Falling for an Assassin: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasWhat would happen if a prince hired a female assassin to be his champion in a strange tournament concocted by his father, an unloved king? And what if all of the sudden the champions started being gruesomely murdered one by one outside the ring?

 

Mayhem ensues!

This is book one in a series, and is extremely loosely marketed as a Cinderella story (The only equivalent I could find were a ball and pretty gown of unknown origin, but other than that the similarities stop.)

I read this with my son, (Formerly known as the Monomaniacal Middle-Grade Reviewer)

MonoMiddleGradeReview

He’s 15 now. Can you believe it?

Anyway — he insisted I read it with him after he’d read the first 25 pages. We both enjoyed it immensely. Lots of action, intrigue, a mystery, and a love story.

Sorry, but there is a love triangle, but it is a pretty good one, as this triangle is a lot more believable than most. The Eaton family is team Chao (spelling?) But the prince is a pretty nice guy too.

I’d definitely recommend this book on many levels. Caution for younger readers on the violence, and my son (who has already read a few book ahead as I’m writing this) says that the violence only gets worse. (What can you expect? The main character is a trained killing machine.)

This is a smooth read with lots of potential for growth. It should be a great series!

Have you read Throne of Glass? What did you think?

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Omigosh! This book stinks! [Gasp] But I’m the author who wrote it!

The last two months have been eye opening. I remembered THIS POST and had to come to terms with what really made me write the words: For the first time in my life, typing “The End” felt like a huge relief rather than an epic accomplishment.

Now that I’ve worked with a professional developmental editor, and had a face-to-face chat with my publisher’s managing editor, I had to come to terms with how nicely they were telling me that my book wasn’t quite up to expectations.

Yikes!

And as I read over the editors comments, and read the manuscript again after a several month hiatus, I had to agree. What I thought I’d written, and what was actually on the pages, were two excruciatingly different things.

Ugh_Back_to_the_drawing_boardLuckily though, it was not the story that was a problem. It was the execution in some sections, and a missing link that made the crux of the story confusing. (Among other smaller mistakes)

Several times I’ve explained that my writing process is this:

  1. Write/finish book.
  2. Write/edit/finish something else to “cleanse my pallet” from book #1
  3. Then go back and edit book number one.

The reason behind this is simple… I need time to get away from a story so I can look at it objectively. I did not have this precious time for this novel. I wrote it in two months, and then immediately edited it and submitted it in order to make the tight deadline.

Even at that time, I was a little unsure about the novel. Something seemed wrong, but I was unable to step away and give myself the needed time to think it over … and it was glaringly obvious.

Getting ready for the overhaul

PKO_0002742Knowing I was walking into a TON of editing work, I immediately asked for a one month extension (two months of editing time rather than only one—the same amount of time it took me to write the first draft!) This gave me the breathing room to go over all the suggestions and make easy changes in the first read through; make wider, more sweeping changes and rewrites in the second read-through; and then take a third read through to tweak scenes to make them more engaging.

After that third read, I must admit, I was smiling.

Don’t ever discount the value of a good developmental editor who is not afraid to tell you that there are problems… also, don’t beat yourself up over those problems … just look at them as an opportunity.

Looking back, I still wish that I’d submitted a much better manuscript to begin with, but now I know that with enough time, I can make sure that the words on the page actually relay the story that I intended to tell, and not just the story that I thought I’d told.

Finishing this edit did not feel like a “huge relief” as it did when I first submitted the novel. I feel accomplished and extremely excited by the FIRE IN THE WOODS series again.

And guess what? There are a couple of teenagers hiding inside me waiting to save the world at least one more time. And now I can say with a smile that I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble they get into next time.

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Read the First Chapter of Ashes in the Sky and a chance to win!

I’m soooo excited! Today we are revealing the first chapter of my new novel ASHES IN THE SKY, which releases March 15, 2016! Check out the full chapter below and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
As most of you know, Fire in the Woods was meant to be a stand-alone. When approached to write a second novel, I really had to scratch my head. I mean, the story was
over, right?

Well, apparently I “left them screaming for more” as everyone always says.
.
I really didn’t want to deal with the direct aftermath of book one, so I decided to fast forward a few months: to a time
when things should be settling down for poor, exhausted Jess. All she wants to  do is get her life back to normal again, and to do that, she needs to get back to school.
.
Unfortunately for Jess (and maybe fortunately for us) it will be a little while before our girl has anything close to a normal life again.
 .
So enjoy Jess’s  first day back at school after saving the world. Here is chapter one of Ashes in the Sky: book two of Fire in the Woods.

Alien Kisses!
Jennifer M. Eaton

Find it: Amazon | B&N Goodreads

ASHES IN THE SKY
 
After inadvertently saving the world,  eighteen-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and  settle back into the familiar routine of high school.
 
Though when she’s offered an opportunity  to photograph the inside of an alien space ship, Jess jumps at the chance. After all, she’d be crazy to turn something like that down, right?
 
Spending time with David on the ship has definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off. But when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David’s efforts to establish a new home  for his people on another planet, neither David’s advanced tech nor Jess’s smarts will be able to save them.
  
ASHES IN THE SKY is an action-packed, romantic Sci Fi adventure that will leave readers screaming for more.

 

Chapter One
Dad’s brow creased. “You don’t have to do this, Jess. We can turn around now and go home.”

His fingers rapped on the limousine’s armrest as we pulled up to the entrance of my normally quiet school. Outside, police officers and several uniformed security guards held advancing reporters and camera crews on the sidewalks.

“Relax, Major,” Elaine said, across from me. She pulled out a compact and touched up her lipstick. “Two months after single-handedly saving the world from an alien invasion, Earth’s teenage savior returns to finish high school.” She snapped the case shut. “This is the public interest story of the year.”

Dad’s nose flared. “Yes, she’s supposed to be going to school, but you’ve made it a media circus. Why’d you have to schedule a press conference in the auditorium?”

She slipped her lipstick back into her designer purse. “They would have been here anyway. The best way to calm a stalking fox is to invite him in for tea.”

“Tea? I’ll give you tea.”

I held up my hand. “Dad … ” I didn’t have to finish. I never did. Their arguments were always the same. Father protects daughter, while the publicist pushes media exposure as far as she can legally get away with—and me stuck in between.

Elaine wasn’t all that bad, as far as publicists went. Not that I’d known any other publicists, but she’d been by my side since my very first press conference, and the hundred or so more over the past two months. She could be pushy, but she understood the power of a pint of Death By Chocolate ice cream at the end of a long day, which totally earned her brownie points in my book.

Dad’s gaze returned to me. “We just got back. Do you really need to do another press conference?” The deep lines around his eyes added to the weight of my own exhaustion.

I shifted in my seat, my hands clammy against the leather interior. “If we go home, they’ll just show up here again tomorrow. Let’s get this over with. Maybe then things can get back to normal.” I grabbed his hand. “I can do this.”

Dad pressed his lips together. Of course, he knew I could do it. But knowing and wanting me to answer another set of invasive questions were two different things, and I loved every stubborn inch of him for it.

Elaine fluffed my hair and adjusted the collar of my shirt. “Show time.” She knocked twice on the window, and the Secret Service agent outside opened the door for her. She glided through the crowd with a practiced grace.

Camera-palooza erupted outside. Dang, there weren’t this many photographers when I met the president.

Dad stepped out before me, an imposing figure in his combat uniform. Having an over-protective father did have its advantages. No one was getting by this bodyguard. No one.

I closed my eyes and clutched the charm on my necklace. My mother’s strength seeped into me, giving me courage. You’ll be fine, I heard her whisper. You’re my strong little girl. Always have been.

“I’ll try, Mom.” I opened my eyes and shuddered. You would think I’d be used to the feeding frenzy by now. This was the longest fifteen minutes of fame ever.

Steadying myself on the limo door, I stood.

“Jess, look over here.” Flash.

“Miss Martinez, how does it feel to be back at school?” Flash.

“Jessica, to your right.” Flash. Flash.

The faces and camera lenses blurred. My mind filled with the phantom sounds of alien weapons. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply to ward off memories of blinding lights and screaming voices.

It was over. The aliens had left, and I was alive. We were all still alive.

The Secret Service closed in around us as Dad placed his hand on my back, guiding me to the front entrance. With a well-rehearsed smile, I made my way forward, hoping to avoid a repeat of tabloid-gate when the worst-of-the-worst photos of me turned up on the cover of the National Daily.

Dad moved beside me as we stepped over the threshold. I slipped my fingers into his hand and squeezed. One more press conference. Just one more. I could do this.

We made our way through a throng of reporters, students, parents, and teachers to the auditorium. Hundreds of voices jumbled into one chaotic roar rebounding off the lockers.

A microphone appeared in front of my face. “Ms. Martinez, how did you—”

Dad pulled me to his chest as two Secret Service agents pounced on the guy. The reporter and the agents sunk back into the crowd, disappearing like a stone thrown into water.

“There will be question and answer time after the presentation,” Elaine called as we passed through the auditorium’s stage door.

I exhaled, rubbing my arms. That had to be the worst crowd ever.

Dad circled the area behind the curtains and checked the cracks and crevices backstage. The Secret Service agents had long since given up on trying to convince him that the government pre-secured all of my speaking engagements. I used to joke about their paranoia, until someone actually found a bomb. Those guys in ugly suits quickly became my best friends.

“Did you practice your speech?” Elaine asked.

I raised an eyebrow. “No.” You’d think she’d stop asking me that. I hadn’t memorized one yet. Why would I start now?

I pulled aside the curtain and scoped out the auditorium. A sea of smiling, wide-eyed faces filled the room. Camera crews and reporters intermingled with the student body.

Going back to high school was supposed to help me get my life back.

This fiasco was not getting my life back. But maybe if I answered everyone’s questions now, they wouldn’t keep asking later.

Hey, a girl could dream.

Elaine patted my shoulder before heading out past the curtains. Her heels clopped across the wooden stage as she passed a huge poster of National Geographic’s “The Night the World Stood Still: Special Edition.”

Steven Callup’s cover photo was one of those shots every aspiring photographer dreamed of catching: perfect lighting, engaging subject, active backdrop, and undeniable emotional tone. I wasn’t drooling over this masterpiece, though; because the photograph featured me.

The flames over my shoulder were in crisp focus and flawlessly mirrored in my dark hair. The mottled hues of a fresh sunrise blended perfectly with the devastation in the background. And my God, the expression on Dad’s face as we embraced … the love in his eyes.

That night would haunt me forever. Something incredible had happened, and it had nothing to do with an alien invasion. That cover immortalized the moment for the world to see: a year after my mother’s death, my father finally opened up and started to feel again.

I released the curtain, ready to face my peers, knowing that no one gave a rat’s ass about me or my dad.

They only wanted to know more about David.

I mean, I totally got it. An alien guy crash lands on Earth and has to escape before his people wipe out humanity. Heck, I’d be interested, too. But the clincher was that David changed his people’s minds because of me. I was the heroine in the story of the millennia, whether I liked it or not.

I cringed, thinking of how many people had contacted me for the movie rights. Ashes in the Sky, they wanted to call it. What kind of idiotic title was that? Ridiculous, all of it. The world almost ended right in front of me. I didn’t need to see it again on a big screen.

As Elaine announced my name, and the audience applauded, I wondered if anything would ever be as it was before David’s people arrived.

I took my place behind the microphone and squinted into the harsh auditorium lighting. I’d been in that audience dozens of times, but never on stage. The faces looking back at me were familiar, but distant. Awestruck.

This place was my school. My safe haven. Having the media here was wrong.

I gritted my teeth and gripped the sides of the lectern. This assembly would be the absolute last time I talked about what happened to me in public. Ever.

A mop of perky, blond curls caught my attention from the third row. My BFF Maggie beamed as she gave me a thumbs-up. Part of me relaxed, knowing I had a friend near.

Maggs was the only other person who’d known about David before the Army started chasing us. She even risked her own rear-end helping us escape. She’d talked her way out of a grounding from her father, the general, thank goodness. Damn, he must have been ticked when he found out what she’d done.

Taking one last breath to steady myself, I edged closer to the mic. “You’d have to be dead not to know what happened two months ago. So I’m just going to open it up to questions.”

Hundreds of hands shot into the air.

One of the moderators handed a microphone to a bubbly girl with a blond ponytail. “Is it true that the alien looked just like Jared Linden?”

And, it starts.

“Yes. David mimicked an advertisement and looked just like Jared Linden’s character in that movie Fire in the Woods.”

Okay, that was only half of it. The truth was far too embarrassing. David pulled Jared Linden’s features from my mind. He didn’t look exactly like Jared. Just the hotter parts. The rest was an amalgamation of other cute guys he’d yanked out of my brain. There was no way I would admit to that, though.

A tall kid in a black band tee stood. “So what really happened out there? They were going to annihilate us. How’d you get them to change their minds?”

I cleared my throat. A flash of David’s smile and the warmth of his touch sent a shiver down my spine. “Luck was totally in our favor. If David’s plane hadn’t crashed, we never would have met. It didn’t take long before he realized the human race was worth saving.”

A teacher handed a microphone to a girl wearing glasses. “How long will it take them to terraform Mars?”

Ugh. I tried to think of David’s new home like Seattle or Los Angeles, but it wasn’t. It was Mars. As in: not Earth. Talk about your long distance romance.

“I have no idea how long it will take them to make Mars livable. I do know that they are running short on supplies, so I’m hoping it will happen pretty quickly.”

A girl in a cheerleader uniform flagged down the lady with the microphone. “Everyone says you and the alien were doing it. Inquiring minds want to know. Was he any good?”

Camera flashes singed my eyes as a teacher tried to pull the mic away from the girl.

“No,” a reporter shouted. “Let’s hear the answer.”

The audience murmured, shifting like hyenas waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting foal. Beside the stage, Dad’s face became an unnatural shade of crimson.

Crap.

“Well?” the cheerleader asked.

I wiped the sweat from my palms, remembering the shockwave that raged through me when David’s lips covered mine. The tabloids had reduced our relationship to supermarket trash, and Rah-Rah Girl probably wouldn’t know a real emotional connection if it bit her.

David and I shared something so deeply intimate it transcended everything. No one could possibly understand. I wasn’t even sure I understood. All I knew was that I was in love, and I’d probably never see him again.

I blinked, realizing the room had gone quiet, awaiting my answer about doing it.

My hands fisted, but I forced a smile and rustled up the rote response Elaine had prepared for me. “I heard that rumor, too, but David and I were only friends.” A sickly gash sliced through my heart. The thought of living the rest of my life with him on another planet was akin to living in the desert without water.

Was he out there somewhere, longing for me as much as I yearned for him?

My stomach fluttered. I hated how people’s stupid questions dredged up feelings I’d worked hard to suppress. I had to get off that podium.

A kid in the back stood. “How does it feel to know that six million people died while you were out there hugging dear old dad?” He pointed over my shoulder to the huge magazine cover behind me. “How does it feel to know the death count is still rising?”

It was? “Umm—”

“When did you know they were hostile?” someone else shouted.

My heart thumped against my ribcage. “I, uh—”

A reporter snatched the microphone. “Do you honestly believe they won’t come back and finish us off?”

The rumble of voices intensified. Cameras flashed as dozens of voices drowned one another out. So much for school being my safe haven.

Elaine gripped my shoulder and pulled me from the dais. “Thank you,” she said. “That’s all the questions we have time for today.”

She scooted me past the curtains, Dad following close behind. The volume in the auditorium escalated.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “We should’ve been ready for that. Next time—”

“There’s not going to be a next time.” I thrust my chin in the air. “That was my last public appearance. I’m already behind in school, and I need to graduate this year. I just want to get back to my classes and put this all behind me.”

She grinned in that syrupy way adults do when they are about to condescend your butt. “We’ll talk about this later, honey.”

Dad’s gaze seared through her before he offered me a nod of approval.

No, Elaine. We would definitely not be talking about this later.

 




 

Corporate Team Leader by day, and Ranting Writer by night. Jennifer M. Eaton calls the East Coast of the USA  home, where she lives with her husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle.
 
Jennifer hosts an informational blog “A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers (or Learn from My Mistakes)” aimed at  helping all writers be the best they can be.
 
Beyond writing and motivating others,  she also enjoys teaching her dog to jump through hoops—literally.
 
Jennifer’s perfect day includes long  hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the  fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active  imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.
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Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eGalley of ASHES IN THE SKY. International.

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Alien Lineup

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Dear Mr./Ms. Publisher: May I have my rights back, please? Getting a Rights Reversion for Your Book.

Now Available from Jennifer M. Eaton

Cover Copyright MuseItUp Publishing

For the last three years, I’ve been scratching my head over the lack of sales for The First Day of the New Tomorrow. Even the success of Fire in the Woods did nothing to trigger interest in this little treasure trove of paranormal explosive happiness.

I volunteered for promotions, dropping the book down to $.99 for a short time, but nothing seemed to have a lasting effect.

In April, 2016, my contract was due to rollover. After long, hard deliberation, I decided to ask for my rights back.

The market is a very different place now than it was three years ago. In a world where so many people are placing full length books on sale for $.99, (or free) the novella format is really taking a hit.

I mean, I get it. I wouldn’t pay $2.50 for a novella when I could get a longer book for $.99. It really doesn’t make sense.

But writing that “Dear Publisher” letter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Part of me likes seeing multiple titles available. It boosts my inner ego. But I had to be honest with myself. The truth was, nothing was happening with a story that I love. No one was reading it.

A story that is not read is like a puppy not getting any love.

It’s wrong, and I owe it to those characters and the world that I built to give them the chance to be read.

I couldn’t do that at the $2.50 price point.

PKO_0013466 sadThankfully, a few days after my request, my publisher agreed that due to the changing market, this was probably the best thing to do. There was no yelling, no ranting and raving, no challenge that I still have four months left in my contract. All of the sudden, The First Day of the New Tomorrow just started to disappear from distributor cyber-shelves. (Note: this is not always typical. I’ve heard of publishers holding on to rights until the end of the contract no matter the sales.)

Yes, having New Tomorrow leave distribution makes me sad, but now I have the power to offer this story to readers as I see fit. happy smileIt is already written and edited for publication. The hard part is done. Now I can set off on a new adventure … Hopefully where the story can be read by a wider market.

I hope it’s a fun ride.

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“It’s Hopeless.” Okay, bad pun. – A Review of HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless, Colleen Hoover – I have heard tons about Colleen Hoover and how great her books are, so in the interests of research, I asked my readers which was the most fast paced story, and they recommended Hopeless.

Going into this, I knew it was a contemporary, so my hopes were not high… but I really hoped to like this in the end. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me.

Was it the book’s fault?

No. Not at all. This was a typical scenario of a bad reader to book match. So even though I did not like this book, I would still rate it four stars for how well written it was, and how it attempted to address some really serious issues.

.

Why subtract a star if I can ignore not liking the book?

Well, there was one point in the story that I found very unrealistic. It had to do with the way two people dealt with a horrible situation. I didn’t buy it. So I took half a star off for that. I also took a half star off for the names that made me roll my eyes. This book had all the stereotypical ridiculous names you hear about in romance novels. Now, yes, I can see that there may be girls names “Sky” in the world, but do they have to have a best friend named “Six” and does the love interest have to be named “Holder?” (Holder was his last name, but that’s what he was called in the book.) It just seemed so cliché to me having all these characters with this type of name. It bothered me through most of the book.

Why I didn’t like it …

Overall, the reason I did not like this book was that I read to be entertained. This topic (abuse) is not entertaining to me. (Again, that’s just a bad match of reader to book)

Also, there is a trend in YA these days to have characters that come from horrible backgrounds. I know I am extremely blessed that my parents were not divorced, they did not physically or mentally abuse us (Other than a spanking and driving us to be our best) We were not poor. No one in my family has been murdered. No one does drugs. I could keep the list going, but I think you get the picture.

Personally, I don’t see why we can’t have more stories about normal people doing extraordinary things. I don’t know. I guess people would find that boring. Personally, I am glad I’ve had such a boring life.

Anyway – Four stars for “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover. It was excellent – just not my cup of tea. (Book Review)

How the heck do you write all this stuff?

Last week I shared my writerly “To Do” list, which included:

  1. 1 novel about to release
  2. One in developmental (publisher) edits
  3. Two completed novels just sitting in my computer
  4. Four first drafts
  5. One 95% complete work in progress
  6. Five 5000-10000 word outlines of soon to be written novels

I discussed a little about how I ended up having so many “almost complete” books, and I wanted to discuss the madness of my writing process a little.

My MO used to be:

  1. Write a first draft
  2. Leave #1 to simmer while I write a first draft of something else or edit something else
  3. If I edited, send completed piece out to query. If I wrote, let that one simmer.
  4. Go back to draft in #1 and start editing
  5. Rinse, repeat.

Basically, I liked to distance myself from something before I started editing. It worked well for me for quite a few years, until I suddenly found myself with three contracted novels to write, edit, submit (on time) and publish/promote an all that good stuff.

While writing the series has been a blast, it’s given me WAAAAY to much “simmering” time on all the other projects that I have. And when I had some “down time” from FIRE IN THE WOODS, all I wanted to do was start something new in a completely different world. THAT’S why I am 95% through with a novel that I just love the stinking alien pants off of. (Does that even make sense? Aww, who cares?)

So, will I ever get back to all those first drafts?

I sure hope so, since each of them adds up to a significant hunk of writing time, and a story that meant a lot to me.

But another thing that I am very aware of, is that I learn something every time I write a book. Also, my style changes exponentially.

I am a hugely different author now than I was just a few years ago. Part of me is AFRAID to go back to those works, because I know I will not be as happy with them as I was when I wrote them.

So what is really on tap after I finish book three?

My #1 goal is to finish and submit the novel that is currently 95% done. I think the timing is perfect for that one, and I know Fire in the Woods fans will just love it.

I have one more publisher project that I will probably have to work on soon after that is done.

Then the next project after that will be the Adult Science Fiction Horror that is in first draft form.

Why that one?

Well, for one thing, it is one of the later things I’ve written, so I hope it is in the best shape. Also, I think it is wildly original. The idea still makes me want to read it.

After that is done, yes, I will probably start something new, because I don’t like to do that much editing back to back. I prefer to switch things off once in a while.

The best-plans are meant to be broken

I’m smiling as I write this. Plans are made to be broken. Especially in publishing. Because all that would have to happen to completely blow this plan out of the water would be for one more title to get published. (Which, of course, would be great.)

Come to think of it, I really HOPE that my plans get ruined again this year.

 

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Alien Lineup

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Twelve Year Old Reader Review of: My Diary from the Edge of the World by: Jodi Lynn Anderson @jodilynna

A note from Mom: This book had a profound effect on my son. He spoke about it every day. But that ending … wow, did that ending throw him for a loop. this is what he had to say:

Swish thin

This book is about a girl named Gracie who is in a world where a cloud comes to take a person’s soul before they die. She thinks a cloud is coming to take her little brother Sam, so they run to a mythical place called “The Extraordinary World” where clouds cannot follow. They run into a lot of conflict and strife on their journey.

[Yes, he used the word “strife” (proud momma alert!)]

I liked how they were always in a different place and in a lot of situations where they couldn’t get out, but they always managed to get out. And I like how it was a really big journey and a HUGE plot twist at the end.

I didn’t like how sad the ending was. I prefer to read things with happy endings. It would have been a sad ending no matter what, but it was even more sad because of the twist.

I would recommend this book to people who like cross country journeys and people who don’t mind a sad ending or plot twists.

I would give this book three and a half stars out of five because of the ending. I was really enjoying it a lot until the end. It was very original and I loved it until the end.

Swish thin

A note from Mom:

Like I said… it was all about that ending. Without giving spoilers, just make sure your child is going to be okay if everything doesn’t end up “happy songs and lolly pops”. He was a little disturbed. He was loving it (and did love it overall) but he could not get over that ending.

Find out more on Goodreads

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

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Why aren’t you querying those finished novels?

A few days ago I shared a list of all my upcoming projects on social media. It looked something like this:

Here’s what’s coming down the pike:

  • Ashes in the Sky {Fire in the Woods #2} (In production Release date March 1)
  • Fire in the Woods #3 (Contracted: In developmental edits. Release date TBD)
  • YA Science Fiction (95% complete Work in Progress)
  • Adult Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens) Mystery/Horror (First draft complete)
  • Adult Paranormal (Shifters) novel written in serial (Uncontracted: Number one complete)
  • YA Dystopian Romance (Uncontracted, Complete)
  • YA Space Opera – 8 book series (First draft complete)
  • Middle Grade Contemporary Adventure (First draft complete)
  • Hard Sci Fi Space Opera three book series (First Draft of all three books complete)

 

Outlined concepts prepped, outlined, and ready to be written:

  1. Adult/New Adult Fantasy-Medieval setting
  2. YA Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens)
  3. Adult/YA Shifter (Dragons) First chapter written
  4. YA Time Travel (Aliens) First chapter written
  5. YA/New Adult Contemporary Science Fiction (Aliens)

 

A few people have asked why I have two complete novels, and four “First Draft complete” while it looks like I am currently working on something completely new.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t realize how many things I had partially finished until I created this list. For me, the fun of creating a story is the best part. I love starting a story, and torturing my heroes to the very end of the tale. So much fun!

Usually, by the time I finish a first draft, I’ve already outlined several new ideas that I came up with along the way. Some of these I take a few notes on, and then never go back to. But many, like the five above, get 7000-10000 word outlines, because I love the premise so much that I don’t want to lose even a single spec of the idea.

Unfortunately, I cannot type anywhere near as fast as my brain works, and that list of stories to write keeps getting longer.

Basically, when the time comes to write a new book, I just pick one from the list. Sounds easy. But sometimes there are several stories screaming at me, and even after I choose, a different story keeps me awake at night.

It all comes down to my writing process, which I love… but the business of publishing usually gets in the way of the fun part. That’s why I have so many first drafts right now.

When I finished this post, it was over 800 words long. I was going to talk about my writing process, but I’m going to leave that for my next post. I think this will explain some of the insanity of my current “too many almost-finished books” situation.

See you next time!

 

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You can find Fire in the Woods at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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The 26+ novels I read in 2015. Which were the best?

Funny, as I read more and more books in 2015, the #1 book kept changing. There were many books I read this year and thought: “that is the best book I’ve ever read!” but then, over time, I realized that maybe I enjoyed something else a little more.

Read-hold up PKO_0016876I read a total of 26 books this year and two novellas, which is a huge accomplishment for me. I tried to read mostly books that other people recommended. When I did, for the most part, I was thrilled.

Looking through the list, I had ten books that knocked my socks off, and only  one that was a DNF. And one or two I wish I didn’t finish.

So now, at the end of the year, I am going to re-rank them all again. While all of the books in my top ten were well written and jam packed with awesomeness, some of them “stuck with me” more than others. And while some had annoying things I over looked because I liked the rest of the book, other books I enjoyed without any annoyance, so I bumped them up highter. (If that makes any sense) So, here are my top ranked books this year.

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The best of the best:

 

  1.       Cress, Marissa Mayer – Loosely based on the fairytale Rapunzel, Cress is a maiden with long hair being held captive in a satellite orbiting earth. Her prince is a swashbuckling hero who doesn’t know he is a hero. This book is book three in the Lunar Chronicles, and does not stand alone. You really do need to read the other two books first. But holy freaking cow—this book was absolutely AWESOME! I was not crazy about Cinder (book one in the series) but everyone told me I needed to keep reading. I am so glad I did. This might just be the best book I have ever read. Amazing characters, fast pace, and a plot that dazzles. It has been many, many years since I anticipated a sequel. I’m really looking forward to the next book.
  2.       Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard – To be honest, despite the hype, I had no desire to read this book. I only picked it up because my son plowed through it and told me to drop what I was reading and read Red Queen so we could talk about it. I have to say I’m really glad I gave this book a chance. This is a dystopian in a world where some people have developed magic while others remain normal. There are both futuristic elements as well as similarities to classic fantasy that I think really makes this novel stand out. It is a great story with a very original plot and a great twist at the end. I really enjoyed it.
  3.       Alienated, Melisa Landers—Wowzers. This was a delightful read for anyone who enjoys a good alien romance. Great conflict and a nicely plotted conflicted hero who makes mistakes, but for the right reasons. Where the 5th Wave was technically a better novel than Alienated, Alienated is far superior on the sheer enjoyment level. To be honest, both had weak finishes, but Alienated stuck with me, and I would consider reading it again.
  4.       The 5thWave— This might be one of the best executed books I have ever read.  This was a very deep and introspective story. One that really makes you think. It is easy to see why this has become such a hit. It walks a fine line across many genres. There are deep, well-developed personal relationships that will appeal to the contemporary reader as well as high action scenes that will keep the thrill seekers turning pages. And, of course, there are aliens… and what’s there not to like about aliens? I went in ready for a “let’s see how much we can blow up” story, and found it to be so much more. The beginning is a touch slow as the world and characters are being built, but the multi-faceted plotline and the way the character’s lives weave together is totally worth the ride. (The end was lackluster, but as a whole, I’d definitely recommend this one)
  5.       Scarlet, Marissa Mayer—Wow. I read Cinder (Book one of the Lunar Chronicles) at the end of 2014, and was not really enthused. It was good, but not really my cup of tea. I’d heard a lot of rumblings that Scarlet, book 2, was even better. I gave it a try when I found it at the library. Now, to be honest, I did not like it at first because we continue Cinder’s story from Cinder’s POV, and then, half way around the world, we have Scarlet’s story in her POV. To be honest, I was a lot more interested in Scarlet’s story than Cinder’s… so I had to trudge through the Cinder chapters. But the last five chapters or so, when they came together, really changed my mind. I am totally interested in continuing the series now. Really good.
  6.       White Hot Kiss, Jennifer L. Armentrout – Great Googley Moogley! This book was awesome! I hesitated, because it is a demon romance, and it sounded stupid, but JLA is one of my favorite authors, so I decided to give it a chance. The story surrounds a half-gargoyle/half-demon girl who is raised by gargoyles to hate her demon side. She meets a demon and falls for him, which is a problem because her Gargoyle family’s job is to kill all the demons. (I know, this sounds incredibly dumb – but it was AWESOME!)
  7.       Invaded, Melissa Landers – Book two in the Alienated series. I have to admit I cheated and got this at the library to avoid my book-buying ban. I really wanted to get lost in this series again. Nothing but truly entertaining fun in this aliens-come-to-Earth story. I love how Landers portrays a realistic idea of how people would react to aliens, but is still able to keep you entertained with quirky characters. A great read!
  8.       Storm: The Elementals Series Book One by Brigid Kemmerer – Wow, I loved this book so much more than I expected to. There is a group of four brothers living on their own, that have been marked for death because they are stronger than any of the other “elementals” in the world. (Each can control an element, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.) At first I thought I would hate this, because I had trouble telling the brothers apart, but after a while I felt like I got to know them, and I totally got in to this story. There are very few books that I am tempted to pick up book two right away after reading book one. This is that type of book. I stopped myself, though, because I have way too many books that I already own. But I see myself giving in and getting this in the near future.
  9.       City of Bones, Cassandra Claire – I enjoyed this waaay more than I expected to. I think the cover turned me off a bit, probably because the guy on the cover looks so old, but he’s only about 17 in the book. It started off with a bang, then got a little slow for me during the world building part, but then it really took off for a great time. I imagine the second book is going to be even better because they can just “get to it” without explaining the world again. This was made into a movie that flopped a few years ago (I’m going to rent it though, because I’m curious) It is also being made into a TV series that premieres in January 2016. I’m totally looking forward to that!
  10.    “14”, Peter Clines – I waited almost a week before I decided where to place this book on my list. (In fact, it was number one for quite a while) Part of me wanted to bash this book because there is something in it that just came across as stupid to me. But I would be lying if I did not admit that I was scrambling to get back to this book every day. The writing was absolutely amazing, and the characters came alive, and became friends that I really cared about. I would totally recommend this book, especially for writers, for the simple reason of researching how the author painted characters that kept me totally engaged even when the plot took a nose dive. I wish I could explain what disappointed me about this book, but it would be an incredible spoiler. If you do read this, I’d love to chat about it. I might even want to read it again. Yep, it’s that good. (This book was my number one for a while, but in retrospect, while I DID LOVE IT, what I will always remember about this book more than anything else is the stupid part. Stinky)

Those are my top ten books for 2015.

And below are the remainder of the books I read this year.

There is one DNF and two that I really wished that I’d given up on rather than wasting my time. Other than those three, these were all really good.

And here are the rest!

 

Guardian For Hire, by Christine Bell – Okay… yes, this is a romance novel. And I’m not really sure I’d even call it a good one, because I was rolling my eyes at times… but that doesn’t change the fact that I really loved this book. I totally related to the main character. She is a strong-willed woman of privilege. She wasn’t starving to death, or on the streets, or suffering from mental issues… she was just a normal, well-off person. I found that refreshing in a novel. (They gave her a background that may have been a little forced, but I brushed it off) I really enjoyed the chemistry of the main characters, and I appreciated how the intimacy didn’t get ‘rough’ like I’ve seen in far too many books lately (for my tastes anyway.) So, go ahead, sue me. This is a contemporary romance, and I loved it. (NOTE: I originally placed this at the top of my list for the year, but moved it down a few months later, because while I really enjoyed the book, it was not original enough to “stick with me” like some of the others.

Broken Skies by Theresa Kay – Oooo! Aliens! This book was a lot of fun. It is set in a dystopian Earth, where mankind has basically destroyed themselves and live in camp-like city/towns. There is also a city on the planet that has been taken over by aliens. When our main character’s brother is “abducted”, she befriends an alien accidently left behind in hopes he can help save her brother. This is a great alien romance with an interesting take on a dystopian future. And the characters spend a lot of time in the woods, which I always enjoy. This is a first in a series, and doesn’t quite stand alone if you like all of your loose ends tied off. But there is definitely a fun ride of twists and turns, and a plot twist that I never saw coming.

The Looking Glass, Jessica Arnold.

Don’t judge a book by the cover. This is a ghost story! Well, sort of. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. A girl gets trapped inside a cursed house while her body is in a coma. She needs to crack the curse before her parents turn off her breathing tube and she dies for-real. No pressure! I enjoyed this so much. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Jessica Arnold book.

 

Death Becomes Me, Elizabeth Holloway

I’ve done a full review on this one. This is the second book of Call Me Grim, where a girl is scheduled to die, and decides to become a Grim Reaper instead. This book delves even deeper into the lore, with a very interesting and even creepier twist. Great sequel.

 

My Sister’s Reaper, Dorothy Dreyer

This is a bizarre spooky-scary about a girl who has a family history of magical powers. She tries to save her sister who is in a coma (using magic), and ends up facing off with a reaper (as in Grim Reaper). This is a very interesting take on reaper lore. There is a lot of scary imagery (but not too scary) woven around an interesting set of characters. I’m definitely looking forward to book 2.

 

The Artisans, Julie Reece – This book is a “Southern Gothic”. I had no idea what that meant, so I was surprised when it started to get a little scary. This is a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, where a girl is blackmailed into designing clothes in this “mean but cute” rich dude’s mansion in order to save her father. But there’s a catch – the mansion is haunted. And Mr. Hotness might have a few family secrets. I enjoyed this book a lot, especially the last 30% or so when things started to heat up between the main characters, and the ghosties started to get a little… ummm, “impatient”. This is great for romance fans who don’t mind a little “scary” mixed in with their love story.

Hopeless, Colleen Hoover – I have heard tons about Colleen Hoover and how great her books are, so in the interests of research, I asked my readers which was the most fast paced story, and they recommended Hopeless. Going into this, I knew it was a contemporary, so my hopes were not high… but I really hoped to like this in the end. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me. Was it the book’s fault? No. Not at all. This was a typical scenario of a bad reader to book match. So even though I did not like this book, I would still rate it four stars for how well written it was, and how it attempted to address some really serious issues. Why subtract a star if I can ignore not liking the book? Well, there was one point in the story that I found very unrealistic. It had to do with the way two people dealt with a horrible situation. I didn’t buy it. So I took half a star off for that. I also took a half star off for the names that made me roll my eyes. This book had all the stereotypical ridiculous names you hear about in romance novels. Now, yes, I can see that there may be girls names “Sky” in the world, but do they have to have a best friend named “Six” and does the love interest have to be named “Holder?” (Holder was his last name, but that’s what he was called in the book.) It just seemed so cliché to me having all these characters with this type of name. It bothered me through most of the book. Overall, the reason I did not like this book was that I read to be entertained. This topic (abuse) is not entertaining to me. (again, that’s just a bad match of reader to book) Also, there is a trend in YA these days to have characters that come from horrible backgrounds. I know I am extremely blessed that my parents were not divorced, they did not physically or mentally abuse us (Other than a spanking and driving us to be our best) We were not poor. No one in my family has been murdered. No one does drugs. I could keep the list going, but I think you get the picture. Personally, I don’t see why we can’t have more stories about normal people doing extraordinary things. I don’t know. I guess people would find that boring. Anyway – Four stars for “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover. It was excellent – just not my cup of tea. (Book Review)

Temptation by Kathryn Barrett — This is about an actress who moves to an Amish town to get ready for her role as a young Amish newlywed. Things get awkward when she develops feelings for the handsome Amish widower next door.

I have mixed feelings about this book. We see the story from two points of view: the actress, and the Amish man. It is weird, because the Actress totally wants this Amish guy. We get that. He’s hot. But then we are thrown into the Amish man’s head. He is troubled by this seductress. She is the antagonist in his story. I couldn’t root for them to be together, because if they do end up together, this man’s wonderful, perfect life will be ripped apart. I didn’t know who to root for. I wanted them both happy, but I didn’t really see any happy ending. Only the really great writing kept me reading, because, to be honest, I was AFRAID of the ending, because I could not in my right mind see a happy ending in these people’s futures. The whole thing kinda left me feeling disturbed. I would pick up another Kathryn Barrett book though. I loved the writing style.

 

Doon, by Lori Langdon and Carey Corp —This is a tale about a girl unhappy with her home life who goes on a summer vacation to Scotland, and starts seeing a spectral image of a cute guy in a kilt.

Okay, that kinda simplifies things a bit, but that is the gist of the opening premise. There ends up being a whole history about the family she vacations with, and suddenly she is whisked back in time/into another dimension (called Doon) and she meets the guys she’s been seeing images of. This was a nice, light read. Just what I needed after the heavy, disturbing images in The 5th Wave. This is the kind of book that is fun to cuddle up with by the fire and forget about the workday. Just a nice, light, trouble-free read.

 

Starcrossed, Josephine Angelini. This book had an awesome concept. Children of the original Gods still walk among us with powers, and there is this feud going on that makes descendants of different gods compelled to fight each other to the death. I had high hopes for this book, because it was recommended by a few teen fans. Where I did enjoy the story, I was never submersed in the narrative. I never really felt for the characters. I wasn’t scared in the right places. I will not say it was not a good book. It was. I did enjoy reading it and I would consider reading the next one. I just wish I could have completely lost myself in the world.

 

Pretty Crooked, Elsa Ludwig – This is a book about a girl who suddenly comes into some money, and she and her mom move to a rich town and the daughter goes to an expensive prep school. When the daughter sees “scholarship” kids getting picked on, she starts robbing from the rich kids who are mean and buying nice clothes for the poor kids. I had very mixed feelings about this novel. The writing was great, and going into the story, I was warned that there was “no ending at all” (By my mother-in-law, of all people). I figured there had to be some kind of ending, and I know there is a sequel, so I started reading expecting there to be a few “open” plot elements that would make you want to buy the next book. While I enjoyed this book overall, I was stunned that there actually WASN’T an end to the book. It is almost like it stops mid-chapter. There are several conflicts: 1. Which guy will she end up with 2. Will her best friend hate her forever 3. What is going on with her Mom 4. How will getting caught pan out in the end (That’s not a spoiler. They kind of let on in the first chapter that she gets caught.) I was okay with the ending at first (It was late and night and I was tired) but the next day, when I realized there was no resolution to ANYTHING I felt a little different. The book is good if you are ready to invest in an entire series. Just go into it ready to be buying more books.

 

Lifer, Beck Nicholas – I had my eye on this for a while because the cover was gorgeous. LIFER is kinda like reading two books in one. There are two main characters, written in dual first person POV. We start with a slave girl on a space ship with the rumblings of rebellion, and then the next chapter trades off to a boy without any memory waking up on Earth beside a dead kid. LIFER had me scratching my head, because I couldn’t really tell how these two stories would intertwine. And you have to wait until you are about 75-80% into the book to understand why. Despite the cover with space ships on it, DO NOT expect this to be about aliens. LIFER, with it’s oppressive, brutal governments, is really more of a dystopian. If you’re looking for conspiracy, guns, and rebellion, this is the book for you.

 

Claire Daly: Reluctant Soul Saver by Michele Brouder – This book is about a girl who gets these powers that she doesn’t understand, and ends up being someone who guides lost souls to heaven. (That’s oversimplifying it a little bit, but that’s the main premise.) There is a lot going on in this story. It is about a girl finding herself while discovering family secrets and, of course, fighting off the bad guy (I have to admit the bad guy in this book is delightful. Unfortunately, he might have been a bit too delightful, because I found myself rooting for him a few times.) I have mixed feelings about this book. It stayed with me for a while, because I enjoyed the overall premise. I just wish I loved it more. I wish it started later, because it starts off with glowing hands out of nowhere, and then lags for too long until something happens. Then later, when stuff starts to happen, I found myself rolling my eyes at the cliché stupidity of the heroine. The ending certainly rocked, and I did find myself in tears at all the right places… But I think if the entire story had been tightened, and the Claire Daly character had been constructed with street smarts, I would have been wildly singing this book’s praises. (I mean, if you are in a bar, and three guys basically threaten to rape you, and get themselves thrown out of the bar, you DO NOT walk home through the woods by yourself. – I almost stopped reading there, to be honest) And we see near the end that she didn’t learn from her mistake, as she takes off by herself again to another place that would obviously do her harm. Despite all this, though, I do admit that I enjoyed the story overall. I’d give this a solid three stars. It’s an interesting book with a deep spiritual slant about God and angels. (I was sent a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review)

 

Slumber, Christy Sloat –

This is a dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty. The princess wakes up in an insane asylum not remembering who she is, and she is told that she killed her boyfriend. And guess who runs the asylum???? (Don’t think too hard.) This is a very different spin on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. Very Dark.

 

Joshua and the Lightning Road, Donna Galanti

This is a middle grade action adventure.

I will point you to my son’s review that I posted on my blog, because he is the target audience for this book. In a nutshell, he loved it.

 

Unnamed book – That dumb shifter story where the guy turns into a cat. (I’m not going to even bother going back to look for the name of the book – DNF) – Ugh. I picked up this book because it was written by a bestselling author, and I like to read styles from all different genres. This was romance and heavy on the sex, but I only made it about 37% into the book. I think the problem was that the overall premise (the reason why these two characters were driven together) made no sense to me. I did not understand why this girl needed to have meaningless sex with him to get out of being queen, while her fiancée had this shifter tied up to have sex with her so she WOULD end up being king. I tried to overlook that and enjoy the story as a chase novel after they took off together… but as it moved forward it just didn’t have any substance. I was reading it “just to get it over with” and I realized that my time is precious, and other books were calling me that I hoped where better conceptualized.

Novellas:

Until Midnight: An Alienated Short, Melissa Landers

This was nice… a free read for Christmas bridging the very small gap between the best-selling Alienated and the soon to be released Invaded. Don’t expect too much from this. It is really just a cute little snippet to keep readers swooning over the alien hero a few more months. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy it though. Just wish it was a little longer … but then that would be a novel, wouldn’t it?

Saved by the Dragon, Vivienne Savage – I was pleasantly surprised by this novella. I mean, it’s a cheap romance, and they have sex a few minutes after meeting each other – totally stupid, but I loved the characters and the dynamics once they actually started to get to know each other. I’m considering buying more in the series. Funny – I just read the one star reviews, and I have to agree with them all. Everything about this is book is dumb, but for some reason I kept turning pages. (Update – The rest of the series went on sale New Year’s Eve for $.99 for the box set. I figured, hey, why not?)

Did you read any of these? What did you think?

What was YOUR favorite book of 2015?

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Thinking over the new year. Yeah, it’s all about new beginnings.

 

Happy New Year!

PKO_0016777 Couch 2I hope all your writing dreams come true in 2016, and even a few of your non-writing dreams.

This year I hope to finish my WIP and get it out to the world. How about you?

While your thinking that over, sit back and read a spell with the lovely and talented Anna Simpson.

Happy New Year, Anna!

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Happy New Year, Jenn. I’ve watched, listened, and learned from your example. I’m proud to be your friend.

Jennifer13Awwww, you are soooo sweet!

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Moving on. *cheekwipe*

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Jennifer13Here’s a tissue

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Thanks.

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Jennifer13You okay?

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Yup, let’s get started…

I love January first. Just love it. Anything is possible in the coming year. It’s like stepping out in a field of newly fallen snow. Impressive. Beautiful. Untouched.

It’s a new beginning that gets me warm all over. I try, and fail to keep my expectations reasonable. I can’t think about failing because I have so much to learn, to strive for. Sure, I was lucky enough to grab and catch the brass ring when I subbed White Light.

Heck yeah. Did it. Someone besides me thought I was worth publishing.

I’ll be forever grateful to Three Worlds Press for taking a chance on me.

Does it make me bring my hand in and stop reaching? No way. Nevah. I’m going to be right back at it. Keep my expectations low? Not sure it’s possible. I can feel them rising now. Another great year is about to begin.

What about you? What do you do when the New Year comes around? Maybe you can teach me a few things about how it’s done.

Jennifer13 Hmmm… I think about what I’d realistically want to accomplish in the year, and I plan it all out. This is hard when you have a publisher that has their own goals and deadlines, but I find if I am not overly ambitious, I can usually hit my goals. I also try to think over all the stories that are screaming in my head, and try to decide which one would be the best choice to tackle in the upcoming year. This is usually the hardest… deciding which story is screaming the loudest.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna, and good luck with the new release, White Light.

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About The Book:

Emma never dreamed of being a super-sleuth. In her mind, she’s more Scooby Doo than Nancy Drew and when her nosy neighbor, Mrs. Perkins, drags her to an anniversary party to solve a mystery, she rolls her eyes, buys a box of chocolates and hops in the car.

What’s a party without an attack on its host—or more accurately on the host’s grandson, sparking an allergic reaction and moving the party to the hospital waiting room. Suddenly, everyone is a suspect. Emma and Mrs. Perkins, along with Great Aunt Alice (a spirit with boundary issues who keeps stepping into Emma’s body like a new dress and playing matchmaker), dive into an investigation that almost gets Emma killed along with the man they are trying to protect. With so many reasons to kill him and so much to be gained if he died, Emma and Mrs. Perkins must unravel the tenuous ties that point to every member of his family as potential killers.

Even if it means going back to the psych ward, Emma will protect her friend and this innocent man. What good is freedom if it’s haunted with guilt?

About the Author:

Anna Simpson lives near the Canadian-US border with her family. Even though she’s lived in several places in British Columbia, her free spirit wasn’t able to settle down until she moved back to her hometown.

She is easy to find though, if you know the magic word — emaginette. Do an internet search using it and you’ll see what I mean. :-)

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