Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Author Interview – Keira Michelle Telford

What makes you happiest? A guinea pig purring.
Why do you write? Because the voices tell me to.
Have you always enjoyed writing? It’s the one constant in my life. It’s like therapy, only cheaper. And my ‘therapist’ alternates from being a monster-fighting badass to a sexy whorehouse Madam.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you? Prolific writer and eccentric recluse, Keira Michelle Telford, dies alone in her New York City apartment, surrounded by guinea pigs.
Do you find it hard to share your work? Sometimes. It depends how personal it is to me. I had difficulty with The Magistrate, because I developed such a close bond with the character Emmeline ‘Lina’ MacKinsey. I felt like she belonged to me, and I didn’t want the rest of the world to have her. But then I realized that she was never really mine to begin with: she’s always belonged to Carmen Wild, the protagonist of The Magistrate.
Do you plan to publish more books? Hells yeah! I’m currently working on the second book in the Prisonworld Trilogy, The Procuress, and the next book in the SILVER Series, Lex Talionis (which is also book one of the Outlier Trilogy, as the final 3 SILVER books not only go hand-in-hand with the prior 7 books, but also standalone).
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk? All of the above. I do most of my writing at a laptop, but take notepads with me everywhere, so if the laptop’s not available I’ll write by hand. I also write in bed, on my iPhone.
How much sleep do you need to be your best? I’m nocturnal. I go to bed usually between 4 and 6am, and wake at around noon or 1pm. If I manage to get 7hrs of sleep between those times, then I’m a very happy bunny. Unfortunately, I’m lucky if I can get 5hrs most days. Between waking up to lawnmowers and other daytime noises filtering in through the open window (hazard of being nocturnal, I guess) and having to quickly type out notes on my iPhone before I doze back off and forget them, I quite often spend more time staring at the pillow than I do actually sleeping.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it? The Magistrate is about two women who fall in love in a world where being gay is outlawed. I’ve always said that my books (the Prisonworld Trilogy and the SILVER Series) are about enduring love: deep love that can’t be crushed by anything, be that distance, forced separation, law, or even (in some cases) death. Love is the greatest power on Earth, and no matter how hideous the environment you live in, love will always remain pure and uncompromising.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax? Writing is relaxing to me. If I don’t write every day, I get tense and irritable. But I guess, when I take a break from the keyboard for a few minutes, the other thing I like to do to relax is to cuddle a guinea pig. (And no, that’s not a euphemism!).
The Magistrate
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Genre - Lesbian Romance/ Dystopian/ Neo-Victorian
Rating – R (18+)
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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Author Interview – Vicky Savage

Do you have any advice for writers? My advice for new writers is: Just get it down on paper, from start to finish, whether poem, story, novel, whatever. Don’t worry about how ugly it is. You can always fix it later. My advice for indie authors, in particular: Don’t publish your book until it’s been professionally edited. Good editing is critical to your success.
Do you have time to read? Stephen King once said: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write.” I didn’t really understand that quote until I started writing. I believe it’s vital to read often, first to keep up with the latest in your genre, second to be reminded what good writing vs. bad writing really is, and third because it’s relaxing!
Do you find it hard to share your work? I never share my first draft with anyone. I mean NEVER. My first drafts are total crap. Once I’ve done my rewrites and polished the MS a bit, I share it with my alpha readers, so I still have time for adjustments. Then my sister reads it again. I trust her the most. After it’s been edited and deemed ready for publication, I share with everyone. I’m always passing out books to anyone who even feigns an interest in my work.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear? I love this quote from Robert Hughes: “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” I wrote a whole blog post on how self-doubt is like a common cold—you can’t cure it, but there are ways to soothe it, and eventually it goes away by itself. When I’m ready to throw my whole manuscript on the trash heap and light it on fire, the first thing I do is call my fantastic sister. She always talks me down off the ledge. The second thing I do is take a break from work and read some really good writing for inspiration. If that doesn’t work, I do some editing on what I’ve already written so I feel better about it. The thing is, the doubt always passes, and when I go back and re-read my writing with fresh eyes, it’s never as bad as I thought it was.
 Why do you write? It’s a bit of a long circuitous story. It boils down to this: I’ve had a number of fascinating careers in my life, but writing is what I love to do most. I’m happiest when I have lots of uninterrupted time to write. The only thing that makes me sad is the knowledge that I can’t possibly live long enough to write down all the stories that are inside me.
What other jobs have you had in your life? My first job was in a bank opening new accounts. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed a college degree, or I would be underpaid and underappreciated for the rest of my life. So I joined the laborers union and worked as a flagwoman on a construction crew to put myself through college. As graduation drew near, it became clear that a B.A. in Sociology was not going to get me much farther than the bank situation, so I went straight from college to law school. I started out as a trial lawyer, moved into corporate law, and ended up as General Counsel for a healthcare company. It wasn’t until after my second child was in middle school that I began focusing on my writing.
Do you have a specific writing routine? Yes. My ideal schedule is: wake around 6:30 am, drink coffee and watch Good Morning America, workout for an hour, meditate for 30 minutes, spend two hours on social media and marketing, then write for the rest of the day. But I always try to keep my schedule loose. In the past, when little family emergencies would crop up, or when a friend just needed to talk, I was resentful for the time it took away from writing. Now I’m much more relaxed. I’m able to go with the flow because I’ve learned that it will all get done eventually.
What marketing works for you? As an indie author it’s important to find ways to market where I get the most bang for the buck. I’ve achieved the greatest results by combining two things: KDP Select free promotions, which I advertise on sites with large numbers of subscribers (like Bookbub or Ereader News Today); and blogger interviews, guest posts, or reviews in conjunction with a giveaway on blogs with large numbers of followers. I frankly don’t know if I’ve ever sold a book through Twitter or Facebook, but I participate in all kinds of social media to get my name out there and build my author platform. While book signings are fun, they typically don’t give me enough exposure to readers in my genre.
Transcender First-Timer
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Genre - Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal/YA
Rating – PG13
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Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior by Multiple Authors

Change Finds You
by Cara Michaels
“The date of record is October thirtieth, two-thousand-twelve. This is Special Agent Everett Benjamin.”
The voice drew my attention from the digital voice recorder resting on the table. The red recording light assured everyone observing that my words would be captured for all time, with “all time” defined as “until the Gemini Group buried the story”. At best, anything I said today would end up in a heavily redacted report buried in some government archive. Hadn’t stopped me from trying to get the word out, though. No, the FBI could take credit there. Getting nabbed at a convenience store just proved I’d never been intended for the undercover life. I’d only lasted two months on the official run.
“For the record, please state your name.” The special agent sitting across from me held an air of comfortable superiority. As homegrown investigative organizations rated, he still believed his FBI sat at the top of the food chain.
How sweet.
“Dr. Savannah Welborn.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” For a tough FBI guy, he had a nice voice. Kind of deep, kind of mellow.
The pen held between his index and middle fingers drummed an uneven, impatient beat. The air conditioning kicked on, a background hum of recycled air smelling faintly of paper and dust. Like the room needed to be colder. What brainless desk jockey thought hypothermia contributed to productivity? The beds of my fingernails had turned blue some fifteen minutes of waiting ago. My body had already forgotten how it felt to be warm. Inside, outside, and everywhere in between. I ground my teeth to hold in a shiver.
“Not a problem, Agent Benjamin,” I said. I even flashed my gritted teeth as I smiled. Just call me Doctor Cooperative.
His gaze slid over my Celldweller concert tee. Beneath the table, worn blue jeans allowed refrigerated air to sneak in at the torn knees. Like I needed his visual disdain to tell me I was way underdressed for a federal interrogation. They didn’t do anything without a tie or stockings.
At least my feet stayed warm in socks and sneakers.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t get apprehended in my Sunday best. I’ll try harder next time.”
His lips pinched, biting down on whatever he wanted to say and emphasizing his stern features. Add a sense of humor and strip away the premature aging of his job, and I put him in his early thirties, maybe. Salt dashed his black pepper hair, the cut military short.
“You understand why you’re here, yes?” he asked.
“I can play stupid if you’d prefer to explain it for the viewers at home.” I gestured to the large mirror dominating the end of the room on my left.
Benjamin clenched his teeth, let out a slow breath.
“You’ve been charged with obstruction of an ongoing investigation, as well as aiding and abetting the vigilante organization known as the Paladins.”
He made a good show of flipping through a manila folder stuffed with evidence. Of my so-called crimes, no doubt. My actions over the last several years tied me to the Paladins and — if one knew where to look — to the Gemini Group who had unintentionally created them. I’d built the Gemini Group, created the experiments, written the procedures. I’d documented its transition into a monster as the sons and daughters of my trial groups grew and revealed the changes in their genetic codes.
The cells made to save their parents had resulted in unexpected, even terrifying mutations. A woman with Ehler Danlos Syndrome gave birth to a daughter who could dislocate and reshape her bones and body at will. A man with early-onset Alzheimer’s fathered a child with eidetic memory. A treatment for severe hypothermia resulted in a son with extreme cold tolerance, who could manipulate the temperature around him, and even generate ice from the water in the air.
In short, my efforts to cure disease created superhumans.
But Karen Gemini, the reason any of my work had been possible, accused me of using her to play God.
She had it right, maybe. At least in the beginning.
Like a proud parent, I’d been thrilled by these gifted children. But like regular humans, they came in all shades of good, bad, and indifferent. Some made an effort to use their unique abilities to help the world around them. The public had taken to calling them the Paladins, and it suited them. Honorable, fierce, and steadfast in the face of a world turning on them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Karen Gemini gathered the blackest souls to her bosom, a nightmare brood poised to unleash hell on earth.
The FBI and Agent Benjamin might not yet realize it, but the Paladins stood in the way of gathering darkness. And as the woman whose research had started all of this, I stood to shield the Paladins.
If Benjamin meant to intimidate me, he needed a new strategy.
Go ahead, Agent Benjamin. Take me down. This is so much bigger than you know.
“Dr. Welborn?” Benjamin’s gaze, his eyes an eerie amber-orange, fixed on me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you want me to deny the allegations? For dramatic effect?”
He turned away, but not before I saw him grimace. Aw, did my attitude hurt his career advancement opportunities? Tough shit.
He needed to toughen up his poker face for this job.
I’d stepped into sharky waters with open eyes. I’d known the risks of siding with the Paladins. Of siding against Gemini.
I smiled.
He rolled his eyes, tension visible along his jaw. “Belligerent charm. Does that work for you often?”
“What do you want from me here, Agent?”
“Names. Aliases. Addresses. We want the Paladin operation.”
I laughed. Not a polite titter, but a snort of disbelief. “Sorry to say, but you’re doomed to disappointment.”
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Genre - Short Story Anthology
Rating – PG13 (some strong language)
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Monday, 29 July 2013

Kain (Elyon's World #1) by Brie McGill


Counting days is irrelevant in the life of a well-to-do man, unless he counts the days passed in total service to the Empire. Salute. Submit. Shut up and scan the wrist. Therapists armed with batons and brass knuckles guide the derelict along a well-beaten path to Glory.

When human experiment Lukian Valentin escapes the Empire to save his crumbling sanity--through a grimescape of fissured highways, collapsing factories, putrescent sewers--he realizes the fight isn’t only for his life, it’s for his mind. Torturous flashbacks from a murky past spur him on a quest for freedom, while the Empire’s elite retrievers remain at his heels, determined to bring him home for repair.

Lukian needs one doctor to remove the implanted chips from his body, and another to serve him a tall glass of answers. Lukian attempts a psychedelic salvage of his partitioned mind, gleaning fragments of the painful truth about his identity.

A scorching, clothes-ripping rendezvous with a mysterious woman offers Lukian a glimpse of his humanity, and respite from his nightmarish past. It also provides the Empire the perfect weakness to exploit for his recapture.

To rise to the challenge of protecting his new life, his freedom of thought, and his one shot at love, Lukian must reach deep into his mind to find his true identity. To defeat the Empire, he requires the deadly power of his former self--a power that threatens to consume him.

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Genre - Sci-Fi/Steamy Romance
Rating – R (18+)
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How to Make Your Characters Believable by Brie McGill

How to Make Your Characters Believable
by Brie McGill

Reading and writing fiction is a way to explore what isn’t possible in reality--interstellar travel, casting magic spells, or partaking in immortality with a coven of sexy vampires. Paradoxically, the stories that are the most engrossing have an uncanny way of convincing the reader that, yes, dinosaurs are real, the hero can travel time, and California sank to the bottom of the sea--whatever happens in the story, it is real.

I struggled to create credible characters while writing my first book, Kain, which involves the escape of a microchipped supersoldier from a dystopian Empire. The Empire engineered its soldiers--and in this case, the hero, Lukian--to be superstrong, superfast killing machines, versed in deadly martial arts.

So, it was awesomely fun to have a book full of superhot, superhuman dudes running around--doubly awesome if any shirts were torn in battle--but how could I relate to this? As an introverted girl with a mediocre home life, boring day job, and some adorable cats, what could I possibly have in common with a supersoldier on the lam?

I came to the conclusion: before my supersoldier hero is a supersoldier, he is first and foremost human. He has shortcomings, he has insecurities, he has a personal neurosis: to be relatable and therefore believable, I had to focus on his humanity first.

The formula, I believe, is the same for any character--every person contains some built-in contradiction, and conflicting psychological drives are what make a person interesting. People are like onions; they have layers.
My secret recipe for conflict and contradiction? Add a liberal dash of handicaps! Imagine the coolest character you possibly can, let him keep his special powers--but then knock him down a peg. Knock him down ten pegs. Give him obstacles, obligations, morals, fears, injuries, physical restraints.

Because Lukian was so physically powerful, I had to disable him in as many ways possible. Physically, his superiors coerce him with pain inflicted by remote-controlled nanomachines. But Lukian’s greatest challenges are psychological--being sold by his parents at a young age to be enrolled in the supersoldier program came at a huge developmental cost. He only knew life in the context of being raised as a machine; he never knew friendship, he never knew love, and when he finally broke free of this environment, he was a bumbling, socially awkward disaster.

As an author, I don’t feel my characters are complete--are believable enough--until I can have a field day poking fun at them. Some of my favorite scenes in the book, the ones I believe add the most depth to his humanity, and illustrate the extent to which Lukian has suffered, are the scenes that dive headfirst into his weakness--in this case, abject social inadequacy. Lukian blunders through immigration, his job, grocery shopping, and romance--and it was those moments that made me fall completely in love with him.
The fact that he is a superstrong, super-ripped MMA fighter who looks amazing without a shirt? It isn’t what makes the story, but it is definitely icing on the cake.

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Genre -  Sci-Fi/Steamy Romance
Rating – R (18+)
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Secret Words (Secret Dreams Book 1) by Miranda P. Charles

"No, no, no!" Jasmine Allen cried softly as she stared at the bold handwritten 'Out of Order' sign stuck to the door of the ladies' bathroom.  Hoping against hope that a prankster put up the notice, she twisted the knob.  Locked.  Damn it!
Had she known that the car trip to Sydney's Royal National Park would take more than two hours, courtesy of the broken-down truck that created a traffic jam on the main highway, she wouldn't have drunk all that lemon and ginger tea for her sore throat before they left her sister's home.
She squinted at the map someone pinned to the door showing the directions to the nearest available ladies' room.  It indicated it was about a five-minute walk away.  But with her bladder close to bursting, she didn't have five minutes.
Well, there's the men's room, she thought desperately.
She walked around the small red brick building that stood amongst gum trees and chirping birds, hidden from the view of the picnic area where her sister Jessa, her fiancé Rob, and their friends were gathered for Rob's birthday.
She tried to listen for sounds from inside the men's restroom but couldn't hear anything.  With fingers crossed that no one was inside, she cautiously placed her hand on the door to push it.
She let out a short yelp as the door was yanked open from the inside.  Her eyes opened wide as they landed on a dark-haired man whose blue eyes stared back at her in horrified surprise.
Jasmine's mind went blank, forgetting for a moment why she was there.  There was no other way to describe the man in front of her.  He was a total hunk.  She gaped at him for a long second, until her body reminded her she needed to go.  Now.
"I think the ladies' room is around the corner to your right," Mr. Hunk said, seemingly recovered from his shock.
"It's out of order," she squeaked as she shoved him out of the way and ran for one of the cubicles.
Secret Words
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Genre - Contemporary Romance
Rating – R
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Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Darkest Lie by Angela Day


             "I bet he escaped from the psych ward," Remi mused, fascinated by Thane's story. "He sounds like one of those savants, people who can do one thing better than anyone else on the planet but lack in their connection to reality."
              They were at his locker in the school hallway during lunch, two days after Thane's mad dash to catch the bus and lightning strike. Remi had been glad to see him and drawn out everything that had happened since he left school on Monday, and he'd just finished telling her about Brennan Tayler. "Here's your backpack, Flash," Remi said, smacking him in the chest with it. Thane gave her a quizzical look, and she colored. "He's a comic book guy. Wears all red, runs so fast he's hard to see."  Thane kept looking at her until she punched his arm. "Cool people like comic books."
              "Sure," Thane said, smiling a little. It felt good to be doing something normal after the last few days. He stretched the fingers of his right hand, thinking about the hospital and Brennan again.
              Remi noticed. "Let me see it?" Thane held out his previously injured knuckles for her and she stared at them like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "There's nothing here. No bruising, no swelling, nothing. Are you sure you even hurt it?"
              "Yeah," Thane answered. "It was broken. He fixed it."
              "I wonder why," Remi mused, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers.  Thane stiffened, unsure, but Remi was too deep in her thoughts to notice. She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb, trying to feel for any inconsistency. Thane felt his face going red and was about to pull away when something inside his hand moved.
              Remi froze-- she'd felt it too. Their eyes met over his hand. "What is that?" she asked him. He shrugged, pulling his hand out of hers to look at it himself. He pushed his finger down in the space between his second and third knuckles, and felt that same something hard roll away. It was so small he never would have noticed it on his own. He pulled his hand up to his eyes, and Remi stood on tiptoe to get a closer look. They both leaned in, trying to see any evidence of what they were feeling under Thane's skin.
              The bell rang, startling them both. Thane and Remi realized their faces were only inches apart, and sprang back. Snickers around them in the hallway let them know their display had not gone unnoticed.
              "New girlfriend, Thane?" Ben called from a few lockers down.
              "You could do better, new girl," Jeran said, flexing his muscles. "I could show you a lot more than that weak loser." Thane's face colored, but Jeran walked off laughing with his buddies. Jeran was an entitled prick, the star of the second worst football team in the state. He wasn't smart enough to be the quarterback but as a wide receiver, you only had to get the ball somewhere near him and he would catch it. Tall and muscular, girls flocked around him and grownups loved to talk to him. Thane wanted to punch him hard enough to make it impossible for him to smirk for at least a week.
              "Don't worry about those idiots," Remi started, but Thane spun around and left her behind. From the moment Mr. Hoffman introduced them, Thane had failed at his one cardinal rule. When he was with Remi everybody saw him.
              Thane was one of the first into the room. Ms. Rasmussen didn't look up as he entered, engrossed in some magazine. He managed to slide onto his stool in the back row without exciting note or comment from anyone. He took out his notebook and pretended to read it as the rest of the class arrived in twos and threes.
              Remi's voice, laughing and chatting, stabbed his ear and he couldn't help glancing up. She was walking in with Jeran, smiling at him and shaking her head so that her dark hair bounced. As they came in, Ms. Rasmussen's attention was diverted by Remi's giggle and she smugly observed them. "Know your way around now, sweetie?" she asked Remi in a satisfied voice. Remi gave her a half smile, but did not respond. Jeran flashed Ms. Rasmussen a grin calculated to charm, then turned to Thane and transformed it into a self-satisfied smirk.
              "Thanks, Jeran," Remi said, and walked back to sit with Thane. Jeran's face darkened as she walked away.
              "I found your girlfriend lost in the hall," Jeran swaggered down the aisle towards him, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I told her you were unstable." Thane was clenching his teeth, jaw taunt, and Jeran bent down in his face. "It's okay, loser. If your dad doesn't wake up, I'll take care of your hot mom, too."
              Music blossomed in Thane's mind as his fist connected with Jeran's jaw. There was a crunch and a sizzle and the smell of burnt flesh as Jeran fell backwards and the second bell rang. Jeran landed on the floor, as surprised by the sucker punch as Thane was. Jeran sprang back up, blood in his mouth and rage in his eyes and oddly, a bright burn on his jaw. He moved at Thane.
              "That is enough, Jeran!" Ms. Rasmussen snapped. Jeran hesitated, and then lunged for Thane. Ms. Rasmussen grabbed Jeran's shoulder and spun him around, her eyes flashing and her breath quick. "Get out of my class."
              "What?" Jeran was stunned. "But Cressa--"
              "You will call me Ms. Rasmussen. Go to the nurse's office, then the principal's.  Now." Her voice had gotten softer, colder, and somehow so dark that Thane repressed a chill.
              Jeran crumbled. He fled from the room, the door banging as he ran through it. Ms. Rasmussen came to stand in front of Thane and rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. "Aren't you a hero for defending your mother's honor like that!" She was sweet, but her green eyes glowed with something Thane didn't recognize. Greed? Insanity? She tugged at his arm a little, and he stood up. "Why don't you come up here and take Jeran's seat? He won't be needing it."
              Thane obediently gathered his things and went with her to the front. Remi followed him. Ms. Rasmussen seemed delighted. She even clapped her hands to get the attention of the class, which was completely unnecessary as every eye was already on her.
              "Change of plans today, everyone! We're going to be doing hands-on experiments instead of a quiz." Her announcement brightened the feeling in the room considerably. "Put away your books and keep out your notepads. You'll need to take good notes. Every team will need a Bunsen burner, a holding tray, one five hundred milliliter beaker, one hundred milliliter beaker, safety glasses for each of you, a thermometer, and a pair of tongs. We're going to talk about thermodynamics!" She seemed gleeful, as manic as Thane had ever seen her.
              Thane got up and gathered the implements since Remi wouldn't know where they were. He felt awful for ditching her in the hall. Carefully holding as many of the implements as he could in his arms, he set them down gently on the table in front of Remi and spread them out.
              "I stole his playbook," Remi whispered. Thane attached the Bunsen burner to the short tube that rose out of the center of their rectangular table. "I thought we could do some creative play changing."
              A rush of gratitude warmed Thane. Having a friend had perks. Ms. Rasmussen continued to give instructions.  "...and be sure, girls, to keep your hair away from the flames. I'll be around to make sure that the gas lines are connected. Place the holding tray about six inches above the flame and fill the larger beaker with water from the sink..." Remi grabbed the larger beaker and followed the line of students back to the sink. Soon all the students had their beaker of water in place on the holding tray and were turning the burners on, seeing the waving yellow and orange flame tighten into a straight blue and purple one. "Open the air hole to only about half, we don't want it fully on. We're just heating water."
              The lean, tall woman walked around the classroom checking each burner to ensure that the gas lines were attached correctly and the flames were high and hot enough. She came to Thane and Remi, bending to peer closely at their set up. "I think you need to lower your holding tray slightly," she instructed, and Thane made the adjustment. The corner of Ms. Rasmussen's mouth twitched, and then she moved on.
              Her foot slipped, the thin heel shooting into the air, and she flailed her arms. With one hand she grabbed the side of a table, and the other grabbed Thane's left arm, pulling his wrist directly across the open flame.
              "Argh!" Thane grunted, jerking his hand back. There was a shiny red mark along the underside of his wrist as wide as two fingers. He stared at it as his teacher regained her balance and turned to him.
              "Oh, Thane, I'm so sorry," she gushed. "Someone spilled some water on the floor and I slipped! Let me see it," and she jerked his arm towards her. Her green eyes studied the red welt for a slow heartbeat, and she appeared... pleased. But only for a moment. Her face was full of concern and contrition when she looked back at him. "It's not badly burned. Run cold water over it. As for the rest of you," she whirled to face the class, her beautiful features twisted in fierce and dangerous anger, "be more careful. This could have been a serious accident. If you spill any liquid, clean it up immediately. I could've broken my ankle and poor Thane," she looked down at him and her tone quieted, "poor Thane could have lost his hand. Well," she said, her voice returning to normal, "back to work, everyone."
              As the flames burned and the students adjusted their safety glasses, Ms. Rasmussen pulled a box off the shelf behind her desk. It was dusty, and she smiled and held it for a moment. Then she wiped it off and placed it on her desk. "In this box I have several pieces of Field's Metal. Has anyone ever heard of it?" She paused, but no hands went up. "It is a most impressive alloy. It's a non-toxic mixture of bismuth, tin, and indium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures, even though the metals they are mixed from require much higher temperatures to melt in their pure form. These low melting point metals are called fusible alloys."
              Several of the students were scribbling furiously, as Ms. Rasmussen was not writing on the board. Instead, her hands were resting on either side of the open box as she was intently watching the beaker and the flame in front of Remi and Thane. Remi was one of the desperate note takers-- Thane couldn't take his eyes away from the chemistry teacher, like a bird staring at a snake. His heart pounded against his chest and his palms felt sweaty. Something was wrong.
              She reached her hand into the box and drew out what looked to be a silver straw. "Each of you will be given one of these Field's Metal wires. Place your thermometers into the water and the metal wire into your smaller empty beaker. Using the tongs, hold the smaller beaker partially submerged in the boiling water. Record at what temperature, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the metal begins to melt. I will pass out molds to each team for you to pour your liquid metal into, and you will time how long it takes the metal to re-harden."
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Genre – New Adult Urban Fantasy
Rating – PG
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A Day in the Life of Peter Cunningham

A Day in the Life of Peter Cunningham 
I like my days carefully planned. I remember as a child making a list before I went to bed of the things I would do the next day, like pick the laden  gooseberry bushes in my mother’s garden and sell them to a greengrocer down the town. I wasn’t given pocket-money, but my parents approved of entrepreneurship and the gooseberry trade came under this heading. My mother played golf for Ireland. I borrowed her golf gloves to avoid getting scratched during the picking.
For five years in a boarding school run by Benedictine monks in a rambling castle in the remote hills of County Limerick we were awoken each morning at seven-ten in order to be at Mass by seven-thirty. Ever since, I have never managed to sleep late. In fact, other than when I’m sleeping or making love, I try to avoid bed. Breakfast in bed annoys me; too many crumbs. The Ancient Romans ate sprawled on settees or lying face down and look what happened to them.
The first person I meet when I come downstairs at six-thirty is Charlie, our terrier. I say person because that’s what he thinks he is. I let him out and put the kettle on. Lucy the cat then goes out—she and Charlie sleep together. It’s a Platonic relationship. I pour boiling water into a mug into which I’ve already squeezed a good lemon chunk. Then I go into my desk and turn on my pc.
At this point, I want to do almost anything but write. Email, Facebook, the Internet are all there masquerading as work-related tasks; to get stuck into any one of them will tie me up for over an hour. I generally succeed in resisting such diversions and get stuck into the novel.
The day before I’ve left myself a little portion of unfinished writing to make it easier for me to resume, like a little slice of cake left as a reward for a diligent student who shows up on time. But once I’m in—and I mean, within a few minutes—my sense of time vanishes. I love this part of writing, the total immersion, the absolute engagement with the text and the story.
Suddenly it’s 8.15. I stop at this point and make my way back upstairs and begin my work-out. This takes between ten and twenty minutes, depending on my level of commitment. I take a bath or shower and try to be downstairs for breakfast no later than nine o’clock.
Since I lead such a solitary existence, whether or not I have breakfast at 9.00 or 11.30 will affect no one. But it affects me. Without my routine, I flounder.
Charlie and I take a stroll outside after breakfast, then I’m back at my desk around 9.30.  Carol, my wife, a Jungian analyst, has her own career and interests; but we’re up to date with one another’s schedules.
I’m finished writing by 11.30. Six or seven hundred words of passable quality please me. I’ve advanced. It may not seem much, but even five hundred words a day amounts over a year to a lot of words. This is the coal face of writing.
Most days, Carol, Charlie and I go for a long, brisk walk together. This part of Kildare has lovely wooded ways and we make the best of them. I have a light lunch at 12.30, usually followed by a fifteen minutes nap. On many afternoons I get a call from a newspaper or a magazine for a piece of writing, or a call from my editor, or from someone involved in the books industry. Ebooks have added an entirely new layer of business activity to publishing. Ebook publishing has given writers a whole new way of life.
Sometimes I have a meeting, which usually means going to Dublin. Or I’m doing a reading somewhere, or going to a book festival, or promoting my books in places like the US, France or England.
Carol and I meet for a drink around six and have our supper together. Afterwards, we read—we both have Kindles—or play Scrabble or watch TV. We often talk to the kids by Skype. We’ve become big into box sets and spent most of last winter watching Mad Men. Sometime between 10.00 and 10.30, it’s time for bed. Charlie and Lucy go first. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom. I try to read a little every night, but when I turn out the light, I’m asleep in two minutes.
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Genre –  Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Rating – G
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The Sea and the Silence by Peter Cunningham

A book for your head and your heart. Winner of the Prix de l’Europe 2013.
A powerful novel from one of Ireland’s best writers on the turbulent birth of a nation, and the lovers it divides
Ireland 1945. Young and beautiful, Iz begins a life on the south-east coast with her new husband. As she settles in to try and make her life by the ever restless sea, circumstances that have brought Iz to the town of Monument are shrouded in mystery. However, history, like the sea cannot stay silent for long. The war in Europe is over, and change is about to brush away the old order. Soaring across the decades that follow Ireland’s newly won independence, sweeping across the fierce class issues and battles over land ownership that once defined Irish society, The Sea and the Silence is an epic love story set inside the fading grandeur of the Anglo-Irish class.
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Genre - Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Rating – G
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Author Interview – Colleen Connally

Tell us about your family. I am the daughter of a high school basketball coach and a teacher.  I am one of four children, but I’m the only one that left our home, a small community in northeast Mississippi. I moved up North when I married my husband, whose a native New Englander. We now live in a coastal town on the South Shore outside of Boston. My three children are older now. We have two dogs, a cat and goldfish. I enjoy sports, watching movies, reading a good book, going for long walks and spending time with my family.
Why do you write? I never thought why I write. It is always something I wanted to do. I didn’t start writing until my children were older, but once I started it has become an obsession of sorts. I have all these stories running rampant in my head. My husband calls my office a cave, which may give you an idea of how much time I spend at my craft. Mainly, I write because I love the challenge of creating.
Have you always enjoyed writing? I have always enjoyed writing. When I’m into a book, there is nothing more satisfying than the whole process of creating. I wish that was all I had to do was write. In today’s publishing world, I have to come out of my cave. One needs to promote and network which can be time consuming and pulls me away from writing. I enjoy networking, but it’s the only part of writing that I find frustrating at times. There are not enough hours in the day for everything I want to do.
What’s your greatest character trait? I believe my greatest character trait would be my stubbornness. I never accept anything at face value. If I believe in something, I never let go. Every rejection letter I have received on a manuscript served only as motivation to do better. I learned from each rejection and never gave up on my dream to be published.
 What’s your weakest character trait? I’m overly sensitive. In this business, you can’t be sensitive. Not everyone is going to like your book. You need to be able to accept criticism. It’s hard, especially when you give so much of yourself into your book. On the up side of the criticism, you always have to be open to suggestions. It will only make you a better writer.
What motivates you to write?  Life. Life experiences affect my writing. I’m also a history buff. I get inspired by others’ lives. With Broken Legacy, I drew from an inspirational woman, Irena Sendler. I write about strong women. Irena Sendler saved thousands of lives during WWII. Even though Broken Legacy is set during the French Revolution, I drew from Ms Sendler’s courage and strength to create Eloise.
What writing are you most proud of? This is a hard question to answer. I love all my books for different reasons. But if I have to pin-point one book at this moment in time, it would be Seductive Secrets. I feel the story is original and heartfelt. Seductive Secrets is a free ebook and the response has been amazing. Seductive Secrets has given me confidence in my writing.
 What books did you grow up loving? One of my favorites was To Kill a Mockingbird. It still is. I also loved all the classics, including Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. When I was younger, my favorite was The Hardy Boy Mysteries and Nancy Drew.
Broken Legacy
Buy Now @ Amazon @Smashwords
Genre - Historical Romance
Rating – R
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Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Survivors by Daniel Harvell

The Survivors
When seven strangers impossibly survive a horrific airplane crash, they find themselves changed in remarkable ways. The survivors are endowed with powers that defy explanation. Some are blessed. Some are cursed.
Going their separate ways, they adapt their extraordinary “gifts” to their ordinary lives. The results, however, aren’t always pretty — particularly when one of them engages in a killing spree. With little more to go on than the psychic link that they all share, the survivors seek out one another to uncover the murderer and bring him or her to justice.
The fireman, the grandmother, the psychiatric patient, the basketball player, the mute girl, the rich blonde, and the man in the wheelchair — they all have secrets worth hiding. They can’t trust each other. They can’t even trust themselves.
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG
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Nadine Ducca – Improving Your Writing Skills

Improving Your Writing Skills
by Nadine Ducca
If I knew then what I know now…
Back when I was a teen, fiction writing meant mixing some words together and finito, another completed scene! Writing meant giving my imagination a free pass and seeing where it would take me (the result usually ended up drenched in purple prose). I thought that my writing would improve if I simply practiced more. I guess my logic was on the right track, but something was missing. How can you improve by yourself if you don’t have anyone to guide you? Constant practice is essential in becoming a successful author, but it’s not the only thing you should rely on. After a couple years of serious writing, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are four basic pieces of advice every aspiring author should know:
1) Read everything: Good books, bad books. If you can discern between good and bad literature, great! Don’t plagiarize other authors, but pay attention to how they show a scene, how they express the story on the page. See where and how they end their chapters. What moves you? Why? Go back and revise the scene and find the parts that especially caught your attention. What about the dialogue? And the nuances hidden in the action?
2) Study: We use textbooks when studying languages, chemistry and mathematics, so why not use textbooks to study how to write? Why not sign up for a course? If you are an aspiring author but have trouble finding where to start, enrolling in a writing course can help boost your confidence and keep you motivated—as well as guide you in the right direction! An added bonus of taking a course is that you might meet other people who share your passion, and there’s nothing better than that! You can also find oodles (don’t you just love that word?) of writing tips and information on the Internet. There are hundreds of blogs run by authors who do everything they can to help anyone with an itch for writing. The Twitter hashtag #writetip can also help you find links to interesting writing advice. If you would like some recommendations on books for honing your craft, there are several posts on my blog:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
Beginnings, Middles, and Ends
The Emotion Thesaurus
Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint
Starve Better (guest review by Steven Young)
3) Share: Friends and family can feel like either a blessing or a curse. Some will indiscriminately love everything you do, while others will be critical down to the final period. Neither situation will help you grow much as an author. In my opinion, the only people who can offer you real support are those who have no direct relationship with you or the story—but a great desire to help. “Where can I find these glorious people you speak of?” you might ask. Shed your shyness and join a writing group. Critique Circle is a fabulous one (you can find me there). Put your work in front of CC’s critical eye and get ready for a whirlpool of constructive feedback. But beware! You have to be prepared to accept criticism. Not everybody is going to like what you submit, and you have to understand that. However, every critique is done with the best intentions, so don’t immediately disregard a comment because it makes you uncomfortable. If you join a writing group, you also have to be ready to give critiques. I’ve learned as much giving critiques as receiving them, which leads me to my final point.
4) Help others: Don’t keep it all for yourself! Giving back is part of the beauty of sharing your writing. Give critiques, read other authors’ work, and be kind and helpful. You won’t just be helping your peers; you’ll also grow as a writer.You wouldn’t imagine how much you can learn from critiquing other people’s work. It’s usually easier to catch mistakes in someone else’s writing. Let’s face it: you know your own story so well that you actually have greater chances of letting things slip by you. It happens to all of us: we read what we think is there—not what’s really there. By critiquing, you become more aware of possible issues that might appear in your writing. For example, as a critiquer, I’ve encountered submissions where the point of view shifts drastically mid-scene, or where the verb tenses hop back and forth between past and present. Because I’ve seen these issues in other people’s work, and because I’ve pointed them out and offered suggestions to improve them, I’ve become more aware of them, and never let them slip into my own text. The best part of this is that you help out another writer. You forge a relationship; a friendship. And that, folks, is priceless.
What do you think? What else can authors do to improve their writing? I’d love to read your suggestions!
Serving Time
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Genre –  Science Fiction/Fantasy
Rating – Adult
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Orangeberry Book of the Day – The Blackout by Stephanie Erickson

The next morning Molly got up and went to class, prepared to hear the groans from her Modern Poetry class for their late papers.  She usually punished them with half a letter grade for every class they were late, but she wasn’t sure what to do to compensate for her own lateness.  She thought if she could come up with a few options, like having class in the garden one day or letting them pick the next poem to discuss, and let them choose, they’d be happy. 
Her other classes held better prospects.  She was excited because the day brought discussions about Gulliver’s Travels in British Literature, and The Poisonwood Bible in Modern Fiction.  Save for the groaning from Modern Poetry, she expected it to be a pretty good day. 
It happened in the middle of Modern Fiction.  A student had asked what point Kingsolver was trying to make by sacrificing the family’s youngest child. 
“What could possibly be worth killing such an innocent character?” she asked.
“Well, what do you think?  Do you think the father is so taken by his ‘mission’ to ‘save’ the heathens in the Congo that his youngest is a fair sacrifice, as you put it?  What’s one life if it saves a handful of others?”   Molly had just said it to spur the discussion.  She often made extreme statements in class just to stir the pot and get a good discussion going.
She sat cross-legged on top of her desk looking at the rows of students as hands shot into the air.  She smiled and surveyed their faces.  Their expressions ranged from angry to mischievous.  Molly picked one that seemed undecided.  “Mia, what do you think?”
Before she could answer, the lights went out.  It wasn’t really all that dark, because the back wall had several windows on it, and for that she was thankful. 
“Um…OK.  Just a second here, let me poke my head into the hall and see if I can find out what the deal is,” Molly said as she got down off the desk.
The students whispered to each other as she walked to the door.  “Settle down.  I’m sure it’s just a power surge, and it’ll be back on before I can even find out what happened.” 
“My phone doesn’t work.  Does yours?”  A boy in the front row asked his neighbor.
It caught Molly’s attention.  “Is your battery dead?” she asked.
“No.  I left home with a full charge.” 
Other students began retrieving their phones.  The consensus was unanimous.  No one’s phone worked.  Molly took her phone out of her pocket to see, and to her surprise, it displayed nothing but a black screen. 
She frowned and continued on her journey to the door.  “I’ll find out what’s going on.  Just stay calm,” Molly assured them.  They all looked worried.
Teachers were beginning to poke their heads out of their doors, making similar inquiries about the outage.  No one seemed to know what was going on.  Normally, there would be an announcement or some sort of directive about what to do, but they’d never encountered this type of outage before. 
Molly ran to her office to grab her laptop and returned to the classroom.  By then the kids were getting a little panicky, letting their imaginations run away with them. 
“Why would the power and our phones be out?  What could possibly cause something like that?”
“How long do you think it’ll be out?”
“My mom said she thinks the apocalypse is coming.  She said the signs are all there.”
Another student burst out laughing.  “Your mom is crazy.”
Molly interrupted before a fight could break out.  “OK, enough.  The power will probably be back on soon.  The school has an emergency generator that should kick in any minute now.  Just let me get my laptop going, and I’ll see if I can get some information about it.”
“Dr. Bonham, if the power’s out, will you be able to get online?”
By then, Molly had already gotten her computer out and was trying to get it powered up.  “Oh, that’s a good point.  Probably not.” 
Then she noticed nothing was happening with her computer.  She held the power button down, with no response.  She waited a few moments and tried again.  Still nothing. 
“What on Earth…” Molly muttered.
“What’s wrong?” 
“Um…I’m not sure.  I can’t get my computer to come on.” 
“What should we do?  Can we go home?”
“I don’t know about that either.  The stairwells are dark, I don’t want there to be a stampede.  Just give me a minute to think about the options.” 
They weren’t prepared for something like this.  They knew exactly what to do for a tornado, a fire alarm, or an earthquake.  But this was new territory. 
There really was no reason not to continue with class.  The only things they were using were the lights, and it was plenty bright enough to continue the discussion without them.  However, the kids were rattled, and quite frankly so was Molly.  Continuing with the discussion seemed fruitless, but leaving right this second wasn’t a good option either. She didn’t want to put the students in an unsafe situation. 
“Let me run back to the department head’s office and see what he thinks.  You guys wait here until I get back, OK?”  Molly looked at them all, seeing the panic starting to bubble up.  “I mean it,” she said sternly.  She thought giving them a task, even if it was just sitting still, would help occupy their minds.
Molly caught up with Terry Longman in the hallway.  She looked at him and shrugged.  “Now what?” she asked.
His normally disheveled appearance looked a little more unruly in his stress.  His grey hair stood straight out and his tweed coat hung unevenly.  “I have no idea.  I’m telling the kids and teachers to stay put for now.  There are no lights in the stairwells, and I don’t want anyone getting trampled.  Let’s wait twenty minutes or so and see if it comes back.  If it doesn’t, we’ll let the classes go one room at a time to prevent a stampede.  So, since your class is at the far end of the building, they may be here a while.”
“No problem.  Just keep me posted.”
Molly stopped in Cindy’s room, knowing she had a rowdy group this time of day.  They were arguing with her about getting to leave.
“HEY!”  Molly hollered to get their attention.  They were immediately quiet.  “This is a professional environment, not a middle school.  Arguing is not tolerated.  You will stay put until Dr. Longman says you can go.  He’s making his rounds now, and he’s said if power is not restored in another twenty minutes or so, he will let everyone go home.  However, he doesn’t want any misconduct, so he’ll be letting classes go one room at a time.  Just sit tight.”
A unified groan went up.  “Hey, you’re supposed to be in this class right now anyway!  I don’t want to hear your complaints,” Molly said.
“Yeah, well I’m not sitting here any longer than I have to.  Class gets out at three, and I’m out of here at three,” declared an older student, dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt.  It was obvious that his silver chains, piercings, and long hair were meant to intimidate.  Molly was unfazed.
“You’ll do whatever the head of the department says you’ll do.  No questions about it.  This is considered an emergency situation, and for your own safety and the safety of others, you’ll stay put for now.  We’re not keeping you here forever, so just relax.” 
Cindy had that deer-in-headlights look.  Molly turned and put her hand on Cindy’s upper arm.  “Hey, straighten up.  These kids’ll eat you alive if you let them.  Don’t.  Terry said he’ll be letting classes go one at a time if the power’s not back in twenty minutes.  The process shouldn’t take too long, since there’s about ten rooms downstairs and ten up here, so just hold the fort for maybe an hour tops, OK?”
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Genre – Adult Fiction / Contemporary
Rating – PG13 (some strong language)
More details about the author & the book
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