How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

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The Books of Summer

With the return of The Game of Thrones to HBO, people are into the groove of summer viewing. I’d rather be reading, and I know plenty of people who would rather READ George R. R. Martin’s next installment for this series.


Still, the anticipation of the show reminded me that summer’s long days encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book and head to the porch (or patio or deck)

What I’m Reading

I’m always reading something. This year, I’ve challenged myself to read 150 books. At the time I wrote this, I had read 102 (actually more since a couple were collections but Goodreads only counts them as one).
Recently, my reading choices have expanded to include more women’s fiction and Christian romance. These are genres I’m trying to break into with my writing, and the best way to understand what works is to read the genre.
As part of the First Street Church Kindle World, I’ve been reading the original series and some of the spin-offs.


I’ve been beta reading for some of my author friends. In this case, one of the books was a new take on vampire origins. (I’m NOT a fan of vampires.) I was intrigued by the twist on this, but still wasn’t convinced that I would invest myself in an entire series about them.
For my online book club, I read The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster for July. It sounded intriguing, but I had a hard time engaging with it.
On audiobook, I listened to a YA fantasy series from Tamora Pierce while cleaning, crocheting and coloring. (I love being able to multi-task.)
The second book in the Spellsmith & Carver series releases on July 31 (TODAY), and I’m excited to read it. I read Coiled by this author (H.L. Burke) earlier in the summer and couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling…pick this up.

What I’m Writing

I’ve written the final installment for my Virtual Match romance series.
The first draft of my debut into both Christian romance and Kindle Worlds has been wrapped. I’ll be rewriting it and getting it out to beta readers. I have until September 7 to get a copy to my editor.
My next writing project will probably be a short story I’m submitting for an anthology my publisher is putting out in 2018.
After that, things are up in the air. Once I know how my manuscripts are received at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference, I’ll know if I’m going to work on another women’s fiction story.
I will finish writing Through the Valley of Shadows, the grief memoir that’s been in and out of my queue for several years. I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing for it if I can’t get an agent to contract it.
Some books fill a hole in the market, and that’s how I see this book. Everyone will grieve (at multiple times in life) and the idea of mourning in a healthy way for as long as it takes isn’t highly promoted in Western society.

What I’m Wishing For

I’m not much for paranormal romances…most of the time. Maybe it’s because I forced myself to read the Twilight series so I could discuss it with my students. So if there are vampires and werewolves? I’ll pass.
So color me shocked when I downloaded the first book in Melissa Haag’s Judgement of the Six young adult paranormal romance series a couple years ago.
To date, Hope(less) the first book, is still my favorite and Clay and Gabby are my favorite couple.
I love the integration of a society existing in our own world. It’s well-crafted and believable. For some time, I wondered if bulky blond men on motorcycles were actually werewolves.
Just as Stephanie Meyer created her own vampire history, Haag has given the wolves an interesting backstory. By starting with a skeptical character in the first book, she had a chance to show us the two sides of werewolves. Later we saw the “dark side” generally meant they were a different species.

What?

And each human girl that is the central character in the book has a special gift. Because truly she is something called a Judgement. Six women are born in a 100-year cycle and if all of them unite, they get to make a judgment.
Haag has kept us in the dark about all this entails. But there is one group of wolves trying to round up the girls and mate them with their kind so they can control the judgment.
The final book, Sur(real), doesn’t release until November, but I’m ready for it now. This year I intend on re-reading the entire series in the weeks leading up to the release.
If you haven’t read this series, check out the first book for free. I promise you’ll get hooked.
What books are you reading, writing or wishing for this summer?

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An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

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Ready for a little Virtual Romance? REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH is here!

Are you ready for a little romance? It’s Sweet Romance Month at my publisher’s, so they have a new romance novella for you every week in February. To start things off: Introducing REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH

RMiM_Cover

My little novella, which you might think you’ve already read (if you purchased the VIRTUALLY YOURS collection last year), is making a comeback. REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH is an updated version of MATCHMAKER: REALITY, from the earlier collection.

What it’s About

In case you don’t recall, Ronnie Shay has a nagging mother and younger siblings who’ve already been paired off. In order to silence the matchmakers, she signs up for an online service, Virtual Match, which promises her texts, emails and even gifts from an invisible boyfriend. Given her aversion to relationships, this sounds like a perfect fix-up for Ronnie.

Little does she know that geeky Marcus Jordan is crushing on her–big time. When Marcus takes things into his own hands, Ronnie begins her first relationship with someone she’s invented. Or so she believes.

When things heat up, Ronnie decides it’s time to get a different invisible boyfriend. What she discovers when she calls the Virtual Match help desk sets her into a tailspin.

Can Marcus win Ronnie over? Will reality be even better than a Virtual Match?

There are Prizes

Check out the opportunity to win $25 in Roane Cash and some other nice prizes (at the end of the post).

RMiM_Banner

A Sneak Peek

And, in case you’re wondering, here’s an exclusive (author’s website only) look inside the first installment of Ronnie & Marcus’ love story.

Ronnie yanked the cuff of her navy blazer, curling her fingernails into the satin-lined sleeve. The table hid her clenched hands from view. She must be crazy, agreeing to meet a stalker.

A quick scan reassured her. The quaint coffee shop where she imbibed caffeinated calories while working on reports over the free Wi-Fi was packed with customers. She would be safe, but the place would be tainted. She’d never find peace there again. This strange man had ruined it.

Over the melody of human voices placing orders and compressed steam frothing milk, the tinkling of the door’s bell rang ominously. Was that him? She clutched her cell phone and grazed its screen with her thumb. She’d arrived early. The digital numbers announced the agreed-upon meeting time.

Her table lurched as a body stumbled into it. She glanced toward the bulldozer. The nerd from the sixth floor stood there, smoothing a masculine hand down a purple and gray striped tie.

Her frazzled head buzzed at his attire. Something was off.

“Excuse me.” As usual, the deep voice tickled along her man-radar, incongruous coming from a klutzy geek.

“It’s fine.” Ronnie expected him to turn away. Instead, he shuffled his over-sized feet. The hand not touching his tie reached to shove his black-rimmed glasses further up his nose.

Ronnie shifted away from him. The iron legs supporting her squealed. “I’m waiting for someone.” Was there a polite way to tell him to get lost?

“I know.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his black slacks.

Slacks and tie weren’t his normal work uniform, were they? She rode in the elevator with him every day, but she had never really paid much attention to his wardrobe.

He pulled out the chair opposite her, tripping over the table leg and sitting hard in the counter-height seat.

“Thank you for meeting me.”

“Meeting you?” Ronnie’s mind spun. The nerd was her stalker?

If you want to read more about the author (ME), click here.

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Giveaway Information:

$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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Bleeding on the Page. Thanks for the advice, Hemingway!

Writing is easy. All you have to do is bleed on the page.

And if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know how true this sentiment is. It’s the reason many people keep their written words hidden.

I poured my heart and soul on that page. If someone laughs or scorns after they’ve read it, my soul will shrivel into a ball and die a slow, agonizing death.

Yes, I’m a writer so hyperbole is to be expected.

I try not to bore you with my writing stuff all the time. But I’ve been bleeding so much in recent weeks, I need a transfusion. I figured maybe some of my readers would step up to the plate and offer to donate to me.

A Grief Memoir

The nonfiction project I’m currently working on has been brewing in my heart, mind and imagination since February 2014.

I had attended my mother’s funeral a week before. The day I had my first thought about this book, my husband and I were plodding through the snow on our way home from another funeral.

I wished there was a book I could read that would make all my crazy feelings make sense. Or at least, if they couldn’t make sense I’d realize I wasn’t alone in feeling them.

And I reached for some books for those in grief. And they didn’t have what I needed.

And since…

write-it

I began making notes about what I wished would be inside this book.

It needed to be part memoir because I wanted to get inside the heart of another person who was going through the grieving process. And it needed to offer hope, so I figured that meant it should be part Bible devotional or study.

As the idea evolved, I decided not to include study questions. I opened each chapter with a vignette or two from my personal experience grieving people I loved and lost.

The second half of the chapter would be my expository thoughts on Bible stories, passages or characters who went through something similar. Or who offered me hope as I was facing the dark forest of grief.

Even though I began researching for the book in Spring 2014, I never wrote any words in it until 2015. And it took a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

So I shelved the project.

The delightful thing about a nonfiction book like this is that I only need to write three chapters to market it to agents. I have the first draft of those chapters and a rough book proposal. Before this year is out, I will sent this project out to agents.

And it still doesn’t have a title.

What would you call it?

Elephant in the Tearoom

Concurrently, I’ve finished the full-length first draft of a short story I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in 2014.

Three women take a pilgrimage to Victoria B.C. in honor of the mother who planned the trip. Of course, they’re all carrying secrets and extra baggage that no one knows about.

This is women’s fiction at its finest. But it also takes an auto-biographical moment and converts it into fiction. And I’m not the only “real” person to star in the novel.

So, I obtained approval from the other two women who people will assume the story is about.

Folks, it’s fiction. I write stories. While the premise in this book is based on a trip that my mother planned, the trip never happened. Every event in the story is made up.

The emotions behind the story? Those are real. Because if the writing doesn’t bring tears to my eyes, I can’t expect my readers to cry.

And once again, there was a story that could benefit the world. So…

cleary-quote

Both of these projects are tapping into my memories of times of loss. Doing that is putting me back through the five stages of loss.

And it’s emotionally grueling.

In fact, some days I think training for a marathon would be simpler.

And only insane people think running 26 miles is a good idea.

When have you felt like a project required your heart and soul? Any encouraging “blood transfusions” to offer me?

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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.
Add it to your Goodreads list
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Join the rest of the tour stops. Read reviews and excerpts. Click on the button.
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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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Find the Book Everywhere

Add it to Goodreads

Or buy it here:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Join the rest of the Tour

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Friday Cover Reveal: Into the Light by Caroline Patti

Today Caroline T. Patti and Month9Books are revealing the cover for INTO THE LIGHT, book 2 in the INTO THE DARK Series. This title releases July 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
Here’s a message from the author:
 
Into the Light is the continuation of Mercy’s journey with Nathaniel’s backstory mixed in. Readers will learn the history of breaching while Mercy engages in the fight of her life. What draws me to the cover are the colors. The palette is appealing and I love how it all swirls together
because it perfectly captures how Mercy’s two lives, one as a human and one as a Breacher, are intertwined.

On to the reveal! 

Title: INTOTHE LIGHT
Author: Caroline T. Patti
Pub. Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon| B&N| TBD|Goodreads
Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

 

Caroline T Patti is the author of The World Spins Madly On and Too Late To Apologize. When she’s not writing, she’s a school librarian, mother of two, wife, avid reader and Green Bay Packer fan.
You can chat with her on Twitter: @carepatti or find her onFacebook.

 

 
Giveaway Details:

 1 winner will receive an eBook of INTO
THE LIGHT & an eGalley of INTO THE DARK. International.

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Virtually Yours Releases Today! No Fooling

Virtually Yours CoverIf you’re looking for something to read this weekend, you can get eight novellas for under a buck. Check out Virtually Yours at your favorite retailers.

Since last spring, I have been working on this novella off and on, amid the three short stories I sold (and needed to edit), the Bible study I released in January, and the novel I hope you’ll see in print one day soon.

My story, “Matchmaker: Reality” is one of eight contemporary romances included in this boxed-set. You can pick up these eight stories (most about 20,000 words long) beginning today. For a buck.

No, that wasn’t a misprint. Eight romances for 99 cents. I know you want to do it before you read the rest of my post, so here’s the link.

How this came about

I’m friends with dozens of authors on Facebook. I follow dozens more on Twitter.

One of the romance writers I follow posted an article about an Invisible Boyfriend application that was going into beta testing. Her question with the article, “Doesn’t this lend itself to hundreds of story ideas?” (Or something like that. I don’t mean to misquote you, Kait.)

I was quick to chime in that indeed it did. Others did the same.

Later, Kait tagged the writers who had responded favorably to the question. Did we want to collaborate on a romance anthology based on a similar “fake date” application we invented?

There were ten of us who said “yes.” At some point along the road, two of the people dropped out.

First things first, we posted our story ideas to make sure none of them were duplicating a plot line. In the beginning, a couple of them looked like close relatives, but we changed it up. Now you’ll get eight stories with amazing twists and turns.

Then we got specific about the dating app we wanted to create. We agreed to call it Virtual Match. Titles for the collection were tossed around. And Virtually Yours was born.

Virtual Match is your one-stop shop to convincing those nosy relatives, the too friendly coworker, or your ex that you’re off the market. We’ll match you up with an attentive boyfriend or girlfriend. Texts, emails, phone calls, and even gifts. All the fun of being in a relationship–well, almost all the fun–and none of the commitment. You might even forget it’s not real.

The Stories

Here are the blurbs for the eight stories:

Wish I Might by Kait Nolan: Bookstore owner Reed wasn’t looking for a woman. But when the new clerk he hired won’t take no for an answer, he needs a girlfriend stat. His friends give him the perfect out—Virtual Match. But when Reed gets a second chance with the one that got away, his virtual girlfriend may cause more problems than she solves.

Lip Service by Wendy Sparrow: Amputee Berg is struggling with civilian life. Dating is perilous, but the girl next door is oh so tempting. His new gig as “virtual boyfriend” allows him to bask in her sunshine without risking rejection. Roxie has tried cupcakes and pizza and her neighbor doesn’t adore her yet. He recommends Virtual Match to get rid of a slimy coworker, but she absolutely can’t fall for her new fake boyfriend

Code Name: Girlfriend by Jessica Fox: Drew needs a girlfriend—fast. Trouble is he already told his nosy coworkers all about her, and she doesn’t exist. When his BFF sees an ad for Virtual Match, it seems like the answer to all his problems…until he starts falling for his match. Struggling writer Caroline thinks the tell-all feature on Virtual Match will make her career. Seems easy enough, until pretending to be someone’s girlfriend suddenly gets far too real.

Dream Home by Lisa Kroger: Evie doesn’t have time for the boyfriend her mom and sister think she needs. Still reeling from her husband’s death, she’s renovating the antebellum plantation meant to be their dream home. Enter Luc, her virtual boyfriend. Luc may keep her family at bay and provide company in the dark of night, but when sinister things start happening in Evie’s house, she’s still very much on her own.

Something Old and Something New by J.R. Pearse Nelson: Delia has finally managed to kick her cheating ex to the curb. In a parting jab at her lack of tech savvy and need for companionship, he signs her up for Virtual Match. The virtual boyfriend’s texts are as creepy as the idea and getting stranger, but she can’t stop them. When an old friend shows up on her doorstep, Delia is pushed to retire old heartaches in favor of a new vision of herself and her future.

Matchmaker Reality by Sharon Hughson: Ronnie isn’t willing to put her heart on the line. A fake boyfriend through Virtual Match will satisfy her nagging family and keep her heart safe. Unexpected sparks fly with her imaginary boyfriend and she gets in deep—her feelings unearthing a past secret she’d buried. When her virtual boyfriend wants to meet, reality might ruin Ronnie’s chances of a real connection. Will her heart survive and is love worth the gamble?

Virtual Surprise by Catherine Lynn: To convince her friends she’s moved on from her divorce, Anna signs up for Virtual Match. A fake boyfriend is safe and easy…until their relationship feels real. Then, there’s her high school crush—who broke her heart. Neither man is simple and one may not even exist. Luke’s job with Virtual Match is just for extra cash. He’s still dealing with his anger for the girl who once hurt him. Then, he starts falling for his assigned “girlfriend.” Is it worth the risk to make their match real? 

Home Field Advantage by Kate Davison: For Shelby, going home to Suwannee Grove after her sister’s death is the hardest thing she’s ever done. The reasons she left make it even harder. One look at Dallas and she knows her bigger mistake may have been staying away so long. Dallas has always considered Shelby the love of his life and he wants her her trip home to be permanent. But if Shelby ever finds out he was posing as her sister’s Virtual Match, he doubts even his home field advantage will help convince her to stay.

The Authors

I’m amazed and proud to be included in this anthology with two romance authors I regularly read. It’s like making an album with Karen Carpenter. What? You think I’m a good enough singer to share the same space with me.

Only in this case, it’s my first love – writing – that’s getting a boost. If you haven’t read the Wishful series by Kait Nolan, you should pick up the first book now. Wendy Sparrow also will have your sides hurting with her romance stories.

You prefer a little speculative or paranormal. You’ll probably find J. R. Pearse Nelson to your liking then.

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for your next favorite author. I LOVE and adore finding an author who entertains me. The only way to do that is to take a risk and try a new author.

I promise you, this will be a dollar well-spent. Two of these authors are on my “new favorite” list (and I’m thrilled to share a cover with them). I’ve read four of the seven stories I didn’t write. All of them are unique. Paranormal, sweet romance, and a little suspense are all represented.

No risk involved.

I know you’d spend a buck to support my writing. Now you can support eight independent authors for less than mailing two letters.

We all thank you.

Find VIRTUALLY YOURS at these retailers:  Amazon   | Smashwords

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.