Page 1


on the cover

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columns 41 BTS Goes Hollywood

contents

DANITA MINNIS

November/December 2015

47 The Hot Hunks of History

HENRY VIII - RENAISSANCE KING

63 Young at Heart

HAVE FAIRY TALES FLOWN THE COOP?

85 The Scrying Eye HOLIDAZE...

97 Ali B & The Forty Spaceships

COME ALONG MY LITTLE ONES, CHERRY PIE, iCE CREAM AND WAR...

113 The Heat Diva

HAVE YOURSELF A KINKY HOLIDAY

features 59 Christy English 66 Sapphire Books 78 Bob Dixon 80 Claire Chilton 90 Joseph Tatner 92 Colleen J. Shogun

94 M. Stratton 110 Lauren Smith 126 S.L. Hannah 129 Savannah Verte 150 Sapphire Books 154 Patricia Delagrange

133 Chic Trends in Romance

genres

special

45 HISTORICAL & WESTERN

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A GREAT READ!

15 Interview with 2015 Mr. BTS - Ani Saliasi

61 YOUNG ADULT

stories

83 MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

35

95 SCI-FI/FANTASY & PARANORMAL 111 EROTIC & SENSUAL 131 CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE

69 143 plus

on the website Blogging 101 with Babs Hightower Karen’s Writing Detours with Karen Albright Lin Issue 30 | November/December 2015 |

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BTS Book Reviews

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Your Guide to Great Reading

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Melanie Bingle Marsh of Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Hollywood Interviewer Danita Minnis Columnists Karen Albright Lin Alex Bardy Sandra Bunino Christy English Kayla Lords Babs Hightower Kelly Hudson Katherine McIntyre

Triberr Team Amber Easton

Issue 30 | November/December 2015 |

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From the Desk of

Myra Nour BTS CEO

It’s been a very busy time for the awards committee. So many good books and covers to vote on for 2015. Customer Awards Be sure and check out all the Finalists and Honorable Mention authors on page 25. Review Awards In November we’ll post all the nominees for Readers votes, then in December we’ll announce the Finalists and Honorable Mention. The Red Carpet Book Awards Ceremony Make your plans to attend the 2015 awards to be held at TNEE April 2016. http://btsemag.com/redcarpet/awards-2016at-novel-experience/ This convention is great for readers. Meet some of your favorite authors and enjoy buying books in the large book signing event. Authors mingle with lots of readers and join a book signing that has a successful record.

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Publisher Special Edition I’ve been wanting to showcase the publishers we work with for a while now. I came up with the idea of the Holiday issue to highlight them. Be sure and read about each publisher and what they have to offer readers and authors. See the feature here on page 27. New BTS Staff We’d like to welcome 3 new staff members to our talented professionals: Laura Mills – Junior Designer Peggy Adams – Associate Editor I’d like to thank Kelly Ann for her time as our Associate Editor as well as YA columnist. She always did a great job! Katherine McIntyre – YA Columnist


AN INTERVIEW WITH

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born in Albania. My family and I migrated to the United States when I was ten years old. I am now 29 years old. I spent most of my childhood and young adult years growing up in Brooklyn, New York; a place I still consider home to this day. I attended high school and college in NY earning my Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and my Master’s in Political Science. How did you get into being a model? I never considered myself being a “model” growing up. In reality, I would never think I would become a model. I loved being involved in sports and working out. Eventually my passion for working out would turn into something more. I began competing in bodybuilding competitions at the age of 19. Many photographers, show promoters, and others took interest in me. I had a very well built physique for my age and a decent face to go along with it. Photographers approached me on a regular to work on my portfolio. In the beginning I would decline because of the fear that I thought I was never good enough. However, as I matured I began to pursue it more and more. By the age of 21 I was already featured in four magazines and two art books. Did you intend to be a cover model? I never intend to be a cover model. I always viewed myself as a fitness/underwear model. However, I was never opposed to the idea and in this year alone three of my pictures have been sold in order to be featured in future book covers. What do you like to do when you aren’t modeling? I like to enjoy my life to the fullest. I love to travel and I do it every chance that I get. I like to workout, riding motorcycles, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, shooting guns, and all other sorts of adrenalinepumping activities.

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I heard you are in the Air Force, what made you decide to join the military? I always wanted to join the service since at a young age. However, when I was young my parents talked me out of it, and persuaded me to attend college instead. So after finishing college, a part of me still wanted to join. So I did. Are you enjoying your time in the military? I actually enjoy serving, and I enjoy my job in the military. It’s a great career and a very rewarding job. It challenges me on a regular basis both mentally and physically. To me the latter is very important. I could not picture myself sitting in an office in front of a computer for 20-25 years of my life pushing paper for a living. What’s the coolest place you have gotten to visit due to either being in the military or modeling? I do not know as far as the coolest but my favorite city that I have visited has been Venice. It’s a beautiful place and I’ve had the pleasure of going there more than once.

Do you think there are misconceptions about models or cover models people would be surprised to find out are or aren’t true? I think there are a lot of misconceptions or stereotypes about models. I’m sure some models do fit the mold. I, for one, hope not to be put in a box and have someone say that this is it, this is what he is all about. I like to be a wellrounded individual. Do you like to read? If so, what kinds of books do you enjoy? I love to read; I even have the Barnes & Nobel membership card in my wallet. I like to read philosophical books, motivational books, and I think I own most of the books on Barnes & Nobel’s classic collection list. Do you have a girl friend? If not, what do you look for in that special girl? I do have a girlfriend. For me the special girl is the one that allows me to pursue my goals and dreams and walks besides me along the way. Oh yea and she has to be pretty as well.

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Publisher

| Ind

News Yo

World Castle Publishing worldcastlepublishing.com World Castle Publishing has released a new imprint. It’s Intimate Pleasures Romance Publishing. We’ve started this imprint to satisfy a new niche in Kindle. We’re targeting short story romance in a series and we’re actively seeking submissions for all types of romance. Our submission guidelines can be found here. http://intimatepleasuresromancepublishing.com/submissionguidelines.html

SoulMate Publishing soulmatepublishing.com

Debby Gilbert and Char Chaffin are attending the online RWA/ Australia Claytons, which is the online/outreach offshoot of RWA Australia’s annual conference. They are each holding a workshop during the online conference which takes place Aug. 20-Aug. 23. Submission guidelines We are actively seeking authors who can tell an exciting story and aren’t afraid to venture into new territory. We encourage novels that are original and blur the genre lines. Remember, blending of genres is allowed and encouraged. Varying levels of sensuality are welcome, however all stories should have an upbeat ending. (NO depraved or illegal acts, bestiality, or pedophilia.)

Decadent Publishing decadentpublishing.com Decadent has gone to a link-only site and are hoping to start the Wiccan Haus series soon. Also check out Decadent’s Beyond Fairytales line where Magic and Mayhem await in these sexy twisted tales. Decadent Publishing. Indulge your book fetish.

Evernight Publishing evernightpublishing.com

Ellysian Press ellysianpress.com Ellysian Press is pleased to announce our Fall/Winter 2015 Catalog is here. You can check out our current listings and get a sneak peek at a few of upcoming releases. A partial list of our 2016 releases is also included.

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Find your next smart and sexy book at Evernight Publishing, a premier publisher of Romance, Erotic Romance and Urban Fantasy. With new titles releasing daily, readers will find a large selection of contemporary, paranormal, gay, interracial, historical, sweet romance, ménage and everything in between. Series are heating up the winter season. Check out our sizzling series including: Cursed Treasure by Raven McAllan, Kalispell Shifters by Vanessa Devereux, The Weathermen by Ravenna Tate, The Brothers of Menace by Jenika Snow and The Skulls MC by Sam Crescent at evernightpublishing.com Young Adult fans will love our fresh, real and raw teen fiction line at Evernight Teen. Find something new by today’s hottest Young Adult authors at evernightteen.com!


dustry Insider |

ou Can Use Writers Exchange Publishing writers-exchange.com All new releases will now be announced on our blog instead of the newsletter.

Publishers, find out what BTS can do for you! Download our free Publisher’s Guide! Advertising, features, covers, reviews and more! At BTS, we do more than place your authors in our magazine. We showcase your company, your authors, and your books within our digital magazine and across our entire network. Our promotional team works hard to get you noticed! Every advertiser in our magazine will have its message seen by thousands of readers and promoted across the most popular social networks. Find out more today, contact Myra@btsemag.com for details about how BTS can help you bring your authors into the spotlight!

Issue 30 | November/December 2015 |

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Upcoming

| Industry

2015 - 2016 Co The La Jolla Writers Conference Nov. 6-8, 2015 – Paradise Point Resort and Spa, San Diego, CA http://www.lajollawritersconference.com/ Miami Book Fair International Nov. 15-22, 2015 - Miami, Florida http://www.miamibookfair.com San Diego State University Writers’ Conference Jan. 22-24, 2016 - San Diego Marriott, Mission Valley http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/wc Sleuthfest an annual conference for mystery, suspense, and thriller writers Feb. 25-28, 2016 - Deerfield Beach, Florida http://sleuthfest.com/ Alabama Writing Workshop Feb. 25-28, 2016 - Deerfield Beach, Florida http://alabamawritingworkshop.com/ Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference April 15-17, 2016 - Colorado Springs, Colorado http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/ BTS Red Carpet Awards & the Novel Experience Convention The Novel Experience Event April 6th – April 10th, 2016 • Sheraton Atlanta Hotel Atlanta, Georgia http://btsemag.com/redcarpet/awards2016-at-novel-experience/ 22 | btsemag.com


Insider |

onventions Las Vegas Writers Conference April 28-30, 2016 - Las Vegas, Nevada www.lasvegaswritersconference.com Historical Writers of America Conference Aug. 19-21, 2016 - Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia http://historicalwritersofamerica.org

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Best Cover

Honorable Mention

Ginger Ring- The Gangster’s Woman Miranda Shanklin- Soul Journey Tiffany Daune- Coral & Bone

D. Wood- Unwilling DeAnn Smallwood- Montana Man Theresa Sederholt-Shattered Lies

Designers Choice

Debut Author

Unwilling- K. D. Wood Enhanced – Courtney Farrell Worth the Trouble – Jennah Scott

L. Hannah- The Need Elizabeth John- Judging Joey Beth Carter- Thursdays at Coconuts

Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention Savannah Verte, Viva Zapata & the Magic 8 Ball

E.J. Stevens-Birthright Elizabeth Kelly-Killian Lisa Beth Darling- Kingdoms of War Renee Hand. Love’s Conqueror

Rising Star Ginger Ring,-The Gangster’s Woman Julie LeMense- Once Upon a Scandal Alan Brenham- Rampage

Best Book

Keith Rommel –The Devil Tree J. Stevens – Birthright Courtney Farrell – Bait Honorable Mention Jessica Lee, Undying Desire Mary Behre, Energized Ravyn Rayne, The Emerald Virgin (Gem Apocalypse Book 1)

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DECADENT PUBLISHING

When did you start your company and what goal did you have in mind for it? Decadent Publishing opened in the summer of 2010. We were not the owners at the time, but we were on staff and now that it’s ours, we hope to see it continue to grow as our authors do. Do you specialize in particular genres? Decadent Publishing is known for its wide variety of romance genres, with heat levels from (somewhat) sweet to erotic. What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? We look for a quality story, one we would like to read ourselves. We also look for an author with a presence and positive outlook in social media. And one who will be as interested in their book being the very best it can be as we are. What are some common misconceptions about publishers you think people should know the truth about? Many new authors expect their publishers to do all their marketing for them. In fact, it is a team effort. At Decadent, we put our efforts behind those expended by our authors. If you’re promoting heavily, expect us right there behind you, supporting you! Is there something you would like to share with our readers or authors? The world of digital publishing changes on almost a daily basis. It’s important to stay aware of the industry and to realize that after a number of years we have arrived. Digital publishers are quality conscious and publish some of the best books available.

Submission Information: We are looking for all romance genre/sub-genre with heat levels from sensual to erotic. We love contemporary, paranormal, holiday, military, menage, BDSM, and LGBT. If you have something new, we’d love to see that, too! Word count can range from 15K on up. See the submissions page on our website for more details or email us with questions: submissions@decadentpublishing. com

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EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING

How long has the company been in business and what is the goal for it? This past year Evernight celebrated its fifth year of publishing! Our goal is and has always been to provide quality romance and urban fantasy fiction. Do you specialize in particular genres? Evernight specializes in romance of varying heat levels from sexy to scorching; urban fantasy; as well as young adult fiction with our Evernight Teen imprint. Have you ever published outside of your usual genres because the book was that good? We stay true to our brand so readers know exactly what to expect when they choose our book. What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? We look for manuscripts that are thoroughly edited before submitting. No head hopping. We want to see books that have well developed plots, strong conflicts, memorable characters, and dialogue. Do you try to meet your authors in person? As Evernight’s Marketing Manager, I’ve met many of our authors at regional and national book conferences and conventions. Is there something you would like to share with our readers or authors? Meet our authors in person at Wild Wicked Weekend in San Antonio, TX February 2016. Submission Information: We’re looking for new and established authors to join Evernight Publishing. We are not a vanity publisher. You never pay to have your book published with us. Upon final acceptance, your book will be edited, assigned an ISBN, and one of our cover artists will create an eye-catching cover. It will be available for sale through our site and also sold at many distributors. Books that meet word count and sales requirements, either alone or in an anthology, will also be considered for POD publication through our Print Store. Send a query letter with your name, pen name (if applicable), working title, word count, genre and any previous writing credits to: evernightsubmissions@gmail.com Please add “SUBMISSION” to the subject field. Attach a one page synopsis and the complete manuscript in a Word document. We no longer accept Simultaneous Submissions We will make a decision on your submission within two to eight weeks. If you have not received a response after five weeks, please contact us.

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TOTALLY BOUND

When did you start your company and what goal did you have in mind for it? We were established back in 2006 and we’ve been busy producing and supplying the very best fiction in the market ever since. Totally Bound Publishing has been offering erotic romance titles for eight years. Our goal was to become the go-to destination for fabulous fiction. Do you specialize in particular genres? We are the home of erotic romance in all its genres. We are the go-to destination for your MF and MFM erotic romance reads. If so, is there a reason you chose that genre? We love fabulous erotic romance fiction because we’re passionate people who are totally serious about delivering sexy stories, believable characters and great characters to readers all over the world. We want to be pioneers in our industry, prepared to lead where others follow. For us that means taking Erotic Romance fiction to the widest possible audience – because everyone deserves a little stimulation for their imagination. What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? We aim to seek out, nurture and polish captivating stories with mesmerising plots and compelling characters from the most amazing authors. The results are truly decadent, enjoyable and divine ‘me time’ reading experiences - the very best stimulation for the imagination available. We are now accepting submissions within the whole genre of romance, from sweet romance to the hotter end of the scale. What do you enjoy the most about publishing? Here at Totally Bound, we love delivering delicious stories to those who want them. A recent survey of our readers discovered that they’re really excited to get their hands on more high-quality sexy stories about love, sex, power and relationships. We want to bring our readers those stories and to deliver maximum enjoyment with minimum fuss. Is there something you would like to share with our readers or authors? For authors, we are so excited to see your submission and to welcome you into the Totally Bound family. Readers, if you haven’t discovered us yet, stop on by! We guarantee you thoroughly modern romance that doesn’t stop at the bedroom door. The perfect stimulation for the imagination.

Submission Information: Erotic Romance Titles – We are currently accepting manuscripts between 10,000 and 100,000+ words in the following genres: Action/Adventure, Angels and Demons, Bondage/BDSM, Crime/Mystery, Comedy/Humour, Contemporary, Cowboy/ Western, Fantasy/Fairytales, Futuristic/Sci-fi, Gods/Goddesses, Historical, Horror, Men in Uniform, Rubenesque, Ménageà-trois, Multicultural, Older Woman/Younger Man, Paranormal, Timetravel, Thriller, Suspense, Shapeshifters, Morphers, Vampires, Werewolves. Sweet Romance Titles— We are currently accepting manuscripts between 10,000 and 100,000+ words in the applicable genres above.

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When did you start your company and what goal did you have in mind for it? Soul Mate Publishing opened in 2011. I wanted to open a house for authors whose books crossed genres.

SOUL MATE PUBLISHING

Do you specialize in particular genres? We encourage novels that are original and blur the genre lines. What services do you provide? Soul Mate Publishing is a royalty-paying publisher. Our experienced editors use a hands-on approach to teach and mentor our authors to help their books rise to the next level. Consequently, Soul Mate Publishing books consistently get great reviews. We also maintain a presence in the romance world by: advertising in various publications; promoting Soul Mate Publishing authors on romance websites; attending romance conferences; submitting author books for review; sending out a monthly newsletter; maintaining an SMP Authors’ blog, as well as participating in the usual social media: Twitter, Facebook, etc. What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? We look for original stories that immediately hook us and make us want to read more. What is the hardest part of being a publisher? The most difficult part is keeping up with all the changes in the publishing industry. Even in the five years since we opened, the publishing model has undergone many changes. Is there something you would like to share with our readers or authors? I think it’s a great time to be a reader and an author. There are so many more choices now for both that weren’t available ten years ago. Readers are now able to find more unusual books that traditional houses weren’t able to publish, and writers can now think outside the box to come up with unique plots and interesting, fresh stories.

Submission Information: We are actively seeking authors who can tell an exciting story and aren’t afraid to venture into new territory. Find out more on our website.

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WORLD CASTLE PUBLISHING

When did you start your company and what goal did you have in mind for it? I opened the doors to World Castle Publishing in March 2011. My goal at the time was to publish quality fiction and build a good reputation for myself and my authors. I still hold those same goals today. Do you specialize in particular genres? Although I publish most all fiction genres, I do specialize in romance. It is my favorite genre, but it’s also my best selling genre. Unfortunately, almost everything that’s been submitted to me in the last couple of years has been thrillers. I am actively seeking romance. Have you ever received a submission in a non-traditional way that was interesting enough to tell us about. No. Not that I recall. I do get a lot of phone calls from want to be authors wanting me to publish their life story. Unfortunately, unless you’re already famous that’s not profitable for either of us. What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? I look for several things. 1. The author’s writing style and how well it’s written. 2. Theme of the story to determine if I think it’s sellable or not. 3. How much editing at a glance that the book will require. 4. The author’s ability to follow my instructions on my website in the submission guidelines section. Do you have a limit to how many authors you publish per year? No, I don’t have a limit to the number of authors. My limit more lies in my editing schedule than the number of authors. Quality edits take time. Is there something you would like to share with our readers or authors? World Castle is always looking for good quality fiction to publish. We promote, but we’re looking for authors that are willing to help us promote them. Together we can all succeed. World Castle is also actively seeking promoters.

Submission Information: All authors are invited to submit their work, including unrepresented authors, and new unpublished authors. We ask you to review our submission guidelines carefully. At this time we are only accepting electronically submitted manuscripts, and are open to most fiction genres. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and your writing to us. Make it count. Make sure that it has been painstakingly edited and polished. Also send us a short synopsis of the book.

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WRITERS EXCHANGE EPUBLISHING

When did you start your company and what goal did you have in mind for it? In 2000 Sandy decided she could best help other writers by starting a publishing company that judged books by their merits, rather than the pedigree of the writers and Writers Exchange E-Publishing was born. Read more about us on our blog. Do you specialize in particular genres? No. Do you attend book events or conventions? Not very often, as there is stuff all in Australia:) What do you look for in an author’s work when they submit? Potential (ie brilliant story), decent writing, and having followed the submission instructions on our website. In your opinion, what seems to be the most productive marketing tool available today? Author Blogs, author interviews everywhere and reviews:) Is there anything you would like to share with our readers or authors? Next year I would really like to add some new blood to our team. I am looking in particular for authors with multiple books and the passion to promote themselves in partnership with WEE.

Submission Information: Currently closed to submissions, will be open again in 2016. Visit our website for more information.

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| Slowly Unwrapped | Slowly Unwrapped

A Very Short Christmas Story by Victoria Vane This short story is a bonus read to Slow Hand, a 2015 Red Carpet Reader’s Choice Award finalist in the Contemporary category. Decatur, Georgia, Christmas Day Nikki yanked the handle of the shopping buggy. It stuck. She cursed and gave it another jerk, but it remained jammed. “Use your foot,” Shelby instructed. “Like this.” With one solid kick, Shelby wedged the buggy free. “I still don’t understand why you’re going through all this stress and aggravation, Nik. The man just gave you a ring. Are you really sure you want to risk cooking for him?” Nikki grimaced. “Thanks a lot, Shel.” “I’m just sayin’ he has to know by now that you’re no domestic goddess.” “But I still want to do this for him,” Nikki insisted. “He’s come all this way from Montana. The least we can do is show him some Southern holiday cheer.” “But didn’t you tell me his mother’s a Texan?” Shelby remarked. “She is,” Nikki replied. “But Texas isn’t Georgia, Shel. I’d argue whether Texas is even part of the South. They eat tamales on Christmas. We don’t do that.” “Yeah, well they don’t exactly sell turkey and dressing at Walgreens either.” “But there was no place else open. What am I even going to feed him?” Nikki lamented, nearly at the point of despair. “I thought it was only going to be us, and you don’t eat meat, so I didn’t even buy anything for a real Christmas meal.” “Don’t worry about me. I already have plans with that hot guy from Home Depot who delivered our Christmas tree. You could always just go out to eat,” Shelby suggested. “Where? Everything is closed on Christmas Day.” “There’s the China Buffet on North Decatur,” Shelby said. “You could do the Peking duck like they ate in A Christmas Story. Or there’s always Waffle House. They never close for anything.” “I can’t believe you just suggested Waffle House for Christmas dinner.” Nikki sounded an exasperated

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huff. “It just wouldn’t feel right. Christmas is meant to be spent at home.” “All right. Have it your way. Let’s try the frozen food case.” Nikki chewed her lip as they scanned the contents of the freezer. The first two cases held nothing but Lean Cuisines and frozen pizzas. The third held more promise. “Lookie here, Nik,” Shelby exclaimed. “I think we hit the jackpot.” She tossed two boxes of Stouffers frozen mac and cheese into the cart with a grin. “A Southern holiday staple.” “Great! What else is there?” Nikki asked. “I think I even got you covered on the turkey.” Shelby tossed two Marie Callender’s turkey pot pies into the cart. Wheeling down the snack aisles, they added a big bag of pecans. “What am I going to do about dessert?” Nikki asked. Shelby paused at the breakfast foods. “If he likes cherries, we’ve got desert covered.” “I don’t know about cherries, but he certainly has a thing for peaches.” Nikki recalled a certain night in a mountain cabin with a sudden frisson of desire. Shelby tossed a box of cherry Pop-Tarts into the cart. Nikki snorted. “Pop-Tarts?” “Why not? A tart’s the same as a pie right?” They proceeded down the aisle to the canned goods where Nikki picked up cans of jellied cranberries, frenchcut green beans, and cream of mushroom soup. She was reaching for a carton of French’s fried onions when Shelby grabbed her hand. “Don’t! I beg you! No one ever eats that disgusting green bean casserole.” “But it’s a Southern tradition,” Nikki protested. “One that needs to end here and now,” Shelby insisted. “Here. Skip the veggie.” She grabbed a can of fruit cocktail and some flaked coconut. “Make ambrosia instead.” “But I need whipped cream for that.” “Then I’ll go to dairy and see if they have Cool Whip.” Shelby returned a moment later with a can of Reddi-wip. She dropped in in the cart with a shrug. “It’s all they had.” Nikki took a dismal inventory of her cart. Tears blurred her eyes as they wheeled the cart to check out. “It’s times like this that I truly miss Mee-Maw. She made every holiday special. And no one made a better fried turkey and cornbread dressing. I even miss sitting at the kitchen table with her, stringing popcorn and making magnolia wreaths.”


| Victoria Vane | “Then why haven’t you continued the tradition?” “For who? It’s usually just been you and me at Christmas, and you’ve never been into any of that Southern Living kinda stuff.” Nikki palmed her eyes with a sniff. “Don’t cry, Nik.” Shelby wrapped her arms around her sister. “He doesn’t expect anything. You didn’t even know he was coming.” “Doesn’t matter.” She hiccupped. “It’s our very first Christmas, and it’s going to be his lamest one ever. The worst part of this is that he gave me the best present I ever got, and I don’t even have anything for him to unwrap!” “You do now!” Shelby snatched a sparkly pink Santa hat from a clearance end cap and plopped it on Nikki’s head. “Just put this on, add a matching bow, and let him unwrap you.”

That was their first time together, and he’d made it a night she’d never forgotten either. “I don’t think it was the meal that you remember so fondly.” He grinned. “Probably not. But I sure liked the dessert.” “Stop humoring me, Wade.” She gave him a playful swat. “You aren’t helping a bit. Can’t you see I’m trying really hard to be miserable? I don’t even have a gift for you. I mean I do, but it’s not anything you can unwrap.” “What is it then?” he asked. “I was hoping we could go away together. You’ve worked so hard for so long. I thought that now with things settled down a bit with your brother, maybe I could entice you into taking some time off. Since Dirk has Janice helping him out at the ranch, I was hoping maybe you and I could take that trip to Mexico we’d once talked about.” “I think that’s a mighty fine idea indeed. In fact, why don’t we plan to make it a honeymoon trip?” “Really?” She instantly brightened. “I’m so glad you like the idea.” Then her smile faded again. “But that still doesn’t make up for this lousy Christmas. I wanted so badly to show you how we do it Southern style.” He laughed, a deep throaty rumble. “If that’s all that’s eating you, sweetheart, you can make it up to me real easy.” “How?” she asked.

*** Hours later, with a wink at her sister, Shelby made an excuse to go out, leaving Wade and Nikki stretched out on the couch watching It’s a Wonderful Life. “I’m so sorry about dinner, Wade.” Try as she might, Nikki couldn’t suppress the quiver from her voice or the burning sensation behind her eyes. Wade’s warm strong arms tightened around her. She loved having his arms around her, being cloaked in his body, in his scent. “Why’s that sweetheart?” he asked. “Because everything was just awful.” “What makes you think I’m so hard to please? For the record, one of the best meals I ever had was fried Spam and a can of cling peaches up in that mountain cabin with you.”

He tipped her face up to his, his eyes gleaming with humor and something else that made her insides quiver. “Why don’t you just grab that can of Reddi-whip, put on that little pink Santa hat, and do me cowgirl style?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Victoria Vane is an awardwinning author of smart and sexy romance. Her works range from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Victoria’s books have received more than twenty awards and nominations, including the 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations and a Library Journal Best Ebook romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series. She lives in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse. For more, visit www.victoriavane.com.

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Movies | Television | Books | Adaptations

on the RED CARPET

BTS GOES HOLLYWOOD

Featured Videos,

REVIEWS and more

BTS showcases writers and other professionals who bring characters to life through movies & TV.

Issue 30 | November/December 2015 | 41


| Interviewed by Danita Minnis |

Irene Santiago-Baron Actress

In Providence, a story of redemptive love, your character, Edith, goes through a transformation that spans decades. How hard was it to go from playing a vibrant, young mother to an elderly person who suffers a stroke? How did your voice-over training help you in this transformation? First of all, thank you for having me here today, Danita. Playing Edith was a very welcome challenge that I was willing to commit to. It was important to me to understand that taking on this role would essentially be two different characters. I didn’t want young Edith looking like she kind of had a stroke and maybe ages. It was important the distinction was made in a very clear way and that it looked authentic. Young Edith was easy to play. She is a wealthy, savvy business woman. Her domineering mothering skills are no nonsense. It is all about independence and appearances with her. Everything has to be just so. She takes charge. Even her husband doesn’t mess. She is a force to be reckoned with. When the stroke happens, I committed to it. I studied stroke victims, the signs of stroke, elderly people, whatever I could find. I also consulted medical professionals. My lips were chapped from distorting my face for a few weeks after. That was a little painful. 42 | btsemag.com

I continued working with my body movement and was aware of how each muscle felt, and then I fell into it without thinking about it. My body just knew. Even though this is entirely a silent film, I still used my vocal coaching. It helped immensely. When your face and body are paralyzed on one side, it makes the speech patterns slurred. Your tongue can’t work, even to eat. I worked harder at trying to form words. You can’t be embarrassed when you’re acting in front of a crew. You have to commit to it. In another inspirational film, Adrenaline, you act as well as serve as co-executive producer. With your husband, Del Baron, also a part of the producing team, who would you say is the perfectionist in your professional relationship? Ha! You had to ask that didn’t you? Without a doubt I would say him. But he would say me. I have a terrible perfectionist streak, but it has mellowed over time somewhat.


| BTS Goes Hollywood |

Many fans know you as the chemistry teacher from the Emmy award-winning film High School Musical. You play a similar role in real life, teaching acting to at-risk youth. How important is it to mentor and share your talent with others?

was left for dead after being viciously attacked by gang members. In the film, you play Bryan’s police partner. As Bryan struggles to regain his life in the film, what tests did you experience as a supporting partner?

Oh my goodness, I can’t even begin to tell you how much joy that brings me to pay it forward! A wonderful woman named Jan Zoesch, from the Friends of the Arts organization in rural North Carolina, asked me to be a part of their team. I have been blessed to be a part of this program. Some of these kids don’t have anyone who believes in them.

The biggest test would be to find the people that did this to my partner and not let him or his family down. The test of having the responsibility of telling the family what happened. I remember the night we filmed the scene when I had to tell his wife Brenda (Rebecca Rogers Nelson) and son Robert (Brandon Seth Chinault). I was hit with all these real emotions of anger and fear of their reactions, worried to not let my partner, Bryan (Andy Lauer), down. Also the test of being strong for them when you see your partner/friend down.

I was told once by one of my mentors, Molli Benson, “You only need two people to believe in you. I believe in you. You have to be the other.” Those words are a staple in my life today, and I share that with these kids. Mentoring is something the kids will never forget. I think I get more out of it than they do. Give opportunity where there is none. I was given a chance. I grew up poor, was bullied, and my home life was stressful. My parents weren’t very supportive. I have had incredible opportunity because I had incredible mentors (even in my adult years); they made a difference in me. I still think about their teachings and how they have helped to guide me to realize my dreams and become a better artist and person. You make a difference. Mentoring is a life changer. Not just for the kids but for you too Your upcoming film, Badge of Faith, is based on the true story of Bryan Lawrence, a police officer who

The true supporting partner would be his wife, Brenda. She went through all the ups and downs with him. This is a woman who has to restructure her life and their home, to make it handicap accessible, and deal with the bills to pay for wheelchairs, therapy, and such. Knowing this person is not going to be the same as you have known him. How did the film change your outlook on day-to-day tasks that we take for granted, like being able to pick up pen and paper and write? Immensely! I feel incredibly grateful. There are no words. I realized I take simple things for granted like, brushing my teeth without effort, getting a drink of water, whenever I want or need. In the movie it shows Bryan in his hospital bed wanting a drink of water that is just within reach next to him on his table, but he cannot have it.

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| Interviewed by Danita Minnis |

That hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel so blessed to have my hands, feet, and legs working. I have to add that the actor Andy Lauer, who portrays Bryan Lawrence, did an amazing job. He only could act using his head and facial expressions. I realize this is how Brian Lawrence lived and how many people do live this way and what their families go through. What a beautiful feeling to know that the real Bryan Lawrence overcame his paralysis and actually walks now with crutches after being told he would never walk again. It is an amazing testament of faith. He actually became a pastor and currently preaches. I have a great respect for this man’s desire and independence.

Irene Santiago-Baron’s background in film, theater, television, and the voice-over industry has led her on many adventures. She has been invited as a guest artist to the Sundance Institute Filmmakers Lab for five consecutive years. During her years at Sundance, she was mentored by distinguished Oscar and Emmy directors, such as Robert Redford, the late, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Joan Darling. She has studied voice-over with award-winning casting director Ginny McSwain and voice-over producer Leigh Gilbert. Some of her popular credits include the multiaward-winning Disney’s High School Musical and the recurring role of the villain, Carlina, in threetime Southern Emmy-nominated kids’ daytime TV show, The Rusty Bucket Kids. Ms. Santiago lives on the East Coast with her husband, producer Del Baron, and her two children. When available, Ms. Santiago teaches acting to at-risk youth. Follow Irene on Facebook and Twitter.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Danita is a singer, writer, and lover of romance. She is the author of the ghostly love story Adderley’s Bride and the Cardiff novels, Falcon’s Angel and Love Entwined. Danita is excited about her soon-tobe-released self-published paranormal romance, which explores the relationship between a two thousand-year-old vampire with a moral code and an ex-MI6 agent whose only believe is in self-preservation. As an interviewer for BTS eMag, BTS Goes Hollywood, Danita has met some of the most interesting and talented people on the planet. She gets a kick out of getting into the creative minds of actors, producers, and directors. Website

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http://danitaminnis.com


Historical | Western | Period Fiction

once UPON a TIME

HISTORICAL & WESTERN

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more beyond the books

Hunks Hot HISTORY The

of

Christy English

Henry VIII—Renaissance King In this month’s “Hot Hunks of History,” we visit the Renaissance age and a Renaissance king. Remembered as a giant fat man with a turkey leg in his hand, Henry VIII gets a bad rap.

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| The Hot Hunks of History |

Though he broke with the Catholic Church and beheaded two of his wives, before Henry met Anne Boleyn and started misbehaving, he was actually a decent king. Married to Queen Catherine, a daughter of the Spanish Queen Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, for eighteen years, Henry was a relatively faithful husband. He took the occasional mistress, but compared to King Francis of France, he was practically a monk. A handsome and much beloved young man, standing over six feet tall in an era when men were considered tall at five feet, ten inches, Henry played tennis, fenced, jousted, and wrote his own music. The still popular song “Greensleeves� is often attributed to him. Once intended to be a prince of the church, Henry read and wrote in Greek and Latin. Ironically, with the help of his friend Sir Thomas More, Henry wrote a treatise on why Europe should reject Lutheranism and was awarded the title of Defender of the Faith by the pope.

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In the court of Henry VIII, masques and plays were put on for the general amusement, and King Henry often danced and sang in them. One of the favorite festivals at court was Twelfth Night, when on the twelfth day after the birth of Christ, a Lord of Misrule would be declared and a kitchen boy might be treated as a king. With the great Yule log blazing and the halls truly decked with evergreens, it was a happy time of year.


| Christy English |

If you’d like to read a fun and beautifully researched novel about this king, I highly recommend Margaret George’s Autobiography of Henry VIII. Happy Holidays to all of you and a happy New Year.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. Sometimes an actor, always a storyteller, Christy works happily with Sourcebooks Casablanca to bring the knife-throwing women of her novels to life. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in western North Carolina. Please visit her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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reviews historical | western | period fiction

Five in a Fix

Her Wicked Captain

Historical Heat Rating: 4

Historical Heat Rating: 4

Sandra Jones

Renee Michaels

An old lover, a new love, a change of dreams…It all promises happiness. Molly is finally on her way home and one step closer to achieving her ambitions. After they secure her employer’s inheritance, she can take off to seek her fortune. But with a distracting lover and danger lurking in the shadows, how is she expected to focus on getting ahead? She has never dreamt of marriage. Her aspirations lie elsewhere. Now, with the idea planted in her head by a roguish Irishman, she begins to wonder…And there’s a second man bent on wooing her too. Molly is the girl for him, and Logan is determined to make her his woman. No murderous villain or rival for her hand is going to prevent him from claiming her. All he has to do is convince Molly that he’s the man for her. Review: A nice short quick read, that had adventurous fun in ways you definitely wouldn’t expect, but you really did enjoy the journey. It was fun and you really enjoyed the efforts Logan tried to use in order to make Maggie commit to him. The countess Annabella and her husband were something else. And to think, one thought she wasn’t having enough excitement. Don’t know what made her think that, there was plenty enough excitement to go around. So if you want a good time and a lot of steamy moments, pick up a copy and enjoy. Reviewed by Cassandra

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She played right into his hands. The River Rogues, Book 1 Possessing uncanny people-reading skills like her mama, Philadelphia “Dell” Samuels has spent thirteen years in her aunt’s rustic Ozarks home, telling fortunes over playing cards and trying to pass as white. But the treacherous Mississippi River childhood her mama dragged her away from finally catches up to her on a steamboat captained by her old friend Rory Campbell. Review: The Mississippi River and the Ozarks, a roguish river boat captain and kick ass heroine who can read anyone’s tells. This story was so different than what I usually read. Dell and Rory both have pasts with baggage. Dell is the daughter of Rory’s “mentor”, the one he needs her help to destroy. With a whole lot of adventure and suspense thrown in this novel the love and passion needed to be hot to stand out. And boy was it! There were some steamy sensual scenes that burned the pages!! The was a couple distractions in there, like some scenes were a bit disjointed, but overall it was a great read! Reviewed by Nelle


reviews historical | western | period fiction

Triumph and Treasure Collette Cameron Historical Heat Rating: 3

A disillusioned Scottish gentlewoman. Angelina Ellsworth once believed in love--before she discovered her husband of mere hours was a slave-trader and already married. To avoid the scandal and disgrace, she escapes to the estate of her aunt and uncle, the Duke and Duchess of Waterford. When Angelina learns she is with child, she vows she’ll never trust a man again. A privileged English lord. Flynn, Earl of Luxmoore, led an enchanted life until his father committed suicide after losing everything to Waterford in a wager. Stripped of all but his title, Flynn is thrust into the role of marquis as well as provider for his disabled sister and invalid mother. Unable to pay his father’s astronomical gambling loss, Flynn must choose between social or financial ruin. When the duke suggests he’ll forgive the debt if Flynn marries his niece, Flynn accepts the duke’s proposal. Reluctant to wed a stranger, but willing to do anything to protect her babe and escape the clutches of the madman who still pursues her, Angelina agrees to the union. Can the earl and his Scottish lass find happiness and love in a marriage neither wanted, or is the chasm between them insurmountable? Review: This is a story of two souls finding each other after betrayal and tragedy. Angelina thought she met the love of her life in Charles Moreau, her new husband. After learning of his betrayal, she swears off men. Flynn learns of his father’s death and is grieving his loss as well, as trying to provide for the women in his family. These two characters are compassionate individuals, it was so nice to see the love blossom between them. The plot was full of fun interesting twists and turns, it kept me reading into the night. Some readers might feel all the drama was a bit too much and while it could lose a few of the twists and still be a great novel, I felt it worked. I enjoyed the secondary characters a lot! I’ll be reading more of Ms. Cameron’s series! Reviewed by Nelle

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Romancing the Rumrunner Michelle McLean Historical Heat Rating: 3

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. Review: 1920’s Chicago is an era I have never read before. I adored this book! Gangsters, speakeasies, private eyes and lady butcher shop owners, oh and don’t forget the Feds. This was so descriptive, I could visualize the settings perfectly. The slang was delightful! Lots of dames, dolls, flimflam and other 20’s slang was littered throughout the story. Jessie was one kickass speakeasy owner and Tony was a devious pretender! I adored them both and love they found in each other was fantastic. I loved how that worked out. I’ll be putting Michelle McLean on my TBR list in hopes I can find more 20’s settings. Reviewed by Nelle

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reviews historical | western | period fiction

The Bluestocking and the Rake Norma Darcy Historical Heat Rating: 1

The Earl of Marcham has decided to put the excesses of his colorful youth firmly behind him so that he may find a wife and beget himself an heir. But a straitlaced spinster may stand in his way after she releases a morality pamphlet exposing some of his most private misdemeanors. Determined to have his revenge and teach her a much-needed lesson, the earl decides that his best course of action is to seduce her… Miss Georgiana Blakelow has long given up the hope of marriage. Instead, she’s resigned to serving as governess to her siblings and saving the family estate from ruin. She might succeed, if only the wretch of an earl who won the estate at the gaming table would be reasonable. As the sparks fly, and as Lord Marcham finds himself unexpectedly attracted to Miss Blakelow, she becomes even more determined to keep him at a safe distance. The closer he gets, the more likely he is to discover that his bluestocking isn’t all that she seems. Review: The earl of Markham has decided he’s getting bored with his risqué behavior and decides to take his mother and sisters’ advice and find a wife but on his own terms. He’s won a neighboring estate in a feat of gambling and in storms Georgiana, the “bluestocking”. There is a lot more to Georgiana then we see at first. She has lots of secrets with the potential to blow up her, on again off again, romance with the earl. The story started off a bit slow but as it progressed it got really convoluted. There were POV’s of different characters and it flowed in seemingly random pattern. The romance did come to be an enjoyable ending, though. Reviewed by Nelle

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teaming up to bring you more reviews

Scandalously Yours Cara Elliott

Historical Heat Rating: 4

Proper young ladies of the ton-especially ones who have very small dowries-are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only thing they are encouraged to pursue is an eligible bachelor. So, the headstrong Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret. Ah, but secret passions are wont to lead a lady into trouble . . .

The eldest of the three Sloane sisters, Olivia is unafraid to question the boundaries of Society-even if it does frequently land her in trouble. Disdaining the glittery world of balls and courtship, Olivia prefers to spend her time writing fiery political essays under a pseudonym for London’s leading newspaper. But when her columns attract the attention of the oh-so-proper Earl of Wrexham, Olivia suddenly finds herself dancing on the razor’s edge of scandal. With the help of her sisters, she tries to stay one step ahead of trouble . . .

Review: I loved this book! I Loved the “Sleepless in Seattle” or even “Mary Poppins” type plot, where the son Scottie writes letter for advertisement to try to find him a mother that is not the “Steel Corset” that his father is courting. Olivia fits nicely into the picture. They have matching interests and I love how she tries to be a “different lady” of the times. I don’t think it ever states the time period of the book but it does have several very notable events. Olivia and Johns romance was so sweet! I’ll end up reading this one again!


feature sneak peek

Christy English

How to Seduce a Scot The plan is simple: 1. Descend from the Highlands to face the aggravation of a London Season; 2. Foist his wild sister off on some gullible English lord; 3. Retreat before the ladies of the scandalized ton can get any ideas. Determined to see his hellion of a sister wed, Highlander Alexander Waters is willing to face anything-even the English. He just didn’t expect his own rough manners to cause such a riot...or for a blooming English rose to catch his eye. Gently bred Catherine Middlebrook must find a respectable man to marry or her family will be ruined. She won’t allow herself to be distracted by Highland barbarians...no matter how her body may thrill whenever Alex is near.

Catherine should be standoffish and ladylike around Alexander Waters, but ever since she had eaten her strawberry ice with Mary Elizabeth’s whiskey poured over it, she had felt at peace, at one with the world and every man in it. She could not quite remember why she was angry with Alexander. She liked him. She knew he liked her. There was not much else to think about when it came to a man and a girl. As Mr. Waters drove her home in the busy traffic of the Mayfair streets, she leaned comfortably against his arm and looked at the sky. She could not see it properly, for her bonnet blocked her view, as it always did. She pulled away from Alexander for a moment and reached for the ribbons of her bonnet. “Miss Middlebrook, may I ask what you are doing? Please keep your bonnet on. We are almost at Regent’s Square.” “Balderdash, Mr. Waters. I am tired of not being able to see properly. I want this bonnet off.” She fiddled with the tie that bound her until the bow under her chin finally came free, and she drew the hat off her head. She sighed, and tossed the bonnet at her feet, where the ribbons fluttered at her gaily. “Miss Middlebrook, your lovely bonnet is ruined.”

“I doubt that, Alex. May I call you Alex? I doubt that, but if it is, I have another at home that will suffice for everyday use, and one for Sundays.” Her hair suddenly felt tight on her head. The hairpins seemed to be sticking into her scalp more than usual, and she needed to loosen one or two. She reached up and drew out the two largest hairpins. She drew two more pins out, and then two more, until her entire head of hair had fallen around her in a mass of curls. “That’s better,” she said. Her reticule was caught under her thigh, so she simply tossed the pins into the street. “Miss Middlebrook, I beg you, please do not take anything else off.” “Alex, I must remind you that I am a lady. A lady does not disrobe on a public street, in an open carriage, in the full light of day.” Alexander seemed to blush under his tan, and she laughed in delight. Finally, someone besides herself was blushing! What a lovely change that made. Emboldened by the heightened color on his handsome face, she leaned close to him again, sliding her hand up his muscled arm. His tight coat did not do him justice, it seemed. The muscles leaped beneath her gloved hand, radiating warmth and coziness and a tiny bit of danger. But his hands were occupied with the horses…what could one tiny bit of danger matter?

Since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. She loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in western North Carolina.

christyenglish.com

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Young Adult | New Adult

YOUNG & NEW ADULT

BEYOND the fairy TALE

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trends

reading trends in young adult

Young HEART at

Katherine McIntyre

Have Fairy Tales Flown the Coop? Everywhere you turn nowadays, there’s news of another fairy tale retelling in the works, and rather than slowing down, production’s increasing.

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| Young at Heart | With good reason, they’re as popular as ever, and with fun subgenres like steampunk and dystopian to dive into, authors have an even bigger sandbox to play in. Some of the continuing enthusiasm has to do with new releases in series, but debuts and more twisted variations are cropping up with just as much talent and innovation backing them as earlier incarnations. Given the sizeable displays and shelf space designated for fairy tales in the young adult section, these stories have found their staunchest support in the teenage community. What’s the thrill with fairy tales in the young adult world that keeps these stories evolving? Well, a large cause is the historical target audience combined with traditional young adult themes. Fairy tales were aimed as stories for children back in the days of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, and while all ages can enjoy, the demographic had no need to shift. Teenagers today can still associate with the heroes and heroines of the older stories because same as the characters, they fight with wicked stepparents and long to meet their one true loves. Part of the reason fairy tales need a makeover lies in the audience as well—after all, teenagers nowadays are a lot more cynical than the early readership of those stories. Authors today do away with the preachiness of the originals to further attract the young adult audience. For example, this year Rhiannon Thomas debuted with her Sleeping Beauty retelling, A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing, #1, HarperTeen—available now). These days it’s hard to buy the ending of the original story; whereas, re-imaginings like this one explore what happens past the happy-ever-after. Another reason these fairy tale stories continue to claim the shelves lies in the popularity of blending fairy tale universes, like Marissa Meyer does in her Lunar Chronicles. After all, the thrill of crossover characters keeps audiences hooked, 64 | btsemag.com

and Marissa Meyer has done a phenomenal job in her unique recreations. While Cinder was at the forefront of the fairy tale trend, Winter (Lunar Chronicles, #4, Feiwel & Friends—Nov. 10, 2015), her latest book, is awaited with equally strong reception.

And to those who might believe Oz is done and over with, Danielle Paige is here to prove you wrong. She’s released another book in her Dorothy Must Die series, proving that the tales coming from Frank Baum’s original works haven’t been exhausted yet. The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die, #2, HarperCollins—available now) provides the audience another opportunity to explore more of Oz, and similar to Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked, this brings to question the black-andwhite morals presented in the original story. After all, today’s teen is too savvy to accept that witches are bad and princesses are good based on say-so. If young adult readers tire of princesses, there’s always Robin Hood to turn to, as A.C. Gaughen’s series Scarlet (Bloomsbury USA) presents a lady thief to rival the hero of old. In a recognizable landscape of Nottingham, this series brings a new character like Scarlet to a familiar cast and landscape. By introducing someone fresh to interact with, a different tale develops, and oftentimes, these intrepid teenage heroes are the ones the target audience can identify with.


| Katherine McIntyre | place with so many changes in friends, classes, and life in general, the familiarity of the characters they grew up with offers refuge. To that end, the fairy tale retellings aren’t just some passing trend—they provide so much for an adolescent looking for a familiar hand to hold, and though these books are flooding the shelves, the series and new authors trying their hands at them promise that this fairy tale revolution has just begun.

Another beloved story to recreate is Alice in Wonderland, and the Splintered series by A.G. Howard does a great job at adding a spin to such a unique universe and making it a more fleshed out and developed entity. Alice in Wonderland has such a fantastic array of eccentrics and villains just begging to be recreated, and the latest book, Ensnared (Splintered, #3, Harry N. Abrams—available now), continues that trend. The enthusiasm behind these newer retellings hitting the shelves hints that fans aren’t ready to drop their favorite fairy tales yet. Instead, they’re on the lookout for new ways those characters can appear in stories and universes. After all, for a teen obsessed with Robin Hood or a dashing Prince Charming, who could pass up an opportunity to follow the character into another realm? The rebirth of fairy tales in young adult fiction has seen that certain stories and characters won’t die out and instead continue on in new lives and adventures under the pens of so many talented authors out there. For teens who are looking to escape into a different realm with memorable characters from the movies or fairy tales they read and watched when they were little, these young adult reads present the best transition. While school life can be a terrifying

ABOUT THE AUTHOR A modern-day Renaissance woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently, coffee roasting. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Boroughs Publishing, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website. Visit her at http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com.

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feature book showcase

Firestarter Kayla Cruise has been kicked out of another foster home, her twelfth, and she’s back at the railroad tracks where she always finds solace. Surprisingly, a woman shows up there as an apparition, offering something Kayla had been longing for all her life, a forever home. Not just any home, Tia Keating runs a group home for teens with special gifts…gifts like the ones Kayla has spent years running from.

Excerpt from

Finding Home

The stress coursing through Kayla Cruise’s veins was making her chest ache, and there was a strange warm sensation in her fingertips. If she had looked down she would have noticed the whisper of flames, golden sparks leaping from her skin. An icy breath of wind fluttered through her long dark bangs and extinguished the fire. Kayla squinted as the grit from the train tracks blew in her face. She turned her body, so the wind was at her back, and hunkered down deeper into her jean jacket. She flipped up the collar, but the old thing provided little warmth. She would have worn her winter coat, but Tracy had stolen it. Foster care sucked, and what the thieving bitch had done was mild, compared to what other fosters had done to her. The throbbing ache in her ribs was a gift from her current foster brother. A tear slipped down her face, but she didn’t feel it. Numbing herself out was her only way of dealing with the crap in her life. She bit her ragged black fingernail, tearing into a raw cuticle and causing it to bleed. She had cut school to get some peace. She wasn’t up to being bullied and her body couldn’t handle another fight. Not after what happened this morning. She wasn’t some helpless little girl, but even the toughest don’t stand a chance against a posse. Getting jumped was just a fact of her life. Suzie Larson’s cruel words echoed in her head, Kayla

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Cruise will always lose. How childish was that? Kayla sniffed. Unfortunately, all her best comebacks occurred to her long after a fight. A lot of good it would do her now. She hated seeming weak, but her words just locked up inside her when confronted. The only things the bullies loved more than her silence, were her tears.

One fateful evening in 1996, only child and latchkey kid 14-year old Brenna Bianco caves into peer pressure and blatantly ignores her parents request to remain home while they are out. Venturing on an apparently harmless neighborhood bike ride with her cousin Sara and their mutual friend Mary, Brenna wakes the next morning to realize Mary never returned home. When an overzealous police officer accuses Brenna of foul play, she must rely on her amateur police skills and ingenuity to redeem herself.

Excerpt from

Missing Mary

Sweat stung Brenna’s eyes as she stood in the middle of the street waiting for the game to begin. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand wondering which was worse, being slow-roasted from the sun beating down, or being smothered from the heat rising up off the scorching pavement. She felt as if she were being steam pressed. The heavy humidity caused her short brown hair to spring into sweaty ringlets over her forehead and along the back of her neck. Still, the oppressive heat wouldn’t prevent her from playing the game. The makeshift teams were taking position when the sound pierced the air like an air raid siren–her father’s whistle. Even in the heat chills climbed her spine, like when someone scraped their fingernails down a blackboard. Her father’s whistle meant he wanted her home quick. Otherwise, her mother would simply shout


her name. Again, Brenna wiped away sweat, this time from the back of her neck before she tossed the softball to Toby. “Guess I won’t be pitching after all. “But, we were just getting started,” Toby complained. Wearing his New York Yankees baseball cap backward, he stood only about an inch taller than Brenna. They probably could have passed for brother and sister accept he wore his hair cropped short to his head. She shrugged and straddled her mom’s old all-terrain bike. Francis, her nine-year-old neighbor, guarded it as if it were his own. “Hey, Fran,” she mumbled and pedaled off, aware of his dark eyes watching her. “Come back if you can,” Toby called. Brenna sailed down the street and up her driveway. Her dad was waiting on the front porch, dressed in black slacks and a gray shirt, unusually spiffy compared to his usual tattered jeans, T-shirt, and work boots. As a carpenter she didn’t often get to see him dressed up.

Excerpt from

When eighteen-year-old Mattison Burr jumps off a pier into a hurricane and survives, she must learn to withstand the storm within herself. Confronted as outsider in her own world, Mattison develops an unhealthy girl crush on her best friend and rejects the boy her parents always dreamed she would be with. Only after a botched ménage à trios and a house nearly up in flames does Mattison begin to boldly tread on to the fringes of homosexuality. Once she discovers her truth, will she be rewarded?

Deep Water

It stings. I step out into my backyard, inviting the wind to fill my lungs. There is a hurricane curving inland towards the coast of North Carolina. My ears are buzzing. Glass from a broken bottle cuts into my bare foot, but it doesn’t hurt. I can’t go on like this. I feel the cool, damp crab grass crisscrossing around my ankles as the wisps of wind chills my arm. The smell of salt water gets caught in my throat. My body is a fireplace, and I am huffing and puffing. I am my own hell. My eyes are open. The sky is lined with gray, and I see coarse, black clouds weaving back and forth in front of me. I’m leaving my yard; I’m leaving my home. In another life, I will be anything I want to be. Protection is too far gone, even from myself. I hate who I am. No longer a petite sun-kissed beach bum, I am a horrible freakish monster. I’ll change my cute face and figure for fangs and claws. I’ll change the message on my answering machine. It will say, “Bye.” Even better, “If I offend you it is purely intentional,” or, better still, I will use only the wind’s echoes. I could catch its howls with my mouth and record it. It’s getting fiercer. I need to feel it; I can’t feel. It don’t need anybody. My hair blows to the side of my face and wraps tightly around my neck. The gray gust doesn’t grow tired. It is unforgiving. Moaning, Whipping, Twirling, the bustling clouds have turned nasty. It’s running its angry course. The ferocious wind is my compass without a magnetic force. Grabbing me under my elbows and knees, it moves me. Beads of sand whisk my face, and it tingles with familiarity; am I home now that I have sale on my lips?

The gem in lesbian publishing. Sapphire Books Publishing is a company that currently only publishes lesbian fiction.

SapphireBooks.com Issue 30| November/December 2015 |

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Issue 30 | November/December 2015 |

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| It’s Complicated | Rob and Faith had finished their last lesson before the holidays, and they were on their way to lunch together. They had known each other long enough that Rob didn’t have to ask her where she wanted to go. They ended up at the same diner as many times before since the start of their freshman year in September. But Rob didn’t know that lunch would end differently this time around.

Faith giggled opposite him, and he glared at her. “No, I’m not,” he denied. “Well, I expected as much, of course. You wouldn’t even admit it to yourself.” “There’s nothing to admit.” He gritted his teeth. Why on earth did she have to target him?

He watched Faith eat her toast, and she caught him staring a couple of times because he simply couldn’t pull his eyes away. There was something about her that made him feel different than any other girl. Until recently, that something had been their friendship. But lately . . .

He noticed Faith was getting intrigued by their exchange. He was probably protesting a bit too fiercely. “I see there is insecurity involved,” the fortune-teller continued unperturbed, “but I’m pretty certain from the arrangement of the cards that it will end happily.”

Their cozy silence was disturbed by a gush of cold wind that entered through the door. He turned to look and saw an old woman dressed in a long skirt and a wide coat. She wore white sneakers, which were completely inappropriate for the slush outside, and her wrists were burdened with numerous metal bracelets.

Rob started to blush but tried to hide it behind anger and derision. “I’m pretty sure my prediction that I’ll die this afternoon has bigger chances of coming true.”

“Care to hear your future?” she said as she stopped by their table. Faith watched her, amused, while Rob was already shaking his head no. “Are you afraid to hear what awaits you in the future?” the woman asked with challenge in her eyes. “Yeah, right,” Rob said and rolled his eyes. He felt Faith kick his foot under the table, and he mouthed a silent “what?” She was always so polite to everyone, to the point of being infuriating. But that was only one of the things he liked about her. “Here, prove me wrong. Pick your cards,” the woman persisted, offering him a stack of cards. “I said no,” he grumbled and waved his hand toward the cards, hitting them in the process. They scattered across the table.

“You can laugh as much as you want, young man, but you’ll see I’m right.” “For Christ sake,” Rob muttered, and got up to leave. He didn’t as much as wait for Faith to follow him. She caught up with him on the sidewalk. “What was that?” “A crazy, annoying woman,” he complained. “That’s what.” He expected Faith to pose more questions, but she didn’t. They walked in silence toward their dorm rooms. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught her peek at him a couple of times, but she didn’t break the silence that was now far less comfortable than earlier in the diner. He was deeply in thoughts. The woman’s words struck too close to home not to disturb him. He knew she had been making things up, but she had guessed his situation accurately. Her words reminded him of the ridiculous situation he had found himself in.

That was not his purpose; he was just trying to get rid of the woman. Embarrassed with his actions, he lowered his eyes to the table, not wanting to see Faith’s reproach again. “Oooooh.” Startled, he looked up. The fortune-teller stared, transfixed in the cards in front of her.

What was even worse was that it would soon be Christmas, and he would spend it alone. His mom went to see her sister, and all his friends went home to their families. So much for the holidays. Later that afternoon, Faith and Rob were supposed to meet to go see a movie at the local theater. Rob was not in the mood after the incident at lunch, but since he’d promised Faith, he met her at her dorm entrance.

“Oh, don’t tell me, I’m going to die this afternoon?” he laughed. “It wouldn’t be a wonder with all kinds of maniacs walking around,” he added, getting more and more frustrated. “Oh no, not at all. Quite the opposite.” He shook his head as if trying to clear his thoughts.

After another silent walk through the neighborhood, Faith smiled, amused. “So it’s true, isn’t it?” Rob stared at her confused. “You are in love.” She grinned. “Am not!” “Are too.”

“I see you’re in love, dear,” the woman gushed as she turned to look at him. She was met with a pair of deeply shocked eyes.

They sounded like kids, Rob thought. But better that than Faith finding out his secret since that would definitely spoil his holidays, and he feared much more than that.

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| Bridie Hall |

“Who is she?” Faith pressed on. “She’s . . .” “I knew it!” Faith exclaimed with a triumphant smile. And he wanted to bite his tongue off for so carelessly admitting everything. “So . . . who is she?” “Er . . . I . . . I can’t tell you,” he said hoarsely. He knew he was trapped now. She would never let it go, and he could never tell her. “You can’t tell?” she asked surprised. “You always tell me everything about your women, even the things I don’t want to know.” She made a face as they entered the theater lobby. “This is different,” he said firmly in an attempt to end the discussion. “How?” He felt creepy talking to Faith about Faith without her knowing it. He felt like he was lying to her, but he was well aware that was the only way. The realization that it would always be like that made him feel miserable. “She’s someone . . . special,” he finally said. “Oh.” She sounded disappointed. She probably expected to get more information to torture him with, he thought. He hoped the discussion was over as they reached their seats, but then she spoke again. “What exactly is so special about her?” “Can’t you give it a rest?” he almost begged. “No. I want some answers. I’ve never seen you in love, so this is a major thing. I want to know why, who, and how. I’m not going to stop till I find out,” she threatened. He rolled his eyes at her words. “She’s just different than anyone else.” “I get that, but what makes her different?” Faith persisted. He sighed dejectedly, “You’re awful. You know that, right?” She nodded and grinned. Rob leaned back in his seat and thought about it. “She’s . . very passionate about everything she does. She makes me laugh . . . She’s so great, I don’t even mind when she bosses me around.” A small smile played on his lips. “Wait a minute, I thought I was bossing you around.” He quickly raised his eyes to hers. There was a flicker of fear in the deep blue before it vanished, as he joked, “Yeah, but you don’t have the exclusive right to do it.” “Too bad.” He thought she looked wistfully at him, but he must’ve imagined it. The silence only lasted a moment. “You two are serious, then?”

Rob didn’t know what to say to that. He almost laughed when he thought he had never been more serious about a girl in his life, but this time the girl wasn’t even remotely interested in him. “It’s complicated . . .” Rob’s mood was getting worse and worse as Christmas came close. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were the two worst days of the year to be alone. He had become so miserable he even considered going to midnight mass to get out of his room. But that didn’t seem too appealing in the bitter cold and without company. On the spur of the moment, he decided to go see Faith. She had told him that she would maybe go visit her parents over the holidays, but maybe, just maybe, she stayed on campus because the snowstorms made driving impossible. As soon as the door opened, he heard several voices in the room. “Hey, Rob, come on in,” Faith invited him. He noticed she was dressed in a gorgeous chocolate-brown dress. She looked wonderful. He followed her into the room, and he saw her friends, Emily and Dana, were there. He looked at Faith, confused. “They couldn’t drive home, so they’re going to a party instead. They stopped by to invite me along,” she explained. “Are you two going to spend Christmas together?” Dana asked, looking from Rob to Faith and back. “No, why?” he asked. “Oh, just thought you would since she doesn’t want to come with us.” “She has other plans,” Rob said and glanced at Faith who had poured him a mug of coffee and handed it to him now. “I don’t. I won’t be going anywhere in this weather.” “It’s not very pleasant outside, no,” Rob said, warming his fingers on the mug. “Anyhoo,” Dana said, as she got up from the bed, “Have fun, you two.” Emily joined her by the door, and they both kissed Faith goodbye. Dana waved her fingers at Rob and blew him a kiss. He rolled his eyes at her, but she just laughed merrily. “Damn, Rob, why can’t I get you to like me?” He was about to make a silly remark, but she glanced at Faith, and her smile turned sad. “Well, anyway, good luck.” It wasn’t clear for whom her words were intended, but she vanished through the door before anyone could ask. Faith brought him some cookies to go with the coffee. She sat down next to him on the bed. “What are you doing tomorrow?” Issue 30 | November/December 2015 |

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| It’s Complicated | “Nothing,” he shrugged. “I’ll probably make up for some lost sleep.” “You could come here. We could have a proper Christmas dinner.” “I don’t know.”

sadly. He watched the snowflakes that stuck onto his jeans. “What do I mean?” “I don’t know, sex? You think sex is the only reason for me being in a good mood.” “And it isn’t?”

She leaned across him to get a cookie. He almost jumped when she came too close. He couldn’t trust himself when she was dressed like that, and there was so little space between them. It was too much for his senses.

He thought she was ridiculing him, but there was a softness on her face that he didn’t know how to interpret. “Well?” “No, it isn’t. I just like being with her.” “So how come you’re not with her for Christmas?”

Faith smiled strangely at him, and he felt the beginning of a blush. He decided it was time for him to leave before he made any more stupid mistakes. Faith called him on Christmas Day. They agreed to meet in the afternoon and go for a walk.

Rob kicked himself for not thinking about it before. It was only natural she’d expect him to spend the holidays with the girl he was in love with. Why couldn’t he think of that before? He could’ve at least come up with an excuse. “It’s just complicated. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Faith wrapped her coat tighter around herself. It was already dark at five in the afternoon, but the white snowflakes made it look like it was daylight when the streetlamps shone through them. “You know, this morning when I saw it was snowing, for the first time in years, I didn’t mind,” Rob said, as he shoved his hands deeper in his pockets. She’d been teasing him about him not liking snow for years. Called him Grinch and took great pleasure in snowballing him. “How come?” “I don’t have anywhere to be. I’m not in a hurry, so I don’t mind the traffic chaos or the snowed sidewalks,” he grinned, and he looked at her sideways. “Actually . . .” he started but then fell silent. “What?” “Nothing.” She nudged him in his side but he could hardly feel her elbow through all the layers of clothing. “Come on, tell me.” “No, you’ll laugh at me.” “I won’t laugh. When have I ever?” she asked innocently, and he gave her an “are you kidding me” look, but after a moment, he answered anyway. “I just feel, you know, Christmassy, nice . . .” He wasn’t sure what her reaction would be so he didn’t look at her. He figured it would be easier if he didn’t have to see her beautiful eyes mocking him. “I know what you mean.” Surprised, he turned to her to see whether she meant it. “And it’s nice . . . to feel nice. For a change.” She had gotten through a bad break-up with her first boyfriend only a few months earlier. Christian was a jerk, and Rob wished he’d broken Christian’s nose while he had had the chance. “Yeah, it is. I haven’t felt this way for a long time.” “Has this anything to do with you being in love?” Faith asked. When he looked at her, there was a mischievous grin on her lips. “Sort of, I guess. Just not the way you mean.” He smiled

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They stopped at the park where there was a skating rink. They watched the people on the ice, and they had quite a few laughs when they observed the kids and adults alike losing their balance, falling, and getting up, only to fall again. Colorful shadows danced on the ice from the lights in the paper lanterns. Christmas songs could be heard from the loud speakers and the kids shouted with glee. The snowy blanket on the ground and the tiny snowflakes raining down on their heads only added to the festive atmosphere. They stood by the rink for a while, but then Rob pointed to a line of benches underneath a tent. She followed him there, and as she sat down, he whispered he’d be right back. Only a minute later he brought her a cup of hot chocolate. She took it from his hands and made a sip. “Mmm, this is good.” “I knew you’d like it,” he said, and sat down next to her. He used his cup to warm up his frozen fingers instead of drinking the chocolate. “You know me pretty well, huh?” she said and moved closer to him to steal some warmth from him. “We’ve known each other since we were kids. It’s only natural.” “True. Say, what do you think is my best quality?” “Huh?” He sipped from his cup, and she reached up to wipe a bit of chocolate from his upper lip. He lowered his eyes as she did it. “Well, after the fiasco with Christian, I’d like to start dating again . . . and, you know, I’d like to know what guys like about me.” “Oh,” he mumbled. She smiled as she looked at him, but there was something in her eyes. Something that glimmered like a challenge. If only he could read her mind, Rob thought. “I’m sure every guy would like something different about you. I mean, there’s a lot to like.” “You think?”“I know,” he said simply. “You do?” She didn’t ask again when he didn’t answer. Rob just stared ahead, not really seeing the crowd milling about. How could things have become so complicated in the past year, he wondered. They had been friends ever since he could remember. Why on earth did he have to fall for her of


all girls? If only real fortune-tellers existed, so they could tell him if a relationship with Faith would work out. Then he wouldn’t have to risk their friendship for nothing. But as it was, he was too much of a chicken to endanger their relationship. The song “All I want for Christmas” floated through the chatter and laughter of the people in the park. Surprisingly, Rob liked the song. It must’ve had something to do with his feelings for the girl sitting next to him. She was too close for his sanity’s sake but not close enough to make him feel happy and loved. “So what do you want for Christmas?” he asked quietly. “And I don’t mean as in presents, but in general, from life.” He snuggled closer to her, hoping she wouldn’t move away. He hadn’t felt so cozy and nice in a while. He hugged her around her shoulders and waited for her reaction. She leaned into him like it was the most natural thing to do. His heart missed a beat.

Before he managed to answer, Faith went on, “Because if you do, then you probably also know what kind of a guy she wants. A good, fun, and loyal guy who would understand her, make her laugh, and be with her when she cries. Who would love her more than anything else in the world and make her feel beautiful.” He stared at her dumbstruck. He was certain he misunderstood her insinuations, but the annoyingly persevering hope in his chest didn’t budge. “That’s the kind of a guy I want.” She made a pause before she continued with a smile, “And I believe you resemble that description pretty well, don’t you agree?” The knot in his throat wouldn’t let him speak. He felt numb from shock. Finally he coughed to clear his throat before he tentatively asked, “Are you making fun of me, Faith?” “No, Robbie, I’m not making fun of you. I meant every word.”

“What do I want for Christmas?” she repeated, sounding a bit surprised. “I want to be happy. You know, forget all the bad moments from my past.” She made a pause. “I want to be in love and be loved again, after . . . well, you know.” She scrunched up her face at her last words.

“And you knew all along?” he asked, feeling his cheeks flushed when his heart beat like crazy, but he didn’t know whether from excitement and happiness or from embarrassment that she had known what he had been foolishly trying to hide from her.

He didn’t respond for what seemed an eternity. Faith looked at the merry skaters in front of them. “So what do you want for Christmas?” He gave a resigned laugh. “The same as you, I suppose.” “But you have that already, don’t you?” He looked at her sideways. He wiped a snowflake from his eyelashes. “You actually believed her?” “The fortune-teller? But you admitted yourself you were in love.”

“Not at the beginning, no. But the past few days you acted so weird . . . and I wished so hard that my suspicions were true . . .” He blushed, embarrassed. They sat quietly staring at each other. When Rob didn’t move, Faith leaned in and kissed him softly. His lips welcomed her hungrily. His hand went to her back and pulled her closer to him. She snuggled up to him when they broke the kiss to get some air.

“Yeah, well, I guess I’ve already got that part of my Christmas wish, then,” he whispered. “But you’re not loved back?” After a short silence, Faith asked again, “You don’t believe what the woman said is true? That everything will end happily?” He snorted with disbelief but didn’t say anything. “You should have faith,” she offered innocently. He looked at her with shock. Was her choice of words intentional? Was she making fun of him? For a long moment, no one spoke. “I don’t deserve her,” he broke the silence. “What makes you say that?” He shrugged. “She’s too good for me, and I couldn’t make her happy. I’m not what she wants.” “She told you that?” He wanted to say she was asking too many questions, instead he answered, “Not in as many words, but I know her well enough to see that. I’m not like . . . the guys she dated.” “Do you know her as well as you know me?” He made another sip of the hot chocolate that didn’t deserve to be called hot chocolate anymore. The situation he found himself in was just too weird to be true. And he was getting deeper and deeper into the mess.

“Do I need a bow if I want to be your Christmas present?” she grinned up at his relaxed and smiling face. “No need for that. You’re already wrapped up pretty nicely.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bridie Hall has published two YA novels, Letting Go and My Summer Roommate, with Evernight Teen and her story “An Ocean of Their Own” was included in Evernight Teen’s recent anthology, Summer Crush. You can find out more about her at www.bridiehallauthor.com.

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reviews young adult | new adult | childrens

Mouch and Company The Dream Psychic

Sleeping in the Forest of Shadows

Young Adult Heat Rating: 1

Eli Constant Young Adult Heat Rating: 1

Bob Dixon

Being a teenager is tough enough, but try it when you have schizophrenia and psychic abilities that make all of your imaginary friends real... The odds are against Mouch—he’s locked up in Talsom Mental Asylum; his only friends are a sock puppet and his shadow. Worst of all, he suffers from amnesia; his earliest memory is of being found alone in a mall wearing nothing but a pair of polkadotted boxer shorts, a pair of fluffy white bunny slippers, and a hat made from a newspaper.… and covered in a generous amount of blood. When an elderly gentleman visits him and reveals that Mouch is not crazy but is actually a psychic, Mouch does what any rational person would do—he runs for the door. Once outside of Talsom, Mouch soon finds himself thrust into a battle against a sinister movement of dark psychics who threaten to destroy the entire psychic community. Review: While I thought the book sounded interesting, I wasn’t sure it was really for me. The main character, Mouch, is 14. I tend to read books that have older characters. I knew the subject matter was a little different, I worried I might not be able to connect with the characters or hold my attention. I was quite wrong. Overall, the creativity and humor are two of the main things I loved about this book. Who would think to write a book about a kid with 2 imaginary friends that are completely real to him, and one of which is a sock puppet? I really enjoy Bob Dixon’s writing style. He has a sense of humor that comes through in his writing that gives each character a sense of life that doesn’t always come through in other books. I thought Mouch was a very creative concept and I enjoyed how it was put together. Reviewed by Melanie M

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She has to abandon the world of light to truly live... When Tilda Brennen’s family dies in a fire, she is left wheelchair-bound and suffering from survivor’s guilt. It was her fault. She’d left the candles burning that night. But there is a deeper, darker truth to the accident. “He” has slept for years, dormant and untouched by the human world. Then she arrives at the little house beyond the woods and he awakens. He has waited so long for another chance. This time, he will not fail. Going to the voice that summons her may heal Tilda’s body, but it will also cause her to lose everything she’s come to love. And once she enters the forest of shadows, returning to human life might prove impossible. Sleep here in the forest of shadows. Live inside the land of your dreams. Review: What an unusual book! Tilda is an emotional main character. I can understand why. She is a wheelchair bound, teen girl whose family died in a fire that she believes was her fault. She carries a ton of guilt. She lives with her Aunt Jen and relies on her for everything. I can only imagine how desperate she feels. This book is well written and I was on the edge of my seat through the entire book. I couldn’t wait to find out who was in the woods and what would happen next. Every scene gives the reader another bit of information about the story and just builds and builds. My only complaint is I felt like as soon as it was getting good, it ended. This is just the first book in the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here! Reviewed by Melanie M


Hush, Hush

Born at Midnight

Becca Fitzpatrick

(Shadow Falls #1)

Young Adult Heat Rating: 2

C.C. Hunter

Young Adult Heat Rating: 2

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world. Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. Review: What a great coming of age story. The main character, Kylie, finds herself in a bit of trouble at a party and the next thing that happens, is she’s shipped off to Shadow Falls, a camp for unruly teens. Or so the parents think. It’s really a camp for paranormal freaks. Werewolves, witches, vampires, fairies and shapeshifters all abound. And even though Kylie doesn’t fit into any of the normal paranormal molds, everyone else at the camp believes she is right where she should be, it takes Kylie time to finally believe she is right where she belongs…and trying to figure out why she is different is part of the mystery. I really enjoyed this story. There are 7 books in the series, and after I read the first one, I definitely wanted to keep going and watch Kylie’s self-discovery and growth and the friendships that she makes along the way. There is also a love triangle between half fae Derek, and the werewolf Lucas vying for Kylie’s heart. The characters are well developed and the story is laced with mystery, angst, love and humor.

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life. Review: One day, I was pretty indecisive about what I wanted to read, just finishing a longer series. My daughter came up and thrust this book at me. So I looked it over, fallen angels, huh? OK, something different. It didn’t take long to draw me in. Our main characters are Nora Grey, the girl with a fun best friend and a boring life, and Patch our bad boy antagonist. After meeting Patch, he upsets her whole world – and has her feeling things she never thought she was capable of. Patch is our resident fallen angel, and the ancient war between immortals and the fallen will smack Nora right in the middle of it. I liked this book, it held my interest and kept the pace well enough. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, and even though there were some apparent plot holes, they didn’t bother me enough to upset me. Reviewed by Cyrene

Reviewed by Cyrene

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reviews young adult | new adult | childrens

A Shade of Vampire Bella Forrest Young Adult Heat Rating: 2

On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. She is kidnapped to The Shade, an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains. Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is selected out of hundreds of girls to take up residence in the tree-top harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal prince. Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night. Will she succeed? Or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks? Review: This book caught me from the go. It’s a good read, and this is the first installment, and I believe it’s up to 18 books in the series. The main character, Sofia is kidnapped on her 17th birthday, and wakes up to find herself a prisoner of a place called The Shade - an island that has been cast in shadow for the vampires. Once Sofia meets the prince of The Shade, Derek – all the things she used to believe are tossed out the window. The story is told through both the perspectives of Sofia and Derek, and their inevitable attraction to each other. There is plenty of threats and action in the book, and it’s a relatively short read that sets up for future installments. Young readers will connect the most with both Sofia and Derek. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Breathless

Scott Prussing Young Adult Heat Rating: 2

Weston College freshman Leesa Nyland has been fascinated by vampires since she was three years old. That’s when her mom started acting weird, insisting sunlight hurt her skin because she’d been bitten by a one-fanged vampire. But fascinated doesn’t mean Leesa believes. Any more than she believes in blue fire, people who live for centuries, and kisses that can kill. But when her beloved older brother suddenly disappears, she is forced to consider all these and more. She also has to figure out what to do about her mysterious new boyfriend. She knows Rave likes her a lot--so why won’t he kiss her? As Leesa draws closer to finding her brother, she faces some gut-wrenching decisions. Should she risk her mom’s life trying to “cure” her? Should she continue seeing Rave, after he reveals his dangerous secret? And most terrifying of all, should she make the ultimate sacrificegive up her humanity-to save her brother? . Review: This was a quick read, and had a few interesting takes on the paranormal universe. The main character, Leesa, finds out her brother has gone missing, and moves to Connecticut to attend the same college in hopes of finding him. Interestingly, Leesa and her brother have heard the story of how their mother was bitten by a one toothed vampire and has pretty much left the two to raise themselves. So along the way, she learns that vampires are real, and a race called the Volkaane who can manipulate blue fire and who hunt the vampires. One of these Volkaane’s is Rave, who decides to help find Leesa’s brother. Even though there is a strong attraction between them, the blue fire that Rave wields is a deadly threat to even Leesa. Younger readers will love this book, older readers can still enjoy it also. There was some slow areas in the book, but they didn’t last long. This is the first book in a series, and it will be interesting to see how the characters grow in the future installments. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature sneak peek

Bob Dixon

Rags and Ruins Rags leads an idyllic life for a goblin child—he spends his days playing in the landfill with his gargoyle friend Ladin, going fishing with his father Hargo in the river, and developing his love of music. His parents love him intensely, and his mother Calin is fiercely protective of him. How could he ask for anything more as he lives an enchanted life on the reservation on the outskirts of the “civilized” world, surrounded by mystical creatures and magic?

The human twins will be separated at birth; One child of light, the other the child of dark. One will be raised by monsters, the other by love; Both will bear the mark: one eye gray, one green. In the unlucky year of their life, destiny will bind them, Together once more, Magic unknown will unfold. The Child of Darkness will unlock the tomb of evil; Only his twin from light will be able to stop him, For only the pure of heart can reseal the chamber. The man raised his hand, still holding the rune stones, and waved it languidly over the baby. Bright green sparks swirled through the air and slowly settled to cover the child who began to gurgle and laugh. The man was somewhat disconcerted, as he’d expected the sparkles to turn dark. But instead they stayed a brilliant green as they floated down through the air. That’s odd, the man mused. That spell was meant to detect evil. Perhaps the baby was not yet evil but would become so at some later point in his life. Perhaps some future event would cause the child to change. Could that event be averted? Could the prophecy be changed? No, thought The Man in the House. This future had been foretold centuries ago. Events had

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been put in place that could not be stopped. The natural course of events had to unfold in order to maintain balance in the mystical world. The Man in the House knew what he had to do. He would report back to the Council that he had located the Child of Darkness and would allow it to be raised by monsters on the land which he looked after, as was his duty. It was somebody else’s task to find The Child of Light. Hargo and Calin were the simplest and most peaceful creatures he’d ever met. Though it pained him to do it to the goblins, he knew that they offered the best chance the mystical world had to triumph over evil. Their humble and kind nature would all but ensure that The Child of Darkness would never learn the use of any harmful magic. With any luck, in the thirteenth year of his life, the unlucky year when the prophecy would come to pass, The Child of Darkness might seek to destroy all that is good… but would not have any of the necessary skills to do so.

Bob Dixon is a a two-time Guinness World Record holder for the world’s longest cartoon strip. He is also the author of Mouch and Company. He has written two children books, Rooty the Tree Troll and Holiday Bunny. In addition, Bob is a certified special education teacher.

Bob Dixon


feature sneak peek

Claire Chilton Detention

She’s been sentenced to teenage prison for the dumbest reason, ever! When Carla Mainston is sentenced to two weeks in juvenile detention for dirtying someone else’s carpet, she promises to never break the rules again—no matter how stupid they are. In an attempt to escape, Carla discovers the monster on the fourth floor and uncovers a darker purpose to the institution. She will have to fight for her freedom if she wants to go home. She will have to break all the rules if she wants to survive...

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding!” Carla Mainston cried as the car pulled up beside the juvenile detention center. She peered through the passenger window at the perimeter wall that was towering above them in gloomy gray stone and casting dark shadows across the road ahead. She turned away from the car window to face her mother, who was sitting in the driver’s seat. “I can’t stay there. It looks like a prison!” Her mother frowned at the austere complex through the windshield. For a second, Carla felt hope blossom in her chest. Then her mother shook her head. “It’s for your own good, and it’s only for two weeks. It won’t be that bad.” She smiled, and a few laugh lines appeared in her lime green skin. “Come on! All I did was walk mud on Mrs. Bailey’s carpet. It’s not a crime!” He mother narrowed her eyes for a moment. Then she cleared her throat and pointed to her biblical car sticker, which read: THOU SHALT NOT DIRTY ANOTHER’S CARPET. Carla slumped back in the car seat. “Come on. It can’t be against the law. That judge must have been on crack. I didn’t mean it. Isn’t there like a section of the bible that says it’s better to forgive than to avenge?” She peered hopefully at her mother. Her mother shook her head. “They should put that in the next edition of

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it,” Carla muttered. “Carla! Why do you have to always go too far? That’s blasphemy!” her mother cried. Carla slumped back in the car seat. She folded her arms, staring down at the lilac skin on them. “Why do you always punish me for being different?” she mumbled. “Don’t be silly,” her mother said as she put the car into first gear and drove toward the gates. “This has nothing to do with how unique you are. It’s because you broke the rules of the colony. You know that.” “It’s a stupid rule,” Carla muttered, narrowing her eyes. I can’t believe I’m getting sent to juvenile detention for walking mud across someone’s carpet. This colony is insane! She widened her eyes as they drove through the dark iron gates into a courtyard. The dark building loomed above the car. Sharp slate spires peaked at the top of the east and left wing, and there was a rusty old balcony spanning the top level of the building. In rusted golden letters, the institution name was emblazoned across the front of the building: CLEANER’S REFORMATORY FOR ADOLESCENT PURIFICATION. Oh, hell no!

After being interviewed to work for MI5, Claire Chilton became a prolific writer of romantic and speculative fiction. Her mystery romance novel, Hustle, won Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, and her previous books in The Demon Diaries won the Most Read award on Wattpad.

claire-chilton.com


Mystery | Suspense | Thriller | Horrror

BEYOND the EXPECTED

MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

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reading trends in mystery & more

Scrying EYE The

Kelly Hudson

Holidaze . . . Come inside, creepers and readers, for the show is about to begin! You know the price of admission, just a tiny slice of your soul, and you know it’s worth the cost for such forbidden knowledge. The Scrying Eye has been hungry to tell its tales of woe, of mystery, of depravity, of scintillating suspense. And now at last, the time has arrived! Part the curtain, approach with wary caution, for the Eye has opened, and now it brings you the truth . . .

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| The Scrying Eye |

Suspense/Mystery Buffalo Noir edited by Brigid Hughes and Ed Park (Akashic Books—Available November 3, 2015) is a collection of hardboiled short stories and part of the Akashic Noir series, which features tales set in one particular city for each anthology. As you can imagine, these accounts are set in Buffalo, NY, and they carry on the grand tradition of the previous volumes. Buffalo is the second-largest city in the state and often referred to as the Queen City of New York. But that name faded as time passed and has been replaced by a new moniker: The City of No Illusions. The once-prosperous city has seen its fortunes wane as harsh winters and despair have set in, bringing with them a fertile ground for crime and corruption. This book features stories by Joyce Carol Oates, Lawrence Block, Ed Park, Gary Earl Ross, Kim Chinquee, Christina Milletti, Tom Fontana, Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Lissa Marie Redmond, S.J. Rozan, John Wray, Brooke Costello, and Connie Porter, so you already know this is one powerhouse of a collection. Enter the seamy underbelly of Buffalo, and leave with your heart forever scarred. A Bone Dead Sadness by Joe R. Lansdale (Gere Donovan Press—Available Now) is a novella about Marvin Hanson, former cop, now private detective, in the little Texas town of LaBorde. His is a one-man operation, and you wouldn’t think there would be a lot to do in such a small burg, but this is Lansdale country, and the crime is as thick as the humid air. Mildred Craver hires Hanson to find her missing son, Tom—lost for twenty-five years—on account that she is dying and would like to see him before she leaves this world. This leads Hanson down a cold trail toward a shattering climax, with an ending that surely isn’t likely

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| Kelly Hudson |

Horror! to make anyone happy. But Hanson is determined, and he will not stop until he finds the missing man. True suspense, mystery, and southern humor, as only Lansdale can deliver. Walking Dead, Vol. 24: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman (Image Comics—Available Now) is the latest collected installment of the Walking Dead series of comics. This collects issues #139–144 of the ongoing story and furthers the adventures of our intrepid survivors of the zombie holocaust. More of the plans of the dreaded Whisperers are exposed, and Michonne returns after a long absence. What are the devious schemes of those who walk with the dead? Where has Michonne been and why did she leave in the first place? Some of these mysteries are solved even as more are revealed. Be sure of this, if you’re a fan of the books, this one will be another heaping dose of gore and real-world characters. Strap in, the undead fun is just beginning. Afterlife with Archie: Betty RIP by Roberto AguirreSacasa (Archie Comics—available January 19, 2016) is the latest collection of undead Archie Comic goodness, continuing the story left off in the first collection, Afterlife With Archie. The gang at Riverdale has been forced to flee their idyllic home and is searching for a safe haven from the ravening, hungry living dead. What was once a group full of light-hearted romantic rivalries and family feuds has now turned into a deadly struggle for survival with every step fraught with terror and death. Archie leads his friends toward what he hopes is safety, but with Jughead and the other zombies in pursuit, is there any secure place left on earth? What seems an absurd idea at first glance is in reality a superb horror comic featuring fresh takes on characters many of us have loved and cherished over the years. Characters now plunged into an unending nightmare of depravity and the cost of survival. Will the gang make it out, or will more be consumed and turned into the growing mass of the living dead?

And there you have it, dear readers and those with curious minds, more terror and suspense than you can shake a stick at! Almost all of these tales will be available for purchase before Christmas and serve as excellent stocking stuffers for the ghouls you want to impress the most. The Archie collection comes out after the New Year but is a terrific choice for purchase using one of the (hopefully) many gift cards that will come your way.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including his latest short story collection, The Cemetery Job: Tales of the Living Dead. You can find links to all of his works by visiting www.kellymhudson.com if you dare!

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reviews mystery | suspense | horror

Eternity’s Handmaiden R. Peter Ubtrent Mystery/Suspense Heat Rating: 3

Alexis Locke gave the first forty-five years of her life to an agency that never gave a second thought to putting her in harm’s way. After fifteen years of voluntarily retirement and seclusion, she is forced to investigate the seemingly accidental deaths of five unrelated scientists, one of whom turns out to be the son she had to give up at birth. Following the clues that lead her from the mega-biotech companies in Kasakhstan to the orbiting O’Neill Colonies, Alexis quickly learns that she is being set up, that her death is wanted by many and that the deaths she’s investigating have a far bigger connection that anyone ever thought possible, eventually forcing her to question her own existence and purpose. And with that questioning, Alexis soon sees that there is a plan as work handed down from the future from which she can not escape. Review: Alexis was created for one purpose to fix all of the flawed time streams. To do so she must do the unthinkable. Can she understand the importance of this mission before it is too late and she has to repeat the whole process all over again? Normally I would say you will have to read this book to find out, unfortunately, this time I would not recommend it. The premise behind this book is well thought out and the characters are believable. However, the execution of the story is long and boring. The descriptions of the environments while very through are repetitive and can be tedious. This story is in the science fiction category, but it takes you reading the first four chapters before you even realize it. The parts in the story about the aliens were confusing because they were inserted into the story randomly with no warning or explanation. This issue could have been solved by simply stating at the beginning of the chapter where the reader was located. This story would be great as a full-length movie but is the way too boring as a book. If you like slow to start science fiction and long winded repetitive descriptions then this book is for you, if you like fast paced action then stay away. Even with the redeeming ending this book is hard to swallow. Reviewed by Sally Wolf

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feature sneak peek

Joseph Tatner

Floyd & Mikki Zombie Hunters “Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Hunters” is a hilarious horror love story about two simple people lost in a shattered world populated by the undead. They don’t know what caused the infection or how to stop it. With wry humor and snarky comments, they rely on each other, their wits and whatever supplies they can scrounge in their daily struggle to stay alive. They encounter plenty of action, colorful characters and riveting horror as they make their way to New California Haven, the last safe zone in America. This is the first book in a series.

Half its left snout was gone, as was its right ear. The lower third of its body was in shreds and you could see the bones of its rib cage on the left side. It seemed that Floyd and Mikki weren’t the first humans to encounter this bear, but although others had left their mark on the beast, they probably hadn’t lived to tell the tale. “Damn, Floyd! That is one grisly bear!” Mikki joked. She pulled out a grenade but Floyd stopped her. “Wait! Don’t use that thing unless you can shove it down its throat! All you’re gonna do is piss it off!” “I don’t think it can get any more pissed off. What’s your brilliant idea?” “I don’t have one! I’m working on it!” Fixated on the two humans above it, the loathsome creature jumped up again from where it was. It grabbed on again, moving higher. “Shit! I thought you said creepers can’t climb!” Floyd screamed as he reached up for a higher branch. “That’s what my book said! And technically it’s not climbing. It’s just kind of… jumping and hanging on.” “Whatever you call it, it sure as hell looks like climbing to me! And we’re running out of tree!” “I told you we shoulda brought one of the Uzis with us! But no! You said we wouldn’t need ‘em” “Like I knew we’d run into a goddam undead grizzly bear! Wrong kind of ammo for this bastard anyway.” “Oh, and what is the right kind of ammo, Mr. Man, sir?” “Slugs!” Floyd asserted confidently as he switched his drum mag for a box mag of slugs. “Take this, Gentle Ben!” Floyd shot a round between the bear’s eyes and it bounced off. The animal

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shook its head, dazed for only a second, then let out a tremendous roar. It was not pleased. “What the hell?” “He don’t look so gentle to me, Floyd.” “No shit, Sherlock!” “Don’t steal my line!” The bear opened its mouth to roar again and Mikki fired a couple of shot shells down its throat. Undead flesh went flying, but that didn’t slow the creature down. Floyd shot another slug straight into the top of the bear’s skull. They heard a loud crack, but the bear kept coming. “Goddammit!” Floyd screamed, trying to line up another shot as the abomination kept swinging its arms and moving around. It managed to pull itself up even closer. “Just die, you damn Cement Head!” He fired of three more slugs into the creature’s skull. It was dazed for a bit, then opened its mouth wide to let out another horrible undead roar. This time, Mikki was close enough that she couldn’t miss. She was only inches away as she pulled the pin from a grenade and threw it straight down, slamming it into the monster’s throat.

Joseph Tatner holds a BA in Communications and MA in National Security. After writing countless technical manuals, Joseph nearly turned into a zombie himself. With an off-beat sense of humor, Joe is a modern-day Gilbert and Sullivan, examining humanity, society and personal relationships in a topsy-turvy apocalyptic world.

fmzombies.com


feature sneak peek

Colleen J. Shogan Stabbing in the Senate

Life is good for Kit Marshall. She’s a staffer in D.C. for a popular senator, and she lives with an adoring beagle and a brainy boyfriend with a trust fund. Then, one morning, Kit arrives at the office early and finds her boss, Senator Langsford, impaled by a stainless steel replica of an Army attack helicopter. Panicked, she pulls the weapon out of his chest and instantly becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Kit’s tabloid infamy horrifies her boyfriend’s upper-crust family, and it could destroy her career. However, she and her free-spirited friend Meg have a more pressing reason to play sleuth. The police are clueless in more ways than one, and Kit worries that the next task on the killer’s agenda will be to end her life.

I unlocked my file cabinet drawer, deposited my purse inside, grabbed the memo from underneath a stack of papers, and headed toward his private office. I zipped by the desk of the senator’s personal assistant, situated right outside his sanctum. Even Kara, right-hand keeper of the inviolable senatorial schedule, still hadn’t made an appearance. The senator’s office door was ajar, and I barreled forward to position my memo on the top of his “to read” pile of papers. Staffers weren’t supposed to enter the senator’s office without a reason. Kara might turn the corner any moment. If I could just slip in and out unnoticed, this memo would be the first document he read when he arrived for work. I glanced toward the sitting area. A hand rested on the arm of a regal chair. The chair, turned away from me, faced the windows and a beautiful view of the Capitol grounds. Royal screw up. I wasn’t the only person in the office. Senator Langsford was already here! He always arrived through a private entrance, not the main door. I had infiltrated his office unannounced. There was no way I could back out of the office gracefully. I cleared my throat and stammered awkwardly, “Senator Langsford, I’m sorry, sir. It’s Kit Marshall, Senator. I didn’t quite finish up the Appropriations hearing memo before you left last night. I wanted to put it in your inbox this morning so you could read it, and if you’d like, we could discuss it later today or whenever.” No response. After a minute, I asked, “Would you like me to put it on your desk?” I waved the memo back and forth. Lyndon Langsford was a suave politician who rarely missed a beat. That was why I enjoyed working for him. Nothing fazed him. Persistent protesters, disgruntled constituents, slimy lobbyists, and aggressive political reporters—he handled all with ease. In my thirty years on the planet, I wondered if I would ever manage to exude a fraction of his panache. Yet I never

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felt self-conscious around him. I waited for him to say something polite to let me off the hook for my transgression. Utter silence. Was he asleep? It was an odd time for a power nap. Beads of sweat trickled down my neck, saturating the collar of my blouse. Senator Langsford was wellmannered, often to the extreme. Had he decided to give me the cold shoulder this morning? The stillness was stifling. I could just put the memo on his desk, sidle out the door, and pretend I had never spoken. But I would not be able to work at my desk for the rest of the day, thinking Langsford was upset with me. “Senator, I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I feel terrible for interrupting you. Should I leave the memo on your desk so you can read it?” I’m not sure how long I stood there. A few seconds seemed like an eternity. I noticed there was no physical reaction at all to my question. That was weird. If he was irritated, his body language should have indicated annoyance. He had to be asleep. As I approached tentatively, I noticed crimson drops of blood on the thick carpeting of his office. His head was thrown back, and two vacant eyes stared at me. Lyndon Lansgsford wasn’t giving me the cold shoulder. He was dead.

Colleen J. Shogan is the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. Previously, she worked in the United States Senate. “Stabbing in the Senate” is her first novel.

colleenshogan.com


feature sneak peek

M. Stratton Bender

Since high school everyone thought Jake Bender would end up behind bars; after all, he comes from a long line of bad boys. He spent years away from the place he called home. When he finally comes back, everyone thinks he’s just a punk kid all grown up who’s now running a dive bar called The Night Club. What they don’t know is he heads up a special task force, which cleans up neighborhoods and makes them safe again. When closing up her shop late one night, she is held up and the neighborhood bad boy saves her, putting both of them at the forefront of a psychotic’s obsession. Being bad has never looked so good.

Once she finished in her bathroom, she went back out into the living room and went over to the end table to add a couple of books to her backpack. “Yes, I need these.” She met his eyes in the mirror. “I didn’t say anything.” “You didn’t have to. I know what people think about my book obsession. I know what goes through their heads the first time they look around where I live.” She gestured to where books filled every nook and cranny of her space. “But these are my adventures; these are my lives. This is where I learn, where I live.” He walked over to her and grabbed a book. “See this is where you are wrong. You don’t know me. If you spend enough time in a library for detention, you end up reading. If you choose the right book, it opens your eyes to a lifetime of experiences.” “You like to read?” “Now who is surprised? Yes, I do.” “But I didn’t see any books around your place.” “I tend to travel light. Besides, they have this new invention. It’s called a Kindle; you can store hundreds of books on there.” He sent her a lopsided grin. She swatted at his chest and let her hand stay there. “Yeah, I might have heard of it.” Wrapping his hand around hers he leaned down until they were nose to nose. “Let me guess, but nothing replaces the feel and smell of a real book.” Fighting the urge to look away, she held her ground, tipping her chin up slightly. “Well, no, there is nothing, which can replace the feeling you get when you open a real book for the first time.”

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“How about when you are far from your book stash and you finish a book, and have nothing on you to read?” “That doesn’t happen.” “Bet it happens between tonight and tomorrow morning.” His grin turned wolfish. Stormy broke eye contact and looked down at the two books in her hand. They were her favorites. She’d read them dozens of times over the years; they were both short. He was right. She just looked back up at him. “That’s okay, lady, you don’t have to say anything; we’ll both know I was right.”

Stratton is a selfproclaimed dork who loves to make people laugh. Her inner rock star is always on stage performing to a sold out crowd, but she quiet and shy on the outside. She spends her days plotting new twisted ways to surprise her readers.

mstrattonauthor.com


Science Fiction | Fantasy | Paranormal | Urban Fantasy

SCI FI / FANTASY OUT of this WORLD

& PARANORMAL

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reading trends in sci fi & fantasy

AliB FORTY and the

Spaceships Alex Bardy

Come Along My Little Ones: Cherry Pie, Ice Cream, and War . . . “Heatstroke is rare but, since it is caused by the sun and not by bacteria, it can happen. Expect to be smitten by it in the DESERT. It will cause you only a day or so of acute discomfort.” —The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones

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| Ali B and the Forty Spaceships| For many, the holidays are a time to catch up with family, take family trips, do family-related things, and generally try to assimilate with the rest of those who share your home . . . for others—and I include myself in this select group—it’s a time to be selfish and catch up with some quality reading . . . mwah hah hah . . . So . . . first on your list should be the alarmingly friendly sounding Gestapo Mars (Titan Books, Sept 2015) by Victor Gischler—the author is a new name to me, but my-oh-my was this a fantastically enjoyable read. This book was dubbed “an unapologetic science fiction novel of sex, violence, and Nazis.” I’m sure I don’t need to add that this is politically incorrect on so many levels but nonetheless still proved a marvellously uproarious affair (pun intended). You see, Carter Sloan is an old-school deadly assassin who has been woken up some 258 years too late and brought into a future in which “conventional” assassins are too easily identified, and thus his unique “skillset of yore” makes him somewhat uniquely placed to do his duty for the New Reich. Screwing women, swearing a lot, and leaving a trail of destruction are all part and parcel of this barmy adventure tale, and our hero does have a handy knack of always putting his finger on the right button so to speak . . . read into that what you will, but do treat yourself to this amusing read. It really is laugh-out-loud funny and even includes a scientific breakdown of the Kardashian effect. The ice-cream man cometh . . . Adrian Tchaikovsky is an author I am more familiar with, and you may be too if you’ve read any of his massive Shadows of the Apt decalogy (Tor UK, 2008–2014, and yes, that’s a ten-volume series of big fat fantasy books). His latest work, and very first stand-alone historical fantasy novel, is called Guns of the Dawn (Tor UK, 2015) and is an amazing

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fantasy epic in which what is ostensibly a doomed war— and by that, I mean one that is already lost—is made very real, very personal, and very tragic. The story follows one Emily Marshwic, a privileged, well-off “lady of society” called up to fight for her country when a shortage of men means families are obliged to send their women to the frontline “for the cause.” In this brutal environment, the claustrophobic swamps, the closet soldier lifestyle, the circus of war, and the terrifyingly genuine risk of death are all brought to the fore, and as we follow Emily’s rise through the ranks, we are forced to respect both her and her wartime associates. This is a real doorstop of a book, but it is also an excellent one and made somewhat uncomfortable reading due to my constant need to scratch the back of my neck just to be sure there weren’t any stray ticks or other flying bugs taking a snack out of me. A vividly descriptive book this, so consider yourself warned.

On a slightly different note, Ian Sales has finally released the fourth book in his Apollo Quartet series; it’s called All That Outer Space Allows (Whippleshield Books, April 2015) and features war of a slightly different nature, this time revolving around the conflicting goals and inhibitive lifestyle of that rather select group of women: the Astronaut Wives Club. There is a central conflict between the narrator (astronaut wife Ginny Eckhardt) and her


| Alex Bardy | fellow astronaut wives, but there is also an undercurrent of internal conflict with her astronaut husband, Walden J. Eckhardt, and the fact that she is also a female science fiction writer in the male-orientated world of 1960s SF magazines gives rise to yet further complications in the telling. There is a core theme here, but surprisingly it’s not “conflict”—the author is telling a well-crafted story about inhibition and the tactful propriety of the times and telling it with an occasional interjection of his own (he frequently intercedes as “the voice of god,” deliberately so); as jarring as this is the first time you encounter it, soon enough it becomes totally immersive, and I stopped registering it after a while. It’s a relatively short read, but there is a swathe of reference material cited at the end, and although this is a recurring feature throughout the series, it still helps to make this a distinctively impressive feat of alternative history done well. I’ve been fortunate enough to read the rest of the Apollo Quartet books, and all of them are unique both in the telling and the reading. A highly recommended series, and although I look forward to seeing them assembled into one volume sometime soon, I am really proud of my collection of signed, numbered, limited edition hardbacks—they’ve proved quite a find. As always, space is short, so we’ll round things off this time with a short burst of Happy Holidays: “While the merry bells keep ringing, may your every wish come true . . .” My Best Wishes to You All.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Alex Bardy lives in a very dark place, below a small dank stairwell, beneath a dark step, under a speck of dirt, tucked away in a cold, dark emptiness, somewhere on the fringes of the charming, historical city of York, in the North Yorkshire area of the UK. He also writes as DenizenOfTheUniverse under his Twitter moniker: @ mangozoid. He is a contributor, reviewer, and word-lender to the British Fantasy Society, and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), mainly responsible for the design/layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing. He recently edited a great compilation issue of the BSFA’s Focus magazine for writers (#64), garnering praise from authors and readers alike: “An outstanding issue for those just starting their author journey.”

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reviews

science fiction | fantasy | paranormal

Wicked As They Come Delilah S. Dawson Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

First in a steampunk-tinged paranormal romance series in which a woman is transported to a world filled with vampires and magic. When nurse Tish Everett forced open the pesky but lovely locket she found at an estate sale, she had no idea she was answering the call of Criminy Stain, from the far off land of Sang. He’d cast a spell for her, but when she’s transported right to him, she’s not so sure she’s ready to be under the spell of another man. (It didn’t go so well last time with controlling, abusive, domineering Jeff.) If only Criminy wasn’t so deliciously rakish…. Review:This book has it all. A bit of magic, a bit of paranormal romance, a bit of steampunk, a bit of time travel. But it’s really not any one classification. Tish finds a locket and she opens it, and when she goes to sleep that night holding the locket, she’s transported to the land of Sang and to a man who cast the spell, Criminy Stain. Criminy is a gorgeous gypsy “bludman” (in our world he would be a vampire) – a different race that is not dead, but must drink “blud” to survive – and I fell in love with him from the moment I met him. Since the spell in the locket, was to summon his perfect equal, Criminy is in love with Tish the moment he meets her. Even the predators in this story are a heck of a lot of fun – the “bludbunnies” are a hoot. You will love the characters, it’s not too sappy, but the strange and dangerous world of Sang is a great and entertaining read. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Priceless

Shannon Mayer

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

*Book 1 in the Rylee Adamson Series* “My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.” When children go missing, and the Humans have no leads, I’m the one they call. I am their last hope in bringing home the lost ones. I salvage what they cannot. I’m on the FBI’s wanted list. I have a werewolf for a pet, a Witch of a best friend, and have no need for anyone else in my life. But when a salvage starts to spin out of control, help comes from a most unexpected direction. One that is dangerously dark, brooding, and doesn’t know a thing about the supernatural. One whose kisses set me on fire. Review: This is a great beginning to a series. Rylee Adamson is a tracker, one who uses her gift to find missing children that the police and the FBI can’t find. The supporting cast is also excellent, from her pet werewolf Alex, to her best friend, who is a witch, and a hot FBI agent O’Shea, hot on her trail. It’s hard to slap this book into one mold, as there are harpies, unicorns, trolls, witches, and vampires. The romance is a slow build with great development between Rylee and O’Shea. I honestly couldn’t wait for the next book, and was running to Amazon to download the next one. Shannon Mayer is an indie author that has done such a great job with her editing, that it reads like it’s coming from a major publishing house. I found myself laughing out loud many times, and reading late into the night without realizing it. Reviewed by Cyrene

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science fiction | fantasy | paranormal

Nightwalker

Jocelynn Drake

Para/SciFi/Fantasy Heat Rating: 3

For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker—an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed . . . and may be all that prevents her doom. The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt . . . or be hunted. Review: This book is fast paced, a lot of action – and holds your interest. Mira is a nightwalker – a vampire – that has been alive for over 600 years. She meets Danaus, the hunter that is out to get rid of the vampire race – and even wanting to kill her, he needs her help. Mira turns out to be not what he expected, and grudgingly becomes her ally. Danaus learns that Mira is an honorable vampire, who keeps her word no matter what the cost – and working alongside of Mira begins the process of tearing apart everything he believed about vampires. This is a fast-paced book, with plenty of action. Those who enjoy the vampire genre will like this one. This is the first book in a 6 book series. Reviewed by Cyrene

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teaming up to bring yo

Nyx’s Pixie

K.M. Mahoney Paranormal Heat Rating: 4

Sometimes big things come in small packages. Nyx has found a possible mate, but he’s pretty certain Fate made a mistake. Not only is his mate working in a brothel, which is playing merry hell with Nyx’s possessive side, he’s also a Pixie. Pol is small and delicate, and Nyx is certain he would break the poor man within a week. Nyx will just wait until the next candidate comes around. The fact that this is the first potential mate he’s come across in several hundred years is, of course, beside the point. Unfortunately, no matter how hard Nyx tries, he can’t keep away. When he finds himself on the verge of turning into a stalker, Nyx gives in to the inevitable and goes traipsing off to claim his Pixie. Review: Nyx, your typical shape shifting dragon was just living his life as the King’s personal guard when he comes across a young pixie and immediately his mate signal goes off. I am assuming it is kind of like the bat signal. Anyways young Pol is just sitting in a brothel helping his “uncle” run the place when a very handsome, dark, and broody Nyx walks in. Nyx make’s Pol an offer that he would be stupid to refuse and off they go as a mated pair. However, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. Pol is not your ordinary Pixie, in fact, he isn’t even full blood Pixie. Nyx isn’t your ordinary Dragon shape shifter and between the two of them, they have to hide from Nyx’s brethren, Pol’s elders, and the King. Of the M/M books that I have read lately, this one is one of my favorites. There is love, there is lust, there is family squabble, there is dragon loot, and half demons, and just a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t want some Dragon plunder to enable you to talk to plants and set up a naked fountain. *Raises hand* What really resonates with me is the social struggle in this book, the “interspecies” mating that while commonplace is not condoned. In my mind Nyx is your typical centuries old dragon who doesn’t know how to properly take care of a lover, and Pol while very young has to show him the ropes, or the flowers.

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ou more reviews Aurora Sky Vampire Hunter Just My Type NikkiRitch Jefford Allie Paranormal Heat Rating: 3

There’s trouble in vampire territory, and Melody is right in the middle of it. A new arrival from Eastern Europe named Taspar Tong is out to take over her masters’ domains using the army he has at his command. Mel is a personal assistant, not a soldier, and big male vampires scare her. That includes Eryx, the dark-haired warrior who is always watching her and baiting her with his remarks. If only he didn’t look so sexy. Mel figures Wess Gage—their human captive—is a far safer love interest, although Wess is part of the Human Rebellion bent on exterminating all vampires. Can he really see past his prejudice, or will he turn on her? There are two dangerous men in Mel’s life. She just has to decide which of them is her type— the one who makes her feel human again, or the vampire who makes her blood boil? Review: This was a pretty good book. There are a lot of characters to start out with, but after a bit you get them straight. There are also quite a bit of action throughout the book, which I enjoyed. I’m not sure why, but it took me a minute to get into this book, but after I did, I couldn’t put it down. The characters were likeable and the story engaging. The romance was steamy and I wasn’t sure how everything would end. It wasn’t predictable. I didn’t read the first book in the series, and while it would have given some insight as to what was going on in some places, I never felt lost. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a action packed vampire series


teaming up to bring you more reviews

Pride & Justice

Hit Man Cometh

Paranormal Heat Rating: 3

Paranormal Heat Rating: 4

Clancy Nacht

Edward Kendrick

A percentage of the earth’s population has transformed into surprisingly functional zombies who returned to work the next morning as if they weren’t undead monstrosities. Justice Kinkead, officer in an elite zombie fighting force, gets called out when good zombies go bad, putting down the brain cravers and safeguarding the new economy. After several of his partners succumb to unfortunate deaths, Justice figures he’ll go it alone...until he’s assigned a mysterious and sexy new partner, Merlin Pride, who seems to know more about the zombies’ origins than he’s letting on. Merlin also seems to sense that Justice needs a good screw, but it’s complicated: Justice still lives with his undead ex-boyfriend. Can Justice make peace with his past? And if he does, should he take a chance on a man who may have something to do with destroying civilization as they knew it?

Mick is a hit man sent after Gavin. Can Gavin, an ex-conman and a shifter, convince Mick they should join forces before Mick kills him? Mick Whalen is a hit man hired to kill Gavin Wilde. However, when he tracks Gavin to a remote mountain cabin, he discovers that killing the coyote shifter is not in the cards. Especially when Gavin offers sex as an incentive to spare his life—an offer Mick does not refuse. However, they’re almost killed on a job—a job no one knew about except Mick’s friend and handler Johnny. When Johnny is murdered, they team up with the two other hit men who also once worked for Johnny, to find and eliminate his killer as well. With death and destruction now both men’s way of life, will it draw them closer together—or destroy what has become more than just a friendship?

Review: So this one started a little weird, and I didn’t know what to do with it, but as I read it, I started liking it more, then it got weird again and I didn’t know if I liked it, but then the end was really good so I decided I liked it again. So Justice is a police officer that survived a catastrophic event where blue collar workers were turned into zombies. After the initial hysteria died down, he became part of a zombie task force, dedicated to saving the living from the bad zombies, not the zombies that just want to work on as normal, but without pay. Sounds like a good gig for those making the money I guess. I liked this book from the start, but it got a little weird when you find out what Pride really is. I am not saying that it is out of this world weird, but well, no actually it is out of this world, and if I read “it is not not” again. I get why the author used that terminology, but it just makes no sense honestly. He is or he isn’t. The relatives are good, and the social implications are probably the best part of the entire storyline. I actually had to look up who Pride’s mother was, but once I figured that out it all made sense. At least I knew the other main characters. Overall a good story line, but falls a little flat overall.

Review: Mike was hired by an unknown individual to find and kill Gavin Wilde, who just so happens to be a shape shifter. When Gavin offered sex in exchange for his life to be spared the story really starts. Not only do they search out who originally wanted Gavin dead, but as the rabbit hole gets deeper so does the connection between Mike and Gavin. Other than the obvious, I am not going to kill you so I can have sex with you, being a little asinine overall it is a good book. There are some very explicit sex scenes and that should be cautioned as Mike and Gavin both enjoy a BDSM quality in their sexual relations. Their sex is not for the faint of heart or for caring individuals. One thing I really enjoyed was the fact that the author lets the shape shifter shift with clothes. A lot of authors do not think about clothing when they talk about a shifter. This author not only thought about it, but made it so when he shifted his clothes became part of him, so when he shifted back, he was still wearing clothes and wasn’t trying to find something while standing around naked. Another interesting aspect of this story is that shifters can essentially teleport to wherever they need to. They call it “air bear” and “air coyote” I think that is very imaginative in a field that has been written about extensively.


feature sneak peek

Lauren Smith

The Bite of Winter She is theirs to claim. They are hers to save. Love Bites, Book 1 Zoey Blake is about as far down on her luck as she can get. A car crash took her parents, leaving her destitute and on the street. When she’s attacked by another homeless person, her lifeblood drains away as her fading vision is filled with the face of a handsome stranger. After another vampire murdered his soulmate, Connor O’Shea swore never to let a mortal woman pay the price for loving him. Until he feels Zoey’s skin and tastes her lips. She makes him want to break that vow. Zoey finds herself caught in their web of seduction. But as Christmas draws near and her grief deepens, happiness seems far out of reach. And Ian and Connor join forces to prove their love is sacred, special… and forever.

She jumped when someone knocked at the bedroom door. “Excuse me, love. May I come in?” That beautiful, whiskey rough voice. Definitely Irish. “Uh…yes.” Her hands curled into the blanket and she raised it up to her chin. She felt oddly exposed as the man eased the door open and slid inside. Zoey craned her neck to look up at him. He had to be at least six-three, with black hair long enough to touch the collar of his shirt and a thin layer of stubble. He looked like a pirate off the cover of a romance novel. His white shirtsleeves were rolled up to reveal muscled forearms, and the two top buttons were undone below his throat. She was struck by how large he was. His shoulders alone were massive. She had the sudden urge to touch them, feel the strength of the muscles beneath her palm. Her mouth ran dry as a quickening in her blood made her feel light-headed. He was a stranger; why did she want to suddenly kiss him? It made no sense at all. “How are you doing?” He came to the bed and raised a hand to her forehead. His skin was cold, shockingly so, and she flinched from the contact. The man’s face paled and he pulled back. “Sorry about that.” “It’s okay. Just…cold.” Even though she didn’t want to be cold again, she’d suffer it just to have his hand back on her forehead. The whisper of a secret thrill skated along her skin, and already she missed his touch.

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The man turned away and flicked on the lamp on her nightstand. The wash of gold light illuminated her mysterious rescuer. His face was just as beautiful as she’d remembered. Sharp angles and masculine perfection highlighted by dark brows above piercing winter green eyes. Faint lines bracketed his mouth as though he smiled often. She met his gaze with a shy smile. Men like him never glanced her way, not even out of pity. Ever since she’d lost her home, she’d become almost invisible to the world. Especially men. A blush flooded her cheeks when she realized how she must look to him. Hair unwashed in thick oily strands, blood staining her flannel shirt and mud-stained jeans. “Oh God, I must have ruined your bed!” She struggled to get free of the blanket and flopped like a fish over the edge. She braced herself for impact, but his arms shot out and caught her. She was pulled up and trapped against his upper body in a gentle embrace. “Careful, love.” His eyes glittered with mischief. “Now, about your stomach. It’s been grumbling for the last several hours. How about I fix it for you?” Zoey blinked, unsure of what he meant. He smiled. “I could go out and get something for you to eat?”

Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma cowgirl who writes edgy romances by the light of her smartphone flashlight app.

laurensmithbooks.com


Sensual Romance and Erotics of all genres, shapes and sizes

see BEHIND closed DOORS

EROTIC & SENSUAL

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trends reading trends in erotic

Heat DIVA The

Kayla Lords

Have Yourself a Kinky Holiday! When you’re tired of the holiday shopping, eating, and family gathering, it’s nice to know you can get away from it all and celebrate the holidays in a steamier way. From the winter blues to New Year’s Eve celebrations, this month’s picks run the gamut of the winter holidays. Best of all, there’s something for nearly every taste—gay, menage, BDSM, oh my! Go on and have yourself a kinky little holiday with the help of any of these steamy books. or the authors that can add suspense

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| The Heat Diva | The Perfect Stranger by BJ Sheppard (Indie Book—Available Now) Gay Erotic Romance Stars: 4 Heat: 4 On a snowy Christmas Eve, Cal finds himself stranded in a local bar, nothing but the chatty barman and the merriment of others to keep him company. As the door to the bar opens, blown in by a gust of winter breeze, Cal finds himself locked onto the handsome man who enters. With the Christmas cheer surrounding them, Cal lets his walls down enough to give into the lure of the perfect stranger. My take: I don’t read a lot of gay erotic romance, but that’s about to change. Meeting a stranger in a bar means one of two things— great sex, and nothing else, or a major letdown. The Perfect Stranger was so much more! The sex was steamy. The emotions real. There was both a twist and a happily ever after—my two favorite things. Gratis: Midwinter Tales by Chloe Thurlow, E.A. Chapterhouse, Elizabeth Woodham, Hedonist Six, Jason Jaxx, Kay Jaybee, KM Dylan, Livilla Sanders, and M.J. Carey (WriteHit.com— Available Now) Erotic/Romance Anthology Stars: 5 Heat: 5 Every one of the twelve stories contained within Gratis: Midwinter Tales serves as a satisfying bite out of each author’s repertoire, to tempt and seduce and sweep you off your feet. Our stories comfortably straddle both 114 | btsemag.com

erotica and romance genres and cover a variety of themes. Some are innocent, others seek to force you to your knees, but all have something in common: they’ll make you feel. My take: It’s not often I get the chance to read smart erotica. I love smut just as much as the next person, and a quick easy read is great to pass the time. Gratis, though, gave me so much more: real emotions, sensual eroticism, and hours of entertainment. Each story will make you feel and make you think, and they’re worth the effort. Waiting for Snow by JC Wallace (Indie Book—Available Now) Gay Erotic Romance Stars: 4.5 Heat: 4 Dain is at the end of his proverbial rope. He lost his job, his boyfriend, and his church after one horrifying accident a few months ago. Now it’s Christmas Eve, and he’s reminded of each of those loses in a heart-breaking confrontation with his abusive father. As Dain is driving aimlessly, he meets Jake, the local sheriff. Despite the circumstances of their meeting, Jake is very interested in Dain, but can Dain let go of the past and learn to believe in love again. My take: Somehow in one month, I managed to read two gay erotic romances centered around the holidays. I am a lucky, lucky girl. The story is a short read but no less of an emotional roller coaster than any full-length novel. I cried ugly tears for Dain’s pain and yearned for a happily ever after that he desperately needs and wants. This one will definitely get you in the holiday spirit!


| Kayla Lords | Holiday Ties by Elizabeth SaFleur, an Elite Doms of Washington novelette (Troll River Publications—Available Now) BDSM erotica Stars: 4.5 Heat: 5 When Yvette Sava takes a spill on the ice outside of her Washington, D.C hotel, she knows the handsome man that helps her up spells trouble. Ryan Knightbridge is strong, passionate and demanding—and far too young for her. But Ryan has waited a year for his chance with the lovely submissive, who withdrew from society following her high-profile divorce. Unable to resist his charm, Yvette agrees to spend two days and two nights with him, allowing herself to indulge in desires shuttered long ago—but with a clear deadline. Now, Ryan has one wintry weekend to prove to her she’s worthy of love—and he’s worthy of her submission.

me face this bitter truth. No one loved me. Certainly not my cheating husband. I filed for divorce. He countersued for half my assets. While the rest of the city prepared to ring in the New Year, I was locked in an endless meeting with my attorney, Davis Laramie, determined to cut all ties with my past by finalizing my divorce and selling my company to Matthias Jackson. But the handsome pair had more than paperwork in mind. Come, they told me, and I obeyed. My take: Were the characters as developed as I like? No. Did I get as much background information as I prefer before the story got down and dirty? Not really. Did it take away from the pure eroticism and yummy shivers I felt while reading? Hell no! New Year’s Eve spent doing away with an old life and considering a new one, a sexy new life with two sexy men. My Kindle steamed up while reading this short story and made me wish for my own New Year’s Eve celebration.

My take: Oh my God, y’all! This was one of those too-short reads that make you mad when it’s over. The BDSM was real and erotic. The characters were interesting and engaging. I wanted to know more about their lives before they met and after. I was sucked right in and didn’t want to leave. There’s a reason Holiday Ties was a Golden Flogger Award Finalist. Realistic and hot BDSM? More please! Come, They Told Me by Eden Connor, From the Files of Banger & Lever, #1, (Bad Apple Press—Available Now) Menage erotica Stars: 3.5 Heat: 5 Money will buy everything but love. The worst year of my life made

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Kayla Lords is an erotic author, sex blogger, and freelance writer who’d rather write smut than anything else. She’s also a kinkster in the BDSM lifestyle who wants people to get turned on by BDSM but not scared by it. A sarcastic, introverted, tea drinker, she usually laughs too loud and often thinks inappropriate thoughts. Visit Kayla at KaylaLords.com

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reviews erotic | senusal romance

Fated

Allyson Young Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Reece Murdoch is back in Barrister, Wyoming after his military tour. Ostensibly returning to take the position of Sheriff, he plans to confront the woman of his dreams. After what they’d shared, he’d foolishly believed Candace Grant would wait, but all his heartfelt letters were met with silence. And now she is avoiding him and freezing him out. Review: Syra was a warrior at heart so she dressed as a man and fought against Ceaser’s army. Unfortunately, she was wounded in battle and sold into slavery. Brought to Rome in shackles she stood upon the platform convinced she would be sold to the nearest brothel. Luckily Brutus was sent to fetch a handmaiden for his wife. When he laid eyes on this feisty red head he knew he must have her. What happens next will send the pair on a wild ride of past lives new lives and love which bound them together for eternity. I have a soft spot for historical fiction and adding a little romance in the mix is an added bonus. This book was well researched and provided just enough information to be entertaining without overwhelming you with too much detail. The characters were plausible and the plot drew you in despite knowing the inevitable ending. I found this book very enjoyable and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes simple historical fiction with a romantic twist. Reviewed by Sally Wolf

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A Bad Man Joey Jenika Snow Erotic Heat Rating: 3

After Joey Bacelli’s father passes away he becomes the Boss of the Bacelli crime family. The “family” is made up of violence, gore, and death, and it’s all Joey has ever known. He always gets what he wants, except for the one woman that continuously denies him. Marra Santos knows who Joey really is, but she wants him regardless of the fact he is a dangerous mob Boss. When she witnesses a murder and Joey comes to the rescue, he isn’t the Knight in Shining Armor she hopes for. In fact, he kills the man that was about to put a gun to her head. Once back at Joey’s place he can’t let her leave, not until the threat to her has been dealt with. He wants her, badly, and will show her they are meant for each other, despite the dark and dangerous life he leads Review: She was a waitress, he was a crime boss in all aspects their relationship should have never worked but for some reason they could not deny the hot passion between them. He would do anything for her and she could not live without him despite not liking what he was. This book was like a match it burned hot and bright for a few minutes but went out just before scorching you. There were a lot of swear words which is understandable for the subject matter, but they seemed to be stuck in the sentences as an afterthought trying desperately to make the characters sound tough. The sex was intense it was very hot and heavy. The only drawback was the overall description of each scene was repetitive for example; if the characters really smashed their teeth together as much as it said they did while they forcefully kissed it would have surely caused them to lose a tooth. The plot ended just as it got interesting I was hoping for more of a twist instead it was here is this character who is causing all the trouble now he is dead the end. With that said would I recommend this book? Sadly yes despite the shortness, repetitive sex, and lack of a twist this was a fast paced quick read which I enjoyed despite its flaws. Reviewed by Sally Wolf

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A Second Chance Love T.K. Paige

Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Years after losing her husband, Kerri Johnston is surprised to find love again with the two men she never knew were there all along. Two years ago when Kerri Johnston buried her husband Caleb after a tragic car accident, his best friends Kyle and Jacob came to her rescue. Taking her back to their ranch with them, they gave her a fresh start and a friendship she desperately needed. But after her grief fades Kerri realises her feelings for her two friends have changed and friendship isn’t enough. While Kerri knows that Jacob and Kyle play with women occasionally, she also knows that she could never live with being only a temporary fling to them. When Kerri makes the decision to leave because watching them from the outside is becoming too painful, she gets a surprise second chance at love. That is, if three people can work through the obstacles and misunderstandings that come with it… Reader Advisory: This book contains M/M scenes, anal sex and sex toys. It also includes a scene of attempted rape and a mention of sexual abuse. Review: A Second Chance Love is an m/m/f love story of three people who discover that nontraditional love is the perfect fit. It’s a sweet story with cowboys and second chances, set on an isolated western ranch. The plot centers on how the three deal with the day to day experiences of being a threeway “couple.” Conflict is mainly centered on how the three lovers deal with the day to day incidents that occur in their unconventional romance. Characters are sweet and kind with few stereotypes. Written in first person from our female heroine’s point of view, there are some very hot scenes between the three lovers. A Second Chance Love is definitely not recommended for readers who aren’t fans of m/m or m/m/f romance so read with caution. It’s an easy to read, pleasant novella. Reviewed by Heather Lewis

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A Fighter’s Choice Sam Crescent Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Jasper is filled with violence, and the only way to unleash it is to make money in illegal fights. Ever since he left home he’s been fighting and saving his money, living a simple life of pain and sex. His life is fine until he notices her living across the hall. Amber spent most of her life in foster care. She knows how to take care of herself and is prepared to do anything to keep herself alive. Working as a waitress in a strip club was not something she wanted to do, but it pays enough to live on. She notices the man across the hall, but he is obviously bad news with all of his bruises. One chance meeting turns into another. Jasper can’t keep his hands off her, and Amber doesn’t want to fight the lust. Together they surprise each other with their need and feelings. However, Jasper’s gotten noticed in the ring, and now he has to pay the price. He has to make a choice: go deeper into the fighting world and run the risk of losing his life and Amber, or run with his woman and find love, life, and happiness. Review: A Fighter’s Choice tells the story of Jasper and Amber, two beat up souls who meet and find happiness. While the plot is the familiar “rise above your station through love,” the fact that it centers on illegal fight clubs gives the story a welcome freshness. Sam Crescent paints us a very realistic picture of the characters’ precarious and dangerous existence. Secondary characters are few but add much to the story, especially the characters of Brooke and Harold, who contrast with our young lovers well. At times it felt as if the characters were a bit wooden in their reactions to their situations and each other. Emotions run high in the story but are not always communicated well to the reader. Still, I did enjoy the book as it was unique with its setting. Not a bad read for a change of pace. Reviewed by Heather Lewis


Designs of Desire Tempeste O’Riley

C.R. Moss

Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Erotic Heat Rating: 3

Artist James Bryant has forearm crutches in every color from rainbow for fun to sleek black for business. He even has a pair with more paint splatters than metal. After his family’s rejection and abuse from a man he thought loved him, James only just gets through the day by painting. He lives in constant fear that he’s not worthy of anything, let alone love. As CEO of his company, Carrington Enterprises, Seth Burns is a take-charge kind of guy, and he is instantly smitten by the artist helping with his newest project. When he witnesses James suffer a panic attack, a protective instinct he never knew he had kicks in. He truly believes nothing is unobtainable—including James—if he’s willing to put in the time and effort. James is shy and confused by Seth’s interest in him as a person. With Seth’s support, can he work through his fears to finally find the true love he deserves, or will someone finally land the crushing blow he won’t survive? Review:This was such a beautiful book about love and trust. When I first got the book, I honestly thought that it was going to be dull and boring. I could not have been more wrong. James Bryan was so broken, and I’m not just talking about his legs. He has been through so much pain but he still has a drive for life, just none in the romantic part of life. He was more than happy to focus on his career until he met Carrington. Carrington is strong and smart. The kind of man that James is usually afraid of. But with these two, you can more than see that they were meant for each other. My only criticism of the book is that things were not properly explained in the book and new characters seem to pop up out of thin air. Besides that the book was good. Reviewed by Nathifa Swan

Dream Across Time

A woman in love. A ghost in need. A man possessed. Evelyn Sheridan is in love with Raritan Manor Ranch’s resident ghost, Quinn, but can only experience his embrace in her dreams. Quinn VanAlder, who doesn’t realize he’s a ghost, loves Eve and wishes she’d stop saying they can’t be together. While at the ranch, Alex VanAlder arrives for a visit, and Evelyn’s hopes rise. Caught between loving a ghost and putting up with a man who can’t make up his mind, Evelyn is at a loss. Can the magic of the ranch help Evelyn to stop being caught between two worlds? Review:Evelyn’s dreams were so vivid she was almost convinced they were real. Needing some rest before taking on the responsibility of her parents ranch she accepts the invention of her friend to visit her relatives farm. When they arrive she is surprised to find out it is the house from her dreams. What happened next is a story of true love which concurs the expanses of time itself. I wanted to like this book and to some extent did. Unfortunately the plot was just too hokey for me the premise behind the story was sound but the execution was rushed and lackluster. The ending did this book in. I was really enjoying it till the main characters swapped places and everyone was just fine with it. If you are looking for a quick read and like time travel and romance then this book would be a fair read. I would personally not recommend it because the ending ruined the whole book for me. Reviewed by Sally Wolf

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S.L. Hannah The Need

Stood up by her boyfriend, she goes home with a woman… Straight-laced coed Angie has never felt daring enough to…experiment. Until tonight. The skin around Heather’s lips is soft, unlike the stubble Erik lets grow in, and the night unfolds like an erotic dream, tapping into an unexplored part of Angie’s body and mind.

“They’re called ocular migraines,” she clarifies, tossing the stained cloth to the floor as I help her step into the clean undergarment. “You should take this off too,” I say grasping her damp shirt. “I’ll give you mine. It’s dry.” She lifts her arms in agreement and I pull her t-shirt over her head. “They’re rare. Only one in two hundred migraine sufferers are affected,” she continues to explain, but all I can do is fixate on the key hanging between her breasts. The rain pounds against the windows as hard as my heart pounds in my chest. An uncomplicated escape plan is staring me right in the face. “They’re temporary,” she stresses. “The blindness lasts anywhere from four to eight hours.” I barely register what she’s saying, realizing that I don’t have to convince her to love me or leave with me, or worry about how deep her loyalties to Rachel lie. “But then it’s over, and I’m back to full strength.” The flash of lightning illuminates the key like a dare. It’s my chance. She’s in pain, she can’t see, she wouldn’t have the same reflexes. She would fumble, fall, trip over her greatest attempts to stop me, but…she’s shivering. I was supposed to give her my t-shirt. Give her your t-shirt, Angie.

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My fingers clasp onto the edge of the cotton. If I take this off, I’ll have to bolt out of here naked. My mind is telling me not to put myself at her mercy again, but my heart is telling me something else. I reach for the blanket at the foot of the bed and pull it over her shoulders instead. “I envy you, Angie,” she says, a pained look on her face. “You’re about to burst from your cocoon. A young, beautiful butterfly with all the offerings of the world at your fingertips.” I tug the blanket across her chest, covering the key. She descends to one side, her head hitting a pillow. “Some of us do more with that than others, but we never get a second chance.” She curls into a ball again, this time more comfortable, and closes her eyes. I look from the fallen star to the barrier blocking my freedom. She needs me. In more ways than one. Can I be so cruel as to abandon her now? A draft at my back beckons me to reconsider and I turn towards the wall of windows. One is cracked open, and as I walk towards it, I can see the puddle of water that’s formed on the concrete floor. I crank the handle so it closes. I can’t burst from my cocoon without her.

S.L. Hannah grew up in Canada and moved to Southern California to pursue her love of singleengine airplanes. The Need is her first erotic thriller. The book is an adaptation of a screenplay her husband wrote about a woman struggling to free herself from her lover’s physical and emotional binds.

www.slhannah.com


feature sneak peek

Savannah Verte

Viva Zapata & the Magic 8 Ball Four women face their flaws, fears, and futures when they meet in person for the first time for a girl’s weekend in Las Vegas. Each gets a bit more than they bargained for as they get to know one another over three days in Sin City. Truths come out to prompt change as they learn that life is less about the cards in their hands than the way they play the game.

“Did you get anything for yourself?” Dani asked back over her shoulder. “No, not yet.” “Then we have a mission. And you, might have to do some creative packing to get it home. I can teach you.” Abi snorted hard from behind her, stopping Dani midstep. She pivoted to face Abi who almost ran into her. “What was funny? I was serious.” “Dani, you arrived for a girl’s weekend with two suitcases, an air mattress, and another carryon type bag complete with a Magic 8-ball for decisions. I’m not sure creative packing is your forte.” Abi snickered out. Dani got down in her face to whisper. “Abi, just because I didn’t have to for this trip, doesn’t mean I can’t. Now don’t blow my cover, it will be our secret that I’m more than just a ‘kinda cute’ thing.” Abi finger-crooked her to come back closer to her face as Dani was standing back up. She waited for her to get close enough to whisper back. “Dani, if you ever again tell me that it’s a secret that you are more than your looks, I’m going to kick you in the knees. I knew that before I ever saw your face.” “I can do that, but I have one in return, and it will be your ass I’ll be kicking not your knees.” Dani looked at her

sternly before continuing. “I don’t want to hear another word about you being anything or nothing because of your dress size, and that means down face too. I did not choose to meet you, or call you friend…any of you” she waved her arm around in the air, “because of how anyone did or didn’t look. You guys got to know me, not my looks, or shape, and that’s just one of those things that I don’t get from most people. Return the good juju…love yourself that much too.” Dani noticed a tear streak Abi’s face. “Ohhh no, knock that shit off right now. No tears. We don’t know each other’s roads, but we get to walk this one together by choice…I don’t need wet socks now.” “Dani you are such a freak show. Wet socks? Really? You make me feel like I kind of fit in with someone like you and you’re worried about wet socks?” “No I’m not worried about wet socks you dolt, I’m worried about you making me cry too and then we’ll have a scene in the outlet mall.” Dani shook her head and rolled her eyes at Abi. “And for the record, I know more than most people think about what it takes to fit in, you’ll always fit with me.”

A life-long lover of words and reading, Savannah hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to write when she grows up. She hasn’t found a story she won’t tackle. The self-proclaimed ‘ C o n t e m p o r a r y Vagabond’ hopes others find her diverse offerings as enjoyable to read as they are to write.

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Contemporary | Romance | Mainstream | Literary Fiction

CONTEMPORARY & ROMANCE

the HAPPILY ever AFTER

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trends reading trends in romance

in

Chic Trends

Romance

Sandra Bunino

All I Want for Christmas is a Great Read! You don’t have to wait until Christmas to get into the holiday season. Put your decorating and baking plans on hold and pick up these brand-new, red-hot holiday reads!

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| Chic Trends in Romance | Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine— Available Now) Savor the magic of the season with #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber’s newest Christmas novel, filled with warmth, humor, the promise of love, and a dash of unexpected adventure. Ashley Davison, a graduate student in California, desperately wants to spend the holidays with her family in Seattle. Dashiell Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle and must arrive by December 23. Though frantic to book a last-minute flight out of San Francisco, both are out of luck: Every flight is full, and there’s only one rental car available. Ashley and Dash reluctantly decide to share the car, but neither anticipates the wild ride ahead. At first they drive in silence, but forced into close quarters Ashley and Dash can’t help but open up. Not only do they find they have a lot in common, but there’s even a spark of romance in the air. Their feelings catch them off guard—never before has either been so excited about a first meeting. But the two are in for more twists and turns along the way as they rescue a lost puppy, run into petty thieves, and even get caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Though Ashley and Dash may never reach Seattle in time for Christmas, the season is still full of surprises—and their greatest wishes may yet come true. A Winter Wedding by Brenda Novak, Whiskey Creek, #9, (MIRA—Available Now) One Christmas can change your life . . . Kyle Houseman believes he’ll never find anyone he could love as much as Olivia Arnold, who’s now married to his stepbrother. Not only did he lose her, he’s been through one divorce and has no desire to go through another. He’s determined to be extra careful about the next woman he gets involved with—which is why he fights his attraction to the beautiful

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stranger who rents his extra house for the Christmas holiday. Lourdes Bennett is a country music artist. She’s only planning to stay in Whiskey Creek long enough to write the songs for her next album—the album that’s going to put her back on top. Her dreams don’t include settling in a town even smaller than the one she escaped. But as she comes to know Kyle, she begins to wonder if she’d be making a terrible mistake to leave him behind . . . The Last Chance Christmas Ball anthology (Kensington—Available Now) The prologue is written by Jo Beverley, and the anthology continues with “My True Love Hath My Heart” by Joanna Bourne, “A Scottish Carol” by Susan King, “Christmas Larks” by Patricia Rice, “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Mary Jo Putney, “Old Flames Dance” by Cara Elliott, “Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverley, “Mistletoe Kisses” by Anne Gracie, and “A Season for Marriage” by Nicola Cornick. “Eight romance authors (collectively known as the Word Wenches) walk into a Regency-era ballroom and wreak fabulous, shimmering holiday mischief all over the place.”—Publishers Weekly Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic— holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year . . . A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight— or be wed to another. . . . the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her . . . a widow yearning to glimpse her longlost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude . . . a


| Sandra Bunino | charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this starstudded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays. Do you love to talk about romance books? Join my book group, Bunino’s Bookalicious Babes on Facebook! We’d love to have you! Have a wonderful, safe, and joyous holiday. Let’s ring in 2016 with more Chic Trends in Romance!

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST Sandra Bunino is a romance author of several novellas including The Satin Rose Experience series. Her first full-length novel, The Colors of Us from the McAvery’s Bar Series, released in August 2014. She makes her parents proud by putting her MBA degree to good use dreaming up Alpha heroes who dominate the bedroom as well as the boardroom. When not staying up past her bedtime torturing her oh-so-sexy heroes, she can be found shopping for shoes or saving turtles. She looks forward to hearing from her readers and she may be contacted at sbunino@gmail.com. As a social media junkie in need of a ten-step program, you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Join her book group, Bunino’s Bookalicious Babes, on Facebook! You can also visit her website at SandraBunino.com.

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reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream

Judging Joey Elizabeth John Contemporary Heat Rating: 1

Madeline White must return to her hometown to help her uncle, her only family. She gets a job teaching and sees the man who broke her heart back in high school. Then she discovers he’s the school’s Safety Officer and his nephew is her student! Madeline’s determined to clear the air with him and hopes they can be civil to one another. When she builds up the courage for a painful reunion, she is shocked that he doesn’t remember her. Officer Joey O’Neill is committed to his job, so after the beautiful redhead accuses him of the contrary, he takes offense. When Madeline informs him they’ve met before, he insists she’s mistaken. Although his family wants him to settle down and judges his carefree bachelorhood lifestyle, it doesn’t mean he forgets the people in his life. Past or present. Like years before, people begin to whisper about her when things go missing in the school. Joey starts to wonder if what they say is true. As the past comes back to haunt Madeline, she struggles with a secret that jeopardizes her job and hopes she can trust Joey. Has he finally outgrown being a wise-cracking jock?

Review: Madeline White has to return to her hometown after an awful event that happened back in high school. No one ever lets her forget even though she claims her innocence. Officer Joey O’Neill loves his job and claims he doesn’t remember who Madeline is until she reveals what happened back in the day. Can he make her see reason and fall in love or will he let her walk away like before. A wonderful story of judging someone to find out you and a town were totally wrong. When the real person is discovered it rocks the world of many characters. The story kept me glued to the pages and the romance slowly develops but in a good way. The author does a wonderful job with the plot and scenery I could imagine myself in the story. Reviewed by Babs Hightower

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Surrender Violetta Rand Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

Ever since her mother kicked her out, twenty-year-old Robyn Gonzalez has been working the poles at the Devil’s Den, saving up to finish college and travel the world. With only her wits and her gorgeous body to rely on, Robyn has learned to be independent—fiercely independent. She’s never been tempted to let a man distract her from her dreams . . . until she meets the dead-sexy Garrick Dempsey. The club’s new head of security, Garrick had walked away from a career as a mechanical engineer to return to his roots in Corpus Christi. He hadn’t planned on getting to know someone like Robyn, with her sinfully sweet combination of vulnerability and strength, at the Devil’s Den. She acts tough, but only because she’s been hurt. Soon Garrick knows he will do anything to win Robyn’s trust. And if that means surrendering to the red-hot chemistry between them, all the better.

Review: Surrender by Violetta Rand was smokin’ hot! The reader is introduced to our main heroine, Robyn, working the poles at Devil’s Den. I instantly felt for Robyn as she’s been kicked out by her mother for selfish reasons and in spite of her circumstances, she still has aspirations of attending college and making something productive of her life. The angst comes in at Robyn having some serious trust issues with men, for obvious reasons. It’s when during a chance encounter that she meets Garrick. Not only does he save her, but I loved that the author didn’t portray him as some gorgeous, brainless hunk. Garrick is swoonworthy and has a beautiful brain as well. The chemistry between these two was delicious. Garrick and Robyn were perfectly flawed and made for a wonderful romance tale not soon to be forgotten! Reviewed by Sasha

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reviews contemporary | romance | mainstream

A Mansion, A Drag Queen and a New Job C.C. Dragon Contemporary Heat Rating: 2

Psychic medium Deanna Oscar wants to be a normal psychology professor at a nice college. The universe has other ideas. When the grandmother she never knew dies and leaves her everything, Deanna enters a different world. In New Orleans anything goes and her psychic powers aren’t a secret. She doesn’t plan on staying but a psychic vision puts her on the trail of a killer. Deanna can’t turn her back on the future victims and becomes immersed in her grandmother’s world. She isn’t sure how to manage the mansion and fortune she inherited or the people who came with it. An ex-priest, a Latina drag queen and a socialite beauty queen are the living entourage. Add in a houseful of ghosts and haunted objects and Deanna needs a little help. In over her head, she struggles to catch a killer who is out to get her as well.

Review: If you like paranormal ghost stories with a hint of humor and a bit of flair for the dramatics, you’ll like Deanna Oscar, Ivy and the many friends and acquaintances that Deanna manages to come into contact with. That’ll be with both, the living and the dead. You like the interaction between the characters and despite a few unexpected hiccups along the way you liked the action and the unusual friendships that formed along the way. A nice little cozy mystery that had a healthy dose of humor and a lot of interesting characters and Ivy needs her own story along with dearly departed Gran. They were something else. So if you fancy a supernatural trip to New Orleans, make sure you stop off at 1300 Carmen Court say hello and you’ll have an interesting time. Reviewed by Cass

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Alaskan Adventure Crystal Jordan Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

Sometimes to escape the drama, you have to create a little of your own. Anne Kirby is the queen of suck-it-up-itude. Thanks to her unreliable, drama-llama mama, it fell to Anne to raise her three little sisters. Now that the youngest is off to college, it’s her turn to spread her wings. She’s looking forward to three solid weeks cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage, with plenty of kayaking, hiking, and ice climbing. Until her tour guide turns out to be not—repeat, not—her type. A scruffy bum who can’t hold down a real job. Never mind he’s the only man who’s ever kept up with her trademark, rapid-fire sarcasm. Thanks to some timely computer programming patents, Gabe Warren is free to live his life as an adrenaline junkie. But nothing has ever gotten his blood pumping like the beautiful, smart, sassy PE teacher. When their spirited arguments land them in bed, passion flares like the Northern Lights. Soon he can’t imagine life without her. Now if he could only convince her that her perfect job isn’t safely inside a school gym. And that a vagabond like him is the perfect travel—and life—companion.

Review: She looked after her sisters until they were grown and her very needy mother(who by the way, managed to drive her absolutely bonkers), but she managed to escape, said needy mother and have an adventure of a lifetime that she’d actually saved up for. Only unexpected perk, was the guy she’d unexpectedly met who wasn’t quite what she thought, but they did make a good couple and the story flowed quite nicely and it had some a whole lot of humor and some very wacky characters that definitely need their stories told in the future. So, if you get a chance, pick up a copy and check it out and enjoy a very good read.

Reviewed by Cass

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| On My Doorstep | When my brother was in Afghanistan, I sent him care packages filled with homemade ginger cookies. I knew they were his favorites, and I made them using our grandmother’s recipe. I had hoped they would remind him of home and simpler times. One day I received an e-mail from him, not only thanking me for the cookies, but asking me to stop sending them! Actually, he wanted me to send them to someone else. He explained that there was a guy named Joe in his unit who had just received a Dear John letter and could use some cheering up. The first thought that came to my mind was, “That’s awful! Who would do that?” Then I realized that maybe it was one of those blessings in disguise. Sometimes if a relationship isn’t meant to be, it’s better ended sooner rather than later. And to string him along wouldn’t be a kindness. But still, it had to hurt. I was no stranger to the feeling of rejection. After a breakup it took a little TLC from friends to pull me out of the funk. So, of course, I baked a batch of ginger cookies just for Joe. I didn’t expect anything for doing it…Maybe a “thanks for the cookies” note or e-mail, but I really didn’t expect a long handwritten letter—and later an e-mail with a picture of him eating one of the cookies I had baked. His letter seemed like it came from an intelligent guy with a good heart, and his picture showed a handsome man with sandy-brown hair and captivating blue eyes. I was smitten. So I made another batch of cookies, and this time I enclosed a handwritten letter of my own. I didn’t know how much my brother had told

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| Ashlyn Chase | him about me, so I introduced myself as if we were total strangers, which in essence, we were. Over the following year we became regular pen pals. He told me about his dream of becoming a firefighter after he left the service. Oh, my. Could this guy become any more of a hero? I told him that I wanted to be a writer, but I knew that might not pay the bills. I became a nurse instead and hoped the job would do more than pay the rent and put food on the table. Maybe it would inspire a few interesting stories— with the names and details changed, of course! It’s funny how Joe and I, communicating our thoughts and dreams over a long distance, seemed to grow closer—even more than if we were going out to dinner and movies. Not that I ever thought that would happen, especially since he was from California and I lived in Massachusetts. But, things that are meant to be seem to have a way of working out. During one of our early “getting to know you” e-mails, I asked him what his favorite type of music was. To my surprise he said Christmas carols! And his favorite song was “Silent Night.” There wasn’t a lot of silence where he was stationed, and he really missed the quiet of the northern California mountains near his home. I was able to see him in my mind’s eye, standing in crisp snow on a mountainside, gazing down on the twinkling red and green lights of the town. Meanwhile, my life went on. I switched to the night shift at work in order to have a little time to write when everyone was asleep and my duties

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| On My Doorstep | were done for a while. I also took some writing courses at a nearby college. I tried not to think about Joe being in the line of fire, but that was difficult since my brother’s e-mails included occasional descriptions of fighting. I’d just close my eyes and picture them both safe—my brother at home in his room and Joe enjoying Christmas in California again. Eventually his deployment ended, and he was excited to be coming home. He called me on the phone from Germany. I couldn’t believe it was the first time I was hearing his voice. He spoke as articulately as he wrote, but it was so nice to hear his words in a sexy baritone. Yup. I was smitten all right. He said he would arrive a few days before Christmas, so I shared my image of him singing “Silent Night” in his hometown. He was strangely quiet. It’s hard to know what soldiers go through and what may or may not be a sensitive subject. I couldn’t imagine that my thought would upset him, but something told me to leave it alone. Maybe he had lost a family member and Christmas would be hard this year, or maybe he was worried about seeing his ex-girlfriend again. Heck, maybe they had gotten back together, and he didn’t know how to tell me. I decided to respect his privacy, and I didn’t force the issue. A few days after he arrived on US soil, he called. To my delight, he wanted to see me. I expected he’d be taking the civil service exam to become a firefighter in California as soon as possible, but he said that could wait a little while. Naturally I agreed to meet and went on to ask him how and when we could make that happen. Imagine my confusion when he said, “Look on your doorstep.”

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| Ashlyn Chase | I lived in an apartment on the second floor of a two-family house.Trusting that there was something there, maybe flowers or a package (or even an envelope with a plane ticket enclosed) and not wanting anyone else to get to it first, I made a beeline for the stairs. When I threw open the front door, I was a little winded, but that was nothing compared to the deep gasp I took when I saw him standing there. Yes. He was right there on my doorstep. He grinned and opened his arms. I didn’t need any more of an invitation than that. I almost threw myself into his embrace and enjoyed his warm hugs and kisses in the cold snow for the first, but not the last, time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ashlyn Chase describes herself as an Almond Joy bar—a little nutty, a little flaky, but basically sweet, wanting only to give her readers a satisfying experience. She holds a degree in behavioral sciences, worked as a psychiatric RN for fifteen years and spent a few more years working for the American Red Cross. She credits her sense of humor to her former careers since comedy helped preserve whatever was left of her sanity. She is a multipublished, award-winning author of humorous erotic and paranormal romances, represented by the Seymour Agency. She lives in beautiful New Hampshire with her true-life hero husband, who looks like Hugh Jackman with a salt-and-pepper dye job, and they’re owned by a spoiled brat cat. Visit Ashlyn at www.ashlynchase.com.

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feature book showcase

Rose Thomas has spent the last few years riding horses and mending fences at a women’s only dude ranch. Life is going great for the wrangler until she receives news of the passing of a relative. The journey home leaves her with new options for her future and a handful of journals that were written during the Civil War. Now she gets to read about the stories that she had listened to growing up, but as she turns the pages, she realizes some things had changed over time.

Excerpt from

Her fellow ranch hand, Sally, assisted her and together they moved the herd a safe distance from the danger they had just avoided. When Rose came to a stop, she continued to sit on her horse while adrenaline coursed through her body. Finally, she slid off the horse and a cloud of dust rose from the dry ground as she attempted to remain standing on her shaky legs. After a few moments, she leaned on her knees to try to calm her heart as it pounded faster than a racing stallion. The dry plains drew Judy Proctor like a bear to her den…or a moth to the flame. Ranching was her life. The sweat as she branded or “doctored” cattle…the howl of a coyote in the quiet, night air ... half-frozen fingers as she cut the wire to loosen hay bales for hungry cattle scratching for survival in snowcovered land…all of the everyday existence on the ranch was her life. It was where she

Future Promises

Rose felt the pounding of the stampede through her worn boots before she saw the herd heading her way. Cattle rushed passed the lean ranch hand, showering her with dirt and rocks. Terror seized Rose’s chest as she felt the scared animals brush past her. She pulled her horse close and vaulted into her saddle to avoid being trampled. Instinct overrode terror as she spurred her horse after the spooked steers. Her thighs gripped the horse as it raced to the front of the thundering column. “Shit.” Panic briefly gripped her as she remembered the wash was close to a mile ahead. If she wasn’t able to get to the lead animals, the herd would follow and careen over the embankment. There was no telling how many of the livestock would be injured or killed during the fall. Only a few seconds passed, but with the danger still looming, it felt like hours before Rose was close to the front of the column. Her body tensed as she urged her horse until he was even with the lead steer. Rose pressed the horse closer to the nearest bull, making the frightened animal shy away from her and to the right, and the bull edged closer to the other leader, and forced it to move in the same direction. The other stampeding cattle followed the leads as they were pressed further into a curve that resulted in a tightening circle. With no room to maneuver, the herd milled around, until calming.

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belonged. It was a lonely life.

Excerpt from

Good Water

The noise tore through the darkness like a knife through the heart. Judy groped toward the nightstand, knocking the blaring alarm onto its back, before she found the button and strangled the clock into silence. She collapsed onto the bed and dug at her eyes with the heels of her hands, trying to fight through sleepy haze to normal vision. She’d had a bad night, a short night, but then they always were before shipping. A breeze fluttered at the curtains over the open window. Judy leaned outside the warm cocoon of the covers to lift back the curtain and look outside. Black as…midnight? No, Judy didn’t agree with that. If she were to adhere to any cliché, it would be the old “darkest before the dawn.” She knew that dark. She’d known it at least twice a year since she was old enough to ride drag on an aging cutting horse. A cowhand always rose before


sunup on shipping day. Within a few hours, Judy would harvest the fruit of months of labor. Her grass fed steers would be on their way to a feedlot, and she’d have her check. Good. There are bills to pay. She reached for the clock and set it upright. The digital 4:45 glared red and angry at her. She didn’t blame it. Anger was a natural reaction to that hour of the morning. Judy figured she’d had three hours sleep…maybe three and a half. She was feeling a might red and angry herself. Sure, she’d gone to bed early, but she never slept well before shipping. There were so many things that could go wrong. Rain might turn the roads into a quagmire so that the trucks couldn’t fight their way down the dirt path to the corrals. There could be a fence down and cattle from here to Dallas. Most of all, no one could ever know what the dad blamed cattle would do.

Excerpt from

A dream is housed in the dusty, unused storage room above the Tickled Texan, one of Amber, Texas’ two gay bars. Journalist April Sims serves as the reluctant leader in making that dream a reality. Under her guidance an eclectic group of women build a safe place in a community where being lesbian can be dangerous and difficult.

The Ladies Room

Reflected light danced across the floor, ignoring completely the rhythm of the Garth Brooks number begging for a snappy two-step. The joy of the light shone from the mirrored ball suspended from the ceiling, not at all dimmed by the fact that the dance floor was empty. Well, not completely empty. There was a layer of cornmeal, freshly scattered by Bart, the Tuesday night dance instructor. “He’s got gumption. I’ll give him that,” Tandy Johnson said, as she lifted April Sims’s elbow from the bar so she could polish the worn wood beneath. April looked up from her beer to study the handsome young man who now shuffled alone on the dance floor, testing the slickness provided by the cornmeal. He moved with liquid grace despite the lack of a partner. April admired the pure beauty of motion, as Bart switched from a simple two-step to a pattern she hadn’t a prayer of recognizing… or repeating. “I take it the dance lessons aren’t a big hit,” April said, her voice raised over the music. Tandy ran stubby fingers through short, red hair salted with gray. “I warned him Tuesday night was a killer. He must have taken it as a challenge.” April watched the graceful young man test the dance floor. His movements communicated impatient confidence. “Doesn’t seem too discouraged to me,” April said. “Damned if you’re not right. We had five people show up the first night, and three the second.” “This the third?” “Yeah. If nobody shows at all, guess I’ll have to tell him to give it up. Hate to. Truth is, he gives darned good dance

The gem in lesbian publishing. Sapphire Books Publishing is a company that currently only publishes lesbian fiction.

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feature sneak peek

Patricia Yager Delagrange Moon Over Alcatraz Brandy Chambers was looking forward to the birth of her first child. She and Weston move from San Francisco to the small town of Alameda to start a family, she’s writing her second book, and Weston has a fantastic job working on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge project. Having this baby would make her already-wonderful life perfect. But when the baby dies after a difficult birth, Brandy’s perfect life blows up in her face. Stricken with grief, she and Weston pull apart. This new distance leads them both to disaster. Not until a chance encounter with her high school friend, Edward Barnes, does Brandy pull herself together. Brandy and Weston agree to recommit to each other, striving to forgive infidelity and recreate their previous existence.

“You and I met during freshman orientation, remember?” Grinning, Edward said, “How could I forget, Brandy? You were eating a chocolate chip cookie from the refreshment table and I was watching you—” I put my hand up, palm facing outward. “No,” I interrupted. “Don’t remind me.” He laughed in a deep, low chuckle. “Your eyes got all wide and you were looking around like a madwoman, ran over to the garbage can, and spit out a big gob of something...” “And when I looked around you were standing there watching me...” “I started laughing so hard. I thought you were puking your guts out.” “Those were the worst cookies I’d ever tasted in my life!” “So I brought you a cup of water and asked if you were sick—” “And I told you I wasn’t sick but the cookies were enough to make anyone hurl.” “So I offered to bake you the best chocolate chip cookies you’d ever taste in your entire life.” “And that was the beginning of our friendship for four years.” I couldn’t stop giggling over the memory. Edward reached across the table and squeezed my hand. Looking up, our eyes locked. He held my gaze until I gently pulled my hand away from his. “We lost touch after high school,” he continued. “Didn’t you go to Cal?” I nodded, took a sip of water. “Where I got my master’s degree in Creative Writing.” “What did you want to do with your degree?” “I started writing my first novel when I was working part-time as a teaching assistant at Alameda Junior College.” “Did you get published?”

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I smiled at the memory. “Yeah, I did. Passing Through Brandiss hit the shelves about two years ago. I’m working on my third book now while waiting to see whether this editor at Harper Collins is interested in my second novel.” He sat back, eyebrows arched. “Wow! So you’re a real live author. I’m impressed. When did you and Weston meet?” “About ten years ago. I met him at a wedding in the Oakland hills. A friend of mine introduced us. We hit it off and were together about two years before we got married. We lived in San Francisco for a few years. I got pregnant and we moved to Alameda. After our baby died, I had a meltdown. Then you and I met again at Peet’s—” “Wow! Your life sounds like a book.” “As long as I get to have my HEA.” He looked confused. “What’s an HEA?” I smiled and explained, “It stands for happily ever after. I learned the phrase after writing my first book. It didn’t have a happy ending and I quickly found out it wouldn’t sell without one.” “Does it look like you’ll have your own personal HEA, as you put it?” I shrugged. “I don’t know yet, but I hope so.”

Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Patricia Yager Delagrange studied at the University of Madrid, received her B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara and her Master’s degree at Oregon State University. She lives with her husband, two kids and two chocolate labs. Her horse resides in the Oakland hills.

PatriciaYagerDelagrange.com


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BTS CUSTOMER AWARDS: *New for 2015! BTS Best Book *New criteria! BTS Rising Star *New for 2015! BTS Debut Author *New for 2015! BTS Best Anthology *New criteria! BTS Best Cover *No review needed for BTS Customer Awards, see site for details.

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from our website must read columns

GHOSTWRITING: If You Want to Be a Ghostwriter Beware, ghosts are around us every time we go into a brickand-mortar or online bookstore. I’m an editor, writing coach, and ghostwriter. Though my experiences in working with authors have been mostly amazing and rewarding, there have been rough patches that I’d like to share with you. These specifically address clients I’ve ghostwritten for or stories I’ve heard from other ghostwriters. I’m a realist. I know that no ghostwriting jobs are without downsides and risks. My own experiences have been rewarding but, on a rare occasion, painful. I’ve had a broken promise of acknowledgment. The author blamed it on the publisher whom she insisted didn’t want to have an acknowledgments page because it would mean “one extra page in the book,” and yet there was a blank page in the book. It was clear the author didn’t fight for it because she didn’t want others to know she had extensive help with the book. She shouldn’t have offered that perk to me in the contract; she should have paid me more in exchange. I’ve had contracts with terms unfavorable to me. I suggest you check with an attorney, one familiar with ghostwriting contracts. I highly suggest Susan Spann out of California (http://www.susanspann.com/blog/). She specializes in writing contracts. Beware of never-ending requests to edit. I had a client who went into the manuscript and made changes over and over that made the book worse. I had to go in and edit repeatedly to fix her messes. To protect yourself from this, I suggest you contract for a limited number of edit passes. There are times when one must play the role of a social worker, encouraging and counseling a dreamer who is not a doer, an “author” who doesn’t seem devoted to getting the book out there. Checking out his dedication to the book is important. Then there are the rare times when one must make great efforts at eking out payments. I’ve learned to get paid along the way. If hourly, my clients typically pay what’s due once a

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month or once $500 has built up. Be prepared for an occasional broken contract, which means time and other clients lost, and in one case, I had to hire an attorney. You may run into a client who backs off the guts of a story, leaving only a shell of a tale to tell. Also there are difficult personalities to work with, and sometimes, it is your agent interfering with the collaborative agreement—creating a legal problem. I’ve had a client back out of a project without an agreed-upon kill fee in place—yet another moment I wished I’d had an attorney look over the contract first.

Read the rest of the column now on the BTSeMag.com website!

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ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker, awardwinning author of novels and cookbooks, and a produced screenwriter. She’s consulted on numerous projects and has written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons, and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and Pikes Peak Writers Contest. Find out more at www.karenalbrightlin.com


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Now Accepting Books for Review for our 2015 Red Carpet Awards! If you would like to have your book considered for the 2015 Red Carpet Books Awards, simply submit your book to BTS Book Reviews for review consideration. Vist our website at btsemag.com for details! Note: As a courtesy BTS asks our reviewers to look at our customer books first when choosing a book for review. Genres: All genres covered in the BTS Book Reviews will be considered: Contemporary & Romance, Historical & Western, Erotic, Mystery & Suspense, S/F, Fantasy & Paranormal, Young and New Adult. Sub-genres such as Urban Fantasy or Horror will go under the appropriate genres. Timeline: Awards for 2015 will end with the November/December 2015 issue of BTS Book Reviews magazine. Please note, we have a 2 month lead-time for our reviewers, this means your book must be submitted by September 30th, 2015 in order to fit the timeline requirements. Any qualified books reviewed after the November/December 2015 will be considered for the 2016 Red Carpet Book Awards. Categories: Readers Choice – Readers to vote on their favorite (one only) in each of the genres. Voting on all 4 & 5 star reviews in each genre. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists. Reviewers Choice – Reviewers choose their favorite book. Committee vote for top winner. Cover, blurb, review and overall presentation to be considered. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists. Best Book of Year – Top winners in categories will be considered. By committee vote. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists. Best Cover – By committee vote made up of Design and Marketing staff. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists. Rising Star – Authors with 1 to 3 books published, with stellar reviews. By committee vote. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists. Best Short Story - All short stories published in BTS Book Reviews during 2015 are eligible. By committee vote. Grand Prize Winner plus 2nd and 3rd place finalists and honorable mentions. Please note that submitting a request does not secure a review within our emag. Only reviews published in the BTS Book Reviews emagazine will be considered for the 2015 awards.

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BTS Book Reviews  

Issue 30 - November/December 2015 Your guide to great reading, featuring Publisher's Showcase, plus columns, book reviews, featured authors...

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