Friday, April 26, 2013

Chapter 4 - The Plan

Last week you saw the amazing cover for Book 1 of the Forest People, Chameleon: The Awakening. Next week you will get to see the cover for Book 2, Chameleon: The Choosing.  Again, done by wonderful cover artist Christy Caughie at Gilded Hearts Design. These first two books in the series will be released on May 30th. 

For this week I've posted the next chapter in the book, Chapter 4--The Plan.  Camryn is planning to leave Starlight Center, but it won't be easy.

f you are just finding this blog, you may want to go back and read the book from the start. Here are links to each posting. These sample chapters are from the eARC, which means it is an uncorrected copy.

Enjoy!



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Author Spotlight - Paty Jager

I've featured Paty Jager and her books on my blog before. If you've been reading me for a while, you know how much I love her new adventure/suspense romance series with Isabella Mumphrey and Tino Kosta.  I'm keeping close tabs on when her third book in that series will be available.  

Action/Adventure books are Paty's latest series, and a departure from her Pacifc Northwest locales. Paty has been writing and publishing for 8 years and in that time has published 20 books total. That is 18 novels and 2 novellas are currently available for her readers between Windtree Press and The Wild Rose Press. I suspect she will easily hit 24 books total in 2013 and maybe even more. Her current novels include 2 Westerns, 2 Contemporary romances, 9 Historicals,  3 Paranormals, and 2 Action/adventure romances.  Her western-themed novellas are split between one historical and one contemporary. The thread that keeps all these books together is her love of the west and her love of history. 

That makes sense as Paty lives on a 350 acre ranch in eastern Oregon. She and her husband raise cattle, and grow grass and alfalfa.  I am dying to get out there one day and see for myself the beautiful land she writes about in many of her books.

Connect with Paty: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Windtree Press |


Spotlight Interview

In this spotlight, I thought I would ask Paty questions about her life, her writing, and how she manages to produce so many books every year with all of her ranching chores and family obligations.  I can tell you, the thought of being up at 6am every morning is not at all appealing to me. :)


Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me today, Paty. I'd like to get the interview started talking about your life outside of writing.  Now that it's spring, could you give us an idea of what a typical day at the ranch might entail? Please include how you fit writing into that day too.

Springtime is the busiest time for us. Mainly, because we have two places to clean up from winter and get ready for the growing season. The 70 acres where we currently live, has 30 head of mother cows, their calves, two bulls, three horses and a burro. This time of year, we move the animals out of the “winter” pastures, where we’ve been feeding them hay all winter. That means I add to my list of “ to do’s” harrowing the pastures. This is dragging a huge chainlink looking piece of equipment behind a tractor to break up the piles of manure and spread then out over the fields.  

So a typical day right now, is getting up with my husband, making him breakfast and sending him off to his “day” job. Then I get on the computer and do promotion and visit blogs until about 8- 8:30. Then I go out and feed the horses, mosey to the barn and toss hay in the feeder for the four head of calves we are weaning and check their water. Then the dogs and I wander back to the house and I sit down to write blog posts. When that’s done I write on my current work in progress. About noon, I eat lunch and go out and start cleaning up the yard. I do this for about an hour, then back to the computer and I write or format the next book until about 4:30 and start something to cook that will be done when we finish feeding cows. 

Right now, we are still feeding hay to the cows, so I go down to the barn and feed the calves again, then start up the tractor and wait for my husband to get home and we feed the cows. We eat quickly then go out and clean flood irrigation ditches with a tractor. My job isn’t hard. I move the large chunks of sod that fall back into the ditch as my husband drives the tractor pulling the ditcher. This time of year I don’t usually get back to the computer before bed. 

I understand you've been involved in 4H for a number of years.  How did you get started and are you still involved today?

4-H is a passion of mine. I’ve never been involved with a program that helps children learn to be good citizens and learn life lessons. I was a 4-H member eons ago, first as a clothing member and then a foods. But I only participated in each for one year. Then when my children were small the neighbor girl who babysat for us came over one day and said her leader was quitting and wanted to know if I would be her leader. I gathered information and said I would. I ended up being a 4-H leader for 22 years! All the way through my kids and beyond. I enjoyed working with the kids and teaching life skills. I taught sewing, cooking, crocheting, and cake decorating.  My husband also had swine and beef 4-H clubs. Through being a leader so long, I was asked to join the extension staff as a 4-H program assistant and I worked there for eight years. Now I get my 4-H fixes by traveling around the state to county fairs and judging the clothing, foods, and expressive arts 4-H exhibits and clothing and foods open class exhibits.


Your books about western living, both historicals and contemporaries, seem like a natural choice given your background.  Many romance authors who grew up on ranches or currently live on them tend to write contemporary cowboy love stories. What drew you to concentrate primarily in western historicals instead?

I have always been fascinated by U.S. history. How people immigrated to the U.S. then how families moved by covered wagon, ships, and eventually trains to seek a better life. It took tough, independent people to populate the western half of the U.S. and I enjoy writing stories about that courage and grit. I also like being able to find tiny tidbits of history to use in my books while I’m entertaining the reader. I like setting the stories in real towns and communities. I used the gold mining area in NE Oregon around the Sumpter area for the home where the five Halsey brothers from the books, Marshal in Petticoats, Outlaw in Petticoats, Miner in Petticoats, Doctor in Petticoats, and  Logger in Petticoats, live and capture the hearts of the feisty women they each fall in love with. 

There’s a certain freedom in writing about the past in that few—well, really no one— is still alive to say that house wasn’t on that street or that person couldn’t have said that.  I do lots of research and if I use a real life character in a story, I work at keeping any dialog or actions I give them to be as accurate as I can having researched them. But there is no one alive who can say emphatically, they wouldn’t have acted that way.  And I grew up in a rural area with an outhouse, a cellar, a wood cookstove and can use those memories to make my stories feel real.

Though your paranormals are definitely historical western settings, they are a departure from your previous books.  They feature the Nez Perce People.  How did you learn about their beliefs and myths, and what drew you to write this group of books?

I could write a book on why I wrote the spirit trilogy. ;)

I grew up in Wallowa County, Oregon. The area where the Wallowa band of Nez Perce summered and wintered. During my childhood the only time I saw a Native American in the county was during Chief Joseph Days. When there was a rodeo, parade, and carnival.  We were taught very little about the Nez Perce and I yearned to learn more about the proud people who spent so much time in the county before they were banned from their homeland. I even believe I saw a spirit of a warrior one sunny summer day when I was riding my horse on the mountain behind our house. 

My infatuation with the Nez Perce grew as I became older. I read a lot about them and came to feel they had a story that needed to be told. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but when an editor at a writer’s conference said they were looking for historical paranormal, I immediately zoned in on Native American spirits and how I could show the Wallowa Nez Perce’s story. To prepare to write the books, the first thing I did was join a Nez Perce yahoo loop and buy the books they recommended as the most accurate about their people.  On the loop, I could ask questions and found two members who were willing to work with me answering questions and finding out information I couldn’t find in books about the Nez Perce culture at the time of my stories. 


I set the first book, Spirit of the Mountain, in the time before the Whiteman came to the valley to show the deep-seated love the Nez Perce had for the Wallowa Valley. I used the spirit entity to show the mortal’s love of the mountain and the land, throwing in some evil to cause more conflict. 

In the second book, Spirit of the Lake, I showed how the Nez Perce tried to get along with the Whiteman and how the Whiteman treated them as if they were half-witted. Again, I used a spirit entity to help the mortal prove the Whiteman’s deceit and keep the Nez Perce strong. And the third book, Spirit of the Sky, shows the army chasing them to Bear Paw Mountain in Montana, just short of the Canadian border. How they suffered, how they remained strong, and how they were once again treated as if they were less than human when, previous to the chase, they had killed or harmed few Whitemen.  


This book not only has the mortal/spirit love conflict it also has a Cavalry officer/Nez Perce conflict.  I read books from the army’s side of the chase and the Nez Perce side of the flight and mingled both side’s thoughts and incidents into the story, ending with the outcome for the Nez Perce—being banned from not only their homeland but the reservation closest to their land.  As you can see, I’m passionate about the plight of the Wallowa band of Nez Perce.

Your latest series are completely different from anything you've written in the past. The Isabella Mumphrey Adventures have so far taken place outside of the U.S. and to be one part mystery, one part action/adventure, and one part romance. When did you conceive of this series, and can we expect more books?

I tend to write what I’m passionate about, not what I’ve already written. I was complaining to another writer about a book I read that was nothing like it had been dubbed- A female Indiana Jones. We were riding in the car on our way to a writer’s retreat on the Oregon Coast and my friend challenged me to write what I thought that kind of book would be like. We brainstormed on the way over and back and Isabella Mumphrey was born. 

I came up with a genius IQ heroine who was sheltered and shuttled from one prestigious school for gifted to another until she entered college at a young age and became a doctor of anthropology. 

I wanted her to go to exotic places and while she knew the culture would be more book learned than life experience. I put a handsome Latino who has had too many life experiences in her path and watched the fireworks. 

Secrets of a Mayan Moon was the initial meeting of Isabella and Tino in Guatemala. The second book, Secrets of an Aztec Temple, has Tino undercover with a drug lord he has sworn to avenge for the deaths of his family and Isabella walking into the drug lord’s home and putting a kink in Tino’s plans. Book three will have the two back in the U.S. but dealing with Hopi artifacts and people trafficking. If these books start selling well, then I will be more than happy to continue writing more adventures for Isabella and Tino.


Your career has certainly been broad and prolific.  Now that you are doing Action/Adventure, does this mean your readers will not see westerns from you in the future?

Oh no! I will always write westerns. It’s the genre that broke me into the industry and the one that I get the most fan mail for. In fact, I have four volumes of,  what I’m calling
Western Duets, coming out this year. They are ebook only novella length works with two historical western short stories in them. This is to appease my historical western audience until I can get the next book in the Halsey family written. The next historical project will be a trilogy with the three young men who are brought to the Halsey family via marriages.


I'm really excited for all of your new books.  If readers wanted a chance to meet you in person, do you have any author signing events coming up in 2013 you can share?

I’ll be at the Romcon Romance convention for readers in Colorado Springs, CO June 21-22. September 7th I’ll be at …And Books, too! In Clarkston, WA and I’m thinking about the Emerald City conference in Bellevue, WA in October. I also need to set up signings in the Portland area. But this year I’m trying to not book too much as we are hoping this is the year we will be moving. ;)


Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your current and future plans?



I’m in the process of checking out having my books turned into audio books. I think this is the next big step to make as an author. I’ve had several people ask if my books are available in that format.  By the end of 2013 I hope to have the first book of a mystery series published, the western I told you about and the third Isabella book ready to publish. Wish me luck on staying on track! And you can purchase my books, some in print and all of them in ebook at Windtree Press, an author cooperative I've joined. Windtree Press has all the popular ereader formats and you can purchase the Halsey series as a box set with a 24% discount.



It's been a true pleasure to have you here, Paty.  I can't wait for all the new projects you have going to come to fruition.

Maggie, Thank you for having me here and asking wonderful questions!


Follow the Rest of the Paty Jager Author Spotlight Tour

  Each stop has different opportunities to learn more about Paty and her book. If you are just joining the tour, you can always go back and catch what has happened before. I think I've updated to direct links to the interviews or guest posts.





April 2nd
Pure Jonel - Interview
The avid Reader - Interview

April 9th
Stop 2.

April 16th
MK McClintock Blog - Guest Post
Toot's Book Reviews - Guest Post

April 23rd 
Maggie's Meanderings - Interview (You are Here!)

April 30th
Books & Tales - Guest Post



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chameleon Cover Reveal and Chapter 3 - Sweet Sixteen Available

Hooray! Ta Da!  My book cover for the first Chameleon Book is now done.  Special thanks go out to amazing cover artist, Christy Caughie at Gilded Heart Design.

It's time for Chapter 3. Like last week I'm posting it in it's entirety, instead of dividing it into two parts.  Several people have written me privately and said they prefer reading an entire chapter instead of ten pages at a time.  So that will be the way I post future chapters as well.


If you are just finding this blog, you may want to go back and read the book from the start. Here are links to each posting. These sample chapters are from the eARC, which means it is an uncorrected copy.

Chapter 4 will be posted the end of next week.

Review Copies Are Gone
The 50 review copies Windtree Press provided for me to give directly to readers of this blog and my Facebook page have now been assigned, so there are no more eARCs to giveaway at this time. Thank you to everyone who signed up! You will be getting an email from NetGalley in early May describing how to download your copy.  I'm really looking forward to reading your reviews.

Other Giveaway Opportunities
I will be doing a giveaway of three print books of both Book 1 and Book 2 on GoodReads in May and June. Watch my FB page for when that is posted.

I'll also be doing a pre-release blog tour with Beyond Words Book Tours in mid-May which will include a giveaway of the special necklace Camryn wears in the book AND a coupon to each commenter to purchase eBook 1 and eBook 2 for only 99 cents each.  That is quite a deal considering the regular ebook price is $4.50 each. Sorry, no discounts on the print book. :(

The necklace is pewter (see the picture) and comes with a leather thong, instead of a chain, and a scroll describing the meaning of this magical owl. You'll learn about this necklace in the chapter posted today. The owl is a special spirit animal for Camryn which serves as a warning and guiding spirit.


Now, enjoy Chapter 3!





Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sunshine Award

Today I'm participating in a meme called the Sunshine Award.  How perfect that it is presented to me on a sunny day. In fact, the entire weekend is planned for sunshine. Thank you, very much, to Paty Jager for awarding my blog with this lovely flower!


The Sunshine Award is a lovely sunny flower that bloggers give to other “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”. They don't have to be authors, though I admit most of my friends are authors--even if they don't blog about their writing.

There are rules....

(1) Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post. 

(2) Do the Q&A
(3) Pass on the award to 10-12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.

Here are the fun questions:

Favorite Color: Green! Always has been. I love the color of nature. I have it on walls in my house and it is my favorite color to wear.
Favorite Animal: Owl. Fell for the whole "wise" thing when I was young. Plus they look pretty weird, but when they fly--magnificent.
Favorite Number: 5. I have no idea why, but it's been my number as long as I can remember. 
Favorite Non-alcoholic Drink: Water.  Yeah, I know, pretty boring.  But it is what I drink all day long and let's face it, without water we'd be in a pretty sorry state.
Facebook or Twitter:  Facebook hands down. Though I enjoy twitter, I still struggle to say anything pithy in only 140 characters.  And you know, you have to be pithy, right?Or is it pity? :)
Your Passion: Writing stories that have a positive message while providing entertainment. And if they can help others to see themselves as wonderful, uniquely lovable human beings all the better. 
Giving or getting presents: Yes! Oh, you mean I have to choose? Actually I prefer giving presents, though my presents tend to be services rather than purchasing things.  I'm not a good shopper for me or anyone else. But I love providing a service or doing something for someone else that I know they want or need.
Favorite Day: Wednesday, because it is the middle of the week. I tend to have my weekends over-scheduled. The beginning of the week is always crazy because I load up on my to-do list. The end of the week is always crazy because I'm trying to make it my done-list. Somehow on Wednesdays I feel free to step back and take a moment--not lots of moments, but a few more than any other day of the week.
Favorite Flowers: Dahlias. I never knew about Dahlias until 13 years ago when we moved to Oregon. While building our house on Mt. Hood, we temporarily lived next store to a woman who was a Master Dahlia Gardner. The varieties and types of Dahlias are amazing. They also last a long time when cut and put in a vase. 

I'd like to pass the award on to the following wonderful writers. Each of them are the kind of people who help others, who provide access to the "secrets" of writing, who love their readers and fans, and I personally read each of their blogs.  I'm not sure when/if they will accept the award.  But I hope you will visit them and see how fun it is to hear about their daily lives, the books they are writing, or their process.




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Good and Evil in All of Us

Whenever I see/hear headlines like what happened at the Boston marathon, it takes me back to every other time some horrible evil has become a part of my consciousness--times where it appears that evil won that day.  I have to admit, I don't understand it. I don't understand what kind of darkness comes upon a person's soul to make them believe that killing others is helpful.  They must believe it is helpful, right? Why else would you do it except to change the world into a better place for yourself or those you love? What darkness must make killing "good" in someone's mind? Does a person put on evil one day, like a coat that protects them from even worse elements in their life? And when the deed is done, does the coat come off and good is returned for some period of time? Even if one is "redeemed" but whatever method (spiritual, legal, societal acceptance) does the evil of that coat stick to you -- forever calling your name to return to its warmth?

Writers and storytellers have been attempting to explain this tug-of-war between good and evil from the dawn of mankind. Stories of how the earth was formed often has that tug-of-war of violence and calm. Stories of the gods in every mythos tells of the struggles between good and evil. From the Bible to the latest fantasies, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, stories provide us a common basis for that constant struggle--whether it is beyond our world and power and the struggle within each of us.

Some believe that we need both good and evil in the world to achieve balance. The rationale is that without evil, we wouldn't know what good is. I don't personally believe that. I would be perfectly fine with a world that only knew good.  Everyday I wake to that world of good. Everyday I try to create that world of good in some small way so that when I go to bed, I can wake to it again. But even wearing my best pair of rose-colored glasses I can't stop the evil from knocking on my consciousness.


In my undergraduate college years, I took a class from a Catholic priest that explored the potential for evil in each of us. It was centered around the holocaust and the culpability of not only the German people but the culpability of people in every nation. We talked about the seemingly smallest decision to ignore your neighbors being ousted from their homes and marched away "for the good of the country" (look at what happened to the Japanese in our own country, or to the Native Americans before then) to the larger decisions of politics and isolationism that chooses to ignore what is happening in other places.  It is not coincidence that the words "ignore" and "ignorance" come from the same root-- a Latin word "ignosco", meaning "not know."  The difference is one of choice. In The Handmaids Tale Margaret Atwood put it best: "Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it."

That college class deeply impacted me. I wish I could say I came away from that class confidently knowing I would have been like the family who harbored the Franks. But that isn't what happened. Instead, I realized I could have been one of those people who ignored what was going on. I could have been one of those people who at worst allowed fear for my safety to rule my decisions; or at best put the onus for my decisions on some authority figure to keep me one-stepped removed from the burning consequences. Believe me, that is not a comfortable realization about oneself.

As I've become older and been faced with many examples of evil in the world, both in politics and closer to me and my work, I've often been faced with difficult choices. I've come to believe that understanding my own ability to do both the good and evil and my own ability to make a conscious choice for good is the only way to fight evil in the end. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Ignoring does NOT erase my culpability. If I can choose good in the small things every day, that practice will stand me in good stead when I am faced with a larger evil and have to stand up to it. That practice will make it easier for me to make the right choice if I ever have a horrific choice to make one day. I hope that day never comes, that test like the holocaust or that test where I have to choose between my safety and the safety of someone else. I believe that now my answer would be different than it was in college.But I won't know for sure until the day comes.

In the meantime, the only way I can deal with the evil like that of the Boston marathon, or the world trade center, or shootings in a mall or a theater, or reading about a parent killing her child, her husband, and then herself, is to continue to make a personal choice for good.  If each of us does that, I have to believe good will win in the end. I have to believe that constant practice prepares us for the ultimate fight of our lives.
.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Day - Whew! Glad it's over!

This was the nature of my desk for the past week.  I just hit "I agree" on electronic filing for both federal and state. Thank goodness that is over!!! 

Yes, I put it off until the last minute this year (usually I'm done in mid-February). Due to a variety of changes in my life in the last three months of 2012, I knew I would owe money so I procrastinated and worried and procrastinated and...well, just not the best use of my time.

I've been doing taxes in some form since I was about 10 years old.  No I wasn't making income at age ten that I had to claim, but my accountant father did taxes on the side every year when I was young. Of course, wanting to be just like him I had to learn to do taxes as soon as I could do basic math.  Beginning at age 10-1/2, he would give me the short forms to do and then check my work. Believe me, nothing ingrains addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills like doing taxes over and over again. That was without a calculator!

Sometime in middle-school and early high school I started getting the long forms passed to me--the easy long forms.  Those were the ones with mortgage interest deductions and, in those days, you could also deduct other loan interest including credit cards. On the more complex side, the rules around buying and selling homes and tracking all your upgrades over several years were much more involved.  Not any more unless it's part of your business expenses or you are in the millionaire range.

All of this tax practice prepared me to really track my own income and expenses even when I was young. I began doing my own tax returns when I started working at age 15-1/2 and I have done them ever since. As an adult my life has always included regular employment with W2 forms, independent work as a consultant or project worker with 1099 forms, and for the past 15 years I've also had writing income from both fiction and non-fiction work with 1099 forms.  Like many adults, I have bought and sold homes several times in my adult life, and during our three year hiatus in California we rented our Oregon home. Each time I learned new things about tax code. My husband has been an independent writer and editor our entire marriage, so that has added complexity as well. What is his business, my business, and our business?  The number of forms needed has definitely increased. Thank goodness tax software keeps them all straight.

Each year, around February 1st when I start looking at doing the taxes, I think this is the year I'm going to pay someone else to do the work--this is the year when the complexity is too much to track. But then I get some estimates from people, do some interviews of their knowledge, and realize I'm not ready to do that yet.  It's surprising how many tax people really don't understand the ins and outs of writer's income and expenses.

However, I'm going to be interviewing CPAs this year. All the above complexity, along with being an Indie author with even more tracking and expenses, have made me decide it's time to bite the bullet and pay someone. Why a CPA? Because I want someone for more than doing taxes once a year. I also want a business planning advisor --someone who has ideas on how to work smarter instead of harder.

Next year, I won't begin to worry in February. I won't have to take a week or more off to tear my hair out to find every last deduction and reread tax code fifteen times. Instead, I will sit back with a beer and a contented sigh knowing that I planned ahead. I envision the CPA will already have all of my information because we've met several times during the year for updates. I won't be surprised at what I owe or the refund I will get, because we will know well in advance what my tax situation is. April 15th will be like any other day for me--a day of joyously writing on my next novel.

How about you? Do you do your own taxes or have someone else do them? If you do your own, at what point would it be worth it to pay someone else?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

RETURN by Charity Santiago

Today I am featuring a new YA Fantasy author.   I've become particularly addicted to YA books in the last three years because they tend to push the boundaries of cross-genre writing more frequently than adult books. I also love the drama. :)

The book I'm reviewing here is the first book in a trilogy by Charity Santiago.  The good news is she already has the other two books out--Regret and Redemption, so you don't have to wait for them. So, if you like this one, you can get all three right away.  

I love authors who are clever and title their books similarly, yet stay with the theme.  I also LOVE the cover of Return. The heroine looks like someone who can definitely kick-butt on her own. :)

BLURB  

For the last three years, eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Li has been running from her destiny. A free-spirited ninja, Ashlyn would rather loot an abandoned city or challenge a fiend to battle than assume leadership of Toryn, her father's kingdom. However, when a series of attacks reunites Ashlyn with the friends who helped her save the sun three years ago, she discovers that her kingdom is at war and her father has presumed her dead.

Suddenly Ashlyn is faced with not only fulfilling her birthright, but also making sense of her feelings towards two very different men- Drake Lockhart, the enigmatic vampire who captured her heart three years ago, and Vargo, the charismatic assassin who was once Ashlyn's sworn enemy.

Will Ashlyn ascend the pagoda and become Lady of Toryn?
 


EXCERPT:

Ashlyn frowned, trying hard to focus. "I only asked you to start thinking of yourself as a man,         Drake, instead of a monster. That's hardly the same thing."
"I'm asking you to think of yourself as a leader," he said. "You've spent so long running from responsibility that you think yourself incapable of fulfilling your birthright."
"We haven't seen each other in three years. You don't know what I'm capable of-- I don't even know what I'm capable of."
He grabbed her hand, abruptly, and brought it up to his chest. Through the cloth of his shirt, his skin was warm to the touch, and Ashlyn let him press her hand against the solidness of his shoulder, confused as to what he was doing.
"This," he said, his voice low, "is where I was struck by Devlyn's sword."
After a moment, he slid her hand lower, until it was resting directly above his heart. Ashlyn paused, entranced by the lack of a pulse beneath her fingers, the scent of him filling her senses and enveloping her like the rain against the roof.
"This," Drake said. "This is where I would have been struck, if you had not deflected the blow."
She met his gaze, breathing so hard that she felt light-headed. His eyes bored into hers, piercing her straight to her soul.
"I know what you are capable of, Ashlyn," he said. "I know better than anyone."

My Review

Note: This review is also posted at my Maggie's Meandering blog
First, I have to say that Ashlyn Li is a great character. I loved that she wasn't the typical girl--she's Asian and a ninja.  Second I loved her combination of snark and caring. It's pretty hard to write that type of character, and I think Ms. Santiago pulls it off. 

For the most part I enjoyed this book.  In the beginning, I had a love/hate relationship. I was drawn in by Ashlyn, the heroine of the story, and her immediate willingness to take responsibility for a war that started in her self-imposed absence.  I liked her lets-go-get-them-and-make-things-right attitude.  I also really loved Skye's down-to-earth and often profuond advice. On the other hand, I was frustrated with the two setups of the story that were too pat: 1) She didn't pursue a relationship with Drake because of a perceived slight when he smiled at another girl three years ago; and 2) Accepting responsibility for a war that occurred when she was gone--as if she had any control over that.  Also, in the first 20 pages or so I had some problems with the passive voice, a lot of telling to bring the reader up to speed on the background, and some missed editing.

However, after those first 20 pages or so, the character of Ashlyn made me forget those things as her combination of wit, caring, and youthful exuberance propelled her forward to right all wrongs. Like many young people, Ashlyn is very focused and when it comes to saving her kingdom, she is not going to stop until she's accomplished that. Being a ninja has always been her calling. Not only is she proud of it, but she is very good at fighting and killing if need be. It was her three year absence from her kingdom that set up the situation where it was taken over by the bad guy.


Once the reader is brought up to speed on the background, the book becomes non-stop action. There’s a definite love triangle with Drake and Vargo. I won't tell you who I like best, it is up to you to choose. Personally, I would have liked a little more relationship development but I can't complain about the page turning action.  I am definitely going to pick up the next two books in the series so I can see what happens to Ashlyn and her friends.



 This book is available for only 99 cents at Amazon. 
If the blurb, excerpt, and review sound good to you, run and take advantage of such a good deal.  The other two books are $2.99. So still a nice price.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

In February 2011, Charity Santiago's 7-month old son was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory issues. While Charity stayed at his bedside, she kept them both entertained by downloading several books on her new Kindle and reading them out loud. It was during this time that Charity learned about Kindle's self-publishing program, and realized that she had an opportunity to share her writings with the world.

Charity is a native of southeastern Arizona, and a writer since childhood. She wrote her first manuscript, Guinea Pig Code!, at age nine. When she’s not writing books, Charity spends her time wrangling children, watching Sylvester Stallone movies and pursuing a degree in Education.

Contact Charity on the Web: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

* * * Giveaway * * *

Charity will be awarding one $10 Amazon gift card for a random commenter. She is also awarding a Grand Prize: winner's choice of any mini gift basket from GourmetGiftBaskets.com (a $24.99 value).  All I can say is Yum Yum!!! 

Follow the Rest of the Tour

Remember, the more you comment on other blogs on the tour the better your chances of winning the prize.  Here are all the stops. Check out the one's before me and after me to learn more about Charity and her trilogy.
Tour Schedule

 4/1/2013 Unabridged Andra
4/2/2013 Beyond My Writing Space
4/3/2013 Margay Leah Justice
4/4/2013 Sue Perkins Author
4/5/2013 Straight from the Library
4/8/2013 Long and Short Reviews
4/9/2013 Racing To Read
4/10/2013 Maggie's Meanderings (You are Here!)
 and Stop 2 Maggie Faire YA
4/11/2013 Books in the Hall
4/12/2013 Let's Get BOOKED!





RETURN by Charity Santiago

Today I am featuring a new YA Fantasy author.   I've become particularly addicted to YA books in the last three years because they tend to push the boundaries of cross-genre writing more frequently than adult books. I also love the drama. :)

The book I'm reviewing here is the first book in a trilogy by Charity Santiago.  The good news is she already has the other two books out--Regret and Redemption, so you don't have to wait for them. So, if you like this one, you can get all three right away.  

I love authors who are clever and title their books similarly, yet stay with the theme.  I also LOVE the cover of Return. The heroine looks like someone who can definitely kick-butt on her own. :)

BLURB  

For the last three years, eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Li has been running from her destiny. A free-spirited ninja, Ashlyn would rather loot an abandoned city or challenge a fiend to battle than assume leadership of Toryn, her father's kingdom. However, when a series of attacks reunites Ashlyn with the friends who helped her save the sun three years ago, she discovers that her kingdom is at war and her father has presumed her dead.

Suddenly Ashlyn is faced with not only fulfilling her birthright, but also making sense of her feelings towards two very different men- Drake Lockhart, the enigmatic vampire who captured her heart three years ago, and Vargo, the charismatic assassin who was once Ashlyn's sworn enemy.

Will Ashlyn ascend the pagoda and become Lady of Toryn?
 


EXCERPT:

Ashlyn frowned, trying hard to focus. "I only asked you to start thinking of yourself as a man,         Drake, instead of a monster. That's hardly the same thing."
"I'm asking you to think of yourself as a leader," he said. "You've spent so long running from responsibility that you think yourself incapable of fulfilling your birthright."
"We haven't seen each other in three years. You don't know what I'm capable of-- I don't even know what I'm capable of."
He grabbed her hand, abruptly, and brought it up to his chest. Through the cloth of his shirt, his skin was warm to the touch, and Ashlyn let him press her hand against the solidness of his shoulder, confused as to what he was doing.
"This," he said, his voice low, "is where I was struck by Devlyn's sword."
After a moment, he slid her hand lower, until it was resting directly above his heart. Ashlyn paused, entranced by the lack of a pulse beneath her fingers, the scent of him filling her senses and enveloping her like the rain against the roof.
"This," Drake said. "This is where I would have been struck, if you had not deflected the blow."
She met his gaze, breathing so hard that she felt light-headed. His eyes bored into hers, piercing her straight to her soul.
"I know what you are capable of, Ashlyn," he said. "I know better than anyone."

My Review

Note: This review is also posted at Maggie Faire's blog.
First, I have to say that Ashlyn Li is a great character. I loved that she wasn't the typical girl--she's Asian and a ninja.  Second I loved her combination of snark and caring. It's pretty hard to write that type of character, and I think Ms. Santiago pulls it off. 

For the most part I enjoyed this book.  In the beginning, I had a love/hate relationship. I was drawn in by Ashlyn, the heroine of the story, and her immediate willingness to take responsibility for a war that started in her self-imposed absence.  I liked her lets-go-get-them-and-make-things-right attitude.  I also really loved Skye's down-to-earth and often profuond advice. On the other hand, I was frustrated with the two setups of the story that were too pat: 1) She didn't pursue a relationship with Drake because of a perceived slight when he smiled at another girl three years ago; and 2) Accepting responsibility for a war that occurred when she was gone--as if she had any control over that.  Also, in the first 20 pages or so I had some problems with the passive voice, a lot of telling to bring the reader up to speed on the background, and some missed editing.

However, after those first 20 pages or so, the character of Ashlyn made me forget those things as her combination of wit, caring, and youthful exuberance propelled her forward to right all wrongs. Like many young people, Ashlyn is very focused and when it comes to saving her kingdom, she is not going to stop until she's accomplished that. Being a ninja has always been her calling. Not only is she proud of it, but she is very good at fighting and killing if need be. It was her three year absence from her kingdom that set up the situation where it was taken over by the bad guy.


Once the reader is brought up to speed on the background, the book becomes non-stop action. There’s a definite love triangle with Drake and Vargo. I won't tell you who I like best, it is up to you to choose. Personally, I would have liked a little more relationship development but I can't complain about the page turning action.  I am definitely going to pick up the next two books in the series so I can see what happens to Ashlyn and her friends.



 This book is available for only 99 cents at Amazon. 
If the blurb, excerpt, and review sound good to you, run and take advantage of such a good deal.  The other two books are $2.99. So still a nice price.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

In February 2011, Charity Santiago's 7-month old son was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory issues. While Charity stayed at his bedside, she kept them both entertained by downloading several books on her new Kindle and reading them out loud. It was during this time that Charity learned about Kindle's self-publishing program, and realized that she had an opportunity to share her writings with the world.

Charity is a native of southeastern Arizona, and a writer since childhood. She wrote her first manuscript, Guinea Pig Code!, at age nine. When she’s not writing books, Charity spends her time wrangling children, watching Sylvester Stallone movies and pursuing a degree in Education.

Contact Charity on the Web: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

* * * Giveaway * * *

Charity will be awarding one $10 Amazon gift card for a random commenter. She is also awarding a Grand Prize: winner's choice of any mini gift basket from GourmetGiftBaskets.com (a $24.99 value).  All I can say is Yum Yum!!! 

Follow the Rest of the Tour

Remember, the more you comment on other blogs on the tour the better your chances of winning the prize.  Here are all the stops. Check out the one's before me and after me to learn more about Charity and her trilogy.
Tour Schedule

 4/1/2013 Unabridged Andra
4/2/2013 Beyond My Writing Space
4/3/2013 Margay Leah Justice
4/4/2013 Sue Perkins Author
4/5/2013 Straight from the Library
4/8/2013 Long and Short Reviews
4/9/2013 Racing To Read
4/10/2013 Maggie's Meanderings (You are Here!)
 and Stop 2 Maggie Faire YA
4/11/2013 Books in the Hall
4/12/2013 Let's Get BOOKED!





Friday, April 5, 2013

Chapter 2

This week I'm posting all of Chapter 2 at once, instead of dividing it into two parts.  The past two weeks and this coming week have been pretty crazy for me, both for writing deadlines and a death in my family. I'm not sure with all that is scheduled this coming week that I'll be able to get back and post again.  So enjoy!


If you are just finding this blog, you may want to go back and read  the Prologue , the the first half of Chapter 1. and the second half of Chapter 1 before tackling Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 will be released the third week of April. 

If you are interested in receiving a free advanced reading copy of the book and will post an honest review, please contact me at my email, maggie AT maggiefaire DOT com. In late April, Windtree Press will be sending out at least 50 review copies to readers and bloggers.

As always I love hearing from you.  If you prefer getting entire chapters at once instead of having them broken up. Let me know.





Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Author Spotlight on Karen Duvall

In addition to writing award-winning urban fantasy, Karen Duvall has been a great mentor to many writers through her blog and through emails.  So, when I saw that she was touring I absolutely jumped on the chance to feature her on my blog.

Just to be different, let's find out a little about Karen first, then I've asked her to answer a few questions in an interview.

About Karen


I was born in Hollywood, California. Sound glamorous? Maybe it might have turned out that way if my mother hand't given me up for adoption. Or that's what I used to fantasize about when I was a child. Nevertheless, I was very fortunate to have had the beset adoptive parents in the world. If you're curious to read more about this part of my life story, I wrote about it for my blog post Let's Get Personal and in another post titled Secrets Revealed and Secrets Kept.
 
I've always been a writer, even before I knew how to make my letters. At the age of three, I used to tell stories to my mom so she could write them down and I could draw the pictures. I still draw pictures, however I've replaced the crayons in favor of computer graphics. I've been a professional graphic artist for over thirty years after graduating from the Art Institute of Colorado in 1978.
I started out writing short stories because the thought of writing a book was too intimidating. Then I read an amazing series by Armistead Maupin and was so intrigued by his excellent characters that I knew I had to give it a try. After that, I was hooked. Writing books became my thing.

I joined Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers about 20 years ago, and that's how I learned how to write. I owe this amazing organization so much! Such a fabulous group of warm, helpful and supportive writers. I feel blessed to have discovered them and highly recommend their annual conference to any writer serious about becoming a published author. It's an amazing event attended by some of the best agents and editors in the industry. Even though I don't live in Colorado anymore, I return for the conference every year.
 
Now I live in Bend, Oregon, with my husband Jim, an over-zealous border-bully dog named Kinsey, and three spoiled cats that run our household. When I'm not writing, I freelance as a graphic designer. If you'd like to see some of my work, please visit my design website.

Interview with Karen

 

Thank you for joining the blog, Karen. I've read and really enjoyed your Knight's Curse and Darkest Knight books.  Do you plan more books in this world?
Yes, I do. I've started writing the third book, and I'm calling it A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER. The adventure of Chalice and her sister knights continues, and her relationship with Aydin reaches a new level that's both frightening and exciting. We also spend time with the formerly evil Maria as she struggles to regain her lost memories as she searches for her fallen angel father. It promises to be quite a tale.

As an author, I really applaud you for being part of an anthology with superstars Julie Kagawa and Anne Aguirre. How did that come about and how much did the three of you talk about the stories you were submitting?
I was very fortunate to have had such a wonderful opportunity. This is where having a good agent can really benefit an author's career. My agent keeps on top of what's going on with the publishers she deals with, and she keeps in continuous contact with the editors of her clients' books. My editor at Luna thought I'd be a great complement to the collection of post apocalyptic novellas Luna was planning last year, so I was given the chance to pitch a few story ideas that would fit the theme. I didn't have much direction other than it having to be about the end of the world, and each of the authors worked independently of one another. I had no idea what Julie and Anne were doing, and I don't think they knew what I was working on either. I'm not a zombie fan, so it's just as well we didn't collaborate. *smile* I haven't had the chance to read their stories yet, but I intend to. Anne is one of my favorite authors and I've heard many wonderful things about Julie's books.

What is it about writing urban fantasy that keeps you intrigued in this genre? 
I think it's because I'm immersed in reality in my day to day life, so I like to take the "what ifs" of my imagination in a more fanciful direction. Writing fantasy takes "making stuff up" to the extreme, which is what I love. Creating new worlds, societies, mythologies, and magic is like hanging out in a playground made of dreams and wishes. Anything's possible. But the most challenging, and the most satisfying, is to juxtapose fantasy with real world problems, human strengths and frailties. It gives new meaning to simile and metaphor in an original context.
 
Your heroine is barely a legal adult.  Would you classify this as part of the New Adult demographic?  I'm torn between thinking YA really goes to 25 these days, but now there is this New Adult option.
Knight's Curse came close to being a YA novel due to the youthful voice of the narrator and the sheltered situation she'd grown up in. The YA reader age group is 12-18. The New Adult age group is 19-25. So to answer your question, yes, the Knight's Curse books are definitely classified as New Adult.

If readers want a chance to meet you in person, is there anywhere you will be signing books this year?
 I will be giving two workshops at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in Denver, Colorado, on September 20-22, 2013. I'll also be signing books there. This is one of the best multi-genre fiction writer conferences in the country and I highly recommend it to anyone serious about becoming a published author. For more information, visit www.rmfw.org

Any other big news you'd like to share?
I'm currently working on the first book in a new fantasy romance series that's a twist on Alice in Wonderland. The story takes place in present day Hawaii (where I grew up) and involves Alice's great, great, great, great, great granddaughter with an ability to read the past in mirrors. The working title is MIRROR READER. So far it's won second place in the Maryland Romance Writers 2012 Reveal Your Inner Vixen Contest, and was a finalist in the 2012 Suzannah Contest (NOLA Stars Chapter of RWA). The series is not yet contracted, but my agent and I are hoping to change that real soon. Fingers crossed!

Contact Karen on the Web: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook


Check Out Karen's Great Books!!! 


Amazon | B&N |Kobo |iBookstore
Darkest Knight
"Betray your sisters or your lover. You choose."

After the warrior she loves saved her from a murderous gargoyle, Chalice watched helplessly as Aydin turned into a gargoyle himself. Now, free from the curse that enslaved her, Chalice pledges to join her sister knights in The Order of the Hatchet—and do whatever it takes to regain Aydin's humanity…and his love. What she encounters within their hallowed sanctuary is pure intrigue.

Someone—or something—is murdering her sisters in their sleep, provoking fear and suspicion among the order. Meanwhile, Aydin, unable to stay away, starts haunting Chalice's dreams, urging her onward. Ultimately, Chalice will be faced with an agonizing choice—one that will tear away at her newfound identity and force her to choose between duty and desire.

Amazon | B&N | Kobo
Apple iBookstore 
Knight's Curse  

A skilled knife fighter since the age of nine, Chalice knows what it's like to live life on the edge—precariously balanced between the dark and the light. But the time has come to choose. The evil sorcerer who kidnapped her over a decade ago requires her superhuman senses to steal a precious magical artifact…or she must suffer the consequences.

Desperate to break the curse that enslaves her, Chalice agrees. But it is only with the help of Aydin—her noble warrior-protector—that she will risk venturing beyond the veil to discover the origins of her power. Only for him will she dare to fully embrace her awesome talents. For a deadly duel is at hand, and Chalice alone will have to decide between freedom…and the love of her life.

 

Amazon | B&N | Kobo
Apple iBookstore
'Til the World Ends (Anthology)

Sun Storm by Karen Duvall
Sarah Daggot has been chasing storms since she was a child. But after the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, she becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to sense coming storms-in the cosmos and beyond. And she’s not the only one. Sarah believes the Kinetics are destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun. She’ll vow to keep trying to convince the one missing link in their chain of defense, the enigmatic Ian Matthews, up until the world ends.



Follow the Rest of the Blog Tour and
Learn More About Karen Duvall


Remaining Tour  Dates and Locations

April 3rd       
Maggie's Meanderings (You Are Here!)
                                              
April 11th      
Butterfly Feet Walking On Life       
                                      
April 20th      
Library Mosaic         
                                            
April 23rd.    
A Bibliopihles Thoughts on Books
                                                           
April 29th
Toot's Book Reviews                                             
                                              
May 7th         
Ethereal Book Reviews
                                              
May 14th       
Busy Moms Book Reviews

May 17th       
Reader Girls