Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest post from Bernadette Bland, author of Flights of Fancy


Title: Flight of Fancy
Genre: Poetry/Prose/Short Story
Author: Bernadette Bland
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 64
Language: English
ISBN - 978-1-45028-453-0

Life is filled with emotional highs and lows. Riding the wave of this experience is part of living, but for poet Bernadette Bland, dreaming was even more important. No matter the attitude, mood, or circumstance, Ms. Bland has always believed in the beauty of life. Never to be deterred from her heart’s desire, she has ridden her own life wave with an eye to her dreams and an eye to the beauty of nature. In her new poetry collection, Flights of Fancy, Ms. Bland shares her imagery with the outside world. She delves into the lavish splendor of nature in “Drifting Grace: God’s Art Show.” She peers behind the protective mask of a weeping clown in “Behind the Mask.” She recalls watching her mother slowly grow old in the poignant “Mama.” In all her words, she reveals her deepest yearnings and fears with selfless honesty. Flights of Fancy is an example of an imagination set free. Ms. Bland fills her poetry with wonder and will leave you longing to step out into the sun. She is not afraid to depict the sometimes traumatic rollercoaster of life; yet she encourages us to move on, move up, and not look back. Within every word, she calls to the reader, challenging each one of us to never stop dreaming!

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A Trip to Treasure - Boston, MA

H I recently had an experience of a life time traveling from Schenectady, N.Y.to Boston, MA. to attend and participate in the Annual Convention of the AARP -SO+ Uving. A huge event,the Center is filled with all types of vendors that cater to the Senior Citizens of this country.

As a newly published author, I was invited by iUniverse Publishing to represent them at the convention and to do some signing of my new book to be handed out to the attendees. What an exciting prospect for me. Imagine me! Signing my books for people to actually read. I was excited and terrified at the same time.It was all so new to me. What do I do? How am I supposed to look/dress appropriately for such an occasion?I'd have to meet and greet people, all strangers. How do I act?

As the time got closer,I was provided with some tips and advice; directions to the to the center,and a layout of the floor plan. This trip was planned to be a time for my husband and myself for the day after the book signing. Boston has what is known as the Freedom Trail, 9 originally Freedom Way), a walking tour of the most historic sites within the City of Boston. Many years ago, all these historic site were scattered about with no definite conjuction of the sites and probably no real interest. I have an Uncle (Bill Schofield) who lived and worked  in the city for most of his life. He was very interested in these sites and felt they should have a connection to each one. He planned out a  tour to make this connection and took it to the city's planning/governing boards with his proposal for the walking tour path. After many years of pleading and cajoling,these officials finally agreed and the walkway was built. Soon, tourists by the thousands instead of hundreds were making the tour to connect with some very important history, There are 16 sites incorporated into the 2.5 mile brick marker sidewalk tour Including The Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, the USS Constitution,The Paul Revere House,Bunker Hill Monument and more. Ifelt it to be part of my history too. Uncle,Bill Schofield, a veteran newsman. Honored as 'Father of the Freedom Trail' Schofield was an editor and
daily columnist for 'The Boston Herald'.He was better known for his invention for the Freedom Trail.A Veteran Navy Captain who served in
WWII,he wrote seven novels about the war and Navy Frogmen in particular. As detailed as they were, I couldn't find an interest in them but my husband did being he is a 25 year Navy Veteran himself who served with the Navy Seals.

Unfortunately,I never got to do the trail due to a bad fall which put me out of commission for a few days.I did do the signing though from a wheel chair and was so happy I did. The people I met were charming and shared some very kind words about my book which made the whole trip so very worthwhile,and if I could, I'd do it all again in a nano-second as they say.


Bernadette Bland was born in Westerly, Rhode Island. A news reporter and photographer for many years, her poetry has been published by the National Library of Poetry, the Amherst Society, and the Iliad Press, among others. Ms. Bland lives with her husband in the Capital District of upstate New York.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interview with Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of 'Divine Sanctuary'

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling Canadian suspense author. Her novels include Divine Sanctuary, Submerged, Divine Justice, Children of the Fog, The River, Divine Intervention, and Whale Song, which New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice calls "a compelling story of love and family and the mysteries of the human heart...a beautiful, haunting novel."

She is now working on her next thriller.

Cheryl also enjoys writing short stories inspired mainly by her author idol Stephen King, and this has resulted in Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories (collection of shorts) and Remote Control (novelette eBook). In 2010 Cheryl detoured into the romance genre with her contemporary romantic suspense debut, Lancelot's Lady, written under the pen name of Cherish D'Angelo.

Booklist raves, "Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border."
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About the Book:

There's no place like home…

In the Divine trilogy finale, the heat is tripled when CFBI Agent Jasi McLellan must rescue Emily, the ghost girl that haunts her dreams; expose her own mother's killer; and uncover a murderer that preys on the weak at Sanctuary, a controversial cult nestled in the woods near Mission, BC.

Something insidious lurks behind the safe haven of Sanctuary's wrought iron gates. Led by the charismatic Father Jeremiah, the cult's idyllic lifestyle seems perfect on the outside. But a lethal hunter is on the prowl, and in a carefully executed game of cat and mouse, the body count rises.

Along with Victim Empath Natassia Prushenko, Psychometric Empath Ben Roberts and Special Consultant Brandon Walsh, Jasi follows three trails of clues that lead to one terrifying conclusion: home is not always the safest place on earth.

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Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

I have been creating stories ever since I could print my name. I excelled in story composition in school. At 14, I was a paid journalist for a small newspaper. At 16 I wrote my first novel. Unfortunately it was stolen when I brought it to school to show my Language Arts teacher. I wrote my next novel a couple of years later and queried agents and publishers in Canada and the US, without any luck. Then in 2003 I decided to self-publish. Since then I have had the best of both worlds—self-publishing and traditional publishing. And I’ve had 3 agents, my current one from Trident Media Group.

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?

I was a background actor in the ‘90s for two popular TV series—The Commish and The Heights (kind of a Melrose Place twin). I really enjoyed it!

Q: What scares you the most?

I have a few fears, but the worst one is that something terrible will happen to my daughter or husband. I also fear snakes, spiders, being trapped in a submerged vehicle and flying. The latter I really have to work on as I love traveling.

Q: What makes you happiest?

Hands down, the thing that makes me happiest is writing and hearing from readers that they enjoyed my work. This is deeply and personally fulfilling.

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

I am most proud of my daughter, Jessica. She has grown into a beautiful young woman with many talents and a bright future ahead of her.

Q: What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

Marketing is the most difficult of the three for me. I always have tons of ideas, but things change so quickly in this business that you have to always been on top of the industry. Thank God I’m not afraid to experiment or think outside the bookstore.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

I have already experienced certain levels of success. And that’s how I define it; there are levels. I’ve written a number of works, which is a success in itself. I’ve published them—another success. I’ve reached the “Holy crap, I can actually earn living from my writing” level. And I’ve hit the “OMG, my book is on Amazon’s Top 100 overall bestseller list” multiple times with various titles. And the level for foreign translations; my last deal was a 5-book deal with a German publisher. But there’s a level I can’t wait to reach, the “I can’t wait to see my book on the big screen or as a TV series.” That, to me, is the ultimate success—for me anyway.

Q: Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

DIVINE SANCTUARY is the final book in the Divine Trilogy. DIVINE SANCTUARY takes you inside a cult set deep in the woods in BC. Three psychic agents and a former fire chief are investigating a murder on Sanctuary’s grounds. They’re also searching for a missing reporter. With the first two books, DIVINE INTERVENTION and DIVINE JUSTICE, readers follow two subplots, which are finally resolved in the final book. Think part CSI plus part Ghost Whisperer plus part Medium and you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

I wrote this series because I love to explore the paranormal/supernatural. I wanted to explore how psychics could help law enforcement agencies solve crime. And with DIVINE SANCTUARY, I also wanted to explore the meaning of “family.”

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

I love watching movies and TV series, especially suspenseful ones. I also enjoy relaxing out on my deck, a glass of Arbor Mist wine in my hand and my Pomeranian, Chai, beside me. I also love traveling. 

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

If you’re looking for unique characters and stories that combine murder, mystery and emotion, you’ll enjoy this trilogy. Each book could actually be read as a standalone, but you’ll get even more out of them if you read all three.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Learn the craft of writing, especially Chicago Manual of Style rules for grammar and punctuation. Learn how to sculpt descriptive sentences and strong dialogue. After that, learn the business—because this IS a business, and you’ll need to invest time, energy and money in it if you want to see success. Be everywhere online and start promoting yourself as a writer before you’re even published. And most of all, enjoy your characters and their stories. Happy writing!

Q: You have a contest on your Facebook page. Can you share that with us?

I’m holding a Rafflecopter contest and giving away some great prizes. To enter, visit my Facebook page HERE. If you’re on a mobile device, please go HERE. You can enter daily until August 31, 2014.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From My Heart by Randolph Baltimore Book Feature

From My Heart
Title: From My Heart
Author: Randolph Baltimore
Publisher: Xlibris
Pages: 34
Genre: Poetry
Format: Ebook
Purchase at AMAZON

 “From My Heart” is my first publication, my labor of love I have worked on for many years. It is the fruition of the many trials, tribulations, ups and downs that life has dealt me over the years. May you be inspired and enlightened by the words on these pages.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Parker by Stephanie Macneil Book Feature


Title: Parker
Genre: Young Adult
Author: Stephanie Macneil
Publisher: iUniverse
EBook: 226 pages
Release Date: November 20, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-47596-038-9

The secret came out a few years ago: Parker Knight is gay. Now Parker is sixteen, and everyone has either embraced it, does not care, or has forgotten—everyone except for Dylan Baker. He is determined to make Parker’s life miserable. Parker really thought killing himself would make everything better. If he was dead, he would not have to get kicked around by Dylan and his friends anymore. He would be free. Now, after a failed suicide attempt, Parker just wants to get through the last few months of tenth grade and stay as far away from Dylan as possible. What’s worse is Parker is secretly in love with his best friend, Liam Eriksson. But luckily, Liam doesn’t know this. Parker does not want to risk losing the friendship by telling him his true feelings. But as a tragedy overshadows his already complicated life, Parker soon discovers that the truth has a habit of surfacing in unexpected ways. Parker is the poignant story of one boy’s struggle for acceptance as he reaches out for hope, life, forgiveness and Liam.



 Stephanie Macneil was born in Ottawa, Ontario, but now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Her goal is to become a screenwriter. Parker is her first book.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with Mary Carter: 'It's a page turner, a free trip to Spain and a Hitchcock-like mystery'

Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist.  Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include:  Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: Return to Hampton Beach in the anthology, Summer Days, A Southern Christmas in the upcoming 2014 anthology Our First Christmas, A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home. Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops.
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About the Book:

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to
Grace Sawyer's current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn't just Grace's foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she's kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter's intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

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Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

I have published eight novels and six novellas with Kensington Books. I am currently working on my ninth novel. I also lead writing workshops at The Writer’s Loft in Chicago.

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?

I move a lot. In the past year I’ve lived in NYC, Wilmington NC, and Chicago IL. And I’m not in my forever home so I may have a lot of moves ahead of me.

Q: What scares you the most?

First drafts.

Q: What makes you happiest?

The rewriting process. Reading great books. Friends and family. My labradoodle.

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

I take chances. It can be very lonely when you move around a lot. I miss my friends back in New York. But I put myself out there, and always try to make the best of wherever I am.

Q: What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

Oh, boy. That’s a rock, and a hard place, and a brick wall. Writing you can at least control. So I’d say publishing. But marketing is a monster too.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

At this point, I guess I would equate success to having enough money to buy something big and lasting, like a home. It’s taken eight years for me to start making real money at writing. I’ve always worked a second job. I’d like to be able to buy my own home one day. Aside from that, success is writing a story that gets noticed and read far and wide. I’d also love to have the money and freedom to travel more as I write. That would be a dream come true.

Q: Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

MEET ME IN BARCELONA is about Grace Sawyer, a country singer who goes to Spain with her boyfriend Jake. She soons find out that someone else is in Spain, Carrie Ann,the foster sister she hasn’t seen in years. When Jake and Carrie Ann disappear in the middle of Barcelona, Grace and a handsome Belgian man must follow scant clues to their whereabouts. In doing so Grace will be forced to confront the dark chapter from her past that tore her and Carrie Ann apart.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

I walk my dog around the block, go to the Lake, drink wine, read. I’ve also just started doing Kettlebell workouts. That’s not relaxing until you’re all done with it.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

It’s a page turner, a free trip to Spain, and a Hitchcock-like mystery.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Write. Finish something. Read books on writing. The course I teach is based on Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Interview with Melodie Campbell, author of 'Rowena and the Viking Warlord'

Billed as Canada’s “Queen of Comedy" by the Toronto Sun (Jan. 5, 2014), Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich.
Winner of nine awards, including the 2014 Derringer (US) and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge (Orca Books), Melodie has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and seven novels.

Melodie got her start writing stand-up.  In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. Her fiction has been described by industry reviewers as "hilarious" and "laugh-out-loud funny."

Melodie has a commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well.  She has been a bank manager, college instructor, marketing director, comedy writer and possibly the worst runway model ever.  These days, Melodie is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Her latest book is the paranormal romance time travel, Rowena and the Viking Warlord.

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Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

Sure!  Here goes…the definitely unofficial biography: 

Billed as Canada’s “Queen of Comedy" by the Toronto Sun (Jan. 5, 2014,) some folks would say I’ve had a decidedly checkered past.  Don’t dig too deep.  You might find cement shoes.

My crime series, The Goddaughter, is about a wacky mob family in Hamilton aka The Hammer.  This has no resemblance whatsoever to the wacky Sicilian family I grew up in.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I had to wait for certain members of the family to die before writing The Goddaughter.

My other series is racy rollicking time travel, totally scandalous, hardly mentionable in mixed company.  But I’ll mention it anyway.  Rowena Through the Wall.  Hold on to your knickers.  Or don’t, and have more fun. 

The Goddaughter’s Revenge won the 2014 Derringer (US) and the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award (Canada) for Best Crime Novella.  I got my start writing comedy and seem to be firmly glued there, after 200 publications and nine awards.  But others know me as the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?

I had a delinquent youth.  No, really.  My kids used to say they never worried about getting into real trouble, as anything they could do would never be as bad as what Mom did   

And then I went and got a business degree, because someone said “Maybe it’s too much for a girl.”  Yes, that is sufficient reason for me to spend four years doing something I hate.

Q: What scares you the most?

Superior sales clerks in bra stores.

Q: What makes you happiest?

Being with people I love.  Making friends of readers who email.  Getting together with other writers to whine about the industry.  (wait – did I say that?) My happiness comes from enjoying company with people.

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

That I continue to support and protect my autistic brother.  Our home life was difficult when we were growing up.  It’s a constant challenge even now.

Q: What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

Writing to me is part of my being.  So that part comes naturally.  Getting a publisher is tough.  Keeping them is even tougher.  My degree is in marketing, so I don’t have any excuse there.  This whole game is a constant challenge, as the book world changes so rapidly.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

When I first started in this business, it was all about sales.  Then I thought the winning of awards was the apex.

Then a fan wrote to say that ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL (book 1 of this trilogy) was the best book she had ever read.  I actually cried.  I’ve won 9 awards.  None of them can match that moment. I write for her now, and readers like her.

Q: Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

I write pure escapist fantasy with a comedy core.  Reviewers have called my Land’s End books “The Princess Bride with Sex,” and “Jack Sparrow meets Janet Evanovich.”

Here’s a quick blurb from Rowena and the Viking Warlord (the ‘why’ comes below)
“He was her enemy and her lover…”

All is not well in Land’s End, when Rowena unwittingly rides into an enemy war camp!  Yet she is not helpless. After all, Rowena is a hereditary half-witch with a whole lot of magic in her.  Too bad she doesn’t know how to use it. Escaping from the camp, she continues to botch up spell after spell. Soon Kendra joins her on the trek back to Castle Huel, along with the latest magical mistake, a flame-burping dragon called Cinders.

When war comes to Land’s End, it brings the one man who threatens to conquer everything in Huel, including Rowena’s heart. Now she has to make the biggest decision of her life. Will she return through the wall to safety in Arizona? Or will she stay in Land’s End for good, and fight to save her people from the Viking Warlord?

Okay – why I wrote this series:

Four years ago, my mother had been admitted to hospital 38 times, dying.  As the news got worse and worse, I sat in her hospital room and thought, if I could walk through that hospital wall right now into another world, I would.  That night, I started writing ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL.  I needed escape from my sorrowful reality.

After the first book was published, readers wrote me to plead for a second.  The Rowena books were giving them needed escape too.  So together we went on this journey.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

I am lamentably addicted to fast cars.  Blew my last advance on a 2006 sapphire blue corvette.  One day I’ll probably regret it.  (But now today!)

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

Rowena and the Viking Warlord is sexy, funny, rollicking adventure!  I write to give readers a total escape from everyday life.  There is no greater joy for me than when readers write to tell me that they loved a book.  That’s why I write.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

To be successful as an author, you need to love the actual act of writing.  That being, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, isolating yourself for hours on end as you create stories on paper.  If you love that, you will continue to write, and will get better and better at it.  If you don’t love that, then it will be hard work, and that will show.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Interview with Reverend Carol Hale, author of Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years



Title: Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years Genre: Religion/Spirituality
Author: Rev. Carol A Hale
Publisher: AuthorHouse
EBook: 112 pages
Release Date: April 29, 2011

 The spirit guides our life. It opens our life as a child and always stays with us. After each prayer our spirit will speak to your mind about God's decision and we will hear about he best task for life. The spirit and prayers always gives us comfort relaxations to the mind. When the body has been or is in a accident, is sick, having surgery, financial problems, and life events. My life has had several perfect body safety and healings i was six or seven months old. The spirit with God guided my jobs and acceptance of my birth as a lesbian.  


 Can you tell us what your latest book is about?

My first book is called 'Baby to Senior Spiritual Life Years'. It is about my life and spirituality with God and Jesus from age 4 to my current age of 75.

How did you come up with the idea?

My spirit as always guided me and told me how to do things. My spirit always guides me on how to be with God at all times.

What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of the book?

I was a physical education teacher in sports with children in parks for over 30 years. I was told by God to be a Pastor when I went to my first MCC church in Gainesville, Florida. I was in a learning class in Jacksonville and a pastor was giving a lesson on how to be a pastor. He saw me and told me to get into his church as an assistant until I was a legal pastor. I moved over and worked in that church. I did not write my book until I retired from a pastor at the age of 63.

First Chapter Reveal: I Wish by E.B. Tatby #firstchapters

Title: I Wish
Author: E.B. Tatby
Publisher: Dream Tag
Pages: 329
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

All her life, sixteen-year-old Kenza Atlas has heard the stories, but she never believed them. She never expected the allure of power or, worse, how far the dark shadows could cast. Genies and wishing are for fairy tales, not teenage girls, and especially not in Omaha.

But when a Moroccan jinn with undulating tattoos and mysterious black eyes whisks her 500 years back in time, she witnesses the death of her powerful ancestor and the gorgeous slave she loved. They sacrificed themselves to escape the Caliph, a tyrant named Mazin.

And now he’s after Kenza.

He’s tracked her to her present time. Now she spends her days stealing paranoid glances over her shoulder, obsessing over a slave who died hundreds of years ago, and praying her family will survive.
For as long as I could remember, my dad would recite Moroccan legends, filled with magical jinns who could manifest anytime, anywhere . . . but I never believed his stories. I had attributed them—and all of his other tales—to a hyped up imagination, ranked right up there with fairy tales and never-going-to-happen endings. I didn’t believe that a living, breathing Prince Charming existed, or that any prince had a kiss potent enough to awaken a comatose princess, and I didn’t believe in jinns. Even if my dad’s animated retelling made beautiful and devious genies sound exotic, I preferred realism, boring as it often proved in Omaha.

That’s why I didn’t freak out when a soft breath trailed across my shoulders. But when it happened again I spun around, eyes darting around the room. Nothing was there except my bed, my desk with my embarrassingly antiquated computer, a couple of posters on my lavender walls, and the pile of dirty clothes by the closet. Still, to be safe, I pushed on my door to make sure it was locked, and then sped from window to window wiggling all the latches. Nothing looked out of place, but something felt very wrong.

When a pungent smell permeated the room—worse than the rotten Easter eggs I’d forgotten in my playhouse when I was five—I cupped my mouth, trying my hardest not to puke. My dad had often described the putrid smell that accompanied jinns, so this had to be my vivid imagination on steroids. Not sure if the smell or my rising fear created the nausea, I stood in front of the mirror and peered into my startled, dark-brown eyes.

“Stop being ridiculous,” I whispered.

I blew out a puff of air to reassure myself that I was being silly. But when a fleeting shadow floated past the mirror, I spun around, gasping, and splayed my back against the wall. I shook my head several times, but the apparition didn’t disappear.

“Who are you?” I exclaimed.

Wordlessly, she floated toward me, her long dress rippling effortlessly, never touching the ground. I focused on the fact that she was floating. I tried to analyze it, to make sense of it, but suddenly she paused right in front of me, within reach. She wasn’t tall, but compared to me—and the fact she was floating—she had to tip her head down to look at me with her wide coal-black eyes. Her caramel-colored heart-shaped face and bow-shaped lips certainly made her look Moroccan, as I would, if I hadn’t inherited my mom’s light complexion and smattering of freckles.

“I don’t believe in jinns,” I whispered, my voice quavering. “I’m imagining this. I know I’m imagining this, so don’t even think that you’re scaring me, because you aren’t.” The spooky apparition tilted her head to one side but didn’t budge. I drew in a sharp breath, clenched my fists.
When she locked her eyes on me, I studied what appeared to be undulating henna tattoos casting lacy shadows over her skin . . . but I couldn’t tell if they were real tattoos or only an illusion. I peered harder, noticed her ringlets of black hair sway from side-to-side slowly like a mermaid’s would underwater; studied how her long sparkly dress shimmered with a million stars from the night sky, emitting tiny bursts of light all around my room.

I raised my eyes and stared hard into her eyes, intently wishing I could burn the image—although stunning—from my mind by sheer will. I tried to call for my dad, but nothing came out. I tried to move, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I drew another breath. “You can go now,” I said, praying I sounded brave.

She stared into my eyes, willing me to “hear” her. No words were spoken, but I heard an unfamiliar voice in my head. “It’s time,” she communicated, “I’ve come to prepare you.”

My heart beat out messages: Caution! Danger! Run! I sucked in a breath, bolted for the door, unlocked it, wrapped my hand around the knob, and gasped when it became clear that someone on the other side was trying to get in.

“My Kenza, why are you not yet asleep?”

“Don’t come in, Dad,” I shouted, bracing myself against the door, grinding my heels into the carpeted floor. He’d warned me for years that one of his magic jinns might show up to pirate me off to Morocco. If he saw this apparition, it would mean that he’d been right all along, and that Mom and I had been wrong to make fun of his stories. More importantly, if he saw the jinn, I wouldn’t be able to pretend that she wasn’t real.

Not one to let me get away with anything, my dad pushed hard against the door, sending me stumbling backwards, falling onto my bed. I glanced furtively around the room. She was gone.
“What is wrong with you, Kenza?” Dad spread his feet apart, placed one hand on each hip, and glowered. “I am waiting . . .”

My heart was still thundering, but I wanted time to figure this out on my own. So I did what I typically did when my parents confronted me: I said whatever popped into my head to throw him off. “So what if I’m still awake. Why does it matter so much to you?”

“It matters because you should be in bed. You have school tomorrow . . . and it’s your sixteenth birthday, so the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner it will come, my Moon.”

“A birthday I don’t even get to celebrate thanks to you and Mom,” I said, affecting what they called my “obnoxious teenage attitude.”

“Let’s not dig up old bones,” he said.

First of all, my being grounded was not “old bones.” They’d grounded me only days prior. And secondly, my dad was always translating lame Moroccan expressions into English. I used to find them funny, but now they only irritated me, mostly because they were irrelevant. The one he chose tonight, however, made me shiver . . . because it seemed spookily relevant.

True to his roots, Dad bent over at his waist and waved his hands in a rolling motion toward my bed, inviting me to grant his wish by settling in to sleep. “Please, My Moon, it is time for slumber. Your father is willing you to obey his wishes.”

Because my heart had not yet quieted, I didn’t have the will to fight him. I switched the lamp to its lowest setting, crawled underneath my blankets, and tugged them up to my neck—silently praying that, should it be necessary, burrowing my entire body underneath them would blot out a repeat performance. No more jinns.

Dad sat just south of my toes on the bed. “Something’s not right,” he said. He wrinkled his forehead and squinted his eyes, as if he were scrutinizing me—or my aura. I often felt like a specimen my parents were trying to mentally dissect.

“What are you talking about?” I said, sounding disgruntled, mostly because I felt too exhausted to dream up a lie.

He pursed his lips, scratched his chin. “Oh right, I forget. I am not supposed to care about my precious daughter . . . unless she needs money or a ride or something that her father can buy for her. This is the life of an American teenager. In Morocco—”

“Dad, stop,” I said, raising one hand and waving it, as if I were truly surrendering. “I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t need coddling. Sometimes it’s just a weird mood, okay? And staying up a little later than usual isn’t going to kill me.” Milliseconds later, a crack of lightning sounded in the distance. I felt my whole body tense, and thrust my head deeper under my covers.

“Ah, you are worried about the storm, yeah?” He turned to look at the window, unaware I had tightly shut the blinds. “Even though it rains almost as often as it snows in Omaha, you’ve always had trouble sleeping during a storm.”

“You can’t blame the rain, Dad. It’s not doing it on purpose.”

His face brightened. “Why don’t I tell you a story?”

“Can you tell me about Jamila of Diab?” I asked.

“You always liked that one best,” he said, patting my shin, smiling. “How about I tell you a new story? It is also about our ancestors, but not so far back as your precious Jamila of Diab.”

I closed my eyes and grinned. I was willing to try anything to take my mind off a twisted hallucination. Besides, saying “no” to my dad was fruitless. He’d always shown his love by reciting bedtime stories, and I rarely allowed him this privilege anymore.

“Back when I was a little boy, growing up in the high mountains of Fez, my grandfather used to recite the legends of our ancestors,” he said. “At bedtime, on rainy nights like this, my grandfather would sit on a rug, sheltered by only an old-fashioned desert tent, and all of his grandchildren would compete for a chance to sit on a corner of his long white robe, honored to be in his presence.”

I turned my cocooned body on its side. My dad had always been a great storyteller, a dying tradition in Morocco . . . or so he told me. When I was little, his stories had often transported my imagination from the confines of Nebraska to foreign lands. Tonight, I welcomed the chance to envision an exotic land, something so far away it would banish all thoughts of the apparition. “Just don’t throw in jinns,” I said.

“This is not a story about jinns; it is the story of your heritage, and the power that has passed from generation to generation, and now to you.”

“Okay, great,” I mumbled, settling deeper into my bed.

My dad cleared his throat. “The city of Fez is a magical place in Morocco, but you know this, right my Moon? In Morocco, everything is splendidly beautiful: the colors, the smells, the merchants selling their wares in the square.”

I drew in a slow, deep breath. “The story, Dad?”

“Ah, yes, I was born in Fez, a great city in North Africa. Do you know what that makes you?” he asked.

“Half American, half Moroccan?” I answered quietly, without even opening an eye. We’d done this drill a thousand times.

“Half American, half mysterious,” he clarified. Dad loved feeling exotic and mysterious and in Omaha he was both. “I was born in Fez, and so was your grandfather, and his father before him, all the way back to the time when the Tribe of Diab reigned.”

“Dad,” I interrupted, popping my head out for one second, “that’s the Tribe of Wolves, right?” He’d told me this story many times before, but my mind was transitioning from wakefulness to sleep—and remained a little traumatized.

“Yes, diab means wolf. I heard firsthand about their unrivaled magic. My grandfather met Aisha Kandisha himself.”

“Aisha Kan-what?” I asked.

He pointed his finger upwards. “Aisha Kandisha is a very famous jinn in Fez. I never told you about her before because you were too young, but now it is time you should know. She uses her powers to destroy families, but she couldn’t cause a grain of harm to ours, even though she tried.”

I propped myself up on my elbow, opened my eyes. “I thought we agreed that you weren’t going to throw in jinns.”

He crossed his arms. “This isn’t about jinns, Kenza. It’s about the Tribe of Diab and the fact that we carry their bloodline. Now why don’t you lie down and relax? Let yourself get lost in the story.”
I settled back into my bed, jerking the covers up and over my head.

He lowered his voice to a whisper. “One day, my grandfather went into the fields to help a young boy tend to his family’s sheep. My grandfather—your great-grandfather—was a teenager then; I can’t remember his exact age, but he was older than the other boy. After a long day of work—and he was a hard worker, like you—they stopped to rest alongside a stream. According to my grandfather, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen approached them. She had coal black eyes, an enchanting smile, and rings with sparkling jewels on every finger. She called herself Aisha Kandisha.

“She offered them hot couscous—a treat out in the fields—which they should have refused, but were too weak to pass up. When they finished eating, they thanked Aisha Kandisha for her fine hospitality and prepared to leave. Not long down the road, she reappeared, as if by a puff of smoke, and would not let them pass. Her intentions were not good.”

“Here we go again,” I said, elucidating a strong dose of sarcasm.

“What do I do with you, my Moon? Oh never mind . . . I cannot take the doubting American attitude out of you, so I might as well not try . . . now, where was I . . . oh, yes. Aisha Kandisha reached out to touch my grandfather and then suddenly drew back. ‘You have the blood of the Tribe of Diab,’ she told him. ‘They are very powerful and dangerous. Even I cannot penetrate the protection that has been placed upon you.’ ”

I lowered my covers, peered at my dad. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’ve told me many times that the Tribe of Diab was evil. Why would they want to protect your grandfather?”

“Most of them were evil,” he clarified, “but not all. You are not evil, and I am not, and we are both from that line.”

I felt chills run up my spine. “So did Aisha Kandisha leave them alone after that?”

“Not without first laying her hands on the younger boy. It nearly broke my grandfather’s heart to return him to the village. The boy never regained his speech, and he forever stared off into the distance . . . like one of your modern-day zombies.”

“So what happened?” I asked.

“When my grandfather told the villagers who did this to his companion, they informed him that Aisha Kandisha was a female jinn,” he said.

Secretly, I decided to turn my mind off in protest. When I’d said “no jinns” I’d meant no jinns . . .
“She used dark magic to seek out men,” he continued, “no matter their age, and enslave them as her husband until the day they died.” He shook his finger at me. “That is why you must watch out for jinns around rivers and streams. They prefer the flowing water. They drain its energy and use it to enhance their powers . . . ”

Even though I hadn’t heard this story before, I had crossed the line to sleep, his voice fading into the background. I seemed to be dreaming when the mysterious jinn I’d seen earlier reappeared, floating in front of me, holding out her lacy hand.

“Come with me, Kenza” she communicated. “It is time to learn what you must know to survive your future.”

I sat up and looked straight into her mesmerizing eyes. “I know that I’m dreaming, okay, and I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Do not be frightened,” she said, her voice echoing through my mind, as softly as a gentle breeze. “This is not a dream, and you must come with me. We must go now so you can return before your morning comes.”

I didn’t remember climbing out of bed, but I suddenly realized the jinn and I were alone in a stark white room, surrounded by nothing. She reached a graceful hand up and swiped the air, as if clearing a fogged window. I could see myself lying on my bed, my head still resting quietly on the pillow. I watched my dad pat me affectionately before leaving my bedroom. I turned to the apparition, feeling completely freaked out. Her face morphed before me, as if she were attempting to smile, which made her feel less threatening than before, almost peaceful.

“Your physical body will remain in your bed, but the real you is coming with me,” she explained. “I must show you something.”

“Do I have a choice?” I’d seen A Christmas Carol a hundred times so astral travel wasn’t exactly foreign to me.

“I must show you things that will affect your destiny,” she said, her voice sounding melodic, alluring. “We will not be long there, and then I shall return you.”

I glanced around. The view of my room had completely vanished, and we were alone in the white room. “Where is here?” I asked, shrugging.

“Exactly,” she replied, winking at me.

“I want you to promise me that I can return whenever I want . . . and I mean back to my house, to my room. Can you promise me that?”

“Of course, you can return at any time,” she replied, “but, once you see him, you won’t want to rush back so quickly.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Precious than Rubies by Randy Coates Book Feature

More Precious Than Rubies
Title: More Precious Than Rubies
Author: Randy Coates
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 174
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Ebook
 Purchase at AMAZON

 Paul Brager is twelve when his father tells the story of Iduna and her apples. Mr. Brager always tells stories before bed to entertain Paul’s little brother, Adrian—a ritual that has become even more important since their mother died. Iduna was a goddess who grew apples that made the gods younger and stronger, but one day she disappeared, along with her apples. Paul doesn’t think much of the myth; he has other things on his mind. Paul and his best friend, Chad Tremblay, are excited to start the school year as seventh graders at Dorian Heights Public School. Even when they hear about the new principal, Mr. Theisen, they aren’t worried about ending up in his office. When Paul finally meets the principal, however, he finds him to be strange, mysterious, and extremely fond of apples. That’s when things start going wrong. Theisen develops an uncomfortable interest in Paul, claiming he once knew Paul’s father. It becomes apparent to Paul and Chad that Theisen is after something, maybe some kind of treasure—and it involves the Brager family. Paul believes his family must be protected and that Theisen must be stopped. Still, he can’t get the story of Iduna’s apples out of his head; there seems to be an odd connection to the tale his father told. He and Chad want to know the answers, but learning them may put their lives in danger.
Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education. 

Interview with Kim Boykin, author of 'Palmetto Moon'

Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.
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About the Book:

June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

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Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

Thanks for having me. I’ve always written stories down. In 1989, I got my first computer and started writing a REALLY BAD romance. While I’m not sure it did much for my process, the computer changed my life. I could finally type as fast as I could think and that was when the stories just started gushing out.

As a stay-at-home-mom, writing became the one thing that was just mine. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job and being pulled in a million different directions, but at the end of the day, writing was something that belonged only to me. I think every woman needs that. So, I wrote novels and raised kids and helped my family chase their dreams. Last year, I got my dream when Berkley Books published my first novel, The Wisdom of Hair. This year, Palmetto Moon. Life is good.

Q: What fact about yourself would really surprise people?  

I always wanted long hair, but my husband, mother, even his mother liked it short. His mother once even did an intervention when I was in that inbetween stage. She asked me to tag along to her hair appointment, but she had made an appointment for me to get my hair cut, and worse yet, PERMED. People who know me would be shocked to know I listened to them for so long. At 56, I may be a little old to have grown my hair way down my back, but I love it and I’m NOT changing it unless I want to make the change.

Q: What scares you the most?

No contest. Losing one of my kids.

Q: What makes you happiest?

Having people read my stories and connecting with those readers at book events and conferences—that and a good tiramisu. Really, any dessert will do.

Q: What are you most proud of in your personal life?

I raised two amaizng kids who are loving, caring adults, and had a blast doing it.

Q: What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

The writing has never been hard, getting published was challenging until I figured out a better way. But marketing? Trying to get the word out about your book is like standing on a corner of Times Square, whispering to the person across the street, and hoping you’ll be heard.

Q: Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? 

Do I want to be on the bestseller lists? Yes. But if I never do, if I continue to have folks read my books, I’d be happy. Truth is, if the world almost ended tomorrow and I was sitting around a campfire with no electronics, I would be the one telling stories. Actually, I’d have to take turns with the other authors who would be doing the same.

Q: Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

Palmetto Moon is set in 1947. It’s the story of Vada Hadley, a Charleston high society runaway bried who escapes the night before her wedding and runs away to a little crossroads community to start a new life. There, she falls for Frank Darling, owner of the Sit Down Diner. While Vada’s powerful father searches for her to make her marry the wrong guy, Vada learns her dear friend Darby from back home is in trouble. Vada will have to confront the life she gave up and decide where her heart truly belongs. 

I wish I had some grand explanation how this book came to be. The truth is, I hear voices. They tell me their stories, and I write them down. I’m kind of like a glorified stenographer, and I had to write fast when Vada started talking. She’s smart and Southern and sassy, and SO full of surprises. When she started telling me her story, I thought she was just a fluffy blonde. Boy, was I wrong.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

YOGA! Walking, reading. I used to garden, I had over 150 rose bushes, but I don’t have time for them, and the deer are very happy I’m not fighting them anymore.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

I love Vada’s new friendship with Claire, and Vada’s love for Darby. While the love story is central in this book, all of my stories are about women helping women find their happily every after. It’s what we women do, and what I love most about us.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

With all of the publishing options, now is the best time in the history of writers to have their work read by others. My advice is always, WRITE. That means do it and do it regularly; it’s the only way you get better. Get in a critique group. And submit, you don’t, if you never look into self-publishing, you’ll never have your work read, so put yourself out there. Most importantly, and this comes from a woman who sold her first book at 53, NEVER give up.