Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Joys of Book Reviews

At Christmas and birthdays I receive these cool rectangular parcels, all filled with books. Then, throughout the year, I receive more cool rectangular parcels through the post, all filled with books. Then I line my bookshelves and stand half-toppling towers at their side. Then my husband asks, "Why do you want more books?"

I won a book on facebook recently and told the author I was really looking forward to reading it - I am - but it might be next summer before I can post a review. I do post reviews of books I read "just for me," but that's beside the point. The author replied that her review-list stretched into next year too. When I asked why we do this to ourselves she wrote, "because we're addicted." Indeed we are. Still, there are worse addictions. And here are some more book reviews to feed your inner addict. Grab and coffee and enjoy!

That coffee will go really well with this one. In fact, you could leave the book on the coffee table for your guests to enjoy as well. The Dog Stays in the Picture, by Susan Morse, contains some fun family photos, cool vignettes of family life, and lots of treasures for anyone who's ever been a wife, mother, daughter, or lover of dogs. Yes. There's a dog. So drink some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee and meet the wife of actor David Morse!

Stolen Dreams, by Christine Amsden, completes an enjoyable series of paranormal romantic mysteries. In a sort-of grown-up inverse Harry Potter style, the (female) protagonist is the only non-magical member of a community of magicians. Once deeply in love with the most magical member in all the community, she's been lured away by promises of power, hope and normality. But now she's back, fleeing her latest romance, and finding the fate of family, community, and even maybe the world, could lie in her hands. It's a great ending to an enjoyable series. Deeper and darker than previous novels, it ties up all the loose threads and offers some cool, and wise, surprises. Enjoy with an elegant complex four-star coffee.

Murder Once Removed, by Roz Russel, plays out its mystery and romance on a grittier stage, pitting reporters, detectives and artists against a murderer who seems determine to strike again. Some pages turn fast; some dwell slowly on inner thoughts and meanings. But the blend of art and murder is coolly intriguing. Enjoy with a bold, dark, intense cup of five-star coffee.

John Holt's third Kendall mystery, Epidemic,takes its protagonist on a hunt for a murderer, while the world declares the event was just an accident. Meanwhile a raging epidemic is considered an accident too, and intent is hard to prove. Enjoy with a bold dark intense cup of five star coffee.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Looking for a Fairy-Tale Ending?

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Today I'm pleased to welcome Crystal Connor to my blog. She's the author of a fascinating collection of "not-fairy" tales, where "happily ever after" just might be a myth, and she's hear to answer a question I sent to her. She's also offering a wonderful giveaway, so make sure you read the whole post :)

Fairy Tales - Love them or Loath them.

Thanks so much for having me today Shelia and wow, what an awesome question:  Fairy tales - love them or loath them?  I have a love-hate relationship with fairy tales, but I have to admit I cried my eyes out while watching the Princess and The Frog and I loved how the writers of Maleficent reimagines Sleeping Beauty but I prefer the older darker telling of the tales because I think today’s stories tell the wrong tale. 

For instance in Disney’s Little Mermaid, Ariel disobeys her father but still gets her ‘happily ever after’ at the end but in the original tale she dies. The moral to the story is to be happy with what you have but where is moral if your bad behavior is rewarded?

Disney’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is infuriating because Red is really kind of stupid. How in the world does she not recognize the furry, fanged, clawed, raspy voiced wolf just because he is wearing a nightgown? 

In an Italian version of Little Red Riding Hood pre-dating the Brothers Grimm the wolf beats Red to the cabin, kills and cooks the grandmother but this is the only part of the story that remains today as in that telling the wolf shares the meal with Red before he tricks (seduces) her to take off  all of her clothes and then he kills her while they’re in bed and eats her too … no huntsmen to come and safe the day.  

Today’s fairy tales tells kids that everything will work out in the end, but that’s not how the world works. I blame modern days fairy tales for women suffering from Cinderella syndrome, waiting for some guy to come along, fall in love with you and safe/rescue you from all your troubles. Or women who stay in unsafe relationships because thanks to Beauty and The Beast they think if they can just love him enough that they can change him. 

I think that’s the reason I have such a love hate relationship with these types of stories.  Because I am a connoisseur of all things horror the older tales appeal to me but I think the modern retelling of them do more harm than good.

I have my own love-hate relationship with fairy-tales too, or perhaps it's hate-love instead. As a child, I found myself loathing the stories that everyone else loved. It was all the Snow Queen's fault. My brother insisted I had to read her before he'd let me borrow his "real" books. But I cheated. Unable to cope with the Snow Queen's prose, I volunteered to clean upstairs and read my brother's books while cleaning his room.

Today I really like fairy-tales, especially when I can find something about the history and mythology behind them. But Disney tales--well, that's a different thing, just as you say.

Anyway, thank you for visiting my blog Crystal. And now, here's some information about the book for readers:

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Title:  And They All Lived Happily Ever After!
Author:   Crystal Connor
Published:  August 28th, 2012
Word Count:  approx. 65,000
Genre:  Horror, Sci-Fi, Dark Fantasy
Recommended Age:  13+
Once upon a time, in a dark & scary place, in a frightening land way too close to home…
Crystal Connor’s …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! is a collection of short fables not meant for children; but for those who enjoy the madness of nightmares.
In the ‘Queen’s Pawn’ you’ll visit a magical kingdom full of wonder and splendor only to come to the sickening realization that when the Queen had a message…she sends her pawns.
The perils of eating forbidden fruit have been cautioned against since the Book of Genesis, but will our urban princess in ‘The Apple’ heed those warnings?
Embark on a mystical and treacherous quest to reach ‘The Ruins’, located in place so sacred that is should never be visited by mortal man.
These are just a few of the adventures you’ll have as you explore the dark imagination of Crystal Connor. Fourteen short stories of horror, science fiction, and fantasy; 65,306 words of terror by a single author who clearly intends to one day be known as a Master in the genre.
Monsters, Women, and Villains (oh my)!

Find it here...

And her's an Excerpt to whet your appetite:  
There's a whole host of benefits allotted to those, who like myself, possess these very specialized set of skills. One of the benefits is, that afterward, you sleep really good at night and I mean really good. 


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Well, it's true, it's hard to believe I know, but trust me it's true. Sam, my uncle, sent me to this exotic land that used to smell of frankincense and myrrh. He sent us there, my brothers-in-arms and me, so that we could become proficient in the art of death. We were good at what we did too, because now it only smells of gunpowder, burnt oil, and death. That's a hellofa predicament you've found yourself in, isn't it? 

Well, at least now you know I'm good with a gun and thanks to my Uncle Sam I am also very comfortable with a blade. This ten inch beauty here is a staple, it’s sharp enough to be use as machete. But this one, with the gut hook, is my all time favorite and I'll show you why here in a minute. Now, I can understand why you broke into my home, these are tough times, and a guys gotta eat I get that. I do. 

Maybe I would have let you live if you had simply demanded my money and jewels, but, then again, I was never known for being charitable.

Meet the Author:
 photo Crystal-Connor.jpgWashington State native Crystal Connor has been terrorizing readers since before Jr. high School and loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys, rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high heel shoes & unreasonably priced hang bags. She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it’s so much more theatrical than being just a mere drama queen. Along with inducing insomnia within her readership Crystal also reviews indie horror and sci-fi movies for
Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Blog

Find our more, follow the tour:

And Enter the Giveaway:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
1 Lucky winner will get a print copy of And They All Lived Happily Ever After!
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    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    The Joys of Formatting

    Our Writers' Mill Journal is almost complete. We have a beautiful cover, designed by the wonderful Patricia Burraston, and lots of great stories, essays and poems. The pdf file looks great, and we're ready to go. But getting that pdf file to look great has taken time-and-a-half from my schedule recently, and I feel like a student struggling not to flunk the test. There's so much to learn; so many great ways to make a book look professional. And I know I shall now end up checking for errors on all the books (real, physical, paper-printed books) I read.

    Here's what I've not discovered yet, but will use in the next book I produce:
    1. How do you make Word leave a bigger gap between the text and the footer, without making the footer take up too much space?
    2. How do you shrink the spaces on a line to make an extra word fit in?
    3. How do you make the contents list fit nicely to the edge of the page? and
    4. How do you make lists fit nicely too?
    Things I have discovered:
    1. Pages of text look better if they line up at the top, even if the bottoms don't line up.
    2. Paragraph indents should be smaller if the page size is smaller. (I missed this. Too late to fix it now.)
    3. If you have to split paragraphs across a page, try to do it with more than two lines on each page. especially if the reader has to turn the page.
    4. Split paragraphs by adding shift-enter at the end of a line. Adding a real line-break will make insert an unwanted indent.
    5. Try not to have single words hanging at the end of a paragraph. Again, use shift-enter to move an earlier word onto the trailing line.
    6. Lists look better if they're not right-justified.
    7. You can always reduce the paragraph spacing to fit more text on a page. You can even reduce the line spacing too, which might be good if you're trying to fit a poem onto a page.
    8. Start the first story on the right hand side of a two-page spread.
    9. Blank space is good. Even blank pages can be good.
    10. Use a section break after the contents, then start line numbers from 1 in section two. And start section two on that right hand page with the first piece of text.
    11. Headers and footers are great for the body of the book, but you might not want them on the contents and acknowledgement pages. Make sure section two's headers and footers are not linked to previous section, or you'll delete them then find them coming back. I should really have used different headers for each set of entries in the contents list, but I didn't. Maybe next time...
    12. Everything takes time, but editing the word doc while you read the pdf is a good way to speed things up. Then close the pdf and save as pdf again. But make sure you have a backup copy to check changes against.
     I just know there's a ton more stuff out there that I should learn. I'll talk sweetly to those kind people who've been teaching me and the next journal will be even better than this one. And this one's wonderful... coming soon to an Amazon page near you!

    Meanwhile, I've been editing Tails of Mystery for Linkville Press and Divide by Zero for Second Wind Publishing. Both are due to come out soon, to another bright Amazon page. And I've been reading. So here are some book reviews. Choose your story, and choose your coffee brew!

    With the fast-approaching Christmas and Hanukkah season approaching, The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin, by Martha Seif Simpson, seems like a good place to start. It's a gorgeous picture book, hard-cover, with lovely smooth pages. And the story's simple, sweet, and wise. Some things just can't be bought and sold, and small miracles offer delight. I even learned what the Hebrew letters mean and how to play the game! Enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee, and some fruit juice for the children.

    Another neat picture book for children, especially children whose parents like to grow things and cook, is Emma Learns To Sprout, by Shir Guez. I learned how to sprout lentils reading this, and I really enjoyed watching a small girl share the lesson. It's a fun little book, nicely illustrated. Enjoy with some more easy-drinking two-star coffee and get sprouting!

    Monster Realm, by Nara Duffie, is a fantasy aimed at slightly older readers - a fun middle-grade book written, amazingly, by a middle-grade student! I didn't remember the author's age as I read. I simply enjoyed a fast-flowing story, well written for girls. So grab yourself a lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee and enjoy it too.

    Fate: New Avalon #2, by Andrea Buginsky, is aimed at a similar group of readers - girls, who are just beginning to be interested in boys (and in fantasy worlds). Fate brings its teen protagonist face to face with the dangers and joys of her destiny as the next Lady of the Lake. She's falling in love. Her friend is falling into despair. And empathy is a lesson well-taught and well-learned. Enjoy with a (small) well-balanced, smooth three-star coffee, and look out for more episodes to come in the series.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    When dreams are stolen

    What do you do when dreams are stolen, when trusted friends and family betray, and when all you'd planned, that future drawn out and understood, seems to vanish in the wind?

    These are questions most of us end up asking, sometime. And one of the joys of fiction is its ability to ask the questions for us, in a world that's not quite ours, of people who really aren't us; to entertain us while we ponder; to enthrall us with someone else's trials while giving us strength to face our own.

    If the fiction does it well, it becomes a great book, one to read and reread, and one to remember as our own dreams take flight. If it does it well, it might even make us believe in greater dreams than those stolen from us. But first we have to believe in the characters, and earlier volumes in Christine Amsden's Cassie Scot mystery series have certainly succeeded in that. Rather like Harry Potter for adults, there's a protagonist, Cassie, who's not quite what she seems; who can't fit in with everyone else (though in her world, the everyone are magical and she's not); and who longs to do something good and useful with her life anyway. She also longs for love, but which of those places where she's found it will offer fulfillment for her and her dreams? You'll have to read Stolen Dreams to see.

    My review:

    Stolen Dreams is the final installment in the author’s Cassie Scot, (para) Normal Detective series, and it packs a huge emotional punch into its storyline. Book three made Cassie’s small world global, dragging small-town magic and mystery into a nation-wide plot to change the magical world. But now, in book four, Cassie’s running home to friends and family, finding no safe place, and fighting the small-stage dangers that will define how the global is seen.

    Can a girl who is different ever learn to fit in? Can a guy who is different ever keep the love of his small-town girl? Can a father who is different really protect his child? And can a father who has sinned ever be forgiven?

    Threats abound in this fourth novel. Danger is real. Death is permanent. And no stone is left unturned in finding the killer. There are mysteries behind mysteries here, and all will come to logical resolutions. It’s a complex tale, best understood by readers already familiar with what came before. But it’s a thoroughly enthralling and rewarding novel, with great characters, well-drawn mystery, complex worldview, and nicely convincing plot.

    Disclosure: I received a free ecopy during the author’s blog tour.

    Where to find it:

    Barnes and Noble

    Where to find the other books:

    Where to find the author:
    And where to win:

    Rafflecopter Giveaway ($100 Amazon Gift Card) a Rafflecopter giveaway

    And don't forget to check out yesterday's post to find a wonderful deleted scene! 


    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Where Normal meets Para in Stolen Dreams

    Today I'm delighted to welcome author Christine Amsden back to my blog with the final story in her much-loved Cassie Scot, Paranormal detective series. I've really enjoyed following these stories of a girl with unclear powers in a small town where power is so nearly normal that normals and paras form rigid groupings eager to take offense. In a real world where being different is always a risk, these exciting romantic suspense tales offer readers a timely touch of depth and consequence, raising them well above the "normal."

    As I've enjoyed the books, I've found myself wishing I knew more about how Evan and Cassie related to each other back when they were kids, back when Evan was protecting the unexpectly magic-less girl born of a family filled with power. And today, Christine has offered me just what I wanted! Read on and enjoy!
    Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)

    Stolen Dreams Deleted Scene

    There are a lot of “deleted scenes” in Stolen Dreams since I did a ground-up rewrite of the novel after completing a rough draft. Most of them will never see the light of day, since I took a ninety-degree wrong turn in that original draft, but when Sheila asked for a bonus scene depicting Evan and Cassie as children, I recalled that I had already written one in that first draft. It is, as rough drafts are want to be, a bit rough around the edges, but I thought I'd offer it to you in its original format for the sake of nostalgia. :)

                Evan is not possessed of natural self confidence, or at least, if he had any at birth, the fact that his parents didn't let him spend time around other people until first grade eroded it down to nothing. I'm not sure why they didn't bind his powers except, perhaps, that he was too strong for them and they were too proud or secretive to ask for help. From things I learned later, I'm guessing the latter, because my parents weren't even sure that my magic had gone, let alone where it went, until I was five or six, and Victor Blackwood wasn't inclined to tell them.
                When we first met, I had enough self confidence for both of us, although time and circumstance eroded it somewhat. He didn't make a great first impression on either the teacher or the class (though since our first grade teacher was one of those anti-magic types, he'd had little hope of getting on her good side), so I took him in hand.
                What drew me to him, I can't say, except that I've always been drawn to vulnerable people and whatever he became later, on that first day he was vulnerable. We also had something in common, having both been singled out by the teacher for the crime of having the wrong last names, but that didn't explain why I let my guard down enough to tell him what, at that time, very few knew – I had no magic of my own.
                At recess that first day, Evan tried to join a game of four-square.
                “No warlocks,” one of the boys told him.
                “Why?” I asked, stepping away from the sidelines where I'd been watching with two other girls. “Are you afraid he'll use magic to beat you?”
                “No, he's not allowed to use magic at school.” The boy laughed at his own joke, and several others joined in.
                “Well, then, why are you afraid?” I asked.
                He stopped laughing and glared at Evan. “Can you even play?”
                “No,” Evan admitted, “but I've been watching. I think I can.”
                “See? He can't even play.” The boys turned back to their game and Evan began to move away.
                “Chicken,” I said.
                The ringleader stopped to glare at me, so I emphasized the insult by making bawking and clucking sounds.
                “You have to start at the end of the line,” the boy said to Evan, then he did his best to pretend he wasn't worried.
                Evan didn't seem to notice the way the atmosphere of the game shifted when he joined, especially when he rotated his way into the first square. I honestly wasn't sure if performing well or badly would serve him best, but almost as if he heard my silent urging, he split the difference – moving up two squares before getting knocked back to the end of the line.
                I let out a faint sigh of relief and started to turn away from the game, but as Evan made his way to the back of the line, someone held out a foot to trip him. Evan went sprawling to the pavement and, as children with strong gifts are prone to do when startled or hurt, he knocked down everyone within twenty feet, including me.
                Our teacher, Mrs. Chase, rushed over and did everything in her power to make the situation worse. “Evan Blackwood! Cassie Scot! Principal's office – now.”
                “It wasn't Cassie,” one of my friends said. “It was him.”
                “How do you know?” Mrs. Chase asked.
                “Yeah,” I said, “how do you know?”
                My friend looked doubtful, and possibly a little hurt since she, too, had been thrown to the ground.
                “Sorry,” I added to my friend, “I got you by accident.” She looked slightly mollified as I turned to the boys. “That's what you get for hurting my friend.”
                “Principal's office! Both of you – move!”

    Very cool! Thank you so much Christine. And now, for readers, here's some more information about the book, the author, and where to find them both.

    About Stolen Dreams:

    Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

    When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

    But things may not be precisely as they appear.

    Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? 

     Where to Buy Stolen Dreams:

    About the Series:

    Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

    Where the find the books:

    About the Author:

    Christine AmsdenChristine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

    At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

    In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

    Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

    Social Media Links:

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