Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review (Short Story): [technically] DEAD by Naomi Kramer

[technically] DEAD
by Naomi Kramer

Genre: Humorous Paranormal Mystery
Formats avail: ebook
Publication Date: October 29, 2010
Word Count: approx. 9,803 (Short Story/Novelette)
ePub Length: 30 pgs
Source:  My personal library 

DEAD (ish), Book 2 

DESCRIPTION from Smashwords:
The long-awaited sequel to DEAD(ish)! Cooper's dead. But what's a nerd to do when Heaven doesn't believe in technology, and hell's hotter than an overclocked CPU? Contains frequent foul language, general nerdiness, and Australian spelling. This is a very short book - novelette length.

I would describe it as a ghost story wrapped in an afterlife mystery and tied with a big bow of snark, then sprinkled with a generous amount of cuss words (though I think the first book may have had even more cussing).  If you read the first short story in this series, DEAD (ish), then you are familiar with the characters of Trent and Linda, who work together again in this book to solve another ghostly mystery. I wasn't that happy with the whodunit (or maybe I should say howdunit), but it gets brownie points for the lol cat reference that made me, well...lol!

If you are inclined to read a humorous, snarky, cuss-filled, Aussie mystery, then this might be the short story for you. Since short stories don't really have a lot of room for back story, I recommend starting with the first story, DEAD(ish), which happens to be available free at Smashwords at the time of this post.

Rating: 3 (I liked it)

Typos found: 5 (possibly)


This short story is available as an ebook.  You can find Naomi Kramer on the web at:

Website: http://naomikramer.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nomesque
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/nomesque
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/nomesque

Find it on Goodreads HERE

Download a 30% sample from Smashwords

Get the Book!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guest Author: Brian Fatah Steele - The Story Under Covers

Brian Fatah Steele is joining us today to talk about the art of cover design.

Brian says...
There’s an old adage that states, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”  Unfortunately, we do.  It’s the very first thing we see when perusing the bookstores or online marketplaces.  Without names that are immediately familiar to us, it’s the cover art that initially pulls us in to look closer.

Although I’m a writer now, with multiple books tossed out there, my first passion in life was visual art.  I originally went to college years ago for fine arts, and while I never finished that degree, the concepts of aesthetics and composition have never left me.  Even now I still create visual art, usually as interior illustrations for my books, covers or promotional images.  However, many wonderful authors aren’t lucky enough to have this skill to fall back on.

Sadly, there are too many authors who have penned remarkable works that largely go unnoticed simply because of poor marketing.  Marketing, that in today’s retail relies heavily upon that first impression that makes outstanding cover art essential.  But what makes good cover art?  What are we seeing when our eyes glance across rows of titles, in stores or on a screen, and what can independent authors do to insure their covers are astounding?

For the sake of narrowing this argument, let’s concentrate on works of fiction.  There are primarily two types of cover designs in current popular use.  These are by no means, the only types used, but they compromise the majority.

The first, most often seen and easily understood is what we might call the Contemporary Design.  This is what you find on your basic, mass media paperbacks – large, bold font at the top of the cover with a coordinating font at the bottom, artwork featured in the center and perhaps behind the fonts.  This font will be used in text that will usually take up the entire width of the cover, for both the author’s name and the book’s title.  Their positions on the cover, (author-top, title-bottom) are interchangeable, depending on the publisher, but there is often additional text to further promote the book.  This can be anything from announcing the author has been on best selling list, quoting a particularly excellent review or quoting a similar genre author.  These types of covers are traditional and safe, but they risk becoming underwhelming.

The second is what we might call the Post-Modern Design.  This is what you find on your more irreverent pieces of fiction, those that may not easily fit into simple genres or those that perhaps take themselves too seriously as “literature.”  Here, the font is incorporated into the cover art as part of the composition, the text used in a more graphic sense than merely to transfer information.  These types of covers are difficult to both create and to market on occasion, the book’s message sometimes lost in the visual art.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, there’s so much more to it.  Let’s look at some examples…

Mega-star authors like James Patterson, Danielle Steel and Clive Cussler release books that often have cover art that technically adhere to the Contemporary Design.  However, the text on these covers constitute the bulk of the surface, only a small percentage ever given to artwork, if at all.  While these authors can sell millions on books based on name recognition alone, other mega-stars like Stephen King and Anne Rice have been known to re-release many editions of their past works, each time with a series of similar covers that create a “branding effect.”

Even within a particular genre, we can see how different authors have used cover art to cater to specific crowds.  Robert Jordan employed fantasy artist Darrell K. Sweet to create very elaborate, classical images of what many considered a fantasy novel’s cover art should have.  Meanwhile, Terry Goodkind had artist Keith Parkinson creating very subdued fantasy landscapes for his epic series.  Many readers felt that both cover art concepts helped them to disappear in the pages.  Conversely, many fans of silver age fantasy/sci-fi author Piers Anthony have complained that his older book covers (art that he had no say over) had absolutely nothing to do with the story inside.

In what could arguably be some of the most iconic cover art in the past 25 years, artist Gail Doobinin created subtle imagery now recognized the world over for Stephanie Meyer.  Literary anarchist, Chuck Palahniuk, has released multiple books without any text on the cover what so ever.  Some authors and visual artists, like Neil Gamian and Dave McKean, have become inseparably linked due to all the various work they’ve done together.

But, what about those bad covers?  Yes, we see them.  Most often, it’s some confusion between the Contemporary and Post-Modern Designs.  Images aren’t properly aligned, fonts are too small, images are poorly rendered, colors are non-complimentary.  Sometimes the cover art gives the prospective reader the wrong idea about what the essence of the book is about, or even worse – it gives us no idea at all.  While these issues plague indie and self-press authors more than authors writing for Big Publishing Companies who can afford professional artists and graphic designers, I’ve seen quite a number of poor covers released by huge names as well.

The best route for an aspiring and struggling author is to know your work, know the market and to produce the correct cover accordingly.  You’ll know.  The best route for a wary and hopeful reader is to take that cover as a preparatory glimpse inside the author’s imagination and decide if you want to journey further.  That’s more difficult.

It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover, but at least that verdict isn’t final.  You can always change your mind.  And who knows… you might find some magic hidden behind that monstrous fa├žade.

BRIAN FATAH STEELE lives in Ohio with 2 cats that are probably plotting his doom. He survives primarily on a diet of coffee & cigarettes. If he's not hammering away at his keyboard, allowing another bizarre idea to creep out, you can most likely find him creating Visual Art to compliment his written work. His tales are often a combination of Horror & Urban Fantasy, usually with a "Post-Mythic" genre element. Currently promoting 4 books along with chapbooks and digital shorts, his short stories, articles. poems, & essays have appeared in various online & print magazines, journals, & blogs.

Thanks for visiting us today Brian!

You can find Brian Fatah Steele online at http://brianfatahsteele.com/ where you can find out more about his books and art.  You can also find Brian on Goodreads HERE
Brian's books are available at:


Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Finds: Sweet Indie Deals - Mar 25, 2011

Friday Finds is a way to share super sweet deals for indie paranormal ebooks.  All Friday Finds are priced from Free ~ $3.00 and represent an awesome deal for the word count. 

  • Books listed in Friday Finds have not been reviewed unless indicated below with a link to the review.  
  • It's up to the reader to determine if the ebook is a good fit for their reading tastes.  
  • Follow the links for more details and to download a free sample (if it's not already free) to see if you might like it. It's a great way to "test drive" a book.
  • If a coupon code is listed below, it is publicly available or was provided to me by the author specifically for sharing on the blog. 

Prices are valid at the time of this post but they can change at any time, so get 'em while the gettin' is good!

Impulse Control
Talent Chronicles #1.5
by Susan Bischoff

Word Count: approx. 12,000
(Short Story/Novelette)

FREE! at Smashwords
Talents, kids with supernatural powers, are taken from their families and forced into government research facilities called State Schools. At one such school, a group of Talents must work together to stop a dangerous experiment that’s already killed two of their peers and threatens others. If they’re caught they face Detention, and Detention at a State School has a whole different meaning. 

 The Witches Lottery
Enchanted Island, #1
by Krystal McLaughlin
Word Count: approx. 58,184
(Short Novel)

$0.99 B&N Nook
First in The Enchanted Island Series, The Witches Lottery follows the journey of Sophia McKibben and her amazing awakening into a world of magic, mystery, and secrets.

Soul Guardians, #1
by Kim Richardson

Word Count: approx. 59,470
(Short Novel) 

$0.99 Smashwords
$0.99 Amazon Kindle

When sixteen year-old Kara Nightingale suddenly dies in a freak accident, she wakes up in a strange new world with a new career—as a rookie for the Guardian Angel Legion. But when things turn from bad to worse, Kara becomes the Legion’s only hope. It’s going to take a miracle to save the Legion, and Kara’s luck has just run out...

 Solomon's Seals
Ghost Hunter Chronicles, #1
by T.R. Allardice

Word Count: approx. 93,056

$0.99 Smashwords
$0.99 Amazon Kindle
$0.99 B&N Nook

"Her job's to  make sure the dead -- stay dead."
Meet Alexa Dawn, the Ghost Hunter. She doesn’t try to coax, whisper, or talk to the dearly departed. She’s not there to help them crossover. At least not in the way most people think. She's there for one reason, and one reason only, to make sure the dead—stay dead.

God Touched
Demon Accords, #1
by John Conroe

Word Count: approx.85,644

$0.99 Smashwords 
(w/Coupon Code: KK25B)
Rookie NYPD cop Chris Gordon has a secret - he hunts demons on the side. But when he rescues beautiful Tatiana Demidova from a Hell sent killer, he discovers an even stranger side to the Big Apple. Suddenly neck deep in vampires, werewolves and face-to-face with a giant short-faced bear, Chris races to save his new girlfriend. Now if only she doesn't drink him dry. 

by Kate Daniels

Word Count: approx. 98,334

$2.99 Smashwords

Florida may be the land of the nearly dead, but Cat Lovelace's new job as a ghost tour guide pushes the meaning of the phrase. To make matters worse, her decidedly pale new boyfriend, Will, has got some serious baggage. Choc full of vampires, ghosts, werewolves and homicidal seafood chefs, Deadville is a hilarious romp through the supernatural South. You won't want to put it down.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatcha Reading? Sylvianna by Keryl Raist

Whatcha Reading? is a feature that spotlights currently released titles. Today we have Keryl Raist here to give us a peek into her debut novel, Sylvianna.

by Keryl Raist
Sarah Metz just started college. She was looking for a degree but found a group of wizards. They remember her. She doesn't remember them. Over the next year, she'll help them fight off the creatures trying to kill them, fall back into love with the man who used to be her husband, break the heart of her best friend while doing it, and maybe, if they're very lucky, not remember who she used to be.

What’s the basic premise of Sylvianna?
A group of wizards on the run from their past.  They killed their God, and fled their home world to avoid it's destruction.  They ended up in modern day Earth.  Twenty years later, they're in college, and have found each other again.  Now it's time to wrap up the last loose ends of the world before.  That's the fantasy plot.  Chris, one of the two main characters, and the one who actually killed the God, was married.  His wife, Althiira, a farseer, kept telling him it was going to end badly.  He couldn't not go through with it.  She couldn't help him do it, believing it would end their world.  They loved each other dearly, but there was no compromise for this problem.  Chris killed his God, and Althiira, his wife, was right, it did destroy their world.  When we rejoin Chris he's still trying to learn how to live with the fact that he killed almost everyone who was ever dear to him.  Then Sarah Metz (the other main character) jogs by him.  Sarah was Althiira, but she doesn't remember that life.  And there begins the love story plot.  Wrap them together and you've got Sylvianna.     

What inspired the idea for this book?
I had the good luck to spend my college years with some immensely creative people.  We were role players, and one friend came up with a character that was the seed for Chris.  The idea of a wizard on the run from his own dimension because he inadvertently brought about the apocalypse, mourning the loss of his wife and children who died in said apocalypse, seemed like a really interesting character to explore.  So I stole that character and began to play with him.  270k words later, and he's barely recognizable as the same character, but I've had a lot of fun with him.   

Who is the audience for this story?
Adults with the patience to get into a long book with a lot of stuff going on.  People who like having their brain as well as their libido engaged by a book.  Someone who finds the idea of a book with discussions of free will versus fate, deeply character driven plot, a carefully created magical system, a slowly evolving love story, angels and demons, and scorching hot erotic sex all in one package enticing.  Someone who can stand a love story that doesn't have a happy ending.  

How would you define the genre for this book?  Are there any underlying themes?
Hmmm...  Technically it's Urban Fantasy.  I thought I was writing a Paranormal Romance, but once I finished the story I found out that to be a romance it had to have a happy ending. So, UF.  Themes?  I've got themes out the eyes.  ;)  Free will or fate?  Forgiveness or justice?  What makes a good man?  What makes a good God?  Making the best out of a bad situation.  Surviving pain and grief.   

What sets Sylvianna apart from other books in the genre?
It's a love story where the characters take the time to build a real relationship before hopping into bed or declaring their undying love for each other.  I think the magical system is unique (though I could be wrong about that).  Among other things, if my magic users don't have the right level of protections in place, the magic drives them insane.  Outside of Lovecraft I haven't seen much of that.  I think it delves deeper into intellectual territory than most fantasy, without bogging down in it.

Is Sylvianna part of a series? If yes, can you tell us more about it?
Yike!  How to do this without dropping spoilers all over the place?  Okay, here goes.  Sylvianna is the first book of a trilogy.  In Sylvianna, the main characters wrap up dealing with the last vestiges of the world before.  When they killed their God, their planet and universe were destroyed.  The Angels weren't, and they want revenge.  In Justice, the sequel, they'll deal with each other.  Sarah remembers who she used to be, and how she and her children died.  In One Hundred Years, I'll take them back in time, to when Chris and Sarah were Cell and Althiira, and young and happy, and tell the story of how they fell in love the first time and their marriage. 

Who did the cover art for your book?
I did the cover art.  There's a scene in the story where Chris is showing Sarah his magical defenses.  He has his main offensive spell linked into a seven pointed star pendant, and she's holding it, learning how it works.  That scene was pretty easy to translate into a picture, so it became the cover art.

What is your favorite scene or line from Sylvianna?
There's a conversation Chris and Sarah have, where he's talking about a spell he used, called flesh melt.  It's a very nasty way to kill someone, melting the flesh off their bones.  He's talking about the war, and how after several days of very bad battle, his wife and daughter were kidnapped by the enemy.  When his wife got back, she had been raped and their daughter killed.  He and Pat (his and Sarah's best friend) tracked down the people who had done it and killed them all, and, as he put it, they died hard.  I love that scene because it's one of the first times you get to see that mild-mannered Chris has some real edges to him.  I love the fact that he's aware of exactly how awful what he did was; its thirty years later and he still feels bad about it.  I love that you can feel his pain at what happened, to his wife, to his daughter, and how he responded to it.  And as much as it hurts him that he acted that way, he's well aware of the fact that if he could have found something worse to do to them, he would have done it.  It's a very dark scene, very romantic, and it tells you a whole lot about what sort of man Chris is.

As for my favorite line:  "You may have noticed we have no sex lives, as a result there's a lot of chocolate in this house."  Obviously that's a very different sort of scene.  The characters are kicking back after finals, watching Buffy, and relaxing.  

If you could be one of the characters in your book, who would it be, and why?
Wow...  To some degree I'm all the characters in the book.  Sarah is based on me, based on the version of me I played in that role playing game the proto-Chris came from.  But like with the proto-Chris 270k words later, she's a very different person.  Since I know what happens to the characters, I'd rather skip being any of them.  I love them all deeply, but they've done some horrible things, and without going too far into the spoilers, the sequel is called Justice.

Where can readers find your book?  Is it available in ebook, print, or both?
Sylvianna is available all over the place:
Amazon for print and kindle

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I had an absolute blast writing Sylvianna, and I hope that they'd have just as much, if not more, fun reading it.
How can readers find you online?
I have a website:  www.kerylraist.com
Twitter:  @kerylraist
Facebook:  Keryl Raist

Excerpt from Sylvianna
Copyright 2010 Keryl Raist

Sarah and Chris talking. "I" is Sarah.


“If you can blow up something’s brain just by thinking about it, why are the Minions a problem?  Can’t you just…”  I twirled my fingers and flicked them at an imaginary critter in front of us.  “And have it fall over dead?”
Chris laughed.  “First of all, I almost never…,” he mimicked my gesture.  “Autumn does stuff like that.  I don’t.  For obvious reasons I’ve never seen myself do it, but I imagine I just look like I’m concentrating hard. 
“Secondly, Minions, at least here, aren’t the kind of thing I can just kill with a snap.  My great talent—if you want to call it that—is to see how something is put together, see what makes it alive, and then stop that.  Take us for example: I look at us and understand how heart, brain, and lungs work together to keep a person moving.  Then I figure out which of those three options will kill easiest and do enough damage to drop the person.  Most magical things without bodies were made by someone.  I have yet to run into anything made by a mind like mine that I couldn’t take apart.  However, the Minions were not made by a mind like mine.  I’ve had lots practice with them, so I do know how to kill them, but it takes more time and effort than I’d like.”
“What about the Dark Man?  What’s the problem with him?”
“Same problem as with the Minions.  If anything made the Dark Man, it was God, and that’s very much not a mind like mine.  Sure, give me a day or three of fighting nothing but demons and I’ll find a way to kill them.  Pick a target, and I’ll eventually find a way to destroy it.  But that doesn’t mean it’ll be fast, clean, or easy.”
I sat there and nodded.  Battle mage was becoming a more concrete term.  “So, you really used to kill things on a regular basis?”
“It wasn’t my first choice, but yes, I did it, and I was good at it.”
“Why did I do it, or why wasn’t it my first choice?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Two assassins showed up on my back porch and tried to kill me and my children.  It was kill or die, and I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt them.  I never really did any magic before then.  Didn’t have a clue I could do it.  But no one was going to harm them, not while I was breathing.  I don’t know, maybe if they had just gone after me, that’s where the story would have ended.  But those two idiots picked a time when my kids were with me.  It was the last thing either of them ever did. 
“It was a very…”  He spent a moment looking for the right word and didn’t find it.  “It was a moment of perfect clarity.  Everything slowed down.  Everything was sharp and intensely real.  I was whole and perfect and doing precisely what I had been created to do.  Then it was over.  I got my kids inside, then collapsed shaking and threw up because that’s when the fear hit.
“There’s...” he paused, once again thinking of a word, “an exquisite contentment that goes with doing precisely what you were created for.  Pat can tell you about it, too.  You can see it when Mike picks up a sword.  I know it sounds terrible.  When I’m killing things I’m perfectly at peace and right with the universe because it’s what I was meant to do.  The magic is beautiful and sharp and clear and just so perfect; it’s hard to describe.  Like working with molten diamonds.  It’s just… right.”
I didn’t know what to do with all of that.  So many things there, so I started with the easiest one.  “You had kids?”  Wrong choice.  I could feel the glow he had from talking about the magic fade to regretful pain.
“Yes.”  He sighed and tried a smile.  “Five of them.  The youngest two hadn’t yet been born when that happened.  It was autumn.  We were playing… call it hop scotch.  Filling the time between dinner and bedtime.  My guards hated that flat.  But I was being stubborn and stupid.  We were in the Palace, supposedly surrounded by my supporters.  We built it the way we wanted it, had lived there for sixty years, and our children had been born there.  I didn’t want to move to a more secure location.  We moved the next day.  Our children went into hiding the day after that.  The day after that I declared the people who hired the assassins in formal rebellion, and the war was on.” 
“That’s when being a battle mage really started?”
“Yes.  Sort of.  Took a little while for me to be able to do it on command.  The first year I did fight with a sword.  It was only by the grace of our God I survived.  Pat and his troops showed up in the third year.  That’s when things started to shift in our direction.  Having him around helped.  I could watch how he did it and improve my own techniques.  There was a war on, so I got lots of practice with my new skills.  Since it’s what I was made for, I had an innate grasp of better, easier, more effective ways of doing what I needed to do.  Basically, I’d watch him do it, try it a few times myself, and then change it to make it work better.
“By the fifth year I was really good at it.  By the tenth the price on my head was so high it would have bankrupted the other side to pay it, but it would have been worth it because it would have won them the war.  By the last year of the war, no one was even willing to fight me.  I won by virtue of being the biggest gun in anyone’s arsenal.”  He paused, looked at me, got a sense for what I was feeling, and said, “You’re having a hard time believing this, aren’t you?”
I looked at the tall, skinny kid with a bowl of cheerios in his lap, staring at me through small, round glasses and tried to find a tactful way of saying what I was feeling.  “Well, you aren’t precisely Chuck Norris, now are you?  I’m sorry.  I can feel you mean it.  It’s so very real to you, but it is kind of hard to believe.  While you say it to me, it makes perfect sense.  Then I realize I’m sitting on your sofa while you eat Cheerios in your jammies.  It’s just… unreal.”
He half-smiled.  “Well, first of all, me versus Mr. Norris or any other superhero—with the possible exception of someone like Wolverine who can heal really quick—and I win.  Secondly, it’s probably a good thing you don’t just sit there and believe all of this with nothing but our stories for proof.  Thirdly, one of these days, you’ll see the proof.  I don’t mind waiting a good long time for that to happen.  You’re willing to heal us and haven’t called campus psychiatric services to see about having us committed.  That’s about as good as we can hope for right now.”  

Read a 33% sample at Smashwords!

Find it on Goodreads HERE!

= = = = 

Keryl Raist is a part-time writer, part-time blogger, part-time book reviewer, and full-time mom. When not balancing babies with books, she likes to sleep. She lives in Charleston, SC, with two little boys; the "Number One, All-Star, Son-In-Law Of The Year Champion" (according to a discerning panel of her mom and mom's best friends); and a remarkably unflusterable cat.

Thanks for telling us about your book Keryl!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Finds: Sweet Indie Deals - Mar 18, 2011

Friday Finds is a way to share super sweet deals for indie paranormal ebooks.  All Friday Finds are priced from Free ~ $3.00 and represent an awesome deal for the word count. 

  • Books listed in Friday Finds have not been reviewed unless indicated below with a link to the review.  
  • It's up to the reader to determine if the ebook is a good fit for their reading tastes.  
  • Follow the links for more details and to download a free sample (if it's not already free) to see if you might like it. It's a great way to "test drive" a book.
  • If a coupon code is listed below, it is publicly available or was provided to me by the author specifically for sharing on the blog. 

Prices are valid at the time of this post but they can change at any time, so get 'em while the gettin' is good!

Save My Soul
The Preternaturals, #2
by Zoe Winters

 Word Count: approx.75,723

FREE! at Smashwords
After buying the antebellum home she’s fantasized about since childhood, Anna Worthington discovers Luc, a dangerously seductive incubus who has been trapped in the house by a fifty-year-old curse. All she has to do is resist him long enough to break the spell so they can go their separate ways. If she doesn’t, she could die. And that would be the best case scenario.

The Abandoned Edge of Avalon
by Eden Tyler

Word Count: approx. 70,792

FREE! at Smashwords
A young woman learns of another world through her nightly dreams. When the dreams turn dark and begin to invade her days, she discovers her true nature and place. She's a faery changeling who must travel to her home of Avalon and find a way to stop the evil that killed her birth mother and is now after her. Unfortunately, the only way he won't destroy her is if she offers a sacrifice.

 The Demon is in the Details
by Harris Channing

Word Count: approx. 87,670

$0.99 B&N Nook
Non-Erotic Paranormal Romance! Stella Campbell has returned to Silverton, Georgia to bury her wicked witch of an aunt. But is she strong enough to endure what's to come? Zane Weathers has been around a long time, like, two thousand years. But he's never met anyone who touches his warrior soul, like Stella. Together they face not only personal obstacles, but obstacles straight from hell!

The Arrival
Atlantean's Quest, #1
by Jordan Summers

Word Count: 63,102

$0.99 B&N Nook
To get a promotion, Rachel Evans is willing to traipse through an uncharted piece of jungle with the man she hates—her boss, Donald Rumsinger. What she doesn’t anticipate is being sacrificed or being rescued by a Tarzan-like sex god named Eros, King of the Atlanteans, who claims she’s his prophesied mate.  Warning: EROTIC

 Saltwater Witch
The Seaborn Trilogy, #1
by Chris Howard

Word Count: approx. 97,536

$2.99 B&N Nook
Kassandra comes from the sea, but she has no memory of saltwater, seagulls, or an incoming tide. She's never seen an ocean, never heard the thunder of surf. She's an exile, betrayed by her own family, sent as far from the sea as they could arrange—somewhere in the middle of Nebraska.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Whatcha Reading? Gifts of the Blood by Vicki Keire

Whatcha Reading? is a feature that spotlights currently released titles.  Vicki Keire is visiting today to tell us about her book Gifts of the Blood.

 Gifts of the Blood
Gifted Blood Trilogy, Book 1
by Vicki Keire
Caspia Chastain has a gift: she can draw the future. When a watchful stranger named Ethan appears and tells her he's here to guard her dying brother’s soul from the forces of Darkness that threaten her family and her town, she recognizes him from one of her drawings. It's a brand new drawing full of brutal images and strange symbols. Can Caspia trust him when the gifts of her blood awaken?

What’s the basic premise of Gifts of the Blood?
Caspia Chastain is a talented artist with the ability to draw the future, usually at the worst possible times; everyday she watches her brother Logan fight his cancer diagnosis. When an outsider named Ethan appears, determined to protect Caspia and her brother from dangers he won’t explain, she initially rejects him. She’s seen him before: in a drawing of a frightening future, surrounded by brilliant light, dark wings, and violence. It’s a future she can only hope won’t come true.

But when Caspia finds herself in the middle of a supernatural war, she turns to the guardian who walked out of her sketchbook for help. Together, they discover generations of unsettling secrets about the little town of Whitfield and the Chastain bloodline. In a town where Dark doesn't equal evil and Light isn't always good, Caspia and Ethan find themselves making strange alliances and even stranger sacrifices in order to protect those they love.

Who is the audience for Gifts of the Blood?
I think it may be technically labeled as young adult paranormal romance, but it’s definitely popular with adults and has urban fantasy elements as well. I think there’s a missing step between the YA/Adult age categories sometimes, and I guess maybe my book falls between it.

What inspired the idea for the book?
One day in September, very much like the beginning of the book, I was just enjoying the weather and scribbling out ideas. I remember wishing I could capture that perfect fall day somehow, so I imagined an artist character. I already had Whitfield fairly well imagined, so it was easy to see Caspia living and working there. Since Whitfield is supernatural, I knew this character would have to be special, too, and her prophetic abilities were born.

It looks like Gifts of the Blood is part of a series. Can you tell us more about the trilogy?
Everything is building towards one final epic conflict between good and evil, except suddenly those definitions have been turned upside down. Caspia’s going to have to make some tough choices, and some of those closest to her will be on the other side. Then there’s Ethan, and how her relationship with him raises complicated questions about the nature of love: is love stronger when it’s based on choice or destiny? Does letting go make you stronger or loosen those bonds? Ideally, readers will put down that last book with a feeling I call “shattered, but with champagne.”

Who did the cover art for Gifts of the Blood?
It was collaborative. The photographer is Lia Kolytrina. The design, layout, finishing process and a whole bunch of other technical stuff I didn’t quite understand is by Tribble Studios, who also does album covers. I’m lucky to be working with them again because they’re really patient with me and can translate raw ideas into images, even if all they have to go on from me is, “Can you make her hands look more glowy, guys?”

What sets Gifts of the Blood apart from other books in the genre?
That’s a tough one! There are so many great paranormal reads out there. I like to think Gifts is different because it’s part of a larger, more nuanced universe. Every character, every event, every single detail we encounter in Gifts connects with another Whitfield character or event. It’s a meticulously constructed world. For example, characters from my next novella shop at the hardware store under Caspia’s apartment, and Erik, the coffee shop’s guitarist, is getting his own series this summer. So everything connects. I think this gives Caspia and Ethan’s story a degree of depth that’s pretty unique.

If you could be any one character, who would you be, and why?
I’ve always had this thing for bad boys and villains, so I would have to go with my dark and tormented antagonist, Asheroth. I think he’s one of the most complicated characters I’ve ever written, so it’s hard for me to call him evil. I think he’s more polymoral. There’s hope for some redemption there, but oooh, he’s wicked. Plus he wears red leather. Wicked boys in red leather get me every time.

Where can readers find Gifts of the Blood?
Right now it’s only available in ebook format for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Smashwords for all formats in between. However it is being published in paperback through CreateSpace. The good folks over there tell me two weeks, but I like to say three because that’s just how my luck runs.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
About me personally or my books, or both? Hmm. Sometimes I go into this fugue state when I’m writing; I’ll find a song that perfectly captures an emotion or tone or something, and I’ll play it on a loop for however long it takes me to write the scene. I think I played Glossary’s “Your Heart to Haunt” for days on end. I’m not kidding. It is officially Caspia and Ethan’s song. My neighbors hate me, but it worked, and so I put it in the book. I like being able to keep my books as real and detailed as possible so I use real life whenever possible.

How can readers find you online?
I have a website: www.vickikeire.com where I’m pretty active. In fact, I kind of treat it as world building when I write, so there’s lots of extra stuff about whatever project I’m working on. There’s also my blog, The Ides of March: http://vickikeire.blogspot.com/, which I keep pretty current. I’m also really active on Goodreads because it makes me feel more normal about my compulsive reading disorder. I’m more active on Twitter (@vickikeire) than Facebook, but I have a fan page there, too.

Excerpt from Gifts of the Blood
Copyright 2010  Vicki Keire

“But… why? Why would someone take my drawing?” I demanded.
He was silent a long time, staring off at the patches of moonlight that crept in through the big bay window that took up most of my bedroom’s front wall. His eyes were a little unfocused, his head tilted as if listening intently. I studied his profile, thinking of him as lines and angles, of mysteries and secrets. Logan must have fallen asleep; the apartment was silent. The only noise was the faint sound of people and traffic from the square. “I don’t know,” he finally murmured, as if the silence had given him an answer. “I wish I did. But I don’t like it.” My scraped-up side pressed into the sheets beneath me. It throbbed dully, reminding me of other aches. Full-body tiredness crept across me like steam from a hot scented bath I suddenly wanted. I felt pleasantly foggy and slow.
“Ethan,” I murmured into my forearm. I wondered where he would go. Did drawings come to life have places to sleep? I imagined him picking random paintings from his imagination and stepping into them. “If I was a drawing come to life,” I said, swinging my legs over the side of my bed, “I would pick a different famous painting every night to sneak into.” He had moved, again without me noticing, to the very center of my bay window. He stared at the sky as if looking for something specific. I joined him there, leaning my forehead against the cold glass. “Starry Starry Night,” I sighed. “I’d like to sleep under a sky like that.” The full chill of October after dark hit me, seeping through my thin ripped t-shirt and chilling me all the way down to my toes. I shivered violently, but it didn’t break my dreamy lassitude. “Do you have a place to stay, Ethan?” I heard myself ask. I knew I should be horrified, giving a stranger-than-stranger the option to stay, but I wasn’t. I just shivered some more and looked at the sky, trying to see what Ethan found so fascinating up there. I could see only light pollution haze and a few pinpricks of white, meant to be stars.
Warm fingers draped a soft leather jacket around my shoulders. Behind me, he lifted my tangled dark brown hair from beneath the collar of his jacket and smoothed it so it hung across my shoulder blades. I leaned backwards into his touch as Abigail had nudged him for petting. Later, I would wonder at this. Later, I would be angry at myself for relaxing so completely and unwisely with someone who’d scared me senseless earlier that very day. But for now, I was conscious only of Ethan’s fingers untangling my hair and a growing sense of peace, stronger than anything I’d felt since before Logan’s diagnosis.
“What else, Caspia?” he almost whispered, warmth and the scent of new growing things all around me. “What other paintings would you visit, if you could?” His arms wrapped around me, tight with nervous care. Sleep pulled against me like waterlogged socks.
“I want to live in that Escher drawing,” I murmured. My eyes fluttered closed. “The house with all the crazy stairs.” I felt movement and warmth. 
Relativity.” He supplied the name absently, as if his thoughts were far away. I opened my eyes to find we were no longer by the window, but back on my bed. I lay stretched out on my uninjured side, covered with his jacket. He knelt by the side, his blue-green tinted eyes clear again and even with mine. I reached out for him but my hand felt so heavy I pulled it back under his jacket. I remembered feeling sedated when I first woke up, after meeting him for the first time in Mrs. Alice’s shop. 
“Hey,” I tried to demand, but I sounded more like I’d been drinking. “Did you do something to me earlier? Outside Mrs. Alice’s shop?”
"Other than scare the hell out of you, you mean?” He snorted. “I sincerely hope so.”  
“You are so not answering my questions,” I accused through half-closed eyes.   
“You are so resistant to… routine persuasion,” he sighed. “I think you might be in danger.”
“Is that why I drew you? Why you came?” I asked.
He looked absolutely, positively grief-stricken. “I’m not here for you at all.” He visibly sagged after the words left his mouth, like he’d just admitted to the darkest sin of all. “But it didn’t make a difference, did it?” He laughed bitterly. “I… interfered. Like my half-cursed brothers. I’m no better.” He moved so quickly I couldn’t track him. One second he was staring at me by my bed, and the next, he was at the window, palms flat against the glass as if in supplication.
I tried to sit up but sleep threatened to drag me under like a drug. “How do you do that? Move so fast?” I complained. “And what do you mean, I’m in danger? Or that you interfered? With what?”
“How is it,” he countered, turning to me, his voice low and dangerous now, “that you’re still awake and asking questions?”
“I’m stubborn like that.” I tried to sound fierce, but I wasn’t very convincing. I could barely keep my eyes open and my vision was starting to fuzz. “And don’t forget your jacket when you get the hell out of my…”
“Keep it.” My eyes were mere slits, struggling to stay open against a sudden vivid light. “You might need it. It offers some protection against… cold, and… other things.” He sounded frustrated, and the light flared painfully. Still I tried to keep my eyes open, desperately curious about the light, about Ethan, about…
“Sleep, Caspia. I’ll see you again. Sleep.”

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Read a 35% sample on Smashwords
Find it on Goodreads HERE
 Here it is! ...and only $0.99 at the time of this post. 

And keep your eyes peeled for the next book in the Gifted Blood Trilogy, expected to be released March 31, 2011.
Darkness in the Blood
Gifted Blood Trilogy, Book 2
by Vicki Keire


Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She holds advanced degrees in several obscure branches of English Literature. She spent the last decade researching and teaching writing and literature while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks. She is a fierce proponent of the Indie movement in writing, art, and music.

When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people's cooking and keeps vampire hours. She'd rather burn the laundry than fold it. She believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She likes lost causes and the way Southerners speak in mysterious euphemisms even they can't always decode. She still lives in the Deep South with her husband, children, and attendant menagerie, but is pretty sure her house isn't haunted. A person can't be so lucky twice.

Thanks for telling us about your book Vicki!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet Indie Sale! Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Specials

March 6-12 is officially Read an Ebook Week.  
Ebooks are celebrating their 40th birthday!

Many authors on Smashwords are joining this celebration by offering specials on their books.  There are some awesome deals to snap up so what are you waiting for...go check it out! 

 Now if you will exsqueeze me...I need to do some shopping!  :)

ETA:  still shopping...OMG, OMG, OMG...bookgasm!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review: Spiderwork by LK Rigel

by LK Rigel

Genre: Apocalyptic Paranormal Romance
Formats avail: ebook
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Word Count: 40,178 (Novella/Short Novel)
Kindle Locations: 1719
Source:  ebook provided by author

Apocalypto, Book 2

DESCRIPTION from Goodreads:
Her fate was to hold the world together. His destiny was to tear it apart.

As a child, Durga was chosen by the goddess to save humanity from sterility and extinction. When her eighteenth birthday approaches she must take her place among the chalices, women blessed by the goddess to provide more souls for the universe. Khai, the scion of Luxor, is unlike any man Durga has ever met. He falls hard for her and isn't afraid to show it -- but accepting his love could destroy everything she's been commanded by the goddess to build.

Char Meadowlark, once touched by the goddess Asherah, has now been discarded. Her lover Jake Ardri now heads an emerging city-state and desperately wants Char to be his queen. When Jake's enemies expose his one weakness, his very existence is threatened. To save Jake, Char must share him with a beautiful chalice -- whose purpose is to take Jake to the heights of sexual ecstasy.

In flagrante apocalypto: When the veil drops between life and oblivion, only love can save them from the abyss.

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The second book in the Apocalypto series, Spiderwork, shifts from being more of a space opera romance to more of a futuristic paranormal romance (see LK's guest post to find out more about the genre shift and why she decided to change the title and cover of the first book, Hero Material), but there is still a small bit of leftover modern technology existing alongside the old gods.

The first couple of chapters pick up where Hero Material ends and gives the reader some background, describes the god Samael's cleansing fires, and sets up the changing world. The next chapter jumps in time to the "now" which is eight years later. One-fifth of the world's population has survived. The world is starting anew and has been thrust back into an older way of life with dynastic rule.  Jake has become the leader of his own settlement.

There are two romances going on here: Char and Jake are still together and in love but their relationship is established. However, Char must come to terms with how she will share Jake with a chalice. Durga is now grown up and the "Emissary" -- the chosen link to the goddess Asherah -- soon to reach the age when she must serve as a chalice to help repopulate a once sterile world. Her romance begins when she meets Khai, scion of Luxor.

I struggled a bit with the first half of this book. There seemed to be a lot of politics and it wasn't really keeping my interest. The second half of the book was more interesting.  It went faster for me and I started to fall into the story. There was more action and the setup from the first half of the book started to come together.

There are some story elements that were hinted at in the first book that we learn more about in this book. In Hero Material we were introduced to the shapeshifting Empani but don't really get a clear idea of what they are. In this book we learn more about them, though they still confuse me a bit. I can’t tell if they are good or bad. They are Samael's creation and Samael is also another entity that I wanted to know more about. He is mentioned and referenced frequently in the book but never really shows up in the story. He and Asherah seem to work together at times and at other times they seem to be in conflict. Another story element we learn more about is Sky, Char's sister. Though you get some closure to that story thread, I'm not sure I was satisfied with it. Finally, there are the ghosts. I really liked the addition of the ghost, Alice, to the story line. I read LK's flash fiction story, Alice Ghosting, awhile ago and was glad to see her make an appearance in this book. I think I’m getting a handle on the “ghosts”.

There were a couple of scenes that didn't seem to flow well for me and I had to reread them a few times to get that little movie in my head to play properly, but this might just be due to my interpretation.

Oddly enough, considering the first book is more sci-fi, I liked Hero Material better. The story was wrapped up well for its size and I knew some of the story threads that were left hanging would be pursued in the next book. This book is also a novella on the longer end of the size range verging on a short novel. I don’t think Durga and Khai’s relationship was explored as much as I would have liked -- maybe because I get the feeling that this is the last we will see of Durga and Khai, and Char and Jake. As the book opens with a jump to the past, it ends with a jump to the future. From the descriptions of the next two books, Blue Amber (a novella) and  Bleeder (a novel)...I think the story is moving on. I'm interested to see where LK will take us next in this world, so I'll definitely be continuing the series.

Rating: 3 - I Liked It

Typos found: 7

This book is available as an ebook.  You can find LK Rigel on the web at:

Blog: http://www.lkrigel.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/likari
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4327516.L_K_Rigel

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Find it on Goodreads HERE

Read a Sneak Peek here on IPBR!

Download a 30% sample from Smashwords

Get the Book!

Psst!  The whole series is on sale for $0.99 each in March at Amazon and B&N!

Hero Material
Book 1
Book 2

Blue Amber
Book 3