Today is the official release of The Soft Whisper of Dreams by Christina Courtenay (paperback, Choc Lit). Here’s the blurb:
Some dreams shouldn’t come true … Maddie Browne thought she’d grown out of the recurring dream that plagued her as a child, but after a shocking family secret is revealed, it comes back to haunt her – the same swing in the same garden, the kind red-haired giant and the swarthy arms which grab her from behind and try to take her away … In an attempt to forget her troubles, Maddie travels to Devon to spend time with her friends, Kayla and Wes. However, it becomes clear that relaxation will not be on the agenda after a disturbing encounter with a gypsy fortune teller. Not to mention the presence of Wes’s dangerously handsome brother, Alex. And then there’s the fact that Maddie’s dream seems to be coming true … The Soft Whisper of Dreams is the sequel to Christina Courtenay’s novel The Secret Kiss of Darkness.
Christina dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:
The Soft Whisper of Dreams is a contemporary novel, mostly set in present-day Devon on England’s south-west coast. It was one of those novels I never meant to write, but when I finished The Secret Kiss of Darkness I just couldn’t let go of Alex, the hero’s brother in that novel. He’d been doing some smuggling, just like his ancestors, but he wasn’t really a bad guy. So what would happen to him after he got caught? Then there was the heroine’s best friend, Maddie, who’d encouraged her to go to Devon in the first place. Her story came to me when a friend of mine who was adopted decided to trace her birth mother and the outcome wasn’t quite what she’d hoped for. I knew this was what I wanted to happen to Maddie as well, but somehow it all turned a bit more sinister than I’d envisaged. The gypsy fortune tellers from the first book had to have a part in this one as well, since the hero is descended from them. And I like the idea of second sight, although I’d be much too scared to ever ask to have my own fortune told! I don’t want to hear anything bad. Well, neither did my heroine …
I’m a publisher, not a journalist! So, when I was asked to write a blog piece of between 500 and 1,000 words I began to feel like one of my authors—a bit panicky by the looming deadline and word count preference. So, here goes …
I’m Tina Haveman, owner of eXtasy Books and Devine Destinies Publishing. Once again, I’m proud to be a sponsor for this year’s AARC and looking forward to meeting up with everyone. Down under holds many fond memories! For those who haven’t met me yet, drop by the table and meet me and other authors. We won’t bite. I am Australian and I have an accent which is a blend because I’ve lived in other countries as well and in Canada for the last forty years. I live and work from Garibaldi Highlands, near Vancouver.
That’s me out of the way. On to you. Most authors ask me what sells. What am I hoping to find when looking at submissions from new authors? Apart from the ‘taboo’ and writing guidelines which tell you what I do NOT want, I seek stories that are character-driven and emotionally-charged—characters and stories that a reader can’t resist. It’s all about writing with emotion, with passion; and I really want well-crafted books, where the author knows language and how to play with it, to bring their own voice to the page.
The ‘P’ word. I need authors to take responsibility for their promotion. My company spends a lot of money on its websites, on promotion in magazines, and online, but there’s nothing more powerful than an author who engages readers through social media, and other promotional tools. Word of mouth recommendations still rate highly with readers looking for that next un-put-down-able-book. eXtasy books and Devine Destinies have two newsletter mailouts per month for its new releases. Apart from digital and print, the company is also looking at audio books for is best-selling titles.
The company also has reader and author lists. eXtasy and Devine authors will happily help new authors discover their ‘author legs’. The Editor-in-Chief and I are always available to answer questions. We pride ourselves on our accessibility to help our authors—either via email or on the phone. It’s not called the ‘eXtasy family’ for nothing.
We must be doing something right, because many of the company’s authors have been with us for years. Astrid Cooper, one of my Aussie authors, has been with the company since the early years. I now have approximately 20 Australian authors.
To satisfy our growing reader demand, eXtasy and Devine release 15–20 titles twice a month. And while trends have come and gone, vampires and paranormal heroes remain the most popular. Readers can’t get enough of fur, tail, skin or feathered heroes. ‘Vampires have had their day!’—I hear this often. Not according to my readers, because a dark, dangerous guy with fangs has universal appeal, as do ‘alpha males’ and the ‘wounded hero’. Heroes and heroines love to tame the savage beast and prove that love conquers all. In a world that too often focuses on tragedy, the books I love and which the company produces show that love can overcome every obstacle and all endings are happy. Romance makes the world go round—even if that world is in another galaxy, far, far away.
What does a reader NOT like? Books with cliff hangers. Readers want the whole story in ONE volume. Series are okay, if each book contains an entire story: a beginning and ending. Characters can overlap in books, but each book has to be stand alone. My best-selling authors regularly get reader mail asking that they never ‘kill off a favourite character’. Again, this proves that the book/character has so engaged the reader that they see them as ‘friends’. To kill off a main character is upsetting to us all. The same can’t be said for some other genre authors who seem to take great delight in killing of their ‘darlings’. <g> (I name no names).
As an artist in my own right, I understand the importance of getting that cover ‘right’. The company’s artists work closely with the authors to perfect the cover, but sometimes what the author envisages doesn’t work, due to the nature of digital publishing. For example, an over busy cover detracts from the effect. We all look at covers as a hook. If there’s too much detail then the main theme gets confused. And when some readers are accessing their books on a phone, that small screen doesn’t allow for an involved cover. Keeping it simple is best.
The company’s books are available at a number of third party sellers, including Amazon, and at eXtasy and Devine readers can maintain a digital bookshelf, so their books are kept safe in case the reader’s hardware fails.
But I want to read a book in print … We do Print on Demand for our best-selling authors, and for special occasions, such as author conference appearances. Isn’t postage expensive for an Australian author/reader? It used to be, but now we have a printer in Australia, so Australian authors (and readers) can order print editions without the added expense of overseas postage.
The company has come such a long way in 12 years. Would I have done anything differently? Possibly, but no matter the future, eXtasy and Devine will continue to produce quality books and give its authors the very best deal it can. Together, our loyal readers, authors and company staff make a winning team.
Please drop by the eXtasy and Devine table and say hi to me and our authors.
Today is the official release of Alpha in Disguise by Afton Locke (ebook, Decadent Publishing). Here’s the blurb:
When her mother is shot by a rancher, Lara Wolfe becomes the last Dominant of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack. Her mother’s dying wish sends her to South Dakota’s Black Hills to find her mate, but Lara would rather continue her mission—saving her pack.
When Ogden Woods, lumber supplier for the Tao pack, offers the newcomer a place to stay, an explosive attraction reveals they’re mates. Afraid of unleashing his inner Dominant and a secret that could get him exiled, he’ll do anything to avoid mating.
Although he begs Lara to stay in Los Lobos where she’ll be safe, she can’t turn her back on her pack. As her mate, Ogden is bound to protect her, but following her means risking his home and his very life. Are they willing to pay the price?
Afton dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:
I’ve always been fascinated by wolves, so I was excited to be invited to be part of the Black Hills Wolves series by Decadent Publishing. This was my first experience writing in a shared world, so I was nervous. I studied the story ‘bible’ and hoped my novella would mesh with the others. Shared worlds require the author to be flexible, so I had to change one of the shared characters while doing edits. We have a private Facebook group where we ask questions, share ideas, support each other, and have fun. I’m reading the series so far and am amazed at how every author has captured the essence of the Black Hills. My book is #9 in the series, but be sure to start at #1, Wolf’s Return by Rebecca Royce.
Read all about it. There has been a gnomicide.
Tobi Fletcher wants to be taken seriously as a journalist. She is trying to get the political story of the year but things seem to keep happening to kill the story. She is sent to a street where there has been a murder. Okay, probably not a conventional murder but a gnome murder. Tobi meets the people in the street as she tries to work out who is kidnapping and killing the community gnomes.
Tobi has much to live up to in her family. Her family is very well known and that impacts on her view of things as she wants to be successful under her own steam. She has allergies and a boyfriend she finally breaks up with. While investigating the gnomicide, one of the teenage boys hits on her, which she finds somewhat troublesome. During the course of writing her series of articles about the gnomicide, she solves many of the issues and problems of the people in that street, and also makes a name for herself. The flow-on effect is that she gets her political story. It means a tough decision for Tobi.
Simon Hanson lives in the street. He called the newspaper on his daughter’s behalf as he wants to show her that this gnomicide is something that should be taken seriously. He is attracted to Tobi and is more than happy to assist as long as he can spend time with Tobi. Simon is a very patient man and takes a slowly, slowly approach with Tobi (which can be frustratingly slow for the reader).
In the story we meet many of Tobi’s family, including her mother who dates her editor (and the editor falls apart when he is dumped). Then there is her sister who is divorced and looking for something more in life. We hear about her grandfather, although we don’t meet him. The family is certainly an eccentric mix and add to the story’s humorous side.
This is funny story. There are many gnome jokes and the reader may come up with one or two of their own to add to the story.
Reviewed by Heather
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Lizzie Dumont has returned to the beautiful coastal town of Dolphin Bay where she spent most of her holidays with her family as a child and teenager. Much has happened in her life since the days that she spent helping the owner of the guesthouse, Maura Morgan, in the kitchen and learning to love cooking. She became a chef and spent time in Paris and Lyon at some of the best restaurants. After her marriage break up and being a single mum, life has been a bit rough and she has come to take over the Bay Bites Café, which is owned by her sister, Sandy. She is hoping that life will get better for her and her daughter Amy. One of the first people she runs into is Jesse Morgan, her sister’s brother-in-law, and someone that she is drawn to after a night together at Sandy’s wedding. There is no way Lizzie is going to become one of Jesse’s girls.
Jesse Morgan is drop-dead gorgeous but after being dumped by the woman he loved and wanted to marry he is very wary of being hurt again. The town people are taking wagers on whether he will ever marry and of course the talk caused from the song Jesse’s Girl. He is careful to choose women who do not want long term, but he is also such a caring guy. He will never purposely hurt anyone. Jesse is back in his home town of Dolphin Bay after an injury has kept him from returning to his job as an engineer, helping rebuild towns in poorer countries that have been devastated by floods and catastrophes. He has offered to help his brother Ben and sister-in-law Sandy with the opening of the new café, although he is wary of being with Lizzie again after the way she dumped him at Ben and Sandy’s wedding.
Lizzie is shocked to see Jesse at the café when she arrives to start getting things organised for the opening. There is such a spark of electricity between them, but both have a lot to overcome and they agree to be friends, and friends only, while they work at getting the café up and running. This gets harder for both of them as the days go on as Jesse drives Lizzie around the local area so she can meet the local growers and buy produce. The more they talk and get to know each other, the closer they become. Jesse is such a caring and understanding guy and, as both of them realise that what happened at the wedding was a big misunderstanding, they decide to give their relationship a go and what a sensual romance this one is.
I loved this story and being back in Dolphin Bay with the friends we have met in the past two books in this series. Ms Shepherd writes such great stories that will pull you in with a wonderful setting. I really want to be in Dolphin Bay with the Morgans and the wonderful people of the town. The ending is so good. This is one book that I wanted to get to the end, but didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend this one, as well as this series.
Reviewed by Helen S
A review copy of this book was provided by the author. ARRA members who leave a comment by 18 March 2015 will go into the draw to win this book.
The ES Siren Series, books 1–3
The overall series was excellent at showcasing sci-fi romance, the technical aspects of the sci-fi related to day-to-day activities and shouldn’t put off anyone who doesn’t like the spaceship type books. There are no ‘beam me up Scottie’ transporter moments here, and the most sci-fi type weapon is an electric whip type of arrangement (an excellently thought out idea for use where you don’t want holes in the hull as you would get with projectile weapons aka guns).
The roughly one hundred page individual tales varied according to which part of the story they were telling. Book One contained a lot of set up, but not demonstrably a first-book-only, the story was complete in and of itself. The great thing was that although different relationships were being explored in each book, the overall feel of the series was maintained in each instalment. There’s an overarching menace in the type of society Earth has spawned with such a considerable divide between the rich and the everyday people and a feel of the Wild West in the colony of Solitaire they are heading towards with its privations and survival on the edge.
Each author brings a slightly different feel to their tales and accordingly the different books will appeal to different people. They all have happily ever afters, the tone is different in each and you should read them all for the rich tapestry they provide for their canon, although if you are not in the mood for menace, space (see what I did there) them out a little between other books. After all it’s about six hundred pages you are committing to.
Chief Rita Songworth has worked her way up through the military and reports to Lieutenant Zane on the spaceship ES Siren. She’s in a dysfunctional relationship with Zane and despondent that she left her family on Earth.
Tristan is a white coverall wearing (worst of the worst) prisoner on board the Siren. He’s in for the murder of his wife and unborn baby, is a world-class painter and strangely compelling to Rita.
Lieutenant Zane is more or less the antichrist in this story (OK that description may be slightly over the top). He’s basically evil, he’s in a position of power, he feels entitled and he manipulates people through his position, using blackmail and by covertly giving them drugs. He runs illegal fights and stirs trouble among the large number of prisoners on the vessel.
Rita and Tristan’s relationship has an interesting dynamic with her being free and him a prisoner. They have brief elicit encounters, it’s not at all sweet and the tension may not appeal to everyone.
It’s the first book in a series written by three authors based on characters travelling on the colony ship ES Siren. Earth is overcrowded and heavily polluted, it’s a dystopian vision of the future with a very wide gap between the haves and have-nots. This sci-fi romance has a horror aspect (think Stephen King’s type of hopelessness), there’s a large emphasis in the story on the Zane character and his deliberate cruelty, which does overshadow the relationship between Rita and Tristan. Not for those who hold fairness and equity as first-level values; a punching bag is recommended as a reading aid for when Zane really makes you want to hit something.
Corporal Sienna Jade is a field surgeon pulling first-aid type duties looking after the prisoners because of her history with Lieutenant Zane (calling him the devil incarnate would be insulting to the Devil). She’s unhappy being on the Earth Ship (ES) Siren although she appreciates the food and relatively clean air of spaceship life. (Given that the food is unappetising gloop you get the picture of life before the military.)
Alex Tariel, former construction foreman is on board ES Siren as a prisoner. He deliberately stole water rations to get a place on the Unity mission to colonise Solitaire. He had a bit of a wild youth but settled down working construction on Earth. While unhappy with the stigma and personal restrictions of being a prisoner, he’s working towards freedom and keeping his head down, passing unnoticed until Zane forces him into the spotlight and into fighting in the Rounds (the prisoner fights) on the spaceship.
Lieutenant Zane is once again manipulating people and generally being an ass. Corporal Jade had the unpleasant experience of being his partner on Earth and now he’s making a point of making her life as miserable as he can. Alex and Sienna have a rough road to romance with Zane attempting to thwart them at every turn.
As with all the books in the series it’s a sci-fi romance, but it doesn’t have the horror angle that the first book did, so it’s a lighter read than the first one. With the baddy (Zane) established in Book One, the Sienna and Alex story takes centre stage and the characters get to flesh out their relationship a little more in this book. Zane does remain a major stumbling block but he takes up less space on the page this time around. There’s graphic sex between Alex and Sienna and it feels more relationship orientated and sweeter than that had by Rita and Tristan (in the first novel).
Doctor Lily Kwan is a skilled and multi-qualified research scientist who has a love for woven baskets and tubers (all hail the potato). She’s kick ass without being physically superior, she uses smarts to get the better of dangerous people. She does (thank goodness) have some flaws; think experimenting on herself and underestimating the bad guy. And not wanting to belabour the tuber point but watch out for the judicious use of mashed potato as an offensive weapon.
Sergeant Connor Madison, quartermaster extraordinaire, can find anything and make even a romantic picnic happen on a less-than-romantic spaceship. He’s got a moral backbone a mile wide and he’s physically imposing, in a ‘hello hotness’ way.
An interesting relationship occurs between Lily and Connor given he’s not sure if she’s involved in the manufacture of sexmeth (a horrible drug that combines lowering of inhibitions and an insatiable need to have sex) and she’s experimenting on herself with an antidote for sexmeth. Never fear happily-ever-after does occur.
Again the book is a sci-fi romance with seamless tech. The vats of green goop in the hydroponics, tablet-type computers, daily drudge like the meals being unappetising yet nutritious and the colonists gaining more space as the stores are used up, make it feel like a real place.
Given the setting, this is a more light-hearted romance than in the first and second books, which were darker and more menacing. A quick woo hoo needs to be voiced for Lily outsmarting the obnoxious Zane in this one (very satisfying in a Hollywood kind of way); the heroines in the previous books outsmarted him in less confrontational ways.
Reviewed by Gina
Review copies of these books were provided by the authors.