Friday, January 31, 2020

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Smailholm by C.L. Williams

Title: Smailholm
Author: C.L. Williams
Publisher: Matador
Publication Date: January 28th 2020
Print Length: 248 pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Shh! Can you keep a secret?

In wild medieval Britain thirteen-year-old Wynn Hoppringle has a big secret of the smallest kind. She has discovered a miniature village hidden close to her family home of Smailholm Tower. When tales of merciless border raiders reach the small folk, they realise they are in danger and must seek a cure to their strange predicament. Can Wynn help her tiny friends or will the scheming King quog have other ideas? Heroes it seems come in all sizes.

A spellbinding tale of adventure, magic and friendship.” - V.F. Sharp, author of The Forest of Arrows

First Prize: A copy of Smailholm by C.L. Williams in a luxury clothbound hardback with Smailholm book swag including enamel ‘Reader of Magic’ enamel pin, Believer bookmark, three character illustrations and miniature bow and arrow charm (INT)
Second Prize: Audiobook of Smailholm by C.L. Williams (INT)
Third Prize: £25 Amazon gift card
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Book Blitz and Giveaway - When Hope Ends: life begins by Freya Barker

Title: When Hope Ends: life begins
Author: Freya Barker
Publication Date: January 21st 2020

Print Length: 210 pages
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

It’s the best day of his life–the worst of hers.

She left her soul behind in the dead silence of a hospital room.

He is bright with hope after being so close to losing faith.

One moment in time leaves their paths unavoidably entwined.

An invisible connection held by one heart beating between them.

***Previously part of the anthology; Then There Was You.

Goodreads * Amazon * 

I turn my head to the parking lot and find a pretty little girl with light blonde hair, maybe eight or nine, walking my way. For a second I have a hard time answering.

“Hello,” I finally manage.

“Have you seen our heron?” she asks, stopping to look at the water’s edge, her eyes squinting against the setting sun. I automatically follow suit.

“No. I’ve sat here for a while, but I haven’t seen one. Do you see it often?”

I look over and find she’s come around the front and lowers herself on the step. “It’s a great white heron,” she informs me in her melodic singsong voice, keeping her eyes focused on the water. “There are lots of blue herons around, the white herons are more rare, but there’s one who comes here at night to fish.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white heron,” I admit, following her gaze out on the cove.


My eyes dart to the main house. All I can see is a pair of arms braced on the railing of the porch. The rest of the man’s body isn’t visible.

“Coming!” the girl yells back, getting up from her perch on my steps. She turns to me. “I have to go.”

“Okay, honey. I’m gonna sit here for a little longer. I’ll keep my eye open for your heron.”

Instead of doing that, I follow the girl’s bouncing blonde hair as she crosses the parking lot to the main house.

Award-winning author Freya Barker loves writing about ordinary people with extraordinary stories.

Driven to make her books about 'real' people; she creates characters who are perhaps less than perfect, each struggling to find their own slice of happy, but just as deserving of romance, thrills and chills in their lives.

Recipient of the 2019 Best Book We've Read All Year Award for "Covering Ollie", the 2015 RomCon “Reader’s Choice” Award for Best First Book, “Slim To None”, and Finalist for the 2017 Kindle Book Award with “From Dust”, Freya continues to add to her rapidly growing collection of published novels as she spins story after story with an endless supply of bruised and dented characters, vying for attention!

Website * Goodreads * 
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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Tour and Giveaway: The Truth About Night (The Merci Lanard Files #1) by Amanda Arista

Title: The Truth About Night 
Series: The Merci Lanard Files #1
Author: Amanda Arista 
Publication Date: January 21st 2020
Print Length: 275 pages
Genre: Paranormal Mystery 
As an investigative journalist, Merci Lanard has an uncanny knack for getting the truth out of people, a talent she uses to expose the real story behind her city’s most gruesome crimes.

Until one night, when her partner, Ethan, is killed.

Reeling from shock and grief, Merci vows to track down his murderer. As she starts digging, she meets Ethan’s estranged brother, Rafe, who agrees to work with Merci to find his brother’s killer. She soon discovers Ethan had been hiding things from her, mainly that he was a Shifter and had a whole life in a supernatural world she knew nothing about.

A Shifter himself, Rafe introduces Merci to magic she never knew existed. As they work together to uncover hidden connections between Ethan's murder and a series of strange dead bodies, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a turf war for the soul of the city.

If Merci is to have any hope of saving her city, she will have to face the truth about this war, the truth about this new magical world, and the truth about who she truly is.

“She’s lying!”

The words echoed across the parking lot, and everyone turned. They turned because it was a show; it was a spectacle at a funeral. It distracted people from their loss and own sense of mortality.

I turned around because this voice felt like someone sliding a blanket across my skin. The static in my brain rose to greet this new sensation, as did the hairs on the back of my neck.

The man I’d seen fighting with Levi stormed across the parking lot straight toward me. Hayne tried to step between us, but I restrained him with an outstretched hand. I’d never hidden behind Hayne before, I wasn’t about to start now. I would face him as I faced all threats, head on.

When he stopped before me, my skin singed under his teal-blue eyes and the anger that poured off of him. He glared at me, the arch of his eyebrow giving a wicked articulation to a presence that felt bigger than his body. Who was he? What were he and Levi fighting about? Why had he called me a liar? The questions started circling around in my brain and the sizzle to answer them was like Frankenstein’s monster being brought back to life.

“You’re lying about what happened that night.”

My body reanimated with the new electricity running through it. I took my time with my answer as I collected details. The who’s and what’s of the situation. Accent was Scottish. Couldn’t be family. He was smaller than Ethan. The suit was new from the smell of it. And, seriously, those eyes were as deep as an ocean trench.

“I never lie about anything,” I answered, keeping my voice steady and my nerves calm.

He thrust his finger at me. “You got him killed.”

Oh, the game was on now. A smile played across my lips as the current danced around my head, tingling and tightening the hairs at the nape of my neck, “You really want to do this here?”

“Yes. Here.” His glare deepened. “I need to know.”

It was comforting to feel the familiar chill down my spine as I slipped into interrogation mode.

“Did you see the initial police report?” I asked.

“It was a load of shite.”

The police report didn’t have much in it because I didn’t have much to tell. Even now, after three days of reliving it in my head, there was very little I could articulate about what had happened. And I’d never give up Benny as my informant—his ass was mine. “What do you think happened?”

“Ethan was targeted. Either by your stupidity or—” He snapped his mouth shut as the words nearly spilled out of him.

“Or what?” My voice somehow remained calm though I was vibrating on the inside with anticipation, like a high schooler with their first cup of coffee.

Tension filled his jaw and his entire body as he restrained himself from speaking.

I bit my lip to keep the questions inside. Who was this man? Why did he think that Ethan’s death was on me? What did he think happened that night? They were all right there, the questions, beating against the inside of my skull like a swarm of angry bees against a window.

He took another step toward me. I watched his lips, the flush of his cheek as he spoke. “I will find out what happened.”

I didn’t back down. Never backed down. “No, I will. He was my partner.”

His nostrils flared, and his knuckles went white at his sides. “Aye, but he was my brother.”

It was like steel bat to my midsection, and all the air left me in one quick assault.

Ethan never mentioned a brother.

Amanda was born in Illinois, raised in Corpus Christi, lives in Dallas but her heart lies in London. Good thing she loves to travel.

During the summer after second grade, she read every book in the young adult section of the library, much to the surprise of the local librarian. So she started making up her own stories and hasn’t stopped.

She has a husband who fights crime, one dog who thinks he’s a real boy, and another who might be a fruit bat in disguise. She recently added a tiny human to the mix who is following in her mother’s footsteps of storytelling.

Along with her BA in English & Psychology and her MA in Education, Amanda is a graduate of the SMU Creative Writing Program and now teaches other aspiring authors. She has delivered lectures at several writer conferences and loves discussing craft, character, and structure. Her current favorite: Stirring up Trouble with Romantic Subplots.

She is represented by Kimberly Brower, of Brower Literary & Management.

Random Facts:
- Amanda is adopted and loves to share that story with others to promote adoption.
- Amanda has a collection of turtle figurines that collects on her travels.
- Amanda has a strange love of cheesy horror movies. She prefers demons and witchcraft to slasher films.
- Amanda is a really good bowler and completely rocks at croquet.

- Describe yourself in six words or less.
Adorable, tall, adventurous, coffee hobbyist, woman extraordinaire

- When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In the back of my head, there has always been a little girl declaring herself a writer. I finished my first story in 3rd grade and I’ve been writing ever since. But I dared not say the word writer out loud. The first time I felt like I had the right to use the word was when I finished my first novel. It was no longer a strange hobby, something that I did late at night hidden from the world, but something that I was. After that, I realized how much of being a writer fundamental changes the way you look at the world around you. How you see story in everything, a beginning, middle and end in all art, people, and things.

- Why write about the paranormal?
From the very first story in third grade, the supernatural has been in all my stories. The Those Who Wander universe pretty much takes up the left half of my brain entirely. Ironically enough, I love the humanness of the monsters and their plights. Their struggle is one of balance and extremes and I love teetering on the ledge of that how much of us is monster versus human. It is in their extreme abilities and senses and sight that I feel things get more raw and therefore more beautiful.

- Which do you think is more important in your book, plot or characterization?
I knew Merci before I knew what obstacles I was going to throw in her path. I knew I wanted this hardened, slightly alcohol-dependent investigative journalist with this knack for the truth. I feel that characters determine their plot and that every plot point is designed to hinder the characters path to the easiest way out. Merci’s ultimate task is to have to rely on others to get the truth, which is something that she is loathed to do at the beginning of the book. It was also really challenging to come up with situations where Merci couldn’t just investigate her way out of something and allowed me to develop more craft along the way.

- Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I don’t outline until I know who the character is, which means that I’ll write out a couple of scenes in my head and then figure out who they are and what tortures I’m going to put them through. The technical term for that is a ‘pantser,’ or a person who just writes by the seat of their pants and goes where the characters take them.

I cast my books with actors so that I can get a good visual picture of them. I have a profile on Pinterest that’s nothing but pictures of people who are the physical representation of the characters. My husband calls it my Tiger Beat.

Coffee! I have to write with a cup of hot coffee and a package of Junior Mints or M&Ms. I tend to bribe myself with candy for every good sentence I write.

I talk to myself and do happy dances in my seat when something finally works out. I’m pretty animated. Helps me work off the chocolate I’m consuming.

- Other than writing, what are some of your passions in life?
I love to bake, specifically taking a junk food and making it in cupcake form. Makes me popular at work. Currently the most requested on is Snickers.

I’m really passionate about teaching and helping writer’s find their voice. I love working with new ideas and new themes and helping others craft their story nuggets to send out into the world.

- What can readers expect next from you?
The second installment of the Merci Lanard trilogy will be out later this year and I’m also putting together an author’s edition of the Diaries of an Urban Panther series that will connect to the Merci books with a novella.
Win a $50 Amazon gift card or a Merci Lanard swag pack! 
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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Finding Our Morning by Mickie B. Ashling

Title: Finding Our Morning
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publication Date: January 28th 2020

Print Length: 270 pages
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery, Romance

May 1977
Ginny Tate bides her time on the family stud farm in San Antonio, Texas, waiting to start veterinarian school in the fall. Bullied as an adolescent, she’s finally shed her old skin, but the emerging beauty still harbors insecurities and would rather hang out with horses than people.

Sponsored by his uncle, the Shah of Iran, Dariush—David—Akbari, a twenty-five-year-old NYU grad with a degree in International Law, is also a skilled polo player. He joins the royal traveling team for a tournament in Plano, Texas.

A decade in America has gradually altered David’s views on certain aspects of his culture. Torn between familial obligations and his adopted country, David resists the idea of returning to Iran so soon after graduation.

At the traditional after-party, David strikes up a conversation with Ginny, who is refreshingly honest. He receives an invitation to visit Tate Stud Farm and, on the pretext of buying another polo pony, persuades the shah to make a detour.

Great horsemanship coupled with self-effacing charm sets David apart from the entitled braggarts who normally populate the sport, and Ginny falls hard. His visit turns into a life-changing week that neither can foresee. Will they walk away unscathed or live to regret their impulsive behavior?

Inspired by events preceding the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty, Finding Our Morning is a love story that catapults us from Texas Hill Country to the epicenter of a monarchy on the brink of collapse.

Her mother raised an eyebrow but didn’t say a word when she showed up for breakfast wearing foundation and eye makeup.

Ray gave her a thumbs-up. “What’s on your agenda today?”

“The usual,” Ginny muttered, grabbing a bowl and filling it with milk and cereal. She sat down at the kitchen table and shoved in a mouthful.

“Not with a visitor trailing behind you,” Ray remarked. “Tell us something about David we don’t already know. What does he do when he’s not playing polo?”

“He’s a lawyer.”

“Back in his country?” Margery interjected.

“I’m not sure where he’ll be practicing,” Ginny admitted. “He just passed the bar.”

Margery buttered her toast and commented, “Don’t you think his family will want him back home.”

Ginny shrugged. “Probably.”

“You’ll keep that in mind, won’t you, sugar?” Ray asked, reaching across the table for Ginny’s hand. He gave her a gentle squeeze. “There’s no need to be mooning after a man who ain’t planning to stick around.”

Ginny sighed loudly. “Will you please let up?”

“You’ve never been this excited about a local boy,” Ray continued to caution. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Ginny turned to Margery. “Go ahead and add your two bits, Mom. Let’s get this over with before David shows up. Then I don’t want to hear another word.”

Margery pretended to zip her lips with a hand gesture.

Unappeased, Ginny blurted, “I’m shocked you have nothing to add.”

“He seems like a gentleman, and I’m going to rely on your good judgment. Enough said.”

“He is a gentleman,” Ginny assured her mother. “And I’m old enough to decide how I want to handle our friendship going forward.”

Margery visibly stiffened. “Don’t make me regret this, young lady.”

Ginny burst out laughing, startling her parents. After a few minutes, Ginny remarked, “You can’t keep me locked up in a paddock forever. I have to venture out on my own at some point. What’ll you do when I start college in the fall?”

“One of the hands will drive you and hang around till you’re done for the day,” Ray teased.

Ginny rolled her eyes in exasperation. “You guys are too much.”

Her parents exchanged a knowing look and Ginny waited for some new pronouncement, but none came. Done with her cereal, she left the empty bowl in the sink and headed outdoors.
At only eight in the morning, heat pressed down on Ginny as she walked toward the closest stable. The next three months were going to be scorchers, and native-born or not, residents of San Antonio seemed to droop in the summertime. Ginny often wished that they had a swimming pool in the backyard, but her parents consistently denied her request. The next best thing was Canyon Lake, where locals camped, picnicked, or boated. She wondered if David could swim. Wasn’t Iran a landlocked nation? Did they have lakes and swimming pools back where he came from? She was ashamed to admit she knew nothing about the country. Hopefully David could provide more details during his stay.

Two hours later, after she’d completed her morning chores, her shirt clung to her back and sweat dripped down the side of her face. She’d tied her hair back earlier, but she was certain her makeup was ruined. Ginny grabbed the hand towel that she carried in her back pocket and sopped up the perspiration. As luck would have it, David’s car was speeding up the long driveway.

Great. He’s going to get his first glimpse of sweaty me and make a U-turn.

Except it was Ginny whose mouth dropped when David got out of the vehicle gingerly and sagged against the door. After she got close enough to get a good look, she gasped. His left eye had a nasty shiner, and his lower lip, the one she’d sucked on last night, was cut and swollen.

“What in the hell happened to you?”

David shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it right now. Is there any place I can clean up? Your parents mustn’t see me like this. If you have aspirin or something to chase away a massive headache, I’d appreciate it.”

“Follow me,” Ginny ordered succinctly.

She led him to one of three guest cottages they kept on the property for prospective buyers. The simple A-frame structure had a double bed, two nightstands, and a dresser. There was also a bathroom with a shower. A hot plate and coffee paraphernalia were stacked on a utility table near the entrance. Earlier, the Tates had decided that David could bunk in one of these units.

Ginny pushed open the door and was glad she’d thought to turn on the ceiling fan after she’d made the bed and stocked the bathroom with fresh towels. David sank down on the mattress, resting his elbows on his thighs, and buried his face in his hands.

“I’ll be right back with something refreshing and your pills,” Ginny stated.

He didn’t respond, and she hurried across the lawn to the main house. Ginny returned to the cottage in under ten minutes with a blue tin containing first aid supplies. She also held a tall, ice-filled glass of lemonade in her other hand. Her parents were nowhere in sight, which was a good thing because she couldn’t provide any answers if pressed.

David looked up when he heard the door and attempted a lopsided smile. “Sorry to be so much trouble.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said, handing him the drink and two aspirin.

She rinsed out a washcloth in the bathroom sink, and paused in the doorway after finding him lying in bed with his eyes closed.

“Do you mind if I administer first aid.”

“Go ahead.”

There wasn’t much she could do for the shiner, except lay an ice cube wrapped in the damp washcloth over the orbital rim to try to reduce the swelling. His lip was still crusted with dried blood, and she cleaned it with a cotton ball drenched in hydrogen peroxide. She noticed the slight gash had already closed up. The blood must have seeped out the moment he’d taken the hit. After drying the area with a piece of gauze, she placed some antibiotic cream on a cotton swab and dabbed it on the split lip.

“How’s your head?” she asked in a low voice. If he was asleep, she didn’t want to startle him.

“It’s better,” David replied. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not right now.”

“I’ll let you get some rest,” Ginny said, standing to go.

David pulled her back by the wrist. “Please, stay.”

“Are you sure?”

“If it’s not inconvenient.”

“I’m done with my chores.”

“Wake me up in thirty minutes if I fall asleep.”

“Were you in an accident, David?”


Ginny frowned. “Did someone jump you in the parking lot?”

David opened his good eye. “I’ll tell you when I wake up.”

“Sorry,” Ginny said quickly. “Get some rest.”

“I will.”

He was asleep within minutes.

Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multi-published author who resides in a suburb outside Chicago. She is a product of her upbringing in various cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West.

Since 2009, Mickie has written several dozen novels in the LGBTQ+ genre—which have been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Lately, her muse has been nudging her in a different direction, and she’s learned through past experience to pay attention to creative sparks that show up unexpectedly. Her pen name is a part of her now, and will travel along on this exciting new journey, wherever it might lead. She promises to be very specific in her book blurbs and cover art to avoid any confusion.

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