Saturday, November 30, 2013

Peter Simmons and the Vessel of Time by Ramz Artso @RamzArtso


Chapter 4

Portland, Oregon

October 22nd

Afternoon Hours

I sauntered out of the school building with my friends in tow and pulled on a thickly woven hat to cover my fluffy flaxen hair, which was bound to be frolic even in the mildest of breezes. I took a deep breath and scrutinized my immediate surroundings, noticing an armada of clouds scudding across the sky. It was a rather blustery day. The shrewd, trilling wind had all but divested the converging trees off their multicolored leaves, pasting them on the glossy asphalt and graffiti adorned walls across the road. My spirits were quickly heightened by this observation, and I suddenly felt rejuvenated after a long and taxing day at school. I didn’t know why, but the afternoon’s indolent weather appealed to me very much. I found it to be a congenial environment. For unexplainable reasons, I felt like I was caught amidst a fairytale. It was this eerie feeling which came and went on a whim. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it was triggered by the subconscious mind brushing against a collage of subliminal memories, which stopped resurfacing partway through the process.

Anyhow, there I was, enjoying the warm and soporific touch of the autumn sun on my face, engaging in introspective thoughts of adolescent nature when Max Cornwell, a close, meddlesome friend of mine, called me from my rhapsodic dream with a sharp nudge in the ribs.

‘Hey, man! You daydreaming?’

I closed my eyes; feeling a little peeved, took a long drag of the wakening fresh air and gave him a negative response by shaking my head.

‘Feel sick or something?’ he persisted.

I wished he would stop harping on me, but it looked like Max had no intention of letting me enjoy my moment of glee, so I withdrew by tartly saying, ‘No, I’m all right.’

‘Hey, check this out,’ said George Whitmore,–who was another pal of mine–wedging himself between me and Max. He held a folded twenty dollar bill in his hand, and his ecstatic facial expression suggested that he had just chanced upon the find by sheer luck.

‘Is that yours?’ I asked, knowing very well that it wasn’t.

‘No, I found it on the floor of the auditorium. Just seconds before the last period ended.’

‘Then perhaps you should report your discovery to the lost and found. I’m sure they’ll know what to do with it there.’

‘Yeah, right. That’s exactly what I’m going to do,’ he said, snorting derisively. He then added in a somewhat defensive tone, as if trying to convince himself more than anyone else, ‘I found it, so it’s mine–right?’

I considered pointing out that his intentions were tantamount to theft, but shrugged it off instead, and followed the wrought-iron fence verging the school grounds before exiting by the small postern. I was in no mood for an argument, feeling too tired to do anything other than run a bath and soak in it. Therefore, I expunged the matter from my mind, bid goodbye to both George and Max and plunged into the small gathering of trees and brush which we, the kids, had dubbed the Mini Forest. It was seldom traveled by anyone, but we called it that because of its size, which was way too small to be an actual forest, and a trifle too large to be called otherwise.

I was whistling a merry tune, and wending my way home with a spring in my step, when my ears abruptly pulled back in fright. All of a sudden, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being watched. But that wasn’t all. I felt like someone was trying to look inside of me. Right into me. As if they were rummaging in my soul, searching its every nook and cranny, trying to fish up my deepest fears and darkest secrets. It was equivalent to being stripped naked in front of a large audience. Steeling myself for something ugly, I felt the first stirrings of unease.


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Genre – Young-adult, Action and Adventure, Coming of Age, Sci-fi

Rating – PG-13

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Author Interview – Nadine Ducca @NadineDucca

Sometimes it’s so hard to keep at it – What keeps you going? I’ve always been a very hard-working and persevering person—except when it comes to sports. And math. Sorry all you track lovers and algebra devotees! My mind just shrugs and says “no way.”

What keeps me going while writing is my desire to see the finished project. Writing my first novel was a daunting experience, and sometimes I felt overwhelmed and I almost quit. Well, more than quit, I sometimes said to myself that I would leave it for the future because I wasn’t ready yet. But then a little voice in my head said “you procrastinated long enough!” and the voice was right. Fear is an aspiring author’s most largest hurdle. To really follow through such a life-consuming project such as a novel, you first need to work on overcoming your fears.

What’s your favorite meal? My favorite meal is barbecued lamb chops! MMMmm! They’re absolutely delicious with toasted pagès bread with tomato and allioli! “Allioli” is Catalan for “garlic and oil”, and that’s exactly what this is: a creamy sauce made with nothing more than garlic and olive oil.

What color represents your personality the most? I might look smiley and cheerful on the outside, but deep inside I’m a dark person with dark emotions. I think my color is tarnished gold with black splotches.

What movie do you love to watch? When I was a teen, I loved the thrill of a good terror film. But then The Ring came along… You know the one: the girl crawling out of the well…the cursed video… I was already in college when I saw the TV commercial for that movie—and I had nightmares two nights straight. Just from watching the commercial. Not even the trailer. Ridiculous. That was when I decided to only watch movies that would make me feel good.

My favorite is probably Chocolat. I could watch it over and over, and still smile at all the same moments. It’s a feel-good movie with villains who are not as bad as they seem. That’s what I like most about the film: even the antagonists are real people with real worries and self-doubts.

If you could do any job in the world what would you do? I’d love to have Sir David Attenborough’s job! You’ve all probably heard his voice on television; he’s a world-renowned broadcaster and naturalist. He’s presented hundreds of natural history programs, and he has traveled all over the world filming the wildest animals in their natural habitat.

This is something I would love to do! The mosquitoes might devour me alive, but it’s a price I’ll happily pay to be able to travel around the world learning and teaching about wildlife conservation.

What makes you angry? Any type of animal cruelty makes my skin crawl. Animals, just like children, are defenseless, so it’s our duty to take care of them and protect them. In Spain, bullfighting is still a national sport, and it’s appalling. The Catalan government (the province where I live) have declared themselves anti-bullfights, but the central government just can’t evolve. This type of torture show for pleasure should not be permitted by a member of the European Union.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do to stop bullfights. I can, however, protect animals on a smaller scale, and that’s what my boyfriend and I recently did. We knew a family who was keeping a kitten whose little eye had literally burst and its entire head (eye socket, ears and nose) was filling with pus from the infection. You’re lucky you didn’t see the poor creature!

We took the cat away from this family and rushed him to the vet, who was shocked the critter was still alive. He immediately performed surgery on the poor kitten and took out what was left of his eye, and cleaned up all the pus. The kitten was by then 8 months old, but physically he looked about half his age because of severe malnourishment.

To make a long story short, my boyfriend and I refused to return the kitten to his former owners. The vet sided with us and made a formal statement saying the kitten could not live in the conditions that family had him. The family stalked our home for days. They knocked on our door and rang our doorbell for hours—no matter what time of day (yes, they actually came to our home at midnight one night). In the end, we were forced to call the police. They listened to our story, to their story, they inspected our house and inspected the kitten, and then told us to keep it and microchip it right away.

And that’s how we saved an animal’s life and ended up with cutesy patootsy Pirate!

What’s your most embarrassing moment of your life? My life is full of embarrassing moments. Once my washing machine broke down. It wouldn’t spin dry no matter what I tried. I ended up calling a technician, and when he came, he looked at me funny and said “you have to press this button.” I had accidentally deactivated the spin dry option with a simple button. I was mortified. To tell the truth, I didn’t even know that button existed! He charged me for the visit.

Another time, I was minding my own business walking down the street when I thought I saw a girl I really didn’t want to talk to. I did the first thing that came to mind: rush into the nearby bank. However, I rushed so much that when I pulled the door open, I slammed it against my face. Yeah… Ouch. So much for not drawing any attention.

The good thing in all this is that I don’t let my embarrassing moments affect me much. I actually have a good laugh once my cheeks stop burning.

Serving Time

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Genre –  Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rating – Adult

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

#Bargain Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love by Sebastian Cole @sebastiancole3

Beverly Hills Book Award winner, USA Best Book Award finalist, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award bronze winner, International Book Award finalist, ForeWord Firsts debut literary competition finalist.
The story opens with Noah Hartman, eighty years old, lying on his deathbed recounting his life of love and loss to Josh, a compassionate orderly at the hospital. As Noah’s loved ones arrive one by one, they listen in on his story, and we’re transported back in time to Noah’s younger years.
Though outwardly seeming to have it all, Noah, now thirty-five, is actually an empty, lost, and broken man running on automatic pilot. He has no true identity due to having allowed his powerful, wealthy parents to manipulate, control, and brainwash him from a young age. With the threat of disinheritance and withholding love and approval if he doesn’t comply with the plan they have for his life, Noah is lured in by the reward of great wealth and the illusion of running the family business empire some day.
Enter Robin, twenty-five years old, who — in direct contrast to Noah — is a vivacious, free spirit. Full of life and always living in the moment, Robin’s love saves Noah by inspiring him to stand up to his parents and live his own life at all costs, reclaiming his true self.
They get married, and while snorkeling in the Caribbean, the captain of the boat warns them not to disturb anything in the sea. Ignoring the exhortation, Noah dives down and snags a sand dollar from the ocean floor, whereupon it explodes in his hand. With the fragile sand dollar taking on new significance, Robin inexplicably leaves Noah shortly after returning from their honeymoon. Like a passing breeze, she disappears out of his life without a trace, seemingly forever.
Years pass, and Noah still can’t get Robin out of his mind and out of his heart. After all, the one he loved the most would forever be the one who got away. That’s when he finds out about her hidden secret, the underlying condition responsible for her leaving. Noah has no choice but to move on with his life without her, meeting Sarah at the premiere of SAND DOLLAR, the movie he wrote about his time with Robin.
Years later, it’s Noah and Sarah’s wedding day, and Robin discovers a clue that Noah had surreptitiously inserted into the movie, inspiring her to race to the wedding to try to stop it. With the wedding in shambles, the scene jumps back to present day, with both Robin and Sarah placed in Noah’s hospital room. But which one did he choose?
As Noah wraps up his story, he discovers a far greater truth about the past, present, and future. Things are definitely not as they appear as the pieces of a shattered love are put back together in the remarkable final chapter of Noah’s life.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG 13
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#AmReading - Tulip Season by Bharti Kirchner @BhartiKirchner

Tulip Season by Bharti Kirchner


A missing domestic-violence counselor. A wealthy and callous husband. A dangerous romance.
Kareena Sinha, an Indian-American domestic-violence counselor, disappears from her Seattle home. When the police dismiss suspicions that she herself was a victim of spousal abuse, her best friend, Mitra Basu, a young landscape designer, resolves to find her.
Mitra's search reveals glimpses of a secret life involving her friend and a Bollywood actor of ill repute. Following the trail, Mitra is lured back to India where she uncovers the actor's ties to the Mumbai underworld and his financial difficulties - landing her in a web of life-threatening intrigue where Mitra can't be sure of Kareena's safety or her own.

Birth of an Assassin by Rik Stone @stone_rik


Jez was already fit, an excellent shot, and he could fight – or at least that’s what he’d thought. But after more than six months of intensive training with Spetsnaz, he realized he’d only been scratching the surface.

He’d not long been back from an exercise in Northern Siberia and he was tired, dirty. They’d given him a tent, a knife, no food, and enough clothes to keep out the brutal weather conditions – barely. When they dropped him off in the middle of nowhere, the unit sergeant shouted, “Let’s see if you can find your way out of this,” and drove off laughing – all part of the process.

He’d lived off the land for three weeks before he got back to base, and the first thing on his list was to shower. He soaked up the tepid water until his skin wrinkled, and then he dressed. No sooner was that done than a soldier pushed the tent flap back. “The sergeant wants you,” he said, and left without another word.

“You want to see me, Sergeant?” Jez said, going into the unit commander’s tent.

“Yes, come in, Kornfeld. Colonel Petrichova has looked at feedback on your performance since you’ve been with us.”

“Yes, Sergeant,” Jez said.

His time had come and he’d be on his way again, he was sure. He only wished he could tell Anna, and wondered where she would be now. Perhaps she’d already set out plans for world domination. He smiled inwardly.

“I don’t know what world affairs you keep up with, Kornfeld, but the Greek communist party, the KooKooEh, is at civil war with the conservatives.”

“Yes, Sergeant, I know about as much of the situation as is made public.”

“Good, because that was about as much as I was going to tell you. Pack your kit, soldier, you’ll be flying out to join your new unit in about four hours.”



Birth of an Assassin

Set against the backdrop of Soviet, post-war Russia, Birth of an Assassin follows the transformation of Jez Kornfeld from wide-eyed recruit to avenging outlaw. Amidst a murky underworld of flesh-trafficking, prostitution and institutionalized corruption, the elite Jewish soldier is thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, nobody can be trusted, and everything can be violently torn from him.

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Genre - Thriller, Crime, Suspense

Rating – R

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

P J Dunn - Random Musings and Memories @pjdunn49

Random Musings and Memories

Well, it’s Saturday afternoon, college football, kicking back in the recliner, cold Pepsi & snacks. Spent all morning working on promotional ideas for my books. Next Saturday, I will be in Kings Mountain, N.C. for the Gateway Trails Celebration, which includes the celebration of the 231st anniversary of the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain. My book, “King of the Mountain” is being featured at the celebration and I will be there greeting friends and signing books. I am sure it will be a great time. I grew up about 1/4 mile from where the event will be held and I am sure the memories will flood my mind. You can’t spend 20 years somewhere without making some good memories and some not so good. In my younger years, I was, I guess, what you may call a little anti-social, bashful, or a loner. Though I had friends in the neighborhood there on the mill hill, and I spent a lot of my days playing with the other kids. But I also spent a lot of time alone riding my bike, throwing a ball against the concrete steps and catching it, climbing trees, wandering through the woods and just pretending I was the cowboy or the superhero I saw on TV earlier. I did not even know my Dad. He had left when I was very young and I never had the father figure I wanted so bad. My Grandpa was that figure I needed, but he died of a heart attack when I was five years old. Even at five years old, I knew my life would forever change. My sister, of course, didn’t want to play boy games and definitely didn’t want to hunt snakes out in the woods near our home. I was about 9 years old when a new Pastor came to our church. He and his wife had four sons, one of which was just my age. Alex and I became best friends, and most folks would say you didn’t see one of us without the other. His Mom and Dad became very close to me and treated me as if I was the fifth son. Alex had a little more of a wild side than I did and I would follow his lead and ended up in trouble way too many times. I did, however, shed my “lone wolf” complex and began to interact with Alex’s brothers and also other kids at school. Alex’s brother, Johnny, became my role model. I wanted to be just like him. I finally had a “family” that loved me, cared for me, wanted to do things for me and with me. Not that my Mom and Grandmother didn’t love me, I knew they did. Not that they didn’t care for me or didn’t want to do things for me or with me they just weren’t able to. They did the best they could, and I knew that, but there was so much more I needed.

The Pastor was the father figure I needed. He would do things with me and Alex, he played with us, and he would talk to us and especially to me. I could talk to him about anything and he never became upset with me, criticized me, or made me feel I was a terrible person, just like I felt a father would do. Then, when I was twelve, my world was again turned upsidedown. The Pastor received a call to another church congregation, and the Family moved to Spencer, North Carolina. I knew once again that my life was going to change forever.

High Cotton

High Cotton chronicles the life of a 12 year old boy, his kidnapping, and being sold into slavery. He suffered torture and abuse and witnessed horrible events prior to and during his journey via slave trader ship to America. He was auctioned to a plantation and eventually emancipated. He returns to the sea aboard the same ship he arrived on, and remains until the death of the ships Captain. Left a substantial amount of money by the Captain only to be conned by a carpetbagger, he looses everything and ends up a beggar on the streets of St. Louis. A very talented entertainer, even though a black man in a society of white aristocracy, he gains popularity and becomes an owner of a night club and faces adversity on every hand.

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Genre – Historical fiction

Rating – PG

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Gringa – A Love Story (Complete Series books 1-4) by Eve Rabi @EveRabi1


This is the complete Gringa Series, books 1-4 being offered at a discounted price.


I was twenty-one, a sassy college student who took crap from no one. While holidaying in Mexico, I was accosted by Diablo and shot, because the motherfucker mistook me for a spy.

I survived, only to encounter him again months later. How’s that for luck?
Furious and sick of all that I’d been through because of him, I slapped him, told him to go fuck himself and braced myself for the bullet. He could shoot me – I no longer cared.
But, to my surprise, the fucker became fascinated with me and blackmailed me into becoming his woman. He’d slay the entire village that sheltered me, if I rejected his proposal.
He was Kong, hairy, tattooed from fingertips to face, with scary ass piercings, blood-shot snake eyes, a ruthless killer and above all, he was my murderer – how could anyone expect me to say yes?
To save the village I had to.
He took me by force, terrorized me into submission and made me his. To make matters worse, I had to put up with his ruthless, backstabbing family who hated me and wanted to kill me.
I despised the bastard and I told him that. Spark flew. Fists too.
When the FBI came on the scene and secretly recruited me to help put Diablo behind bars, I was thrilled. I wanted them to throw his ass behind bars, then torment him for the rest of his life like he was doing to me. I was willing to do whatever it took to get him there.
But, the more I rejected Diablo, the more he wanted me.
At times he wanted to kill me because of my insolence, but other times he just wanted me to love him.
I was his Gringa and in an attempt to get my love, he began to change for me. Drastic changes that made me laugh at him at first, then made me curious and even intrigued me.
After all, I was an ignored child and as an adult, nobody gave a rat’s ass about me. Here was a man who actually wanted me and was willing to do whatever it took to get me – how the hell could I not be flattered?
As the days went by, I found myself drawn to him and I began seeing him differently. When I found out about his past, everything changed.
I now wanted to protect my murderer, my tormentor, The Devil of Mexico from the FBI and I was prepared to lie to the Feds, if it meant saving him from them.
I was even prepared to go to jail for him.
And I did.
My days in Mexico were filled with violence, hate, lust and sorrow.
It was also filled with laughter, love and passion and most importantly, it taught me that love conquers all.

Gringa – a modern–day, love story that will have you laughing, crying and wanting more!

WARNING: This book contains sexual violence, sex scenes, graphic language, drug references, violence and is suitable for mature readers


“A crude rendition of Beauty and the beast”

“IMO, It is one of the best romance books ive read in some time. I read it all in one sitting. I couldnt peel my eyes away even for a minute. The story had it all from action to romance.”

“Some scenes had me giggling out loud, but there was one scene that had me laughing out loud for a couple minutes.”

“This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s horrible, dirty, raw, passionate, hilarious, sweet, sad, addictive, and so much more.”

‘One thing that I like from this author now that I have read all her books is that she takes time to develop her characters as well as develop the romance. There is no zero to 60 in 3 seconds here. Her characters are flawed and multi-dimentional. They also experience growth throughout the book. There are plenty of twists and turns in ths book to keep you guessing.’

“A college student, an alpha male. Nuff said. The author has woven such intricate characters in this tale and I will be hard pressed to find another book which was so well rounded and beautifully written.”

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Genre – Fiction

Rating – PG 13

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Why Book Covers are So Important By AFN Clarke @AFNClarke

Why Book Covers are So Important
By AFN Clarke
Have you passed up reaching for a book because the cover didn’t enthrall you?  Or had your eyes glaze over as you scanned rows of books, then suddenly been arrested by a cover that held your gaze and said “choose me”?  I know it’s happened to me countless times.  And therein lies the main reason why book covers are so important.
Book covers do sell books, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you.  Of course other things like description and writing style are important – but a reader has to be moved to pick up the book in the first place. The impression you make in the first few seconds is the one that counts.
Readers, whether they consciously know it or not, want some sense of certainty and a feeling of anticipation from the cover of a book – information about the genre, what it’s about, and most crucially, what they might feel when they read it.  The way I see it is, that as they look at a book every little piece of information gets whisked away onto the scales of justice in their brain.  One side of the scale says “buy”, the other side says “no”.  Like grains of sand the evidence piles up till the scales tip and the reader has overwhelming evidence to buy the book. And it all happens in the blink of an eye.  No pun intended.
So what tips the scales?
  1. Firstly, are all the elements congruent with each other? If your title screams “thriller”, the colours are pale and romantic, and the font childlike, you’re causing confusion in your readers.
  2. Does the cover imply the genre of your book?
  3. Do the images or graphics give more information about the story, location, characters?
  4. What’s the emotional impact of the cover? Images, shapes and colours engender specific feelings in readers, and marketing gurus tell us that people buy more based on emotional response than logic. So is your cover dark and menacing?  Warm and inviting? Is your font rounded and friendly or sharp and explosive? And if the design is still a total mystery, is it intriguing and puzzling enough to warrant further investigation?
  5. Is the title adding to your “buy me” pile?  As authors, we agonise over each word of our story yet we often lose the plot when creating titles.  Perhaps it’s why many of us aren’t good at Twitter – because we’re not used to expressing ourselves in 140 characters or less!  That’s my excuse anyway. With fiction especially, avoid using words that are “downers” like torment, hardship, brutal, anguish, malevolent, lacerations, blood bath – unless very cleverly paired with other words or part of the horror genre – as they’re a turn off. There are countless stories in author forums about how sales soared after a simple change of name .. so don’t discount the power of a title – and the power of change.
And in true thriller fashion, just to throw in an unexpected twist at the very end, here’s a sample from The Guardian’s book blog from March 19, 2013 about Kiran Desai’s Booker prize winner,  “The Inheritance of Loss”:
“Presumably the marketing department keyed in ‘self-important, depressing, award-winning, Literary-with-a-capital-L’ and hit Return, and this is what the machine gave them. (They also added the fairly redundant subtitle, ‘A Novel’. Just in case we might have mistaken it for a comical sports book.)
Go figure! As with all rules, they are made to be broken J
AFN CLARKE is a full-time author, son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served as an officer in Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment, and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war. He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humour. His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film. He now writes fiction of various genres – the Thomas Gunn thriller series (The Orange Moon Affair; The Jonas Trust Deception with more coming soon); political thrillers (An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas); humour/satire (Dreams From The Death Age; Armageddon); and psychological horror (Collisions). All available now at the Amazon Kindle Store.
The Jonas Trust Deception, another Thomas Gunn thriller by bestselling author AFN Clarke, follows The Orange Moon Affair, a “hard to put down”, “5-star novel by a 5-star author”. Thomas (ex-Special Forces) goes on high alert after a desperate message from his journalist friend, Morgan. She’s in danger. But where? And why? Rushing to her ranch he finds it being torn apart by a highly-trained female assassin of East European descent, with a mysterious butterfly tattoo on her neck. An image that sends his mind reeling. Dread seeping into his soul.
In her ongoing investigations, Morgan may have uncovered something even more explosive and far-reaching than the Orange Moon conspiracy.  If so, her enemies will want both her and her information destroyed. Racing to follow tangled leads, Thomas and his girlfriend Julie are thrust into the deadly path of Mexican drug cartels, corrupt politicians, unscrupulous financial brokers like Jonas T Purdue, the FBI, the UK intelligence services and their arch nemesis Marika Keskküla. What deception binds these unlikely “players” together? What’s their power struggle really about? And even more personally disturbing, why the constant links back to a secret mission in Afghanistan, that Thomas has tried so hard to forget?
Outraged by the feeling of constantly being “played”, Thomas decides to turn the tables on the faceless “puppeteers” by taking an action so bold, so dangerous, and so unexpected, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind. Has he? Or can he expose the “vermin” at the top and finally eliminate them forever?
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle @MsBessieBell

Tackling the Time Factor

by Jessica Bell

The biggest problem I had with deciding to go indie was the time factor.

With a stressful full-time job as a project manager for the Academic Research & Development department at Education First, it was difficult for me to see how I could possibly work, write, blog, edit, publish, market, run a literary journal, direct a writer’s retreat, and live my life all at once. It doesn’t help that I’m a bit of a stickler. I like to get everything done myself because I have a hard time waiting on others to do things I know I can get done more quickly and efficiently. I outsource if I really have to, but I do enjoy doing the work, such as designing covers, learning new skills and navigating social media. So when I say, DIY, I really mean DIY. Where on Earth, I wondered, would I find the time to be an editor for an educational publisher and literary magazine, an author, a typesetter, a designer, and a marketer? And what about walking the dog? Making dinner? Sleeping? (Forget the laundry. I have months of unfolded washed clothes in a heap on the couch that will soon need to go straight back into the machine from the dog rubbing herself all over them.)

The time factor is a logical fear. But once I finally made the decision to do this on my own, I realized that it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed. Do you know how much more you actually get done when you think something is impossible?

I don’t want to tell you how to schedule your day, but I’m going to give you a run down on how to approach this time management malarkey mentally. The key for me is not to focus on one thing all day. When you do this, you burn out. Your brain starts to lag from the monotony of the same information. You need to mix it up. If you mix it up, you get more done, because your mind is consistently stimulated with fresh information.

Let’s start with the actual writing of your books. Because this is what it all boils down to, yes? But first, I have to say, everyone is different. Everyone writes at different speeds, deals with stress in different ways, has different expectations of themselves. So you need to figure out what you want and works for you.

1. Stop thinking about what other people will think of your work. And write honestly. The first version of my debut novel was written for an audience. It was rejected again and again—for five years. And then, I found a small press who saw something in me and made an effort to get to know me. (Unfortunately that publisher liquidated only six months after its release, but that’s another story which you can read about here.) The publisher said my book was good, but that it felt like she was watching the characters through a window. She said: “Go deeper.” So I dug deeper and dragged the truth from my heart and soul. A truth I was afraid to admit was there. But it resulted in an honest book—a book I didn’t know I had in me. And one I hope women will be able to relate to. It’s glory-less, but real. And real steals hearts. What does this have to do with time management you ask? A lot. When you believe in your work, when you love your work, the words get written faster.

2. Focus on one paragraph at a time. I will never forget Anne Lamott’s advice from Bird by Bird (most accessible and nonsense-less book on writing I’ve ever read): write what you can see through a one-inch frame.

The reason I say this, is because knowing how much you have to revise can sometimes be daunting and overwhelming, and you might try to get through as much as possible and forget to focus your attention on the quality of your work. If you make each paragraph the best it can be before you move on, you won’t have to do any major rewrites (unless there’s a snag in your plot that you’ve overlooked and it’s related to a pertinent turning point). I’m talking revision here, not first draft.

3. Divide your writing time into short bursts. I find that if I give myself only one hour to write every morning before work, sometimes even shorter periods of time (especially when I accidentally sleep in), I’m forced to come up with things I wouldn’t normally think of.

The brain works in mysterious ways when it’s under pressure, and sometimes a little self-inflicted pressure can push you to great heights. Can you believe I wrote the first draft of The Book over a three-day long weekend? I did this because I experimented with the self-inflicted pressure idea. It worked. But be careful not to expect too much from yourself. There is nothing worse than becoming unmotivated due to not reaching personal goals. Which brings me to my fourth point ...

4. To start with, set your goals low. Set goals you know for a fact you can reach. If you set them too high, and continuously fail to meet them, you are going to feel really bad about yourself. This may result in neglecting your goals altogether. I know this from personal experience. If you later realize that you are meeting your goals with ease, gradually make them more challenging. But I strongly urge you to start small. It’s better for you, psychologically, to meet easy goals, than to struggle meeting difficult goals. Not achieving goals is a major hazard for self-esteem, motivation, and creativity.

So what about the rest?

Let’s see. These are the things I continuously have on the go that are not part of my day job or writing books, and I still find time to walk the dog and make dinner (sorry, the washing is still on the couch):

—Vine Leaves Literary Journal (reading submissions, sending rejection/acceptance letters, designing the magazine, promoting the magazine)

Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop (organizing the event and handling finances)

Typesetting, designing, and marketing my books (which includes, what seems, a never-ending thread of guest posts and interviews)

Blogging (including keeping up to speed with my weekly guest feature, The Artist Unleashed)

Maintaining my online presence (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.)

I do all this stuff on top of the day job. On top of my writing. Because I do it all in scheduled, short bursts. I get up early to make sure I have one hour to write and one hour to do something else from the list above. I pick and choose depending on priority. During my lunch break, I blog and spend about half an hour to an hour (depends on how long I can take from work) on social media. After work, I walk the dog, make dinner, maybe go to yoga. Once that’s done, I’ll spend another hour or so doing something else from the list above. Then I have a shower, relax in front of the TV, or do something else away from the computer before I go to bed. Then in bed, I’ll read a chapter or two of the book on my bedside table. Reading to me is relaxing and not a chore.

So what have I accomplished in this average day of mine?

Here’s an example:

My job (at least 7 hours worth)

500-1000 words on my WIP

I read 30 Vine Leaves submissions and sent a few responses, maybe even set up a classified ad on

I wrote/scheduled a blog post, commented on other blogs.

I connected with everyone I wanted to online. I may have worked on my latest book cover for a bit.

I made dinner.

I walked the dog.

I relaxed.

Look ... I’ll deal with those clothes tomorrow, okay?

I know people with kids who have just as much, and more, on their plate, and they’re still finding the time to self-publish. You can too.

My point is, it can all be done. And it doesn’t have to freak you out, or overwhelm you. Just pace yourself. And if you don’t have a full-time job like me, imagine how much more you can get done.

Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

Nothing is impossible if you truly want it.

Nothing is impossible. Full stop.


If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.

In addition to her novels, poetry collections, (one of which was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2012), and her Writing in a Nutshell series, she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia’s Cordite Review, and the anthologies 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND and FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS, both released through Australia’s, eMergent Publishing.

Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Keep an eye out for her forthcoming novel, BITTER LIKE ORANGE PEEL, slated for release, November 1, 2013.


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Genre –  Non-fiction

Rating – G

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Day in the Life of S.P. Cervantes @spcervantes

A Day in the Life of S.P. Cervantes

Being a mother of three, a wife, a teacher, and a writer is all about balance.  During the summer I am markedly better at all of the above. I have time to be with my kids, clean, cook, and develop new lessons for the school year.

My life during the school year is hectic.  Every morning I wake up at 5am.  I check emails and read up on blogs for good books to read.  I like to see how authors are promoting their books since I am new to the publishing world, and early in the morning is the best time for me to check some sites out.

After getting my kids ready for school, I spend my day teaching and prepping lessons.  When I get home the crazy begins.  Between shuffling my son to his after school activities and entertaining fur year old twins, I take a break from it all and go on a jog.  I get some of my best ideas for my stories while running and listening to music.  I find myself laughing, crying, and sometimes stopping to type an idea on my phone while running.  I am not sure why I get my ideas while running or right before bed, but there it is.

Weekends are where I get most of my writing done.  My husband always allows me an entire day to hide away, ignore my kids, and write.  It is in those moments that I feel free to express myself without worrying about the clock or interruptions.

Every night, after I tuck the kids into bed, I either spend an hour or two writing or reading.  It is a constant battle because there are way too many amazing books out there to read, but I have just as many floating around in my mind begging to be told.

In between the craziness, I find time to research marketing, ideas for my book, and even time for my husband.  It’s a crazy life, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.  Well, maybe to be a NY Times best seller!




Dalton brushed his hand slowly across my temple, down my cheek, and lifted my chin to him so I was looking into his deep blue eyes. I stared at him not knowing what to do or say.

He leaned in even closer, his mouth pressed against my ear again as he whispered, “They have powers that can take away your free will, make you do anything they want you to. No matter what you see or hear, you have to wait for Aiden.”

I was terrified, my heart racing so frantically I thought I could actually throw up. I didn’t know what to do. Everyone I ever cared about was in grave danger, and I had to sit still in a tree and do nothing. How did I manage to get Patrick mixed up in all of this? I should have known he would come and talk to my mom. Now it’s going to be impossible to get away clear and free.

I gently pulled my head away from Dalton’s ear, turning my face to his. Our eyes met with such desperation, I lost my train of thought. He leaned in towards me with one arm wrapped around my waist and the other bracing us against a branch. Dalton’s mouth was an inch from mine. I could feel his warm breath on my lips.

“Please protect them,” was all I could say.

Always and Forever

Twin sisters Ava and Hannah were ripped from their peaceful seeming lives into a whirlwind of attacks and war only to learn the real truth about their existence.

Nothing was as it seemed anymore and may never be again. They had already lost their father in childhood now they have to cope with their mother’s kidnapping as they watch those sworn to protect them risk their lives.

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Genre - YA Romantic Fantasy

Rating – PG-13

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Breathing for Two by Wolf Pascoe @WolfPascoe

IN the freshman year of my anesthesia residency, I was given a lesson in breathing by a patient whom I’ll call Otto. Anesthesia residencies come replete with breathing lessons, but Otto was also teaching humility that day, a subject absent from the formal anesthesia curriculum.
A doctor gets humility not from curricula but from his patients. I acquired a truckload of humility the day I met Otto, and the truck has only gotten larger since.
Otto was undergoing a cystoscopy, a look inside the bladder performed by passing a thin viewing scope through the urethra. There is no incision in such a procedure.
Generally, you don’t need anything fancy to support a patient’s breathing while giving anesthesia during a cystoscopy. As the patient passes from wakefulness into unconsciousness you can let him continue to breathe for himself.
In Otto’s case, I strapped a rubber anesthesia mask over his mouth and nose to make an airtight seal against his skin, and delivered through the mask an appropriate combination of oxygen and anesthetic gas. In principle, what I did was essentially what the Boston dentist, William Thomas Green Morton, had done during the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia in 1846.
The modern anesthesia face mask is a hollow cone of rubber or plastic. It’s like the oxygen mask that drops down from above a passenger’s head on an airplane, though it’s more substantially built. The base is malleable and cushioned by a ring of air, a sort of inner tube. The mask is shaped to fit around the nose and mouth; with a bit of pressure, it seals against the skin. The top of the mask connects to a source of anesthetic vapor and oxygen.
Readers of a certain age may remember the TV series, Marcus Welby, M.D., which began each week with Dr. Welby lowering a black anesthesia mask down over the camera lens. In those days, apparently, the family doctor did everything.
The anesthesia machine—the “cascade of glass columns, porcelain knobs and metal conduits” I described previously—is the gas delivery system. The machine connects to an oxygen tank and directs the flow of oxygen from the tank through a vaporizer where the oxygen mixes with anesthesia gas. The mixture passes out of the machine through plastic tubing (“anesthesia hose”) that connects to the face mask.
The patient breathes the mixture.
Gas leaving the anesthesia machine actually flows through the anesthesia tubing in a circle—in fact it’s called the circle system. One limb of the circle travels from the machine to the anesthesia mask, where the patient inhales it. The other limb, carrying exhaled gas, travels from the mask back to the machine, where excess carbon dioxide from the patient is filtered out. The filtered gas is mixed with fresh gas and travels back to the patient.
The same gases, minus the carbon dioxide, keep going round and round. The system is airtight, except for a pop-off valve that relieves excess pressure.
Otto was a large man with a thickly muscled neck, but by extending his head I could keep his airway clear, allowing him to continue breathing while the urologist worked. Instead of using an anesthesia mask to deliver my mix of gases, I could have assured Otto’s airway by using an endotracheal tube. This is a long breathing tube (about a centimeter in diameter) inserted through the mouth all the way into the trachea.
But getting an endotracheal tube in isn’t always easy, and it’s usually not necessary during a cystoscopy. Most often an anesthesia mask will do.
One side effect of anesthesia is the loss of normal muscle tone. This happened to Otto. A few minutes into the case, his flaccid tongue fell back in his throat. His diaphragm continued to contract, but air couldn’t get through to the lungs—his airway was obstructed. Otto was, of course, completely unconscious at this point.
Everyone loses some muscle tone during sleep—this is the cause of snoring, and of the more serious condition of sleep apnea. But the loss of tone is even greater under anesthesia, and the anesthetized patient cannot rouse herself to find a better breathing position.
I managed the problem by putting a short plastic tube called an airway into Otto’s mouth. The airway depressed the tongue and cleared a passage for air. It wasn’t as good as an endotracheal tube, which would have extended all the way into Otto’s trachea, but it seemed to do the trick.
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Genre – Non-fiction / Memoir
Rating – G
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell

Since the mid-1960s, the Broken Spoke, known as “The Spoke” to regulars, has been an authentic Texas honkytonk where country bands play live music and denim-clad, pointy-booted dudes and gals line dance, two-step, and effortlessly swirl and whirl the Texas swing. I spy John Travolta leaning against the bar and he winks at me and touches his finger to the tip of his big, black cowboy hat and nods. I blink in disbelief and my Urban Cowboy hallucination dissolves. “Did you see that?” I ask Marina but she is walking toward an empty table situated by the tiny stage where tonight, regulars, Alvin Crow and the Geezinslaw Bros. are playing separate sets. Right now, the opening group is playing and they are a pure delight. I tap my feet to the great beat. Iced-cold beer in a large pitcher is slammed on the table and Paul pours.

“Hey hon,” says Sophie in a loud voice and waves to a big burly man wearing the obligatory black, wide-brimmed felt western hat and whose eyes are fixed on our table as he comes into the bar. We are all introduced and shake hands. He’s Sophie’s husband, JD Davis, a successful lobbyist for the oil industry, I later learn. Okay. I thought she was single, but no problem. Then I realize JD is not alone, Marty something, partially shielded by JD’s hulk, shakes Paul’s hand and from the corner of my eye I notice he nods to me and Marina. She nods back. I am frozen.

Discomfort travels up my spine and settles in my flushed face and ear lobes. I smell set up and immediately build a fortress around myself not having the slightest interest to peer out of the guard’s post opening to assess the enemy. If anyone had asked me to describe this Marty creature, I could not and so he will be left totally to the imagination. I also do not look at Sophie’s husband because, feeling the fool and quite embarrassed, I keep my eyes cast into my beer or set in a mesmerized stare in the direction of the dance floor. I get up and excuse myself as I head toward the Ladies room.

Luckily the bathroom is clean so I can fool around in there awhile without getting sick to my stomach. I fuss with my hair, my make-up. I brush my teeth with my finger and water. I breathe deeply. Finally, I’m tired of standing. So I come out and make my way around the perimeter of Texas swing dancers. I see Marina making her way toward me with an expression of concern. Ugh! I don’t want to deal with this. I was having such a good time just a short time ago. I slow down and look around to find an exit door. Suddenly, I am yanked onto the dance floor. Completely flummoxed. What in the world? I’m being whirled around the room in the arms of a perfect stranger whose height and stature could be that of a pro football player. I pull back to get away but he holds me fast and says, “Whoa girl,” like I’m a horse. This further angers me.

“Hey, I’m not a horse,” I tell him.

“Well, aren’t you just about the meanest and cutest filly in this place,” he says as he leads me around expertly.

“Ever been kicked by a horse, pahdna?” I say still trying to extricate myself from his grasp.

“Look, I’ll cut out the horse analogies, Okay? It’s just a dance. How ’bout we just do that? Okay?”


Sunspots follows the healing journey of a young woman thrown into the horror of losing a spouse. It is a love story of loss and redemption and the ghosts that haunt our lives and our houses. Skirting the genres of magical realism and romance, Sunspots, explores the existence of the afterlife and the paranormal. The story takes the reader on a path of high emotion as the narrator, Aurora, uncovers her husband Jake’s secret life and her own internal conflicts as she matures to self-awareness. The novel’s tone vacillates from irreverent humor to solemnity as Aurora relates her previous life with Jake and her present challenges. The title refers to the solar maximum which became the backdrop for Aurora’s conception when her hippy parents went to Canada to observe the Aurora Borealis. In name and in spirit, Aurora is connected to the observable and unobservable energy around us. With the help of friends, family, and the ghost of Viola Parker (her home’s original owner), Aurora accepts her fate and the secrets revealed about Jake’s true character. She realizes that in this life she will finally break the cycle of pain caused by her love for this man, Jake Stein, through the centuries.

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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism

Rating – PG-13

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