Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: Steel & Bone - A Steampunk Anthology - Giveaway

Shovel the coal and stoke the boilers as nine steam punk authors explore islands of mystery and adventure across the seven seas.

The Clockwork Seer by Katherine Cowley: On an island of oddities, a young clairvoyant struggles for normalcy, but deadly automatons have other plans.

Sindisiwe by Scott E. Tarbet: A slave girl in Zanzibar escapes a beating when a stranger in the marketplace proves her past is more than just a fairy tale.

Stand and Deliver by TC Phillips: Neither shackles, slave labor, nor the island’s deadliest inhabitants will prevent these brothers from meting out justice to their father’s murderers.

Island Walker by C. R. Simper: Kit digs her treasures out of trash heaps, but the theft of her invention leads to discoveries money can’t buy.

A Mind Prone to Wander by Danielle E. Shipley: Beyond a locked door lies Rowan Charles’ death or his sanity, and the survival or extinction of his people.

Curio Cay by Sarah E. Seeley: The future of humanity rests in the hands of three time-traveling scientists battling biomechanical creatures in the Jurassic past.

The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison by Kin Law: Dodging her chaperone, a debutante stumbles into adventure and romance at the World’s Fair.

Revolutionary by John M. Olsen: A dirigible captain goes down with his ship, and wakes to find himself a captive of a sky-dwelling civilization.

The Steel Inside by Gail B. Williams: Darkness lurks in Sarah’s forgotten past, kept hidden by those who claim to be her devoted husband and loyal servants. 

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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I love anthologies! So many new authors or new stories by beloved authors. Steel & Bone is a collection of Steampunk short stories. This anthology is great not only for fans of the genre but for those looking for a taste of what Steampunk is like. I don't read a lot of Steampunk, but every time I do, I'm astounded by the imagination that goes into the world building.

I enjoyed most of the stories-- all are fast-paced and have intriguing elements. There were definitely a few I enjoyed more than others and one I wish didn't end. This is great in an anthology because there is something that appeals to all readers.

This was one of my vacation reads, and I got so caught up in the stories that I forgot to reapply sunscreen. Oops. But that is high praise when authors can draw me in so completely. Some people assume that Steampunk is all about machines and science, but I thought the best thing about the stories in this anthology was the human element. There were lots of interesting characters along with intriguing character interactions.

If you like Steampunk, I think you'll enjoy this anthology. Looking for an introduction to the genre? Steel & Bone is a great place to start.

Katherine Cowley

Katherine Cowley wrote her first story at the age of five, a retelling of the Icarus myth titled “The Turtle That Got Too Close to the Sun.” She has worked as a documentary film producer, a radio producer, and a college professor. She now devotes herself to writing steampunk, fantasy, and science fiction. Cowley’s short stories and essays have been published and won awards in the Locutorium, the BYU Studies Personal Essay Contest, the Meeting of the Myths, Four Centuries of Mormon Stories, and the Mormon Lit Blitz. You can also read her stories online at

Katherine loves European chocolate, the history of science, and steampunk fashion. She has lived in the United States, Brazil, and Finland, and currently resides in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.

Scott E. Tarbet

Scott E. Tarbet writes what fires his imagination: the broad umbrella of speculative fiction. He is especially intrigued by how human beings react to and interact with science, technology, and other magics.

Educator, chef, professional opera singer, and Steampunk craftsman, with a long list of short stories and other works to his credit, he makes his home in the splendor of the Utah mountains with his wife and best friend, Jewels.

TC Phillips

TC Phillips hails from tropical central Queensland in Australia, where he currently lives with his loving wife, three young children, a spoilt cat, and an overactive imagination. An avid reader from a young age, he has held a long-standing attraction for the written word and is excited to make his own contributions to the vibrant and ever shifting world of storytelling. Holding degrees in both Theatre Studies and Education, he is also currently completing his Master of Arts (writing) through Swinburne University of Technology.

C. R. Simper

C. R. Simper is an Arizona native who graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Purchasing and Logistics Management. She married another Arizona native in 1991 and is now the stay-at-home mom of three daughters and one son.

Simper has written in multiple genres over the past three decades. She has found that writing maintains a sense of order in her life. Her first published story, “The Journey of Inspector Roux” appeared in Terra Mechanica: a Steampunk Anthology (2014), another Xchyler publication.

Other hobbies that she enjoys are playing volleyball, genealogical research, and indexing obituaries. She is a member of the American Night Writers Association (ANWA).

Danielle E. Shipley

Danielle E. Shipley's first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them.

Shipley has also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home-schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she's not living the highs and lows of writing, publishing, and all that authorial jazz, she's probably blogging about it at

This is her third appearance in a Xchyler anthology, following the paranormal "Two Spoons" in Legends and Lore, and "Reality As We Know It" in fantasy collection The Toll of Another Bell. Other publications include Inspired (a novel), and a series of fairy-tale retelling mash-ups, The Wilderhark Tales.

Sarah E. Seeley

Through two wonderful mentored research experiences, Sarah E. Seeley had the opportunity to work with dead sauropods and ancient odonates while acquiring her undergraduate degree in geology from Brigham Young University. She hopes to study more dead things in the future and contribute to scientific discussions about what makes life on Earth so amazing. In the meantime, she explores the bright side of being human by writing dark fiction.

Seeley's independently published works include Maladaptive Bind and Blood Oath: An Orc Love Story. Sarah's short story "Peradventure" appears in Xchyler Publishing's Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions. Another short story, "Driveless," appears in Leading Edge Magazine Issue #66. You can learn more about Sarah on her writing blog at

Kin Law

Living in the bustle of NYC, Kin is constantly reminded he is a child of two worlds. Originally from Hong Kong, he's traveled both geographically and socially, working in many professions including movie projection and line cooking. He has degrees in Media and Culinary Arts, and a great love of Philosophy. As for fiction, his favorite authors are Douglas Adams, Hemmingway, and Chuck Pahlaniuk.

Today, Kin is a culinary copywriter, intent on furthering his novelist career. He loves his fiancée, his cat Zoe, Scotch, bacon and coffee. Addressing himself in the third person makes him chuckle.

John M. Olsen

John M. Olsen has been creating things his whole life through a mixture of technical and creative processes, whether building family, stories, art, software, woodworking or anything else. He has dreams of becoming a Renaissance man and loves to learn new things to add to his store of randomly accessible information (otherwise known as irrelevant trivia). Writing is one of his loves, inspired by having read most of his father’s extensive fantasy and science fiction collection in his teen years.

He builds high-end simulation software, and has contributed chapters to several books on computer graphics and game design, as well as publishing fiction in multiple genres.
He lives in Utah with his wife and five children, some of whom are old enough to have moved out and back in. Together they have also raised three nieces and a nephew, and are minions of their benevolent cat overlord.

Gail B. Williams

Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful. With a vivid imagination fuelled by a near death experience at the age of three, there was really no other choice for Gail than to write, something she’s been doing for as long as she can remember. She’s tried not doing it, but it never works for long, her brain gets itchy if she hasn’t written anything for a couple of days. Gail is English by birth, but lives in Swansea, Wales, married a Welshman and they have two fantastic children. They live with the world’s most imperious and demanding cat. An asset management specialist by day, a freelance editor and keen writer of an evening and weekend, she really needs to learn to sleep. To find out more see

James Ng
James Ng (pronounced Ing) was born in Hong Kong, where he spent most of his childhood drawing monsters and robots, making his own elaborate cardboard toys, and playing soccer. Ever since, he has been on the move between Hong Kong, Vancouver, Chicago and New York. His travels have greatly influenced him, allowing him to combine Eastern and Western cultures in his artwork.

Currently James is enjoying the freedom of being a freelance concept artist and illustrator. After a sunny summer in Vancouver, and traveling to London, and then to New York for an award show and exhibition, he is back in his home of Hong Kong to continue his career.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

The Power of Unlawful Heroes and Heroines by Tricia Skinner, Author of Angel Lover

Today author Tricia Skinner joins us with a post about darker heroes and heroines. She has listed some of my favorite characters in her post, including Dexter Morgan and Black Widow. There is something intriguing about someone walking that fine line, especially when we never know which side they'll ultimately choose.

The Power of Unlawful Heroes and Heroines
By Tricia Skinner

Black Widow. Captain Jack Sparrow. V. Nikita. Sarah Connor. Jericho Barrons in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, or Zoe in Firefly. What they all have in common is the "hell yeah" factor that makes heroes and heroines fresh and vibrant in today's urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels, television shows, and movies.

The draw for characters that will do anything necessary to reach their goals is what makes them so interesting to watch or read. Don't you sit a little straighter when reading how the hero or heroine plans to get information from a source. They're not planning to have a nice chat. They plan to break some bones, spill some blood, possibly threaten a few innocent people, all to get what they need.

This type of hero comes in many shades. We pay close attention to their motivations, and we crave tiny morsels of information that provide a clue to their way of thinking. What happened to them to make them so scarred inside? How could a woman be so hardened she doesn't think twice about spying on people who trust her? What makes a man sacrifice himself if he can only achieve vengeance first?

Often the character has been through unimaginable pain and heartbreak. The affect on a child's psyche, as with TV’s Dexter Morgan, could turn them into monsters as adults except for an outside influence. In this case, Dexter's adopted father.

But there are other characters that seem to revel in their chaotic nature. Captain Jack Sparrow couldn't walk a straight line, whether sober or full of rum. It's not his nature, and it wouldn't have made him as endearing to audiences if he was a clean and straight laced as the admiral, by comparison.

In my novel, Angel Lover, hero Kas is a good man with confidence issues. He’s not as powerful as the other three Nephilim on his team, and that weakness eats away at him. Yet that same aspect pushes Kas to do his best at all times. He’s courageous and crafty, and he’s willing to see a plan through to the end, no matter the outcome.

The flip side is Kas doesn’t see his abilities are special. He doesn’t see himself on the same level as his brethren, and that leads him to take risks he shouldn’t. He’s an assassin and should follow orders, but Kas abandons part of himself--the good part--in pursuit of victory.

That's the kind of story that sucks me in as a reader. Never knowing when the hero or heroine will slip into their darker selves to complete a mission makes for great reading or viewing material.

Angel Lover

Tricia Skinner

Paranormal Romance
Entangled Publishing
June 30, 2015

Amazon | B&N | Entangled | Goodreads

There's no danger greater than falling for your enemy...

The Nephilim are bound. Their powers cursed. But half-angel Kasdeja will do anything to free them from Heaven's tyranny. When Kas is approached by a striking, mysterious woman, she tells him his greatest enemies hold the key to his freedom.

Mariel keeps herself shrouded in secrets, using them to hide her true self. For she is not just employed by the Renegades--enemy fallen angels—she is a double agent, working on the sly for Heaven. Her directive is to seduce the gorgeous Nephilim—despite her insecurity about such sensual acts.

For Mariel is playing a dangerous game, and falling for Kas could only cause trouble; her assignment isn't just seduction. It's destruction.

About the Author

Tricia Skinner is an author of passionate dark fantasy. She is a features writer for Fresh Fiction and a project manager for Short Fuse. She began her writing career as a business reporter and wrote for The Detroit News, Investor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle.

Raised in Detroit, Tricia graduated with a BA degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University. She earned a Masters of Liberal Studies – Creative Writing degree from Southern Methodist University and will obtain a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017.

Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart. She is represented by Laurie McLean, co-founder of Fuse Literary Agency.

When not writing, Tricia can be found reading, lifting weights, or geeking out over games, movies, and music. She has a Tom Hiddleston obsession, and she is Team Vader. Her family includes three Great Danes (so far).

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Sleepless by Michael Omer

Narrowdale #1

Michael Omer

YA Paranormal Thriller
January 10, 2015

Amazon | Goodreads

Don’t fall asleep. Don’t dream. Don’t get caught.

At the beginning of her freshman year of high school, Amy can think of nothing worse than moving to the boring, suburban town of Narrowdale. And that’s before she starts having the same nightmare over and over again, waking up every night to a creepy whistle outside her window and being haunted by a mysterious, menacing presence. Getting used to the new school becomes the least of her problems.

As she delves deeper to uncover the truth, she unknowingly edges closer to mortal danger. Terrible events that took place years ago threaten to happen again, but now Amy’s life is on the balance. Unfortunately, the one guy who is supposed to protect her, nineteen year old Peter, doesn’t believe her.

Some things seem to happen only in Narrowdale, where dark secrets hide beneath the surface…

As she confronts the mysteries of Narrowdale, Amy documents her experiences in her blog. The book contains live links to this blog.

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

Billed as a YA paranormal thriller, Sleepless, reads closer to lower YA or even middle grade. The plot, the characters, and even the writing have a very young feel to them. Not surprising since the main character is a freshman in high school.

Narrowdale is an odd town where strange things seem to happen to some of the residents. One of the first scenes in the novel, when Amy was listening to an odd exchange in a clothing store, was so intriguing that I can't stop thinking about it.

I liked the story idea but felt the execution was lacking at times. The pace was lightning fast which is great for younger readers, but I felt there were times when things were just too rushed. The characters came across rather one-dimensional. Don't get me wrong, I liked Amy and felt for her, but in a superficial way. Shane, Coral, and Peter are barely developed at all.

A sense of eeriness was pervasive throughout the story as Amy loses sleep night after night. Her desperation comes through quite well, and her behavior, especially at school is well-written. I enjoyed the links to Amy's blog posts-- it added something different to the mix. In the beginning the suspense was building quite well. Toward the end, however, everything happened so fast-- like BAM, and it's over.

I think this paranormal series has lots of potential because Narrowdale seems like an interesting town. While I didn't find this read scary or creepy at all, I think young YA and middle grade readers would.

About the Author

My name is Michael Omer, and I’m a writer, journalist and game designer. I wrote and published my first novel when I was sixteen, and figured I’d keep at it. Since then, I have published two more novels, and wrote… who can even count how many? I’m happily married to a woman who keeps pushing me to write more, and have three kids who insist I should stop writing and come play with them. I also have two dogs.