Monday, January 31, 2022

World of Stars by Seyoum Nigussie

 Welcome to the tour for World of Stars, an inspirational poetry collection from Seyoum Nigussie. Read an excerpt and the author's three stages of crafting a fictional world. Then follow the tour for even more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

World of Stars is a collection of poetry that portrays the beauties of nature and human experiences in the world. The poems enumerate various places, events, personas, notions and conditions that deserve poetic attention. A portion of the poems are made for tributes and gratitude to great personas who make this world as adorable as it is.

The poems are on varied topics and distinct from each other. Abstract and subjective ideas are woven into the poems to highlight the degree of transcendence. All the poems are metrical composition. By illustrating the good side of the world and nature within it, the poems aim to elevate people to a good way of looking at life as beautiful and meaningful.

Read an excerpt:

Heroes and Heroines

Coronavirus invaded the world by surprise
And forced lockdowns to every enterprise.
As days and nights were filled with crisis
Doctors and nurses defended human species.
Deadly virus spread fast like wild fire
Overwhelming conditions of health care
Covid virus paralleled modern warfare
But doctors and nurses fought it harder.
Without worries for their own safety
With great endeavour to save humanity,
As heroes and heroines with most reality
Doctors and nurses are the best of society.
The pandemic appears contained on balance
Kudos to all healthcare workers for brilliance.
Majestic in appearance and deep in substance
Doctors and nurses are noblest at every glance.
If not for the greatness of modern medicine
Covid would have killed all behind the scene.
Like midnight stars that adorn a blue sky
Doctors and nurses adorn the world on the fly.


Crafting Your Fictional World

Creating a fictional world appears as easy as imagination. But that is not all; crafting a fictional world has 3 stages.

The first stage is FORMULATION. I figure out what the story would have to look like. This stage is the incubation of an IDEA that will generate a desirable storyline. Visualizing fiction is not limited to the bounds of reality. This will involve a thorough and deeply meditative stage with the intention to produce it with writing. When the story expands over time it leads to the second stage where the story gets its formal shape.

The second stage is OUTLINING the story as creatively as possible. To lay out the main characters of the story, and to identify the stories dimension. What? Where? And when? These 3 W’s would necessarily or unnecessarily be added to the story plot to craft it in a sensible way.

The third and final stage of crafting fiction is EXECUTION. Getting geared into exploring the unknown world and unchartered territory. To put as many substances as possible into the fictitious world from different angles. To build the fiction to make it big enough to be visible. Details of the fictional world play into the game of crafting and the finish line is the conclusion.

About the author:

The world and life in general was promising to me until I was 17 years in my native country of Ethiopia. While a high school student in 1974, the world around me came crashing down when communist military Junta took state power and soon started a killing spree, at times committing mass murder. This was very traumatizing and the start of Stalinist ‘Red Terror’ on the ground. It was bad enough to hate being in life. From this, I quickly learnt life in the world is about taking on adventures.

With six of my school friends and one of our teachers, we formed an alliance to take action against the Junta. With 2 years of preparation we had managed to inform the public and get the local police headquarters on our side. Then, in April 1976 we staged a rebellion without violence in Nekempte, provincial capital of Welega. The revolt was short-lived, nothing lost with little gain. Amidst media control of the Junta, the news of rebellion was heard across the country. After that, my friends and I vowed to individually take on challenges for democracy as a life-long mission. We split apart and I went underground. When the security situation became harsh, I left the country for Sudan.

Despite traumatizing news and the realities around me with the ‘Periods of Gloom and Doom’, I took refuge in reading classical poetry which became my long time passion.

After a long journey through ups and downs, I suffered a car accident in Sudan, and left Africa all together - migrating to Canada in 1990. Through my journey in life, I looked around for a drug of relief from grief and nostalgia. Poetry reading had become my choice for entertainment and to delete bad memories and traumas. Soon after I realized that positive poetry is as good as drugs, music and paintings are, I decided to write one and here I begin with World of Stars.



Seyoum Nigussie will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Read an excerpt from Life's Too Short for White Walls by Liz Flaherty


Still reeling from her divorce, Joss Murphy flees to Banjo Bend, Kentucky, where she'd been safe and happy as a child. The family farm is now a campground. Weary and discouraged, she talks owner Ezra McIntire into renting her a not-quite-ready cabin. With PTSD keeping him company, Ez thrives on the seclusion of the campground. The redhead in Cabin Three adds suggestions to his improvement plans, urging color and vibrancy where there was none.

Neither is looking for love, yet the attraction they share is undeniable. Can the comfort of campfires, hayrides, and sweet kisses bring these two lost souls together?

Preorder for April 20, 2022
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Read an excerpt:
“Not…I don’t think about suicide.” That wasn’t true. He thought about it frequently, but not with any intent in mind. “There was sniper fire in Iraq—” Nothing like jumping into the middle of the story. “I should have been prepared. It was my team, my responsibility to keep them safe. I didn’t do it. Two people died.” He still woke in the middle of the night seeing their faces. No one had blamed him―even the team members’ wives hadn’t. They’d offered him more comfort at their husbands’ funerals than he’d deserved.

It should have been him. He was the pilot. It was his team.

It should have been him.

“Please.” Just the one word, spoken softly beside him, gave pause to the siege of his thoughts. He turned just enough to see her face and catch a glimpse of shimmer in her eyes. “I value you,” she said. “All the people here do. You give them a safe place and sometimes, like when we’re gathered up at the pavilion, you’re an instrument of hope for some of them. You need to value yourself, Ezra McIntire.”

Before he could look away, she lifted her hands…small, warm, and capable…to frame his face. Her eyes, still damp, still shimmering, held his gaze for a moment before they drifted closed and her lips touched his. Timorously at first, as if she were doing something she hadn’t in a long time, and then deeper. Warmer.

Ez didn’t know, as she pulled away and he drew her in for more, if knowing her…holding her…would allow him to value himself. But he did understand, from that first suggestion of a kiss, that he valued her, and that these moments shared on the porch of the old farmhouse were the best ones he’d had in more time than he could remember. Value. Yes, value.

USA Today bestselling author Liz Flaherty started writing in the fourth grade when her Aunt Gladys allowed her to use her portable Royal typewriter. The truth was that her aunt would have let her do anything to get her out of her hair, but the typewriter and the stories it could produce caught on, and Liz never again had a day without a what if… in it.

She and Duane, her husband of at least forever, live in a farmhouse in central Indiana, sharing grown children, spoiled cats, and their grandkids, the Magnificent Seven. (Don’t get her started on them—you’ll be here all day.) To find out more about her, stop by or sign up for her newsletter at

I was compensated via Fiverr for sharing this post. I only share those books that I feel will be of interest to my readers.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

SEAL of Refuge (Guardians of Refuge Book 1) by Alyssa Bailey


Alesha loves her Alaskan island home, but two years after a painful breakup, she is still overly cautious when dating men. When a widowed Naval officer extricates her from a sticky situation, they find an instant attraction, and he steals her heart. He seems too good to be true. That’s because he is.

When the Navy offers SEAL Commander Zayden Wellesley the career opportunity of a lifetime, he accepts. Finally, things are looking up. He likes to do things orderly, and by the book, unfortunately, raising children, a SEAL’s life, and dating, rarely follow the rules. Alli doesn’t. Things are finally going according to Zed’s plan except for one little snag: he neglects to inform her he has roommates.

Soon, Zed is scrambling to protect his own, save his career, and secure his relationship before it’s too late. When things don’t go to plan and danger threatens all he holds dear, it will take the Guardians’ training and expertise to get them through safely.

He has learned to roll with the punches, can Alli?

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Read an excerpt:
Zayden ordered a drink and an appetizer. He’d done plenty of these types of ‘cushy’ missions following the target to nice places, infiltrating their lives as necessary, and then do the adjustment. Whatever that entailed for each job. He wouldn’t need an exfil to handle tonight’s little caper. He’d wait until they left and then follow her home to make sure the obviously over-zealous Craig kept his body parts separate from hers.

Alesha was ill at ease. As she appeared to listen to her date’s conversation, her body language screamed unease. Zed had already noted she’d removed her hand from her companion’s intruding one several times. They had ordered dinner. The service was faster than he’d expected, and they received their dinner soon after his own plate arrived. Alli was handling it well so far, so Zed refrained from making himself known and shaking the man’s hand with a little strategic twist.

Zed put down his dinner fork, preparing to intervene after the man took her fork and ate the morsel of food on it. Alesha stood. Atta girl. Zed was about to call for his check when Alli asked the waitress something, and with a nod, the woman handed her another fork. She was staying. Damn it, Alli. The woman didn’t know when to leave. Something he wanted to fix.

This Craig guy was no gentleman. Zed figured he would help him with his manners. He considered following up his rescue with a lesson in personal safety, but something told him Alesha knew exactly what she was accepting tonight. Why had she done it? Was it because of what Jenn had said, she was lonely?

Zed silently approached the couple and heard the next part of the conversation.

“What the hell,” whispered Alli. “Would you keep your hands to yourself and just eat your dinner? I should never have said yes.”

“Thought you wouldn’t mind since we’re spending the night together. We’ll be sharing more than food later.” Craig shrugged and took a bite of his own food. “You agreed to come out with me, to the most expensive restaurant in town, and to the party afterward. That’s full disclosure and agreement.”

“When hell freezes over.” As Alli pulled her napkin from her lap to toss on the table, his free hand reached out and grabbed her wrist. Craig spoke with a barely subdued snarl. “It’s polite to wait until all parties are finished with dinner before you excuse yourself.”

A deep voice, full of dangerous, silk overlaid steel, blanketed the table. “Alesha, sweetheart. I’m glad I found you.”

Alyssa Bailey is a USA Today and International best-selling author. She loves writing realistic romance for the naughty in all of us. Power exchange adventures between strong, intelligent, sassy women who aren’t afraid to take a stand and men confident enough to give his woman space to be who she is, but Alpha enough to keep her safe despite her choices or his, is a common theme.

Family and community are important to Alyssa, and it’s one reason she loves series. She is expanding her horizons and her comfort zone with every new book, and that’s exciting. Sometimes, suspense and mystery stir the plot, other times, it’s crazy, day to day angst, antics, and danger. Whatever goes on before, there’s always a happily-ever-after at the end of the day.

You can find Alyssa online:


Twitter: @alyssabaileyak

Blog/web page:



I was compensated via Fiverr for sharing this post. I only share books that I think will be of interest to my readers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Review of Body in the Books by Heather Huffman


Sometimes, owning a bookstore can be murder.

When Nora Jones inherits a dusty old bookshop from her estranged uncle, she moves to St. Augustine to tie up loose ends and maybe learn a bit about the man she never knew.

Only what first appeared to be a heart attack turns out to be murder, and there’s no shortage of suspects. The detective assigned to the case might be handsome and charming, but Nora’s convinced he’s chasing down the wrong lead.

With her newly-inherited Greyhound named Margo and a quirky band of friends in tow, Nora decides to track down the killer. She finds herself in a race to solve the murder before she becomes the next body in the books.

Body in the Books is the first installment of the Nora Jones lighthearted mystery series. Fans of Stephanie Plum, Nancy Drew, or Scooby Doo won’t want to miss this humorous whodunit novella.

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**My thoughts**

This quick and delightful cozy mystery is the first in the new Nora Jones mystery series by Heather Huffman. It’s a fun kickoff and I am looking forward to future installments.

Nora has come to town because she has inherited quite the estate from an uncle she didn’t even really know. He and his life are mysteries in and of themselves.

As she tries to settle into this new house and bookstore that she has inherited, along with a greyhound named Margo, she manages to quickly form a small group of quirky friends who are more than happy to help her solve the mystery of her uncle’s death. I greatly enjoyed this supporting cast. And that can be just as important as the mystery itself.

And yes, I was a little surprised at the big reveal! This was a fun one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Read an exclusive excerpt from Kiki Coto by Edward Avanessy


Today you get to take a look inside this suspenseful supernatural thriller with an exclusive excerpt from Kiki Coto by Edward Avanessy. Craving more? Follow the tour for more exclusive excerpts. Be sure to download your own copy and enter the great giveaway!

Richard, (Kiki Coto) is destined to fight corruption, and criminal organizations, whose members include politicians, judges, district attorneys, police, and others, to exonerate an innocent young lady wrongfully accused of murder. He is fighting an impossible battle. The criminals are very organized, interconnected, and conspire with each other methodically. Struggling to defeat the evil, Richard seeks help from all sources, including Ayahuasca and Divine intervention.

Read an exclusive excerpt:

“Can’t you see? This is what I have been waiting for all my life. I cannot quit now, no matter what the consequences are!” said Richard.

“Son, if your mother says to stay away from your uncle, you should listen.”

“Mom, you have to ask Bill to put me on Gloria’s defense team,” said Richard.

“Hallelujah, finally my son asks me to do something for him!” exclaimed Cathy. “But I will not do such a thing. I don’t want to talk to him at all, let alone ask something from him.”

“Even if you don’t ask him to put Richard on Gloria’s defense team, you should still talk to him as before, so he won’t suspect anything. Otherwise, it will be bad for Richard. I still think you should quit, Richard,” said Phil.

Reluctantly, Cathy picked up the phone and dialed Bill’s number.

“You sound different. Are you okay?” Bill said. “Is something bothering you?”

“I’m okay. I might be coming down with a cold,” Cathy answered. Mary picked up a sheet of paper and wrote pretend you are happy, as before. She showed it to her mom as she was talking to her brother. Cathy tried very hard to talk a little more happily and enthusiastically. Finally, she got to the subject of Earl and Gloria.

“Since Richard’s accident put an end to his football career, he needs a push and some encouragement to get into law. Could he be on Gloria’s defense team? Even in the smallest of positions, it would be a big boost to his ego.”

Bill thought for a moment and then said, “I will consider it . . . I’ll try to find a position for a first-year law associate. I think we can get him on the team.”

Cathy thanked him, and after chatting a little more, they said goodbye and hung up. Richard thanked his mom, but neither Phil nor Cathy was sure if this was the right thing to do.

Buy Kiki Coto

A note from the author:

"The different episodes of this book were projected to me, like movie clips during meditation sessions. I was compelled to visit a Shaman retreat in Cusco, Peru, and experience Ayahuasca to complete the manuscript. I hope you enjoy the results, the story of Kiki Coto." - Edward Avanessy

Connect with Edward Avanessy


Edward Avanessy will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Review of Stabbed in the Tart (The HSP Mysteries) by Carol E. Ayer


If you like baking and cozy mysteries, here's another one for you to enjoy. Read an excerpt and my thoughts on Stabbed in the Tart by Carol E. Ayer and then follow the tour for even more. Be sure to download your own copy and then enter the great giveaway!

Home bakery owner and Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Kayla Jeffries has been hired for the Gourmet and Stay Valentine's Weekend at the historic Countryside Inn in Los Robles, CA. When one of her fellow cooks is murdered during dinner service, she becomes a person of interest-and a possible suspect.

Read an excerpt:
My first orders came in. I whipped egg whites and scooped the foam onto eight cherry-filled tarts I’d finished earlier. Five minutes later, I retrieved the batch from the oven, pleased to see the meringues on top were nicely browned. I’d practiced my recipes many times over the last few days to the point that I had them memorized, but you never knew what could happen with an unfamiliar oven.

I removed the tarts from their pans, plated each dessert onto a red dish, and added a dollop of whipped cream to the side. Brenda gave me an appreciative glance as the waitstaff took them away.

Conrad came into the kitchen, beamed a smile at us, and said, “Well done, everyone. The guests are thoroughly enjoying their meals. I’ve never seen the dining room in such high spirits or the hotel so well-showcased. This weekend is going to be great for business.”

An hour later, I was feeling pretty good and Conrad once more was raving to us about how well everything was going. Then the wind howled, the windows shook, and all the lights went out. I almost dropped the cupcakes I’d just removed from the oven. I managed to slip the pan onto the counter.

“No one panic,” Conrad said into the darkness. “The generator will kick on soon. It’s a good one. It powers most of the hotel.”

Sure enough, a few seconds later, the lights came back on. Unfortunately, one light perfectly illuminated Edward facedown on the floor near the center island, the kitchen shears lodged in the back of his neck.

Buy links
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**My thoughts**
This book is apparently the second one in a series. I didn't realize that before starting it, but didn't feel like I had missed too much by not reading the first one. This one works well as a standalone and does not give away too much information in case you want to go back and read the first one.

I'm always drawn to books that combine cooking and/or baking and mysteries. And while it doesn't feature as prominently in the storyline as in others, especially in the way of recipes, it's still an important part of the plot.

I loved the idea of having an HSP as the main character. HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person, which describes apparently 15-20% of the population. We get a lot of insight from Kayla herself and then I found myself doing a little extra reading on the side. My teaching background makes me think of people with sensory processing difficulties as well as anxiety. And I could relate to many of her issues because of my own sensory sensitivities. I think a lot could be done with this trait in future installments.

This mystery is one that is also not so easily solved. Kayla goes down a few paths before she finally stumbles upon the right one, and I definitely did not see some of those twists coming. I felt like the middle of the book was kind of slow, but I kept pressing on because I wanted to see which theory would win out in the end.

I found Kayla's relationship with her father to be a little odd. They had basically been estranged for years, but now all of a sudden he is here and helping her every step along the way? From what was described, I was just surprised that they were moving on so quickly.

And I'm not completely sold on her relationship with Jason. There are so many issues there. Then again, their relationship would definitely be more complicated with her being an HSP. It will be interesting to see how each of these relationships continue to flesh out in future installments. 

I also felt like the interviews with the detectives felt a little off. I know this is a cozy mystery and so not as intense as what you would find in more police procedural novels. The lines of questioning and abrupt dismissals felt odd. 

But I also admired Kayla's tenacity in trying to prove her innocence. After all, her life and reputation are on the line. And kudos for her for having the guts to go ahead and interview all of these people, in spite of her HSP and introversion. That's not easy to do as it is.

So I am a bit mixed on this book, but it did provide some entertainment on a very cold weekend. Thank you to the author and Goddess Fish Promotions for the requested review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Carol Ayer, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), lives halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento with her cat, Rainn. When she’s not writing, she’s reading mysteries and thrillers or watching movies and cooking shows. As a native Californian, she visits the ocean as often as possible.

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Carol E. Ayer will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Scandals of Tokyo by Heather Hallman


If you're a fan of historical romance, check out this prequel to the Tokyo Whispers series by Heather Hallman. Read an excerpt from Scandals of Tokyo and then follow the tour for even more! Best of luck entering the giveaway!


In the Foreign Quarter of Tsukiji, Tokyo, Japan, Victorian England is alive and well. Manners and etiquette are as valuable as gossip and deceit. Men are more rakish than ever - so far from home, societal rules seem to be relaxed. But courting young women still requires a deft hand, a smart wit, and a man with something to offer.


Intent on being an international journalist of repute, Evelyn Prescott will do what it takes to make her mark.

It doesn’t hurt that her father has built a newspaper empire, but finding a scandal in Japan is no easy task.

As much as she hates to admit it, she is forced to meet with the owner of the Tokyo Daily News, Ned Taylor, also an Englishman.

Ned holds a deep-rooted dislike of Evelyn’s father’s approach to journalism, and Ned, a notorious rake, pushes her to see just how far Evelyn is prepared to go to get her story.

From Reedsy Discovery: "Written as a prequel novelette to her forthcoming Tokyo Whispers series, “Scandals of Tokyo” drops readers into the immigrant quarter of Meiji era Tokyo, with hints of all of the glitz, the temptation, and the salacious gossip one could wish. At just under 30 pages, Hallman has a lot of ground to cover, introducing characters and a world that will be expanded on in future novels, but if “Scandals” is just a taste of this series, then it’s going to be huge.

Lovingly researched and brilliantly detailed, Hallman knows the place and time she’s writing about and it shows! Turn of the century Tokyo is alive and well on her pages and in her characters, and it is certain to delight."

Read an excerpt:
Tokyo 1896
Foreign Quarter of Tsukiji

Several matrons strolled towards the balustrade, their chatter enveloped in the rustling of silk skirts and clattering of heels against the terrace flagstones. Aunt Prissy warbled an evening greeting to some of them, which they returned in kind. Over the course of their residence at the Hotel Metropolis, she’d become friendly with most of the guests. As the women walked away, Aunt Prissy offered another large yawn from behind her fan.

“Really, you should retire. I’ll stay a bit longer on the terrace. I’m too fidgety to join you.” Evelyn’s gratitude for her aunt’s permissiveness as chaperone had never been greater, but she was determined to speak with a certain charming gentleman this evening, and the conversation would proceed more smoothly if Aunt Prissy wasn’t taking part.

“I perfectly understand, dear Evie. Better you fidget on the terrace. It’s quite windy tonight. Do beware of catching a chill. Shall I bring you a wrap?” Even at the end of August, summer’s heat held Tokyo in its grip. Night brought a modicum of relief, but the breezes off Tokyo Bay remained sultry.

Evelyn declined the offer and kissed Aunt Prissy good night. As the swish of her aunt’s skirts faded, Evelyn contemplated her target.

Ned Taylor was her last hope.

She hadn’t wanted to use the letter she carried, but she’d been in Tokyo for over a month and still didn’t have a scandalous story she could send to Papa. Most of her time had been spent convalescing from a summer malady she’d picked up a few days after arriving and chasing a baroness through the countryside for a scandal-worthy headline. She’d inquired around the foreign quarter as to the reputations of its prominent residents, but all her efforts had amounted to was unsubstantiated rumours and trivial innuendo.

Evelyn had no choice but to present Mr Taylor with a request from her papa he couldn’t ignore.

Buy links for Scandals of Tokyo:

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Heather Hallman writes witty, sensual, contest-winning romances set in Meiji-era Japan (1868-1912). She is the author of the Tokyo Whispers series that includes Scandals of Tokyo and Talk of Tokyo.

She is fluent in Japanese language, history, and culture, and earned a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology based on fieldwork research in Japan. She lives in Tokyo with her professor husband and two young daughters. In her free time, she can be found translating ancient Japanese poetry and observing the passing of seasons while sipping green tea. Just kidding, she has no free time. But she does watch something that makes her laugh while she does the dishes.

Perennial obsessions include the weather forecast (she checks three different apps at least three times a day, as no single app can be trusted), Baltimore Ravens football (hometown obsession), and making smoothies that taste like candy bars.

Feel free to chat her up about any of her obsessions, or, even better, about historical Japan—any era is fine, she loves them all. She also enjoys exchanging book recommendations, discussions about the craft of romance writing, and stories about life in present-day Tokyo.

Visit her website to learn more:

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Heather Hallman will award a $25 Amaon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Follow the tour for more chances to win!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Read an exclusive excerpt from Pelagia : Between the Stars and the Abyss by Steve Holloway


Welcome to the book tour for Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss a science-fiction by Steve Holloway! As usual, I have an excerpt for you to enjoy. But today, the author has given us an exclusive bonus excerpt! Enjoy and then download your own copy before embarking on the rest of the tour. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

Former special forces agent turned particle physicist Ben Holden is on the run.

The New Caliphate will stop at nothing to get their hands on his wife’s scientific research, which is believed to hold the key to unleashing chaos in the West and advancing their cause.

But in reality it’s Ben’s biometrics that have the potential to unlock the information they so desperately need. Within the oceanic world of Pelagia, in the year 2066, Ben finds sanctuary among the sea settlers of the South Pacific Pelagic Territory, but his respite is short-lived.

Read an excerpt:
Ben’s Escape

He lifted the hatch and placed it onto the deck, then pulled himself up and lay flat near the bow. The coolness of the storm awakened his senses. Rolling onto his back, he paused under the deluge and allowed the rain to stream into his mouth, gulping down the water.

Thirst barely slaked, he slithered to the edge of the boat. The wind now lashed his wet body. He shivered, staring into the night, allowing his eyes to adjust. He spotted the island, a dark fleeting promise glimpsed through a break in the squall.

Looking back, he saw a silhouette climb out onto the side of the boat. Adrenaline shot through him. The man was just a few metres away, clinging to a rail as the boat rolled under them, but still looking towards the stern. Ben inched closer to the edge of the bow, willing himself to be a shadow.

Holding the safety rail, Ben swung himself over the side with the roll of the boat. He hung for a moment, suspended above the sea. Large, deep breaths. Each time the boat tipped his feet dipped beneath the waves. On the third tip, he released his grip, slipping below the surface noiselessly.

As he surfaced, he heard the man on deck shouting into the water in Arabic, “Cut the rope!” There was an answering shout from the water that was lost in the roar of rain.

Ben kept to the shadow of the bow rocking above him. After a minute, that seemed like an eternity, the man climbed back into the stern cockpit. Ben slipped below the water.

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Read a bonus exclusive excerpt:
An excerpt from Pelagia – Lorenzo and the dolphins:

Lorenzo unfastened his mask from his harness, snapped it onto the communication helmet and took a few test breaths. A glowing blue display appeared again on his wrist. Ready to go. The dolphins circled the boat, anxious and impatient.

Lorenzo pulled fins from a locker in the cockpit. He slipped them on. In one fluid move, he tucked and rolled backward into the coolness. He uncurled underwater and established a neutral buoyancy position a meter down. Slow, calm breaths. Lights on each side of his mask came on. He surveyed the scene below him in the depths.

The dolphins swirled around him. He spotted Tazia, the leader of the pod.

Love my work, Lorenzo thought as Tazia brushed against him.

“This way,” came through his headphones, as the grey forms moved off into the depths. Lorenzo followed into the darkness. The water was clear. Motes of plankton floated through the beams. Even kicking energetically, he could barely keep up with the dolphins. I’ve never seen them this excited.

Some forms became visible in the darkness ahead: a struggling calf. Two adult dolphins supported the calf between them and were bringing him up to the surface, so the young dolphin could breathe. The rest of the dolphin pod circled around them.

Lorenzo could feel the calf’s panic. He slowed and allowed himself to drift towards the calf.

Tazia was chattering, which seemed to calm the young dolphin. The rapid dolphin speech was too complex for the helmet to interpret.

Scanning the calf’s body, Lorenzo spotted the problem. Monofilament fishing line. Probably drifting in these waters for the past half century.

Such fishing line had been banned from the Pelagic Territories twenty years ago. The line was tangled around the calf’s flippers and tail. Probably, in his struggle to get free, the filament had tightened and cut into the flesh. Tendrils of blood drifted from the wound.

“Lorenzo, the Pelagic Array warns me that about six silky sharks are moving towards your position. I believe they detect the blood from the calf.” Gabriella, his family’s artificial intelligence agent, cut into his thoughts.

“Thank you. Gabriella, please release a guardian drone from the boat.” Silky sharks. They can be aggressive.

“Sharks coming.” His words were translated by the helmet for the dolphins and they began circling, watching for them.

“We prepare.” Came through the headset.

“A guardian droid is heading for you.” Gabriella informed. A barracuda-shaped drone was released from a special tube under his boat Windrider. “I have set it to defend your position.”

“Keep calf near surface.” He spoke into his microphone while he filled the buoyancy bladders in his suit to hold him near the surface by the calf, adjusting them until he gained neutral buoyancy without effort. The pair of dolphins patiently held the calf at the surface and made room for Lorenzo.

One guardian won't help much if there are six sharks, Lorenzo thought. He studied the tangle of fishing line. Better bind up the calf before the sharks arrive, stop the flow of blood.

He inspected the calf’s injuries. Taking the multi-purpose tool, he carefully snipped the strands of monofilament in several places with the wire cutters on the tool. The tension eased. Lorenzo carefully teased out bits of line from within the wounds. The calf stilled, trusting his touch and being reassured by the clicks from the pod around them.

Tazia, Lucca and others from the pod were swimming back and forth, trying to locate the sharks. As he focused on the calf, Lorenzo could feel the dolphin pod around him tensing for a battle. Other nearby dolphins, related pods, streamed in and added to the shield of dolphins circling the calf.

Gingerly, he pulled the last of the line from deep within the dolphin’s flesh. The calf flinched, making small clicks, but remained calm. Blood streamed more freely from the wound. Gotta stop that blood right away!

He became aware of a spike of anger around him and thrashing behind him. He whirled, all muscles tense. “Sharks are near you, Lorenzo.” Gabriella said.

He looked above the surface again, the characteristically small dorsal fin of this species shark was visible, nearing, just outside the pod. And another. And another. They circled patiently, looking for an opportunity.

Steve Holloway grew up on the beach cities of Los Angeles and has always loved the sea. This passion led him to gain a degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of California Santa Barbara; a background which opened many opportunities for him in researching, developing, and engaging with mariculture activities around the world.

Steve and his wife have lived and travelled in many countries over their forty years of marriage, successfully raising three kids in exotic locations in the process. They have always engaged with the people and cultures they live among.

Currently Steve lives in England and consults for a Christian charity in areas of research, leadership development, adapting to new cultures, social enterprises, and mariculture projects. Currently he is consulting for a Indo-Pacific mariculture project – a social enterprise – growing sea cucumbers, a delicacy for the Chinese market.

Steve has always loved books and writing. The story of Pelagia reflects three of his passions: science, the sea and the narratives of faith. The background, in his words:

“I have for many years believed that settling the open sea was within our grasp, and even more accessible than space as our ‘next frontier’. So through the last ten years or so I have been thinking just how this might happen, what would be needed, where people would settle, what kind of livelihoods they might have on the open sea, beyond the EEZs of terrestrial countries. My son Adam told me about what would become a key component of Pelagia, Biorock or seacrete, because of his experiments with it. Many discussions with other scientists, engineers and others helped to begin to fill in the gaps and the concept of the Pelagic Territories, similar to the unincorporated territories of the early US, and what geopolitical contexts they would find themselves in.”

Steve finds any excuse to get into the ocean: sailing, diving, swimming, or just poking around tide pools.



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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A Conversation with Michael Leon, author of Chandelier


Welcome to the tour for Chandelier by Michael Leon! Today he is giving us a detailed explanation of the importance of research when writing a novel. We also get a sneak peek inside his book with an excerpt. If you want more, be sure to follow the rest of the tour! And best of luck entering the great giveaway at the end!

CHANDELIER is the genre-bending sci-fi/fantasy-romance novel follow up of Michael Leon’s 2019 fantasy-romance book, PHANTOMS. A century has passed since the fabled Phantom ruled the Garnier Opera House. Technology has advanced, and AI has evolved beyond human knowledge. They reside in a virtual Earth, free from the ravages of an environmentally damaged Earth where humans and post-humans live under AI’s qualified governance. CHANDELIER follows one AI sentient’s journey, Benny, whose loyalty for a famous opera singer, Madame D’Arenberg, sets him on a dangerous course, entangling him in The Phantom of the Opera’s deadly web.

Read an excerpt:

The twilight between tired revellers and early morning risers had become Erik’s refuge, a place where the pains of past and present could coalesce in his ritual of the macabre. He’d dreamt of his tormentors again, beasts controlled by masters who understood their canine's savagery as intimately as a mother knew her child and recurring nightly, taunting his mind.

Chilly breezes flowed down from the Lepontine Alps, carving patterns across Lake Como, so he drew his coat closer, protecting all but his face, but he wouldn't feel an arctic breeze there. He touched his pale cheeks, not to warm them for they were permanently cold, an immovable party mask. Instead, he felt the rough texture of the implanted skin, grafted to his face. Habitually, he reached into his coat pocket for a medicated ointment that soothed and camouflaged his face in equal measure.

A single boat predictably made its way toward the Bellagio port, the first for the day, in wait for the steady procession of commuters and tourists that would navigate the Lombardy region, Italy's foothills to the Swiss alps. The light from the slow-moving boat cast a darker than usual spotlight on the famous U-shaped lake, lit by its twin light, a crescent moon. It took Erik back to a dark past when he ruled the Garnier from the recesses of its famous lake chamber. His rule was cut short through carelessness, a mistake he would not repeat. He’d return to the jewel of the opera crown and rule that grand world again, but this time he'd lead it from the stage rather than Garnier’s hidden lake.

Were similar dark secrets contained in the black depths of Lake Como? The thought made him grimace, drawing pain. He held his mouth and cheeks, soothing the scar lines camouflaged beneath a thick beard. The scars, like his name, Erik, were all that remained of his past life, contingencies needed to protect him from those who’d seek to destroy him.

Find Michael Leon on Amazon 

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This week we ask the author - what is the importance of research in novel writing?

Research is a crucial component of the writing process. Given Chandelier is a follow-up novel of my 2019 book, Phantoms, I had already done much of the research.

There are two levels of research, secondary and primary. For example, in my previous career in international business, I'd research as much as I could about the country and its markets before travelling there to carry out field interviews with business operators. I use much the same process for fictional writing.

Secondary Research: To write Phantoms, I researched and read the many adaptions of the famous tale, as well as the original novel, The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. There were film and theatre versions to review, which were far more dramatic than the original book, but Leroux's work remains uniquely creative.

I also use Verdi's opera as the backdrop of my novels, so I had to research Verdi's work before deciding on the appropriate operas. I used Macbeth in Phantoms and decided on La Traviata in Chandelier, as the story revolves around the sacrifice of the female lead, Violetta.

Primary Research: This was the fun bit! Long before writing Phantoms, I lived in France for three months, spending equal time in Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris. As a francophile, I enjoyed living among the French and experiencing their unique culture. I was invited to an opera at the Garnier in Paris and never forgot the experience. It is a stunning opera house filled with history, stunning architecture and, of course, the stories of the famed opera ghost, making for an unforgettable experience. It left an indelible mark on me, so much so, I co-wrote Phantoms as a tribute to the occasion. I also have a picture of that visit containing the Phantom's signature. I believe he appeared with me in a photo taken of me in the Garnier, but I'll let you decide! Can you see the shape of the Phantom's face on my shirt?

Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Sentient. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading and writing SFF novels about new worlds to be explored in the future. His latest work, Sentient, imagines Earth in the year 2120. His next novel, Chandelier, will be released in 2022. Michael has travelled extensively around Europe, walking the paths of his characters, from the famous European opera houses in Phantoms to the mountain tops of Switzerland in Emissary.






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Thursday, January 13, 2022

"Flower Girl: A Novel" by Merida Johns


Welcome to the blurb blitz tour for Flower Girl by Merida Johns! Enjoy an excerpt and then follow the tour for more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

Everyone wants to believe they can hold on to their anchor, the light of their North Star, and live their truth . . . Suzanna Jordan did too until she fell for a man with a movie-star presence and a dark alter ego. Losing hope of salvaging her life and gaining her freedom, an unlikely source serves up a platter of just desserts that even Suzanna’s treacherous abuser might not evade.

Read an excerpt:


It’s five o’clock in the morning. A waterfall of worries washes over me, but one remains, one I cannot ignore, one that means my life or death—do I have the courage to stop this nightmare?

I hear muffled voices and hasty footsteps fading away in the distance. My crisis, already old news to them, cataloged on a forgotten document. They have abandoned me and left me alone with my fear.

Rolling to my side, my legs dangle off the bed, and gravity pulls my five-foot-five, slender body toward the floor. My feet rebel. They scream and cramp in pain as they hit the cold cement. My insides shake, and my body wobbles. My eyes blur, and my hands reach out to find the bed. I steady myself and count under my breath, “One, two, three . . .” The agonizing muscle spasms in my feet start to unwind.

My world plays in slow motion. My eyes drift across the brackish-beige walls, swamp-green curtain, stainless steel instruments, and electronic gadgets—my stomach knots, my heart falls, my mouth goes dry. Helplessness hits me like an animal in a snare.

I spot my possessions, swathed in clear plastic, in the chair’s seat in the corner of the room. I hobble over and open the bag and poke through it—a Victoria’s Secret midnight-blue lace bra, an OSU red T-shirt, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt denim pants, a Coach purse, and white Reeboks. I loosen the ties of the rumpled steel-gray gown; it slips off and falls to the floor. Dressing in fancy lingerie is absurd, so I toss it on the chair and throw on the shirt and jeans.

I look down at my sneakers and stop. In my mind, I see my husband’s squinting eyes and hear his haunting disapproval. Quit wiggling your feet over the counters of your damn shoes, Suzanna. You’ll ruin them! I shake my head, clench my jaw, and disobey.

I have no strength to bend over and tie the shoelaces. Jonathan would have a nasty comment about this, too. I ignore him. My eyes close in victory. “Cherish every step. Each is a grand slam toward deliverance.”

My fingers run through my disheveled hair, soaked with sweat—my muscles loosen, my brain fog lifts, and the ache behind my forehead fades.

I pull back the curtain circling the bed and grimace—the overhead lights jar me. I pump myself up—One, two, three, go. I take off.

I shuffle through the corridor between the beds bordering the room and reach the doorway to the waiting area. If people are here, I do not notice them. My eyes fix on the escape at the end of the room—the pulsating red exit sign. The floor-to-ceiling doors open, allowing my aching body to limp toward daybreak. The heavy morning breeze hits my face, and the sickening, sterile scent covering me blows away. I clutch my heart and silently sob, Thank God I’m alive.

But the joy vaporizes into the humid air. The war has only begun. Clutching for courage, I console myself. You’ve gotten this far. You can make it! You can live your truth.

I look up above the horizon, and I see it! There’s my North Star, its five points shimmering in the dawn and guiding me toward my purpose—But before I can help others be their best, I must help myself be my best.

Outside the sterile walls of a hospital emergency room, I hold my own. I put a stake in the ground. I swear that the fight to flee my abuser’s snare, save my life, and follow the guidance of my North Star is worth it.

(affiliate link)

Merida Johns writes about the human experience—that often is messy—and how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through sorrow and betrayal, struggle with doubt, but despite this, gather the strength to act on their aspirations and achieve flourishing lives.

“My insight into the power of fiction came during a conference call in late 2017 with a group of fellow life coaches when I asked, ‘What would it be like to help people achieve a flourishing life through storytelling instead of another self-help book?’

After that phone call, I got started answering that question. Almost three years later, the result was my debut novel Blackhorse Road, a heartfelt story of womanhood and the power of choice, gratitude, and forgiveness that was published July 21, 2020, by Coffee Cup Press. Now, I’m thrilled about the upcoming release Flower Girl—a story of a woman who must make sweeping changes in her life to live her truth.

Before writing fiction, I was a professor and author of health informatics and leadership textbooks. Later, I put my experience to use as a leadership coach, focusing on helping women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential.

My husband and I reside in the beautiful Midwest countryside. This is where I find the serenity and space for bringing to life the stories about everyday people who face and overcome extraordinary challenges by finding and following their North Star.

Twitter: @MLJohnsAuthor



Merida Johns will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review of The Fortuna Coin by Karen Ann Hopkins


The Fortuna Coin by Karen Ann Hopkins is a departure from her traditional Amish stories that we all know her for. Read an excerpt as well as my thoughts and then follow the tour for even more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

Wendy Catalano, a newly remarried mother of four, finds herself, her husband and her children, murder victims of her ex-husband. A family heirloom takes her back in time to the beginning of her relationship with her eventual killer where she’s given the magical opportunity to change the future and stop her family's tragic ending. But she isn't aware that she's reliving a tortured life. With only glimpses of the future, Wendy struggles to survive present day, unaware that a bloody and unforgiving destiny awaits her.

The Fortuna Coin is a haunting psychological thriller about domestic violence and second chances…but will the truth really set Wendy free?

Read an excerpt:
Some kind of primal survival instinct brought me to life. I flailed my arms, terrified of the rising water.

I don’t want to drown. Why didn’t the crash kill me?

I couldn’t move. The passenger door was wedged into my back and side. Sharp pain invaded my senses. I attempted to wiggle my legs, but they wouldn’t respond. Blood dripped from my nose and mouth. My mind grew thick and heavy.

Josh’s broken body had gone through the windshield. I watched as he bobbed once, then went under. I didn’t want my last coherent thoughts to be filled with hate toward the man who had killed my entire family.

No, he isn’t worth it. He never has been.

The river water rose quickly. In a matter of seconds, it lapped the base of my neck. It was so very cold.

In an hour, maybe two, someone would notice the guard rail down and curiosity would drive them to look over the edge. This part of the river wasn’t quite deep enough to fully submerge the truck. Someone would see part of it sticking out of the water and call the authorities. They’d find my drowned body, and then they’d discover the girls and Ben. Or maybe it would be the other way around?

It didn’t matter anymore.

Poor Mom. This will destroy her.

As my eyes fluttered closed, I felt Harper’s slender arms encircling me in a brief hug.

Then Ben’s lips caressed mine.

Taking a deep breath, the cold water washed away the fear in my heart. I’m ready to join them.

Suddenly, a stabbing dig to my wrist popped my eyes back open and I struggled to free my arm.

When my hand cut through the water, the eroded face on the Fortuna coin stared back at me.

A rush of water went over my head. I held my breath as I fought against the bent metal that pinned me inside the truck.

The flash of light caught my attention and I stopped moving. The coin glowed a soft golden hue beneath the grainy water.

My last glimpse of the face showed that it had been restored to its original state. The bearded man had chiseled features and wore a crown.

How very odd…

Then the darkness swept in and carried me away.

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**My thoughts**
I am a longtime fan of Karen Ann Hopkins, reading her Amish fiction pretty much from the start. I was intrigued by the storyline of this book when it came out and grabbed it, but hadn't yet gotten around to reading it.

It's quite different from her other novels. There are minor Amish characters in it, but it's a contemporary romance of sorts, slipping into alternate realities. I had a lot of different emotions while reading it, which I am not used to.

Of course there is the happiness of the wedding in the beginning, quickly followed by the horror of the murders. Then I had some confusion when Wendy slipped back in time because I didn't understand what was going on. Of course, neither does Wendy. But as the outsider reader, I was able to figure it out faster.

There's the pull toward Ben that I recognize in Wendy and an annoyance that she isn't listening to her heart and is following Josh "because that's how it is supposed to be." It brings to mind the age-old question about whether our lives are predetermined. And then if we use our free will to make different choices and take different paths, will we still end up in the same places? Kind of like how my mom used to talk about different Christian denominations taking different paths to get to the same destination. (An idea echoed by a minor character in the book as well.) Or can you slightly alter the outcome by making one small change? It makes the novel a bit more thought-provoking that you would expect.

I mean, she would not have her beautiful daughters if she hadn't been with Josh, right? And past mistakes make us into who we are today, right? 

Granted, there is that murder thing. But I think you know what I mean.

The book description calls it a thriller. I don't think it fits my definition of a thriller, but it definitely kept me completely engrossed once it got going. And I'm still sorting out all of my feelings about it.

I also want to make a note that the description clearly indicates that there is domestic abuse going on in here. It may be triggering for some readers. For others, it may be therapeutic.

You can visit Karen Ann Hopkins at her website:

Karen Ann Hopkins resides in northern Kentucky with her family on a farm that boasts a menagerie of horses, goats, sheep, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, dogs, and cats. Karen rescues and fosters a variety of pets and farm animals, but she also finds time to give riding lessons, coach a youth equestrian drill team, and of course, write. She was inspired to create her first book, Temptation, by the Amish community she lives in. The experiential knowledge she gained through her interactions with her neighbors drove her to create the story of the star-crossed lovers, Rose and Noah.

Karen grew up about a mile from Lake Ontario in Upstate New York. She was bitten by the horse bug at the age of five, and after diligently taking riding lessons for several years, was rewarded with her first horse at the age of eleven. The feisty horse's name was Lady, a Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross, who became Karen's steadfast companion. Through the years, the constant force in her life was horses. Eventually, she found her place as a riding instructor herself. Before accepting her fate in the barnyard, she worked a short stint as a paralegal, traveled abroad, and guided tourists on horseback riding tours in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Karen is currently working on her Amish mystery series, Serenity's Plain Secrets, along with several new projects.

Karen's Books:

TEMPTATION, BELONGING, FOREVER, DECEPTION: YA Temptation Series, originally published by Harlequin Teen. Currently in development with Wishing Floor Films


EMBERS, GAIA, TEMPEST, ETERNITY: YA Paranormal/Thriller, Wings of War Series

WILLOW CREEK: Contemporary Romance published with HarperCollins/One More Chapter

THE FORTUNA COINT: Psychological Thriller



Instagram: karenannhopkins

Karen Ann Hopkins will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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