Tag Archives: suspense fiction

BREATHE. BREATHE. News and Sale!

Hi readers,

I hope you all have had a FABULOUSLY divine Christmas or Holiday Season and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year in style. Besides working and managing my children’s busy schedules, my family and I have been able to spend some time together finally too. I plan to hang out with Tim and the kids over the New Year holiday eating, watching movies, and playing games. Beyond that, I’m busy making a TON of goals for 2018 from all things personal to business to writing. I’m demanding a lot of myself in many areas.

One of the best parts of 2017 was publishing my poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. via Unnerving. I am beyond thrilled and grateful at the reception it’s received. It’s part biographical and trauma-based poetry seeped in real life, half supernatural and folkloric in nature, and then the short stories are a mix of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and domestic revenge, to put it as succinctly as possible. However, there is so much for everyone in this collection whether you’re a contemporary reader, a historical reader, a horror or suspense reader, or just a reader who likes to feel deeply. I’ll be writing a longer year-end wrap-up later, but for now….

I just wanted to let readers know that as a thank you for this fine two months that BREATHE. BREATHE. has had, the publisher Unnerving, has put it on SALE for just .99 cents until Dec. 31!! I’d be honored if you’d give it a try. Maybe you have an Amazon gift card to spend and can buy it for your kindle or share the news with a friend. Very soon, if not already, the print version should go on sale as well from $14 to $9!

With an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars, you can find it on sale on Amazon HERE.

Breathe Sale Un

I’d appreciate your support in a purchase or sharing with a friend or on social media. Feel free to use the graphic below if you’d like. THANK YOU. Your support means everything to me right now. We’ve had a rough year, and this…well, it just makes more hopeful.

As always, look forward to your thoughts on my writing, and don’t forget, authors thrive on the reviews you can leave, no matter how short and sweet.

Always in friendship,

Erin

 

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

BreatheBreatheBreathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

 

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!” —Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy) “Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.” —Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching “Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.” —Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.” –  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.” -W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio Photo.jpgErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. She also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor. Her third pursuit is writing her own works for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is a co-host with her Marketing Morsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, is her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe. is also featured in the My Favorite Story anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

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Interview with the Lovely and Talented Author Sandra Byrd: Mist of Midnight and Writing Victorian Gothic Literature

Linger on my site a little today and read through this interview if you are a fan of Victorian Gothic literature! I’ll be chatting right now with Sandra Byrd over tea and shortbread about her book, Mist of Midnight (AVAILABLE NOW-March 10, 2015) and her thoughts on constructing Gothic literature. If you missed my review last week, check it out HERE.

And after our chat below, you can ENTER TO WIN a lace bookmark featured here, keeping with the theme of her book detailing Rebecca, the main character’s, mother making Honiton Lace.

Hi Sandra, Thank you for coming by to chat with me today on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Come in and have a seat. Tell me how 2015 has been for you so far while I make us drinks as we get ready to have a seat in the comfy chairs in my library.

Sandra: Thank you for having me to your library, and for introducing me to your friends.  The friend of my friend is my friend, right? Especially friends who read! 2015 has been crazy and busy, so I’m glad for a chance to sit with you for a bit.

Erin: You’re welcome anytime! It’s still pretty cold with snow in Ohio, so I’ll put on the teapot, or I can make coffee? What is your pleasure? I’ll be having some Earl Grey tea, with sugar and cream.

Sandra: One favorite is a London Fog, Earl Grey tea, lightly sweetened, with warm cream.  Would that do?

Erin: It would be my pleasure, and I’ll bring out a few shortbread cookies too. Then we’ll get started with some questions!

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Sandra: Shortbread – yes, please.  It showed up in my book, so of course I had to bake a few batches to eat while writing!

Q: Mist of Midnight is your first Gothic romance mystery, which in my opinion was a huge success. What made you decide to write in this beloved, yet sometimes obscure sub-genre?

A:Thank you, Erin! That means so much. I simply loved reading them as a girl, teen, and awoman. Then they seemed to fall out of favor, and I had a hard time finding ones I loved, ones that echoed the traditional novels and their expected tropes but have been updated for our time.  I spend so many hours researching and writing that I always try to choose genres, eras, and people who deeply interest me.

Q: Were there authors or books of similar taste that you studied or enjoyed that gave you ideas for when you created your own novel?

A: I read quite a few Gothic authors “back in the day” but the one I loved best, and who stuck with me the most, was Victoria Holt.  She wrote Gothic Romances under that name, and English historicals as Jean Plaidy, and I loved all of her books. So she influenced quite a bit of my writing, the Tudors, too.

I did want to update the concept a little for modern readers.  I like more of the hero on the page than was present in quite a few of the gothic romance novel of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little strongerminded than was popular then.   I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith.  But I tried my best to stick with the “ingredients” that people expect when the read a Gothic Romance:

  1. A large property, in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.
  2. A Byronic hero.
  3. Characters around that are trustworthy… or not.
  4. Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.
  5. A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.

There are many other “ingredients” one may choose from when writing a Gothic novel: a woman in a nightgown, medications that help or harm, secret passageways, etc.  The trick is to include many of the elements that are desirable and expected but craft a story that stands on its own.  I don’t read any other books in a genre just before I write in, or while I’m writing in it.

Q: Your sense of foreboding and suspense was crafted perfectly, what techniques or descriptions did you do in order to create a Gothic feel?

A:  I thought of what frightens me, of what frightens most people.  Sometimes those are things like darkness and being lost, and being alone with no help.  More often they are internal, thinking you’re losing your mind, or knowing that no one is there to help.  In Gothic Romances, the heroine very often has no parents present because she’s completely on her own, which is risky and isolating, and must puzzle her way out.  That isolation is anxiety producing, too.  Who to trust? Who not to trust? The decrepit or uneasy setting adds to this, too. 

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Q: Your descriptions that you had character Rebecca speaking of in regards to India were phenomenal and so authentic. Have you been to India? How did you delve into such precise feelings of 19th century India?

A: I have not been to India! I read many books written by the English, in India, in the 19th Century, and then by Indian people in the past hundred years who experienced the good and bad that had come from colonialism.  I watched movies and television set in India and interviewed Indian people.  I had an Indian author read my manuscript for authenticity.  How I would love to go myself, however!

Erin: I was certain you had been there!! You really articulated a true feeling of missionary work as well.

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Q: You had many interesting characters in your book, especially among the estate staff. Who was your favorite to create and why?

A: Rebecca and Luke, for sure.  But among the secondary characters, Michelene was the most fun to create because I find we women are so much more multifaceted in our emotional manipulation and complexities than are men.  French lady’s maids were highly sought after, and I enjoy French culture, too, so that was a delight.  Even though none of us wants to be like her, all of us can understand her envy, I think.

Mrs. Ross was a delight to create because she captured an element of Gothics for me that I wanted to do in a fresh manner.  And she likes shortbread. 🙂

Erin: Yes, Mrs. Ross was amazing. I enjoyed the intertwining of the French culture, and of course, I always like shortbread. Reading your book reminded me to make some again!

Q: Speaking of characters, how do you create them with such depth? How do you intertwine them in such a way when formulating a suspenseful mystery so that you are never sure which one to be suspicious of?

A:  I think the trick is to remember that none of us are completely good or bad and to plumb the motivations for why each person does what they do.  At the heart of it we all struggle with insecurities and desires and pure motives and tainted ones.  We each come to that Y in the road; one person turns left and another right.  At the end of the book, I hope it’s clear to my readers why each character did what he or she did.  I spend a lot of time thinking through the lives of all of my characters, primary and secondary before I write.  And I observe people in real life.  That kind of sounds gothically creepy!

Q: How do you feel about balancing Gothic fiction with Christian fiction? Do you feel that most Gothic readers can accept the Christian undertones? How do they complement each other in regards to underlying themes or allegory?

A:  Honestly, it would be anachronistic to write about 19th Century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life.  I don’t seek to write “Christian fiction” so much as it interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches a situation in her era and setting.   I don’t set out, ever, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine’s eyes.  So hopefully that makes a good story whether a person is a Christian or not.  I certainly profit from and enjoy books that have no or other religious underpinning, or take place in situations and cultures other than my own.  I hope that both Christians and those who are not Christian can be transported by the story and let it entertain and speak to them individually.

Supernatural elements, whether naturally explained or not, are an integral part of Gothic Romance.  I find them completely complimentary in a book if organically done with an understanding of the genre.  We can’t understand everything, we cannot control everything, but when we are courageous and take action, things happen, and we are helped.  That’s the supernatural and the natural working hand in hand.

Erin comments: That’s wonderful. I felt the same and I was explaining that to Tim when talking about you and your book. He asked me about the religious element and how you presented in the novel. I, too, feel like anyone can read this wonderful book.

Q: Victorian England is the perfect setting not only for Gothic literature but for classic, clean romance. What do you like most about using this era when writing a novel?

A:  The Victorian Era is easier than the Tudor Era to write about because there is much more source material! I can go online and read the newspaper printed in Hampshire, in the year my books are set in, which is marvelous.  What is difficult is that there are many more expected elements in a Gothic Romance, so it’s a little more restrictive because you have to make sure they are all, or mostly, in there but a way unique to the story.

The clean part is truly enjoyable to me.  It allows the emotional and intellectual portion of the relationship to develop before the physical, which is then so much more satisfying when it occurs.  It doesn’t happen on the page, of course, but I let the reader know that it will and she can imagine the rest!

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Q: Many people come to my site when trying to answer this question: “What is gothic literature?” Therefore, tell us how you define it?

A:  I had researched this very thing before I set out to write, so I’ll share a bit of wisdom that I learned from the experts with a few of my own thoughts, too!

Ann B. Tracy, author of the romance chapter in the compilation, The Journal of The Gothic, tells us that, “The jocular description of modern Gothic Romances like Victoria Holt’s The Mistress of Mellyn as ‘Girl Gets House’ is not altogether off the mark. The home for which they long, their happy ending, is not to be bought with moral compromise.”  She continues, “The heroines of Gothic Romance are not the vaporous, swooning creatures of caricature, undone by over-sensitivity; their troubles are real… they lift the black veil, go to the attic, confront the possible spectres— attempt, in short, to shed some factual light on their mysterious surroundings and find their ways out of the Gothic dilemmas.”

Gothic romance heroes are called Byronic heroes, after Lord Byron, he dubbed “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.  We women love to know whether or not we can tame a man who seems untamable and gothic romances are rich with just that sort of challenge.  Tracy says that our gothic heroines have the challenge of figuring out whether the “difficult or possibly villainous men around her will turn out to be the one she can trust and marry.” Victoria Holt named one of her best novels “The Devil on Horseback.” Was he?

To sum up, Inez Ashley Ross, in the April/May, 1995 edition of the Gothic Journal says there are, “The openings of classic gothics reveal three keys that unlock the reader’s fascination:

            *An imposing house that is linked to an ancient family       

            *An outsider of lesser status with whom the reader can identify and

            *Attention to sensory details that entice the reader into a mysterious past

Q: Have you researched Hampshire, England? What more can you tell us about it that might be of interest? I noticed the book was subtitled “Daughters of Hampshire.” Does that mean there will be more in this series?

A:  There will be two more books in this series: Bride of Poseidon, Book 2, which I am just finishing up, and Angels of Light, Book 3.  They’ll publish in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and will include many of the traditional Gothic elements, of course, but with new characters in each book.

I liked  Hampshire because Cornwall and Devon seemed a bit overdone for Gothics, and Hampshire is relatively easy to access from London and the sea.  It has forest, ruins, seaports, cliffs, cities and villages, and Winchester Cathedral.  Lots of good stuff with which to work! I did visit Hampshire while researching, including the County Records Office, and many lovely crumbling and restored houses.  I have friends who live there who read my rough drafts and make sure it’s sound as to the era and the place.

Erin: Wonderful news, I can’t wait to read them!

Q: What is your favorite Indian food? B: What is your favorite British food? If you don’t have favorites, maybe something you’d love to try.

A: I adore Indian food.  I love Butter Paneer; I love Onion bhaji, sliced onions dipped in chickpea flour and spices, kind of like onion rings.  I love papadums, and my favorite snack is Khatta Meetha, which you can buy online if you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby (I do).  Favorite English food is Sticky Toffee Pudding, which we enjoy each Christmas. 

Q: What else have you written and then, what else do you plan to write in the future?

A:  I’ve written quite a bit – mainly I stick with something till my interest is exhausted and then move on. I’m very happy writing English Gothic Romance for now, so I’ll be sticking there for a few years, and I hope readers will stick with me!

Erin: I’ll be here! (P.S. to readers, see all of Sandra’s work here:  www.sandrabyrd.com)

Q: I know you’ve been a mentor to other authors. What is a simple piece of advice you might give that would apply to many new writers?

A: Do not be dismayed.  The road is difficult from the start to finish and beyond, but there is nothing, perhaps short of birthing and raising a child, which is so satisfying as completing your book.  And the book obeys you all the time – unlike the child!

Erin: Thank you so much, Sandra, for taking time with me today! You are welcome back for tea anytime you wish, and I look forward to many more of your books in the future.

Sandra:Thank you, Erin.  I’m so happy to have come to chat with you.  Can I take the leftover shortbread home with me? 🙂

Erin: haha! A lady after my own heart!

GIVEAWAY!!!!

One (1) lace bookmark, open to US & Canada residents only. Aren’t they beautiful??

Lace Book Marks Book Tour

Rules

Enter by leaving a comment in the section below. Leave also your name and email in which to contact you, or email hookofabook@hotmail.com with subject line lace.

– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Also, Sandra has this giveaway going and you can enter to win on her website below!

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01_Mist of MidnightMists of Midnight, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Howard Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire
Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609434-mist-of-midnight

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

Praise for Mist of Midnight~

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Author Sandra Byrd, Biography~

03_Sandra Byrd AuthorAfter earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra onFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

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

Hashtags: #MistofMidnightBlogTour #HistoricalRomance #HistFic #Victorian #ChristianHistorical

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @sandrabyrd @Howard_Books

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The Bruges Tapestry Mixes History, Art Theft, and Secrets of the Church into Top-Notch Mystery

The Bruges TapestryI have been raving about many different books lately, I know. However, after picking up The Bruges Tapestry by P.A. Staes for a quick read over several blocks of time, I was immediately immersed, which is saying something because that doesn’t happen often for me at the beginning of the book (even if I end up loving it). I didn’t want to have to put it down. This book is top-notch, in my opinion, and it’s going to the top of my best-loved historical fiction pile!

I enjoyed the entire experience of the novel.  I loved the cover photography and design, as well as the font work inside the small cut pages which helped to set each period of time. The book flowed seamlessly between early 1500s Belgium and present day California, with completely well-developed and contrasting characters. Both engaging and dramatic, then witty and strong, this book really kept me turning pages.

The protagonist in the present day, Claire DeMaer, is a detective with the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. A religious cynic, she’s a smart, sarcastic, independent woman who gets on the trail of a 500-year-old mystery pertaining to a Flemish tapestry. Juxtaposing, Staes gives us glimpses back in time to Beatrice, the daughter of the original weaver. That insight gives us knowledge into a secretive Roman Catholic Church and what they’ve hidden for so long.

This makes it not only a historical read, but a suspenseful mystery that I think is even better than anything Brad Meltzer decodes or Dan Brown can pen. I like Staes’ strong female lead, her gentle sub-protagonist, and her plot process.

I was amazed by the writing style of Staes so much; it was both cemented in perfect precision, but with a detail and description that read like poetry. Its flow was silky smooth and I felt very connected to the work. I would very highly recommend this book not only to lovers of historical fiction, but also those who like suspenseful thrillers, religious and/or art conspiracies, and good original mysteries.

I am now a huge fan of P.A. Staes and am looking forward to more in this series! The author states the The Bruges Tapestry is the first in the series of art theft detective Claire DeMaer.

Giveaway~

Enter to win one (1) paperback copy of The Bruges Tapestry, open internationally!

Just leave a comment with your email below, or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com,  or comment on the link on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HookofaBook).

Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 18, 2013. For an extra entry, follow my blog. For two extra entries more, “like” my Facebook page. Please let me know you did so to get entries.

The Bruges Tapestry, Synopsis~

The Bruges TapestryPublication Date: August 29, 2012
CreateSpace
Paperback; 254p
ISBN-10: 1478155582

Following a 500-year-old mystery concerning a Flemish tapestry is routine work for Detective Claire DeMaer, since she’s employed by the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. But, unlike past cases, this one involves arresting Paolo Campezzi, lover to her best friend Nora. Mr. Campezzi is a distant descendant of a Florentine Duke, who commissioned the tapestry in 1520 in Bruges, Belgium.

Claire finds that she must explore the true provenance of the tapestry, free Mr. Campezzi in order to re-establish her friendship with Nora and depend on the expertise of a textile expert she doesn’t know. All this must occur in 72 hours, before the Vatican takes the tapestry back.

But Claire isn’t the only one with the Vatican looking over her shoulder. Claire’s story intertwines with a 1520 diary by Beatrice van Hecke, the tapestry-weaver’s daughter. Only Claire can discover the secret that is woven in time.

P.A. Staes, Biography~

PA StaesP.A. Staes is the author of The Bruges Tapestry; the first of the Clare DeMaer series of historical mysteries. To lend veracity to The Bruges Tapestry Ms. Staes traveled to Stirling Castle in Scotland, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Cluny Museum and Gobelin Factory in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters to bring alive the rich and romantic world of tapestry. Ms. Staes lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs.

For more information, please visit P.A. Staes’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

Plenty already posted for this tour! See reviews, interviews, and giveaways: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thebrugestapestryvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #BrugesTapestryVirtualTour

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Ted Dekker Takes Risk with New Serial Novel Eyes Wide Open

Identity (Book 1), Mirrors (Book 2), Unseen (Book 3) and Seer (Book 4) are all part of a four episode thrill ride from New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker.  Combined, these sections puzzle together an almost 300-page book called Eyes Wide Open.  First launched at the end of December with the free Identity, it continued at a one book per week serial pace and are now all currently available in e-book format separately. In February, all will combine as Eyes Wide Open for purchase as a paperback or as one e-book. It is also available in audio book format.  I love the covers of each book too, which I’ll show throughout the post. They are amazing and fit the story perfectly! Great symbolism!

Eyes Wide open no whiteSynopsis for Eyes Wide Open, The Complete Story~
 
Who am I?
 
My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen and I’m about to die.I’m buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I’m lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won’t stop shaking.Some will say that I m not really here. Some will say I’m delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I’m the one buried in a grave.My name is Christy Snow. I’m seventeen. I’m about to die.So who are you? In a return to the kind of storytelling that made Black, Showdown and Three unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker drags that question into the light with this modern-day parable about how we see ourselves.Humming with intensity and blindsided twists, Eyes Wide Open is raw adrenaline from the first page to the last pure escapism packed with inescapable truth. Not all is as it seems. Or is it? Strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Literally. (Young Adult)
 
My Review Continued~

Ted Dekker is one of my top five favorite authors of all time in any genre. When he sent out an e-mail asking his loyal readers to sign-up for an exciting release, and offered the first section free, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Identity really held my interest and I moved through it in an hour or less and couldn’t wait for the next installment. The action was intense and I felt like the main character, Christy, fell through the proverbial Wonderland rabbit hole and into a milder version of an evil asylum all to end up popping through (instead of in) a coat closet to Narnia. 

IDENTITY_ebook_cover_MC

By the way, Identity was still free at the time of this post:  http://www.amazon.com/Identity-Eyes-Wide-Open-ebook/dp/B00ATRCPSE

My head was spinning throughout Mirrors and I was as confused as the characters were. The Wonderland analogy in a demented and diluted sort of way kept appearing to me as well as similar allegorical themes such as sometimes illusions can seem so real that they become real.  I was really confused and a little horrified (which is a good thing) by the beginning of Unseen, but parts of it also really touched my heart and I could relate to this message. It’s one I struggle with. It is a Christian message, more clear than in most any other book I’ve read by him, but for me, so endearing. Really, anyone can use a reminder on the message of hope and beauty. It is about humankind and love.  I wish so much I could tell you, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Corridor

I couldn’t wait for Seer to hit for purchase this week and luckily enough it came early. And with it, as I read it, came an enlightenment on the entire book, as how we stumble sometimes upon an enlightenment in our life.  I was so happy and fulfilled.  We need to sometimes not just “take off our rose-colored glasses” but also put on our lenses (or lamps as in the book) and see our light and “the” light.  Dekker, through the other characters, reminds us that everyone’s timing and road is different.  Just as some of the other characters weren’t complete by the end, I was also left hoping for more about a mysterious stranger we are introduced to in book 3 and 4.  At the end of Seer, I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see that he announced a new novel (maybe a series) focusing on this character and probably some of the other characters we already grew to know and feel compassion for.

Ted Dekker Unseen

Don’t try to read that cover of Unseen instantly, it won’t work. It is just the only cover I could find….

I will always want to read anything he likes and I won’t judge if I’ll continue to read him or not based on any certain book or series. Why? Because he is always pushing his own boundaries as well as ours as readers; he’s trying new things and taking risks. Sometimes that works better than other times, but he always entertains as well as makes a reader think (as long as that reader is willing to think).

He is a Christian author and sometimes his books are allegorical in nature, but many of his suspense thrillers can be read by anyone who just loves straight mind-bending psychological suspense. He doesn’t always sell himself as a Christian author.  However, in this series none of the marketing materials or content (plus he self-published using his Outlaw Studios so there isn’t any Christian publisher involved) mentioned that there would be a Christian message. He already has some secular horror and suspense readers up in arms over there being no “warning.” Is that something that needs to be done? What do you think?  I thought the message was an important one, whether you are a Christian or not, and anyone of any belief could find inspiring and motivational insight behind the message he presents in this book. 

Ted Dekker SeerIn regards to his marketing choices as well, he also didn’t really announce it as a young adult novel. Reading his other books, I felt the writing style was plainer and thought it didn’t quite feel like him. Anyone reading him for the first time should not judge his other works on this. I felt that he either rushed this plot and prose and didn’t polish it up, or he meant it for young adults. Without him saying which, I struggled with the whole book on this point since I was caught off guard. Again, as with the point previously mentioned, maybe he wanted to gain as many readers as possible to get to a #1 Amazon spot, but I feel he did himself a small injustice as an author.

Also, I bet if he announced as young adult appropriate, which it was, he would have gotten more readers. Many of his books teens probably shouldn’t read due to their nature so parents wouldn’t know to purchase for their kids too. It is totally teen appropriate and the message such a good learning point for them. It needs on a YA list!  When doing research for this blog (there is nothing up on his website as of 1/15/2013) it took me days to find any reference to it being a young adult genre, which I finally spotted on an Amazon synopsis (you can see for yourself on the synopsis I posted from there).

The only other final thing I have to remark on, and I hate to do it to my favorite author, but he really needed to slow down with this book. He really needed to hire an editor and if he did, he needs his money back. This was the most awful display of missed words and errors that I have ever seen in a bestselling author. Many times I got held up on a word that was missing and I am fast reader who skims. I don’t know how many times I remarked on this. It made me feel as if he just didn’t put the care into it. Yes, the first book was free but his reputation is on the line with new readers. What kind of impression is this? Also, the next three books were $2.99 each for about 100 pages each…that is quite a bit of money for me to spend–$10 for a 300 page e-book.  We have a collection of his books on our shelf too, if we wanted to get the combined paperback in February it would be another $14.99 and how do I know that the errors will be corrected??  He may get away with leaning on the fact that people like me who are dire hard fans will purchase anyway, but really we should still get our money’s worth.  If you are going to self-publish more works Ted Dekker, please hire an editor (I’m available!!).

That said, readers and Ted too, don’t take me wrong. I am a marketer and PR person by trade and I tend to have an eye that looks towards these issues. I know that Ted Dekker took a big gamble on self-publishing, which means he has to write and market his own books. (I’m happy to offer advice!)

Overall, it was a great new endeavor in taking a risk and trying several new things which are serial e-books, making a prequel so huge that everyone wants to join the club for what’s coming up next, offering his first free e-book section to create a buzz, and for him, self-publishing. I’m glad I was paying attention to his Facebook page and was already signed-up to receive his e-mail messages. It’s how I knew about the book coming out…his website doesn’t have any info. He really does treat his loyal fans well, so if you are a fan, be sure to sign-up on his website to get email notices or follow his Facebook updates.

I loved the story overall. It messed with my mind and made me think and cry and wonder all at various times. It felt surreal and yet real and it took ahold of my thoughts for weeks. I’d recommend the read and I really can’t wait for the next novel.

Ted Dekker, Biography~

td-headshotTed Dekker (born October 24, 1962) is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.
 
He is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels. Heralded as a “master of suspense” by Library Journal, Dekker has sold millions worldwide, establishing himself as one of the most widely recognized author brands. Dekker was born to missionaries and grew up among cannibals of Indonesia, and his peculiar upbringing gives him a unique perspective outside the cultural bubble, allowing him the freedom to share provocative insights in his fiction.

Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study Philosophy and Religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel was published.

Dekker’s novels have sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.

You can find him at Teddekker.com and Facebook.com/teddekker.

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