Thursday, July 18, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: The Perfect Lap (Racing Hearts of Serenity #2) by Sedona Hutton

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Perfect Lap by Sedona Hutton. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as a guest post about characterization. There's also a tour wide giveaway. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: The Perfect Lap
Series: Racing Hearts in Serenity #2)
Author: Sedona Hutton
Publisher: Rocky Top Book Press
Publication Date: April 29th 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
His job is to drive fast. Hers is to put the brakes on him. When sparks fly, will love cross the finish line?

AJ Ryan is a publicity nightmare. After a questionable photo surfaces and his biggest sponsor threatens to pull out, the NASCAR champion admits it might be time to hit the brakes. Thankfully, his new no-nonsense image consultant knows just where to start… too bad she revs his engine so loudly he can barely think straight.

Ella Fisher’s career is a welcome distraction from her poor taste in men. Fresh off another easily avoidable heartbreak, rehabbing AJ’s career is just the diversion she needs. But when the pulse-pounding client actually listens to her advice, Ella wonders if there’s more to the man behind the hot mess.

When Ella is granted guardianship of three boisterous children under the misconception that she and AJ are a couple, AJ surprises her by going along with the charade. Before long they find themselves in a make-shift family that feels more real than pretend.

As their professional relationship takes a hard turn for the personal, a single overheard conversation could make it all go up in flames. Will Ella and AJ’s romance hit the wall, or will love take the checkered flag?

The Perfect Lap is the second standalone novel in the Racing Hearts of Serenity romance series. If you like bad boys with a heart of gold, strong women, and love stories with a new age twist, then you’ll adore Sedona Hutton’s fun, sexy tale.

“I bet you have a beautiful smile,” he drawled, then lowered his mouth to hers.

She should have pulled away—she didn’t know this man from Adam. But everything inside her protested. After gazing into each other’s eyes, she felt like she knew him intimately.

His lips were warm and tingly, his kiss pure perfection…and he drew back way too quickly. He blinked those deep blue eyes and gave her a lazy grin. “I knew it.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb over her lower lip. “Beautiful.”

That’s when she realized she was smiling.

He rose, and she gave him a quick once over, taking in the sexy stubble on his face, the taut muscles of his chest, his lean physique. As good old-fashioned lust rolled through her like a quick-moving thunderstorm, she silently bemoaned her situation. This was a hell of a time to have a newly implemented man-ban.

“Keep smiling.” Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he winked at her. “It suits you,” he added in that low, sexy drawl. Then he sauntered off.

Her breath caught as she spun around to gape at him. He’d just kissed her and now he was leaving? She contemplated calling him back, then reconsidered. She had other fish to fry.

Even so, she couldn’t stop herself from tracking his every move as he swaggered toward the party, his backside looking every bit as fine as the rest of him. Pressing a hand to her chest, she let out a slow exhale. Even though she was one-hundred percent committed to her man-ban, she could admit—at least to herself—that the sexy, charming stranger had intrigued her.
Author Sedona Hutton finds inspiration in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and curly-coated retriever. In addition to writing, she’s a Reiki Master and a certified Chopra Center Meditation instructor. She enjoys reading, yoga, gardening, and experiencing the great outdoors on boats, motorcycles, and Jeeps. Sedona pens a “Peace, Love, & Joy” blog on her website.

Sedona’s debut novel, Cloud Whispers, was a Finalist in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Contest, an Official Selection in the 2018 Summer eBook Awards for New Apple Literary, and Shortlisted for the Books Go Social Best Book of 2018.

Writing Tip: Deep Characterization Enables Deep POV
by Sedona Hutton
When I first started writing, I found a character worksheet on the Internet and filled it out. Heroine: Age: 24. Red hair, green eyes, lots of curves. Hero: Age: 26. Midnight hair, cobalt eyes, plenty of hard muscle. A few more details and I was ready to write my masterpiece!

I quickly learned that without significant character detail, my manuscript was plagued with inconsistencies and required continuous rework. Even worse, my characters didn’t feel real because I didn’t know them well enough to get inside their heads.

Through research, courses, and good old-fashioned trial and error, I learned the art of deep characterization.

So what is deep characterization? Deep characterization entails developing your characters inside and out. It’s getting to know your main characters as well as you know your best friend.

Deep characterization is not just a physical description nor is it answering a few easy questions. It’s a detailed assessment of your character’s personality, strengths, flaws, and wounds. It’s a comprehensive understanding of his/her childhood, family, friends, pets, phobias, memories, and so on. It’s how he/she relates to the world, how they react to stress and other emotions. It’s even about their favorite food, color, TV show, movie, and book because each of these can offer invaluable nuggets of information about your characters…that is, if you dig deep enough.

There are many ways to create deep characterization. I use deep characterization worksheets, character interviews, and the 5-Why Process. I learned most of these techniques through OIRWA courses taught by Laurie Sanders. For more information, please visit Laurie at:

5-Why Process
This easy process can be used to generate a deep understanding of your character.

Instructions: Take one aspect of your character and ask 5 questions. Sometimes you may find that you need to ask 5 more and then 5 more!

Character: AJ Ryan, the hero in my newly released contemporary romance, The Perfect Lap.

What is AJ’s favorite drink? A shot of Jack Daniels.

Why is this his favorite drink? It brings back warm memories of his granddad who enjoyed an occasional shot of Jack Daniels. AJ moved in with his grandfather when he was 12.

Why did AJ move in with his grandfather? Because his mother couldn’t handle him.

Why couldn’t AJ’s mother handle him? Because AJ got into a lot of trouble, including smoking, getting bad grades, skipping school, taking a joy ride in his neighbor’s car, etc.

Why did AJ get in trouble? It was the only way he could get attention from his mother. Otherwise, she primarily focused on his younger half-brother, Sam.

You can see how this 5-Why exercise helped me dig into AJ’s background. After completing many of these, I gained a deeper understanding of AJ and what makes him tick.

Completing deep characterization before you start writing allows your story to flow from your characters. It also enables writing in a deep point of view. When I start a new story, I complete deep characterization first—even before I develop themes, plots, and outlines. When I start with deep characterization, the rest of it flows with effortless ease.

(This guest post was written by Sedona Hutton, author of romance and women’s fiction novels with new age, spiritual twists.)
Sedona Hutton will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to one randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, visit a different stop on the tour and leave a comment on that stop each day. Good luck!
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Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Sin Soldiers (Fragments #1) by Tracy Auerbach

Title: The Sin Soldiers
Series: Fragments, #1
Author: Tracy Auerbach
Publication Date: July 23rd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Red compound makes them angry. Yellow exhausts them. Blue drives them into a state of ravenous addiction. The thief Kai knows about the chemically controlled soldiers of the Eastern forces and their savage, deadly nature. When a robbery attempt at Club Seven goes wrong, Kai is captured by a handler and his bestial soldier-boy. She wakes up inside the military base with no idea what happened to her twin brother, Dex.

Things go from bad to worse when Kai is started on a drug and training regimen, and forced to take injections of blue compound. The scientists in charge plan to make her into a working soldier who will mine the mysterious power crystals beneath the desert. Kai becomes a victim of the bully Finn, a handsome but nasty soldier whose years on red compound seem to have erased his humanity. Still, she begins to pity the Seven Soldiers, including the monstrous boy who tried to rip her to shreds at the club. They appear to be nothing more than genetically enhanced, drug-controlled teenagers.

On the outside, Dex and his tech-savvy boyfriend try to crack the soldiers’ chemical code to find a weakness that will break the system. But Kai has already been drawn deep into her new world. Strong feelings for the soldiers she’s come to know have started to cloud her judgment. Can she escape and find Dex without becoming a monster herself?

Kai still had her heart and eyes set on the safety of the city’s distant lights when the snarling soldier dove and grabbed her around the legs. She screamed as she fell, and tried to claw at his arms, but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingernails ripped her skin as he flipped her over and dragged her toward his waiting mouth.

He’s going to eat me alive.

His face was very close to her now, and even in this dim light, she could see that he had the pale skin of a southerner, and ear-length blond hair. She was surprised again by how very young he looked. Then she saw his eyes. There was no humanity in the heavily dilated pupils; only death. His open-mouthed roar exposed a straight line of teeth, with four unnaturally sharp, piercing incisors. Now face to face, she saw that the tiny rings of iris around his pupils were light brown, but the pupils themselves weren’t black the way they were supposed to be. The spot in the middle of the brown glowed with an odd blue tinge that lit his face.

Flinching, she prepared to be ripped apart. Instead, a huge jolt that rattled through her body, from the base of her spine to the top of her head, making her teeth clamp down on a shriek. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that the handler had regained control. He grabbed the chain leash around his charge’s neck and pressed a button. Waves of electricity rocked the giant, sending his body into spasms. Kai breathed a sigh of relief, even as she felt the power surge pass through him and into her own body. The last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that it was far better to be electrocuted than to be torn to shreds by that monster.

Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.

Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.

On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.

When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: Brandon Sanderson for high fantasy and epic world-building. Holly Black for all my Fae and magical needs. Naomi Novik for stunning prose and fresh fairytales.

Q: What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
A: J.R.R. Tolkien. His books are very dense, and I tried them for the first time when I was a bit too young, but once I allowed myself to become fully immersed in his world, and to understand its history and mythology, I loved it. I’ve actually read his main works twice, and even read the Silmarillion.

Q: What book or series got you into reading/writing?
A: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It was a read-aloud, read by my second-grade teacher, and it completely sucked me in. I was in Narnia every time she opened that book, and thought all night about what would happen next.

Q: Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
A: Charlie! He’s such a hot mess of an id-monster, and so driven by his flaws, that it’s hard to not relate to him. I’m always a ‘more, more, more’ person, and never a moderate. Charlie is sort of the embodiment of that, but he means well. He’s perfectly imperfect – very human in a world that is often cruel. I relate to a lot of that.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
A: My writing space is the laundry room in my house, where I’ve set up a desktop computer and chair. There’s also a small bathroom and a filing cabinet. I am frequently interrupted by my dog stealing socks or my family yelling for me, or my kids walking in to use the bathroom.

But I still can’t write anywhere else, especially on a laptop. It needs to be my desktop, and preferably in isolation. I love when I’m alone in the house, or when everyone else is sleeping.

Q: How do you select the names of your characters?
A: I usually choose names that seem to work for the characters, and then look up the meanings. In THE SIN SOLDIERS, all of the characters’ surnames are tied into their character or plotline. See if you can catch it! For another book, SONS OF FIRE, that I have coming out next winter, my main character is a fire demon. I looked up names that meant fire and got ‘Aidan.’ That simple!

Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A: THE SIN SOLDIERS is part of the FRAGMENTS trilogy, so obviously those will be one complete body of work. My other book that’s coming out, SONS OF FIRE, is a standalone. As far as connecting them within the universe, I admire authors like Brandon Sanderson and Leigh Bardugo who do that well, but I’m not there right now.

Q: If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
A: Write because you love it. If you’re in it to write, because that’s what you love, then you’ll never be disappointed. It won’t matter how many rejections or poor reviews you accumulate, because once you’re writing, you’re a writer. You don’t need other people to validate it.

On the flipside of that, don’t forget to be open to taking advice. I’ve scrapped so many books or reworked them entirely because they just weren’t going anywhere. My younger self was a bit more stubborn about that. Listen to your audience! If one of my beta-readers doesn’t like something, I make it a note. If more than one of them dislikes that same thing, I make it a change.
Win a signed copy of The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach and swag (t-shirt with the book cover, bookmark, and stickers).
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: The Ghost Hunter's Daughter by Caroline Flarity

Welcome to my stop on the NBtM Virtual Book Tour for The Ghost Hunter's Daughter by Caroline Flarity. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt and a very scary guest post for you. There's also a tour wide giveaway. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more excerpts, guest posts, author interviews, reviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: The Ghost Hunter's Daughter
Author: Caroline Flarity
Publisher: East Side Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Paranormal
Sixteen-year-old Anna sees things from another world, the spiritual world, a skill that isn’t exactly useful in high school. It’s bad enough that her mother, possessed by a demon, took her own life when Anna was a child, a loss she remains tortured by. Now her father makes his living “clearing” haunted objects, and Anna’s job as his assistant makes her a social misfit. Most kids in her suburban New Jersey town refer to her just as “Goblin Girl.”

Only Freddy and Dor remain loyal friends. But Anna’s so focused on her own problems, she’s missed that her connection with Freddy is moving beyond the friend zone.

As junior year approaches, a rare solar storm lights up the night skies and the citizens of Bloomtown begin to act strangely: Anna’s teachers lash out, her best friends withdraw, and the school bullies go from mean to murderous. When Anna realizes she can harness this evil power, she sets out to save Bloomtown and the only family she has left.

But to do so, she must keep her own increasingly dark urges at bay.

It was possible to zoom in on one of the girl’s closed eyelids until her eyelashes resembled a network of massive black bridges that curved over a far horizon. But why stop there? Tunneling further down to a cavernous follicle at the base of a single lash, there was a cluster of microscopic mites. They had long, sectioned, eight-legged bodies covered with blue scales. One mite was half submerged inside the follicle, feeding, while the others huddled in the shadow of the giant eyelash, avoiding the moonlight. The mites had a hissing focus on mating and territory. Although their language was alien, their joys, rivalries and fierce protectiveness of their young were palpable. Was it possible to zoom in further onto their armored skin and discover even more layers of life? Where would it end? Was there an end? Ha! It was like the what-if game.

Wait. The what-if game? In a great swoosh of images and sensations, the memories came of her and Freddy as kids, lying on the slant of roof outside her bedroom window. That’s right! She had an identity. She was Anna Fagan, also known as Goblin Girl. What was she doing staring at a bunch of microscopic mites on someone’s eyelash? Her awareness expanded outward in great swaths of rushing space, further and further from the mites to the cluster of giant bridge-like eyelashes, until she once again hovered above the body of the girl. A realization rippled through Anna—the girl on the floor was her.


Caroline Flarity is a web content producer living in NYC. Her fascination with fringe topics and love of scary movies led her to begin her writing journey penning creepy screenplays. Her debut novel THE GHOST HUNTER'S DAUGHTER started life as a feature script, placing in the finals of the StoryPros Awards and as a semifinalist in Slamdance Film Festival's writing competition. She enjoys pitting her characters against both supernatural and cultural evils.

Have you ever had a spooky encounter? If so, what happened?
* This story took place years ago during a stressful week when I visited a lot of reportedly haunted locations. I kept some details vague to protect the privacy of those involved.

I once traveled to a southern city as a producer of a mini-pilot that was used to pitch a reality series to TV networks (the series was never picked up). The city was known as one of the most haunted in America. A close-knit community of haunted tour guides, paranormal investigators, psychics and Wiccans lived there, isolated by their unique lifestyles in the middle of the so called “Bible Belt”. They needed each other, even though they didn’t always get along. That was the hook of the show: a docu-soap that would follow the drama happening in the group as well as the spooky stuff they were up to.

During the shoot, we gained access to reportedly haunted locations where we filmed interviews with the cast and their paranormal investigations. The locals were generous, and the cast were fascinating people who I liked and admired. Unfortunately, there was one person on the crew who I clashed with regularly. I’m fairly familiar with both reality TV formats and the paranormal, but my ideas were constantly questioned and overruled. I returned to my hotel each night feeling beaten down and disrespected.

One evening toward the end of the shoot, we were in a haunted location interviewing cast members, and this particular crew member became confrontational with me in front of the cast. I pushed on with the interviews even though I was at a low point emotionally and mentally, exactly the state one should not be in while visiting a haunted location.

Later at my hotel I felt something crawling on my back. I tried to brush it off but couldn’t feel anything there. I looked at my back in the mirror but didn’t see a bug. The crawling sensation continued after I settled into bed. I could feel little legs moving as something scuttled around on my back, something with unmistakable form and weight. It scuttled around, stopped for a few moments or minutes, then scuttled some more. Strangely, I wasn’t terrified. The crawling sensation continued even though my back was pressed against the mattress. It didn’t make sense. How could it still be crawling when it should be smashed by my body weight? And why didn’t I feel a strong disgust or fear? It was unsettling, to be sure, but didn’t inspire terror.

The sporadic crawling sensation continued for the rest of the shoot. On the last night the executive producer flew in and hosted a dinner for the cast and crew. I confessed what was happening to a psychic, one of our cast members, and she put her hand on my back. “Yeah, you have something there, a low-intelligence entity, possibly from another dimension,” she said. These types of entities, she explained, and much worse, are often present in haunted locations where the veil between worlds is thin. This rather harmless entity had attached to me because my natural defenses were compromised due to stress and I hadn’t taken the proper precautions (sage, meditations, getting enough sleep, etc.). It would go away after a while, she assured me.

I consider myself well-versed on the paranormal, but I’d never heard of anything like this “bug”. I knew I might experience paranormal activity on the shoot, but I expected maybe a whisper in my ear, shadows moving in my peripheral vision, feeling something watching, etc. Never did I envision a non-threatening inter-dimensional thing crawling on my back. The fact that I never imagined such a creature is important. Because I had no preconceived notion that this phenomenon could occur, it’s less likely that I created or imagined it.

If a real bug comes anywhere near me, I usually stop at nothing to get away from it. But this invisible one didn’t inspire that type of visceral reaction. There was an oddly neutral feeling about it. It stayed on my back for several weeks before fading away completely. I was pensive for a year or so afterwards, thinking it might come back, but it never did. The whole experience taught me something new about the paranormal and myself.

As much as I’m fascinated by ghosts and other phenomena, I’m no longer interested in actively placing myself in their path. I got off relatively easy with the bug-thing, but who knows if I’d be as lucky the next time?
Caroline Flarity will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment at a different stop on the tour each day. Good luck!
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Book Blitz: Castle of Concrete by Katia Raina

Title: Castle of Concrete
Author: Katia Raina
Publication Date: June 11th 2019
Genre: Young Adult Historical Romance
In 1990-1991, when the history of Russia and the entire Soviet Union is being revisited and the rules are changing, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl, Sonya Solovay, reunites with her dissident mother after twelve years of hiding out in Siberia--her life's dream realized. Still, she sees herself as a typical Soviet citizen: a shy, quiet, obedient, barely-there girl, dissolving into the past, her country's and her own. Determined to break into her new existence, Sonya tries out a shining new persona, but most of her efforts backfire. One mysterious boy notices her, wants to hear her stories, makes her feel like she is the shiniest part of his world. Everything else might as well fade away--her distant and hungry-for-gossip classmates, the equally shy Jewish friend who doesn't always seem to understand her, the growing tension with her fiercely Jewish Mama, the rumors of an impending communist coup. More and more, Sonya spends time with her "rescuer" at a construction site she calls "castle." So what if he uses an occasional anti-Semitic slur?

In the shadow of a crane, among metal pipes and concrete blocks, she finds it easy, falling, falling in love with a muddy-eyed boy she knows so little about. As for being Jewish in a country where the Republics are supposed to be "sisters" and the People brothers," what does one's nationality have to do with anything?

All the while, Sonya's mama is falling in love also: she is falling in love with shiny America, a land where where being different seems to be celebrated, and not everyone is so very Russian and snow-white. The place sounds amazing, but so far away. Will Sonya ever find her way there?

Order your copy on IndieBoundBarnes & Noble or Amazon
Bus number 346 shakes our bones as it drives us along a patchy road. The air inside is nothing but fumes and breath. Space, too, is in short supply, a rare commodity like boots, refrigerators, bread, sausage, or just about anything. But Ruslan’s hand sliding down the sweaty railing and landing on mine at each traffic-light jolt more than compensates for these inconveniences of life.

I’ve never been on a date before.

A true one. The kind they write in books about.

Fellow passengers push their weight onto me. They shove their thick shoulders into my nose. I grin through their wrinkled faces. They look at my smile as though I’m touched, like my head has departed. Maybe I wouldn’t be smiling, either, if, like them, I was on my way to a hunt for fresh meat and socks in the capital, net sack at the ready.

In the inside pocket of my new pink leather jacket is a pair of second-row Moscow Concert Hall tickets. And my Jewish Star. I stuck it in there this morning, for, I don’t know, luck. For courage. Maybe I’ll show it to him today.

Not now, of course. Not in this angry crowd.

“How was, you know?” I wink at him, through all those people. “The secret thing?”

His hand stays on mine. His mouth moves to my ear. “It was good,” he whispers, his hot breath tickling me.

“Will there be more?”

He nods. His thin smile. How I’ve missed it.

“Maybe next time, you’ll take me?”

Demonstrations. That’s the best place to be in Moscow. Better than a concert hall. Better than the McDonald’s they have just built in the city center, where Ruslan promised to take me today, before my father’s show.

The growing crowd reshuffles yet again at the next stop. Hmph, a puff of salty-sour air flies toward me in a foul-smelling snort. It comes from an odd-faced man with pockmarked cheeks, his eyes glazed over. Even when the bus slows, the man can’t stand straight.

“What you gaping at?” he asks me, roughly.

Now I stare, transfixed, at the strange man’s yellow teeth. Ruslan tries to pulls me closer. But when the bus jumps over a pothole, the man leans into my face again. “Nice jacket,” he says.

“Just don’t look at him,” Ruslan hisses into my ear.

I turn my head away, and face instead a cranky-looking old man in a checkered cap, muttering, “Let me through! I’m an invalid! I’m a veteran!”

The man’s voice rises over the noisy shaking of the bus, about how he fought the Germans, got a bullet in his calf, and deserved a seat. The sour-smelling barely-standing drunk beside me tries to latch onto the sleeve of my jacket, but misses.

Arguments rise up slowly, thickening like the dust pouring out of the back of the bus, then settling over us like the soot covering the windows.

“What, you think she doesn’t deserve a seat?” A younger man with a thoughtful face points at a harried-looking woman with an empty net sack, whose shawl is falling off her shoulder. “She works all day, probably has a child to feed, no?”

“We deserve one, too, as we’ll be standing in line for McDonald’s for two hours at least, right?” I ask Ruslan cheerfully, earning scowls from all sides for us both.

“The country upside-down . . .” the veteran mutters, shaking his finger at me.

“McDonald’s . . . isn’t that nice?” the drunk echoes him.

“Hard-working . . . people . . . can’t find underwear in a store—not a sausage in a refrigerator . . .” His wavering voice grows. “. . . while some teenage Jid struts around in a pink leather jacket and stuffs herself at a McDonald’s restaurant.”

I clutch the railing, gritting my teeth hard. I don’t hear the rest of his nonsense, not after that word—not again—trailing me like a cursed shadow.

Heat covers my face. When I look at Ruslan’s, for a second I don’t recognize him. His eyes grow hard, as though something just closed within him.

“What did you just say to my girl, dumb a**hole?” Ruslan wheezes.

“Ooooh, you love your little jid-ovochka, eh?”

Murmurs rise all around us. Ruslan gives the drunk a shove on the chest. The crowd behind the drunk shifts, and he staggers backward.

“What’s this country coming to?” the checkered-cap veteran says. He raises his index finger in the air and points it at me, at Ruslan, at the drunk, who is scrambling back up again.

“It’s the Jidy, I tell you,” the drunk slurs.

“I said, shut it, you f*cking idiot!” His face completely unrecognizable now, Ruslan rushes headfirst at the drunk, though several pairs of arms restrain him. My heart hammering, I press against him. The young man with the nice face appears before us, standing tall, separating us from the drunk and the veteran, both.

“Calm down, comrades,” he says evenly.

Ruslan holds me under the arms like I am some kind of a doll, his hands so close to my chest on either side of me. I don’t move them aside. His breathing slows. “I won’t let anyone hurt you, myshka,” he whispers. Whom he is trying to soothe, himself or me, I do not know. “Sh-sh-sh,” he breathes into my ear, rocking me a little. “Don’t you mind him. I bet he’s on drugs. I bet he was hallucinating.”

And yet, somehow, the drunk saw right through me, Ruslan.

The doors of the bus jerk open, letting in fresh diesel-filled air. More people pile in at each stop, pile on top of me. They thaw the early autumn chill off each other’s bodies, breathing, coughing, sweating, smelling of smoke, trying to separate me from Ruslan in their fierce search for a better spot. But he keeps his hands on my waist, or at least I hope they’re his, holding me tight, saving me from the shifting crowd, shielding me from a drunk who blames everything on Jews. I tremble in his arms, less now from fear and more from the excitement of being his myshka. I am his girl, he said so. He said so.
In Katia Raina’s fascinating and sympathetic Castle of Concrete, the concerns of young adulthood are amplified tenfold against a background of historical upheavals. … [A] riveting story about growing up in dark political times.” ―Foreword Reviews, (starred)

This book stole my heart. Gorgeously crafted and deliciously romantic, Castle of Concrete left me breathless until the very end.” ―Heather Demetrios, author of I’ll Meet You There

“Castle of Concrete is constructed of the finest story materials: complex characters, page flipping suspense, and exquisite details. All in a troubled historical landscape. The story kept me reading with pounding heart.” ―Joyce Moyer Hostetter, author of the award-winning Bakers Mountain Series

Readers won’t easily forget spunky Sonya, struggling to understand her Jewish roots amid rising anti-Semitism, her activist mother’s secrets, and her attraction to two boys, each of them dangerous in their own way.” ―Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author of the award-winning Gringolandia

A tour de force about the Russian people, and their first, tentative steps toward what had been denied for generations–a private life in all its imperfect glory. And then comes the ending.” ―Lynda Durrant, author of The Last Skirt

When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.


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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Lineage (The Blood and Sacrifice Chronicles Book One) by C. Vonzale Lewis

Title: Lineage
Series: The Blood and Sacrifice Chronicles
Author: C. Vonzale Lewis
Publication Date: July 16th 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Smart-mouthed Nicole Fontane has a way of getting herself into trouble. She’s been fired from every job she’s had but still refuses to work in her father’s apothecary shop because of his practice of Earth Magick. On Tulare Island where Nicole grew up, Magick has always been a way of life—one she’s determined to avoid at all costs.

With less than two hundred dollars in the bank and rent due, Nicole is forced to take a job at Tribec Insurance as a last resort. Little does she realize, the moment she sets foot inside the building, she becomes a pawn. A sinister force has set its sights on her and will stop at nothing to use her in a sadistic game.

Tribec’s proprietors, the Stewart family, are curiously preoccupied with the Naqada, the mysterious pre-dynastic Egyptian society. Nicole finds it creepy, but on the bright side, the job reconnects her with her estranged friend, Marta. Yet the eerie atmosphere, disappearing Magick wards, and the smell of blood inside Tribec bring Nicole to a startling conclusion—the Stewarts are practicing Blood Magick, the deadliest of the Five Principles. By the time Nicole uncovers the truth, Marta and her four children have gone missing, and all signs implicate the Stewarts and an archaic blood ritual to an Old One, a Naqada god imprisoned on Tulare Island.

Battling the evil of Blood Magick will demand Nicole to confront a hidden past and unlock the Magick buried within. But can she set aside her deep-rooted fears to work with a team of vigilante Mages? Or will the clock run out on Marta and her children—and on Nicole?

A few moments later, the elevator doors opened and, thankfully, deposited us on the seventeenth floor. I followed Duncan to a set of offices in the center of the floor. He stopped at the first door in a row of three that faced the elevators. The silver name plate affixed to it read: Francine Delaporte. After he rapped on it three times, he planted his feet a few inches apart and placed his hands behind his back.

Maybe Duncan thought he was still in the military.

I took in the room while I waited. Cameras inside small black orbs dotted the ceiling. A hazy gray tint covered the windows, allowing minimal light to filter into the room. Industrial gray walls sported a few framed “inspirational” quotes that referred to “teamwork” and “having a positive attitude.” They even had the stupid “Hang in There” poster with a cat hanging off a wire.

Even the partitions that divided the employees’ desks were gray. The only break up in the ashen color were the fake wood desks.

It reminded me of a mental asylum.

The majority of the people in the office were women, with a few men thrown in here and there. Did they believe women were more suited to talking on the phone? Either way, everyone in the room was pasty, their eyes sunken in, wearing expressions that suggested they had given up on life. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were all former tenants of the asylum, dressed up in over-sized clothes and forced into the role of “employee.”

The fact that no one looked up when Duncan and I got off the elevator supported my theory. They just sat there in their little black chairs, talking into their headsets, all repeating what sounded like the same practiced spiel in monotonous tones, a few minutes behind one another. Like a rolling set of waves crashing against the most boring shore imaginable.

I turned back to Duncan. He still stood at ease in front of Francine Delaporte’s door. What the hell was taking this woman so long? My feet were killing me. Like an idiot, instead of breaking the shoes in after Kara left last night, I had curled up on the couch with a bottle of Samuel Adams, contemplating my limited options. My little pity party of one ended at midnight when I realized my only option was one I wasn’t willing to entertain.

As I switched my purse from my right shoulder to my left, I caught sight of a faint circular line drawn around the cubicles. I stared at the ground, unsure if I was seeing things, or if there really was a line drawn on the floor. I straightened and moved to the left, trying to follow it. As I stood there transfixed, someone brushed their frigid hand across my exposed neck.

Coldness raced down my spine, and the scent of sand filled my nostrils.

I whipped around.

Duncan was gone.

In his place stood a woman wearing a red paint suit. Given that she was at least five feet away from me with her hands down at her sides… Who the hell had touched my neck?

Francine extended her hand and smiled. “Hello. Ms. Fontane?”

I stepped forward, my legs suddenly weak, and took her hand. “Hi.” I cleared my throat. “Yes, I’m Nicole Fontane.”

“I’m Francine Delaporte. Let’s get started.” She let go of my hand and walked into her office.

I rubbed the back of my neck, trying to warm the sudden chill that had settled there. I glanced around the room. The employees remained at their desks, staring rapt at their computer screens.

A cool breeze circled the room, pulling my gaze toward the ceiling. An air vent sat directly above me.

Before I entered Francine’s office, I glanced down at the floor. The markings were gone. Maybe I had imagined them. And maybe the air-conditioning explained the feeling of someone brushing their fingers across my neck.

Yes—for sanity’s sake, I was going to go with that.

Just my overactive imagination.

My name is Carla Vonzale Lewis and I like my martini’s shaken…never stirred. I was born in Georgia but please don’t mistaken me for a Georgia peach. I’m more like a prickly pear. Speaking of being born, someone asked me recently if I remember my birth. And I have to say, yes, I do remember that handsy doctor pulling me out into the cold. Right Bastard!!!

Despite being born in the South, I grew up in the North. California to be exact. Every once in a great while we get to experience all four seasons. But mostly, it’s just heat. You should see our electric bill in the summer! I like the beaches, but not the sand. I enjoy being outside, but the sun gets on my nerves. Does it really need to send its death ray to a single spot on my skin! (I told you I was a prickly pear) And don’t get me started on the traffic.

The first part of my life, I worked in customer service. This line of work led to the discovery of my favorite drink, or, rather, several favorite drinks. I could list the many concoction but that would go on forever!

Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy job. But I did enjoy talking with people. And when it came time to develop my characters, I drew on those experiences.

I have a degree in Fashion Design. Don’t ask. The only thing I gained from those wasted two years of my life, is being introduced to the love of my life, Bobby. He is truly my rock.

Why do I write? Well my first book, LINEAGE, answered the question, “What does the big boss actually do all day?” I might have gone a little dark with my answer, but it was fun answering the question. But mainly, I love writing because it gives me power to create. And it also gives me the power to fix this broken world.

Truthfully, I’ve always loved the written word and the way a good book could take you to another place and time. Instead of hanging out in the lunchroom, I would go to the library and create stories or bury my head in a really good book.

I started writing my first novel in 2014 and 30 days later I had a collection of scenes that needed some serious revision. And that was where the fun came in. Over the course of several years my novel went through final draft after final draft until I finally came to…you guessed it, the final draft.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, binge watching shows on Netflix, and trying to convince my husband that getting a dog is a wonderful idea.

And one day, I will discover how many licks it actually takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

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