Sunday, November 23, 2014

HEA or the Highway - Why I Like 'Happily Ever After'

I have a confession. As cynical and snarky as I am, I adore 'happily ever after'. Well that's not quite true... I mean forever is a long time. So let's say I love 'happily for now' endings. Good should conquer evil, and of course, love should conquer all. So unrealistic, I know. But there's a very good reason behind this minor obsession of mine.

Life can be hard, full of strife and struggle. Turn on the news... it's scary out there. I think one can only take so much negativity before it spills over into regular life. Your annoying boss who won't get off your case, that loathsome commute, the neighbor who leaves their dog outside to bark at 2am... the list goes on and on. It batters our defenses, creating small cracks that will ultimately result in an explosion of epic proportions.

I read to escape. Plain and simple. There's nothing quite like becoming so engulfed in a story that the surrounding world disappears. Want to ruin that experience for me? Kill off a main character (or a beloved secondary character). Add in too much turmoil. Create an inescapable prison. Throw in tons of random stupidity- like an unrealistic love triangle- or a fight that could be resolved if the characters talked to each other for two minutes. Sure we need tension, otherwise we won't care about the characters. But too much of a good thing is... well, it's just too much.

If you're going to make me cry while reading, they better be tears of joy. Don't get me wrong. Some tearful situations are fine, but I certainly don't want to sob through half of the book. I cry enough over my own problems and those of my friends/family. I don't need to cry buckets for a fictional character. When I finish a novel, I want that "I just finished a great book" glow. It's warm and cozy. It makes me want to hug the book to my chest and thank the author. That happy ending helps assuage whatever crap is going on in my life at any given moment.

Quiz time! What's worse than a sad ending?

No ending at all!

Sure I understand the trilogy and the series. I like them. Readers get to spend more time with the characters. Authors have more time to develop the world and people within. BUT I despise the rash of cliffhanger endings out there. Last year I read a book that ended mid-sentence. I had to check and make sure the book downloaded properly because I couldn't believe it. Until this dropped ending, I enjoyed the book. But since I don't like being toyed with, I chose not to continue the series. Novels ending mid-action or with the capture of the hero/heroine have become an annoying trend.

This is me all excited about a book then finding the cliffy at the end

Newsflash- a cliffhanger ending does not necessarily make a reader desperate for the next book. Sometimes we just become annoyed and turn away. The key to a good ending for a series is to resolve whatever minor plot point occurs within that book, while leaving the rest open for future books. A reader needs at least some resolution to feel good about the reading experience. There's nothing worse than reading 400 pages of buildup to a moment that never occurs because the author chose to leave us hanging. I take that back. There's nothing worse than a cliffhanger ending with the next book two years from publication. I can practically guarantee that I won't be continuing the series.

So to sum up. I want an ending. The author doesn't have to tie up every loose end in a series, but throw me a bone. Please. Give me some semblance of peace until the next book is available.

I would prefer if that ending was HFN- happily for now. If an author plans to kill off a beloved character, then there better be a damn good reason for it. If it's just shock value, I'll pass. Give me something to smile about, something to create that warm inner glow. Cut your characters some slack and give them a little happiness. We all need more hope and less sorrow in our lives.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cover Reveal: Sleeping Tom by E.V. Fairfall


Sleeping Tom

E.V. Fairfall

YA Contemporary Romance
Coming February 15, 2015
Cover by: Kendall Roderick

Hitchhiking is a bad idea but Caden is desperate.

When she accepts a ride from the first car to come by she meets Gabriel. He’s her age, hot, and the closest thing she has to a savior. Problem is, he is a total jerk. With nowhere to go, Caden convinces Gabriel to let her stay with him for one night. He reluctantly lends a couch.

That night Caden wakes up to strange noises. Concerned, she rushes into Gabriel’s room, already anticipating his bad temper. Instead, he’s kind, sweet, and suspiciously harmless—nothing like the man who gave her a ride. He seems like a different person altogether, and claims he is. By night he is Tom, and by day he is Gabriel. Caden finds herself drawn to the mysteries hidden in his eyes.

For Gabriel, Caden is an annoying mistake. One night turns into many, and despite all his anger towards her, she stays. She even seems to accept him and his flaws, but he still doesn’t trust her—is she staying for him, or has she already discovered more than he’s willing to share?

Preorder: Amazon

About the Author


I love to write just as much as I love to read. I try to read a book per week, which doesn’t always work out, but it’s the thought that counts. Aside from all that I am a huge animal person.

Transformed is my first novel, but it isn’t my first publication; I’ve had several short stories published over the last two years. My main goal as a writer is to explore humanity and to give people something fun to read.


Author links:


So what do you think?
I really like the premise for this story, kind of a Jekyll and Hyde theme.
I'm curious about Tom though. Since he only comes out at night, it seems Gabriel has the better end of the deal. Unless of course, Gabriel/Tom likes to sleep during the day and say awake at night. One also has to wonder just how bad Gabriel can possibly be... after all, he picked up a girl in need and lent her a couch to sleep on.
I think it's a compelling plot, and it definitely caught my attention.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Blog Tour: Family Heir by Sara M. Drake - Author Guest Post & Giveaway


familyheir
Family-Heir-amazon
Family Heir

Sara M. Drake

Kelley longed for a normal life – to go to college, to have normal friends, and to work a nice desk job. When an unknown predator starts a killing spree, she finds herself drug back into a world that includes vampires, werewolves, and her ex-husband. Kelley agrees to lead the small team to find the murderer – which consists of one uncommunicative ex-hubbie and an inexperienced federal agent. Only shots in the night prove that Kelley has become a target and her training as a Hunter does nothing to prepare her for being hunted.

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Guest Post by Author Sara M. Drake

Sara M. Drake’s Top Ten Paranormal Creatures

10. Vampires (they had to be on the list somewhere)
9. Mermaids (if I don’t list them, my best friend will disown me)
8. Selkies (I wanted to be one as a kid)
7. Witches (I wanted to be one as a teenager… maybe a Selkie witch)
6. Werewolves (I might have dated one once… too hairy and a bad temper)
5. Pixies (maybe I watched Peter Pan too much as a kid, I want some Pixie dust!)
4. Big Foot (I put them in my book, so that have to make the list, right?)
3. Moose (I’ve been walking through the Rockies for years looking for one and haven’t seen one—             they must be mythical).
2. Were-cats (and why don’t they show up in book more often?)
1. Dragons (do they count as paranormal? Oh well, I say they are!)

Kimber Leigh's Thoughts:
Yes, dragons can fall under paranormal. In fact dragons are so amazing, they can go on just about any list you like! Turn them into weredragons and I'm in heaven. I prefer werecats to werewolves-- but only if they're large cats, like a tiger. The last thing I want is my studly hero turning into a snobby Persian cat...
Thanks for sharing your favorites, Sara!


sara in moab
      Author Bio: 

Sara developed her book addiction as a young child. Her concerned parents attempted an intervention and cut off her supply. These desperate times called for desperate measures forcing her to write her own stories. Since a human being cannot live on books alone, she has worked as a stage hand, care giver, active duty Air Force, college instructor, mental health counselor, and civil servant on the theory that more pay equals more books. Outside of that, she spends time developing a reputation as a crazy cat lady and irritating introvert.


Giveaway:
$100 Amazon Gift Card

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blog Tour: The Hunt for Snow by S.E. Babin - Review & Giveaway

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The Hunt For Snow

S.E. Babin
Fairytale League #1

Publication Date: October 20, 2014
Genre: Urban Fantasy

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The Hunt for Snow Cover

Synopsis

Fairytales with a twist! Snow has successfully avoided her past for years … until now. With an evil queen bent on her destruction and a hunter bent on her seduction, she has no choice but to run. Who will find her first? S.E. Babin presents The Hunt for Snow, Book 1 of her exciting, new fantasy series, Fairytale League. Every ten years a convention is held in a neutral location where people from all the realms come together and reunite. This is no ordinary conference, though, because everyone who shows up holds a place of honor in the legends of old. But there’s one person who doesn’t care that Earth is neutral territory. The Evil Queen, Naomi, is out to settle a score, and she’s brought along one of her most talented henchman to teach the one who got away a harsh lesson. Snow’s past is shrouded in mystery. Mild cryptozoologist by day, private investigator by night, Snow is dead set on one thing — staying far away from the Huntsman who haunts her dreams. When she shows up to the conference with her two best friends in tow, things start going awry right away. Mere minutes after arriving, they find themselves thrust back into the world they’ve tried so hard to avoid. Now, along with the help of her friends, Snow is struggling to stay one step ahead of the queen who wants to destroy her — and the Huntsman who wants to possess her at all costs. The hunt for Snow is on. But who will find her first?

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My Review: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

The Hunt for Snow is a fun, action-packed fairy tale retelling, featuring some of my favorite characters. The one thing that really ate at me though is the cliffhanger ending. I really connected with the characters and was disappointed to be left hanging.

Snow was a bit more abrasive than I'd like, and she was quite the badass. After being driven out of her kingdom by her stepmother, she settled in our world with her best friends, Belle and Cyndi. Yes, that Belle and that Cinderella. Personally I liked Belle and Cyndi more than Snow who carries quite the chip on her shoulder about her banishment. Snow became a P.I. with an obsession with weapons which she uses with extreme skill.

Max, the huntsman, was tied magically to Snow's stepmother because she possessed something of great value to him. Though he is supposed to kill Snow, he cares for her, making his job very difficult. I liked Max, he's quite the sexy character. The scenes between Max and Snow were filled with sexual tension. I really enjoyed this part of the story.

My favorite part of this novel, by far, was the vast parade of favorite fairy tale characters that appeared throughout the story. I enjoyed the unique personalities and how they added to the story. The overall plot was fine but not exceptional-- the main draw is the characters themselves and their interactions with each other.

Overall I enjoyed The Hunt for Snow-- other than the cliffhanger ending. I'm looking forward to the next book to see how the story progresses.

Excerpt

I nodded, squared my shoulders and started walking to the devil’s house. As I stood on the porch, the smells of home cooked food and wood smoke made my stomach growl. I really couldn’t get over how much the house had surprised me. Either Rumpel was a master at illusion, or this was how he lived all the time. Maybe it was a little bit of both. I knocked on the door, surprised when it opened underneath my hand.
The inside was just as homey as the outside. Comfortably worn chairs circled the small living area. A small fire crackled cheerily in the hearth. Kitschy knickknacks littered the tables and the shelves, depictions of small town life. Very Thomas Kinkade. And very unlike the man I expected Rumpel to be. I looked into the kitchen area and saw a tall man stirring a pot. His clothes fell on his lanky frame, clean but worn.
He set the spoon down and turned to face us.
I couldn’t help it. I blinked, opened my mouth to speak, shut it, and then blinked again. Rumpelstiltskin was drop-dead gorgeous. I looked over to Belle and Cyndi and both of them had their mouths wide open.
A smirk appeared on his face. “Why is it everyone thinks I’m hideous?”
“Ummm,” I said eloquently.
He shook his head, said something under his breath, and gestured for us to sit around the large circular table in his dining room. It was made out of a dark wood, the surface scarred from years of overuse. We meekly sat down, amongst the disgusted grumblings of Robin Hood. “I swear,” he muttered under his breath, “you woman are all the same. Struck dumb at the sight of a pretty face.”
“Shut up,” I muttered in annoyance. Rumpel was not just another pretty face. He was reminiscent of an ancient warrior, an angular face highlighted with strong cheekbones, and deeply tanned. A thin white scar ran down from the side of his right eyebrow to the bottom of his lip, but it did nothing to detract from his beauty. Instead, it just enhanced it. His eyes shimmered with ancient magic, a maelstrom of pictures and images floating through them. One moment gray, the next moment a haunting tawny gold, they were the most fascinating thing about him. Jet-black hair hung around his face and settled at the tops of his shoulders.
He reached up to one of his cabinets, exposing powerful tanned arms, scarred from his upper biceps down to his lean hands. His face and body told a story of grudges and power plays and ancient feuds. He was both terrifying and gloriously beautiful.
Stew?”
I glanced around at my friends, still struck dumb, then at Robin who was sitting at the table with his arms crossed looking pissed off at the world. I shrugged. “Yes, please. Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Do not thank me yet,” he said, his voice a deep rasp as if unused for years. “We haven’t begun to deal.” He looked over his shoulder at me, those haunting eyes seemingly piercing through my soul and unveiling my deepest secrets. “You are here to deal, yes?”
I swallowed and nodded.
“Good.” Rumpel busied himself with clattering around the kitchen and serving us up some of the stew he was making in the massive pot on the stove.
I sat there dumbly, staring at his powerful frame when Cyndi leaned over. “Close your mouth. You’ll attract flies.”
I closed it and glared at her. “You’re just as guilty,” I accused.
She smiled. “Hard to act normal around a vision like that.” Her gaze roamed over his body in a frank, appraising glance I’d never quite seen her use before.
“Stop staring at me, orphan, or I will tear your eyes right out of your head.”
Oh snap.
Cyndi’s eyes widened and a brilliant, beatific grin spread across her face. I stared at her in horror. “Freak,” I muttered.
“He likes me,” she whispered.

About the Author

S.E. Babin S.E. Babin has a passion for writing books with a paranormal twist. Whether it's romance or mystery, she loves turning the norm into the extraordinary. Her early love of reading turned into a curious exploration to see whether or not she could write her own novel. This resulted in her spending way too much time in the library, killing any chance of her becoming a cheerleader or anything even remotely cool. She lives in Texas with her family and a passive aggressive dachshund.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Blast: Telepathic Clans Saga by BR Kingsolver - Giveaway


In the world of the Telepathic Clans, the descendants of the ancient race that once ruled Europe live in a shadow society...


Publication Date: April 22, 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy with a dash of romance. The Succubus Gift is a completely different take on the succubus myth. Brenna's life isn't the same after she discovers her unusual and mysterious heritage. In addition to being a telepath and having other paranormal Gifts, Brenna learns she has the Succubus Gift. She's always been a good girl and isn't comfortable seducing men, except one she really loves. That's just the beginning of her problems. Someone is stalking her. Then there's the tall, dangerous woman who shadows her and hints a Goddess has linked them. And what is she going to do with a handsome, charismatic, womanizing man she knows she should avoid?

Some days a girl just wants to pull the covers over her head and stay in bed -- with a willing young man of course.

Publication Date: June 25, 2012

Book 2 of the Telepathic Clans Saga, the sequel to the multiple 5-star reviewed The Succubus Gift. 

It's not easy being a succubus. 

Brenna O'Donnell and Rebecca Healy continue their integration into the Clan. Learning more about their Gifts and always seeking someone who will love them. After a crash course in learning about her genetic heritage, Brenna O'Donnell has discovered what it really means to be a succubus and has learned to embrace her strange Gift. Her major concern is whether Collin will accept her for what she is. As she adjusts to telepathic society, others in the Clan have plans that will strip the last of her freedom. 

The social season is around the corner, including events that Brenna never imagined in her wildest dreams. The succubi, representatives of the Goddess on earth, are at the center of an ancient worship. And if a girl is going to be the center of attention, then obviously she needs a new dress. 

Between the romance and glistening balls of the Clan's social events, Brenna and Rebecca discover life is not secure. Telepaths from other Clans are kidnapping young girls and selling them into slavery. 

A continuation of what one reviewer called an, "... utterly heart stopping onslaught of sex, violence and paranormal abilities ..."



Publication Date: September 29, 2013

Private investigator RB Kendrick makes her living nailing cheating spouses, digging up other dirt to help in a divorce, finding long-lost relatives, and occasionally sniffing out criminal activity and fraud.

When she takes a job to find a missing girl, she has no idea she is headed for the most dangerous case of her career. Usually, her ability to read minds gives her an edge. But when the people she’s hunting are also telepaths, that advantage is limited. 

The search takes her into the dark underbelly of telepathic society, where anything, and anyone, is for sale. She discovers that telepathic women and girls are being trafficked as the ultimate sex slaves.

With people trying to kill her, she’s on the run, not knowing who she can trust. Will she find the missing girl, or become a victim herself?

A novel of paranormal suspense set in the world of the Telepathic Clans.





Publication Date: February 14, 2013

Book 3 of the Telepathic Clans Saga, Succubus Rising

The Goddess has plans for Brenna and Rebecca, and the Goddess has a wicked sense of humor.

Rebecca Healy is a true wilder, growing up with no contact or knowledge of other telepaths. Discovered by a Clan member on the streets of San Francisco, she felt like she’d hit the jackpot. Finally, she knew what she was, or at least she thought she did.

When Brenna O’Donnell, long-lost heir of the O’Donnell Clan, and the strongest telepath in history, is returned to her family, she and Rebecca form a tight bond. Brenna has it all, looks, money, power, and men falling all over her. 

Rebecca isn’t jealous, but it would be nice to find someone who would really love her and stick around in the morning. She’s intrigued by a handsome South American general, but of course, he has his sights set on Brenna. Carlos de Vargas wants more than love. His Clan has its back to the wall, and they hope for an alliance with O’Donnell. An alliance that would lead to war.

The story began in The Succubus Gift and continued in Succubus Unleashed. In Succubus Rising, questions are answered and new mysteries are revealed.



Publication Date: November 8, 2014

Book 4 of The Telepathic Clans Saga

Corwin has led Clan O’Neill for one hundred and fifty years. Nearing the end of his long life, he names a twenty-three year old girl as his heir. Not only is Brenna a member of Clan O’Donnell, she’s also a succubus, and many people disagree with his choice. When Corwin dies, his son Hugh launches an open rebellion.

But Brenna is named heir not only to O'Neill, but also to Clan O'Byrne, where Clan Chief Fergus's oldest son Andrew joins with Hugh and Finnian O’Neill in their rebellion. Faced with war on two fronts, and rebels using terrorist tactics that capture the attention of the human press and authorities, Brenna must fight off assassination attempts while trying to consolidate her rule.

As if all that wasn't exciting enough, her friend Irina is the target of repeated kidnapping attempts by members of a Russian Clan. Hoping to protect Irina, O’Donnell mounts an operation against the Gorbachev Clan. But the situation in Russia is no more stable than in Ireland, and they discover Irina is at the heart of the Russian Clans' internal plots.

Confused yet? Be glad you aren't Brenna and Rebecca, as they—along with Rhiannon, Irina, and the Irish Clans—attempt to sort through the mess in Succubus Ascendant, the action-packed conclusion of The Telepathic Clans Saga.






I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, among writers, artists and weird Hispanic and Native American myths and folklore. I've lived all over the U.S. and earned a living doing everything from making silver and turquoise jewelry, to construction to computers. I currently split my time between Baltimore and Albuquerque.

I made silver and turquoise jewelry for almost a decade, ended up in nursing school, then took a master's in business. Along the way I worked in construction, as a newspaper editor, and somehow found a career working with computers.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spotlight: Bad Blood by Nicky Peacock - Author Interview

Bad Blood

Release Date: 09/04/14
Evernight Teen

Summary from Goodreads:

“I am Britannia. I am your protector. I will fend off the hungry hordes of undead hands that reach toward you. I am your steadfast defender. I will stand between you and the zombie masses as they try to taste your flesh. I am strong, unyielding, and dedicated to your survival. All I ask from you… is your blood.” 

A 500 year bloody game of vengeance will need to be put on hold if vampires are to survive the zombie uprising. Bitter enemies, Britannia and Nicholas must work together to save un-infected humans, delivering them to a stronghold in Scotland.

Unable to drink the zombie blood, vampires need humans to stay alive. But will they tell the survivors who they are, and what they want from them? Will Britannia be able to hold back her vengeance? Is survivor Josh the reincarnation of Britannia’s murdered true love? And can she bring herself to deliver him to the safe hold?

Survival instincts run deep, but bad blood can run deeper.


Interview with Nicky Peacock

I was looking through your Goodreads profile, and I noticed that you’ve contributed to lots of anthologies. Tell us a bit about writing a short story versus a novel.

I started out on the short story train to gain a bit of publisher momentum and experience. I think it can be a bit much for some new writers to simply delve straight in to a 100,000 word manuscript first off the bat. By writing short stories, I not only built up a CV of published work, but also learnt how to: plot, create dialogue, pace my work etc. on a smaller scale. Personally, I'm also a very impatient person and at least with short stories you go from idea to publication in a much sorter space of time.

Tell us about your main character in Bad Blood. Who is Britannia?

Brit ended up quite a complex character, which wasn't really my intention in the beginning. She thinks of herself as the kind embodiment of Britain and her main focus is to protect her country. I always give every main character I create an aspect of myself, and Brit has my dry sense of humour, however unlike me she is: stubborn, clueless when it comes to love, and hard as nails - no wait that middle one seems awfully familiar to me too! LOL

The premise for Bad Blood is so intriguing! What inspired it?

I tried to find a vampires VS zombies book to read. Although featuring together in certain urban fantasy series, I couldn't really find a book that covered the story I wanted to read, namely vampires fighting against a zombie apocalypse - so I decided to write it myself. 

How do you like your heroines? Damsel in distress or damsel causing distress?

I'm not sure I like the concept of damsel in distress, I much prefer my heroines to get off their butts and save themselves, along with any innocent by-standers, whilst causing as little distress to others as possible!

Have you ever experienced anything paranormal?

A few experiences here and there - but I've never really been sure that it wasn't my over-active imagination. There was one time, when I lived with my parents I was walking down the street and saw a man in a bright red jumper staring out of his window at me. I stared back for a bit (I never back down from a staring contest!) and he seemed to fade back into the window. I shook it off thinking he was just some bored bloke, but when I mentioned it to my mum, she told me that the house I saw him in was empty and that the man who had lived there had died last week - apparently he always wore a red jumper.

If you could visit any fictional place, where would you go?

Hogwarts would be a lot of fun - but I think I'd go for Fangtasia from the Sookie Stackhouse books so I could drool over Eric Northman for a bit!

What is your favorite paranormal creature? Why?

There's soooo many to choose from! At the moment I like the idea of a Were Dragon - breathing fire, virtually unbeatable in a fight, and dragons always end up with piles and piles of gold!

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? The worst?

LOL - I've heard a lot of bad writing advice! I run a writers' group in the UK and there always seems to be someone giving their opinion on the publishing submission process and the way in which a writer should express their voice. The very worst piece of advice I heard was not to identify the genre you are writing in for fear of pigeon holing your work, which is ludacris, genres are there for a reason! The best piece of advice was from my mum. Before I was published, being an author was a fingertip dream (you can just about reach for it, but never grasp hold of it) I was having lunch with my mum one day and I complained to her that I felt like I'd never going to achieve my dream, she told me to 'get on with it' (she did use a rude adjective too) she said, 'if you want it bad enough you'll keep working till you get it.' and I did.

What must you have handy for a productive writing session?

Chocolate, my MP3 player and a laptop. I'm a simple girl at heart!

Outlines or no?

I think you have to have a broad outline of a story before you start - or how do you know where you are going? I think the key is to be flexible whilst writing and let the story evolve naturally.

Any advice for new writers dipping a toe into these shark infested waters?

Try the short story market first - there are plenty of publisher call out sites out there, but don't get obsessed with them (like I did) once you've sold a few move on to longer work. Also research the publishers you are submitting to; check to see if there are any disgruntled authors still waiting for payments or if their front covers look like they've been designed by a chimp with access to Shutterstock. Also, once you've got that great publisher in your sights, make sure you follow their submission guidelines to the letter - we'll never know how many great manuscripts went straight into the slush pile because they didn't use the right font! 

Where can fans find you online?

Website for my Writers' Group: http://creativemindswriting.wordpress.com/


About the Author

I guess I’ve always been a storyteller, not in a ‘liar liar pants on fire’ kind of way, although I do work in advertising! When I was little, kids would crowd around me in the playground and I’d tell them tales of blood soaked horror filled with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more. Yes, most would consider me a disturbed child, but my playmates couldn’t help themselves, they’d huddle around me every break time like an ancient tribe feeding off the fear; and that’s how I learned that horror stories hold a certain power, no matter what some might say, everyone is addicted to a good scare, especially if it is somewhat rooted safely in unrealistic beings… or are they unrealistic?

Writing was really a natural progression. Right now I’m obsessed with writing: a YA Urban Fantasy novel, a Paranormal Romance novella series, and several short horror stories! So I’m currently living in a functional fiction coma – and loving it!

I’ve so far been published in 5 countries: USA, UK, Australia, Ireland and Canada and had short stories included in 40 anthologies with over 17 publishers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blog Tour: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall by Lauren Smith - Excerpt & Giveaway

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book info


covergifTitle: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall
Series: Dark Seductions # 1
Author: Lauren Smith
Audience: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Modern Gothic Romance
Formats: E-book and Paperback
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Cover by: Heather Howland
Editor: Tracy Montoya
Pages: 253 pages
ISBN: 978-1-63375-104-0
ASIN: B00NE06UI4
Date Published: 29 September 2014








blurb

To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…

Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.

Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.

Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.

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excerpt


Weymouth, England, 1811

The crash of thunder woke Richard, Earl of Weymouth. The fire in the hearth was low, the embers no longer crackling, and a cold draft pressed in around him as a storm raged outside. Pulling a loose sheet around his hips, he reached across the bed for his wife, who was still weak from bearing him a healthy son a month ago. His hands stopped short as he encountered nothing but the twisted sheets where her body had lain.

An icy tendril of fear churned in his stomach. She never left their bed when it rained. Storms frightened her. Isabelle usually curled into his side, burying her face against his throat for comfort.

Heavy rain whipped against the windows, the fierce staccato a warning to stay inside. Wind whistled through the room, teasing tapestries out, then back against the walls as though bodies moved behind them. A rumble of thunder seemed to shake the stones of his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall.

“Isabelle?” he called out. “Love?”

Only the crash of thunder answered.

Lightning streaked past the window and illuminated his son’s cradle.

A sharp cry split the air.

Richard leaped out of bed, the icy floor stinging his bare feet as he rushed to the cradle. Murmuring soft, sweet words, he lifted his son, Edward, tucking him in the crook of one arm, relieved the babe was safe. He never thought he would be the paternal sort, but Isabelle and their babe brought out the tenderness in him.

The town viewed his marriage as a disgrace. Earls didn’t marry the daughters of innkeepers. But Richard hadn’t cared. He loved her and would do anything to have her in his life.

A frown tugged down the corners of his lips. “Where is your mother, Edward?”

Thunder once again rocked the hall. October storms thrashed the castle and nearby cliffs with a wicked vengeance. Trees were split in half by lightning; the edges of the cliff decayed inward, inching ever closer to the castle. Although the storm this night was no different, something felt wrong. A bite to the air, a sense of dread digging into his spine.

As the baby’s long eyelashes drowsily settled back down on his plump cheeks, Richard assured himself that the baby’s linens were dry and Edward was content. He brushed his lips over his son’s forehead and set him back in the cradle.

When he stepped back, glancing out the window that overlooked the sea, his blood froze. A feminine silhouette clambered through the rock outcroppings by the cliff’s edge.

Even from a distance, he knew with a horrifying certainty it was Isabelle.

It was madness to be outside, alone by the cliffs. She knew the dangers, knew the soft dirt around the cliffs crumbled into the sea. Only the year before, a boy from the village had fallen to his death when the ground by the edge gave way.

“Isabelle!” he gasped, the single intake of air burning his chest as though fire had erupted within.

Before he had time to move, the sky blackened, his vision robbed of light.

When lightning again bathed the rocks, Isabelle was gone.

His stomach clenched with a fear so profound, it flayed open his chest with poison-tipped claws.

Shouting for his cloak and boots, he raced from the room. The nurse emerged from down the hall, her white cap askew, and gray hair frizzing out from under the edges.

“Take charge of the baby!” he yelled as he ran past her.

She nodded and hurried to his room.

His valet, followed by several footmen, raced to his aid, carrying clothes. He snatched them and dressed as he ran, his men right behind him dashing through the deluge.

When they reached the cliffs, there was no sign of Isabelle.

“My lord!” a footman by the edge shouted.

Afraid to look, yet unable to tear his eyes away, Richard stared down to where the man’s finger pointed. The black shadow of Isabelle’s cloak caught on a razor-thin piece of rock, fluttering madly like a bat’s wing. Lightning slashed above them, its terrible light revealing a dark smear beneath the cloak’s erratic movements.

Blood. Isabelle’s blood. Had she jumped to her death?

“No!” A crash of thunder swallowed his roar of despair.

He dove for the edge, wanting to follow her into the frothing gray seas. A cloak smeared with blood.

All that remained of his wife.

He’d fought too hard to win her love, her trust. They’d suffered through too much together, to be divided now. He couldn’t raise Edward alone.

“No…please, no.” The pleading came from the bottom of his soul, torn from his heart.

She was gone.

Strong arms hauled Richard back from the ledge, pinning him to the earth.

“It is too late, my lord. She’s gone.”

She was his Isabelle, his heart…

Why had she jumped? Had she been unhappy? It couldn’t be that. He would have known, and he would have done anything in his power to make her happy.

“We must find her,” he told the men standing around him.

An older man, Richard’s head gardener, shook his head. “We can’t search in this weather, and her body will be gone by the time the storm ends. But we’ll try to find what we can on the morrow, if you wish.”

“I do,” Richard growled. Despair was replaced with vengeance.

He faced Stormclyffe. Lightning laced the skies behind it in a white, delicate pattern. The centuries-old castle loomed out of the darkness, a defensive wolf with the battlements as its bared teeth.

It didn’t matter that his infant son waited in a lonely cradle, eager for the loving touch of his remaining parent.

Richard was lost.

He wanted nothing to do with the life he’d had, the riches, the earldom. He despised it all. Every blessed memory he ever had that reminded him of Isabelle made him furious. She was gone from his life forever. He could not bring himself to dwell on his son; it only cleaved his chest in two. His love, his heart, was being battered against the rocks below.


StormcliffHallMeme1


Chapter 1

Weymouth, England, Present Day

Blood splashed against white porcelain, the ruby-red liquid spreading outward in a chaotic pattern.
Jane Seyton hissed, clutching her leg. The cut burned like the devil. She slapped a palm over the sliced flesh, but crimson liquid seeped through her fingers. She set down her razor and reached for the shower nozzle, aiming it at the red streaks, washing them down the drain. A thin trail of red still trickled down the tub’s edge, and she blasted with the nozzle again, desperately trying to erase the unsettling sight of her own blood.

She hobbled out of the shower, rummaging through her makeup bag until she found a Band-Aid.
Her room in the tiny inn was quiet, the silence thick and a little unsettling. She hummed to break up the suffocating lack of noise.

It had been a tiring journey from Cambridge to the small, desolate coast near Weymouth in southern England. The White Lady Inn had an almost macabre wooden sign, a silhouetted woman in white standing at the edge of a vast cliffside, her dress billowing out to sea in a cloud of smokelike swirls. It swung above the door and creaked with the slightest breeze. Despite the inn being situated between a lively pub and a quaint grocery store, there seemed to be a zone of quiet within the inn itself. Her room was a drab little place, with a narrow bed and whitewashed walls.

The same family had owned this inn for over two hundred years, passing it down from generation to generation. It was only natural that the place had seen better days and could use a little work. Yet, the awful silence made her skin tingle. She’d hardly slept last night, jumping at every small creak and groan. Taking herself to task, she’d consciously reminded herself that older places made such noises as the wood and stone settled into place.

Today she was driving up to the old castle-like manor house, Stormclyffe Hall, where she was going to meet the owner, the ninth Earl of Weymouth. After several emails back and forth, he’d reluctantly given her permission to tour the grounds along with other visitors but made no mention of getting access to the house’s historical papers. Her dissertation was on the tragic stories of some of Britain’s ancient castles and manor houses, with a particular emphasis on Stormclyffe and its effect on Weymouth. Her committee chair, Dr. Blackwell, had given her two weeks to find sources to supplement her theories on Stormclyffe Hall. Since the last four years of research footwork had been done on this one particular castle, she couldn’t switch the focus easily to another location. If she couldn’t get what she needed, she wouldn’t get Blackwell’s approval and she’d have to start her dissertation, for a PhD in history, over completely.

In order to complete her research, she had to find out what actually happened to the current earl’s ancestors, Richard and his wife, Isabelle, who’d both died under mysterious circumstances. Rumor had it Isabelle had committed suicide. People claimed to have seen her ghost walking the cliffs. Richard had been found one foggy morning shortly thereafter sprawled in his study, a broken brandy glass next to his body. He had apparently drunk himself to an early grave a year after his wife’s passing. The locals claimed the earl’s spirit was trapped within the walls of his castle, restlessly searching for his dead wife, his mournful cries piercing the air on windless nights.

What Jane hadn’t told the current earl or anyone else was the more personal reason for her focus on Stormclyffe Hall. Ever since she’d seen an old photo of it, she felt an almost mystical pull. Lately she couldn’t seem to focus on anything else.

The hall whispered to her on the darkest of nights, with soft murmurs and teasing visions just as she began to fall asleep. Before dawn, she’d awaken, hands trembling with the feel of heavy stones against her palms, her heart racing and lips drawn back in a scream as though she’d fallen from the cliffs herself. What she felt, however, in each and every dream she had lately were hands shoving at her lower back, pushing her over the edge against her will.

The obsession with Stormclyffe had cost her so much already. The months of work on her dissertation were now at risk of being set aside if she couldn’t find primary sources. It would be back to square one if she had to pick another castle and start all of her initial research over again, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Her fiancĂ© Tim had broken off their engagement and ended their two-year relationship, telling her he found her obsession with the castle “creepy” and that he worried she was mentally unstable.

But Jane’s dreams made her wonder if the young countess hadn’t jumped but been pushed by…someone. And that was the root of her obsession. The nightmares were slowly driving her mad, and she knew she had to get to the bottom of what happened to Isabelle if she ever hoped to find peace. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand waking up every night gasping for breath and her bones aching as though they’d been smashed upon saltwater-covered rocks. The last few months she and Tim had been together, her dreams had grown increasingly vivid and terrifying, and they’d woken him up as well.

The beginning of the end.

She would never forget the look on his face, the tightness to his eyes and the way his lips pursed as he’d held out his hand and asked for his engagement ring back. His bags were packed and sitting by the door, and he’d left within minutes of destroying her life and all of her hopes for the future. Their future.

With a little sigh, she smoothed her left thumb over the base of her naked fourth finger. Even after four months, she still felt bare without it. A splinter of pain shot through her chest, and she clenched her fist, avoiding looking at her hand anymore. She rubbed a towel through her hair before blow-drying it. She could have used a flat iron to tame the mess of dark waves, but she’d fried that when she first arrived in England and plugged it into the wall socket with a converter that hadn’t worked properly. She’d never gotten around to buying another one.

Not that it mattered. Given that her academic pursuits tended to involve panels of older, balding male professors in tweed jackets, she rarely bothered with her looks. Her current mission, though, required a more professional touch to her hair and wardrobe. She figured if she looked fashionable and presentable, it might help further her research goals. Easier said than done. She was fully aware she wasn’t the sort of woman men fawned over, but her dissertation depended on access to the earl’s family archives, and she’d get dolled up if it would help make sure he didn’t change his mind about letting her pry into his papers.

The current earl had proved initially reluctant to allow her access to his family history, but when she’d persisted through a deluge of emails and letters, he’d reluctantly said she’d be welcome to tour the grounds along with other tourists once the remodeling was over. That had been four months ago. Stormclyffe didn’t have a website to clue her in on whether the grounds were open to tourists or not, but the remodeling had to be done by now. She couldn’t wait any longer. And she wasn’t going to take no for an answer on getting into those original sources from the current earl.

A smile tugged at her lips.

Sebastian Carlisle, the ninth Earl of Weymouth. A rich playboy with the world at his fingertips. Of course he was tall, with gorgeous, dark blond hair like melted gold and eyes the shade of cinnamon. By all reports, his life consisted of fast cars, leggy models with perfect hair, and wealth beyond imagining. The man was definitely not her type, but she needed to impress him if she was to stay at the castle and work.

Her internet searches also revealed a fair amount about him, aside from his romantic entanglements, and she’d been impressed. With a PhD in history from Cambridge and degrees in numerous foreign languages, he showed a surprising amount of scholarship. Despite his flashy lifestyle, he’d helped push for preservation of historical landmarks throughout Britain and was a member of the Royal Historical Society.

His town house in London was rumored to have one of the country’s best library collections, second only to other collections in aristocratic homes like Althorp, home to the ninth Earl Spencer. Even she had to admit that despite Carlisle’s reputation as the most seductive man in all of England, and he might also be one of the smartest.

She slipped into her favorite pair of jeans and a comfortable pair of black boots before donning a thick, gray, cable-knit sweater. Back home in Charleston, the weather would be light and warm, but the English coast was always cold in late October. Sea spray drifted far into town, sinking into her bones through the walls of the White Lady Inn.

Though it was still early afternoon, the sky outside her room dimmed as the low-hanging clouds drifted off the sea, dragging their vast looming shapes through the town and blocking out the sun’s illumination. A chill seeped through the glass of the window, frosting the edges with dew that pebbled around the panes.

A sudden knot gathered at the base of her skull, the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rising. The air inside was now as cold as outside. Her breath exhaled in a cottony puff, and her skin tingled with a strange sensation. Her muscles tensed in response as though her body expected something to happen. If she hadn’t known without a doubt that she was alone, she would have sworn someone was watching her.


StormcliffHallMeme2


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about the author
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Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets—a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She's won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

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