Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas and Critiques for You

My Christmas was lovely! We woke up a little before nine and then woke the kids up. In a few years, I'm sure that'll change and the boys will wake us up! After opening presents, we went to Mass. Santa forgot his sack and there were a few more presents for the boys inside so that was an added bonus for them. :)

After that, we visit hubby's dad and then had Christmas dinner at one of his aunt's houses. It was delicious! Then we returned home and spent the rest of the day together as a family. It was a wonderful day.

Hubby got me a few books - Inheritance, The Vampire in Lore and Legend, and Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and Man-Beasts.They all look awesome so I can't wait to start reading them! He also got me a few DVDs and some clothes (sports apparel - love the Philadelphia Eagles T-shirts he got me!) But the nicest present was a painted wooden figurine of a kneeling Santa holding baby Jesus in front of a manger scene. Just beautiful.

I hope your Christmases were all just as nice!

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile will remember that I gave away Critiques for Christmas. Although Christmas has already passed, I still want to do this again this year.

You have the choice of a:

Query critique
Synopsis critique
First page critique

All I ask is that you follow my blog. It would be great if you could spread the word, but that's not necessary.

Email me at Nicole.Zoltack@gmail.com with your query, synopsis, or first page.

Critiques will be done in a first come, first served basis. If I get an overwhelming respond, I might have to put a cap on how many critiques I can handle. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Now it's time for me to get ready for Olive Garden. Hubby and I (and the boys) are going out in honor of us starting dating 9 years ago today. Boy does time fly!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Creature of the Week - Nereids


Credit for picture
Nereids were beautiful young women who often rode the waves of the Aegean on the backs of dolphins, hippocamps, and other sea creatures. They were sea creatures but they did not have sea tails. They were friendly and protective of sailors. They could predict storms and guide sailors to good fishing grounds.
Credit for picture
Thetis was one of the most famous of nereids. She was the mother of Achilles. Galatea was another famous nerieds, and she was beloved by the Cyclops Polyphemus. She did not return his love and instead choose a shepherd. Polyphemus, in his rage and jealousy, threw a boulder at the boy and crushed him. In her grief, Galatea transformed her mortal lover's blood into a river.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Anastasia V. Pergakis talking about CLEANSE FIRE


Before I tell you about the story itself, I want to share with you the original idea of where this story came from. My Dad served in the US Army for twenty years. As a writer, I had the urge to write a story about him, telling the world about his dedication to this country. Proud of my Dad as I am, I wanted the world to know of his service, and not have him fall between the cracks and be another 'nameless soldier' as it were. When I began writing the story however, I realized that I could never do justice to him, or any soldier for that matter. I couldn't capture the emotions involved with being a soldier and no amount of talking to my Dad was going to help.

So, I resorted to my passion – fantasy. I took the general idea of a soldier - the steadfast warrior protecting his country - and crafted my characters. The main character originally was to be "my Dad" in a sense, but over time, he grew into his own personality.

Now, while the story as it exists now is completely fictional, the characters and story line are all in dedication to my Dad and all soldiers who have served, are serving, and will serve in the military. It is my hope that, even though in fantasy form, the story of a soldier’s sacrifice and dedication to their country still shines through.

With all that in mind, protions of my royalties will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. This organization helps wounded soldiers and their families heal when they return home.

The Kinir Elite is made up of six elves. They are the Special Forces in their country - like Delta Force here in the States. or the S.A.S in the United Kingdom. They have unique and specialized training that allows them to handle missions of all kinds, ranging from hostage rescue to information gathering to “spy” work.

The Blurb

Complete the mission, no matter what…
Captain Derac Vidor has served Kinir for nearly twenty years. It’s his life, his blood, his soul. And then his Commander betrays everything Derac holds dear. Now he has to focus on his own life and his team instead of saving the citizens of Kinir.

Treason is only the beginning…
Fueled by rage, the team chases the source to their Commander’s betrayal – a powerful wizard bent on revenge. The wizard seeks to destroy the Kinir Elite, in both mind and body. No place is safe, even among their allies.

The past holds the key…
Derac’s tragic past may be the key to saving the team. But can he face the gruesome nightmare in time?

Thank you Nicole for having me on your blog today! I appreciate it. I'll be around all day to respond to comments and answer questions!

Want to know more? Join the Kinir Brigade by signing up for our newsletter! Get exclusive deals, access to special giveaways, and inside information about the series! Join the Kinir Brigade now! And don't forget to visit our Facebook Page and Website too!

Purchase Cleanse Fire


~ * ~ * ~

I’m giving away an e-copy of Cleanse Fire! Leave a comment on this post to enter into the random drawing. I'll draw the names at the end of my tour, January 31, 2012. If you want more chances to win a copy, visit our website to follow our tour! The more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win!

All commenters will also be added to the drawing for a chance to win a signed hard cover. Drawing for the hardcover will be on January 31, 2012, the end of my tour.

You can also get more chances to win by tweeting or posting on facebook! Just leave a link to the tweet or post in a comment below!

**All Winners will be announced on the Kinir Elite Website on February 1st**

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest Blog with Karen A. Wyle - 10 Favorite Stories of Human-Alien Encounters


Since my current release, Twin-Bred, concerns an attempt to improve communication and understanding between humans and aliens, I thought I'd give a shout-out to ten of my favorite treatments of this theme.  Here they are, in random order.

--The Sparrow (and Children of God), Mary Doria Russell: The first of these two books, The Sparrow, is one of my favorite novels in any genre and from any period. The writing is exquisite, and I loved spending time with the characters. Russell does a superb job in both books of creating unique alien races and showing how attempts at comprehending an alien culture can go terribly awry. Children of God, the sequel to The Sparrow, is almost as good, and carries the story forward in a satisfactory way, delving further into the results of human contact with the alien society.

--Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: An examination of a species with distinct similarities to a (nonhuman) Earth species, best understood by extrapolating from that species to its intelligent alien analogue. The aliens' struggle to understand humanity is at least as interesting as the human attempts to fathom the aliens. One of my favorite touches: the President of the United States, faced with alien contact, creates two teams of science fiction authors -- one assuming friendly aliens and one "Threat Team" -- to advise him on what to expect. The characters "Robert Anson" and "Virginia Anson" are a lovely tribute to the science fiction author Robert A. (Anson) Heinlein and his wife Virginia.

--The Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: More wonderfully conceived aliens, and more examples of how humans and aliens could start by making fundamentally incorrect assumptions about each other's biology and culture. The plot thickens as one species (I won't say which) realizes the other's ignorance on a key point and tries to preserve that ignorance as long as possible.

--Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card: This sequel to Ender's Game has some mind-boggling aliens not present in the first book. Once again, we see how much trouble can come from the nigh-inevitable misunderstandings as radically different intelligent species confront each other's customs.

--The Birthday of the World, Ursula K. LeGuin: this collection of short stories includes some stories set on the planet where the better-known The Left Hand of Darkness takes place, and most of the others are set in that same universe. Members of the species taking center stage in The Left Hand of Darkness are asexual except during periodic episodes of "being in kemmer," when they become, quite intensely, either male or female, usually with no predisposition to transform in one direction rather than the other. LeGuin explores how this very different approach to sexuality would shape a culture. I choose the collection of stories rather than the novel because of its more extensive cultural themes and variations.

--The Host, Stephenie Meyer: With ten trembling fingers, I defend Ms. Meyer's abilities as a writer. She has her flaws, as do we all, but she is one heck of a storyteller and creates many appealing characters. The Host -- which I would say has fewer flaws than the Twilight saga, much as I enjoyed the latter -- takes place after a species of intelligent parasites has invaded and largely conquered Earth, taking over humans and living in a transformed superficially-human society. The narrator, Wanderer, is one of these parasites, placed inside Melanie, a particularly strong-willed human rebel. Melanie's memories of those she loves affect Wanderer in ways that transform them both. This is a story of the growth of empathy and understanding.

--Sector General series, James B. White: White is a great storyteller, and perhaps not as great a craftsman. But this series of novels about a galactic hospital is great fun. The  main characters come from about half a dozen species, all with their interesting attributes. Many of the stories involve the appearance of newly discovered species, in immediate and desperate need of medical attention. The challenges posed for the medical staff are daunting indeed. One useful invention is the ability of surgeons to temporarily take on the memories and skills of a renowned doctor of another species, so as to treat that species more effectively. The greater challenge, undertaken by only the most emotionally stable, is to receive semipermanent mental imprints of several different alien doctors at once. Those who hold up under this assault of alien personalities become diagnosticians, best equipped to speculate on what is ailing new aliens and what to do about it.

--The Uplift War, David Brin: This is my favorite of Brin's Uplift series. The background: an intergalactic civilization called the Five Galaxies has existed for billions of years. Throughout that time, existing intelligent "patron" species have altered pre-sapient "client" species, who then occupy a subservient position to the patron, but can go on and uplift new clients. Earth's humans do not fit into this picture, having no known patron. Moreover, when discovered by the Five Galaxies, humans were in the process of essentially "uplifting" chimpanzees and dolphins, putting them prematurely in the "patron" category. Different members of the Five Galaxies have different attitudes toward these distressing new upstarts, with all sorts of political and military results. In The Uplift War, humans are in the process of reclaiming Garth, an environmentally devastated planet, when one of the more hostile patron species, the Guthru, invades and takes the human population hostage. The relationships between various patron and client species, as well as the social characteristics of Guthru (essentially large flightless birds), are thoughtfully and imaginatively worked out.

--Robert Silverberg's Majipoor series (starting with Lord Valentine's Castle): This science fiction series has the feel of fantasy in some respects, but it takes place on a distant planet, involves multiple alien races from yet other planets, and does not take any more liberties with physical laws than your typical science fiction novel. Humans came to the planet Majipoor in some distant past, co-existed uneasily with the shape-shifting indigenous species, eventually conquered and marginalized that species, and then invited the inhabitants of other planets to come and fill up their large new world. I can't say much more without spoilers, but the books gradually reveal a good deal about the society and viewpoint of the native species -- or rather, viewpoints, as there are two quite different approaches about how to reclaim a proper place in planetary society. The human political structure on Majipoor is also original (as far as I know) and interesting.

--Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein: The Grand Old Man of science fiction did not spend much time examining alien societies. This book goes further than most in that direction, though in the service of other themes. Valentine Michael Smith was orphaned as an infant, on Mars, and raised by Martians. As a young man, he is found by an Earth expedition and returns to Earth. We learn about Martians from him, and -- of more importance -- see human society from his essentially Martian viewpoint. This is, among other things, a science fiction spin on the coming of age story, as Michael gradually learns to become human, while trying to share some aspects of Martian culture.

Readers, please comment with your own favorites!

---
Twin-Bred
By Karen A. Wyle

Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other.  Misunderstanding breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?


Excerpt:

The human colony on Tofarn and the indigenous Tofa have great difficulty communicating with and basically comprehending each other. Scientist Mara Cadell is running a project where host mothers carry twins, one human and one Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Alan Kimball, a member of the governing human Council, is hostile to the Tofa and has inserted agents into the project.

Excerpt #1 from Twin-Bred

Tilda looked at her twins, cuddled close together in the crib. Mat-set had all four arms wrapped around Suzie. They seemed to cuddle any chance they got. Maybe they were glad to be free of separate amniotic sacs.
She looked down at Mat-set and remembered the rumors of Tofa with five arms instead of four. She had even seen pictures, but who knew whether they were authentic. Certainly none of the Tofa Twin-Bred babies had been born with extra limbs.
Tilda glanced over at the big dormitory clock and then back down at the babies. She gasped and staggered a step back. Mat-set was still holding Suzie with four arms. So how was he scratching his head with another one?
Tilda looked around wildly for a chair, found one blessedly nearby, and sank down on it. She pinched herself. Nothing changed. Well, who said you couldn’t pinch yourself in a dream and keep on dreaming?
She got up and walked, a bit unsteadily, to the intercom and buzzed for a nurse. Then she went back to the crib. Of course. Four arms, only four, and what was she going to do now?
She decided to be brave and sensible. If she had really seen it, the staff had to know. And if she hadn’t, and she didn’t wake up, then she was ill, and she should get the help she needed.

The chief nurse tucked Tilda in and watched her drift off to sleep, sedative patch in place. Then she went back to her station and called up the monitor footage on Tilda’s twins.
Well, well.
 
* CONFIDENTIAL *
CLEARANCE CLASS 3 AND ABOVE

LEVI Status Report, 12-15-71
Executive Summary

Anatomical Developments

Observation of the Tofa infants has shed some light on the longstanding question of whether the number of Tofa upper appendages is variable among the Tofa population. The thickest of the four armlike appendages is apparently capable of dividing when an additional upper appendage is desired. . . .

Councilman Kimball bookmarked the spot in his agent's report and opened his mail program. He owed an apology to the young man who had claimed his poor showing against a Tofa undesirable was due to the sudden appearance of an extra appendage. Apparently the man had been neither dishonest nor drunk.
After discharging that obligation, Kimball made a note to seek further details as to the divided arms' placement, reach, and muscular potential. His people needed adequate information to prepare them for future confrontations. After all, forewarned — he laughed out loud at the thought — was forearmed.

---

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University.  She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle's childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist.  While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9. 

Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction.  It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice.  Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.

---

Twin-Bred Playlist Promotion

I'm running a special promotion for Twin-Bred:  be the first reader to suggest a song for a Twin-Bred playlist, and if I agree with your selection, your name and song choice will be included in an appendix to a future edition of the book!

Please send an mp3 file, or a link to a YouTube video where I can hear the song, to Karen A. Wyle at kawyle@kiva.net.  (At the same time, please let me know if you'd like to be on my email alert list, so you can hear about upcoming releases and events.)

I'll post occasional updates about the playlist on Twin-Bred's Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lindsay Townsend's A CHRISTMAS SLEEPING BEAUTY


If you fancy a sweet, short Christmas fantasy read, why not try my A CHRISTMAS SLEEPING BEAUTY, now released?

Happy Christmas! Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend.

Blurb:

Handsome, confident, a touch arrogant, Prince Orlando thinks that now he has found Sleeping Beauty, his kiss will wake her at once. When it does not, he realizes he has much to learn about life, and love.

Princess Rosie, trapped in her enchanted sleep, dreams of a mysterious man. Is he a rescuer, or a nightmare? She must fight to recover herself, and all before Christmas, for time is running out.

MuseItUp on December 2, 2011 at $2.50

Buy links:

  
Excerpt:

The girl curled on her side, fast asleep in the middle of the twilight-blue silken sheets, was glorious, fit for any prince, even for him. Small, with long, glossy black hair, she had a lithe, flawless figure and the most perfect pink little mouth. Lips sweeter than sugar cane, he wagered, congratulating himself for a third time.

He rolled her onto her back and straightened out her slim, taut limbs. She did not stir. Her breath was sweeter than peppermint and her skin like ivory, tinted faintly with rose. In this gloomy chamber, unlit by windows or torches, she glowed like a pearl, as if lit from within. Her nightdress was white and trimmed with lace, the kind of old-fashioned gown his grandmother used to wear. He imagined himself ripping it from her, plundering those lush pink lips for kiss after kiss as she gasped her thankfulness and gratitude, and he made her his, right here in the great bed. And after that, of course, the kingdom would be his, for her parents would make him their heir.

A swift marriage in the cathedral before Christmas, and all would be well. He would hire tutors for her, to teach her the modern ways, but if she was as soft and obedient as his grandmother had been, then all would be very well indeed.

And I am going to marry her, he thought.

He tugged off his boots and sank onto the bed. He would kiss her forehead first and then her mouth, he decided. He caught her wrists in one of his large hands, so she would not scratch him when she woke.

Her flesh was warm and fragrant. A small pulse thudded in her temple as she responded to him. The weariness of his long hunt for this fabled kingdom dropped away as he knelt on top of her, careful not to crush her with his weight, and lowered his head.

A snap behind him had him sprawling off her, knife ready, shielding his prize.

He relaxed, realizing a log had collapsed in the fireplace, and turned back.

"None shall take her from you, eh, Prince?"

Out of nowhere, a woman had appeared beside the carefully laid fire. She was nearly as tall as himself, with iron-gray hair and a handsome, if sharp, face. She was robed in the latest fashion and carried a sheath of yellow iris which she proceeded to arrange into a tall blue vase beside the bed. "I suppose you tried to defend her, at least."

Orlando fingered his dagger. "Who are you, woman? Some kind of ghost?"

"There." She gave the flowers a final shake. "These are some of her favorites. Have you brought flowers?"

"What for?"

"For the princess!" She gave him an expression he had last seen on the harassed face of his Latin tutor. "Do you expect to woo her with nothing?"

Cursing under his breath, even as he felt the heat of his temper pound in his head, Prince Orlando decided things had gone far enough. He slammed his knife back into its sheath. Next, defying the mysterious stranger, or rather ignoring her, he lifted the sleeping young woman into his arms and kissed her firmly on the lips.

Her head fell back a little, but she slept on. 

And also check out Lindsay's upcoming story:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sterling Anabella Palm Beach Curtains Review and Giveaway ($650 to $750 Retail Value)



 I was recently given the opportunity to review a set of Sterling Anabella curtains from Baby Bedding Zone and chose the Palm Beach Pink Curtains with Tiebacks.

The curtains include two white panels with scalloped edge trim in blue, pink, or green. 96 inches long with a rod pocket top, lined with white cotton. The tie backs are double-sided in white pique with accent color on the reverse.

The package the curtains came in was surprising large and heavy. It weighed 10 pounds! That's because the curtains are thick 100% Egyptian cotton. I loved how the curtains were packaged because it prevented wrinkles and minimized crease.

The curtains are beautiful and thick and heavy. I like that they are mostly white with only the trim being in color. They do an excellent job of keeping the light out. Another perk? They're washable! The only con I think of is to make sure your curtain rod can support the weight of the curtains.
Now - the price. Although the valance is not available online, the curtains are a steal at $65 considering the ARV is $650. Thanks to Baby Bedding Zone, savvy shoppers can get high quality products as a more than reasonable price.

BUY IT:
The Sterling Anabella Palm Beach Pink curtains (in the review) can be purchased off of the Baby Bedding Zone website. You can also view the Palm Beach Blue curtains which will be available in this giveaway. You can also view the other Sterling Anabella baby bedding which makes designing your nursery a breeze!


WIN IT:
BabyBeddingZone has generously offered to send a Blue set of Sterling Anabella Curtains to one lucky winner! (Note: valance not included)

To enter, simply complete the form below (one entry per person, per method). Info collected will only be used to verify the winning entry and contact the winner. This giveaway will close on January 3rd at 11:59pm EST. The contest is open to readers in the US only.

One winner will be picked randomly through Rafflecopter and I will contact them via email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond with mailing address or another winner will be chosen.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Creature of the Week - Hippocamp


Credit for picture
The hippocamp is a hybrid sea creature - a literal sea-horse. The beast has the front half of a horse and the scaly back half of a fish. The hippocamp is found in Greek, Phoeician, and Etruscan mythology.
Credit for picture
Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is often portrayed riding across the waves in a chariot drawn by hippocamps. Nereids often ride on their backs. (I'll feature Nereids next week.)
Credit for picture
According to Greek legend, Jason and his Argonauts were on a quest to find the Golden Fleece. Once when they did not know the way, a giant hippocamp was unhitched from Poseidon's chariot, rose from the sea, and galloped away across the desert. The Argonauts followed the creature's tracks as they carried their boat on their shoulders until they reached the next bay.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stuff Your Stockings Giveaway

I'm taking part in the Stuff Your Stockings Christmas Blog Hop where I and and almost 200 hundred other authors are all giving away stuff on our blogs.

I'm giving away winner’s choice from my backlist in PDF format!

To make it easy for you to enter, just tell me which book you would pick if you won. Here is the list of books for you to pick from.

I would love for you to be a follower and spread the word, but it's not necessary to win.Giveaway ends midnight Sunday, December 18, 2011.

Good luck!



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Be a part of a $50 cash giveaway

Want to be a part of a $50 cash giveaway, go fill out this form! It’s FREE!



SIGN UP IS FREE
TWITTER ONLY
Copy all this information and make a blog post on it in order to promote the SIGN UP phase.

Sign up until:
December 18th or EARLIER IF there is a large response.
The giveaway will run from December 18, 2011 – January 1, 2012

COPY THIS CODE FOR THE IMAGE:






CLICK THIS LINK TO GO GET THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/NzkxNzI3NGQ2N2M3ZGU4MzUxNTBmNjVkM2E3ZWU2OjE4/

Steph Burkhart Talking about THE FABERGE SECRET


NICOLE: It's great to have you visit, Stephanie. Tell us about your latest release, "The Faberge Secret."

STEPH: It's a contemporary romantic suspense with an international setting. My heroine, Elise Goodwin, runs a colonial heritage museum in Brattleboro, Vermont. She travels to Boston and acquires a rare Faberge egg. She also meets Dimitri Romanov, a Russian businessman who is the rightful owner of the egg. The sparks fly between Elise and Dimitri, but Dimitri's rival, Gustav Kelch, discovers Elise is in possession of the egg and his pursuit of Elise places her in danger.

NICOLE: Where did you find the inspiration for the story?

STEPH: I've always had a soft spot for exploring a Russian Orthodox Christmas so I wanted the plot to center around Christmas. The Russian royal family was known to give each other the elegant and romantic Faberge egg. They usually exchanged these eggs around Easter, not Christmas, so I put a nice twist in the story to explain the Faberge Christmas eggs in the story.

The inspiration for the story is found in my deep love for exploring the Russian culture. When I was 17, I took a Russian History class in High School and was drawn to all things Russian in a way I can't explain, except to say there is a deep resonance in my soul.

NICOLE: For the "American" part of the story, you take us to Brattleboro, Vermont. Have you ever been there?

STEPH: Yes, I have fond memories of visiting my aunt who lived there. The rolling hills and quaint buildings give the city an early 20th century feel. Since I grew up in New England, I enjoy weaving a New England setting into my contemporary stories.

NICOLE: Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

STEPH: I researched Faberge eggs, Carl Faberge, Orthodox Christmas customs, and St. Petersburg, Russia, as I've never been. I always enjoy the research aspect of a project because I often learn something new.

NICOLE: Tell us a little about your heroine, Elise Goodwin. What's her strengths? What attracts her to Dimitri?

STEPH: I'd like to think that Elise embodies the every day ordinary American girl who is career driven and won't settle when it comes to love. For me, Rachel McAdams comes to mind. Elise's strengths are her loyalty and steadfast nature. Dimitri's been hurt previously, so he finds her loyalty refreshing.

Intitially, Elise is attracted to Dimitri's classic Nordic looks, but what draws her to him is how fiercely protective he is of her.

NICOLE: How long did it take you to write?

STEPH: Approximately two months.

NICOLE: Did you make the book trailer yourself?

STEPH: Yes. For the music I choose "Jesu, My Heart is Desiring," by Kevin MacLeod. The song captures the ambience of the holidays and has a nice suspenseful undertone to it. Kevin's music is royalty free and can be found on Incompetch.com.  Then I used royalty free photos from Dreamstime. In my trailers, I try to establish the setting and mood of the novel as well as give the viewer a sense of the characters so this way, when you go to read the story, you can draw on the visuals to inspire your imagination.

NICOLE: For fun, what's your favorite TV Christmas special?

STEPH: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

REVIEWS:

Sue Perkins, Author of "Blitz"
The Faberge Secret exceeded my expectations. Definitely worth reading more than once. What more can I say? It is such a good book.


BLURB: Elise Goodwin finds herself faced with danger when she learns the Faberge egg she's bought belongs to a Russian mogul, Dimitri Romanov, but is Dimitri playing a game with Elise's heart to get his heirloom back?

ENJOY THIS EXCERPT:

Dimitri scrubbed his hand against the nape of his neck, and then said, "I've been trying to puzzle this out. Your friend stated that the men who ransacked your room mentioned the name Kelch."

"Yes?" She cupped her mug with both hands.

"Gustav Kelch is my rival. We've been rivals since childhood. He owns the other shipping company in St. Petersburg. He also collects fine art, and he possesses a collection of Faberge eggs. He knows I have a collection of Faberge eggs, as well. Alexi believes Kelch stole my egg, but he has no concrete proof."

"Really?" She paused. What had Alistair said? She snapped her fingers. "Well, Faberge did make eggs for Alexander Kelch."

"Yes, he did." Dimitri measured her with a cool, appraising look. "How did you know that?"

"My appraiser told me Faberge didn't just make eggs for the Romanovs."

"Very good. Gustav's great-grandfather was Alexander Kelch."

"And yours, I suspect, was Vladimir Romanov."

"Yes," he admitted. He paused and studied her thoughtfully for a minute.

A bit unnerved, she continued, "My appraiser knew that Faberge had left this particular egg in Vladimir's possession with the intent that Vladimir give it to the Czar's daughters."

"Very good, Elise. Unfortunately, my great-grandfather never had the opportunity to do that. The eggs stayed with us."

 "How was that egg stolen?"

"I loaned the entire set of eggs to a local museum. A man wearing a mask of Prime Minister Putin stole it. My cousin, Alexi, has been working diligently on the case. His contact told him the egg would be sold at auction today."

Fascinated by Dimitri's story, Elise sipped her warm milk. "Boris' van was in front of the auction house. He told me the auction didn't want his items. They didn't think they were valuable enough."

Dimitri snapped his fingers. "Ah, all right. That makes sense, but how could they miss the egg? They had to know it was valuable."

"Perhaps they didn't want it. Perhaps they suspected it was stolen and didn't want anything to do with it."

"So why did you buy it?"

"How could I pass up something so precious? I love the beauty of it."

"I'm glad you appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of the egg."

"Of course I do. I'm an art history major."

Dimitri continued to look at her thoughtfully. He rubbed his chin. "Alexi didn't tell me, but I wonder... could Boris have been his contact?"

"Boris?" Elise sipped her milk. "I doubt it. If you want my opinion, he didn't strike me as the informer type."

"No... Boris mentioned a name. Anatoly, I believe, when I talked to him. I wonder if he was Alexi's informant."

Elise shrugged. The name wasn't familiar to her.

"Perhaps... yes. Perhaps Anatoly was Alexi's informant, and he stole the goods to give to Boris. Boris was supposed to use the auction house to sell them, but they didn't anticipate the auction house not wanting the items, so Boris sold them on the street," Dimitri mused.

"It's plausible, but how did Kelch's men know to track us down?" Elise asked.

Dimitri scrubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands. "No... no... but..."

Elise put down the mug and placed her hand on his waist. The contact sparked a fire in her limbs. "What's wrong?"

"Your receipt--" He lowered his hands. Guilt splayed across his face. "I saw it, and that's how I knew Boris had sold you my egg. I... I crumpled it up and threw it on the floor of the van. Kelch must have broken Anatoly, and then sent his men to find Boris. And if they found him--"

"Oh." Elise swallowed at the fear glittering in his eyes -- fear for her. "They found the receipt with my name."

"Yes. Damn it! I should have pocketed the receipt, but I was furious. All I wanted was my egg."

Apprehension coursed through her. That's why Lucy had been attacked. Kelch and his men hoped to find the egg because they knew Elise had bought it. Lucy had just happened to be in the hotel room because Elise was on a date -- with Dimitri.

He pushed her hand off his waist, clenched his fists, and marched into the living room, halting close to the window. Was he angry at her, or at himself? Well, a part of her was angry at him, too. She and Lucy were in danger -- real danger -- because of that egg, but a part of her just wanted to reach out to him, to comfort him, to tell him everything would be all right.

Elise shifted from foot to foot. Dimitri truly had protected her and Lucy tonight, but how much could she trust him? Was it all about his egg? That's all he'd thought about when he'd thrown the receipt on the floor. No. This man respected his family. He honored Christmas. He was spiritual. She couldn't let him beat himself up for a mistake.

She left the kitchen and walked up behind him.

He stiffened. "Elise, now is not the time. I want to be alone."

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Question of the Week - Anthologies

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

This week, two books came out that have a few of my flash pieces in them. "Demonic Nightmares" is in Daily Flash 2012: 366 Days of Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition).
"Sticks and Stones," "Easy A," "Summertime Fun," and "Bad Date" are all in Daily Frights 2012: 366 Days of Dark Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition).

My question for you is whether or not you read anthologies. Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekly Progress Report Editing until my Eyes Bleed

I told your guys last month that I was doing a ton of editing.

So far this month, I've edited 745 pages.

Yeah, crazy huh? And the month isn't even halfway over yet. O.o

But I've finally got back into the groove of writing and have written a little less than 10K on my MG fantasy adventure story last week. I don't see how I won't be able to finish this story before next year. I'm at 23K and although I was originally aiming for 45K, I don't think it will be that long. More like 30-35K.

Also, remember how I wrote a 7K short story on the last two days of November? Well, "Love's Fortune" was accepted into Still Moments Publishing's Valentine's Delight anthology! Woot!

And before I forget - there's only two days left to enter to win a purseless purse!  You have a great chance of winning since only one person has entered so far.

What have you guys been up to this past week?


Check out some other great progress report this week:

http://www.writersally.blogspot.com/
http://jc-martin.com/fighterwriter/
http://waibelworld.blogspot.com
http://susanfieldswriter.blogspot.com
http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/p/tuesday-wip-status.html
http://margoberendsen.blogspot.com
http://www.sherryauger.blogspot.com
http://www.susanoloier.blogspot.com--in/
http://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com/
http://lynneawest.blogspot.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Creature of the Week - Kraken


Credit for picture
The Kraken is a giant sea creature in Norrish and northern Scandinavian legend. The Kraken is said to be an enormous octopus or squid-like creature, the size of a small island. Their arms are so long that they can wrap around a ship and drag it beneath the water. When the kraken submerges, it creates a powerful whirlpool that can suck down any ship that manages to avoid its grasp.
Credit for picture
Between the 17th and 18th centuries, people first started to believe the Kraken to be real. Sailors told many tales about the huge creatures. In 1782, ten British warship disappeared, some believed because of the Kraken but this was later disproven.
Credit for picture
 However, the Kraken is not a mythological creature as some once believed. In 1857, proof was found of the existence of the giant squid AKA the Kraken.