Saturday, September 20, 2014

King of Bad



Hey everybody, my name is Kai Strand. I was unpacking books at a signing and came across a copy of King of Bad with a torn cover. Bummer. I can’t sell that! But my loss is your gain. Because I can hold a giveaway instead!

 

Along with a slightly damaged copy of King of Bad, I’m also giving away several sets of character trading cards. These cards have been specially designed for book one in the series. There will be a separate set of cards designed for each book – so be among the first to own a set.


About the book:

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Available in print or electronic: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

Excerpt:

Jeff admired the growth of the flames as they devoured wads of paper and fast food wrappers in the wire mesh trashcan. He slipped the book of matches into his pocket and sat back on his heels to admire his work. One side of the can merely smoldered so he blew gently to fan the guttering flame. It reminded him of how blowing on Jasmine’s neck the night before had resulted in a lovely arch of her back. He growled a throaty sigh, remembering Jasmine’s blissful distraction as he’d nibbled her earlobe.

“ Hey!”

Jeff glanced over his shoulder. A man, who looked like he belonged behind a desk in a downtown high rise, jogged toward him.

“ Ah, the sweet sounds of discipline.” Jeff stood, stuffed his fists in the front pockets of his jeans and shook the long bangs out of his eyes. He half expected the guy’s slick-soled business shoes to slip as he jogged across visitor parking. This was Jeff’s favorite part. Almost getting caught. When the guy was a baseball’s toss away, Jeff turned. He walked a couple steps then skipped up into a jog.

“ Kid, stop!”

Jeff chuckled to himself and said, “Yeah, sure,” and loped across the soccer field.

“ Wait a minute.”

Jeff stole a look over his shoulder. The guy was close even though he didn’t seem to be running very fast. Jeff grinned at him and increased his pace. A seven-foot tall chain link fence ringed in the far side of the field to prevent stray soccer balls from breaking the windows of passing cars on the street below. Jeff leaped onto the fence without slowing down and in two cat-like movements, launched himself over the top. He dropped to the ground, landing on a hill pocked with gopher holes, as easily as if he were jumping around in a bounce house. He smoothly transitioned back into a sprint and dashed across the street, startling a lady driving an SUV.

“ Kid, hold up.”

Jeff almost tripped; the guy was half way across the street already. He smirked, finally a decent chase, but not for long. With little effort, Jeff stepped up to a blurring speed. He dashed up a peaceful street that ran perpendicular to the school, where kids rode bikes and ran through sprinklers. Jeff recognized one of the “good” kids from school, washing a ’57 step-side Chevy.

“ Sweet ride,” Jeff called out. The kid looked up at him, but then snapped his head to the left. That guy cannot be that close! Jeff looked over his shoulder to find the guy was only a house length behind him. Holy crap, Batman. No one ever keeps up with me!

For the first time in a long time, Jeff worried. But only a little. With a deep, fortifying breath he pumped his thigh muscles harder. He whizzed past houses so fast he doubted anyone would be able to describe him if they were asked to later. Tears streamed sideways from the force of the wind his speed created. He’d only started to breathe a bit more heavily than normal. Jeff was built to run.

“ Kid, hold on just a second.”

Jeff stumbled, but regained his footing again before becoming road rash. The guy sounded as if he was only a bus length away. How can that be? No one runs as fast as I do. Jeff’s lungs constricted. An alien emotion, panic, budded in his chest. Stay focused. Controlled, deep breaths allowed calming oxygen into his lungs and up to his brain and Jeff’s airways opened fully again.

Real speed required concentration. Jeff concentrated on his thigh muscles. Usually he only bothered to think about the front muscles in order to ignite his unusual speed, but this time he thought about the sinewy, sleek muscles that wrapped gracefully around the larger front muscles. He envisioned how the smaller muscles provided strength and support to the larger working muscle. He pictured that strength extending into his gluteus maximus to sustain a strong stride. The resulting speed was completely inhuman.

 Reviews:

I loved the world building! It made me wish I was part of it. Strand does a fantastic job of making the world of King of Bad seem like it's a real thing. -Heather

Kind of Bad sucks you in from the first page and doesn't let you go. I couldn't put it down! –Amazon Review

About the author:

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.





Monday, September 15, 2014

Skye (Diver) Taylor

I’m pleased to welcome fellow Belle Book author, Skye Taylor, back to Book Blather. Her new book, Loving Meg, deals with a timely issue, specifically, the re-adjustment of those whose serve in the military when they return home. Skye lives in a bungalow on a barrier island in Florida where she divides her time between writing novels, walking the beach, and trying to keep her to-be-read pile from taking over the house. She considers life an adventure and after all of her kids were on their own, she spent two years in the South Pacific with the Peace Corps. Skye has five grown children and fourteen grandchildren. She's a member of Florida Writer's Association, RWA, and Ancient City Romance Authors. As you can see, Skye’s latest adventure involves jumping out of an airplane.


While LOVING MEG is definitely a romance, it also deals with a very timely and difficult issue - the readjustment our service men and women have to make when they return to the civilian world after living and working in a war zone. Our young men and women leave on their first deployments filled with patriotic zeal and altruistic motives of bringing a better life to people who've known nothing but war and strife. All of them come home changed forever. 

The fact that in this story, it is a woman who is returning home makes it even more timely since while the general public has begun to accept that there are serious issues to be faced by returning soldiers, most either don't know or choose not to believe that women are now serving in places just as dangerous as our men. Not just as nurses (like MASH or China Beach), although that too is fraught with danger. But in today's world, women carry weapons. They fire on and kill the enemy. They fly planes and helicopters on dangerous missions. Today's wars don't have easily defined front lines as wars in the past have had. Women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are just as much on the front lines as any man even though the military has, as yet, not allowed women to serve as ordinary infantry soldiers. 


Meg is a Marine MP and it is her job to escort convoys over difficult routes that are often booby trapped with IEDs. She has been trained to suspect dangerous routes and possible IEDs and how to best avoid such places when possible. Many military units are also accompanied by Military Working Dogs who have been trained to sniff out bombs. It is a combination of soldiers trained as Meg was and the dogs with their handlers who have saved countless American lives by finding and disarming the lethal IEDs that lace so many of the roads, public places and buildings. 

Another relatively new and almost entirely grass roots effort is the training and pairing of "Service Dogs" and returned veterans who are struggling with the adjustment back to civilian life, PTSD, Traumatic Brain injury and more. Years ago, when my brother returned from a year in Vietnam, having been wounded and returned to the war, it took him years to adjust. If a car backfired, his first instinct was to hit the dirt and look for a place to hide. And then, of course, was the inevitable embarrassment to cope with. Even simple every day tasks that you never think about can become enormous barriers to coping with day to day living.

Consider how casually you walk up to an ATM and slip in your bank card to ask for cash. Then consider the returned veteran, who for months has had to keep an eye out for danger every moment. In the war zone, when he moved forward into danger, he had buddies watching his back. But now he has to walk up to this machine with his back to the world, unable to see possible danger while he conducts that simple transaction. Rationally, his mind tells him he's home in the US and there are not snipers on rooftops looking to take him out or innocent looking children with explosives hidden under their clothing, but his training and habit still sense danger.

 Walking down a grocery aisle is another challenge. Danger could lurk at either end of the aisle and there's only one way out.  But when a veteran has a service dog, trained to understand his needs and fears, suddenly he does have someone watching his back. He can relax, and withdraw his cash, or select his groceries while the dog keeps watch. Service animals do so much more than just watching their soldier's back. They help them stay calm when panic threatens. These dogs short circuit emotional spirals before they get out of control and help the veteran to combat depression, anger and nightmares. Service dogs are changing the way troubled veterans learn to cope. They are bringing hope where so often there was only despair. They are making a difference. One soldier, one dog at a time. 


The hero of LOVING MEG raises and trains dogs for police work, but now Ben wants to add a whole new program to his career and begin training dogs as service animals for soldiers. But standing in his way is Meg. She is struggling to figure out where she fits into her civilian life as wife and mother and trying to leave the war behind. But she's skeptical about the role dogs can play in this transition. Ben needs money to fund this new program and build the needed facility, but he needs Meg's signature on the mortgage application and she's not convinced that dogs can make a difference.  

Ben and Meg have loved each other for a very long time. They are best friends, lovers, husband and wife and parents. They've been through a lot together. But now they are facing the biggest challenge to their relationship and their love. Ben is a patient man and Meg is not a quitter, but will that be enough to help them over this daunting hurdle?

Want more from Skye Taylor? Check out her earlier book, FALLING FOR ZOE.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Never Forget


My guest this week is author Heather Ashby, a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for her Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation which supports wounded warriors and their families. Never Forget is Book #3 in her series, “Love in the Fleet” published by NY Times best selling author, Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to score a copy of Never Forget. Welcome to Book Blather, Heather.

Where did you get the idea for this book?

First of all, thanks for inviting me today, Marilee, and letting me share Never Forget with your readers. I write love stories set at Naval Station Mayport, Florida where I live. When I read that Mayport would be receiving amphibious assault ships in 2014, I researched the ships. The idea of the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow stem of one of them, the USS New York, grabbed my attention. It took me a few weeks to get past the “I can’t do this; it wouldn’t be right,” to realize that if I didn’t write it, somebody else would. As a Navy veteran, Navy wife, Marine Corps daughter, and mother of an Army infantryman who has fought in the War on Terror, I felt I was qualified. I figured if I could empower the spirit characters with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victims to victors.

A British Royal Naval officer visiting Mayport a few years back had already given me the idea for the officer exchange program. This allowed me to not only write the love story of Gwyn and Adam aboard the New York, but also the story of the officer Gwyn trades with. Nick, who is the tie to Books #1 and #2 in the series, goes to Gwyn’s former ship, the HMS Atlantic, and—as characters do in romance novels—falls in love, too. This makes Never Forget a two-for-one romance novel.

Do you anticipate criticism due to the book's connection with 9/11?

I wouldn’t be surprised. Heck, I was upset with the premise in the beginning. However, I would ask those critics to please read the book first and then share their criticisms with me. A review by Romance Junkies says: “A beautiful tribute to the victims of 9/11.” Rita Clay Estrada, for whom the Rita Awards are named, called it: “A BIG package that delivers BIG stories with characters you’ll love. A can’t-put-down read!”

How did you get your start in writing military romance?

Suzanne Brockmann and Merline Lovelace were some of the authors who got me through my son’s deployments, because I knew the military heroes would come home safe and whole at the ends of their books. While I was reading, the muses whispered in my ear, reminding me that I was a military vet and a writer. They went on to suggest that I think about writing a military novel of my own. Once my son was safely home and out of the Army, I did just that—with the added incentive to donate half my royalties in support of military families who had not fared as well as mine did in the War on Terror.

There are rumors that the handsome cover model on your books is your son. Any truth to that?
I could give you the standard military answer of: “I can neither confirm nor deny that, ma’am,” but I’m just so ding-dang proud of him that I will admit that—YES—my son is the cover model. I have to laugh when readers write and mention that they feel funny saying “your son is hot.” I liken the situation to sexy firefighters who pose for calendars to raise funds for a worthy cause. My son is totally on board with supporting Fisher House Foundation—enough to sink to the level of being a proud Army Infantryman who dons Navy and Marine Corps uniforms for a good cause.

What's next for you? A dozen spirits are introduced in Never Forget. Don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say that some of them are able to leave the USS New York and go to the light by the end of the book—with more becoming eligible by the end of Book #4. My Marine Corps advisor and I have already begun Unforgettable (March, 2015). Let me give a shout out to Christopher Bergeron here, because not only does he help me write about amphibious assault ships and Marines, but he’s also the photographer for “Love in the Fleet’s” awesome covers. Seeds for the love story in Unforgettable are planted in Never Forget. By the way, all the books in the series read as stand-alone books, but I think they’re more fun to read in order. Check out Amberhousebooks.com or my website, heatherashby.com for details on the other books.

Let me leave you with a little teaser for Unforgettable: Besides the rest of the spirits trying to pass to the other side and a hot love story between two pilots, picture “Black Hawk Down” on the Horn of Africa, but with a blond, female, American pilot this time.

Thanks for inviting me today, Marilee. I’ll be spending 9/11 with a tissue box, a notepad, and a marathon of 9/11 footage on TV. It helps me empathize with the victims’ families, understand my characters better, and never forget. I’m curious how your readers honor 9/11. Or perhaps, they have a special story about hearing the news on September 11, 2001. I have a digital copy of Never Forget for one lucky commenter.


BLURB:

With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow,
what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York
than the sailors and Marines stationed there?

And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?

When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard the USS New York, she’s the only person who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, she learns the ghosts must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side. The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor is wrestling with his own issues, but when he learns Gwyn is seeing ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant...and her lover.

Passions rise to fever pitch when the New York rushes to liberate hostages in North Africa. Can the spirits provide the right intelligence for the Marines to save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?




Never Forget http://amzn.to/1lFC9Ua
Twitter: www.@HAshbyAuthor
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author









Monday, September 1, 2014

Quilt by Association - Meet Arlene Sachitano

I recently took part in an author fair in Lincoln City, Oregon. Because over fifty authors participated, two authors shared each table. I set up my display, taking care to use only my half. Shortly after, my tablemate, Arlene Sachitano, appeared. Her quilted table cover immediately caught my interest. When she unpacked her books and placed them on the table, I was hooked. Who wouldn’t be with titles like Make Quilts Not War, Quilt by Association, A Quilt Before the Storm? I had to know more. She kindly agreed to share her story. I’m pleased to welcome Arlene Sachitano, the author of cozy mysteries, to Book Blather.



1.    Your quilting cozies feature protagonist Harriet Truman. Any relation to Harry?

 Yes, many times removed. I have a friend named Jefferson Davis and I noticed that every time someone met him, he had to explain his name. I wanted Harriet’s parents to have done that to her. They are somewhat inconsiderate of her.

2.     Is there a little bit of Arlene in Harriet?

I’m sure there is-- but remember there is a little bit of Arlene in each of my killers too! Any character you create has your knowledge base, so that has to bleed through somewhere in each of them.


You live in Oregon, yet the setting for your quilting mysteries is in the fictional Foggy Point, Washington. How did that come about?

My best friend Susan and her husband had a house in Port Townsend, Washington for five years. We spent Thanksgiving there during those years as well as visiting other times. It is a beautiful area, but more important, it is surrounded by water on three sides, limiting the roads in and out. It also restricts big box stores to the outer perimeter of the town. All those elements are helpful in creating a town where you want to kill people. Isolation, lack of a large police force and a limited population are all ingredients necessary for  a cozy mystery. Foggy Point has a slightly larger population than Port Townsend, because you need more people if you are going to have the higher death rate necessary in a mystery series.
                                                                         
      The quilting group in your mysteries has at least twenty members. Do you plan to feature each one in a book?

There are ten key players, Harriet and Lauren, Aunt Beth, Mavis and Connie, Robin and DeAnn, Jenny, Carla and Sarah with Detective Morse and Criminalist Darcy Lewis as part time members. We also see the quilt store owner, Marjory Swain in some of the episodes and the “token male” restaurant owner Jorge Perez. Whether they are featured or not is dictated by the story. Robin being an attorney brings her into many of the stories.


      Your book Chip and Die features a different protagonist, Harley Spring, and isn’t about quilting. What prompted you to write this book?

Chip and Die was my first book. People say ‘write what you know’ so I gave Harley my old job - production supervisor in a high-tech factory. I soon realized that if you had to write what you really know, there would be few murder mysteries. I did work with a woman who had an ex-husband who tried to kill her twice-once at work! One of my employees was arrested for murder also - so my book is not as far from the truth as we would all hope. The book is not technical but rather about people in groups.

       Tell us about your journey to publication.

 I did all the usual things to get published. I sent out a lot of query letters to agents and publishers. I got an agent who was pretty much a fraud. At the same time, I had a mystery writing teacher who led several of us to a short story opportunity, providing the much sought after ‘clippings’. I belong to Sisters-in-Crime, a writing organization that supports woman mystery writers, and read the group email lists. Someone made a post about my publisher wanting to add a few mystery writers to its collection of SF and romance writers. I queried and the rest is history.
                                                     
      Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

My advice is two-fold. First, take classes to learn about writing - story structure, character development, etc.  There is a great book called Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. This book has examples of good writing as well as lots of exercises for you to do. Second, work at it. Write a lot and finish stories you start. My mentor told me many people start books, few finish.
                                                                     
       What do you read for pleasure?

 I have very eclectic tastes. I read Young Adult Dystopian fiction, murder mysteries of all sub-genre, a little romance, a little science fiction and science fantasy, some historical, I read lots of non-fiction about forensics.  


      You are also an accomplished knitter. Any plans for a knitting mystery? Perhaps solving a death by knitting needle?

I am planning a knitting mystery!


Check out Arlene's books here:  http://amzn.com/B00JII8T4O