Black Cats and Ballet Slippers by Iva Valentino – Spotlight and Giveaway



This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Gemma Mayfield feels like middle school is a lot to bite off and chew. School, ballet classes, and planning on how to get Trevor Davis to ask her to the Halloween Dance are a tough balancing act. On top of that, Gemma is convinced that her science teacher, Ms. Pruett, is a witch.

When things start getting fishy at school, Gemma knows that Ms. Pruett is behind it all! Students are getting spells placed on them and start to go missing. Gemma and her best friend, Izzie, vow to stop Ms. Pruett from doing any more damage. Will they be able to save Middleton Middle School from witchcraft?

Enjoy an excerpt:

One of my favorite moves in ballet is called the grand battement. It’s where you kick up your leg high into the air. Because I’m the tallest person in dance class (with the longest legs, too), Madame Lisette always gets excited and claps her hands together. “Very good, very good! Don’t forget to point those toes!” Now, I always get excited when I do them, too, because I get to pretend like I’m kicking off Madame Lisette’s prim glasses from the tip of her pointy nose. It’s a win-win situation for both of us. This is one of the reasons why I love ballet.

At the end of class today, Madame Lisette passed out an info sheet about where the recital was going to take place. Izzie started rummaging in her purse and took out the sheet for the witch coven meeting. “Look!” she said, pretty much smacking me with the sheet and almost giving me a paper cut. “Our performance and the coven meeting are both going to be on Sunday night, and they’re only a few blocks away from each other!”
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“So if we sneak away right when we get off stage…” I didn’t even have to answer that sentence before Izzie grabbed my hands and started jumping up and down.

“Eeeeeeeeee! We’re totally going!”

“Izzie, keep your voice down!” Geez, it was a coven meeting, not a party! But I couldn’t help but jump up and down with her a bit. I must admit, it was sort of exciting having the bejeezus scared out of you.

About the Author:

Iva Valentino lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog, Lupo. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Education. She loves living year-round in the warm desert.

Iva spent many years as a middle school teacher, where she enjoyed doing fun science experiments with her students. She currently works as a science editor at an educational publishing company. She loves travel, yoga, and photography. There is nothing that brings her more happiness than a good dance class!

Website: www.IvaValentino.com
Blog: www.ivavalentino.com/blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ivaavalentino

Buy the book at MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. (on sale for $1.35 at publisher and Amazon)

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October 31 in the Medieval World by Barbara Bettis – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

October 31 in the Medeival World

10_30 October- Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry octobre detail-Wikipedia CommonsHere it is, the day before Halloween. Have you stocked up on goodies for the little goblins? Got your costume ready to party? Sir Stephen and Lady Evelynn may not don costumes, but three months after their wedding, they are all set to party—to celebrate the traditional end of summer with their people in Nottinghamshire. Oct. 31 was a major holiday in the medieval world.

In one of the early Christian church’s ubiquitous moves, sometime in the 9th Century the celebration of All Saints Day officially was moved to Nov. 1, the day after the Celtic end of year. That’s Summer’s End, also known as Samhain (pronounced “Sah-win”). Samhain, Oct. 31, was to become known as All Hallow’s Eve or as we call it, Halloween.

10_30 medieval harvest 2Medieval England’s Midlands celebrated the end of harvest at this time, and likely some of the old traditions crept in even through the area wasn’t primarily Celtic. In the “old” religion (before Christianity), a commonly held belief was that on this night, the curtain between Earth and the spirit world was thinnest. Mortals had to be wary of mischief from restless spirits.

As Dr. Madeleine Pelner Cosman writes, “More Halloween divinations ask[d] spirits about love and life than on all other holidays together” (81). Masked children would roam from home to home “singing and begging for soul cakes for wandering spirits” (82). And if no food was forthcoming, “beggars or souls [would] play pranks” (82).

That sounds an awfully lot like some of the Trick or Treat tales from my childhood. At least one home in our rural community had windows soaped or trees T-P’ed every Halloween.

But back to the 12th Century. Many of our other traditions are marked from that time: apple bobbing, music, dancing, bonfires. Lights welcomed good spirits and discouraged bad ones, so tables contained the medieval version of Jack o’lanterns carved from turnips or squash. (Pumpkins came from America, so weren’t known in medieval England.)

Spirits or not, the partying also was considered a celebration for the end of harvest. October saw the end of ploughing, planting, and harrowing of fields for winter crops. It saw the pigs loosed in the woods to fatten up on nuts for six weeks until mid-Blood Month, or November, when animals were slaughtered for the winter.

So whether people were celebrating spirits or winding down a long, hard, year of labor, Halloween was a party. And if things got too out of hand, the church had it covered. Folks could look forward to two days of intense prayer: All Saints Day, Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2.

European Farming During the Middle Ages to 1800s. http://historylink101.com/lessons/farm-city/middle-ages.htm
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Medieval Holidays and Festival: A Calendar of Celebrations. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1981.
Staples, Andy. http://www.penultimateharn.com/history/medievalfarmingyear.html
Halloween. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

10_30 Cover_The Heart of the PhoenixSome call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.

Memories

Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can be cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.

And deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason.

Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“You were able to find a ship?” she asked.

“Yes.” He gestured with the empty wooden spoon. “We won’t be alone. An emissary for King John bespoke it, but he agreed to share quarters with us.”

Her head tilted to one side. “How did you manage that? I can’t imagine a knight with such authority condescending to share anything with strangers.”

“I told him your brother had ordered you home and would be furious if you delayed. You and the maid will share a small cabin, while the lord occupies the captain’s quarters. I have no idea how large your chamber will be, but we’ll make the best of it.”

“We?” She didn’t look up as she took another bite.

Damn her, what did she find amusing in what he’d just said, for there was no mistaking the humor in her voice. She looked up as he stalked toward the bed. Yes, a mischievous light glimmered in her eyes. He loomed above her and slowly leaned in.

“You’d best try to appear the anxious maiden, in fear of her brother,” he warned. “Or questions might arise that none of us want to answer.”

The amusement faded. “What questions?” Her breath caressed his cheek.

He reared back. “Just behave yourself during the passage.”

“This is the second time you’ve warned me about my conduct. Do you fear I will ride off with one of the guards?”

He clenched his teeth to hold back a retort. Let her have her say. She’d be easier to deal with on the morrow if all her complaints were aired.

“We both know my behavior has been perfectly appropriate. And I’ve accepted each of your edicts calmly.” Her gaze flicked away, as if she knew that statement stretched the truth.

“But that’s not the problem, is it?” she added, her voice low, intent. “Why are you really on this journey, Stephen? We both know it’s not to protect me.”

About the Author: 10_30 AuthorPicAward-winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

A former health insurance claims adjuster, a former journalist, a former journalism teacher, Barbara Bettis plans never to be a “former” author. Currently, she supports her writing habit as an adjunct English instructor at a community college near her home in Missouri.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Buy the book at Amazon or The Wild Rose Press.

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How I Handled the Research for Sotto Voce by Erin Finnegan

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Erin will be awarding a Multi-format Sotto Voce eBook to 10 randomly drawn winners and a Grand Prize of a $25 B&N gift card will be awarded to one randomly drawn winner, all via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

HOW I HANDLED THE RESEARCH FOR SOTTO VOCE

Alright, wipe that smirk off your face. The background research for Sotto Voce, a romance set against the backdrop of the California wine industry, involved more than pouring myself a big glass of vino every day.

A little over five years ago, I planted the first vines of what would eventually become Finnegan’s Hill Vineyard, and the lessons I’ve learned from growing, harvesting and fermenting Syrah and Zinfandel grapes were a big part of the foundation for Sotto Voce.

Winemaking is a fairly technical craft that’s dictated by nature and the seasons—something I wanted to reflect accurately in the story without overwhelming the romance that is at the heart of the story with technical jargon.

I spent a year, on and off, researching and writing Sotto Voce—which gave me a good feel for the vineyard activities over the four seasons of the story. The notebook went with me almost everywhere. (Yes, I’m old school. I devote an old-fashioned school composition book to each story I write.) If I had an idea while I was pruning the vineyard, it went straight into the notes.

I also spent a lot of time talking to vintners, both professional and amateur, as much about what drew them to winemaking as the actual craft. I interviewed sommeliers, and was fortunate to be invited to help judge a couple of wine competitions, which gave me a feel for what the very fictional Taste Challenge could be, even if wine tasting as a spectator sport is a bit far-fetched.

And of course, I put in quality time in both Sonoma and Napa. It’s a dirty job, I know. I had a number of trips to wine country while I was writing Sotto Voce, largely to organize meetings and conferences for clients. But each trip was also an opportunity to visit wineries, talk to people in the industry and get a feel for the different scales of commercial winemaking in both Napa and Sonoma.

In Sonoma, I visited wineries that served as part of the inspiration for Rhapsody: the small Syrah vineyard with the spotless barn housing giant stainless fermentation tanks, and the hillside winery where the owner had built commercial caves that would never, ever be used for social events. I sat at outdoor cafes on Sonoma Plaza writing color and background, and maybe enjoyed a round or two at the girl and the fig bar.

After all, I never said that enjoying the wares of the winemaking trade wasn’t a part of my research!

10_30 Cover_Sotto VoceNew York-based wine critic Thomas Baldwin can make or break careers with his column for Taste Magazine. But when his publisher orders him to spend a year profiling rising stars of California’s wine country and organizing a competition between the big name wineries of Napa and the smaller artisan wineries of Sonoma, his world gets turned upside-down by an enigmatic young winemaker who puts art before business.

Sotto Voce is the story of love and wine, and how both require patience, passion, an acceptance of change—and an understanding that sometimes, you have to let nature take its course.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Firing up the grill to feed family, friends and crew at the end of the harvest had become a tradition at Rhapsody. It had started as a simple dinner to feed and thank the people who had helped harvest the crop. Then it morphed into a casual, annual party with the closest of Greg’s friends, a break from the backbreaking work with food, wine, music and a traditional grape stomp.

Greg always held back a bushel of grapes that didn’t quite make the cut for the year’s vintage and, in a discarded old oak half-barrel, set up a stomp that let everyone work out their stress by smashing the slippery mass into grape pulp. It was messy, slightly feral and dizzyingly fun.

After the party settled into a comfortable groove, Greg lifted Tom into the cask, jumped in behind him and held him around the waist as they stomped in time to an up-tempo R&B classic on the stereo.

Their stomp became a dance, their feet synchronized and their legs aligned, Greg holding Tom’s hips and leaning into his shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered in Tom’s ear.

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“For getting grape juice all over my pants?” Tom teased. This drew a smile, and a squeeze.

“For ignoring you. I’m sorry, and I won’t—”

“Don’t. I get it. This is your deadline.”

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better, you know. I pretty much live in the barn during primary fermentation.”

“Then we’ll set up an extra cot, or I’ll make you coffee, or we’ll take shifts punching the caps while you get some sleep,” Tom offered. “But I want to help, and I want to be with you.”

About the Author: 10_30 AuthorPicErin Finnegan is a former journalist and editor. She was born and raised in Southern California, where she lives with two sheep dogs and grows, ferments and drinks Syrah and Zinfandel in the foothills outside Los Angeles.

Sotto Voce is her first novel.

Connect with Erin at erin-finnegan.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/ErinGoFinnegan, on Goodreads at Goodreads.com/ErinFinnegan and on Twitter at @eringofinnegan.

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If I’d Never Heard of Me Would I Read My Book? by Robin Mahle – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Robin will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

If I’d never heard of me would I read my book?

This gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? The question every author, whether traditionally published or independent, must ask themselves at one point or another in their careers.

I often walk through my local bookstore, perusing the multitude of books along the aisles, stopping every now and again to pick one up that has a cover that strikes me. It’s not often I get the time to browse so casually, tending to a family and writing, but when I do, I take my time. I savor every moment.

Do I care if I’ve never heard of the author before? No. I check out the cover, try to get a feel for the story and then I flip it over and read the back blurb. There are no reviews, except possibly editorial ones beneath the blurb, no stars or bestseller rankings, just the words. And if those words grip me, I’m in. I’ll buy it. Is it a risk? Sure! And in the world of brick and mortar stores, a non-refundable risk at that. But if I liked the premise enough, I’d still give it a chance. Books are just as subjective as any other art form. Some people will like a story, others will not.

But what about those of us who don’t have premium bookstore shelf space? Those of us who upload our masterpieces to Amazon or B&N or iTunes or perhaps all of the above. Our work has been meticulously mulled over, professionally edited, the cover created by an artist; all the things that should put us on level ground with those who are lucky enough to have a spot on the bookshelf.

Instead, our books may languish in the cyber pages of online retailers, waiting to be found. We try to get reviews, we even give our books away for free just so people will find us and hopefully like us. We lose the advantage of our books standing on their own on a bookshelf, where they have a chance to grab a reader with our imaginative covers and exciting blurbs. Most are judged by rankings and reviews. Justifiably so? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. Reviews really only matter to me if they warn of a poorly edited work and then, it needs to be a majority of them in agreement.

I know what some will say. The books on those shelves have been screened by the best of the best. Publishers that have been in the business long enough to know what’s good and what isn’t. It’s a good argument, but what about the many, many books that are rejected time and again only to be picked up by someone willing to take a chance and they become world-wide bestsellers? It’s happened plenty of times, so isn’t it possible that there could be a gem or two (or ten thousand) that are from authors you’ve never heard of?

My novels are stained with blood, sweat and tears, as are most authors’ books, I imagine. I work tirelessly to create an interesting blurb, I have an amazing editor and cover artist and I do everything in my power to get the attention of readers, without actually hitting them over the head with one of my books!

So to answer the question, would I read my book if I’d never heard of me, the answer would be, yes; if the cover was cool, the blurb sounded good and if I was lucky enough to find it.

Author Robin Mahle is pleased to bring you her latest novel, Landslide. A corporate suspense/thriller that will pull you in fast and keep you holding on tight until the very end!

In the sprawling suburbs of Seattle, Claire McKenna finds solace in her perfectly ordinary life. With the daily struggles of raising a family and climbing out of debt, she and her husband Colin, work hard to hang on to what they’ve got.

So when Claire is offered an incredible opportunity to rise in the ranks of her firm, she jumps at the chance. Her joy, however, is short lived at the discovery that her close friend and colleague, Beth Graves has just been accused of embezzlement.

Compelled to see Beth’s name cleared, Claire soon stumbles on a larger, more dangerous conspiracy at the firm. One that involves people she once trusted. One that threatens to destroy her ordinary life.

Enjoy an excerpt:

An odor of car exhaust remained suspended in the parking garage and, when it mixed with the damp air, the smell was obnoxious. Claire reluctantly passed through the invisible cloud towards the elevators leading up to the lobby. Standing in the breezeway of the office entrance, she found that the doors were still locked. But when she looked through the tinted glass, she spotted Jim, the security guard on the night shift. No need for him to open it up for her. She held her magnetic keycard against the white box fixed to the wall. The green light at the top flashed and the doors clicked open.

“Good morning, Mrs. McKenna. You’re in awful early,” Jim said, taking a sip of his coffee.

Her high-heeled steps echoed on the marble floor, the lofty ceilings further amplifying the sound. “Well, good morning, Jim. It’s not often I get to see you. How’s the family? Denise doing all right?”

“She is and thank you for asking. What have I done to deserve such a fine sight on this dreary Tuesday morning?” Jim was a charmer to all the women in the building, but he’d known Claire the longest and seemed to hold a special place in his heart just for her.

She leaned over the high granite counter where Jim sat below the sign that hung on the wall. “Information Desk.” A knowing grin lit up her entire face. “I just found a major problem with one of our reporting systems.”

“And this is a good thing?” A perplexed look began to mask Jim’s previous warm-hearted smile.

“It’s a good thing that I was the one who found it.” Claire slapped the cold black stone. “A girl’s gotta find a way to get ahead in this world, Jim, and I think I just found my golden ticket. It’s going to be a good day.”

About the Author:

Robin Mahle lives with her husband and two children in Arizona. She found her passion for writing, which later became her second career, after spending 20 years in the construction industry.

Having always been a lover of books, Robin attributes her creativity to the wonderful overseas adventures she has shared with her husband of 15 years. Traveling throughout Europe and having lived in England, opened her mind and with that came a steady stream of story ideas inspired by her author-idols in the suspense/thriller genre.

Robin published her debut mystery/suspense novel, Redwood Violet in March of 2013. And in September 2013, the much-anticipated sequel, All the Shiny Things(Redwood Violet II), was released. Both have become Amazon Bestsellers! Now, Beyond the Clearing has also joined the list! Her latest novel, Landslide, was released in July, 2014. This exciting corporate thriller reveals Robin’s unique voice yet again.

www.robinmahle.com

rmbooks@robinmahle.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Mahle-Author/241664929225135

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobinMahle

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/rmbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22813119-landslide?from_search=true

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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The Tithe by Elle Hill – Q&A and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Elle will be awarding a $50 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Welcome to Long and Short Reviews, Elle. What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve never not written. I wrote stories in grade school. I moved to very, very bad novels in junior high. In high school, I penned angsty poetry. I stopped writing during the college years – you know, since getting five hours of sleep a night was a luxury. After finally graduating, though, I started whining about how I wanted to write but, you know, was I good enough, and would people buy my books, and I don’t even know how to publish or market a book. My wise oldest sister, also an author, told me to shut up and start writing. Best advice ever.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Don’t quit your day job. Fortunately for us newbie writers, indie and self publishing have opened up new doors and allowed many new voices and opportunities. Unfortunately for us, this means the market is saturated with books. This in a time when fewer Americans are reading. It means writing isn’t a lucrative field. Then again, if you’re a writer, you probably don’t do it with dollar signs flashing in your eyes.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

On an everyday level, I try to prevent this by stopping for the night in the middle of an exciting scene. It’s really hard, but it makes coming back to the writing the next day an exercise in joy and excitement.

That said, I sometimes do get a little stopped up. This usually happens after I’ve taken a break from writing and have read several amazing books by my favorite authors. I start down the unfortunate but understandable path of “Am I as good as her?” and “But I don’t write action scenes like he does” and such. I usually move beyond this after a few days or weeks by consistently reminding myself everyone is better than someone. Still, it stings.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I hate to say it, because he’s relentlessly preachy and political. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because I can be pretty preachy, too, especially when teaching a class about social justice issues. I just happen to clash with his politics. Anyway, my favorite author is Dean Koontz. He writes paranormal stuff, which I find sexy, but most importantly to me, he uses the most beautiful and poetic language to do so. Also, his vocabulary is pretty awe-inspiring. When it comes to writing, vocab size does matter!

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

The dance of language. Yes, a novel needs a good plot, relatable characters, and a powerful message. What truly seduces me, though, is the movement and rhythm of words, the way they fit or crash together, the hypnotic combination of words, ideas, and sounds.

Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Joshua Barstow, the main character, has a condition known as Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome. Her love interest, Blue, has blindness, and her best friends experience schizophrenia, a larger body size, and wheelchair use. The Tithe is a story in which people with different bodies and minds take center stage and simply live their lives, challenging readers to question why we define “disabled” the ways we do. It is an intellectual and political novel as much as a science fiction romance.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?

I’m actually penning my first lesbian paranormal romance. Woot! Here’s the premise: A security guard, Jacqueline, is paid big buckeroos to escort and protect a leader, Marin, from Florida to South Dakota to attend a summit. They’re hunted by creatures who look human but clearly aren’t. The more she gets to know her charge, the more Jack thinks Marin might not be entirely human, either.

What are you reading now?

I just (as in hours ago) finished rereading Dean Koontz’s Phantoms. Before that, I read a lesbian romance by Meghan O’Brien. Who knows what’s next?

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

At risk of sounding like a foaming-at-the-mouth Dean Koontz fangirl, the novel I’m currently writing, a paranormal romance that centers around a road trip from Florida to South Dakota, was inspired by Koontz’s Innocence.

Another book series that helped show me how racial, sexual, gender, ability, and geographic diversity can create the most beautiful literary mosaic is Tad Williams’ Otherland Series.

Between you and me (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!), The Tithe was mostly inspired by Katy Perry’s “E.T.” song. Don’t judge me. That said, and although I’d already planned my plot when I read the book (you’ll notice some similarities), I found inspiration for its tone in The Hunger Games Series.

Describe your writing space.

I bought my first house a few months ago, and for the first time in my life, I have an office. I’m tickled fuchsia! I packed the room with my desk, a bookcase, my work materials, and various cat toys (in a vain attempt to get the cats not to lie on my keyboard while I type). Take that, add coffee, and I, per Virginia Woolf, now have a room of my own.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Since writing doesn’t pay for most authors, I have a day job. I teach sociology at a local university, a job I often remark is the best one in the world.

When I’m not teaching, I’m usually either reading or cuddling with pets or my romantic partner. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can do all three.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

When I first started writing, everyone’s advice was to avoid politics and make my novels as bland as rice pudding. I have my PhD in sociology, wrote my dissertation on the politics of fat, and have published and performed some very political poetry. Erasing politics from my work didn’t come naturally to me, but I did it.

I’ve since recovered. For The Tithe, I figured if I was writing a fundamentally sociological novel that explores social mores, governmental structures, and religious institutions, there was no way I could divorce myself from my progressive politics. Letting myself explore this universe – its version of utopia, its familial structures, its policing of sexuality and reproduction, the very nature of religious belief systems — was absolutely the best part of writing this novel.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

So far, I’ve published four books: Hunted, Hunted Past, Hunted Dreams, and The Tithe. I know I should say it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite, since they’re all my babies; however, that’s, you know, a big ol’ lie. By far, The Tithe is my favorite. It’s a marriage of the things that mean the most to me: sociological ponderings, political analyses, theology, social justice issues, and vivid literary characters. Okay, that makes it sound dry and academic. I promise everything is mixed in with plenty of romance, intrigue, and supernatural weirdness.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

First, I wanted to be a writer. Later, I wanted to be a teacher. Here I am, doing both. It’s a good life.

Where are you from and what do you love best about your hometown?

I was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, a town about 20 miles away from Boise. In fact, I got my undergraduate degree at Boise State University. I moved to California to attend grad school and only occasionally visit Idaho to see one of my sisters.

What do I like best about my hometown? My friends and family, of course!

Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?

I developed my pen name because I started publishing my books right after I earned my Ph.D. and was searching for academic jobs. I figured a Google search that turned up my name connected with bodice rippers might not bode so well for me.

My nom de plume, Elle Hill, is super simple. The first name, “Elle,” is my real first initial (L). My last name is my favorite’s middle name.

Interestingly, for me at least, is that when my oldest sister, who is also a writer, independently constructed her own nom de plume, she came up with “Layne Hill,” which is our mother’s and father’s middle names. We laughed when we shared our new names, although she eventually discarded hers and now publishes under her real name.

What are your favorite TV shows?

I’m super boring, I know, but I don’t engage very much with popular visual media. As a sociologist who studied media for her Master’s thesis, I read a lot of studies that talked about the effects on women’s senses of self when engaging with unrealistic beauty standards as represented in media. I decided to stop watching TV and movies and never read another popular magazine. It’s actually a big relief for me.

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

My mother, oldest sister, and nephew live in Arizona. Another sister lives in Idaho. My best friend and her partner are in California. My fiancé’s entire family resides in Florida. Given how much I hate driving and flying, I would pay anything to be able to teleport.

What is a talent you wish you had, but don’t?

I have such a burning need to express myself. I blame it on being such an introvert. Anyway, I wish I could paint gorgeous pictures, shoot artistic photos, sculpt luscious figures, craft and sing songs fit for divas. I can’t do any of those things, but I do have a talent with the written word, thank goodness.

10_29 tithe Cover_TheTitheEvery seven years, the towns sacrifice their sick and disabled. No one has ever survived the angels’ harvest. Until now.

“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”

No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who: the “unworkables,” those with differing physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.

Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while finally learning the meanings of friendship, community, and love.

How funny that she had to be sacrificed to find reasons to live.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Josh shook her head. “It sounds so sad.”

“It wasn’t. You can’t have sadness unless you know happiness. I knew neither.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, in a voice mere decibels from a whisper, Josh asked, “What about now?” Shameless, she knew, but maybe voicing the question would exorcise it.

“Why are you asking a question you already know the answer to?” he asked in his inflectionless voice.

“I don’t,” she insisted.

“Everything changed when you touched me,” he said.

After a confused moment, and with many darting glances, she asked in a low tone, “In bed?”

“In the hallway. You touched me, and my life cleaved into a before and a now. Before, I existed, and it was fine. I was content. And then, you. Everything cracked open, and I felt as if I’d just reminded my senses to function. Now, everything feels so raw. Sometimes just the passing of time abrades my skin. Being with you is exquisite and real. And painful.”

Very carefully, Josh put her hands on her knees and leaned forward. She stared at the wall opposite them, against which Taro no longer pressed himself. In she breathed, and out. In and out.

Josh straightened her posture and rubbed her calf with her other foot. “What can I do to make it hurt less?” she asked him.

Blue’s lips thinned into a smile. “I don’t want it to hurt less. Every second that scrapes my skin is another one I spend with you.”

About the Author: 10_29 tithe AuthorPicBorn in Idaho during the height of disco, Elle Hill now chicken-pecks at the keyboard while rocking out to Donna Summer and KC and the Sunshine Band. She worked in Idaho for several years as a secretary and journalist before moving to California and selling her soul to academia. After receiving her PhD in Sociology, Elle Hill became a not-so-mild-mannered college instructor by night and a community activist during the remainder of her waking hours. Always a journalist and writer at heart, one of her favorite pastimes includes publishing commentary on the political and social state of the world; some of her thoughts are posted on her blog at ellehillauthor.blogspot.com/.

Elle welcomes visitors to her website at www.ellehill.com. She also urges everyone to become a superhero and adopt their next non-human companion from a local animal shelter.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Elle-Hill/155409064486649?ref=hl

Twitter: @ellehillauthor

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The Sins of a Few by Sarah Ballance – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

 

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sarah will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Salem, 1692

The moment he steps off the boat and into his hometown of Salem, Nathanial Abbot knows the rumors about Salem are indeed true. For in the two years since he’s left Salem—disowned by his family and seeking a fortune of his own—the town has changed. It is dark with discord and suspicion… and accusations of witchcraft. Now all that remains for him is the woman he’s never forgotten.

But Faith Downing isn’t happy to see Nathanial. In his absence, his younger sisters have ignited the chain of hysteria that resulted in twenty deaths—including Faith’s aunt, to whom Nathanial owed his life. Yet through her acrimony, Faith can’t prevent herself from responding to the man Nathanial has become, handsome and kind. A man who kindles something in her that speaks of sin.

Enjoy an excerpt:
“Tell me,” he said, his voice coarse to his own ears. “Tell me how I dishonor a woman when I chose to forsake my own family to pay my respects.”

The look of utter disdain she passed him was somewhat lost by their proximity. They were trading breaths now, as close as lovers. But their positions could not douse the venom in her tone. “You have hardly forsaken your family,” she spat. “Not unless you’ve pushed them piecemeal into the harbor, which is an event I dare say few would mourn. Do they not await your return, alive and well? That is more than anyone can say for my aunt and the remaining nineteen murdered…or the rest who died awaiting trial.”

Mid diatribe, her attention had fallen to his lips. He touched her chin, knowing that in doing so he risked the welfare of his finger, and didn’t speak until her liquid gaze found his. “I crossed the ocean and I came here first,” he said. Quietly. Fiercely. “Tell me what more I could have done.”

“You could have been here. You could have stopped them.” A single, heart-wrenching sob escaped from her throat. “You could have saved her.”

About the Author:

Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids.) When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or in search of that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her. To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly.

Website: http://www.sarahballance.com/

Blog: http://sarahballance.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sarah.ballance.author.news

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahBallance

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SarahBallance34/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103362.Sarah_Ballance

Buy the book at Entangled Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or Google Books.

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How to Handle Negative Reviews by Graeme Ing – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Graeme will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to handle negative reviews
A guest post by Graeme Ing

As a writer, we pour our hearts and souls into our books. We spend months or even years in front of the keyboard, staring into space, struggling to get a few hundred words written each day. We procrastinate, and have ongoing doubts about our ability to write or tell an interesting story. Then, at the revision stage we agonize over every scene, every page and sentence to make it just so. Writing a book is a huge achievement.

Finally our child is ready for the world. We publish it and refresh our browsers endlessly, counting every review. The first reviews are kind, typically from friends and families but then we get our first 1-star review, perhaps another – a scathing damnation of our priceless work of art. What now? What do we do?

Take your fingers away from that mouse! Breathe. Calm yourself. Take a walk, or a drink, or meditate, anything, but don’t you dare respond to that review. I know you want to reply to it, argue your case, point out how the reviewer misunderstood. No. To quote the movie Frozen: Let It Go.

There is nothing you can comment to the reviewer that won’t come across as defensive, neurotic, sour grapes, self-serving or all of the above. You might feel better, but other readers will think your response petty. You may also trigger “The Streisand Effect” and actually draw more attention to a bad review that readers might otherwise have ignored.

Here’s the truth of it. Not everyone will like your book. Even bestsellers have 1-star reviews. Go and look at a Stephen King title or any famous author. It’s ok, really. Do you enjoy every book you read? If you see a book that has predominantly 5 and 4-star reviews, do those few 1 and 2 star reviews put you off? Probably not. They may even make the book appear more legitimate. Give your readers the intelligence to judge for themselves whether those bad reviews have merit or not. The ones that are particularly scathing or that attack the author directly are usually ignored anyway.

What you might want to do is read the bad review objectively. Perhaps they made some valid comments. Perhaps you did overuse the curse words. Maybe your ending could be misunderstood. Maybe your heroine did come out more whiney than you intended. Take what constructive feedback you can from the bad review and use it as a learning experience. If you can’t read it without getting angry or upset, then make it a habit never to read bad reviews. Many authors don’t.

Analyze your book cover and blurb. Some bad reviews are the response of incorrect expectations – the reader was simply expecting something else. Does your cover clearly indicate genre? Make sure your blurb isn’t misleading or promises something you didn’t deliver on.

As an example, one reviewer of my debut YA book Ocean of Dust lamented that she wanted more romance. I hadn’t billed it as a romance at all, but I’m sure she was used to modern YA stories being about teenagers in love. See how her expectations were not met? That’s ok. It’s her opinion, and a valid one. I don’t have control over her preferences. I like to think of that review as useful actually: Many readers will ignore her review because they don’t care about the romance,or it might deter similar-minded folks from reading my book. That’s a good thing. Why is deterring readers a good thing? Well first off, I want my readers to enjoy my books, not be disappointed, and secondly it might prevent further bad reviews.

At the end of the day, we all enjoy the freedom to express our views. Some people are more constructive with criticism than others, but don’t ever, ever, ever let a bad review control your mood or derail your writing dreams. Reviews are just opinions. Shake off the bad ones, concentrate on the good ones and keep writing the best, most polished books that you can. Happy writing!

MEDIA KIT Necromancer Book CoverA primeval fiend is loose in the ancient metropolis of Malkandrah, intent on burning it to a wasteland. The city’s leaders stand idly by and the sorcerers that once protected the people are long gone.

Maldren, a young necromancer, is the only person brave enough to stand against the creature. Instead of help from the Masters of his Guild, he is given a new apprentice. Why now, and why a girl? As they unravel the clues to defeating the fiend, they discover a secret society holding the future of the city in its grip. After betrayals and attempts on his life, Maldren has reason to suspect everyone he thought a friend, even the girl.

His last hope lies in an alliance with a depraved and murderous ghost, but how can he trust it? Its sinister past is intertwined in the lives of everyone he holds dear.

Can only evil defeat evil?

Enjoy an excerpt:

She glanced at me then the ground below, but only clung tighter. A man appeared at the window, his teeth bared. Four scratches on his cheek oozed red. White drool speckled his trimmed beard. He clawed at her. She scrunched her eyes shut and wailed.

With a crack, the casement tore free, and she plummeted into my arms. We tumbled to the ground and the smoke surrounded us like a pack of wild animals.

I rolled to my feet, helped her up, and dragged her down the street, holding my breath as long as I could. She coughed and choked, resisting my pull. Murder flared in her eyes. I slapped her.

“Trust me. Hold your breath and stay with me.” I yanked her forward.

I shouldn’t have spoken. Smoke surged down my throat and I gagged.

Rage ignited inside me. I wanted to tear out her rabid eyes. My arm squeezed hers until she cried out, and I knew that I could break it with a twist, could snap her entire frail body. My gaze fixed on her pale, sweat-soaked throat. It invited me to choke the life from her, watch her struggle and finally go limp. My pulse quickened. Anger flooded my veins. Then my hands were around her throat, squeezing, crushing. She coughed and drooled thick, white saliva. Her blue eyes locked with mine but she put up no resistance. A smile twitched on her lips as my thumbs dug deeper. Ah, the sweet moment of superiority. How would it feel to kill? Delicious. It washed the tight pain from my head.

Something flickered deep within me. This was wrong.

About the Author:MEDIA KIT GraemeIngPhotoGraeme Ing engineers original fantasy worlds, both YA and adult, but hang around, and you’ll likely read tales of romance, sci-fi, paranormal, cyberpunk, steampunk or any blend of the above.

Born in England in 1965, Graeme moved to San Diego, California in 1996 and lives there still. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 30 years, mostly in the computer games industry. He is also an armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with more cats than he can count.

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Google+ ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon

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Next Exit Dead Ahead by CW Browning – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly drawn winner will receive a $30 Amazon gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MEDIA KIT Coverfinal-rgbAlina Maschik expected to have a few quiet days alone in New Jersey.

She should have known better.

FBI Agent Stephanie Walker has a problem. Whenever Alina comes into town, someone ends up dead. When the enigmatic Damon Miles follows, that count is doubled. Now, a mere week before Halloween, Stephanie’s main informant has gone missing. When part of him shows up in a reputedly haunted prison, the local attraction becomes the center of a macabre and baffling spectacle. As bodies start to fill the morgue, Stephanie must trust in Alina’s particular skill set to prevent further bloodshed. But that trust comes with a price, as Alina and Damon bring their own brand of trouble, uncovering a sinister web of deadly intrigue reaching far beyond the familiar South Jersey suburbs.

A prison haunted by tortured souls, a puzzling federal investigation, a rising body count, and a pair of deadly assassins…what could possibly go wrong?

Enjoy an excerpt:

“You found a what?” Alina closed the refrigerator door, her phone pressed to her ear, and stared at the stainless steel in disbelief.

“A head,” Damon repeated, amusement threading his voice. “If it sounds gruesome, that’s because it is.”

“First an arm, now a head,” she muttered. “I’m seriously starting to rethink Jersey.”

“An arm? What arm?” he asked sharply.

“They found an arm in the old prison in Mt. Holly this morning,” Alina explained, turning away from the fridge and carrying a bottle of water over to the bar. She perched on a bar stool and sipped the water. “It belonged to one of Stephanie’s informants.”

“Where’s the rest of him?”

“They don’t know.” Alina set the bottle down and pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I wonder if you have his head?”

“Who was he informing on?” Damon demanded. “Was he Latin American?”

“I don’t know,” Alina murmured. “His name was Frietas, so probably. Rodrigo Frietas, I believe.”

“Brazilian?”

“Got me. You’d have to ask her.” Alina’s lips twitched. “But, honestly, I wouldn’t suggest it. She already thinks you’re trouble.”

“Me?” Damon snorted. “You’re the one who gets embroiled with terrorists and psychos.”

“But you’re never far behind these days,” Alina pointed out.

“Someone has to keep you in check,” Damon retorted, causing her to chuckle. “You have a knack for sniffing out trouble.”

“Well, I certainly didn’t sniff out a head,” she shot back, a grin creasing her lips. “Where is it?”

“In front of my window, stuck on a pike of some kind.”

About the Author:MEDIA KIT cwbrowning-headshot
CW Browning was writing before she could spell. Making up stories in the backyard with her childhood best friend, imagination ran wild from the very beginning. When she moved to New Jersey from Kansas at the age of seven, those tales became written words as she adjusted to life on the East Coast. Her first full-length novel was printed out on a dot-matrix printer at the age of eight. Through the years, the writing continued as an enjoyable past-time while she pursued other avenues of interest, attending Rutgers University and studying History. In time, though, it became apparent where her heart truly lie. CW still makes up stories in her backyard, but now she crafts them for her readers to enjoy. She makes her home in Southern New Jersey, where she loves to grill organic steak and sip red wine on the patio.

Visit her at: www.CWBrowning.com
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The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Brenda will be awarding a $100 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $50 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn host. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Just call her Christmas Eve…

Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn’t have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that’s what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B-and-B she manages and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.

As Eve turns thirty-five, she’s worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. She’s dated all the eligible men in the area. There’s no one she could even imagine as a husband—until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve’s definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve’s happily ever after—just when it finally seems within reach. Just when she’s counting on the best Christmas of her life!

Enjoy an excerpt:

Moving slowly to compensate for her hangover, she managed to prop herself against the headboard and, once there, frowned at her bedmate.

Who the heck was he?

She had no idea, but she was relieved to see that he was no bum off the street. He wasn’t even one of those “he looked a lot more attractive last night” kind of pickups everyone joked about. This guy was so far above average that she began to wonder why he wasn’t already taken. Heaven forbid that was the case! She didn’t see a ring on his left hand, which rested on the pillow above his head. But he had to have some story. If he looked this good sleep-tousled, she could only imagine what he’d be like once he had a chance to clean up.

It was his bone structure, she decided. Those pronounced cheekbones. The narrow bridge across his nicely shaped nose. The distinct ridge of his upper eye sockets. He also had a strong chin and a manly jaw, which certainly didn’t detract.

So maybe she couldn’t point to just one or two features. With his long, sandy-colored hair spread across his pillow, he resembled a fallen angel—and his body further enhanced that image. Although bedding covered his lower half—thank goodness—she could see his torso. He was built like a greyhound or panther, lean and sinewy and ideally proportioned with very little body hair. What body hair he did have was golden and downy, as appealing as his tanned skin.

He’d make a nice subject for a painter, she mused, someone looking for refined masculine beauty—a man who could even be called elegant.

But not everything about him was elegant. When she looked closer, she could see that he had some very unusual scars….

What types of injuries could’ve caused those? she wondered. It seemed to her that he’d been shot, and more than once. Several round, bullet-size marks dotted his chest. Then there was a long, jagged scar on his side that must’ve come from something else….

Out of nowhere—he didn’t open his eyes first, so she had no warning—he grabbed her wrists in a crushing grip and slammed her onto her back.

Eve gasped as she stared up at him. Gone was the image of an angel, fallen or otherwise. Shocked at being so easily and unexpectedly overpowered, she couldn’t even scream. His fierce expression, as if he was intent on causing her bodily harm, made it worse.

Had she brought home a homicidal maniac? Was he about to kill her?

The terror that surged up must’ve shown on her face because he suddenly came to his senses. He gave his head a shake. His expression cleared and, letting go, he eased off her and slid back onto his side of the bed.

“Sorry about that. I thought…” His words trailed off, and he covered his eyes with one arm as if he needed a moment to pull himself together.

Her heart was now pounding in unison with her head. But once she could speak somewhat normally, she prompted him to finish his sentence. “Thought what?”

His lips turned down. “Never mind. I was dreaming.”

She pressed a hand to her chest as though she could slow her galloping pulse. “It couldn’t have been a pleasant dream.”

“They never are,” he muttered.

About the Author:

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of more than fifty books. A four-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised over $2 million. For more about Brenda, please visit www.BrendaNovak or visit with her on Facebook.

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes.

In addition check out Brenda’s The 12 Days of Christmas Contest where she is giving away TWELVE really awesome prizes to ONE lucky winner!!

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Sean’s Sweetheart by Allie Kincheloe – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Allie will award a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to one randomly selected winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Sean has spent five years cleaning up his life. He’s shoved his past behind him and built a profitable business in the town’s most popular dance club. Falling in love with a college sophomore wasn’t in his plans. But, from the moment he rescued Talia, she brings out his every protective instinct. He tries to resist getting involved on a personal level. Talia’s persistence, however, is stronger than his will.

Despite just ending an abusive relationship, Talia finds an instant connection with a man unlike any she’s dated before. Older, tattooed, and totally inappropriate for her, Talia couldn’t keep Sean off her mind, especially once he calls her “sweetheart” in that deep drawl of his.

When Talia is in danger, they discover just how strong their relationship is. Can Sean and his sweetheart make things last when horrors from their pasts come back to haunt them and family seems determined to keep them apart?

Enjoy this excerpt:

Sean tried to call Talia for the sixth time that week.

“This is Talia, you know what to do.” But obviously she doesn’t or she’d answer her damn phone!

He hung up without leaving a message. He’d left messages earlier in the week. Sent a couple texts. No response. She was still pissed. But damn it, she’d kissed him. He just wanted to explain himself. Explain his reasons for pushing her away. But she wouldn’t answer his call. Again. Sean pulled his arm back to sling the damn phone at the wall, but he’d just have to replace it. His hand itched for a handset to slam down. Jabbing at the touchscreen would never satisfy like slamming a receiver down so hard the phone rang.

Sean tossed his phone on the table and sank down onto his couch with a sigh. One kiss and he acted like a lovesick puppy. Frustrated the hell out of him. He was a grown-ass man who should have better control over himself than that. Maybe it was a side effect of two years of self-imposed celibacy, you idiot, he chided himself. Not dating for five years while he got the club going seemed like a good plan. Until a beautiful, soft woman pressed her lips to his.

He never should have kissed her back. He should’ve shoved her away the moment she stepped between his legs. Should have, but didn’t. Oh, no, he pulled her tight to his chest and kissed her until they both gasped for air and he thought his lungs might collapse from lack of oxygen. Then he’d moved to that delectable throat, savoring the feel of her pulse beneath his lips. He’d marked her, leaving evidence of their passion on her pale skin. He’d thoroughly enjoyed her soft curves pressed against…

He had to get out of this apartment.

About the Author:

As a busy mother of five, Allie sneaks time to write between breakfast and tickles. Always a Kentucky girl at heart, she currently makes her home near Nashville.

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