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To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, by Andra Watkins, is Literary, Unique, and Absorbing

To Live ForeverThis book is a hard one to review. When that happens to me, it is  usually because I liked the book so much that I can’t find the words to give it justice or that the book was so unique, undefined in genre, and really hard to put your finger on to explain to anyone other than to beg them to read it. In the case of Andra Watkins’ To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, both of these scenarios are the case. Sometimes a book you just feel and hop inside and get lost in–this was one of those books.

With amazing sentence structure and description, original word choices and phrases, and literary techniques that take talent or practice to perfect, this novel is an achievement in fiction. As Watkins’ debut novel, An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis reads as if a classic, seasoned author penned it. It’s superb plot, subtle nuances, and plot twists and points that left you guessing or thinking all worked together in order to bring out the genius of this book. I applaud Watkins for her stepping out of the box in regards to her fiction writing and taking a chance on marketing to readers. It’s pure literary fiction, but one that most readers can enjoy. Literary fiction as this is like art–it’s fluid, ornate, and does not like strict boundaries or edges.

With having a bachelor degree in English, I read a lot of literature at the University. It cemented my love for the obscure books that value creative writing rather than cookie-cutter, assembly line mainstream novels that many bestselling authors publish. Watkins novel is definitely one that can be used in classes now in order to teach how creative writing can let go and still be…..well….creative and quirky. The depth and atmosphere of the novel moved me, absorbed me, and I’ll be reading this one again (something I rarely do).

So since I’ve said that it doesn’t fit “into a box” or genre, it makes it hard to recommend to readers. Many read only certain types of books in certain genres. I ask you today to think about reading outside your comfort zone. Let the art of her words take you away to a place of enlightened reading. It can be considered historical because one of the main characters is Meriwether Lewis, a very famous man in history (Lewis and Clark, of course), yet really it’s his ghost that is helping the protagonist (a little girl) in the novel as she runs from a deranged judge. Yes, I did say his ghost. The story is in the late 1970s so it isn’t really set in the exploration days of the celebrity duo. It’s more paranormal, but not probably in the way that mainstream is now defining paranormal. It’s otherworldly and fantastical, inventive and entertaining, yet not creepy or scary.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone as long as you keep an open mind and don’t try to categorize it in any way beyond literary creative fiction. Read for pleasure and taste every word. This is a great for a summer vacation or vacation day because it’s so addictive you’ll read it without ever getting up.

Watch for my interesting interview with Andra Watkin’s tomorrow (Tuesday, April 22)!

TO LIVE FOREVER: AN AFTERLIFE JOURNEY OF MERIWETHER LEWIS, Synopsis~

To Live ForeverPublication Date: March 1, 2014
World Hermit Press
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.

Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.

Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.

Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.

It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.

Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.

To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?

After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.

Read an Excerpt HERE.

Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle Ebook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook Ebook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)

About the Author

Andra WatkinsHey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina home for 23 years.

I’m the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, which published March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

I like:

hiking
eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
time with my friends
Sirius XM Chill
yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
writing in bed
candlelight

I don’t like:

getting up in the morning
cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
house cleaning
cooking

Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Google+
Pinterest

Natchez Trace Walk

The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.

Natchez map

To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.

I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.

I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at:  mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/toliveforevertour

Tour Hashtag: #ToLiveForeverTour

To Live Forever_Tour Banner_FINAL

 

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What Stories Creep Around the Mind of a Horror Writer? Revisiting Dead of Winter by Brian Moreland

During October, we had some frightful fun with the horror genre and I posted a review of the book Dead of Winter, by Brian Moreland. Remember that one? Scary as it was, it was my favorite book of 2011. It’s not for the faint of heart…it’s  chilling and there is gore, but it’s one of the most well-written novels I’ve read. The history component is also superb and I love how he mixes different genres.

With all that said, I’m revisiting my blog with Brian again today, because since my post in October, Dead of Winter has released in PAPERBACK!!! Now is your chance, if you don’t have an e-reader or prefer paper, to grab a copy! And if you are reading
e-books, of course you can get that version too.  Here’s the link to Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Winter-Brian-Moreland/dp/1609286634/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331266041&sr=1-2

I’m also revisiting the topic, because my INTERVIEW #2 with Brian Moreland, something that I promised months ago (*hand on head*), will be published next week!! Learn how his Grandfather influenced his debut novel Shadows in the Mist. Catch what twisted plot his newest novel might unravel.  And you never know what I might ask, right? So you won’t want to miss it.  Read my last interview below at the link if you haven’t already, check out his book (or even read it), and then come back for another amazing interview session.

Have any questions YOU want to ask Brian? Email them to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com and I’ll be sure to add them in (leave your first name, and the state you’re from, with the question)!!

Here is the LINK to the BLOG POST with BRIAN from October, including the exclusive, amazing interview I did with him in which he really delves into what makes him tick as an author and reveals more than you can imagine to readers. Check out the review (and remember it is NOW IN PAPERBACK too), then keep reading for the interview:

REVIEW of DEAD of WINTER and INTERVIEW:  https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/dead-of-winter-by-brian-moreland-is-dead-ringer-for-book-of-the-year/

Want to learn more about Brian Moreland and/or his books? Check out his site at www.BrianMoreland.com.

What else is coming up?? More spine tingling fun!

And watch also for another HORROR review coming soon by Brian’s fellow Samhain Horror Publishing novelist Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows.  I’m halfway through this book and it’s Ah-MAY-Zing!!  Wait till you hear what I ask him about the character development of his female characters!

The Sorrows debuted this year in e-book and also just became available this month in paperback!!!! His next novel, House of Skin, will come out this year too! Check him out at www.jonathanjanz.com and be sure to watch for my exclusive interview with him coming soon!

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Dead of Winter, by Brian Moreland, is Dead Ringer for Book of the Year!

No matter how much I love books and respect every author out there for having the guts to tell his or her story, it isn’t often that I am BLOWN AWAY by a book. Dead of Winter, by Brian Moreland, is the best book I’ve read all year and I believe that Brian, in terms of talent, is one of the best writers I’ve ever read.

In Dead of Winter, Inspector Tom Hatcher just can’t get over what happened when he was on the case of serial killer, the Cannery Cannibal.  It haunts him.  You can’t begin to believe how dark and terrible this killer really is as he craves human meat, killing women to feed his growing hunger.  Father Xavier, an exorcism specialist on assignment with the Catholic church, visits the serial killer in an asylum. As he realizes the mental patient is possessed by a demon, we sense that the Cannery Cannibal is far more powerful and deadly than anyone could have imagined.

Now in 1870 at a fur trading fort set in the deep and dense Ontario wilderness, Hatcher confronts his own demons while investigating some gruesome murders. It becomes apparent that a predator from the forest has unleashed a deadly plague among the colonists in which they begin to crave human flesh with an insatiable hunger and take on supernatural powers and body shape to obtain it. Once the shape shifting begins, there isn’t ending it and death abounds.

Based on a real historical Native American legend, Moreland crafts his tale to include the spirituality of the Native American culture who lived in these woods and the conflicting arrogance of the white man who often lived at the forts and outposts.  Inspector Hatcher doesn’t know if he can stop the rampage this time, as good is pitted against evil in an amazing battle of wills. Father Xavier arrives to assist him as no other priest has been able to manage or live through, along with passionate Native American Anika, who is disregarded by everyone but Hatcher, accused of being a witch and used as a slave.  Together, they unravel a mystery of epic proportions.

Will Tom be able to overcome his depression and believe in himself? Will the Church be able to fight this powerful evil? Will anyone survive this carnage, this flesh-eating disease that is turning everyone on everyone else? What is this predator in the forest? You definitely don’t want to miss the answers to these questions and much more.

Brian’s writing takes you somewhere out of your daily life as you become entranced by the story. His detail and cinematology, coupled with his unique story telling ability, keeps you turning page after page. As a reader, I was absorbed by the story and enthralled with each suspenseful chapter. He has an amazing way of keeping you wanting more after each tidbit. His style of writing in short chapters and juxtapositioning between characters and scenes will keep you on the edge of your formerly comfortable chair, which will now have hand marks on it from your gripping it so fiercely. That’s right, I’m warning you…you’ll be scared out of sitting comfortably. You will encounter evil so deadly.  You’ll read about blood and gore so detailed you’ll smell it. You’ll feel what these characters feel and see what they see. You’ll have an inside view to their world and be pulling for Tom and Anika until the very end.

Dead of Winter is so frightening, I could only read it during the day. If you aren’t an emotional wreck about things going bump in the night like me, then go ahead, read it at night in bed and be even more flipped out by how scary it is. Because it’s an adrenaline rush of fright. If you think Stephen King sends chills up your spine, then be prepared for your hair to stand on end. Brian Moreland crafts a tale as fine as Stephen King ever has, in my opinion, and I love Stephen King. Truly I do think he’s the master.  However, Brian Moreland sets a new bar with his writing style, succinct sentences and emotionally gripping chapters of suspense that are so detailed you can see the story as a movie in your mind. In my opinion, his novel has the greatness to make him the next greatest horror and suspense writer.

For Dead of Winter, I loved how Brian took a true unexplained Native American legend from the late 1800s and spun a story as fright, interwoven with Native American culture, legend, and spirituality warriors. There are so many ways to love this book. It made me think harder than I usually do, question myself, become aware of my beliefs, and I had an overwhelming emotional response to it. I can’t wait to read his next novel, but in the meantime, I hope you read Dead of Winter!

Dead of Winter is 30% off at the Samhain Publishing link below during the month of October 2011!! Check it out. And keep reading past the contact information for an EXCLUSIVE interview by me with Brian Moreland. See what makes his mind tick. This just could be Moreland’s most personal interview to date, so read on! And let us know what you think.

Contacting Author Brian Moreland

Website: http://www.BrianMoreland.com

Personal email: Brian@BrianMoreland.com

Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland

Facebook: Author Brian Moreland

Goodreads:

(http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1150022.Brian_Moreland_Author_of_Horror)

My Horror Fiction blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com

Interview with Author Brian Moreland, Part 1:

Erin:   Welcome to my Oh, for the Hook of a Book blog, Brian! I am so glad you agreed to stop by and share a little about your work and about yourself to my/our readers. I’ve long thought that it’s so interesting to actually learn more about the person behind the gift(s) they put out in to this world. A book is little piece of art and I like to learn about penstroke behind it, as well as the person behind the pen.

Brian:  Hi, Erin, it’s great to be featured on your blog. The photo of the spines of old books above makes me feel like I’m in a cozy library at some book collector’s home. There’s even a fire burning in the hearth and a loyal dog sleeping nearby. The image just gets my imagination going, because I love books. They can transport us into so many worlds. Thanks for having me here.

Erin:  Wonderful, I love your thinking!  I picture us sitting in high back red leather chairs by the fireplace in my library, sipping a hot cup of coffee and talking.  Let’s see if I can prick that brain of yours and come up with a reason why you are so creative! May our imaginations be prodded and enlightened by you and possibly just a tad bit scared. You are a paranormal horror writer you know….

Brian:  Pick away, although you may find some scary things hiding inside my head.

Q: Dead of Winter is your second novel available Oct. 4 (we’ll get to that below), but tell us how you began writing. Where did your dream of becoming a writer begin?

A: It started with my love of science fiction and horror movies. As a kid I loved all the old creature features of the ‘70s and ‘80s and the adrenaline I felt being scared. And I loved monsters of every kind and superheroes and read lots of comic books—X-men, Spiderman, Swamp Thing and dozens of others. There was something about escaping into fantastic stories that got me all excited and couldn’t wait to return to the store and check out the comic book racks. Growing up we lived in a house that backed up to a creek. Our backyard faded into these thick woods that got really spooky at night. My younger sister and I and some neighborhood kids explored those woods a lot and pretended there were monsters in there. We’d hear barking echoing from somewhere down the creek, and I swore it was a pack of feral dogs chasing us. Deep in the woods we found an old house that had burned to the ground and was nothing but a concrete foundation with a lot of charred wood and broken glass scattered about. It was weird. This house wasn’t anywhere near a road. We swore it had belonged to an old witch or a man who liked to abduct children. I liked spooking my sister and friends. I was always hiding behind a tree and jumping out and scaring them. I was kind of devious in that way. Later, when I was a teen I discovered the joy of reading novels and short stories. Because I was drawn to horror and monsters, I read a lot of Stephen King, James Herbert, John Saul, Robert McCammon, and Dean Koontz. These authors inspired me to turn my active imagination into writing my own fiction.

I attempted to write a few times in high school, but I didn’t have the focus and discipline to stick with it. When I was 19, in my freshman year in college, I was a business major, and I got the hair-brained idea that the way to get rich and never have to work was to write a great novel and become a best-selling author. Back in the late 1980s, authors like Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Anne Rice were mega superstars, and I wanted be successful like them. I also wanted to see my books made into movies. Silly me, I thought that kind of success could happen overnight with one book. That inflated dream propelled me to write my first novel that freshman year (and to skip a lot of classes). My first horror novel was a whopping 113 pages and I was damned proud of it. I submitted immediately to a literary agent and just as quickly got rejected; the novel was a wee too short. The agent called me personally to tell me not to get discouraged. (That never happens, but I was twenty and the agent must not have had the heart to crush my dream.) He said he thought I had talent and that I needed to spend a few years learning the craft of novel writing. He also told me to add about 200 pages to my novel. That first novel is laughable when I read it today. But I learned I could start and finish a novel, and I discovered that I love the whole process of writing from first draft to revisions to editing. My sophomore year, I started the next book, one about a snow beast terrorizing a ski lodge, and never looked back.   

Erin’s Comment: I have always loved comic books too and everything about superheroes and the fight between good and evil. Something about the art and storylines mixed together as enough to make me run to the comic stores and bask in the beautiful characters, vibrant colors, and exciting story lines.

I am so glad you kept following your dream of being a writer. I always wanted to be a writer so I can relate. I am sure you were very talented even back then. You are one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. I applaud you for going after what you want and never letting your dream die. 

Q: What were your most memorable stepping stones along the way?

A: Wow, there are so many. I’ll list the highlights. In college I took some creative writing courses, screenwriting courses, and a workshop on how to write a novel. Those teachers taught me the difference between a rough first draft and an edited draft that’s polished and ready to share with readers. For the first time, going to class was fun, and so was the homework. I also studied screenwriting and filmmaking, which helped me write what I call “cinematic” writing. That means when I write my chapters, I focus more on one of my characters acting out a scene as opposed to just having a character thinking about what’s going on. In screenplays a scene is all action and dialogue, so I write my fiction the same way. A lot of my readers tell me they can see my books as movies in their heads, and I think it’s because I studied how to write for the big screen.

Erin’s Comment: Absolutely, that’s exactly what happened to me when reading your novel. I could visually see everything happening and your detail is superb. And since I could view it, it became more a part of me, just like really good movies never leave my head.

A, continued:  Here’s another stepping stone. When I was just starting out, I was told the road to becoming a published author is paved with rejection letters. The authors who succeed keep on following a steady path. Well, I earned plenty of rejections with my first novel, which never saw the light of day. At that time I was getting really discouraged and about to give up. Then I met bestselling thriller author, Robert Crais, at a book signing and told him that I aspired to be in his shoes one day. He told me to never give up on my dreams and even wrote that in the book he autographed for me. That fated meeting gave me the emotional boost I needed. After that, I started writing a new novel—a supernatural WWII thriller titled SHADOWS IN THE MIST, based on real history about the Nazis and the occult.

Later, in my early thirties, when I was still unpublished and struggling to finish my WWII thriller, I was again feeling like I was fooling myself that I would ever be a published author. I was feeling alone, writing all the time, and while I had supportive friends and family, none of them were writers. I needed to be around other writers to share the process of writing novels. So I treated myself to a nine-day writer’s retreat inRome with about forty writers. I studied the craft of writing with bestselling authors Terry Brooks, Dorothy Allison, and one of my heroes, horror author John Saul. I believe that hanging around successful authors rubs off on you. Writing for a living becomes a tangible thing. In Italy, we got to hang out with the authors and tour the Tuscan wine country, eating pasta, drinking wine, and discussing writing everywhere we went. I told John Saul about my struggles with finishing my novel and, being a rather blunt fellow, John told me, “Just finish the damn book.” Later, when he autographed a book for me, he wrote those same words again. Hearing those words from a highly accomplished bestseller turned a light on inside me. I went home and made myself write every day until I finished my manuscript.

I didn’t really start to see success until my late thirties and early forties (I turn 43 on November 28). I eventually published SHADOWS IN THE MIST and now, DEAD OF WINTER, a historical horror novel set in 19th Century Canada. It was persistence that kept me going from one stepping stone to another. I tell how I finally published my first novel later in the interview.

Q: What were your most difficult challenges and how do you feel you’ve overcome them?

A: I think the two biggest challenges I’ve dealt with are writer’s block and getting writing done in spite of distractions. There are also loved ones who need to be given attention to. I used to be married early on in my career, and I remember how difficult it was to make time for writing while being in a relationship with my wife and working day jobs for a living. At that time, writing was just a hobby, a pipedream, that didn’t earn any money. I had a lot of manuscripts of short stories and half-written novels, but no published works to show the world, and my wife, that I was a serious professional author. My wife was actually very supportive. It was me who felt guilty for not having a book deal to show for my efforts. I struggled with justifying that all my lonely hours spent writing—which was time away from quality time with my wife, friends, and family—was going to someday pay off. It was easy to feel discouraged and doubt that I was focusing my attention on the right dream. The way I overcame this doubt was I made a decision that even though I wasn’t a paid writer yet, I told myself, “I am a writer! Writing books is the career I was born to do and I am in this for the long haul. So hunker down and keep writing.” I told my wife, friends, and family that storytelling is my number one passion and that I needed their support and encouragement. Also, I started calling myself a writer, and when people asked me what I do, I told them, “I write novels.” And when they asked, “Have you published anything?” I responded, “Not yet, but I will soon.” Calling myself a writer and telling the world I was a writer made me believe it and then it started becoming a reality. Now, all my friends and family see me as fiction writer.

Erin’s Comment: I hope, as they should, that the whole world thinks of you as a fiction writer!

A continued:  I’ll give you one more challenge I faced during my career. This may be revealing too much, but I know a lot of artists can go through a dark period, especially when they reach their late thirties and their career hasn’t quite panned out like they had dreamed it in their twenties. A couple years back I battled depression, and during that time I lost my passion for writing. Months went by without me writing a single page. You would think having an abundance of free time means you can get a lot done. But at that time I was struggling to make ends meet and lost sight of my purpose, and then I lost the flame that burns in my chest and drives me to create. I realized the depression stemmed from being out of work and having too much idle time on my hands. To shift my depression, I made myself do activities. Anything and everything. I got busy. I took some creative classes. I explored other arts, like painting. I went to the gym, took yoga, swam laps at the pool. And I went back to working a job that wasn’t related to writing but boosted my income. It was a rough period and took a few months to stabilize, but then I got my muse back and started happily writing again. I used those hours of darkness to add depth and realism to my main character in DEAD OF WINTER, Inspector Tom Hatcher, who not only battles grief but also a deranged serial killer, the Cannery Cannibal, who knows Tom’s deepest, darkest fears.

Erin’s Comments: I’ve been through the same depression and life of hard knocks. Amazingly, some of my best poetry came from dark times in my life. Without being able to feel, good or bad, it makes it hard to write.

Q: You look more like a handsome movie actor than a scary horror writer….just how does your mind come up with the scenarios you write?

A: Thanks, Erin, I’m flattered. Honestly, I don’t know where it comes from. I’ve always had an active imagination and a love for monsters. As a kid, I played make-believe with my Star Wars action figures and G.I. Joe soldiers, and inevitably I’d make up stories that monsters were attacking, picking my characters off one-by-one. When I grew up (in years at least) my make-believe games turned into fiction writing. And it seems like every time I sit down to write, even if the story starts out as a romance (which I’ve attempted), it eventually turns supernatural, and then the creatures start to emerge from the darkness. That’s just where my mind goes. I’m sure Freud would have a heck of a time analyzing the dark dimensions of my mind. I like to think of those dimensions as Lovecraftian and hopefully a gift to the planet. Funny thing is most horror writers I’ve met are pretty happy and sane. They get their demons out of their heads and onto paper.

Erin’s Comments: Yea, I get what you are saying! That’s probably because isn’t full of happy times. I mean nothing is perfect. Look at fairy tales, we all think about the happily ever after, but there is usually some awful, dreadful, and sometimes violent path the character takes before getting the perfect ending. In meeting you, and seeing what a friendly and fun person you seem to be, I immediately thought of Stephen King. People, of course, associate his name with horror, but when you think of the man himself and read his recent interviews and see his picture, he just looks so happy with life and eager to share his best loved hobby with the world.

Q: Do you ever scare yourself silly with your own imagination or writing?

A: Yes, occasionally I’ll write a scene that gives me the shivers. It only happens, though, when I have one of my characters enter an old house or cave or underground tunnel. I have no idea what’s lurking behind the wall of blackness until my characters raise their flashlights, and the wicked thing they shine their light upon plucks the fear chords deep inside my chest. Sometimes it steals my breath and I have to stop writing until the shivers cease. This happened recently in a novel I’m now writing called THE DEVIL’S WOMB. As an author of horror, I live for those moments.

Erin’s Comments: Is that a night you spend sleeping with all the lights on? Hahaha

Q: What is one unique thing that readers might know about you to get a better sense of who you are?

A: Well, I’m hard of hearing and have to wear hearing aids. About five years ago I started noticing that I was having trouble understanding people’s spoken words. Everyone just sounded muffled. And people who were soft spoken—well, forget about it. Their words kept dropping out and I had to ask people to repeat themselves over and over. It was frustrating. I got my ears tested and, sure enough, my right ear was only hearing about 40% and my left at about 60%. So I got these tiny, almost invisible, hearing aids and it’s made all the difference. Now, I understand about 90% of what people say, unless I’m not paying attention. I tend to daydream. Sometimes my hearing challenge is an advantage. When babies are crying on airplanes or the dog next door is barking, I can pull out my aids and turn down the volume.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for your career as a writer and/or your novels?

A: For the most part, I’m finally living my dream. My whole life I wanted to be a published author of horror novels and I’ve made that happen. I wanted to meet some of my heroes, and I’ve gotten to hang out with many celebrity authors. Now, I’m focused on building a body of work that I can be proud of and leave behind a legacy that entertains millions of book lovers and inspires other authors just as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Laymon, and a cast of others have inspired me. I’d also like to see my books hit the New York Times best-seller’s list, published in multiple languages, and be made into movies. That’s the biggest dream since I was a kid watching monster movies—to go to a movie theater, order a tub of popcorn, and watch a blockbuster movie that opens with the credits, “Based on the novel by Brian Moreland.” I still believe this vision will one day manifest.

Erin’s Comments: I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet, but it seems like they are destined for the screen and people would love to watch them. And as far as the New York Times best-seller’s list, I’d be surprised if they didn’t. They are spectacular. I suppose if you started dating one of the Real Housewives of Somewhere maybe?? lol

Q: Why do you think that the paranormal, horror, thriller genre is so popular today?

A: You could add the fantasy genre to that question. I could only make a guess, but I think people right now really need a good escape from the realities of a bad economy and seeing wars and crimes in the news everywhere they look. To me all this stress breeds dark feelings on the inside of us and we need an outlet like a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or serial killer to express our feelings through. For instance, the book and TV series DEXTER—which I absolutely love—is extremely popular right now. In a Season One episode called “Shrink Wrap,” Dexter visits a shrink and talks about “the wolf” inside us all that needs to come out every now and then and howl. We all have shadow sides that secretly enjoy doing dark deeds. Horror novels give us that outlet.

Also, there’s a lot of mystery about God and the Universe, death and the afterlife, and paranormal stories with ghosts and angels and even archetypal monsters allow us to explore those mysteries. Zombies are huge right now, and perhaps these post-apocalyptic, flesh-eating nightmares mimic a societal fear that we’re not as in control as we’d like to be. I think all these genres touch us on a deep, subconscious level that we just can’t fathom. Whatever the reason, they’re super fun.

Q: Are you a gruesome and gore horror writer, or do you stick to the paranormal thriller chills and thrills?

A: My books do have some blood and gore, but I don’t write gore for the sake of gore. My aim is that my books feel real. I want you in the character’s head, experiencing every detail they experience. If they come across a mangled body—as Tom Hatcher does at the beginning of DEAD OF WINTER—I want the reader to see what Tom sees as if the reader were standing there looking down at the body. Another character in that novel, Father Xavier, has to do an exorcism on a demon-possessed prisoner at an asylum. Some gruesome things happen in that scene, but I don’t want to give too much away. I describe just enough of the gruesome details for the reader to form a picture in their head, and then I let their imagination fill in the rest. And it’s usually more horrific than what I describe.

Q: What defines the genre of “horror” to you?

A: It’s any story that induces fear, raises your adrenaline, and get’s your heart pumping faster. And it contains either a supernatural element, monsters, or serial killers. Horror stories often look Death right in the face, and some characters outsmart the Grim Reaper, while others die off.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination (is or would be) and why?

A: Costa Rica. I’ve traveled down there five times. I love the tropical rain forests, the waterfalls, the beaches, the wildlife—giant blue morpho butterflies, colorful poison-dart frogs, toucans, and Macau monkeys hooting and cawing and waking me up at five in the morning. When you’re hiking through the virgin rain forest, you can be miles from civilization, and feel the ancient rhythms of the earth. The experience is both primal and spiritual. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do, like kayaking, horseback riding on a beach, and zipping across a zip-line on a canopy tour. I also love relaxing with beer and fish tacos and staring at the ocean. Oh, and the Ticos are very friendly people. Other favorite destinations: Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Hawaii.

Erin’s Comments: Sounds absolutely AMAZING. I love to travel, that’s why I ask the question. Nature revives me and I can’t live without viewing all it has to offer. Enjoying the outdoors is one of my joys in life, quite fascinating what you find and can experience.

Q: What are your other interests beyond writing?

A: I’m glad you asked this question, because I do have a life outside of writing horror. I enjoy hiking outdoors, kayaking, and swimming. I also love cooking. I make a great pot of chili and some zesty guacamole that I believe rivals any restaurant. I’m an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. I’m generally in the middle of reading five books at the same time. I love watching movies the old fashioned way—on the big screen at a theater with a Coke and tub of popcorn—although I do watch DVDs and Netflix quite a bit too. Probably my favorite thing to do is watch football games at home with family and friends. I love Super Bowl parties. If you’ve got the big screen TV, I’ll bring the guacamole.

Erin’s Comments: Ok, interview Part 2 will have some recipes included….

Q: Tell us the story about how your first book launched your career. It is a very inspirational story for many writers looking to be published.

A: In my late thirties, when I still hadn’t published and was playing the long waiting game with literary agents, I finally took the leap and self-published SHADOWS IN THE MIST. I was committed to putting out a book that could stand up to any bestselling book out there. So I hired an editor, a book cover designer, and an award-winning illustrator, Les Edwards, to paint the cover. When I first released my thriller in the fall of 2006, I did an aggressive marketing campaign, and the novel hit #1 on Amazon’s Mystery & Thriller list the first week. After submitting to an international book contest, my debut novel went on to win a gold medal for Best Horror Novel. This helped me land a mass paperback deal with Berkley/Penguin.

Now I have an agent and in 2009 she sold SHADOWS IN THE MIST to a German publisher (Otherworld Verlag) who translated my novel to German and released it in Austria and Germany in 2012. That was pretty cool. I have the hardback displayed at home and I can’t comprehend a word of it.

After the success of my first novel, I immediately started writing my second, DEAD OF WINTER, another historical novel that blends horror with my other favorite genres—mystery, gothic romance, the detective story, and dark suspense. A year after I finished DEAD OF WINTER, I sold it to Samhain Publishing (http://store.samhainpublishing.com/horror-c-20.html?osCsid=a4701d826c6b9e607eb912790c00f518), who was starting up a new horror line in October 2011. It was divine timing and I’m fortunate that my novel is one of the first to roll out among acclaimed authors like Ramsey Campbell, Ronald Malfi, and W.D. Gagliani, and up-and-coming authors Hunter Shea and Kristopher Rufty.

Q: How has e-publishing changed the game for writers and how can you be successful at it?

A: At first, I felt a little nervous about the growing popularity of e-books, because I love paperbacks and was sad to see a decline in paperback publishing. In fact, the mass paperback market is almost dead for unknown authors. Now, after I see the direction that publishing and book-buying are headed, I think e-publishing has made the game a whole lot more fun and lucrative for authors. Because the costs of printing and paper are eliminated, authors can earn a higher percentage off e-books than paperbacks. That means larger royalty checks. And book stores can return all the paperback and hardcover books they don’t sell and ship them back to the publisher. The publisher then takes the amount of all these “returns” and deducts from the author’s royalty earnings. With e-books, there are no books sold on consignment. And readers who download their books to their e-reader are less likely to return their book. So less returns means more actual book sales that stick.

Also, the ease and instant gratification of downloading e-books within seconds means a better chance at selling books. With physical books, people have to drive to a book store to purchase the book or they have to order from Amazon and wait a week. Those factors can weigh in their decision making on whether or not to buy the book. I’ve procrastinated on buying many books, because I didn’t want to wait a week for delivery. Now, with the instant downloads of e-books, there’s a much shorter window between a person’s decision to read a book and buy it. And e-books are several dollars cheaper too. I don’t even pause at buying e-books at $5.99, but if a paperback is $15 or more, I’ll spend more time thinking if that book is worth the money. 

One last thought about the upside to e-publishing. It’s easier for publishers to take a chance on unknown authors, because the risk is now much lower with e-books and print-on-demand becoming the main publishing platform for publishers. That means more undiscovered writers get a shot at publishing their first book. I’ve seen the future and it looks bright.

Q: Tell readers where they can look for the new DEAD OF WINTER and your first novel, SHADOWS IN THE MIST. As well, please tell us about your short stories and blogs.

A: The e-book for DEAD OF WINTER is now selling everywhere. You can buy it now for the lowest price directly from Samhain Publishing (http://store.samhainpublishing.com/dead-winter-p-6507.html). The paperback goes on sale January 3, 2012. SHADOWS IN THE MIST is out of print temporarily, due to changing publishers, but should release again in 2012.

I also have two short stories “Chasing the Dragon” and “The Dealer of Needs” that you can download or read online. (http://brianmoreland.com/myshortstories.html)

 Q: How can fellow writers contact you? How can readers and fans connect?

A: I love connecting with readers, fans, and fellow writers. I welcome emails and contact on most of the major social media sites.

Website: http://www.BrianMoreland.com

Personal email: Brian@BrianMoreland.com

Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland

Facebook: Author Brian Moreland

Goodreads:

(http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1150022.Brian_Moreland_Author_of_Horror)

My Horror Fiction blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com

Erin:  It was amazing getting to speak with you, Brian. I wish you much continued success in your writing endeavors and look forward to speaking with you again. In fact, readers, we have a whole second interview coming with Brian later in October~!! Perfect time to get all your Halloween time spooks and thrills.

Brian:  It’s been an absolute pleasure, Erin. Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog.

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An Intergalactic Win for Readers: Silver Serenade by Nancy J. Cohen

Silver Serenade is by well-known and long-time writer Nancy J. Cohen. Taking her pen back to futuristic romance, Cohen pens a galactic tale of space intrigue and political drama which pits S.I.N. agent Silver Malloy against pilot Jace Vernon, who is forced to flee his home after he is framed for his parents murder. He’s trying to clear his name and find his missing sister when is runs into strong-willed assassin Silver, who is after a terrorist about to start an intergalactic war.  Jace realizes the same terrorist may be partly responsible for his own parent’s death and might have taken his sister. He wants to work with Silver as a partner, not a captive.

As Cohen juxtaposes their galactic pursuits with their budding romance, her novel takes the reader on one explosive ride in outer space. The sexy scenes are over-the-top hot and steamy and the action scenes are packed full of energy. Platinum-haired Silver is extremely strong-willed, independent and blazingly independent as Jace tries to gently tame her wild, mission-focused personality and show her another way, a way in which they can work together to both succeed in their agendas and save the universe at the same time.

With many interesting cast of secondary characters, the book is a thrill ride of twists, turns, and excitement. You’ll want to keep reading to see if Jace can truly win Silver’s love and take their relationship past just some romps in the bed. About the middle of the book is when I truly became even more interested in turning more pages in one sitting. I loved this book most from the middle to the end. I won’t spoil, but the quest they take to fulfill a major mission is visually stunning in my mind and engaging, as well as meaningful to the characters and you’ll be pulling for them to win out.

If you like science fiction fantasy, as well as romance, this book will hook you by the middle and keep you reading. A book of intergalactic proportions as well as action and romance are concerned. 

Nancy J. Cohen is a paranormal romance and murder mystery with a touch of hilarious author. With Silver Serenade she returned to the genre she started out in, futuristic romances.  She has written many fiction genres over the years and will soon publish the 10th in the Bad Hair Day mystery series in early 2012. 

Nancy and her husband are empty nesters who live in the Fort Lauderdale area. When she is not busy writing, Nancy enjoys reading, fine dining, outlet shopping, and cruising.  You can find out more about Nancy Cohen at www.nancyjcohen.com, including her other titles.

Silver Serenade can be found at Wild Rose Press, http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=191&products_id=4138, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s available in print and digital e-book form, both.

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Thanks, Nancy, for sending me the book to review! I enjoyed it. Nancy in no way twisted my arm or offered me any of my favorite foods in return for a positive review. The opinions are my own.

 

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Interview with Indie Author Caroline Barnard-Smith and a Sneak Peek at “Jinn Nation,” her new vampire novel.

Today my blog is a stop along the “Jinn Nation” Book Tour of UK-based author Caroline Barnard-Smith.  I’m happy to share with you an excerpt of the her newest book and an interview with this Indie author, giving you a little taste into her juicy vampiric mind! We even are giving one e-book copy away to a lucky reader!

 

 Win a FREE E-book!!!

You can win a free e-book of “Jinn Nation” (in any e-format you choose) by reading this entire blog and leaving your comment in the comment section of the blog, by commenting to @ErinAlMehairi on Twitter, or by commenting on Faceboook under the post of this blog on my wall (www.facebook.com/almehairierin). At the end of the week, winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and name and info will be given to the author. Please be sure I know how to reach you if you comment or you will not be eligible.

Read an Excerpt from “Jinn Nation”

Once, the vampire Dylan had feared nothing and no one. He’d rampaged throughout the world on a seemingly never ending quest to fill his eternal years with the finest, most outrageous extravagances; with exquisite, soft-limbed young women and copious amounts of rich, vibrating blood. But life, however full of joy, inevitably changes.

Finding himself alone for the first time in his long unlife, Dylan turns to the preternatural race of savage creatures called the jinn – a path that inevitably leads him to Christa, a strangely childlike woman with the power to control minds and read thoughts. Mutually intrigued by each other, they set out on a blood-soaked road trip that crosses the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, finally leading them beyond the world itself to the mysterious fae kingdoms of the Inbetween.

Click on the excerpt link to be sucked into the story of “Jinn Nation”~ You don’t want to miss this!!! Jinn_Nation_-_Excerpt 

Interview with author Caroline Barnard-Smith

It has been so nice to meet you Caroline. I am very curious about your book and your host of anti-heroic vampires!

Q:  What makes you love to write stories of vampires and bloodlust so passionately?

A:  I think it’s the sense of freedom that attracts me to vampires. They’re not a part of society, they live on the fringes where they can go where they want, be who they want, eat who they want.  There’s also the rock star element, of course. Vampires are bad through and through (or at least they should be) and there’s something innately sexy about that.  As a writer it also gives you permission to be bad, which is far more fun than it probably should be.      
 
Q:  Have you always been writing this genre, or has it been a migration?
 
A:  I started out writing straight urban fantasy, spurred on after reading the newest book by an established urban fantasy author and realising it was so awful, I was sure I could do better (I’m not naming any names but trust me, it was bad!) I never actually found out if I could do better because that particular early novel will spend the rest of it’s sad life buried on my hard drive, but raw and ridiculous as that book was, full of witches and wizards and fairies and elves and anything else I could plagiarise from my favourite fantasy novels, it taught me a lot about the craft of writing. It taught me how to explore characters, how to plot and how to get to the end of a long project, so I actually owe that little book a lot.  

Q:  Tell me about your idea and the creation behind your newest novel….
 
A:  When I started all I had in my head was a scene in the middle of a nighttime American desert where two people, two people with secrets, met in a bar.  I started writing and before long the story turned into a sort of bloody travelogue across the United States and beyond, taking in many of the places I wished I could see but couldn’t afford to visit.  I’ve already talked about the freedom that vampires represent and there’s no freer place than the open road (if I’m to believe the movies, anyway), so putting the two together made Jinn Nation an immensely fun book to write.

Q:  What do you want most for your readers to take away from your book? How do you want them to feel?
 
A:  I know it’s a cliché but I really do write the books I’d like to read, and that certainly doesn’t involve gutless vegetarian vampires who sparkle in the sun; so I suppose I’d like readers to come away from Jinn Nation thinking, “Finally! Someone’s given Dracula his balls back!”  I’ve also tried hard to make my female character, Christa, less of a moaning, pining bore than many of the female characters I see in paranormal fiction these days.  The women in these books are always bemoaning their tragic, fated love lives or readying themselves to jump over some metaphorical cliff at their supernatural boyfriend’s command. They’re too Mary-Sue-like, ie. they’re ridiculously attractive, have every super power under the sun and are probably black belts in karate for no goddamned reason. I desperately wanted to stay away from this, even though Christa does have quite considerable mental powers… Hopefully, readers will think that I’ve succeeded.  

Q:  What was your debut novel, Dunraven Road, about and does it tie in with Jinn Nation?

A:  Dunraven Road does loosely tie in with Jinn Nation because the vampire Dylan stars in both novels, but that’s really where the similarities end. Dunraven Road is a close, oppressive novel, with the action mostly confined to just one street (hence the title!), while Jinn Nation is far broader, global even, and has lighter moments. I wasn’t planning to write about vampires when I started my debut novel.  I set out to write about the experience of living in a small town in your twenties and somewhere along the line, an ancient brotherhood of vampires appeared and forced me to include them.  The vampires were definitely the villains in that novel, leaving the reader to root for the hapless humans who happened to stumble right into their diabolical scheme, but Jinn Nation saw me going back to a format first made popular by Anne Rice that I hold dear to my heart: the vampire as anti-hero.        
 
Q:  What are the differences between traditional publishing and indie publishing? What are the benefits of indie publishing? The hardships?

A:  The biggest difference must be that you have to do absolutely everything yourself, or at least hire someone to do it for you. I’m very lucky to have an excellent proofreader, but after my manuscript came back from her I had to edit my work thoroughly, checking spelling and grammar as well as making sure the plot actually hung together. I then had to learn how to format my work as an ebook and a paperback to be published through a print on demand service. The only aspect I had to draft in extra help for was the cover, because I’m completely hopeless with Photoshop.  A traditional publisher will do all these things for you, but they also don’t give you much control. They might demand changes to your manuscript and you certainly wouldn’t get any input into the typesetting or cover design.  All of this is a lot of hard work, but personally I’ve found the experience immensely satisfying.  The paperback proofs of Jinn Nation were delivered just the other day and being able to hold that beautifully printed book in my hands and think, “I did that”, was fantastic.          
 
Q:  Would you like to tell me about your craft business? Is it just as dark and juicy?

A:  Sadly no! It’s completely different from my literary work. I taught myself how to knit in my early twenties because I wanted something to do with my hands so that I’d stop biting my nails. Since then I’ve become good enough to start writing my own patterns and these are what I sell at CazzCraft.co.uk, along with knitting supplies such as bamboo needles and stitch markers. It’s been a lot of fun and once I’m finished promoting Jinn Nation, I really should get back to work on it and write some new patterns!   
 
Q:  How do you juggle being an author, an artist, and a mom?

A:  Well, my daughter always comes first of course, and then I have to do everything else in moderation. It’s fairly easy to continue pursuing my personal projects at the moment because the Sprogling is only 4 months old. She sleeps a lot of the time or is content to sit with me while I work (one-handed) at the computer, but I’m sure this will all change once she starts running around!   
 
Q:  I hear you have a radio show, what should listeners expect from the show and how do we tune in?

A:  Yes, I had my very own radio show 🙂 It was called Write Around Devon and it aired on my local community radio station once a week. I loved doing it because it was basically just me playing my favourite songs and talking about my favourite subject. I even got to interview quite a few local authors. I gave it up when I was pregnant before I grew too big to fit under the desk (hehe) but I’d love to return to it one day.

Thank you Caroline for sharing about your book and offering advice to us!  Wonderful insight!! You’ve been awesome to talk to and I wish you much success. Stop by again!

For more information on Caroline and her books, go online to:  http://www.carolinebarnardsmith.co.uk and visit her blog at: http://barnardsmith.wordpress.com.

Contact Caroline online also at:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Caroline-Barnard-Smith/83412182938

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/CazzySmith

How do you buy “Jinn Nation”?

Paperback – https://www.createspace.com/3565931

Amazon Kindle USA – http://www.amazon.com/Jinn-Nation-ebook/dp/B0058OE3JC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309947539&sr=8-1

Amazon Kindle UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jinn-Nation-ebook/dp/B0058OE3JC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1309947612&sr=8-1

Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70355

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C.W. Gortner’s “The Tudor Secret” a Must Read for Intrigue Fans

The Tudor Secret, by C.W. Gortner, was an amazing cache of intrigue and suspicion!! It’s one of the BEST books I’ve read in a very long time. If you think the Tudor era is overdone and all has been said, THINK AGAIN! 

Though plenty of books about Elizabeth I or Henry the VIII line the shelves of many bookstores and libraries, Gortner’s work of historical fiction spins an original yarn about an orphan boy, Brendan Prescott, who has a birthmark which supports that he has possible royal lineage. Does he?  Is he being used as a pawn to the advancement of others?

Court life is brutal and Prescott is about to find that out when he becomes a servant in the Dudley household.  Before he knows it, he is a double spy and reeling with the fact that he is on a mission for Elizabeth I, the intelligent sister of the young Edward VI.  Strangled with the urge to know his own family secret, he agrees to being eyes and ears at court for William Cecil, Elizabeth’s protector, in exchange for Cecil helping him to unravel his past.

He discovers that whispers and secrets abound at court, during this turbulent time after Henry VIII’s death, and no one can be trusted. At times in the novel, Prescott  is uncertain who he is even spying for, yet his own heart is always true to Elizabeth I and her safety.

The Tudor Secret is so full of suspense that pages will turn like they are on FIRE. Your finger will refuse to let you stop turning pages. You won’t want to put this book down for fear you will miss something. When you do put it down, it will still have you wondering so much about its twists and turns that you’ll want to pick it back up again and read until you know the secret!

The book gives superb insight into the personalities of Elizabeth and Mary Tudor in their younger years surrounding the time of their brother, King Edward VI’s, death in 1553.  The inner-family struggle for the crown, the religious turmoil and fracturing, the struggle of the people of England, the love/hate relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley (son to John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland) and the conniving ways of the court all lend to this tale as the author is a master at presenting us espionage and intrigue.

Gortner’s historical novel is the first book in his new Elizabeth I spymaster chronicles. The book ends with the secret known to only the Prescott character, and a few others, and is set-up for readers to be ready to delve into more spies, lies, and espionage in the next book as Prescott becomes a spy in Mary I’s court.

If a book doesn’t grab me in the first 10 pages, I won’t read it, but this one certainly DID have my full attention. I thoroughly enjoyed the guessing game this book laid out for me from the beginning. It made me remember how much I LOVE this era of English history.

This has been one of my favorite books of the last 10 years and I can’t wait for more to come in this series. Gortner has to be considered one of the TOP historical fiction novelists of the century.

Bio of C.W. Gortner, Author of The Tudor Secret~

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his third novel, about Isabella of Castile, and the second novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.  You can contact him at: cwgortner[at]earthlink.net and across many social networking channels.  For more information about this book and author, you can go to the author’s website at www.cwgortner.com.  Gortner enjoys talking to book groups and will even chat via speaker phone or Skype.

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Kate Mosse’s “The Winter Ghosts” is Book Made of Legend

One of my favorite writers is historical fiction author Kate Mosse. The review for this blog will be on her most recent book, “The Winter Ghosts,” but I’ll be talking about Kate too. I not only love to read and review books, I like to give you a glimpse into the authors as well. Maybe it is the journalist side of me still coming out, but I love to do features on people and authors are a great choice.

I first came across Mosse with her book “Sepulchre” and absolutely loved it (too bad I didn’t have the blog set-up then!). In fact it is one of my favorite books. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly. She became first well-known in 2005 with “Labryrinth” when it became an international bestseller and was the top selling book in the UK that year. It and “Sepulchre” are books in the Languedoc Trilogy. The final book in this series, “Citadel” will be published this year and I can’t tell you how excited I am for its debut!

Her writing style intrigues me. It is not only extraordinarily precise writing, with astounding historical details and fine tuned characters, but they leave you feeling an eerie haunting. Not really in a horror sort of way, but more like it delved into your soul and left part of itself there. She is a literary genius and should be commended for her work, which by the way she is. Besides winning numerous awards, she is also co-founder and honorary director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction.  She writes fiction, non-fiction (Becoming a Mother, The House: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), literary novels, short stories, articles, columns for many publications, and is a well-known British television and radio guest.  She is a friendly soul and lives in both England and southwest France.

Her latest book “The Winter Ghosts” is quite short compared to “The Labyrinth” and “The Sepulchre” but still delivers a superb story based on her own area of France and an ancient mystery surrounding the area. According to information about the book from her publisher (Putnam, Penguin Group) Mosse had come across a shocking, lesser known legend about the Cathar people in the Languedoc region in France circa 1328. Apparently involving entombment and mass execution of the last of these people, it lingered in her mind and she turned the history and tale into a mystery story that also includes her main character, Freddie Watson, as he lingers into the area in the last 1920s mourning the loss of his brother to World War 1.

World War 1 (1914-1918) took a toll on the people of Britain and France. Mosse entertwines this struggle for family and friends remained into her story by opening it with Freddie in 1928, who is still struggling over a brother lost to the war and his family’s turmoil stemming from it. As he is trying to find some solace from this mind struggle, he is traveling through the French Pyrenees. Mosse really takes time to build the character of Freddie and let’s us amble with him while he finds his way. Getting caught up in what seems to be another time period, we are unsure as to what is happening and if the people around him are truly real.  This creates the spooky element and gives the books its air of supernatural.

As he finds true love in a woman named Fabrissa who seems to be real to him, yet not exist to others, he follows the trail to another time, another people, and finds that her spirit was truly with him all along.  He most certainly redeems them from their loss and is overwhelmed by this redemption not only of these “ghosts,” but of himself and his life as well.

Great story that will surprise and touch you in the end. Definately worth a read. It didn’t propel me to frantically turn each page, and it is not suspenseful, but I did wish to finish it to find out how his confusion and turmoil come to have a life of their own. The book had great character development and historical detail.  After reading it once, I realized I would want to read it again based on the knowledge I had from reading it the first time. The folklore spun within this book is very inviting.

For more information, go to www.katemosse.com.

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