New Release – The Rose Ring by Lucie Ulrich

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Lucie Ulrich! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her brand new inspirational romance The Rose Ring.

The Rose Ring cover artBack Cover Blurb

With a will that reads like a piece of fiction, the return of his long-lost brother, and the possibility of losing the family ranch, Micah Cooper calls on high school friend, Sky Baxter, to bail him out of a bad situation.

Though her brain tells her no, Sky’s heart says yes. She accepts Micah’s in-name-only proposal, knowing it’s unlikely anything permanent will come of it. She’s been in love with him since the ninth grade, and if he hasn’t figured it out by now, there’s little chance he ever will.

When an unexpected kiss ignites a spark, giving Micah hope for a possible future with Sky, a tragic accident threatens to take it all away. Torn between following his heart, doing the right thing, and forgiving the past, Micah is lost in a whirlwind of pain and emotions. Will he make it through the next two years, or will a long-kept family secret be the undoing of them all?

Excerpt

Micah took Sky’s hand and they hurried across the street, stopping in front of the double wooden doors. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny gold ring. “Here, it’s a bit big for me, but it’ll do for today.”

She held out her hand and he dropped it into her palm. They’d gone shopping a few days ago and he’d bought her a thin gold band, but not one for himself. The fact that he only planned on wearing the ring for the ceremony solidified her in-name-only status. “Your dad’s?”

He nodded.

Sky fingered the ring. “Other than this nick, it looks brand new.”

“That nick nearly cost Dad his finger. He got it hooked on a piece of farm

equipment shortly after he and Mom married. He made Noah and me swear never to wear any jewelry while working.”

“Did he ever wear it again?”

“Nope.”

“And your mom didn’t mind?”

“Not that I was aware of. Then again, I was just a kid.”

At least she’d have a good excuse for why her husband didn’t wear a wedding band. She, on the other hand, would wear hers proudly. He might be a lug, but for the next two years he’d be her lug. “We’d better go. Don’t want to keep the judge waiting.”

The judge’s secretary ushered them into the office. His Honor stood when they entered and greeted them with a firm hand and warm smile. “Robe or no robe?” he asked.

She looked at Micah. “What do you think?”

He smiled. “Your call.”

“In that case, I vote for the robe.”

While the judge put on his robe, Sky took in her surroundings. The walls were painted standard office-beige, but the large mahogany desk, and photographs of Montana’s mountain ranges and plains that lined the walls added some warmth to the room. What she especially appreciated were the live Ficus trees that flanked the tall window behind the desk. It was no church, but at least it wasn’t the cold, barren room she had envisioned.

The ceremony was short, with only the court clerk and judge’s secretary in attendance. But that didn’t bother Sky. Nothing else mattered at the moment. This was her wedding day, perhaps the only one she would ever have. For that reason alone she chose to absorb every detail and print them on her heart.

Micah stood ramrod still until the judge had him place the ring on her finger. His hand shook a little, but his tender smile was one Sky would forever remember.

Her next memory would be their first kiss. She knew it was purely out of

obligation. After all, what would the three people staring at them think if a newly married couple didn’t seal the deal with a kiss?

When Micah leaned in, one side of his mouth lifted in a smile causing her stomach to flip. Assuming the kiss would be short, she was taken by surprise when his warm lips lingered longer than she’d expected. The scent of his spicy cologne tickled her nose. The feel of his hand on her cheek sent her heart rate soaring. She couldn’t even imagine what her reaction would be if he ever kissed her for real.

~~

The Rose Ring is available from Amazon, B&N, iBooks 1, Smashwords, and Kobo.

~~

About the Author

Photo of author Lucie UlrichLucie Ulrich took her time becoming a writer. Not much of a reader as a child, writing was of no interest to her–until she joined a church drama team. The desire to write a skit, and not simply act out someone else’s was so strong, that once she started, she couldn’t seem to stop. That first skit led to her becoming the drama team director, then eventually, the performing arts director at a small Christian school.

Lucie’s first novel was penned under a tree in a field in Holland. Though her first, second, and third attempts never saw the light of day, parts of each of them became the foundation for “Broken Vessels,” her first published work.

No longer involved with the performing arts, Lucie enjoys going on photo shoots with her husband, and taking long (or short) road trips. She hopes to find inspiration as she and her husband explore the four corners of the United States.

Connect with Lucie online:

Website: http://www.lucieulrich.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/inspywriter?ref_type=bookmark

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LucieUlrich

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5823505.Lucie_Ulrich

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New Release – Deadly Communications by Lillian Duncan

Please welcome my fellow Pelican Book Group author Lillian Duncan! She’s here today with her new release, Deadly Communications.

Deadly Communications cover artBlurb

Improving communication skills is never easy. In this case, it could be murder!

Maven Morris is a speech-language pathologist on medical leave–or as she likes to put it: out to pasture. When she’s offered a lucrative position by one of the community’s most powerful men to help his traumatic-brain-injured daughter improve her communication skills, Maven discovers deadly secrets behind the iron gates of the mansion.

Now, she must find the courage to seek justice no matter who gets hurt–even if it’s her.

Excerpt

What was taking them so long?

Ella Decker smiled as she put away the last dish. It had been a fun night even if it had been a shock to see them standing at her door. And Matt seemed nice enough, even though it was the first time they’d met.

A blind date? Just what she needed, or so everyone else thought. Her life was too busy for a boyfriend. Getting chosen to be on the USA Olympic Team was the only thing that mattered, but she supposed it was important to have a little fun now and then.

They said it would only take a minute.

Ella slid the patio door open and walked outside to see what was keeping her guests.

The spring night was warm and breezy. Stars sparkled against a backdrop of black velvet.

She stepped out on the redwood deck. Her mouth turned to cotton and she wasn’t able to breathe.

A man was kneeling on the grass with his hands tied behind his back.

Her date, Matt, stood behind him pointing a gun at the man’s head.

She blinked once—twice, her gaze glued to the gun. This couldn’t be real. Her throat constricted as she attempted to scream. Taking a deep breath, she tried again. “What are you doing, Matt?”

Matt looked at her. His gaze flashed in anger. “Go inside. This has nothing to do with you. It’s business.”

This was crazy. It had to be a prank of some sort, but nobody was smiling. Especially not the man kneeling on the ground. “What kind of business?”

“The kind you don’t want to know about.” Matt glared at her. “Now be a good girl and go inside. It’s not your concern.”

How dare he talk to her as if she was a child? “Not my concern? This is my home. You’re both invited guests in my house.” Well, actually, they hadn’t been invited at all—they’d shown up uninvited, and now she understood why.

His gun moved from the man’s head towards her.

Her heart thumped, but she refused to back down. “I’m not going anywhere and you aren’t going—“

Matt pointed at the other man. A man she thought she knew, but now realized she didn’t. “Take care of her. Unless you want me to?”

The other man walked between her and Matt. He hugged her as if that would reassure her. “Go inside. I’ll take care of this. We’re just talking to him. Like Matt said, it’s business. Nothing for you to worry about.”

“Are you nuts?” She spat out the words. “Nothing to worry about? You need to stop this right now.”

“I can’t, but I’ll explain everything later.” He pushed her gently towards the door.

She shrugged his arms off. “I won’t let you hurt him.”

“We won’t. Just go inside. Please.”

Their gazes met.

They wouldn’t hurt him. It was like they said; they were just talking to him. Trying to scare him for some reason, but they wouldn’t really shoot him. They wouldn’t kill him.

That would make them monsters.

She stared through the sliding door of the dining room, barely able to breathe. Her body shook. The longer they talked, the more she knew she needed to call the cops, no matter what would happen after that. She wouldn’t let this happen.

The man with the gun stepped closer to the kneeling man.

She jerked open the sliding glass door and ran out of the house, moving towards the men. “I’ll not let you hurt him. Stop right now or I’ll call the police.”

Matt nodded at the other man. “Take her inside. Now.”

He ran up the stairs, onto the deck, and then grabbed her arm. He whispered to her as he led her back into the house. “Stop causing problems or you’ll get hurt, too. This has nothing to do with you.”

He pushed her inside and then slid the door shut. He ran down the deck steps.

Her knees shook so hard that she pressed her hands against the window to keep from falling. This couldn’t be happening, but it was. She had to stop it. Before she could move, a flash, a popping sound, and then another.

~~

Deadly Communications is available from Pelican Book Group and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Lillian DuncanLillian Duncan…stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem!

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband, two parrots, one Jack Russell, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel she’s thinking of renaming Clifford since he keeps growing and growing and….

As a speech pathologist in the public schools for over thirty years, she worked with students of all ages with a wide variety of conditions, but especially with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives. especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced mystery and suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian and her books, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com.

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Book Spotlight – Imagine That by Kristin Wallace

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Kristin Wallace! She’s here today with her newest book, Imagine That. It’s the third book in the Covington Falls Chronicles.

Blurb

Imagine That cover artChildren’s author Emily Sinclair was supposed to be the next J.K. Rowling… Until her second book flopped and her imagination went on the fritz. So she sets out on an epic adventure to find inspiration again. Till a dead car lands her in Covington Falls, Georgia. Soon Emily is taking up her quest, looking for inspiration driving a mobile library van, as a companion to a crotchety old woman and her insomniac dog, and as a very ungraceful baker’s assistant. Of course, what really sparks her romantic fantasies is a valiant hero, though he yields a paint roller instead of a sword.

Rugged, blue-collar Nate Cooper has spent most of his life avoiding the printed page. These days he doesn’t have much use for fancy words and certainly not for a slightly off-center writer on the lam. Not when his mother is battling cancer, his little brother has morphed into a teenaged ogre, and God seems to have taken a vacation.

On paper, these two would seem the least likely pairing, and a happily ever after nothing but fantasy. But with faith and imagination Emily and Nate are about to write a new chapter that will lead to unexpected love.

Excerpt

Chapter One

A stomach-churning thunk. A disaster-laden chug. A scary, threatening gurgle.

Emily Sinclair’s hands clutched the steering wheel as she guided her how-could-you-give-out-on-me-now convertible to the side of the road. With a last ominous blunk and splutter, the car gave up the ghost.

She switched off the engine, waited a few seconds, and then turned the key again. Nothing.

Not surprising. As if anything glug-glugging like an octogenarian trying to cough up a lung was going to restart with so little effort.

A cranky yowl went up from the passenger seat. Emily glanced over at the pet carrier and sent the fat Persian inside a confident smile. “Don’t worry, Wordsworth. This is why modern man invented cell phones.”

She fished her phone out of her purse. A blank screen stared back at her. Pressing more buttons did nothing.

Dead as her car.

With a sound of disgust, Emily tossed the useless phone aside and stared out the windshield at the deserted country road in front of her. The very deserted country road that stretched around a sparkling blue lake and disappeared into the back of beyond. The kind of road featured in all the best horror stories. Emily’s mind conjured up every one, along with the opening line in the newspaper article.

Onceamous children’s author found mangled to death. Quest to locate her lost imagination and revive faded career ends in disaster… as her mother predicted.

Muttering an oath, Emily climbed out of the car and slammed the door as hard as she could. What a fix. And ironic. There were rules about writing. Not grammar rules, like where to put commas or when to use a semicolon. No, the unofficial rules for fiction writing. Chief among them is that an author should never start a novel with the character driving or thinking. No, readers wanted action right off the top, and the car could never break down.

In college, Emily had written a short story where the heroine’s car stalled in a typical these-people-will-murder-you-in-your-sleep town. Emily’s professor had written cliché in bold, red pen across the page. Not satisfied, she’d added boring cliché, underlining the boring with three thick red lines. The critique had stung. The fact that it had come courtesy of Professor Vanessa Sinclair, Emily’s mother, had been like ripping off an old bandage.

Emily was breaking all three cardinal rules of writing at once. Though technically the driving rule didn’t apply. Same for the sitting rule. She was thinking, though. Thinking her entire life had become a cliché, so what did it matter if she broke her mother’s precious writing rules? She was a one-hit writing wonder. A flash in the pan. A big-haired eighties’ rock band that had scored one giant hit and then disappeared into the oblivion of those nostalgic ‘Where are they now?’ music specials.

Emily sighed. If one had to break down somewhere, one could do worse than… what had the sign said back there? Covington something. Covington something, Georgia. Muted afternoon sun shimmered off the surface of the lake. She lifted a hand to ward off the eye-watering glare and focused on the water. In her previous life, the golden flecks of sunlight reflecting off its surface would have transformed into a million different kinds of fantastical creatures. Or maybe something nightmarish would charge out of that bank of oak trees across the lake.

Unfortunately, Emily was stuck in her real life, and her imagination was on the fritz.

Well, at least she wouldn’t die of water deprivation while she waited to be rescued.

Speaking of rescue.

A car had appeared, winding around the curve of the lake. A big ole’ country truck calling to mind hoedowns and hay rides. A big ole’ rusty truck, Emily realized as it drew closer. Burnt red growth spread out across the hood like a marauding band of Vikings overtaking a defenseless village. She imagined rust was the only thing holding the vehicle together.

The truck slowed and Emily tensed, torn between elation at being found and wariness regarding exactly who might be behind the wheel of the ancient rattletrap. The glare off the windshield made it impossible to see inside the cab, however.

The tires veered off to the side of the road and stopped, sending up a cloud of dust. Emily waved her hand, choking on the airborne dirt. Her mouth felt dry as if she had licked the ground. The door opened. Work boots emerged. Brown and roughed-up and covered in… paint. A man stepped out, and Emily steadied her hands against the car to keep from falling over.

Mr. Darcy. No, Heathcliff. Only instead of a cravat and breeches, he was dressed in faded jeans and a black T-shirt, which seemed molded to an impressive chest. Heath stretched up a good six-plus feet, towering over her puny five-foot-two frame. A lock of dark chocolate-brown hair brushed over his forehead. Their eyes met. Since she was already thinking in clichés, Emily’s mind offered up a million of them to describe his eyes. She could start with gray, but no way did such a mundane word do them justice. Slate, storm clouds, a roiling sea, glazed pewter. Devastating, and framed by thick sooty lashes no man had a right to possess.

He stopped a few feet away, and Emily had the fanciful notion he was trying not to frighten her. Like she was a skittish filly about to bolt.

“Hi,” he said. “Car trouble?”

His voice was like his eyes. Smooth and deep, like honey in a cup of hot tea.

Emily nodded. How could she speak when every male literary fantasy she’d ever dreamed about had unfolded from a rusted-out pickup?

“You okay?” he asked. “You didn’t have an accident? Knock your head on anything?”

“No. Just a car that decided to die,” Emily said, finally finding her voice. “Along with my cell. Although that’s my fault since I didn’t charge it last night, even though my mother is always nagging me not to forget, since I’ve taken it into my head to wander the globe on an aimless search for purpose and meaning. Her description anyway, but if you’d lost your imagination wouldn’t you go to the ends of the earth to find it again? She doesn’t understand, though. Although maybe she’s right. I mean, here I am stuck in Covington something, Georgia, with a dead car, a dead cell, and a dead imagination. Although if I had an imagination I know I could come up with something fantastic about your truck.”

Emily slapped a hand over her mouth, horrified by the verbal diarrhea she’d just unleashed on her hapless rescuer.

The stranger stared at her for a moment, and then did the most unexpected thing. He grinned. “What was that?”

Her butt thumped against the hood of the car as her legs gave out. Oh, Heath had a smile on him that could tempt any fair maiden to let down her hair. Or anything else he wanted.

~~

Imagine That is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Kristin WallaceGrowing up Kristin devoured books like bags of Dove Dark Chocolate. Her first Golden Book led to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, C.S. Lewis and the Sweet Valley High series. Later, she discovered romance novels and fell in love all over again. It’s no surprise then that Kristin would one day try her hand at writing them. She writes romance and women’s fiction filled with love, laughter and a leap of faith. She is the author of Covington Falls Chronicles, inspirational romances set in a quirky, Southern town with a character all it’s own. When she’s not writing her next novel, Kristin works as an advertising copywriter. She also enjoys singing in the church choir and worship team and playing flute in a community orchestra.

Connect with Kristin Online

Website: www.KristinWallaceAuthor.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/KristinWallaceAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KWallaceAuthor

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kristin-Wallace/e/B00G5KX80I

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Book Spotlight – Secondhand Shadow by Elizabeth Belyeu

Check out the latest book by my fellow Astraea Press author Elizabeth Belyeu!

Secondhand Shadow cover artBack Cover Blurb

It’s supposed to be a symbiotic relationship: the Shadow serves and protects the human Lumi, the Lumi feeds and cares for the Shadow. But when Damon’s Lumi died young and severed the bond between them, he declined to go with her like a good little Shadow. Yes, it hurts. Yes, he’s cold and hungry all the time. And yes, his own people call him an abomination. But for the first time, Damon’s life is his own, and he’s never going back.

Or so he thinks, until he meets Naomi, a pregnant college student… and bonds to her as his new Lumi. Which has never happened to a Shadow before.

Naomi has enough problems on her plate, juggling college and a crappy survival job, preparing for a baby, and getting over her cheating ex-husband. The last thing she needs is a dark, brooding fellow like Damon depending on her physically and emotionally, and hating her for it. But a vigilante among Damon’s people has his sights set on Naomi – and they both know Damon is her only chance for survival.

Excerpt

“So, who do I look like?” I said.

He jumped, as if he hadn’t expected me to have the power of speech. “What?”

“Either I look like someone you never wanted to see again, or I smell bad. Since you got in an elevator with me, I’m going with Option A.”

He continued staring a moment, then opened his mouth to speak.

And the elevator shuddered to a halt.

No. I closed my eyes. No, this cannot be. These things don’t really happen. I leaned my head back against the wall with a thunk. Then, to my own dismay, I started to laugh.

“I’m sorry,” I gasped when I saw Damon’s stare turn from mysterious to confused. “It’s just such a cliché. The pregnant lady trapped in the elevator. If I give birth in an elevator—” Confusion became alarm. “Oh, no, I’m fine,” I said quickly. “Still two months to go, thank goodness. It’s just the idea.”

I was able to stop laughing after a minute, because it stopped being funny. There was a help button in the wall, which I would be calm enough to push, eventually. But it could be hours before we got out of here. Hours during which I was supposed to be at work. I fumbled my cell phone out of my bookbag. No signal.

Damon began to pace, which was a nice trick in an elevator that size, especially when he refused to come anywhere close to me. Yeah, well, I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole, either.

“I can’t be here,” he muttered under his breath, and ran a hand through his hair, which very unexpectedly made my breath catch. So I have a thing for long-haired guys. Why else would I have the Lord of the Rings movies memorized?

“Hit the help button,” I said. It was on his side.

He paused, looked at the button a moment, then resumed pacing. “You should do it.”

Bossy much? I considered suggesting an anatomically unlikely new location for the help button, but then I remembered that just because he hadn’t pulled a knife on me yet didn’t mean he wouldn’t. I stepped toward the help button, wondering what he’d do when I crossed the orbit of his pacing.

What he did was stop dead with a sharp breath, back up against the wall, and close his eyes.

For the first time, I was truly afraid to turn my back on him. I froze, not breathing, and waited.

He kept his eyes closed, breath coming faster, hands half-raised as if to ward me off. They were shaking.

Seconds passed. A minute. Maybe more. My fear began to ebb, just a bit, to make room for pity. He was in pain. I had no idea why or how, or what I could do to help, but surely I ought to try.

“Damon?”

The word was tiny and feather-edged, but it broke something. Suddenly I was pinned between him and the wall, my upraised hands trapped against his chest, too stunned to push him away.

“I won’t hurt you,” he said, pressing his face into my hair. “I won’t hurt you. I hate you too much to ever hurt you. I’m sorry.”

I felt a hand against my cheek.

And I was alone in the elevator.

~~

Secondhand Shadow is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

About the Author

Elizabeth Belyeuis 29 years old and lives in Alabama, where she supports herself, her cat, and her steadily growing TBR pile as a library assistant. She graduated from Troy University in 2008 with a bachelorʹs in English (Creative Writing minor). This is her first novel, but she has been writing since she could hold a pencil, and plans to continue until she is too senile to type.

Connect with Elizabeth Online

Blog – elizabethbelyeu.wordpress.com

Facebook

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World Blog Tour – The Writing Process

My fellow Pelican Book Group author LoRee Peery asked me to participate in this blog tour, and of course I had to say yes. What other answer could I give to the chance to talk about my writing?

For those of you who may not be familiar with me, I mostly write sweet and inspirational romance. My first YA novel comes out at the end of this month (yay!).

The writing process is what this blog hop is all about. Each person who participates answers the same four questions, giving readers a glimpse into the minds of writers. Here are my answers to the questions:

1. What am I working on?

I’m always working on multiple projects, but the one I’m spending the most time on these days is a currently untitled inspirational romance. The hero is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and even though I’ve written several romances with vets for heroes, this one is unlike any I’ve ever written.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing isn’t always what you might expect for sweet or inspirational romance. Difficult topics regularly pop up in my stories, including PTSD and autism. The plots don’t always go in the expected direction, but that’s half the fun. It can also make writing the stories an interesting experience as the characters take unexpected turns and throw new obstacles in the path to a happy ending. And despite always having a happy ending, the problems faced by the characters aren’t magically cured by the end of the story. Autism and PTSD don’t go away just because you fall in love. I write to reflect that reality while also giving the characters hope for a happy future in spite of the challenges ahead.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Honestly, that’s something I wonder from time to time. No matter how many times I might wish I wrote lighthearted, humorous stories, I always end up writing stories with a more serious tone. I can only assume that the reason I write what I do is because that’s what I’m meant to write. It’s difficult writing some of the situations my characters end up in, but that just makes writing their happy endings that much sweeter.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m a diehard pantser, which means I never outline. I write by the seat of my pants. An idea for a character or a situation will pop into my head, and then I start down the path of “What if…?” Then I start writing. Sometimes I’ll have a vague idea of where the story is going before I write the first chapter, but I usually just follow along and watch the story unfold as I write it. There’s nothing quite like learning about my characters the same way readers will, one page at a time.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my writing process! Check out these blogs next week (July 15, 2014) to learn more about three more authors’ writing:

Therese Gilardi

Cindy K. Green

Therese Travis

~~

Here’s an example of a book I didn’t know where it was going when I started writing. I learned a lot about Josh Teague (the hero) through writing Trust of the Heart (Veteran Hearts, Book 2), and I love him even more now. Readers apparently love him as well. Trust of the Heart is a finalist for the 2014 Readers’ Crown Award.

Trust of the Heart cover artBlurb

Josh Teague has dark memories from his time in Iraq. While he longs to share the burden of those memories with someone, he is afraid they will scare his girlfriend. Unwilling to risk losing her, he keeps the memories to himself and tries to keep a cheerful attitude despite the holiday season threatening to bring his mood down.

Leann Robak has her own set of memories causing trouble. Abandoned by her father when she was ten, she is devastated when her mother announces she’s taking a month-long trip to Europe over Christmas. Although Josh’s invitation to spend Christmas with him at his parents’ house holds exciting prospects, Leann can tell he’s hiding something from her. That knowledge leaves her wondering how well she truly knows him and whether he even wants to be in a relationship with her.

Can Josh and Leann learn to trust each other fully, or will their insecurities drive them apart?

You can purchase a copy of Trust of the Heart from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other online retailers.

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Q&A with YA Author L. E. Fred

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author, L. E. Fred! She’s here today with a Q&A about her brand new YA novel, Lucid.

Q: What inspired the creation of Lucid?

A: I started writing Lucid after experiencing my first lucid dream. It’s a very out-of-body and surreal experience. We’re used to dreaming every night, but being able to control your actions and fate in the dream world is almost a magical thing. After figuring out how to wake up (yes, you have to oftentimes find your way out of the dreams,) I started pondering the idea of a dream world actually existing, and before I knew it, I had Devon and the plot for Lucid.

Q: You write from the P.O.V. of a 15 year-old boy. Is there anyone who shaped Devon’s character as the protagonist.

A: A wonderful counselor-in-training that I worked with actually inspired Devon’s character. Real-life Devon, who shall be nameless, was one of those campers that turned into a CIT when he outgrew the camp’s age groups. I never went to summer camp as a child, so working at one was a very interesting experience. I got to witness real-life Devon change from being a happy-go-lucky camper to a miserable CIT. As for Devon’s personality, that was shaped by my own sense of humor. I wrote Lucid through Devon’s eyes, and my own commentary sort of slipped through. It fit his sarcastic nature, though, and rereading some parts still makes me laugh.

Q: What about the villains? How did they come to be?

A: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by mythological monsters. There seems to be a common thread of villainous snakes and lions. A chimera combines these two deadly creatures, along with a goat, into one evil creature. I liked the idea of having three diverse villains; the more you get to know a villain, the scarier they can become for the reader and the heroes. As I wrote, Serpentine, Gruff, and Leona, seemed to appear out of nowhere to fit the evil villain’s roles. The Nightmares were a little trickier. I thought long and hard about how they should be portrayed, and I eventually started combining features of animals and creatures that people feared the most into one character. That’s why they have shark teeth and devil horns.

Q: Lucid is your first novel. Are you currently working on anything else?

A: Since Devon and his friends’ story didn’t want to finish at the end of Lucid, I’m currently working on the sequel. The story will continue our heroes’ adventure, but you’ll get to hear from other characters in it. It will also have much more of a fantasy element with an even crazier cast of characters. Aside from Lucid, I’m working on two more stories, both in the YA fiction genre.

Q: What inspired you to write YA fiction?

A: I’m a teacher, so I love working with young adults and teens. I’ve seen the power of books transform kids’ ways of thinking about the world and boost confidence. Never underestimate the power of reading. I know it played an important role in shaping my future, and I hope to reach out to as many young adults to inspire them to find their inner heroes and go change the world for the better.

About the Author

L. E. Fred author imageL. E. Fred is a perpetual dreamer who writes about worlds both within and without this realm. With a degree in psychology, L. E. Fred tends to get lost in the mind, the greatest adventure of all. L. E. Fred is currently traveling the world, finding more adventures to inspire new tales of dreams and beyond.

About the Book

Lucid cover artDevon Alexander is a 15 year-old teenager coping with the monotonous reality of his average life. His life receives an interesting reprieve as he has his first realistic dream of a spaceship. The strangest thing about the dream is that he seems to be the only one on board who isn’t in a dream-like trance. Before he can figure out anything about the dream or his strange shipmates, he manages to wake up. The next day, Devon catches a news story about inexplicable comas taking place all over the world. Devon’s life becomes increasingly interesting as he recognizes some of the victims from his spaceship trip.

Devon and an unlikely group of other teens start devising a plan to find out who is behind the strange dreams and the comas. Their plan is not only successful but immerses them in to the fantastical world that only resides in dreams. While in the dream world, the teens learn about the power of teamwork, a new world of culture, and their hidden potential to be heroes.

Suspenseful, funny at the worst times, and just a hint of teenage romance, Lucid takes a group of young adults and throws them into a fantasy world that they only thought could exist in their dreams. In a sense, they’re right.

Excerpt

I know that most adventure/fantasy/whatever-you-would-like-to–call-these-stories start with something magical, but my story starts with something ordinary, dreams. I’m talking about the “I’m taking a test and don’t realize I’m in my underwear” kind of dreams. We have them every night, whether we remember them or not. Sometimes they leave us waking up with excitement or inspiration. Sometimes they cause us to wake with a shriek and to look around our rooms. Sometimes they leave us waking up confused or ashamed. These experiences are probably commonplace for most people, but I doubt any of you could ever say your dreams caused you to stay asleep for a long period of time.

What if your dreams made you disappear?

~~

Lucid is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers.

 

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New Release – Jackal by Heather Gray

My fellow Astraea Press author Heather Gray has a new Regency romance out! Let’s help her celebrate the release of Jackal (Regency Refuge #2) with a hearty congratulations.

Jackal cover artBack Cover Blurb

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited? His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

Excerpt

1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.

****

A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

~~

Jackal is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes.

About the Author

Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption. She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen. But that’s not all! Interested in contemporary Christian romance? Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order! She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her. And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict. Some things just can’t be helped.

Connect with Heather Online

Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite

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New Release – True Colors by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Please join me in helping my fellow Astraea Press author Krysten Lindsay Hager celebrate the release of her debut novel, True Colors.

True Colors cover artBack Cover Blurb

Every day I walked down the sidewalk to school and wished I were one of the interesting popular girls who ran up with exciting news. Just once I’d like to be one of those girls instead of the being the one who didn’t get invited to things because people “forgot” about me.

Landry gets pushed into trying out for the American Ingénue reality show modeling competition with her two best friends. She doesn’t think she stands a chance, but she advances to the next level in the competition and her friends ignore her when they get cut.

Enter the gorgeous Devon, who also makes the first cut and includes Landry in her clique. Devon becomes the perfect best friend, but can their friendship survive the competition?

Landry hopes her big break could come at any moment, but soon sees there’s much more to modeling. She begins missing out on being with friends and has the chance to have a boyfriend when she meets a boy named Vladi from another school.

Part of Landry wants to be famous (and have her hair look good for once), but part of her just wants to be accepted. She learns about friendships, being true to yourself, and that a good hair conditioner doesn’t hurt.

Excerpt

The competition was for girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, but it felt like Ericka, Tori, and I were the youngest ones there. I only saw a couple of girls from school, and the lineup looked more like something you’d see on a music video set. All the girls were gorgeous, and they had these curvy womanly bodies. I looked like a skinny little kid next to them. The first girl walked out, and I heard the judges say she “owned the runway,” and, “walked like a gazelle.” I was starting to feel ill. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to come, but I knew I had to find a bathroom — fast. I started to get out of line when Ericka grabbed my wrist.

“It’s almost time,” she said. A tiny bit of spit flew out of her mouth and hit my cheek.

I wasn’t sure why she was so intent on me going through with it, but she had a death grip on my arm, so I didn’t have much of a choice. Her number was called and she walked out to the stage. One of the other girls said she walked like a kid with sand bucket stilts on her feet, but she came back with a smirk on her face like she knew she’d get chosen.

“They said they had never seen such long legs,” she said.

Tori was next.

“She walks like a gorilla at feeding time,” said the girl behind me. I went next, and I tried to focus on not tripping over my feet. My mom’s pumps had a rubber sole on the bottom, which probably wasn’t the brightest idea seeing as my shoes were making squeaking noises as I walked. I was so nervous I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked. I looked like the plastic clown who blows up balloons with its mouth at the Pizza Palace. When I got to the end of the runway, I tried to cross my feet to turn like the other girls had, but I over rotated and ended up doing a full spin which made my kilt fan out and gave the mall walkers a view of my blue underpants. I tried to act like it was intentional and did an extra turn. One of the judges put her hand up to stop me, and I held my breath as she started to speak.

~~

True Colors is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

About the Author

photo of author Krysten Lindsay HagerKrysten Lindsay Hager is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. Her debut novel, TRUE COLORS, will be out June 17th from Astraea Press. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows.

Links:

Website: www.krystenlindsay.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22444090-true-colors

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96jxcUH54hU

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New release – Three Wishes by Deborah Kreiser

Please welcome my fellow Astraea Press author Deborah Kreiser! She’s here today to celebrate the release of her new YA novel Three Wishes, and to talk about writing.

Leather and lace? Writers have it hard. And easy.

photo of author Deborah KreiserWe writers have it hard. There’s always other stuff demanding our attention, though we feel guilty when we don’t spend every spare minute on our book babies. It’s so hard to see a project through to the end. The odds of actually getting agented/published/purchased are slim. The level of competition is high, and yet we need to pour our hearts and souls into our writing in order to have even a chance of success.

We writers have it easy. We get to sip lattes and eat chocolate while making up things from our imaginations. We visit the library and read books for “research,” and troll the internet for insanely specific but often fun details for our stories. We commiserate with other writers via social networking, and get to call it “building our platforms.”

Yeah, I know it’s a contradiction. Writers have it both easy and hard. Sometimes the writing flows as smoothly as chocolate sauce on a sundae, and it seems like free time stretches endlessly before us. When that happens, writing is more like a destiny than an effort. It is an incredibly satisfying feeling.

But it’s hard when too much is going on all at once. It’s hard when writing starts to feel like work and less like pleasure. It’s tough to be creative on a schedule.

The only thing that works for me is a) taking advantage of the up times, and b) cutting myself a ton of slack when I’m having difficulty. If I pack my bags for too many consecutive guilt trips, I risk abandoning my laptop for good. It’s better, I reason, to ride the wave; go with the flow; not paddle against the current.

So, even though this month is a crazy one, and I’ve hardly spent any time editing my work-in-progress, I tell myself it will come. And it will be good. And I accept that and move on.

We writers have to coach ourselves through rough patches, because no one else is going to get us there.

About the Author

If Deborah Kreiser had three wishes, they would include: a lifetime supply of calorie-free chocolate, a self-cleaning house; and the ability to expand time as needed. When not dreaming of her next plot, she works as a school librarian in Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.

Connect with Deborah online

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Three Wishes cover artBlurb

Tall and lanky, Genie Lowry is only noticed at academic awards assemblies—until the day she turns 17 1/2, when her body changes from Kate-Hudson-flat to Katy-Perry-curvy—and she finds out she’s a real, live genie. Suddenly, every guy at school is paying attention to her, including Pete Dillon, her never-in-a-million-years crush.

But to gain her full powers and keep her new body, Genie has to find a master, and she’s not sure if Pete’s Master (or Mr.) Right. With help from her dead mother’s interactive diary and an imposing mentor with questionable motives, Genie uncovers the family history and genie rules she never knew. She grapples with her new powers and searches for the perfect master as she tries to make her own wishes come true.

~~

Three Wishes is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Hey, Readers! Would you like to take a survey?

Authors do a lot more than write. We do research for our books. We search for the best ways to market our masterpieces. We constantly look for ways to reach more readers. But most of all, we wonder.

photo of nervous young woman

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do readers really want? Are we doing it right, or will we drive readers away with our efforts to connect with them?

In case you didn’t know, authors can be a really insecure bunch. If we could, most of us would lock ourselves away and write all day, every day, but in addition to real life getting in the way, we have an innate desire to connect with readers and make them happy. That’s one of the reasons we write — to give readers entertaining stories they’ll love to read over and over.

illustration of man leaning against clipboard with checked boxes

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That’s where the Reader Survey comes in. From April 13-20, 2014, you (the reader) get to tell authors what you really want. You also get to tell them what you love and what you hate about their efforts to connect with you. It may not feel like it sometimes, but the publishing business is all about readers. Without you, we authors would be out of a job and devastated that we couldn’t share our stories with you.

So, please take pity on us insecure authors and share your opinions on the Reader Survey. It’s completely anonymous, so be please honest, even if you think your opinion won’t go over well. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we authors can’t learn what you love or hate about our efforts if you don’t tell us!

Click here to take the survey

In conjunction with the Reader Survey, I’m running a giveaway on my Facebook page. Entering is super easy. All you have to do is share the survey and let me know in a comment on the pinned post. Full details (including the prizes) can be found on my author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/EA-West/34280264617

Thanks for helping make this survey a success!

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