Says the Editor: Details and Character Development

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilSo last week, I brought up the idea of using the wrong details in the wrong places. I probably owe you a better example, but when you’re yanking something out of context–let alone writing it from scratch!–it’s hard to do.

So much of editing and revising depends on context. On narrative voice, on the narrative character… There are so, so many things to consider.

Let me add one more to the pile, and I consider this one to be one of the few golden rules of fiction: The author should always know more about their characters than what appears on the page.

Why?

Because the deeper the well of your knowledge, the more authentic your characters appear on the page. You don’t need to tell us Justin is afraid of spiders. There may never be a spider in your entire manuscript. (Really. Spiders? Don’t appear all that often in fiction. Charlotte was a total unicorn, I’m tellin’ ya.) Justin’s fear may never be discussed, brought up, hinted at. But you, author, you know this simple detail: Justin’s got this fear.

And that, right there, makes him more complex. He’s not invincible. He’s not perfect. He screams worse than I did the day I saw a Daddy Long Legs on my front porch and climbed up my sister. (True story!)

Knowing this means that when you write about Justin, you yourself don’t think he’s invincible. You know he’s got a chink in the armor.

That knowledge means Justin can surprise you. He can show you another one.

Or maybe it means that the characters around him know, even though it’s, again, not voiced on the page. But they know their hero here? Will go running into the sunset, abandoning them to their fate if a spider appears. And that’ll change the way they interact with him–not necessarily in a negative way. Maybe in a better way. Maybe, instead of thinking he’s the be-all, end-all hero to solve the story’s problems, the supporting cast has more agency. They help protect Justin while he protects them.

This gives your characters depth, which in turn allows them to feel more real on the page. I can always tell when an author hasn’t done this work, when they don’t know much, or enough, about their characters.

Make the commitment. Do the off-the-page work. Heck, buy yourself a pretty pen*, fill it with pretty ink, grab some paper, and brainstorm. Create your character’s personal details. Maybe be like me and use different pens and different colors so your ideas don’t run into each other, and each one instead stands out, visible and ready to be referenced.

Whatever your choose. Do the work. It’ll pay off in the end, I promise.

And, as always, remember: If you need my editorial help, I’m here! When my comments are more directly pointed at your own words, you’ll get it. I promise.

*I, myself, now own a TWSBI Eco and can vouch for what a nice pen it is!

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Says The Editor: It’s all in the Details

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilSo. What’s with the focus on details? And why is there so much to say about them?

Well, the fact that there’s a lot to say means that they’re important. Details can make or break your story — the pacing, the worldbuilding, even where the reader puts their energy. You want to make sure you get your details right.

Get them right? Susan, what are you talking about? How can details be wrong?

Let’s start with the issue of focusing your reader on the right stuff. I see this a lot: authors who are trying to do the right thing by setting their scene. So we get lots of details about the scene: the furniture, the surroundings, the clothing the characters are wearing… and that’s all good. It’s important. You want the reader to not just have a feel for the fictional world they are immersed in, but you want them to be able to picture it in their minds. Their own private movie.

The problem enters when you spend a lot of time describing things that don’t matter, things that we only see once in a book and things that aren’t important at all. For example, the amateur sleuth goes to the house of someone who may be able to provide details about the case. The reader gets to see the contact: Ms. Myrna was old, stooped over, wearing a light blue cardigan with a button missing and black orthodpedic shoes. Her skirt was navy and didn’t match either the cardigan or the shoes, and when she smiled, she revealed three missing teeth and deep lines around her eyes, as if she smiled often and enjoyed doing so.

(Can someone help Ms. Myrna? She could use a caretaker.)

But then, here’s where we go off the rails. She invited Genie in, graciously, shuffling three steps out of the way and letting Genie have a glimpse of her home. There was no entry, so they were immediately in the living room, with its worn brown carpet, which was threadbare in spots in front of the old peach-colored three-person sofa. A glass and brass coffee table sat in front of the worn spots, a pair of bright yellow slippers underneath and three magazines — Genie looked at the titles, surprised to see one was the bass pro fisher’s association monthly magazine, one was the Smithsonian magazine, and one was a catalog of geeky gifts. The catalog had a water mark on it, or maybe it was a coffee stain; Genie couldn’t be sure.

The walls were a basic white, the ceilings smooth, the windows framed by curtains in pastel colors that compromised between the peach sofa and the brown carpet. A few paintings hung on the walls along with four photographs. The paintings were all landscapes, sunsets or maybe sunrises, and all done by an amateur hand, and the photographs were of people, but Genie couldn’t figure out a polite way to get close enough to look to see if any of them featured the woman she was looking for. They looked to be full of people who might have been related to Ms. Myrna, although even that was hard to tell because from what she could see, no one had a completely white head of hair. Nor were they wearing fashionable clothes. Or clothes that had been fashionable in the past twenty or even thirty years. Maybe, Genie thought, she ought to Google what fashions had looked like fifty years ago, well before her time. Those pictures were possibly, probably, that old, and that made Genie wonder what had happened to the people in them. Were they still alive? Did they talk to Ms. Myrna? Take care of her? Write her letters? Send her email? Help her figure out the Internet? Did they live nearby or had they dispersed? Why? Why not include this old lady, who so far seemed lovely, in their lives? Why were there no recent pictures on the walls?

Expecting an invitation to sit on the couch–which, as she got closer, she realized was full of stains and even a hole–she resolved not to sit, and to keep it short.

She turned to Ms. Myrna. “I wanted to ask you if you know Grace Gold.”

“Never heard of her. I don’t know anyone named Grace. Now, why don’t you produce your medical bag from wherever you’ve hid it and take my pressure? I ain’t got all day.”

Genie paused. “I’m… I’m not here for that. I’m here to ask if you know Grace Gold.”

“I just told you I don’t know no Graces. Now if you ain’t here to take my pressure, and you ain’t here for any reason other than to ask me about this mystery Grace I ain’t never met, maybe you should go back out through the door and come back when you are ready to take my pressure for real.”

Genie apologized to the old lady but stopped herself from asking if Ms. Myrna was okay. She wasn’t Genie’s responsibility. Then again, maybe that was what her family said, too, as they abandoned her to her old decor and her old pictures and her old lady-ness.

Did you catch it? All that detail about the photographs.

Now, maybe this doesn’t seem so outlandish to you, but what if I tell you that Genie has twenty-four hours to track down Grace Gold? That before this scene, our hearts were in our throats and we were joining Genie in hoping beyond hope that Ms. Myrna would have the answers.

And all that came crashing to a halt as we learned about people in photographs. People who don’t matter, who won’t return to the story at all, even as a fleeting thought in Genie’s day.

Sometimes, it’s good to slow the pace. To get the reader to calm. But it’s usually better to do it in ways that the story can build on.

Often, I’ll find myself commenting to an author, “This is a lot of detail about a teapot. Can you show me something else instead? Something that’ll be a key to the story?” And, as you revise, that’s what you want to think about. Does this advance the story? How does this detail function? What’s its purpose? How does it affect the pace? The reader’s mindset? The character’s arc? The plot? The mood?

A lot to think about.

I’ll be back with more next week.

Remember, if you’d like to have some of my fun comments on your own manuscript, reach out! I’d love to chat about your editing needs.

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#SaysTheEditor: Two Observations. New Trends?

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencil

It’s not that I’ve lost the blogging bug, it’s that my clients keep me so busy, I haven’t had time. So, as a result, I’ve got a list of stuff I want to talk about. A very long list. That spans multiple pieces of paper. And is threatening to overwhelm me and get thrown out.

Instead of letting that happen, it’s time to talk to you more often. I do kind of miss it. (So be sure to leave me comments and check back for replies!)

Today is just a quick little observation I’ve been making of late. Two things actually. Are two things enough to make a trend? I think so.

First: Characters listening to jazz. In their cars, at home. Doesn’t matter, but a couple authors have done this across multiple books now, and so jazz seems to be one of the hot musical trends of the moment (I say as Stone Sour pounds on in the background over here). Also, don’t ask me what the other hot musical trends might be. Stone Sour’s not exactly trendy or trending. Or even active at the moment.

Why not check out some jazz? I will the next time I sit down to chill and work on my own writing.

The second observation is an abundance of Physician Assistant (PA) careers held by characters, main and secondary. PAs are showing up in fiction, and I am here for it! I have a lot of respect for PAs; I have a PA friend and saw the PA at my old doctor’s office more than I saw the doctor himself. I’d have followed her when she left the practice, but insurance. You know the game.

So there you go. Two observations that may or may not be trends. Noticed any? Tell me about them!

And, of course, tell me what music you’re jamming to. I’m always game to explore something new.

As a note, if you need an edit, get in the queue now for May! June’s looking a bit tight and like the $200 rush fee will be applied again, as it currently is for any emerging April needs. Drop me a note ASAP, and never ever be afraid of money. We can work it out.

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Kim McMahill’s A Measure of Madness takes the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book Cover for A Measure of Madness

Let’s welcome Kim McMahill to the Featured New Book Spotlight! Her newest release is the fourth in her Risky Research series, and it sounds like if you are into federal action heroes, this is right up your alley! We’ll get to more about the book in a second, but first, let’s get to what we’re all here for: the music!

Kim McMahill, what song makes you think of your book?

Whenever I hear, In The Air Tonight, I’m transported back to the 80’s television show Miami Vice and picture organized crime, hot tropical nights, and those iconic speedboat scenes off Miami. The latest installment in my Risky Research Series, A Measure of Madness, is primarily set in Florida, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. In the opening chapter, as the yacht races through the night, the bow rising and then slamming down over the gentle waves with the moonlight reflecting off the ocean and wind rushing through Max’s hair after successfully completing his mission, I can almost hear the music queue up. It really isn’t as much about the lyrics as it is about the mood the music creates.

Ahh. Classic song with a new twist. And yes, I can picture this scene? Can you? Well, we’ve got to know what happens next to this dude named Max, don’t we?

FBI agent Devyn Nash’s pursuit of a deadly organization heats up in this fourth installment of the Risky Research series.

The FBI locates the mastermind behind Coterie, but attempts to bring him in result in a shootout that sends Coterie’s members scrambling for cover. When Devyn’s partner is left fighting for his life in a Puerto Rican hospital, she becomes more determined than ever to bring them to justice.

Devyn’s decision to ignore her orders and pursue the head of Coterie to Brazil puts her job and her relationship with Sheriff Gage Harris in jeopardy, but she is unwilling to allow those responsible for so much death to live out their lives in paradise.

Hey… where’s Max? Max of the cool opening scene?

Well, shoot. Now I GOTTA read this to find out!

Pick up your copy; you know you want to!

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And remember: authors are fun to chat and connect with. Here’s Kim McMahill’s social information:
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As always, if you’re an author or have a friend who’s an author, the Featured New Book Spotlight is open to you or them. And, of course, no matter who you are, leaving a review is always the best way to say thanks to an author for their hard work. If you’re struggling with a review, never hesitate to reach out. Yeah, it’ll cost you a nominal fee to cover my time, but I am worth it. More importantly, so are you.

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Breathe by Lucinda Race in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book cover for Lucinda Race's Breathe Yes, it’s back to back weeks of Lucinda Race! Woo!

Jealous? Step into the spotlight, yourself. You know I want to host you.

So last week, we learned all about Blends, the prequel novel in the Crescent Lake Winery Series. Now it’s time to dive in to the actual meat of the series, and hoo boy, is there meat to this series! Yes, I’ve had a sneak peek and yes, you will LOVE what Lucinda’s cooking up.

So. Book One. Breathe. Let’s talk about the important stuff first: the music! Lucinda, what song makes you think of Breathe?

In Case You Didn’t Know – Brett Young

Max holds so much inside, afraid of being hurt that he overly cautious – but he does fall hard for Tessa and when I hear this song I always think that Tessa didn’t know…

Okay, so what’s a rocker chick like me doing, hanging out with the likes of Lucinda Race, who’s exposed me to not one but TWO good country songs that I’d actually add to my playlist? Well, expanding my horizons and learning new things, of course! And yes, I can totally see this being Max’s song! Want to know why? Get the book.

But before we get to the buy links, here’s the official book description:

Romance and fine wine both need time to breathe…

Her family’s successful winery business in the Finger Lakes region of New York should have gone to Tessa Price. She’d always dreamed of running the winery, but when the “prodigal son” returns to take up the reins, she boldly strikes out on her own, purchasing Sand Creek Winery—a cash-strapped competitor—right out from under her family. She can forge her own destiny, using her marketing skills and big plans to bring new life to the winery. But first she has a proposition for the sexy previous owner. And he’s likely to hate it.

Kevin “Max” Maxwell would never have willingly sold his winery to anyone named “Price.” Family always comes first, and if paying for his sister’s cancer treatment cost him his business, it was worth it. But when the new owner offers him a one year contract to stay on as general manager, with a possible bonus, he really can’t afford to turn it down. He can ignore the effect her deep brown eyes and heart-shaped face have on his senses for a year, can’t he?

Relationships, like slowly ripening vineyards, take time. But Max has been keeping a secret from Tessa, one that could destroy her hopes for their future. Will a terrible accident force Tessa and Max to face how much they have to lose, or tear apart their budding relationship forever? Sometimes a romance is like a fine wine. To be its best, it just needs time to breathe.

Ooh, do you love that? “To be its best, it just needs time to breathe.”

YES.

Here’s your universal buy link. Because universal buy links are the way to go.

And remember to connect Lucinda Race so you don’t miss out on any of the great books in this series. Yes, I’m still biased, and proud of it.

Twitter
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Lucinda’s Heart Racers Reader Group
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Remember: I’d love to host you, your friend the writer, the person you really don’t like but pretend to… I don’t care! I’m about helping books find readers, so take advantage!

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Blends by Lucinda Race in the Featured New Book Spotlight!

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Book cover for Blends, written by Lucinda RaceI am beyond thrilled to welcome romance author Lucinda Race to West of Mars today! And how can I not me? Lucinda is ALL kinds of awesome. If you haven’t read her books yet, you’re in for a treat. And yeah, I may be a bit biased, but that’s okay, right?

So, Lucinda, tell us what song makes you think of your book!

Making Me Look Good Again – Drake White

The line – leather and lace and denim and pearls just sucked me into Sam and Sherry’s story – all about opposite fitting together.

This is a new song to me. Probably my first Drake White, too, and… ummm… WOW! Yearning, longing, and yet nostalgia in there. Good stuff.

Ready for the book description? I sure am!

His mother’s final illness waylaid Sam Price’s college dreams, but he’s content working in his family’s vineyard in the Finger Lakes region of New York. When he finds a woman with a flat tire on a vineyard road, he’s stunned to discover it’s the girl he’d had a crush on in high school. He’d never been confident enough to ask her out back then. He’d been a farm kid. Her daddy was the bank president. Way out of his league.

Sherry Jones is tired of her parent’s ambitious plans for her life. She’ll finish her college accounting degree like they want, but how can she tell them about her real love: working with growing things? Then a flat tire and a neglected garden offer her an unexpected opportunity, with the added bonus of a tall, gorgeous guy with eyes that set her senses tingling.

What does a guy with dirt under his nails and calluses on his hands have to offer a woman like Sherry? It will take courage for her to defy her parents and claim her own dreams. Sam and Sherry’s lives took different paths, but a winding vineyard road has brought them back together. Are they willing to take a chance to create the perfect blend for a lifelong love?

People. THIS is the start of a family dynasty. Right here. Don’t miss it.

Grab your copy. Here’s the universal buy link, and can I tell you guys how much I love universal buy links?

Connect with Lucinda Race, because she’s fun and totally bad for my discipline and yet so totally disciplined herself and yes, I just adore her.

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Amazon Author Page
Lucinda’s Heart Racers Reader Group
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Remember, the Featured New Book Spotlight is always open! You don’t have to be a friend, an acquaintance, or a client to step into it. I’ve met amazing authors and read great books they’ve written — and I know many of my readers have, too. Don’t be shy!

Featured New Book Spotlight

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A Memory Like You by Vickie Fisher in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book Cover for Vickie Fisher's new book, A Memory Like You
Do you LOVE this cover, or WHAT???

It’s what caused me to strike up a conversation with author Vickie Fisher, and then invite her to stop in today to tell us about the book itself. As if that cover doesn’t speak for itself. Ooh, baby. I am in love. With the cover. Don’t judge me.

So… Tell us, Vickie Fisher! What song makes you think of your new book?

What’s A Memory Like You (Doing In A Love Like This) byJohn Schneider. I have always loved this song and thought how amazing it would be to have someone love you so much that your memory is always just a moment away. Then of course the realization that the reason they are pining for me is that I didn’t love them the same way. And the happy feeling the song first gave me turned to sadness. I mean how could someone love someone so completely without that person loving them back. In my romantic mind, I had to fix it. After all, the foolish girl who threw that love away had to have a reason, right. Maybe she did love him like that, but something happened and she had to walk away from him. And so A Memory Like You was born.

Ooh, WOW. What a reason! I love books inspired by songs… obviously, right? Because what’s the one question I ask y’all around here? But to improve on the song and make it happy?

I’m there. Totally.

Check out the official back cover copy:

Anyone who knew them never doubted the love Cassidy and Shane shared was a gift from God.

When a misunderstanding blows their relationship apart, no one expects them to still be apart five years later. Champion bull rider Shane Cartwright has made too many mistakes in his life—the worst was letting Cassidy McDaniel go. Can she ever forgive him? With the rodeo season half over, he needs to convince her to once again pursue her dream of becoming the first female World Champion Bull Rider.

Can their time together mend broken fences, or will it take a miracle to bring their hearts back together?

And it’s a Western! The cover, the setting… this is my catnip, folks. Is it yours? Or maybe a friend’s? Pick up a copy:
Amazon
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And connect with Vickie Fisher, too! We haven’t spoken much, but so far, I like her. She’s a fellow Pennwriter, after all. (And yes, I highly recommend the Pennwriters, no matter where you live. I have been a member for the past 20 or so years, and then for a short time before that, so yeah. 10/10. Highly recommend.)

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Remember, the best way to thank an author for their hard work is to buy a copy of their book–and then to gift a copy, as well! But if you can’t do that and still want to pay it forward, think about leaving a review online. If you’re struggling with your review, let me know and I’ll help.

And if you’re an author who’d like to step into the spotlight, or have a friend who you’d like to see featured here, the Spotlight is open to all, even if we’ve never met before. Fill out the handy-dandy form and I’ll get to each entry in turn, usually on Sundays, after my bike ride. Because yes, I’m back on bikes and yes, that’s when I’m not busy editing!
Featured New Book Spotlight

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Alpha Eternal by Brenda Sparks in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book cover author: Brenda Sparks Let’s welcome Brenda Sparks back to West of Mars and the Featured New Book Spotlight! If you missed her last visit in the early days of lockdowns and pandemics, here’s the link to remind yourself of all the goodness she brought us in March 2020.

Brenda is back today with the next in her Alpha Council Chronicles — the sixth book, actually! Wow! — and it’s called Alpha Eternal. But before we talk about the book, let’s go for the tunes. Brenda Sparks, what song makes you think of your book?

At the risk of dating myself, I can’t help but think of the song, Lovely Day by Bill Withers, when I think about my latest paranormal romance, Alpha Eternal. Having watched his fellow Alpha Council members find their heartmates, the hero of Alpha Eternal is ready to find a soul mate of his own, and he longs for that one person who will give him a reason for being.

Alex most definitely embodies the lyric from the song which goes, “When the day that lies ahead of me seems impossible to face. When someone else instead of me always seems to know the way, Then I look at you, and the world’s alright with me. Just one look at you and I know it’s gonna be a lovely day.”

Alpha Eternal is a dark paranormal story about a vampire who is sent to infiltrate a demonic compound. Unfortunately for him, a chance meeting in the past comes back to haunt him when he is assigned to a guard who despises him. Alex is a spy. Shira is his enemy. And yet for some reason, fate seems destined to bring them together…again and again.

Ooh, that funky bass line! And while the book may be dark, this song is not! How have I never heard this before?

Ready for the book description? I sure am!

Alexander Hall is a fun-loving vampire whose duty comes before all else, except maybe finding a heartmate. Discouraged when he is assigned to infiltrate a demonic compound, Alex plans on getting in and out fast, but fate has other plans. Once Alex discovers a sexy demon from his past is chosen as his guide, he couldn’t be more pleased.

Shira is a demon who likes to keep to herself, so when the demon king asks her to be Alex’s guide, she couldn’t be less pleased. Keeping the vampire from discovering demon secrets quickly becomes a full-time job. A job she didn’t ask for and most definitely doesn’t want.

With the vampire’s desire for someone to commit his heart to and the demon looking to run as far away as possible, how will fate intervene to bring this unlikely couple together?

A vampire-demon love… I love it! Fresh, unique… I love this sort of fiction!

Need a copy? Take note: The book doesn’t release until December 9, so you’ll be pre-ordering. Which means you’ll forget about it and then on December 9, you’ll open your e-reader and it’ll be there, a gift from your past self to your present self.

Be good to your future self.

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And connect with Brenda Sparks! Chatting with authors is fun.
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Twitter Handle: @brenda_sparks
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Whew! Lots of ways to get to know a great author. Take advantage! What’s the point of social media if it’s not social?

And now, for the standard disclaimers:
* One of the best ways to show appreciation for an author’s book is to leave a review.
* The absolute best way is to buy a copy and gift it to a friend or family member.
* If you are struggling with a review, drop me a note and I will help!
* The Featured New Book Spotlight is open to anyone, so send your author friends over via this link. This is not something I only offer to certain authors. If you’ve published a book — or even a short story in an anthology! — the spotlight is yours to step into.

Featured New Book Spotlight

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FNB: Adversaries (The Color of Fear) by Lyndi Alexander

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Let’s welcome Lyndi Alexander back to West of Mars! If you missed her earlier visits, Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me was featured here,and she featured Windmills with a spot in my Lines of Distinction fun here, as well.

So what has Lyndi Alexander have for us today? It’s her new release, Adversaries (The Color of Fear), and here she is to tell us what song makes her think of her book:

This book wraps up all the waiting that’s been building since Lin Kwan first saved her cousin from thugs in Hong Kong in the first pages of WINDMILLS. She has found her father and is poised to give him the herbs that can save the world. Xi San is in St. Louis and ready to have it out once and for all with the white supremacist Gabriel, who’s killed his friends and so many others. Assassin Jin Piao knows where to find his targets. Gabriel stands prepared to lead his Angels to cleanse what’s left of America of BIPOC. Battle is in the air….

This why “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins encapsulates this book, which takes place over only two weeks. IT’S COMING. WINDMILLS and DESTINATIONS have served to pull all the players into place; now all the pieces will fall.

Ahhh… Eighties music for the win, and this is a classic even beyond that.

And look at all these pieces coming together, along with the timely topics the book tackles — but what stands out to me the most is the tight timeline. The entire story unfolds in two weeks.

Here’s what this series-ender is about:

Life after the devastating biological terrorist attack that decimated the White population in the US is beginning to recover as Tzu Lin Kwan is finally able to deliver her precious cargo of herbs to her scientist father. Or is it?

The virus may be mutating, spreading to infect those previously immune. Tzu Shin and his fellow scientists—and now Kwan—are literal prisoners of the US military.
The White supremacist army of the demagogue Gabriel has invaded St. Louis. And the Chinese assassin Piao knows where to find his targets. Kwan and her friends Valery, Eddie, and San are ready to fight to the death to defend their recovering world. The question is: Are courage and determination enough?

Talk about timely… Wow!

Grab yourself a copy; you know you want to!
Amazon
Zumaya Publications

And be sure to connect with Lyndi, too. Because it’s always fun to chat with authors.
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Facebook
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Amazon Author Page
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Smashwords | Lyndi Alexander

For the standard disclaimers:
* Remember that a review is one of the best ways to show an author appreciation for their book!
* Another good way is to buy a copy to give as a gift.
* If you want to leave a review but are struggling, reach out to me and I will help!
* Send your author friends the link to submit their own.
* Check back every Monday to see what books are being featured, help spread the word, and jam some great tunes.

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Below Dark Waters by Katie Zaber: The Featured New Book Spotlight

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My good friend Katie Zaber is back with the next entry in her Dalya series. If you missed out on the first one, you’d better get busy because this is a series that’s building into something that I fully expect to be monumental.

Katie, what song reminds you of Below Dark Waters?

Kid Fears by Indigo Girls

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your childhood fears plague you instead of adult problems? Wouldn’t it be easier to hit rewind and relive your childhood when all you had to be afraid of was the imaginary monster under your bed?

Megan had to grow up fast, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to make adult decisions. She’s constantly second guessing herself, afraid she will screw up or make matters worse. I think she would rather youth’s ignorant bliss than dealing with reality and all the lies she believed.

 

Ooh, so what does THAT mean? Well, you’re going to have to read the book to know!

 

And hey, Katie Zaber? I’m not an Indigo Girls fangirl — I like them well enough, I suppose, for a metal queen — but wow, I like this song. It’s moody. The harmony section fits the book. Nice choice!

So what’s Below Dark Waters about?

 

Princess Megan, who never had a reason to assume she was anything but human, has been on the run, protected by her friends. With each step toward the city of Delmont, she hopes they will have time to regroup before setting sail to the Ka’Pamau Islands, their final destination. Instead, her bad luck shadows her and chaos continues to ensue everywhere she goes—including a new part of the world that most air breathers have yet to explore. Confronted with another royal family and a smitten prince whose advances turn cold, she faces another life-altering decision with ramifications she can’t possibly begin to guess at.

Back on land, Lilly reveals more of her secrets, her story, and her goals. Monumental changes and challenges are headed her way as she embraces her new role in life.

On the sea, Aunt Carmia is stirring up trouble while continuing her hunt for the treasure she most desires. She experiences upheavals, but she is always prepared for the unknown.

As their stories unfold, they remain unaware how fate connects them in the world of Dalya.

 

Whaaaat? The song focused on Megan! What’s with these others?

 

Oh, my friends. Grab a copy and start reading — and yes, you must start with the first. Lucky for you, that’s only one book ago! (Unluckily for all of us, I have no idea where the third book is or how long we’ll have to wait for it.)

Here are your buy links:

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Connect with Katie Zaber!
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And remember, the best way to say thanks to an author for being brave enough to put their book out into the world is to leave a review. If you are struggling with a review, drop me a line and I’ll help you put it into coherence.
If you are an author or have a friend who’s an author, send them to the Featured New Book Submissions page so they, too, can have their turn in the spotlight! It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s painless… it’s one question!
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Gelato Surprise by Sadira Stone — The Featured New Book Spotlight

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Let’s welcome Sadira Stone to West of Mars!

Sadira’s a new-to-me author, and I’m glad to meet her and host her here today. Let’s get right to business:
Sadira Stone, what song makes you think of your book?

Call me corny, but the song that comes to mind when thinking of my steamy older woman/younger man beach romance novella Gelato Surprise is “At Last” as sung by Etta James. This one’s popular at weddings, and for good reason.

Hubs and I are a late-in-life love story. Both divorced, we met while working at the same high school on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany—which makes him my high school sweetheart, I guess. 😊 At our wedding in 2014 my daughter, a gifted singer (proud mama much?), sang “At Last” for our first dance. Reader, there was not a dry eye in the house. I’m so grateful to have found my perfect partner, even if I had to wait 48 years to finally meet him.

Danielle Peters, the heroine of Gelato Surprise, goes through something similar. Forty-two and freshly divorced, Danielle is determined to keep her kids’ lives as normal as possible. But her ex spoils their annual beach vacation by whisking the kids away for a surprise Disney trip, leaving her stuck with a two-week rental. Her friends convince her to take the trip solo, time to think about her next chapter. Skeptical and glum, Danielle heads for the beach alone—until she meets Matteo, a gorgeous young Italian gelato vendor and furniture designer. She agrees to be his pretend date to the town’s Sons of Italy banquet in an effort to thwart the matchmaking nonna mafia, but their first kiss flares into something much hotter than make-believe.

Now she’s faced with an impossible situation: what she promised herself would be a no-strings vacation fling is quickly spinning into a deeper connection, but how can she reconcile that with her responsibilities to her kids?

Here’s a peek at Danielle’s dilemma.

Still holding her hands, Matteo drew her to a patch of shade beneath a cluster of anemic palm trees. He flashed an adorable, shy grin that crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Danielle, I really like you, but I don’t want you to feel like I’m pressuring you to do something you’re not ready for.”

I’m ready! Her id hollered and waved like an over-excited second grader.

He twined his fingers with hers and continued. “Unfortunately, Sal needs me this afternoon, and I’m driving him to Aberdeen tonight. How about tomorrow? We could do a picnic lunch on the beach. There’s a special spot I’d like to show you.” He dipped his head and nuzzled the sensitive crook of her neck. “Are you still up for it? Or have I scared you off with my grabby hands?”

The heat of his breath scrambled her brain. No doubt about it, he wanted her. And she wanted him so badly her teeth ached.

She sucked in a deep breath. “I’ll bet you get a lot of single women tourists throwing themselves at you.”

He shrugged. “A lot of women flirt. Doesn’t mean anything.” He rested his forehead against hers. “I collect drawer pulls, and doorknobs, and picture frames—not women.”

She pressed her lips together and dropped her gaze to their joined hands. This guy definitely earned an A-plus in handholding. Never had such a simple act felt so intimate, so sensual. The way his thumb traced arcs across her knuckles made her imagine what those hands could do on her bare body, stretched out on her king-size bed, the sea breeze lifting the curtains while his hands brushed over her breasts…

Her common sense made a last, futile stand. “Matteo, I’m old enough to be your—”

“No.” He squeezed her hand. “You’re not. Though you are old enough to be my sexy babysitter.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Every guy’s fantasy.”

I love a good May-December romance, and this one looks like sexy fun.

Ready for the description? Although after that intro, you may not. That was a GREAT answer.

She came to the beach to find herself—and found him.

Forty-two-year-old divorcée Danielle Peters ends up alone on her family’s annual beach vacation. Maybe time to herself is exactly what she needs. That and gelato from her favorite ice cream shop. But when the owner’s intoxicating young nephew offers more than sweet treats, she’s tempted to indulge in a hot summer fling before returning home.

Thirty-one-year-old Matteo Verducci craved a fresh start to mend his broken heart, and he’s found almost perfection in Ocean View, where he scoops gelato by day and crafts furniture by night. But when a sexy older woman stops to sample his wares—Mamma mia! He only has two weeks to convince her their passion is more than a delicious surprise.

Need a copy? I bet you do!
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And be sure to connect with Sadira Stone. It’s always fun to get to know the authors whose books you admire and appreciate.
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As always, if you’re a reader, remember that the best way to show appreciation for an author’s work — well, beyond buying copies to share with your friends — is to leave a review. If you’re stuck, struggling, or need help, drop me a line and I’m glad to do so. Remember: I am a former pro book reviewer! I know a few things about book reviews.

And if you’re an author or friends with an author, this spotlight is always open to you! The only requirement is that the book be new to my readers…

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Bear With Me by Marilyn Barr in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Let’s welcome Marilyn Barr to West of Mars today! She’s got a new book out, Bear with Me, and I’m curious. Are you?

Of course. That’s why you’re here.

Marilyn, what song makes you think of your book?

Strawberry Shifters Book 1: Bear with Me is a tale of a failing marriage between two people who love each other just like “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend. Like in the song they “took a vow in summertime” but after 12 years of struggle “now we find ourselves in late December”. They have let their marriage crumble by not learning to communicate, listening to each other, and allowing the pull of financial success (and modern life) to tear them apart. When Grant gets the job opportunity of a lifetime, he asks his wife, Alison, to move to Strawberry KY for the “perfect time of that great surrender”. She decides to give Grant one last chance to prove he will listen to her and treat her as a partner.

Once in Strawberry, Grant is the workaholic he has always been but this time, Alison is not going to sit idly. The couple tentatively pushes boundaries until a car crash changes Grant forever. The cynical Pharma guy is thrust into a paranormal world which he vows to keep secret from Alison. “A wicked snake inside a place I thought was dignified”, Grant’s new Bergan Pharma job is a front for a paranormal nightmare. How can he promise Alison to be open and fight Sluagh demons from Celtic myth at the same time? “I thought that I was free from all the questioning but every time a problem ends, another one begins…”

What Grant doesn’t know is that Alison has a few secrets of her own. Ones that could make her his greatest ally or greatest weakness. He knows about her sensory processing disorder (which I share, #ownvoices) and finds her fascinating instead of strange. However, he treats her disorder as an excuse to keep her isolated from the world. Alison doesn’t want to push it by telling him her other secret she has had from birth until she can’t take it anymore. “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die…”

Will a new place, a fresh start, be enough, or will their magical secrets tear them apart? Find out in Strawberry Shifters Book 1: Bear with Me. #Strawberryshifters

Whoa! I. Am. Hooked.

And this song? Queue it up, folks. This is a new-to-me band (and song, obviously) and it’s now part of my various Spotify playlists. Thanks, Marilyn Barr, for expanding my musical horizons.

Ready to hear what the book’s about? Although, wow, that link to the song pretty much said it all, didn’t it? That might be the most in-depth answer ever, in all the years I’ve been running the New Book Spotlight, and that’s over ten years now!

Blue eyes, dimples, and silky brown hair; Grant Luther has all of Alison’s weaknesses.

When he asks for one last chance to save their marriage, she agrees to relocate their family to isolated Strawberry, Kentucky in pursuit of his career dreams. Grant views Alison’s sensory issues as limitations and protects her from outside threats. When he finds his new job includes changing him into a shifter in a war against the soul-sucking Sluagh he vows to keep the changes a secret. What he doesn’t know is Alison has been hiding a magical secret of her own. One that makes her a target of the Sluagh.

Will Alison emerge from Grant’s shadow to protect her family? And can Grant learn that being different can be a strength not a weakness?

Guys, I am blown away by this concept. There’s so much going on here, so much that’s fresh and yet so much that’s familiar, too. I… gotta read this. Totally got to read it.

Get your copy!
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Lots of options, and not one of them is wrong! Chances are if you’d like to help out an independent bookstore, they can order this for you, as well. Just remember to leave a review when you’re done reading. And, as always, if you need help with your review, contact me and I’ll give you some guidance.

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The Med Bay! #SaysTheEditor

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilIt’s been awhile since I’ve made the time to have things to say!

But it’s the weekend as I’m writing this, and it’s something I thought of as I am working — yes, working on a weekend, but hey, it’s ninety degrees outside and what else is there to do and don’t say clean my house — and thought I’d share right now.

For those of you who write scenes set in a med bay, usually within a fantasy setting, take a second and think. Do ALL of the illnesses your characters come down with require them to be in a bed? Have you ever had an illness or injury that could be dealt with while sitting… in a chair? On a table?

So often, we see hospital wards — and I’m still talking fantasy, primarily — that only have beds. A person gets sick, they’re taken to the med bay, they’re tucked into a bed. You assume the diagnosis is done there, as is anything invasive, and then any and all recovery needs to happen in bed, as well. But… does it need to?

Oh, I’m not pointing a finger at writers who will shrug and say, “That’s how it’s always done. It’s a fixture of fantasy.” To be honest, for all the fantasy I’ve read and edited over my lifetime — and it’s a lot, as it’s a genre I love — I’ve never thought about it until now, mostly because the sick character who triggered this thought doesn’t really need to be tucked into a bed.

As I think about the tradition of med bays and beds, it makes sense that we don’t think about chairs or tables to sit on and that we do think of beds. Most illnesses confine a person to bed, especially before the age of modern medicine. How often do you deal with a migraine by going to bed? And then think about how you feel when your body’s busy fighting off a virus. Pretty lousy and exhausted, and you only want to be in bed. And for things like stitches in your leg, I found out last year that hanging out in bed instead of on the couch… well, it would have kept those stitches from pulling.

Beds in the med bay make perfect sense. I don’t fault a single writer who creates a med bay with only beds in it, especially when that med bay is somewhere with limited space, like on a spaceship.

But then I think about being confined to a hospital room after I had my kids, and how I wanted to sit pretty much anywhere other than the bed. I wanted a chair! Thankfully, I was in a hospital that let me have both a private room and a chair (and that only expressed surprise when I ordered takeout for all my meals; I ate well, especially after the birth of my oldest). I could sit in my chair! And I did! I have the cutest picture of me, my son, and his day-old sister seated in that ugly, wide chair in my hospital room. No, you can’t see it. It’s not digitized, for one, and for another, the kids haven’t given me their permission to post it.

Just something to think about as you work on your worldbuilding. Does your med bay need only beds, or is there room and purpose for a chair or two?

Yes, I’ve got room for new clients! If you’d like to work with me, drop me a line, tell me about your project, and let’s see if we’re a good fit for each other.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: If You Dare by Barbara Meyers

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Let’s welcome Barbara Meyers to West of Mars!

I do owe Barbara an official, public apology. My spam filter got a little aggressive and started dumping all correspondence from my website into spam. Imagine my surprise when I found this sitting there, just days away from being deleted entirely!

But we’re all here now, and life is good. (However, if you don’t hear back from me within a week to 10 days, drop me an email independent of the site. That should go through.)

Now that I’ve taken care of that, let’s get down to business because Barbara’s song for her forthcoming book is one of my all-time favorites. Ready?

Barbara Meyers, what song makes you think of your book?

Evanescence – My Immortal

It’s the first song I thought of when I saw the question, because it makes me think of love and the pain of loss. This song is personal to me because of a tragedy that struck our family and was played at the memorial service. Both the hero and heroine in If You Dare have lost someone important to them, and they find their way through grief together. But still, they never forget the person they loved and lost.

Wow! To be able to hear something so starkly personal and not keep the song only for that memory. That takes strength and an open heart.

The book doesn’t come out until September, but the presale is running, and so here’s what it’s about. Go preorder now and then when it arrives, it’ll be like a gift that magically shows up on your ereader! How can you resist? Your future self will thank you. Here’s why?

Can a man evolve from arrogant ass to Father of the Year?

Doug Winston looks into his newborn daughter’s eyes and vows to become the kind of man and father worthy of her. But he first must navigate the mess he’s made of his life.

Doug’s wife has left him. His baby mama dies and to avenge her death her sister, Josie, wants to prove him unfit and attain custody. The teenage son he raised despises him, the father he worships disowns him, and a child Doug never knew he’d fathered arrives on his doorstep.

As Doug embarks on his quest to live authentically, to make amends where he can and build relationships with his children and with Josie, he discovers that the father for whom he was never good enough is part of a vast criminal network.

Just as Doug and Josie cross the line from hate to love, and Doug has cobbled together the family he always wanted, can he bring the man he once idolized to justice in order to protect them all?

That’s some description, huh? I love a good redemption story.

Like I said, preorder your copy!
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And connect with Barbara Meyers online. You’ll be glad you did.
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As always, remember to leave a review once you’ve read the book. Reviews help in many ways! If you’re unsure your review will pass muster, I’m always willing to help out. Drop me a line, although if you don’t hear back, contact me directly!

And, as always, if you’re an author, I’d love to host you for a day. If you’re not an author but have a friend who is, send ’em on over! The only requirement is that the book be new to my readers. I’ll let you decide what exactly that means.

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Featured New Book: Ashes and Blood by Katie Zaber

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Book cover

Book Cover for book by Katie Zaber, Ashes and Blood

I can not WAIT to tell you guys about this book!

I’ve read it and I love it. So you all now need to go get your own copy and see how right I am.

As I said, this is Katie Zaber’s debut — wait. I didn’t say that. Well, now I am! It’s also the first in a series and I doubt I’m the only one foaming at the mouth for the next book. I use a mechanical keyboard, so this is NOT a good habit I’ve developed, let me tell you… plus the neighbors are a bit worried… okay, more than usual…

Katie, what song makes you think of your book?

Swan Dive by Ani DiFranco
There is nothing like diving into an adventure, especially when you have no clue where your feet will land… or if they will ever hit solid ground again. And after impact, will you have the strength to get up?

The song “Swan Dive” reminds me of Megan, the main character in Ashes and Blood. She is more pragmatic and sticks to her morals. When faced with impossible decisions, she still does what she believes is right, even if the outcome destroys her.

Yeah, I can see this… this is also new to me. I love it when you guys expand my musical horizons. (Really, this is why I love this feature so much. I get to learn stuff!)

Need the cover copy?

“I’ll start at the beginning. Long ago, before roads, before we built structures, before medicine was discovered, before the government was created, before man gained any knowledge, there were The Five. Independent from each other, The Five had a mutual respect for one another. They knew their roles in the world and their duty. They were gods…”

An adventure begins when an otherworldly tree captures the attention of Megan and her friends. The environment morphs around them, transferring them to an exotic planet. Stuck in a rural town still maimed by the plague, a chance encounter with a familiar face gives Megan and her friends some security during their adjustment period.

While settling into new, promising lives, they are attacked and stalked by planet Dalya’s humanoid inhabitants, who focus on Megan. One dark night, after an epic, magical attack, the Fae King’s knight is sent to fetch Megan. When she wakes up a prisoner, she learns that there is much more to this strange world, and it is oddly more like her own than she ever would have expected.

Guys, this doesn’t do the storyline justice! There is SO MUCH to this story and it’s new and it’s fresh and if you can’t tell how high I am on it, well, you’re not reading carefully enough.

Get yours!
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And, of course, connect with Katie! She is lovely and fierce and all sorts of good things. You’ll be glad she’s part of your life. I know I am.
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Remember, once you’ve read this, be sure to leave a review! Reviews help books find new readers, and YES it is okay to leave a thoughtful, negative review if the book doesn’t work for you. But this one will. No worries there. And if you’re struggling with reviews, be sure to reach out. I’m more than glad to help.

Also, be sure to send over your author friends for their turn in the spotlight! Here’s the link to the handy-dandy form.

Featured New Book Spotlight

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Thank You, Garden by Liz Garton Scanlon

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book cover; Thank You, Garden How awesome is the cover for Liz Garton Scanlon’s book, Thank You, Garden? Every time I see it, I just want to break out into a smile. Okay, I don’t just want to. I actually do. This is the happiness we all need right now.

So I’m especially glad Liz Garton Scanlon stopped in today to visit with us and tell us about her new book.

Liz, what song makes you think of your book?

I love Guy Clark’s Homegrown Tomatoes.

I think lots of folks immediately imagine the work involved in gardening but this song is all about the rewards, the pleasure, and the deliciousness that make the digging and tilling and weeding worthwhile!

This song is AMAZING. It’s so perfectly representative of its time and it, too, is making me smile as I’m listening to it.

Can we talk about how Liz focuses on the GOOD parts of gardening? I think we all need that, too. Especially if you’re like me and don’t like digging holes. Once they’re in, I’ll tend to them. But that planting day? I shudder. I do.

Liz, tell us more about Thank You, Garden:

In THANK YOU, GARDEN — written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Simone Shin — a community garden unites neighbors in a celebration of all the things that grow there, from flowers and fruits to friendships. This ode to working together for a better world will have young readers wanting to plant gardens of their own!

My daughter’s headed to a college that has a partnership with their local community and supports a community garden. She’s already expressed interest in it (having zero interest in helping me in our own home, of course!), and so I doubly love all this garden love right now. Fresh food! Community! Breaking down barriers!

I am SO there.

Pick up a copy!
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Connect with Liz Garton Scanlon, because she’s pretty darn cool.
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And, as always, the best way to give props to an author, short of buying their books for ALL your friends, is to leave a review. If you’re struggling and need help, reach out to me. Good writing takes both practice and instruction, and I’m glad to help.

Featured New Book Spotlight
Also, if you’re an author or have friends who are, don’t wait to be invited into the spotlight. It’s always open, ready to shine on you. Here’s the handy-dandy form.

book cover; Thank You, Garden

Book Cover, Thank You, Garden

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Featured New Book Spotlight: A Stolen Heart by Kayelle Allen

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It’s an absolute honor to welcome Kayelle Allen back to West of Mars today. She’s one of my favorites in the book world because she’s all class, all the time, and her books… the scope of her imagination blows me away.

Today, actually, is the release for her newest book, A Stolen Heart. It’s part of the Antonello Brothers series, if you’re familiar with that series. (If not, what are you waiting for? Well, okay, finish reading the post and THEN go check it out.)

Kayelle Allen, what song reminds you of your book?

Uprising — that’s the song I played when writing A Stolen Heart. Recorded by Audiomachine, it has Latin lyrics, which is fine — I wouldn’t understand the language of my immortals either. It could just as well be sung in their Naro. The rhythm, the majestic sweep of notes, the latent force behind the song all speaks to my spirit. The hero, Luc, is a general who’s “retired” for this lifetime. Uprising could be his anthem. Listen to it and you’ll hear the troops he’s led to victory, and encouraged during defeat. Uprising his a powerful song for a powerful hero.

Was this song written for a movie soundtrack? I love it! This would indeed be awesome to work to.

Ready for the book description? I sure am.

When he rescues a half-human orphan, a glorified space pirate turned entrepreneur sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to topple the powerful Thieves’ Guild he once led.
Multiple layers of conspiracy unfold, reaching all the way to Luc’s immortal ex–the king. Hidden behind each mystery he solves looms an unseen foe, undoing the good Luc accomplishes. For the sake of this child, Luc must postpone his own freedom and master his desire for revenge or he will violate an ancient vow. Worse, he’ll put the toddler at risk.

At war with his compassion for the vulnerable, loyalty to the king, duty to the Guild, and the bright lure of freedom he’s coveted for centuries, Luc seeks the right path. Will he choose liberty and unparalleled success, or restore the Thieves’ Guild to its former glory while overseeing the child’s training?

A hard choice for any man. For an immortal whose inner monster can destroy on sight? Impossible.

A pirate with a monstrous past can never be trusted with an innocent child. Luc must ensure the child is protected, safe, nowhere near danger. Nowhere near him. Even if this little boy has already stolen his heart…

Okay, I’m hooked. Totally and completely. Are you?

The book’s available TODAY, but only on Kindle.

And I usually write a short intro inviting you to connect with Kayelle Allen, but she’s got that covered, too! Check it!
Kayelle Allen writes space opera with larger than life, unforgettable characters. Come walk in her worlds and meet her misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, immortal gamers, and warriors who purr.

(I love her intro so much!)

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Remember, if you’re an author, here’s the link for your own turn in the spotlight. And if you’re a reader (no “just” or “only” around here; readers are important people!), the best thing you can do for a book is to leave a review. If you need help, holler. Reviews are both an art and utterly simple, but if you’re struggling, reach out and I’m glad to help.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: A King Under Seige by Mercedes Rochelle

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Let’s welcome Mercedes Rochelle to West of Mars! Yay!

I love the cover of her book, don’t you? It’s so perfectly period and yes, it makes me want to pick this up and read it. (I know. I want to read almost everything!)

This is the first in a new series, friends! The series is called The Plantagenet Legacy, and that says a lot right there too, doesn’t it? The cover makes even more sense.

So… Mercedes Rochelle, what song makes you think of your book?

I AM THE COMMON MAN by the Battlefield Band.

What better song for the Peasants’ Revolt in my novel, A KING UNDER SIEGE? In 1381, fed up with their mistreatment and the Poll Tax used to support the government’s reckless spending, the common man rose and terrorized England. Only the quick thinking of 14 year-old King Richard II saved London from destruction, though he was nearly a victim, himself. Here are the lyrics:

I am the Common Man.
I am the brute and the slave.
I am the fool, the despised,
From the cradle to the grave.
I am the hewer of coal.
I am the tiller of soil.
I am serf of the seas,
Born to bear and to toil.
I am the builder of halls.
I am the dweller of slums.
I am the filth and the scourge
When winter’s depression comes.
I am the fighter of wars.
I am the killer of men,
Not for a day or an age,
But again and again and again.
I am the Common Man,
But, Masters of mine, take heed,
For you have put into my head
Oh! Many a wicked deed.

If you’d like to listen, it begins at the 36:48, so use that fast forward button first and then go back and listen to the whole thing.

I’m intrigued. Are you? I hope so!

How about the cover copy, so you know exactly what the plot is?

Richard II found himself under siege not once, but twice in his minority. Crowned king at age ten, he was only fourteen when the Peasants’ Revolt terrorized London. But he proved himself every bit the Plantagenet successor, facing Wat Tyler and the rebels when all seemed lost. Alas, his triumph was short-lived, and for the next ten years he struggled to assert himself against his uncles and increasingly hostile nobles. Just like in the days of his great-grandfather Edward II, vengeful magnates strove to separate him from his friends and advisors, and even threatened to depose him if he refused to do their bidding. The Lords Appellant, as they came to be known, purged the royal household with the help of the Merciless Parliament. They murdered his closest allies, leaving the King alone and defenseless. He would never forget his humiliation at the hands of his subjects. Richard’s inability to protect his adherents would haunt him for the rest of his life, and he vowed that next time, retribution would be his.

I have so much respect for historical authors, I can’t tell you. The depths of their knowledge, the hours spent researching, the details they have to get right… My hat’s off to you, Mercedes and all of you who put in the time and work to make historical writing such an amazing thing.

Yeah… I totally am adding this to my wish list. Are you? Or are you just ready to grab a copy? Amazon only, I’m afraid.
Amazon US
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Connect with Mercedes Rochelle, too! She’d love to get to know you.
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Remember, the best way to say thanks to an author is to share his/her/their book with your friends and reading circle. The second best way is to write an online review. If you’re struggling with the latter, I’m glad to help. Just drop me a note and we’ll work it out.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: The Hunter: Tales of Pern Coen by Hannah Carey

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Let’s welcome my friend Hannah Carey to West of Mars!

I have read The Hunter, and I think you guys will really like it. So I’m SUPER glad she stopped in today to tell us about it!

Hannah, what song makes you think of your book?

Karliene — The Wolf and the Moon – Queen of Camelot

This song is a bit off the beaten path but the lyrics feel like they fit for the two main characters of “The Hunter”; Rhiannon and Conor. The wounded wolf perfectly describes Conor, especially at the start of the story. Conor, who is from the Wolf Clan, has had his whole life destroyed due to war and is struggling with the loss of his family and his home. Rhiannon comes into Conor’s life unexpectedly. As they both begin to confront the blows that they’ve been dealt, a relationship blossoms between them and they begin to help one another heal.

Yep, this is a totally new artist to me! Cool! The song is haunting and evocative. Check it out. I can see it fitting with The Hunter.

Hannah, what’s the official book description?

Confronted with the truth of her past and betrayed by her uncle, she is forced into the clutches of a vengeful outlaw. For Duchess Rhiannon of Solis, her summer stay at Vara Palace is her first taste of freedom. With her uncle, Emperor Stelios of Kelnore, occupied with his war on the island of Pern Coen, Rhiannon is able to live her life away from his hostile and manipulative influence. But her freedom is destined to end with an arranged marriage to her uncle’s steward awaiting her in the empire’s capitol city. Before Rhiannon can resign herself to her fate, she is confronted by a stranger carrying information linking her to the island across the channel. Rhiannon must deal with the stranger’s unnerving allegations and contend with her uncle’s treachery as she finds herself in the hands of Pern Coen’s most ruthless outlaw. A man the people of the island call “The Hunter”.

Ooohhhh…. guys… enemies to lovers?

Grab a copy! It’s unfortunately Amazon only, but your local indie bookstore should be able to order it anyway. I think? I don’t know. Give it a try and let me know!

Also, connect with Hannah Carey. She’s awesome, so you’ll be glad you did.
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Before you go, let me remind you that leaving a few words of review is the second best way to show support for an author. (The first is to share the book with all your friends and family.) If you need help, I’m glad to help you with your review writing skills. Drop me a line.

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Comments Matter

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My daughter is a high school senior.

Maybe you’ve seen the comments on social media about how these kids are getting hosed. They are. I, as a parent, am. After all, this is my youngest, my baby. I don’t get the milestone closure of her graduation ceremony that will begin my transition summer into being an empty nester. I may not even get the transition summer.

But this isn’t is post to mourn these losses, although they are real and they are significant and I encourage anyone who’s feeling it to, yes, grieve and mourn. Us, our kids, our families… it’s a true loss.

Nope.

This post is about something bigger, deeper. It’s about what my daughter’s high school class has done: they’re submitting pictures of themselves along with their post-graduation plans. It’s a substitute for the traditional May 1 college shirt reveal day. I love it.

But as I’m looking at it, I’m realizing it’s so much more.

It’s their way of signing each other’s yearbooks. It’s their graduation program, where these plans are printed (aren’t they? The more I think, the more I think maybe they’re not. But I know they are in the band concert program!).

But let’s focus on the signing each other’s yearbooks aspect. There are a lot of “I love you!” and “Good luck in the next four!” comments, but there are also a number that gave me pause. The young man who announced his plan is to be a career firefighter, and someone left a comment that said along the lines of, “I remember you talking about this when we were young. Glad to see you doing it.”

That touched me.

That one comment told a story. Of a friendship that drifted apart, but that there’s still a tie, a connection. That the young firefighter never wavered in his commitment to reach this goal — and in a district like ours, one of the top in the country, that could not have been an easy goal to keep.

I felt privileged to see these comments.

They may not feel like much now, but one day, these kids will get their yearbooks. Almost half of their senior year won’t be in there: it all shut down after the high school musical. And they won’t be given a chance to write platitudes and even things of meaning in them. And one day, they’ll look back at this Instagram they collaborated on and that’s where it’ll be. Archived. Waiting.

Comments matter. Maybe not today, but down the road, they will matter.

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