Monday, April 8, 2024

Chasing the Dragon by Mark Towse (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT ADULT title


I have the pleasure of hosting author Mark Towse, who answers my question:

ELF:  What scares you the most or makes you the happiest about writing?


MT:  I've chosen this topic because I'm all for facing my demons.


I'll start with the happy stuff. Writing is my comfort zone. It's my portal into a thousand other magic worlds. Coming from a place of trauma, it is cathartic, therapeutic, and a chance to unload the bile. When I know I have a day's writing in front of me, it's almost impossible to rip the grin from my face. Think about it: all those adventures and places to explore. Seriously, I feel like a millionaire behind my writing desk. What more could I need besides my imagination, the key to limitless worlds?

When I'm writing, everything else drops out of my head: no more anxiety, stress, fear, or insecurity. It's just me and my guilty giggles as I chill, thrill, and put my characters and readers through the wringer.

Happy doesn't even cut it. But just like playing in the woods as kids, the sun comes down all too quickly. It's a shame, as I could stay there forever.


What scares me?


Failure scares me. That said, I know I have something unique and extraordinary to bring to the table. I haven't always possessed my current confidence level, but I genuinely back myself now. And some. After spending years writing prolifically and mastering the shorter form, then graduating to novellas, I know this novel kicks ass, and I will champion 'Chasing The Dragon' until I'm blue in the face.


To me, this is more than a hobby—it's everything. It's hard to say that out loud, but it's true.


I know I'm good enough, but there's a lot of noise out there. Not being heard scares the living daylights out of me.


Readers, please give me a try; you won't regret it. That's a Towsey guarantee.


Chasing the Dragon


Mark Towse




GENRE:  Vigilante Crime Thriller/Horror






A town on its knees, dread's bony fingers wrapping around its throat and squeezing, death rattles soon to follow.


Drugs, filth, and a lack of human decency are starving it of hope.


Introducing Simon Dooley, our trauma-driven wannabe superhero, the relentless voice of his dead mother pleading with him to "end the chaos." Dressed in a leotard and armed only with a dozen dog poop bags, Simon's plight will find him falling in love and going head to head with the seediest characters walking the streets.


The town needed a hero... it got Reformo.





It’s happening. It’s finally happening.


I strip off in front of the full-length mirror, part self-admiration for my new frame and part sorrow for the shy and squeamish young boy who first walked the corridors of the youth detention centre. 

Okay, not The Rectifier. What then? Captain Justice has been done, you muppet! The Shadow? Nope. Been done, too. The Silhouette? Too jazzy. Unable to wait any longer, the hairs bristling on the back of my neck, I carefully lift the costume from the bed and slip my arms through.

Oh, yes!

It’s as though electricity runs through my veins. I feel alive, reborn. I feel—

“I’m a superhero.”


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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Mark Towse is an English horror writer living in Australia. He would sell his soul to the devil or anyone buying if it meant he could write full-time. Alas, he left it very late to begin this journey, penning his first story since primary school at the ripe old age of forty-five. Since then, he’s been published in over two hundred journals and anthologies, had his work made into full theatrical productions for shows such as The No Sleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify, and has penned fourteen novellas, including Nana, Gone to the Dogs, 3:33, and Crows. Chasing The Dragon is his debut novel.


Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @MarkTowsey12








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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Off the Books by Dana King (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

I have the pleasure of hosting author Dana King, who answers the question:

ELF:  Which author(s) has/have been the most influential to you and how or why?


DK:  The list of authors who have been most influential to my writing evolves over time. I’m good with that. I think it shows growth. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Had you asked who my influences were fifteen or twenty years ago, I would have given you a concise list:

Elmore Leonard.

Ed McBain.

Raymond Chandler.


Let’s see how that has changed.


I don’t know that I consider Leonard an influence anymore; he’s the foundation. He’s rarely on my mind when sitting at the keyboard, but any time someone brings his “Ten Rules for Writing” to mind I realize they are now so ingrained I don’t even think about them. The Beloved Spouse™ had a tee-shirt made for me to wear at conferences with “WWELD?” (What Would Elmore Leonard Do?) embroidered on the left breast. Across my back the shirt reads “Leave out the parts people tend to skip.”

So he’s gone well beyond being an “influence.” He’s practically a mentor, even though we never met.

McBain’s example remains at the forefront of my Penns River procedural novels, though he now shares the role with Joseph Wambaugh. The Penns River books spend a lot of time with patrol officers and no one ever wrote patrol officers better than Wambaugh. He also loves to digress into side stories that show the bizarre everyday things street cops encounter, which has made my PR books a lot more fun.

Chandler has dropped off the list, to be replaced by Dashiell Hammett. I’m about halfway through a volume of all of Hammett’s Continental Op stories, and his direct and unadorned style appeals to me more all the time. Chandler was the master of simile, but he also too often tried to shoehorn them in where they didn’t fit. There’s nothing in a Hammett story that doesn’t belong.

I can now add two more to the list.

George V. Higgins for his use of dialog. Not only does his dialog read more like real speech than anyone else’s, Higgins was a master at using dialog to move the action. Of particular interest is how well he can skip an action scene, then have one or more characters describe what happened to someone who wasn’t there. This is much more effective than it sounds here, as it’s a way to tell the reader what happened without saying exactly what happened. Each describing character may have an ax to grind, or may be inherently unreliable. It’s left to the reader to sort out which clues are useful and which aren’t.

Another author who comes to mind with somewhat less influence is James Ellroy. What I picked up most from him is a tendency to place dialog attributions before the dialog instead of after. This allows the reader to know in advance who is speaking, and how they’re doing it. (With clenched teeth, laughing, pretending to smile, etc.) Few things take me out of a story faster than having to re-read something because I get to the end of the comment and realize I thought someone else was saying it, or I didn’t know the speaker’s expression or tone changed the context of what he said. Getting that out of the way up front doesn’t just solve the problem; it eliminates it.

Last but not least is Ken Bruen. Trained as a poet, Bruen cares about how the words appear on the page, by which I mean the physical spacing. I have picked up a little of that myself when I need to provide a list, as it moves the reader’s eye more quickly down the page and avoids a dense paragraph where one isn’t otherwise necessary.

This is not to say this list won’t be different next year. That’s one of the things that keeps me writing. I never know what’s over the next hill.



Off the Books


Dana King




GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator






Nick Forte has lost his detective agency and makes ends meet doing background checks and other paperwork. He pays for everything else through jobs he takes for cash and without any written contract. What starts out as a simple investigation into a traffic accident exposes Forte to people who have truly lost everything and have no viable hope of reclaiming their lives. That doesn’t sit well with Forte, leading him and his friend Goose Satterwhite to take action that ends more violently than anyone expected.


“The return of Chicago private detective Nick Forte, the tough protagonist of two Shamus Award nominated novels, is well worth the wait. Nick’s latest escapade Off The Books—the first in nearly six years—will surely earn additional praise for the acclaimed series.”

-J.L .Abramo, Shamus Award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Chan.


"Nick Forte reminds me of Robert B. Parker's Spenser: a PI with a finely tuned sense of justice who doesn't take anyone's s***. Any fan of hardboiled detective fiction is in for a helluva ride."

--Chris Rhatigan, former publisher of All Due Respect Books






I’m a professional snoop. People’s privacy went only as far as the task at hand in my profession. I executed search warrants as a cop and opened more drawers than an Ethan Allen quality control inspector since I went private. Tonight I felt as if I was violating something sacred as I looked through what passed for personal effects in that trailer. Beside each bunk were two banker’s boxes that held what appeared to be all the earthly possessions of the men (and women?) who lived here. Most were family photos. Children’s drawings. Bibles and small statues of saints. A T-shirt or two. The random pair of jeans. I had no idea how often supplies were replenished. Must have been like Red Cross day in the POW camp this place kept reminding me of.

Bare bulbs suspended from the ceiling with reflectors above them were the only light sources. No clocks. A small shrine to the Virgin Mary occupied a corner of the kitchen.

What little fresh air I felt came through screened vents in the ceiling. I pulled a bunk over so I could peek through and found vent covers six inches above the opening. Air could pass through, but nothing else. Acrylic shields swung up to cover the vent in cold weather.

I photographed it all. After saving about fifty images I returned everything to where it had been and let myself out. Made sure the lock was in the same position I found it. Walked back to my car with my head on a swivel, alert to anything that might be a threat, or possibly useful when I came back.

Buy links



AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Off the Books is Dana King’s sixth Nick Forte private investigator novel. Two of the earlier books (A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window) received Shamus Award nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America. Dana also writes the Penns River series of police procedurals set in a small Western Pennsylvania town, as well as one standalone novel, Wild Bill, which is not a Western. His short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and web sites. He is a frequent panelist at conferences and reads at Noirs at Bars from New York to North Carolina.



Blog:  One Bite at a Time







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Friday, March 22, 2024

Belega by Dianne Hartsock (spotlight, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT




Dianne Hartsock




GENRE: Erotic Fantasy Romance (M/M)






The Karthagans have regained their ancient powers of manipulating nature, but at the price of madness. In their lust for control, they've destroyed their island and most of their race. They come now to Belega, where one of them, Camron, seeks domination over the known world. The Mage has come from the northern continent of Sennia to bring peace but finding his strength no match for the coming struggle, he passes his abilities on to Natan, who only desires a simple life.


Now only Natan has the ability to stop Camron, but the personal cost is more than he imagines. It is only with the combined strength of his friends, his Karthagan lover, Kavi, and his deep desire to bring lasting peace to the earth, that he finds the courage to overcome Camron and restore balance to the world.





Exclusive Excerpt:


Natan returned to the beach and walked along the shoreline, his mind racing. He would need to kill a man on the marrow. His nature screamed in horror with the thought, a knot of dread tangling in his gut. There had to be another way, but he couldn’t see it.


As the sun began to set, he threw himself on the sand and rolled to his back, then fell to dreaming about Kavi. He knew he shouldn’t, but the sun shone warmly on his face, and the ceaseless waves were making him drowsy. Wistfully, he wondered if Kavi could marry a fisherman. He didn’t think he would mind. After all, Kavi’s family had fished the sea. And it would be easy enough to put in a raised bed in the back of the house for a vegetable garden, if Kavi wished...


He pictured Kavi in his mind, and faint heat rose in his face. Of course, Kavi was lovely, all his people were handsome, but Natan remembered the sparkle in his dark eyes when they’d first met, reflecting the joyous spirit within. Natan would give anything to see happiness in Kavi’s face again. Anything to be the one to put it there.


Someone sat beside him. Natan peered through his lashes, wondering if he should feign sleep. His breath caught at the sight of Kavi so close. Natan was reaching for him before he recalled himself and scrambled to sit up.


“Hello,” he stammered, then cleared his throat.


“Did I wake you?” Kavi asked as he wrapped his arms around his knees. “I hope you don’t mind that I came looking for you.”


“You didn’t wake me.” Natan turned his gaze to the sea. Kavi had caught him off guard, and his love was pounding through his body as relentless as the tide. How was he to keep it from him? But then, why should he? He believed he could make Kavi happy. In time maybe Kavi could learn to love him in return.


His breath quickened. He’d do better not to think of that. If Kavi could only care for him a little, the heavens knew he had enough love for both of them. Natan leaned toward him, the confession trembling on his tongue.


But Kavi began to speak, and Natan’s words turned to ash in his mouth.


Kavi’s accusations battered at him. “I understand why you did it, Natan. Why you took our power from us and kept it for yourself. But did you have to let my father die as well? Were you that threatened by him?”


“What?” Natan faltered, dazed by the cruel attack. “Do you truly believe me capable of that?”


Triumph gleamed in Kavi’s eyes. “Yes I do, though it’s not your fault. The madness had us all at one time, dear. I’m sure Kirstin can help you, as well.”


Natan rose to his feet, his heart leaden. “I’m sorry if…” He couldn’t continue and gave Kavi a deep bow, acknowledging all that he had said.







AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Dianne grew up in one of the older homes in the middle of Los Angeles, a place of hardwood floors and secret closets and back staircases. A house where ghosts lurk in the basement and the faces in the paintings watch you walk up the front stairs. Rooms where you keep the closet doors closed tight at night. It’s where her love of the mysterious and wonderful came from. Dianne is the author of m/m romance, paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind.


She now lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. Dianne says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee in her hands, which kindles her imagination.


Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.




FaceBook Author Page






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Monday, March 4, 2024

Love Furever by Gabbi Grey (ADULT title) Spotlight and excerpt


Love Furever

ADULT title


Gabbi Grey




Being rejected by family hurt like hell, but I kept my head high, left my toxic relatives behind, and moved across the country to Gaynor Beach, CA. Luckily, I have great furry company. My French bulldog puppy, Widget, was dumped on me for not meeting my parents' ridiculously high standards either, so we're comforting each other. With a nice rental house and a new job, Widget and I were ready for a fresh start—until I got a devastating diagnosis. I can't take care of Widget properly while trying to save my own life, and I expect a long, hard road. I'll have to break both our hearts and put her up for adoption, for her sake. Right?


I’ve wanted a pet forever, but my family circumstances didn’t allow it. Now I’m away from my masses of relatives and on my own, and I’m ready to take on a furry companion. My friend, a guy who never says no to an animal in need, introduces me to Colin and his beautiful puppy Widget. I’m horrified Colin feels he needs to give her up just because he's sick, but I’m happy to take Widget as a temporary foster. I’m also happy to offer support to the new guy in town who is so very alone during a time of crisis. Helping someone in need comes naturally to me. But what if that temporary help turns into me wanting a forever relationship?

This is a gay romance slow-burn novel about new beginnings, found family, unconditional love, and a puppy named Widget. This middle-angst story has a guaranteed happily ever after.

Add it to Goodreads


Exclusive excerpt:

“And now you need to give Chambord up?”

Yet again, I nodded. “Yeah. I need to go up to LA regularly, and I can’t leave her alone in the rental house. I suppose I should’ve looked for something closer, but I didn’t want a big city, you know? Gaynor Beach was the right size in the right location. Of course, I hadn’t realized how bad—” My voice broke and I couldn’t go on. I struggled to keep my emotions tamped down. This should’ve been easy. I’d barely had the dog two weeks. We weren’t bonded. Not really. So I’d find her a new home, and—

“Sounds like you love her, though.”

“Which means giving her up. For her sake.”

“There might be an alternative.”

I blinked several times before meeting Arthur’s gaze. The day was unusually cloudy, so I hadn’t worn sunglasses, and the light was making my eyes water. “I don’t understand…”

“What if I found someone to help you out? Who’d come and take Chambord for walks? And watch her when you go to LA for treatment?”

My head swam. “That could last months. Years, if I don’t get a transplant. Or I might die.” There, I’d said it. Admitted my greatest fear. I’d always believed I’d be brave in the face of death, but I was only thirty-two years old. I wasn’t ready to die.

You might not have a choice.

Doesn’t mean I can’t fight.

Arthur placed a comforting hand on my elbow. “I have a friend. Great guy. He’s been wanting to foster, but I think he’s a little commitment-shy, if you know what I mean. He’s never had a pet, so he’s not sure he wants all that responsibility, but he loves animals. When he comes over to my place, he’s happy to hang out with them. Okay, except the snake.”

“You have a snake?” That felt vaguely alarming to me.

“No, I had a snake. Someone abandoned one in a rental house when they took off. Landlady knew me and asked me to take care of it. Poor thing was in need of some care, which I provided. He now lives in a house not too far from here. Great family. Responsible kids.”

Responsible. Like I needed to be. “So you have a friend who likes hanging out with pets? Hardly seems fair that he’d do all the work and leave Chambord with me the rest of the time.”


Amazon US

Universal Book Link


Apple Books

Barnes and Noble



About the author:


USA Today Bestselling author Gabbi Grey lives in beautiful British Columbia where her fur baby chin-poo keeps her safe from the nasty neighborhood squirrels. Working for the government by day, she spends her early mornings writing contemporary, gay, sweet, and dark erotic BDSM romances. While she firmly believes in happy endings, she also believes in making her characters suffer before finding their true love. She also writes m/f romances as Gabbi Black and Gabbi Powell.

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Friday, March 1, 2024

Happy Harry: A Magical Golden by Barbara Lampert (VBB, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Happy Harry: A Magical Golden
Barbara Lampert

In her dog memoir Happy Harry: A Magical Golden, psychotherapist Barbara Lampert, a lifelong dog lover, tells the story of her beloved Golden Retriever, Harry. Like her first dog memoir, Harry's story comes from her mostly uncensored daily journal and takes place in Malibu, California.

Harry was a genuinely free spirit - wild, and very wolf-like. Did all this contribute to his being exceptionally happy? Perhaps.

Harry was not only the happiest being Barbara's ever known, happy to the very core of him, but also the bravest. More than once in his life, Harry had to face true adversity, and each time, Barbara would look at him in wonder, not fully understanding how a being could be so brave and at the same time continue to be so happy.

Harry literally pranced through life, with a joyous attitude that made being around him like magic. Barbara fell in love with Harry. And as you immerse yourself in Harry's story, it's likely you will too! Happy Harry is unforgettable!




Harry had a girlfriend for a while when he was about four or five years old. Probably for a couple of years. Oh he didn’t see her every day, but for that two year-or-so stretch maybe once or twice a week. …

Roxie, a one-year-old Yellow Lab – the taller, leaner hunting type – was beautiful, energetic, and happy. Just like Harry. Roxie lived a few miles from our house, on the Point in Malibu. …

When Harry knew he was going to see Roxie, he would get so excited. He would pant, start running around, tail up, and on the ride over he would stand or pace in the back seat the whole time. So eager, such joy. And when we got there, he would literally go flying out of the car, with David at the other end of the leash. Tail up, full steam ahead. And Roxie, being just a year old and still quite a playful puppy, would go equally berserk when she saw Harry. They would sniff and kiss each other through the openings in the fence. …

Sometimes they would chase each other or run together, with the fence between them. David would run with them, since he had Harry on the leash. A few times Roxie’s owner came out and opened the gate to let Harry and Roxie be together. More kissing, chasing, tails up, sniffing. Both not believing their good luck. Both always bursting with joy the whole time they were together. Such a sight. …

Barney didn’t get nearly as excited as Harry about Roxie and didn’t interfere in their relationship. This was Harry’s territory. And it appeared Roxie only had eyes for Harry. …

It was always difficult to leave, because the whole time we were there Harry and Roxie were inseparable. Whenever Roxie’s owner would come out, we’d talk and laugh about the two lovebirds. It was wonderful seeing Harry and Roxie so happy. How he loved her…




About the Author:
My passion is dogs! I’ve had dogs most of my life and hope to have at least one by my side always. Dog energy is the best!

I’m the author of two dog memoirs: Happy Harry: A Magical Golden and before that Charlie: A Love Story. Each about one of my Golden Retrievers. (I told you dogs are my passion!)

I’m a psychotherapist, licensed for over thirty years, specializing in relationships.

I was a flight attendant for nine years. And taught sociology at several universities. I have two master’s degrees and a doctorate.

Gardening is another love – not as much as dogs, but right up there! I see my garden as a work of art and garden as much as possible in my free time. I love being in nature.

I live in Malibu, California with my husband David and, you guessed it, our two wonderful Golden Retrievers, Oliver and Henry.



The tour dates can be found here


Monday, February 26, 2024

Scruff the Pup and the Cracking of the Cocoa Pod by Katherine Udovicich (Spotlight, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


Scruff the Pup and the Cracking of the Cocoa Pod


Katherine Udovicich




GENRE:   Children's






Hippity hoppity, Easter's on its way! Scruff the pup is drooling in anticipation. But what will Scruff discover about chocolate eggs when a-hunting he will go? Find out in this gratifying wag of a tale.





Scruff is beginning to think that getting his paws on even a teeny-tiny Easter egg might be too difficult.

Then he remembers something—Mum and Dad encouraging the children always to take on a good challenge.

Suddenly, Scruff has an idea about how to score an Easter egg from the kids. The pup knows he will be the underdog and, therefore, hatches a plan—now ready to unleash!

First, Scruff engages the children in a game of chase ... and lets them win.

Next, he performs all the tricks they’ve taught him, plus one of his own: Scruff’s slick, quick ball-balancing trick.

Then Scruff and the kids start a game of ruff and tumble, and Scruff goes easy on them.

Afterwards, the pup sits uncomplainingly as his messy hair is brushed smooth; Scruff no longer feels like himself.

Eventually, Scruff allows the children to dress him up as the Easter Bunny! Such a cliché, he thinks, putting on a brave face.

Despite jumping through hoop after hoop and working like a dog, Scruff does not get a single Easter egg.

From afar, he watches the kids enjoying mini chocolate eggs filled with caramel. Fine, rub my nose in it, thinks Scruff. See if I care.

But he does care. And he doesn’t understand why the children won’t share with him. They usually always share food with him under the table. So, what is it about Easter eggs?


Purchase links:




Indigo Chapters

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Katherine Udovicich has a background in primary teaching and education. She is from Melbourne, Australia, where she completed a bachelor's degree in science and a master's in teaching. Katherine's greatest joy is being a mum, and she is passionate about promoting literacy development for all children.






INSTAGRAM: Coming soon





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The tour dates can be found here


My review:

4.5 stars

Scruff the Pup and the Cracking of the Cocoa Pod, written by Katherine Udovicich and illustrated by Madeleine Mae B. Migallos, follows young Scruff as he tries his best to join his humans in enjoying chocolate Easter eggs. He doesn’t understand why the senior dog in the family, Frog, keeps mentioning the cocoa pod until Dad, the human, finally explains and makes both Frog and Scruff happy with their own Easter treats.


This sweet children’s book is beautifully illustrated and teaches a very important lesson about keeping dogs safe, no matter how persuasive they’re being. I was worried at first, because I was afraid Scruff would find a way to share in the children’s treats, but I enjoyed reading about his antics and his reasoning. I think it’s great that the explanation for not sharing chocolate with dogs is given at both a level that children will understand and at a more scientific level and I love the puns at the end of the story. This is a great book for teaching and for just enjoying the cute illustrations, and I think it would be useful as an educational tool throughout the year, although it is centered on Easter.


A copy of this title was provided for review