Showing posts with label Historical Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Historical Fiction. Show all posts

May 13, 2016

Guest Post, Author Interview & Giveaway! A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

What do you think is your lead character’s best trait?

I’d say Alex’s best trait is his ability to read people – he ends up being very good at undercover work because of his sensitivity to human interactions, emotions and experiences. And Joan’s best trait is her relentless commitment and determination – to her family at the outset, and eventually, to her work within the Shaw Gang. Ironically I guess both Joan’s and Alex’s “best traits” can also be “worst traits” given the context.

Are there any characters in your book based on a real person?

Not directly, I guess – though Harrison Gunn is actually named after my friend and old co-worker, who insisted that I name a character after him in this novel (so take the bad guy Harrison ☺)! Most of the characters in the book are my own creations or some kind of combination of multiple people: like Alex is sort of a combination of me and my husband, while Joan is a combination of me and my sister.

What’s something your readers would be surprised to know about you?

I’m strangely superstitious, or at least I used to be. I’ve stopped most of these superstitious “rituals,” but I used to have to turn the lights off three times before leaving my apartment or I’d think I’d have a bad day, or I’d have to wear a certain pair of earrings to an interview.

Where is your favorite place to write?

The place I always write is the office off my bedroom, so I guess that’s my default answer. But I really enjoy writing on the second floor of my town library, Millburn Library, because of the views of the woods – and I love those moments when I’m away from my everyday life and actually get in some writing time… like my parents’ kitchen table during the holidays before anyone gets up, or on vacation while my husband and kids sleep in. It feels like I’m sneaking out on a date with my characters.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer – though the answer briefly changed to archeologist after I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I’d have to say The Phantom Tollbooth. I think the books you read as a child have a way of staying with you. 

Describe your writing style in three words.

Character-driven, otherworldly thrillers.

What is your writing process?

It’s evolved, for sure. Before City of Savages, I had a really hard time finishing anything: I was a perfectionist, and needed each chapter to read complete and final before I moved on to the next. But sadly, after the first twenty pages of a manuscript, I'd clam up and start worrying that I’d make a mistake. 

Eventually, I realized that the only way to overcome the fear of imperfection was just to submit to it: my first drafts were going to be messy. So now I write “with a spit and a polish.” I'll initially draft a passage or a chapter really quick and messy – sometimes with just sketches of ideas – and then the next day, I usually polish the previous day's installment so it's a little more readable. But after that quick one-two, I move forward with the story without any more second-guessing.

After I’ve completed a first draft, I step away from it completely for a couple weeks. When I begin the second draft, I let that “perfectionist” sit down at the computer. Draft two is more like rewriting than revising, but that's okay, as writing is less scary when I have 85,000 or so words under my belt (even if they're the wrong words). My third draft involves input from beta readers and critique partners, followed by another fairly full-scale revision.


Real-Life Gangsters that Inspired the Tough Guys in A CRIMINAL MAGIC

The pitch for my latest book, A CRIMINAL MAGIC, is THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS, and for anyone who’s seen that twisty, violent BBC drama, you’ll know this means there’s some pretty hardened criminals in this one. My story takes place during an alternative Prohibition-era America, but instead of alcohol, magic has been prohibited. And just like during real Prohibition, gangsters have created an extensive, lucrative underworld to make sure people still get what they want, despite the letter of the law.

Because the magic in this novel is tricky and dangerous by nature, I knew I needed gangsters that weren’t just ruthless – these wise guys had to be clever, driven, and one step ahead of the sorcerers they employ in all aspects of their illegal trade. For inspiration and ideas, I naturally turned to history. Here are some of the notorious, hardnosed gangsters that most inspired me while writing A CRIMINAL MAGIC:

Owen “Owney” Madden was a New York gangster nicknamed “the Killer,” and aptly so as he was known for his very public executions. Madden more than once gunned down his rival gang members in the streets, and he allegedly shot a man on a trolley for flirting with his date. Despite being a hothead, he was also a shrewd businessman, and ran The Cotton Club (as well as some other swanky speakeasies) in New York City. In my novel, Erwin McEvoy, the boss of the Irish Shaw Gang, is loosely based on Madden (with a little Boo Boo Hoff thrown in there too. Boo Boo’s up next).

I have to admit, I was first attracted to Max “Boo Boo” Hoff because of his name, but the more I read about this Philly-based crime boss, the more fascinated I became. Hoff was a boxer turned gangster, and his bootlegging operation was so successful during Prohibition, it’s claimed he had an office of operations with 175 phones and a weekly payroll of $30,000 (in the 1920s)! Also known for his partying and extravagant lifestyle, Hoff frequently rubbed shoulders with celebrity types at his lavish affairs.

Also intriguing was Guiseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, the head of the New York Italian-American mafia – the city’s powerful crime alliance known as the Five Families – during the later years of Prohibition. But Masseria was a bit of an underworld dictator: he even required monetary tributes from other Families as testaments of their loyalty. His reign naturally didn’t last: several families declared war on Masseria, which broke up the crime dynasty and led to his execution. I loosely based my novel’s Italian-American gang, the D Street Outfit, on Masseria’s New York operation.

And of course, no list of Prohibition-era gangsters would be complete without Al Capone. Though my novel’s young gangster-on-the-rise, Harrison Gunn, is actually nothing like media-hungry Capone was, I couldn’t believe that Capone was at the height of his power and became a Chicago crime boss in his mid-twenties. So I made Gunn younger (originally he was going to be middle-aged), to help rev up the tension between him and my female protagonist, Joan.

Lee Kelly is the author of A CRIMINAL MAGIC and CITY OF SAVAGES. She has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and two children in Millburn, New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @leeykelly and on her website at 

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at

May 6, 2016

Author Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway! Of Brine and Blood, Brine Series #1 by B. Longino Smith

In 1700 century England, a women’s purpose is only served in a home. But Kitrina Harvey has no home and the only place she feels will keep the memory of her father alive, is at sea. However, when she inexplicably finds herself on the ship of the infamous female pirate captain, Charlotte de Berry, she may have counted her good fortune too soon.

While Kit may have found a family among the motley crew of outlaws, and perhaps even a special interest in a particular pirate named Gage, is she ready to be a pirate herself?

Kit must ask herself what she is willing to do to please the pirate captain, made even more complicated when she finds out that her life is much more entangled in Charlotte’s than she originally believed.

Can she kill even when she discovers that she and Charlotte share a common enemy?

Set atop the planks of the great Athena, Of Brine & Blood is a fictionalized retailing of one of history’s infamous female pirates, through the eyes of a girl coming of age among the contrasting themes of love, revenge and power. Liberally sensationalized, Of Blood and Brine, follows the twisting trail of Kitrina Harvey’s life, as she recounts Captain Charlotte de Berry’s own story of love, loss and murder.

What inspired you to write your current book?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a singular source of inspiration. But I can tell you what puts me in the mood to write. 

I live a couple of miles from the beach, and the water has always makes me feel creative. Not the ‘happy family vaca day at the beach’ water so much, but the ‘moody’ water right before a storm, or even just the way the water looks on cloudy day. 

It’s probably no surprise that my current series is nautical ☺

I akin the feeling of a moody sea, to the feeling of reading a good book on a raining day. The ambiance casts everything in a light of more mysterious intrigue, don’t you think? And, thus gets my imagination going.

What authors inspire you? 

Ok, I am just going to say it. 

I am not particularly inspired by the classic literary greats (Bronte, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and what have you).

*Peeks anxiously around to see if I have offended the hoard of fellow book-lovers*

But, before you cry foul, I HAVE read most of these classics and very much appreciate them. In fact, I was on my high school’s literary criticism team (and went to state). 

However, as I reader and writer I just connect more deeply ‘modern’ voices. 

Stephanie Meyers wrote Bella Swan in a voice that could very well be the voice in my own head, should I ever find myself irrevocably in love with a gorgeous vampire. Bella’s feelings felt real to me, and I aspire to give readers the same connection with the characters in my story. 

And while there is not enough time in the day for me to adequately discuss all of the authors I deeply respect, I do want to note some that inspired my current series. I love the strong female characters Suzanne Collins gave us in Hunger Games, and am in awe of the impeccable way J.K. Rowling weaves the Harry Potter series together. They are brilliant!

What genre do you write? 

This is always a hard question for me to answer with just a simple one-liner. When someone asks me, I will *subtlety* try to plant myself between them and the exit, so they must endure the length of my explanation. 

The short answer, I think, is: Historical Fiction

But! Wait! There’s more.

My current series, the Brine Series, is historical fiction written to appeal to the modern reader. There is plenty of action, mystery and an overlaying romance (my favorite part of the story), as well. 

So, Of Brine & Blood is a modernly written adventure story wrapped in mystery with a gooey romance center, set in the 17th century, for young adult readers. Can anyone tell me where that bookshelf is in Barnes and Noble? 

So, your debut novel has been released. Do you have any more stories in the works?

Yes! In fact, the second installment of the Brine Series: Of Bitter and Brine, is complete and is running the gauntlet through my team of editors as we speak. 

I am actively writing the third installment (Brine: The Beginning) and have a detailed outline of the forth waiting in the wings.

And while I love Of Brine and Blood, I just want to say, that the series grows in excitement with each subsequent book.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

‘Publish the dang book, already!’

Man. My younger self is so hard to reason with sometimes. 

To be fair to her though, when I began writing Of Brine and Blood (6 years ago!) I didn’t have many aspirations – other than satisfying daydreams – of publishing the story. I simply wanted to write down the scenes in my head, into a story that I wanted to read. I wanted each aspect to precisely quench what I crave in a story.

But I stalled in publishing because, what if others didn’t like the characters that I love?

So I guess the true moral of the story is, if you have passion for something, don’t let your reservations stand in your way. If you are passionate about what you do, others will feel that passion in your work. 

How did you decide on names for your main characters?

I began writing Of Brine & Blood shortly before I became pregnant with my daughter. In the beginning I didn’t have names for my characters that I loved. The names, at that time, were placeholders. 

After I got pregnant, I meticulously researched, listed, cross-referenced and polled names for my child. I finally decided on the perfect names: Kit (girl) and Gage (boy).

My husband liked exactly neither of these names. 

So! I brought the names to life in my story, with a few amendments.

Because neither of the names were exactly ‘old-timey’ enough for my historical fiction, Kit became short for Kitrina and Gage is actually the last name of our leading man – William Gage. But because there were approximately 155,846,325,845,236 Williams back then, everyone simply calls him Gage. 

Ironically, these names are spoken almost as often in our household, as our daughter’s name. So I still feel like I won on the whole name thing.

*Disclosure* I equally love the name we eventually decided on for our daughter ☺ 

Who does your main character look like in your head? Who would ideally play him/her in a movie adaptation? 

I am resistant to sharing what Kit looks like to me. But I have good reason for being so stingy with my imagery when it comes to Kit. The other characters in the book have detailed descriptions of their appearance. 

But, I could never get Kit’s appearance to come out just right or to translate well onto paper. That’s because I didn’t want to unintentionally pigeonhole her into a stereotype based on how she looks. So I made the conscious decision to write her fairly description-less. I want the readers to picture what she looks like to them. I want Kit to look like you, if that’s how you prefer to read your stories. 

So, if the story ever gets adapted into film (which would be AWESOME), it would be interesting to see who gets cast to play her. ☺

Except, now that I think about it, I hope that my artistic decision doesn’t accidently anger fans of the story, because the actor playing Kit doesn’t ‘look right’ in the movie. Hummm…..

What were your goals or intentions of writing this book? How well to do you think you achieved them? 

My goals of writing Of Brine & Blood were fairly simple.

I want to entertain. I wanted to write a story that sweeps the reader away to another place and time, and make them feel what the characters are feeling. And then, I want the story to linger in their minds after they finish, wondering what Kit and Gage are up to right now. At this moment. 

That is what all the best stories do for me. The characters are no longer fiction, but people I care about.

Every reader knows the value of a story that just grips them. I want my story to be like that to others. 

Of Brine and Blood does this for me. But I want to hear what you think! Let me know if I achieved my goal! ;)

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive? 

I have always been a writer. I know; the cliché of all novelists. But it’s true! 

My love of writing, on the other hand, has peaked and waned and then peaked again, over the course of my life. 

My undergraduate degree is in Journalism. Which I promptly discovered was not the type of writing I enjoy only after graduating and working as a tech writer for less than a year. I then went on to receive a graduate degree in Sociology (which I love). But as with tech writing, writing academic articles is not how I enjoy the craft either. 

In the end, I wouldn’t change any of my experiences, though. My experiences have been invaluable in teaching me the mechanics of writing. 

And, I am learning how to break any destructive aspects of being too ‘technical’ when I sit down to write fiction. I love being able to let my imagination flow! *Note to any of my current or former colleagues: I promise that I did not let my imagination color any of my academic research findings*

Just for fun, what’s something unique about you? 

I don’t know if this is something unique about me as a person (or maybe it speaks volumes about my organization skills. I don’t know), but the sequence of events probably hasn’t happened to too many people. 

I have had two weddings, both to the same person, and in less than a year. 

Lemme esplain:

My first wedding, which we refer to as ‘the expensive one,’ was a wedding proper with long guest lists, flashy venues, a white dress and cake. 

After the ceremony we signed the marriage certificate and were told to mail it in to the state. Of course! No problem. Except the next day, my husband and I left for our honeymoon. Several weeks after we returned, Steven (the husband) looked at me and asked if I ever mailed in the marriage certificate. Um, no? Doesn’t that fall under ‘the husband responsibilities’? We tore the house APART, but still couldn’t find it. 

No problem, we can just request a new one. Right? Nope. Apparently marriage certificates are time sensitive when being filed. 

So, off to Vegas we went. With a group of friends as witnesses (they did NOT buy us a second wedding gift), a musician whom we found at a restaurant and wanted to accompany us after hearing our story (he played ‘Suspicious Minds’ as I walked down the aisle), and a new marriage certificate (chained to my body), we got married for the second time. 

I should probably end the story here, but I feel it pertinent to include that while we did successfully file the second marriage certificate, that does not mean that we didn’t lose that one too, at one point. 

Thankfully, I was blissfully unaware of the second MIA marriage license snafu, until after it was found by husband and friend retracing every single step we took that day. 

*Fun Fact!*

Several years later, we did find the original marriage certificate tucked safely away in one of our suitcases. It was in an obscure pocket inside of another pocket. You know, for safe keeping.

“Are you proposing irony, Kitrina?” he asked after a time. “Because I shall tell you now that life is nothing but cruelly ironic.” 

I didn’t know how to respond to him and let his words hang in the air between us.

“The act of piracy has left us both orphaned, yes?” he asked. “And yet, pirates we became.” Gage did not display a tone of shame, nor defeat. He simply stated his words as fact; as if, due to our circumstances, it was the only logical end. 

“What?” I shook my head at his misinterpretation of my words. “No, my father’s ship was not taken by pirates. ‘Twas a storm that took my father, but I doubt my grief would be anymore if it were raided.”

“Kit, can you do this?” Gage asked suddenly, “Can you turn pirate just because of the ship you are upon?”

“I …” I stumbled to respond. 

“Because you don’t have to,” he said, returning to his previous relaxed state. “You don’t have to follow Charlie’s desires; you do know that, don’t you?”

I suppose I knew that if I wished to leave the Athena at any time Charlotte would allow me to do so. However, now that I was faced directly with the decision, I had to admit that I had not even toyed with the idea of disbanding. The Athena was my home now. 

I chewed on Gage’s words for the remainder of our watch, and he let me. We sat in silence, our backs both supported by the mast. At the bells, Gage pulled me to a standing position before throwing his leg over the nest to start his descent. I was aware that it was he who avoided my gaze for once.

“I can,” I told him before his head lowered out of sight. He paused at my simple statement but did not raise his eyes to look at me, then silently continued down to the decking.

Gage gave no indication of what he thought of my response though I knew he knew exactly what I was referring to and the significance of my choice. 

And it was true. I knew I could, and would, be a pirate. Though I doubt Gage had any idea how big of a factor he played in my resolve.

Brittany lives with her husband and daughter just two miles away from the beach on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. The backdrop serves as a constant reminder, and motivator, in her nautical historical fiction projects.

Her current series in progress, the Brine Series, has been a story that she has 'picked at' for over five years. In the beginning, Brittany only had the undeniable compulsion to bring the vivid characters in her mind, to life, by recording their story on paper. However, only more recently have her characters become increasingly disgruntled by not having their story shared with others. Brittany's husband sided with her characters. 

In the winter of 2015, after the first installment of the Brine Series, Of Brine and Blood, was complete; the second book, Of Bitter andBrine, was written and being revised; and the third installment, Brine: The Beginning, was outlined, Brittany's husband had had enough of talking about characters that were only real in the Smith household. As a Christmas present, Steven sent Of Brine and Blood off to a (fabulous) editor, unbeknownst to Brittany until Christmas morning. 

With the overwhelming encouragement from Victoria (fabulous editor extraordinare), and the unwavering support from her husband, Brittany began her publishing journey. She is indescribably excited to be sharing her characters and their adventure with others. 

Brittany also feels as though this brief bio does not adequately include the recognition of her daughter, mother, father, sister and all others who have been invaluable sources of motivation, inspiration, and support.

To get updates on new releases in the Brine Series please visit:

May 4, 2016

Excerpt, Trailer & Giveaway! Sweet William by Dianne Hartsock

William Wilkerson leads the life of the privileged rich. Head of his father’s shipping business, he indulges to his heart’s content in the pleasures of the flesh with Boston’s finest young men.

That is, until he reunites with Fredrick: his former tutor and the one man who captured his heart.

But William’s father has declared Fredrick off limits. And Fredrick, himself, believes he's beneath the attention of the Wilkerson heir.

After having lost his current pupil to graduation, and with no prospects of a replacement, Frederick is homeless, hungry, and easy pickings for the men on the docks.

When Frederick is shanghaied into service on William’s own merchant ship, will William discover his plight in time to rescue him?

William hopped from the buggy, amiable after the pleasant meal and bottle of wine he’d shared with Theodore at the pub. But evening was approaching, and he wanted to see his lover. “Thanks, Tiggy. I’ll bring Freddie by for drinks later.”

Theodore raised a brow. “You’re that sure of him?”

William patted Tiggy’s sweet-tempered mare as a smile stole on his face. “He loves me, and I’ll move heaven and earth to make him mine.”

“Your father won’t approve.”

“I’ll have Mother’s money in two months, and Father can go to the devil.”


“I’m sorry, but I’m tired to death of Father’s ironclad fist when it comes to his ships. Let him recall Andrew from university to manage them. I plan to take up residence on Mother’s plantation. Be a cotton farmer. It would please her, God rest her blessed soul.”

“Do you remember her, William? You were three at the time of her riding accident.”

“I remember a tender voice and caresses and absolute acceptance. Something I’ve never gotten from Father. Andrew’s always been his pet, though I have no grudge against my brother for that. Andrew’s an honorable man.”

“As are you.” Theodore leaned from the buggy and gripped William’s hand. “Good luck, dear. Be sure to invite me down when you’re settled on your farm.”

“With sixteen rooms, we can probably squish you in.” William glanced over his shoulder at the boardinghouse. “And I’ve found my luck. We’ll be with you shortly.”

He waited until Theodore had taken up the reins and his horse trotted along the street before mounting the steps to the manor house. Once inside, his heart raced; anticipation made him giddy as he climbed the stairs to the top floor. He had no idea what Fredrick did with himself during the day, but if he hadn’t yet returned, he’d wait in his room and surprise him.

DIANNE HARTSOCK is the author of m/m erotic romance, both contemporary and fantasy, the psychological thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. Oh, and a floral designer. If she can’t be writing, at least she has the chance to create through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage to bring a smile to someone’s face.

Currently, Dianne lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play.

March 31, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway! Something from Nothing, Tales from Edovia #1 by Nicky James

With an impending war breathing down his neck and an ornery group of councilmen trying to keep him on track, accidental and unlikely King, Alistair Ellesmere, struggles to find a balance between being young, having fun, and ruling his realm his way. 

Alistair befriends Brandon, one of his prodigy new recruits, whose smart-ass personality drives him to the brink of insanity when he shows him up at every turn. Through an unexpected bit of witty manipulation, Alistair finds himself drawn down a forbidden path where he shares more than just a similar past with this man. Terrified at the idea of loving another man, but unable to tear himself away, Alistair is faced with the trials of secrecy, jealousy and the law.

His dark blond hair falls in waves in front of his eyes, covering them again. I want to see those eyes. Need to see those eyes. He is no longer the scrawny kid who stood before me last spring. He has been working with Corban on strength training, as I suggested a while ago, and is showing much progress. His shirt is pulled tight over his newly developing muscles and my eyes move over his body, taking in his stunning appearance. My breath hitches in my throat as though I have forgotten how to breathe, which is ridiculous since I’ve been doing it all my life without a problem until now.

Ka-Thump, Ka-thump, Ka-thump. 

It had started out as a challenge. Did I have the balls to match Brandon’s crazy antics? I thought so, but then, I ran away. Something happened that night to make me run and I have buried it deep, refusing to see it. Refusing to admit it. But it is there, undeniably there, and now as I stand before this man, heart ready to jump out of my chest, I know why. What Brandon suggested is crazy. It’s insane and was completely unexpected, but…It excites me, sends a thrill sparking through my body. 

Bloody hell. I’m losing it. This is nuts. 

Brandon risked a lot that night. The man all out admitted how he felt about me and I’m standing here, right now, because I need to know, as twisted and confusing as it is, if I feel the same.

I live in the small town of Petrolia, Ontario, Canada and I am a mother to a wonderful teenage boy (didn't think those words could be typed together...surprise) and wife to a truly supportive and understanding husband, who thankfully doesn't think I'm crazy.
I have always had two profound dreams in life. To fall back hundreds of years in time and live in a simpler world, not bogged down by technology and to write novels. Since only one of these was a possibility I decided to make the other come alive on paper.
I write mm romance novels that take place in fantastical medieval type settings and love to use the challenges of the times to give my stories and characters life.

March 24, 2016

In The Spotlight! From Ashes Into Light by Gudrun Mouw

From Ashes into Light is a transpersonal tale of epic tragedy, spirituality, family, and personal redemption. It is told through three distinct voices: the hauntingly tragic story of Ruth, a Jewish adolescent during Kristallnacht in Austria, Saqapaya, a stalwart Native American from coastal California during the time of the Spanish conquest, and Friede Mai. 

Friede is born during World War II to a Bavarian soldier and a East-Prussian mother. As those around her struggle with the inevitable chaos and paradox of war, Friede opens her heart to gruesome enemies, at times saving herself and family members from atrocities. 

With war behind them, the Mai family immigrates to the US, where Friede, her veteran father and ex-refugee mother, struggle with the reverberations of trauma. Friede is unable to find inner freedom until she meets her spiritual guide, a Rabbi, who helps her see that the voices from the past are teachers and the horrors of history are also beacons of light. 

The three electric characters weave a narrative of raw consciousness, a moving example of transforming the ripple of suffering through the incredible strength of vulnerability.

November 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, night of shattered glass, broken bodies and broken faith. We are propelled into a chaotic world. Our Salzburg home has been torn apart.

I stare at drawers emptied on the floor, papers thrown about, clothes everywhere and my 12-year-old mind cannot comprehend. 

“Papa, where are Oma Gutherz and Onkel David? Did they go to the doctor? When will they be back? Who made this mess?”

We have just returned from visiting Stefan and Anna Richert, and Papa wants to go back to the Richerts and make inquiries. Mother nearly yells, “Josef, they should be taken away? An old woman taking care of her son sick in bed? This I cannot believe.”

“Esther, believe it. Haven’t we been trying to convince you, Stefan and I? The Nazis have no mercy. We are lost.”

The pain in my father’s voice shocks me. I think, how can Papa say lost? Grandmother Gutherz and Uncle David must be somewhere.

“What are we going to do? Josef, we have to do something!” Mother stands in the midst of our ransacked apartment. Forgetting danger, she begins to cry loudly.

“Quiet. Please, be quiet,” Papa whispers. Mother chokes back sound. “What do you think we can do, Esther? Don’t you understand what’s been happening since the Nazis took control?”

Before returning to the Richerts’, Papa warns, “Keep it dark, stay still, don’t open the door.” He points to an overturned lamp and pictures from the walls smashed on the floor in a pile of splintered glass. “The place has been well gone over. It’s unlikely anyone will be back here tonight.”

Mother and I huddle on the divan, afraid to talk. I hug my knees tightly. Forehead presses bone. Mother makes suppressed noises, and her thick body heaves. How can I help? What can I say? 

When Papa returns, he whispers, “Stefan went to the Gestapo. He said he wanted to report breaking and entering and destruction of property. The Gestapo told him they already knew and not to bother about it. To cover himself, he pretended to be pleased saying. ‘Good, good, they got what they deserved.’ Then, he heard someone give an order to send a telegram to Vienna about ‘Salzburger Jews taken in protective custody.’ Stefan thinks Vienna is their immediate destination, but someone else told him that those arrested would eventually be sent to a camp in Germany near Munich. He and I agree. We need to leave as soon as possible. He will take care of the business and send us money.”

We wear extra clothes, bring food and a few valuables that hadn’t been found. We walk inside dark pockets of night, hiding in the shadows of tall buildings. We peer in every direction as we hurry over cobblestones and past street lamps that glare down from building fronts. At the plaza, I linger by the bronze horses that rear up from the fountain’s base. I have always loved the one on the right with his back to the cathedral. His forelegs kick above the water, head pointing up, mouth open as though about to make a loud, defiant noise.

I reach into the pool, trail fingers in the water, touch a smooth leg. “Goodbye, be brave,” I whisper, echoing the words of my classmate, Rolf, who told me more than once, “Ruth, be brave.” Mother grabs my arm.

“It’s not safe,” she says.

We arrive at the edge of town where Stefan Richert leads us inside the back of one of our Gutherz trucks, loaded for Vienna deliveries. He directs us to the right of a dresser, beyond tables and chairs and behind a bookcase. Mr. Richert has taken over our family’s furniture business because of the Nazi requirement that all Salzburger enterprises be judenrein, free of Jews. Jews are no longer allowed to own businesses.

“You know the work and the customers,” Papa had said to his friend and partner as they shook hands over the change of ownership. “You are an honorable person who will carry on the business with its tradition of quality now that my family and I have become one of the displaced.”

We conceal ourselves in the space Mr. Richert created at the back of the truck bed. He will drive us to Papa’s sister’s house in Vienna himself. Will we ever see him again, I wonder, after tonight?

Gudrun Mouw was born in East Prussia (formerly part of Germany) in 1944. At the age of 7, she arrived in the United States as a displaced person. Mouw moved many times in the US before ending up in California in the 60s. There she studied at San Jose State University, receiving her Master’s Degree in English Literature in 1969. Mouw has worked as a college English teacher, a Stanford librarian, a columnist, a California poet-in-the-school, as well as a yoga and meditation teacher. She lives in Santa Barbara County, California and has for over thirty years.
Mouw wrote From Ashes Into Light beginning with a research trip to various locations in Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland (in the 1990s). Her research took her places like Dachau, the concentration camp, a Jewish graveyard in Prague, and the streets of Salzburg.
Mouw is a prolific and award-winning poet and her poems have appeared in literary journals such as Praire Schooner, Practical Mystic, The Chariton Review and others. Her collection of poetry called Wife of the House was published in April 2014. Mouw won first place in a short fiction contest at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1992. From Ashes into Light will be her first published novel.

March 16, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway! Rebirth, Eternal Dungeon #1 by Dusk Peterson

"'This prisoner deserves special treatment.' The hooded man looked over at the young man again."

Elsdon Taylor, a prisoner accused of committing a terrible murder. Layle Smith, a torturer with a terrible past. Their meeting in the Eternal Dungeon appears certain to bring out the worst in both men.

Yet neither man is quite what he appears. As the prisoner and his torturer begin to be drawn toward each other, the ripple effects of their meeting will have a powerful impact on other inhabitants of the Eternal Dungeon: Layle's faithful guard, struggling to contain his doubts. A younger guard determined to take any shortcuts necessary to ensure that his life follows the path he has already chosen. An old love from Layle's past, still sorrowing. And most of all, a prisoner who has not yet arrived at the Eternal Dungeon, but whose fate will depend on how Layle handles Elsdon Taylor . . . and on how Elsdon handles Layle Smith.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards (within the "The Eternal Dungeon" omnibus), this tale of love and adventure can be read on its own or as the first volume in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Buy a copy HERE Goodreads

"Do you have any questions?" the Seeker asked. "About the routine of the dungeon? The times you will be fed? The questions you will be asked? The instruments of torture I use?"

The faintness went beyond Elsdon's voice this time and entered his body. He could feel the sweat upon his skin; he wondered whether he had turned white. He blurted out, "What if I'm innocent?"

The Seeker's gaze did not waver. "If you are innocent, then I trust that our time together will be short. I would far rather find a prisoner innocent than guilty; too many prisoners are sent to us, and the quicker that we can release them from here, the better. If your release is to the lighted world rather than to the executioner, it is likely to come more quickly. But we are commissioned by the Queen to ascertain the truth of accusations of death-sentence crimes, and we are committed to fulfill that commission. Please don't waste my time with false pleas of innocence, Mr. Taylor. It will only make our time together more difficult."

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and other types of diverse fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit for e-books and free fiction.

February 3, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway! Banished, Forbidden #2 b Kimberley Griffiths Little

She thought she’d lost everything . . .

After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the Kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess.

But the trek to Sariba is fraught with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that will change everything.

This gorgeous and enchanting sequel to Forbidden, is full of love, danger, and heated passion that will leave readers breathless.

Booklist Review:
“This sequel to Forbidden (2014) picks up with desert girl Jayden, distraught that the young man she loves, Kadesh, might have died. But, of course, he hasn’t. Scarred and missing an eye, yes, but he’s escaped the clutches of Horeb, Jayden’s malicious betrothed. Traveling bravely through the desert, Jayden finds him. But that perilous trip is only the first of the dangers to come. Gathering an army, Kadesh is determined to return to his faraway home, where the valuable frankincense grows, and introduce Jayden as his future bride. First, however, they must face betrayal, danger, and a waiting evil. Jayden achieves almost superhero status here, moving from adventure to adventure—not even a near-death stoning can stop her. Little’s descriptions of the landscape are evocative in both desolation and in beauty. Just as good is her pacing, which gets the blood pumping for both characters and readers. Far more than a bridge book, this will heighten anticipation for a no-doubt exciting conclusion.“

A dirty, callused hand slapped down over my mouth and the stale breath of a man hissed in my ear. “Don’t move or I’ll slit your pretty, little neck.”

I clawed at the stranger’s cloak, trying to push him off, but he was too heavy. A moment later, I realized my ankles were tied together. I couldn’t run, couldn’t even move. Shrieks gurgled in my throat as if I was drowning, his hand cutting off my air.

Only one day into my journey to find Kadesh and I was already dead.

The sharp tip of a blade pressed against my neck, and I whimpered.

“Give me the frankincense of the stranger we killed.” The man’s foul breath dragged across my face. He was referring to Kadesh, the boy I loved, who’d been murdered by Horeb, the prince of my tribe.

With myself as a witness, I’d watched Horeb plunge his sword into Kadesh and then order his soldiers to drag his body off.

Shock flooded me when I realized who my attacker was. I wrenched his fingers away from my mouth and with a raw voice, said, “Gad? What are you doing lurking about the cliffs of Mari?”

This man was a childhood friend of Horeb’s and one of my own tribesmen. His body pressed against mine, and I writhed in disgust.

There was only one reason Gad was in the foothills of Mari, far from the oasis of Tadmur where my tribe camped for the summer. He was a member of Horeb’s army.

Horeb, my betrothed. The man who’d attacked and scarred me. Blackmailed me for the murder of his father to hide the fact that he’d killed his own father so he could steal the tribal crown.

When I was a kid I read a book a day, scribbled stories, and dreamed about having my very own book on the library shelf. I grew up in San Francisco, but now live in an adobe house on the banks of the Rio Grande with my husband and sons. I think I've drunk so much Land of Enchantment water that some of that ancient magic got into my blood and now spurts out my pencil--I mean ergonomic keyboard. I adore anything old and musty with a secret story to tell.

I'm the author of 10 award-winning middle-grade and Young Adult novels with Scholastic and Harpercollins and I make way too many cookies when I'm writing - and I've got the best book trailers in the universe - for reals! Check them out here: Please find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Youtube.

Awards: Southwest Book Award, Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel, Whitney Award Finalist and Association of Mormon Letters of Art Award, Bank Street College Best Books of 2011, 2013, and 2015, a Crystal Kite Finalist, and New Mexico Book Award Finalist.

Excerpt & Giveaway! American Flyboy by N.D. Clark

American Flyboy is a highly readable, erotic M/M romance set amidst the backdrop of World War II.

The story is fast-paced and characterized by the believability of its characters, notably the protagonist, Lt. Kenneth Hellman, and the romance that develops between Kenneth and Colonel Wilhelm Braun. The erotic reader in search of well-nuanced, sexy love/lovemaking scenes will not be disappointed; the author is gifted with an affinity toward creating realistic, absorbing sex scenes.

Wilhelm whispered in soft breaths, “Raise your hands above your head, Kenneth.” Standing behind him, he pulled the grimy POW uniform top over his head and inhaled deeply. “I find your scent intoxicating.” It was unexpected, Wilhelm’s warm breath gently caressing the nape of his neck; Kenneth’s breath quickened. Loosening the silk blindfold, Wilhelm allowed the soft, smooth fabric to glide over Kenneth’s massive, broad shoulders tapering to a V-shaped torso and down his naked back.

Shuddering at the sleek sensations, Kenneth asked, “Are you trying to seduce me Wilhelm?”

In response, Wilhelm stepped closer and pressed his body into Kenneth’s. Wrapping his arms around his waist, Wilhelm kissed him innocently. “I’ve wanted to do that from the first day we met.”

Kenneth kissed him back softly, lingering. He felt safe and whole.

Coaxing Kenneth’s lips apart, Wilhelm’s tongue entered his mouth, tickling the sensitive palate with light flicks. Their lips crushed together with bruising kisses. Wilhelm broke away, gazing longingly into Kenneth’s eyes. “To answer your question, Kenneth, I am guilty of feeding a wounded POW a wonderful meal, relieving his pain with fine brandy, delighting him with romantic music and drawing him a hot relaxing bath of chamomile salts to soak away the stress of a bad day. Your glass is empty. Why don’t you finish undressing and ease into your bath while I get you another drink.” Wilhelm’s voice trailed off as he left the bathroom. “It’s baffling how you arrived at such an audacious conclusion as seduction.”

“My mistake,” Kenneth called after him, laughing to himself. He kicked off his dilapidated work shoes and pushed his boxers and grungy work pants down his long, muscular legs. Raking his strong fingers through the water, heightened the aroma of chamomile, and he inhaled the relaxing scent before slipping into the warm liquid heaven. His tired muscles released their tension as he submerged his body to the neck. Kenneth held his breath and slipped his head under. As he closed his eyes, his exhaustion seemed to float to the surface, and his thoughts drifted to Wilhelm, charming, handsome, tall and strong. His cock swelled to a full erection as he surfaced and rested his head against the back edge of the tub. Wiping the water from his eyes, he inhaled deeply and faded into sleep.

N.D.Clark was born in Biloxi, MS and educated at NC State University. He is an American author who loves reading and writing gay romance/erotica set in historical backgrounds and spending time with his husband Jim, going for long walks in nature parks, dining out and taking in the occasional movie. He has been with his husband, Jim for almost sixteen years and was married two years ago, shortly have the US Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage throughout the United States.