Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Excerpt - Chosen To Die by Lisa Jackson

Chosen To Die ~ Lisa Jackson
484 p, Zebra, ISBN:142010277X

Following the success of last summer’s five-week New York Times bestseller LEFT TO DIE with CHOSEN TO DIE, on sale July 28th,  Lisa Jackson takes readers back to Montana where the worst blizzard Pinewood County has seen in fifty years continues to rage. They’re also reunited with the Grizzly Falls Sheriff Department and detectives Regan Pescoli and Selena Alvarez who, contrary to news reports, are certain that the first serial murderer ever to hunt in their part of the state has not been captured—and that the horrifying trail of murder in the Bitterroot Mountains is far from over.

And here is Chapter One for your reading pleasure!

Yesterday

Regan Pescoli was hot.

Not in the sexual sense.

Hot as in furious. As in consumed with rage. As in pissed as hell.

Her hands gripped the wheel of her Jeep so tightly her knuckles bleached white, her jaw was set and she glared through the windshield as if she could conjure up the image of the soulless bastard who’d sent her into this stratosphere of rage.

“Bastard,” she muttered as the county-issued Jeep’s tires slid a bit on the icy incline. Her heart was racing and her cheeks were flushed despite the sub-freezing temperature outside her vehicle.

No one, not one person on this planet, could make her see red the way her ex-husband Luke “Lucky” Pescoli could. And today was no exception. In fact, today, he’d crossed the invisible line Regan had drawn and he’d heretofore avoided. Damn, he was a loser. In all the years she’d been married to him, the only “luck” he’d brought her was bad.

Now, out of the blue, the son of a bitch was set on taking her kids away from her.

As the notes of a familiar Christmas tune played through the radio of her Jeep Regan drove like a mad woman through the steep, snow-covered hills and canyons of this part of the Bitterroot Mountain range. The Jeep, windows fogging, responded, engine growling through the pass, tires spinning over the snowy county road that crossed this particular ridge, the backbone of a mountain that separated her home from that of Lucky and his new wife, a Barbie Doll of a woman named Michelle.

Usually Regan loved this barrier.

Today, with worsening weather conditions, it was a pain.

Her last phone conversation with Lucky replayed like a bad recording on an unending loop through her mind. He’d called and confirmed that her children, the son and daughter she’d raised nearly alone, were with him. Lucky, in that supercilious tone of his, had said, “The kids, Michelle and I have been talking, and we all agree that Jeremy and Bianca should live with us.”

The argument had escalated from that point and just before she’d slammed down the receiver, her parting words to her ex had been firm: “Pack up the kids, Lucky, because I’m coming to get them. And that includes Cisco. I want my son. I want my daughter. I want my dog. And I’m coming to get them.”

She’d locked the house and taken off, determined to set things straight and get her kids back. Or kill Lucky. Maybe both.

The Jeep’s engine whined in protest on the snowy terrain as she slowed to an irritating crawl. She searched for her hidden, “only in a situation of extreme stress” pack of cigarettes in the glove box and found that it was empty. “Great.” She crushed the useless pack and tossed it on the floor in front of the passenger seat. She’d been meaning to quit . . . completely and absolutely quit again for a while. Today, it seemed, was the start.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful,” some female country singer warbled and Pescoli snapped off the radio.

“You got that right,” she muttered fiercely and gunned the Jeep around a corner. The tires slid a bit, then held.

She barely noticed.

Nor did she see the tall spruce, fir and pine trees, their branches drooping under the pressure of snow and ice as they rose like majestic sentinels in the crisp, frigid air and snowflakes poured from invisible clouds. The wipers were slapping away the flakes while the heater thrust out BTUs. Despite the fan the warmed air flow couldn’t keep up with the steam on the inside of the windows.

Pescoli squinted and longed for a single blast of nicotine as she braced herself for the confrontation that was about to ensue. It promised to be epic. So much for “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays” and “Peace and goodwill to men.” Not in Lucky’s case. Not ever. All those platitudes about making nice for the kids, keeping the peace and reigning in her emotions was out the window.

He could not, could not, take her kids from her.

Sure, she worked a lot of overtime with the Pinewood County Sheriff’s Department and lately, with the winter storms causing widespread electrical outages, road closures, and icy conditions everywhere, the department had been stretched thin. Then there was the Star-Crossed Killer still at large, the first serial killer ever to hunt in this part of Montana.

This guy was bad news. A patient, organized and skilled killer who somehow shot out the tires of unsuspecting victims then “rescued” the injured women before squirreling them to some private lair where he nurtured them back to health, gaining their trust and dependence, before marching them naked into the storm-ravaged wilderness and strapping them to a tree where he left them to die a slow, agonizing death in the frigid, unforgiving forests.

God, she’d love to nail his ass.

So far the cruel bastard had killed four women, the last one, Hannah Estes, having survived long enough to be found and life-flighted to a hospital where she had died before regaining consciousness and identifying the sick son of a bitch. There was other evidence found at the scenes of course, the crashed vehicles found far from where the victims were located and even notes left at each killing arena by the killer, nailed over the victims’ heads. But not one shred of evidence so far could be tied to any suspect. Not that they had any real person of interest. At this point, with the victims unrelated, no would-be killer had popped onto the radar.

Yet.

That would change. It had to.

In the meantime, while Pescoli and the whole damned department was logging in extra hours trying to nail the sick son of a bitch, Lucky had the audacity, the unmitigated gall to kidnap her kids and let her know he planned on seeking full custody.

Miserable prick.

She’d hung up from him less than half an hour earlier, called her partner to cover for her and was now within fifteen minutes of the bastard’s place. Popping in a Tim McGraw CD, she realized it belonged to Lucky and ejected it. She tossed the damned thing onto the floor of the passenger seat next to her empty, crumpled pack of Marlboro Lites. She thought fleetingly of Nate Santana, a man with whom she was involved. He had a way of turning her inside out, but she knew he was wrong for her. Way wrong. A good-looking cowboy; the type to avoid. And one she couldn’t think about now. Not when she had more important things on her mind.

Damn Lucky!

The Jeep’s tires slid a bit and she corrected carefully. She’d been driving these hills in blizzards for years, but she was furious and probably pushing through a bit too aggressively.

Tough.

Outrage guided her.

Her sense of justice fueled her.

She hit the corner a little too fast and started to slide, only to work her way out of it before the Jeep hit the shoulder and careened into the abyss that was Cougar Canyon.

She shifted down. The wheels slid again, as if the road was covered in a sheet of ice, here near the crest of the final hill. A few more feet and she’d start her way down the hill . . .

Again the rig slipped.

“Losin’ your touch,” she chided as she reached the corner.

Crack!

The forest echoed with the sound of a high-powered rifle blast.

By instinct Regan ducked and with one hand on the wheel scrabbled for her sidearm.

The Jeep shuddered and she realized what was happening. In the middle of the friggin’ blizzard, someone was taking pot shots at her vehicle.

Not pot-shots. It’s the Star-Crossed Killer! This is how he initially gets his victims!

Fear knifed her heart.

Her rig spun, tires skidded, her seatbelt clutched and behind the wheel she was useless.

Faster and faster the Jeep spiraled, sliding over the edge of the cliff. Frantically, she grabbed her cell phone, touched it, but it fell from her hand as the Jeep bumped and crashed through trees, lurching over rocks, metal crunching and screaming, glass and cold air spraying inside, the air bag slamming her.

Bam! The Jeep landed on its side, metal shrieking, sharp rocks and debris tearing through the door. Pain screamed up her neck and shoulder and she knew she was hurt.

Warm blood oozed from the side of her head as the Jeep tore through the brush as if on rails, then began to roll.

Oh God . . .

She clung to the wheel with one hand, still holding tight to her pistol with the other, her world spinning, teeth slamming together and chattering. In her mind’s eye she saw the victims of the killer. Rapid-fire images, naked women, dead, their skin blue, ice and snow encrusted to their hair, their bodies lashed so tightly to the trunks of the trees that their skin had broken and bruised, blood running down before freezing.

Oh, Jesus, no.

Blam!

The front end crunched on impact, jarring Pescoli to her bones. Her shoulder felt as if it were on fire, and she was pressed tight by the airbag, the grit from its release in her eyes.

With a scream of twisting metal, the Jeep spiraled off a tree, spinning down the slope, front panels crumpling, a tire popping as it rolled ever faster down the hillside.

Pescoli could barely think past the kaleidoscope of agony and fought to stay conscious. She held fast to her pistol, fumbling for the dash to push the button that would release the magnetic lock on her shotgun, if she could get hold of it.

But she had to. Because if she survived the crash and some son of a bitch carrying a rifle came to rescue her, she’d nail him. No questions asked. Fleetingly she thought of her life and the mess she’d made of it: her children and dead first husband; her second husband, Lucky; and finally Nate Santana, a drifter and sexy son of a bitch she should never have gotten involved with.

So many regrets.

Don’t think like that. Stay awake. Stay alive. Be ready for this twisted maniac and blow his balls straight to hell.

Gritting her teeth, she popped the magnetic lock on the shotgun release but nothing happened. It wouldn’t budge. Despair welled but she still had her pistol. Her fingers closed over it now, and she took comfort in knowing it was there.

Shoot first, ask questions later.

She heard another grinding metallic groan as the roof, around the roll bars crumpled, crushing down on her.

In a blinding second of understanding, she knew she was about to die.




#



Perfect!

I watch in satisfaction as the Jeep spins and rolls over the edge of the cliff and into the ravine. Trees shake, great piles of snow fall from limbs and the sounds of shrieking metal and shattering glass are muted by the storm.

But I can not rest on my laurels or pat myself on the back, for there is much work to do. And this one, Regan Elizabeth Pescoli . . . no make that Detective Pescoli is different from the others.

She might recognize me.

If she’s alive.

If she’s conscious.

I must be careful.

Quickly, I roll up the plastic tarp on which I laid on the spot where I had such a perfect and clear shot of the road. I lash it onto my pack, then make certain my ski goggles are covering my eyes and that my ski mask, cap and hood disguise my face. Once assured my identity is obscured, I haul my rifle and begin trudging through the thick snow, grateful that the blowing snow will cover my tracks.

My vehicle is parked in an abandoned logging camp two miles from the spot where the Jeep has landed. Two miles of steep and difficult terrain that will take me hours to cross. Pescoli is not a petite woman and she might fight me.

But I have ways to deal with that.

I start hiking down the backside of the hill that overlooks the road and through a culvert to cover my tracks. It’s tight and dark, no water trickling, and it takes a lot longer, but the extra half mile is worth it. Not only will it be harder for the imbecile cops to track, but also it leaves Detective Pescoli in the frigid air a while longer, lets the cold seep deep into her bones so that she’ll welcome help from anyone. Even though she’ll be wary.

I don’t believe she could have survived the crash and gotten out of the car or escaped, not with the damage that I saw and heard as the Jeep spiraled over the edge of cliff. But even if by some miracle she did survive well enough to extract herself and crawl away from the wreckage, I’ll be ready.

A tiny jolt of adrenalin surges through my bloodstream at the thought. I’ve always loved to hunt, to stalk prey, to test my skills against the most worthy of opponents.

Smiling beneath the neoprene of my ski mask I realize Regan Pescoli is certain to be one.

Run, I think, the gloved fingers of my right hand tightening over my rifle. Run like the devil, you stupid cop-bitch!

But you’ll never get away.




#



Pescoli could barely breathe.

Her lungs were tight, so damned tight. And the pain . . . God, the pain.

She felt as if all the weight of the crumpled Jeep was compressing on her body, grinding against her muscles, squeezing the air from her lungs, the life from her body.

Don’t be a melodramatic idiot.

Get out!

Get out now!

Save yourself!

You know what’s happening and it’s not good. In fact, it’s very, very bad.

Desperately, adrenaline spurring her, she tried to release her seatbelt, to thrust the damned air bag away from her face as pain splintered up her shoulder and she let out a wounded yowl.

Jesus!

Where once her body responded to her every command, she was helpless.

Come on, come on! You don’t have much time!

Even now she knew he was out there.

Felt his presence.

Realized he was coming for her with deadly and sure intent.

God in heaven, move, Pescoli, get the hell out of here!

Sucking in her breath, gritting against the pain, she forced her fingers into the space between the seats and pushed hard on the seatbelt release button.

Click.

Finally!

Now if she could force the crumpled door or somehow try to get through the windshield . . . But nothing happened, the belt didn’t so much as budge.

What? No!

She tried again.

She heard the same metallic sound of release, but the damned thing was jammed. Like the shotgun catch.

Panic-stricken, she tried over and over again, grimacing against the pain, fearing that any second the killer would appear and that would be the end of it. Of her.

Don’t give up! There’s still time!

The blood that was oozing from a cut near her temple was freezing on her skin and she was shivering, her teeth chattering as the wind and snow raged through the shattered windshield, yet a nervous sweat ran down her spine.

Any second she expected the sick son of a bitch to appear.

Damn it, you’re a sitting duck! Get the hell out of this rig!

If she could just reach the police band radio or her cell phone or . . .

Again she tried to release her seat belt and realized it was no use, the damned buckle was jammed tight. Hell! She was going to have to cut the seat belt . . . but with what? Grabbing at the console, she tried to open the lid, but it, too, was mangled. “Oh, for God’s sake,” she muttered, forcing one finger through the opening . . . while in her left hand, she still held her gun. There was a knife in her pocket. If she could just reach it . . . or the radio . . . or her cell phone . . . or her safety pack. If she were just wearing her safety pack, but she’d been off duty, so the small radio she sometimes wore at her shoulder was lost in the back seat. She hadn’t thought she’d need it in confronting Lucky.

Jaw tight, she tried to reach into her pocket where she kept a pocket knife with a serrated blade, one that could saw through the seat belt.

She struggled to push her right hand into her pants and tried vainly to tamp down her panic, the feeling that any second she might go into shock and render herself useless.

Don’t even think that way. Just keep working. You can do this, you can.

Swallowing back terror, she felt the knife with her finger tips. Come on, come on. She eased her hand further into the pocket all the while listening above the pounding of her heart and the wintry rush of the wind for footsteps or snapped twigs or any noise that didn’t fit in this frigid wilderness, any human sound that would warn her of the predator who stalked her.

She would be found by her colleagues; she knew that. Eventually. Given enough time the sheriff’s department would locate her vehicle. Though not equipped with a computer, there were devices within the vehicle that would send out signals and the Jeep would be located. By the good guys.

But, with the department stretched thin, and her own request that she needed some time alone, she would either be captured or freeze to death before anyone came looking.

Fear and fury swept through her just as her fingers clenched around the knife.

Finally!

She concentrated on pulling the small weapon up her leg, out of the pocket, away from the pain. Hands shaking she finally extracted the knife. Painstakingly, she opened the blade then madly slashed at the airbag which hissed and slowly collapsed. She pushed it aside and then began to saw at the seatbelt. Her cheeks were numb, her fingers unresponsive as they began to freeze.

If she were uninjured she could have sliced through the belt quickly. As it was, it took all of her strength. She began sawing and felt rather than saw that she wasn’t alone.

Holy shit.

She froze. The fingers of her left hand were clenched around her semi-automatic Glock. Cramped as she was, she needed the flexibility of the pistol. Once she was free of the wreckage, she could try for the shotgun again, see if she could get the catch to release.

She heard nothing save the scream of the wind and her own panicked heartbeat. She saw nothing but white on white, millions of furious snowflakes falling from the sky, creating a shifting curtain where only shadows and her own imagination created images. Her heart was racing wildly.

I know you’re out there, you prick. Show yourself.

Nothing.

She licked her cracked lips, told herself that she was imagining things. She usually didn’t take much stock in “gut feelings” or “woman’s intuition” or “cop’s instincts.” But now, in this lonely frozen canyon . . .

Was that movement? In the thicket only ten feet from the vehicle?

Heart drumming, she squinted as ice crystals peppered her face.

Nothing.

No! Yes, something was definitely moving . . . She dropped the knife and put both hands on the pistol, training it through the shattered windshield. Another shadow.

She pulled the trigger as the image leaped.

Bam!

The bullet hit the boles of a snow-blanketed pine. Bark and chunks of ice and snow exploded.

A great buck leaped out from behind the trees and sprang up the hill, a frightened gray shadow disappearing into the whiteout.

“Oh, God,” she whispered, adrenaline spiking through her bloodstream. A deer. Only a damned deer.

She let her breath out slowly, started sawing again and had convinced herself she was overreacting when she saw something move in the fragments of her rearview mirror.

She looked again and it was gone.

Get over yourself.

One last swipe with the knife and the seatbelt released just as she felt a sharp sting against her nape.

What?

She slapped the back of her neck, felt something cold and metallic, a small missile lodged near her spine. Her heart turned to stone as she yanked a dart free.

Her insides liquified.

She nearly dropped the damned thing. Someone had shot her with what? Any kind of drug or poison could be inside the slim silver cannister with its short needle and hidden charge that forced the foreign substance into her body.

She wanted to throw up.

Don’t! Keep your wits! The bastard’s near . . .

Again there was movement in the reflective shards of what remained of the mirror–-a blurry shifting.

She blinked hard, brought up her pistol as she turned toward the window, but it was too late. Her fingers were already not responding to her brain’s commands, the images in her mind scrambled, a tingling spreading through her.

The drug . . .

Another movement in the shattered crumpled mirror.

The shotgun. She needed the shot. . .gun. . .

She tried to respond, to look for her assailant, but she was feeling numb all over. Her head lolled to one side, the pistol slipped from her fingers and the world began to spin in eerie slow motion, images becoming dim and foggy.

“No!” she said, her tongue thick as she tried and failed to find her sidearm again.

And then she saw him, his features distorted by the broken mirror, a tall figure in white, ski mask obscuring his face, huge dark goggles shielding his eyes.

She was beginning to fade, to slip beneath the surface of consciousness as he said, “Detective Pescoli,” in a warm voice that indicated he knew her. He was only a few feet away . . . if she could just aim her weapon . . . “Looks like you’ve had yourself an accident.”

She rolled her eyes up at him and with one last great effort snarled, “Go to hell.”

“Already there, Detective, but at least now I won’t be alone. You’re going to join me.”

Not if I can help it, she thought with a sudden burst of clarity. She scrabbled for her pistol, her hands sluggish as she brought it up and fired.

A series of blasts echoed through the canyon.

But the shots missed. Her aim was off.

As close as he was, she’d missed him, hitting only trees and rocks and God-knew what else.

He sighed and clucked his tongue. “You’re going to regret that.”

She wanted to squeeze off another round but her fingers refused to respond and the best she could do as he came closer was to swipe at him with her hand, her finger nails catching in his ski mask, then tearing down his skin. He let out a surprised yelp.

“You bitch!”

That’s me, jerk-wad, and I’ve got your epithelials and DNA under my fingernails. If I’m ever found, you’re as good as dead.

She noticed blood welling on his skin and he reached into some kind of pack and pulled out something . . . an apron? God, she just couldn’t focus . . . everything was so distorted . . . but she should recognize the piece of clothing dangling from his hand . . .

A straight jacket?

A chilling, mind-numbing fear sliced through her.

She realized he wasn’t going to let her die easily or quickly, he was going to keep her alive, torture her, nurture her, but inevitably kill her, just like the others.

But a straight jacket? Being bound and rendered completely helpless . . . it was as if he understood her worst, most terrifying fears.

The white blizzard swam before her eyes, his image and that of the straight jacket clouding in the swirling, dancing, icy flakes.

As she sank into unconsciousness she felt no fear; just a hard-edged determination that if she ever woke up again she was going to take this son of a bitch down. Way down. To a place so dark he would never, ever see the light again.

She only prayed she’d someday get the chance.              

Wow- Exciting doesn't begin to cover it! Get your copy today, if you haven't already!
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Excerpt : Detecting Depression in Your Teenager

by Herbert P. Goodheart M.D.

Book Excerpt : Detecting Depression in Your Teenager

It's very normal for people with severe acne to feel down and despondent; even mild acne can give them the blues. However, if your child is feeling unhappy more often and doesn't seem to enjoy his/her usual activities anymore, you need to consider the possibility that your child may be suffering from depression.

Determining if a teenager is depressed can be a very tricky undertaking. Dramatic physical and mental changes seem to take place almost overnight and it sometimes seems hard to tell the "normal" from the "abnormal."

Depression has become a more commonly recognized diagnosis in adolescents than it had been in the past. Parents should look for signs of depression in adolescents and they should be dealt with in a serious manner and not just passed off as "growing pains" or the normal consequence of adolescence. If you observe some of the signs or behaviors listed below, they may be indicators of depression, although they're not always diagnostic of teen depression, they may be a signs of other psychological, social, family, or school problems:
  • Increased fatigue, low energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, anxiety, and guilt
  • Loss of enjoyment in things that previously gave pleasure
  • Irritability, anger, or aggressiveness
  • Sleep disturbances such as staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
  • Social isolation, withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
  • Lots of new physical complaints such as headaches, stomach aches, low back pain, or excessive fatigue
  • A sudden drop in grades
  • Unusual rebellious behavior, or cutting school
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Promiscuous sexual activity
  • A preoccupation with death and dying
  • Suicidal thoughts
If one or more of these descriptions rings a bell, talk to your child's pediatrician or other health care provider. Strong suicidal thoughts are an emergency and call for immediate action. Don't go it alone!

©2009 Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D., author of Acne For Dummies

Author Bio
Herbert P. Goodheart, M.D., of New York, NY, author of Acne For Dummies, is a practicing dermatologist who also teaches at the Mount Sinai College of Medicine. He is the author of a highly regarded dermatology textbook. For more information please visit http://herbertgoodheart.com/
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Conversation with PJ Haarsma, author of the Softwire Series


How did you conceive the idea for the Rings of Orbis, and JT’s story?

When I was eleven-years-old I lived in Canada. My parents owned a cottage in a little town called Frankfurt. One Saturday afternoon I found what I believed was a dead alien. I was fascinated by what was laying at my feet, but I was interrupted by the town bully. Determined to take a souvenir with me, I tore a piece of cloth from the "thing" and ran as fast as I could. Stitched on the piece of cloth was a symbol that looked like four rings around a star. It's the same he symbol I now use for the book. As a kid I poured over that symbol and wondered where it came from. Using my imagination and the unusual symbol stitched on that piece of cloth, I constructed the entire universe of The Softwire.

New this spring was the third title in the 4-book series, The Softwire: Worm Hole Pirates on Orbis 3. How did you approach writing the series? For example, did you have an outline for the entire story arc before beginning to write? Or did the story and characters develop as you wrote each book?

I had an idea for why we exist as humans and what our role in the universe will be one day. I wanted the series to expose this idea so I alway knew where I was going. The story arc for the whole series was planned from the beginning. Each book takes the reader a little closer to this revelation and the characters had to learn about this as well. As a writer I always knew how they would react, or at least I thought I did. :)

My characters, however, definitely developed along the way, but I think my editor Sarah had a big role in this. I also became more comfortable with them as they grew older. They are close friends now. I don't know if I can let them go yet.

The alien characters on the Rings of Orbis are so vivid. Did you have any particular inspiration in creating any of them? Do you have a favorite alien character?

Not really. It was just fun to let my imagination go and create characters who's physical form added to my story telling. That's the best part of my job for sure.

I think Toll is my favorite character. He has both physical and mental strength, as well as a deep love for his friends and family that I admire. However, there is a delicious new character in book three who is quickly coming up the ranks. I don't want to say anything that might spoil it for you though.

In addition to the Softwire books, there’s an online world where fans can play the Rings of Orbis science fiction fantasy role playing game. How did the online universe develop? What aspect of the RPG have your fans been most excited about?

The game, www.ringsoforbis.com, came about when I was told that I needed a website as an author. I went out and looked at the sites of other authors and thought, why would anyone come back here? I knew my fans wouldn't, so I went looking for them online. I knew they were spending more and more time in front of their computers and I found them on sites like Gaia Online, Neopets and Facebook and realized, this is what I need! Little did I know the work involved creating such an enormous online community, but it's been extremely rewarding. The Rings of Orbis have given me such a powerful tool to connect with my readers. I think that's what the fans get most excited about. They have direct interaction with me whenever they want as I'm always online adding to the game and making it better. Fans get to hang out there between books, play games, make friends and live within The Softwire universe. It's truly unique.

Previously you had a career in photography. In what ways does your background in photography affect your writing and game development? What are your other influences, particularly in science fiction?

After spending 20 years looking through the lens of a camera you become visual by nature. I think my experiences have helped me to shape a scene within my head before committing it to paper. Also, as photography entered the digital age and I moved toward commercial production, my love of computers made it easy for me to slip into the gaming world as there were so many common tools.

What can you tell us about the final book in the series? What will you do after the Softwire series is complete?

The fourth book will expose the purpose of humans in our universe, but only if JT accepts his role. Readers will also understand Ketheria's purpose in this story – and I'm sad to say that we will have to say goodbye to another one of the kids.

***Reproduced here with permission from Candlewick Press ***
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blog Tour - Chris Evans

Readers, please join me today in welcoming Chris Evans, author of The Iron Elves series. Chris is also an editor of history and current affairs/conflicts books including the highly successful Stackpole Military History Series.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk to your readers.

Writing a book is mostly an exercise in isolation so I appreciate chances like this when I can get away from the novel for a bit and talk about the process. Did you ever read, or watch, The Shinning? I’m just saying, authorsget that way whether there’s blood in the elevator or not. I’m also an editor so I live with conflicting if ultimately symbiotic impulses of wanting to write and wanting to edit, which is great as long as you get them in the right order.

The Iron Elves series is my first so it’s been a learning experience. I’ve edited over 150 books in my career, but writing one proved to be a whole new challenge. I thought I knew what I was in for…ha! I do understand my authors a lot better now. They aren’t as crazy as I once thought.

The series is a fantasy complete with elves and dwarves, but set in a time period based in part on the Napoleonic Wars of the late 1700s and early 1800s with a good measure of inspiration from later British imperialism as well. That said, it’s not historical fantasy, but I suppose the elves pretty much give that away. It’s been called epic, and I suppose that fits considering the world does hang in the balance, but I think of it more in terms of a big adventure as seen through the eyes of a very unique regiment and its extremely conflicted commander. What fascinates me is the reactions of the characters to ever worsening events, and how they make the choices they do.

I know a lot of fantasy readers are also writers so I thought I’d also talk about some things to keep in mind as you get ready to submit your novel to a publisher or agent. As an editor for nine years I won’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot, so hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

In an age of instant access to virtually infinite amounts of information there’s no longer a reason that you can’t be well informed when you approach your first publisher or agency. This is worth repeating because as an editor I see potentially good writers make basic mistakes on an almost daily basis with the end result being a rejection letter. Speaking as an editor, I can tell you that my colleagues and I are, or believe we are, overworked, under-appreciated, convinced-of-our-genius, capricious, and generally looking for an excuse, any excuse, to reject a manuscript. Most of us are genuinely nice people, too, but we save that for after hours or for writers we actually work with. Seriously, most editors are in a perpetual state of swamped. The quickest way to put a smile on an editor’s face is to give them a reason to reject your manuscript...without reading it. Yes, without reading it. And we won't lose a wink of sleep over it either wondering if we passed up the next Harry Potter, DaVinci Code or Kite Runner. Our in boxes are full to overflowing with new manuscripts to read so there isn’t time to worry about the ones you rejected yesterday.

Does that sound harsh? Good, it’s supposed to. If you’re serious about writing, and I mean get up early, stay up late, write between loads of laundry/class/shifts kind of serious, then you need to be serious about how you approach an editor or an agent.

Personally, I will kill a manuscript in a heartbeat for any of the following:


1. To Whom It May Concern – Most editors have parents, and even legal names. Odds are no one hollers at them “Hey, Whom!” Whenever you contact a publishing house or agency find a specific person to send your query to. Names are usually published on the company website, perhaps in the catalog, phone directory, in the acknowledgements in a book, and on any number of websites dedicated to how to get published. Failure to surmount this hurdle will result in an assistant sending you a standard form rejection letter. And you can bet they’ll get your name right…on the return envelope.

2. Unprofessional emails or letters – Basic penmanship still counts for something. Avoid, like the proverbial plague, using all lower case as in 'hey dude, i just wrote this amazing book' I doubt the editors at Surfer's Monthly would accept it, let alone anyone else. Email is not an excuse for bad grammar. Before you email, however, check to see if this editor is an unrepentant Luddite and still wants submissions over the transom via the US Postal Service. Never send a complete manuscript or even a sample without first confirming that that is desired. There’s nothing an editor loves more than to see a five pound slab land on their desk with no idea why.

3. Impatience - Do you remember sitting in the back seat of the car as a child on a long trip and repeatedly asking your parents if you were there yet? Do you recall their reaction? Was it lots of hugs and candy, or various threats to pull over, turn around and/or sell you to the first band of traveling gypsies they saw? This is like that. The more you ask, the more likely it becomes the editor will reject it and breathe a sigh of relief you won't be hounding them for years to come about cover art, galleys, royalty statements and so on. See, we editors can extrapolate, and if you are this impatient now, what will you be like down the road? Going home with the gypsies, that's where.

4. Phone calls/chance meetings – Let’s say you've stalked me for two days at a convention, waiting for the perfect moment to bump into me and tell me about your amazing book. Guess what, there isn't one. No editor wants to hear a plot described to them out of the blue. Same thing with a phone call. Having said that, if you bump into me and do have a book you'd like me to consider, then say that and ask how you might submit it. That let's me tell you I'd like to see a couple of chapters and outline by email, or you can mail me your proposal, or whatever. You smile, thank me and walk away. You leave with a direct path to having your manuscript considered. I leave not feeling annoyed and possibly remembering the encounter without malice a week later when your manuscript shows up. Win-win.

5. If an editor does agree to look at your manuscript have it ready to go. Fight the urge to start shopping your book based on the first few chapters. Sure, books have been sold that way, but they are few and far between.

6. My friends/mom/dog like it - Your uncle thinks it's the greatest book he's ever read, and he reads a lot now that he's gone away for fifteen to life. Let the editor figure out how brilliant you are. Then, if you really are, he’ll take all the credit for discovering you and won’t have to share it with Uncle Norton in the county lock up.

7. Just like Kite Runner only better…and with more kites - Talk about how some aspect of a best seller inspired you, or how this or that writer engaged your sense of wonder, but don't tell an editor your book is going to be the next big thing. Let them tell you. And everyone else. They're not shy, they will.

8. Oprah - Just...don't. Please. Writing the name Oprah anywhere in a query is tantamount to admitting you suffer from a debilitating and almost certainly fatal mental illness. You will be hit by lightning, win the lottery, and solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle before Oprah chooses your book. Really.

Editors live and die by the authors they buy, so their time and energy is devoted to them. If you want to join the stable then give yourself a chance and remember that editors, according to recent studies, are people too. They have bad hair days, feel insecure, wonder how they are still single and approaching 40 ..er, well, some of them might wonder that, and seek to assuage their fears and sorrows not by looking inward toward self-improvement, but in eating chocolate and finding the next great book. So avoid annoying them, and include chocolate with every submission. Oh, and if humorous sarcasm is lost on you, don’t really send the chocolate…unless the editor asks for it.

Thanks again for giving me the chance to chat. Opportunities like these keep the squirrels of the mind at bay.

~ Chris Evans


Lovely to have you stop by, Chris and it's great reading your thoughts! Anytime you want to do it again... Also, thanks to Sarah of Pocket Books for arranging this blog to be a stop on this tour.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Giveaway - The Justice Game by Randy Singer

The Justice Game by Randy Singer
After the target of an investigative report storms a Virginia Beach television station, he kills one of the anchors before the SWAT team takes him down. Following the victim’s funeral, her family files a lawsuit against the gun company who manufactured the killer’s weapon of choice. The lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant - Kelly Starling and Jason Noble - are young, charismatic, and successful. They’re also easy blackmail targets, both harboring a personal secret so devastating it could destroy their careers. Millions of dollars - and more than a few lives - are at stake. But as Kelly and Jason battle each other, they discover that the real fight is with unseen forces intent on controlling them both.


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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader. 

To Enter
  • Visit the author's website - http://randysinger.net/. Then come back here and tell me which other book by this author you've read and enjoyed or would like to read.
  • Please list your email address within the body of your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner. (abc AT xyz DOT com)
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of August 27, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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Friday, July 24, 2009

A Conversation with Jeanne Kalogridis

About the Book
Jeanne Kalogridis is known for her powerful narrative portraits of women whose inner lives are lost to history. Now, in The Devil’s Queen (St. Martin’s Press; July 21, 2009; $24.95) she spins the tale of power and passion that was the life of Catherine de Medici, a girl from Florence who became the monarch of France.

Kalogridis weaves a rich tapestry out of Catherine’s life, from her early days of imprisonment by her family’s enemies to becoming a prodigy of mathematics and languages. It is through this lens—the sentiment that a mother will do anything for her family—that Kalogridis explains the pull of the dark magic that led one determined woman to fight for her family’s survival at the expense of great bloodshed.

How did you come up with the idea to write The Devil’s Queen?  Why were you inspired to choose Catherine de Medici as your heroine?

I read a wonderful biography of Catherine by Leonie Frieda; it portrayed Catherine as unfairly blamed for the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.  The more I learned about Catherine, the more fascinated I was by her.  She survived a horrific childhood to become a brilliant mathematician, diplomat and political strategist, and has been called the most intelligent individual ever to sit upon the French throne.  At the same time, she was inordinately fascinated by astrology and magic, and took no action without consulting her court astrologers.  Yet despite her political brilliance and magical talismans, she was unable to avert one of the bloodiest catastrophes France has ever known.

She was also tragically devoted to her husband and her sons, and the premise of THE DEVIL’S QUEEN is that her obsessive love for them eventually led to the Massacre.

How did you research this novel, making it come alive?

I wish I could say that I had the time and means to go to Florence, Catherine’s birthplace, and to France in order to see all the places Catherine lived and visited; however, I relied on the magic of the internet and some sixty-odd books for my information.  I was lucky enough to come across a gentleman who had seen one of Catherine’s talisman rings and provided me with an illustration.  Happily, the Italians and the French revere their history and have provided the public with countless websites that allowed me to virtually tour Catherine’s birthplace and many palaces.

What was one of the biggest challenges in writing The Devil’s Queen?

Catherine lived almost seventy eventful years.  I could easily have given her a trilogy – but I wanted to present the most turbulent periods of her life in a single volume.  Artistically, it was an enormous challenge, and in fact, my first draft ran almost a thousand pages.  I pared it down to just under seven hundred without losing anything I truly wanted to convey to the reader.

Why did you decide to tinker with some historical facts, such as the number of children Catherine had?

See the above answer:  There simply wasn’t room to deal with all of them in a single novel.  Catherine had ten children; I managed to include eight of them.  I intentionally left out her youngest son, the ironically named hunchback, Hercules, because of his complicated conflicts with his brothers.  Hercules would have added another three hundred pages to the novel, and his story would have distracted the reader from Catherine’s.  It seemed just to sacrifice a child or two in order to do Catherine justice.

How did you come up with the spells and ceremonies that Cosimo Ruggieri did for Catherine?  Tell me more about the element of magic in the The Devil’s Queen.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve done a great deal of reading about Renaissance magic; it’s one of my lifelong passions.  I’ve collected the books that Catherine would have studied – and so, when I speak of a particular spell or ceremony in the book, it’s portrayed the way a Renaissance magician would have accomplished it.  The talismans and their preparations, the simple casting of a circle, the evocation of spirits – all are based on the same grimoires and techniques that the magician Ruggieri would have used.

Catherine was an accomplished astrologer, and so I delved deeply into the world of Renaissance astrology.  One of the most fascinating things I learned while writing the book – a fact that Catherine certainly knew – concerned the position of the “evil” star Algol during the hour the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre began.  The rising of Algol supposedly augurs widespread bloody violence; the ancient Chinese called the star “Heaped-Up Corpses.”  The very hour of the massacre, Algol rose and made a negative aspect with Mars, the planet of war.

What do you personally think of Catherine de Medici, as a woman, a mother, and a queen?  What did you tinker with when developing her as a character in your novel?


First, let’s talk about Catherine as a human being; she was nothing less than amazing.  She was born a mathematical prodigy, was quick to learn languages, and was brilliant at politics; had she been born male, she would undoubtedly have been put in the same class as her ancestor Lorenzo the Magnificent.  She was also an innovator:  She invented the side-saddle and high heels (she was very short, and her husband very tall), and brought the fork and women’s underwear (pantaloons) to France.

As a woman, Catherine was fearless.  Although she receded from the limelight while her husband the King was alive, the instant he died, she came forward and took charge in order to protect the rights of her sickly, feeble-minded sons to the throne.  Under French law, a woman could not take the throne – but she could serve as regent until her son was old enough to serve.  Catherine used that right in order to gain full control of the French monarchy, and her sons – except for Edouard – were too inept to wrest that power from her.

As for tinkering with her character:  I thought long and hard about the fact that, after she married Henri (who would later become King), she remained childless for a full decade.  That fact brought her very close to being repudiated and sent away; her father-in-law, King Francois, was seriously considering marrying Henri off to another young woman.  Catherine was terrified, and resorted to desperate measures – including magical ones – to conceive.  After ten years, she finally conceived…and then proceeded to have ten children in twelve years.  I took that fact and – given Catherine’s fascination with magic and astrology – ran with it.  Her desperate attempts to conceive form the heart of my story.

What do you think of the role of men in The Devil’s Queen?  Are they pawns of the women, or do they have the real control, or is it more complicated than that?

It’s complicated.  If the men seem eclipsed by Catherine in this novel, it’s only because she outshone them as an individual.  Her husband was in thrall to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and was easily manipulated by her; he was a decent king, but hardly exceptional and certainly not Catherine’s intellectual match.  Catherine’s sons were all sickly, spoiled, and emotionally unstable; only one of them (Edouard) inherited some of his mother’s intelligence.

However, Catherine faced some formidable male foes who were every bit as strong and determined as she was.  I hope I did them justice.

** Reprinted here with permission from St.Martins **

For more information, visit http://www.jeannekalogridis.com/
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Interview with Author Lynne Griffin

Life Without Summer by Lynne Griffin (St. Martin’s Press; 0-312-38388-6; $23.95), is a stunning debut novel about family, forgiveness, and finding hope when surrounded by grief. This is the kind of smart, well-written women’s fiction that tugs at the heartstrings, much as works by Jodi Picoult, Lolly Winston, and Jacqueline Mitchard do.

Life Without Summer tells the story of Tessa, a mother who has just lost her four-year-old daughter in a hit-and-run accident and the grief counselor, Celia, who tries to help her to put her life back together. When their lives begin to intersect in powerful and unexpected ways, they discover that the answers one needs might be the other’s only chance for peace. Each woman’s intensely personal journey reverberates with universal themes about the connections between love, marriage, truth, and forgiveness that no reader will forget.

Q: Why did you choose to explore the impact of losing a child on mothers in a fictional account, rather than in a self-help book?

A: I believe grief work can be done in healthy ways. Early in my career, I knew I’d eventually write a book about different types of loss, though I thought it would be nonfiction. Then this story came to me, one where two women had stories that echoed the others’. Many women turn to self-help books, and for them, there are a lot of wonderful resources available. Yet some women look for solace in relating to fictional characters, ones who give voice to how they feel; who allow them to escape from their own pain and at the same time still feel connected. I’ve always sought out reading fiction for that purpose, and I guess I wanted to explore this type of loss without being prescriptive. With something as deeply personal as losing a child, I wanted to write my way to the heart of the experience. I believe Life Without Summer captures the authentic experience of grief, both the universal and personal aspects of it.

Q: Your characters take very different paths in managing their unique losses. Is there any right way to handle the aftermath of the death of a child?

A: There are many right ways to grieve a loss. Some parents take comfort in talking out their feelings, while others prefer being solitudinal. Many lean on pre-established communities, faith-based and civic, while some choose to stick with close knit groups of family and friends for support. There are many healthy things parents can do to celebrate their child’s life, like honor their child with a memorial or some type of commemorative activity. So yes, there are right ways to handle loss, and there are some wrong ways too. Any time someone turns to substances like alcohol or drugs to cope, as one character does in Life Without Summer, it’s a recipe for disaster. Those things may numb the pain in the short run, but create so many more issues in the long run. Personal relationships suffer and depression is more likely to occur with the frequent and excessive use of substances.

Q: Why do some parents seek help from professionals while others do not? Does our society give mothers and fathers mixed messages about how to handle the death of a child?

A: It’s been my experience that parents who seek out counseling after a loss respect that it may well be bigger than their ability to cope with it, as Tessa does in the novel. They don’t judge themselves harshly in the face of something so tragic. And those who don’t seek it are often so immobilized by their grief that they are unable to take that first step toward finding the right support, as Celia does in the novel. It’s also been my experience that fathers get strong messages to get on with things pretty early in bereavement. For example, they’re encouraged to go back to work fairly soon after the loss. Our society still gives men messages to tough things out. In Life Without Summer, I examine men’s and women’s grief. It was important to me to get the very real differences and biases out there. Without being heavy handed, I wanted my readers to consider the fairness of the double standard.

Q: What impact does losing a child have on the stability of a marriage? How do most woman and men handle their different approaches to coping? What should they do?

A: Since men and women do grieve differently, with men tending toward private reflections or burying their pain and women tending toward moving through grief in relationship with others, it adds another dimension to grief work. Moving beyond stereotypes, I believe each person will handle the loss of a child differently. Unfortunately the statistics show that many marriages won’t survive child loss; the divorce rate is high after parents lose a child. I think the differences in the way men and women cope is one factor. I think the state of the marriage before the loss has a lot to do with it, too. The marriages I highlight in Life Without Summer are fairly typical of many couples’ experience following the death of a child. Some try to talk and find they argue, some feel misunderstood and then withdraw; these are commonplace scenarios when couples are under extreme stress.

Q: Your main characters share their experiences by writing in journals. Why did you choose this method of story telling? What’s the therapeutic benefit of journaling after experiencing a loss?

A: Writing in journals has its roots in cognitive-behavioral counseling. When a counselor wants to encourage internal reflection, he or she often recommends writing down thoughts, feelings, and actions. It gives the person journaling an outlet for intense emotion, and it gives them a chance to reflect later, on growth over time. I love to journal, and I’ve used it a great deal in my work with families, so I wasn’t surprised that this was the way the story came to me. I choose it because it allowed me to give readers a very personal and up close account of the grief experience, from not one, but two different woman’s point of view.

Q: Does having another child help or hinder the grieving process for a mother who’s lost a child?

A: It depends on where a mother is in the grief process. Is she moving through her deep emotions with support, choosing to face the feelings that are surfacing during pregnancy and those that will after delivery? If she’s depressed on the outset, this can affect how she cares for herself during pregnancy; it can interfere with infant bonding. An anxious mother can have difficulty caring for a newborn, if she fears she’ll lose another child. And yet welcoming a new child into a family can have a tremendous healing effect. It can be the very thing that helps a parent move through the grief process. While having another child can bring great happiness into the lives of parents, women and men should not see this as a substitute for working out the feelings associated with the child they lost due to illness or tragedy.

** Posted with permission from St.Martins **
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Author Guest Post - Sarah Bird

Today, Sarah Bird, author of 'How Perfect is That' is graciously guest-blogging here. 
Welcome, Sarah!
Hello, welcome to my deflowering. This is, literally, the first time I have ever blogged. I’m not totally sure of the conventions, so how about if I just free-associate madly?

**IF** I were like my scoundrel of a heroine, Blythe Young, I’d be popping some mood-stabilizers right now to calm myself down. Even without chemical amendment, however, this is a fascinating experience for me, to be able to talk about a book that was published a year ago. In that year, I’ve read all the reviews, (I am definitely not one of those lofty writers who can hold themselves above the fray and ignore reviews), and had lots and lots of discussions about “How Perfect Is That.”

The one piece of the reaction to this book that is utterly different from any of my others is how stunningly polarized it is. More than anything else I have ever written, “How Perfect” seems to be a love it or hate it read. This came across very dramatically for me in following the reviews on Amazon. Until yesterday, I had no, none, zero, four -or three-star reviews. All fives, twos and ones. Oh, reading those one and two starrers, I did wish I were an above-the-fray author who never bothered herself about such matters.

This dramatic lack of middle ground has led me to two conclusions: One, if a book is foisted upon a reader as a “comic novel,” if the foisterer promises that this will book will make you lose bladder control, and if the reader then does not find the book to be a laugh riot, that reader will be irritated. Novels that are held out to be comic--unlike thrillers, romance, or even general mid-list literary fiction--don’t miss by inches. They either synch up with a reader’s sensibilities, what he or she thinks is funny, and are a dead-on hit or they don’t work at all.

Second conclusion: It can be a challenge to read about a character who makes moral choices that you, the reader, wouldn’t. My “heroine,” Blythe Young is a user and an abuser. A striver and a conniver. A climber and whatever rhymes with –imer. Bad two-timer? Annoying street-mimer? All right, not the last two, but she is a scoundrel. The big question hanging over the book is, “Can she be redeemed?” The bigger question that I was addressing was, “Can she be really funny in the process?”

A few months ago, when I needed to make myself feel confused and depressed, I did a bit of self-Googling. A series of random links led me to a site that proposed that my first novel, published in 1986, “Alamo House: Women Without Men, Men Without Brains,” was the first chick lit book ever. Who knows? Though someday it might be remarked that “How Perfect Is That” was the first in another line: Bitch Lit.

Now that was entertaining, wasn't it, Readers? Certainly didn't feel like your "blogging deflowering", Sarah :) You're most welcome to come back here again, anytime! In the meantime, you can visit Sarah at her website - http://www.sarahbirdbooks.com

Readers, your thoughts and comments are most welcome, as always.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Interactive Book-Webscene - Review and Giveaway

Books are my passion and as such reading with my kids is something I love to do! I was recently offered an opportunity to review a different kind of book. It claimed to be : "...a new way to ignite their imaginations and teach them about their world… a new way that engages them so completely that they can’t wait to go back to it again and again". Now that had me intrigued!

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You see, the Interactive Book-Webscene (IBW) titles are more than just books. They use a new storytelling process that combines a print book with the interactivity of multimedia components. Here's how it works: At the end of each chapter, the reader is directed to a specific link on a website associated with the book. Here, the reader views a webscene. Webscenes contain 2D and 3D animations. Each webscene is essential to the storytelling. After viewing the webscene, the reader returns to the book to read another chapter, after which are instructions to view another webscene, and so on. Each book contains 6-10 webscenes.

With kids becoming more and more web-savvy with each passing day, this is a great way to get kids reading in a way that's at once traditional and digital. Thus IBW books combine the best of both worlds. They also have extensive educational value – teaching and supporting school readiness, reading readiness, and beginning reading (i.e. inclusive of children ages 2-8 years). Their series includes :
  • The Busy Preschooler's Guide to Learning, which teaches 105 learning skills, including reading readiness, listening and sequencing, motor skills, and social-emotional development.
  • KA Readers entertain beginning readers with word-pattern-based storylines that build upon phonics-based reading instruction. English and Spanish text, along with ESL lessons and activities, support English Language Learners in development of vocabulary and comprehension. This may especially be of interest to Homeschoolers or those who're considering home-schooling their kids.
  • Earth Academy 7 storylines follow the adventures of three space-alien exchange students as they attend school on Earth. Every book is new exploration of Earth's science and history from a space alien point of view!
  • The Ghost Hunter follows two teenagers as they solve the mysteries haunting the dead. Seeing ghosts is the easy part. Seeing the world from the perspective of the long departed is a bit more challenging.
Lastly, considering the current economy, if you're looking for new opportunities to improve your financial situation, then you may consider becoming an IBW bookseller. For more info on all the IBW series as well as to purchase books, please visit www.IBW-Books.com and www.IBW-Booksellers.com

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

Winner gets a choice of one of two IBW prizes : The Busy Preschooler's Guide to Learning or Three KA Readers.


To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : why you'd like to win this prize?
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of August 24, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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Monday, July 20, 2009

The Devil’s Queen Mini e-book

Jeanne Kalogridis' The Devil’s Queen, which tells the story of one of history’s most intriguing female figures Catherine de Medici, will be releasing July 21st. In anticipation, St.Martins has come out with a mini ebook. You'll find it below. Enjoy!


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Author Guest Post - Bridget McNulty

Today I'm pleased to welcome  
Bridget McNulty, author of Strange Nervous Laughter 
as a guest blogger.

*****  ******  ***** 

An overflowing book...

It's interesting, having your first novel published. Strange Nervous Laughter was published here in South Africa in 2007, but it only came out in the USA last month, so I'm getting to relive the whole debut novel excitement all over again (I love it!) Still, it's interesting the questions you get asked... One of the most common of which is, "So when's your next book coming out?"

It's flattering, of course, because it means that there are people out there who enjoyed the first book enough to want to read another one. But it's also ever-so-slightly stressful. Because, despite common law stating that you should have written a second book within two years of publishing the first, that's not always the best route to follow... At least, I don't think it is.

For me, I feel as if I poured 25 years of living, and loving, and thinking into Strange Nervous Laughter, 25 years of formulating ideas and coming up with theories about love, and why Only Great Love Will Do. And if I tried to dash off another novel in the next year or two, just because that's what is expected of me, it wouldn't be a very full, or meaningful book. It wouldn't be overflowing with carefully thought-out ideas and rich metaphors and deep life lessons. It wouldn't change anyone's life.

And despite any opinions to the contrary, that's what I'm looking for in a book: a little bit of life-changing. I have no time for mediocre reads, or pleasant but not deeply satisfying books. When I read I want something that will forever alter the way I look at life in some small way... And when I write, I want to write that kind of book.


Bio: Bridget McNulty is a passionate writer inspired by why people act the way they do. With a Creative Writing degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she now works as a freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa, and spends her days reading, writing, and drinking tea in her hammock (which is a lot trickier than it sounds!) Her first novel, Strange Nervous Laughter, was published in South Africa in 2007 and in the USA in May 2009.

To find out more about Bridget McNulty, Strange Nervous Laughter, and Only Great Love Will Do, visit www.bridgetmcnulty.com. Watch the book trailer (a little something called The Lonely Cupcake) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMI7B1f80Lw Or listen to the podcasts introducing the six characters on her website or iTunes.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Blog Tour - Cafe Tempest

Today I'm pleased to welcome Barbara Bonfigli, author of Café Tempest. Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy http://virtualblogtour.blogspot.com.

I began writing ”Café Tempest: Adventures on a Small Greek Island” while I was living in London producing theater. I'd written before -- actually, I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing. I started with crayons on pretty much any available surface, then I moved on to things like the end of semester skit, the high school newspaper, term papers for friends, ads for the plays I was producing, and writing lyrics for musicals. Lyrics were the most fun. Not just writing them, but sitting in the theater day after night after day during rehearsals cutting, shaping, fitting the music into the show.

I happen to be a Pisces, with restless fins. Whenever I didn't have a play in production, I traveled. It was the high fashion maven Diana Vreeland who said the best thing about living in London is Paris. It's true. You can get from there to everywhere else in Europe in less than a day. I explored the mountains of Andorra, the coasts of France, Spain and Italy, the Rhine Valley, Vienna (for the pastries), the vineyards of Portugal, the unbearably beautiful peaceful hills and meadows of Cornwall, Scotland, and Southern Ireland. But when I stepped off a ferry on the western Greek island of Corfu, I knew I'd found my native land.

I've been exploring it ever since, and finally built a house on a Greek ruin, where I spend a few months each year. Greece -- its stunning countryside, its food, its music, its fiercely life loving people are the ingredients of my story. The characters are imaginary portraits of my neighbors.

The plot revolves around an American theater producer who, while getting over a love affair, decamps to a very small island, where she's asked to direct the islanders in their annual summer play. What follows is a hilarious adventure that becomes a feast in four acts. Along the way there's a love affair that leads the protagonist to unwrap her deepest self. Ouzo, retsina, baklava and the island cats all have bit parts. I was sorry to bring down the curtain on opening night. Greece and the theater - what else could I write about with such love and enthusiasm?

~ BB

Thank you for that entertaining post, dear Author! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome. Thanks for making  A Book Blogger's Diary one of the tour stops!

To learn about Barbara Bonfigli and Café Tempest, feel free to visit any of these sites.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author Guest Post - Sophie Uliano

Readers, please join me welcoming Author Sophie Uliano who will be guest blogging here today!

384 p, Dutton Adult, ISBN-13: 978-0525951155
I am passionate about cooking and eating – especially eating! It’s always fascinated me how the food we eat can either have a positive or a devastating effect on our bodies and our planet. The way we eat has a tremendously powerful impact and that’s why I wanted to write The Gorgeously Green Diet – How to live lean & green. I’m a great believer that we don’t have to deny ourselves the foods we love in order to be slim, healthy and happy. On the contrary, I’m all for celebrating the joy of wonderful food. However, we need to know what to eat and to realize that much of the food that is easily available an affordable in the U.S. is not good quality. We are at the mercy of a massive food industry that is not particularly concerned with our health and happiness.

I also wanted to write this book so that this way of eating would be accessible to absolutely everyone. I don’t think you should have to be part of the Prius driving/Whole Foods shopping crowd to be able to enjoy decent food. Many health food stores can be off-putting in this economy because they are over-priced. It became my mission to show how healthy and delicious food could workable in any and every household. To that end, I designed a “Shades of Green” customized eating plan. The reader gets to pick the shade of green that best suits their lifestyle. If you are used to eating a lot of convenience foods and have little access to a farmer’s market or health food store, you may want to make a few tiny steps in the right direction with the Light Green Eating Plan. If you are a bit further down the road – already eating pretty healthily, you may want to go for the Bright Green Eating Plan and if you’re a full-on Green girl who is perhaps vegetarian or vegan, you would pick the Deep Green Plan. Each plan is a 30-day eating plan, which aims to tickle your taste buds and lesson your eco-impact. This diet is a win/win situation.

I also encourage my readers to get back into the kitchen. Cooking from scratch can be easy and fun and allows us to have total control of what we put into our body. It also saves a great deal of money. I include over 100 easy green recipes in the book and when I say easy, most of them should take no more than 20 minutes to prepare. I also show the reader how to get organized with their shopping habits as organization is the key to ease and minimizes wasted time and money.

My mother was my greatest inspiration as she taught me to cook, to garden, to compost and to use every little scrap of food – nothing was wasted when I was growing up. Many of these lessons are great gifts that I hope to pass on to my daughter too. At the age of seven, she stands on a stool beside me and is learning to make pastry, béchamel sauce and soufflés. Things that seem overwhelming to many adults are just plain fun to a little kid. She delights in seeing how a few raw ingredients can be transformed into a magical dish.

With The Gorgeously Green Diet, I encourage a family meal. I don’t think as women we should need to go out and buy or prepare expensive “diet” meals. I also think that delighting in whole, minimally processed foods gives an excellent message to our children about food – that it is precious, nourishing and honestly, one of the greatest pleasures in life. Low quality, low-fat foods actually can wind up making us fat and sick, whereas eating foods that are as nature intended them to be can heal our bodies and our planet.

I would love to hear some of the ways that you are managing to keep your diet healthy and green, even in this economic downturn.

Thank you for that entertaining post, dear Author! Readers, your thoughts / comments are most welcome.

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