Friday, September 26, 2014

Waiting For Dusk by Nancy Pennick

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Nancy will be awarding a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a PDF or mobi copy of Waiting for Dusk to a randomly drawn winner via the rafflecopter at the end of this post.Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Thanks to Nancy for stopping by to chat with us!

Which of your characters would you most like to meet IRL? Why?

Andrew (Drew) Martin. He is from the recent past, growing up in the early 1900s. His perspective on the world would be so much different. Think of all the inventions since his time. Television. Smart phones. Space shuttle. The list goes on and on. The same goes for history. I think he’d be surprised to learn that the War to End All Wars—WWI—wasn’t the last. I’d want to know what he did for fun, where he hung out with friends. He did grow up in NYC so he’s a little more sophisticated than the average teen. What was NYC like in those days? Prohibition was in force so he might have some good stories.

Why do you write juvenile fiction? What draws you to it?

So far my young adult novels are the only ones that are published. I like writing in that genre and also reading it, too. Going back to a time in all our lives where we make mistakes, can be self-absorbed and sometimes easily influenced has great potential for story telling. The teen years are the growing up years, shedding childhood and forming new ways of looking at the world.

I have a few Middle Grade/Preteen books in the works and would like to write some New Adult. The fun of writing is that you can let your mind go anywhere you wish. You can stay in reality, time travel in science fiction, have elves battle trolls in fantasy…the world is yours for the taking. I enjoy writing what I like to call fantasy or magical realism. I hope the reader can picture themselves in the every day world I create and then all of the sudden…a fantasy life happens.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

A teacher. Never changed my mind from third grade on. I was totally in love with my third grade teacher and wanted to be like her. I’ve taught first, second, and third grade in my first career as an elementary school teacher.

Who was your teenaged crush? Why?

Davy Jones of the Monkees. He was cute, he could sing and had a dazzling smile. What’s not to like?

What books were your favorite as a youth and why?

All of them! Lol I remember wanting to read every book in my elementary school’s little library. I started with a row of biographies, working my way through them in order. I loved Little Women and anything written by Beverly Cleary. Her Ramona and Henry Huggins books were the best, very realistic. Dr. Seuss books were fun and clever. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my all-time favorite.

Favorite hot beverage. Why?

Tea. I think I wrote a whole blog about it! There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea on a cold morning. One of my favorites is English Breakfast and as a flavored tea, nothing can beat Peach Apricot. When I write, I like to have a cup of tea nearby. It helps the thought process. I can lean back, take my cup in hand and think.

Sum up your book for Twitter: 140 characters or less.

Read a book. Fall asleep. Meet a boy. Waiting for Dusk, a romantic fantasy for young adults. #Waitingfordusk

That's intriguing, let's find out more!

Read a book.

Fall asleep.

Meet a boy.

Is it real or just a dream?

Katie's everyday life suddenly turns exciting when she travels back in time and meets the boy of her dreams. Thinking of nothing else, willing to leave the real world behind, she's determined to find out if it's all a dream or not. Returning again and again, Katie almost has her answers until one day her precious book goes missing.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Drew!” Katie felt butterflies in her stomach.

He held out his hand. “Come on. I won’t let you fall.”

She slowly stepped onto the rock, and inched towards him. Her heart pounded but she felt safe. He put both arms around her, holding her tight as they both faced the canyon.

“There is nothing like it, is there?” He whispered softly in her ear.

Katie could have stayed like that for the rest of the day, but knew she had to get back to work. The magic had to end. “I have to go.”

“Yes, I know.”

They stepped back a few feet until they were on what Katie thought was more solid ground. She knew the rock was just an extension of the land but it felt as if she was miles from El Tovar. She turned to run back to the hotel, then stopped.

“Drew, I…” She looked into his eyes, his sparkling emerald eyes. Her heart flipped. “I hope to see you later.”

“You will. You definitely will. Tomorrow is Saturday.”

Katie ran up to the brush next to the hotel, grabbed the pails and headed to the back of El Tovar. Saturday couldn’t come soon enough. For now, she needed to finish her shift and then head to the boardinghouse and go to sleep. She knew the only way to get back here was through her dreams. How confident am I? Will I be able to return? I’ll just have to believe, like in all good fairytales. 

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Nancy currently resides in Mentor, Ohio with her husband and their college-age son, plus a delightfully entertaining lovebird. Her writing is influenced by all the years of working with young people as a teacher and raising her own son. When not writing, Nancy loves to travel with her husband and enjoys a good cup of tea. Waiting for Dusk is the first in her three book series. Call of the Canyon and Stealing Time continue the story of Kate and Drew.


Twitter- @npennick


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Star Catcher By Molly Dean - VBT

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Molly will be awarding a $40 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Read the Blurb:

When fifteen year-old Hawke feels fed up with not being able to walk, he escapes in his mind to a misty island filled with moorlands, ancient forests, and monolithic stones: a place where he can move and run and accomplish heroic quests.

His life is turned upside down, though, when he's thrust into this dream world and finds it real! He becomes 'Star Catcher.' The job? Track and collect shooting stars or meteors sent from a more advanced civilization, which have powers that protect the island from approaching evil. He finds many helpers along the way: a serving girl who can communicate with animals and create light, an alluring mermaid, a savvy one-eyed crow, and an old farmer with a secret.

Hawke must also discover what's going on inside the imposing mansion called Moon House. Why do rooms change? Why do objects mysteriously shift? Who lives inside the old forest behind the place and why is the Star Catcher forbidden to enter it? And most importantly, who are Hawke and his stars really battling against? An evil genius? A pirate-like group called the Shrikers who have taken over the island? An Ancient Magic? Or, maybe an aspect of himself?

My Review

Hawke has been injured in a car accident and can't walk--but the doctors encourage him to do his physical therapy and exercises so he can be as mobile as possible. However, his attitude is one of "why bother?" and he is definitely throwing himself a pity party in the first part of the book. As he sleeps, however, he finds himself in a world where not only do his legs work, but he has also apparently been expected as a Star Catcher. Is this just all an elaborate dream or is he indeed in an alternate reality?

Thus the adventures begin. And, Ms. Dean's world is one of wonder and the mystery Hawke has to solve is interesting. Ms. Dean introduces us to some very interesting characters who are very well drawn--I especially like Em. We join with Hawke in his confusion as he learns what he is to do and what a Star Catcher is exactly and, as he learns more, so do we.

I believe this book works best for the middle grade ages and early YA-- 12-16. It's not a difficult book to read and the action moves along pretty quickly. Good job, Ms. Dean. Rating: 4.

Hawke turned away from the Hedgerow Trail and found the rock path leading to the cove, the place where all of his adventures began. He scrambled down upon it, and after a few minutes, stood watching the waves, green and glassy, curling into the shore. The water looked clearer even than before, reminding Hawke of pictures he had seen of Caribbean waters, full of all the blues and greens that could be concocted on a painter’s palette. Hawke drew forward, peering down to the ocean’s bottom. He remembered the feel of warm saltiness, the healing properties of the water’s liquid massage. Kind of like the moving fingers of the nurses at home, except that this sea treatment worked. It had actually worked.

He carefully set his satchel into an alcove between rocks, and marked the spot with the fragment of an old gray scallop shell. Ripping off his Moon House clothes, he waded out a little way and then dove forward, splashing and kicking. ‘I am free,” he whispered the words aloud, feeling a need to define the moment.

Swimming a few more strokes, he decided that this cove was the only place he felt truly at peace, truly himself. Not at Moon House, not in Archenwood, certainly not at home in his hospital bed. A fish swam by and nibbled at his toes. A head with tangled copper locks surfaced in front of him. The mermaid!

“Aha! The Star Catcher returns. And no one is free,” she said. The mermaid drew closer, radiating a clarity and vividness. Did these qualities emanate from her specifically, or from the environment around her? Was her hair really such a pure copper hue? Her eyes, such a crystal blue-green color? She flaunted salt and sunlight on her face.

Looking into those eyes, Hawke lost his shyness and began to feel bold...even, reckless. “I am free,” he told her. “At least for now. And you. You are free.”

“Perhaps. At least for now,” she echoed in her taunting, musical voice.

All at once he wanted to kiss her. Was it a possible to kiss a mermaid, same as you did a human? As if reading his intentions, she drew back, treading water. “So how goes it, Star Catcher? Are your pockets overflowing with stars?” She gazed up and down his bare chest, half out of the water, and laughed out loud.

“I’ve caught one,” he replied, turning sheepish. “It’s hard work. Really. The stars don’t just fall like rain, you know. You have to plot and plan, and be just at the right place at the right time.”

“The plotting and planning must be dreadful.” She rolled her eyes, as if making fun of him. “The Red Star. They say it brings love and joy to those who touch it. I want to see the star, to hold it in my hands. I might let you kiss me, if you’d show it to me.”

Again, she’d read his mind. He glanced at the rocks where his clothes and satchel lay concealed, and turned back to her.

The mermaid’s eyes glowed as she twisted a wavy lock around one finger. She moved a tiny bit closer, and so did Hawke to her. “The kiss first,” he demanded.

“The star first.” Her eyes shone merry but uncompromising.

About the Author

After studying at Newcomb College in New Orleans and the London Polytechnic, Molly became a full time journalist and photographer and published over 80 articles in magazines, like Fine Gardening and Woman’s Day Specials. Molly’s first love, though, is writing fiction. She has completed three novels for teens and tweens, including The Twilight Garden, Dragon Dazzle, and The Star Catcher. Today she lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with probably too many cats.

Web site:
Twitter: Molly Dean@mollydean1
Barnes & Noble: ean=2940149517527
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Q&A with Marian Cheatham, author of RUINED

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Marian will be awarding an eBook copy of Ruined to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop during the tour. A Grand Prize of a signed paperback copy of Ruined plus a new DVD of Much Ado About Nothing starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson will be awarded to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour (US ONLY). Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Welcome to Books in the Hall! What’s your favorite sweet treat?
I LOVE Twinkies. I rarely eat them because they are so darn fattening, but I love them nonetheless. I was devastated when Hostess closed in 2012 and Twinkies were gone. I called my sister and we both cried. Really, yes we cried. We grew up with Twinkies and to think we would never see one or taste one or smell one again was almost too much to bear. But then like a rainbow after a storm, Twinkies magically reappeared. I was so excited. The first time I saw one on the shelf at Walmart, I snapped a photo and posted it on Facebook. The new box read: “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.” I think that says it all.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self?
As a teen, I was painfully, pathetically shy. Though I did very well in school, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. Today, I’m totally out-going. Public speaking as a teen would have meant the death of me, but today, I lecture about my books and writing in general to all sorts of group. Public speaking is not a problem for this 2014 woman. If I could address my sixteen-year-old self, I would encourage her to be more confident, more trusting of her abilities. I would dare her to take chances and tell her that she will succeed. She just has to believe in herself.

What superpower would you love to have? Why?

This is a fun question. Thank you! I’d love to be able to fly. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to view the world from above? To see things from a radically different perspective? To have the ability to go places my walking self could never go? I’d fly over an ocean searching for whales. I’d soar with an eagle, catch a current and glide with arms outstretched. I’d observe lions on the prowl and join a flock of Canadian geese heading south for the winter. Life as a flying superhero would be truly exciting!

Hunger Games or Twilight? Why?
Though I think Hunger Games was better written, I’d like to experience the world of Twilight more than I’d like to live in Panem’s District 12. Both books are extremely imaginative with dynamic, unique characters. A gorgeous vampire that sparkles? A brave teen who volunteers to die in place of her younger sister? Wish I thought of those characters. I enjoyed both series, anxiously anticipating the arrival of each new book. This is a tough call, but I’d have to say I’d choose Twilight for the danger, and fun, and romance of the story. Hunger Games was just too radical for me. Kids killing kids. No thanks. I’ll take my chances with vampires.

What reality show would you love to be on? Why?
This was an easy question. Anyone in my family would have known the answer because I live for “Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC. I want to work in those salons surrounded by hundreds of gorgeous dresses. But more than that, I love the staff in both salons – New York and Atlanta. I can’t seem to get enough of the brides and their bickering families arguing over what dress looks best. It’s crazy fun, and I’m hooked on that show. Bring on the drama! I’m ready for a new season.

Which of your characters would you most like to meet IRL? Why?
Can I count two characters as one for this question? Because I’d like to count Blythe Messina and DB Whitmore as one couple. They have such chemistry, even their arguments are entertaining. Based on Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, Blythe and DB banter back and forth throughout Ruined. Their dialogue was challenging, but fun to write. Both characters are strong-minded, confident, and optimistic. All virtues I admire and appreciate. I know we’d have a great time together. No matter what we did.

What four literary characters would you most like to have over for dinner?

This was fun to think about. I pictured my dining room table set with my best china. Our wine glasses are full and there’s lots of laughter and terribly interesting conversation that goes on all night. Who there? Well, my first thought was to invite Edward Cullen. I know, he’s a vampire and doesn’t eat, but he’s still intriguing and polite. And of course, we can’t forget adorable to look at across the table. To add some mystery and intellect, I’d invite Sherlock Holmes, who would fill us all in on his latest murder case. Fearless Katniss Everdeen could sit next to me in case I get frightened by Sherlock’s stories and need to hold someone’s hand. My last guest would be Harry Potter because he’s the best of all worlds – cute, intelligent, brave, and I’m sure he could use a good home-cooked meal.

You’re stranded on a desert island—which character from your book do you want with you? Why?
I’d like to be stranded anywhere with Stratford High’s principal, Dr. Bard. He’s really Shakespeare in disguise and since I’m a huge Shakespeare fan (some might say freak), spending some alone time with the Bard would be a dream come true. My husband would be jealous, so I couldn’t be stranded too long or I’m afraid there’d be some trouble. Maybe just a day or two. Long enough to pick Dr. Bard’s brilliant brain. I wouldn’t want to be endlessly stranded like Gilligan and the Skipper.

Favorite pizza toppings.
I usually behave myself and get a veggie pizza with mushrooms, onions, and extra tomatoes. But if I could make the pizza of my dreams, it would have a thin, crispy crust, spicy sauce, and be smothered in pepperoni and green olives. Oh, great, now I’m getting hungry. I think I’ll check the freezer. Good-bye!

When your life has been ruined by lies, do you seek justice … or revenge?

Blythe Messina spends her senior year focused on her studies and college, and not on her ex, Stratford High's lacrosse star, DB Whitmore. At least, that's what Blythe keeps telling herself. But her younger cousin, Bonni, knows otherwise. Same goes for DB, who swears to be over Blythe and their breakup, but his teammates aren’t fooled.

When scandalous photos of Bonni and the team captain are texted around Stratford, Bonni's virtuous reputation is ruined. She professes her innocence, but no one believes her. No one, except Blythe and DB, who come together to uncover the truth. But, will they stay together?

Ruined is a modern twist on a classic Shakespearean romance.

"Deceit, loyalty, honor, and romance--Ruined has it all! A teen version of Much Ado About Nothing that Shakespeare aficionados are sure to savor!” ~ Kym Brunner, Author of Wanted: Dead or in Love & One Smart Cookie

All books in the Stratford High series will be modern retellings of a Shakespeare classic. Ruined is inspired by Much Ado About Nothing.

Enjoy an excerpt:


I’d been bitchy and on edge ever since that blasted luau last Saturday. Seeing DB, talking to him, being near him again, had taken my life off course. For days now, I’d been ordering my brain to STOP THINKING ABOUT HIM. We were ancient history, two people doomed from the start, like Antony and Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette and King Louis. So why couldn’t I regain control of my world? I snatched up my backpack and my Coach crossbody bag, and did a quick once-over in my bedroom mirror. The hair was tied back in a no-fuss ponytail. The jeans were clean, well, relatively. This faded ASPCA tee was past its expiration date, but good enough for school. I turned off my bedroom light and went in search of Bonni.

She wasn’t in her room or downstairs in the kitchen. So I grabbed a frosted Pop-Up and headed into the garage, where I was blinded by piercing sunlight. Someone had left the outer door open, and my new hybrid was nowhere to be found. I shaded my eyes and peered outside.

Halfway down our long driveway, I spied Bonni and Uncle Leo with their backs to me, their heads together under the opened hood of my car. They were talking, but in this quiet morning air, their voices carried. Even from this distance, I could hear fragments of their conversation. And if I heard them, so could our neighbors. I was hurrying toward the hybrid, anxious to warn my cousin and uncle to keep it down, when I heard something that stopped me in mid-stride.

“… believe what Cory told me … DB and Blythe …”

Had Bonni just mentioned DB and me in the same sentence?

I ducked behind the six-foot-tall hedges lining the drive.

“What else did Cory say?” Uncle Leo asked.

About the Author:
Marian is a full-time writer of contemporary and historical young adult fiction. A native Chicagoan and a graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marian taught special education and worked in the business world before pursuing her dream of becoming a writer. She would rather be at her desk than almost anywhere else, but of course, that isn’t always possible. So when she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, walking the dog, travelling with her husband, and researching new projects. Not necessarily in that order.

She adores anything Shakespeare. An avid reader of Shakespeare biographies, she has travelled the world to see his plays, visiting Stratford, Canada as well as Stratford-Upon-the-Avon, Great Britain, and the new Globe Theater in London. Her latest YA novel, Ruined, Book One in her new Stratford High series – modern retellings of Shakespeare’s plays - is inspired by the Bard’s classic romance, Much Ado About Nothing. Book Two, inspired by the Merchant of Venice, is due out fall 2014.

Her debut YA, Eastland, came out in February 2014. Based on the real-life story of the 1915 Eastland boat disaster in Chicago, Marian lectures about the Eastland to schools, libraries, and book clubs, as well as co-hosting haunted Chicago tours of Eastland disaster sites. She writes a post on the subject on the Tribune’s Chicago Now blog site.

Visit her at:
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Friday, September 19, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Heart on a String by Susan Soares

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Susan will be awarding a Life is all Good LOVE Tote to a randomly drawn winner (, a multi-heart turquoise charm bracelet ( to another randomly drawn winner, a signed copy of Heart on a String to one more randomly drawn winner and finally, a signed bookmark of Heart on a String to three randomly drawn winners. All prizes will be awarded via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The only thing harder than lying about your life? Facing it.

Marissa tells lies.

To herself, about the fact that her brother abandoned her.

To her grandmother, when she says “everything’s fine.”

To the world when she pretends her mother is at home or working late. When she doesn’t tell them her mother is dead.

She doesn’t even question the wisdom of living in a world built on lies anymore—until she meets Brandon. Unlike Marissa, Brandon faces his grief head-on. As their relationship sweetens, Marissa realizes the value of letting someone in and not letting her grief destroy her. But when her past filled with denial catches up with her, Marissa is forced to tell Brandon her darkest secrets, or risk losing him.

The only thing harder than lying about her life? Facing it.

My Review:

This was a sweet little story that deals with a tough issue--the loss of a parent. On top of that Marissa also has to deal with the fact she's been virtually abandoned by her big brother.

Her perception is that the majority of people treat her differently or look at her with pity when they find out her mom died of cancer--so she's built up a wall and doesn't let anyone in. She goes to the extent of not sharing with new people she meets about her mom's death. Which works well for her-- she can pretend to herself that her mom is just traveling, so she doesn't have to deal with the fact she's gone forever. That is, until she meets Brandon.

Things start to crack for her when she finds herself in the cemetery to rescue a heart-shaped balloon that had been sent to heaven by a young boy at a grave. She had done the same thing for her mom--but that had been the last time she set foot in the cemetery. I like how just this one small action tied everything together.

One of Brandon's brothers died in a biking accident and the balloon Marissa rescued was released by his youngest brother. Brandon and his family handle their grief in a much more healthy manner--and Marissa slowly starts to realize that she has to let him know the truth about her mom, but the longer she waits, the harder it is.

There are many themes that replay themselves in this book-- in addition to the theme of loss and grief, you can see how some of what Marc does is an echo of Marissa's own struggles.

All in all, I think this book is suitable for all ages--and would be an ideal book for kids dealing with their own losses.

Well done, Ms. Soares. My rating: 4. Enjoy an excerpt:

I held my breath as I ran past the cemetery. Stupid, I know. Regardless, it’s one of those idiotic things that stick with you from your childhood. Like fragments of your being that imprint themselves on your chemical makeup. It was my older brother, Marc, who had told me that once when we were in the backseat of Mom’s old hatchback and were driving past the Sacred Path Cemetery.

Marc poked me in my side. “Quick, hold your breath,” he said before taking in a puff of air and holding it in.

“What? Why?” I looked around from side to side.

He didn’t answer me. Instead he just kept motioning with his hands, pointing out the window, putting his hands around his neck like he was choking or something. Finally, when we turned left onto Harper Street he let out a big exhale.

“Oh man, now you’re toast.” He pointed at me and laughed. That maniacal laugh only older brothers know how to do. I was seven at the time, and Marc was ten. “You probably have a ghost inside you now.” He grinned like a devious villain.

“A ghost?” I said.

“You didn’t hold your breath while we drove past the cemetery. Again I state — you’re toast.” He began drumming on his lap with his hands.

I didn’t comprehend what he was telling me, but I knew I didn’t like it. Tears started forming in my eyes, and I knew I had to rely on my failsafe. “Mooommm,” I cried out, and immediately I felt Marc’s sweaty hand over my mouth.

“Yes, Marissa?” Mom’s sweet voice carried from the front of the car to the backseat.

“She’s fine, Mom. I got it.” Marc’s tone was of the dutiful son. He unclamped his hand from my face. “Listen,” he began, talking kind of slow. “You’ve got to remember this. I’m going to give you a life lesson here. Are you ready?”

His green eyes were sparkling, and I nodded my head in agreement.

“Okay.” He crouched down a bit so he was eye-level with me. “You must always, and I mean always, hold your breath when you drive past a cemetery. And if you’re walking past one, you must run — run and hold your breath until you’re clear. Otherwise, the spirits of the undead could invade your body. And you don’t want that to happen. Do you?” I almost couldn’t tell if the last part was a question or a statement.

“But I didn’t hold my breath back there, and all the times before. What if one’s in me right now?” I began pawing at my body.

Marc threw his head back and laughed. “Nah, you’re fine. Just be careful. Now that you know you have to do it, always do it. Understand?”

Again I shook my head. Marc gave me a thumbs-up, and I begged Mom to take Chester Street instead of Maple because I knew there was a big cemetery on Maple. Luckily she agreed.

So now, here I was ten years later, holding my breath as I ran past Sacred Path Cemetery. While I ran, my new sneakers — the ones I had to work double shifts on Saturdays for three weeks to get — started rubbing the back of my left heel, and I knew I’d have a blister the size of a quarter later on. It’s hard to keep your pace when you’re holding your breath. Luckily Sacred Path Cemetery isn’t that big. Just big enough. It’s just big enough. That’s what my grandmother said anyway. I was almost halfway through when I heard the clicking of the tips of my shoelace on the ground. My thoughts concentrated on what those tip things were called, anything to get my mind off the cemetery. Aglets, I remembered! My aglets were hitting the pavement, and I knew if I didn’t stop and retie that lace, then I would land flat on my face. Grace has never been a character trait of mine. My mother, yes, but not me. Marissa No-Grace McDonald should have been my legal name. How my mother came up with Scranton for my middle name I’ll never know.

The last thing I wanted to happen was to fall face first in front of the cemetery. Complete body invasion for sure then. I couldn’t hold my breath that long. So I did what I had to do. I stopped, turned my face the opposite direction of the cemetery, and took one big breath in and held it. Next, I bent down and furiously retied that lace. Why is it that whenever you try doing something in a rush it never comes out right? Somehow I tied my finger into the knot. Then, I couldn’t get the loops to line up right. Just as I was finally conquering the over-under shoelace tying technique that Marc had taught me when I was five, I heard muffled sounds coming from inside the cemetery. I searched for the source of the sounds. As I looked near the line of big oak trees that lined the right-hand side of the cemetery, I saw the profiles of a family. What I assumed was a family, anyway. There was a woman, about my mom’s age, a guy about my age, and a younger boy, maybe six or seven. The little boy was holding a metallic balloon, which was red and in the shape of a heart. Bright sun caught the corner of it, creating a glare that momentarily impaired my vision. When my eyes refocused, I was suddenly aware of my body and extremely aware of the fact that I was watching this family’s private moment, in the cemetery, in this cemetery. My heart beat frantically, and I became aware that my forehead was covered in perspiration. I stood up, held my breath again, and ran the next half a block without stopping, my aglets clicking against the pavement all the way.

When I crossed over onto Brenton Street, I finally slowed down. I felt like I could breathe again. My pace was back to a more conservative speed, and after one more break to retie that shoelace-triple-knot, I was able to refocus. The spring air felt good on my skin. As the sun poured down on me, my face embraced its warmth. Lilacs were in full bloom everywhere, and I made a special detour down Hazel Street to run past the six lilac bushes Mr. Brockwell planted a few years ago. He said it was just because he wanted to add some color to his front yard, but I knew better. I knew they were for my mom.

Turning down Hazel Street, I inhaled the heavy floral scent of the freshly-bloomed lilac bushes, and I could picture my mom smiling. As I ran past the last bush, the little blue house finally came into view. I saw Mr. Brockwell picking up his newspaper from his front step. In that moment I wished I had magical powers to turn myself invisible.

“Marissa? Hey Marissa!” he shouted while making his way over to the fence.

Oh great. “Oh, hey, Mr. Brockwell.” I slowed down and began jogging in place, hoping the gesture would let him know I couldn’t stay to chat.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve run this route, hasn’t it?” He cinched his blue terrycloth robe a little tighter.

Trying to remain active, I kept jogging in place. “Yeah, I guess. I wanted to run past the lilacs.” I wasn’t sure if it was the sun or my nerves, but I felt like my body was going into heat shock or something.

Mr. Brockwell stared at me, and then I saw his eyes get glassy. He began to speak but then ran his hand over his mouth like he was muffling down what he wanted to say. His hands fumbled with his paper, and he cleared his throat.

“It’s good to see—” he paused; it was like the words were getting caught in his throat like tuna inside a fisherman’s net.

I realized I was standing still. My legs began to spasm. He caught my eye one more time, but just for a moment before he had to look away. I knew why. It was the reason I never ran past his house anymore. The reason why we couldn’t have a conversation anymore. Everyone used to tell me I was so lucky to look so much like my mom. She was gorgeous. High cheekbones, perfect heart-shaped mouth, sparkling blue eyes that sat perfectly on her oval face. Besides her hair being a stunning ash blond and mine being mouse brown, we did look quite similar. Except that while her features seemed to make her look like Grace Kelly, mine seemed to make me look like, well, not Grace Kelly.

But it was moments like this — Mr. Brockwell unable to look at me for more than a minute without having to look away — that I wished I looked less like her. I felt like my face was betraying him. Like my cheekbones and lips were baiting him with memories of him and my mom together. Although now, each memory was served with a side of sorrow instead of a side of joy.

I’ll never forget when I saw him two days after the funeral. We bumped into each other at Have Another Cup Coffee Shop on Main Street. First he hugged me and asked how I was doing; then he had to look away, and he told me why.

“It hurts to look at you, Marissa. You look so much like her.” I knew how much he loved my mom, and Marc and I enjoyed having him around, but after that moment I made sure to keep my distance. So he went from being Hank to back to being Mr. Brockwell.

Now, I stood there — uncomfortable from sweat that covered me head to toe — wondering how much longer I needed to stand there while he avoided my face. “So, I gotta go or my pace is gonna be all messed up.”

Hank, I mean, Mr. Brockwell took one final look at me. “Sure, sure.” He started to walk backward then stopped. “Marissa, just so you know. Any time you want to see the lilacs you can.”

The lump in my throat held back any words I could have gotten out, so I just waved and made a beeline for the next street so I could start my way back home. Seeing Mr. Brockwell had put me into a fog. My brain wasn’t able to concentrate on my pace or on my footing, and I began to get a shin splint pain on my left-hand side. Unfortunately, this was the same side as the blister. My run was only six miles, but my body was starting to feel like I was at mile thirteen. I couldn’t relax my breathing, and the back of my throat felt like it was on fire every time I inhaled. In my fog, I didn’t realize I forgot to cross Parker Street, and now the only way to get back was to take Fletcher Street again. And run past Sacred Path Cemetery, again. Now, I ran past that cemetery every day on my jog, but only once. Once was all I needed to let me get it out of my system. And it’s not like my mom’s grave is right where I run past. She’s way on the other side, the Cranville Street side. I never run that side. But now, in all the confusion, I have to go past it again. My hand scratched an itch at the back of my neck as the street sign came into view. Like always, I stopped for a moment, took a few deep breaths in and out, then grabbed one big breath of air and held it as I started my way past the cemetery.

My focus was way up ahead to the stop sign at the other end. I kept my eyes on that sign and kept my feet stepping under me, quick and steady. I wasn’t even halfway across when I caught sight of some sort of string frantically whipping in the wind, and I was running straight toward it. My gaze moved to follow the line of the string, trying to see what it was attached to, and that’s when I saw it, caught in the big tree right by the fence. The red, heart-shaped metallic balloon, and my heart hit the ground.

About the Author:
Susan Soares grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, always dreaming of one day being an author. After numerous short stories, poems and plays, those dreams finally became a reality when her first book, My Zombie Ex-Boyfriends was published. (Featherweight Press, 2013) Her second book Heart on a String was just released in June 2014 by Astraea Press.

Susan received her MA in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University, and will be pursuing teaching soon. When she isn't writing Susan spends her time reading, experimenting with photography, planning her next Disney World vacation and chasing after her kids.

Susan loves to read YA fiction. Maybe it's because her inner sixteen-year-old still wants to be prom queen.

Twitter ~ YouTube ~ Website ~ Blog ~ Goodreads ~ Wattpad

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Extension by L.V. Pires - Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $20 Amazon Gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

After having been cryogenically suspended for eighteen years, Oliver Conroy is brought back to life and given a second opportunity to live out his dreams. Velcron Technologies assures Oliver there’s nothing wrong with the procedure. Excited to find his family and finish his senior year at Sierra Vista High, Oliver ventures out into the new and very different world.

Across town, Colby Patterson, Sierra Vista’s star student, has just experienced his soul torn from his body and returned to its original owner, Oliver, leaving him empty, void of emotion, a psychopath, who is now determined to get his soul back using any means necessary.

When Oliver comes to realize he’s being pursued by Colby he must decide what to do. Can he defend himself against this soulless psychopath? Will he be able to bring himself to murder? And, if so, what will happen to his soul?

It’s a battle for the ultimate prize – ownership of the soul.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Oliver Conroy found himself in a black tunnel, surrounded by grey fog, pulled backwards through a cluster of bright stars folding in upon themselves. A man’s calm voice soothed his rigid body and kept him from convulsing all over the operating table. He opened his eyes to see this man hovering over him.

“There, there, Oliver, not so fast. You are only eighty-five percent dethawed.”

He felt a needle in his arm and then a cool serum work its way through his veins. In a matter of moments another sensation overcame him.

“Water,” he mouthed.

“Nurse Sanders, give him more of the liquefied gas and a cup of water.”

“Yes, doctor,” she said, rushing to grab an additional bag of blue liquid.

Oliver watched as she changed out the empty bag for the full one, then sat him up and helped him to drink.

“Alright, another successful revitalization,” the doctor said, snapping off his plastic gloves and tossing them into a waste bin. He picked up a transparent clipboard at the end of the operating table, flicked through it and then turned to Oliver.

“Welcome back, Mr. Conroy. I’m Dr. John Parker and you are officially our tenth patient to be revitalized.” He turned to the nurse. “Not bad for being frozen at negative one hundred and ninety-six degrees for the last eighteen years, huh?”

About the Author:
Young Adult author L.V. Pires lives near Baltimore, Maryland.

She graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Master’s in Education and the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor's in English. She is currently working towards her MFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University.

Her work includes "The Portrait" (Gypsy Shadow Publishing), "Summer of Winged Creatures" (Saturday's Child Press) and EXTENSION (6/15/14, Crescent Moon Press).

Follow her at
Twitter at @lisavpires

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Up the Tower by J.P. Lantern

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a backlist ebook copy to a randomly drawn winner at every stop during the tour and a Grand Prize of a $25 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Why YA (or Middle Grade) fiction? What draws you to it?

Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you—making UP THE TOWER a YA book was by and large a marketing decision. As an indie author, I saw the numbers and noticed that I had a much larger chance to have a bigger share of the market if I marketed my book as Young Adult Science Fiction (where there are not a lot of indie writers, but a large amount of profits) than just Science Fiction (where there is a surplus of indie writers fighting for a meager amount of profits). I love writing; I love creating fiction; but, at the end of the day, I am trying to feed myself and my cat and my dog with this business. My wife can probably feed herself; she is pretty smart.

Now, the really interesting part is that to make my book YA compatible didn’t really take much work. My book was never very graphic to begin with, and the adult issues I did try to tackle, I portrayed in fairly straightforward fashion. So, it’s easy to give it a surface read as a big rollicking adventure (which I encourage!); but, if you want to look at it as examining some very real social issues like the militarization of police forces, the propagation of a surveillance state, and the ever-widening expanse of corporate control in the government, that’s there too. In the same way, something like THE HUNGER GAMES is a great surface-level read about a young woman discovering how powerful she can be as an independent agent in her life, but it also does a lot of exploring of the way an over-exertion of governmental power can be disastrous, and how gender roles can often be inappropriately used to define people (another of my favorite subjects explored in my novel!).

None of this is to say I don’t love and respect YA fiction. One of my favorite novels that I’ve read in the past couple of years—and one that in my mind is a sort of cultural cousin to UP THE TOWER—is China Mieville’s RAILSEA, an excellent YA romp through a crazy steampunk world.

What books were your favorite as a youth and why?

The first “real” book I read was J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT. So, of course, right away, that blew me off my seat. I then tried to get into THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, but those were a lot denser and a lot harder on my mind at the time. I ended up maneuvering over to David Eddings’ BELGARIAD series, which is probably about as classic as medieval-society fantasy gets. One thing I loved about Eddings’ books was how there weren’t just these whole societies of elves and orcs and whatnot. All the differences between the different cultures were national. The Drasnians are all spies, and all the Chereks are huge crazy warriors, and so on. Now, that had its own flaws as a system of categorizing people, but it was still really cool and different to me at the time.

Favorite TV show from your childhood?

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers! I used to raise absolute terror if I wasn’t home RIGHT at 4:30 to catch the episodes as they came on. When I watched it, it was completely uncool to do so, so I had to keep it a secret from all of my friends for fear of being made fun of. I had one good friend who loved them with me, but we were always sort of afraid the other would quit liking the Power Rangers first, and so there was always this weird tension when we played with the Zords.

Sum up your book for Twitter: 140 characters or less.

Endless corpocracy. Dystopian slum. Catastrophic earthquake. For six deadly strangers, there’s just one way out…UP THE TOWER.

Favorite hot beverage. Why?


I feel like this is almost self-explanatory, but basically every stage of my operation is fueled by coffee. The book I wrote? Coffee. My blog? Coffee. My twitter feed @jplantern? Coffee. This very blog post? Coffee.

I have the sort of personality that feels better when things get done, and coffee makes that happen a little easier.

Ideal summer vacation.

This summer I was very lucky to travel to Maui, and then Seattle, and then Big Sur. My wife and I had a long two weeks where we were with each other, with family, and with friends. It was pretty terrific. The only bad thing about it was that we weren’t with our pets the whole time. We are pathetically attached to them. So, I think my ideal vacation would be to go back to Seattle for a week, and then spend another week just at home hanging out with our pets.

Favorite class in high school. Why?

My favorite class in High School was a European History AP course I took as a senior. I found every aspect of it just completely fascinating. My teacher was in love with French culture, and spent two or three days one week just talking about the Louvre and Versailles. I learned just an enormous amount about everything about the way we currently view the world and why so much of our problems and ideas are shaped the way they are.

Disaster brings everybody together. A cloned corporate assassin; a boy genius and his new robot; a tech-modified gangster with nothing to lose; a beautiful, damaged woman and her unbalanced stalker—these folks couldn't be more different, but somehow they must work together to save their own skin. Stranded in the epicenter of a monumental earthquake in the dystopian slum, Junktown, there is only one way to survive. These unlikely teammates must go...UP THE TOWER.

About the Author:
J.P. Lantern lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word.

Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.

twitter: @jplantern
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Altera Realm: Discovery by Jennifer Collins - Book Review and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jennifer will be awarding a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a Mobi or paperback (paperback US ONLY) copy of Altera Realm: Discovery to a randomly drawn winner at every stop during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Syney Andrews has secrets—she just doesn’t know she has them. She spent the last eighteen years in the human realm with her adoptive parents unaware of her real powers and role in Altera Realm.
,br> Altera Realm has been at war for well over a century and is connected to the Human Realm by a portal and no human knows it exists. It is home to the five old and great races—Magic Users, Lycins, Vampires, Daemons, and Shifters. Each race is an entity of their own with its own life purpose, rulers and guarded secrets.

Syney is the prophesized “chosen one”, the one destined to end the over hundred-year war and become queen of the Magic Users. Not that Syney wants to rule or even knows anything about Altera. Falling in love with her Lycin Protector, a crime punishable by death, only serves to make matters worse and Syney’s new life more complicated.


This reviewer loves books about portals to another world and was one reason I chose to review this book. Add into that a world populated by some of my favorite paranormal creatures and I was in heaven. And, thank goodness, this book didn't let me down.

Syney made me laugh at can definitely tell this is a character who is part of the post-Buffy generation. A guy turning to wolf? She doesn't take long to accept the reality of the whole situation.

The author does a great job in sharing the history of the Altera Realm without going into an info-dump. It helps that as matters are being explained to Syney, they are also being explained to the reader.

Syney runs into a lot of problems once she is brought back to the Altera Realm...not everyone is happy with the potential change, which sets up the scene for a lot of controversy and intrigue. I could so see this as a movie.. or even a TV series (are you listening, Hollywood?)

4 stars for a book that will keep you wondering what is happening next (ps: not to give any spoilers away, but Ms. Collins--you will fix that situation with Hunter, right??)

Enjoy an excerpt:

Hunter looked back up at her and gave her a curt nod. “We need to go. The more time we spend in this Realm, the more dangerous it gets for us.”

Syney nodded and got up from the bed. She looked at Gabriel. “Thank you, for what you did.”

He stood. “It wasn’t free.”

Syney blinked at him, not understanding.

“I can kill him,” Hunter said quietly behind Syney, causing her to almost laugh from the absurdity of the comment.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“To go with you,” Gabriel said matter-of-factly.


Gabriel eyed her for a moment before cocking his head to the side. “Not all Vampires are fans of the Great War. We all are, however, very opportunistic.” He paused. “I want to be there, to see the new reign. And get in on the ground floor.”

Syney smiled. She liked this Vampire. He was honest, something she hadn’t gotten a lot of in the last couple of days. “Deal.”

Hunter spun to stand in front of Syney and glared at her. “No deal. Vampires aren’t to be trusted. They’re hired killers who care only for themselves. They aren’t allowed in the Village and for good reason. Their blood may have healing properties, but they also need blood to survive, and where do you think they get that from?”

Syney was taken aback by Hunter’s forcefulness. This was another side of him, one she only had seen when he was the wolf and fighting. “He saved my life.”

“Because he wanted something.”

“He saved my life,” she repeated.

“And now he’s charging you for it,” Hunter said.

Syney placed her hand on his chest. “Listen to me. He didn’t hesitate to save me. He even tried before she attacked me. He’s been nothing but honest with us. It was my life he saved, and I want to repay him. If this is what he wants, than then this is what I can do.”

Syney felt Hunter take a deep breath.

“And what if you’re leading a lion into a sheep’s den?”

Syney smiled. “When he starts eating the sheep, you can do what you like with him.” She looked around Hunter’s large frame to Gabriel. “You OK with that?”

Gabriel gave her a sly smile. “I will put up no fight to him.”

Syney looked back at Hunter. “You OK with that?”

After a moment Hunter nodded reluctantly.

About the Author:
Jennifer Collins holds a BA in English with concentration in Creative Writing from Montclair State University and completed a certification program at Kean University for teacher of English K-12 in New Jersey. She enjoys being a high school English teacher at the Plainfield Academy of Arts and Advanced Studies, a public performing arts middle school and high school in the urban inner-city school district of Plainfield, New Jersey.

For more information on the Altera Realm Series visit

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