10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Me by T.X. Troan – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Me

1. My parents were never married.
2. I was three times regional chess champion.
3. I have no children (only dogs).
4. My fifth dog was named Sophia Freeman.
5. My favorite foods are Pho and barbecue duck.
6. My favorite color is blue.
7. People still asks for my ID for alcohol 😊
8. Almost lost my wife in 2022 from a car accident.
9. I lived on Gabriola Island for about 6 months.
10. Married a crazy dog lady that I love very much!

What begins as a special trip for eleven-year-old SOPHIA FREEMAN and her billionaire father, leaves her trapped on a mysterious island with a tree boy and other fantastical creatures.

The moment Sophia thinks her situation can’t get any crazier, she is shocked to learn the island is under a deadly eternal curse. All living things are rapidly decaying and soon nothing and no one—including herself—will be left alive.

From competing in a three-round yearly held competition to reviving a long-lost magical spell, Sophia and her new companions must gather every ounce of courage, wit and skill as they are stepping closer to breaking the 150-year-old curse. But will they make it in time while surrounded by enemies and traitors aiming to stop them at any cost?

Enjoy an Excerpt from Book One

“So, what’s on your agenda today, my dear?” Grandma asked.

“Dad and I are going to explore his new island after this,” she replied, sitting on the edge of her seat.

“Oh, yes, your father told me about that on the phone last night,” said Grandpa, then gave Sophia a serious look. “My girl, do you know why all the previous owners vanished?”

Sophia shook her head slightly, but kept watching him without blinking.

“Rumors say the place possesses some sort of magical energy. As dusk arrives, the island comes to life: boulders begin to quake, monstrous trees uproot themselves, and mysterious creatures crawl out of their homes. They will do
anything to protect their island … especially from humans.”

Sophia’s eyes widened and her hands began to sweat.

“Joe, that’s enough!” Dad ordered. “You’re scaring her.”

“That was very mean of you, Joe,” Grandma added.

Grandpa chuckled. “Well, it looks like I haven’t loss my touch. You’re still that innocent girl that I used to know.”

Sophia sighed with relief. He must have been teasing.

When she was a lot younger, Grandpa used to tell her ghost stories and it would frighten her every time. The all-time best story was about an invisible spirit that watches us from behind since the day we were born. It would one day transfer our soul to a magical place when we are ready to go. He told the little girl it was time for him to go and would never return. She burst into tears and tried to convince him it wasn’t time yet. She stayed with him that whole night and never let him out of her sight.

About the Author:Thuan Doan is an award-winning author of the Sophia Freeman series. He conceived his first middle-grade fantasy novel, Sophia Freeman and the Mysterious Fountain, during a trip to Gabriola Island, British Columbia in the summer of 2013. Then he took his work and settled in a small town of Enderby, where it’s peaceful and quiet.

Thuan is writing under a pen name of T.X. Troan. “X” stands for Xu, his grandmother’s name who passed away. And “Troan” is a combination of his parents’ names.

“No matter how this turns out, I want my family to be a part of this wonderful journey.”

T.X. Troan married Sarah, his original fan and longtime love, in 2016. They live in Enderby with their pack dogs!

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How I Handled the Research for the Book by Lisa Fellinger – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lisa Fellinger will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How I Handled the Research for the Book

The Serendipity of Catastrophe revolves around a month-long trip to Europe. But when I first started writing this manuscript, I’d never been to Europe and it wasn’t within my means to be able to do so. Doubt crept in as I started drafting—how could I possibly expect to write a story taking place mostly in places I’d never been? How would I get the details right, and wouldn’t my readers call me out for being a fraud?

So, I turned to my trusty friend, Google, and asked how I could write a book set overseas when I’d never, in fact, been there, and I found a lot of other writers sharing their experiences of writing books set in countries or cities they’d never visited. I purchased guidebooks for the countries I initially intended to have my characters visit and flipped through them with Anita and Victor in mind. What kinds of places in these books would excite them? What places would they skip? I utilized Google Maps to find out where landmarks were in relation to one another and learned how incredible a resource Street View is.

But after I’d completed my first draft, my husband and I decided to take a Mediterranean cruise. The price fit within our budget and not only would we get to travel to Europe, but I’d also get to visit some European cities in real life. I decided to change a couple of the cities visited in The Serendipity of Catastrophe so they aligned with cities we’d visit on our cruise so I could incorporate my own experiences into the book. The cruise we booked left out of either Barcelona or Rome, but since Barcelona was significantly cheaper to fly in and out of, that was the city we decided to port from. And I’m so incredibly glad we did. Barcelona wouldn’t have even been a city I considered for Anita and Carrie’s trip at all, but after visiting, I love that I had the opportunity to experience that city and to give it such an important role in my book.

A couple years later, we again had the opportunity to travel overseas and decided on Paris. While I had kept Paris as one of the cities visited, I still hadn’t seen it in person, so this trip again gave me the opportunity to bring life experiences into the story.

While I know of writers who plan research trips for the places in their books, I decided against using these trips specifically as research trips. After all, while it was convenient for my story that we’d decided to travel to these places, the main purpose of our trips was to experience the cities and enjoy a nice vacation together. Instead, I focused on simply soaking in each city and allowing myself to have a wonderful vacation there. And then when I returned and worked back through my manuscript, bits and pieces of my experiences crept in. The smells of freshly baked bread and outdoor cafes overrun with cigarette smoke in Paris found their way into the story. My own thoughts upon seeing the Sagrada Familia and the Eiffel Tower for the first time informed the way Anita and Carrie both saw these landmarks. A quirky bakery and an authentic Mexican restaurant in Barcelona became settings for conversations between my characters. Small little things found their way into the story that I wouldn’t have been able to think of on my own, nor could I have discovered via Google, and I believe the story feels richer and more authentic thanks to these experiences.

Could I have written this book without visiting the actual cities? Absolutely. I still haven’t been to London even though the city features prominently in the story. But I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to explore these cities and then carry those experiences over into my writing. When people talk about writing what you know, this is what they mean. I may not have lived through Anita or Carrie’s exact circumstances but bringing in my own experiences of visiting these cities helped create a solid foundation for my characters’ stories to unfold. And this is exactly why I tell writers that living and enjoying your life is just as important for your development as a writer as the time spent at your computer—the time we spend fully living and immersing ourselves in life is time invested in building our bank of material to write about.

A mother defeated by anxiety. A daughter determined not to become her mother. Can one month in Europe reunite them?

Anita Lorello is paralyzed by grief. When her husband dies in an accident the night before a long-awaited retirement trip, she’s devastated by the loss of her partner and once again shelves her dream to finally visit Europe. But when her estranged daughter agrees to accompany her nearly a year later, Anita is eager for the opportunity to repair their relationship.

Carrie Lorello’s life is crumbling. After a night of clouded judgment ends in her being fired, her mother’s offer of a one-month paid vacation seems like her best option. But she refuses to get caught up in her mother’s irrational worries and critical comments, and under no circumstances is she to learn what a failure Carrie’s proven to be.

Desperate not to lose her daughter again, Anita fights to conquer her anxiety and become the mother Carrie always wanted. But as Carrie’s life grows more and more complicated, her mother is the last person she wants to confide in.

Without anyone else to hold them together, can Anita and Carrie overcome their differences, or will the secrets between them derail their trip and destroy their relationship for good?

The Serendipity of Catastrophe is an emotionally compelling work of women’s fiction. If you enjoy travel stories, complex mother-daughter relationships, and lovably flawed characters, you’ll love this hopeful story of resilience and second chances.

Enjoy an Excerpt

They ultimately decided on Paris as their first of many adventures, but before they put down a deposit with the travel agent, Anita learned she was pregnant once again. Instead of planning visits to Notre Dame and the Louvre, her focus turned back to baby strollers and car seats, onesies and sleep training theory. Paris would always be there.

But all these years later, Anita barely knew that daughter. With Victor gone, her link to Carrie disappeared. Her phone calls home were infrequent and short, and she never shared anything about her life other than the most basic facts. Anita hadn’t pressed her for more, desperate not to widen the fissures in their relationship further, yet perhaps she’d inadvertently done just that.

As much as the thought of never seeing Europe devastated Anita, the thought of losing her daughter completely crushed her heart. A month together in Europe was likely Carrie’s worst nightmare, but if by some miracle her daughter agreed to the trip, she couldn’t think of a better opportunity to improve their relationship, to prove she could be the mother she’d always intended to be.

She rose and went back into the kitchen for the phone, the London travel guide still in hand. Meredith was right. Worst-case scenario, Carrie would say no. In fact, it was almost guaranteed she would.

Anita drew a deep breath, trying to keep her hope in check. She punched in Carrie’s cell phone number and prepared for her daughter to turn her down.

But what if she said yes?

About the Author: Lisa Fellinger writes contemporary women’s fiction with lovably flawed, relatable characters. When she’s not writing her own stories, she’s helping others achieve their writing dreams as a book coach and developmental editor. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, son, and fur babies.

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About the Author: Lisa Fellinger writes contemporary women’s fiction with lovably flawed, relatable characters. When she’s not writing her own stories, she’s helping others achieve their writing dreams as a book coach and developmental editor. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, son, and fur babies.

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Seven Days at Mannerley by Audrey Schuyler Lancho

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The suitcase she found changed everything. The contents? An elegant dress and an invitation in another girl’s name. Twenty-three-year-old Mary would go to the ball, enjoy how the rich lived just for one night, and then quietly slip back into her real life, sorting rubbish as a poor barmaid. No harm done. Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell had it turned out that way.

It’s 1870 in rural England, and Mary assumes the identity of the suitcase owner, Agnes. When Mary’s one night at Mannerley estate turns into a seven-day, hilarious farce, she quickly makes friends, finds suitors, and keeps fibbing. Not only does Arthur, the heir himself, fall for her, but so, too, does Mr. Singh, his friend visiting from India, making advances in plain sight of the heir. Making matters worse, a former workmate recognizes Mary and extorts her: she must steal a golden watch from the heir for him or have her true identity exposed and risk being thrown in jail, which could mean death–and that would certainly ruin her stolen, er, borrowed ball gown.

The only way Mary can get close enough to Arthur to steal his watch is via sensuality and flirtation. But as Mary scrambles to cover her tracks, her lies and crimes compound, weaving themselves into an impossible tangle. All the while Agnes, the real owner of the fancy ball gown, is making her way ever-closer to Mannerley.

Enjoy an Excerpt

She swung the door open, pocketing her key, and grabbed the corner of her dress and held it to walk. Arthur was standing a short way off by the stairs where he had been waiting for her, every golden hair perfectly combed. His pocket watch’s chain glistened on his vest in the lamplight. He heard her and turned to face her.

“Your hair. It’s wild.”

“I’m sorry, I slept too long.”

“I like it,” he said almost too quietly, a bit raspy, and she took his arm. Once again, she was his object, and she didn’t know quite what to make of it.

About the Author Audrey has always written stories. Her very first picture book which she wrote in early elementary school was about a mean, grumpy tooth fairy. Her first “novel”, bound using a cardboard cereal box, was written in the fourth grade. By high school, she was writing secret novels of her own, usually naming her characters by her own initials. By her twenties, she knew that writing was her calling––and she’s so glad you’re reading her debut romance!

Audrey lives in North Carolina with her Spaniard husband and two young sons, is completely bilingual in Spanish, and enjoys church, crochet, jigsaw puzzles, time with friends, yoga, and funny movies. She’s a freelance fiction editor on Upwork, an editor at a literary agency. She also writes contemporary romance under the name Audrey Lancho. Her debut contemporary is due out in May 2025 from Harpeth Road. You can learn more about Audrey by visiting www.audreylancho.com and signing up for her newsletter––she promises not to spam you; she’ll just inform you of big happenings and new releases. Audrey also enjoys connecting with readers and other authors on X/Twitter and Instagram.

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Character Interview: Max Heaton by Maria Imbalzano – Guest Post and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Maria Imbalzano will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Character Interview: Max Heaton

Tell us a bit about “Island Detour.”

This is the story of what happened when Sophie Kearns showed up at the Sunrise Island School, where I’ve worked for the past two years. I’m the marine biology teacher at this semester-away school for high school students. But I have higher aspirations. I want to start an environmental research institute at the school. I was just trying to convince the Director of the School, Andy, about the merits of such an institute when Sophie arrived. I knew something was off. She was a Princeton prep school English teacher who didn’t know the difference between a kayak and a rowboat. She couldn’t swim, snorkel, fish or camp—just some of the required activities for teachers at the school. There was no reason for her to be here teaching English for a semester. And her flimsy excuse that she needed a break before becoming the chair of the English Department at her northeastern prep school made no sense. When I learned she ran a Summer Teaching Academy for teachers, I feared that Andy brought her here to convince her to move her Academy to his school. That would be the end of my research institute. Needless to say, Sophie and I did not hit it off. Probably my fault.

What did you think the first time you saw Sophie?

I picked her up at the airport, since Andy was busy. She had on some gray, conservative pants with a white button-down blouse and she was as pale as the clouds in the sky. She looked even paler when I told her about all the outdoor activities she’d be expected to do along with teaching English. I tried to get her to admit why she was here, but she kept to her script about needing a break. So I ignored her the rest of the ride and dumped her off at Andy’s office.

What happened during your next encounter?

The next time I saw Sophie was in the dining hall at dinner that night. All the other teachers were friendly and kind, and she was probably feeling pretty good about that. But when she told them she didn’t know how to kayak, scuba dive, or camp I called her a prima donna. Of course she said she wasn’t and spouted off about all her degrees and awards. But I told her they wouldn’t help pull her weight around here. After a few more heated exchanges, I left. I needed to walk the beach for a while to try and figure out what she and Andy were up to.

So it wasn’t love at first sight?

Most definitely not!

I assume you came around eventually. What do you like most about her?

It took a while to get to know Sophie. Mostly because of my stubbornness. But she is an amazing English teacher who engages so easily with the students. They even stop her after class to continue a conversation they’d started during class. What teenaged kid does that? She also likes to work collaboratively. She shared so many ideas with me about how to get my research institute off the ground. She’s selfless like that. She’s also determined. Every morning at seven she goes kayaking with Kristin and after school she practices her swimming. One day, she was assigned to go fishing with me and Ben. Of course, she had never fished before and I gave her a hard time, making her bait her own hook and take the fish off that she caught. That was a bit of a difficult day. We had some words… I’ll just leave it at that.

How would she describe you?

A loner, probably. Arrogant. Stubborn. Controlling. But once she got to know me, I think she would say that I’m driven, persistent. I have to be if I want to start my environmental research institute. She’d agree that I’m an excellent teacher, always spending extra time with the kids doing experiments or camping or taking them on kayak trips through the mangroves.

What made you choose teaching for a career?

I didn’t start out wanting to be a teacher. I’m really a researcher. I have a joint masters and doctorate degree in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering. I worked at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for a while, but I was supposed to be doing that with my brother, and he’s no longer with us. I wasn’t happy there without him. When I heard about the Sunrise Island School, I checked it out, and found my calling.

What is your biggest fear?

Not being able to protect the people I care about.

How do you relax?

I go out on the water every morning—either in a rowboat or kayak. I love that it’s so peaceful out there. I can think—or not. And the early morning exercise is a great way to start my day. I also like to walk on the beach at sunset. The colors of the sky are so vibrant, especially after the sun sinks below the horizon.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Interestingly, it happens to be from Sophie. She taught me the value of working with others to achieve my goals instead of trying to control everything on my own.

Falsely accused of wrongdoing at a Princeton Prep school, Sophie Kearns accepts a temporary teaching position at an environmental school in the Florida Keys to wait out her suspension. The time away is meant to be an anxiety-free escape, but her clashes with the hot but arrogant marine biology teacher, Max Heaton, are anything but tranquil.

Max is determined to start an environmental research institute at the school, but he suspects the gorgeous new Lit teacher, who lacks even the most basic outdoor skills, is there to hinder that dream. Yet, something about her tames the demons from his past, and he can no longer ignore the fire she’s lit inside him.

Enjoy an Excerpt

How’d Sophie end up working with women who could have been in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?

She glanced down at her own one-piece halter and smoothed out an imaginary wrinkle. Not ready to venture back to the bikinis of her college days, she’d chosen a lime-green hue that looked great against her tan. And even though her midriff wasn’t bare, the high-cut detail on her legs showed plenty of skin. At least she wasn’t embarrassed standing next to Maddie. Or the other two.

She’d come a long way from the buttoned-up professor at Valen, thanks to her new friends here. After their shopping spree in Key West, they’d made sure to compliment Sophie on her new look—obviously afraid that if they didn’t, she’d go back to her old ways. And it had worked. Along with the exercise she was getting from boating and swimming, she looked and felt like a new woman.

Stealing a glance at Max, she assumed he’d be staring at Maddie. A slow burn crept across her face when his gaze fell on her.

His mocha eyes blazed a scorching trail as they traveled up her legs, her torso, then stopped at her face. She turned and looked out over the ocean, swallowing hard, to banish this erotic discomfort. But try as she might to ignore his scrutiny, she felt it deep down in the pit of her stomach as fingers of heat spread over her skin, doing much more damage than the sun.

About the Author: Maria Imbalzano is an award-winning contemporary author who writes about strong, independent women and the men who fall in love with them. She recently retired from the practice of law, but legal issues have a way of showing up in many of her novels. When not writing, she loves to travel both abroad and in the states. Maria lives in central New Jersey with her husband–not far from her two daughters and granddaughters. For more information about her books, please visit her website at http://mariaimbalzano.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

Maria is a member of New Jersey Romance Writers and has received many honors and awards for her work including the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award, the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers Award, The NEST (National Excellence In Story Telling) Award, the Carolyn Award, Book Buyers Best Award, The Stiletto Reader’s Choice Award, Long & Short Reviews Book of the Month Award (3rd Place for Book of the Year), and Still Moments Magazine Reader’s Choice Award.

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Lessons I’ve Learned from my Main Character by Phoenix Blackwood – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Phoenix Blackwood will award a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Main Character

There are a few lessons I learned from Phee, the main character of The Family that Finds Us. She’s a complex character, one with a unique voice and a lot of different things feeding into how she perceives the world. She has a great family – one that’s found and born out of companionship rather than blood. Her birth mother is challenging to say the least, and a very complex relationship throughout the book.

The first lesson that set in from her experience, was that no matter what way you get there, it’s okay to be yourself no matter how much you’ve struggled with it. I’m speaking specifically in her queer identity – I hear a lot of older trans people talk about how frustrated they are that they didn’t transition until later in life, that they spent so long denying themselves when they knew it from an early age. No matter how you get there, there’s nothing wrong with it. Phee spends a lot of time fighting with herself, and didn’t even realize things until the world was opened up to her. It’s okay to not be ready. It’s okay to need to stay closeted for a while. There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with needing time. This world is harsh, especially towards trans people. Sometimes, we have to prepare ourselves for what life will be like if we decide to transition, all the pros and cons. Being trans isn’t a choice, but transitioning is. It’s an option there and one that holds wonderful benefits for those who experience gender dysphoria, but we have to be ready for what the world will throw at us if we do. I denied my queer identity for a very long time and often felt that frustration with myself, but in writing Phee I learned that sometimes we need to hold more patience for ourselves in such a difficult position.

The second lesson I learned from Phee was that it’s okay to push back when people hurt you. You don’t have to forgive and forget, especially not right away. There’s a few scenes where she openly shows disdain for her mother and really feels badly for it, because it’s her mother. The truth is, that it’s okay to let people know when they’ve hurt us. If they react badly to being told that something they’ve done is hurtful, then it’s a lot more telling about them than it is about you. Standing up for yourself is difficult, and you should be praised for it rather than punished. If the reaction is to punish, then that person isn’t one you want to keep in your life. It doesn’t matter if the person is family, a friend you’ve had for years, or someone you view as important. If they’re not willing to hear that they’ve hurt you and take ownership of it, then they’re the one in the wrong.

There are many more lessons she taught me, but these two are the biggest.

Phee hides her secrets well, until they become too much to bear. Her biggest secret is one she’s kept even from herself. Her longest-kept secret is one that hurts her every day. Her final secret is one that will set her free.

In a school that doesn’t accept them, Phee, Theo, and Alex fight for a community close to their hearts. The community desperately needs the trio to help the rest of them leave the shadows without fear of violence and discrimination. Through some heroic activism, the three push the school officials to their limits — forcing them to act — for better or worse.

For Phee, the fight for a place where she can be herself doesn’t stop when she gets home. The strain of taking care of her alcoholic and abusive mother threatens to break Phee away from her family bond forever. Her mother can go from a messy drunk to an angry one in an instant, turning Phee’s home life from an obligation to a war zone.

Theo’s house offers respite to Phee. With compassion scarce in her life, Alex and Theo are Phee’s light in the dark. They protect and cherish her. At Theo’s, Phee is free to be herself and explore her identity safely — her chosen family ready to catch her if she falls. That’s what family does, how family finds us when we feel lost and alone.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Thank you, my preciou-ous-es son.” She slurred her words as she spoke into the table, and I sighed inaudibly.

At least she wasn’t angry-drunk. This was the drunk I could handle, the drunk I knew how to care for. I’d been doing it half my life, it would be strange if I weren’t good at it by now. I finished the dishes and laid them out on the drying rack after wiping them dry with a kitchen towel, then sat down in the chair next to her at the table.

“Do you need anything, mom? Have you eaten? Drank anything?”

“Mmno.” She rolled her face to look at me, her deep dark eyes glistening but not completely there.

I got a plastic cup from the cupboard and filled it with some ice water and handed it to her. Her hands shook as she tried to lift the cup from mine, so I helped her guide it to her mouth and take a couple sips, then set it back down on the table in front of her. I rummaged through the fridge to pull out some milk and went to the pantry for some cereal. Only, as lifted the milk to pour, I felt objects hit the side of the carton. I opened the cap to take a whiff and gagged; the milk was sour. Sighing, I dropped the carton into the trash and opened the barren fridge to search for another option.

About the Author Born and raised in New England, Phoenix has always been a creative – whether it’s painting or writing. From a very young age, Phoenix has envisioned and created characters, writing them into existence and exploring them through visual arts. Having graduated to first-time short story author, Phoenix is embarking on a journey towards novel writing as they finally bring characters they’ve known for years into the world. Phoenix is neurodiverse and intersex and hopes to bring more representation to both topics with their writing. They believe in creating relatable characters that people can find themselves in and empathize with.

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Red Kingdom by Rachel Demeter – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Rachel Demeter will award a copy of the ebook for Beauty of the Beast, the first book of the series, to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Little Red Riding Hood reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

Princess Blanchette’s world shatters when the Black Wolf tears apart her castle and everything she holds dear. All she clings to is the vow she made to her grandmother on her deathbed.

Hailed as the people’s champion, Sir Rowan Dietrich liberates the capital in a quest for vengeance. He takes Winslowe Castle with an army at his back and his wolf, Smoke, at his side.

United by a shared cause and powerful attraction, Rowan and Blanchette embark on a journey of self-discovery and redemption—a path filled with loss, transformation, and ultimately, the healing power of love.

Can Norland’s resplendent princess, with her captivating beauty and spirit, tame the fabled Black Wolf?

Inspired by the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Red Kingdom is a passionate historical romance about the enduring quest for love and the longing for a world at harmony. It is a standalone novel.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Death at her feet. Death in her home. Death in the air.

Death screamed in every corner of her mind.

Then Blanchette saw him.

Rowan Dietrich, the fabled Black Wolf of Norland, strode through her castle like a waking nightmare. His armor was crudely made, black as the surrounding night, the helm’s dark metal twisted into the shape of a wolf’s snarling head. But the most striking thing about him was his height. He towered above the other fighters and battled with a chilling methodicalness. How he moved and fought frightened Blanchette the greatest.

He looked collected. Even mildly amused. As if this were nothing more than a game. Blood soaked his sword as the blade whirled, whipped, slashed, and claimed lives in a macabre dance of death. And that wolf clung to his heels, its muzzle wet with blood, snarling and leaping at any man who dared come close to its master.

Monster. Demons.

The Black Wolf of Norland had always had a mist of legend around him. She remembered the stories her mother and governess had often whispered after the feasts and in the dark of the night.

“To me,” the Black Wolf called to a soldier a few yards away, his deep voice effortlessly carrying above the tumult. He didn’t need to yell, not even over the mayhem. The force of his tone was enough.

One of her father’s guards raised his blade, but too slowly. Rowan Dietrich’s longsword cut his head off, then came flashing back in a terrible two-handed slash that took another soldier in the leg.

With quivering anger, she realized that this man—this wolf, this beast—was the reason the sky was falling on her family. She clutched the dagger, wishing she could stand a chance against this mountain of a man. How good and right it would feel to plunge the blade deep into his heart and avenge what would likely be the end of her family’s dynasty.

Of course, she’d never survive him or his demon wolf. And if she was ever to avenge her family, if she was to keep her promise, survival meant everything.

About the Author:

I live in Sunny California with my dashing husband, who inspires my romance novels every day!

Writing has always been an integral part of my identity. Before I physically learned how to write, I’d narrate stories to my mom, and she’d record them for me.

I graduated from Chapman’s film school, where I often received the feedback on my scripts, “Your stories and characters are great, but this reads like a novel!” That’s when I realized my true calling.

In my free time, I frequent reptile expos, lift double my body’s weight, and indulge in dinosaur trivia.

I’m passionate about writing stories that explore what it means to be human and to be loved. My books focus on hope, courage, and redemption in the face of adversity.

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When to Break the Rules by Benoit Lanteigne – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $25 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

When to Break the Rules

These days, there are a lot of writing rules and I don’t just mean grammar. Stick around the writing community, and you’ll get a ton of info about what you should do and what you should never do. That’s fine, but when I started writing, I struggled with the idea of writing rules. If every author follows the same rule, won’t we all end up “sounding” the same? Doesn’t it go against originality? The answer I’ve come up with is no, but kind of. Keep in mind, I never said it was a good answer.

Over time, I concluded that following common guidelines doesn’t strip away your voice. Everyone is different. Even if two writers follow similar rules and structures, that doesn’t mean their writing styles will be the same. Sure, they might become more similar on the surface, but their unique perspective and personality should still shine through.

What about originality? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Everything has been done, so why bother trying to be original, anyway? There’s some truth there, but I think that even if your work can’t be completely original, you can at least make your reader feel like it is through excellent execution and a good dose of cleverness.

So, if originality matters, doesn’t following rules stifle it? In a way, yes. Take the three-arc structure, for instance. It’s everywhere, to the point where if your story doesn’t follow a three-act structure, that could be considered a risk. Frankly, it makes movies in particular more predictable, or at least I feel it does for me. But, there’s a reason why it’s so common: it’s super effective while being easy enough to learn. Besides, there’s more to a story than the structure, so you can inject originality in another way. Sometimes restriction can increase creativity by anchoring it within limits. When creativity is left free without boundaries, you can get overwhelmed with possibilities and never produce anything of value.

All right then, problem solved! Rules work and don’t harm originality, so just follow them without asking questions! Well, there’s a flaw in that line of thinking, unfortunately. Following common writing rules will help you create a story that people will enjoy. It’s making things easier and less risky by using the path others forged before you. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you are a new writer feeling overwhelmed. However, in that case, you must accept that while your book will be more likely to be good, it won’t be a groundbreaking revelation. If you wish to create a revered masterpiece, you’ll need to take risks, and that means breaking the rules. By doing so, you might become a trendsetter and create new potential rules of your own.

So, should you just ignore the rules? Well, no. To break a rule effectively, you need to know the rules first. Knowing them isn’t enough, you must understand them so you can judge where and when you should diverge from the common path. This can only come from experience. For this reason, my advice is to follow the rules in the beginning. Get familiar with them. See why they work. Then, once they are familiar enough and you are skilled enough, identify the spots where breaking them might be effective and try it.

There’s one more thing I’d like to say on the subject. I’m not the only writer who questioned the validity of rules. Often I see people complaining about writing rules; expressing how they dislike them, or even outright hate them. I think it’s because there are writers out there who push the so-called rules as an absolute truth. They’re not. The rules aren’t the word of God. They’re just training wheels to help you get on your way. I feel they shouldn’t be called rules at all. To me, a better word would be guidelines or maybe suggestions. They’re not mandatory laws that must be obeyed. They’re guidelines that often work well, but you don’t have to follow them. If the concept of writing rules was explained this way more often, I think maybe, just maybe, there’d be fewer writers who are so frustrated with them.

Want proof that writing rules shouldn’t be taken too seriously? Well, how about this? I’m in a book club where we read plenty of books that have been published recently. Most sold well, or were at least critically acclaimed. We read a large variety of books, but they all have one thing in common. They all break the rules. Sometimes they tell instead of showing. Sometimes they use passive voice. Sometimes they have long, complex sentences that are hard to read. Sometimes they use vague words. And so on. If the rules were mandatory, these books wouldn’t have been well received by critics. They couldn’t have been, because they wouldn’t have been published.

How did it come to this? My life used to be so simple. Back then, I hated it; I found it boring. Let me tell you: boring’s good. Boring’s great! I should’ve been thankful…

It was supposed to be a date like any other for James Hunter, a simple convenience store clerk. Nothing more than watching a movie in the town of Moncton. A place as unknown and unimportant as he considered his own existence to be. And yet, while walking to a cinema, James teleports to another world. There, a hostile crowd surrounds him, including various mutants with strange deformities.

Before he can even gather his wits or make a dash for it, a lone ally presents herself in the form of a winged woman named Rose. An important cultural figure in the country where James appeared, she offers him both protection and a home.

Soon, James learns that this new world is divided by a cold war. On one side is Nirnivia, home to Rose. The other, Ostark, led by a mysterious cyborg. James is unaware that the cyborg has him in his crosshairs, thinking of him as the Deus Ex Machina that will end the war in his favor.

But, the cyborg is far from the only potential threat to James. Soon after his arrival, BRR, a terrorist organisation, kidnaps him.

What would a rogue group out for revenge seeking to turn the cold war hot want with someone like James? Is there anyone also aware of this other world who will try to find him? Or is he on his own? If so, how is he supposed to escape? If that’s even an option…

Enjoy an Excerpt

The second that James saw the deformed statue, he deemed it painful to look at. The sculpture depicted a man, but not one of normal proportions. The arms were far too long, paired with short legs, and the right eye appeared thrice the size of the left—nothing compared to the elongated spike forming the nose, or the mouth contorted in a grimace. Now that he sat leaning against the grotesque shape, the figurative ache turned literal as the sharp stone dug into his back.

Even with the intense heat, James shivered. The recent revelations chilled his blood, and no matter how hard it tried, the sun couldn’t warm him again. He rubbed his chin, pondering all he had learned. His hand brushed against his stubble, and he scowled at the itching sensation. Usually he shaved every day, a habit his unplanned trip had broken. Then again, next to his companion, a bit of extra hair was nothing…

The freak still stood a few feet behind, laughing to his heart’s content. What a horrendous chortle. How James yearned to shut him up via his fist. “Gwa ha ah aha ha! Ha ha aha! Ha ha! Come on, why do you take things so seriously? You still don’t get it, do you? Gwha ha ha ha ha! You should laugh more; it’ll do ya good! Gwha ha ha ha ha! Wha ha ha ha! Gwa ha ha!”

About the Author So, my name is Benoit Lanteigne and I’m a French Canadian (outside of Quebec) who’s trying to write in English. That can be tricky. I’m a computer programmer and I enjoy it. I see many inspiring writers who hate their jobs and hope to quit someday, but that’s not my case. Mostly, I’ve worked on websites and web applications.

Back in school, I enjoyed writing and according to my teachers and classmates; I had a talent for it. Well, not so much for grammar and spelling, but they liked my stories. Once I went to university, I dropped writing as a hobby. There were other things I wanted to focus on, such as my career. Then, in the early 2000s, around 2006 I’d say, I had a flash of inspiration. At first, it was a single character: a winged woman with red hair. I didn’t even know who she was, but the image stuck with me. From there, I began figuring out details about her origins and her world, but I only started writing for real in 2009.

It’s been roughly 10 years now, and it’s not yet finished. That’s in part because I write in my spare time, and in part because the scope of the project is huge. Maybe too much so. Still, I’m getting close to the point where I could release something. The question is what’s next? Self-publishing? Attempt traditional publishing? Nothing? I don’t know the answer yet, I’m trying to figure it out. Frankly, sharing my writing is difficult for me, and whatever I end up doing, as long as I make it available to people I consider the experience a victory no matter what comes out of it.

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The Importance of STEAM for Young Children by Lydia Lukidis – Guest Post

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lydia Lukidis who is celebrating the release of DANCING THROUGH SPACE: DR. mAE JEMISON SOARS TO NEW HEIGHTS. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

The Importance of STEAM for Young Children

I love writing nonfiction not only because of my own everlasting curiosity, but also, to help children understand themselves and the fascinating world we live in. That’s why so many of my children’s books are STEAM based. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics.)

There are many benefits to STEAM. Some include fostering critical thinking and problem solving while cultivating imagination and innovation. It’s possible to distill complex scientific theories and relay them to children in easy to grasp and fun ways.

I’m excited to announce my latest nonfiction narrative picture book, Dancing through Space: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights illustrated by Sawyer Cloud and published by Albert Whitman. Most people know that Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to fly to space, but many may not know that she also has a deep passion for dance. This provides the hook for my book: the intersection of dance and science. That’s why I structured the book as a dual narrative that features and dance. As the story unfolds, the two worlds merge together, illuminating how art and science are both essential parts of our world.

What do I hope children will retain from this book?

First off, dream big and persevere to overcome all obstacles. The words “no” or “can’t” are simply not in Dr. Mae Jemison’s vocabulary and she’s a true inspiration.

Secondly, I’d like to gently remind children that they don’t necessarily have to follow one path in life, that it’s possible to pursue multiple passions. That concept mirrors my own life as I studied science early on then switched to the arts, thinking these disciplines were distinct. But as the years went by, I realized these realms are in fact connected.

It’s an honor to write for children and be a small part of their own journey.
To help celebrate the launch of my new book, I’m hosting a giveaway of Dancing Through Space! Simply comment on this blog post. Good luck! (US entries only)

About the Author: Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) which was shortlisted for a Silver Birch Express (Forest of Reading) award, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

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A Cure for Spring Fever by Barbara Robinson – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

For centuries, Gamekeepers have used their magical abilities to create a buffer between the creatures who dwell in the enchanted forest and the sleepy coastal town that sits in its shadow. When Gamekeeper Stan Ross’s magic begins to fail, he must find out what went wrong, then fix it before the two worlds collide. His hit or miss magic has already led to a few close calls so he journeys to the Sacred Isle searching for answers and advice. Finding a cure proves elusive—until Stan encounters a kitchen witch who captivates him body and soul. Lynnette Peters is healing from her own wounds, however, and it isn’t clear whether she’s ready to open herself to the possibility—or the peril—of love.

Enjoy an Exclusive Excerpt

“So, you want a dozen doughnuts?” she asked.

“No, I’m sure they’re delicious, but even I can’t eat twelve doughnuts in a one day. I meant to say I would like one doughnut today, and tomorrow I will come back for another, and so on, until I’ve had a chance to try them all. As a bonus, each time I come in, we’ll get to know
each other just a little bit better.”

Taken aback by his brazen self-confidence, she asked, “And you have decided that getting to know you is a bonus for me?”

“Of course,” he said and flashed another smile. “Just as it’s a bonus for me to get to know you. We didn’t have an opportunity to get to know each other back on the Isle, but we have a chance to do it now. We already know each other’s names, and we’re working on finding out
what my favorite doughnut is. How about you tell me one thing about yourself?”

“I own a café and bakery shop.” She gave a pointed look at the two cars that just pulled into the little parking lot outside her storefront. “One thing about me is that I’m very busy in the mornings.”

“I take your point,” he said, nodding his head with a serious demeanor. “Perhaps I’d best go away and rethink my strategy. I’ll take a Maple Dip for the road, and a large double-double. My brain always works better with sugar and caffeine in the mix.”

Handing him a little paper bag with a Maple Dip doughnut inside, she couldn’t help wondering what he would do next. He didn’t show up the next morning, and Lynnette wondered if he’d already lost interest in his little game. Despite insisting that she was too busy to stand around flirting in the mornings, she found herself watching the window, and listening for the sound of truck tires on gravel throughout the day.

About the Author:

Barbara Robinson is an author of contemporary and historical romance set against a backdrop of magical realism. She is a deep thinker and tea drinker who finds inspiration in myths and folktales, poems and ballads, and academic writing on a variety of subjects. Diagnosed with autism and giftedness as an adult, she enjoys exploring themes of neurodiversity and opposing character perspectives in her writing.

She is an avid gardener and lover of nature who works out plot lines and character sketches while nurturing her garden, walking in the woods, or sitting by the shoreline watching waves. She is known for world building that features rich and immersive detail, supported by meticulous research and careful observation.

Barbara lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the shadow of ancient mountains that lie along the Bay of Fundy coast. These rugged vistas shape her story settings, while providing the perfect backdrop for life with her husband, her hounds and her dragon (Pogona Vitticeps). She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of King’s College and a Master of Arts at Dalhousie University, and she recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers (Humber College, Toronto).

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The Background of the Book by Amanda McCabe – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Amanda McCabe will award a prize pack containing a selection of Regency DVDs, teas, and signed copies of her books to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The Background of the Book

Hello, and think you much for hosting me here today!! I hope you love Eleanor and Frederick and their world of Regency Bath, England in The Earl’s Cinderella Countess as much as I loved writing them. It’s a city I would love to visit again…

You asked about the background of the book, and strangely the inspiration came from a non-fiction story of World War II I read. The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halston was on a Kindle sale one day, and I thought it sounded fascinating—two ladies who set up a matchmaking business during World War II. It was such a fun read, learning about how they were able to intuit if people might be right for each other, and how fulfilling it was to help make a little happiness in a difficult time. I wondered if that idea might work in other time periods, and so my “Matchmakers in Bath” series was born!

Of course, matchmaking in the 1810s was very different from, say, Match.com (thankfully!!). Most people met through family connections, things of that sort, but Ella and Mary St. Aubin in my book decide to help those are a bit—different. They have strange hobbies or unusual personalities for their time, or they really want true love. This agency is for them! (I also have always had a soft spot for Emma Woodhouse, though Ella and Mary are better at making matches than she was!!). I also have no sisters of my own, and love writing stories where there is a family relationship like that.

Another inspiration was Bath itself. It is one of my favorite places to visit, with its cobbled streets, beautiful, honey-gold Bath stone buildings, and sense of history. (Plus there is a great sweet shop just behind the Abbey, and I adore my sweets!)

So that is how this book came about! Would you be a good matchmaker? What’s a town that’s inspired you?

Enjoy this friends-to-lovers romance set in Regency Bath

The one match

She doesn’t want to make…

The Earl of Fleetwood was Eleanor St. Aubin’s first love, but being a mere vicar’s daughter held her back from admitting her feelings. Now she’s a successful matchmaker, and the prospect of finding Frederick the wealthy wife he needs to settle his inherited debts is a nightmare come true! But returning from war, Frederick’s facing nightmares of his own. Eleanor feels compelled to help him, but could she ever be his Cinderella countess?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Staring down at the sparkle of the glorious view before her, Eleanor stumbled a bit as she descended the carriage steps. Fred caught her before she could tumble down, lifting her high for an instant as she held tight to his shoulders, staring up in wonder at his familiar, unfamiliar, beautiful face.

He slowly, ever so slowly lowered her to the ground, a gentle slide, his gaze never leaving hers. Eleanor didn’t want to let him go, yet the chatter of Penelope and Mary as they made their way up the path, the chirping song of the birds, pulled her back into the real world again.

She stepped back, flustered. “Thank you. So clumsy of me.”

“The last thing you could ever be, Ella, is clumsy,” he said hoarsely. She noticed him running his damaged arm, as if he had wrenched it and didn’t want her to notice. She felt so shy and awful that he had to worry about such things now! Her strong, funny old friend.

They walked together behind Penelope and Mary and the footmen, toward a spot where they could spread out their picnic with the glorious view all around them. Eleanor lost herself in the chatter, the wine and laughter, and soon felt easy again, as if she was with the old Fred and she the old Eleanor, reading poetry in the Moulton Magna summerhouse.

But they were not those people still, not really, and there was a new, taut awareness she could not deny. He was at the other end of the blanket, far from her reach, yet Eleanor was achingly aware of him at every moment. As they finished their repast, and grew quiet and drowsy in the sunlight, he glanced toward her and smiled.

“Shall we walk a bit, Ella?” he asked, popping a last strawberry into his mouth. “I fear if I sit here any longer, I’ll quite go to sleep in this delightfully warm sun.”

About the Author: Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)

She’s never since used algebra, but her books (over 100 so far!) have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with two rescue dogs, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.

When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.

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