Monday, September 30, 2013

It Takes a Spy to Catch a Spy by Tarah Scott

Interweaving fiction with history

While my latest release, the Scottish historical My Highland Lord, begins in 1837, the history goes back seventeen years, when one of the most daring assassination attempts of the nineteenth century rocked Regency England.

“What happened next was a frenzy of killing…”(1) This is how the night might have ended for the Ministers gathered at Lord Harrowby’s London home, February 23, 1820 if not for the intervention of His Majesty’s spies. The Cato Street Conspiracy, as the mass assassination attempt was dubbed, was led by Arthur Thistlewood, leader of the radical Spencean Philanthropists Society, and was one of the most daring assassination attempts in England’s history. Thistlewood and his men were stopped by John Stafford, Bow Street Sheriff and supervisor of the Home Office spies.

The trap Stafford set was a full blown sting operation worthy of a modern day spy movie. Spies were installed in Thistlewood’s organization and a few members were recruited as snitches. A notice was placed in the paper that the Cabinet would be meeting at Harrowby’s, and money was funneled into the organization for the weapons needed to carry out a mass murder. Thistlewood snatched up the bait like a hungry lion and he and his men set up their headquarters at the Horse and Groom, a public house on Cato Street that overlooks the stable. On the day of the planned assassinations as the would-be criminals gathered for the task they believed would herald in a new era for Great Britain, Stafford’s men swooped in and arrested them. One Bow Street officer was killed—run through with a sword by Thistlewood himself—and the guilty men scattered. Over the course of a few days most of the top conspirators were found. Two months later, they were tried and hanged for High Treason. But one man, Mason Wallington, Baron Arlington, escaped…or so goes the history in My Highland Lord, the second book in the Highland Lords series.

There is, of course, much more to the story of The Cato Street Conspiracy. For example, Arthur Thistlewood believed God had presented him with the opportunity he’d been waiting for to murder the top government officials in one swoop, and the government conspiracy to stop him seems to stop short of the King himself. But such details are an example of the lifeblood that infuses the subtle elements of a story.

This dramatic backdrop and its dark undertones was a perfect setting for the heroine of My Highland Love. Phoebe Wallington, daughter of Mason Wallington, followed in her father’s footsteps and became a British spy. Phoebe, however, wanted to do more than protect her country, and set out on a quest to prove her father’s innocence. He was a patriot, a man who put his life on the line by spying for the Crown.

When our story officially begins, being Scottish was on the cusp of being in fashion and Scottish lords were hard at work to abolish the old ways of farming in favor of more lucrative business ventures. Yet there were leaders who understood that many of the changes made in the name of progresses weren’t all positive. The political climate in Scotland called for leaders who understood both sides of the argument. So was born the hero of My Highland Lord, Kiernan MacGregor, the Marquess of Ashlund, a Scottish lord who was as much British as he was Scottish—at least in appearance.  And, as unique as my hero might be, he wasn’t alone in walking both sides of the political line.

I often hear “I couldn’t write historical romance. The research must be daunting.” For me, the research is half the fun of writing historical fiction. I always feel like I’m cheating just a little when I weave real events into a story because my characters gain a credibility that makes it easy for readers to accept the possibility that they could have have lived and acted as they do in my stories. But with that advantage comes the responsibility to root the reader firmly in the past and slip our characters in as if they belong there. Once we gain the reader’s trust, they’ll be fans forever. That’s a win/win situation for everyone. The trick is, never letting the lines show between truth and fiction. That’s a challenge I just can’t resist.

(1) Take from Enemies of the State: The Cato Street Conspiracy by  M.J Trow

My Highland Lord

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Genre – Historical  Romance

Rating – R

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Author Spotlight - Bradley Convissar

What books have most influenced your life? Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Tad Williams War of the Flowers, Koontz's Watchers, Midnight, House of Thunder, Door to December, and Life Expectancy, almost everything by King, almost everything by Clive Barker, Peter Straub's Lost Boy, Lost Girl and In the Night Room

Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor? No. That was easy. No one has ever shown enough interest in me. I am alone in this large, lonely publishing world.

Who is your favorite author and why? King because he is the master storyteller and Barker because he is a master of language. But Gaiman is right up there.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? God, I hope so. Once I've finished with the serial, I want to start on an introductory novel in an open-ended series and get back to work on another of my stand-alone projects.

Have you started another book yet? Bloodlines: A Serial. Part 1- Abomination, Part 2-Brutalization, Part 3- Corruption, Part 4- Damnation, Part 5 (if I need one)- Extinction. It is shaping up to be four 20K word episodes with a possible 5th.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Still practicing dentistry, hopefully less than now so I can dedicate another hour a day to writing, but we'll see. I don’t look to the future too much. The day-to-day is enough to keep my mind occupied.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I'm always reading 2-3 books, one traditionally published books by one of my favorite authors and one or two Indie/small press books. Right now, I am reading XO by Jeffery Deaver and Long Black Coffin by Tim Curran. Once I am done with XO, I am going to be moving on to The Bride Wore Black Leaver, a Nightside book by one of my favorites, Simon Green, and when I am done with Tim Curran... well, I'll decide when I get there.  My Kindle is full of great books.

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? I'm always reading Indie and small press authors, and I've found some new fun ones, especially some of the horror authors from Dark Fuse and Nightscape Press. I'll be honest, I am MUCH more inclined to try out a new Indie author than a new traditionally published author these days because I refuse to pay $9.99 for an eBook or $10 for a paperback. Now $2.99-$4.99 for an Indie book that is usually AS good as a traditionally published book, that's what I am investing in now with new authors.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? The internet for research and Facebook groups for advice. What more can you ask for? The good writers out there are happy to share their expertise and knowledge with those just starting out. The good writers don't view new writers as competition.

What contributes to making a writer successful? Having a professional cover done, paying for professional editing. It isn't cheap, but if you want people to take you seriously, you need to view it as an investment and put out a professional product.  Also, discipline.  Can’t worry about selling a book unless you sit and write one.

Do you have any advice for writers? Don't give up. Don't get distracted. Give yourself deadlines! Write at the same time every day. Make sure that spouses or significant others respect your writing time. Even if it is a second job, it is a job and you need to treat it like a job. Set up a space. Ask questions on Facebook. The resources are there, use them.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Go to the gym. Play video games. Read. Watch TV. I'm a simple man.
 Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Thriller / Horror
Rating – PG13 bordering on R
(Horror with some violence / Some sex, not overly graphic)
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Bradley Convissar on Facebook & Twitter

Henry Mosquera – Why Book Covers are So Important

Why Book Covers are So Important

by Henry Mosquera

A lot of self-published writers confuse aesthetics with effectiveness. A good book cover is not meant to please our eyes but to garner attention. Your cover should stand out from those around it, it should stay in people’s minds, and it should generate interest. Let’s say you see a bunch of novels and one stands out because you hate the cover. You may comment about it to a friend, make fun of it and bring it up whenever an example is appropriate. Well, guess what? That hateful image is living happily inside your head, when better-executed covers have failed to make an impression. An extreme case, perhaps, but it illustrates the difference between “pretty” versus “attractive.”

A book cover has more in common with a billboard than a painting. You want to grab a potential reader’s attention; they don’t have to fall in love with the artwork. The publishing industry knows that awards, blurbs from famous authors, and reputable reviews sell novels not covers.

Of course, a cover is the first impression a reader gets of your book. So you want it to be professional, which is one of the problems most indie novels face. Just as Microsoft Word doesn’t necessarily breed good writers, Adobe’s Photoshop doesn’t make you a professional artist. These are just tools take make the work easier for the initiated. You can cut and paste all you want and play with fonts and filters, but a computer program will not transfer you the skills of a trained designer. No matter how simple it may look to you.

If you don’t have the skills, hire someone who does. The last thing you want is for a reader to look at your novel and go, “Meh, it looks amateurish and cheap,” and walk away (click away?) from your novel. You may have spent all of this money on editors, manuscript annalists and proofreaders to shape up your novel to a professional quality, but if no one picks it up, who cares? If you are self-published the odds are already against you. The stigma of unprofessionalism already mires your work, whether it’s true or not. So why position yourself on a lesser light? Invest on a professional cover. That’s right, it’s not an expense, but an investment towards your books success. As independent authors, we have to strive to do everything in our power to present our work in the highest quality possible. Otherwise we will never shake off the image of the raggedy horde of untalented creators.

If you truly posses the skill set to design your covers, here are a few tips you may find useful: artwork doesn’t have to be overtly elaborate to fulfill its purpose. Most covers out there are busy, cliché and forgettable. Spend some time thinking about your book’s cover, go to a bookstore and see what pops out from the shelves and analyze why. Search the Internet for lists of the best covers and study how the designers approached their task. Keep in mind that the artwork of your book will most likely be used in other ways like banners, social media sites, tie-in merchandising i.e. T-shirts, etc. You want your design to be able to transfer easily to whatever suits your marketing and advertising needs. Think branding. Remember, your book is not only what lies between the covers, but what is on them as well. It deserves the same kind of care and attention.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Political Thriller

Rating – R

More details about the author & the book

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Benjamin Chronicles: Relativity by Matthew DiConti


Conal Benjamin never let the love of his life Abigail Bradley know of his romantic feelings for her. Years of living with that regret haunted Conals life and left him with an emptiness in his heart. In one serendipitous moment they are reunited at an alumni science exhibit giving Conal a second chance but in a cruel twist of fate Conal’s triggers an unexpected chain of events sending Abby and himself through a wormhole to 1888 Whitechapel, London, the time and place of one of the most horrifying serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper. With the time machine lost and Conal and Abby separated, the fate of both of their lives hang in the balance. Nothing is what it appears to be and it’s up to Conal to unravel the mysteries that await him, before it’s too late.

“I could not put this cleverly crafted paranormal fiction novel down. I can’t wait to go on the next time travel journey with Benjamin! It would make for a great TV Series/Feature Film. Out of 5 stars I give it 6!”   - Kelly V. Dolan, NBC News Radio

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Genre - Paranormal Fiction

Rating – NC17

More details about the author

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D.A. & M.P. Wearmouth – Self-publish or small press

Self-publish or small press

by D.A. & M.P. Wearmouth

After completing a novel the first thing anyone will ask is “are you published.”  Their inference that ‘published’ is generally accepted as an industry recognised validation of your work, and that it will be appealing to a market of readers.

The changes and evolution in the publishing world are well documented but fundamentally can be traced back to the ebook.  A reader can now download a book onto a device in seconds from an online store removing layers of cost to the selling price of a book.  Furthermore using KDP, anyone can upload a book for sale on Amazon.  It’s true most books do not make it into ‘brick and mortar’ stores but there is no need when print on demand can deliver a paperback.  The publishing world is opening up, but the doors to the upper publishing realm are firmly closed for the time being on the vast majority of indie authors.

In the vacuum of this change in state, small press publishers have taken advantage and offer many indie authors a form of publishing.  They are not new and most offer a valued service to their clients in steering them through the stages of publishing and marketing a book.  However for the modern media savvy author who can upload and market themselves, what do the small presses offer?

The positive spin on a small press is that they are knowledgeable industry experienced professionals who can reach more readers than the indie author alone.  They can provide guidance on editing and will usually provide book cover and copy edit services.  The authors book will be joining a list of other titles which can advertise each other in their back covers and also online.  More importantly, seemingly to some authors, is that the small presses provide a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ of being published.

The negative spin is that some small presses have a business plan to contract c.200 books under their banner.  The books can be all uploaded to KDP in the same way an indie author would to Amazon, but the small press will take 35% royalty.  In simple terms if the book is £2, then Amazon take 60p, the small press take 70p and the author will receive 70p per ebook (worse for the author on paperback more like 10% ie 20p).  For this equal share of royalties the small press will advertise on their website and other social media.  The vast majority do not have the time or budget for any paid advertising which would be funded by the author.  Therefore out of your 70p per book, expect to spend all royalties advertising online.  The small press business plan has practically no upfront or on-going costs, they expect to be presented with a finished product.  The author pays for marketing and the small press can then upload multiple titles, all generating royalties of 35%.

Small presses play an integral and important part of the publishing industry; however the indie author should exercise extreme caution before signing up.  KDP has opened the possibility for an author to truly work independently and be as successful as mainstream publishers.  Still have that fuzzy feeling?

First Activation

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Genre – Horror/Science Fiction

Rating – R

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Children of the Knight by Michael J. Bowler

Children of the Knight

According to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in Los Angeles?

This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.

With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army-the Children of the Knight. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and the children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.

Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Edgy Young Adult

Rating – PG13

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Cleanse Fire by Anastasia V Pergakis


Pars IV

20th day of Solis Moon, 1364

Derac choked. "What?"

"He came to speak with me while I was in the bath." The amber swirls in her eyes glowed bright and betrayed her panic, but her voice was calm.

His eyebrows shot into his hairline. "Did he force himself on you?" He swallowed the bile in his throat.

"No. He stared at me in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable and," she paused and held her lips between her teeth for a moment. "He kissed my neck. He didn't press any further than that, however."

Derac's breath rushed out of his lungs. He leaned back against the sofa and forced his muscles to relax. "What did he say?"

"He told me that he had great power, greater than just being the Mission Commander. He told me I should partner with him."

Derac's eyebrows shot up again. "What did you say to that?"

She spoke in hushed tones, but the words tumbled from her lips. "I told him no. I don't care for power. He said I could have my own power if I did partner with him. Then he told me to think about it. To wait until after the mission. He said that the events of the mission would help me to make up my mind. I have the awful feeling that this mission is going to go terribly wrong, and the Commander is behind it." She paused to her catch her breath. "Centurio, I know it sounds outlandish, but my feelings have never let me down before. We have no proof, but I think at the very least we should exercise caution around the Commander until we do find out the truth."

Derac rested his chin on the tips of his fingers. The elf thought he could barge in on the elfa's bath like he was supposed to be there? He tried to feel shocked at his Commander's possible betrayal and perverted actions, but he failed.

"What should we do?"

"I trust your judgment Kie. And you're right, we don't have proof. But I think I know of a way to get it." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We tell the Commander our plan is to stay together. During the mission however, we split up. Get one group of faeries out of the cells and have two elite lead them back to the cabin. The other four will get the second group."

"Wait. Wouldn't that make the two vulnerable handling that many faeries on a six hour trip, on foot?"

"Yes. But, even if the faeries are weak, they could offer some help. There are hundreds of them down there according to the report." He winced. "Then again, you may have a point. What if the intel is wrong, yet again?"

"Didn't I see a report about sentry rotations at night?" Her eyes roamed over the table.

"Yes. It's here." He handed her the paper.

Her amber pools scanned the list. "Let's assume this is incorrect. According to this, they cut the guards in half at night. What if they had less? That would mean less to worry about. And, two of us could easily handle a few sentries."

"What do we do if they actually double the guards at night?"

Her lips pressed into a thin line. "Good point."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We can't even rely on our intel. Even if it ended that Palto was not involved, we could still be walking into an ambush. How would we know for sure it was his doing or just bad intel?"

She put her hands behind her head and glanced up at the ceiling. "I don't know. I have no skill with strategy."

He snorted. "You read battle strategies for fun."

"Exactly. I'm trying to learn. Doesn't mean I can make up new ones."

"All right. Let's go over all our options again. We can enter through the front or through the secret tunnel. With any of those options, we can stay together, split in half, or split four to two. Is there any other way to get into the mines?"

She shook her head. "I've heard rumors at the very top of the mountain is a shaft that runs all the way down to the lower levels of the mine. But, I don't know for certain and the mountain side is treacherous. We could injure ourselves more just trying to gain entry."

Derac held his head in his hands and tried to predict the outcome of their mission. Kie mirrored his position as her eyes scanned the intel scattered across the table. Her spine jerked and she sat up straight.

"What if we split up into three groups of two? Two to lead the first group out like you said before, two to provide protection, the last two get the second group. Done fast enough, all six of us and all the faeries would leave right after each other, or at least within moments of each other."

"And you say you have no skill with strategy."

She chuckled. "It's still risky though."

"What part of any mission isn't?" He sucked in air and held it a few moments before he exhaled. "Again, I don't like the plan, but it'll work."

They finalized their strategy and detailed every second of their mission. Confidence filled Derac that their idea would work and he ordered Kie to sleep.


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Genre – Fantasy / Military

Rating – PG13

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Come & Meet - Mike Hartner

1. Write two truths and one lie (but don’t tell us which is which until I say so. ) A. I’m happily married B. My proudest achievement is my son. C. The next several books are planned already.

2. Tell us a bit about yourself
a. What was the first book you remember reading? HARRY THE DIRTY DOG
b. What is your greatest fear Something tragic happening to my son and/or wife
c. If you were on a deserted island what three items would you want with you? Sat phone to call for help, good book to keep me company, food.
d. Your favorite musician Bruce Springsteen
e. Your Favorite song No Surrender followed closely by From Small Things

3. Where did you find the inspiration for your most recent book? My book is inspired by my muse and some back history.

4. Do you have rituals for when you are writing? Particular place you write, music you listen to, specific drink or snack? Anything you must do when you are writing… My writing includes being seated in a comfortable surrounding, usually lounging in a part of my house, with headphones and classical music dictated by the book and the character.

5. Who is your favorite character in your book and why? It’s tough to answer that question, since all of the characters are favorites.

Rapid Answer Zone
1. What was the last movie you saw? The Dark Knight
2. What did you do last Halloween? Stayed home
3. What is the name of your car? Dah-ling.

Now, which one of the three was the lie? C. I may be privy to the name of the main character, but that’s as far as it goes. Their life events are organic and surprising, even to me.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Historical Fiction/ Romance
Rating – PG
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Author Interview – Mike Hartner

1. Write two truths and one lie (but don’t tell us which is which until I say so. ) A. I’m happily married B. My proudest achievement is my son. C. The next several books are planned already.
2. Tell us a bit about yourself
a. What was the first book you remember reading? HARRY THE DIRTY DOG
b. What is your greatest fear Something tragic happening to my son and/or wife
c. If you were on a deserted island what three items would you want with you? Sat phone to call for help, good book to keep me company, food.
d. Your favorite musician Bruce Springsteen
e. Your Favorite song No Surrender followed closely by From Small Things

3. Where did you find the inspiration for your most recent book? My book is inspired by my muse and some back history.
4. Do you have rituals for when you are writing? Particular place you write, music you listen to, specific drink or snack? Anything you must do when you are writing… My writing includes being seated in a comfortable surrounding, usually lounging in a part of my house, with headphones and classical music dictated by the book and the character.
5. Who is your favorite character in your book and why? It’s tough to answer that question, since all of the characters are favorites.
6. Do you use a particular writing method? Like do you use index cards, outlines, free writing for ten minutes? How do you organize your thoughts before and while writing? I write totally organic. I will usually have interesting ideas for the book percolate through the mind a day or two before. Then, I sit and write. When I’m done writing, then I edit.
7. How long did it take you to write your book? About 10 months.
8. What are your goals for the future (as a writer) I, WALTER is the start of a series that will bring us to present day before it’s finished. My ambition, and my intent, is to write each and every one of these books in a way that will continue to be enjoyed by all of the readers.

Rapid Answer Zone
1. What was the last movie you saw? The Dark Knight
2. What did you do last Halloween? Stayed home
3. What is the name of your car? Dah-ling.

Now, which one of the three was the lie? C. I may be privy to the name of the main character, but that’s as far as it goes. Their life events are organic and surprising, even to me.

I Walter

Walter Crofter was born into Elizabethan England.
In a country and a time where favor and politics were both deadly, can an honest boy stay true to himself?
Especially given his family background?

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre - Historical Fiction/Romance

Rating – G

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Hindsight by Owen Banner


I laid in bed that night, assuring myself that it would be the easiest money I'd ever made.

There was something about it, though--something cold sliding down into my gut. I had bitten that worm, and the hook was already working its way through me.

I smoothed over that feeling with the thought that I could be giving Haley a shot at the life she deserved--Winnie too. That's all I needed. I'd pay any price for that. Somehow that thought helped me get to sleep.

Around nine thirty-five, I began to drag myself out of unconsciousness like I was coming out of a coma. Slamming my hand down on my alarm, I stumbled through the living room to the red leather briefcase. An hour and a half later, I was in Philly, turning down a little side road called South Juniper Street. I had the brown paper package and a clipboard tucked under my arm.

About twenty-five steps from the corner was a small shop with a green awning and a candle lantern beside the entrance. The print on the window read McAfee’s Clockworks and Antiques. The curved brass handle on the door was cold. It was the kind of cold that hits your chest like a gong, then vibrates through the rest of you. The bell tinkled over my head as I pushed through the door and a small old man walked out from the back room. Wiping his hands with a dirty towel, he hobbled out from behind the counter.

"Can I help you, lad? Don't be afraid, there isn't anything an old goat like me can do ta hurt ya."

"I've got a package for Mr. Lyndon McAfee."

"Well, that would be me, wouldn't it?" He said with a smile. The man's face was tough, despite his age. He wasn't hobbling because he was old, he must have had some injury back in the day. I handed him the clipboard with the delivery sheet that Isaac had given me.

"This is quite unexpected," his voice had the same syrupy thickness of Isaac's. "There you go." He handed me back the board as I placed the package in his other hand.

"You have a nice day," I said and started to go.

"Can I get you anything before you go? Cup o' tea? A sandwich or something other?"

I turned back and forced a smile. "No thanks, sir. I'd really better be getting back to work," I said holding up my clipboard and giving it a shake.

"Very well, you have a good day."

"You too," I said as the bell tinkled overhead again. The door shut behind me. I rounded the corner feeling the sunlight on my face and crossed the street between the cars. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I was already thinking about that money and just caught myself before I knocked a latte out of the hand of a blonde-haired businesswoman wearing a little too much perfume. Dodging her, I almost ran smack into a young guy with a black windbreaker and a camera. He stepped aside, and I caught his eye as he went past. I had time to notice he had short, dark hair, olive skin--Middle Eastern. A small scar cut down at the edge of his hairline. His eyes locked onto mine. That's when it hit.


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Genre –  Thriller

Rating – R

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Jack Canon’s American Destiny - Greg Sandora


We had a team of agricultural scientists that said it’s possible with our land and climate. Big Oil and greedy politicians had blocked the United States from doing it for years.

Our job was to convince the American People.

People are deathly afraid of change. Ideas have a life cycle. Early adopters jump on the bandwagon right away, eager to try the latest thing. Next, you have the show me types; they’re a little afraid to try anything new. They’re worried when they go to the pump there’ll be no gas. Third, there are the late adopters. After most people are convinced, then they’ll buy in. Last, you have the - that’ll never happen types. They’re quick to say it will never work. They wait until an idea is in common practice, then they go around telling everybody they thought of it years ago.

Bud liked to educate prospective big dollar supporters, “The first cars ran on bio fuel; back in 1880, cars were made to run on peanut oil. Hell, Henry Ford made the 1908 Model T to run on Corn Ethanol; he even had his own plant to produce it. This is nothing new, fellas. It’s been around for years! It’s easier than makin’ moonshine!”

Well what’s old is new again. Bio Energy had been hard to get across to the voters. Folks didn’t seem to get how it would create jobs. For this election, our message was honed to American Energy Works; we would link it with a new slogan - We Can.

Bio Energy sounds like something you flush.

I know people want a president, not a chemist. Focus group testing showed anything we tried sounds better after the words 'We Can'. I’d say the sexy stuff and leave the science to the talking heads.

America had done so well with corn technology, farmers had tripled the bushel yield per acre a decade ago. If American ingenuity could send a man to the moon, we could do the same for our homegrown fuel.

We’d all heard stories of guys working in their garages, who chanced upon a breakthrough technology, only to have it bought out by some oil company. Or worse - tales the inventor were quieted by the government in some conspiracy. That’s all science fiction.

We were holding a workable plan, the key feature being the planting of Jatropha, a hardy grass-like plant that grew in almost any soil. We would convince farmers to grow it and chemists would turn it into Bio Fuel. I preferred Jatropha to other feedstocks like soybeans because it couldn’t double as food.

I figured, why give people a reason to debate? Our experts laid the country out in a grid showing, by planting, just the available farmland of Kentucky; we could accomplish nearly half our national goal. Imagine what we could grow if we spread it around to all fifty states. The message had resonated so well in my home state, I’d won a third term.

Bud was telling donors, ‘It just makes good old-fashioned common sense!’

H. Bud Singer was in charge of the campaign and, in addition to fundraising, he was chiefly responsible for reshaping the message. I needed Bud because he could do and say things other men couldn’t or wouldn’t. Besides Bud, three other rising stars rounded out our core team, each in charge of a segment of the campaign.

Once we announced, we expected a flood of volunteers in addition to more paid staff. Our offices would be buzzing with enthusiasm and the aspirations of youth seeking a place to make their mark in the world. I had an uncanny knack for turning talented people into true believers.

Bud and I spent hours going over speech notes. Ideas didn’t come cheap; especially the kind that could lift us out of recession and pay our debt to China without going to war. We always ended believing the surest way to National Security and prosperity for America was to produce lots of cheap energy. Top economists calculated, for every one percent of energy produced on our soil, we would lower the import cost of oil by 3% and create a quarter million jobs. Our goal is to produce twenty percent of the energy we use and cause the price of world crude to plummet.

What’s scaring the Saudis is they knew it was possible; even their own scientists were telling them so. At least all the data we are continually sharing with them brought them to this conclusion. We have them so worried, the whole Middle East would be planted if they could grow anything in the desert. America has millions of acres of available farmland, a willing workforce, and people who can’t pay their oil bills nearly freezing to death in the Northeast. If ever there was a time for a message to resonate, this was it.

I met Bud Singer at Brown where I majored in economics. Bud was a Political Science undergrad, eventually getting a degree in law. He loved the strategy of politics and started working on congressional campaigns right out of law school. Later he headed a prestigious lobbying group, leaving it only to help me win the election to the senate. Bud was stocky and bald and stubborn, continuing to chain smoke even after having a couple of heart attacks.

Bud would say to big money donors – ‘We’ll have cheap energy like we had back in the 50’s and 60’s, so cheap the multi nationals fall all over themselves to bring production back to America.’ Privately he had a more ingenious plan. ‘We’ve got to make it economical to manufacture here again. Once we lure the Corporations back and get them hooked, we force them through taxes to keep the money and jobs here. Bud was right: politicians had made a crucial error rewarding American Corporations for sending jobs overseas, searching for cheap labor and short-term profits.’

Bud and I agreed that the richest Americans didn’t care where they made the money; they had quadrupled their wealth over the longest recession in history. Once we change the Energy Dynamic, the big players will all rush in for a piece of the action.

A trillion dollars worth of wealth would pour back into this country. We would appeal to their massive egos and call them patriotic - after all, they live here, anyway.

This time was nothing like our first presidential campaign, when our offices were housed makeshift in an old mattress store. One thing the first loss brought me was better positioning in the senate. In the most striking example of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know,’ greater name recognition had secured me a coveted position with the Armed Services Committee.

Our new headquarters were courtesy of our friends at TenStar, a Major Defense Contractor who wanted to get to know me better. They “rented” us the space, renovated to suit, and agreed to accept delayed payment over ten years.

Bud liked the idea, ‘That’s making the paper walk backwards, Jack!’

In addition to providing office space, TenStar would make the campaign an unsecured loan of five million dollars and provide the use of a corporate jet. Privately, the agreement was more complicated, involving several components. Provided Bud would sit on their Board and appear at Corporate Events, the lease debt would be considered settled. The caveat attached to the five million was after I left office I would speak at their annual meetings. Open-ended access was an assumed, but unspoken, part of the deal.

All in all, we considered that fair for us at this juncture, as we get closer, the arrangements will get better.

Sandy called on the speakerphone, “Brenner’s on the line. Can you take it, Jack?”

“Sure, Honey.”

Joe Brenner, CEO of TenStar, personally arranged for the space. TenStar made major weapons systems including a prototype fighter - code name, Phantom, that could enter Earth’s Orbit and fire weapons from space. Sort of an X-35 meets the space shuttle. The problem was, Brenner and his counterparts were the guys who lobbied Congress to shut down the U.S. Shuttle Program.

I picked up the phone, “How the hell are you, Joe,” mirroring his usual style and tone.

Joe fired back, “I’m well, Jack, just calling to see how you boys are settling in.”

“We’re doing fine.”

“How’s the donor money flowing in?”

“Don’t worry, Joe, you got us cheap.”

He chuckled, “We’ll see, Jack. You’ve still got to do well in New Hampshire and you’re not that well-known in the Northeast.”

“Thanks for the heads up, you son of a bitch! If Bud ever decides to leave politics, I’ll know who to call.”

Joe laughed, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ve got all I can handle right here, but Jack, you let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Joe, we’ll have a drink together in the White House, and seriously, I appreciate your support. We’ll talk soon.”

I could count on that, since the Phantom’s projected price tag was estimated at eleven billion per copy.

“Hey, Jack, I heard you were headed out of the country. Anyone I know?”

Joe was always snooping.

I laughed, “If I told you I’d have to kill you, so you’re better off.”

Joe’s laugh sounded forced. We said goodbye.

Sandy tilted her head in, blonde hair hanging down to the doorknob.

Still smiling, I thought she mistook my grin for a reaction to the plunging sweater blouse she was wearing.

Girlishly, “Senior Staff is ready when you are, Jack.”

I figured I’d just go with it to make up for semi-ignoring her before.

“Hey step in here a second.”

“Why, Jack, you need something,” flirting.

“I didn’t get the chance to tell you before; you look fantastic! Is that a new outfit?”

Sounding like a spoiled twenty, “Yes, do you suddenly like it? I didn’t think you noticed me, running through the building to look at your stupid car.”

“Well, I’m noticing now. You look gorgeous. Wow, Honey!”

“Well, better late than never, I guess…Thanks, Jack.”

Her look and the way she practically bounced out of the room told me she was happier.

I was sitting at my desk when Bud arrived, taking his usual seat on one of the sofas.

My office was shaped like an L. Our gathering area consisted of two black leather couches, a couple of wing back chairs, and my desk, all in a tight-knit square.

Bud asked, “How’s everything going today?”

Looking over my reading glasses, “Good, have you finalized the distribution points for the large donations?”

Bud answered, “Everything is set to go. The pump is primed, all we need is the cash.”

“You’re the wizard, Bud, great work.”

Bud had been working for months setting up Super Pac’s that would be controlled by us. The Committees could spend as they wished and collect vast contributions without burdensome regulations. Advertising on television is expensive, even on the local level. Regardless of cost, it’s critical to catch voters in that semiconscious state.

TV helps instill a positive and familiar ‘I know that guy’ kinda feeling. I don’t believe an election could be won without it. To be ingrained, our message has to be playing over and over. I still remember ads I haven’t seen since I was a kid.

The bottom line is - in order for us to make the financial commitments necessary to influence the election we have to set up these channels. I was confident Bud would handle our finances in a way that would still allow us to accept Federal Matching Funds. The people he placed in charge of the Super Pacs would be handsomely rewarded with opportunities, either in the White House, or with corporations that supported us. The system’s crazy; we had no choice but to work the gray areas if we want to win.

Next into the office was Robert “Tip” Thornton, after him, my best buddy, Bill Mitchell, and finally Lisa Pennington. The hit squad, we liked to call it.

This group, along with Sandy, was our inner circle.

We had an understanding of total candor - no subject was off-limits. We liked thinking out loud, knowing everything would stay with us. Secondary staff was on a need to know basis.

Bill was first to speak, holding up his thumb and fore finger an inch apart, “I’m this close to finalizing the trip to see the Saudis.”

We were priming the Crown Prince to be a keystone contributor. We would need a quarter billion to win this thing and we were banking on him to give us a big piece of that.

I said to the group, “If I can get twenty from them, we could get some of the others to pony up. Everybody likes to follow the big dog.”

Bill said, "They’re going to want some heavy assurances that you’ll stall the home still, Jack. Are you prepared to lie to these guys?”

“The truth would be really quaint right now, Bill. Listen, they’ve been selling us high-priced tar for years, sucking the life out of our economy. I don’t care what I have to say at this point! If we’re gonna do this thing and bring America back, we’ve got to hold our noses and do it. If any of you have a problem with this, try focusing on the ordinary Americans who are suffering. We need to tip the scales back in their favor!”

Bud added, “If any of you think there’s any other way to win, speak up now, because it’s now or never. Once we go over there, we’re in it up to our eyeballs!”

Lisa piped back, “I agree with Jack, I’m sick of seeing Americans losing their homes! This is our chance to finally have the power to do something about it.”

“Power isn’t given, it must be seized,” I asserted, “We’ve got to pull the rug out from under these guys, before they catch a whiff of what’s coming.”

Tip was a man of few words and had one quirk: he refused to ever repeat himself. When he spoke, we all piped down for fear of missing even a single word. It was always interesting. An ex-Navy Seal, he was in charge of security for the campaign. I trusted him with my life. Decorated for Valor in Iraq, he was recruited with a sub-agency of the NSA. Tip and company had been dropped into hotspots all over Afghanistan to hunt for snipers. The agency believes ‘it takes one to hunt one’ and chose candidates based on natural ability, recruiting secretly out of the military. His group eliminated targets considered security threats to the United States. Nicknamed King Cobra, Tip commanded an elite squad outfitted with sophisticated survival gear, capable of encampment behind enemy lines for days at a time. Tip saved lives by surgically removing the enemy’s instruments of death. The existence of the team was never made public.

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Genre – Political Thriller

Rating – PG

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Friday, September 27, 2013

How To Find Your Vital Vocation by Brian Cormack Carr


What you love is what you are gifted at, and there are no exceptions.
~ Barbara Sher

This chapter is action-orientated and is all about finding the key that unlocks your Vital Vocation. It’s where we go in search of your gifts and talents in the sure knowledge that these lie at the root of your ideal work. If you already think you know what they are, great; now’s your chance to verify that. If you don’t, the exercises in this chapter will really help you to unearth them.

Discovering What Makes You Tick

The simplest way to get a hint of where your talents lie is to pay attention to anything that you are attracted to and in particular, anything that you really love.

Even if you don’t have an obvious talent in that area, you can be sure that your love for a thing points you towards a talent of some sort. Perhaps it will be something as simple as the fact that you have a heightened appreciation of the subject in question. Yes, that is a real talent. An expert wine-taster doesn’t need to be able to make wine, but he or she needs to fully appreciate good wine in order to do the job well. A history teacher may never make history, but he or she needs to love learning about it in order to teach it effectively. So it is with you. If you love something, you see it in a particular way: a way that’s utterly unique and therefore very valuable to you, and to others.

In order to cast the net as wide as possible, I’m going to ask you to explore several areas which will provide you with clues as to what you should be doing with your life. In the exercises that follow we’ll be searching for this treasure in:

- Your memories

- Your future plans

- Your imagination

- Other people’s perceptions of you

- Your unconscious mind

Each area is explored in a separate exercise and I’ll give examples from my own life so that you can see how it’s done.

It’s worth giving yourself sufficient time to do each exercise without having to rush through it. By going searching for what you love in each of these areas (the last two are optional) you’ll be able to gather enough information to spot any pattern in the things that are capable of satisfying and stimulating you. Once you can see a pattern like that, you can begin to build a life and career around it.

Ready? Enjoy this. We’re about to do no less than discover your purpose in life!

EXERCISE 3: Journeying into the Past

For this exercise, you’re going to cast your mind back to things you’ve loved doing in your past.

Step 1

Wherever you are just now in your life, think back to several earlier periods, for example:

- Childhood

- Your teenage years

- Young adulthood

- Adulthood

- Middle age

Write each of the periods you’ve chosen as a heading on a separate page and make a list of all the things you really loved to do when you were that age. List as many as you can recall and be as specific as possible.

However – and this is important – only write down the things you particularly loved. Choose things that would rate a 7 or above if you were to rate them on a “lovability scale” of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest).


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Genre –  NonFiction / Careers

Rating – G

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Hunters and the Queen: Element Series (Young Adult Fantasy Romance) @VirginiaVayna

The Hunters and the Queen – Virginia Vayna

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology

Rating – PG

3.8 (4 reviews)

The Hunters and the Queen is a work of fiction in the young adult, fantasy and paranormal romance genres. The story blends elements of romance, darkness, history, fantasy, and reincarnation. The second book in the series, The Gypsy Hunter, has a release date during fall 2013. I hope you enjoy the story. Please come back for more of the journey.~
The main character, Jolán Vajnbirg, is developing into another being. She has a calling from the sky world. A battle is on the horizon.
While working on her studies at the Churchill Military Academy in Kinsburgh, England, Jolán Vajnbirg’s final year at the academy develops into a year of competition, aristocratic love, reincarnation, and a calling from the sky world to help save earth from the death and destruction caused by the Order of the Hunters.
Jolán Vajnbirg is an often reserved, yet occasionally outspoken young woman living in Kinsburgh, England. She has a relatively easy life living in her quiet England town. She has a full-ride swimming scholarship to the Churchill Military Academy. She has a strong mind, she has an athletic body, and she has a loving family and caring friends.
As Jolán embarks upon her final year at the Academy, her life takes an unexpected turn. She has a quaint encounter with Colemund, the Prince of Gallia Belgica, and the two are literally a universal match created centuries ago. As Jolán begins the last year of her studies, she experiences many changes. She is unaware her future love will develop in to a star-crossed romance.
The sky world is steadily preparing Jolán for her future fate. She will need her friends to help her battle the Order of the Hunters. The hunters have upset the universal balance of earth, and the hunters have upset the sky world.
Jolán will learn about her past, she will learn about reincarnation, and she will understand her responsibilities in the realm. Her relationship with Colemund is no ordinary college love.
An Excerpt from The Hunters and the Queen:
The Phoenix
Hadrian immediately placed an angry phone call to Akuji, but this time she answered her phone. Hadrian sharply inquired, ‘Where are you, Akuji? We have a major problem in development.’ Akuji nonchalantly replied, ‘I just transformed a farmer into a hunter, and I’m explaining the rules.’ Hadrian didn’t care about what Akuji was currently doing at the moment; he violently said, ‘Return to Komi. Do not waste time, do not waste resources, but return on the next flight out of England.’ Akuji said, ‘I still have to finish one more assignment. I need to find and follow this girl named Jolán.’ The mere sound of such a name caused Hadrian’s stomach to turn, and his unnerving sensation returned. Hadrian dryly inquired, ‘Who is Jolán?’ As soon as Hadrian spoke Jolán’s name, he felt his insides turn and his stomach ache. Hadrian felt weak. Akuji said, ‘She is some assignment I have to figure out, but I’m not having any success.’ Hadrian gathered as much strength as he could for the moment, and he said to Akuji, ‘Get on the next flight back to Russia. We have heavy issues of concern we need to assess for action.’ At that moment, Akuji heard several voices come through her phone; but she was unsure what happened or where the voices were located. She asked Hadrian, ‘Are you ok?’ All Akuji could hear was the sound of a thousand whispers. Hadrian kept saying, ‘Akuji, are you there? Answer me.’ Hadrian received no response from Akuji. Hadrian finally hung up the phone, but Akuji still heard the voices. She was caught in a trance for several minutes until she received a piercing headache. Akuji quickly left some items behind for the farmer to study, and she walked towards her car. She hustled to the seat of her car. She was en route to the airport; and she was headed back to Komi. Akuji felt something had changed. She felt a sense of urgency.

Christine Locke – How to Avoid the Rejection Blues: A Bad Review Can Be A Good Thing

How to Avoid the Rejection Blues:  A Bad Review Can Be A Good Thing

By Christine Locke

In a recent author interview, I was asked what I think of receiving a bad review.   I did not write the first thing that came to mind.  That would have been, “I hate it! Want to throw my laptop at the wall, cry into my coffee, and throw a tantrum, hate it!”  No, that’s not what I wrote.  Instead, I responded with the first rational thing that came to mind.

A bad review now and then is good for me, I said.  And, if you are a writer, it’s good for you, too.  Why?

First, and we all know this, bad reviews keep you humble.  Sure, they sting.  I’ve seen bestselling authors post links to their bad reviews as they ponder what was said in them and lick the resulting wounds.  But, if you’re willing…

Bad reviews teach you, which is my second point.  No writer learns anything from relatives telling her, “Your book is awesome!”  Not that you need to respond or change your writing to suit those who don’t like it and maybe never will, but there are times when a reviewer has a point.  In those moments, if we are willing, we can take what we read and use it to make our next book a better one.

And, finally, here’s what I wrote in my brief answer to the interviewer’s question: an occasional bad review gives my good reviews credibility.  If you only have five-star reviews, potential readers must wonder if your readers are all family members.  Or, worse, they’ll think you paid for your reviews.  Reviews matter, and readers are savvy about them.  They can tell if it seems like the person writing did not really read your book.

Controversy–disagreement over quality or subject matter– shows true engagement.  Someone cared enough to come back and say your book was a five star read?  Great!  Even better if someone else was passionate enough to come back and give it two.  Controversy might inspire other reviewers to get in on the action with their own two cents.  See?  With no controversy and all favorable reviews, maybe the book really is great, but there have not been enough readers to spark a true discussion.

That’s the most important take-away: we don’t just love reading stories.  We love discussing stories.  In a room full of five-star reviewers, the two-star review is what gets the conversation going.  Otherwise, no one has anything to say about your book.  Discussions—even arguments—are “buzz.”  And that’s why an occasional bad review is a good—even necessary—thing.

Open Door

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Genre – Young Adult

Rating – PG/PG13

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AFN Clarke – How To Approach Writing A Book?

How To Approach Writing A Book?

by AFN Clarke

I’ve seen countless books or articles on “how to write a book in 6 easy steps” and most of the time, though I know they can be useful, they smack of a formula that is antithetical to the creative process and to an author finding their own unique approach to writing.  Every author I have ever spoken to has a completely different way of writing a book. Some write “on the fly”, some plot out the whole story first.

Personally, I have been told my “stream of consciousness” way of writing is the craziest of all but it works for me and so I guess I must be just a little insane!  I never plot out my whole book on paper.  I do have an idea in my mind of the overall story, a primary focus and the major characters who’ll drive the action. But once I start, the story and characters take over and write themselves.  They take on a life of their own as they are, for all intents and purposes, real people and real people react differently to the world depending on their personalities, emotions and life histories. So as their personalities develop so does the story. Often even I am surprised at the twists and turns that appear on the page and yet to me this is a very organic way of writing and mimics our human experience. I can’t force a character to be the way I want them to be – I can only “listen” and “reveal”.

But let’s go back one step, because there’s an important element I missed. Before I write the first word, I have to settle on the title and design the cover.  I can’t write without either – the cover design especially.  Being a very visual person for me the cover is the visual embodiment of the whole book.  It’s like a vessel, the context from which I can then proceed. So for me, page 1 of my book is not the opening line but the cover. Everything flows from there.

My way of writing isn’t easy because I am always holding so much in my mind – every nuance, twist and turn, the whole book as it progresses swims around in my head and weaves together into the unique tapestry that I tap out on my keyboard everyday.  And I’m not easy to live with then, distracted by living more in my “book world” than the “real world”.  So if you’re anything like me then cherish your loved ones, as anyone who puts up with you is rare and precious!

So how does someone new to writing find her/his own unique approach? It sounds corny, but the best advice I can give is – just start!  Do what feels most comfortable to you – describe a scene, start talking as one of your characters or an observer looking back on the story – and see where it takes you.  Then think about what felt good and came easily and what you felt you were forcing.  Learn to check in with your emotions and trust your instincts.

There is no right and wrong way to write. Some authors barely use verbs.  Some use two word sentences, some very long never-ending sentences – it’s what you transmit, what you can evoke in your reader’s imagination and have them experience that’s important in the end. There are many ways to get there.

AFN CLARKE is the son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served in the British Army and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war.  His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humor. He now writes fiction of various genres – thrillers (The Orange Moon Affair and An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas), humor/satire (Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon), horror (Collisions) with more coming soon.  For more information visit, connect on Facebook or Twitter (@AFN Clarke).

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Genre – Autobiography / Biography & Memoir

Rating – 18+

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