Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview with J.K. Coi, author of In Bed with the Competition - Win Prizes!


Title: In Bed with the Competition
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: J.K. Coi
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Language: English
Pages: 181
Format: Ebook

This rivalry is too hot for the tropics… Elizabeth Carlson and Ben Harrison used to be friends, coworkers...and almost lovers. But that was before Ben proposed mixing business with pleasure. Elizabeth refuses to lose her heart to a hotshot tycoon with a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners attitude. Not with the prospect of starting her own company at stake. Driven to succeed in all areas of his life, Ben couldn’t resist the temptation to make Liz his. But then she walked away, igniting a bitter rivalry. Competing for the same contract at a Caribbean conference ignites sparks too hot to ignore, and Ben’s determined to finish what they started, even if it’ll only last a few steamy, tropical nights. Elizabeth’s resolve begins to crumble under Ben’s blatant seduction. Can she walk away from a hot island fling with the sexiest man she’s ever known with her heart intact, or will losing herself in Ben destroy everything she’s fought to achieve?


What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

In my personal life, the thing I’m absolutely the most proud of is my son. He’s a bright, intelligent boy with a warm heart and bold ambitions. I can’t wait to see what he does with his life, and I hope that when he goes for his dreams he’ll think of me. Because the other thing I’m proud of is that I’ve been pursuing my own dreams and getting closer and closer to realizing them every day. It isn’t an easy thing to make dreams come true, because I can’t sacrifice my family’s happiness for my own. It has to be a balance that fulfills everyone, right?  

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

Ummn. That’s a good question. Can I say…I have no idea? I guess it’s helped me to stay focused and determined. My parents imparted a strong work ethic. I think success is at least as much persistence and determination as it is talent, maybe more. 

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing about six years ago when my son was still young enough to be in bed early in the evenings, leaving me with some “free” time on my hands. Of course, it didn’t really work out that way. Free time is never really free, but I still used the opportunity to try something that I’d been wanting to do for a while. At first I wasn’t really sure that it was a … you know, a thing … but when I finished that first book I knew I wanted to write more. Many more.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I wrote a lot of short stories and poetry in high school and always did a lot of reading. It just felt natural to pick the “pen” back up and let the imagination flow.

When did you first know you could be a writer? 

I don’t know if I ever really thought about it so concisely as that. All I knew was that I enjoyed writing, and I wanted to keep doing it. Even if I never sold a book, I think I would still write.

What inspires you to write and why?

Every day things inspire me. The look on a person’s face, a unique situation, a particularly intriguing phrase. And then I just see what I can build with it. The spark is just the beginning!

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I like writing a lot of different genres. I’m most comfortable writing paranormal and fantasy just because I’ve written more of it, but I like to diversify and challenge myself.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I find influences in a lot of different places. I might try to learn from an author whose dialogue I find especially natural and engaging, and then I might read a book where the plot has so many twists and turns I’m amazed how it got pieced all together. I’m constantly learning and growing by studying people who do it better than me!

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

I love the spark that comes in the beginning, with that great idea. And I love building the conflict of the characters to see how badly I can torture them (*evil laugh*). And when the writing is flowing, there’s absolutely nothing better than that. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly, and when I’m “stuck” that’s kind of the worst frustration ever!

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

This particular book was great for me because it’s not often that I write light and fun contemporary romance. I’m used to writing dark, angsty stuff and I needed this kind of a challenge. 

Do you intend to make writing a career?

I DO! J Yes. I always feel like I take the long road on these sorts of life paths, but it’s what’s right for me. I have to be able to provide for my family, which means no drastic decisions without a safety net. But the plans are in place, and I keep working toward my goals!

Have you developed a specific writing style?

My writing style is just to keep plugging away. I’m easily distractible, so I find that in order to write effectively, I have to turn off the internet, the television, the music, and pretty much everything else and just keep my nose to the grindstone until I make my daily goal. I try not to do anything else (ie. social media, website updates, blogging) until those words are done for the day. If they don’t get done, I don’t get online.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? 

I will keep working on something until it’s perfect. (Which is also my greatest weakness, because of course, nothing is ever perfect.)

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I like to listen to people, and help where I can. Since I’m otherwise kind of an introvert, this is the way in which I open up.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

Well, that part above about being an introvert? Sometimes it seems to others like I’m being standoffish or uncommunicative, but the reality is that I sometimes find it difficult to engage (which is why I love being online J )

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

I’ve never really thought of what my favourite quote would be, but there’s one by Oscar Wilde that I really like.  “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – And I guess I like it because it reminds me to make the most of every day. If this is the only life I’m going to get, do I want to look back on it and remember a sea of boring days filled with drudgery and chores? Or do I want to remember being happy, excited, and fulfilled by the life I led?

So…that’s me!! Thanks so much for your questions! 


J.K. Coi is a multi-published, award winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She makes her home in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and son and a feisty black cat who is the uncontested head of the household. While she spends her days immersed in the litigious world of insurance law, she is very happy to spend her nights writing dark and sexy characters who leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.



Don't miss out on great books from Entangled Publishing - Check out their Steals and Deals! 

J.K. is giving away 1 necklace, bracelet, book and swag and 2 necklaces book and swag!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • 3 winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
  • This giveaway begins June 30 and ends on July 11.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, July 14 .
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Interview with Kaira Rouda, author of 'In the Mirror'

Kaira Rouda is an award-winning and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her books include: Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs; Here, Home, Hope; All the Difference; In the Mirror; and the short story, A Mother's Day.  She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children and is at work on her next novel.
Her latest novel is the women’s fiction, In the Mirror.

For More Information

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?

Hi! Thank you for having me! When I’m not writing I’m hanging out with my husband, playing with my three dogs, trying to get my youngest teenage son to engage and talk to me and trying to keep up with my three older kids who are
out in the real world. My daughter is studying in Paris (she’s a Junior in college) and my middle son is finishing his freshman year in college. My oldest is amazing – he landed an incredible job right out of college with an international advertising agency.

Personal interests: growing and maintaining an edible garden – I’m planting tomatoes and other summer crops right now; paddle boarding; yoga; meditation and hanging out with friends.

When did you start writing?

As soon as I could. I am, I must say, a bit of an overachiever, so as a wee infant – no actually, I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. I still wish I had some of my poems from my 6th grade Emily Dickinson phase.

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

Publishing my first book, which was a nonfiction business book for women entrepreneurs called: Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. It’s still a bestseller today and I am so proud of it. But I always thought a novel would be first.

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

My desk, upstairs, with all of my dogs on a play date so I don’t feel guilty about writing when they’re bored. I have a great view of the ocean and a coming-together space (it’s not quite finished yet.) If not here, at home, then I suppose a wonderful hotel room in a brilliant foreign city I haven’t visited yet. I’ve never been to Asia – so Tokyo. That’s where!

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

Write without guilt.

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

California. I live here now, but I need to sit with a setting before it comes to life.

Back to your present book, In the Mirro, how did you publish it?

It is published by a small press, Real You Publishing Group. This book has been ten years in the making – and it was time for it to come into the world.

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

Unfortunately with cancer, you don’t have to travel much beyond your own family to do research these days.

Why was writing In the Mirror so important to you?

We are in denial, as a society, about the unbelievable stress of living with cancer. We don’t want to see the realities unless it hits our own family and then we are forced to look. I know that you have been touched by cancer. I know you know the Emperor of All Maladies is lurking just beyond your vision, ready to strike with one mutant cell. We all know this. Yet, we’re shocked when it happens. I wanted to take a look at what it means when it happens – and what it means for everyone you love or have loved.

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

From living a full life. Because a life fully lived reveals so many stories, and truly, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Any final words?

Thank you for having me here, and for helping to spread the word about IN THE MIRROR! Here are the buy links in case you’d like to include them on your post:
Barnes & Noble:
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Inspiration Behind 'A Very Good Life' by Lynn Steward

Guest Post: “The Inspiration behind ‘A Very Good Life’” by Lynn Steward

About five years ago, I labeled a personal file as “Act Three,” and filled it with creative ideas for a new work-interest. I first enjoyed an exciting career in New York’s fashion industry, then later, via a circuitous route on the way to opening my own boutique Shop for Pappagallo, I established a successful real estate business in Chicago. But I always enjoyed business-related writing and thought a non-fiction self-help book, with life-lessons I learned along the way, was something to explore during this next phase.
But, as often happens when you put yourself out there, I discovered another path and took it: I developed a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because, as they say “Write what you know” and I know New York. I’m a native of Long Island, and between attending school and working, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, I  created a TV series designed to run for five seasons. Appropriately placed in the New York City of 1975, which was International Women’s Year, the plots in the series intermingled fashion legends, business icons, real events, and untold stories, providing a behind-the-scenes look at inspirational women in the worlds of art, fashion, and business.
After meeting with professionals in the entertainment industry, I realized that the main character needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to write a novel, incorporating the TV stories.  While I still hope to see the characters alive on the big screen, I tremendously enjoy daily researching and writing historical fiction. My favorite time to write is early in the morning, preferably around 5:30 a.m., when my mind is clear, it is peaceful, and there are no interruptions. For at least three hours a day, I am again at home in New York City in the 1970s, creating a life for thirty-year-old Dana, her family and friends: attending parties at Café des Artistes with celebrity guests like legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, a business meeting with Estée Lauder, an art lectures at the Met.. At the same time, raising important questions that are relevant at every age, then and now: how does one find balance and meaning in the daily routines of life? How does one stop counting the candles, a single year or event, and instead, value the tapestry of life? This quest for self-fulfillment is a universal theme everyone can identify.
About the Book

Although Lynn Steward’s debut novel, A Very Good Life, takes place in 1970s New York City. it has a timelessness to it. Dana McGarry is an "it" girl, living a privileged lifestyle of a well-heeled junior executive at B. Altman, a high end department store. With a storybook husband and a fairytale life, change comes swiftly and unexpectedly. Cracks begin to appear in the perfect facade. Challenged at work by unethical demands, and the growing awareness that her relationship with her distant husband is strained, Dana must deal with the unwanted changes in her life. Can she find her place in the new world where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?

One Very Good Life chronicles the perils and rewards of Dana’s journey, alongside some of the most legendary women of the twentieth century. From parties at Café des Artistes to the annual Rockefeller Center holiday tree lighting ceremony, from meetings with business icons like Estée Lauder to cocktail receptions with celebrity guests like legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Steward’s intimate knowledge of the period creates the perfect backdrop for this riveting story about a woman’s quest for self-fulfillment.
About the Author: 

Lynn Steward is a successful business woman who spent many years in New York City’s fashion industry in marketing and merchandising, including the development of the first women’s department at a famous men’s clothing store. Through extensive research, and an intimate knowledge of the period, Steward created the characters and stories for a series of five authentic and heartwarming novels about New York in the seventies. A Very Good Life is the first in the series featuring Dana McGarry.
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First Chapter Reveal: The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III

Title: The Unholy
Author: Paul DeBlassie III
Publisher: Sunstone Press
Pages: 200
Language: English
Genre: Psychological/Paranormal Thriller
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

 First Chapter:

A chilly autumn morning wind swept over the grounds of the Ecclesia Dei Psychiatric Hospital. Claire Sanchez walked along the red brick path to her office in the administration building, where she had worked as director of Mental Health Workers and Natural Therapeutic Services. She stopped for a moment to gaze over the more than two thousand acres of high-mountain desert three miles south of the plaza in the region of Aztlan. Homeland to generations of peoples whose ancestors once crossed the Mesoamerican border to settle what is now the American Southwest, Aztlan was considered by natives to be the axis mundi, navel of the world. Aztlan was the Land of Herons, of the Seven Caves, of the mystic beauty of horizon-to-horizon turquoise blue skies, arid desert mountain air, and great swells of earth like reclining nude goddesses. Aztlan was home to the katsinas, rain spirits, Tlaloc, the lightning god, and the feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl, who unites earth and sky, eternity and the death-defined world.

The turquoise blue sky arching overhead was an ocean of delight and refreshment for Claire. She enjoyed the sight of eagles as they glided effortlessly across the cloudless expanse, the piñon and aspen trees, with clusters of loping sagebrush dotting the arroyos and mesas, the rolling hills sprinkled with Indian paintbrush, columbine, and cornflower leading the way to the base of the Sagrado Mountains that encircled the city.

Claire glanced at the granite megalith rooted in the middle of the courtyard with an inscription that read, “Dedicated to the Faithful Hispanic and Native Americans of the Ecclesia Dei.” The Ecclesia Dei was a wealthy, centuries-old church in Aztlan that prided itself on charitable care for its members, particularly the natives that populated Ecclesia Dei Hospital. Few, if any, of those admitted due to mental distress were ever discharged from it, remaining ministered to for the rest of their lives. Claire’s passion was to alleviate people’s physical and mental suffering, which she had the chance to do during the last two years at Ecclesia Dei Psychiatric Hospital. The hospital was full, the patient need great, Claire single-minded, intent.

That morning, after her regular four-mile run and shower, Claire had looked into her bedroom mirror and noted that her five-foot-three, one hundred-ten-pound body appeared healthy and strong, inspiring her to get to the hospital to try to help her first patient’s health. On some days, the sadness pervading the hospital seemed overwhelming to he. But when Claire felt most worn out and discouraged she’d remember the reason she had taken this job—her dedication to her people, the natives of Aztlan.

A month prior to her graduation the hospital’s administrator, Karl Himmel, had written to the School of Natural Therapeutics. As there was a shortage of health-care practitioners in Aztlan, especially those qualified to treat psychiatric patients, Himmel hoped the school would assist him in placing suitable practitioners with the hospital. The letter announced an opening for a licensed natural therapist with a background in mental health services to work with Hispanic and Native American patients. This was an unusual combination of skills to request since few natural therapists were trained in psychology, focusing instead on healing the body through massage as the primary course of therapeutic intervention. The fact that Claire had supported herself during her professional training in natural therapeutics by being a mental health worker at the Turquoise County Mental Health Center and also was a mestiza—Hispanic and Native American—prompted her to immediately inquire about the position. Her teachers’ glowing letters of recommendation along with her personal and professional qualifications made her competitive for the position.

Claire anxiously waited a number of weeks before finally hearing from the hospital’s administration. After driving to the hospital to be interviewed by Mr. Himmel, she was promptly offered the job at a higher salary than expected. Although she had been surprised by the immediacy of his decision, she didn’t hesitate to accept his offer, even though her colleagues and teachers had cautioned her about taking on too much too soon. Mr. Himmel had made clear from the outset that the patients in the Ecclesia Dei Psychiatric Hospital were “the worst of the worst,” many dangerously psychotic. But something about their helplessness and hopelessness stirred Claire, making her want to work with them. And this passion and drive had never left her since her first day on the job.

Arriving at the door of the brown stucco building, Claire took one last breath of the crisp mountain air, then opened the door, prepared for the pungent odor of disinfectant that she knew would assault her senses the moment she stepped inside. It never failed to momentarily daze her. Even though she’d been traversing this corridor with its dull green linoleum and sterile white walls every morning five days a week for the past two years, she was never prepared for the stench. Each of the compound’s four pueblo-style structures—the administration building, the locked ward, the open ward, and the cafeteria and gymnasium facility—smelled the same, like an overturned bucket of ammonia and water. After the initial shock, she always had to shake her head and steel herself before moving on down the corridor to her office.

Approaching her office at the end of the hallway, she unlocked her door and stepped inside the room, which, although small, met the requirements of her patients and her own need for privacy. A year after being hired, she’d been promoted to her current position, the chief attending physician, believing she was the perfect employee to bridge the gap between mental health workers and natural therapists. Without hesitation, she had accepted the position since it would permit her to more effectively care for patients. She directed clinicians to engage in more clinical services, to minimize meetings, committees, and bureaucratic dealings. Her leadership skills were noted and respected throughout the hospital.

Claire hung her wool cloak on an antique brass coat rack next to her old pine desk. The scent of piñon, from incense she’d burned the afternoon before, lingered in the air, a soothing scent that she associated with her childhood. Raised in the culture of the medicine women of northern Aztlan, Claire understood the healing properties of natural fragrances such as pine, cedar, piñon, sage, and wild chamomile. To the Aztlan medicine women, the comforting smells of the earth cleansed people and places of bad temper and foul energy. The evils of life, the medicine women taught, often caused the best of people to go down a bad path and need help. Medicine women in this tradition were said to be Women of Lozen—the name of a renowned nineteenth-century Apache woman warrior and healer who had fought with Geronimo and healed with intuition and caring. These healers had helped raise Claire when she had become a huerfana, a child orphaned by a mother’s untimely death.
After pulling the charts for the day from the steel file cabinet in the closet and laying them on her desk, Claire went to the storage bin where she kept sealed bags of yerba buena, the healing tea she offered each of her patients. She had been instructed as a child to give yerba buena to those in need of healing, for the drink of steaming mint leaves settled the stomach and opened the rest of the body to healing.
Opening one of the bags, she inhaled the bouquet of damp earth and mint. As she pressed the herb into a tea strainer, memories of her mother, Lucia, the great woman who had loved her for the first five years of her life before she had been killed, flashed through her mind. Tears welled as Claire remembered her mother placing the delicate leaves into a ceramic pot of boiling water, stroking her head, and telling her that medicine women used the herb to soothe the stomach and heal the nerves but that the true healing came from within the heart. After drinking her mother’s tea, and sharing their dreams and nightmares to ease their burdens, people inevitably left her childhood home looking younger and happier.

Recalling those days also reminded Claire of how she used to nestle close to her mother’s warm body and how helpless she felt when she saw her from a distance being struck without being able to do anything. Shaking her head, she quietly brought herself back to the present, filled a glass decanter from the small sink next to the closet, and in less than five minutes had a steaming pot of water. After dunking the strainer in, she opened the file of her first patient, Elizabeth Gonzales, a severe woman made so by a life riddled with disappointments and secrets. Claire read her notes from the session with Elizabeth two days before, a depressing reminder of how draining Elizabeth could be:

Elizabeth yelled and accused me of being a sellout, a mestiza made white by the “man.” Her hatred was intense. I needed to find a way to help her to talk about her anger and work through it rather than acting it out through outbursts of temper. As I remained calm and listened to her, she eventually stopped yelling and sat quietly for the last five minutes of the session, rocking back and forth with her arms wrapped around herself. I was careful not to say anything or make any move to touch her. She would have found either far too threatening. At the end of session, she stood up, glared at me, then, without saying another word, walked out, slamming the door behind her.

Claire closed the file and looked at her watch. Elizabeth was due in five minutes, at 9:00. She was always on time and did not tolerate Claire being even a minute late.

Claire took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and quieted her mind so she could focus on the day’s work ahead. She noticed the unease that came with anticipating Elizabeth’s grating voice and demanding presence, knowing it was a signal that the work with Elizabeth would be demanding. Soon, a mild sense of heat went up her spine to the center of her forehead, the place of the mystic third eye, and into her hands and fingertips. Claire meditated on this feeling, which gradually became stronger, softer, and kindled empathy, an ability to feel what her patients felt, to understand their pain, to help them to heal. She had learned about the mystic third eye as a young child when her mother had taught her to respect the world of invisible realities. After her mother’s death, Claire had continued to learn from the medicine women who had been friends of her mother, one in particular who had assumed responsibility for her care and instructed her well in the art of healing and natural magic.

Seconds later, Claire was startled by a sharp, demanding knock at the door. Silently and slowly, she removed two ceramic tea mugs from a nearby shelf. There was another, more demanding knock accompanied by Elizabeth’s harsh voice saying, “Hurry up, Claire. I know you’re in there. I saw you walk in.”

“Good morning, Elizabeth,” Claire said, smiling as she opened the door and motioned her patient in, grateful for the morning’s brief meditation and its grounding effect. It helped now, as it had many times before, to keep Elizabeth’s grating manner from getting under her skin before the session had even begun. “How are you doing this morning, Elizabeth?” Claire asked, feeling a surge of concern for the woman, who seemed more anxious than usual.

Elizabeth, a brown-skinned woman in her early fifties with shoulder-length graying brown hair and at least a hundred pounds of excess weight, scowled and walked to the massage table, sitting down on the edge. “I don’t want to be here, Claire,” she said, her voice aggressive but also betraying a faint plea for help.

“You don’t want to be here for your session?” asked Claire.

“You know what I mean,” answered Elizabeth, her eyes sharpened with irritation. “I don’t want to be here in the hospital.”

“But you are, Elizabeth. So let’s put your session to good use. Besides having to be here what else is angering you?” Claire inched her way in. She had to be especially sensitive with Elizabeth since she could retreat into silence for sessions on end if she in any way felt pressured. Work with Elizabeth was demanding. A misstep here or there meant therapeutic disaster, at least for a time.

Elizabeth’s countenance darkened as she added, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Claire remained quiet, trying to sense what it was in Elizabeth’s voice that concerned her. After a few moments, Claire recognized that Elizabeth’s voice had the quality of a suicidal person standing on a ledge. Softening her own voice, she said, “It’s all right, Elizabeth. We don’t have to talk right now.”

Elizabeth stayed sitting near the end of the massage table as Claire fixed two cups of tea. She put Elizabeth’s on a small wooden stand next to the massage table. The warm glow of the morning’s meditation stayed with Claire as she took a sip of tea and stood near Elizabeth, silently, patiently waiting.

Elizabeth cradled the cup in her hands as she sipped. Claire had just begun to feel settled into the session as Elizabeth finished her tea, set her eyes hard on Claire, and threw a poison dart, in her gravelly voice, asserting, “You are a medicine woman—of Lozen—like your mother, Claire.” The words were hate-filled, meant to wound. Despite the culture in which she had been raised, Claire considered herself a natural therapist not a medicine woman, the distinction a matter of life and death. In her mind, she had long ago made the decision that being a medicine woman like her mother meant exposing herself to evil and injury and, potentially, death. Years ago, when handed the five-foot oak staff that had belonged to her mother, Claire had angrily rejected it, refusing initiation into the way of the medicine woman. Back then, she had often had fearsome memories of being a young child in the forest, an ominous black-cloaked man assaulting her mother, and hearing her mother’s screams—a child’s nightmare.

The words of her adoptive mother, her mother’s closest friend, reverberated in her mind: “You are of Lozen—-a medicine woman. A time may come when only the staff can save you.

Claire’s stomach churned. None of her patients had ever attacked her so personally. She felt the blood draining from her head and a sharp pain shooting through her eyes.

Elizabeth was trying to stop her from asking any more prying questions. “Are you all right, Claire?” she asked after a minute, her tone laced with sarcasm and a sneer on her face, expressions Claire was sad to see.

“You did what you wanted to do, Elizabeth. You shut me down,” Claire replied evenly, holding her gaze. She felt compassion for Elizabeth, realizing that all that she had locked inside of her must be nothing short of terrifying.

Elizabeth didn’t let it go, though, saying, “You are of Lozen just like she was.” This time her sneer was even more etched into the sunbaked lines that streaked across her face.

“I’m a natural therapist, Elizabeth, not a medicine woman,” Claire replied firmly.

“If you say so,” said Elizabeth, snickering as she slipped off her shoes to prepare for her massage.

Despite Claire’s assertion, she continued to feel the assault of having been thought of as a medicine woman, which caused a lingering fear. In her experience, medicine women ended up dead. She was seized by the memory of her mother falling to the ground as quickly as a tall ponderosa struck by lightning. Dread bore into her as though she were a child again. She flashed on the image of an evil man hidden in the darkness of the forest howling and looking her way, his blues eyes cutting through the midnight dark like lasers. Claire shuddered. She hoped Elizabeth hadn’t noticed.

Elizabeth, face down on the massage table, turned and ordered tauntingly, “Well, let’s get on with it. Unless you’re not up to it.”

Claire struggled to keep her professional distance, calming herself by closing her eyes, taking a deep breath, and briskly rubbing her hands together, generating heat in her palms to ensure a warm touch for Elizabeth’s tense and aching body. Elizabeth had regularly complained that her body was racked with unimaginable pain, and Claire had no doubt about this since the muscular tension over her frame seemed like mounds of stone.

Claire felt her mind clearing, energy moving through her hands, and was ready to begin treatment. As her warm hands touched Elizabeth’s back, Elizabeth let out a sigh, an obvious expression of relief. There was no resistance coming from her, no sense of meanness, her tension dissipating by the second. For the next thirty minutes, Claire massaged Elizabeth’s neck, back, and legs, enjoying the silence between them. Silence allowed the patient to drift into a timeless realm and the natural therapist to focus undisturbed so that maximum energy was directed to the healing process.

As she massaged Elizabeth, Claire’s thoughts drifted back to her childhood, when her mother was still alive and the three of them would sit at the kitchen table eating red chile, beans, and warm tortillas. She would listen while Lucia and Elizabeth talked about people in the village, their aches and pains, their rages and fights, and how herbs and their dreams could be used to heal them. Elizabeth had visited regularly, and Claire remembered anticipating with great enthusiasm the conversation she would hear between the two, their words seeping into deep places of her being and their friendship nourishing her.

When Claire had asked her mother why she and Elizabeth spoke so much about so many things, Lucia had explained that because Elizabeth knew the way of the medicine woman they could help each other by discussing their patients who came seeking healing. Lucia had also told Claire that Elizabeth was a seer who knew how to heal through the voices that spoke in the deep mind. This did not seem strange to Claire since from a young age she had experienced both visual and auditory psychic impressions that informed her about people, situations, and problems. Lucia had instructed her to listen to and follow deep feelings and instincts, visions and dreams, for through them she would gain wisdom and guidance during dire times.

As the massage went on, Claire wondered what tragic experience had turned Elizabeth into the disturbed woman she was today. She had become a woman as different from the one young Claire had known as day was from night. Yet Claire felt cariño for Elizabeth, a deep affection for the woman who, in her right mind, had been her mother’s friend.

Claire moved her fingers over Elizabeth’s neck and said, “You’re finally relaxing.” The effects of the massage were not always so evident. The knotted muscles in Elizabeth’s back that sometimes created grotesque formations seemed like demons that had buried themselves within her. Now it was evident she had less tension and that the real Elizabeth, beneath the anger, was nearer and closer.

Elizabeth sighed and agreed, “Yeah, I guess so.” Her voice had lost its hostility, sounding more like the Elizabeth of Claire’s childhood. Now the closeness between them seemed palpable to Claire.
Wrapped in the warmth of the therapeutic mood, Claire closed her eyes as she continued stroking Elizabeth’s body from head to toe with the tips of her fingers before gently finishing the massage. The ending of a treatment was as important as its beginning, drawing together its healing benefits.
“Feeling better?” Claire asked, sensing the ease and openness in her patient.

Elizabeth hesitated, as though reluctant to break the spell, then said in a hushed tone, “There are things I have to tell you, Claire.” Her voice, even though almost a whisper, still was that of the sincere woman of years past.

Suddenly, images flashed into Claire’s mind of Elizabeth, a few years younger than her present age, screaming with pain as a man cloaked by shadows, a rogue with occult powers sanctified by the masses, forced himself on her, then grazed her face with his fingers, shattering her mind, leaving her desperate and crazed by a long-held secret.

Claire’s heart raced so quickly that her breaths became shallow and every muscle in her body tensed. She felt the room spinning, and she reached out to the edge of the table to steady herself and regain her composure. Elizabeth looked at her, knowingly. Her pallor was ashen gray. All light was gone from her eyes.

At that moment, a howling wind came up. Through the window, Claire saw dust devils swirling outside, their dance frenzied, grit and grime spewing every which way as they crisscrossed an endless expanse of desert. As the window began rattling like a bag of old bones, both women looked up and saw a large black crow perched on the ledge outside. It stared at them, then cawed defiantly, unaffected by the winds.

Elizabeth bolted upright, eyes wide. “I have to go,” she said, fingers trembling as she slipped on her shoes, more frightened than Claire had ever seen her. Claire thought of trying to help her settle down, but held herself back, not wanting to risk upsetting her further.

“What’s wrong?” Claire asked, trying to disguise her own sense of unease. Her words went unanswered.

As Elizabeth reached the door, she glanced back at the window where the crow had been. The wind had died down, and the crow had vanished; yet the dark force of moments past crackled through the atmosphere like sparks of electricity jumping wildly from shorted wires.

The hairs on the back of Claire’s neck stood on end. She clenched her teeth in anticipation of something worse about to happen. A chill swept through the room as if a ghostly presence had made itself known. Involuntarily, Claire shook her head as though waking herself from a bad dream.

“Get out of here while you can, Claire,” Elizabeth stammered. Her eyes were wide as the full moon sitting low across a midnight desert landscape.

“What are you so afraid of, Elizabeth?” Claire asked, moving forward to calm her. “Please, talk to me about what’s going on with you.” Carefully, she placed a hand on her patient’s taut shoulder.

Elizabeth shrugged it away, saying, “Let go of me.” Claire knew that Elizabeth could turn on her, becoming violent.

Still, Claire inched a little closer and said, “Elizabeth, I could help if you’d let me.” But the words seemed futile.

“Help me? Help yourself! Face what is yours to face,” Elizabeth hissed. She yanked the door open then forced it to slam behind her.

Claire stood still for a moment, feeling as if a tornado had swept through the room. Elizabeth’s demand had left her shaken. She drew a deep breath, then went to her desk and picked up her tea, noticing her trembling hands. Turning toward the window, Claire saw a muscular orderly accompanying Elizabeth to the locked ward at the far end of the hospital compound. A flock of crows circled high overhead, seeming to follow the two receding figures. As they arrived at the outer doors of the locked unit, the orderly reached for his keys. The crows circled while the two crossed the threshold of the unit, Elizabeth suddenly pausing, turning, and looking outside, her gaze riveted on the flock of birds.

All but two flew off, disappearing into the piñon-covered hills. The two that remained came to rest on the red brick wall adjacent to the locked unit, their black eyes boring into Elizabeth. She looked panicked then enraged and, shaking a finger at the creatures, yelled something. Her frantic gestures told Claire that she was screeching curses to ward off evil.

Claire took a step back from the window, from the impact of Elizabeth’s rage.

The orderly grabbed Elizabeth roughly by the arm and pulled her inside.

The crows waited, watched, then flew away.

* * * *

Late that afternoon, after a day of report writing and meetings, Claire caught a glimpse of herself in the small mirror hanging over the old porcelain sink in her office. Shocked to see herself looking haggard, her shoulder-length auburn hair disheveled, her usually sparkling brown eyes dull, Claire couldn’t help but think that she appeared twenty-five going on forty-five. The session with Elizabeth had taken its toll. Not for a while had a patient had been that demanding of Claire’s inner resources.
She sensed that there was more to Elizabeth and their therapeutic relationship than she could yet fathom. Claire wanted to help Elizabeth, but there was too much Elizabeth kept locked up inside. And Claire knew that revelations of secrets was the only path to healing.

She bent down over the stained white porcelain sink and splashed cold water on her face. As she straightened up, a fleeting image crossed the mirror, the face of a little girl abandoned in the forest, crying for her mother, angry that she had been taken from her. Claire grasped the lip of the sink and tried to steady herself, forcing herself not to look again at the haunting image.

Soon after, she hurried out of her office, eager for dinner with Francesca, her spiritual guide and foster parent, the person to whom Claire turned during times of crisis. The thought of Francesca’s cozy adobe home nestled in a forest of piñons brought her some peace. She longed to sit and talk to Francesca, her ever-present source of wisdom, guidance, and loving assurance. Since Claire’s childhood, Francesca had always listened to her concerns calmly, from her rocking chair beside the fireplace, the cedar and piñon fire providing warmth and soothing fragrance.

Claire whisked by the night guard at the front of the administration building as images and memories continued to flash through her mind like lightning across a mesa: a funereal pyre; herself at age seven watching the cremation of Alejándra, one of the last medicine women; Francesca touching Claire’s shoulder, whispering, “You are the last in the lineage”; black wings flapping wildly in the night; evil eyes searing aspens and ponderosas; a child, anger buried deep, frozen by fear.

Quickly walking across the gravel parking lot to her car, Claire glanced over at the locked ward and saw Elizabeth’s face in a second-floor window. Motionless, Elizabeth stared at Claire, the windowpane reflecting the desert darkness, lit candles in Elizabeth’s room flickering like spirits on the watch. Yet Elizabeth exuded a familiar sense of warmth and sincerity that seemed to cut through the chilly desert night.

As Elizabeth waved, Claire shuddered, spotting a flock of crows cawing and circling overhead, then flapping their wings erratically and flying at the window, Elizabeth motioning them away to no avail. Finally they left the window, scattering into the night sky, their distant cawing sending an eerie message.

Elizabeth glanced at the window ledge and startled as she noticed, lying there, a white dove, bloodied and dead.
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with Cary Smith, author of 'Four Corners Or a Book That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple'

Cary Smith, the nom de plume of Greg Hawkins, lives in San Jose, CA. He became interested in books and writing because of a teacher. His favorite book is "Hocus Pocus," by Kurt Vonnegut or “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is currently either going to finish his collection of short stories next or turn one of his short stories into a novel, which would be a new take on the ghost genre.

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 am a full-time substitute teacher in San Jose, CA. I’m very into sports, but try not to live my life by them. Lately I’ve been lazy, but I generally like to be active and do things outdoors.

When did you start writing?

After high school.

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

When I was getting no response for “A Book That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple,” from agents, etc, all of those types, that I continued on, waited until I felt the work was truly ready, and published it myself.

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

The Greek Isles. I’ve always wanted to go there. I would probably never set a book there, but would definitely lie to a publisher and say I was to go there for free. I would of course still write a book there, it would just have nothing to do with the Greek Isles.

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

Tell whoever gave me that extra time, that the days are already long enough.

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

Well, the Greek Isles for reasons already mentioned.

Back to your present book, Four Corners or A Book That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple, how did you publish it?

Went through Createspace, since they were the first ones who popped up, and went from there. I used Bookbaby to publish it on other electronic devices.

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

I wish. I was too poor. I was living with my parents in one of the most expensive places in America to live. I already had experiences in life though.

Why was writing (Four Corners or A Book That Will Tickle Your Intellectual Nipple) so important to you?

I can’t really say that it was.

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

From sitting around, people watching, and that is probably because I am insane.

Any final words?

Thank you, and I hope if anyone reading this actually purchases my book, that it is a decent read.
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Book Excerpt: The Sense of Touch by Ron Parsons #bookexcerpt

Title: The Sense of Touch
Author: Ron Parsons
Publisher: Aqueous Books
Pages: 252
Genre: Short Story/Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback; Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Old friends uncomfortably reunited and lovers who cling to their distance from one another; disappearing fathers, fiercely loving grandfathers, and strangers who pass through and radically change lives...These are among the characters who populate the rugged Midwestern landscapes of the mesmerizing fiction world of Ron Parsons. In his debut collection, THE SENSE OF TOUCH (Aqueous Books; May 1, 2013), Parsons captures people of various ages in the act of searching for meaning and connection and themselves. Firmly set in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan, the lush but often brutally cold heartland of America, the eight stories explore universal themes--loneliness, betrayal, transformation, hope--in fresh, sometimes fanciful, sometimes comical, sometimes jarring, and always moving and memorable ways.
In THE SENSE OF TOUCH, readers will meet:
* Naseem Sayem, the brilliant, troubled, and mystifying young man at the center of "Hezekiah Number Three." A native of Bangladesh abruptly transplanted to the stark white suburbs of Rapid City at age nine, Naseem never fit in and eventually moved on to study physics at MIT--where, shortly before graduation and after shocking news of his father's infidelity and abandonment, he apparently unraveled and vanished. Three months later, he reappeared out of the blue on his stepmom's doorstep, holding a three-legged cat. Naseem's long search for belonging reaches its apex in a hot air balloon floating over the Crazy Horse Monument.
* Waylon Baker, wheat farmer from birth, and Evie Lund, his wife of twenty-four years and counting, even though she had chosen to live far away--in the alien world of the Twin Cities--for eight years. The odd couple at the heart of "Beginning with Minneapolis," Waylon and Evie can't bear to live together or to divorce because they still love each other with a passion, reignited when they find themselves deep in the dirt, in a hole Waylon dug in his wheat field to serve as Evie's grave.
* The nameless narrator of "The Sense of Touch," a serious, young freshman at the University of Minnesota, fleeing yet still attached to his youth in Texas, haunted both by its predatory demons and its romantic dreams. His liberation comes through an alluring muse: his fiction-writing teacher. A ravishing, wild-haired, Memphis-born African-American graduate student, Vonda speaks directly to him when she makes her dramatic pronouncements. Like, "Our masks are not worn, people. They're grown, day by day." And "Never trust anything, not until you can touch it. With touch, you know you know."
The old friends in "The Black Hills," long separated by distance and tragedy, who unexpectedly compete for the affections of a lovely, vulnerable, and married Lakota woman...the young woman who, in the midst of a Halloween blizzard, stumbles into saving an elderly piano teacher's life and faces hard facts about her own snow-bound relationships and emotions in "As Her Heart Is Navigated"...the exceptional grandfather in "Big Blue" and the playboy reformed by someone else's grandson in "Moonlight Bowling"...and the professor of dead languages facing the mysteries of mortality in "Be Not Afraid of the Universe"... Through Ron Parsons, they all come to life, vividly and with emotional resonance, and work their way into the minds and hearts of readers.
Book Excerpt:
They were relaxing at the top of a waterfall, in a small, still pool where the mountain waters hit an upward slope of folded granite. It was sort of a rounded bathtub, carved out of the rock throughout the centuries by the rushing river, a river so hidden that it was without a name. Just below were the falls, about a 30-foot drop into another, much larger pool of clearest water that was gathered for a respite, a compromise in the river's relentless schedule downward, between split-level decks of flat rock. Further on, the river reanimated and released into a sharp ravine, pulling westward, down through the rugged mountains and faceless forest--the Black Hills National Forest--gaining force until it joined with the rush of the Castle River, near the old Custer Trail, and was swallowed into the Deerfield Reservoir to collect and prepare for the touch of man.
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Romancing the Rumrunner by Michelle McLean


Title: Romancing the Rumrunner
Genre: Historical Romance
Author: Michelle McLean
Publisher: Entangled Scandalous
Language: English
Pages: 203
Format: Ebook

Prohibition Era Chicago She's worked too hard to be run out of town... Jessica Harlan spends her nights as The Phoenix, the owner of the most popular speakeasy in town. Her days are spent running her respectable butcher shop and dodging prohibition agents and rival club owners who all want to put her out of business. He's worked too hard to let his heart get in the way... When the opportunity arises to go undercover for the Feds to catch The Phoenix, Gumshoe Anthony Solomon jumps on it. But he never suspected the notorious rumrunner would be a dame - or that he'd be so drawn to the feisty little minx. They play a dangerous game of cat and mouse, knowing they can't trust the other, but unable to walk away. While their hearts dodge the crossfire, the mobsters raise the stakes, and even The Phoenix may not rise again.



Romance and non-fiction author Michelle McLean is a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who is addicted to chocolate and Goldfish crackers and spent most of her formative years with her nose in a book. She has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and loves her romance with a hearty side of suspenseful mystery.
When Michelle's not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. She resides in PA with her husband and two children, an insanely hyper dog, and three very spoiled cats.



Don't miss out on great books from Entangled Publishing - Check out their Steals and Deals! 

Michelle is giving away a $25 Amazon/B&N Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • 1 winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive each of the prizes
  • This giveaway begins June 9 and ends on June 20.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on June 21, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Thomax Green, author of 'The Shu: The Gnostic Tao Te Ching'

Thomax Green was born in 1972. After waking from a coma 10 years ago, he says he “was finally freed of the devilish manifestations that plagued me with a life of sorrow.” In addition to being a writer, Thomax is a visual artist. His media includes painting, drawing, and photography. He has published a previous novel titled “C.O.W.:   Creatures of War.”
His latest book is The Shu: The Gnostic Tao Te Ching.
Visit his website at

About the Book:

Author Thomax Green has produced a compelling new book so cosmic in its scope that it has the power to change readers’ lives. THE SHU:  THE GNOSTIC TAO TE CHING is a “modern-day Gnostic work which blends all faiths and sciences into a super belief,” Green says. “With this belief system, you can be a faithful individual without the restrictions and classifications that are imposed by religious groups. In short, it is the way to freedom and happiness.”

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 enjoy going to the gym when I can. I also read a lot, paint, draw, and I would like to learn how to play the mandolin.

When did you start writing?

When I was a child I received a small blank book and pencil in my Christmas stocking and I sat down and wrote a story of a knight saving a princess from a dragon. That was when I was infected with the bug, but I didn’t seriously start writing until ten years ago after my coma.

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

Putting the final touches on The Shu The Gnostic Tao Te Ching. It is my coup de grace.

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

I wish my family still owned our cabin in the woods. It would have made a perfect writers retreat.

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

I would dedicate more time to my artwork. Writing seems to dominate my time now.

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

I have a series I am writing that takes place in Astoria OR. I visited the town for research; it is a gem.

Back to your present book, The Shu The Gnostic Tao Te Ching, how did you publish it?

I self-published it but I am seeking representation in New York now since there is a strong interest in it being published overseas.

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

Only out of my body. There is a lot you can learn from spirits.

Why was writing The Shu The Gnostic Tao Te Ching so important to you?

This is one book that really has the power to change the world. Not only will you find enlightenment by reading it when you purchase it 50% of my royalties go to UNICEF to help children in need.

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

From when I sleep. There is much more to our daily mini deaths than just rest.

Any final words?

If you pick up The Shu and you find it changes your life give it to someone else who needs it more and then purchase another copy. Because that is the way this book can do the most good for the world.
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