Friday, August 30, 2013

Interview with Dan Maurer, author of 'Snow Day' - Win a Kindle Fire HD!


It happens each winter, and has for over 35 years. Every time the snow starts to fall late in the evening before a school day, the dreams begin again for Billy Stone. They are always the same – there’s a dark tunnel, and there’s blood, lots of blood, and someone is screaming. In this chilling childhood tale, Billy, recounts the events of one unforgettable day in 1975. On that day, he and his friends played carefree in the snow, until an adventure gone awry left him far from home, staring death in the face, and running from a killer bent on keeping a horrible secret. Set in a time before Amber Alerts, when horror stories were told around camp fires instead of on the nightly news, Snow Day is a blend of nostalgia and nightmare that makes us question if the good old days were really as good as we remember. From a new voice in dark fiction comes a thriller about an idyllic childhood turned horrifying; a cautionary tale about how losing sight of the difference between feeling safe and being safe can lead to deadly consequences.
 Free Audiobook Sample — Snow Day: Prologue Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Amazon Buy Snow Day at Audible Buy Snow Day at iTunes
1.     How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I was a child of the 70s and early 80s. It was a time when blockbuster novels and films like Carrie, Jaws, The Godfather, Rocky, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Alien were reinventing how stories were told and sold both in print and on the silver screen. In a family where books were in abundance and my brothers and I spent our free time making Super 8 movies in the backyard, it was hard not to fall in love with storytelling.  And given the zeitgeist of that era, it was also natural that I develop a desire to write stories that both excite and, on some level I hope, inspire.

2.     What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Thrillers are my comfort zone.  Because I was influenced to a great degree by those blockbuster films of the 70s and 80s, I am keenly aware that audiences have certain expectations about keeping the story moving. Yet, at the same time, I was equally influenced by novels, which often have a more deliberate pace because they are developing ideas and emotions through believable and sympathetic characters, and that takes time. So I set my sights on developing thrillers with a bit of substance when I can.  I also like working in the thriller category because it’s so broad. It covers crime, spy, horror, sci-fi, adventure fiction and more. Because it is so broad it gives me a lot of freedom to develop different ideas by leveraging different literary conventions.

3.     Who influenced your writing once you began?
Several people have influenced me along the way. Among them have been Bill Hallberg, my college fiction writing teacher and the author of one of my favorite novels, The Rub of the Green.  I fell in love with his writing style and his narrative voice. And while I don’t think I could ever emulate it, it set me on a path as far as developing my own voice as a writer. Later, there was also my experience working side-by-side with book editors like David Gernert at Doubleday (now John Grisham’s agent), and John Sterling (Richard Price and David Simon’s Editor) at Houghton Mifflin. Their editorial sensibilities opened my eyes to a variety and quality of fiction and nonfiction that I didn’t truly appreciate until I worked with them. And of course, there is the work of Stephen King.  In addition to his engaging narrative voice, he writes with a level of honesty, of truthfulness, that most authors working in the genre don’t approach.  I think all of these men, some I’ve known personally, some only through their work, taught me the same thing about writing.  Whether you’re writing about golfers, lawyers, crack dealers, or ghosts, make sure you’re telling honest stories about people, real people. That’s what I’ve tried to do with Snow Day.

4.     What is your favorite quote?  Why?
I’m not one who can sum up my life or my life’s perspective using a single quote.  However, I do love using quotes to help develop themes in my work.  I used two quotes in the epigraph to Snow Day. Both are important and on target thematically, because it’s really a story about how an event, and the failure to come to terms with that event, has affected the narrator.  Of the two quotes I used, the one I love the most offers up the immortal words of the actress Mae West, who said: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

5.     What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Having faith. I’m not great at plotting things out in advance. Often when I try, the whole story dries up and dies on the vine.  I seem to be better at starting with a character and a situation and letting them dictate where the story goes. Then I use my instincts to recognize and foster the narrative as it develops.  It can be frightening at times, especially when the pages start to pile up and you don’t have a clear direction. The key for me is to have faith and to remember the old mantra that good stories aren’t written, they are rewritten.

6.     Did writing this book teach you anything?
It didn’t teach me anything new as much as it confirmed a long-held belief that I’ve had.  I’ve always believed that the act of writing is really the act of tapping into the subconscious. We have read and learned and experienced so many things over the course of our lives that they no longer reside in our immediate conscious memory, not unless there is a trigger that prompts it to surface like a song, or a smell, or an expression... or a story.  Writers, during the act of writing, are tapping into their subconscious reservoir of ideas, knowledge, feelings and experiences to produce a story.  That story in turn, when effective, can succeed in opening the readers subconscious memories. When that happens, that’s when the story truly engages them.   

7.     What are you currently working on?
I’m working on several projects at the moment. I’m writing a novel called How Does Your Garden Grow. It’s a horror thriller that weaves three storylines together, that of a fragile teenage girl, left adrift since the sudden death of her closest friend; a disgraced police detective, shattered by the loss of his daughter and the disintegration of his marriage; and a retired school teacher whose walled garden hides not only a bitter heart, but the dark secret that makes her garden grow. I’m having a lot of fun working with this one.  It is set in the same world as Snow Day and is kind of a cross between Wes Craven, Agatha Christie and Stephen King.  How Does Your Garden Grow should be finished by early next year.  An early peek at the work in progress is available on Wattpad ( I’m also co-writing  a screenplay for a WWI epic, and I’m co-producing two musicals for the upcoming theater season.



Dan Maurer is an independent author, publisher, theater producer, director, and digital marketer. He is also a proud member of International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Horror Writers Association. Throughout his career in publishing and marketing, he has been involved in the publication of bestselling titles such as John Grisham’s The Firm, Richard Price’s Clockers, and Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s Lost Moon, which became the film Apollo 13. As a digital marker, he has supported popular publishing brands including Curious George, Peterson Field Guides, and The Polar Express. He has also developed marketing strategies for many corporations, including Citizen, Dun & Bradstreet, RCN and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dan is a member of an acclaimed New Jersey-based theater company and has won awards for his producing, directing and sound design. He lives with his wife and their daughter in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
An Excerpt from Snow Day: a Novella by Dan Maurer
Copyright © 2013 by Dan Maurer. All rights reserved.
Prologue January, 1975
     Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… ”Hello?” My voice was cautious as I called into the darkness. It wasn’t my house and I had no business being down in that cellar. By the look of the boards on the windows upstairs, and the weeds that strangled the front yard, it hadn’t been anyone’s house for a long time. But still, even at ten, I knew in my bones that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. One of the windows was busted at the corner, and the cold wind whipped and whistled at the breach. Outside, a loose metal trash can rolled and rattled and knocked about with each new gust. It made a soft, distant sound. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… The only light was an old Coleman lantern that I found there. It lay at my feet, the mantle fading and sputtering. Beyond the meager glow that lit no more than my boot-tops, it gave me the terrifying certainty that someone was here, or close by, and would soon — Was that a sound? I held my breath and listened carefully, trying hard to dismiss the pounding pulse that thrummed in my ears. Was that a shuffling sound, maybe feet moving and scraping across loose dirt? “Hello…? Anyone here…?” I squinted hard but it was useless. The darkness was unyielding and oddly thick with the smell of freshly turned earth. Someone had been digging down here. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… Running into the house to hide from the police was my only option. The place should have been empty, long abandoned. But it wasn’t, and I knew now that I had to get out. I turned to leave, to run; and then I heard it, a word from the darkness. It was whispered and pitiful and — it was my name. Someone in the darkness called my name. ”B-Billy?” ”Who’s there?” I called out. ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy.” Both the voice and its stutter were familiar. Just hearing it made my guts twist. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I snatched up the lantern at my feet, recalled my scout training, and worked the pump to pressurize the kerosene. The lantern’s mantle hissed a bit, burned a little brighter, and pushed back the darkness. ”Holy shit…” The light washed over a young boy. Like me, he was just ten, and I knew his name. ”…Tommy?” It came out like a question, but it wasn’t. Tommy Schneider lived next door to me and was part of our snowball fight just a few hours before. When the light touched him, Tommy flinched and turned his shoulder, as if anticipating a blow. He shivered and folded his arms across his chest, hands tucked in his armpits. He paced and shuffled his feet in a small circle, as if his bladder was painfully full, and he whined and muttered; half to himself, half to me. “It w-wasn’t m-my fault, Billy. I…I just w-wanted to play.” His eyes were swollen and red, and the tears ran streaks through the dirt on his freckled face. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… “Tommy, what the hell are you doing down here?” ”I..I…I’m sorry, b-but I d-didn’t do nothing wrong, Billy. I’m s-sorry.” He kept his hands tucked under his armpits, but motioned with his chin. And that’s when I saw it, just a few feet from where I stood. Naked and half buried in a pile of loose earth lay the dead body of a boy that appeared to be our own age. ”Jesus Christ…what the hell, Tommy.” ”No….” His whining grew and fresh tears were coming. ”What the hell did you do?” ”Nooo…” he whined more and covered his ears. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.” Frantic now, I held out the fading lantern, quickly looking around. We were still alone. The scene before me was unfathomable. In the half-shadows of the cellar where the lantern struggled to reach, there was a pile of fresh, moist earth and broken shards of concrete. I saw some tools – a sledgehammer and a shovel, and I think a pickax, too. A few brown sacks of cement mix were piled against the wall. And there was a large hole; a gaping wound in the cellar floor that reached beneath the foundation of the house, a hole that led down into a place where the lantern’s light could not touch. Nearby, a stray boot lay in the dirt, just beyond it a gym sock, and another lay close by my feet. A faded, wadded up pair of jeans was perched at the edge of the hole. Tap…tap, clang… Tap…tap, clang… I shivered, despite my layers of clothing and new winter coat. Tommy was freezing. He wore only jeans and a t-shirt pulled over a long-sleeved sweatshirt. His breath, like mine, fogged in the January air, and his jaw waggled helplessly from his shivering. “Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the body. At first, Tommy’s eyes followed my finger, but then he just moaned and cried some more, and turned away. I couldn’t tell if the boy on the ground was from our immediate neighborhood, or my school, or Boy Scout troop, or baseball team. It was difficult to discern much about him at all. He lay on his belly in a pile of dirt, and the loose earth covering his face and parts of his torso were, it seemed, tossed on him carelessly by whoever dug the hole. The backs of his pale white thighs glowed in the lantern’s light. The only stitch of clothing left on him was a pair of white Fruit of the Loom jockeys tangled around one ankle. I picked up one of the gym socks from the ground, pinched it into a ball and held it with the tips of my fingers. Kneeling beside the dead boy’s head, I held the lantern close with one hand and used the sock to brush the dirt from his face with the other. Like a fossil being unearthed by an archeologist, the truth came slowly. As the seconds passed, the light and each stroke of my hand brought broken, bloodied and indecipherable features into sharp focus. But the crushed and jellied eyeball put me over the edge. I jerked back from the body. ”Oh, God! Tommy, what — “ My stomach lurched. I dropped the lantern and fell backward onto the ground. Turning and scrambling away on hands and knees, I found a corner and began to wretch. My back arched and my body convulsed uncontrollably. It was the Coney Island Cyclone all over again, but this time nothing came up, only thin strands of bile dripped from my mouth and down my lips. In time, the convulsions faded. I finally rolled over and just sat there, looking at Tommy, wiping the spittle from my lips with the back of a shaky hand. My head throbbed and my mind was fuzzy. No words would come. The wind howled through the broken cellar window again. Outside, the passing cars made a distant shushing sound as they crept along Woodlawn Avenue, tires rolling through the snow and slush. My heaving, stinking breath clouded in the cold air, and Tommy just cried. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… I was ten years old and had just seen my very first real dead body – still and soulless, and battered beyond recognition – lying on the floor of a cold, dark cellar of an abandoned house. What the hell did I get myself into? Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Staggering to my feet, I picked up the lantern and held it out. ”Tommy… who did this?” My throat was dry and pained. Just as the words passed my lips, something in my mind and in my ears opened up – popped open, really, like in the cabin of an airliner during descent. That sound. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… It was different. It was continuous. It wasn’t the rattling trash can anymore. The sound came from a distance but it was there, and it was distinctive. I knew exactly who was standing impatiently, hip cocked and jaw set, banging on the lip of a dinner bell with her soup ladle. Clang, clang… Clang, clang… Tommy looked at me. He heard it too and knew what it meant. ”Your Ma’s calling, Billy.” ”Who, Tommy?” ”I…I…didn’t d-do nothing wr-wrong, Billy,” Tommy whined. “I just w-wanted to play.” ”Tommy…” ”It was ol’ George,” he finally said. “He did it. Stay away from ol’ George.” And then he started to cry again, whimpering. “I just wanted to play,” he mumbled through the tears. ‘ …just wanted to play…” Clang, clang… Clang, clang…Clang, clang

Pump Up Your Book and Dan Maurer are teaming up to give you a chance to win a new Kindle Fire HD!

Here's how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. If your blog isn't set up to accept the form, we offer another way for you to participate by having people comment on your blog then directing them to where they can fill out the form to gain more entries. This promotion will run from July 1 - September 27. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on September 28, 2013. Each blogger who participates in the Snow Day virtual book tour is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. If you would like to participate, email Tracee at tgleichner(at)  What a great way to not only win this fabulous prize, but to gain followers and comments too! Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway ------------------------------------------------------------ ADD COUNTDOWN WIDGET!

Snow Day Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Wednesday, July 3 – Book reviewed at Midnight Thrillers
Wednesday, July 3 – Book featured at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews
Wednesday, July 3 – 1st chapter reveal at Rainy Day Reviews
Thursday, July 4 – Book reviewed at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Thursday, July 4 – Guest blogging at Midnight Thrillers
Friday, July 5 – Book featured at Mom with a Kindle
Saturday, July 6 – Guest blogging at Rainy Day Reviews
Saturday, July 6 – 1st chapter reveal at Parenting 2.0
Sunday, July 7 – 1st chapter reveal at Inside BJ’s Head
Sunday, July 7 – Book featured at Margay Leah Justice
Sunday, July 7 – Guest blogging at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Wednesday, July 10 – 1st chapter reveal at Read 2 Review
Friday, July 12 – 1st chapter reveal at Book Him Danno
Sunday, July 14 – Interviewed at Review From Here
Thursday, July 18 – Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Friday, July 19 – Book reviewed at Sarah’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, July 24 – Book featured at Parenting 2.o
Wednesday, July 24 – Book featured at Books R Us
Thursday, July 25 – Book featured at My Cozie Corner
Saturday, July 27 – Interviewed at Broowaha
Monday, August 5 - Book reviewed at The Road to Here
Tuesday, August 6 - Book reviewed at My Cozie Corner
Tuesday, August 6 - Book featured at Naturally Kim B
Wednesday, August 7 - Book reviewed and 1st chapter reveal at Thoughts in Progress
Thursday, August 8 - Book reviewed at Bookingly Yours
Friday, August 9 - Book featured at Book Marketing Buzz
Monday, August 12 - Guest blogging at Janna Shay
Tuesday, August 13 - Guest blogging at Straight From the Authors Mouth
Wednesday, August 14 - Book featured at Authors and Readers Book Corner
Friday, August 16 - Book reviewed at Miki's Hope
Monday, August 19 - 1st chapter reveal at As the Pages Turn
Thursday, August 22 - Interviewed at Examiner
Monday, August 26 - Book reviewed at Gina's Library
Tuesday, August 27 - Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Wednesday, August 28 - Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Friday, August 30 - Interviewed at I'm Shelfish
Monday, September 2 - Book reviewed at Emeraldfire's Bookmark
Wednesday, September 4 - Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book
Friday, September 6 - Book reviewed at Mary's Cup of Tea
Monday, September 9 - Book review and 1st chapter reveal at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
Wednesday, September 11 - Guest blogging at Between the Covers
Thursday, September 12 - Book review and Guest blogging at From the TBR Pile
Monday, September 16 - Book review and Guest blogging at Cindy's Love of Books
Tuesday, September 17 - Interviewed at The Writer's Life
Wednesday, September 18 - Guest blogging at Allvoices
Thursday, September 19 - Book reviewed at My Book Retreat
Monday, September 23 - 1st chapter reveal at Literary Winner
Thursday, September 26 - Book review and Guest blogging at Cheryl's Book Nook
Friday, September 27 -Book reviewed at The Self Taught Cook
Friday, September 27 - Book reviewed at A Room Without Books is Empty

Pump Up Your Book
Read More »

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm Shelf-ish: A Conversation with 'Children of the Knight' Michael J. Bowler

Michael Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in San Rafael, California. He majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University and earned a master’s in film production and a second master’s in Special Education. He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several films, most notably “Fatal Images,” “Dead Girls,” “Hell Spa” (later re-edited and titled “Club Dead”), “Things” and “Things II.” ”A Boy and His Dragon, published in 2011, is an urban fantasy about a lonely boy in 1970 who discovers both a living dragon and his own true nature, a nature that makes him the most dangerous boy on earth. “A Matter of Time,” a Silver Award winner from Reader’s Favorite, was published in 2012. It is a real-world-grounded story of an almost impossible loop in time that leads to undying love and unforgettable heartache. He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to seven different boys over 29 years with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles for 28 years.  He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, something that is sorely lacking in this state. “Children of the Knight,” his most current novel, is likely to be controversial in its themes and conclusions. Those children society tends to reject or ignore or abuse or marginalize, who come in all shapes and sizes – black and white and brown and Asian and Pacific Islander and gang affiliated and gay and straight and those who are confused about their sexuality – are the subject of this book, and the story depicts an adult society that tells these kids, in various ways, that they are of no real value.

You can visit Michael’s website at

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read as much as I can, but unfortunately not as much as I’d like because it interferes with the writing. Ha! I go to the gym daily and exercise with weights and cardio equipment. I like going to movies, but not as often as in the past. Ticket prices and mediocre quality have taken their toll on even me, a lifelong movie buff. I volunteer at a local juvenile detention facility and have been involved with juvenile justice issues most of my life. I also have been part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program for most of my life and may soon have another “little” brother to mentor. I have my own family that I spend time with, as well. However, since I’ve been focusing on getting the two sequels to “Knight” finished, I limit my non-writing time these days to a minimum. After this trilogy is complete, who knows?

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing stories my whole life, even as a kid, and have always been heavily into reading. My first two books were actually written and re-written off and on throughout the 1980s and 90s before finally being published in 2011 and 2012. Teaching high school, as I did for so many years, limited my quality writing time to a minimum. Children of the Knight was conceived and outlined maybe fifteen years ago, but only when I stopped teaching full time was I able to complete it and get it out to the public.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

I think knowing a publisher was interested in putting out my work was pivotal because, obviously, they felt readers would connect with the story and characters (and they could make money, too.) That’s why I write, after all, in the hopes of touching readers with my work the way I was so often touched and moved by other writers growing up. Oh, and hopefully make some money doing it, of course. Ha!

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Nowhere in particular, but given my fascination with Arthurian stories and the possibility of a second “Children of the Knight” trilogy down the line, I’d love to spend time in the British Isles. Someday.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

If there were a movie out there I wanted to see, I’d dash out and watch it. These movies are all so long nowadays that would probably take up the whole four hours. Ha!

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I don’t think location when I’m plotting a story. I think characters and situations. Locations come into play as needed.

Back to your present book, Children of the Knight, how did you publish it?

I self-published my first two books, and that is one way to go, but it has its drawbacks. I enjoyed the experience, but found it difficult because I don’t really have anyone who will read my stuff for errors or typos or just continuity problems, and thus mistakes found their way into the final product. Also, the marketing is all on me because there is no company that will benefit financially from marketing it themselves. This book, Children of the Knight, was released by a real YA publisher, Harmony Ink, and it’s been an amazingly positive and joyful experience. These people have been fantastic and creative and incredibly helpful all along the way and I can’t say enough good things about the company or the people. I happened to find them through another writer on Goodreads. I read his book and thought it outstanding. I reviewed the book and then he and I got to chatting on the Goodreads site about his experience with Harmony Ink. He said they were amazing to work with so I checked out their requirements for YA submissions and my manuscript seemed to fit those requirements, so I submitted it. The rest is, as they say, history.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

No travel, per se, since it’s set in Los Angeles where I live. But I did go to certain locations to get enough details right to make each setting seem real to the reader. Since many of the characters are gang members, I did not specifically name any gangs or “turf” areas. I definitely didn’t want to stir up any trouble in that arena.

Why was writing Children of the Knight so important to you?

Children of the Knight raises many provocative questions about how our society treats its young, and it’s my hope readers will not merely take these questions to heart, but actually act on the need for change that is depicted. This trilogy of books tells the story of King Arthur and a remarkable group of cast-off kids who create fundamental, systemic change for good throughout the entire city, state, and country. Yes, it is a fable, but it might not have to be pure fiction if enough adults and kids eventually joined together to make it happen for real. I dedicated Children of the Knight to all of the amazing kids I’ve worked with over the years because they are the inspiration for this story, especially those incarcerated kids who clued me into a world of almost impossible-to-believe degradations perpetrated against children in this society. Sadly, every terrible act committed against kids in my book is one I’ve heard from someone in real life. And yet these same abused, abandoned, neglected, tortured kids who likely should have given up years before, inspired me through their undaunted ability to rise above their pasts and still possess hope for a better future. Who knows, maybe my book can jumpstart a children’s revolution. As main characters Lance or Jack would say, “wouldn’t that be epic?”

Is the book always better than the movie?

I don’t want to disrespect other writers, but I’ve read some terrible books that had good premises, and some of these were turned into great movies. As a rule, however, if a book is great, the movie usually pales in comparison. Most of the problem with filmmakers is ego. They think they can make something that’s already great and works perfectly, even better if they put their own “stamp” on it. Doesn’t work. I especially hate adaptations of YA books involving young kids or teens that Hollywood casts with adult actors “playing” kids, even though it’s obvious to anyone in the audience that said actor hasn’t seen a high school in years, let alone a middle school except maybe driving past one in his or her car. Most of these lousy adaptations fare poorly at the box office. I guess Hollywood still hasn’t learned from the Harry Potter adaptations – cast kids to play kids and stick to the original material and don’t try to change it and you have a hit.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get my ideas from real life experience. I have worked with such a variety of people, especially kids. I’ve worked with every kind of kid over the years, from the rich to the nerdy to the criminally inclined to the emotionally disturbed to the gang affiliated, with gay kids and straight kids and everything in between. Just listening to them, or to adults, and observing their lives gives me ideas. My own past life has given me ideas, as well. I guess I consider myself an observer of life and try to capture important issues and interesting characters in my work.

Any final words?

As a child growing up I was hearing impaired and rather introverted and didn’t have a huge number of friends. Books gave me somewhere to go, places I knew I’d never be able to go in real life, and they sparked my already fertile imagination. Sometimes they made me laugh and sometimes cry, but well-written books always got me caught up with the characters and situations. I love the idea of touching someone else’s heart and mind through my writing the same way my heart and mind were so often touched, and even influenced, as a kid growing up, and I hope I’ve achieved that goal with Children of the Knight. Thanks for your time.
Read More »

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In the Spotlight: The Seventh Sorcerer by Stephen Hayes

On the surface, Chopville appears not unlike any other small town in rural Australia. However, its underbelly is more than extraordinary.

Amongst its modest community reside six people from two very different families -- they make up the six most powerful people in the world today. Branded as "Sorcerers", they are the only six people in the world with true magical power. Yet these two families do not cooperate together and although there is no open fighting in the year 2010, things weren't always that peaceful.

John Playman knows this as well as anyone; at the age of 14, he is familiar with the concept of magic, having been raised in a family heavily involved in the magical war 30 years earlier, even though he has never met any of the Sorcerers himself. This year, however, all that is about to change; John and a group of his school friends will find themselves in an unprecedented situation and carrying a responsibility almost too great to comprehend.

John and his cohorts struggle on two fronts with their hormones raging and with the discovery of whom among them is to become the Seventh Sorcerer.


The first day of school. It brought the same mixture of emotions every single year; the gloom of yet another summer break now at a close, the relief of once again being back in that routine of working all day and procrastinating all evening, and the refreshing determination that comes from kidding yourself that this year, this year, you’ll do better.…

Fifteen minutes before the bell sounded to indicate the beginning of Home Group found three of us standing outside the doors to Administration where, tacked on the wall, a large sign displayed a number of class lists. It was good news; we had all been put into the same class, we three plus the terrible twins. James Thomas, a tall, tubby, blond boy who had a mind bigger than any part of his body, was closest to the sign, and when he announced the good news, my brother Peter and I cheered in triumph. Peter was small and skinny with pale skin, jet black hair and an embarrassingly high-pitched voice, and when he cheered it was easy to think he should still be attending primary school. Yet he was only a month and a half younger than me; the reason such a thing could exist was due to the fact that I was an adopted child.

“Seen it, I see,” a voice called out to the three of us.

We turned to see a tall, dark-haired boy standing close by, leaning lazily against the wall of the building. He had the appearance of one waiting for someone, or something.

“There you are, Harry,” said Peter, grinning broadly. “We’re all together, and we were all worrying this morning that the teachers might finally work out how much easier it would be for them if they separated us all.”

“Very true. The only trouble is, I’m not Harry,” said the boy, one half of the terrible twins, and apparently the wrong one.

“Oh, well where’s Harry?” asked Peter, shrugging; that was one of the first times any of us had mixed up the twins. Everyone else did it frequently, as they were identical to the last freckle, but we knew them well enough by nature to tell them apart quite easily.

“Oh, I’m him too,” said the boy, either Harry or Simon now; he was doing a very good job.

“I’ve got time tables!” shouted a boy from behind the glass doors beside us, as a moment later said doors burst open, expelling the other twin and identifying quite clearly who was who.

“Only joking, Pete,” said the first twin, “I am Harry.”

“I thought you three would be here by now,” said Simon. “I got you these. You’ll be kickin’ yourselves when you see the teachers we’ve got.”

We spent several minutes looking over our time tables, which showed the times, locations and teachers of each of our lessons.

“Mrs. Gall, Mrs. Worlker,” James listed off, running his finger down the Wednesday column.

“Oh no,” groaned Peter. “We’ve got Hall again.”

“Oh please no,” I moaned, quickly checking my own to be sure Peter wasn’t playing a bad joke. “Not again. What for?”

“English,” sighed Peter. Hall taught English, French and Science; more subjects than any other teacher in the school.

“Just to throw a bucket of petrol on the fire,” said Harry, looking through his own timetable, “we have him for Home Group as well.”

“No,” moaned Peter and I, almost in unison.

“Relax,” said Simon easily, somehow managing to maintain much higher spirits. “We have two Home Group teachers this year.”

“We do?” asked Peter. “How does that work?”

“Two teachers take us for Home Group,” I said stupidly.

“I kind of figured that, John,” snapped Peter.

“We have Mrs. Worlker as well,” said James. “She has us for History, look.”

“They alternate,” said Harry, “Mrs. Worlker on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Mr. Hall on Wednesdays and Fridays.”

“What about Mondays?” I asked.

“Easy, we go home,” said Peter spiritedly.

“We have them both,” said Harry. “I think it must be to get us in working mode for the week, they need two teachers.”

“With people like you lot in the class, no wonder,” said James.

“It’s nearly five past,” I said, glancing down at my watch. “Where’s Room 12?”

“Don’t tell me your memory of this place has leaked out of your head over the holidays, John,” said Simon. “You’ll know Room 12 in no time; we’ve got half our classes in there this year.”

Home Group was a ten minute class that preceded each school day. Each class would go to an assigned room where the roll would be called and announcements would be given to the students. This morning, however, periods One and Two were cancelled. Instead, an entire school assembly took place for an hour in the gym, during which the principal, vice-principal (who was known to be pretty thick at the best of times), and the new school captains and vice-captains, all got up and made very boring speeches. The time from the end of that assembly to Recess, which began at exactly 10:51 AM, was taken up by Home Group in Room 12.

Purchase at AMAZON
Read More »

Friday, August 23, 2013

A to Z Bookish Survey

This is why I have so many book blogs in my reader, I would have missed a great post like this. Credit goes to Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner for creating this awesome survey. Check it out, and if you do participate I would love to know so I can see your answers. Here goes nothing!

Author you’ve read the most books from:

This is an easy one - it would be Stephen King. He ignited my love of books, and while I don't love all of his books (I don't even like some of them) he is still my favorite author of all time. No one (when it comes to the amount of books read by one author) comes close. And I'm ok with that:)

Best sequel ever:

Boy, this is really a hard one. But, I think I would say The Vampire Lestat. I adored Interview with a Vampire, and The Vampire Lestat just opened up the story to show more of Lestat's story. He was kind of a love/hate character for me, but in the end he became one of my favorites. 

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning would be another that would be right up there. The Darkfever series is one of my all time favorites, so all of them are fabulous.

Currently reading:

I’m in the process of picking my next book, and just don't know what to pick. But, I am pretty sure it is going to be Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield. The Thirteenth Tale is one of my favorites of all time so I don't know how I can't pick this next.

Drink of choice while reading:

It depends on the time of year, and where I am. If I am outside in the summer it is usually water or flavored water. Fall and winter it is coffee or tea.

E-reader or physical book:

Physical book definitely. I have a Kindle Fire HD and iPad, and while I do read books on both of them, nothing will ever take the place of holding a book in my hand. Ever!

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated (in high school):

Do they have to be age appropriate? Lol! If not, I would say Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon...yum, yum!

Glad you gave this book a chance:

The Hunger Games. After reading books that came 'highly recommended' and being disappointed, I was afraid to pick this one up. Thankfully there was no need as this book is excellent!  

Hidden gem book:

Boy, I'm not sure. I think I would recommend The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark or The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.

Important moment in your reading life:

When I was 11 I picked up 'Salem's Lot. I had always been drawn to scary/horror type stuff, and thought I would give this book a try. And it changed my life, seriously. It is still one of the best books I have read, and has so much nostalgia attached to it:)

Just finished:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Kind of books you won’t read:

I won't read anything that is too religious. I am a Buddhist by nature so anything that is too Christian is hard for me to read. But, I just read The Diabolist by Layton Green and have to say it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. And, it might really open your eyes about religion and religious beliefs. Granted, it is fiction but you will be looking up stuff, just like I did. At least, I think you will, lol!

Longest book:

Not sure - probably The Stand by Stephen King at 1200 pages or so. It would be a close second at 1100.

Major book hangover because of this book:

In a good or bad way? Good is hard, bad is easy - Fifty Shades of Gray...hated it.

Number of bookcases you own:

Seven and need more. And, I have hundreds of books on my Kindle/iPad...what can I say, I'm a book hoarder:)

One you’ve read multiple times:

I try not to re-read too much because I have SO many books out there. But, I have re-read The Shining, The Stand, It, and 'Salem's Lot by King, The Vampire Chronicles, and The Darkfever Series. I am sure there are more. Wow, that is quite a few re-reads, there goes that theory.

Preferred place to read:

I have a chair I love to sit in when I read.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels (from a book you’ve read):

"Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of somedream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed." -from "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allen Poe

Reading regret:
Two come to mind right away - the Twilight Series (yes, I read them all) and Fifty Shades of Gray...ugh!

Series started, but need to be finished (all books are released):

The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz - I REALLY need to read these. And, the Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead. And, the Vampire Academy series...again, I have a lot of reading to do, lol!

Three of your all-time favorite books:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Stand by Stephen King. This list is WAY longer as I have a bunch.

Unapologetic fan girl for:

Anything that has to do with vampires...well, except for Twilight. I really did hate it. And, I love anything Edgar Allen Poe. And Kurt Vonnegut. Damn, I am a fan girl for a lot of stuff, even more than this.

Very excited for this release more than all others at the moment:

Not sure if I can think of one at the moment. I'm sure there are more than one though.

Worst bookish habit:

Reading more than one book at a time...I'm not good at that but try all the time.

X marks the spot: Start at the top left side of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Your latest book purchase:

Wicked Game by Lisa Jackson

ZZZ-snatcher book: The last book that kept you up WAY late:

The Book Thief - really, this book is SO good!
Read More »

Interview with Dora Machado, author of 'The Curse Giver'

The Curse Giver banner

CurseGiver_Front Cover Final 1ABOUT THE CURSE GIVER

Lusielle's bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when her husband betrays her and she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn't commit. She's on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames. Brennus, Lord of Laonia is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark. Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. PURCHASE AT: amazonbarnes and noble         ADD BOOK ON GOODREADS: goodreads        

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
I'm most proud of my kids, my family and my books, in that order.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I grew up in the Dominican Republic, a very different and yet incredibly defining experience for a writer. The island shaped my writing in so many different ways. It gave me inspiration. It taught me plot, characterization and point of view on the go. It trained my senses in the keen art of appreciating the details. Scents, colors, textures and flavors pack a huge punch beneath the tropical sun. Conflict meets drama when you live in a society where extreme poverty collides every day with extreme wealth and justice is a no-go. The D.R. was an incredible setting, and growing up on the island was a fantastic experience in itself. No wonder I write fantasy!
When and why did you begin writing?
I think I've been writing in my head all my life, but it wasn't until about five or six years ago that I began to write in earnest. At that point, my children were old enough to fend for themselves and I could afford to devote my time to write.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I recall being interested in writing since as far back as I can remember. I also recall being fascinated by books as a child and making up stories in my mind all the time. It helped that I came from a family of avid readers who loved books and that my grandfather was a poet.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
I think I've known it all along. It was just a matter of finding the right time in my life to go for it. 
What inspires you to write and why?
I'm not sure I can pinpoint the source of my inspiration exactly. I can say that I have an internal story generator that is always whirling inside of me, a self-propelling creative drive that won't stop or slow down. I'm miserable when I'm not writing. I'm completely happy and fulfilled when I'm writing. It may very well be that I write because I can't stop myself from writing.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I'm most comfortable writing fantasy, romance and historical fiction. I really like to mix all of these elements. I often use medieval history to validate the details in my fantasy stories just as I use romance to deepen, enrich and authenticate my characters. My latest novel, The Curse Giver, is all of that plus mystery and intrigue.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Oh, gosh, I'm always a little embarrassed to say! A dream, I was inspired by a dream when I wrote my first book. I know, it's cliché, but it's also true.  The idea of a stonewiser first came to me in a dream. I saw a woman sitting cross-legged on the ground of a dark cellar, holding a stone in each hand, caught in a dangerous struggle. The stones she clutched with such passion revealed her extraordinary nature. She was a stonewiser, able to retrieve the knowledge preserved in the stones, the only remaining way to uphold the truth and ensure justice in a world devastated by the rot's destruction. My dream inspired my first book, the award-winning Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, a smart fantasy with a huge heart.
I must clarify that I don't consider dreams accidents of the subconscious mind. On the contrary, in my case, dreams are hard work in progress, summaries of thoughts, experiences and research that coalesce while I'm asleep. My first book was inspired by the powerful scene that I saw for the first time in one of my best dreams ever.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
As writers, we are influenced by everyone who comes into our lives and everything that we see and experience.  My travels have always influenced my writing and so has my exposure to different cultures, mythologies and histories.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Writing for me is a natural fit. Yes, the hours are long and the obsession can take a toll, but I love all of it, and therefore I thrive on it. I think the most challenging aspect of writing a novel has to do with the time and dedication required and the tough choices you have to make in order to get it done.  To be honest, sometimes I think that my biggest challenge is the part that comes after writing the books. I love my readers. There's nothing that I enjoy more than meeting them and hearing from them. I can talk about my books until after the cows come home. But self-promotion? Yikes. It just doesn't come naturally to me. 
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
Writing The Curse Giver taught me patience. The story will flow and plot-twists will come when you are true to your characters.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Writing is my career!
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I like sentences that flow and paragraphs that sing. I enjoy a lyrical style coupled with an engaging, irresistible story.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? 
I love writing clever plots and deep characters involved in meaningful relationships. Friendships, rivalries and romance are indispensable to my novels. But by far, my biggest strength as a writer has to do with the passion that I bring to the craft and the story.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Hmm. I think I'm really hard-working.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Skepticism. I loathe it and yet I value it. It keeps the mind sharp and the heart pumping.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

I've got lots of favorite quotes and they are always changing. There are so many great ones out there!  I usually include my current favorite at the top of my newsletter, which is a little embarrassing, because my latest favorite—the one at the top of my summer newsletter right now—comes from my latest book, The Curse Giver. Quoting myself is something I have never done before, but I'll go ahead and leave you guys with this quote, only because I believe that as readers, writers and friends, we all need to support and empower each other to dream and dare.
"The difference between fear and courage is not the absence of danger, but the will to tackle the risk." Dora Machado, The Curse Giver.



Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, coming this summer from Twilight Times Books. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master's degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind's adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats. You can visit her at  



The Curse Giver Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, August 5 - Book featured at Margay Leah Justice
Wednesday, August 7 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Friday, August 9 - Interviewed at Examiner
Monday, August 12 - Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Tuesday, August 13 - Interviewed at Straight from the Authors Mouth
Thursday, August 15 - Guest blogging at She Writes
Friday, August 16 - Interviewed at Beyond the Book
Monday, August 19 - Book reviewed and Trailer reveal at Miki's Hope
Wednesday, August 21 - Guest blogging at Literal Exposure
Thursday, August 22 - Book featured at As the Pages Turn
Friday, August 23 - Interviewed at I'm Shelf-ish
Tuesday, August 27 - 1st chapter reveal at Examiner
Wednesday, August 28 - Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book
Thursday, August 29 - Book reviewed at moonlightreader
Friday, August 30 - Guest blogging at The Writer's Life
Pump Up Your Book
Read More »

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interview with Michelle Zarrin, author of 'From My Heart to Yours'


With an emotionally secure and sheltered upbringing, Sofia, was in for an unexpected ride when she married Earl. Their stable and unnerving union would take deeper turns as they experienced(?) health issues, betrayal and shattered hearts. With each new circumstance Sofia faced, she shed a layer of naiveté, deepening her perspective of life. Beautiful life lessons learned from preschool children healed her wounds and dissipated her scars. They taught her about the human condition at it’s purest. But then the biggest tragedy happened in Sofia’s life, leading her to seek deeper answers. At the end of the book (her story?), she learns that the art of life is how we deal with it’s struggles. Through a powerful and inspiring journey into the soul, she regains the light and love within. Purchase at: barnes and nobleamazon  

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
My book is an accomplishment I am proud of.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My family is artistic. We all have an outlet to express ourselves through our imagination. And for me, the formation of letters, words and sentences is the creative expression of my soul.
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my book to share with the world all of the life lessons I have learned. As for when I began: it was in my teenage years by keeping a journal.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I find power in words. It was a gradual development through my years to thoroughly express myself with written documents.
When did you first know you could be a writer? 
My friends and family would consistently tell me that my writing was very inspiring and emotional.
What inspires you to write and why?
Sharing my life lessons inspires me to write. I believe that by sharing our stories or lessons, it brings the human connection together.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Fiction and nonfiction
What inspired you to write your first book?
The story of my life and all the lessons I learned through the years inspired me to write. I believe the art of life is how we deal with our struggles and wanted to share with my readers what lead me to that discovery and mindset.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
My life story and lessons learned influenced my writing.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
People get intimidated with writing because they become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the dedication. Yet, I tell everyone to take it one step at a time. Even if you write one page a day, you will have a novel by the end of one year.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
My ex-husband’s existence became darker through time. And the darker he became, the more I steered in the opposite direction. I began doing yoga, eating better and focusing on my spiritual path. Now I meditate one hour per day and believe in the power of the mind for the advancement of one’s life.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Yes. I find solace in sitting before my laptop and sharing all that is within me.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I love clear description and poetic metaphors when explaining a scenario or thought.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? 
I do not allow writer’s block to get in the way of my goal for the day. I know that eventually I can break through the block.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I have love and compassion for all of humanity.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I can be impatient with getting to what I want. So I find myself stopping to appreciate the moment for what it is, not for what I would like for it to be.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly” ~ Anonymous. This quote is actually on the back cover of my book. There was a period in my life when I knew I was cocooned with troubles and a future to build. That quote helped me know that in the end, I would be set free.



Michelle Zarrin is an author, blogger and entrepreneur, running two businesses. Having meditated over 2000 hours in the past four years, her expertise is the internal world through the tool of the breath. Inspiration, creativity, tranquility, intuition and compassion all reside within our internal world. Her blogs consist of her writings on life and spirituality. She lives in Orange County, California. You can visit her at

From My Heart to Yours Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, August 5 - Book featured at Literary Winner
Tuesday, August 6 - Book featured at Margay Leah Justice
Wednesday, August 7 - Interviewed at Blogher
Thursday, August 8 - Guest blogging at The Self Taught Cook
Friday, August 9 - Guest blogging at Straight From the Authors Mouth
Tuesday, August 13 - 1st chapter reveal at Cheryl's Book Nook
Wednesday, August 14 - Guest blogging at Redroom
Friday, August 16 - Interviewed at Review From Here
Tuesday, August 20 - Book featured at Plug Your Book
Wednesday, August 21 - Interviewed at I'm Shelf-ish
Friday, August 23 - Guest blogging at The Writer's Life
Wednesday, August 28 - Interviewed at Book Marketing Buzz
Thursday, August 29 - Guest blogging at Allvoices
Friday, August 30 - 1st chapter reveal at Examiner
Pump Up Your Book
Read More »