December in the Ozarks

Per the newest tradition in the world of Hughson vacationing, this post comes to you from Not-at-Home. We’re enjoying the sunny South with my cousins.

This is the third full day in Branson, MO, and the weather has been nearly ideal. Yesterday was the only “day” it wasn’t sunny. The breeze made out jaunt down the Landing in the morning a bit nippy, but since rain stayed away, I was content.

My husband wandered through a Bass Pro Shop (a small one according to my cousins) and we ate some authentic barbecue. No one in my family-of-four likes ribs but me, so I was happy to sample Famous Dave’s. They were smoky, but Tony Roma’s melt in your mouth and has a sweeter sauce (on their Carolina Honey’s).

The gentleman went to the car and tractor museum after we saw all the Landing had to offer us. We were happy to drop them (and their $2 off admission price coupons) at the door and head to another shopping destination.

Where we purchased a few Christmas gifts. ‘Tis the season. Chrystal assured me that as long as I purchased at least ONE time in a store as a gift, it counted wholly toward Christmas shopping. Have I mentioned I like the way she thinks?

There was an electrical storm…and rain. But that was AFTER friends I knew back in Oregon when I was in elementary and middle school stopped by for a visit.

No, they don’t live here, but it’s a common destination for their Christmas shopping goals. Obviously, December is the right time of year to visit the Nashville of the Ozarks…shopping destination extraordinaire.

When you wake up to this sort of view…

It makes being grumpy seem more than a mite ungrateful.

We have three more days to enjoy the sights…and sounds of our destination. Tonight is a trip to the Sight and Sound Theater (see what I did there?) to see THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS. Afterwards, we’ll eat out to honor my cousins’ third wedding anniversary.

Hopefully, we’ll finally see some Christmas lights.

But for now, it’s enough to chill on the balcony in the sunshine with the man who’s loved me for three decades.

What’s your take on Christmas shopping? What do you enjoy doing on your vacation?

Wonder Woman : My Thoughts on the Film

The essence of true heroism was portrayed by Wonder Woman in her big screen feature film. Finally, a hero without a baggage-laden past or an ax to grind.

Wonder Woman’s heroic worldview is summed up in this quote, first said by Steve Trevor in the movie and later by Wonder Woman.

“It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.”

A hero doesn’t stop to think if a person deserves protecting or rescuing. If they believe they can save someone, they step in and do it. Because to NOT act would be worse than whatever peril they face during their rescue.

After watching Wonder Woman’s movie twice, I’m ready for a Captain America and Wonder Woman film. Which will never happen because… Marvel and DC. But in my mind they are the supreme superheroes because they stand on their ideals.

What about the movie? You ask.

I loved it. Loved it two viewings worth and can hardly wait to own it on DVD so I can watch it again (maybe interspersed with Cap and the Winter Soldier).

The Story

I’m not a comic book reader, as I’ve stated multiple times. I don’t know how closely the film version of Wonder Woman comes to the comic-book rendition. But I like how the mythology is intertwined with the contemporary world (which shouldn’t surprise people who know I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, as well as the two spin-off series he’s written/writing).

Diana is a princess on an island set out of time and populated entirely by women. She is the only child on the island, and her mother tells her she was sculpted out of clay and brought to life by Zeus. Later, we learn that Zeus got Hippolyta with child the good old fashioned way (in the tradition of Greek deities).

She is enamored with fighting, which is what the Amazon warriors were originally created to do, but her mother denies permission to learn it. This doesn’t stop Diana from meeting with her aunt (the general of the Amazonian army) in secret until finally her mother allows her to train.

“But she can never know the truth.”

Diana doesn’t like hurting people (which is surprising from a warrior race), and her instinct is to rescue the stranger she sees crash into the ocean near their island. (It’s never sufficiently explained to me how the plane and later the Nazi boats can enter the bubble when Diana is warned she won’t be able to return if she leaves the island.)

All the stories Hippolyta has told Diana about the Amazons’ purpose come back to bite her when Steve Trevor shares the horrible news about The Great War in the “real world.” Still, the queen allows Diana to steal the armor and the God-Killer and leave with Steve to “save the world from Aries.”

Diana embraces her purpose and never shrinks from it, which adds plenty of tension. She’s happy to waltz into no man’s land rather than waiting for a safer route to her destination. In the end, it’s her head-on confrontation that sparks the heroism of the men with her, from the soldiers in the fox holes to the pilot spy.

Eventually, she does meet Ares, and their battle is epic. Of course, the secret her mother withheld is revealed by the villain and almost cripples Diana’s resolve to defeat him once and for all.

My Reactions

Gal Gadot is not Lynda Carter. Gal is much more athletic and equally as beautiful. Lynda sold me in her portrayal. I haven’t watched the old series for many years, so maybe it’s childhood hero worship that makes me say this.

I adored all the hand-to-hand combat. The Amazon warriors terrified me when they swung down the cliffs and thundered in on horseback. The Germans might have had guns, but they were seriously out-classed and under-trained to meet the immortal warrior race.

Diana’s motives sold me on this story. She whole-heartedly believed the Amazons were created to save mankind, and how could they do that on an isolated island?

I loved the innocent reactions Diana had to things like kicking in dresses and tasting ice cream. The filmmakers could have included more of this, because she seemed to adjust to the world of men rather easily.

I was sad the romance with Steve Trevor didn’t get to run its course. Because of their intense time together, I can believe that they loved each other. He was the first man she’d ever met, and his handsome exterior accentuated his rescuer’s soul.

While the effects during the battle with Ares were cool, I had a difficult time believing he would destroy her. And was it anger or grief that pushed her to finally end him?

Image from joblo.com

In any case, she wasn’t even happy about doing it. Resolved, yes, but she showed so much fervor for killing the general and Ares before she heard his story, and that wasn’t present when she finally shot the god of war out of the sky.

There were portions of the story that didn’t make sense to me: the creation of the Amazons and how they were enslaved by mankind. If Zeus was dead (as Hippolyta described in her story), how could he father Diana? And why would the Amazon’s still pray to him?

If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think? Did it live up to the hype?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or see my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

SWEET INSPIRATION Release Day

Are you excited to see what’s new from Roane Publishing this week? Here’s the newest Novella Niblets release…

 Sweet Inspiration

Contemporary Romance

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

Publisher: Roane Publishing

Release Date: February 22, 2017

 

Dependable Cadence Wills yearns for excitement. The owner of a yarn business, she is pulled in every direction by her demanding family. Haunting dulcimer notes draw her to a practice for the musical festival, and she spies an intriguing stranger.

Musician Rafe Frasco is a rover, bouncing from one competition to the next. Interest ignites at his first glance at the woman who is enthralled by his music. He is drawn to Cadence whose heart seems big enough to encompass everyone within her reach.

A fantastic opportunity for Rafe presents Cadence with a major problem—is she strong enough to negotiate the business deal that will take him away…maybe forever?

 

~~~oOo~~~

 

 

~~~oOo~~~

 

EXCERPT:

Unmarried and approaching thirty in a small town branded her as ready and willing to meet every unattached man who set foot inside the city limits. A sigh escaped. Like last week when Espe called Trent Sullivan over to their table at El Tres Amigos and then suddenly remembered an important errand, leaving them together. What Espe hadn’t known was Cadence and Trent already had been set up on blind dates—twice—by other well-meaning friends.

Nothing had clicked on those occasions either. Cadence craved someone with a mysterious past like in her beloved romantic suspense novels. A dark, shadowy figure who knew how to excite a woman with a molten look or a lingering touch. A man who fought to hide his pain and almost succeeded. Not someone like Trent—a guy whose high-school accomplishments she could probably recite.

Sweet plaintive notes of a stringed instrument floated on the breeze. Cadence stopped, straining to recognize the tune. A person didn’t grow up surrounded by folk music without knowing just about every ballad that could be plucked.

But this one eluded her. The twanging strings cried with a soulful sadness that grabbed her by the throat. Her thoughts were washed in loneliness, and she turned toward the sound, past the Heritage Herb Garden. A part of Cadence that couldn’t resist helping others had to see who was expressing such need.

She lifted the hem of her long skirt and hurried toward the haunting sound, as if the notes pulled her feet along the path. The compulsion to know who played added speed to her steps. Abreast of the groundhog pottery kiln, she slowed and peered toward the outdoor stage.

On the platform, several musicians were gathered—some unpacking instruments, others adjusting microphones. Off to one side, a dark-haired man sat in a straight-backed chair, one foot braced on a scratched case. He leaned forward and strummed a dulcimer, the light wood instrument cradled on denim-covered thighs.

Cadence stood a dozen feet away and studied the talented player. His too-long hair was tied back, his shoulders were broad inside his western-cut shirt, and his legs were long and lean. Scuffed boots, faded jeans and a worn Harley-Davidson tee-shirt composed his attire. Definitely more attractive than her own outfit. Even from this distance, she spotted a posture that meant the man had an attitude…or was mysterious. A thrill ran over her skin.

Who was this guy? He’d definitely swagger when he walked. Yummy. At the thought, she stepped closer, wanting nothing between her and the performance.

Long fingers picked the strings in a heated crescendo—note on teasing note, twang on shivery twang, strum on driving strum. He ended the song with a flourish, right hand arcing upward as the last note hung on the early morning air.

How did he know exactly how she felt on nights when everyone in Mountain View either had a date or was home curled next to a spouse? The isolation of being solo at the drive-in or enduring the knowing smile of a sympathetic waitress. His song wrapped all those feelings tight around her heart and squeezed. She inhaled, and the backs of her eyes stung.

Hadn’t she learned her lesson about musicians from the way Dale deserted her when his band got the chance to go on the road? Three years running, and he hadn’t yet steered the tour bus through his hometown.

The stranger laid a hand over the strings, rolled his shoulders, and lifted his head. Piercing brown eyes scanned the area, surveying the other musicians, and his gaze locked with hers. For a suspended moment, his gaze roved along her length, widened, and then returned to her face.

Under his scrutiny, she shifted her feet and tugged at the sides of her skirt. Her period costume didn’t exactly show off her figure to its best. Not that the fact should matter, but she couldn’t look away and chose to ignore the warning bells ringing in her head.

~~~oOo~~~

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

As a child, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about characters having exciting adventures in places far away. As an adult, she discovered romance books and read them at every spare moment. Upon reaching a landmark birthday, she decided to write one of those romances she loved so much. Easier said than done. Perseverance paid out and twelve years later, she received her first call from a publisher and a confession story was published. Now, Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass, and many have a tie to her previous home of Texas.

With interests as widespread as baking, crocheting, watching dog agility matches, and reading thrillers by Swedish authors, Linda is the mother to 4 adult children and grandmother to 2 granddaughters. She currently lives in the southern California mountains with her husband of 35 years.

 

 

~~~oOo~~~

This the the last week to enter the GIVEAWAY!

$25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

 

 

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

WINTER FAIRY TALE Releases Today!

WFT_Cover

Winter Fairy Tale

Contemporary Romance
By: Laura Lamoreaux and T.L. French
Publisher: Roane Publishing

 

Sometimes, to remember all that is best and bright about love, you must go home.

After being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, there is nothing that Sarah Jepsom dreads more than going back home to her marriage-obsessed mother.  To make matters worse, it’s for her little sister’s fairytale wedding on none other than Valentine’s Day.  The only positive note is it will also be a chance to see her dear friend Mark for the first time in a year.

Sarah’s Bridezilla sister Valerie takes it upon herself to invite Sarah’s old high school boyfriend to be her date for the wedding. Nathan is set on renewing their relationship, but old feelings remind Sarah why it didn’t work the first time. When Mark confesses his long-held feelings for her, Sarah is angry and convinced that romance is not for her. Then, her father reminds her of all that is best and bright about love, that can often be found right under our noses.

Buy the Book here

Meet the Authors:

LAURA LAMOREAUX

Laura Lamoreaux is a licensed clinical psychologist, and drew from her work in therapy to show what living with a mental illness is really like. Her writing partner provided all of the teaching details included in the story.

Connect with her on Twitter – @laura_lamoreaux

T.L. FRENCH

T.L. French is a Junior High English teacher. Connect  on Twitter : @ticilsmith

Win these Great Prizes

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for your chance at a $25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

GIVEAWAY!
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EMBERS IN THE SEA is Finally Here! Sneak Peek Inside this Post

Exciting news, dear readers! The next installment in one of my favorite series by one of my Pen Sisters is finally here. I’m talking about EMBERS IN THE SEA by Jennifer M. Eaton.

I adored FIRE IN THE WOODS. You can read my review here. It was a  rollicking good time, and I don’t even like science fiction. Except for after I read book two in the series, I had to recant that claim. If I was reading these books and loving them, I obviously liked SOME science fiction books.

Now you can read the third installment in the series. I read an early version of this manuscript, and let me tell you, it goes beyond anything you could possibly imagine. David and Jess face their biggest test ever (and a crazy alien leader was trying to kill them in the last installment so…)

After you read the amazing excerpt, don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the post where you can enter a giveaway to win some awesome prizes.

Embers In the Sea eBook FINAL
Title: EMBERS IN THE SEA (Fire in The Woods #3)
Author: JenniferM. Eaton
Pub. Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Alien scientist David has dealt with disappointment his entire life, but failing to breathe life into the planet Mars is his greatest regret. Out of options and in need of a new home for their people, the alien Caretakers rekindle their plan to inhabit Earth. First they will have to eliminate the human race, including Jess, the only human David holds dear.

Humanity has one final chance at survival. David needs to emulate Earth’s precipitation on Mars. But the catalyst to make it rain lies in the fathomless depths of Earth’s ocean.

The clock is ticking down to humanity’s last hours as Jess and David face a world more alien than either of them can imagine. The sea hides secrets, but some secrets don’t want to be found.

Here is the Promised Sneak Peek:

Jess and her friend Matt from FIRE IN THE WOODS (Book one) are hanging out at Columbia University when a strange apparition forms in the sky. Of course, our girl starts snapping photos!

“What is that?” a man yelled.
Matt grabbed my hand and we followed the throng away from the steps, across 116th Street, past the sundial, and onto the South Lawn. A huge hole had formed in the clouds, widening into a shimmering circle of crystal blue.
I plucked my camera out of my backpack and joined the amateurs clicking away with their cell phones. I hid my amusement behind the lens of Old Reliable.
These people had no idea what a picture could be, how to focus in just the right place, how to find tone in the simplest of images, and catch the perfect light to evoke the exact mood. I hit the shutter four times as the anomaly widened, expanding past several city blocks. Nature never ceased to astound me.
A few more photography students added their lenses to the crowd. There’d be no deficit of pictures for the internet newsfeeds to choose from, that was for sure.
I snapped seven more shots. The race was on. Click. Who would take the best shot? Click. Who would be the first to get their work published?
Me. That’s who. Click. Click.
The shape shifted and elongated, swirling until it settled over the courtyard and froze as if someone pressed the pause button.
The crowd grew silent. I lowered my camera. WTF?
A ball formed in my gut as the air in the middle of the circle formed a nearly transparent, shimmering bubble. A rainbow formed across its surface; the stripes brilliant, clear, and defined. Dozens of breaths hitched as an iridescent flicker glimmered across the apparition. The form pinched and molded into a colorful, swirling tube that slowly dropped from the sky.
Oh. Crap.
Matt tightened his grip on my hand as the other spectators stepped away. Half their gazes staring up, the remainder staring at me. Some stumbled into the bushes lining the walkways.
“Friends of yours?” Matt asked.
I shivered. “No. That’s not Erescopian technology.” At least I didn’t think it was. Erescopian ships were liquid metal … shiny opal or silver. “That just looks like … ”
“Water,” Matt whispered.
Water hanging in the sky. Or more like a lake … a huge lake with a giant elevator tube dropping out of it. So. Not. Good.

This is part one of a three part reveal of the spaceship landing in chapter one of EMBERS IN THE SEA. For the next excerpt, please go check out Read Coffee and Teen on 2/7/2017 (Sorry, it was totally NOT my idea to be SUCH a tease. Really.)

About Jennifer: Jennifer-M.-Eaton-Promo-Protrait-239x300

Jennifer M. Eaton hails from the eastern shore of the North American Continent on planet Earth. Yes, regrettably, she is human, but please don’t hold that against her. While not traipsing through the galaxy looking for specimens for her space moth collection, she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband and three energetic offspring. (And a poodle who runs the spaceport when she’s not around.)

During infrequent excursions to her home planet of Earth, Jennifer enjoys long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but great adventures are always a short shuttle ride away.

Who knows where we’ll end up next?

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

(1) winner will receive a Perfectly Posh, Posh To Meet You Set ($20 value), US Only.

(1) winner will receive an Alien Charm Necklace, US Only.
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Check out the Rest of the Tour

EMBERS IN THE SEA

New Year New Focus

Another New Year is here. Welcome 2017. What did you do with 2016? Hide his body in a calendar of HOT firefighters?

You all know what it means that we’ve started a new year. This author will choose a new focus.

Reviewing What Came Before

In 2014, I decided to BE THE CHANGE. This happened after July 2013 changed everything for me. How?

I graduated from college and committed to writing full-time.

Yes, there was a connection. It’s not easy to walk away from a guaranteed paycheck into the jungles of publishing.

The hard knocks I took that first eighteen months of full-time, professional writing did a number on my confidence. Which led to…

My theme for 2015. My posts were all about learning to have a positive attitude. Because, let’s be honest, the world is swamped with negativity. If you just go with the flow, you will become a huge downer.

And there are too many downers out there already.

So I went against the flow and took a friend’s advice to “accentuate the positive.” It’s pretty amazing what can happen when the two words you choose to focus on for 365 days are positive and attitude.

And that positive outlook carried over into 2016.

Do I need to remind you what happened this year? How about this?

#365DaysofGratitude

And a sample of what that looked like…

D52

And what it morphed into once a brand building expert set me straight…

Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.
Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.

These yearly focus words or phrases have been building blocks in the new life I’m carving out of the old one that held me stale and stagnant for forty-some years.

My decision to be the change I wanted to see in the world is a perfect foundation. What better architectural framing to use for the changed life than a positive attitude. And if you’ve experienced it, you know there isn’t a warmer, more welcoming color for the walls than gratitude.

So where does that leave me for 2017?

Looking Toward What is Yet to Come

It’s time to clean up the scraps around the building site. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those nails, lumber scraps, and broken boards that didn’t make it into the finished project.

What does that look like in my new life?

Banishing fear.

nofearthemememe

Yep, I’ve been talking about this lion over the past few weeks, and now I’m confronting him head on.

This year, I’ve even adopted at verse from the Bible to fortify my position. I know not every reader here ascribes to the Bible as God’s Word and the guidebook to truth, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I promise not to go all Bible-thumper on you.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment” 1 John 4:18

And to start things off right, I have to face down a fear. Tomorrow I’m going under for my first ever surgery. I know 50 years without s surgeon’s knife and now this.

Don’t worry, it’s “routine.” I should be back up and running in no time. But I appreciate all the positive thoughts and prayers.

This year while I’m sweeping out the shiny new space I’ve carved for my dream of author-ship, we’ll be looking fear in the face. By the time this year ends, I hope love will have relocated fear to some continent far away.

Won’t you join me on the journey to a life lived by love without fear?

What’s your goal for 2017? Do you have a word or phrase you like to build around?

Jana Begovic talks about POISONOUS WHISPERS

If you’ve followed my site for very long, you know I love books and authors. And I’m especially fond of fantasy.

Although POISONOUS WHISPERS isn’t a traditional fantasy romance, it does have fantastical elements.

Today, I’ve invited author Jana Begovic to talk to you about her debut novel.

PoisonousWhispers_Cvr

Jana, thanks for coming today. Reincarnation plays an important part in POISONOUS WHISPERS. How did you become interested in this idea?

Thank you, Sharon for your excellent questions and willingness to feature my novel. The first time I found myself mesmerized by the concept of reincarnation was when my uncle, who is a psychiatrist, told a story about a patient whom he’d hypnotized, and who under hypnosis started speaking in a language he couldn’t recognize. He recorded her and later discovered she was speaking ancient Greek even though she never studied any foreign language and had never visited Greece. My interest in the topic continued through my reading of books on Buddhism, but it culminated with my discovery of Dr. Brian Weiss’ books on past life regression therapy. His work was the main inspiration for Poisonous Whispers.

Jana, you are from Europe and this novel takes place in several European countries. Have you visited all the places in your novel?

The only place mentioned in my novel that I have not visited is Ireland. I have always felt drawn to that country, to its music, dance and lore, and it is an attraction I simply cannot explain.  It is a seductive thought to think I may have lived there in one of my past lives.

Your settings are quite real. Readers want to know: is it difficult to translate the culture and ambiance of a place onto the page?

It is difficult to translate the culture and ambiance into fiction if you have not lived in that place. I believe the portrayal may stay somewhat superficial as there is so much invisible culture, which is difficult to convey unless it is a part of who we are.

When we first talked about your novel, you said it didn’t fit neatly into the romance genre. What would you say to compel readers of traditional romances to try out your novel?

 I would say that most readers would agree that the universal themes of love, romance, loss, heartbreak, suffering etc. cannot and should not be confined within the rigidly defined boundaries of any genre. Readers want quality books, novels that will give them reading pleasure and perhaps, teach them something new, or make them reflect on their own life and experiences.

By breaking out of the traditional romance parameters my novel aims to offer a multi-layered story, with characters that are flawed, like we all are, characters that make bad and morally dubious choices, suffer profound heartbreak as consequence, and become better versions of themselves along the way.

I also believe very few readers are strictly devoted to one genre exclusively, and are willing to venture out and try something different. In short, I’d tell them, please give it a try, and I promise you will not be disappointed. Like ice cream, romance comes in many flavours, from commercial to literary, traditional to less traditional.

I decided to feature you here because I see this novel as a fantasy/paranormal romance (and I’m more about fantasy than romance around here). What elements of fantasy are present in this story? How would you interest fantasy readers in your novel?

 Fantasy elements in Poisonous Whispers are the supernatural forces, or malevolent gods who play with the heroine’s fate across several incarnations. She hears their voices in her dreams and in a state of wakefulness and wonders if we humans are the objects gods use for their own amusement. In one of her past incarnations, the heroine also has special powers she uses to protect herself. Readers who are mostly interested in fantasy may not find enough of it in Poisonous Whispers, unless they consider reincarnation as part of fantasy.

You have an academic background. What inspired you to write a fiction novel?

I’ve always been intoxicated with the written word, and I’ve always been an avid reader. My decision to pursue literary studies was an easy and natural one. My writing attempts began in elementary school. I wrote a Western story, then a collection of poems and fables. I always wanted to write a novel, but never trusted my ability to write one.

My inspiration for writing novels comes mostly from the stories friends and acquaintances tell me. I am fascinated both by storytelling and human stories. For that reason, my novel is full of sub-plots.

There are many historical elements in your novel. Did you do research on those time periods? Why did you choose the times you did?

 I researched the historical periods trying to reflect them as credibly as I could. For example, I researched witch trials in Ireland and opera in Italy. Because the novel describes past life incarnations, I selected the times in which the heroine could have lived before her current incarnation. I selected Ireland and England because I find both countries highly alluring, and I chose Italy because I’ve visited it many times and could never get enough of it. I’d like to mention that most of my research was spent on the psychology of adultery, which is one of the main themes of the book.

Now that you’ve published a novel, what’s next for your writing career? Any hints about what you’re working on now?

I have written two short stories and am writing a third one. I have started a sequel to Poisonous Whispers, in which I plan to show what happened from the perspective of other characters. Most of us have heard about the Rashomon effect, that is, everyone’ perception is subjective. In Poisonous Whispers the reader sees the events through the eyes of Leandra, the heroine. In the sequel, the male protagonists will give their account of the same events. I also plan to write another scholarly article based on a project I have been leading as part of my regular job.

Thanks so much, Jana.

Readers, do you have questions for Jana?

Be sure to check out the giveaway for a $10 gift card. All the purchase links for Poisonous Whispers can be found here.

Wonder Woman flies over Vegas

Wonder Woman and I have become inseparable these past few months. I mean, she really likes appearing in her own weekly column. I like the benefits of handing with a tough gal no one messes with.

Then my husband headed to Las Vegas for a convention. Something about virtual machines. If you know what that is, you’re way ahead of me. He even explained it to me…and it sounded like Chinese.

When I mentioned the trip to my bud WW, she arched her eyebrow at me.

No, I’m not making that up.

Only a short time on the Strip and I totally understood her agreement to “fly over” but not land in Sin City, Nevada.

What’s Not to Love?

I’ve only been to Vegas one other time. It never held much appeal for me.

It’s not just the lovely nickname that lacked attractiveness either.

“But the shows are cool.” This is the argument my husband used to get me here for a convention with him in March of 2014.

And while I did enjoy the show we attended, I couldn’t afford to see any of the headliner acts. Well, maybe “afford” is the incorrect word. I’d rather have a nice outfit or two over a couple hours of entertainment.

Could you lend me $89 so I can see these guys?
Go figure.

WW says the place gives her claustrophobia. Okay, she has no phobias. Let’s say it makes her feel boxed-in.

Here’s a short list of things she finds less than lovable:

  1. Heat radiates from the pavement
  2. Pavement squishes beneath your feet like a sponge, reduced to its former state by the above-100-degree temperatures
  3. People slap flyers into your unsuspecting hands (“What’s a Mustang Ranch?” She asks)
  4. Smoke chokes you at the entrance into every building
  5. Casinos aim to trap you like a rat in a maze
  6. No one smiles or looks you in the eye
  7. Everyone is either dragging their feet or shoving through like it’s Black Friday
  8. Lights, bells, vigor: no matter the hour of the day
  9. Pushy salespeople
  10. Over-priced everything

Okay, WW told me to stop with the gripe session already. Some people travel to Vegas with the same regularity as others migrate to Hawaii.


What’s the appeal anyway?

The Good Stuff

Maybe you can help me complete this segment of the blog post.

This is what I can come up with:

  • A beautiful array of world-class architecture to represent multiple cultures
  • Lights to rival a full moon
  • Splendor in the form of water features (a real oasis in the desert)

And WW happily viewed all these positives as she circled overhead in her jet. Nothing there obscured her enjoyment of the simulated New York skyline or sparkling (if much shorter) Eiffel Tower.

She told me she could read the advertisement for the Blue Man Group on the side of the Luxor (where we were staying) with ease.

Full-size ad for Blue Man Group
Have you visited Las Vegas? What is remarkable and memorable from your trip?

Cover Reveal: The Paladins by Julie Reece

I’m thrilled to host this reveal on my blog. I’ve read the first book in this series and found it ensnaring, to say the least. Check out my review. Then read on to learn about the second book and how to win a free copy.

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!

Here’s a message from the author:

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.

 The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.

On to the reveal! 

 

Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2) 

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback & eBook

Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD | BAM| Kobo | Google Play Books | iBooksGoodreads

The 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.

In case you missed it here’s the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!

 

Title: THE ARTISANS

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 12, 2015

Publisher: Month9Books

Pages: 300

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
(You can read Sharon’s review of this book here)

Excerpt

 

 

Prologue

The Before

Cole

It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One

Cole

A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane.

“Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up.

The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.

***

After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it.

The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.

ThinkofRaventhinkofRaventhinkofRaven.

I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.

Cole.

What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

 

 As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.

Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…

Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.
Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

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Zipping around St. Thomas

You want to go ziplining in a forest? Wish granted. I wish I could say it was the only zipping I did around St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

You read about the island of disappointment and my missed para-sailing outing. And who wants to leave people with a downer? Not me.

I had three wishes for expeditions on the trip, and I got one out of three. I’m not complaining because I also came home with some awesome jewelry that wasn’t on my wish list. (More on that later.)

Sometimes my genie gets his own ideas for wish fulfillment.

My personal genie...without his bottle.
My personal genie…without his bottle.

Booking

We booked our shore excursions online, through the cruise line. On St. Thomas, we had a taxi driver inform us we could have paid one-third less on the Tree Liming experience if we had purchased it directly from the company.

Since it was my first cruise, I wasn’t sure if it would be safe to wait until we got somewhere to book our trips. What if they were full? What if we couldn’t get back to the ship on time?

The jury is still out whether the convenience is worth the cash.

Busing

We rode in an air-conditioned 15-passenger van. I squished in the middle of the back seat for the ride up the mountain.

And when I say mountain, I mean a sharply peaked hill. It might have been 1500 feet above sea level.

But when you’re careening around ninety-degree curves on a narrow road and there is nothing below you but a hillside of trees, that’s high enough.

Everyone’s car’s had dents. Jeff noticed this right away. I was too busy digging my fingernails into the seat cushion. Where’s a seat belt when you need one?

I chatted with a lady from Kentucky who had left a snowstorm behind for the cruise. Her husband was lucky enough to get appointed shotgun by the driver.

Of course, when we had to back into the narrow curvy road to navigate the steep turn into the ziplining place, there wasn’t a good seat to be had. And the bus driver asked people to get out and push.

He might not have been joking. The motor really strained to get us up that last hill.

Look at the view from up here!
Look at the view from up here!

Beaming

This isn’t my first experience flying along the cables. It probably won’t be my last.

I enjoyed the trip in Mexico. It was my first time so the recollection is slightly starry-eyed.

Look at me! Sailing through the trees. Woo-hoo!
Look at me! Sailing through the trees. Woo-hoo!

Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Mexico’s lines were longer. These lines had a much better view.
  • Mexico’s guides were entertainers. These guides were all about keeping us safe (and I’m good with that!)
  • Mexico’s drive to the lines was longer, bus plusher. This drive was shorter.
  • Weather was perfect in both places.

I learned more on this trip. For example, do you know how ziplining originated? Where it was first done?

I do.

See there? Vacation doesn’t have to be all about excess and weight gain. It can be enlightening, too.

Can this thing go any faster? Please?
Can this thing go any faster? Please?

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I plan to have a short video, clips that my husband took of me with his GoPro.

As you’ll notice, I’m beaming in every shot.

Ziplining is a blast. You should try it.