon Hughson

Alyona Wyrden dwells contentedly in her elven realm, but when her brother disappears, she travels to Earth to bring him home.
Camden Kerr hunts down magical artifacts, keeping them out of the wrong hands. The amulet that draws Alyona to her brother is just the sort of object Cam’s after. The way his flesh responds to the lithe, blonde necklace wearer is a different matter altogether. When their paths keep crossing, Camden decides they can work together-until he discovers her elven heritage.
Can their attraction defeat prejudice? Which will rule—duty or desire?

Dragons, elves, shifters…magic mirrors, cursed amulets, spells. Sounds like these stories will satisfy any lover of fantasy tales.

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