Monthly Archives: January 2014

Author Spotlight: Mark E. Lein

Picture Meet fantasy author Mark E. Lein, author of An Emerging Threat, and read an excerpt from his book:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an avid reader. You might say an extremely passionate reader. For as long as I can remember, I read. Whether it was historic America or Europe, Narnia, Middle Earth, or the Four Lands of Shannara, I spent hours of each day of my childhood in the worlds authors had created. Before kids, my Mother had been a high school English teacher and she taught me and my siblings the joy of reading. By the time I was 12, she had read A Tale of Two Cities, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, and Where the Red Fern Grows to us, among many, many others.

Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Arthur Conan Doyle were as influential in my life as Louie L’Amour, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Timothy Zahn, Isaac Asimov and Dr. Seuss.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I wrote for fun in high school and college, thinking I was a better writer than I truly was. I attempted poetry, short stories, and even a song or two with little to no success. I wrote in some ways because it was easier than to verbalize. I never was good at speaking in public. When I did, to include briefing Generals as an Army officer, the number one thing I did to prepare and have success was write a “speech” to make sure I truly internalized what I had to say. Yes, writing has helped me speak.

3. What do you write, and why?
For a couple years I had a blog where I wrote Non-fiction posts about experiences (to include time spent in Africa and Iraq) and beliefs. For the last year or two I have focused on writing Fantasy.

What do you enjoy about what you write?
Surprising myself. As I write about a character for example, I keep finding more small details about the character that I never thought of before, small nuances and traits. It keeps me involved and interested to find out what will come out of my head next! The ever involving and living world is what keeps me coming back.

4. What is your latest book or series? An Emerging Threat, book #1 of The Seeker’s Burden series. Any forthcoming books? Yes, Path of Darkness, book #2 of The Seeker’s Burden series. The first draft of book #2 will be complete in Early February and I hope to publish it by April 2014.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series. The Tri-Islands are generally peaceful and inhabited with several normal and not so normal living things. There are humans, the largest kingdom is Astar, direct descendants of the first humans to come to the land. The human enclave of the Seekers are scientists who study the solar realm and attempt to contain its power. The Savoq are a tribal and nomadic race of human that inhabit the south. They are in constant war with each other.

Then there are Goblins who inhabit the hill country in the West and are renowned for their mining and metal works. The humans and Goblins have a wary peace, only having contact through trade. The last race in the Islands is the Ash. Little is known about them, only whispers and tall tales.

The world is set in a typical Epic Fantasy medieval setting with a couple exceptions, mostly relating to the more Science-focused equivalent of magic. There is also a bit of steampunk.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

I will introduce you to the 2 main characters Oliver and Ethan.

Oliver is in his late teens and is of the Seeker order. He has excelled in his studies though he has always wished to travel outside the confines of the Sun Fire Citadel (city of the Seeker’s) and use the Seeker’s knowledge to help the greater world. His attempts to leave forced his father to place him under the tutelage of the greatest of the living Seeker’s. He is unsure of himself, never having the opportunity to prove himself or test his willingness to go into danger.

Ethan is the eldest son of the King of Astar and an Oskara Knight. Though the Oskara order is held in high regard in the land, it is unusual for a royal to join their ranks. His family viewed his choice to become a Knight as turning his back on his blood, tarnishing their honor. His family has little to do with him, though the King has no problem using his expertise as a diplomat when necessary. He is well trained and sure of his abilities and has forged friendships with other like-minded people, those that wish to serve and protect the people.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I used past experiences to build parts of the world. The Savoq and their lands are based off my time in Iraq and Kenya, while a few of the situations the characters go through are ones that closely resembled ones that I lived through. See if you can guess which. 😉

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.  You can contact me and find links to purchase my novel at: and you can follow me on:  

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 12: To Meet A Ruler

Oliver lost count of the platforms they passed before the swaying cart slowed. Ahead the overhead lights grew in size, brightening the area with an unnatural glare. For the third time he tried to get some information on what was going on. “Sirs, where are we going? Have I done something wrong?”

Stony, expressionless faces looked through him and no reply was forthcoming. Oliver sighed, slumped back in his seat and watched a large gold- en hued wall and massive gate creep into view as they slowed. They came to a stop on what seemed to be the bottom of the chasm, a flat stony surface covered in rock dust. Here, the rail line ended.

A cheerful looking goblin strolled up and en- gaged the cart’s braking system before looking the occupants over. “Welcome be to you young friend.” He said to Oliver. “What brings you to the ‘Floor of the Sea’ as we call it?”

Before Oliver could reply one of the armored goblins spoke sharply in their grating language and the rail worker quickly backed away, his cheerful look fading into something closer to apprehension.

Oliver was led to the large metal door. Two torches stood on either side of an inscribed plate embedded in the wall. Just above the plate hung a rope. The leader of the soldiers reached up and pulled hard on the rope once and stepped back to join the other two soldiers. Nothing happened at first, then a low rumble of sound came from be- hind the wall and then silence once again.

Oliver started when the gate began to open. Slowly, the heavy door swung on silent hinges, opening into darkness. As the group moved through the gateway, small pinpricks of light flamed to life. Candles, hundreds of candles standing on narrow stone pillars, lit the space beyond the wall. Behind each candle stood a young goblin, alternating male and female. They were spaced every ten or so paces.

The illuminated area showed that they were moving through a cleft in the cliff face, winding as it followed the natural curves of the rock. A cold draft of air made Oliver shiver as they walked. The silence was just about to make him crazy when the trail widened and the line of candles ceased.

Ahead was a solid wall of darkness. The soldiers halted and stood quietly. Oliver waited with them, shivering in the subterranean cold, glancing at the solemn candle bearers around them.

The sudden boom of a drum shattered the silence as more candles flared to life. Oliver drew his breath in sharply. The group stood at the entrance to a long natural cavern, not unlike the one underneath Sun Fire Citadel. The floor was not smooth, jagged rock shot up in all directions, making the room look as if a giant mouth had opened. At the far side of the cavern a score or more goblins stood gathered around a single goblin seated on what appeared to be a throne. The hall was formed out of living rock, the throne itself little more than a shelf of stone bordered on each side by two round boulders.

Waved forward by another armored goblin that stood next to the throne, Oliver’s group crossed the distance between the entrance and the rough dais. The three goblins that had brought him knelt on one knee, plate armor folding smoothly as they moved. Oliver quickly did likewise, returning to stand upright with the guards. Only then did he meet the eyes of the goblin sitting on the throne.

He was old, not old like Oliver understood, more ancient than any human he had seen. He seemed a part of the stone chair that held him. The gray skin was creased and cracked, the features loose. His hair was but wisps of white strands that stuck out of the simple iron circlet on his brow. The eyes were different. Alive, even young, they pierced through Oliver and made him lower his gaze and redden in shyness.

“Welcome to the Deep Fallows young human.” The voice grated like millstones. “I am Bosgar, leader of the Goblin race. It is my great honor to meet you. I had grown worried I may not last until this day.”

Oliver stumbled through his reply. “Good sir, it is I who should be honored. Is there something that I have done wrong?”

The room erupted in coarse laughter, the sound reverberating off the rock walls as even the candle bearers joined in. “Nay, tall one! You have done nothing wrong and I am sorry for the secrecy of your journey here. My captain enjoys putting fear into outsiders in general and he had to be talked into allowing you this deep.” Bosgar pointed with a smile to the leader of the three goblins that had escorted Oliver.

With a hearty bellow of laughter the accused turned to Oliver and embraced him, squeezing the breath out of him. “You be a right solemn human, and it did me good to see you not quake in your boots!”

Released, Oliver stood in relieved confusion, a smile breaking out as the laughter and conversation continued unabated. The goblin leader raised a hand above his head and all fell silent. “Now as to why you are here, we must talk. We do not allow humans access to this place for sport. My scouts have reported that the Citadel called Sun Fire is destroyed and that you were the only one seen leaving the island.” At Oliver’s startled look Bosgar raised his hand reassuringly. “They followed you to protect you until you could come before me. I have need of understanding what danger is on our threshold. I understand loved ones may have perished, but please tell us what transpired on that dark island as time may be of great importance.”

Oliver spoke haltingly. “Sir, it is as you say, I am from Sun Fire. I had never left until yesterday.” Bosgar bade him and the others nearby take seats and then nodded to Oliver to continue. Oliver then spoke of what he had seen, relating the events as best he could remember, hiding only the details of the cavern and its secrets. Throughout his tale the goblins looked at one another and made whispered comments back and forth.

When Oliver finished his story, the goblin Leader stood and clasped his arms with an iron grip. “Child, you will be from this day, a part of my people, a son of a lost island. We weep with you in your loss and rejoice in your life. You are welcome to stay here and need only ask for anything.”

Book Review: A Vampire’s Saving Embrace

PictureA Vampire’s Saving Embrace, by Darlene Kuncytes

* * * * (4 stars)

Vampire paranormal romance is way out of my usual reading, but I decided to give A Vampire’s Saving Embrace a try and I’m glad I did. Fast-moving, emotional, and dramatic, with gripping battles between the vampires (and their werewolf allies) and some truly nasty demons.

My favorite part of the book was Desmond. Gorgeous and manly, he genuinely cares about Abby and wants what’s best for her. In a time when one of the hottest trends in romance seems to be the idealization of abusive jerks, it’s wonderful to find a hero who is hot and entirely masculine but also a genuinely nice guy (yes, even though he’s a vampire, he can still be a nice guy) and who treats the heroine with true caring and respect.

Abby makes a few decisions that I found frustrating, but I think she learned her lesson by the end. There were also a few minor editing issues I found a little distracting, but nothing serious.

Overall, A Vampire’s Saving Embrace is a lot of fun, both for lovers of vampire romances and for those of us new to the genre. I’m looking forward to catching up with two of the supporting characters, Katrina and Luke, in the next book, A Wolf’s Savage Embrace.

The Rise of the Zombie, with Sharon Stevenson

Today I’m happy to welcome guest blogger Sharon Stevenson (whom I interviewed last May), here to tell us about her new zombie novel.

PictureThe Rise of the Zombie

Zombies; they’re dead, they shamble, they eat brains and they have horrific table manners.  That’s the classic monstrous version of the walking dead I’m talking about here, in case you didn’t guess.  I first stumbled across these creatures in late night horror movies and have sporadically had my eye on them ever since.  Had I known they were going to keep on multiplying like they have I might have paid them a little more attention…But I didn’t and now we’ve got an apocalypse on our hands.  The rise of the zombie is here, and it came staggering along behind The Walking Dead.  There are a ton of classic horror monsters now shuffling alongside a few newer-fangled romantic types.  Zombies are everywhere and they are completely unavoidable.

So what can you do?

There are several options, of course:

Join the horde – you can pull off the dead-and-hungry-for-brains look.

Hide quietly in a cupboard and hope they don’t find you.

Fall in love with one of them – just make sure he’s not only after you for your brain.

Wait and pray for Daryl Dixon to come and save you.

Grab a weapon and get busy.

Well, I went for the final option.  I picked up my pen and got writing, and I was surprised to find the first zombie idea that popped into my head wasn’t a horror, or even apocalypse based story.  I’d absorbed all the virus outbreak zombie stories I could force into my head until my brain screamed stop and they started to melt out of my ears.  My imagination refused to even go there.  Instead, given my fondness for the urban fantasy genre, I came up with the idea of magically reanimated humans being raised to serve king and country.  My main character is one of these magically reanimated dead guys (aka zombies) and he’s determined to escape enslavement.

It isn’t easy being a magically reanimated dead guy.  Take Pete’s undead word for it…

Pete has been murdered by a mentally unhinged and suicidal one night stand. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s been reanimated for reasons unknown by… persons unknown.  Afraid of who his owner may be and what they have planned for his undead ass, Pete does the only thing he can; he goes on the run.  Can Pete escape enslavement when it’s what he’s been raised for?

‘Raised: Part One’ is the first book in the series and totally free to download.  Check it out at these great places:

Amazon | Sony Ereader Store | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble

PictureAbout the Author:

I’m the twisted mind behind The Gallows Novels and the brand new After Death Series.  If you want to know a bit about me, here it is:  I spend too much time indoors and probably watch too many horror films.  Some of my favourite things are; Alone time, people who know when to shut up, having a drink, eating pizza (usually after having too much drink the night before), reading books, adult swim cartoons, bad horror and sci-fi movies, proper good TV shows like Dexter & The Walking Dead, and last but not least having a laugh with my hilarious other half – this would usually include some of the above.

The Gallows Novels are Modern Fantasy books set in an alternate reality Scotland, complete with entirely fictional towns and supernatural entities such as vampires, witches, fairies and werewolves.

This is a continuing series, with 4 books out now.  Book number 5 is currently underway, due for release in summer 2014.

Warning – these books are Adult Modern Fantasy, not YA.  They are littered with profanity and may be considered sexually rampant by more conservative readers!

The books are exclusive to Amazon for Kindle:

Amazon UK | Amazon US

The After Death Series is all about magically reanimated dead guy Pete as he does his best to avoid enslavement.  This is the beginning of a series of short urban fantasy novels set in an independent Scotland ruled over by a powerful King.  Part Two will be released in the summer 2014.

Available at:

Amazon UK | Amazon US

You can find Sharon at

Sunday Sneak Peek 1/26: The Path of Haveshi Yellowcrow

PictureHere’s a peek inside my Estelend short story, “The Path of Haveshi Yellowcrow”:

The morning sun grew higher and hotter as the shaman sang. Nervous glances and murmurs were exchanged among the members of the clan; summoning a beast-god was a dangerous business. There was a story that the god of the Bataranisho tribe, a huge female ground-dragon, had once burnt twelve shamans to cinders for summoning her merely to see the size of her eggs. Haveshi wasn’t sure she believed that story — to see the size of a ground-dragon’s eggs, all one had to do was find her nest and look, and the god’s eggs would simply be twice that size — but she still held her breath with everyone else, waiting for Keeaura to arrive.

Finally, a great red-gold mountain lion appeared in the gap at the north point of the circle. Haveshi gasped in awe and admiration, as did the rest of the clan members. Keeaura was twice as large as any other mountain lion, and the reddish cast to his pelt glowed like flames in the sun. As the beast-god entered the circle, the shaman continued singing, imploring him to grant wisdom as to the source of the trouble and what was to be done about it.

The mountain lion padded on huge paws around the circle several times, first one way and then the other. When he walked past Haveshi and her family, she could see the ripple of powerful muscles beneath his skin and the shimmer of sunlight on his red-gold fur. It made her proud that her tribe had such a magnificent beast as their god, and she was glad that she had made sure that she and her children looked their best for him.

As the god continued pacing, admiration slowly turned to nervous tension as the clan members waited to see what he would do. Even ordinary mountain lions were dangerous beasts, and this mountain lion was a god, capable of maiming or killing a full-grown man with a single swipe of his enormous paw and claws as long and sharp as knives.

Keeaura padded past Haveshi again, then stopped and turned. Then he stopped again, in front of Haveshi.

And growled long and low at her, baring giant, sharp teeth.

The Warrior and the Holy Man, containing the stories “The Path of Haveshi Yellowcrow” and “The Path of Latan the Clerk,” is available for Kindle at Amazon.

Manuscript E.R.

Been working hard on revisions to Sarya’s Song and Daughter of the Wildings, and thought I’d come up for air and show my readers a little of the process I use to take a manuscript from not so great to, well, maybe not great but a lot better than it was!

I’ve learned revision through many years of revising novels, but the best method I’ve learned has been Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course. Ms. Lisle worked as an emergency room nurse for many years, and this general approach to revision can be likened to taking care of a patient in the E.R. When the patient first arrives, you don’t start just randomly doing surgery on him. First you have to figure out what’s wrong (and also what isn’t wrong, so you don’t end up removing a perfectly good spleen or something), then you make a plan for fixing it, then you take him into surgery and start cutting. Likewise, in this approach, you don’t just start crossing stuff out in your manuscript right away; first you figure out what’s wrong with it (and what’s right), then you make your revision plan, THEN you get out the red pen and start making your corrections.

So, here’s an overview of what goes into bringing you another fine Kyra Halland fantasy novel 😀

1. I write a novel. This is a whole different process, and one I’ll talk about more another time.

Picture2. When the first draft of the novel is finished, I print it out on three-hole-punched paper and put it in a binder. This revision method will not work if you’re working from a computer screen. Here’s the printout of all six books of Daughter of the Wildings. My husband saw this and said, “That’s a big binder.” Of course, what he meant was, “Wow, I’m really impressed that you wrote something that long!” (This picture was taken right after I started the analysis or triage stage of the revision; I’m now about 2/3 through that stage.)


3. I make sure I have plenty of my trusty Tul Needle Point Fine Black Gel pens on hand. Then I start reading through the novel, making notes of problems I find with various aspects of the novel, such as characterization, plot, worldbuilding, patches of really bad writing, and so on. I also analyze each scene in the novel for structure and to make sure it really serves a purpose in moving the story forward. This analysis (or triage) step condenses approximately the first nine weeks of the HTRYN course into one step.

4. Once I’ve gone all the way through the manuscript and made my notes, I get out a bunch of index cards (index cards are key to this method, and I’ve developed something of a fetish for them :D). I make an index card for each scene as I want that scene to be (not as it is now), giving a one-sentence summary of the scene and what the scene is supposed to accomplish, story-wise. Then, referring to my sheaves of notes, I write a summary on the back of each card of the changes I want to make in each scene. Finally, I color-code each card with a post-it, showing approximately how much work each scene is going to need. Neon green means I’ll be changing up to about 25% of the scene, bright yellow means 25-50%, neon orange is 50-75%, hot pink is 75-100% or a completely new scene. (I love post-its. Along with 3-hole-punched printer paper, Tul pens, and index cards, they’re one of my essential non-computer writing tools.)

Picture5. Once I’ve got my plan in place, I start marking up the manuscript. This can get pretty messy (like a good bout of surgery). I use red pen for corrections, and I’ve also learned to keep a blue pen handy to un-correct, that is, to mark where I’ve made changes in red and then changed my mind and decided to keep the original. Where it gets really interesting is where I’ve marked out a correction in red, and then decided to keep it, so I’ve got my changes circled in blue to not change them… Or something. It all makes sense when I’m doing it. To illustrate, I took some photos of pages from the current revision of Sarya’s Song. (Warning: not for the squeamish.)

Here’s a marked-up page; if you look closely, you can see where I circled something in blue that I had crossed out and then decided to keep. I make use of top, bottom, and side margins, and the arrows pointing off the side show where the new writing spills over onto the back.


And here’s another one. You can see I’ve got stuff going all over the place. It looks like the poor page has been savaged by rabid weasels.


This picture shows some of my notecards. This page isn’t as marked up, but you can see where I’ve circled chunks of text and drawn arrows showing where they should be moved to.


And, finally, here’s the back of a page with new stuff written in. I’m about halfway through this revision of Sarya’s Song, and so far I’ve added about 3000 words to the story.Picture

6. Strictly speaking, you’re supposed to wait until you’ve marked up the whole manuscript before you start typing in the corrections, but I’m afraid I’ll forget what half of my arrows and cryptic scribbles mean, so I type up each day’s revision when I’m finished.

I do this process twice, once on the first draft and once on the second draft after I get the feedback from the test readers. After that comes a revision to fix up any leftover bits of bad writing and continuity mistakes, then a line edit/copyedit, and then some rounds of proofreading. And, voila, a finished novel!

Update: while we’re on the medical theme, I’m happy to report that after a lot of tests (including a stress test which I rocked, working out hard with absolutely no symptoms), I had an appointment with a cardiologist today and got good news (or, at least, better news than I was afraid it would be). I have a small to moderate amount of fluid around my heart (pericardial effusion), which apparently has been there for a while. It isn’t causing any serious problems, except for some occasional discomfort. We’re going to keep an eye on it to see what it does, if it gets worse or stays the same or goes away. In the meantime, the doctor suspects that it was caused by inflammation/autoimmune activity (which would also be consistent with my chronic fatigue syndrome) and so the next step is to see a rheumatologist. Hopefully we can pin down the underlying cause and treat it, which will control or eliminate the pericardial effusion.

***If you’re a writer, I highly recommend the How To Revise Your Novel course. It’s a brain-wrenching, gut-wrenching five months and costs about $250, but if you want to publish your writing, it’s the best 5 months and $250 you can spend. The link is my affiliate link; I get a commission when someone buys the course through that link. But I don’t promote the course because I’m an affiliate; I promote it because taking it has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing.

Sunday Sneak Peek 1/19: Chosen of Azara

PictureHere’s another of my occasional (and hopefully more regular!) Sunday Sneak Peeks. Today, in Chosen of Azara, Sajur Golu, the High Priest of the Madrinan Empire, is up to no good:

There was just one matter that Sajur Golu needed to look into before moving forward with his plans, and he had the opportunity to do so as soon as the meeting ended. Princess Juzeva was walking in an inner garden courtyard near the Council chambers while she waited for her husband, who had remained inside to speak to some of the other Councilors. Sajur Golu approached her, his face set in a careful smile. “Good day to you, Your Highness.”She responded with a slight, stiff nod. She was far too polite to ignore him as he suspected she wished to.

“I must say, Your Highness,” he said smoothly, “you are looking remarkably well, especially for a Chosen who has been away from her Source for over three months.”

The Princess made a slight, involuntary motion with her left hand, towards the crystal Source-token she wore on a chain around her neck, then stopped herself. Sajur Golu kept his expression polite, pleasant, and neutral. “Ah, to be young again. Such marvelous strength and resilience. Good day, Your Highness.”

He bowed slightly and walked away, satisfied with what he had learned. Her movement, though almost imperceptible to anyone without his highly developed powers of observation, had confirmed his suspicion that her Source-token held something more than the usual few months’ supply of Source-power. He would have to be sure to get the vial for himself and learn its secrets before he was finished with the Princess.

Chosen of Azara is available in ebook and paperback at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Sony | Diesel
Smashwords | CreateSpace | All Romance eBooks

Author Spotlight: Lisa Marie Gabriel


Introducing poet, author, and musician Lisa Marie Gabriel:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in the UK, which probably explains some spelling differences! I used to work as a music teacher, but had to take early retirement to care for my elderly mother. I now write instead of teaching. My home is dedicated to the upkeep and welfare of my three rescue Persian cats. My family maintain I spoil them, but I only treat them with the respect they deserve as superior beings. I love British Columbia, which is where The Cougar is set, and much of the description is based on personal experience and observation of this magical part of Canada.

(photo taken in Golden Ears, British Columbia, December 2012)

2. When did you start writing, and why?

When I was teaching, most of my writing was connected with work and of an educational nature. I also wrote some radio plays in my late twenties and submitted them to the BBC but sadly never had any accepted. There was one they nearly took on, I based my main character on myself and my own experiences only to be told that my character was not true to life and the events were unlikely. It hurt to be told I was unreal, so I gave up on Auntie Beeb! I wrote a lot of short stories and poems as a child and always had a hankering to be a writer, but about nine years ago I set about producing my first poetry collection. It was never meant to be commercial, very few people sell poetry of course, but I was just enjoying writing again.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write in several different genres. Firstly, there is poetry which is all about expression and exploring language. I love poetry because I love the challenge of saying a lot in as few words as I can and to me it is very like musical composition too. The sound of the words is as important as their meaning, I confess. I blog in various locations and I write “how to” articles which is a way both of writing professionally and also helping other people with music and learning to play an instrument. Writing fiction is a new development for me. Previously I didn’t consider that I had the time, but I enjoyed writing The Cougar and there is a sequel in the pipeline.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

Yes, my latest book is The Cougar. I also have a literary fiction novel in the making and a very special book about rescue cats. Next on the agenda though is my sequel to The Cougar which will focus on Raffaelo’s life, death and rebirth.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

The world of The Cougar is mainly British Columbia in the present day. This is a part of the world I love very much and visit often so I was able to draw on my own experience of the hemlock forest and the lake. It is truly magical and has been used many times by film companies working out of Vancouver for that very reason. Much of The Cougar is set in Renaissance Italy, although I have ancestors from that time and place I had to research the setting obviously. In my sequel, I hope to travel through Europe and through time as well as Golden Ears. It should be a very rich and strange experience.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

The main characters in The Cougar are Berenice, Angela, Raffaelo, Owen, Ingrid and Jurgen:

Angela is a librarian who hankers after a little bit of outdoor wildness, but actually finds it intimidating. This is why she married Owen – his way of life is old fashioned and interesting and the fact that he is extremely good looking attracted her right away. He is also a very dominant personality. Sadly, once married, he finds she is not enough of a challenge and while she wants to settle and have children he wants to play the field first! Angela is looking for someone who will truly love her but Owen is not capable of sacrificing his needs to hers and considers his marriage to have been a mistake.

Berenice is very elegant and quite beautiful, her age makes her wise and she is very much in touch with nature and the spiritual elements of the wilderness. Raffaelo is an eternal boy, but he loves Berenice very deeply and will do anything for her. She lives with him as his wife for years without once suspecting he is a vampire living as a human! Eventually she adapts to a new existence as his shape shifter companion. They are very much in love, so his tragic death is a great shock to her physically and emotionally.

Ingrid has not had an easy life at all, without the unwavering support of her twin brother Jurgen she would probably have gone under. Unbeknown to Owen, Ingrid is an m/f transsexual, and she has become a very attractive woman in a fashion model style but hard life experiences have left her cold, superficial and calculating. Ironically it is Ingrid who teaches Owen what it means to love and to sacrifice self for the one you love.  Jurgen is totally devoted to his twin and will do anything to help her achieve what she wants, he is morally inept, but he is also very protective of his sister.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

I would probably never have written The Cougar had I not met its heroine Berenice in a dream. I was walking the Lower Falls Trail enjoying the sun flooding through the trees and the endlessly changing colours when I was approached by a very attractive lady who introduced herself as Berenice and walked with me for a while. We were admiring the scenery and she turned to me and said “Please tell my story” and the very next day I started The Cougar.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.

I run several websites and blogs, the most relevant being which is a bit of everything I do and where a lot of my poetry lives. There are lots of pages which I do rotate occasionally. I also have a wordpress blog which I linked into my Goodreads profile,

In theory, my book should be available everywhere but I know that listing books does take time. The best place to find me is on Amazon, not least because Prime members can borrow The Cougar for free and get free delivery on the paperback if they prefer a more organic read!

The Cougar on Kindle:

The Cougar in Paperback:


Extract – Berenice and Raffaello’s Escape from Florence:

The journey to Gubbio was harrowing. Berenice and Raffaelo travelled at night over rough roads, often uphill, and in the daytime they would rest hidden away like gypsies in the forest clearings. The bread was soon gone. There was no question of stopping at an inn to rest or eat. They had no intention of leaving any sort of trail for the mob to follow.

“I know it is hard my love,” Raffaelo said to his wife, “but you are the only thing on this Earth that really matters to me. If I lose you, I might as well be dead.”

He would bring spring water to her when he could, which he diluted with grappa to disinfect it. Neither of them had eaten in days, and Berenice was weak and feverish.

“If you die, I shall never forgive myself. This horrible mess is all my fault!”

“What do you mean? How could that be?” she replied and stroked his cheek with her soft hand.

Raffaelo looked distant, he knew she needed to eat something soon; she was far too weak and ill.

“I must find something for us to eat,” he told her, “I won’t be long.”

In a little under half an hour he was back, cradling a dead roe deer, in his strong arms.

“How did you do that?” she murmured in wonder.

“Something I learned as a boy in Umbria” he answered. “We country boys all know how to track the Capriolo!”

Raffaelo cleared the ground for a small fire, built up in a cone shape. Inside there was down from dandelions and slivers of birch bark. This he surrounded with small dry twigs, then larger ones. He took a tinderbox from his pouch and struck a spark, then coaxed the tiny flame to life. When the fire was established, he built it up with larger pieces of wood and laid logs around the rim to dry out.

With consummate skill, he skinned and removed the entrails of the deer and then constructed a makeshift spit from straight branches of common elderberry or Sambuca trees. He crushed a few purple Sambuca berries with the flat of his knife and rubbed it into the carcass to marinate the meat. Berenice was fading in and out of consciousness by now as she was so hungry. Raffaelo roused her with a gentle shake and handed her a mouthful of the purple berries he had gathered.

“Eat these, they will not harm you!” he said and she took them from him, trusting his knowledge and skill.

Raffaelo continued to turn the carcass over and over above the now merry fire until it started to look brown and the juices were running onto the embers below. Taking his knife from his belt again, he cut slices from the back of the deer.

“These will be the best, my love, they are the most tender.”

She took the meat he offered gratefully and ate. “What about you?” she asked.

“I had my share while you were sleeping. I am fine!”

After her meal, she again fell into a slumber, Raffaelo knew that evening would be approaching soon and they would have to be on their way. Using his knife, he butchered the roast carcass, wrapping the shoulders, forequarters and hind quarters in some fine muslin they had brought. The head and neck of the Capriolo he tossed to one side while he kicked earth over what remained of the fire to put it out. On the deer’s neck were two small wounds in the jugular. They were about the same distance apart as the canines of a very large cat….

Book blurb:

Angela Bradley’s marriage is on the rocks. She and husband Owen take a second honeymoon to try and remedy the situation, a trip of a lifetime to British Columbia, but little does Angela know that saving their marriage is the last thing on Owen’s mind. He has arranged to meet up with Ingrid and continue his affair. Whilst there Angela meets Berenice, an elegant widow of Italian descent, who is seeking to come to terms with her husband’s violent and tragic death. The two women seem inexplicably attracted to each other, but Berenice is older…. much, much older…. and she has an amazing secret or two up her sleeve! This Gothic romance novel flits from Renaissance Florence to the forests of modern day British Columbia as the story of the two women unfolds and Owen comes to a sticky end. It is suitable for adults 18+ to read as it deals with themes of vampirism, shape-shifting, death, and explicit love scenes….

About the author:

Lisa Marie Gabriel is a UK based author, composer, musician and poet. She divides her time as best she can between family and friends in England and in British Columbia which she loves and considers her second home. “When I go to BC, you are most likely to find me in Golden Ears, probably hiking the Lower Falls Trail, or simply lazily dreaming by the side of Alouette Lake. I also absolutely adore Victoria – and boats – I love boats!”

She has recently published her first novel, The Cougar, which was inspired by her love for Golden Ears and an interest in vampires and shape shifters. As a writer, her first love is poetry but she has also written music education material, has edited and published The Cat the Bat and the Burglar for Colin Edward Mason and enjoys photography and design too. “I consider myself a Renaissance woman” she says, adding “unfortunately I do not possess Berenice’s immortality!”

Lisa is also an established composer and musical arranger and has recorded her own album, Flying to Meet the Sunrise, which is available on CD (exclusive to and MP3 format. She has also executed musical commissions for other writers including A Peaceful Celtic Spring. Other books released by Lisa on Amazon include the poetry anthology “A Whisper of the Romantic in the Eye of God” and a technical dissertation analysing the songs of Ralph Vaughan Williams, “On Wenlock Edge 100 Years On”.

Of her latest work of fiction, The Cougar, she says “It’s a penny dreadful, a rollicking read; though I hope it has a little artistic merit too. It was fun to write and I hope you will find it as much fun to read. I wanted to convey a few challenging ideas about love and spirituality in a light way and also what a treasure the forests of British Columbia are. In that respect, it is a work written out of love!”

The Cougar on Kindle | The Cougar in Paperback
Lisa’s Facebook Page | Goodreads

Other works:
A Whisper of the Romantic in the Eye of God
Flying to Meet the Sunrise
A Peaceful Celtic Spring
The Cat the Bat and the Burglar

Book Review: The Steps to Karma

Picture The Steps to Karma, by Jennifer Howard

Karma Clark’s life as a high-powered Washington DC divorce attorney is killing her – almost literally. When she realizes that she has to give up the life she knows in order to have any life at all, she heads for the U.S. Virgin Islands in search of herself and a way of life she can live with.

Written in the same breezy style as Ms. Howard’s first novel, The Healing Heart, The Steps to Karma starts out with a truly harrowing life crisis for Karma. I immediately loved the character and wanted to see things go better for her. The characters she meets on St. John, especially new best friend Jae and hunky Will, are also well-drawn and engaging. The descriptions are beautifully written, and I could almost see, hear, smell, and taste the warm and exotic Caribbean flavor of the setting.

After the initial crisis, The Steps the Karma is very much a feel-good novel, that will take you on a fun, uplifting, and exotic island escape.

Author Spotlight: Heather Dowell


Introducing author Heather Dowell and her book Summers and Winters:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I love to be adventurous, meet new people, and visit new places. I’ve white-water rafted down the mountains of Turkey, swam in the Blue Lagoon, hiked the mountain sides of Oman, snorkeled in Seychelles, seen the beautiful architecture of Barcelona, slid down the Leap of Faith in Dubai, karaokeed in Bahrain, partied in Djibouti, and became a Shellback after crossing the equator.

Picture2. When did you start writing, and why?

I’m 23 now, so I’ve been writing for about 10 years. I don’t think there was ever really a moment when I decided to write. I never really thought about it until now, but I think I started coming up with ideas after watching A Walk to Remember. The first plot I came up with was for “Summers & Winters”. I didn’t make it past the first 60 or so pages until 2009. On my second deployment, my writing really took off. I was tired of looking at a black screen watching the minutes go by, so I started stealing computer paper, and pretending like I was working on job requirements, when really I was working on this novel. Now that the novel is finished and I have all of these other ideas swarming around in my head, I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing. People always say they were born to do something, and I believe writing is the thing that I was born to do.

Picture3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write in just about every genre, except for nonfiction, westerns, and horror. I’d never be able to finish a nonfiction book; I’m just not that patient. I won’t even watch Western movies, so I definitely wouldn’t spend the time writing a book. If I wrote horror, I’d probably wind up scaring myself.For the most part, all of my books, no matter the genre, have at least some bit of romance in them. I enjoy writing romance, because love is one of the best things in life and I want to capture it on paper.I never thought that I would write anything other than teen fiction, but then I started to do a lot more reading, and book ideas would just come to me – usually at very awkward times, when I needed to be sleeping or doing something important. Now, I can’t see doing general fiction. I love paranormal, sci-fi, dystopia, and fantasy, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to write them and make them realistic.

The thing I love most about writing is giving life to my characters. I don’t feel settled until others can read about them. Sometimes I think of my characters as real people. I cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, and love when they love.

I love watching people read while I’m writing too. One time I was  writing and a guy was looking over my shoulder, so I asked him what he was doing. He smiled. “I’m sorry, it’s just so cool watching you write. It’s like I’m reading your mind, knowing that what you are writing is exactly what you’re thinking at this moment in time.” It’s a interesting way to think of reading. You really are reading the author’s mind.

One of the coolest things that happens when writing is surprising myself. I don’t use outlines, so sometimes I think I’m writing a boring scene to avoid an awkward time gap, and BAM!!!!!! something brilliant just hops on the page and I’m like, “where the heck did that come from?”

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest book in the series is “The Coldest of Winters”. It picks up right where book one left off, well, a few hours later to be exact. Sorry about the cliff hanger, but it had to be done. It was the perfect ending to book one and lead in to book 2. I’m sure some of you saw it coming, but I doubt you will be able to predict what will happen in book 2.

I love giving titles double meanings. Every title contains a character last name, reflects the season that the events are taking place, and gives you a hint to what will happen in the book.

“Summers & Winters” – Heather Winters and Mitch Summers – reflects the seasons they spend together – lets us know that they are meeting in this book

“The Coldest of Winters” – the focus will be on Heather Winters – the book takes place in the winter – and “cold” lets us know that this is not going to be all rainbows and butterflies. This book gets pretty deep. Expect tears and anger. Some characters are probably going to tick you off, and you’ll want to rip their heads off. Others will make you think “what the hell. I can’t believe you just did that!”. Depending on how you feel about certain charcters, you may be doing a happy dance and screaming “’bout time!”.

“The Coming of Summers” – Mitch Summers will be the focus – it will take place during the spring – “coming” signifies the action, though I won’t give away which meaning I am refering to, you dirty minded people. 🙂

“A Summers for Forever” – the focus is actually on Mitch and Heather in the this one – it takes place during the summer – the title says it all, but it may not happen or be like what you think.

If you like my writing, don’t worry, there is a lot more to come. I have a few books in the works. I’m not sure if they will turn into a series or not. It all depends on how long it takes me to tell the story. The next two are:

“The Newcomer” – paranormal romance – Due to the complexity of the story’s line, this may wind up     being a chronicle. It could be up to twelve books. Every creature you can think of: witches, fairies, trolls, werewolves, vampires, dragons, elves, 4 of my own creation, mermaids, seers, seekers, shapeshifters, angels, human warriors –  you name it and it’s probably in this book. Evil forces are lurking about and Emma is their best hope at defeating them, but she still think she’s human. Will the creatures of this earth be able to train her in time, and will they accept her if they find out she is the most dangerous creature of them all?

“Alien Invasion” (tentative title) – fantasy/sci-fi/suspense/romance –  two co-conspirators, Alora and Luke, fight to stay alive and destroy the aliens that are overtaking the earth. All the while, Alora battles for Luke’s heart, but will she still want it when she finds out who he really is? What he has done in the past?

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

Homestead, South Carolina is a fictional place. I took a few of the settings from places I lived in the past and mixed them together to create Homestead.

Samson’s Creek  was modeled after a Creek I went to with my cousins in Mississippi. That is also where I jumped off the tree, played chicken in the water, grilled out, and witnessed my cousin get stung by a bee in the eye.

The courtyard, where the group always has lunch, was at my old high school in Crossplains, TN. I always loved that setting, in the middle of the school but outside and away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded hallways. It’s really beautiful during the winter, snow falling around you as you sit on the cold cement, your lover’s arms keeping you warm.

I modeled Homestead High after Portland High School in Tennessee. They are also home of the Panthers.

Picture6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

I like that Mitch is more mature than most 17-year-olds. He never dated anyone before Heather, which would probably seem weird to most, but you have to realize that he only dates when he thinks there  is a prospect of marriage. Though he has had no real experience with girls, he is quite the romantic and says eloquent things that most would find cheesy, but come from his heart.Heather is a lot like me, strong but overly sensitive at times. Some would find her emotions a little over the top, but the fact that she is so open about how she’s feeling is endearing. She loves with her whole heart and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable.Brian is my favorite to write. He’s very witty, bold, and sometimes dangerous. He is definitely the clown of the group. Even though most people see the comedian side of him, Brian is a lot deeper than people know. He’s loyal to a fault and often puts others before himself. It’s rare that he find someone he feels he can truly relate to, and when he does, he falls for them – hard. We catch a glimpse of this in “Summers & Winters”, but we’ll really get to see this side of him In “The Coldest of Winters”. Brian can only be loyal to his friends for so long, it eventually developes that he follows his heart in his own desires, putting everything on the line.Brittany is not your typical cheerleader. Yes, she dates a football player and is very popular, but there’s a lot more to her than that. She’s sweet, and kind, and very girly, but she’s also smart and isn’t afraid to stick up for her friends. When she finds out Heather has befriended a girl known for starting trouble, she warns her but still allows Heather to make her own decisions. Brittany also has a knack for knowing just what to say. This comes in handy a few times, when Heather is on the verge of exposing her relationship with Mitch.

Sammy is the voice of reason. When anyone has an issue, they run to him. He’s trustworthy and knows how to hold his tongue. Other than almost ripping the hinges off of Hot Guy’s door to go after Brittany, who went in for a “warm shower”, Sammy is usually calm and collected.

All of the subordinate characters bring something to the table as well, but there too many of them to talk about now. You’ll just have to read the books. But I will tell you, there are a few “mean girls” who are out to destroy everything.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

Some of the events in the book are modeled after real things that I’ve done. For instance, I did jump off of a tree and into a creek, and I did kill a snake with a shovel, though I didn’t eat it like Heather did. A lot of people commented on the Surf War scene, and in case you were wondering, you really can surf on trash can lids. You just need about an inch of water. I take a lot of little things from life and twist them around to fit my books.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.

Book is available at Amazon

PictureAbout the Author:

Hey everybody. My name is Heather Dowell and I was born in Tennessee on March 12, 1990. My family moved around frequently when I was a kid, mostly from county to county, so I’ve had a lot of experience with being the new kid. I graduated from Portland High School in Portland, TN in May 2008. Shortly after my 18th birthday, I enlisted in the United States Navy. I went to boot camp in Greatlakes, IL, which is a short train ride away from Chicago. I went to Chicago with my sailor friends as often as I could. I really enjoyed the city.

I’ve lived in Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, and Florida. If you count the womb, then I’ve also lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, that’s part of the reason why I chose for Heather Winters of “Summers & Winters”  to live in Las Vegas. I asked myself, “How would my life have been if I grew up in Vegas?”, and created a whole new world.

Picture I served four years on the USS Carney(DDG-64) in Mayport, FL and lived in Jacksonville, FL. I met some of the most wonderful people on that ship, and that is when I really started writing. In my upcoming book “The Newcomer”,  I transformed my real friends on the Carney into mythical creatures, like Mermaids, Vampires, Trolls, Fairies, Werewolves, and some creatures of my own creation, that are battling the Evil Black Dragon and his minions in order to keep them from conquering the world and dominating the human race.

I write books of almost every genre, all with a little hint of Romance, so if you are into that sort of thing, you should definitely try out one of my books.

I’m currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Elementary Education at Western Kentucky University. I have a passion for teaching children and for writing novels. I also love music and I’m a flag girl in the Big Red Marching Band. I’m married to a wonderful husband, and I love seeing my family every weekend. Family and friends are very important to me. You can probably see that through the characters that I have developed. They’re all very unique and some of them are based on people I know. Some of the events stem from real events in my life as well, but I twisted them into a very fictional story. I hope you enjoy my work, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading.

Read on for some excerpts from Heather’s book!

Looking Ahead at 2014

Picture I’ve been thinking about this post since reading Dean Wesley Smith’s post on setting writing goals for 2014. This year got off to a rocky start for me; I had an abnormal EKG a week before Christmas, which was kind of alarming, and I’ve been dealing with tests and a lot of anxiety since then. Everything is still inconclusive so far, but right now it looks like we’re not dealing with anything immediately dangerous; most likely it’s nothing serious, or we’ve caught something more long-term serious in the early stages.

Getting this glimpse of my own mortality had the contradictory effects of making it hard to make future plans and goals (who can make plans for the future when they’re afraid they’re going to drop dead at any moment?) (seriously, I’m a terrible hypochondriac) and making me really zero in on what I want to accomplish in my life. The main thing I realized, besides wondering who would make the Christmas fudge and homemade dinner rolls at our house if I wasn’t around (getting alarming health news right before Christmas really sucks) is that I would be extremely bummed out were I to shuffle off the mortal coil before getting Daughter of the Wildings out. I’ve instructed my husband that should something happen to me, DoW is to be made available however seems best at the time – put up for sale, or just posted for free, or whatever. The problem is, as it is right now, still in rough draft, it kind of sucks. It’s not terrible, but there are parts that make me cringe or that are just wrong, and I really don’t want it to go out into the world this way.

So, with that as my focus, and now that I’m not quite so convinced that I’m going to drop dead at any moment *knock on wood*, here are my plans and goals for the coming year.

Although Sarya’s Song is the next book scheduled to come out, I’m going to be spending most of my work hours on the initial revision of Daughter of the Wildlings. DoW is a huge project, nearly 300,000 words, and if I’m going to get it released on any kind of schedule, it needs to take priority. This shuffling of priorities will mean that the release of Sarya’s Song may be delayed a bit. I’m hoping for a February release, but it may take until March.

My target for releasing the first DoW book, Beneath the Canyons, is June, though that may be a bit optimistic. The plan is to get all six books to where once I start releasing the series, a new book can come out about every other month.

Once Sarya’s Song is out and DoW is well under way towards being released, there are a couple of different areas I’m thinking I’ll turn my attention to. One is a couple of partially-written novels set in Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara. I also had a reviewer say they wished Chosen was a trilogy instead of one book, because they wanted more backstory on some of the characters and events. Rewriting Chosen as a trilogy isn’t going to happen – I just don’t feel it that way – but I’d like to do a set of stories giving some of the backstory the reviewer mentioned they’d like to know more about. Maybe I’ll make this a Camp NaNo project in April or July. And the very first novel I ever wrote, Prince of the Trozdozh, and its sequel are sitting on my hard drive, calling out to me. I think they’re probably salvageable, so I want to run them through my revision process and see it they really are something I can release to the public.

As far as production goals, right now I can’t really set a word count goal. By the end of the year I aim to have released 5 novels (Sarya’s Song and the first four Daughter of the Wildings novels) and at least one short story collection (the Chosen of Azara companion stories). I had five releases in 2013, so six releases in 2014 sounds like a good progression.

And, onward. Happy New Year, everyone! May it be happy and productive and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises.