Saturday, January 18, 2020

Review: "Writing Fiction: A User-Friendly Guide," by James Essinger

Anyone can improve their writing immensely by learning the basics of a good novel. Crafting believable and interesting characters, plots, settings and dialogue is a skill that everyone can acquire with the right tools and devoted practice. One such tool is the book, Writing Fiction: A User-Friendly Guide, by James Essinger. Writers will learn:

What is a plant? (Hint: It’s not a green, leafy thing.)
When should you “show,” and when should you “tell”?
Why is editing important?
What is a quest?
What is voice?
How do I add suspense?
How long should my novel be?
…and much more

Essinger cites many real-life novels and movies as examples of using various literary techniques. He also provides valuable tips for submitting the best possible manuscript to a publishing company. Appendices address grammar and poetry. Aspiring writers should study their craft diligently, and Writing Fiction is an essential addition to every writer’s toolkit.



Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my honest review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on purchases made through this link.

Lock and Key Book Blitz: Giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card and Paperbacks!


Lock and Key
Evangeline Anderson
(Nocturne Academy, #1)
Publication date: January 18th 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
What do a mysterious necklace, forbidden Blood Magic rituals, and a sarcastic Nocturne boy with the face of a fallen angel all have in common?

Me, apparently. 
Since I started school at Nocturne Academy, strange happenings have befallen me. The weird key-shaped necklace I found at a flea market chokes me every time I try to take it off. Also, a tall, beautiful, and bitingly sarcastic Nocturne has the lock that matches it. 
His name is Griffin Darkheart, and -- like this freaking necklace -- I can’t seem to stay away from him, though he’s being Censured for mysterious crimes. Among a student body composed of vampires, witches, were -- dragons, and fairies, I no longer know what my future holds. 
To heck with graduating with honors. I’m just hoping to graduate alive. Nocturne Academy is full of deadly dangers.

And I’ve already got a target on my back…

EXCERPT:

A warm breath of humid Florida night air breathed through the hallway like the exhalation from a giant mouth. On it, I caught the scent of orange trees mixed with the flat, wet scent of the lake that surrounded the castle.

And running through it all was Griffin’s own scent -- a cold, clean, somehow completely masculine aroma that flooded my senses and made the key around my neck throb even harder.

Stop him! it seemed to be crying -- I swore I could almost hear its voice in my mind. Stop him -- he’s getting away!

Maybe that was what made me speak -- what made me call out to him, though every instinct I had told me I should stay silent and let him pass. Griffin was a predator -- seeing him in the darkness like this, I knew it to my bones. He was a killer and his kind preyed on mine. I had the feeling of a rabbit calling back a hawk that had wheeled by overhead or an antelope calling out to a lion.

But still I spoke.

“You’re wrong, you know,” I called to his back, when he was already halfway out the door.

Griffin turned, his eyes gleaming silver in the dim moonlight spilling in through the half open door. He seemed to deliberate for a moment -- almost to struggle with himself -- and then he let the door close and came striding back to stand in front of me, even closer than before.

“Wrong about what, little witch?” he murmured in that cool, silky voice of his. The voice a snake might use before it struck.

“I…I’m not a witch,” I told him, lifting my chin and meeting his eyes, though he radiated danger the way another male might radiate body heat.

“Oh no? Then what are you, Megan Latimer?” he drawled, putting emphasis on my last name.

“I’m just a Null,” I went on doggedly. “I can’t even light a candle with magic. I don’t have any magic -- I don’t belong here.”

“Yet, here you are. Putting yourself in harm’s way. Why?”

He reached out and gently -- oh so gently -- stroked one long, cool finger down my hot cheek. The key jumped at his touch and so did my heart. I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t get a deep enough breath.

“I…I don’t know,” I whispered. And then -- either daringly or stupidly added -- “Are you the harm you’re talking about?”

“Maybe.”


Author Bio:
Evangeline Anderson is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Brides of the Kindred, Alien Mate Index, and Born to Darkness series. She is thirty-something and lives in Florida with a husband, a son, and two cats. She had been writing erotic fiction for her own gratification for a number of years before it occurred to her to try and get paid for it. To her delight, she found that it was actually possible to get money for having a dirty mind and she has been writing paranormal and sci-fi erotica steadily ever since. 

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop: Enter to Win a Paperback or eBook Copy of "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek," by Kim Michele Richardson!


Welcome to the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop! Every blogger participating in this hop is giving away a book they loved that was released in 2019. For my giveaway, I am offering one lucky reader their choice of a paperback or eBook copy of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I absolutely loved this novel. It was so unique. I had never heard of the real blue-skinned people of Kentucky or of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service, so this story was fascinating. Poor Cussy Mary faces extreme prejudice due to her unusual blue skin color, as well as many dangers traveling the hills on a mule to deliver books to the poor people in her community. This is the story of a woman of tremendous courage who never gave up trying to improve her life and that of her community. Read on for more information...

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel
by Kim Michele Richardson

An Oprah's Buzziest Books Pick for May
Indie Next Pick
LibraryReads Pick
Southern Independent Book Alliance SIBA Spring OKRA PICK

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything -- everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere -- even back home.

GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive their choice of an eBook or paperback copy of the novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson! Enter through Giveaway Tools form below. This giveaway is open to anyone who can receive an Amazon shipment and ends at 11:59 PM EST on January 31, 2020.


Now, hop around to the other blogs participating in this hop for the chance to win more great prizes!



Disclosure: I read this book by borrowing it from the library and will purchase the book on Amazon to send to the winner.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Game Changer Blog Tour: Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Today, we have the blog tour for The Game Changer by Jennifer Brown! Check it out and be sure to grab your copy today!
Title: The Game Changer
Author: Jennifer Brown
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Crown Media/Hallmark

About The Game Changer:

Hollis and Daisy love podcasting about murder cases…

But can they solve one?

Hollis Bisbee used to be a big-city crime reporter. Now, she’s a small-town journalist, and she’s bored. She and a young mom, talented baker Daisy Mueller, start the Knock ‘Em Dead podcast -- ”Where murder and muffins meet!” It’s all fun, games, and baking tips until murder comes to Parkwood.

After a brutal homecoming game loss, the coach of the rival football team is the victim of a hit-and-run in the high school parking lot. The entire town is on edge, and the star quarterback -- who happens to be the police chief’s son -- may just look the guiltiest of all.

With Hollis’s investigative skills and Daisy’s famous muffins ... and in spite of the charming rookie police officer tasked with keeping Hollis out of the way ... the podcasting duo sets out to solve their first real case.

This cozy mystery includes a killer free recipe for Daisy’s Cherry Chocolate Chunk Muffins.


Get Your Copy Today:
Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Walmart

Read an Excerpt:

“With all due respect, Mary Jean.” I licked my lips nervously. “I am abiding by the rules. My podcast has nothing to do with my job here.”

“In Parkwood, everything you do has to do with your job here. Everyone knows you’re one of our reporters. They think I’ve sanctioned this hooey about that coach being murdered.”

“It’s not hooey,” I said. “And you said nothing about moonlighting when you hired me.”

“It is hooey, but I’m not going to convince you of that, am I?” She slid a pair of readers onto her face. “And I may not have said it then but I’m saying it now. If you insist on moonlighting in this way, I would just suggest to you that you tread very carefully.”

“Wait. Is that some sort of threat? Are you saying I could lose my job?”

She pursed her lips and thumbed through some papers on her desk. “Did you get the bank story finished?”

Case closed. I wasn’t sure what resolution we had come to, but I was pretty sure I was on the losing side of it.

But, darn it, I was right. I was not about to let it go now.

“Yes, ma’am. All that’s left is to write it up.”

“End of the day,” she said. “And I’ve got a new one for you. Human interest piece on Wickham Birkland. His birdseed store is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this week. I thought we could do a brief history of seed in Parkwood. Or maybe a brief history of birds. Or both.”

The most gripping part of writing that story would be surviving Wickham’s ire du jour.

“I’ll get right on it,” I said in my best can-do voice.

I went back to my desk, noting on the way that Ernie was sleeping again. I thumped his desk with my fist. “Rise and shine, Ernie! Got stories to do!” He snorted and jerked awake, his hand flying to his computer mouse.

“I’ve got it right here, Mary Jean…” He started clicking on random things. I held back a laugh and kept on.

I was four paragraphs into the bank story when Mary Jean slipped out, telling Joyce she was going to run to Leaf It to Me and get some tea to soothe her sore throat. The atmosphere in the news room lightened drastically when she left. I breathed a sigh of relief. Joyce—earbuds in place— began humming along with the song she was listening to. Ernie raided the vending machine for Donettes.

The door opened and in walked a young woman.

“Obituary? Fill out this form,” Joyce said, automatically plucking the form from the file folder that sat permanently on her desk. Purchasing obituaries was really the only reason people ever came in anymore—and even that was waning after Bale & Sons began offering free webpages for their deceased. She tried to hand over the form.

“What? No. I don’t think so,” the woman said. She sounded kind of bewildered. She also sounded very familiar. Where had I heard her voice before?

Joyce blinked. “You don’t think so?”

The woman shook her head and began to tear up. “Unless you know something I don’t. Did someone call you?”

Joyce’s mouth hung open in confusion, the paper still dangling between her fingernails. “I don’t know,” she said. “Why would someone call?”

The woman began to sob. “Because you’re the news and all. Oh, no. Bad luck follows me everywhere.”

And that was when I realized where I knew her from. I stood at my desk. “Agnes Tellerman?”

The woman turned to me in surprise, her knees bending as if she were about to bolt. Or faint. “Y-yes?”

I came around my desk. “You’re Agnes Tellerman?”

“So someone did die? I just knew it.”

“What? No. I mean, yes. Gerald Farley died. And you witnessed it, right? I was there that night. I remember your voice.”

She wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands, the sleeves of her shirt pulled down over them, just like a child would do. And only then did it become obvious that Agnes Tellerman was not much older than a teenager herself. Maybe mid-twenties. She was pretty, in a droopy-eyed, downtrodden sort of way. She sniffed.

“You’re that podcast lady?”

Whoa. Four listeners in one morning. I was on a roll.

Thinking of the podcast and rolls made me think of Daisy and my heart dropped again. I missed her. I was going to have to make things right, as soon as I possibly could. Also, I needed to talk her into making cinnamon rolls soon.

“I am that podcast lady.” I stuck out my hand. “Hollis Bisbee.”

“I came to talk to you,” she said, shaking my hand with hers still covered by her shirt sleeve.

“About?”

“About what I saw that night. The night the coach died.”

About the Author:
Jennifer Brown is the author of acclaimed young adult novels, Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, Torn Away, and the Shade Me series. Her debut novel, Hate List, received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Jennifer also writes middle grade novels. Her debut novel, Life on Mars, was the winner of the 2017 William Allen White Children’s Book Award. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Jennifer Scott. Visit her at www.JenniferScottAuthor.com


Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Jennifer is available for school visits, workshops, classroom and book club Skypes, and speaking engagements. Contact JenniferBrownYA@gmail.com to book her for your next event!


Connect with Jennifer:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Enter Jennifer’s Giveaway:

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Something Wicked Book Blitz: Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card


Something Wicked
by Nicole M. Rubino
(Something Wicked, #1)
Publication date: November 26th 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
A break-up and a car accident are no way to begin your seventeenth birthday. 
For Theo Montgomery, that is exactly how it began. Her bad luck turns worse when she returns home from a school dance to find her home engulfed in flames -- with her parents still inside. 
Theo is sent to live with her estranged aunt, Elizabeth, in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem proves to offer many new discoveries, one of those being that Theo, like her aunt, is a witch. A witch who must keep her magic in check, lest the Town’s witch hunters discover that magic has returned to the world after more than three hundred years. But how can she navigate a new school, new magical powers and avoid the witch hunters, when she finds herself enjoying the company of one? 
Trystan de Lancre is a dangerous witch hunter and the only son of the Salem witch hunter clan leader, the notorious Joseph de Lancre. Despite his growing feelings for Theo, Trystan has his own reasons for getting close to her -- and they are far from romantic. Yet, Trystan isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Theo knows her aunt is hiding something, something linked to the tragedy that happened in Salem long ago, and to Theo, herself. 
Salem’s dark past rises to haunt Theo and the present-day witches, unraveling a shocking revelation: the true cause of the Salem Witch Trials.



EXCERPT:

Theo made her way down Essex Street, heading toward the center of the Town. There didn’t seem to be many shops this far down, and she wondered why Elizabeth hadn’t dropped her off further in the city.

Because she doesn’t trust you not to go into that bookstore to find Trystan, a voice reminded her.
Slightly disgruntled at that, she walked for a good five minutes, taking in various little shops and admiring the cobblestone street. She questioned when she would come upon a storefront she might be interested in, when a large figure came from around the corner and collided with her. She grimaced as her face landed directly on the hard bone of someone’s sternum.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed, rubbing her nose where it struck the individual, and felt strong fingers lay upon her arms to move her back.

Theo heard a small chuckle. “This isn’t exactly how I pictured getting you in my arms.”

She recognized the voice instantly, her eyes darting upward. “Trystan,” she breathed.

“In the flesh, I’m afraid. Sorry about pummeling into you. It was just payback.” His wide grin reached his sparkling eyes, making the features of his face more beautiful.

She was distracted, her eyes outlining his chiseled cheekbones and strong jawline, complete with a set of lips that looked perfect for kissing.

“Remember, you nearly killed me with a stack of books?” He must have mistaken the silence of her admiration of him for confusion.

“That’s right. I suppose it’s only fair.” She shrugged, hiding a smile.

The way he was looking at her gave her a fluttery sensation in her stomach. Once more at a loss for words, she bit her bottom lip and started twirling a strand of unruly dark hair around her finger.

“Where are you heading?” he asked, eyes now focused on her lips.

“I’m not really sure,” she admitted. His features contorted into a mask of puzzlement as she continued, “I was taking a walk, trying to explore more of Salem.”

“There isn’t really much to see this far down Essex Street,” he responded, still looking perplexed.
“My aunt is at the Athenaeum for a few hours. I walked from there.”

Trystan’s eyebrows rose in understanding, his eyes twinkling with intrigue. “You’re alone?”

She nodded. “For a little while, at least.” The corners of her mouth turned up in anticipation of what he would say next.

“Would you like some company? I can show you around. I’ve lived here all my life.”

Theo hesitated. Her aunt’s cold grey stare was visible in her mind’s eye, as well as the feeling of unease at disobeying her aunt’s request.

That you stay away from the bookstore... Theo replayed the conversation from this morning and the day before, realizing that in fact, her aunt had not specifically demanded to stay away from Trystan, but rather to stay away from the bookstore.

You know damn well that’s not what she meant, her own voice of reason argued. But seeing the way Trystan’s white thermal sweater hugged the muscles visible underneath, she made her decision:
“That would be great. Thank you.”

He flashed a heart-stopping smile, and she nearly melted.

“This way.” He held out his hand and stepped back, allowing her to pass first. His etiquette reminded her of the gentlemen she had read about in books written by the likes of Jane Austen -- gallant and courtly. He lightly placed his hand on the small of her back to guide her; the small touch sending jolts of electricity throughout her entire body.

Trystan led her around the corner and stopped in front of an ominous looking sports car. It wasn’t sleek and refined the way she remembered Tali’s BMW. Trystan’s car had a rugged, dangerous look to it, and she briefly wondered if boys picked cars the way girls picked shoes, as extensions of their own personalities.

Theo reached forward to grab the handle, but Trystan was there first, opening the door for her. She thought this old-fashioned gesture had disappeared, along with returning text messages and phone calls.

“I see chivalry isn’t dead in Salem,” she commented as she nestled into a black leather seat that was even darker than the color of the car.

He paused to look at her, one hand still on the door frame and the other twirling his keys. “You will find there are a lot of things that aren’t dead in Salem,” he replied with a mischievous smirk and shut the door.


Author Bio:
Hello! I'm Nicole Rubino, author of Something Wicked, the first in a four-book series about witches, witch hunters, and everything in between! 
I fondly remember Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach as the first book that took me on an adventure, and so, I fell in love with reading and writing fantasy. Another one of my favorite books by Dahl should come as no surprise: The Witches
My equal love for history propelled me to dive further into the witch hunts throughout Europe and the witch hunts in Salem, which is where I got the idea for my debut novel. 
Authors I love and whom inspire me are Leigh Bardugo, Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas, Jay Kristoff and Pierce Brown. 

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Wicked Court Excerpt Reveal: Giveaway for a Signed Paperback!


Wicked Court by May Sage is coming soon! Check out the gorgeous excerpt and be sure to pre-order your copy of this new fantasy today!

Title: Wicked Court
Author: May Sage
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: January 16th

About Wicked Court:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to hide who I am. What I am.

They had me play the sheep. They had me blend in. They marked me and sealed my power.

Now I have my freedom, because everyone who’s ever wanted me confined is dead.

I could have changed it. I could have altered the course of fate. I could have saved the unseelie queen.

I didn’t.


Vlari has always known her place: as far away from court as the unseelie queen can send her.

The youngest royal, born in an impoverished household, she endeavoured to earn her keep as an assistant. Her one aspiration? Avoiding the popular crowd of gentry fae who prey on the weak, and their dark, enticing leader, the mysterious Drusk.

Until the world implodes around her.

She has two options. Fade with rest of the unseelie kingdom, or protect a court that has never cared for her.

Disclaimer: Unlike many of May Sage’s novels, Wicked Court is written in first person.
Wicked Court is the first volume in a duet.

Pre-Order Your Copy Today!


About May Sage:

May Sage is a USA Today bestselling romance writer dabbling in different genres, although the readers who follow every series know they’re all related.

When she isn’t writing, she spends her time with her German Shepherd, her two Savannahs, and her black rescue cat, in England. She loves reading, ballet, running, and cake. Mostly, cake.

Follow her on Facebook or join her newsletter for the latest update.

Connect with May:
Website | Facebook | Newsletter

Enter May’s Giveaway:

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Shadowed Book Blitz: Giveaway for an eBook!


Shadowed
by Michelle Areaux
Published by: Kingston Publishing Company
Publication date: January 2nd 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Henley Abbott is just trying to make it through high school in the small town of Edison, Washington where she has lived her entire life. Constantly feeling alone, she’s surprised when she finds herself intrigued by the new boy in town, Cohen Davenport. 
With the entire town talking about the new and secretive family, Henley refuses to join in on the rumors swirling about them and attempts to keep her distance. 
However, as Cohen becomes intrigued by Henley, the pair seems to find a spark in a kindling friendship. 
As the intensity of their relationship builds, Henley discovers a dark secret plaguing Cohen and his elusive family. He reveals a twisted past that has kept his family on the run … for decades. 
Cohen should keep his distance. It is too dangerous to bring Henley into his life, but he can’t stay away from her. 
And, Henley doesn’t want him to. 
As Henley overcomes her own fears and trepidations, she finds herself engrossed in a battle that could destroy them both. Only their connection could help them all survive. 
Intensely romantic and extremely thrilling, this novel will pull readers in from the very first page. 
Fans of Twilight, The Guardian Series, and the Marked Saga will instantly fall in love with this new paranormal series.


EXCERPT:

As much as I liked to pretend, I wasn’t completely and totally intrigued by the thought of new people moving here; I couldn’t control myself. I tried to convince myself it was all because of my mom; but as I stood there, whispering the words, I knew there was no fooling myself.

“Henley, don’t you know it’s not polite to stare?” she asked, but her own hypocritical words hung heavy in the air as she raced to join me in the living room again.

Standing next to me, we watched intently as the driver’s side door opened. With large eyes, we strained to get a glimpse of who would be our new neighbor. To our surprise, the rest of the car doors opened and the family emerged.

A tall man with dark hair closed the driver’s side door as a woman emerged from the passenger’s side. The back two doors opened and three teens, roughly around my age, tumbled out. A girl with short, dark hair and legs-for-days gave the house a disgusted look. A boy who seemed to be uninterested in it all, stared down into his phone, which he held tightly in his grip. Finally, a tall boy with the same dark hair stood behind the rest of his family. With his hands tucked deep into his jeans pockets, he seemed reluctant to move any closer to the house.

“Well, they look like a nice family,” my mom said. I turned to look at her and I could see the eagerness twinkling in her baby blues to get to her phone and be the first one to spill the news that the new neighbors had arrived.

It was almost like they had landed in a spaceship and were from outer space!

“Maybe,” I grumbled, still unsure about these people.

Suddenly, the boy, standing alone behind his family, turned and caught me snooping on them. Our eyes connected for a brief moment before he gave me an angry snarl that had me stumbling backward.

What was that?

“I need to go call Susan,” my mom stated, as she rushed to the kitchen to retrieve her phone.

I dared to look back out the window again; and when I did, the entire family was gone.

Just disappeared, like they had never been standing there in the first place.

I blinked, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. When I looked again, the SUV was still parked along the curb, but the family was gone.

Lights glowed from inside the house.

“That’s weird,” I said aloud to myself. How did they have time to get inside and turn on the lights? I literally just turned around for a second.

I shook my head, unsure of what to think. Peeking out of the window again, something in the far, second-floor window caught my attention. As my gaze moved up, I felt my cheeks burn and nervous energy flow through me. As my gaze finally landed on the window, I caught a pair of red eyes staring back at me. It was the same boy who had given me the nasty stare just moments before.

I closed the curtains and took a step back. My heart was racing so fast, I feared it might jump right out of my chest. With labored breathing, I slowly walked into the kitchen where my mom was blabbing the news to anyone who would listen.


Author Bio:
Michelle Areaux is a wife, mother, and seventh grade Language Arts teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree in Literacy from Asbury University. 




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