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Character Interview: Allen Bridgeway from Barb Caffrey’s contemporary transgender fantasy-romance, CHANGING FACES

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Allen Bridgeway from Barb Caffrey’s new transgender fantasy-romance, CHANGING FACES.  Allen Bridgeway is a thirty-year-old clarinetist living in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Allen.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

AB: I think I was fairly portrayed, yes. Though I don’t know if anyone else has ever been in my position, mind you—here I was, a straight male living in Nebraska, engaged to Elaine Foster, who I knew to be bisexual…then I found out she was transgender, there was a car accident, and voila! Into Elaine’s body I went!

But I’m still male, I’m still human, and more importantly—I’m still in love with Elaine. (Does this make sense?) Even though she’s now in my body, as I’m in hers…

portrait in gardenDo you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

AB: I think Barb described me quite fairly. I was always a quiet, bookish man; that hasn’t changed much despite the body-switch, but I have found out that it’s better understood now that I’m in a woman’s body. (How strange is that?)

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

AB: Empathy. Though that’s given short shrift by many men, I wish it weren’t. I have always been able to understand others better than most; it has made me a better musician, a better person, and a far better boyfriend. (I hope it’ll make me a better husband, too. Even if the rest of the world insists on seeing me as a wife, now.)

Worst trait?

AB: I haven’t always stuck up for myself. This is one reason I was drawn to Elaine; she is so strong, and demands to be taken for who she is today—not who she was yesterday, or might be tomorrow.

Elaine has taught me how to better stand up for myself and what I want, and to not care what other people think of me. She always felt odd, considering she knew from an early age she was transgender (and later figured out she was also gender-fluid to a certain degree as well); still, she came to terms with herself, and I think that coma she was in had a great deal to do with that (even if she refuses to talk about it much).

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

AB: Hm. Most of the young actors out there are too good-looking to play me, I fear. But of the transgender or gender fluid actors/actresses, I think I’d most like someone like Ruby Rose to play me despite her extreme attractiveness. She definitely gets it. (But she might want to play Elaine, instead…what a conundrum!)

Do you have a love interest in the book?

AB: Oh, yes. My fiancée, Elaine Foster, is a writer, English teacher (graduate teaching assistant), and clarinetist. She’s a phenomenal person, witty and sarcastic by turns, and she keeps me on my toes! (And even though she is transgender—as we both are, now, due to the body-switch—she still prefers the pronoun “she.” And is a feminist. What’s wrong with that?)

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

AB: I didn’t know how Elaine would ever wake up in my (old) body. And I didn’t know how we’d ever get married, either…which I’d wanted for the longest time.

So…halfway in?

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

AB: Lexy, who is a transgender woman from Omaha—a veterinarian—is the one person I would not want to be. Lexy lost her love to a car accident, and has been bitter ever since. I can easily see myself going down that road, and want no part of it!

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

AB: I’m satisfied that Elaine and I are making progress dealing with our new circumstances. And I believe that now, we may finally get the happily-ever-after that we deserve, too…why not?

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

AB: Barb, if you write another book with me in it, I hope you’ll show Elaine and I as happy and contented people—as hard as that is to write. We have gone through more than enough drama in CHANGING FACES to last through five separate lifetimes, truly…can’t we have some peace for a change?

Thank you for this interview, Allen.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

AB: I hope so. Because while I hope Elaine and I will be happy down the road, who knows what will happen in the future? (I certainly don’t, not after going through all this stuff I could’ve never imagined in a million years.)

About the Book:

Title: CHANGING FACES

Genre: transgender fantasy-romance (contemporary)

Author: Barb Caffrey

Website: http://elfyverse.wordpress.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/changing-faces-barb-caffrey/1125707044

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just please don’t separate him from Elaine…and gets it.

Now, he’s in Elaine’s body. And she’s in his. They’ll get a second chance at love.

Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.

Book Review: ‘The Asset’ by Anna del Mar

The_Asset_High ResTrying to survive from a deadly past that torments her, Lia Stewart is hiding in a small Rocky Mountain town until, one day, a wounded warrior with a dog shows on her doorstep; a gravely injured SEAL with a heart and soul just as tortured as hers. Against her best judgment, she decides to help him – a kind act that may cost her life.

The Asset by Anna del Mar is an emotionally compelling and sizzling romance, has two protagonists to die for, a well-thought out plot with carefully-timed, revealing twists, mounting tension, and thrills that will keep you turning pages.

From the beginning, I was hooked with the story and mystery. I was also impressed with the quality of the writing and the emotionally compelling aspect of the romance as it evolved between Lia and Ash. The backstory was deftly handled by this promising author. Bits and pieces of information about the characters and their stories bring one to light as the story progresses. Each new revelation seems to be more important then the previous one and adds to the novel’s sense of impending danger as it approaches the climax.

Aside from the lead characters there is also a lethal antagonist and an adorable German shepherd in the mix. While the former is of course important to the plot line, the latter gives the story, and readers, needed breaks from the tension.

Anna del Mar is an exciting new name in the steamy romance genre and I look forward to reading more from her. If you love romance, especially military romance, this is a must read!

Read my interview with the author on Blogcritics.

Cover art credit: Carina Press/HarperCollins. Published with permission from the author. 

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

Character Interview: Ash Hunter from Anna del Mar’s new romance, The Asset

character interviews logo

We’re thrilled to have here today Major Ash Hunter, a Navy SEAL currently on medical leave, born and bred in the Rocky Mountain town of Copperhill, Colorado. Ash is the hero in The Asset, Anna del Mar’s new romantic suspense novel. He’s here with service dog, a black German shepherd called Neil, the handsomest dog I’ve ever seen. It is a pleasure to have Ash and Neil with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you for having us.

Is it my imagination or you look kind of uncomfortable at the moment?

I’m not much for words. Neil and I, we don’t like people a lot these days. I’m only doing this for Lia. She’s wary of strangers and she’d never do a public interview like this one. But she asked for an assist and I can’t say no to Lia. And please, don’t ask about my prior missions or what I did during my time in Afghanistan. That’s classified.

The_Asset_High ResOkay, well, thanks for doing this interview anyway. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

Fairness. There’s a high minded concept. Who the hell knows what’s fair or not. I’m not one for platitudes. You give me a job, I go out and do it. Our story…it probably wasn’t easy to tell.

You mean the story of you and Lia Stuart, your co-protagonist in The Asset?

Yes.

How did you two meet?

When Lia and I met, Lia was hiding in Copperhill, pretending to be someone else, running away from the drug lord who’d terrorized her life. She didn’t want any attention and neither did I. I was just out of the hospital. Well, technically speaking, I hadn’t been discharged yet, but I had to get the hell out of there.

What was wrong with you?

I was wounded in Afghanistan. I’d been at that hospital for weeks on end. I was done with hospitals and doctors. I decided to go home. So I went to the old lakeside cottage, the one place I knew where I could be alone and get my head on straight. And there she was. Lia. Aiming a loaded shotgun at me. Hiding. Pretending. Jumping three feet high when anybody approached the cottage. I knew she kept secrets right away.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

It is what it is. I wasn’t in my best state of mind when I first got to the cottage. I was sick. Hell, I threw up in Lia’s kitchen. But Lia, she’s not like most people, you know. She was afraid, and God knows, looking back, she had some very good reasons to be frightened, of strangers, of me. That’s why she welcomed me with a shotgun.

You were lucky she didn’t shoot you on the spot.

I’ve got Neil to thank for that. Lia would never hurt an animal. Never. She loves animals and she adores those rescue animals of hers.

So what happened next?

The girl’s got guts. When she figured out who I was and what was wrong with me, she took me in, even if she risked her cover—and her life—to do so. She vouched for me when the Marines came looking, then devoted herself to making sure I got better. It takes a special person to do all that for a stranger.

Sounds like you have a lot of admiration for Lia.

If you knew Lia, you’d know the truth. She’s the hero of this story and, for a guy who was in bad shape, she became my number one asset.

What do you believe are Lia’s strongest traits?

She’s brave. I’m telling you, she’s all heart and guts. After everything she’s gone through, she’s resilient as hell. She’s gorgeous, resourceful, self-reliant, smart and loyal. Oh, and she’s funny too.

Sounds like she ticks all your boxes.

Affirmative. That she does.

Worse trait?

She doesn’t trust people. But do you blame her? If you’d experience terror like she has, you’d be distrustful of the world too. She’s skittish, especially if she doesn’t know you, and she’s used to keeping secrets.

What about you? What are your strongest traits as a hero?

I really hate it when people call me a hero. Most SEALs do. I mean, we go out there every day and we do our job. That’s not being a hero. That’s performing up to standard.

But surely, after reading the story, and—well, looking at you right now—any reader would agree that you are indeed a fitting hero.

What would you like me to say to that? That am skilled? Okay, I’ll admit to having skills, but all the members of my teams, past, present and future perform at a high level of skill. It’s who we are. It’s how we’re trained. All I did was apply my professional training to an extremely dangerous situation that required resolution. That’s doing the job, not being a hero.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Oh, for Christ’s sake. Are you serious?

Totally.

Then you pick, ’cause I’m not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.

How about Tatum Channing?

A pretty boy. Really?

Tatum Channing has brawn and looks. He’s got game, Ash.

Whatever tickles your fancy. Let’s move on, shall we?

When did you start to fall in love with Lia?

Man, you really are a nosy witch, aren’t you?

That’s my talent. That’s why I do character interviews while you go get the bad guys. Are you going to answer my question?

Damn. We ought to deploy bloggers like you on the battlefield. The world would be a safer place if you were in charge of gathering intel from the Taliban and ISIS.

Well?

If you really want to know, I thought Lia was hot from day one, even if the first time I saw her she was wearing her pajamas and pointing a loaded gun at me. But it was the way she watched my six that got me, how she cared for me, even when I knew she was frightened. In a firefight, you want someone like her watching your back.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

I was on maximum alert the entire time. Lia’s brave, so I knew that if she feared something or someone, it was going to be bad. Once I figured out that the drug lord stalking her was Luis Ramon Rojas, AKA Red, the head of the largest drug cartel in the Americas, I understood the full scope of the danger. I decided it was time to pay my rent and take care of business.

How did you go about taking care of “business?”

I engineered the mission, brought on the guys, watched and waited. There were many operational challenges. I worried about Lia’s self-reliance. She wasn’t used to being part of a team. Lia wanted to protect everyone in her life, including me. I worried that, no matter how hard I tried to protect her, she was going to get hurt.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I feel Goddamn lucky, that’s how. I swear, the last few scenes about killed me.

Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

I’m not sure you’ll be seeing more of me, as Lia and I like to stay out of limelight. But you’ll definitively be reading about some of my friends in Anna del Mar’s Wounded Warrior series, guys who deserve the hoopla.

Really? Like who?

Like Seth Erickson, for example. I’m not sure if he’ll talk to you, but he’s the protagonist of The Stranger, book two of the Wounded Warrior series due out August 2016. Seth’s the kind of hero you’re looking for, a legendary helicopter pilot and an Alaskan tycoon who met his match when he ran into Miami native, sun-loving Summer Silva. Talk about a hero. That’s a story you might want to hear.

Great. I can’t wait to meet Seth Erickson and Summer Silva in The Stranger. Give my regards to Lia and thank you for this interview, Ash.

Thank you. Come on, Neil. Let’s get the hell out of here.

////////////////////////////

Title: The Asset

Genre: Romantic suspense, Contemporary romance, Military romance, SEAL romance.

Author: Anna del Mar

Website: http://www.annadelmar.com/pages/home.html

Publisher: Carina Press

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Ash Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he’s gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother’s isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Like recognizes like.

Lia Stewart’s in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it’s loving him that might get them both killed.

Soon, Ash realizes he’s not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he’ll protect Lia until his last breath.

About the Author:

Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass, military heroes who defy the limits of their broken bodies to protect the women they love. She is the author of The Asset (Carina Press), the first novel of her Wounded Warrior series and three other novels scheduled for release during 2016.

A Georgetown University graduate, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories. When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

Connect with Anna on the Web:

Anna@annadelmar.com

http://www.annadelmar.com/pages/home.html

 

Character Interview: Cassandra Brighton from Linda Lucretia Shuler’s literary novel, ‘Hidden Shadows’

HiddenShadows_medWe’re thrilled to have here today Cassandra Brighton, from Linda Lucretia Shuler’s new literary novel, Hidden Shadows.  Cassie, forty-five, recently sold her Houston boutique of Native American Art, “Spirit of the Southwest,” and moved to Willow City, a small community in a rugged corner of the Texas Hill Country.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Cassie.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

It took a while for the author to know who I really am. I don’t think Linda would mind if I use her first name; we’re close now. I think of her as a sister. Although I didn’t at first. I didn’t trust her then.

I’m a private person, really – full of dreams, musings, hidden fears. So much has happened in my life, so much love and so much sorrow – the kind that rips you apart. I’ve made some stupid mistakes, but who of us hasn’t? It takes a while to share these hidden parts of yourself, the good as well as the bad. We all are a mix, aren’t we? None of us perfect. All of us a stew of feelings.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

“Colorizing.” Hum. Now that’s a curious choice of words. To be honest, it’s hard to see oneself from another’s eyes. I never thought myself beautiful, although friends tell me otherwise. I’ve just turned forty-five, after all. Bits of gray in my hair, and some lines starting to appear under my eyes. As for my personality, Linda’s been relentless, digging right down inside me, forcing me to realize things about myself I didn’t understand before. Sometimes I think she goes overboard, like with my dreams. Dreams should be private, shouldn’t they? And here she is, spilling them to the world. Especially my visions of ancestors who once lived in this creaking old homestead. I can feel their spirits here, warm, kind – well, all except one. But I don’t want to talk about him.

What’s the next question?

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My strongest trait? Lordy, give me a moment to think . . .

Perhaps my strongest trait is my sensitivity, my awareness of thing felt, but not seen: the  struggles of others, hidden within them; the spirituality of animals, such as the wolf who seems to have adopted me; the faint music of long-ago echoing among the hills; the soft footsteps and whispers of spirits within the walls of my ancestral home. It’s natural to me, this lovely way of responding to the world.

Worse trait?

My strongest trait is also, in a weird way, one of my weakest. I can be overly sensitive, easy to wound. My imagination often runs rampant, tossing me into a whirlwind of anxiety.

On second thought, maybe my worst trait is the reluctance to let go of the past. Memories, longings, hopes unfulfilled – these haunt me.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Angelica Joli. I love her intensity, the graceful way she moves, like a panther. She has chutzpa too; I can’t imagine her sitting down and letting the world pass her by. And emotional! Everything she feels flits across her face; no words are needed.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Oh, yes. He’s gorgeous. Mercurial. Talented. Frustrating. Tormented, I think, by his past. Quick to anger, I suspect. I don’t know if he’s as quick to love. He chose someone else – a tight-lipped, icy queen who claimed him as her own.

I’ll let you discover the rest.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

To be honest, I was nervous from the beginning. I mean, couldn’t Linda at least give me a break?  I had to knock her in the head a time or two – or tried to, at any rate. She must have heard me, because she finally came around to seeing things my way.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Guy, a tormented soul. Something about him scared me in the beginning. Still does, as a matter of fact.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

It surprised me. I mean, you make plans and life suddenly throws something else at you. But isn’t that the way it goes? Life is a journey toward the unexpected. I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m smiling. That’s all I’d better say.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

I’d say, “Linda, write about me as I am now, not as I was when we first met.”

Thank you for this interview, Cassie.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh, I would love to think so! However, there’s a kink: My ancestors are rattling around in Linda’s thoughts, demanding to be heard. I suspect she’s going to write about them next. Theirs is an interesting story, my pioneer forefathers (or is it foremothers?) and the dangers they faced so bravely as they settled in this wild corner of Texas. Since I’m part of them, I’m part of their story, too.

LindaShuler_authorPix72

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Lucretia Shuler wrote her first story when she was six, Koko the Monkey, which she still has tucked into a drawer. Since then her stories and poems have appeared in anthologies and literary journals, and a handful of her plays have been produced in schools and community theatres.

Linda received a BFA in theatre from the University of Texas, and an MA in theatre from Trinity University while in residence at the Dallas Theatre Center. She taught theatre arts in college and high school for three decades, loving every moment and directing nearly a hundred plays in the process. She also wrote theatre arts curriculum K-12 for Houston ISD, conducted numerous workshops, and performed in community theatres.

Hidden Shadows, Linda’s debut novel, takes place in Willow City, a ruggedly beautiful section of the Texas Hill Country less than three hours from her home in San Antonio. Several other manuscripts are in the works, reaching across the genres. These include a prequel to Hidden Shadows, plays, and a collection of poems and a half-dozen different story ideas demanding attention.

Linda enjoys participating in Toastmasters, writer organizations, critique groups, and book clubs. She continues her love of theatre, delights in watching the birds flocking outside her office window, and is an enthusiastic fan of San Antonio’s championship basketball team, the Spurs.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Hidden Shadows

Genre: Literary

Author: Linda Lucretia Shuler

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Amazon / OmniLit / B&N / Twilight Times Books

Hidden Shadows is a story of connection: to the land, to our ancestors, to others, to ourselves – and to the redemptive power of love: 

Cassie Brighton, devastated by the accidental death of her husband, flees to a remote homestead deep in the rugged Texas Hill Country. Alone in a ramshackle farmhouse steeped in family secrets, Cassie wages a battle of mind and heart as she struggles to overcome the sorrows of her past, begin anew, and confront the possibility of finding love again.

What people are saying:

Hidden Shadows is a wonderful novel of a women’s journey of self-discovery and search for purpose. The characters will win your heart (and sometimes break it) in this beautifully written and satisfying story of loss and renewal.”

Sandra Worth,

Award-winning author of The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

Profile: Christine Amsden, Author of ‘Madison’s Song’

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“Writing has taught me the importance of self-confidence in becoming good at anything,” says Christine Amsden, who, in spite of having been diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision, has gone on to become the award-winning, bestselling author of the Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective fantasy/mystery series published by Twilight Times Books.

“My parents encouraged reading a LOT,” says this speculative fiction writer, who grew up gobbling up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, andFlowers in the Attic. “I know they read to me too, but I was an advanced reader at an early age and preferred to read on my own when I could. I have memories of staring at picture books, making up stories about the pictures though I couldn’t understand the words.” At the tender age of 8, she wrote her first short story, about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars. From then on, she wrote fairly consistently until 2003, which marked the beginning of her professional career when she attended a workshop with Orson Scott Card.

Amsden may be legally blind, but she hasn’t allowed that part of her life to stop her from becoming a prolific author, and nowadays she splits her time between writing, freelance editing, and coaching — with a keen focus on writing. She loves to write about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations, giving special attention to people and relationships, her way of making science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. “I will continue to marry romance with speculative fiction because I simply love both genres,” states the author. “I love a good character story. I think character is more important than just about anything else, and a great character will have me reading any genre at all and loving it. I get a lot of people telling me that they like my books even though they ‘don’t normally read stuff like that.’ I think it’s because of the characters.”

In what she describes as her messy, cluttered desk, and with a special arm attached to her monitor to help her eyes and back, Amsden creates her stories rich in characterization and world building. Her latest book, Madison’s Song, a companion to her Cassie Scot series, is about a shy young woman who has suffered more than her fair share of betrayal in the past. A friend of Cassie (the only ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers), Madison now gets a chance to prove that she can be more than a plump, shy sidekick. When her brother’s life is in danger, she faces her greatest fear with head held high to save him. The story is equally about Scott, a werewolf who has fallen in love with a woman he doesn’t believe he deserves.

MadisonsSong_medAmsden’s writing style is straightforward and conversational, which is probably why most readers and reviewers describe her work as highly entertaining and fast paced. “I’m not the sort to hide the story behind flowery prose,” she says. “I like the words to get out of the way of the story.” She’s a fast writer as well, finishing the rough draft of the book in only two months, though she then put it aside for a year before revising it, a process that took her five additional months. Her writing process, though fluid, is different with each book. “My best story ideas are the ones that come to me while I’m doing something else, although this doesn’t excuse me from putting in my hours of conscious effort. No two projects that I’ve worked on have developed in exactly the same way, either. I like to try new strategies, mix things up, so life doesn’t get boring.”

Like the Cassie Scot series, Madison’s Song will also be available in audiobook format, which is how Amsden “reads” most books these days. “It was important to me, when I became an author, to make my books available to listen to as well as read, and not just for others with disabilities. Audiobooks are a terrific way to enjoy books for busy people whose reading time can be combined with a daily commute, or with housework.”

Like most authors, Amsden loves sharing her creative ideas with the world, something which can be understandably challenging. “Nothing is universally liked,” states the author. “I try not to read negative comments or reviews, but it’s almost impossible to avoid all of it. When someone ‘gets me’ I feel an almost euphoric connectedness to the world; when someone doesn’t, (in a really big way), it almost makes me feel isolated.”

The definition of success varies from writer to writer. For Amsden, it has changed since she started writing. “At one time (not too long ago), I had an unrealistic expectation of success that involved becoming a bestseller and making an upper-class living off of my books,” she confesses. “When the Cassie Scot series came out, I sold thousands of books but still didn’t make the kind of money that would let me ‘earn a living’ off of it. It made me rethink my definition of success, becauseMessyDeskby all measurable standards my books are doing well – I’ve got great reviews, I’ve won several awards, I’ve sold many thousands of books, and I’m making money. I feel most successful when I connect with readers who love my books. So maybe that’s what success is. I’d love to connect with more readers, sell more books, and make more money, but I’m becoming satisfied with who and what I am now. (Like Cassie.)”

At the moment, the author is waiting for her next book, Kaitlin’s Tale, to be released by Twilight Times Books. She’s also hard at work on a new series set in a completely different world and with a new cast of characters. Though it’s way too early to say much about it, readers can count on it being filled with romance and the paranormal.

A native of St. Louis, Christine Amsden now lives in Olathe, Kansas with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success, and their two beautiful children.

TouchofFateSigningBibliography:

Touch of Fate (Twilight Times Books, 2006)

The Immortality Virus(Twilight Times Books, 2011)

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Secrets and Lies (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Mind Games (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Stolen Dreams (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Madison’s Song (Twilight Times Books, 2015)

Connect with Christine Amsden on the web:

Book Review: ‘A Very Good Life’ by Lynn Steward

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]A Very Good Life is the first book in an exciting new series by successful business woman now author Lynn Steward.

In this story, which crosses over from the literary to women’s fiction to romance, Steward takes us to 1970s Manhattan, home of the sophisticated and the elite. There, we meet Dana McGarry.

Dana has everything — a successful job at a prestigious department store, a handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, and loving family and friends. But things aren’t always as perfect as they appear to be, aren’t they?

When Dana’s husband begins to drift away, and demands at her job require that she behaves unethically, her world begins to crumble. She finds herself at a crossroads. Will she make the right decisions and stay true to herself and her vision of what a ‘good life’ should be?

This was a wonderful read! It reminded me of novels I read years ago by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Female readers will no doubt empathize with Dana as she struggles to keep her career and marriage together. She is strong, but also caring and sensitive. Readers will also be swept away by the setting. With vivid detail, the author brings Christmas in 1970s New York City alive in all its splendor. I really felt transported in time and place, felt the snowflakes and smelled the holiday trees. The characters are sympathetic and interesting and, of course, the antagonist is just one of those persons the reader will love to hate.

Steward has created a wonderful world of drama in this new series. Book two is supposed to come later this year and I’m really looking forward to reading the new installment. If you love women’s fiction and are a fan of strong female protagonists, I recommend you pick this one up. It won’t disappoint.

Find out more on Amazon.

Visit Lynn Steward’s website.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

Book Review & $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway : ‘Mind Games,’ by Christine Amsden

MindGames_medMind Games is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.

In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.

And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.

Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?

I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.

Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.

Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Connect with the author on the web: 

Website / Newsletter / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google+

My review was originally published on Blogcritics

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Book Review: ‘Knight Blindness’ by Chris Karlsen

knight

Knight Blindness is the third installment in Karlsen’s The Knights in Time series. I have read the first two books and, as always, the author doesn’t disappoint.

The story begins at the Battle of Poitiers, France, in 1356. English knight Stephen Palmer charges into battle when he is suddenly struck by the enemy. In that instant, he plummets through time and when he wakes up, wounded and confused, he finds himself in a hospital in 2013. Not only that, but blind due to his wound. His manner of speaking, questions and claims force people to believe that he’s mad.

In a twist of fate, old friends of his who have also secretly traveled through time before, from earlier books, come to help. They assign him a tutor to help him adjust to the modern world: beautiful and warm-hearted Esme Crippen who, unfortunately, thinks Stephen adorable but also mad.

But unbeknown to Stephen, the man who struck him, French knight Roger Marchant, was also sucked into the vortex and ripped through time…and he has his own agenda and will stop at nothing to hunt his enemy down and bring him back to 1356.

This was a thoroughly entertaining and compelling read. Romance, adventure, intrigue, mystery and a touch of humor await you in Knight Blindness. With her close attention to historical detail, Karlsen brings the story to life. Stephen is a riveting hero, brave, loyal and stubborn, yet with a vulnerable, sensitive side; Esme is as sympathetic as heroines go, and I had fun watching their romance evolve. Roger is a character not many will like, but Karlsen gave him some redeeming qualities as well, making him a more complex and realistic villain. I should mention that although this is third in a series, it is also a standalone book, and the author does a good job in providing some light backstory that doesn’t get overwhelming. If you’re a fan of time-travel and historical romance, you’ll want to add this one to your shelf.

Purchase from Amazon.

Visit the author’s website.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

Book Review: ‘Christmas Dog Tails’ by Jennifer Conner

 

ChristmasDogTails HighRes(1) (1)Here’s another delightful romantic short story collection about Christmas and dogs from Jennifer Conner.

In “Central Bark at Christmas,” Tennyson has just been dumped by her arrogant and insensitive lawyer boyfriend. She swears to stay away from men, believing they’re nothing but bad luck. But then, while walking her dog she meets Par, who, aside from spending time with his dog, seems only to have time for work. But fate has plans for them. They find an abandoned dog and as they care for it and try to find him a home, their destinies become intertwined…

In “Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging,”  we meet Julian Barrows, a single dad with a kindergarten son who suffers from seizures; and Hannah, the beautiful trainer who specializes in seizure-detecting dogs. Their paths touch when Julian tries to get her dog for his son. The problem is, it’s incredibly expensive. Fate has other plans, and the magic of Christmas works its way into their lives…A heart-warming story with an ending that will pull at your heart strings.

And my favorite of the three: “Dog Tags for Christmas.” In this story, cryptologic network warfare specialist Willa develops a platonic relationship via Skype with third generation army brat Eben, currently based in Afghanistan. In spite of the distance that separates them, what begins as an innocently friendly chat develops into a full-blown romance. Eben then rescues a stray dog he finds in the street and brings it into camp with him. After two months, Eben can’t believe so many loving relationships have come into his life. First Willa, then Hero — the name Willa gives the dog. Suddenly, that empty hollow feeling of needing someone to care for and in turn care about has been returned…twice. But will Eben be able to return home safely, bring his new beloved pet with him, and join the woman he loves in time for Christmas?

Jennifer Conner has a talent for uplifting, romance stories, and this collection that incorporates Christmas and dogs doesn’t disappoint! A fervent dog lover, Conner wants to bring awareness to others with information regarding adopting shelter/rescue animals, and these stories show just how dogs bring so much into our lives. The heroes are the guys next door, with big hearts. The heroines are independent and smart, yet sensitive and vulnerable. I love how the author develops their relationships, and how their love grows. If you love dogs and love stories, give yourself a gift this holiday season and buy yourself a copy.

Find out more on Amazon.

My review was previously published in Blogcritics.

Book Review: ‘Christmas is in the Air’ by Cary Morgan Frates, Danielle Lee Zwissler, Jennifer Conner, and Karen Hall


Christmas is in the Air Anthology 2

This is the second Christmas romance anthology from Books to Go Now that I have read this month. I loved the first one,Christmas Romance, and this the second one didn’t disappoint. Four talented romance authors, four sweet stories that will warm your heart this holiday season. And just like in the first one, there are dogs in this one, too!

In “Red Soles at Night Christmas Delight,” by Cary Morgan Frates, Audrey Wells is out of her wits when a dog jumps on to the deck of her boat and in the process throws her super expensive Louboutin shoes into the lake. The dog’s handsome owner has no choice but to dive into the freezing cold water to rescue them. Of course, Audrey ends up making sure he doesn’t get pneumonia. In a turn of fate, they end up spending Christmas Day together. A humorous and sexy story.

In “Yuletide Bride,” by Danielle Lee Zwissler, reporter Mary Simms is out on a mission. She wants to prove that the town’s Magic of Christmas Festival, where perfect couples are “matched” for life, is a sham. Will she have the courage to uncover the truth and destroy people’s belief in the tradition, even if it means destroying the happiness of some of the old couples involved? And what about James, the handsome lawyer who asks her not to go ahead with her story, and for whom she’s developing some serious feelings? Will Mary learn to have faith? An original, delightful story with a touch of mystery.

In “Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging,” by Jennifer Conner, we meet Julian Barrows, a single dad with a kindergarten son who suffers from seizures; and Hannah, the beautiful trainer who specializes in seizure-detecting dogs. Their paths touch when Julian tries to get her dog for his son. The problem is, it’s incredibly expensive. Fate has other plans, and the magic of Christmas works its way into their lives…A heart-warming story with an ending that will pull at your heart strings.

The last story is “One Horse Open Sleigh Race,” by Karen Hall, where we’re transported to 1819 London, and where, after a most unexpected encounter, a wealthy earl and the feisty twin of the new clergyman find true love thanks to a Christmas sleigh race and an adorable “match-making” Scottie. Lovers of historical romance will relish this one.

This anthology has a tantalizing, charming cover. That’s the first thing that pulled me to the book, and it adequately illustrates the inside content. The four stories in this anthology are all about strong yet vulnerable heroines and sensitive, yet forceful heroes; about the spirit of the Christmas season and the magical effect it can sometimes have on people; about the hope and faith for true love and the attainment of that love.

Through the authors’ imaginations, I was transported to different places and times, relishing the characters’ fictional worlds and predicaments. I also love how the authors incorporate humor into their stories, and how the dogs play their important roles. Christmas Is in the Air is an upbeat, thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I’m sure readers of sweet romance stories will enjoy.

Find out more on Books to Go Now and  Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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