Monday, December 31, 2012

Featured Book: Ten Unusual Features of LuLu McDunn by Kelly Pulley

About the book:

Kelly Pulley is no stranger to the world of children's books, in fact go into any library or bookstore and you are sure to find the talented artists work. Ten Unusual Features of Lulu McDunn is the first book Pulley has both written and illustrated himself. A wonderful story told with vibrant drawings and rhyming verse that will not only make you laugh but warm your heart as it teaches a lesson all children should learn, to celebrate the things that make them unique.

About the author:

Kelly Pulley began his career as a graphic artist for a sportswear company before making the switch to book illustration. You can find Kelly's illustrations in dozens of children's books including the best selling The Beginner's Bible. He makes his writing debut with his picture book Ten Unusual Features of Lulu McDunn. Kelly lives in Middle Tennessee where he enjoys keeping his four kids amused with his wacky stories.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: The World's Weirdest Places by Nick Redfern

Just in time for that most mysterious and macabre of all nights--Halloween, of course--Nick Redfern unleashes The World's Weirdest Places, his latest darkly entertaining supernatural title.

In its mysterious pages, you will find Redfern's personal top 25 paranormal-themed locales, and the strange, amazing, and diabolical things that lurk within them.

From the legendary Loch Ness, Scotland, to the slopes of Mount Shasta, California; from the dark depths of the Solomon Islands to the heart of the Kremlin; and from the magical landscape of Sedona, Arizona, to the turbulent waters of the Devil's Sea of Japan, The World's Weirdest Places reveals the sheer astonishing scale of strangeness that dominates our planet.

Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, vampires, UFOs, lake monsters, strange energies, enigmatic vortexes, werewolves, and terrifying demons are just some of the bizarre things that populate these parts of our planet, which provoke as much fascination and intrigue as they do fear and horror.

Received for review.

As you may know, I definitely count myself among Nick Redfern's fans.  Seriously, this author is the go-to guy for creepy and real life stories.  So, I was quite excited to receive this, his latest book, for review.

This is absolutely perfect reading for the infamous "dark and stormy night".  Really, if you're looking for something to thorough creep you out and make you sleep with the lights on (or stick the book in the freezer a la Joey) this is it because not only are the stories about the locations creepy in and of themselves they have that extra bit of spine tingle because these are all real locations and true stories.  Thankfully the closest location to me is the New York City Subway which I don't need to be worried about frequenting at any point in the near future.  As if it wasn't disturbing enough without knowing about the mysterious creatures that may lurk in their depths!

The author has a lovely conversational tone to his writing which makes for extremely pleasurable reading and his passion for the subject just shines through on every page.  If you've never read his work this would be a lovely introduction.

So, if you're in the market for something deliciously disturbing to read on a cold, dark night, you simply can't go wrong in picking up a copy.  I highly recommend!

★★★★☆ = Really Liked It

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: Oddkins by Dean Koontz

Toymaker Isaac Bodkins created the Oddkins, a group of living toys, for very special children who face difficulties in life and need true friends. There’s Amos, the brave stuffed bear; Skippy, the rabbit who dreams of being a superstar; Butterscotch, the gentle, floppy-eared pup; Burl the elephant; the wise and scholarly Gibbons; and Patch the cat. The Oddkins are given to children to inspire, support, and love them, especially during times of adversity. Only now, the toys themselves are the ones who need help. Before he dies, Mr. Bodkins delivers a dire warning to Amos the bear: Watch out for an evil toymaker and his dangerous creations! Locked up in the dark sub-basement, another group of toys is climbing out of boxes and crates and coming to life as well. These bad toys—like Rex and Lizzie, the puppets with no strings; Gear, the vicious robot; and Stinger, the horrid buzzing bumblebee with his knife-sharp stinger—were made to hurt children, not help them. Leering, laughing, and deadly, they are let loose into the world by a terrifying force. Frightening as it may be, the Oddkins must go on a journey to find Colleen Shannon, Mr. Bodkins’s chosen successor as a life-giving toymaker and the only person who can save them. The stormy night is perilous and the Oddkins face a danger that threatens not only their magic . . . but the magic in us all.

E-galley received for review.

I simply adore Dean Koontz and have read almost all of his books (admittedly I've missed a few of his very oldest ones) and was thrilled to be able to read the re-release of his book Oddkins that I didn't even know existed!

Despite the mild religiosity of the tale (it is a fable after all) this was simply magical.  It truly captured the joy and love that very special toys bring to children, especially in troubled times.  Everyone had that special toy in his or her life when they were a child and this brings a warm glow to your memories of that special toy when you imagine that maybe your toy was one of the special magical ones described in the book.  Needless to say, there were a few tears shed while reading!

The (good) toys were darling, the (good) adults charming, and the bad toys and adults just scary enough without being too disturbing for younger readers (or those of us reading in the dark).

Koontz did his usual fantastic job of weaving together a tale that is truly lovely for readers of any age, child or adult, that I really cannot recommend enough.  If you've never experienced the joy of a Koontz book, this is the book to start with.  It is so very different than most of his books, yet the messages and truly magical joy of reading his books remains the same.  This would make a truly lovely gift for yourself or someone else!

★★★★☆ = Really Liked It

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan & Conrad Walters

When a Chinese monk broke into a hidden cave in 1900, he uncovered one of the world’s great literary secrets: a time capsule from the ancient Silk Road. Inside, scrolls were piled from floor to ceiling, undisturbed for a thousand years. The gem within was the Diamond Sutra of AD 868. This key Buddhist teaching, made 500 years before Gutenberg inked his press, is the world’s oldest printed book.

The Silk Road once linked China with the Mediterranean. It conveyed merchants, pilgrims and ideas. But its cultures and oases were swallowed by shifting sands. Central to the Silk Road’s rediscovery was a man named Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born scholar and archaeologist employed by the British service.

Undaunted by the vast Gobi Desert, Stein crossed thousands of desolate miles with his fox terrier Dash. Stein met the Chinese monk and secured the Diamond Sutra and much more. The scroll’s journey—by camel through arid desert, by boat to London’s curious scholars, by train to evade the bombs of World War II—merges an explorer’s adventures, political intrigue, and continued controversy.

The Diamond Sutra has inspired Jack Kerouac and the Dalai Lama. Its journey has coincided with the growing appeal of Buddhism in the West. As the Gutenberg Age cedes to the Google Age, the survival of the Silk Road’s greatest treasure is testament to the endurance of the written word.

Received for review.

This was my first introduction to the story of the Diamond Sutra and I have to say it was quite the informative and fun journey!

The book was extremely well written with the feel of an Indiana Jones movie in book form.  It perfectly conveyed the adventure and intrigue of the journey and left you wanting to read more at the end of each chapter.  The quotes from the Diamond Sutra sprinkled throughout were enigmatic yet intriguing and only added to the reading experience.

I certainly recommend this to those looking for an intellectual adventure.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Giveaway: The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

In war-torn Paris during the German occupation, a legion of fiercely patriotic men uses their wits and courage to resist the encroaching German army. One of those intrepid heroes happens to be American. The Siren of Paris, the debut work of historical fiction by David LeRoy, tells a searing story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and war that brings to vivid life the shimmering City of Lights during its darkest hours during World War II. It’s 1939, and Marc Tolbert, the French-born son of a prominent American family, has taken off for Paris to follow his dream of becoming an artist. Marc’s life soon sparkles in the ex-pat scene in Paris, befriending the famous Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company; and running across William Bullitt, US ambassador to France. At art school, he finds himself further enchanted by the alluring model Marie. Marc’s Parisian reverie, however, is soon clouded over by the increasing threat from Germany. As Americans scramble to escape Paris, he finds himself trapped by the war, and nearly meets his fate on the disastrous day of June 17, 1940, aboard the RMS Lancastria, only to then face an even more ominous fate at Buchenwald. Rigorously researched and vibrant in historical detail, The Siren of Paris reimagines one of history’s most turbulent times through the prism of an American abroad in Europe’s most harrowing days. Poignant, gripping, and thought-provoking, LeRoy’s work mines the human dilemma of revenge versus forgiveness, and vividly captures the conflicted state of survival.

Thanks to author I have three copies to give away!

US/Canada. No PO boxes.

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Featured Book: All the Seasons of the Year by Deborah Lee Rose

About the book:

In this charming story, a mama cat loves her kitten through all the seasons: in autumn, when they rake leaves into piles; in winter, when they sled down snowy hills; in spring, when they fly kites; and in summer, when they splash together in the water. Parents, grandparents, and all the special people in a child’s life will love sharing this sweet celebration through all the seasons of the year and in years to come.

About the author:

Deborah Lee Rose is the author of the bestselling Twelve Days books. She lives with her family in Walnut Creek, California. Visit her online at

Kay Chorao is an artist, illustrator, and writer of many children’s books, including D Is for Drums. She lives in New York City and Jamesport, Long Island.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review: Psychic Intuition by Nancy du Tertre

Author Nancy du Tertre, "the Skeptical Psychic™," takes you on a journey to find the answer to these questions and more in Psychic Intuition. She became psychic in mid-life after years of intensive study and training, and is now a believer that everyone has the potential to tap into their intuition and understand the world at a deeper level.

Psychic Intuition bridges the gap between skeptics who can analyze but don't experience psychic phenomena, and believers who have the experiences but lack the ability to analyze. This book explains, for the first time, how psychic ability works in the brain.

Received for review.

I'm certainly no stranger to the Hollywood psychic, having read books by John Edward and Sylvia Browne, but this is certainly a new take on it.  The author claims to be a skeptic yet is a psychic intuitive, etc. which seems counterintuitive.  This did not endear me to her in the least.  The lack of endearment continued throughout the book.  So, although I could not understand her perspective or motivations, I soldiered on.

This was certainly comprehensive, as advertised.  It did cover various aspects of psychic ability and how it works in the brain.  Was it particularly helpful for those who do not have a psychic "gift"?  In a word, no.  It was, at the very least, interesting.  The exercises provided for non-psychics are really too simplistic and I cannot imagine that they can work unless you are already significantly inclined towards being psychic.

Overall, I found this interesting but not satisfying.  If you are already assured of your psychic "gifts" you may find this an interesting guidebook.  If you are not a psychic, give this a pass.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

Monday, December 24, 2012

Featured Book: The Adventures of Isaiah James: Beach Boy by Sabrina K. Carpenter

About the book:

“The Adventures of Isaiah James” series cohesively blends learning, imagination and brilliant illustrations for young children. Sabrina’s goal is to encourage the love of reading and reveal to both parents and children that every day can be an adventure.

About the author:

Sabrina K. Carpenter is the owner of Perfected Pen professional writing services, Eager Readers, Brighter Writers literacy program and Perfected Pen Publishing. After a five-year battle with cancer created a bleak outlook for the possibility of motherhood, Sabrina was inspired to write this book sequence after the birth of her first son, Isaiah James. Sabrina is originally from Connecticut and currently resides in Vero Beach, Florida. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 19 and is now a cancer-free mother of two amazing boys, Isaiah and Micah.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Completed Challenge: Vintage Mysteries

Yea!  Another challenge completed.  Just in the nick of time!

1. Murder by the Numbers: 8 books with a number in the title

1. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
2. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
3. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie
4. The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart
5. Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
6. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
7. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
8. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

3. Occupational Hazards: 8 books with a "detective" who is not a P.I.; Police Officer; Official Investigator (Nurse Keate, Father Brown, Miss Marple, etc.)

1. The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
2. The Window at the White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart
3. The Mountain Cat Murders by Rex Stout
4. The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart
5. The Album by Mary Roberts Rinehart
6. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
7. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
8. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

8. Golden Age Girls: 8 books by female authors OR 8 books with female detectives

1. The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
2. The After House by Mary Roberts Rinehart
3. The Confession & Sight Unseen by Mary Roberts Rinehart
4. The Breaking Point by Mary Roberts Rinehart
5. Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham
6. Black Plumes by Margery Allingham
7. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
8. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

9. Cherchez le Homme: 8 books by male authors OR 8 books with male detectives

1. The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe)
2. If Death Ever Slept by Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe)
3. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe)
4. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot)
5. The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe)
6. The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot)
7. The Sound of Murder by Rex Stout (Alphabet Hicks)
8. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Excerpt: A Floating Life by Tad Crawford

Tad Crawford, author of the book A Floating Life, stopped by to share with us an excerpt from his book.

About the book:

A Floating Life will delight lovers of Kafka, Murakami, and the magic realism of Gabriel García Márquez. A nameless narrator awakens to the muddle of middle age, no longer certain who or what he is. He finds himself at a party talking to a woman he doesn't know who proves to be his wife. Soon separated but still living in the same apartment, he is threatened by a litigious dachshund and saddled with a stubborn case of erectile dysfunction in a world that seems held together by increasingly mercurial laws and elusive boundaries. His relationship deepens with an elderly Dutch model maker named Pecheur whose miniature boats are erratically offered for sale in a hard-to-find shop called The Floating World. Enlivened by Pecheur's dream to tame the destructive forces of nature, the narrator begins to find his bearings. With quiet humor and wisdom, A Floating Life charts its course among images that surprise and disorient, such as a job interview in a steam room with a one-eyed, seven-foot-tall chef, a midnight intrusion of bears, and the narrator’s breast feeding of the baby he has birthed.

About the author:

Tad Crawford grew up in the artists' colony of Woodstock, New York. He is the author of many nonfiction books and his writing has appeared in venues such as Art in America, the Café Irreal, Confrontation, Communication Arts, Family Circle, Glamour, Guernica, the Nation, and Writer's Digest. The founder and publisher of Allworth Press, he lives in New York City.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Featured Book: Who's In Charge by Donna Harla

About the book:

EDUCATION: THE ROAD TO SUCCESS OR THE PATH FOR FAILURE. Most standardized testing, regulations, and legislation affecting education is drafted, implemented, and enforced by people who have never spent a day teaching in a classroom. They are not doing the hard work of teaching an increasingly diversified population of students – students who are facing family, economic, and personal stresses unprecedented in the history of American education. The people with the greatest impact on the educational system right now are those who know the least about effective education. Donna Harla’s exceptional book is a must-read for everyone who cares about education – and that should be everyone. Even if you don’t have a child in the school system, graduates who do not attain skills and knowledge to be successful in life create a drain on the country that affects everyone. This is a book, by a teacher, showing what effective education really is: with research from experts in the field, and real-life classroom examples. With more than a quarter million teachers at risk of losing their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of children who fail in life due to insufficient education, we need to find the real reasons why teachers aren’t teaching, and children aren’t learning. Donna has no private funding, affiliation, or influence to bias her information: this is the reality of education as she has lived it, and the truth of what works as she and her educational team have experienced it. Parents, taxpayers, voters, citizens, and lawmakers: all of us are involved in education in ways that will determine the future of America. Donna knows that true education comes from sharing knowledge worth knowing. The purpose of this book is to share timely and urgent information regarding research, theory, experience, and practice in education so that wise and expert decisions can be made to reform our failing system.

About the author:

After two decades, Parent Collaboration Professional Learning Community (PC PLC) was formed. Donna practices a professional learning community for parents, students and teachers. Her idea started in 2008 with 130 students. The results were 98% student success and the program tripled the second year. The third year student success remained 98% and grew to 14 teachers and nearly 500 students. In the fourth year 2011, the program more than doubles and remains consistent with 98% student success, 36 teachers and 1170 students. She describes the program in her first release, Who’s in Charge? Donna is an educator with a BAE, cum laude, MS Curriculum and Instruction, summa cum laude, CET, ESOL, Gifted Endorsement, teaching and earning her doctorate. She can be reached at

Monday, December 17, 2012

Featured Book: The First to Say No by Charles C. Anderson

About the book:

The female doctors in the Parkview Hospital emergency department are tired of dealing with thugs and gang members who attack healthcare workers in their community—and they’re going to do something about it. This inner city Virginia neighborhood is being terrorized by the Plagues, a gang of violent criminals and drug dealers, and the local police are taking payoffs to ignore their criminal activity. After one of the ED doctors, Elita Romanov, is kidnapped and raped, she and her best friend, Dr. Kate Taylor, decide to take definitive action against the Plagues. These unlikely heroines systematically recruit coworkers, friends, and family members who are willing to break the law to restore the rule of law. The First To Say No is the story of Kate’s quest to make peace with her past and eliminate those who threaten her future—and the future of her hospital. This landmark novel illustrates many of the failings of today’s healthcare system, and chronicles Kate and Elita’s unique prescription for the problem in Parkview.

About the author:

Charles C. Anderson is a 38-year veteran emergency physician, critical care physician, and trauma specialist who has directed multiple hospital EDs and emergency medical transport systems. He is the author of original medical research articles and has patented several medical devices.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Featured Book: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

About the book:

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, and The House at Riverton, a spellbinding new novel filled with mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

About the author:

Kate Morton, a native Australian, holds degrees in dramatic art and English literature. She lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Excerpt: Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman edited by Dahlynn McKowen

Dahlynn McKowen editor of the book Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.

About the book:

Funny! Daring! DIFFERENT!

If, you've got it, flaunt it. And the women whose stories are in "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Woman," a new anthology, have got it, baby! They are successful, beautiful, giving, inspiring and exude womanhood more than any generation before them. They are sassy and crass, truthful and funny, and have come into their own with all barrels loaded, cocked and ready to go. There is no stopping them as they share their real-life stories with you, the reader.

Not Your Mother's Book (NYMB) is a new anthology for a new century. Series creators Dahlynn and Ken McKowen spent 10 years developing titles for the world's bestselling anthology series prior to launching NYMB. But their series is very different; all NYMB books are hip, modern, fun and even daring! No sad, sappy or death and dying stories-EVER!

About the editor:

From 1999-2009, Daylynn was a coauthor and editor (contractual basis) for Chicken Soup and while creating book after book, she read 100,000+ submissions. Jump forward a few years to today; the stories being submitted for Publishing Syndicate's new NYMB anthology series are so different, daring, smart and wonderful, that they are beyond thrilled to give authors a platform to write what they really want to write!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Featured Book: The Farm by Charles C. Anderson

About the book:

When Navy SEAL Andy Carlson uncovers evidence that the U.S. government is secretly buying old Soviet tactical nuclear weapons for purposes other than disarmament, he responds by throwing a monkey wrench into the deal and resigning from the Navy. Hoping to settle down on his family’s Virginia farm and resume his career as an emergency physician, Andy instead finds himself and those he loves the targets of his own government and a Russian arms dealer. The Farm—Andy’s antebellum plantation—is a major player in the action, with its network of limestone caves, family treasures, historical surprises, and natural defenses, and Andy enlists three unlikely allies to help him defend it: a pregnant CIA agent, a male descendant of a slave who shares a common ancestor with Andy, and a teenage Saudi girl. Andy is a capable warrior and field surgeon, but he is also disillusioned and scarred by personal loss. And what he and his ragtag band are up against may be more than this former Navy SEAL can handle.

About the author:

Charles C. Anderson is a retired Naval officer, an emergency physician, and a weapons specialist. The plantation depicted in this book has been his family’s home since 1743. He is an expert on Colonial Virginia, the Civil War, plantation life, slavery, limestone caves, trauma medicine, and military installations in Hampton Roads, Virginia, all key subjects in his novel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Featured Book: Parrot & Sweeney by Alan Roberts

About the book:

The well-dressed man cut a strange figure as he stood almost motionless in the derelict shop doorway on a bitterly cold and windy December morning. As he turned up the collar on his expensive overcoat, his somber eyes moved impassively across the graffiti covered high rise block in the rundown North London neighborhood. He stubbed out the remains of a small Cuban cigar, slipped a twenty pound note into the pocket of the sleeping vagrant, who for twenty minutes had been his sole companion, and then crossed the litter filled street, and slowly climbed the stairs to a shabby third floor apartment. An attractive woman with long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes immediately answered his knock. He knew her to be in her late forties, but his immediate thought on seeing her, was that she could easily pass for someone ten to fifteen years younger. She stood before him, glaring menacingly for a second, before saying, “you’ve got five minutes.” “That’s all I need. I take it you read my letter,” replied the man. “That’s the only reason I’m letting you inside,” she said sharply. An hour later they emerged from the apartment. She now looked at him with softer eyes than the ones that had coldly allowed him into her home just a short while ago. “I’m with you on this, but are you sure there’s no other way?” She said. “I’ve racked my brains trying to think of one, but there’s not. I’ll truly understand if you don’t want to get involved.” “Like I said, I’m with you. When do you want the first meeting?” And so begins the first story in another Parrot & Sweeney trilogy. Detective Chief Superintendent George Parrot and newly promoted Detective Inspector Daniel Sweeney encounter kidnapping, blackmail, and bizarre murders along the way, in this new offering of original whodunits by English author Alan Roberts.

About the author:

Alan Roberts was born in the East end of London a few years after the end of the second world war. He grew up enthralled with mysteries and the film noir cinema of the 1940’s and 1950’s. His earliest reading included the novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christies Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot and American detective Ellery Queen. After a thirty year career in the banking industry in the City of London he retired ten years ago. In 2003 he moved to New York with his wife Yvonne, before relocating to Naples Florida in 2009. He has a son, Oliver, and a grandson Jakob who live in Lithgow Australia. Detective thrillers set in the countryside are immensely popular in the UK, and probably has something to do with grisly deeds taking place against a backdrop of natural beauty. Quite ridiculous in reality, as a parking ticket in real life is a major event, but the formula has worked for eighty years or so and continues to thrive.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Excerpt: Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman edited by Dahlynn McKowen

Dahlynn McKowen editor of the book Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.

About the book:

Funny! Daring! DIFFERENT!

If, you've got it, flaunt it. And the women whose stories are in "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Woman," a new anthology, have got it, baby! They are successful, beautiful, giving, inspiring and exude womanhood more than any generation before them. They are sassy and crass, truthful and funny, and have come into their own with all barrels loaded, cocked and ready to go. There is no stopping them as they share their real-life stories with you, the reader.

Not Your Mother's Book (NYMB) is a new anthology for a new century. Series creators Dahlynn and Ken McKowen spent 10 years developing titles for the world's bestselling anthology series prior to launching NYMB. But their series is very different; all NYMB books are hip, modern, fun and even daring! No sad, sappy or death and dying stories-EVER!

About the editor:

From 1999-2009, Daylynn was a coauthor and editor (contractual basis) for Chicken Soup and while creating book after book, she read 100,000+ submissions. Jump forward a few years to today; the stories being submitted for Publishing Syndicate's new NYMB anthology series are so different, daring, smart and wonderful, that they are beyond thrilled to give authors a platform to write what they really want to write!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Author Q&A: Heather Huffman author of Devil in Disguise

Heather Huffman, author of the book Devil in Disguise, stopped by for a Q&A courtesy of her publisher.

Did you always want to become a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t get serious about trying to become a published author until my thirties. I drifted through my 20s with no real clue who I wanted to be when I grew up. I worked in human resources and corporate communication - it paid the bills, but my stress level was through the roof.

By the time I was 31, I took a look around my life and realized it wasn’t at all what I dreamed it would be, and I wasn’t fulfilled in my job. I wanted to write fiction. I hadn’t written a novel in years, and it was as if a piece of my soul was missing. But I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to make a change in your life.

I started giving away my books to raise awareness of human trafficking. A little over a year ago, my current publisher, Booktrope, approached me. It wasn’t an easy journey, but today I have over half a million books in circulation, I love what I do, and I’m grateful to be able to use my words to try to make an impact in the lives of others. 

Was the publishing process difficult?

It was a grueling process! When I first got serious about being a published writer, I memorized the Writers Market. Then I put together a spreadsheet with every agent and small publisher I was interested in. Each round of submissions took hours and hours, then came the agony of waiting for replies, documenting answers, and selecting the agents for the next round.

When I first started submitting novels, I got the form letter back and I knew my work wasn’t ready. I learned from the rejections and got better. When I was having drawn out conversations with agents, I knew the problem was no longer my skill level, it was finding a niche for my work. When an agent told me point-blank that she loved the writing in Jailbird, but a story like that would never be published mainstream, I knew I was faced with a decision.

Ultimately I decided I’d rather be true to the stories in my head than write to please a publisher. So I decided to go indie with the four novels I’d already written. Sharing my books with others on that level was an amazing experience. I’m forever grateful to the readers who reached out to me in that first year.

What made you go with a newer publisher, one that has some controversial aspects about them?

When Booktrope contacted me, I was initially hesitant to sign with a publisher. I’d been rather spoiled by the level of control I had with being indie. Around the same time, I’d also been contacted by someone who felt I should be seeking mainstream representation again. I found myself with three choices laid out before me: stay indie, go with a new, alternative publisher, or get back in the New York game.

Before I’d even heard of Booktrope, I firmly believed the publishing industry would have to adapt if it wanted to survive. Then I found out about Booktrope, and I was impressed by how well they grasped the current climate and what to do about it. The founders of Booktrope are smart, and I think they have the ability to thrive in the current market. I can’t say enough how proud I am to be one of their authors.

What role does your family play in your writing?

That’s a dangerous question; you could get me into a lot of trouble answering this. When I write, I hold very little back. If something has happened to me, if I’ve experienced a particular feeling or life event, it will eventually show up in my novel, woven through the fiction. Because I put so much of myself out there when I write, my family can’t help but impact that. Our antics, our ups and downs are chronicled in my novels, with names and details changed enough to keep them from coming after me with torches and pitchforks. I do have to giggle a little when they start trying to guess who’s who – the frequency of wrong guesses says a lot about how much our perception differs.

I have a big family with lots of children in it. Family gatherings are a noisy affair and it’s not uncommon to laugh so hard you have to worry about something coming out of your nose. We never do anything halfway – when we love, we love with all we have. When we fight, we drive each other absolutely insane. Diving into the many facets of my relationships with them could fill a thousand novels.

Sometimes, we really have fun with it. In the novel I’m currently working on, the heroine has three sons – my entire family was all too happy to pitch in and help me remember some of the crazier things my boys have done over the years.

Have they been supportive of your new career?

The short answer: Yes and no. My husband and children have been amazingly supportive. I have aunts and cousins who’ve never missed a book signing – even if they have to travel hours to be there. I’m not sure some of my family members took my writing seriously at first because I was so shy about telling them I wanted to be a writer. My friends knew that’s what I always wanted to be, but I don’t know if my parents or sisters knew it was more than a passing hobby until I published my first novel. Now they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished.

What about where you live now inspires you?

My family recently relocated to the rugged Ozarks to try to live off the land. It’s been a lot of work but definitely provides a source of inspiration every day. We now have horses, chickens, ducks, two livestock guardian dogs and a couple of barn cats – with our first milk cow joining us this fall, and as I write, I look out over our 10 acres of land. Most days, my mare Dixie also wanders up to the back patio door to say hello!

We are eating homegrown, healthier food, we’ve reduced our consumerism, and we are able to spend time together, outside, with the animals we love. It really is a dream come true.

Devil in Disguise seeks to raise awareness of the reality of human trafficking. How did you get involved in this particular cause? Are all your books about human trafficking?

I first learned about modern-day slavery when I was conducting Internet research for my novel Throwaway, and I soon realized there was a vast and pervasive evil thriving right under our noses, and most people weren’t even aware of it. It snowballed from there.

As I’ve become more involved in the fight, I’ve learned so much more. When you speak to those directly impacted – investigators, victims, families of victims – it puts a face to the numbers, and that changes everything.

Human trafficking matters at every level, but there’s something especially urgent about our need to protect our children. One statistic I came across said in the United States, the largest newly-trafficked demographic is American-born girls between the ages of 12 and 14. As a mother, aunt and human being, I find this beyond horrifying. I’m desperate to change those numbers.

How close to reality are the stories you write?

Many things about my books are fiction. That said, the premise of Devil in Disguise novel is eerily similar to the first case worked on by Project Liberty, a task force dedicated to ending human trafficking. When I talk about abductions, the stories are based on real ones, with names changed to protect the innocent.

Some of your novels are described as a paradox of light and dark. How do you manage to address difficult issues and yet provide entertaining fiction?

The evil of human trafficking is merely a common element to many of my novels, but it’s not a primary theme. The theme that truly permeates my writing is hope, the same theme that permeates my life – if there’s a breath left in our body, things can always get better. But if we’re to find that better world, we must fight for it, and we must hope.

My passion is and always will be writing fiction with strong female characters who are flawed, relatable and very human. The stories and settings are varied but always intertwine, reminding us of the important truth that our lives are all connected in some fashion. We are more alike than we realize.

One of my first books, Jailbird, tackles some dark subjects but the heroine, Neena Allen, never lost her sense of humor. The human trafficking premise of Devil in Disguise is fraught with danger and darkness. Still, that’s not how I’d characterize it. I’d say Rachel and Conrad’s story is one of determination, hope, love and joy. It’s about new beginnings, and it has its share of laughter.

Your heroines are strong women who refuse to lose hope, no matter how difficult the situation they’re in. Are any of them modeled after you?

Neena is a little me, a little of who I hope to be, and a lot of the women I see all around me everyday. She has a lot of traits I love: wit, perseverance and resourcefulness to name a few. Her resourcefulness is something I aspire to in my own life, although my attempts seldom work out as well as hers. My chicken coop is a working example of how reality differs from fantasy – it’s made from recycled parts and, while functional, it looks more like modern art than a working coop.

Neena’s plight seems so horrible, yet just the other day I heard that 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18, so it’s not an uncommon one. The details of her story are exceptional, but the heart of her tale is something many of us can identify with. Neena’s strength is a combination of the beautiful strength and power of the women in my world.

About the book:

Tenacious reporter Rachel Cooper devotes her life to exposing corruption by shining a light on the darker corners of the world - a career that doesn't leave much room for relationships. Even so, she finds it impossible to stop thinking about her unexpected run-in with Conrad Langston, an old flame that never quite burnt out.

When her mother calls in the middle of the night because her sister is missing and the police are offering little help, Rachel immediately turns to the only person she knows she can always count on - Conrad.

Determined to protect her family, Rachel finds herself embroiled in the frightening and tragic underworld of human trafficking. As her pursuit of justice pulls her deep into the darkness, she recognizes an opportunity to re-evaluate her choices in life and take a new path - even if it means walking through the fires of hell to protect the ones she loves.

Passionate, engaging and poignant, Devil in Disguise entertains while raising awareness of modern day social issues.

About the author:

Heather was born and spent her early childhood in Florida before moving to the beautiful state of Missouri.  Her greatest joy, aside from writing, is working their land in the Ozarks and tending to her horses, chickens and ducks with her three boys.

With over half a million books in circulation, Heather writes contemporary romance with strong female leads who refuse to lose hope. She is the author of Throwaway, Ties That Bind, Jailbird, Suddenly a Spy, Ring of Fire, Tumbleweed and Devil in Disguise.

You can find out more about her homesteading, writing and charitable work on

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Featured Book: The Upside of Down Times by Lisa Ryan

About the book:

One of the downsides of life is that we rarely have to deal with an overabundance of gratitude. Most of us tend to focus on the negative. We don’t receive nearly as much acknowledgment as we would like, and we don’t give as much recognition as others deserve. Now for the upside! When we learn to harness the power of gratefulness, we can make a major positive difference in so many areas of our lives, as well as the lives of those around us. The Upside of Down Times is your first step toward making that happen.

About the author:

Lisa Ryan is a nationally recognized gratitude expert and founder of Grategy,® a company specializing in keynotes, workshops, and seminars. A dynamic, inspirational communicator, she helps individuals and organizations get results by harnessing the power of appreciation. Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and training. She has been featured in two movies, The Keeper of the Keys and The Gratitude Experiment, and co-authored the book With Excellence.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Featured Book: Phantom by Gabriel Common

About the book:

Rarely, if any, are science and celestial creatures mixed in a work of fiction. Phantom shows that such fusion of seemingly incompatible subjects can blend together very harmoniously to tell an interesting story. The book is about a young Nephilim who is caught in the middle of an interplanetary battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. It tells the readers that, like the Nephilim, we humans can tap into our angel side, which is a source of so much power, so that we can overcome our challenges, conquer our personal demons, reach the goals we have set for ourselves, and fight for what is right and good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Excerpt: Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman edited by Dahlynn McKowen

Dahlynn McKowen editor of the book Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.

About the book:

Funny! Daring! DIFFERENT!

If, you've got it, flaunt it. And the women whose stories are in "Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Woman," a new anthology, have got it, baby! They are successful, beautiful, giving, inspiring and exude womanhood more than any generation before them. They are sassy and crass, truthful and funny, and have come into their own with all barrels loaded, cocked and ready to go. There is no stopping them as they share their real-life stories with you, the reader.

Not Your Mother's Book (NYMB) is a new anthology for a new century. Series creators Dahlynn and Ken McKowen spent 10 years developing titles for the world's bestselling anthology series prior to launching NYMB. But their series is very different; all NYMB books are hip, modern, fun and even daring! No sad, sappy or death and dying stories-EVER!

About the editor:

From 1999-2009, Daylynn was a coauthor and editor (contractual basis) for Chicken Soup and while creating book after book, she read 100,000+ submissions. Jump forward a few years to today; the stories being submitted for Publishing Syndicate's new NYMB anthology series are so different, daring, smart and wonderful, that they are beyond thrilled to give authors a platform to write what they really want to write!