Thursday, January 31, 2013

#AuthorInterview Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed #India #literaryfiction

What author or story about writing most inspires you?
I love to think about Emily Bronte, who wrote Wuthering Heights, while she lived in a small house on the moors with her family in northern England. She never traveled outside the country, or had any great contact with the world outside her home. She was not part of some sparkling social set. She wrote one of the most powerful and disturbing stories of English literature. It's almost as if her short, confined but productive life is, in itself, a metaphor of the power of the imagination.

India is the setting of your book and short stories. What is it about the country that inspires you? India has a sensory richness that has to be experienced to be believed: the sights, sounds and smells and tastes stay with you and haunt your dreams. I feel honored to have lived there for a small part of my life, and to remain connected to this amazing place. I am particularly fascinated by stories of India's history from independence to the emigration to the West of my parents' generation in the 1950's and 1960's and how subsequent generations have adapted to life in the West, still dreaming of their former familial homeland.

It has been fun to see the recent cultural interest in India with books and movies like The Namesake, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Slumdog Millionaire; there are some great stories out there about India and her people. I always seek out South Asian authors to help me understand the complexities of life there: I think it's important to remember that India is not a blank slate on which to impose a fantasy, but a bustling, thriving and diverse place with its own rich tradition of poetry and storytelling.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a writer?
Write, write and write! Don't be afraid to write nonsense at first. The physical act of putting pen to paper, or typing on those keys, can stir something that takes on a life of its own. Remember that perfection is a process; your first draft is just the beginning. Don't forget to read either—good literature that captures the magic you would like to bottle in your own writing. When you read something worthy, think critically: what is this writer's secret? Is it their ability to craft a surprising plot, or do they have a way with words that makes you feel as if you are listening to music? What do you admire about their writing, and where do they come up short? I want to keep learning as I write, so that each one of my titles is better than the last.

If you could choose to be any one of your characters, which would it be and why? I would chose Safiyah of The Dust Beneath Her Feet. I wanted to create a female character who faces hardship with spirit and resilience.  Poverty is the cause of many insults to her dignity but she holds her head up high, even when circumstances seem to conspire to humiliate her. She is clearly a good, loving mother and will do whatever it takes to hold her family together. I don't know if I would be able to handle her circumstances with such grace. I based her character on my eldest aunt, who had to make a similar decision about whether or not to travel across India and join her husband in what was the new country of Pakistan at the time of India's Partition. Sadly, my aunt's story did not end well. I will continue Safiyah's story in my subsequent Purana Qila Stories series, but I'm not yet sure if she will ultimately share my aunt's fate. I'm very fond of her and I'm not ready to let go of her!

You told us which character you would choose to be, if you could. Who was your favorite character to write?
I think it would have to be Khan Sahib, the ghost who haunts Mirza in A Deconstructed Heart. Khan Sahib is disoriented by modern life and by Mirza's helplessness: it is a shock to him to see how isolated his former student is, without a close-knit extended family living situation once typical in India. You can see that Khan Sahib is very much a product of tradition: he comes from a rigid social and family structure that might seem confining to us today, but he also enjoyed a life rich in connections and community. You can't help admiring his assurance in his place in the world. I based him loosely on a chess teacher I knew in India, who was a rather upright, dogmatic fellow but ultimately very entertaining.

In A Deconstructed Heart, Mirza's wife leaves him and Rehan is abandoned by his father when he is young. In A Change in the Weather, Imran leaves Emily. In The Dust Beneath Her Feet, Aarif leaves Safiyah, to find work in the north. I'm sensing a pattern here…
It's interesting how many times in life we have to say goodbye. In my book and short stories, every physical move is a sloughing off of an old life and an intended or unintended betrayal of those who are left behind. I'm interested in exploring the repercussions that occur when one person decides to change course in life.

The times in which I set both short stories were ones of great upheaval in India: firstly the tragic circumstances of Partition in India, and secondly, the incredible "brain drain" that took place when Britain, America and Canada opened up work opportunities for highly qualified Indian citizens. A whole generation of doctors and engineers, like my parents, who could not brook the corruption that was rife and the lack of job opportunity in India at that time, moved across the world to start over in the West. They left with their blessing of their families, but in the process, they left behind the comforts of a tight-knit community and the chance to be close to their parents in their old age. In A Change in the Weather, I placed the character of Imran in a difficult dilemma, torn between conflicting duties in two worlds.

What is the central theme of your writing?
I would say that loss is at the heart of my stories: loss of identity, homeland, family or love. With every loss, however, comes some kind of rebirth: a new way of imagining oneself, a new sense of connection or a relationship. My characters are often forced to adapt and grow as a result of something or someone being taken from them. In A Deconstructed Heart, Mirza has to adjust to the fact that his wife has left him and he realizes that his way of making a life in England is just not working. His niece, Amal, has been cocooned in her life in the north of England and feels pressured to join her parents at their new home in India; Mirza's breakdown is the catalyst that shakes up the lives of both characters and forces them to reassess things and figure out what they really want. They have to reinterpret what family means to them when the old traditional set-up has unraveled.

In my short stories, A Change in the Weather and The Dust Beneath Her Feet, the theme of loss is centered around physical displacement, as characters travel far away and loved ones are left behind. I'm interested in the immigration/emigration of the Indian diaspora and how every transition has a profound effect on personal identity and loyalties.

I'm looking forward to exploring that idea as I continue the Purana Qila Stories series. I will be writing about the children and grandchildren of characters in my first two stories. Some of them will be second- or third-generation immigrants to the West, and I want to explore how their lives have turned out, the unexpected ways in which their fates overlap and what remains true to the Indian side of their identity.

Contact information and links:

Blog, Twitter handle: @hailandclimb, Amazon Author PageGoodreads page 

Bio: Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed is the author of A Deconstructed Heart and The Purana Qila Stories series, which includes her e-book titles: A Change in the Weather and The Dust Beneath Her Feet. Shaheen won a national essay competition about life in India held by the Indian High Commission in England and has had her poetry and prose published in the Cadbury’s Book of Children’s Poetry, Nadopasana One and Tomorrow magazine. Shaheen lives in Chicago with her family. To follow her blog, please visit:

Shaheen received reviews for The Dust Beneath Her Feet at IRevuo and Curious Book Fans and for A Change in the Weather from Curious Book Fans

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#BookChat THE LIGHT BEARER by Donna Gillespie #historical #fiction

The Light Bearer is a novel of ancient Rome and and Germania, encompassing a sweep of events that spans the reigns of two tyrants, Nero and Domitian. When Auriane is born to a tribal chieftain, the seeress who attends her birth predicts that she will be a “living shield” to her people. As the legions plunder her people's lands, burn their crops and kidnap their young men for the imperial army, she is chosen to lead her father’s battle companions at his death. As the only world she has known collapses around her, Auriane is captured and taken to Rome, and into a life of horror and glory no seeress could have foreseen.

In Rome, senator and Stoic humanist Marcus Arrius Julianus rises to the loftiest pinnacles of government. Through wit, daring and brilliant maneuvering, he struggles to check the murderous whims of the increasingly corrupt Emperor Domitian. As a reign of terror begins, Julianus orchestrates a vast plot to assassinate the emperor. Cultured Marcus Julianus and barbarian Auriane meet — and form a powerful bond across the gulf of their vastly different ways of life. Domitian condemns Auriane to the arena, where in the halls of a gladiatorial training school she discovers the tribesman who betrayed her people in war. As Julianus’ assassination plot rushes to its cataclysmic conclusion, Auriane must carry out the solemn rite of vengeance before a maddened throng in the Colosseum.

From the Author: It all started with PBS: After I saw the miniseries based on Robert Graves’ I Claudius, ancient Rome took over my life. I started making trip after trip to the library, checking out anything with “Rome” in the title. (This was way pre-Google.) This world was so vastly distant from ours, yet in some ways so strikingly familiar. I’d been trying unsuccessfully to start a novel for several years, but when I decided to set my book in Rome all of a sudden the story ran away with me and I ended up with this 800 page monster that ate up twelve years of my life.

But Auriane was the deeper reason I wrote it. I loved Rome, yes, but it’s also true she needed Rome as a backdrop. She came to me fully formed one day while walking to work, and I was smitten. I feel that in a way she taught me to write, because I felt a great urgency to learn the craft in order to do her justice. These days I still can’t seem to let her go, and am now working on the third book in the series. (The second, Lady of the Light, came out in 2006). This was 1994, and at the time, it seemed she filled a gap. Novels set in the ancient world featuring a woman who drives the plot (and who was not Cleopatra) weren’t so common in those days. A woman who was an adventurer, a woman who quests, who stands up to those in power — it’s what I’d lacked in my reading life when growing up. Originally I’d thought of writing of the British warrior queen, Boudica, but decided I didn’t want my main character to be a historical figure — it would have been too much like writing biography. So Auriane is a “might have been” surrounded by historical figures, a slightly-larger-than-life heroine not immune from humiliating bouts of self doubt. It just seemed she needed to be here.

Readers' Reactions:
“Throughout this monumental story, Gillespie constantly increases the excitement and intrigue. There are no flat passages in The Light Bearer, only a fast-flowing stream that erupts into a fullscale torrent in the book's conclusion.” —Washington Post Book World

“For anyone interested in this tumultuous period of Roman despotism and Germanic tribes, Gillespie's epic is an intriguing recording of everyday detail, national issues and, more impressively, overarching influences of religion and psychology.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Gillespie's grasp of the daily social, religious and political lives of Germanic tribes and urban Romans alike, and her understanding of the way human deeds are woven by time into myth, keep The Light Bearer rooted in historical plausibility … keeps the reader engaged … The Light Bearer taps into one of the most popular themes in historical fiction today, the unsung woman who takes a hand in the shaping of history.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

From Amazon’s book editor: “Quo Vadis for our times! Well, not exactly. It's been awhile since anyone tackled the Roman Empire as entertainingly as Gillespie has done in this book…Strongly drawn characters, a setting both familiar and exotic and a subdued but important romance subplot drive the sweeping novel of Auriane's growth and maturity and Rome's decadence.”

Author's Story: The Light Bearer came so close to becoming a mini-series. In 2001, Hallmark Entertainment bought the option, and I’d heard that they make 90% of what they buy. I was delirious, fantasizing daily about curling up in front of my tv, mesmerized by the sight of my characters manifesting magically on the small screen. After a year Hallmark renewed the option — everything was going swimmingly. The director was someone I’d actually heard of. A screenwriter in England wrote a script and it was approved by the producers. I was giddy. Then suddenly, silence. One day the emails, the calls, just stopped. Later I found out it all fell apart at the level of funding. They just couldn’t raise enough money for the project. But I still haven’t given up hope that someone will produce it, some day.

The most surreal incident happened just before the book came out. Foreign rights were starting to come in, and when the German rights sold, the translator insisted on flying out to meet me. At the time I was working as a telephone operator in a cramped, windowless sub-basement room of a San Francisco hotel on Nob Hill. My translator moved into one of the luxury suites up on the 8th floor of the same hotel, and began translating my book. Whenever he came upon something in the manuscript that puzzled him, he would dial “O” for operator, and get me. Once he came all the way downstairs to my domain, took one horrified look around and said, “In Germany this would be illegal,” — then went back up to his suite to continue translating my book. This went on for about a month.

It puzzled me that my publisher put Lady of the Light out as an e-book right away, but not Light Bearer. I suspect it was because Light Bearer came from the pre-digital age — all those scanner errors were probably too much for them to deal with. So last year I decided to do something about it — I got the rights back and put Light Bearer out as an e-book myself, and now it’s available on Kindle, Nook and iPad. To me the most revolutionary aspect of the e-book era is that now any book can be pulled back from the out-of-print abyss, given a whole new life, even — that is, as long there’s enough electricity in the world to recharge everyone’s batteries!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#AuthorInterview Debra Chapoton #Christian #YA #fiction

Synopsis for Sheltered:

Living together unsupervised, five troubled teens confront demonic forces and are compelled to deal with their problems in distinctly different ways. Paranormal meets psycho meets Goth in this story of a supernatural haunting and budding love.

High school junior, Ben, hacks into his step-father's real estate holdings and provides rooms in an old two-story house to various outcasts: the schizophrenic kid, the angry Goth girl, and the homeless girl who worships him. When Megan needs a place to live she comes to the rooming house with a different set of problems and the ability to confuse and attract Ben.

One by one strange and mysterious occurrences stretch the teens’ beliefs in the supernatural. How they deal with demons, real and imagined, has tragic as well as redeeming consequences.

Excerpt from Sheltered:

Next Wednesday
Emily knew the precise moment that Ben returned, she felt him in her scars. She watched him carry some things to the house, heard the door close; she smiled when she heard him call out that Santa was here. He did that once before, in early December, insisting that she accept the gift he held out, not wanting her to wait until Christmas to use the mittens he knew she needed.
She went toward her door now, wondered what he had brought, and then heard Megan’s voice below. Oh no, he probably brought something for her. She scuttled back to her nest by the window and stared outside, was still staring fifteen minutes later when she saw them walk down the street, Ben shouldering a shovel, his other hand knotted with Megan’s.
She touched the skin on her arms, lightly at first, making it tingle. The image of Ben with Megan multiplied across her mind in broken mirrors, a repugnant picture that reflected her own self-loathing. She scratched at her scabs, felt the pricks of pain force away the ticklish sensations. She closed her eyes.
When she opened them she saw a figure standing at her door. 
“Who–?” she started, but the figment waned to less than a shadow. Still, though, there was something at her door.
She rose slowly and held her hand out.
Its face was more womanly now, friendly, motherly. Yes, she knew this face. Its pearly white skin so shocking against the ruby lips, the stringy hair a match to her own. Her mother. 
She stretched her fingers toward the face. The hallucination faded then sharpened. The eyes began to blaze. She drew her hands back to her own face. What’s wrong with me?  The delusion grieved Emily; all around her fluttered a longing.
And a deadly fear.

Debra's Bio:

Debra Chapoton has taught kids of all ages in her main career as a teacher. She has a BA in Spanish and a Master of Arts degree in Teaching English. She started writing in 2002 and was surprised to find out that the characters quickly take over the action and dialogue in the stories. 
Her first YA novel, Edge of Escape, was self-published and then discovered by Piper Verlag Publishing and translated into German. Stalking and obsession get a sympathetic twist in this story of physical and psychological survival.
Her second YA novel, Sheltered, detours into a different genre as she writes about five teens who confront supernatural forces. Two boys and three girls all harbor secrets which make some of them susceptible to demon possession. Embracing all things supernatural might protect them, but are they ready for the consequences?
Chapoton has also written eleven chapter books for middle grade kids, teen Christian fiction The Guardian’s Diary, and a non-fiction work for adults, Crossing the Scriptures.
When she’s not writing Chapoton enjoys the quiet of the full log home she designed and built with her husband. They live in the middle of 62 acres of beautiful woods in northern Michigan.


Title: Sheltered
Amazon   Kindle   Nook   Goodreads 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Launch #Gratitude Giveaway from Rachelle Ayala

Hidden Under Her Heart (A Story of Abortion & Courage) was launched January 22, 2013, the fortieth anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Many friends and fellow authors came to my aid by posting my new release on their blogs and supporting my book launch.

In gratitude to their bravery for posting such a controversial book, I'm running a three month long guest tour on my blog with book bundle giveaways.

Melisa Hamling, the first guest appeared on my blog this morning. She is the author of Twenty Weeks, a young adult novel dealing with a pregnant teenager facing the choice of abortion. She meets a friend in the abortion clinic that changes her mind and outlook under gruesome circumstances.

Please visit the guests and enter the giveaways.

WINNER: Fiery Na

Patricia Zick 2/4


Patricia Zick 2/13

WINNER: Emerald B.

Come back for more as I get them posted and scheduled.

And thanks friends, for your support and friendship, Rachelle

#AuthorInterview Melisa Hamling #romanticsuspense #womensfiction author

Hi Melisa, so wonderful that you have a new book out, and a romantic suspense too! I've read it and it is very exciting. I especially like Cruz who is a sweetie but a man who knows what he wants. How did you come up with his character?

I wanted a strong male lead, but one that was also lovable and compassionate.

What makes Cruz the perfect man for Daniella?

That's a tough question. What makes any man perfect for a woman? I'd have to answer that by saying he's charming, witty,  persistent, and genuine (and handsome too). Something Daniella needs after a previous disastrous relationship. 

How does Daniella grow in your story?

There is so much to say about her that I don't think I could summarize Daniella's growth. At the very least, she's been through some pretty horrific situations, but she discovers an inner strength and overcomes some of her greatest fears. Daniella and Cruz learn that no matter what happens, love prevails.

2013 is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. How well received has Twenty Weeks been? Do you see a change in sentiment among younger people?

It's either loved or hated.  It depends on the opinion of pro-life or pro-choice. There's nothing in the novel that doesn't happen in real life. Abortion is real. Abuse is real. Controversy is real. And sometimes there is a happily ever after ;) no matter how old we are.

That's good to know. What's next? How did you come up with it?

I'm working on the first novel I wrote. Finding Forever is a trilogy that I hold close to my heart. To me, it's the greatest love story that develops in a world I'd want to live in. A world that doesn't exist... or does it?

And do you really want to know how I came up with it? Ha! Funny how a crazy dream of an Olympic size pool and shaving my legs gave me the idea of the story. I think it was the mysterious mansion surrounding the pool that really had me thinking. So many what ifs came to mind. NO. The story has nothing to do with me and shaving either ;b.

Super excited about your trilogy. Is there a message in there?

Yes, there is a message, but I'm not going to give it away. NOPE.

Well, thanks for talking to us. I think it is safe to say that you are a true romantic and believe that love will conquer all.

Excerpt for Finding Forever

That first time, when he presses his lips against mine and kisses the words ‘I Love You’ right down into the very heart of my soul, that’s when I knew we were about to be ripped apart.


A TRICKLING OF TEARS CASCADE DOWN my cheeks as I watch Ben sleep. My heart aches knowing this might be the last kiss I give him as I lean over and press my lips against his forehead. “I love you, Ben. We’ll find each other. Never give up. It won’t be long—I promise,” I whisper, uncertain of my own promise. 
         He tosses, turns, and curls up next to me. He traces my lips with his thumb. “What’s wrong…? Why are you crying?”
         “It’s… it’s time. They’re pulling me out of here. The… the other people. I don’t want to go, Ben.” I sob and exhale heavily. “I can’t be without you. I-I just can’t. I’ll die if I go back! I can’t live without…”
         “Sh.” He rises to his knees, bringing me up with him, and moves forward, lips almost touching mine. “You have to get control of yourself. You have to be positive for both of us. How will anything we’ve talked about ever work if you can’t control your emotions?”
         He speaks soft but stern before his breathing turns ragged. “I’m not trying to be harsh, but I love you and I need to know you can do this.”
         Inhaling his scent drives a passionate urge deep within me and in this moment, he sweeps me in to the sweet bliss of a deep kiss. His touch is like no other, calming the darkness, soothing my soul, he makes me feel whole, complete, and... I have to get a grip on my emotions. I need to be strong for the two of us.
         “You’re my life, too, and I’ll hold you right here.” He places his hand over his heart; his head falls against my shoulder and he nuzzles my neck. Wrapping my arms around him, I squeeze and clench his shirt, entwine it between my fingers. I only wish this would be enough to pull him through with me.
         “Remember what I said.” He raises his head, his blue-eyes hopeful underneath the disheveled mess of blond hair. “Focus on details, even the smallest ones. More importantly, mark a path and make sure you’re—”
         A chill sweeps over me like icy fingers clawing at the back of my neck. “Ben? Oh, God! Ben. Ben! I can’t hear yyyooouuuu.” The words echo and I know this is it, the end of it all.
         “B-Beh—” I cry again, but the strength of the pull feels like a weighted ball crashing against my chest, shoving me backward.
         A high-pitched wail pours into the very core of my heart. Ben! I see tears spill down his cheeks as he dives toward me. I think he reaches me, but he falls right through me, as if I were a mere shadow—visible but transparent, and then he disappears. 
         Please, oh please, God, bring us back together. I can’t live without him.
☼ ☼ ☼
         Green, red, black, purple and white colors flash before my eyes. Vibrating sounds buzz in my ears. My head thunders with explosions of pain. Each breath I take burns. I cough and retch with each force of the tug in my throat, poofs of air drawing upward with each wrench. I try to grab at it, but warm, callous fingers, press against my cold hands.
         My eyelids flutter and I wake to a blinding light. “Ben? Ben, where are you?” I choke on the words. I search with my hands and pat frantically at the shadow standing next to me. I gulp hard at the deep burn of raw pain crowding at the back of my throat.
         “Hey, hey, calm down, Morgan. It’s me, James. You’ve had a bad accident. Do you remember anything?”
         The silhouette of a man with dark wavy hair leans over me. I blink several times before I notice his big, brown eyes staring at me. James? The name forms around my lips but I can’t say it.
         Where’s Ben… Danny... the mansion. Where are they? Hot tears trickle down my cheeks. 
         The lines in James’ forehead deepen and his brows furrow. His eyes droop as if he’s sad.
         Do I know him?
         I cry relentlessly. “Ben! Danny. Everybody. The mansion. Where are they?”
         “You were in a coma, Morgan. Maybe you were dreaming of people, but there’s no Ben or Danny… and no mansion. You don’t know anyone with those names. Maybe you were dreaming? I’m sorry, but this is me, James. Remember me, your boyfriend?” He shoots me a hopeful smile.
         “You?”  I whisper. “You can’t be my boyfriend.”
         I stare at him as he tucks his hands into the front pockets of his faded jeans, shaking his head and lowering it. Without another word, he turns and walks away.
         Who does he think he is, passing himself off as my boyfriend. Ha. Tall, dark wavy hair, copper eyes—he must be Italian. But to say he’s my boyfriend? No, no. I have a boyfriend.
         Ben? I need you.
         I let my head sink back into the pillow, and examine the tubes and wires connecting to my arms, head and chest. Monitors beep and there’s the drip, drip, drip of the I.V. White walls, bright lights, medical equipment—I’m in the one place I hate, the hospital. I close my eyes wishing it all away.
☼ ☼ ☼
         Waking with a start, I glance around the room for any unwanted visitors.  A dozen balloons float near the window and there are flowers with cards tucked into their forks. Thoughtful, but unnecessary.
         As I continue to scan the area, my eye catches something familiar. My iTouch! And a crumpled hospital bag most likely containing my clothes.
         Without permission or knowing whether I can stand on my own two feet, I slide off the bed and grip the railing. Hmm. I’m steady enough and challenge myself by grasping the I.V. pole, and take a step forward. After a few more steps, I snatch the bag and my iTouch.
         Safely back in bed, I examine the iTouch. It’s covered in pink goo. I poke my head in the hospital bag and then dump the contents on my lap. The tattered clothes have a thick layer of the pink goo on them too.
         What does this mean? What. Does. This. Mean!
         Frustration sets in. I close my eyes, and rub my pink gooey hands against my temples, and then…
         Explosions erupt in my head like a volcano… liquid oozing from it, flowing through my brain with bits and pieces of information.
         There was lightning.
         And thunder.
And, something eerie.
         Like a twilight zone.
I recall the voices.
         The creepy voices that whisper-shouted my name. “Moooooorrrrrrgaaaannnn!”
         Oh, god! I’m there and I don’t know where ‘there’ is.
Where am I, where am I!
         My pulse pounds against my ears and my head is spinning. 
         Splattering, splattering, splattering!
         I see myself.
I’m splattering at the bottom!
         “No, no, no,” I say breathlessly as I slowly open my eyes…
         …and I scream.

About Melisa:

Melisa grew up in Colorado and moved to 'the good life' in the latter half of her teen years, where she remained. She resides with her husband and three daughters. Her only son, Robby, named after his human father, is, of course, a cat. He refuses to acknowledge his furry background, and so continues to live as humanly as possible. 

An extensive history in the healthcare industry has given her the honor to know and work with a variety of people, ranging from newborn to elderly.

Her true passion is writing, of course. She strives to write stories that have something to say, that speak to the heart--youth to aged and all things in between.

Melisa's Books: Twenty Weeks and Of Love and Deception are available at and Barnes and

Enter to win a book by Melisa Hamling and 4 other authors.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dangerous Tidepools - Hidden Under Her Heart (A Story of Abortion & Courage) Chapter 6 - Scene 1

The morning sunlight filtered through the tent. Maryanne stretched and rubbed her eyes. A rolling snore purred next to her. Lucas’ scent mixed with Old Spice calmed and excited her. She arranged her head on the pillow. Just a bit longer before she had to get up.
Lucas’ face exhibited a day’s growth of beard. Interesting how his beard was reddish brown, but his hair curled dark brown. Eyebrows and eyelashes were thick and lush, also dark brown. His nose flared at just the right angle, and his lips combined a rakish upper curl with a luscious lower lip. The top part of his chest lay exposed, tempting her to touch.
He was right to remain just friends. His priorities were obvious. His triathlon training took precedence over relationships. He would never be as nasty as Barry had  been when he’d sneeringly offered her cash to never bother him again. Somehow, no matter what, Lucas would be friendly, and still care.
Lucas’ sea-green eyes opened, and a smile brightened his face. “I could get used to waking up with you. Did you sleep well?”
Being around him was reward enough. She wouldn’t ruin their friendship by wanting more. She scanned the rumpled blanket and smushed-up sleeping bag. “Were you warm enough?”
“Brrr…” He clutched his bare arms. “You left me cold and naked while you hogged the sleeping bag.”
“I would have shared if you were fully clothed.” She sat and pushed her hair from her face. “I need to go to the outhouses. Is there a shower anywhere?”
“Shower? Who needs a shower when the ocean’s right there?” Lucas pulled on a sweatshirt and swept out of the blanket. He had on sweatpants the entire time. “Race you!”
He unzipped the tent and crawled out. Maryanne put on her hoodie and jogging shoes. “I need to brush my teeth. Is there running water?”
“I have a water jug. But first, the outhouses.”
They jogged in the sand, and by the time they reached the outhouses, Maryanne was fit to die. She had to take two steps for every one of his, not to add that sinking into the sand made for hard going.
Lucas gave her hand cleaner after she finished. “Let’s walk along the water’s edge before heading back.”
The sand was wet and foamy, littered by dark green strands of seaweed. A seagull cried and dipped over a set of exposed rocks, and the surf splashed over them leaving a slippery surface pockmarked by cups and bowls of water.
“Oh, look, tide pools.” Maryanne headed toward the wet rocks. A sandy area, like a child’s wading pool was left in the middle of a rectangular ledge. Maryanne waited for the waves to recede and ran across a sandbar. She followed a miniature crab over a ridge and peered into its hollow. Tiny fish darted in a shallow pool.
“Watch out!” Lucas shouted, pointing over Maryanne’s shoulder.
A giant swell of water rose behind her. She lunged toward the sandbar and grabbed wildly for Lucas’ outstretched hand. Cold water slammed over her head. She lost her footing, and the wave shoved her down. Bubbles, black and white, exploded around her.

[Start]       [Previous Scene]       [Next Scene]

Ebook Available At: Barnes & Noble (Nook)Amazon (Kindle) [USIndiaUKDEFRESITCanadaBrazilJapan], SmashwordsKoboBooks
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do Interactive Storybook Apps Enhance Or Inhibit a Child’s Reading Experience? by Gerry Renert

As both a writer of picture books in print and ebook formats (“Nathan Saves Summer,” “Nathan and the Really Big Bully”) as well as interactive storybook apps (“Brave Rooney” and the soon to be released, “Brave Rooney and the Supersized Superheroes”) the ever-changing world of digital books is a constant topic of conversation.  Rarely a day goes by when new tablet computers or new mobile technologies are not advertised or editorialized.  I’m not a child psychologist or educational expert, but I do have the benefit of insight gained through reading my print books and playing my interactive book in front of kids at various elementary schools, summer camps, etc.

Ever since I started writing for children’s television and books, I’ve always considered a strong story and relatable characters to be crucial, just as I consider them to be in any form of storied entertainment.  Having a child reader experience the travails of a story, the perseverance of its hero(es) and the satisfaction of achieving a goal has to be helpful in increasing the worldliness of the child, building social skills along with a sense of self-identify.  When I read my books or play my app for a group of kids, I always look to their faces to see how anticipatory they are as to what action they think (or hope) will follow with the reading of each page.  When I’m finished, I open the event up to questions, and I’m especially pleased when the children clearly were taken in by the story and even make up their own subsequent stories or expand on character traits they see in their favorite character. What I’ve noticed, though, is that children seem to appreciate the story and characters much better in an interactive book, but only when the interactive parts are organic to the storytelling and not interactivity that is added in for interactivity’s sake.   

My storybook app, ”Brave Rooneyis about an elementary school of superheroes where one kid, Rooney, happens to be a normal kid, but he ends up showing the superhero kids what it takes to be really brave.  To quickly demonstrate the unfamiliar concept to kids, in the opening of the app all the superheroes fly into school when the reader touches them whereas Rooney walks to school on his first day.  When the superheroes are frightened to read a poem in front of their classmates, they shiver in fear when the child touches each hero.  Expressing this obvious wish fulfillment and over-dramatized fear could never be achieved in a print or ebook.  However, had these interactions not been strongly relatable to the age group or integral parts of the story, they would have had less meaning.   I believe if my software developer, Bacciz LLC, had chosen to add in an interactive element like a game that was only peripherally related to the story, the game would have taken the reader’s focus off character and story – the very elements I see as being so crucial.

There’s no question that interactive books are the wave of both the present and future through increasingly exciting devices like the iPad Mini, the new Android tablets and devices we can’t even envision. Children will be exposed to more digital books and more sophisticated interactivity.  My hope is that publishers, app developers, authors and artists will not get so taken away with the newest software capabilities that the basics of children’s literature, so important to childhood development, will become secondary to the technology.

By Gerry Renert
January 12, 2013
©2013 Gerry Renert

Sale! Brave Rooney will be on sale for 99c for today (Jan 24) only! Click on this link.

About Gerry Renert:

I’ve been a writer/TV producer for over twenty years.  I began my writing career when I was eleven years old (under protest) on the blackboard of Miss Peterson’s sixth grade class.  Once out in the real world, I wrote television commercials, which lead to my meeting a TV star who gave me a shot at writing TV sitcoms.  Luckily, I ended up writing episodes for two of the highest rated TV series in the history of CBS Television.  In 2002, I co-created the animated preschool TV series, ToddWorld, which aired in most countries around the world. The series has won three “Parents Choice” awards, an “iParenting” Award and has been EMMY nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” My two picture books in the “Nathan Series” have won “Mom’s Choice” Gold Awards.  I’ve been a long-standing member of the Writers Guild of America and am currently president of my own company SupperTime Entertainment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reasons for Hatred with Author Hadassah Thomas Martin (J.E.Thomas)

About The Book

This a story based on true events. It’s about two best friends who were separated during their childhood. The spotlight then zooms in on Hadassah; during their adult reunion, she divulges the painful moments of the sexual abuse, murder and death that occurred in her life during her adolescence. It is a story about an ordinary person faced with extraordinary trauma and how she came to forgive and learned to embrace wholeness.

About The Author

Hadassah Thomas Martin is a high-spirited woman of faith who was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She trained with Precept Ministries and became a certified trainer in “How to study the Bible”. She is also an active member of the Fellowship of International Christian Word Of Faith Ministries (FICWFM).  She is the founder of “Keep It Real Ministries” which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to conduct local bible studies which teach people how to continuously live in the reality of God’s Word; regardless of their experience. Being an “at risk youth” herself, Hadassah has overcome insurmountable obstacles. She is a bright light to women who have suffered abuse and a vital assistant in producing overcomers. She has a passion for people and teaches youth, men and woman how to fight to win!  As a true worshipper and Intercessor, she boldly believes that NOTHING is too hard for God! In spite of the multiple challenges we face, she believes the greatness which is inside us all, can be extracted, developed and targeted to reach its designed purpose.  

Her Focus: to express qualities that bring inspiration to others. Her motto is “We Always Triumph!” Her inspiring influence, and her down to earth, “Keep It Real” style are certain to leave an indelible impression.

Order your copy

Link to purchase book on my website:  

Author Website

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Remembering Roe V. Wade, Is there really a choice?

I was thirteen when Roe v. Wade passed. I remember debates at school where the majority were pro-choice. The few children who tried to stick up for the baby were laughed and hooted into silence. Our teachers indoctrinated us that the world was over populated, people were causing pollution and the earth needed saving from more babies. As any teenager, I swayed with the popular crowd which was pro-abortion. Babies were a waste of time, space, resources, and to be avoided like the plague. Several girls in our school, maybe many, had abortions. The high school counselor handed out referrals to the abortion clinic like hall passes. Back then, the propaganda that the fetus was a mass of cells was believed widely. There was no internet to look things up, and most people believed what doctors told them.

Forty years later, we are here. 55 million babies have been prevented from birth. Immigration, legal and illegal, quietly took up the slack of the missing population. Was it worth it? Is our country (USA) better off because we legalized abortion? What about the millions of post-abortive parents? Would-be mothers or fathers who are missing their children? One out of every three women of child-bearing age has had an abortion. Look to your right, look to your left, or look in the mirror. A same percentage of men have also been fathers of aborted babies. Think about the society we live in where millions have been impacted by abortion. 55 million babies == 55 million men and 55 million women. [And this is just in America, who knows how many worldwide?]

I look at my own viewpoints. I was apathetic with a libertarian attitude. As long as they're not hurting me, why bother? Abortion wasn't personalized to me until I looked into the face of my 26 week gestational premature baby. He was born 2 pounds, his head was the size of an orange and his feet smaller than my thumb. He lived three weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. After he passed away, friends and relatives grieved with me, bringing casseroles, consolation and comfort. While crying with a friend who had had an abortion, I realized that she grieved the same as I for her unborn baby. And the truth hit me. The only reason my son received high tech medical care was because he was wanted. From that moment on, I became pro-life. A human being's worth should not be based on whether other people want him or not.

HIDDEN UNDER HER HEART (A Story of Abortion & Courage) is a fictional account that explores issues that post-abortive parents face.

Every woman has a choice...

Maryanne Torres tries to gain validation and love by giving more in each relationship than she takes. Her boyfriend, Lucas Knight believes his reason for existence lies in becoming a triathlon champion. An unwanted pregnancy forces Maryanne to examine her past while Lucas is torn between concern and bitterness.

A tiny life hangs on the balance. Is it worthless because it is unwanted?

Read HIDDEN UNDER HER HEART online or buy it at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, or Smashwords. It is on sale at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Jan 21-23 for 99c.

Where were you when Roe V. Wade passed (Jan 22, 1973)? How has your viewpoint changed through the years? Please share your story in the comments.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#BookChat A DECONSTRUCTED HEART by Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed #India #literaryfiction

Short synopsis: Mirza is a middle-aged Indian college professor whose wife has left him. He moves out of his house into a tent in his back garden, where he sets up an outdoor classroom and serves tea to his kind but bewildered neighbors. He is visited by the irritable spirit of his long-dead teacher, Khan Sahib, who is befuddled by the dysfunctions of modern life.
            In the north of England, Mirza's niece, Amal, is finishing up her last year of college before she is expected to join her parents in their new home in India. Asked by her father to talk her uncle back into his senses, she moves into Mirza's house, and they soon are connected by their shared loneliness. She meets Rehan, Mirza's student, and is intrigued by the path of certainty he has built over his own loss and loneliness—a certainty that is threatened by his growing feelings for her.
            When Rehan disappears, Amal's suffering forces Mirza to face the world once more. Together, Mirza and Amal must come to a new understanding of what it means to be an immigrant family when the old traditions have unraveled.
            A Deconstructed Heart is a novella that explores the breakdown and rebuilding in one immigrant family trying to adapt: how lines in families and cultures are forcibly redrawn, how empty space can be reframed by a tent into a new definition of home... but how, no matter how hard we may try to forget, the past refuses to be contained.

Why I wrote this book: Mirza's story came tripping from me the first moment I sat down to write. I have always been interested in how immigrant families adjust to life in a different country; the push-pull of assimilation vs. the retention of tradition is a fascinating dynamic. Too often, this theme is explored in a stereotypical way, by focusing on a female character caught between the expectations of her unyielding parents and a taboo love interest. I consciously steered away from that. I thought that it would be more interesting to explore the disintegration of family and community social structures for an immigrant family and how that sets the characters adrift. The main protagonist is a middle-aged man, but this is a midlife crisis with a difference: Mirza has to reconcile his past, present and future as an immigrant with an entire support system that is falling apart. His wife has left him and he has no tight-knit family to help hold him together. He has to start from scratch, building a new community for himself.

Reader's reactions: I have been very happy to see that A Deconstructed Heart has some wonderful reviews, and that some of these are from readers of Indian heritage. That lets me know that I'm getting something right! I released my book and A Change in the Weather at the end of October 2012, and The Dust Beneath Her Feet was published in December, so it has been a hectic couple of months for me. I look forward to hearing back from readers; they always have a fresh insight into my stories.

From "The "deconstructed heart" of the title concerns the disconnection between a husband and wife, but could also be a stand-in or metaphor for the disconnection within a family separated from loved ones in a former homeland, or between old and new cultures. The author has a fine sense of style, with a wry sense of humor, rich images, and skillful use of simile and metaphor. Writing this good is rare." 5 stars. O. Barnack.

Behind the scenes: The original title of this book was going to be 'The Breakdown', but I got to thinking about the 'deconstruction' theory of language or how, within a single word, there is an interplay of different meanings going on.
I was thinking about the slipperiness of meaning, and how unstable life inherently is: how we think we know someone but really don't, like Mirza's relationship with his wife; how an immigrant, even a second- or third-generation child of immigrants, often has to inhabit multiple identities; how even the concept of 'home' and 'family' can mean different things to different people.
I liked the idea of exploring instability, because there is movement there: something is about to change or surprise us. Some of the characters in my book are uncomfortable with not knowing what will happen next, however, and gravitate towards absolutes in their lives. I'll leave the reader to discover who that might be… and I'll award an A+ to anyone who can find the name of the philosopher who invented deconstruction theory, where I casually dropped it in my book. You go to the head of the class!

Contact information and links:


Blog, Twitter handle: @hailandclimb, Amazon Author PageGoodreads page 

Bio: Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed is the author of A Deconstructed Heart and The Purana Qila Stories series, which includes her e-book titles: A Change in the Weather and The Dust Beneath Her Feet. Shaheen won a national essay competition about life in India held by the Indian High Commission in England and has had her poetry and prose published in the Cadbury’s Book of Children’s Poetry, Nadopasana One and Tomorrow magazine. Shaheen lives in Chicago with her family. To follow her blog, please visit:

Friday, January 18, 2013

#BookChat DUE DATE by Nancy Wood #mystery #womensfiction

Short synopsis
Surrogate mother Shelby McDougall just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins.

Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall, recent college graduate, is facing a mountain of student debt and carting a burden she'd like to exorcise. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she's signed a contract with intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments.

But Jackson and Diane have their own secret agenda, one that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

From the author
I’ve always been intrigued by open adoptions, where the birth mother and parents maintain a relationship after the birth. I had written a book about an open adoption and took it to a conference, where the leader and other participants suggested I turn it into a mystery. At first, the idea seemed impossible. How could I write a mystery and plant all those clues in way that would make sense? But I decided to give it a try, using a surrogate mother as the amateur sleuth. Part of the reason I used a surrogate mom for the protagonist was that I wanted to get the reader thinking about surrogacy. What would it be like to carry a baby for someone else? Would the money factor into it? What would the relationship between the surrogate mom and the intended parents be like? And how would it all play out after the baby was born?

Reader’s reactions
"With her debut novel Nancy Wood firmly places herself in the Mystery and Thriller genres. The book grabbed my attention from the hit-you-with-a-right-punch opening, through plot twists that kept me glued to the pages." --Jodi Hanson, Chapters and Chats

"This is not only one great suspense novel that has it all -- mystery, action, adventure, and romance, but it also gets you to thinking about surrogacy with all the possible pros and cons. Nancy W. Wood has written one great book that offers something for everyone's taste...Ms. Wood is a talented writer that you can expect more great books from in the future." -- Anita, The Kindle Book Review

Behind the scenes
I placed DUE DATE in Santa Cruz, California, where I live. At the very last minute, in the few final weeks before publication, I decided to change the names of businesses, even though I’d written the mystery and submitted it with actual business names. I decided to switch the names for a couple of reasons. I didn’t want the name of the business to throw off my readers, if, for example, my description didn’t match their mental picture. I also didn’t want to risk alienating any business owners. I’ve had a nice surprise since the book was released: readers are doing their own sleuthing and figuring out which businesses are which.

I also really enjoy writing about the outdoors: the way the light falls during the day, the clouds, the water, what a person sees on a walk around a neighborhood. I found that placing DUE DATE in Santa Cruz county provided me with ample opportunity to explore the outdoors in a new way, by translating what I was seeing around me into words and sentences. I am lucky to live in an amazing county, that stretches from the Monterey bay to the redwood forest, and I loved being able to use the different landscapes in my writing.

Twitter: @NancyWoodAuthor

About the author
I live in Santa Cruz, California, where I've been lucky enough to make writing my career. For many years I made my living as a technical writer, working in software documentation. 
About six years ago, I was laid off from my job and decided to set up my own shop. Now, I'm a writing consultant for the high tech industry and get to spend every day grappling with words and sentences. I love it!

Due Date, published by Solstice Publishing, came out at the end of May, 2012. This is my first published book. I started it about six years ago, and am now working on the second book in the Shelby McDougall series, which I hope won't take quite so long!