Friday, June 28, 2013

First Chapter Review: A Shore of Secrets by Megan Johns

I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Johns earlier this month. You can catch our interview here. She kindly forwarded the first chapter of her book, A Shore of Secrets, a contemporary romance set in Italy for my review.

BLURB:  Italia! Oh Italia! Thou who hast the fatal gift of beauty.’ Byron

And Venice is exquisite. Nor is the beauty confined to the place. Hotelier Giovanni Renaldi is tall, dark, and devilishly handsome. Yet holiday representative Abi seems immune to his charms. Crossed in love, she’s in no hurry to fall again. Plus his arrogance is so infuriating.

Surely the discomforting feelings he evokes can only be guilt at covering for his naive sister’s secret lover?

When passion finally wins through, the thrill of their lovemaking is soon wrecked. Giovanni, proud and fierce defender of his family since inheriting the role of patriarch, is enraged to learn Abi has colluded with his sister.

But Abi quickly discovers her secrecy is nothing compared to Giovanni’s. As the family’s closely guarded secrets begin to unfold, she is sucked against her will into their internal wrangling.

Is nothing what it seems in this clandestine community?

And can love triumph over the turmoil of scarred lives?

COVER: Simply beautiful. The beach with the clouds rolling in and the darkly handsome man contrasting against the paler and equally attractive woman definitely makes you want to peek inside.

FIRST CHAPTER: Awakened early one morning for an emergency at Hotel Umberto, Abi, a holiday representative, is quickly put off by Giovanni Renaldi's handling of the situation. Why is he even there when he's a rival of the hotel's owner? Her day quickly goes from bad to worse when she must file a report on the events at Umberto but she has no idea what really happened and Renaldi isn't sharing much. Then she is forced to cope with meeting later in the day with a client where she again runs into the infuriating Renaldi.

KEEP READING: Sure. I have to admit to being a tiny bit confused because there were several characters introduced in this first chapter, but as I read along things started to fall into place. Abi bristles right away when she runs into Renaldi outside the Hotel Umberto and can't seem to get any information from him. You know this is setting up to be a powerful romance when a smooth-talking, secretive handsome man and a lovely, feisty woman who is supposed to be immune to his charms get together. Sparks are destined to fly.

While I'm not sure where this is going, I know I want to take the journey.

File Size: 380 KB
Print Length: 288 pages
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (May 22, 2013)
ISBN 978-1-77127-330-5

I received the first chapter of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sherryl Woods Romances in My TBR Pile

All these books remind me of my favorite spot on earth: the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I borrowed this photo from the author's website.

Sand Castle Bay

In a trade-off she’s lived to regret, Emily Castle left home years ago to become an interior designer. The youngest of three sisters, Emily desperately wanted to prove herself. Success, though, came at the cost of leaving behind the man she loved.

For Boone Dorsett, losing Emily left his heart shattered, but another woman was waiting in the wings. Now a widower with a young son, Boone has a second chance with Emily when a storm brings her home. But with his former in-laws threatening a custody suit, the stakes of loving her are higher than ever.

Will fate once again separate them—or is the time finally right for these two star-crossed lovers?

Wind Chime Point

Facing a personal crisis, ambitious and driven Gabriella Castle retreats to the welcoming arms of her family. Everything she’s worked for has been yanked out from under her, and she seeks the serenity of her grandmother’s home on the North Carolina coast. With difficult decisions to make about her future, the last thing she wants is an unexpected love.

Wade Johnson fell for Gabi the first time he saw her. It’s not the only time he’s found himself in the role of knight in shining armor, but Gabi isn’t looking for a rescuer. To get her to stay, Wade will need a whole lot of patience and gentle persuasion...and maybe the soothing sound of wind chimes on a summer breeze.

Sea Glass Island

With her two younger sisters heading for the altar, will Samantha Castle exchange old dreams for new ones? Lately she’d rather be on the North Carolina coast with family than in New York with agents and actors. Though she vows not to let her teenage crush on Ethan Cole influence her decision, it’s hard to ignore her feelings for the local war hero.

Ethan lost more than his leg in Afghanistan. He lost his belief in love. Even being surrounded by couples intent on capturing happily-ever-after won’t open this jaded doctor’s heart. It’s going to take a sexy, determined woman—one who won’t take no for an answer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Help! For Writers by Roy Peter Clark

As a writer, my bookshelves are filled with various craft and business books. While I don't feel like I read enough of them, I also wonder what else can be said that hasn't already been said about writing.

Now that I've read Help! For Writers by Roy Peter Clark, I have my answer. Vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, Clark shares his decades worth of experience with writers in this engaging and valuable volume that includes 210 solutions for problems writers face. From generating ideas to finding your focus to strategies for writers block and more, Help! For Writers is a must have text.

Clark speaks with authority from his vast experience, but he never talks down to the reader. Bits of humor are sprinkled throughout. While some of these ideas I had heard before, several were new and definitely ones I will put into practice.

Whether you're writing article, short stories or full-length novels, you'll find more than one tidbit of advice to but to good use.

Highly recommended.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316126713

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This is the 9th book I've read for the following challenge:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Chasing Invisible by Karen Pokras Toz

A moving story of one young woman's struggle to deal with life in the limelight is what you'll find in Chasing Invisible by Karen Pokras Toz.

Julia Alexander is a bookish, shy girl whose plans for the future are tossed in the air when she meets handsome aspiring musician, Chase Bishop. Chase is determined to show Julia how much he cares and eventually wins her heart. But Julia isn't prepared for all that comes with being the wife of a popular rock star. The paparazzi follow her everywhere. The public suddenly wants to know all about Julia Bishop. Everything she does is news. She just wants to be left alone, and the constant attention brings stress to her marriage.

I've read some of Toz's books for children, so I was eager to dive into her first novel for adults. Like in her other books, Toz knows her main character well and lets her take the reins with the storytelling. This allows the reader to truly know Julia and witness the journey through her eyes.

The main challenge I had with this novel is that I couldn't sympathize enough with Julia. I didn't relate well to her, so while there were moments where she became sympathetic, there weren't enough to make her likable to me. The ending also added to my dislike of the character.

That aside, Chasing Invisible is a very emotional story. Julia goes through a lot within the pages of this book. If you're someone who likes a high amount of conflict in a story, this would be ideal. Though this book wasn't my favorite, I would give another of Toz's books for this market a shot.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing (June 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0989175359
ISBN-13: 978-0989175357

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This is the 6th book I've read for the following challenge:

This tour stops at Pavarti K. Tyler's blog on June 25th - http://www.PavartiKTyler


Smashwords: Smashwords:

Book Trailer:

Giveaway Prize: $25 amazon gift card, tote bag, key chain, bookmarks, notebook, postcard

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Disclaimer: A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. Giveaway is sponsored by the author and is responsible for prize fulfillment. The Book Connection received no compensation for this post.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Chapter Review: Natasha's Dream by Heather Greenis

Today is the release day for Natasha's Dream by Heather Greenis. The author sent me the first chapter of this book for review.

BLURB: Growing up, her only friends were her brothers and Nanny. In her parent’s mind, she was a mistake. As a result of an innocent swim, she discovered life existed beyond the walls of her home. Families, peers, underprivileged children. Can a dream turn into reality? Anything is possible, but dreams come with consequences that not only affect her, but those she loves. What is Natasha willing to risk to persevere?

COVER: I like this cover. The shadow of the bottle, along with the diary and the young woman, will hold significance. Nice colors on this one, too.

FIRST CHAPTER: In the present day, Keeghan and her husband Will discover an ancient bottle while walking their dog, Constable. They ramble about the significance of what they find inside, but soon it's time to get back to planting the garden. While resting afterwards, Keeghan has an unsettling dream that might provide clues about the bottle's contents.

KEEP READING: Natasha's Dream starts off in a neat way: a married couple finds an old bottle on the beach and there is something inside. They're eager to know what it is and so is the reader. But work doesn't do itself, so they go off to do what they need to do, placing their investigation on hold. Then the hubby escapes for a game of golf and Keeghan goes back to work for a while before taking a nap in the hammock. This sets the stage for the introduction of the main character, Natasha. It's not a big deal that we don't meet Natasha right away, as the story flows nicely from the present day into Natasha's world.

While I am definitely intrigued right now, there are so many details included that it slows the pace of the first chapter and makes it a bit long. I wanted the point between where the bottle was discovered and Keeghan has the unsettling dream to be shorter and pack a more powerful punch. You get the cliffhanger at the end, but you walk leisurely toward it, you don't run at it. I would like to read a couple of more chapters to see if the pace picks up and so I can get a better idea for how Keegahn and Will connect to Natasha. This is listed on the publisher's website as a mainstream contemporary romance saga, so I want to see how that develops.

File Size: 396 KB
Print Length: 342 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (June 19, 2013)

First Chapter Review: Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

I was sent the first chapter of Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky through her publicist. Checking out the author's website, she defines her work as, "character-driven studies of marriage, parenthood, sibling rivalry, and friendship."

BLURB:  On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air...

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

Bestselling author and master storyteller Barbara Delinsky invites you come away to Quinnipeague…

COVER: That looks like lavender, one of my favorites. This cover quickly transports the reader to the northern most New England state where lavender thrives. Love it.

FIRST CHAPTER: A conflicted Charlotte takes the ferry with her old, but new to her, Jeep Wrangler to Quinnipeague, Maine. It's been ten years since she's set foot on the island with its favorite eating spot, the Chowder House, and a general store across from the post office. She wonders if Nicole knows her secret, but she's fairly certain if she did know, Nicole wouldn't have invited her to come or ask for her help on the book.

KEEP READING:  100% yes, all the way. I'm totally intrigued. This is the kind of story that gets to me. A woman returns to a place from her past, there's conflict unknown to the reader that often involves a secret, and then when that secret is revealed all hell breaks loose. Delinksy does a superb job of painting pictures through Charlotte's eyes of the island town she left behind as she watches it get closer from her spot on the ferry. The author also draws the reader in with the high level of conflicting emotions experienced by the main character as she gets closer and closer to Quinnipeague: joy, anxiety, fear, hope, distress. I want to drop whatever else I am reading and finish this book.

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (June 18, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250007038
ISBN-13: 978-1250007032

Barbara Delinksy is a New York Times bestselling author with more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. Delinsky enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

I received the first chapter of this novel from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interview and Giveaway with D. A. Bale, Author of Running into the Darkness

Sometimes life emulates fiction.

Life is filled with tragedy and Ms. Bale's writing reflects this reality. However, there is always a silver lining...even if one must spend their entire life searching for it.

In her previous career, Ms. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes "not so pretty" reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.

She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.

Where did you grow up?

DAB: I had the luxury of growing up in a small, Midwestern town. There’s something so nice about being a child and free to roam about without the concern of the boogeyman – or even being aware of his presence. Plus, when you live close to middle-America, you can get to either end of the country in a matter of hours. My parents were both teachers and we would spend the summers traveling hither and yon. I can barely remember the summers we spent in Arizona while my dad worked on his Masters, but those excursions created wanderlust in me – the travel bug bit quite early.

When did you begin writing?

DAB: When I was a little girl, my mom bought me an assortment of hand puppets, and I’d write these little “plays”, made a stage box out of big cardboard boxes (complete with a drawback curtain), and commandeered my middle sister for extra hands and voice to put on these silly little skirmishes. It kept us – and our friends and neighbors – entertained for hours during the summers.

But the desire to be an author hit me big-time during sixth grade, when a teacher read us Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (also known as And Then There Were None). I’d always been a voracious reader, but that story was so unique at the time. From then on, I’ve been a big lover of the suspense/mystery/thriller genres. I attempted a novel then, but quickly got lost in how complex my story got and couldn’t keep all of the threads together in my mind. Now I don’t seem to have that problem – the more complex it is, the better I enjoy it!

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

DAB: Whenever I can sneak it in – though it’s got to be more than a few moments usually. When I get going, sometimes the entire day just washes away and suddenly it’s midnight or one o’clock in the morning – and I’ve perhaps forgotten to eat throughout the day. Those moments are so great for getting really deep writing done. It means I’ve immersed so readily into the characters that I’m actually “in” the story. Some of my best writing occurs during this time. Other times, I’ll pop down an idea or a scene real quick in one of the notebooks I have scattered around the house and in my car. But that’s generally bare bones kinda stuff or just an idea that came to me. I’ll more fully flesh it out when I have time to sit down at my computer.

What is this book about?

DAB: Running into the Darkness explores the question, “How far would you go to seek revenge?” Dr. Samantha Bartlett has seen the ugly side of reality first-hand when at the tender age of five she witnessed her parents die. Later in her profession, she sees the abuse of the Hippocratic Oath – lives considered less than worthy are allowed to extinguish with little to no concern. The death of her grandmother leads her to the breaking point – and she discovers a long-standing plot involving her family. One critical decision places Samantha on a path she never would have chosen if the desire for vengeance hadn’t overwhelmed every rational thought. However, she soon discovers the plot involves more than her own family and could have critical consequences for those she still cares about – and even for America itself.

What inspired you to write it?

DAB: Several things actually. A love of history had me digging into the World War II era pretty much all of my adult life. These studies made me wonder how a man like Adolf Hitler could rise to power and become pretty much untouchable no matter the atrocities he committed against his people and the World. It blew my mind that people would even follow such a person, but such is the nature of evil – much of the time there is no RATIONAL explanation. Others just bury their heads in the sand and won’t believe what’s right in front of their face, because to acknowledge it means they should stand against it. Hard to do when your life and more so the lives of your loved ones are on the line.

Then I’ve also wondered, when bad things happen, why one person will fall over the cliff into an abyss while others rise above their circumstances. In my search, it many times boils down to having someone walk beside you during the tough times or to reach a hand to help you up. We see in Running into the Darkness that Samantha is devoid of that helping hand – or maybe it’s more the wall of protection she’s built over the years that keeps potential help from getting through to her. Read the book to decide for yourself.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

DAB: I know many times she’s not very likable because of her chip of anger and her eventual despicable actions, but Samantha is so much more than who she appears in this first book. She’s a richly layered individual, carrying so much hurt, fear, and a sense of justice for the downtrodden of humanity, while also making choices that make you want to slap some sense into her. Eventually she comes to realize, much to her horror, the person she’s become – and she’s disgusted with herself and makes an important decision near the end of the story, though it may cost her life. There’s so much growth to her throughout this storyline, and I’ve enjoyed the journey of change alongside her.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

DAB: Oh very bumpy indeed! I spent years attempting to find an agent through the traditional publishing route. Traditional publishing has been in such a chaotic flux for so many years now, few (if any) of the established publishing houses are willing to take a chance on an unknown. Therefore, I and my fellow critique group members began studying the self-publishing/independent publishing route. Ebook publishing is so easy and readily available now that it made a good deal of sense for me. I thought about going through a small, independent publisher, but a good friend from my critique group has had a really bad experience through that venue and is considering self-publishing all of the remainder of his work that doesn’t relate to the other particular characters they hold the rights to. Once you learn the in’s and out’s of self-publishing through the electronic mediums, it’s the best opportunity out there to an unknown like me. But it takes a lot of time for self-promotion, something I’m still not very good with – but I’m getting there. :)

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

DAB: Any eBook format: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, Diesel – you name it. Once the series is completed, I also plan to make it available in paperback form, but that’s going to require more work and a learning curve. Right now I’d rather be writing!

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

DAB: Time – you’ve got to find time to promote your work in order to have any chance of success. Then also keep your expectations realistic – you aren’t going to make a living right out of the starting gate. I know a lot of people have bought the “How To’s” of other self-published success stories, but the one thing every single one of them leave out is that they’ve paid hundreds and thousands of dollars BUYING reviews. Nothing wrong with it in theory, but trying to sell your method without actually telling the whole of your method is deceitful – and that’s something that still gives many of my fellow writer’s cause for grief.

My preference is to make friends – connect with other fellow writers, readers, and bloggers. Eventually the trust is there that we exchange each other’s work, actually read it, and post an honest review. Or we host each other on our blogs. It’s scratching each other’s backs and in the process, making a friend at the same time. I keep in touch with many fellow writers/bloggers on a regular basis – most of whom I’ve never met in person. My hope is that as my work becomes more known, I can introduce my readers to other good writers and help everyone in turn.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

DAB: Work hard – do everything in your power to write the best you possibly can. That means to go back to the basics, learn the proper structure of a sentence, maybe take a continuing ed class, research, research, research, know the rules (and when to break them) – and also read as much as possible in your selected genre(s). It’s amazing how many times I pick up a book and find either a completely disjointed mess or a lack of even rudimentary writing structure. If you aren’t involved in a GOOD critique group, find one! It doesn’t even have to be an in-person group, what with the huge number of online groups out there. Just make sure you put your big boy and girl pants on, ‘cause you’re gonna need them. If you’re thin-skinned and can’t stand a little heat (balanced with some encouragement) then don’t bother trying to go the way of becoming a published author. The more open you are to solid, constructive criticism, the more opportunity you will have to grow as a writer. Then dig in and just get busy writing!

What is up next for you?

DAB: The second book in the Deepest Darkness series is already out – Piercing the Darkness. Now I’m busy working on the third and final book in the series – Rising from the Darkness. Somewhere in there I’m also hoping to finish the fan requested sequel to my short story, "The Study," but it still needs a bit more work. I’ve never written for fan requests before, and though it is such an honor to be asked to do so, it’s also quite a bit more difficult.

Thanks so much to The Book Connection for being so gracious in hosting this stop on my Tribute Books blog tour. This has truly been an honor.

Price/Format: $1.99 ebook
Pages: 236
Publisher: self-published
Release: November 3, 2011

Kindle buy link ($1.99):

Nook buy link ($1.99):

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: Natural Treatment Solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease by Eric M. Osansky, D.C.

An informative and insightful title that offers natural treatment solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease.

After being diagnosed with Graves' Disease, chiropractic physician Eric M. Osansky explored natural treatment options for his condition. His successful treatment led him to want to help others explore the options available to them outside of traditional methods.

A few years ago, my sister was diagnosed with Graves' Disease. I had never heard of it before, but when she told me she was seeing a naturopathic physician, I became intrigued over why she would seek this type of doctor over a more traditional physician. I have to admit, I don't know a tremendous amount of information about holistic and naturopathic doctors. I do, however, believe in the impact of diet and exercise on  overall health.

 Natural Treatment Solutions for Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease provides information on why natural treatment methods should be given a chance before resorting to radioactive iodine and synthetic hormone replacement. Using his own experience and examples from his own practice, Osansky makes a compelling case for starting with natural treatments in the hope patients can avoid treatments that simply lessen the symptoms but do nothing to get to the root cause of the ailment.

This isn't a book to help you understand Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease as much as it is one that shares the author's philosophy of natural treatments and testing to discover the cause of the condition. I came away with a determination to reconsider how I approach my overall wellness and a desire to seek more information on lifestyle changes I can make to improve my health and well being. My original intention was to pass this book along to my sister, but I don't think she will get much out of it, since it's truly more geared toward a person considering treatment options than a person who has already decided to use natural methods.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism or Graves' Disease, this book will help enlighten why they would want to consider natural treatment solutions. The author provides additional information on his website:

Paperback: 262 pages
Publisher: Natural Endocrine Solutions (July 13, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 061548493X
ISBN-13: 978-0615484938

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This is the 8th book I've read for the following challenge:

Book Review: The Brotherhood by Jerry Jenkins

A fascinating police thriller from one of the most recognizable names in Christian fiction.

Boone Drake has the perfect life. A young cop rising rapidly through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department, Drake has it all: a loving wife, a young son, a nice home, and a focused career plan. But when tragedy strikes, Drake's life spins out of control. Mired in guilt and bitterness, he struggles to put the pieces of his life back together and deeply questions his faith. When he comes face-to-face with Chicago's most vicious gang leader, he learns God is a God of second chances and can change even the hardest heart.

Jerry Jenkins has been one of my favorite authors since the Left Behind series was released. His masterful storytelling and engaging characters have captured my attention for years. The Brotherhood, the first book in the Precinct 11 Trilogy, blends the author's knowledge of growing up in a family of police officers with a fictional character's transformation.

This is a slowly evolving thriller. While there are definitely spots of action, it's not the typical action-packed, breakneck speed of many thrillers. A good deal of time is spent delving into Drake's character, witnessing him deal with the effects of a horrific, graphically described tragedy that changes his entire life. It explores his crisis of faith in all its ugliness as he turns away from God and seeks comfort in other ways.

The Brotherhood is a deeply emotional story. It's less car chases and shoot outs than one might expect from a police procedural, but I got to know Drake up close and personal, which I enjoyed. Part of me wishes the lengthy conversations between Drake and this gang leader were shortened a bit, but overall, it intrigued me enough that I plan to read the other two books in this series.

If you enjoy emotional stories and books that dig deep into a character's psyche, you'll enjoy The Brotherhood.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414309228
ISBN-13: 978-1414309224

I received this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This is the 7th book I've read for the following challenge:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guest Blogger: Beth Smith, Author of Water Water All Around

“Water Water All Around” is a series of adventures by a lone senior woman kayaker. Each of the nine European countries that sport waterways across their surface from sea to sea is incorporated here as individual challenges. Very little is left out of the daily entries so that the kayaker or cyclist or the walker can easily follow the dialog or the maps at the chapter heads to find their way across the chosen country. But this is not a travel guide. It is a true adventure fraught with difficulties apart from actual paddling and not excluding equipment failure. It is about endurance and dogged determination—about fear, frustration, and fatigue and about wrong turns and wrong decisions. It’s all here candidly presented and mixed with a glimpse of the countryside.

The Story Behind Water Water All Around
by Beth Smith

I never really intended to write "Water Water All Around," even though I did keep a daily log of the journeys with my kayak across the nine European countries. The log was mainly for me to relax in the evenings and try and remember what I had just been through. Sometimes that was meant to avoid mistakes. Sometimes just to revisualize the countryside I had passed through. What motivated me to finally sit down and put my trials and tribulations on paper was the persistent questions of friends and acquaintances about the mechanics of the whole process from planning to execution. They also wanted to know if I had a blog or if my trips were written up somewhere. I couldn’t answer yes to even the questions of what the reporters I encountered along the way said about what I was doing.

When asked, “Which was the best country?” How could I answer? Each of the nine countries had its own character. I explained that England and Ireland gave me history lessons. The shortest, and therefore, supposedly the easiest was Scotland, even though I went in the peak of summer and had trouble finding lodgings. Denmark didn’t cooperate with good weather. Sweden, I should have started in the opposite direction, as I had to try and paddle upstream for some time before reaching the first lake; but the scenery from any direction was magnificent. Germany was long and grueling. Greece and Turkey gave me a cultural lesson, and France, a lesson in gastronomy.

Since we’re on the subject of lessons, I learned I wasn’t really ready to take on such arduous tasks… not because I was not physically fit for a senior citizen, but maybe more planning would have been a help. Even though I had a canal guide for most of the countries I still got lost and turned around, so as I wrote the book I tried to lay down the course and as much of the incidentals, like where to stop to find food or lodgings that I could. Even though the book is not a travel guide this, I thought, would make it easier for anyone to follow.

My goal was really to inspire other seniors and the recreational kayaker to try and enjoy a foreign trip even if they didn’t make it all across a country. In this respect all the journeys would be worth it. Traveling is enlightening no matter how it’s done, but kayaking is slow motion touring that affords one the opportunity to meet the locals.

Born and raised in California, Beth Smith still makes her home near the water of San Francisco Bay. Visit her online at

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with Kevin Flanders, Author of Escape from Fear Village

It's not often I get a chance to feature a local author at my blog. Since I work in the online world, many of my contacts are from outside of Western Mass. I was introduced to Kevin's work through my son. I've been blessed with the opportunity to see some of Kevin's writing in pre-published stage. It's outstanding.  I highly recommend his novels to lovers of the horror and paranormal thriller genres.

A resident of Monson, MA, Kevin Flanders has written several short stories and is currently focusing on novels. He graduated from Franklin Pierce University in 2010 with a degree in communications, and he has spent the last three years working for various newspapers in western and central Massachusetts. He also serves as an instructor at many ice hockey goaltending clinics and still plays hockey on winter men’s league teams.

For more information about his short stories and novels, visit

When did you begin writing?

I began writing fiction in college. I’d always loved reading and vocabulary, but it wasn’t until my first fiction workshop course in 2006 that I actually sat down and wrote a fictional story for an assignment. I wasn’t overly excited about it at the time (it just seemed like another homework assignment to complete), but I found myself fascinated by the characters and the plot I was creating. I started writing that night around seven o’clock, and by the time I looked up from my laptop, it was well after nine. And there was still so much writing to do, so many characters to introduce – I didn’t want to stop. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I usually edit and do a little writing early in the afternoon, but my best writing always comes very late at night and in the early hours of the next morning (between ten p.m. and two a.m.). My scariest ideas come even later, around three or four while I’m trying to sleep. I’m not sure why that is – maybe it has something to do with the fact that most of my books are horror/paranormal thrillers and that everything seems so much scarier after dark. I never write in the morning after I get up – it seems to take my fiction mind a fairly long time to get revved into motion.

What is this book about?

Escape from Fear Village brings readers to Black Harbor, Maine, a community known for its annual Halloween festival in the center of town. Brothers A.J. and Mackenzie Gray attend the festival every year, and they’re starting to find it a little boring. But a new attraction awaits them this year, a camper trailer that none of the other guests seem to notice. Once they step foot inside that trailer, things will never be the same again.

Escape from Fear Village is the story of family and friendship, adversity and persistence, faith and freedom, and most importantly, good and evil. A.J. and Mackenzie have never known evil before this fateful Halloween weekend, but they are soon challenged by malevolence of the purest form – a fiend who turns I’ve Been Working on the Railroad into a song of horror and madness.

An extremely fast-paced novel, Escape from Fear Village has already received excellent reviews from early readers.

What inspired you to write it?

I was inspired to write Escape from Fear Village after my sister Kimmy asked a single question: What would happen if someone became trapped on a model railroad layout? The plot seemed to magically unfold from there, reminding me of the Nabokov quote about invisible words already written and clamoring to become visible. It took me only four months to write the entire novel.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

My favorite character in the book is Clara Reed, a thirteen-year-old girl who finds herself entangled in A.J.’s haunting adventure through Fear Village. There’s an element of mystery about her character that captivates readers right to the end, and she’s a very spiritual, uplifting character with instant likeability. She’s polite yet sometimes stingingly blunt, remarkably courageous yet not incapable of tears, and so humorous and charming that she brought a smile to my face during all five revision phases.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The book can be ordered in print version and electronically on all major bookselling websites, including Barnes and Noble,, and For links to these sites and more information, visit My marketing team is in the process of improving the site, which will soon include information about giveaways, author events, and monthly trivia questions. To contact me directly, send an email to My days as a reporter made me very diligent about answering every correspondence I receive, so it may take a little while but I’ll definitely get back to you.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

I would encourage all writers to just keep writing. No matter how much rejection you get or how many agents decline your manuscript, keep writing. I actually wrote Escape from Fear Village very soon after my previous manuscript, a book called Don’t Wave Back, received hundreds of rejection letters from agents and publishing companies. On the heels of such tremendous rejection, I became determined to write an even better, stronger, more inspiring and thought-provoking book than ever before (hockey has made me very competitive, and I love to succeed). Luckily, one of the very first publishers to read the proposal for Escape from Fear Village was interested. Now I’m in the process of revising Don’t Wave Back (which has a different name now) and other previously written manuscripts. Soon all of my characters will be in print, their trials and tribulations visible to readers around the world. If you work hard enough and keep writing, your characters will be out there as well. Who cares about the hundreds of rejections – all it takes is that one person who says yes.

What is up next for you?

I expect my next novel, a ghost story called The Inhabitants, to be published by the end of the year. This novel features my favorite character of all my books, Montreal native Jocelyne Leclaire, and I’m really looking forward to its release. Then, at the beginning of 2014, my third novel, a chillingly timely work called Inside the Orange Glow, will be available, followed by The Inhabitants II, Anathema, Laser Tag, and others. Thankfully, I never suffer from writer’s block – the ideas are endless, each book seeming more frightening than the previous one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Interview and Guest Post with Timothy Ashby, Author of Time Fall

Timothy Ashby was born in the USA, but moved at the age of 13 to the small Caribbean island of Grenada, which his veterinarian father and occupational therapist mother had chosen for charitable volunteer service. Mr. Ashby lived a “Huck Finn” existence, rarely attending school,and spending his teenage years surfing, sailing, diving and indulging his lifelong passion for history and archaeology. 

His interest in creative writing was mentored by the late Martin Woodhouse and Dudley Pope, historian and author of nautical fiction who was inspired by C.S. Forester. Mr. Pope even named one of the characters in his Lord Ramage series of historical novels “Captain Ashby,” in honor of the teenage Tim Ashby. Mr. Ashby subsequently lived in Spain and the UK, returning to Grenada in his early 20s where he was a director of various businesses until the Communist Revolution of 1979. He moved to California to attend the University of Southern California, receiving his PhD in International Relations in 1986. His doctoral dissertation was published by Lexington Books in 1987 as The Bear in Back Yard: Moscow’s Caribbean Strategy. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich included long passages from the book in a floor speech to the U.S. Congress.

Tim Ashby was in Washington DC from 1984 to 1990, working first as a counter-terrorism consultant to the U.S. State Department, and then as a senior official – the youngest political appointee of his rank – at the U.S. Commerce Department, responsible for commercial relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. He held two Top Secret security clearances and worked with a number of colorful characters, including members of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). 

During the 1990s, Mr. Ashby resided in the UK, earning an MBA degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and working in Central and Eastern Europe on a variety of privatization and economic development projects. He also has a law degree from what he calls “a fine Jesuit university,” and is a licensed attorney in Florida and Washington, DC. He is the author of Time Fall, Devil’s Den, The Bear in the Back Yard, Missed Opportunities, numerous articles, and the prize-winning ghost story, “Warrior’s Return.”

Tim Ashby’ website/blog can be found at FaceBook page address is Twitter:

When did you begin writing?

I began writing at the age of 13, starting with short stories and poems. Even at that age I was passionate about history and adventure. As noted in my bio, I was very fortunate to have been mentored by two eminent writers during my teenage years.

What is this book about?

TIME FALL follows six U.S. Army Rangers who jump from an aircraft in 1945 and travel nearly 70 years by the time they hit the ground.

Near the end of World War II, Lt. Arthur Sutton leads his troop on a covert mission in Germany, but the soldiers are unaware that they’ve landed in 2011. One of their raids inadvertently thwarts a planned terrorist attack, but also gets a German counter-terrorism outfit on their trail. In the future, the men must work with a sergeant whose thirst for vengeance—his Jewish family suffered Nazi atrocities—causes him to become unhinged while they’re being pursued by retired Gen. Hanno Kasper, a loyal Nazi who’d rather see them dead than taken alive. Despite the time traveling, the novel isn’t so much sci-fi as historical fiction with a modern-day setting: The soldiers believe it’s 1945 for much of the story; Kasper wallows in archaic Nazi principles, always carrying the Iron Cross given to him by Hitler when he was a young boy; and American investigator and Vietnam vet Eddie Cassera delves into the past after finding a recently killed solider who’s been MIA for decades. Time traveling, in fact, is a minor plot device —characters concentrate less on how they arrived in the future than what action to take while there. Sutton, who loses the others after an injury, is a man out of time. Scenes of the lieutenant slowly grasping his circumstances are handled deftly; his fascination with such contemporary things as an iPad or YouTube aren’t tongue-in-cheek but endearing, as when he’s shown a video of his favorite musician, Benny Goodman. In the same vein, Sutton’s relationship with Paula, a German woman who sympathizes with his plight, is endurably unassertive.

What inspired you to write it?

When I was a university student a Vietnam veteran classmate told me about an incident that he witnessed that inspired me to write TIME FALL. During the Vietnam War a “dustoff” (US Army unarmed medical evacuation helicopter) mysteriously disappeared after flying into a strange cloud during the monsoon season. Hundreds of military personnel witnessed the phenomenon, a high-level investigation took place, but no trace of the aircraft or its crew was found. Perhaps one day that helicopter will land in a very different Vietnam with its unsuspecting crew of young American soldiers

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

TIME FALL is available in both print and eBook editions from:


Print -
Kindle -

What is up next for you?

I’m working on the sequel to my first novel, DEVIL’S DEN, another historical mystery thriller set in the 1920s titled IN SHADOWLAND. The new book’s plot is about an investigation into the actual death of fighter pilot Quentin Roosevelt, son of former President Teddy Roosevelt. Quentin crashed behind German lines in 1918 … but what REALLY happened to him?

Special Forces Operations—
Yesterday and Today
By Timothy Ashby

In TIME FALL, Lt. Art Sutton and his six-man “Fox” team are members of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion. Sutton was a survivor of the assault on Pointe du Hoc during the Normandy invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944. I based “Fox” team on the “Alamo Scouts,” which were small teams of highly trained volunteers, operating deep behind enemy lines.

Sutton’s team was trained for “Operation Bandstand” - their sabotage mission behind German lines in Bavaria - by British Commandos. The Commandos were formed following Winston Churchill's call for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror.” Sutton and his men were tasked with carrying out just such a “reign of terror” in Germany, including sabotage, assassinations, and attacks on Nazi party and military targets. The British were responsible for instructing many American soldiers who became the leaders of US Special Forces in the postwar years.

Some World War II era US Special Forces (such as the Office of Strategic Services Jedburgh teams which provided leadership to French Resistance units) were involved in guerrilla and insurgency support operations. As noted in TIME FALL, a secondary mission of “Operation Bandstand” was to instigate an uprising by an underground anti-Nazi group called “Freedom Action Bavaria,” which actually existed.

During the Vietnam War, the US Special Forces’ mission and tactics changed from a unit which had initially been used like its WWII predecessors as an internal strike force into a training cadre which focused on unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency tactics. Modern Special Forces, such as the Navy Seals unit that killed Bin Laden, continue to operate with similar tactics.

Today, the USA has many military and intelligence organizations popularly known as Special Operations Forces (SOF). Many but not all of the military units are components of the Department of Defense's United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) commands and controls the Special Mission Units (SMU) of USSOCOM. These units perform highly classified activities such as the operation to capture or execute Bin Laden.
In the 1980s, I worked with JSOC teams on embassy security and counter-terrorism missions in Latin America and the Caribbean. I got to know many of the JSOC men, and they were colorful characters. At that time, most of the personnel were Vietnam veterans, and they told me about missions behind enemy lines not unlike the fictional “Bandstand” operation that forms the plot of TIME FALL.

Lt. Art Sutton’s 2nd Ranger Battalion still exists as part of the US Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The Rangers and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are controlled by JSOC when deployed as part of JSOC Task Forces such as Task Force 121 and Task Force 145. Rangers – some of whom are the grandsons of World War II soldiers like Art Sutton and his “Fox team” comrades – are still performing dangerous, highly classified, missions behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries.

Filled with historically accurate details, Time Fall is a complex military tale that keeps readers riveted through every surprising twist. Read an excerpt and to enter to win a FREE copy of Time Fall, visit For your copy, visit You can also get your copy at all major book retailers.

Publisher – Author Planet Press
ISBN-10 1481026674
ISBN-13 978-1481026673

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kristie Salerno Kent, Author of Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis

At seven years old I absolutely knew what I wanted to do with my life: become a performer and maybe head for Broadway! A basement renovation in our home provided enough open space for my first stage, and I loved performing for my family. I’d sing at the top of my lungs and dance my heart out.

When I was 18, I entered Syracuse University’s musical theatre program with my dream of Broadway still in sight. But when I took classes in ballet and modern dance my coordination was not as strong and precise as it needed to be, and I could not figure out why. At times my head felt clouded, almost like it was filled with cotton. Even though agencies in New York were giving me a chance to audition, I was physically unable to perform.

I eventually put my Broadway dreams on hold and moved to Atlanta with my high school sweetheart, Michael. Soon after he proposed, and we started to plan for our wedding and our life together as a married couple. That’s when I noticed that my legs were becoming numb and I was experiencing a pins-and-needles sensation in my feet. I had heard people talk about getting cold feet before marriage, but they didn’t mean literally, did they? I went to see the doctor and an MRI test confirmed I was living with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, panic and denial. How was I going to get through this?

In spite of my diagnosis, I kept trying to pretend everything was “normal.” I was such a good actress that even Michael, the person closest to me, rarely noticed my efforts to hide problems with my walking and coordination. I didn’t talk to anyone about my symptoms because they were too difficult to explain. But with this news I thought my dreams of performing were over forever.

A few years later, I had an unexpected opportunity to perform with a local band. The lyrics talked about doing what makes you happy, and following your dreams no matter how many challenges you face. I fought my fears and sang like I had nothing to lose, and the feeling was amazing. It was the push I needed to re-ignite my passion for music. I went on to record my first album, “Believe.” I also wrote and directed a short film, “The Show Must Go On,” to help others understand what it is like to live with MS.

I found that when my heart was opened once again by my love for music, it freed my mind as well. I was less afraid – and more focused on what I could do. I realized that denial was holding me back and decided to educate myself about MS. I saw how much I could still accomplish. Instead of avoiding my doctor, I started to listen to him about treatment options that could help me protect my health. I also got more involved with MS organizations. Most importantly, I found the confidence to conquer my biggest dream of all: becoming a mom. Michael and I now have a son, Kingston, and a daughter, Giabella.

I wrote “Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis” to encourage people living with this disease to use their passion to overcome denial and help others understand the impact of MS. I hope that this story will help others on their journey with MS. Download a free copy today for you or someone you know who needs help getting started on their dreams at

Interview with Kristie Salerno Kent, Author of Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis

Kristie Salerno Kent, a multiple sclerosis patient advocate, singer and songwriter, award-winning filmmaker and mother of two has just released her first book, “Dreams: My Journey with Multiple Sclerosis.” A free download is available at Kristie is a paid spokesperson for Acorda Therapeutics®, Inc.

Where did you grow up?

Upstate New York

What is this book about?

The book is about my experience with multiple sclerosis (MS), and specifically how my denial affected my health and my plans for the future. From the time my symptoms first started appearing, I was in denial, pretending that everything was fine. Even after my diagnosis I did not take many important steps to protect my health. Instead, I put my dream of being a performer on hold. I was also not sure I could handle the responsibilities of being a mom since I had trouble walking. By reconnecting with my passion for music, I was able to overcome my fear and go on to get the help and support I needed. I found a way to keep my dreams alive. I wrote the book to encourage more people with MS to continue to follow their passions – whatever they may be. You might have to modify your dreams with MS, but you don’t have to give them up!

What inspired you to write it?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable condition. As a result, many people believe they need to stop doing the things they love to accommodate MS. In my case, symptoms including fatigue and walking problems stopped me from performing – a dream I had since I was a young girl. It also made me feel like I might not be able to handle the challenges of being a mother, including keeping up with my children. I wrote this book to show people that you can continue to dream even with MS, and that following your dreams can give you the inspiration you need to fight back against MS.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

At the beginning I let MS change my entire way of living. For instance, I had trouble walking so I started to avoid going to certain social events. My symptoms also caused me to stop auditioning and performing. I didn’t want to see the doctor or take medication, because that would mean admitting my MS was real. I had to overcome fear and denial and talk about my MS symptoms. Once I started talking, I learned about how to manage my MS better. I found a way to continue to perform. I went on to record an album with songs to motivate others who may be facing health challenges. I also have been blessed with two wonderful children. And I became a stronger advocate for my own treatment. MS still challenges me, but I’ve learned to control my health and fight back so that I can continue to pursue many of the dreams that are important to me.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

What is up next for you?

I’m very happy to be spending a lot of time with my family and also singing and working as a patient advocate in MS. Of course I am aware of my MS and make sure that I don’t overdo it. But I have found a way to pursue my passions and do what I love to do, and I am also enjoying the opportunity to motivate others. I’ll be spending the next few months travelling to different MS-focused events to sign copies of my book and share my story.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Interview with Megan Johns, Author of A Shore of Secrets (Giveaway)

Megan lives in a pretty village in the Essex countryside, UK, having ‘escaped’ from London several years ago. She and her husband are now empty-nesters apart from an adorable, but incurably mischievous Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Megan’s first publication was a children’s book, but her focus now is to write contemporary romance ‘with teeth’. The Path of Innocence was written for women who understand that life is not clear cut, that love exists in different forms, sometimes contradictory. In her latest release, A Shore of Secrets, Megan explores various themes, including the power of the family in a small Italian society, deception, secrecy and distrust. Can Abi, the heroine, overcome her hang-ups and put her trust in the hero?

Megan has also had short stories published in the anthologies Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road and The Speed of Dark.

Writers who have influenced her? Joanna Trollope because of the pithy way she deals with contemporary issues. She also admires the way the late Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher weave their stories so skillfully.

When did you begin writing?

I always enjoyed writing, but juggling a family and career left little time for anything else. It was only when life slowed down that I truly discovered my creative streak. Actually, it was during a period of illness. I found it so therapeutic to be able to ‘escape’ inside my head and it was then that I got really hooked. Suddenly I discovered how much was stored inside, waiting to be unleashed. We are such complex characters, moulded by our unique life experiences, and once you start to delve inside your head, things from way back that you think are forgotten creep back into your conscious mind. There is no telling what you might find!

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

When I am writing, I try to stick to a schedule of working in the mornings. I love the idea of waiting for the Muse to strike and writing into the early hours, but disciplining myself to write each day works better for me. Inevitably, some writing days are more productive than others, but even if I know something isn’t quite right, I can go back when I am feeling fresher and reappraise it. The point is to keep writing something. I firmly believe that no effort is wasted.

What is this book about?

Holiday representative Abi works in a resort along Venice’s lido and she loves the lifestyle. However, crossed in love, she is in no hurry to fall for an Italian man again, especially not with tall, dark and devilishly handsome.hotelier Giovanni Renaldi. He is just so infuriating. Surely the discomforting feelings he evokes can only be guilt at covering for his naive sister’s secret lover?

When passion finally wins through, the thrill of their lovemaking is quickly wrecked. Giovanni, proud and fierce defender of his family since inheriting the role of patriarch, is enraged to learn Abi has colluded with his sister.

Then Abi discovers her secrecy is nothing compared to Giovanni’s. The family’s closely guarded secrets begin to unfold, and she is sucked into their internal wrangling.

Is nothing what it seems in this clandestine community?

And can love triumph over the turmoil of scarred lives?

What inspired you to write it?

Italy! I love everything about the place – it’s so inherently romantic – the culture, the scenery, the architecture, the people, the food, the lifestyle; a perfect setting for a romance novel. I tend to write about places that I know and with which I feel a strong emotional attachment. If I can visualise a place, feel it around me, absorb its ambiance, then put my characters there, it seems to kick start my imagination and the plot follows.

In A Shore of Secrets, the setting defined the context and created a mood that influenced what the characters did and, to a certain extent, determined the plot.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

My favourite character is the heroine. She’s a mix of characteristics, gutsy and strong minded, true to herself, yet fallible enough to be accessible.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The book is available from MuseItUp publishing at

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Believe in yourself and keep writing. Don’t let rejections knock you down. Learn from them and take on board constructive criticism.

What is up next for you?

My current project is a romance featuring an aristocrat who inherits the family’s crumbling manor in the UK and the twists and turns of events as she attempts to save it from the hands of a property developer.

Twitter: Megan Johns @meganjohns12

BUY link

The author has graciously agreed to give away one PDF version of A Shore of Secrets to a lucky person who leaves a comment. Winners must be 18 years of age or older. Please be sure to leave your email address in the body of your comment so that we can contact you if you win.  Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, June 16, 2013. Good luck!

Monday, June 10, 2013

First Chapter Review: Missing in Machu Picchu by Cecilia Velástegui

The first chapter of Missing in Machu Picchu from internationally acclaimed author Cecilia Velástegui, was submitted for my consideration by her publicist.

BLURB: High in the Andes Mountains on the legendary Inca Trail, four thirty-something professional women embark on an Ivy League hike to help them confront their online dating dependency, only to find themselves victims of a predator's ruse, and soon in a fight for their very lives. The women are eager to leave relationships behind for a while, but their intent to cast off their search for a soul mate falls by the wayside when handsome, magnetic Rodrigo, their hike leader, proves too mesmerizing to resist. Friend is pitted against friend as the women vie for Rodrigo's attentions. Rodrigo manipulates them into participating in a heinous ancient sacrifice that will guarantee the success of his megalomaniacal dreams. But unbeknownst to the hikers, they have been under the vigilant presence of Taki and Koyam, two elderly indigenous women who understand the danger the women are facing at the hands of Rodrigo.

COVER: Nicely done. The setting and some of the main characters are featured. The creepy-looking fog speaks to the more frightening aspects of the story.

FIRST CHAPTER:  Local street vendors Koyam and Taki are waiting to hear some juicy gossip from the many foreigners who visit Machu Picchu. When they overhear the name Rodrigo uttered by some female tourists, their attitudes swiftly change and they move closer to hear more.

KEEP READING: Positively. I'm fascinated by this eloquently told tale set in an area I know little about. My son and daughter-in-law have visited Machu Picchu, and his discussion of bartering with the street vendors stuck in my mind. I have to admit his travel memories weighed heavily in me deciding to read the first chapter of the book. The storyline, however, soon captured my full attention. With rich details and engaging characters, Velástegui quickly sets up a novel where the ancient past and the present are destined to collide.

The opening begins with Koyam and Taki, but based upon the synopsis, we know these gringas they overhear talking about Rodrigo are pivotal to the story. Immediately our interest piqued. Then enters in Koyam's complaint that her modern great-granddaughters wish she wouldn't scare the tourists (their bread and butter) with stories of ancient sacrifices and other mumbo-jumbo they don't believe in. The foundation of this story is swiftly established and you are captivated by it.

I definitely want to see how this story plays out.

Hardcover: 344 pages
Publisher: Libros Publishing, LLC (June 4, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985176946
ISBN-13: 978-0985176945

I received this first chapter from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Excerpt from Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan

Romance, Comedy, Shakespeare! Elizabeth Lancaster is perfectly happy. Why shouldn’t she be? She teaches Shakespeare at a respectable community college. She’s got an impressive family that includes a Nobel Laureate father, an opinionated mother, one sister who’s curing cancer, and another go-getter who’s married to a Congressman. Plus she inherited a stunning Early California hacienda from her grandmother. Well, it will be stunning if she ever finds the capital to re-do just about everything.

So why does everyone keep telling her she needs a more prestigious job, upgraded countertops, and, most of all, a better man than her famous ex-husband, movie star FX Fahey? Elizabeth silences her family and surprises herself when she joins her ex to work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Over the course of the summer, she discovers that men can change, politics can be sexy, dogs rule and William Shakespeare has a thing or two to teach her about modern relationships.


This is where the class gets good, I thought. Where I, Elizabeth Lancaster, community college English teacher and theater enthusiast, feel most in my element. “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s read it together, Nico. You and me. Like I always say, Shakespeare’s words are meant to be spoken, not studied at arm’s length. It’s living, breathing dialogue. And in this scene, the sexist pig is trying to convince the cold-hearted be-yotch that the sun is actually the moon. It’s his way of exerting power, and she is employing her own manipulative techniques to shut him down. Raise your hand if you’ve done this in your own relationships. Who’s played mind games in a romantic relationship?”

All the hands went up except Sahil’s, whose closest personal relationship has probably been with his PlayStation controller. “That’s what I thought. Get up, Nico. You’re Petruchio and I’m Kate. Let’s go.”
He heaved his squat body out of the chair, as his classmates hooted. His buddy from high school, Aron, hissed, “Duuude.” Nico’s reluctance was skin deep. He was a ham at heart. “Please, don’t make me do this.”

I took a swig of Diet Coke and did my best faux-ghetto “Oh, it’s on.” The students whooped, like I knew they would.

Nico began haltingly, adding several more syllables than in the original. “Come on, a’ God’s name. Once more, um, um, toward our father’s. Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!” He inserted a dramatic hand gesture for emphasis, then gave me a triumphant look.

Oh, it was on. I tapped into my Inner Shrew, which wasn’t hard. I was a single, mid-30s woman with emerging bunions, a leaking roof, and a love life that had been in decline since the early Aughts. Not to mention that I had a mother who kept setting me up with every divorced dad in Pasadena and a sister who insisted I needed to keep “putting myself out there” even though she has no idea how rough it is “out there.” Why couldn’t they just leave me alone with my books, my vegetable garden, and my growing collection of European comfort shoes? I happened to like my life. Why didn’t my family? Oh, yes, at that particularly moment in time, I was feeling extremely shrewish. Watch out, Nico. “The moon! The sun—it is not light now.”

Nico rose to the challenge, playing his Petruchio with a touch of Jersey Shore. “I say it is the moon that shines so bright.”

The classroom door cracked as it opened. I didn’t bother to turn to see who’d arrived thirty minutes late to class. Besides, the audible gasp from a dozen young women told me it was Jordan. He was easily the best-looking boy in the room and a star baseball player who was hoping for a decent transfer offer. Jordan slid in late most days, hoping for attendance credit and a chance to flirt with Shiree. But I paid no attention to the rumble from the other students, because I was in the zone. “I know it is the sun that shines so bright.”

Nico’s jaw dropped open, apparently stunned silent by my confidence. But the scene wasn’t nearly over, so I gave him the universal “it’s your turn” sign with my hands. He stammered, unable to get out the next line. And then I heard the next lines come from behind me. “Now by my mother’s son, and that’s myself, It shall be the moon, or star, or what I list…”
I turned to face the owner of the familiar voice. Good God, just what I needed.
No wonder the girls gasped. There, resplendent in jeans and a black T-shirt that probably cost more than my car, was Francis Fahey. Or as the world knew him, FX Fahey, the third-highest-grossing action star behind Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. His “Icarus” franchise had spawned video games, fast food tie-ins, and a legion of fans that believed the laid-back actor to actually be the futuristic cop hero. Clearly, FX was used to being the center of attention, and he owned the classroom the minute he entered. He strode up the center aisle, grinning effortlessly, like he was just returning from the grocery store with a six-pack of beer instead of invading my workplace after a decade of no face-to-face contact. Oh, he was enjoying the moment. “Or ere I journey to your father’s house. Go on and fetch our horses back again. Evermore cross’d and cross’d, nothing but cross’d.”

Lian Dolan is a writer, producer, talk show host, podcast pioneer and social media consultant. She writes the blog and produces the weekly podcast “The Chaos Chronicles,” a humorous look at modern motherhood. She writes for as a parenting expert. A decade ago, Lian created Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show, blog and website, with her four real sisters. Her writing has appeared in many national magazines, including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother and essays in such anthologies as Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul. TV appearances have included The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a popular speaker for groups and corporations, always using humor as hook. Her previous books include Helen of Pasadena and The Satellite Sisters’ Uncommon Senses.

Visit Lian online at