Thursday, October 30, 2014

Author Elle Hill talks about how 'The Tithe' aligns with her own beliefs

The Tithe is a novel about religion. Not religious as in preachy or even inspirational. Not religious as in spiritual. Not even religious as furthering morals set out by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or pagan practitioners. Religion as in exploring the effects of a government built on religious doctrine.

I set the book vaguely in the future – maybe a hundred years, maybe more. It’s simultaneously post-apocalyptic and “utopian.” After the bulk of humankind perished in 2012 (remember the Mayan calendar scare?), a few hundred thousand humans remained and organized themselves into ten towns situated in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The towns have mayors and other bureaucrats, but the real power in the cities rests with the holy women and men, the imrabi and minnabi, respectively.

I had a lot of fun deciding how to organize the towns, structure their religious rituals and beliefs, and construct characters’ relationships with their towns’ religious dogma. Even choosing names like “imrabi” and “minnabi” proved interesting and fun: “Imrabi” is a not-entirely-subtle combination of “imam” and “rabbi,” while “minnabi” combines “minister” and “rabbi.” The name of the novel’s god, “Elovah,” is an amalgamation of “Allah, “Elohim,” and “Jehovah.” One difference from these patriarchal religions, though: Elovah is a female deity.

In case it’s not glaringly obvious, I based the fundamentals of this religious system on the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I even designed my religious rituals, such as how to pray and what weddings look like, by squishing them all together.

I suppose I could have been more inventive and designed a religious system from scratch. I’m a sociologist, though. Fascinating to me as a social scientist is the reunification of these three religions, which actually have much more in common than we like to acknowledge. Heck, Judaism birthed both. Also, let’s be super honest: I’m a big fan of sticking with what I know. I grew up Christian, and my fiancé is Jewish. Easy knowledge pickins. Granted, I don’t know as much about Islam, but that’s why the Internet exists, right?

Now, at the ripe ol’ age of 40, I am an ex-Christian Atheist. Did my own spiritual or religious beliefs shape this book? Yes and no. Yes, because I used information from my own Christian background in designing a futuristic religious system that nonetheless looks a lot like the ones we know today. I honor my Christian background for providing fodder for that kind of project. No, because although this is in part a book about religion, it’s ultimately a novel that contemplates the liberatory and oppressive functions of institutionalized religion. I honor my degrees in sociology for providing fodder for that kind of project.

The Tithe is a book about religion. This does not mean it’s an inspirational or even particularly religious novel. It’s a novel that explores some effects, functions, and possibilities of a theocratic society. It’s a book a sociologist, rather than a religious devotee, would pen.

The Tithe
by Elle Hill


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

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

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

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

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

Read an excerpt:

Josh sighed.

“I guess if I only have a month at most left, I should use my actions and words to, you know, shape the world the right way, the way that brings the most good.”

“You do that every day.”

“You’re biased,” she said, smiling. “But the changes I’ve seen since I’ve been here, not just in me but in everyone, they’re scary sometimes. Sometimes I feel like . . . as if the world is so vast, so full of people, and I’ll burst if I love them all. But I don’t ever burst.

“I loved a lot of people before I came here, but always in the abstract. Here . . .” She breathed, in and out, for a while. “It’s not abstract. I don’t love them because we share humanity. I love them for their beauty, their pettiness, their fears and their compassion.

“You said my pain makes me the person I am. How bizarre is it that my pain, my incapacity, and my imminent death have brought me all this? It’s the greatest, most horrible gift I’ve ever received. You know?”


“And I’d like to say I’m strong enough that I’d do this all over again—become an unworkable and a Tithe—if given the choice, but I don’t know if that’s true. I’m scared.”

He held her tightly against him.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

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

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

Twitter: @ellehillauthor

Elle will be awarding a $50 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Author Seth Mullins on the birth of his book 'What Casts the Shadow?'

The Birth of “What Casts the Shadow?”

“What Casts the Shadow?” was originally born from a series of late night reveries. Sometimes I like to entice the Muse by turning out all the lights in my apartment, pouring music into my ears through headphones and moving about from room to room, in near-complete darkness, just letting my fantasies roam where they will.

Oftentimes those fantasies revolve around music itself. I have some background here: Years of teaching myself guitar, followed by further years of devotion to the craft of songwriting, this finally coming to fruition during a rewarding period of time when I was an active performer on what club circuit there was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was all before I realized that writing was my more dominant passion.

Nonetheless, my musically-endowed self lived on from that moment, though he was now relegated to some remote closet of my consciousness. There he became a kind of alter-ego, a character with his own separate life and destiny, his own inclinations and gifts. It was particularly during those moments when I was in the dark, my mind subsumed in the music, that Brandon Chane began to come to life. I’d hear little hints of the life experiences that lay behind his songs, what his Muse spurred him to say when he was onstage before his hungry audiences…

Influenced, no doubt, by the way that I’d spent my adolescence - devouring biographies of such artists as Jim Morrison, Arthur Rimbaud, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Syd Barrett, etc. - I imagined him both brilliant and doomed.

Or… could he perhaps be saved? In this instance, could the ‘live fast, die young’ rock’n’roll credo (and cliché) be somehow sidestepped? After all, we’ve seen the cycle of frenzied inspiration followed by tragic burnout often enough: The lives of artists who one might compare to shooting stars, to Icarus who flew too high and then crashed back down to earth in flames.

If that fate was to be avoided then Brandon Chane was going to need some guidance. He was living too close to the edge. He couldn’t pull himself back alone.

Thus Saul Mason was born, the man who would become Brandon’s enigmatic mentor. And here was another opportunity for me to draw upon my own personal journey in order to fill out my fiction. All my years of treading the ‘inner way’, of searching whatever practices and philosophies might help me to illuminate life’s deeper significance, found utterance now in Saul’s teachings. He and Brandon had much to learn from each other, actually; and this relationship between young man and mentor was bound to impact upon the wider world, too, as Brandon’s band battled its way to greater and greater prominence within the cutthroat jungle that is the music industry.

From this point, the storyline quickly kindled to bright flame within my mind. I had a core idea that fused two of my deepest passions: Music (and creativity itself, in broader terms) and the exploration of our inner depths. Within this tale, each would feed the other. Self-understanding would lead to further creativity, which in turn would lead to deeper plunges into the unknown. I already had a head full of rock’n’roll mythology and spiritual teachings: It was just a matter, now, of blending those influences in a way that would, hopefully, avoid the clichés that one often encounters on either side. I didn’t want to talk overmuch about the inner way or about the travails of a struggling artist. I desired only to follow, as faithfully as possible, the journey of someone who walked that path and endured those travails – reaping a unique kind of reward, for both himself and his audience, in the end.

What Casts the Shadow?
by Seth Mullins



A troubled young rock musician, a mystic mentor, and a generation of lost souls longing for a new voice to emerge from the wilderness...

When an altercation outside of a performance venue nearly proves fatal, Brandon Chane begins to realize how far his life is spinning out of control. His efforts to channel his pain, frustration and thwarted loves into his music may not suffice to save him. Then he meets Saul, a crisis counselor with the soul of an ancient medicine man, and a far-reaching journey of healing - one that may teach him how to steer away from the very edge of the abyss - begins.

Read an excerpt:
An Air of Pilgrimage

Now it was all deepening. We merged with a river born of magic, myth and the dreams of all those who’d gone before us. I turned to my right and saw some violets casting off glints of tiny light like flecks of stardust. All at once, everything in existence was being created in every moment.

“It’s the light that can’t be extinguished!” I shouted. “I understand now!”

It’s easy to say such things when you feel all of Creation communing with you; easy, too, to assume that the other people around you will understand your sense of euphoria. And yet in actual fact Tommy did shout “Yes!” from his place at the vanguard as if he knew exactly what I was talking about.

And just like that, our whole holy pilgrimage south flashed across my inner eyes: the distances, the pockets of heart warmth and of emptiness, the strangers met and the intimacy of the music that we’d ushered in to their stomping grounds. My imagination deified our trusty travelling van, transforming it into an ancient Egyptian Solar Boat that had borne us across the heavens of Vision so that we could spread our gospel of every human being’s Divinity.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Seth Mullins draws upon the great sweep of human soul-journeying to weave his tales. He's inspired by music, shamanism, dreams and the mysteries and miracles of our inner life. His greatest love as a writer is for fiction that depicts a journey towards self-awareness in the deepest sense.

"Probably the most valuable thing that I learned throughout my spiritual journey in this life is the importance of trusting in one's self. Many of our cultural lessons encourage us to ignore or even fear our inner reality. And yet it is this realm that really does hold the answers to all of our questions, and can point the way towards the most fulfilling life experiences possible for us."

Mr. Mullins has lived in Maine, Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. (Humanity's Way Forward - my website) (The Edge of the Known by Seth Mullins - my blog)

"What Casts the Shadow?" (The Edge of the Known) on Amazon:

My Amazon author page:

Prizes for the tour are as follows:
• One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card.
• One randomly chosen host will receive a $25 Amazon/ gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

'The Heart of Christmas' by Brenda Novak

The Heart of Christmas
by Brenda Novak



Just call her Christmas Eve…

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

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

Read an excerpt:
She stopped trying to act as if discovering him in her bed was no big deal. “This whole situation embarrasses me,” she admitted. “I’ve never taken anyone home from a bar before and, unlike you, I won’t be leaving this town any time soon. That means I’ll have to face all the people who witnessed my licentious behavior.”

He raised one eyebrow. “Licentious?”

“Promiscuous, debauched. Whatever you want to call it. Waking up with a total stranger isn’t something that’s normal for me.”

He studied her, his gaze…thoughtful. “Last night you told me it was your birthday.”


“Quit being so hard on yourself. From what I could gather, it was a rough one. And with the holidays coming up, and knowing you’re going to spend another year alone, you said it wasn’t likely to get any easier.”

Damn. She’d shared that? Hadn’t she revealed enough when she took off her clothes? “My birthday was fine. Spending another Christmas as a single woman is fine. Everything’s fine.” How could she complain when she’d always had it so good?

She could hear the scrape of his beard growth as he ran a hand over his chin. “What’s that saying about protesting too much?”

“I’m not protesting.”

“If you say so.”

Holding the sheet in place, she slid a few more inches away from him, but she couldn’t go far. She was about to fall out of bed. He wasn’t bulky, but he had wide shoulders and he didn’t seem to be concerned about giving her space. “If you know it was my birthday, you remember more than getting dropped off here,” she said.

“It’s coming back to me.”

Bits and pieces were coming back to her, too. How she’d noticed him watching her from where he sat alone at the bar. How she’d danced for him in such a seductive manner, reveling in the appreciation she kindled in his eyes. How he’d eventually gotten up and walked over to join her. How he’d danced with her, so cautiously and respectfully even though the sparks between them felt like they were about to burn the place down.

How she’d slipped through the crush of bodies on the dance floor to catch her breath outside and he’d followed….

There were still things she couldn’t recall, however, and his name was one of them. Had he ever told her what it was?

“Who are you?” she asked.

Without even a stretch or a concluding peck on the cheek, he climbed out of bed and started to dress.

At least she wouldn’t have to ask him to leave, she told herself. It looked as if he planned on walking into the sunset—or sunrise since it was early—as soon as possible. But this wasn’t New York or Los Angeles. He couldn’t just hail a taxi. She lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California in one of the many mining towns along Highway 49 that had sprung up when gold was discovered a century and a half ago. It was a community that hadn’t changed as much as one might expect in such a modern, technologically advanced world. And if the lack of urban conveniences in Whiskey Creek wasn’t enough of an obstacle, she lived several miles outside town. There was very little traffic out here and no buses or other public transit.

He’d have a long hike if he intended to make his way back to Whiskey Creek without catching a ride from her.

Or maybe he planned to call someone. He had a cell phone and, for the most part, there was service.

“You won’t answer?” she asked.

“What difference does my name make?” he finally responded.

Buy links

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

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


Brenda will be awarding a $100 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $50 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn host.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

'Written in Blood' by Elaina Lee

Romantic Suspense
Date Published: Jan 1, 2011 (Re-published June 2014)

Written in Blood: A dark and sensual, award winning, romantic suspense.

Lyndi Crisdean is assigned one of the hardest cases in her career as a defense attorney. A serial murder case. Investigating is Alek Trevian, the lead investigator for the district attorney, and a handsome and supremely dangerous man. Lyndi finds herself in over her head when she chooses desire for Alek over common sense. If they're caught, Lyndi will lose everything she's worked for. Circumstances beyond her control pull her toward Alek, for he turns out to be the only one who can help when threats start to mount against her.

Lyndi may be the key Alek needs to bring down a murderous cult running loose in his city. When her beach house is broken into and a man begins to tail Lyndi, Alek can't help but reason Lyndi may be next on the cult's hitlist. The question is, will he discover the identity of the cult, keep her safe, and still win the case against the serial killer she's defending, all while losing a battle against the strong, untamable desire she alone ignites within him?

Read an excerpt:
Black hair framed his face and hung down just past his collar. Her fingers twitched at her side, gripping her purse tighter. What she wouldn’t give to find out if his hair was as soft as it looked under the pale lighting. With a quick shake of her head, she snapped out of her reverie. Coming here had been a mistake. Sin, like the man walking toward her, didn’t need another invitation to her front door.

Before she could change her mind, she turned away from him and headed toward the entrance. The door to freedom seemed much farther than she remembered. She reached out; her fingers touched smooth wood. A cool, fresh breeze brushed the flushed skin of her face, beckoning her. She didn’t make the night wait. She burst out onto the sidewalk, sucking in air to calm her raging pulse. What was wrong with her? For whatever reason, though, something about that man had told her to run and not look back.

Hair flitted across her face, and she pushed the stray locks away. Home was only fifteen minutes from here. Shouldering her purse once again, she turned and started in the direction of her apartment building.

“Miss.” A deep, smooth voice sounded from behind her.

Lyndi froze. Did she really want to look? Biting her lower lip, she glanced over her shoulder. Mr. Wickedly Handsome’s lips twitched in what she figured must have been his equivalent of a smile.

“Do we know each other?” she asked, turning to face him.

“Are you alone tonight?”

“Listen... I don’t know you, and I’m not going to answer that question, so have a good evening.”

When she tried to turn away, his hand caressed her upper arm. Gentle and confusing, the touch left her too mystified to protest when he stepped closer. Leaning down, he whispered against her mouth, “Trust me when I say, you know me.”

His warm breath brushed across her lips, sending a wave of heat to the pit of her stomach. Every muscle in her body wanted to move closer, wanted the distraction she knew that mouth could offer. But despite her earlier thoughts, losing herself in a man wasn’t something she could afford right now.

Steeling herself against the tingle of desire he created, Lyndi lifted her gaze to his shadowed eyes. “You’re wrong and must have mistaken me for someone else.”

A small smile curled along his lips; his fingers grazed along her jaw. Her breath caught in her throat, and she swallowed the whimper forming in her throat. “I know exactly who you are, Ms. Crisdean. You are unmistakable.”

Buy links

Elaina Lee

I'm Elaina Lee, romance writer. Since given an assignment in the 6th grade to write a fantasy story, I knew writing was a passion I'd never be able to do without. From that moment on my imagination took flight. Over the years I've written everything from the Dark Ages to Science Fiction, all with romantic elements, of course ;-).

As a mother of two boys, a kindergartner and high schooler, life is never boring in my house! When I'm not keeping a little one out of trouble, or trying to keep my sanity as a boy migrates into a man, I write. I'm very fortunate to have met my remarkable husband who has supported and encouraged my dreams of being an author since the day we met.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about me!





Amazon Author Page:

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

'Balanced Effectiveness at Work' by Flip Brown


Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor Without Driving Yourself Nuts is a resiliency manual for anyone who works for a living.

Within each chapter there are conceptual definitions, sample scenarios, frank assessments, “Flip’s Tips,” action plans for real traction, and positive reinforcement. The book addresses the chronic dissatisfaction that comes from being in a crazy-paced, priority-confusing, soul-sapping workplace. With a light-hearted but in-depth look at twenty-four wide-ranging topics, presented in a unique news-you-can-use format, it will provide you with real options, helpful resources, and renewed optimism.

About the author:

Flip Brown is the owner and founder of Business Culture Consultants - a Certified B Corp - in Burlington, Vermont. He helps people find more meaning and fulfillment at work. He has a background in business, psychology, organic gardening, and rock 'n' roll. He loves his job.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Active Appreciation: How to Develop Employees Who Exceed Expectations' by Paula Schwartz


A person who feels appreciated will exceed expectations.

"Conversations build a culture. Culture builds a company. There are few conversations more powerful in building a strong, engaging culture than the conversations of active appreciation."

"In accounting, the term, "active appreciation" refers to an asset's increase in value. In this timely, common sense leadership guide, Paula Schwartz explores active appreciation as a means for increasing the value of an organization's greatest assets, it's people."

About the author:

Paula Schwartz is the owner and founder of HSE Performance Solutions in Houston, Texas. Her expertise is garnered through her interactions with hundreds of workers, managers, and executives mostly in the offshore and land drilling industries, and also in the finance and manufacturing sectors. She is honored to work with the people who take on the responsibility of providing the world’s energy. Her writing is inspired and driven by the risks they take to do so and devoted to their success, safety, and quality of life.

Active Appreciation is written to inspire growth, innovation, and contribution to the people and businesses who strive for such.

Paula lives in Katy, Texas, and appreciates every opportunity to take her work to different parts of the world, with recent projects in Brazil, Scotland, Norway, Australia, Canada, and Angola.

Friday, October 17, 2014

'Say Nothing of What You See' by Christy Effinger

Say Nothing of What You See
by Christy Effinger



When her aunt steps off a grain elevator into the emptiness of a prairie evening, Mira Piper loses her one protector. Chloe, her flighty mother, impulsively drags her daughter to Bramblewood, an isolated spiritualist retreat in northern Michigan, run by the enigmatic Dr. Virgil Simon.

Chloe plans to train as a medium but it's Mira who discovers she can communicate with the dead. When her mother abandons her, Mira discovers a darker aspect to Bramblewood: the seemingly kind doctor has a sinister side and a strange control over his students.

Then one winter's day Troy Farrington arrives, to fulfill his mother's dying wish and deliver her letter to the doctor. But calamity strikes and he finds himself a captive, tended by a sympathetic Mira. Haunted by her dead aunt and desperate to escape Bramblewood, Mira makes a devil's deal with Dr. Simon. But fulfillment comes with a steep cost...betrayal.

Read an excerpt:
I remember the way she fell.

I remember, too, the moment just before it happened, when I came home from my summer job at the snow cone stand and found the house empty.

Aunt Charlotte had not set foot outside her bedroom for days, and now suddenly she was gone. She left a candle burning on the kitchen table, a damp towel on the bathroom floor, an empty shot glass on the nightstand. Her bedroom smelled of rose lotion and whiskey.

One of her straw sandals lay in the living room. The other lay on its side in the hall, as if she had hastily kicked it off on her way out the door. It meant trouble, all right, if Aunt Charlotte was barefoot. She never did anything sane when she was barefoot.

I picked up the sandals and stepped outside. A fat bumblebee ascended from one of the peonies by the porch steps, drunk with nectar. He banged stupidly against the screen door once, twice, and then careened around the house, clearly annoyed.

My gaze swept across our small yard and down the country road to the grain elevator. From somewhere far away came the discordant wail of a train. I glanced along the tracks and out into the cornfield before turning back to the grain elevator. What I saw there made me drop the sandals.

Buy links

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Christy Effinger’s poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in various print and online publications. She lives near Indianapolis. Her website is





Christy will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn host.

a Rafflecopter giveaway