Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Underdead by Liz Jasper

Underdead (Underdead Mysteries, Book #1)
by Liz Jasper
Release Date: September 28th, 2011
2011 by Liz Jasper (originally published 2008 by Cerridwen Press)
ISBN: 978-0-983-94500-0
Ebook Edition; 236 Pages
Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Author

2008 Eppie Award Winner for Best Mystery

4 / 5 Stars

Newbie science teacher Jo Gartner thinks her life has reached an all time low when she realizes the biggest excitement of her year is the staff Christmas party. Then she gets bitten by a vampire. Sort of. And then she’s a murder suspect. The police are at her door, the Undead are at her windows, and her vampire traits are growing harder to hide by the minute. If she doesn't figure out who to trust she won't be alive long enough to worry about all those papers she still has to grade.

My Thoughts
Underdead is one of those novels that I needed to read right at the moment.  With everything falling apart around me, the light tones of this paranormal novel took me away from my troubles into a world in which I was completely familiar (in terms of school and marking) and into one that made me laugh.  Underdead was suspenseful, but at the same time it was lighthearted and downright fun.

Jo Gartner is one of those leads that I always like as she is tall and beautiful with red hair, but at the same time has no idea how sexy she is or how beautiful she is to others; that is until she gets bitten by a sexy vampire one night and suddenly finds herself surrounded by a bevy of men vying for her attention.  And yet, this novel wasn't really about Jo and her relationships, it was about her coming to terms with her transformation into a vampire, and some of the moments were downright comical.  Her allergy to the sun, and trying all different sorts of skin creams and other things to try to cure the rashes on her face and body, her sudden allure and how she could mesmerize people into doing what she wanted, and my personal favourite, the sudden craving for blood and anything meat-related.  The episode in the kitchen where she bit into every food item she had in her possession trying out her teeth was priceless. 

Most of the secondary characters were just as interesting.  I really enjoyed the scenes with Jo's mother, a woman who is somewhat domineering and overbearing, and pretty much frightens everyone around her, and yet I adored her.  And I would really love to know who Jo's mother's hairdresser is as his name shows up quite a bit in the novel with quite a bit of information; who is he and how does he know so much?  The only person I wasn't so crazy about was Gavin, the cop who was protecting Jo.  It seemed to me that he was continually yelling at Jo for everything she did and I'm surprised she put up with it the way she did.  I know he was protecting her, but the act quickly got annoying.  Hopefully his character will develop a bit in the sequel.

I thought the story was funny and intriguing, but at the same time I realized at the end that I really didn't learn very much about the vampire coven or why Will, the head vampire, wanted Jo so badly.  A lot of information was kept from the reader and only little tidbits of information was given to us; on the other hand, we did learn a lot about Jo's school and the people around her there so that was quite interesting.  And I have to say, I didn't figure out the who-dun-it, though I should have with a little thought.  I think I got caught up in the vampire stuff and didn't pay enough attention to the other things going around Jo.  I also thought the ending was somewhat abrupt and was surprised when I reached the last page as it didn't feel complete.  I understand that more will be revealed in the next book, but I still like my endings to be endings, if you know what I mean. 
Underdead was an interesting twist on the usual vampire novel and I really enjoyed it.  It was more light-hearted than some of the vampire novels I have read lately, and there were many scenes that I found very amusing; it made me wonder what I would do if I was in her situation.  I am definitely looking forward to reading Underdead in Denial, the next novel in this series.
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giveaway Hop: Happy New Year

Welcome to the Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Babs Book Bistro.  It is amazing to realize that another year has already flown by and here we are, ready to embark upon 2012, ready to take on another year of reading challenges, already looking forward to those exciting new releases, author interviews, guest posts, book spotlights and other fun things that go along with reading.  For me, and I'm going to say it more than once, where did 2011 go???


I am giving away one hard-cover copy of Crossed by Ally Condie, courtesy of Tor Books.

* Fill in the FORM.
* Contest runs from 30 December 2011 to 11:59 pm 03 January 2012.
* Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

Good luck everyone!!

Take a look at some of the other amazing contests here:

Review: The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott & Colette Freedman

The Thirteen Hallows
by Michael Scott & Colette Freedman
Release Date: December 6, 2011
2011 Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2852-6
Hardcover Edition; 351 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal / Triller
Source: Review Copy from Tor Books

3.5 / 5 Books

The Hallows. Ancient artifacts imbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction? 

A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret.

For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe and hidden and apart from each other. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood. Now, only a few remain.

With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a practical stranger, to deliver her Hallow—a broken sword with devastating powers—to her American nephew, Owen. The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic Dark Man and his nubile mistress.

As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel the deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales, and history itself, as they discover that the sword may be the only thing standing between the world…and a horror beyond imagining.

My Thoughts
I was very aware going into this book that it would be very different from Michael Scott's series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, so I wasn't expecting anything along those lines, which was probably a good thing as this book is very different from that series.  The Thirteen Hallows was much darker, with a mixture of Christianity and mythology thrown into the concept, along with a lot of gore and a lot of blood.  I enjoyed the concept of the novel, liked the story, but probably could have done without some of the the gore and would have liked to have seen more focus on the mythology and the Hallows.

As I have previously mentioned, I liked the concept of the story and enjoyed the idea of the Hallows and the history of the Hallows.  I definitely like the mythological concepts and how they are linked from the present to the past, to famous historical figures, and even to hints of secrets that have been unsolved.  I have always enjoyed stories set in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and devour them whenever I can.  It also helped that the chapters were short, keeping the pacing swift, which helped with the point of view as it switched back and forth between multiple characters.  One of the things I didn't enjoy was the sex scenes between the antagonists as I really didn't see a point for it, other than to explore another avenue of cruelty and evilness.  Personally, I thought it was overdone.  There is also a lot of blood and gore in this novel; the short chapters keep the novel from having too much detail, with no filler, so the blood and gore scenes are not overdone, they are simply part of the story, but anyone who is squeamish might find it falling into the genre of too much.

To be honest, I also found there wasn't really much in the way of characterization in this novel as it focused more on the action than in character development.  I became somewhat skeptical of the treatment of the police towards the end as I didn't believe they could be that slow and still believe the main character was a serial killer and involved with skinheads and dope dealers.  It probably wouldn't have bothered me if either of the main characters have been killed either, as I didn't really form any empathy or connection with them as there simply wasn't time given for the reader to connect. 

The Thirteen Hallows was an enjoyable, quick read, but I don't really feel it had a lot of depth or scope to the story or to the characterization.  The pace moved fairly quickly and I barely had time to breathe between events, but that's basically what the story was all about, the events.  I was disappointed not to learn more about the Hallows so hopefully the next book in the series will share more about the history and some of the events that shaped the Hallows.  I would also like to see more in the way of character development for our main characters as the story develops as the potential is definitely there for a good story line to develop. 
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Earth Angel Spotlight: By E. Van Lowe

Earth Angel (Falling Angels #2)
by E. Van Lowe
Released: December 8th, 2011
2011 White Whisker Books
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

E. Van Lowe's "Earth Angel" is the second book in his series of the Falling Angels Saga. In this story, Megan winds up in a life-or-death battle to save herself, the angel she loves, and all of mankind from unspeakable evil.

And if you're interested in the book that started it all...

Boyfriend From Hell (Falling Angels, Book #2)
by E. Van Lowe
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
2011 White Whisker Books
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Fifteen year-old Megan Barnett and her single mom, Suze, have a special relationship—they are friends, close friends, who do almost everything together.
“But come on, guys, she’s my mother… Can I really tell her that while we’re snuggled up on the sofa watching Spider Man Three, I’m secretly undressing James Franco with my eyes? Of course not…”

The special bond takes a turn for the worse when Suze decides to start dating again. She hasn’t had a man in her life since Megan’s father left ten years ago.

Enter two mysterious young men, Megan’s new classmate, sinfully attractive bad boy, Guy Matson, and the dangerously handsome art dealer, Armando. Before long Megan and Suze both wind up in steamy relationships.

But neither of the handsome pair is quite what he seems. In fact, one of them is Satan, with his sights set on a new bride. Megan has precious little time to figure out how to stop him. If she doesn’t, either Megan or Suze are quite literally going to HELL.

About the Author
E. Van Lowe is an author, television writer, screenwriter, Playwright and Producer who has written and produced such shows as The Cosby Show, Even Stevens, and Homeboys in Outer Space.  He has been nominated for both an Emmy and an Academy Award.  Van Lowe recently stepped into the young adult fiction genre with his comedic novel, Never Slow Dance with a Zombie. It was a selection of the Scholastic Book Club and a nominee for an ALA award.  Boyfriend From Hell is Van Lowe's second young adult novel.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two New Challenges!!

Hosted by Babies, Books & Signs, I thought I would try this challenge again this year as I didn't quite succeed last year and there is nothing to challenge me more than something I didn't quite finish the first time round.  I am determined to finish this year and meet all the letters of the alphabet (and it wasn't even Z that stopped me!)

* This challenge will run from January 1st, 2012 until December 31st, 2012.

* If you are blogger, leave the link to your actual post about this challenge.

I chose option B - The lazy way: Make a list on your blog from A-Z. Throughout the year, as you go along, add the books you are reading to the list. Hope that by the end of the year you have read one book for each letter. Towards the end of the year, you can check and see which letters you are missing and find books to fit.

Each month, another challenge will be added to the main challenge so don't forget to check back often and join in on the fun!!!

The 2012 Young Adult Reading Challenge is hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf (Bumps in the Road).  Again, a challenge I was successful in meeting, but not successful in keeping tack of so my end result is not consistent with my reads.  I am determined to do better this year.

* Runs 01January 2012 - 31 December 2012.

The Rules:
* Anyone can join.
* You don't need a blog to participate.
* Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post on Jamie's blog.
* Audio, eBooks, paper, re-reads all count.
* No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

There are four levels:
The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.
The "Fun Size" YA Reading Challenge – Read 20 Young Adult novels.
The Jumbo Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 40 Young Adult novels.
The Mega size YA Reading Challenge – Read 50+ Young Adult novels.

I read a lot of YA so I am going for the MEGA size again this year.
Saturday, December 24, 2011

To My Dad: A Tribute To Your Love

In Our Hearts

© Rose de Leon
We thought of you with love today,
But that is nothing new.
We thought about you yesterday.
And days before that too.
We think of you in silence.
We often speak your name.
Now all we have is memories.
And your picture in a frame.
Your memory is our keepsake.
With which we’ll never part.
God has you in his keeping.
We have you in our heart.

Source: Loosing A Father, In Our Hearts, Moving On Poem after Death
Family Friend Poems
On Tuesday my beloved father lost his long, courageous battle with cancer.  While it was not unexpected, I really don't think deep down you are ever really prepared for the loss of someone near and dear to you, and when I got that call at work, it felt like everything had simply stopped for a moment.  And while probably not the most appropriate time of year to write something like this, I need to do this as with everything in my life, when times are most difficult, despite the comfort of family and friends, I turn to the one thing that brings me the greatest comfort, my writing.
I feel like I developed the most admiration I have ever had for my dad as I watched him fight his battle with cancer not once, but four times, not always with grace, but definitely with courage and determination.  The sometimes temperamental moments can be forgiven however, as the struggle with chemotherapy, and radiation, and subsequent surgeries would probably tax the most patient man, and he was not necessarily a patient man by nature.  And my mom...not enough words can be said for what my mom went through!!
I remember my dad as being so strong and so tough.  A native of Croatia, he was always so proud of his heritage and I am so glad I got the chance to visit his homeland with him and see the places he grew up.  It is a trip I will be taking with my children one day so they can learn about their own heritage and the grandfather they will learn about through stories and tales.  What I especially remember as a child is the comfort of his arms and his strength.  When I was four years old I fell off my little sister's scooter and split open the inside of my upper lip, about an inch wide.  I had to get about ten stitches and I was terrified. But I remember his big hand holding mine and him carrying me out to the car and holding me at home afterwards and I remember the feeling of security, the feeling that nothing bad would ever happen again.  I also remember lying with him under the Christmas tree, and I couldn't have been more than three years old, believing the lights on the tree were special angels; he never led me to believe otherwise and for years those lights held a special meaning for me as I thought they were the souls of all our family members looking out for us.
Growing up we had our differences as will two adults who are both stubborn and headstrong.  As all adult children are wont to do however, I came to rely on his knowledge more and more and even depended on certain things.  A butcher by trade, I couldn't tell you the number of times I had called him from the grocery store to ask his advice about a certain cut of meat or about the price of a piece of meat on sale.  Who do I call now?  Whenever I needed help with anything, he was always there, never complaining.  Perhaps I took him for granted, as children tend to do as someone who will always be there when needed.  It wasn't until he developed cancer the first time that I realized my dad wouldn't be around forever, and I still remember reeling from that shock.  And when did my dad turn into an older man?  Dads aren't supposed to get old, are they?
My dad loved many things on this life, especially his family.  He adored his wife, his children, and his grandchildren, but had a difficult time showing that love.  He showed his love through his actions, and in the way he was always willing to drop anything to help.  While opiniated and sometimes difficult, he had a heart of gold, and was very generous to everyone.  He loved to cook, loved his food (if I wanted a cookie I knew exactly where to go), and loved his gardens (roses, anyone?).  Even towards the end he made sure his family was well-fed, insisting he cook a ham, and have other goodies in the house so that visitors to his house would always feel welcome.  It was his way of ensuring that others were taken care of before he would think of himself.  He definitely loved a good argument, so you can imagine what our teenage years were like, but we survived them, and personally, I think the three of us turned out rather well.  And boy, did he love his grandchildren.  I can still see the look in his eyes when he held my son, Kamron, in his arms for the first time.  There is a picture that I have where the two of them are looking at each other, and they both have the same look in their eyes, as if they're assessing each other; and the two are cut from the same cloth, believe me.  And Alyssa, my daughter, she was always in his lap, and he was always so patient with her. 
My mom insisted that my dad be at home for his final days and as a result, my dad's last days were peaceful.  For a man who lived quite a life, and lived through many tragedies, including the death of his own mother when he was five-years-old, his last days were quite the opposite.  While I was not there, he was surrounded by family and friends, and at home, exactly the way he always envisioned.   While the days now are filled with grief, they are also filled with some peace knowing that my dad's suffering is finally over.  And yes, I will admit to some guilt as well as I was not there as often as I would have liked as I live two hours away from my mom and dad.  And I think now that I could have visited much more often and spent more time there.  There is also the guilt because you don't want to admit exactly how bad the illness is and there is always an element of denial.  And now I have to explain to my children why God has taken their grandfather away.  It's tough!  They understand, but they don't at the same time as their ideas of suffering are just developing. 
I know that wherever he is he will always be looking out for us, just as he did in life.  He will never be forgotten and even as I write this, I am trying to hold back the tears and not succeeding very well.  I would like to thank all of our friends and family who have supported us during this trying time.  I would also like to thank every one of my blogging friends, as well as everyone at the publishing houses and tours who have been so supportive of my difficulties these past few weeks, as I have disrupted schedules and tours and had to reschedule.  Thank you so much for your understanding!!!
To my dad, I will always love you and I will never forget you. 
Lamentations 3:22-26; 31-32For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Guest Post: Lizzy Ford

I would like to warmly welcome Lizzy Ford, who is touring in November and December to promote her War of Gods Series, to Curling Up By The Fire.  A prolific writer, and known for her unconventional marketing methods, Lizzy has reached the bestselling lists on both Amazon US and Amazon UK in multiple categories including young adult fantasy and paranormal romances. She is here to talk to about her reasons why she loves beings a writer.  But first, take a look at the three books available in the War of God Series:

Damian's Oracle, Book 1

Caught in the war between the White and Black Gods, Sofia and her rare gift bring victory to he who grabs her first. Her difficult transition from human to oracle forces her into a new world, where she struggles in her role as Damian’s mate and to help a mysterious man who’s supposed to be dead.

After thousands of years as the White God’s right hand man and chief assassin, Dustin no longer believes in the human capacity for good, until he meets sweet, sunny Bianca, a Natural whose gift of healing will change not only his fate, but destroy the Black God and bring about a new one.

The White God’s most trusted friend, Jule, has his powers stripped by the Watchers, who seek to punish him for crimes committed thousands of years ago in the immortal realm.  His only hope to rejoin the battle against the Black God is to find the mysterious Magician, a woman afraid of her own powers but who has the ability to save both him and the war.

Ten Things I Love About Being a Fulltime Writer
by Lizzy Ford

1. Interacting with readers. I had no idea how rich the interactions with others would be when I started. My writing has improved dramatically this year because of the feedback I receive from my readers, and I’m grateful to them for helping me become a better writer.
2. Unleashing the demons! I call my muses ‘demons,’ mainly because they give me little time to rest! It’s wonderful to be able to create new worlds and books for a living.
3. Living a dream. I’ve wanted to be a fulltime writer since I was knee-high, and fulfilling that dream is an incredible feeling.
4. Owning my own business. Being an independently published writer is a lot like owning your own business. You have to manage the development of a product, marketing, advertising, sales, everything. Results are directly related to the efforts you put into the business, which isn’t something I’d experienced as someone who worked full time for The Man my whole life.
5. Learning from other writers. I’m a huge fan of lifelong learning, and I’m meeting a lot of other authors out there who I’m learning a great deal from. It can be something as simple as a new advertising opportunity or debates on what is the best choice when dealing with book placement.
6. FREEDOM. Can’t say it enough! There are tons of opportunities right now. For those who like to control their own fates, they now can, whereas a lot of writers didn’t have that choice before epublishing came along.
7. Covers. This will sound funny, but one of my favorite parts of the process is seeing what my cover artist has done. She’s incredible, especially given that I’m a very poor client in terms of specifying what I want. I normally give her a blurb and describe how the book feels, and she creates something beautiful and sends it back. I dance around every time she does!
8. Seeing the paperback version of my book for the first time. Ebooks are awesome, but it’s not until I receive the paperback version that I sit back and think, WOW!
9. Building a team. I was always good at building teams for my old jobs, but I never thought about applying that skill to my own goals, until March of this year. I started working with a freelance book editor and freelance graphics designer in March. My husband does my I.T. work and helps me with my online presence. I’m expanding this team now to include 2-3 core beta readers, and I recently worked with an English-Spanish translator to translate one of my books. Writing a book is a team effort!
10. Achieving goals I never thought were possible. My favorite book that I’ve written will be released at the end of this month. It was based on an idea – and a story I started – over ten years ago. It’s always held this sort of magic to me, so seeing it go out into the world is something I’ve wanted for ten years. I tried for 10+ years to land an agent or publisher without success (or responses, in most cases), and decided a year ago I’d do it on my own. And now, ten books later, I’m getting ready to release my favorite book!

About the Author
Lizzy Ford is the hyper-prolific author of the "Rhyn Trilogy" and "War of Gods" series, both launched in 2011, as well as multiple single title young adult fantasy and paranormal romances. Lizzy's books have reached into the bestseller lists on both Amazon US and Amazon UK in multiple categories. Through her unconventional online marketing strategies, Lizzy has gone from selling 20 books in January 2011 to around 5000 books in September 2011 and from over 7,000 free downloads of her work in January 2011 to over 40,000 downloads in September 2011.

The Lizzy Ford team consists of: Matt, IT and search engine optimization expert; Christine LePorte, freelance book editor; Dafeenah, graphics artist; and Toni, English-Spanish translator.

Lizzy is considered by most to be the ultimate writing freak of nature for her ability to write and epublish a new book every 30-45 days. She is also a regular contributor for the Curiosity Quills website and is an active member of a small guild of nine passionate, talented writers, the Indie Eclective. Lizzy's books are available from Amazon, BN, Smashwords, iBooks/iTunes, and all other eReader libraries.

Find her at these various sites:
Thursday, December 15, 2011

BTT: Plot or Character?

Question:  What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters? Or an amazing, page-turning plot? (Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?

You know, I had a tough time with this question.  My first inclination was to go with plot, but upon further thought, and flipping through some of my reviews, I actually think I need interesting, well-developed characters in order to really have a book stand out for me.  Whenever I think of a book that has had a huge impact on me, my life, or my thoughts, it is usually the character and his or her actions that stand out, not the plot, and it is the character that I remember clearly.  Because great plots are often driven by fascinating, intriguing and well-developed characters, I also believe they go hand in hand. 

All that being said, though, there are some genres that just don't work if the plot is weak, no matter how strong the characterization.  Mysteries, crime, thrillers, and suspense novels just don't have that same impact with a weak plotline, and I will stop reading a book if I find it boring or unrealistic.  Other novels I forced myself to read to the end just to say I did (Twilight comes to mind - sorry all you fans out there but I didn't find it all that interesting .)  I do like to connect with my characters and I do find there is something lacking without that connection, but if the plot is strong enough I will keep reading.  It's not typically characterization that makes me decided whether to continue reading or not.

What do you think?  Are you for strong characterization or amazing plot??

Interview with D.L. Jackson

I would like to welcome D.L. Jackson to Curling Up By The Fire.  She is here with us today to discuss her short story This Endris Night, featured in Madame Eve's One Night Stand Holiday Anthology.  Although I often tend to shy away from romance novels, except for the historical kind, every once in a while I am in a mood for a good ole steamy romance, and this one is full of interesting stories from the following authors:
·      * Silent Night's Seduction by Clarissa Yip
·     * I'll Be Mated For Christmas by Rebecca Royce
·     * He Came Upon a Midnight Clear by Desiree Holt
·     * All She Wants for Christmas is Her Dom by Stacey Kennedy
·     * Santa, Cutie by Cerise DeLand
·     * Her First White Christmas by Liia Ann White
·     * This Endris Night by DL. Jackson

This Endris Night
One night. One party of a lifetime. One secret a century old, which could end it all.

Shiya, a Yupik supermodel, travels to Alaska in pretense of attending a party where she’ll find the man of her dreams, but her real intent is to lure the man of her nightmares to where she can finally end the deadly game of cat and mouse.

Gunnar is on Earth for one reason—to recover the wreckage of a Doppelganger crash, but recovering the ship isn’t as easy as expected. The debris is scattered for miles, throughout a resort and human settlements. In order to get closer, he agrees to a date to attend a ball and finds himself face to face with a Terran woman who doesn’t know her genetics are from his world, or that she was born to be his. She’s also in grave danger from a Doppelganger hunter.

Now the only way to save her, is to claim her, and Shiya isn’t about to make it easy.

          1) To start off, can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I write mostly science fiction, military and dystopian romance and erotic romance. My work leans toward a darker side of human nature, and it’s not unusual for me to take something in a direction a reader wouldn’t expect. Happily ever afters are important to me, so I won’t short change you on the ending, but I might make it painful for the characters getting there.

2)  2) Can you tell us a little about your new release, This Endris Night?
It’s a genre crosser, one of the 1NightStand Christmas stories in Madame Eve’s anthology. Here’s the blurb:  One night. One party of a lifetime. One secret a century old which could end it all.

Shiya, a Yupik supermodel, travels to Alaska in pretense of attending a party where she’ll find the man of her dreams. But her real intent is to lure the man of her nightmares to where she can finally end a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Gunnar is on Earth for one reason—to recover the wreckage of a Doppelganger crash that is scattered for miles, throughout an Alaskan resort and human settlements. In order to get closer to the ship’s debris, he agrees to a date and finds himself face to face with a Terran woman who doesn’t know her genetics are from his world, or that she’s being tracked by someone whose duty is to eliminate all threats to their secret. Shiya’s heritage has placed her at the top of the killer’s list.

Now the only way to save her, is to claim her, and Shiya isn’t about to make it easy.

3) What inspired you to write the novella, This Endris Night? How much research was involved in the writing process?
The song itself was my inspiration for the story, as well as the setting—Alaska. Very little went into the research as it was a subject I was both comfortable and familiar with.

4) What is your favourite scene in the novel?  Who is your favourite character? Well, I’d have to say where Shiya meets Gunnar for the first time and passes out. Hmm hard to say. I like them both. They were a lot of fun to write. Gunnar is from another world, has the ability to change his shape to blend in with native wildlife and indigenous populations of the worlds he visits. He’s both incredibly intelligent and alpha. Shiya is a Yupik supermodel, luring a killer back to territory she’s familiar with. She’s tough, spunky and smart. A good combination.

5) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' for you when you sit down to write? Do you have any writing rituals? 
I must have my music. I must write in the front seat of my truck, and I must have my laptop. Rituals—I leave chapter 12 out of all my stories until I submit them. I either go from 11 to 13 or I have an 11 ½ 

Too much bad luck has been associated with that number and my writing. I’ve learned not to take chances when it comes to 12. LOL other than that, I can usually write if I have those three elements.

6) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? 
Sure. I’m working of one of the science fiction stories to launch Decadent’s science fiction line. I’m also working on book two and three that follow my novel Blown Away with Passion in Print. Book two that follows Slipping the Past. Book two that follows Last Flight of the Ark and I’ve just contracted two Edge stories for Decadent publishing. Naughty little 3k quickies that pick up the pulse and target the more wicked side of my writing.

7) Who are some of your favorite authors or books? 
Wow, so many. Let’s see. I love Barbara Elsborg, who is not only a fantastic author, but a peer who I started my writing journey with. I have the utmost respect for her opinions and I love, love, love her work, especially Strangers. I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and all the stories that follow, Karen Marie Moning, Jayne Ann Krentz and her Arcane Society, John Ringo for his science fiction, NH based novels, Rebecca Royce and her shifters, Jessica Subject and her aliens, and Arlene Webb who has one of the most unique styles I’ve read—any of her stories. They always surprise me. So many authors—too many to list.

8) What do you like to do when you are not writing?  
Work. Hang out with my sister-in-law. Paint, go to the gym, clean house—the usual.

9) With Christmas approaching, what are some of your fondest memories?  Any special plans this Christmas? 
Fondest would be the letters home from my husband during the Gulf War. We were both in the Army. I was pregnant and our first Christmas was spent apart, on different parts of the globe. The love letters kept me together during my pregnancy and later helped me to help my daughter-in-law who was also pregnant when my son was deployed to Afghanistan, get through the difficult time in her life. He’s back and they, including my granddaughter of 18 months, will be coming home for the holidays. My plans are to get my hands on that baby first. LOL And then after I smother her with love, I’ll share. And I intend to spend as much time with all of them as I can. It is the most precious thing I have. You can never get time back, and I’ve learned to spend it wisely on the things that matter.

9) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers? 
 Thank you. I hope you enjoy This Endris Night and may you have your own this Holiday Season. Thanks for having me on your blog.

You're welcome!  And good luck with all of your writing projects!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!
Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

"You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving." Amish proverb

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas EveŠ I'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband's relatives (think: Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch. Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much more to learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty space, but space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is - oh so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then... Ah, but you'll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer's facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won't get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God's agenda - the essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas: Margaret McSweeny

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Pearl Girls™ 12 Pearls of Christmas blogging series!

We've gathered several of today's most beloved authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning tomorrow (Wednesday the 14th) through Christmas day as Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Rachel Hauck, Sandy Ralya, Sibella Giorello, Susan May Warren and more, share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

If you'd like to share the 12 Pearls of Christmas with your blog readers too, just email Christen and she'll send you the series.
AND of course there is a giveaway! Beginning tomorrow you and all your friends can enter to win a PEARL NECKLACE and EARRINGS valued at $450! The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

Just a quick note before the series begins on the 14th ...

As I write this, I imagine that we are sitting at my kitchen table and chatting over a cup of coffee while familiar Christmas carols celebrate the Season. My twelve year old Chihuahua, Pongo, barks for a pinch of pound cake while my Shih Tzu, Lilly, patiently sits by the chair and waits for a crumb to fall.

My name is not Martha Stewart, and I will never receive a neighborhood beautification award. Just look at my front stoop. Yes, my never-had-time-to-carve-the-pumpkin-that-now-suffers-from-frostbite slouches next to the front door which is decorated with a Christmas wreath. I plan to roll this large orange ornament to the garbage pile tomorrow. For now, however, I will pretend that my front stoop is a contemplative modern art exhibit capturing the essence of contrast.
Actually, I love the concept of juxtaposition – placing things together that don’t seem to belong together, yet somehow ultimately make sense being paired. A personal example for me this season is the phrase: “comfort and joy.” Having just completed my manuscript for New Hope Publishers about the aftermath of grief, I fully understand the contrast of those two words. How can comfort bring joy? How can one find joy in loss?

Perhaps, dear reader, you have experienced loss this year – loss of a loved one, loss of friendship, loss of health,  loss of financial security, loss of trust, loss of love, or loss of direction. Even with the best intent, words of encouragement shared by others can somehow seem insufficient to address an inconsolable loss.  A spoken word cannot fully restore joy to a broken heart; however the Word can. And that’s the bottom line message of Christmas! God gave us the most amazing gift: His Son -  the Word of God, the Holy Comforter.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
You are not alone this Christmas, dear friend. Juxtaposed to the unexpected grit in life is the gift of God’s grace wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This year I purposely placed a pearl in the Nativity scene as a metaphoric reminder. When we place our grit into the hands of the Lord, His grace transforms our pain into a pearl.

“Joy to the world!” 

Thank you so very much for sharing the JOY of the Season with us this year.

God Bless,

Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts. Her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. She is also the host of weekly radio show, Kitchen Chat. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.