Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens by Katie Cash (VNBtM, guest post, excerpt and GIVEAWAY) GFT

I am delighted to share a guest post by author Katie Cash (thank you, Katie, and your family, for your service and sacrifice) as she answers the question...

What would you share with readers about writing that might surprise them?

KC:  One thing that I find still surprises me as I write is that writing is actually quite similar to reading in many ways. When I write, I often approach my projects with well-laid-out outlines and objectives to meet for each chapter. But I find that as I write, I envision the scenes in my mind and the characters seem to dictate the story for me! All my plans go out the window and the characters take over the telling, as though I am just the instrument through which the characters are telling their story. People always seem to find it intriguing to find out that I am often surprised as I write; that I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen when I begin each writing session. I guess it’s pretty comical, but it is also what keeps writing so thrilling! I feel the same intrigue and excitement as I write that I do when I’m engrossed in a particularly good book. I want to keep going to find out where the story will go… because even as the author, I usually don’t quite know what’s going to happen, even when I think I know!

Another part of writing that I think is fairly interesting and would surprise many readers is the amount of research that is required to author a compelling story—no matter what the genre! Even my young adult fantasy novels require hours of random, “useless fact” research. I’ve researched things as unrelated as cities in rural Switzerland, the various shades of brown eyes, how coffee beans are made (from the harvest of berries, to pulping, to drying and roasting), and the origin of many different types of names. The naming of characters is an elaborate process for me. First, I try to find several unique and interesting names that I feel suit the character’s personality. Next, I research the meaning and origin of the names in contention, and in the process usually discover new names that trump my original ideas. When I’ve finally decided on a first and last name combination that seems to suit the character, I research it to make sure no one has used that exact combination before in previous works—whether books or movies—and that there isn’t some famous person living in Romania or Uzbekistan with that exact same name. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it to produce amusing, unique names that actually have meaning and aren’t just randomly chosen for my characters.


by Katie Cash


GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy



A teenage girl in future North America discovers that she is heir to a magical map which transports her to another world called Praxis, where her position as Mapkeeper is held in high regard. She is expected to learn to use the map’s magic to help the creatures of Praxis defend their homeland against the dark magic of the Wardens, a group of ancient beings whose magic is stirring again after centuries of peace.



“So… why you?” Luke’s question jerked her back into the moment.

“I have no idea! Apparently the map chooses its keeper. See?” She pointed to her name at the bottom right corner of the map. Her brothers seemed suspicious, but impressed. “They said the previous Mapkeeper held the position for over fifteen years! But I can’t figure out what I did to be chosen…” She trailed off. She felt as though the past day were nothing but a dream, unable to wrap her head around the possibility that this was real. She rubbed her forehead—it was all beginning to give her a pounding headache.

“So what does the Mapkeeper do, anyway?” Mack leaned in to get a closer look.

“I’m supposed to try to figure out how to read signs the map puts out; how to make the map work for me. If the people of the other world, called Praxis, need help, I guess somehow the map lets me know. And then I’m supposed to be able to use the map as a portal and do whatever they need me to. I don’t know—it’s as confusing to me as it is to you. I don’t even know if I believe it’s real. It’s crazy, right? It can’t be real.”

“I don’t like that Mr. Quincy is involved.” Luke voiced what they were all thinking. “We should tell Dad. This is all so strange.”

“Please, don’t tell anyone else!” Lucy interjected, a chill of fear creeping up her spine. “I’m not supposed to tell anyone at all, so I’m trusting you both not to tell anyone. Mr. Quincy said if I lose his trust he’ll move me to the Capital!” A knot formed in her stomach.

“Don’t worry Lucy, I won’t tell a soul.” Luke met her gaze.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Katie Cash is an active duty military officer who lives in San Diego with her husband and their cat. She enjoys running, surfing, competing in triathlons, and, of course, writing. She also hosts an annual badminton tournament, rides a 150cc Vespa scooter, and plays the cello. She can most often be found exploring new running trails, at the beach, hunkered down writing in a coffee shop, or sampling a new local craft beer at one of San Diego’s many craft breweries.



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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Devil Wore Sneakers by Nora LeDuc (excerpt, review and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Nora LeDuc


GENRE: Romantic Suspense, mystery



Love and Mystery in the 6-oh-3 – Book 2
Who shot Lucy Watson’s estranged brother, the popular high school teacher who brought snacks for the staff and volunteered to help troubled students? When Lucy Watson returns to her hometown in New Hampshire to bury her brother, she learns law enforcement is looking into several suspects. But soon the search for the killer grows intensely personal for Lucy. The police discover a fierce argument occurred the day of the murder between Lucy’s brother and his best friend Liam McAllister, Lucy’s first love. The cops shift their focus to Liam. Determined to get justice, Lucy becomes involved in the mystery and must choose to put her faith in Liam one last time, or face the truth; she is in love with her brother’s murderer.

When former bad boy Liam McAllister runs into Lucy Watson, he feels the familiar hunger and tug of attraction that they once shared. Since their breakup five years ago, he’s regretted ending their relationship and dreams of winning her back. Now is his chance. He invites her to his bar and grill to show he’s a reformed, self-made businessman. But his plan comes apart. The bank threatens foreclosure on his establishment, and he falls under suspicion for the death of his pal and Lucy’s brother. Liam struggles to overcome his personal challenges while proving he’s changed. Can he convince Lucy to trust him, or is it too late for a second shot at love?



“We’re also investigating Liam McAllister.”

“Liam?” A knot formed in her stomach.

The chief eyed her with interest. “Surprised? How many years since you’ve seen him?”

“Five.” She forced herself to relax her fisted hands. “He wouldn’t shoot Ryan. They were friends. Even if that changed, I know Liam’s not a killer.”

“A witness who doesn’t want to be named reported them arguing near the Mad Moose bar and believed they would come to blows. Your brother died later that night.”

Strange. “What did they quarrel about?”

“We’re looking into the squabble. Any ideas?”

“Me? No.” The chief had nothing. Her head hurt, but his last accusation irritated her more than her headache. “One fight doesn’t mean Liam would shoot my brother.”

“You were engaged to McAllister once, right?”

She went still at the familiar ache inside her. She couldn’t explain what she felt when her relationship with Liam came up. Was it anger, regret, or pain over the wasted four years of dating? Maybe it was the way he’d broken up with her.

Liam had ended their relationship on the day she’d expected a proposal. Then he’d gone off to party all night. Yes, that was the problem. No matter how hard she tried to forget, their last evening together was seared into her memory.

 “Investigate him. I understand.” She grabbed the handle of her suitcase, ready to leave and end this painful conversation.



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Nora grew up in rural New Hampshire, picking blueberries in her backyard and wandering the woods with her brothers. Now that she’s older, she still lives in rural New Hampshire and enjoys writing stories. She was first published in 2000 and has written historical romances, contemporary romance, romantic suspense and mystery. She is a co-founder of the New Hampshire Romance Writers chapter, which meets monthly at the Bow Library. Here she enjoys great speakers and the company of fabulous authors.

When not writing, Nora spends time with her family, sews quilts, gardens and takes road trips to anywhere fun.

Links for Nora LeDuc



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My review

4 stars

The Devil Wore Sneakers by Nora LeDuc is part of the ‘Love and Mystery in the 6-oh-3’ series and centers around Lucy Watson’s search for her estranged brother’s murderer.  Actively involved in her investigation is her former love, Liam McAllister, who is struggling to cope with his sense of personal and professional obligations to her as well as the suspicions of the local police.  Added to the mix is a dangerous stalker determined to finish what he started, making danger escalate for Lucy and those around her.

This story is an entertaining mystery with several delightful twists and turns.  There are quite a few suspenseful threads, a flame that still burns between the main characters and acts as a nice catalyst for the story, and multiple secondary characters who complicate the investigation. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the various folks who seem to pop in and out of the story with no apparent purpose and I suspect that part of the problem is that this is part of a series, so there are interconnections that are not necessarily absolutely required for this particular story but would be nice to have, especially since there is a thread that is woven through and is still dangling by the end.  It would be nice to have a little more insight into the characters, but I enjoyed being surprised by the ending and recommend this story to those who like romantic suspense stories with a small town component and flawed main characters who can learn from their past mistakes.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Between a Vamp and a Hard Place (spotlight and review) ADULT title

This is an ADULT title

Between a Vamp and a Hard Place (Pocket Books; December 29, 2015; $7.99) by Jessica Sims, a sexy paranormal romance in the wickedly funny spirit of bestselling authors Kerrelyn Sparks and Molly Harper which features an estate broker and a 600-year-old vampire out for revenge
Lindsey Hughes loves antiques and couldn’t be happier to make a living in the estate sale business. Hughes loves antiques and couldn’t be happier to make a living in the estate sale business. But when her assistant accidentally buys an entire estate without her approval, Lindsey is forced to clean up the mess herself.

Lindsey travels to the newly purchased, age-old house in Venice, Italy, and soon discovers more than she (never) bargained for. While digging through the hoarder’s trove that fills every floor, she finds a secret staircase behind a wall that leads to a strange coffin…with an even stranger inhabitant.

Vampire Rand FitzWulf has been in his coffin for 600 years. But now that he’s awake, he’s ravenous, and there’s a delicious-smelling woman with a rare blood type in his basement. Luckily, Lindsey has more to offer than blood: she agrees to travel throughout Europe with Rand to help him get revenge on the one who turned him. But as the unlikely pair grows closer, will the billionaire vampire be overtaken by his thirst for blood—or his thirst for love?
(note from ELF:  There are a few inconsistencies in the blurb, and I read a note from the author that said she had tried to correct it, to no, Rand is not a billionaire vampire, the estate is in an apartment...but there is indeed a basement, lol)


My review:

4.25 out of 5 stars

Between a Vamp and a Hard Place by Jessica Sims (aka Jessica Clare/Jill Myles) is a paranormal romance that spotlights the adventures of Lindsey Hughes, a struggling antique dealer whose partner gambles their future on an estate of hoarded material in…Venice!  There are plenty of unexpected obstacles encountered, not least of which is a vampire named Sir Rand FitzWulf, who is not only fascinated by Lindsey’s very rare blood, but also expects her to aid him in his quest to find his comrades-in-arms, despite her protests.  Unfortunately, the search is not without its dangers and Lindsey may wind up losing not only her heart but her life.

This imaginative story combines intriguing facts with a fun tweak on traditional lore about vampires.  The exotic locale, unexpected discoveries, and comfortable and snarky relationship between Lindsey and her BFF Gemma all combine in an entertaining read that sneaks in a few history lessons along the way.  The sensual connection between Lindsey and Rand provides plenty of sizzle while the danger that escalates over the course of the tale provides highs and lows for Lindsey’s professional and personal future.  I love the combination of humor and paranormal elements, and, even though I typically don’t like time-travel complications, I was fascinated by the glimpse of history through Rand’s eyes.  The quirky way Gemma redeems herself is a perfect twist and I hope to see her have her own time in the spotlight.  This was a fun tongue-in-cheek story and I look forward to many more!

A copy of this title was provided to me for review.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Big Fat Mermaid by Dweezel and Pallie (VBB, excerpt and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Dweezel and Pallie


GENRE: Middle Grade Fractured fairy tales



She's nasty, she's gross, and she's anything but little. All Aria the mermaid princess wants is to stuff her face full of food, but what happens when her dad, the king, tries to stop her? The answer: laughs beyond belief! Watch as Aria deals with her mean dad, a chubby-chasing prince, a harpoon wielding sea captain, and, in a grand final battle, the monstrous water witch herself.

Aria will bite, belch, and fart her way into your heart in this second installment of the Funny Stories for Kids series, brought to you by the famed Dweezel and Pallie.




Look at my stash, see all the treats?

See all the cupcakes and pickled pigs feet?

You can see I'm a mermaid

who wants to eat... everything!

I eat every second I'm waking

I'm so fat that I'm breaking the floor

Double chins?

I got twenty!

But so what?

I don't care!

I want more!

I need to eat what the humans eat

I'd like to eat when the food is still dry

I want to eat some fresh...

Uggh... beef!

Down in the brine the food tastes so bad,

when all you're allowed is some seaweed to live by,

None of that stuff that's so salty and...

mmm mmm mmm... Sweet!

What do I care

if all the laws

say we have to stay hidden?

And what do I care

if eating of meat

is strictly forbidden?

I'm addicted to food

but it tastes so good

so I don't give a single crum about rules;

want more yummies, dipped in honey,

no one to intrude.

Off by the ships

I get just get what drips

off of the sides, or they throw in barrels.

No primo stuff like

fresh dip and…

uggh... chips!

I want to munch,

I want to brunch,

I want to eat the thing they call lunch!

Sweets and the meats...

I need to eat

all of that food.

Amazon link

To download The Big Fat Mermaid visit:




AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Dr. Dweezel and Professor Pallie have become famed in their respective fields for outstanding contributions. For nearly a decade they have collaborated on the recording of lost ancient texts and tales.



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Stranger Than Fiction by Emelle Gamble (Excerpt, review and GIVEAWAY) GFT

by Emelle Gamble


GENRE:  Romantic Suspense



Set in New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island in 1990, meet Claire Kennedy, successful mystery book editor at Cauldron Press. Her most famous client, the reclusive Sarah Winesong, has written her first new novel in five years, and Claire is ready to break out the champagne!

And then, in walks Tony Nichols. He’s gorgeous, angry and full of accusations that start with “Cauldron Press stole my book” and end with “Sarah Winesong is a fraud”.

This contemporary cozy mystery has a stellar cast of would-be villains and one real one who will stop at nothing to eliminate his nefarious scheme from coming to light, including stalk and try to kill Claire and Tony!



Tony had not shown up to get her at the inn, nor had he called with a message. She had checked the inn not more than a half hour ago. Was his lack of punctuality further proof of his criminal makeup, she wondered?

Her determination not to be manipulated propelled her up the stairway to the second floor. The lighted hallway was empty of any security guards, secretaries or students to direct her. Turning away from the stairs, Claire walked toward a closed office with English Department stenciled on the frosted glass and knocked.

There was no answer. A lectern stood next to the door, and .the black notebook on it listed the instructor’s office hours. Turning hastily to the Ns, Claire found the entry.

 Nichols, A.A. (Tony), Assoc Prof, Creative Writing #319.

The space for appointments was crossed through with a large black X.

She ought to just go see Sarah Winesong, Claire thought as she hurried down the hall. If Mr. Harrison and Tillie had not babied the author all these years, Cauldron Press might not have been in this predicament. And she would not be chasing around after Tony Nichols.

Claire took the stairs up to the third floor, pausing out of breath on the landing. A black arrow with the numbers 311-321 led her to the left.

That hall was dark, the only illumination coming from the gray sky visible through a single window at the far end of the corridor. All the offices appeared locked and unoccupied.

There was no lettering on the frosted glass of room 319 other than its number, and the small metal nameplate holder above it was empty. Claire’s stomach churned. She rapped loudly and waited.

Nothing. “Tony? Are you in there? It’s Claire.”

Her inquiry was met with silence. Rubbing one hand with the other, Claire looked around. Though everything was silent, she had the feeling that someone was nearby. Gingerly she put her hand on the brass doorknob and turned it. It opened easily, into almost complete darkness.


The instant she spoke his name, the shrill cry of the telephone rang out like a startled sentry’s gun. Clutching her chest, Claire gasped and stepped back.

With a sigh of exasperation, she decided to answer it and groped for the light switch. As she did so, she noticed the room was dense with the odor of Tony’s tobacco. Inhaling, she tried to ignore the vivid pictures that rose to mind. She found the switch and flicked it and the room lit up.

The first thing Claire saw was the blood pooled on the dingy carpet just inside the office door.

She froze. Dully she realized the phone had stopped ringing. Then her ears picked up a new sound. In the hallway she had just vacated, she heard the creaking of a door hinge followed by footsteps.

Footsteps that were coming closer.

Frantic, Claire snapped off the light and moved deeper into the small office. Her hands groped in the dark for a weapon. Heavy, leather bound books were everywhere. Gripping the smooth surface of a large, anonymous text, Claire raised it above her head and waited.

A bulky silhouette filled the doorway as the hallway light tumbled into the room. Though Claire had made no sound, it was clear she had been spotted. Without a word, the figure lunged across the small office at her. She brought the book down squarely on the intruder’s face and the corner of it stabbed into his cheek.

She was tackled and thrown against the edge of the desk while her attacker howled a curse at her blow. Claire struck him repeatedly with the book.

As they both crashed to the floor, Claire beat him with every bit of adrenaline pumping into her body. Then, quite suddenly, she knew who it was cursing her in the dark. She recognized the strong hands that hugged her waist, the wavy hair brushing against the tender skin on her arm.

Her body identified her captor even when her terrified mind had not. “Let go of me, Tony. You’re hurting my arms.”

He was straddling her hips. She could now clearly see his eyes in the dim light from the hall.

“Claire, what are you trying to do, kill me?”

Buy Links:

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Emelle Gamble became a writer at an early age. At six years old, she was bursting with the requisite childhood stories of introspection, and this itch to tell tales evolved into bad teen poetry and tortured short works that, thankfully, never saw the light of day, or an editor’s red pen.

She took her first stab at writing a novel in an adult education class in Mobile, Alabama when her kids were in bed for the night. As ‘M.L. Gamble,’ she published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin Intrigue. She now publishes novels of Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Situations with SoulMate Publishing and Posh Publishing …works ranging from women’s fiction to thrillers and romantic suspense.

Always intrigued by the words ‘what if’, Gamble’s books feature an ordinary woman confronted with an extraordinary situation. Emelle celebrates the adventurous spirit of readers, and hopes each will enjoy the exciting and surprising journeys her characters take.

Emelle lives in suburban Washington D.C. with her hero of thirty years, Philip, and two orange cats, Lucy and Bella. Like all good villains, the cats claim to have their reasons for misbehaving. Her children are happily launched on their own and are both contributing great things to society, their mother’s fondest wish.

Emelle welcomes any reader interested in emailing her at and hopes they will visit her website,  or her Author Emelle Gamble FaceBook page.



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My review:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Stranger Than Fiction by Emelle Gamble is a mystery set during the relatively recent past, i.e. a bit more than two decades ago, in a society less enslaved to electronic devices.  Allegations about a soon-to-be published novel that has a definite chance of being the answer to a struggling publisher’s prayers starts a domino effect that may not end just the company, but also put a number of lives at risk, both figuratively and literally.  It is up to editor Claire Elizabeth Kennedy to refute Professor Tony Nichols’ claims of plagiarism of his promising young student’s manuscript, but their relationship gets entangled by their mutual attraction and a network of lies and secrecy.  Danger looms, and it is possible that neither one of them will escape unscathed.

This story provides a startling reminder of how much things have changed in less than a quarter of a century, and how much more quickly things move now that there are electronic transmissions of manuscripts and devices such as cellphones and text messages facilitate communication. 

The mystery itself unfolds with ever-increasing levels of violence even as an attraction tries to build between the two main characters.  I felt that their connection was a little forced at first, and the horrific events that unfold make me feel very sorry for any innocent bystanders when this couple is around, because there is definitely the possibility for collateral damage.  It was particularly fascinating (not to mention potentially horrifying) to see the machinations behind the scenes in the publishing world and there are some lovely twists and turns to the mystery, which keep one guessing.  I wasn’t quite convinced that all of the actions and reactions were reasonable progressions, but there definitely are plenty of tension-filled challenges that ratchet up the tension until the exciting climax to the story.  Those who are disturbed by rapidly changing points of view or who are extremely squeamish may not appreciate this story but overall this is an entertaining mystery with a nice dash of romance.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all are enjoying the wonderful season...good luck to you if you are safely if that applies...and remember to channel the JOY of the season.  I wish you lots of wonderful things to read (and eat, lol) and hours of enjoyment.

Hugs and warm wishes from your resident ELF!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays to everyone!

I am sure that most of you, if you are anything like me, are trying to finish up on all the last-minute tasks before the holiday.  I have procrastinated worse than usual and haven't even really started Christmas cards (I know, I'm off Rae's Christmas list, lol), although I have managed to stock up on Lindt truffles through a comedy of errors.

Just in case you are looking for titles to stuff in your stockings, here are a few that I am reviewing or will be reviewing soon...
some of these are ADULT titles!

Heartsong Cottage: An Eternity Springs Novel

Murder, She Wrote: The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher (Murder She Wrote)

The Alchemy of Chaos: A Novel of Maradaine (Maradaine Novels) 
(an excellent sequel to The Thorn of Dentonhill

Reach for the Sky (Wolffe Peak Book 1)

Shadow Play

Courted: Gowns & Crowns, Book 1

Knave of Broken Hearts (Love in Laguna)
This is the sequel to Knight of Ocean Avenue (Love in Laguna Book 1) 

Flash Fire: A Navy SEAL Romance (Civilian Recovery Book 2)
(Don't forget Dana Marton has generously provided a couple of Broslin Creek titles for free...When You Return to Me: A Broslin Creek short story and Deathwatch (Broslin Creek series Book 1) 

These are only a few of the titles that I have on my to-do pile.  What a "problem" to have, right?


I also have the pleasure of having edited several titles that were recently released by The Wild Rose Press including:

Dead Reckoning (Northstar Security Series)This is the sequel to Proving Ground (The Northstar Security Series Book 1)

Wounded at the Lake


Athena's Secrets (The Delphi Bloodline Series Book 1)

 Plus, I had the pleasure of working on the prolific Cynthia Sax's cyborg series...(warning:  these are dark ADULT books)

Releasing Rage (Cyborg Sizzle Book 1)

Breathing Vapor (Cyborg Sizzle Book 2)

Crash And Burn (Cyborg Sizzle Book 3)
(releasing next year)

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season, however you celebrate, filled with mesmerizing books to read and good cheer!