Liked It: Witches be Burned by Stacey Kennedy + Giveaway

Series: Magic & Mayhem 2
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Loveswept
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Nexi Jones has lost her family, she’s been stripped of her guardian duties, and she’s still learning the ins and outs of white magic. At least she has Kyden, the smoldering hot elite guardian who’s been there for her every step of the way. But just as Nexi completes her training, tragedy strikes the Otherworld when a fellow guardian is murdered by a group of rogue vampires. Ready or not, she and Kyden trek into the Earthworld to hunt down a killer—and Nexi alone will be put to the ultimate test.

Although Kyden knows that Nexi must fight her own battles, his guardian instincts are raging as he struggles to keep her close. The ruthlessness of these vampires is like nothing he’s ever seen. And at their helm is the Black Witch Astoria, a demon with one burning desire: to shed Nexi’s blood in the name of vengeance. What troubles Kyden even more, though, is the warlock who covets Nexi’s heart. Let the devil do his worst . . . all Kyden can do is love and protect Nexi until his last breath.

It’s been a long 2 year wait for the next Magic & Mayhem novel for us fans, and this reader has almost forgotten some of the details from the previous book, Werewolves Be Damned. I’m thankful Stacey Kennedy added a Reader’s Guide in the beginning to refresh my memory not just of the world, but the characters as well. WITCHES BE BURNED continues the story of Nexi Jones, a halfling witch-guardian, as she grows into her powers and gets more acquainted with the other world; and her romantic relationship with another guardian named, Kyden.
Vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, fae, Magic & Mayhem is a crunchy supernatural salad with a dressing of sexy. WITCHES BE BURNED in essence is a revenge story with Nexi & Co. once again on the defensive side. It took a few mortalities and various disturbances for Nexi to figure out who’s behind the killings. Once the identity of the avenger was revealed, it was Mayhem from there on out!
I didn’t realize how much I missed SKennedy’s paranormal stories! I’ve been knee-deep in her erotic novels that I almost forgot she writes great PNRs too! Stacey, if you’r reading this, I hope you’re not going to make us wait for another 2 years before you release book 3. Not after Nexi’s powers growing once again and this dude Magnus made a grand introduction. Hello love triangle!
WITCHES BE BURNED is a short novel, running at 250+ pages, and packed with action and big chunks of sexy time. Perhaps the novel’s strongest suit is the romance, Kyden’s declaration of love for Nexi had me swooning and hoping he’s my beau:

Case in point, this is why he loved her. The sass, the quick wit, the fire-it all captivated him. She was mentally, emotionally, and stubbornly as strong as him, and he found that thrilling.

Gotta love a strong man who loves a strong woman. Also, SKennedy is expanding the series’ world, enriching the myth, and adding interesting characters, like Magnus the Lord of the Underworld, who clearly has the hots for Nexi. I generally don’t like love triangles but Magnus had me looking forward to this one. Hey Kyden and Nexi! Watch out for the monkey wrench! And yes, you can thank your creator for that one.

STACEY KENNEDY is the USA Today bestselling author of the CLUB SIN series. Growing up, Stacey’s mind wandered the path less traveled and that path most often led to love. She has always broken rules and she continues to feed off emotion – staying true to her heart. Those traits are now the bones of her stories. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, who puts any of the heroes in her books to shame, and their two young children. If she’s not on mom duty or plugging away at a new story, you’ll find Stacey camping in the summer, hibernating in the winter and obsessing over Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones and Outlander.

Follow Stacey
Website | Facebook | @Stacey_Kennedy | Goodreads

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Suped Feature: The Calm After the Storm By Mya O’Malley + Giveaway

The Calm After the Storm
Mya O’Malley

The storm of the century raged through the northeast, causing destruction and despair, millions were left without power and hope. Weeks later, countless people were still devastated by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, Emma Riley among them.
Determined she didn’t need the help of a man, Emma was convinced that she could brave the aftermath of the storm on her own. That is, until Jake came into her life.
After having suffered heartbreak and embarrassment, Jake Mack, a utility foreman, volunteered to travel north from small town, Georgia to assist with the aftermath of the storm. Jake was decidedly done with women. But he didn’t count on meeting Emma or falling in love so quickly. Can he trust this woman or will his past get in the way and ruin the relationship with the one woman he truly loves?
Jake and his crew had now been in the suburbs of New York for a few days. His first thought upon entering this area was his surprise at the devastation. Sure, he had heard about the destruction on the news and had seen footage of the aftermath of Sandy, but it still hadn’t prepared him for the actual sight of Sandy’s rage. Telephone poles were down, trees were snapped in two, and houses were completed destroyed by the storm. Seeing all the destruction only strengthened Jake’s resolve that it had been the right thing to come. He felt proud to be able to help out and be a part of the solution to the horrible aftermath of this disaster.
As the day was wrapping up. Jake and Chris met up with some of their crew in the next town to finish one more area before calling it quits. The chill in the air was something that Jake had prepared for, but was not accustomed to. Clutching the new flannel he had purchased right before his trip, he put it on over his thermal shirt. Thankful for his thermos filled with hot coffee, Jake grabbed it but quickly tossed it aside.
“Come on, Chris! I asked you to stop drinking my coffee. Now there’s none left,” he said as he shook his head, irritated at his friend.
Chris looked up at his boss sheepishly. “Sorry, man. I didn’t sleep well last night. I needed some caffeine.”
“Well, that makes two of us.”
They rode until they approached the utility pole that needed attention. Jake and Chris were among the first to arrive and got busy setting up for the job. Within minutes, the rest of the assigned crew trickled in. The workers were now familiar with the details and routine of this job, so for the most part they worked in silence, focused on getting this last job done so that they could grab some dinner and hit the sheets. It was cold and dark, the night chill settling in upon them. Jake supervised and helped his crew perform their individual duties as quickly as possible. As they were just about wrapping things up, Jake headed over to Steve, one of the older guys directing traffic. He looked frail and tired.
“Hey, Steve. I got this. Why don’t you call it a night, huh? We’ll meet you at the hotel for some dinner.”
“Nah, Jake, we’re almost done here. I’m good,” Steve said as he looked up at Jake with glaring dark circles under his eyes.
“Steve, go. I’m serious. Get in a hot shower and we’ll meet up for dinner. Boss’ orders. Now go and take Andy with you,” Jake gestured toward another man on the crew who looked like he was ready for bed.
Shrugging his shoulders, Steve made his way to one of the smaller utility trucks, calling for his co-worker to join him. Jake took over the responsibility of directing traffic, slowing people down and stopping cars when necessary. Yawning, he waved a small SUV along, noticing that the approaching driver was slowing down, much more than necessary. Jake squinted his eyes to get a better look. The car came to a stop when Jake stepped up to it and its window rolled down. Looking back at Jake was a woman who appeared pretty, even in the diminished light. Wait, scratch that—she was stunning, with long, wavy hair and piercing eyes. His heart faltered just a bit.
“Hi. I wanted to thank you guys for all of the hard work that you’ve been doing. We really appreciate you guys coming up here. I think I speak for everyone,” she said as she smiled widely. Her smile hitched his breath ever so slightly. Jake smiled back. This was certainly a change. Since he had been in this area, some people waved, some people smiled, others remained with their eyes straight ahead, but nobody had yet offered any thanks verbally. So different from the Southern hospitality way of life where he grew up, Jake mused.
Here it was different, the pace of life was much faster. People always seemed to be in a rush, and they minded their own business for the most part. Sure, being so close to the big city must be nice and the landscape was quite beautiful at times, but he didn’t think this lifestyle was something he could ever get used to. It seemed too stressful, too impersonal. He would be glad to be back home when his job was finished.
The woman leaned over and offered Jake a box of donuts, disposable coffee cups, and a box of hot coffee. Jake was impressed.
“Thank you, that was very thoughtful!” Jake gushed, thrilled at the idea of hot coffee. He thought he felt warmth spread across his cheeks despite the chill in the air.
The woman stared back and smiled at Jake for a minute and then set her eyes on the road ahead. She waved as she pulled away.
“Wait!” Jake called out. “Wait, what was your name?” But the words were lost. The mysterious woman with the coffee and donuts was long gone.
“Guys!” he called out as his crew worked on cleaning up for the night. “Guys! Our guardian angel just appeared, and she brought coffee!”

The coffee and donuts were gladly received, but the idea that someone would go out of their way to show a random act of kindness truly touched Jake. He felt the warm liquid slide down his throat and knew that he would always remember the woman’s thoughtfulness. Who was he kidding? That woman’s beautiful face was what he would most remember. He just wished that he had gotten her name.

Hurricane/ Storm Must Haves!

(Aside from essentials)

  • A handful of good books- Romance, mysteries, thrillers. 
  • Plenty of wine- Pinot Noir, Merlot. In case company stops by and to relax at the end of a chilly day.
  • Coffee- Decaf and regular. (Unfortunately, it has to be instant unless a generator is available. 
  • Cell phone charged – For emergencies and just to chat with friends if power is finally restored. 
  • Computer / iPad charged- For music playlists (think: country music) , books, web browsing. 
  • A few “go to” outfits for a night out – It can get a bit boring staying home night after night, some great outfits and a night out are a nice pick-me-up
  • Extra money – Always comes in handy.
  • Candles- Romantic setting, soothing aroma.

Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters. The family also consists of two boxers; Destiny and Dolce and a ragdoll cat named Colby. Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy. She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students.

Mya currently has several releases: At First Sight, a contemporary romance about dating in the modern world, published by Astraea Press, and Where There is Love, a contemporary romance in which a woman struggles with past obstacles, ultimately faced with whether or not she will open her heart to love. Where There is Love is published with Solstice Publishing. Mya is excited to say that Astraea Press recently released her contemporary holiday paranormal romance titled If You Believe. Mya’s first Young Adult book is now available. Miranda’s Choice is a young adult fantasy novel published by Solstice Publishing. Coming soon is The Calm After the Storm, published by TouchPoint Press. This novel is a contemporary romance taking place in the setting of Hurricane Sandy. The story revolves around the idea of a utility worker from Georgia falling in love with a woman in New York.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child. Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters. Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica. Mya is currently working on her sixth novel.

Website | Facebook | @MyaOMalley | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr | tsu

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Fabulous Spring Post + My OWN Giveaway

Spring is here and it’s time for a big giveaway from Laughing Vixen Lounge. 11 shops have come together to create one amazing Prize Pack ($280+) full of Jewelry, Perfume, Clothing, Vintage and much more! Many of the shops offer items perfect for any book lover along with lots of other unique, handcrafted and custom designs.

The Fabulous Spring Giveaway is open worldwide. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack. You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. Please visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge Blog and the Main Giveaway Post HERE to see the full prize list, participating shops and daily features during the giveaway.

Giveaway runs May 4th – 18th. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. See full details HERE.

As a bonus, I got my own giveaway! 
One of these is pre-loved, it’s an ARC so pardon the battle scar, the rest are new. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Liked It: Hunted Warrior by Lindsey Piper + Series 101 & Print Giveaway

Series: Dragon Kings 3
Format: ARC
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Romance

When the head of the Five Clans of the Dragon Kings wants something, he gets it. Raised among the most privileged of his dying race, Malnefoley conceals a devastating tragedy from his youth. Now, many call him the Usurper because of his unconventional rise to power. His influence is waning while the Dragon Kings must solve the puzzle of their slow extinction. So when a particularly important captive escapes his compound in the Greek mountains, Malnefoley leaves nothing to chance. She is his prisoner to retrieve.

The woman is known as the Pet, a former associate of a sadistic doctor from the Asters, a human crime cartel. Her loyalties cannot be trusted, even when she claims to hold the secret to conception—an invaluable secret for a race unable to procreate. Neither can her unique gift from the Great Dragon be believed. She’s a soothsayer, able to see glimpses of the future. Her quest is to find and save a Cage warrior on the verge of her first match—a young woman whose destiny is bound to a timeless prophecy.

Malnefoley has no respect for the ancient superstitions that brought about his childhood trauma. His only goal is to return the Pet to his compound and use her knowledge for the betterment of their people. Yet her restless energy and raw sensuality are as intriguing as her predictions about the rise of the Great Dragon. He dares not trust the crafty fugitive’s loyalties, but as their treacherous chase turns passionate, can he even trust himself?

Hi Lindsey! Congrats on the release of HUNTED WARRIOR! I’m a fan of Dragon Kings, but let’s take this back a little bit for those who are new to the series. What is or are these Dragon Kings (myth, powers, the clans, etc.)?

Hi! Thanks for having me here! 

The Dragon Kings are an ancient race of gifted creatures. Though they were long ago worshipped as gods and are the origins of many human myths, they’ve long fallen into disrepair. They’ve gone nearly sterile and babies are increasingly rare among them. Many voluntarily fight for shady human cartels and gangs for scientific help with fertility. 

I find the world you created really gritty, it’s like like Mad Max, Spartacus, and The Godfather had a baby. Can you expound on the world building aspect of this series?

I love Mad Max, so that’s a huge compliment to me! I took everything as dark as I could, over and over again. In Caged Warrior, Nynn and Leto come to a crux that involved a human guard and Nynn on her knees in front of him. Let’s just say I was convinced that I had gone too far—but my editor trusted the moment! I was really into Spartacus and Game of Thrones when I started designing the Dragon King’s world, so I wanted to make sure I went as deep and dark as I could manage. 

I see that GoT inspo with all the clans in conflict. Is there a series arc? What is the main conflict here?

The series arc is absolutely the Dragon King’s will to survive. There’s something wrong with their race and a prophecy that needs to be fulfilled and fixed before they have a chance of making it. 

And who can resist a prophecy when it comes to fantasy?? Let’s move on to HUNTED WARRIOR, what are we getting ourselves into here? 

Malnefoley is the leader of the Dragon Kings, but the ceremony surrounding his appointment was incomplete and tainted in a way. He’s fighting an uphill battle in trying to get his people to follow him. He’s relentless though, as he tries to figure out how to save his Dragon Kings. He’s driven.

The last thing he needs is the Pet, a broken and strange Dragon King who has lived as an evil human doctor’s slave for years. Now that she’s free, she’s trying to figure out who she is and why she’s haunted by visions of the future that make no sense. 

How are Pet and Mal different from the previous ones? 

Pet is unlike anyone I’ve written before. She’s a little bit off, more than a little quirky, and has lived apart from the world all her life. Mal is a leader in the classic alpha kind of way. He can wear a suit, but he’ll kill anyone who hurts one of his own. 

Blood Warrior was truly fantastic! Is HUNTED WARRIOR sort of a continuation of book 2?

Absolutely! The five clans need their story. 

I see book 3.5, Fire Warrior, already on Goodreads, is there a book 4? 

Oops, actually Fire Warrior is supposed to be taken down. It was an idea I had when I was halfway through HUNTED WARRIOR, before I knew I could actually make it to the finale that I wanted. There’s a lot of characters that I got to draw together for the conclusion, and a lot to make happen. I managed it though, and it turned out amazingly, if I do say so myself. So exciting. 

Ha! You have to add Amazon to that list, Fire Warrior is already up for pre-order with a tentative release date of 12.1.2020!

I’m not sure if the Dragon Kings are going to continue. If I don’t get that chance, I’m happy with how I’ve wrapped things up in HUNTED WARRIOR. If I get to go on, I have more avenues to explore, but I’m happy to know the five clans will be safe otherwise. 

In Twitter fashion, why is HUNTED WARRIOR a must read?

One proud leader wields his power to unlock dark mysteries in the third book in this fierce, sensual new paranormal romance series.

Is this the end? While reading HUNTED WARRIOR by Lindsey Piper, I was kinda hoping for another one. But by book’s end and after our interview, I did get a sense of closure even if I’m not quite ready to say bye-bye. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with this installment as a whole, the prophecy was fulfilled, the clans are reunited under one banner, and the Dragon Kings‘ future is bright and they’re most likely to survive multiple millenia. 
I just didn’t quite connect with Pet and Mal, despite being introduced to them in the previous books. The tension in the beginning was palpable and intriguing. Pet used to be the pet of the bad guy so naturally, Mal is suspicious of her loyalties. What the Dragon Kings don’t know is Pet was tortured and used like the rest of the Kings in captivity. The only difference is Pet is an oracle of sorts, which the evil Dr. Aster thought useful somehow, so Pet’s mistreatment was of the limited variety but still psychologically scarring nonetheless.
The progression of their romantic relationship was quick so there’s an insta-love feel to it. Normally I don’t mind it in fantasy novels, it’s expected because these people have a sixth sense when it comes to identifying their mates. I just failed to be in the moment with these two. One minute they’re second guessing each other, next they’re ripping each other’s clothes off like the world is ending in 5 minutes. I wish there was more verbal sparring that would serve as foreplay, or a series of close calls to heighten the situation before the horizontal action. 
The gravy boat was served in the last third of HUNTED WARRIOR. So many delicious revelations tying all the books together with lots of appearances by previous MC’s and secondary characters . The climax was well written, it was a constant hard thump-thump of events that led to the realization of Pet’s prophecy, and an actual sighting of The Dragon. This is a big deal for series followers, the title of the series is DRAGON Kings after all, it’s only natural to expect reptilian sightings. And though LPiper’s version is different from the norm, at least her dragon finally made an appearance. It’s majestic and worth the hype, I just wish the story doesn’t end here. Now that the Dragon Kings‘ deliverance is here, I’d like to see how their proverbial HEA (as a people) plays out. 

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Since 2008, two-time RITA-nominated and multiple RT Reviewers’ Choice-winning author Carrie Lofty has over thirty books to her name—or four names, to be precise. Currently with Pocket, her historical romances have been described as “nuanced and superbly realized” (The Chicago Tribune), while her “Dragon Kings” paranormal series, written as Lindsey Piper, is “sexy, brutal and somehow innocent” (All About Romance).

During her junior year abroad, she lured an unsuspecting Englishman to the Midwest, where she’s kept him a happy ex-pat for seventeen years. With two pre-teen daughters and a master’s degree specializing in Old West outlaws, she’s a movie buff, a former ballroom and bellydancer, a connoisseur of music, and a woman in desperate need of a maid service.
Carrie’s 2015 titles include Hunted Warrior, the stunning conclusion to the Dragon Kings Trilogy. In addition, her co-written Katie Porter series “Command Force Alpha” began with Own, and continued with Snap and Bind.

Follow Lindsey
Website | Facebook | @CarrieLofty | Tumblr | Goodreads

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Real Love Stories + Giveaway: Let Me Love You Again by Anna DeSteano

Anna DeStefano
Montlake Romance
April 28, 2015
Contemporary Romance

Selena Rosenthal left behind her high school sweetheart, who was the love of her life, seven years ago.

Now, she and the once-rebellious Oliver Bowman are back in Chandlerville—after his foster father’s heart attack and Selena’s contentious divorce—to deal with her secrets, the recklessness that caused their breakup, and the almost-strangers they’ve become to each other and their families.

As soon as his father is stronger, Oliver must return to the successful career that helps support a new generation of foster kids. But he’s falling for Selena again, her daughter has a hold on his heart, and he can’t imagine leaving behind his brothers and sisters once again.

More attached by the day to their charming hometown and families, Selena and Oliver fall in love for the second time.

Has fate brought Chandlerville’s prodigal children together again…this time forever?

We got a treat today because Anna’s here to talk about a real life love story. Read up & go *awwww* with me as she shares how she met and fell in love with her hubby of 24 years.

I HEART having the chance to talk about what romance has meant to my life. Romance is so personal to me. It’s not always a fantasy or love at first site or something you know is happening when it’s happening. But for me, it’s always been a very real, very magical thing—in my life and in my books ;o)

I’m very lucky to still be with my husband of 24 years—which means we’ve known each other for going on 30. And, yes, since I met him when I was 18, that makes me O.L.D. I could talk about countless “storybook” romantic moments in our lives together. But did they all feel perfect when they were happening. Um…no. At least, not from the very start.

Because like many of the stories I write, including Let Me Love You Again, some of the best moments in my husband’s and my relationship have been when we cared for each other through something difficult. Something that once we were on the other side of it taught us that this was an amazing person I needed more of in my life.

So… Let’s take a peak at my “cliché” romance checklist:


This one is easy. I met my hunk of burning Italian love when our eyes met across a crowded room (at a fraternity party my daddy told me not to go to). Another guy wouldn’t take the hint and stop hitting on me, and my now husband strolled over and rescued me. Before I knew it, we’d talked all night. And then I’d taken him home at Thanksgiving to meet my daddy. And then…

By the way, a lot of what I just described has made its way, I’ve just realized, into the first meeting of my hero and heroine in His Darling Bride (Echoes of the Heart Book 3, which won’t be out until next year). Minus the frat party, but the rest… Hmmmm. Maybe I should let my husband know?


Except it was also an epic fail for most of the date. Right up until the surprise ending!

My husband (a New Yorker) learned I’d never seen a Broadway play, and he bought tickets for us to see CATS at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta. Off we went, all dressed up and walking the few blocks from our college campus to the Fox. Holding hands on a warm Fall afternoon, we were in for a magical night… Except somewhere along the way the tickets disappeared along with his wallet, neither to be seen again.

We had to walk all the way back to his place, bummed and him steaming mad at himself and eventually me. Because he was so sure I’d never want to have anything to do with him again. So our first date turned into the warming rumbles of our first fight—until I realized why he was being such a jerk. At which point I let him have it. A kiss that is, as I told him that I wanted to go out with him, period. Whatever we ended up doing.

The play would have been nice, and I was sorry for the money he’d lost (not to mention the things in his wallet). But did he really not know how into him I was, and how amazing he already was to me? The wonder on his face, the magic of that kiss… I’m pretty sure our hearts connected honestly that night, for real, for the very first time.


We’ve had so may. I LIVE for those kinds of moments, looking back at my own love story and at the ones I’ve created for characters in books. The ones when people face conflict or challenge or hard choices together and just know, as a result of how they get through it, that they’ve met a good person whom they want in their lives forever. Not just a hunk or a perfect goddess or a sexy love connection, but also someone they can depend on to be there when they need someone the most.

One of my husband’s and my “for sure” moments was the time when we were still in college, and we were having lunch with my roommate. She was on full scholarship and financial aide, and her checks weren’t there on time. If she didn’t pay her tuition and fees that day, she was going to lose her next semester’s schedule and her housing. And she didn’t have the money. She was in tears, frantic. And this was a girl my husband barely knew.

But what did my hero do? He whipped out his checkbook for the account his parents kept for him and wrote her a check for pretty much all the money he had to live on for the next four months or so. When she said she couldn’t take it, my guy told her he trusted her to pay him back whenever her aid and scholarship money came in. She burst into tears with relief, and so did I. He very nearly did, too.

Did he do it to impress me? Maybe a little, he later confided. But he’s also the kind of guy who can’t watch someone else suffering, and not do whatever he can to help. I realized it that day. He’s proven it to me time and again through our lives together. I’d found someone I could depend on, despite the cost and risk to himself, to put whatever he had to on the line for someone he loved—and someone he barely knew.

Did I find myself a real life hero, or what?!

You definitely did! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story with us, Anna!

Anna DeStefano is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Mimosa Lane novels and the Atlanta Heroes series. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she’s lived in the South her entire life. Her background as a care provider and adult educator in the world of crisis and grief recovery lends itself to the deeper psychological themes of every story she writes. A wife and mother, she currently writes in a charming northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, not all that different from her characters’ beloved Chandlerville. She is also a workshop and keynote speaker, a writing coach, and a freelance editor.

Website | Blog | Facebook | @AnnaDeStefano Goodreads | Pinterest | Newsletter

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A Shot of YA: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone + Print Giveaway

Series: Stand-alone(?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Genre: MYA-Contemporary Romance

What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It’s kinda hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn’t anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.
So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. [Trevor]

Oh my heart! Juliana Stone, why do you always give it such a firm but gentle squeeze?? You guys! SOME KIND OF NORMAL is my first Summer-ish read and it. Was. Wonderful! In case you didn’t notice the 5-cauldron rating. And if you haven’t tried Juliana Stone’s contemporary romances (there’s a couple of FREEBIES on Amazon), I suggest you do! Her stories are always relatable, realistic, and heartfelt, you’ll come back for more to get the feels! 
So I don’t know if SOME KIND OF NORMAL is part of a series or what. A sequel was mentioned in the end of Boys Like You, and Trevor was first introduced there… That said, this novel can be read as stand-alone, although I suggest you still read both… for the feels! Anyway, Trevor had it rough. He just came out of a coma after getting into an drunk driving accident and now things are sorta, kinda, normal with a few kinks that requires a lot of adjustment, positivity, and resilience from our young leading man. 
Trevor Lewis’ struggle was very believable to me. I appreciated that he wasn’t angry all the time, he didn’t dwell on the things he used to have, things he used to and can’t do anymore because of the after effects of his accident. I find it normal for him to be frustrated at times, but almost losing his life gave him some perspective, and helped him understand the difference between concern and control. Trevor’s a good guy overall, I expected him to pull the “victim” card but instead he surprised me by still maintaining a good vibes attitude. Suffice to say that Trevor wasn’t in a dark place that he failed to spot Everly’s need for friendship and empathy.
Everly (I love her name!) Jenkins was the pastor’s daughter and everyone put her in this “perfect box”. What people don’t know is her “perfect” family is going through a rough patch. For once, I love a young adult heroine who didn’t make every stupid thing about her! Anyway, Everly’s issue is about her parents’ crumbling marriage and I was astounded with how matured she handled the situation. I think it’s expected that Everly had her moments. After all, she’s only 17 and is forced to share the burden of her parent’s issues. But on those tense confrontational moments, Everly was very mature and even wise for her years. And amidst all of her personal problems, Everly still found it in her to extend the same empathy Trevor gave her in the beginning. And fixing each other is exactly what they did. 
I had a personal connection with SOME KIND OF NORMAL, this story hit so close to home, it set me in a melancholic/contemplatative mood after reading it. These kids are dealt sour lemons and I love how they turned it into a sweet and tangy lemonade. There was just one part that I felt was unneccessary, I don’t think the dirty laundry here should’ve been aired in that manner. But for the sake of dramatic tension, I’ll give it a pass. Fans of Katie McGarry will totally get into this series, it’s not as angsty as Pushing The Limits, but just as hard hitting. I just love this (series) so much I hope there’s another on the way!

Talk Supe

Loved It: Do Not Disturb by A.R. Torre + Giveaway

Series: Deanna Madden 2
Format: eGalley
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Red Hook
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Erotic Suspense

Equal parts Dexter and 50 Shades, this is the eagerly awaited follow-up to the daring erotic thriller, The Girl in 6E, by A.R. Torre.

1. Don’t leave the apartment.
2. Never let anyone in.
3. Don’t kill anyone.

The rules were simple and I broke them.
Now I must face the consequences.
Everyone else must face me.

Captivating and disturbing. That’s what  Alessandra Torre, aka A.R. Torre’s, books are to me in a nutshell. Torre likes to write about the darkest nature of man while simultaneously turning it into a twisted love story. The Girl in 6E was my first tango with Torre’s work, and it surely left a strong impression on me, so much so that she got herself on my must-read list. It’s been a couple of years since Deanna Madden and I met, it took a while for the sequel to be written, and now that it’s here, it sure proved to be worth the wait.
Just to give you a brief history, Deanna Madden is one complicated, psychotic, and definitely fascinating chick. Traumatized by a heinous tragedy several years ago, Deanna developed agoraphobia along with strong urges to kill, coupled with exhibitionism. For three years, Deanna closed herself off to the world, locked herself inside apartment 6E. She makes money off live camera shows as Jess Reilly, college student, fulfilling every man’s sexual fantasy virtually for $7/mins. Her meals and other provisions delivered to her doorstep, totally closing herself off. At night, Deanna locks herself in, a preventative measure to keep her demons at bay lest she goes on a killing spree. Things changed when she met and fell in love with the UPS delivery guy, Jeremy. Now Deanna is slowly trying to be part of society albeit with much anxiety, thanks to Jeremy though, things feels somewhat easier and her hope for normalcy is within the horizon. 
DO NOT DISTURB is Deanna’s attempt at being normal which is an admirable feat considering she’s constantly battling her urges to kill for pleasure. Every encounter with a stranger, Deanna fantasizes on how delightful it would be to take that person’s life. It’s creepy, I know, yet I can’t help but be captivated by her struggle and the measures she goes through just to keep herself in check.
Then the monster met another monster. Enter Marcus, fresh off the prison for rape, assaulty, and other charges. Like most men, Marcus met Jess through the internet, had a private viewing/chat session with her, liked what he saw, got addicted, came back for more. But in Marcus’ case, it turned into an obssession. As soon as his house arrest was up, Marcus came hunting for Jess/Deanna. Stopping at nothing til he meets his fantasy girl face to face, Marcus left a trail of assault and battery cases just to get to his prize. Underestimating Jess, aka Deanna’s, seemingly harmless attitude, Marcus sought her out not knowing that the girl he planned to be his ultimate sex slave is an even bigger monster than he is. I loved how the hunter eventually became the prey here. *smh chuckles*
DO NOT DISTURB could easily be a 20/20 story. Dark, very depraved, and a great depiction of man’s basest instincts. The plot is very character driven, the story chopped in over a hundred straightforward chapter, the POV split between Deanna and Marcus with interludes from other characters. Torre really fleshed out the Marcus and Deanna’s circumstances and how quickly their roles reversed as Deanna found the perfect reason to let loose her demons on Marcus, justifying such trocious acts, and satisfying her dark side. There’s also a lot of contrasting themes here; the innocence of Deanna & Jeremy’s budding romance versus the deviant nature of Deanna’s job; how Deanna would bare her most intimate parts to strangers, fulfilling their darkest  fantasy when she hasn’t been intimate with anybody; how she’s so popular in her circle but very isolated in real life.
While Deanna Madden isn’t for everybody, it is, in a sense, a great palate cleanser for me. It’s thrilling but not in the erotic sense, more like horrifying if you ask me. It’s unfiltered and designed to push the boundaries and make the reader uncomfortable. I had odd reactions to the scenes, I was disturbed but very curious as to how Deanna Madden is going to resolve the complexities of her life.
DO NOT DISTURB packed a furious punch and I can’t wait to read what’s next for Deanna and Jeremy!

A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Alessandra Torre has written nine novels, four of which became #1 Erotic Bestsellers.

Her first book, Blindfolded Innocence, became a breakout hit, rising to the top of the charts on Kindle and Amazon where it attracted the interest of major publishing houses and garnered Torre her first print deal with Harlequin HQN. Less than twelve months later, Torre signed a second print deal, this time with Redhook (Hachette) for her erotic thriller The Girl in 6E.

From her home near the warm waters of the Emerald Coast in Florida, she devotes several hours each day to various writing projects and interacting with her fans on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Happily married and with one son, she loves watching SEC football games, horseback riding, reading and watching movies.

Website | Facebook | @ReadAlessandra
Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon Page

Suped Feature: Death Wish by Megan Tayte + YA Tropes & Giveaway

Death Wish
Ceruleans 1
Megan Tayte
YA Fantasy
Heaven Afire
February 7, 2015
Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.
Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to the isolated cove of Twycombe, Devon, with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.
As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.
What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.
To believe the impossible.
Waves everywhere, swirling, surging, seething – a raging melange of foam and salt and inky water biting at me, pulling at me, thrusting upon me a solitary invitation:
As I fought to remain on the flimsy polystyrene surfboard that seemed more bucking bronco than wave rider, I thought: That’s how easy it is – you just let go. Just release the grip on this world that in recent months had seemed so much an effort, and sink into the blue, beneath the waves, where chaos and fury turned to quiet and calm. Like she did.
Was drowning as they claim? I wondered. The easiest way to die – peaceful? How would it feel to give up all the dragging myself through the day, all the struggle to evade the aching void inside? A relief?
Another wave rose me up and slammed me down with breathtaking power. Its force stirred me. You could say a lot of things about Scarlett Blake – she’s a loner, she’s a wallflower, she’s a menace in the kitchen – but no way was ‘she’s a quitter’ on the list of character flaws.
‘Screw you!’ I shouted through the spray.
Funny, sounded like someone shouted back. But who else would be out in this tumultuous sea at six a.m. on a summer’s morning? Solitude was the entire point of hauling myself out of bed in the still-dark and picking my way down the cliff path to the beach just in time to see the horizon light up with the first burnt-orange glow of the rising sun. No one to see me make a damn fool of myself on my first surfing attempt.
‘Trying… yourself killed?’
Definitely a voice. Male. Angry.
Scanning the surroundings for the source proved difficult while lying stomach-to-board. On an upward surge I got a glimpse of the Devonshire cliffs that fringed the cove, all dark, jutting rocks topped by bushes of gorse, and then a flash of the beach. On a downward plummet there was nothing but eye-burning, throat-choking seawater.
‘Forward… next wave!’
The voice was closer now. There was an edge to it beyond the anger. Something raw.
My eyes picked out a black form between the waves. Someone on a surfboard, paddling it expertly seaward. I took one hand off the board to push sticky tendrils of hair from my eyes. Rookie mistake. Turned out holding on one-handed was impossible. The board shot upwards, out of my feeble grip, and then it was just me and Old Man Sea.
Kicking frantically, I tried to keep my head above the surface, but the waves were burying me, one after the other, only a second or two to come up for air before the next one hit. Far away now were thoughts of letting go – I was fighting furiously for life. Never in my seventeen years had I been so desperate. But my legs were tingling with effort, and I knew it was just a matter of time.
When the final wave broke me all I could think was, Sienna. With her name on my lips I inhaled a lungful of water and I sank…
… for all of a second before something grabbed the back of my t-shirt and hauled me upward. Coughing and spluttering, I emerged from the blue and was pulled roughly onto a board, my leg shoved over so that I straddled it. I had the fleeting thought that this board was much sleeker and more substantial looking than the one I’d just lost before my rescuer settled pretty much on top of me and started paddling toward the shore.
With him in command, we crested waves and glided down the other side with apparent ease, though I seemed unable to match the rhythm of our motion and kept taking in great gulps of brine. Over the sound of the waves and the wind and the splash of powerful arms cutting into the water to propel us along, I picked out low, irate grumblings.
‘… idiot tourists… total waste of… all we need… another bloody drama…’
Finally, we reached the shallow waters and he slid off the board and pulled me off to walk to the beach. But my legs didn’t seem willing to respond to basic instructions like ‘walk’ or even ‘stand’ and breathing between wrenching gasps had become a challenge, so he threw an arm around me and half-carried, half-walked me, dragging his board with his spare hand.
Ten steps up the beach he let me down onto the sand.
‘Head down,’ he commanded. ‘Between your legs. Cough it out.’
I did as I was told. Liquid spilled out of me with each retching cough, and the cool air I gulped in burned my throat. I fought the panic, I fought the pain, focusing instead on the shells and stones strewn around. Finally, breathing won out.
‘You okay?’
I was reluctant to look up. For starters, I knew I must look a mess – long hair plastered to my head rat-tail style, face flushed and salt-burned, eyes teary and bloodshot. And then there was the fact that this guy, whoever he was, had just saved my life, and was evidently pretty mad about having had to do so.
‘Hey, you okay?’
I lifted my head slowly. Took in broad thighs clad in black neoprene; hands reaching out, palms raised; a wide, muscular chest; a striking face – rugged, square jaw, full lips, ruddy cheeks, Grecian nose bearing a thin scar across the bridge, thick black lashes framing eyes… oh, his eyes.
I opened my mouth, tried to speak, but I was paralysed by his gaze. All at once I was home in the cottage, tucked up beneath the blue patchwork quilt of my childhood; I was watching my grandmother remove vanilla-scented fairy cakes from her powder-blue Aga; I was running through a meadow of sky-blue forget-me-nots with my sister – free, exhilarated, happy. The memories took my breath away. I felt the familiar burn in my tear ducts.
His eyebrows pulled together and he placed a hand on my trembling knee.
‘Are. You. Okay?’ he said with exaggerated care, as if he were speaking to an elderly lady having a turn at a bus stop.
I blinked, cleared my throat and managed a husky, ‘Yes. Th-thank you.’
Concern melted into exasperation.
‘What’s the deal,’ he demanded, ‘out there on your own, clearly no idea what you’re doing, children’s play surfboard… you got a death wish or something?’
I cringed. I’d known the board was short, but I’d thought it was me-sized – at five foot three, what use was some enormous board?
‘I’m sorry.’
‘You would’ve been sorry if I hadn’t seen you.’
‘I just wanted to get a feel for it. I didn’t realise it was so rough out there.’
‘Rough? That’s not rough. Not even optimum surfing weather. Piece of cake for someone who actually knows how to surf…’
He paused when he saw a tear escape my eye and roll traitorously down my cheek. Furrowed his brow, combed his fingers roughly through dark hair that was drying fast in the breeze.
‘Listen, I didn’t mean to…’
I brushed the tear away furiously. Enough with the vulnerability.
‘Right, well, thank you…’
‘Luke. My name’s Luke.’ The stress lines in his face smoothed out and his lips curved. Like this, smiling and relaxed, his scrutiny was a touch less unsettling. ‘And you are…?’
‘Thank you, Luke, for your, um, help, but I’m sure you’ve better things to do, so I’ll just be…’
Before he could protest, I launched myself to my feet. He instinctively rose with me, and my water-fogged mind registered belatedly that my rescuer was a giant of a guy – my head was at the level of his chest. As I looked up to take in his stature I staggered slightly and he reached out to right me, but I stepped backwards. I didn’t need his kindness.
He looked awkward, unsure of himself, as he towered over me. ‘Hey, will you be okay?’
‘Yes, yes, I’m fine. I’ll just head home.’
‘You live close?’
I pointed vaguely west. ‘Yes, not far.’
‘Up there?’ He looked puzzled, and then interest sparked in his eyes. ‘You mean the Blake place?’
Busted. Of course being vague was pointless. My grandparents’ ramshackle cottage on the western cliff was the only building up there.
I made a noncommittal mnnnhnnn noise, but Luke was not to be deterred.
‘But that place has been empty since…’
He was looking at me now with such scrutiny that I took a further step back. I saw the cogs turning in his mind as he took in the classic green Blake eyes and then compared her – short, spiky red hair, eternally crimson lips, tall and impossibly slender – with me – petite and curvy, hair more blond than auburn reaching to the base of my spine and a pallor worthy of a vampire. His eyes widened.
‘Scarlett? Scarlett Blake!’

There was shock in his tone, and then sympathy.

Only 99pennies y’all!
Dealing with YA tropes
by Megan Tayte

Any author has to find a balance between writing the book that s/he wants, needs, to write and writing a book that readers hopefully want to read.

“What?” I hear some fellow authors cry. “You admit to considering marketability in your writing? You don’t just write for yourself, whatever strikes your fancy, and then expect readers to jump on board?”

I hold my hands up: I do think carefully about the market. About the young adult genre, and its tropes. About what readers expect when they pick up a young adult novel. And I don’t think that’s to the detriment to my craft. I think it gives me a framework within which to work, and a means by which to build a relationship with readers.

I’ve been reading young adult fiction since the dawn of the genre, and in recent years I’ve worked on plenty of titles in my job as an editor and ghostwriter. So I’m well familiar with the tropes and the discussions that spring up around them. Fascinating discussions which I wholeheartedly welcome, because we should keep thinking about the young adult genre and challenging its authors, so that the genre continues to innovate and inspire and grow.

Here’s one argument: Tropes are clichéd. Tropes are unoriginal. Tropes are stifling. Ditch ’em all and write new, new, new.

(Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry, I have to insert my thought bubble here)

And in the opposing camp: Tropes are essential to the genre: they’re its backbone. All young adult literature must include several and stay true to their interpretations.

Personally, I sit in the middle.

In my own writing, I bring in several tropes that will be recognisable to readers. For example, in The Ceruleans the heroine, Scarlett, is seventeen and summering alone in her grandparents’ cottage: lots of freedom with no interfering parents about. Familiar? Yes. Unrealistic? No. In fact it’s authentic because it’s based on my own summer between school and university, when I lived independently – and those three months were the making of me.

Beyond the tropes I happily embrace there are those I challenge. The biggest one is the heroine’s reaction to discovering the existence of a supernatural world and her place in it. Readers are familiar with this journey: There’s something odd going on > Holy cow, xxx exist! > I’m ‘special’ too/want to be one of them/am in love with one of them > I’m transformed and so happy in my supe skin. In The Ceruleans, Scarlett reacts differently. She’s sucked into a life where she’s supposed to be ‘special’ and delighted by it, but truth be told, she’s not. She’d really rather just have a simple life as a human – she doesn’t cope well with the responsibilities and limitations of being other than human. And as for who she falls in love with… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story, but certainly the kind of strength she most values in a guy isn’t of the supernatural sort.

For me, writing in a genre comes down to following the maxim ‘the same, only different’. By ‘the same’ I don’t mean copying other authors; I mean following enough of the conventions of the genre so that my books belong within it. And as for ‘different’ – well, that’s what makes the books worth reading, what makes them memorable, what makes a difference to readers.

Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess fireman. ‘Write, Megan,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.

Thirty-odd years later, Megan writes the kinds of books she loves to read: young-adult paranormal romance fiction. Young adult, because it’s the time of life that most embodies freedom and discovery and first love. Paranormal, because she’s always believed that there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. And romance, because she’s a misty-eyed dreamer who lives for those ‘life is so breathtakingly beautiful’ moments.

Megan grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in Robin Hood’s county, Nottingham. She lives with her husband, a proud Scot who occasionally kicks back in a kilt; her son, a budding artist with the soul of a paleontologist; and her baby daughter, a keen pan-and-spoon drummer who sings in her sleep. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, reading by the fire, or creating carnage in the kitchen as she pursues her impossible dream: of baking something edible.

Follow Megan
Website | Facebook | @megantayte | Goodreads | Pinterest

Steampunk Sundays: Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris + Ministry Updates & Giveaway

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 4
Format: eGalley
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Steampunk

For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment…

Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself.

Once again the incredible team-up of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morriss wrote another unbelievably exciting and action packed novel. Whoever these two’s muses are, I thank them from the bottom of my clockwork heart! Just when I thought I’ve seen what Books & Braun can do, DIAMOND CONSPIRACY blows whatever expectations I have.
  1. Books & Braun: From the beginning, you know that Eliza Doolittle Braun and Wellington Thornhill Books are going to pair up soon. Behind the snarky banter and seemingly opposite qualities and interests, lies a strong attraction and admiration for the other. Seeing them now as partners in every way gave me the feels! No smut here, but the never ending flirtations and constant groping these two are doing while in each other’s company is enough to give me a good read on how deep their passion is. I mean, going through the Kama Sutra? Whew! Eliza on several occasions mentioned how awesome Books is in bed, and there’s nothing hotter IMO than a sexy geek.
  2. Phantom Protocol:  It’s here, in DIAMOND CONSPIRACY, where the brouhaha over the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, the department has come to a head. Queen Victoria has ordered a hit on Doctor Basil Sound and his crew but the agents aren’t going down easy. Sound’s agents might’ve gone rogue, but even if the Empire has turned on them, they remain loyal to Queen Vic, still trying to keep their monarch safe even if it means protecting her from herself.
  3. The Archives: If you’re following the series, you’ve probably wondered what’s in The Archives? It’s off limits to everyone, including Books and Braun, and Doctor Sound is always sneaking off to this forbidden room. Well, now you’ll know just exactly what’s inside The Archives and it’s a jaw dropping surprise.
  4. Bruce Campbell: is an anti-hero in the beginning of the series. I didn’t exactly hate him, I simply disliked him. However, Bruce turned me on my head here. Just when I thought he’d betray the Ministry once again, Bruce did the exact opposite and finally redeemed himself. Who can ever resist a good badboy redemption? I hope Pip and Tee does write that spin-off featuring Bruce.
  5. Icons: Aside from Queen Victoria, expect to cross paths with H.G. Wells and Dr. Henry Jekyll among others. Their roles in this series perfectly blended with the world.
If you’re not reading the series, I know this review is cryptic. Know this though, it doesn’t matter if you read Steampunk or not. The bottom line is if you like well-written adventures that features wonderfully fleshed out characters and carefully plotted arcs, conflicts, and resolutions, I urge you to try The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. The world building, though detailed, is wondrous and the dialogue snappy and funny. This series is very character driven so you won’t be encumbered by long narratives and descriptions that tend to weigh a fantasy novel down.
Bloggy Friends’ Reviews
Braine (B): Hi Pip & Tee! Welcome to Talk Supe and thanks for squeezing this Q&A in the middle of your New Zealand vacay! Much appreciated. Shelley’s here to help me pick your brains, let’s get this started!

Shelley (S): Welcome guys! So, what book(s) are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?

TEE: Reading has become something of a luxury for me as I’m working on two works-in-progress presently, three if you count the next title with Pip. Add to that The Diamond Conspiracy release (which included the shooting and producing of a book trailer), the development and writing of a social media guide for writers, my dance card is full. That doesn’t mean I’m not keeping an eye on books to read. I’ve yet to read Ready Player One, a book that comes highly recommended to me, especially with my rekindled interest in gaming.

PIP: The last time I had time to read, which was January, I finally got around to reading The Martian. I usually don’t read much science fiction, preferring fantasy, but I picked this book up on the way to the airport. Soon enough I was invested in one man’s struggle to survive on Mars. I don’t think I have ever cared so much about potatoes in my life!

S: LOL What’s up next for you after The Diamond Conspiracy?

TEE: We also have a book called Social Media for Writers, coming in the fall from Writers Digest. This is where we put in writing all the strategies and tactics Pip and I have culminated over the years. For myself, I’m working on an urban fantasy I would best described as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hannibal, and a space opera inspired by the video game Destiny. There are other ideas I am kicking around but these are my current priorities.

B: You’ve pretty much covered a few bases with those, Tee! How many more books are you planning to write for the series and do you know how it’s going to end?

TEE: Pip and I know that we have two more stories to tell with Wellington and Eliza. We’ve already started the fifth book in the series and it’s coming along swimmingly. We also know how Wellington and Eliza’s story will end. There are more surprises to come, rest assured.

PIP: We love writing in this world, and we have already talked about more books beyond Wellington and Eliza. So don’t be surprised if there are books centering around Sophia del Morte, and the dynamic duo of Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell.

B: That’s great and exciting news. I fully support the Sophia book/series, I love her! And I never though I’d end up liking Bruce Campbell so I wouldn’t mind reading more stuff featuring him. 

Co-writing a book has always been fascinating to me. Can you share a behind-the-scenes anecdote or factoid about The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and/or its characters?

TEE: The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, or at least Books’ and Braun’s part of the universe was spawned from a work-in-progress that I never finished. Book and Braun were originally intended to be a prequel that would have led to the release of this solo novel of mine…and that never happened.

PIP: The whole series actually began as a podcast-for-pay idea of mine. I thought if I could get Tee to help me write it, then I wouldn’t have to do all the work! The podcast-for-pay thing has also never arrived.

B: Ha! Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad it ended up the way it did. The world would be missing out on a LOT if Books & Braun weren’t here with us. If you can meet a real person of the Realm during the Victorian era, who would it be and what’s the first question you’ll ask him/her?

TEE: While you might guess H.G. Wells for me, I would really like to sit down and talk with Charles Babbage. His ideas for the analytical engine were incredible for the time. My first question: “So you made the difference engine, but why did you stop? Why not try to make your analytical engine?”

PIP: I would love to meet Kate Sheppard, the preeminent suffragette from New Zealand. She was quite the character and quite formidable. I am not sure what she would make of me, but I’d take my chances.

B: Kate is a great choice, Pip. I wouldn’t mind meeting her too. Your description of her is very, very curious.

S: Why Steampunk? Have you ever wanted to write dystopian, or contemporary, or another genre?

TEE: I have wanted to write a steampunk adventure ever since I saw the photography of J.R. Blackwell. She and her husband Jared Axelrod were my gateway into the genre. I’m attracted by the style, the feel, and the overall wonder of the genre. As mentioned earlier, I am exploring other genres (and I have been published in epic fantasy and mystery) but I do love steampunk.

PIP: I adore history, and steampunk gives me the freedom to play around with history and the people in it. It also allows me to look through lots of old photographs – my favorite activity while researching.

B: Steampunk, for me, is the greatest combo of history and fantasy. Where and how else can you turn Queen Vic into an automaton or something? 

Like I mentioned above, co-writing a novel is such a curious concept for me. For two people to come together with the same vision must be both blissful and challenging. What’s the best and worst part of writing a book together?

TEE: The creative process is always the best part of writing together. Pip and I have a blast. The downside? Editing. Sometimes it feels like we butt heads hardest in this part. 

PIP: I love brainstorming with someone else. I feel like it takes the plot to new and amazing places. The worst is probably when we argue about plot or character…which had happened maybe four times while writing four books. I don’t think that is too bad!!

S: If you weren’t a writer, what job would you love to try out?

TEE: I would love to know a lot more about computer programming. In particular, game design. When you play some of the games out there, it’s amazing what worlds and experiences are created there.

PIP: I’ve always been involved in different aspects of working with books; librarian, bookseller, writer, so I’d like to try something else. Maybe book binder or travel writer…

Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. In 2005 Tee took MOREVI into the then-unknown podosphere, making his novel the first book podcast in its entirety. That experience led to the founding of and collaborating with Evo Terra and Chuck Tomasi on Podcasting for Dummies and its follow-up, Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.

In 2011, Tee returned to his first love—fiction—with the steampunk romp Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, co-authored with Philippa Ballantine. This debut novel from Harper Voyager won the 2011 Airship Award for Best Steampunk Literature. Now the series includes The Janus Affair (Harper Voyager), Dawn’s Early Light (Ace Books), and the Ministry Protocol anthology (Imagine That! Studios). Find out more at

When he is not writing, Tee enjoys life in Virginia alongside Philippa Ballantine, his daughter, and three cats.

Follow Tee
Website | @TeeMonster | Facebook | Goodreads

Pip Ballantine is a New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

Follow Pip
Website | @PhilippaJane | Facebook | Goodreads

Book 101 + Int’l Giveaway: Beware the Sheep by M. Lewis-Lerman

M. Lewis-Lerman
Opta Ardua
March 11, 2015
Enter the world of Eaux: it’s a land of flying Arks and Jarred Flummox, of underground societies and evil underlings. Individuality wins over conformity here, originality over sameness.
But when illness strikes and a maniacal underground ruler threatens to destroy all that is ‘different’, 16 year old Livi Dixon must lead a group of unlikely allies — not because of her bravery or abilities — but out of necessity and fear.
With the hope of a cure, Livi makes a reckless gamble that just may save her best friend’s life — but at what cost?
With her new friends (a strange and sundry group of outsiders including a handsome escaped prisoner and a kind but secretive old man), Livi sets off on a race against time, looking deep within herself in order to defeat a faceless enemy and (just maybe) manage to save her best friend in the process.
Livi’s strength is tested, her character revealed, as an attempt to save one life turns into a quest to protect thousands. But is she enough to stop the shapeless evil sinking its teeth into the ones she loves? And in the end, will it even matter?

BEWARE THE SHEEP… such an interesting title right? So I thought I’d ask M. Lewis to break it down for us in 5 beats. 

  • The characters in BEWARE THE SHEEP exist in the world of Eaux (pronounced Oh!). It’s not medieval, nor is it modern-day, and while magic isn’t an every-day occurrence in Eaux, it’s not strictly bound to fairytales and story-books either. A lot of the myth and magic in BEWARE THE SHEEP was inspired by the philosophical concept of Cartesian Dualism which — when boiled down — is the idea that the mind exists entirely separately.

    So what happens when you wake up one day and you find out that your mind and body aren’t quite as connected as you thought they were? Pick up a copy and find out 😉

  • The protagonist in Beware is Livi Dixon. She’s 16 and ferociously independent, but thoughtful too. She’s a devoted friend, brave, and a fast (though frequently clumsy) learner.

    And as for the villain… All around Livi and her friends are signs of a failing infrastructure with corruption seeping in at every corner. At the center of the turmoil is the Shepherd — a legendary unground figure, steeped in mystery. There is no clear understanding exactly how the Shepherd is linked to the corruption in Eaux, but Livi and her friends intend to find out.

  • BEWARE THE SHEEP is about a girl’s quest to save her best friend from a terrible illness. As the story unfolds, however, the fight to save one life becomes much more universal, and soon Livi is the only thing standing between a once-mighty kingdom and the total corruption of a civilization.

  • It’s funny you mentioned the title. It didn’t seem very unusual to me, but I’ve gotten a number of comments on it, so clearly I’m wrong! The title refers a few different things, particularly the dangers of conformity and the power of the mob mentality, ideas that are important throughout the book.

Thanks for hosting me!

A farm girl born and raised, M. Lewis-Lerman loves books (the dusty ones), land (the wild kind), and anything on four legs.

Before she wrote, she read, learning on Dick and Jane, going over the Big Hill with Betsy and Tacy, and growing up alongside Scarlet O’hara & the March sisters. M. Lewis-Lerman attended Fordham University where she studied psychology.

She lives in Upstate New York with her three dogs and her many teetering bookshelves.

Follow M. Lewis
Website | Facebook | @MLewisLerman | Goodreads