Month: June 2015

Review of ‘Unbidden’

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When Emperor Louis of France decrees that Rochelle of Alda will marry the Bavarian warrior David, Rochelle is on the brink of defying him—and in the process losing everything. After meeting David, however, she begins to develop a grudging affection. Just when she realizes that she loves him, though, events conspire to threaten their relationship.

Unbidden by Jill Hughey is the first book in the Evolution Series. It introduces a rich cast of characters from the period of the early French empire, complete with complex histories and psychologies, contributing to a fascinating tale. We meet Rochelle, in charge of her estate after the death of her father, and unaccustomed to being under the control of any man; David, a warrior who must come to terms with the tender feelings Rochelle evokes; David’s brother Doeg, who has his own demons to contend with; and Theophilus, on the surface a dandy who also once loved Rochelle, but has conceded the field to his best friend.

You’ll read with rapt interest as Rochelle and David grow to love and respect each other, bite your nails as their love is threatened by Rochelle’s impetuous act, and cheer as they grope for each other in the dark—quite literally. This story had a bit of everything. Nicely inserted historical and cultural details for the lovers of history, a bit of mystery and suspense, and a couple of hot, but tastefully done, flesh on flesh scenes.

A great summer read. I give it five stars without reservation.

13 Tips for Cozy Mystery Writers

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cozy mysteryThis is another in my series on Genre Writing Tips. I hadn’t really thought about cozy mysteries as I worked through from Children’s Books to Steampunk. A member of my critique group reminded me because that’s what she writes. Cozy mysteries, in the style of Murder She Wrote–tricky but non-gory plots with eminantly cheerful characters that you’d like for a best friend.

That’s about all I knew about them, so I polled my PLN and Tweeple and anyone I could find about what the characteristics of ‘cozy mysteries’ were. Here’s what I got:

  1. The mystery is not bloody or ghoulish. It’s softened, the gory parts alluded to rather than spelled out.
  2. The lead character is likely to be an amateur detective, akin to Murder She Wrote, rather than seasoned as you’d find in a detective mystery.
  3. The reader likely will identify with the main character so s/he…

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Review of ‘Sketch of a Murder’

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Sketch of a Murder by Aya Walksfar is book one in the Special Crimes Team series. In this offering, we follow the unit as it tracks down a killer, armed only with little beyond a sketch made by an artistically gifted homeless woman—who is later killed under mysterious circumstances.

The author’s use of point of view—putting us in the killer’s mind—adds to the suspense in this whodunit. There are enough red herrings and subtle clues throughout to satisfy the diehard mystery fan. The ending, which caught me by surprise, was . . . chilling, but satisfying.

A good summer read. The cover was a bit misleading, I think, so I can only give it four stars.

Review of ‘How Far Will it Bounce?” My Blue Ball’

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Ever since I became a grandfather, I’ve taken to occasionally writing—and reviewing—books for children. What I look for in a book is something that will satisfy my precocious four-year-old, but maintain the interest of an impatient two –year-old at the same time.

How Far Will it Bounce?: My Blue Ball by D.C. Swain meets both criteria. It has some neat illustrations and a catchy writing style that makes it easy for young readers to handle on their own, or fun to have read to them. A few grammatical issues—the problem of deciding between it’s and its for example—but nothing that would keep a kid from thoroughly enjoying this book.

My granddaughter, Samantha, gives it four stars.

Review of ‘The Settler’

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The Settler by Orit Arfa is billed as a historical Middle Eastern romance, but it’s much more than that. It’s the story of how one woman, Sara Dakar, a resident of the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, deals with life after she and her fellow settlers are expelled and the settlement destroyed. Even more, it’s a story of modern Israel, and the question of whether it’s a democratic country or a nascent religious dictatorship.

Arfa takes us through the broad sweep of Middle Eastern politics vis a vis Israel, and a down and dirty tour through present day Israel as it copes with the contradictions and inconsistencies in a society that has seen more than its share of death and sadness as its people seek love and fun.

This is not a weekend read, unless you have a long holiday weekend with no other distractions. It’s hard to put down, but it’s also doubtful that you can get through it in one sitting; it’s just too intense.

Regardless of where you stand on the Arab-Israeli issue or the problem of Israeli settlements, you will enjoy reading this book. In fact, if you want to understand the dilemma that’s the Israeli problem better, I recommend this be one of the texts that you consult. Four stars to Arfa for an interesting read.

Review of ‘The Wishing Coin’

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When Julia Preston, a TV personality, buys a wishing coin that grants her every wish, she sees it as a blessing. But, as the power of being able to get anything she wants starts to darken her spirit and consume her, she learns a valuable lesson.

The Wishing Coin by Antara Man is a modern fairy tale that shows that power is corruptive, but at the same time, the author shows that redemption is possible. The reader is shown, through Julia’s actions and reactions, just how this can happen. A short, but interesting tale of human emotions that is an enjoyable summer read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. It was the second book by this author that I’ve read, and it has made me want to see more—preferably a longer work that will allow her to take her talents to the next level. I give it three and a half stars.

Weekly Photo Challenge: MUSE…

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A new take on the concept of a creative muse.

Mirth and Motivation

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” William Shakespeare

Weekly Photo Challenge: MUSE... Color is my Muse Weekly Photo Challenge: MUSE… Color is my Muse

Weekly Photo Challenge: MUSE... Tangy Cat is my Muse Weekly Photo Challenge: MUSE… Tangy Cat is my Muse

The muse is not an angelic voice that sits on your shoulder and sings sweetly. The muse is the most annoying whine. The muse isn’t hard to find, just hard to like – she follows you everywhere, tapping you on the shoulder, demanding that you stop doing whatever else you might be doing and pay attention to her. Harlan Coben

Color is my muse …  Whenever we think of a MUSE, we think of a person, male or female, who inspires our creative outlet. Our muse can be something other than a person, it could be something deeper that prompts our inspiration to flow…  When I think about what inspires me to pick up my…

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Review of ‘The Witch’s Kiss’

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The genie of Alghabra is owned by the ugly witch, Ezemelda. When the witch is called to the castle of King Nruk to celebrate the coming of age of his daughter, Ezemelda makes a deal with the king to reverse a curse upon his daughter. But, the cost of her magic is visited not just on the king, but upon the genie as well.

The Witch’s Kiss by Antara Man is an entertaining and intriguing short book that demonstrates that appearances are not always what they seem, and illustrates the danger of making a deal that seems too good to be true.

Man does a masterful job in a few words of creating memorable characters and a charming tale that you will want to read again and again for the wisdom that unfolds, and it will leave you wondering what dangers lie in store for the transformed Ezemelda (I won’t spoil the story by telling you how she transforms) and the genie who ends up freed from his lamp for the first time in centuries.

I give The Witch’s Kiss four stars.

Remembrance, Not Reverence

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The Civil War has been over for almost 150 years and still the Confederate flag ignites controversy. The latest conflagration is taking place at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Originally just Washington University, it added the Lee in 1870 after the death of Robert E. Lee, who had served as its president since 1865. Lee is buried in the school’s Lee Chapel.

Recently some of the school’s African American students demanded, among other things, the removal of Confederate battle flags in the Lee Chapel. These were not original flags from the Civil War; they were replicas placed there after the originals had been removed because they were deteriorating. The university agreed to take the replica flags down. (You can read university president Richard Ruscio’s reasoned statement about the controversy here.)

The decision led to an eruption from those who decry “political correctness” and protest that the flags…

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Review of ‘Linkage’

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Lucas Ramsay’s birth mother died of a drug overdose. Drew Ramsay’s birth mother died in an auto crash that deprived him of the use of his legs. The two boys found each other in an orphanage and became inseparable. They were adopted together, and have formed a bond similar to that forged between men in combat—closer than blood kin.

They are now working together in an Arizona University, Lucas a research scientist and Drew a PhD candidate, under the supervision of Dr. Kleezebee. When their experiment goes awry, strange energy globes began destroying cities and killing people around the globe, and they find themselves accused of mass murder. Only Kleezebee can save them, but he turns out to be other than they’d previously thought. In the meantime, Lucas and Drew have to save the worlds (that’s right, worlds) threatened by alien invasion. Can they do it? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Linkage: The Narrows of Time by Jay J. Falconer is a first novel that has a little bit of everything—thrills, science, alternate universes, and close human relations, and enough excitement to keep you reading until the indeterminate end. I won’t spoil it by revealing the secret that Lucas and Drew uncover, but it will astound you. Falconer has done a great job on his first book, and I look forward to the sequel.

I give Linkage four stars.

Review of ‘Bloodie Bones’

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Dan Foster, a former boxer, is working as a Bow Street Runner, a kind of deputy marshal or sheriff, in England in the late 1790s. When he’s sent to investigate the death of a gamekeeper, thought to have been the victim of poachers, his valor and integrity are put to the test. Moreover, he has to deal with local superstitions and his growing feelings for a local woman and her son.

Bloodie Bones by Lucienne Boyce is a fantastic blend of history and mystery, with the author merging the history, culture and social customs of the era very effectively into a riveting story. The characters are three dimensional and very real, and you’ll find yourself choosing sides early on in the story—rooting for your side and wishing ill-will upon the other side.

Boyce did a great job of showing the uniqueness of the characters and the language of the time without overwhelming the reader with excessive dialect. A great summer read for mystery buffs. I give him four stars.

Review of ‘Hidden Light’

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In the second book of the Ana Martin series, Hidden Light, by Lyneal Jenkins, Ana is trying to live a normal life now that her Siis lover, Gabriel, is gone. But, she has some of the Siis power within her, enabling her to sense evil intent, and when children start going missing, she is drawn into finding them with the help of her witch friend, Maria.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. After reading Night of the Fae, I anticipated a thrilling ride in this second book, and was not disappointed. This was one of several books I had on my Kindle Fire that I read during a recent two-week stay in the Mojave Desert. An interesting venue to read a story like this—it’s hard to go to sleep after being subjected to Ana’s chilling adventures as she fights the Fae, dodges Creed, a crooked cop who was her abusive ex-husband’s partner, and tries to stay one step ahead of the Siis who are keeping a watch on her.

The author has a fine way with words, orchestrating action, both physical and psychological, in a taut tale of magic, evil, and destiny that you will absolutely not want to put down until you reach the end.

Five stars for a great read!

Cover Reveal: Anne Conley’s WIRE – Book 2 in her Pierce Securities series

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Anne Conley’s WIRE, Book #2 in her Pierce Securities series

Evan Rocco has been a hero to Paige Lawson for as long as she could remember.  So when she runs into him in a bar after a major professional coup, she’s feeling celebratory and reckless.  But it can’t go anywhere, because after all, he’s Evan Rocco.  When she finds her gaming company in trouble, there’s only one man she can turn to.
Evan can’t get the woman who disappeared after their one-night-stand six months ago out of his head.  He’d honestly thought there was more between them besides just sex—a connection he’d never felt before.  When PSL, his favorite game software company is the victim of sabotage, he jumps at the chance to help them solve the mystery behind The Crimson Lady, the fan-made character who’s taking credit for murder.  Maybe it will get his mind off the woman of his dreams.
When he realizes who the CEO of PSL actually is, he has to get over his own issues or else he’ll put the one woman in danger he never wanted to hurt.
This is book two in the Pierce Securities series, a stand-alone story.  The first book, while not necessary to read, is Craze.

Scheduled for release June 29th at all major e-tailers.  Stay tuned!  So, to whet your appetite, here’s a little excerpt…

As usual, her voice came out husky and choked when she tried to speak to him. “I’ll see you first thing Monday morning. Promise. But I can’t talk about this now.” She motioned to Emily, and Evan nodded but didn’t move. Jeez, he was so close.

They made small talk, and Paige actually found herself flirting with him a little, relaxing, while the line moved at a snail’s pace to the haunted house. She found out Travis was a neighbor whose parents traveled a lot. Evan also told her things she already knew: he had a brother in the Marines, his parents had retired to Montana to raise horses, lots of superficial stuff. She told him about her father taking her to haunted houses when she was a kid while her scaredy cat sister had stayed home with Mom. She mentioned her parents were dead, but didn’t give the details.

She couldn’t take her eyes off him. Dressed casually, he reminded her of the first time they’d met. He wore a black t-shirt and worn jeans along with the oldest pair of Converse she’d ever seen. His hair was mussed, as if he’d spent a long day at work, running his hands through it like a crazed man. With her constant avoidance of him, he probably had. A pang of remorse hit her hard. She hadn’t made this easy for him. It was time for her to step up and take responsibility. She’d hired him to do a job, and she needed to get over her school-girl crush and help him.

But it was really hard with him staring at her like that.

She could always blame the teenagers for her inappropriate thoughts. They were walking, talking, flirting hormones on legs. By the time they’d made it to the door, Travis had Emily’s phone number and they’d already made a date and were holding hands. She was positive that if she and Evan hadn’t been there they’d be making out. The teenagers that is, not them. Even though she’d relaxed quite a bit, her heart was still letting her know he was standing awfully close to her.

They went in like a train, with Travis volunteering to lead. Emily hung on to his belt loops followed by Paige. Bringing up the rear, one of Evan’s hands dropped protectively to her back. She ignored the warmth trickling through her t-shirt at the contact. Her heart pounded and her hands were clammy, but it wasn’t because of the fog, or the spooky lighting, or the clanging noises, or the zombies jumping out. It was all Evan Rocco, holding onto her.

As far as haunted houses went, this one was disappointing, or maybe she just couldn’t get into it with Evan’s breath on her neck, his hand at her waist, or his other hand snaking around her torso. The further inside they went, the closer they got. Travis was at the front of the line, jumping with every zombie clown that popped out, giving her ample warning of spooky things ahead. By the halfway point, Evan’s arms were around her torso, with her own hands clutching him while they walked in sync together, his hot breath on her neck warming her insides

At one particularly dark corner, Evan yanked her backward into an alcove, pushing her into the darkness. He leaned his forehead on hers while his forearms leaned on the wall on either side of her head, caging her in, keeping her from bolting.

“You have any idea how many times I’ve thought of this since April?” His body crowded her into the tiny, dark space while his minty breath sent her senses reeling.

“Haunted houses?” she offered weakly before his mouth met hers.

It was suddenly as if the puzzle piece she lost six months ago had been put back into place, and she melted into him as his tongue triumphed over the recesses of her mouth. He growled, a predatory rumble emanating from his chest that reminded her of that night last April, and she whimpered against him as he hauled her into his embrace, wrapping his arms around her tightly.

His tongue danced with hers, twining around inside her mouth while his hands roamed her body, cupping her ass. She twirled her fingers in his hair, bringing his mouth closer, fusing it with hers, unwilling to break this kiss which was rapidly undoing her—mind, body, and soul.

As her fingertips clutched desperately at his biceps, she marveled at how someone who was every bit as geeky as she was could be so fucking beautiful, because Evan Rocco was a seriously beautiful man. And this kiss was feral, something wild, causing her to throw caution to the wind and go with it for as long as it lasted.

Evan broke the kiss, leaning his forehead on hers again, his dark brown eyes consuming her. “Paige,” he breathed out ragged gulps of air. “What the fuck is happening?”

Be sure you don’t miss out on this release, and be sure to stay up-to-date with Anne.  Join her mailing list, follow/friend her on facebook, twitter, and her blog, where you can read first chapters and find purchase links…

Newsletter sign up:
Amazon’s Anne Conley page:
Friend Anne Conley on Facebook:
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Her blog and website:

Book One in the Pierce Securities series, Craze, is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and most other online retailers.
When Krista catches her boss doing the unthinkable, the only thing she can do is run.  Straight into the arms of the eye-candy she’s been trying not to flirt with on her lunch break.  But whose side is he on?
Ryan’s security firm is having a hard time getting off the ground, and this may be just the job to help the company out.  But pseudo-bounty hunter isn’t really what Pierce Securities is trying to get a name for.  When he finds out their target is the classy lady from the park, all of Ryan’s senses go on high alert.  What do these men want with her?
Krista is forced into Ryan’s sanctuary in the woods, where she realizes just how wild he is, but she doesn’t want to tame him.  He may feel his methods of protection endangered her, but without Krista in his life, Ryan is crazed.
This is book #1 in the Pierce Securities, a Romantic Suspense series by Anne Conley, author of the Stories of Serendipity and The Four Winds.

Foreshadowing – a writing device sometimes misused

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Good advice for authors of any genre.

Linda Ulleseit, Author

Another guest post! Today I’m reblogging a post by one of my fellow horse story writers. So exciting that she mentions my own books in her article! Thanks, Connie!

by Connie Peck

A while back I was involved with a fairly tough critique partner who wrote in a vastly different genre than I. He was writing a 200K suspense/murder/mystery/drug & mind control novel while I was writing a simple horse story for fourth graders.

His biggest beef about my writing – foreshadowing. And of course real danger for my main character, an eleven year old girl who had a telepathic connection to her pony.

It was not a good fit.

My biggest mistake was that I let it get under my skin. But I eventually got over it. Then I did some research. For one thing, after re-reading some of his chapters, I recognized…

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Tech Tip for Writers #67: How to Add Accents and more

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A useful chart for writers of any kind.

Tech Tips for Writers is an (almost) weekly post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

Q: I have foregin words in my novel and need a quick way to add accents to words. Can you help?

A: You can go through the symbols library, but there’s an easier way. Use the Ctrl key + a symbol + a letter. Here is a table:

keyboard shortcuts for accents Keyboard shortcuts for accents, etc.

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Review of ‘Money Land’

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When a small plane crashes near the town of Wind River, Wyoming, Sheriff James Pruett finds himself up against a blood thirsty Mexican drug cartel, the bigotry of many of the residents of his county, and the murky agendas of some federal agencies. Pruett, however, will do whatever it takes to save his town, and when his daughter Wendy is kidnapped by the cartel, it becomes personal.

I received a free copy of Money Land by R.S. Guthrie, the second in the James Pruett mystery series, and was not disappointed. Guthrie writes with a deft hand, weaving the thrills of high crimes and misdemeanors in with the gritty, no-nonsense culture of the west in a way that keeps you turning pages. His characters are all a bit flawed, but in a way that makes them endearing—even the villains are first and foremost, human. The land in Guthrie’s stories is also a part of the story, and he paints a picture that ranges from stark to majestic—you see, hear, feel, and smell it.

This is a story that will suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out totally satiated, but wanting more, more, more! James Pruett strikes gold again for another five stars!

Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

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Good advice for ALL writers!

Linda Ulleseit, Author

Today we have a guest post from Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn and High Maga.High Maga 2Eolyn_Audio Cover compressed

Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

By Karin Rita Gastreich

Enjoy the journey.

Writing novels takes time. There’s no way to get around this, no magic wand that will spit out a full-length novel in a few weeks. True, we have fun challenges like NaNoWriMo that encourage us to complete 50,000 words inside of a month. But anyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo will tell you the work doesn’t end there. The “completed” novel must be revised, perhaps rewritten, often expanded, and certainly edited before it can truly be finished. For this reason, while it’s important to keep an eye on the prize, you need to enjoy every part of writing a novel, from beginning to middle to end. Don’t stress out if it feels like you’re taking forever to finish. The time you…

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Review of ‘Now They Tell Me: 50 Life Lessons I Didn’t Learn in School’

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If you’re one of those people who think most of your time in school was wasted, as useless—and sometimes wrong—information was crammed into your brain, you’ll love reading Now They Tell Me: 50 Life Lessons I Didn’t Learn in School by Ed Harris.

This is a humorous look at a very serious subject; how our education system fails us all. The author looks at the myths, and mythtakes, foisted upon students in the formal school system with a wry style that will have you chuckling as you nod in agreement with his observations. In the end, you’ll be forced to agree with the author when he says, “Ultimately, we all get our wisdom the hard-earned way, and I hope you are now a little bit closer to achieving yours.”

Kudos to Harris for his ability to broach such a sensitive subject in such an engaging and entertaining manner. A great five star read!

The Bride and Groom

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Another addition to the growing Ray family of travelers!

Beth and David's Wedding

Engagement Photo Sort Of Beth and David met on a dating website in the summer of 2013. Beth was attracted to David’s humor, and when we met, David decided he liked Beth’s laugh and smile.  By the third date, which our friend Lisa chaperoned, we were goners.

When we started dating, we discovered we shared a love of travel, books, food, and cocktails. Since then, we’ve traveled together to Chicago, Philadelphia, the Mexican Riviera, London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Madrid, Seville, Granada, and New York, and we’ve read, eaten, and drunk along the way. We are looking forward to many more decades of trips near and far, literal and metaphorical, and we’re so glad you can share the start with us.

(By the way, this photo has its own travel story.  When we took it, David was leaving in less than an hour for a two-week trip to Norway.  The airline lost his luggage, and…

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Introducing Author Ashley Fontainne

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Taylor Bellott is a photographer from Hot Springs, Arkansas. While my mother and I were in his gallery one day, drooling over the amazing photographs he has on display, we came across a picture that took our breath away. We knew it would be the perfect backdrop for Growl, since the story takes place in Mississippi, and water is a major plot theme.


Mr. Bellott was kind enough to allow me to use the image for the cover. Once he sent me the jpeg copy, I played around with it in Photoshop and created the final version:



Growl is now available on Amazon.

Here is the back cover blurb:

My name is Sheryl Ilene Newcomb. And yes, my initials are S.I.N. A funny little piece of whimsical humor my parents found amusing when I arrived. Mom and Dad were two high school sweethearts who adored their guns, their beer, and their self-appointed titles of King and Queen of the Rebellious Rednecks. The day I was born, they didn’t think anyone in the town would have the mental acuity to put two and two together to discover their little inside joke. Shame on the pathetic excuses who called themselves teachers in this dreary city because Mom and Dad had been right: no one caught on to their little attempt at humor.

Then, it turned out to be true. Looking back with wiser eyes now, my family and I concluded that the events leading up to my transformation started the summer I turned nine. But the day we realized there was a problem, and no turning back, was a week before I started my senior year at Junction City High. The day the fangs and claws appeared and the monster inside of me emerged. When mutilated corpses appeared near a pile of brush down by Caney Creek, everything changed.

That day I changed—forever—because evil woke up and growled, its ominous rumblings heard by every living thing in Locasia County, Mississippi.

The first chapter of The Magnolia Series – Book One: Blood Ties, is also included at the end of Growl. I am very excited about this trilogy, penned with my mother, Lillian Hansen. Below is the cover:


Blood Ties is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is scheduled for June 1, 2015.

To learn more about my books and the upcoming film projects of The Lie ( and Number Seventy-Five ( visit my website at