Friday, December 21, 2018

Cover Reveal for The Boyfriend Whisper 2.0 by Linda Budzinski with GIVEAWAY!



Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
The Boyfriend Whisperer 2.0
by Linda Budzinski
presented by Swoon Romance!
Be on the lookout for this upcoming title, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

What do you think of the cover?


Alicea Springer was Boyfriend Whisperer Enterprises’ top success story. That is, until her dream date, Ty Walker, dumped her a week before prom. Now it’s senior year, and Alicea has taken over the business and given it an upgrade with an automated matchmaking program she designed and nicknamed Libby, short for LIBACA, which is short for "Love is But a Click Away."

Alicea has no interest in using the program herself. She already knows who her perfect match is … Ty. She doesn’t need an app to tell her that (or worse, match her up with someone else). In a moment of weakness, Alicea allows her friends to convince her to give Libby a try. To her horror, it matches her with the last boy on earth she'd ever want to date--Darius Groves, the class deadbeat.

When she and Darius are paired up for a class project, Alicia learns there's more to him than his bad reputation. But the more she spends time with Darius, the more she questions their match. They have so little in common. Can Alicea defy the odds and make a match of her own heart’s desire? Or will the matchmaker remain unmatched?
The Boyfriend Whisperer 2.0 by Linda Budzinski
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Available for Pre-order:
Amazon


Linda Acorn Budzinski decided in the second grade that she wanted to be a “Paperback Writer,” just like in the Beatles song. She majored in journalism in college and now works in marketing and communications. She spent 18 years at a trade association in the funeral service industry, where she discovered that funeral directors are some of the bravest and most compassionate people on earth. Linda lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Joe, and their chihuahua, Demitria. She has two step-daughters, Eris and Sarah. THE FUNERAL SINGER is her debut novel. She is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.




Thursday, December 20, 2018

Book Review of Just Pretending by Leah and Kate Rooper


It's not easy being royal. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline wears her crown proudly, but between her duties and her overprotective big brother, the idea of romance is just a dream. But a chance encounter in Chicago changes all that…. 

Sure, seventeen-year-old Tyler Evans loves playing hockey, but he's more concerned about providing for his dad and little sister. Then he meets Eva--and falls head-over-heels in love—and he has two more problems. One, she's his best friend's little sister. Two, she wears a crown.

But then Eva accidentally mistakes Tyler for a visiting prince, and for the first time, Tyler doesn't feel like a nobody. He knows he has to tell her the truth…but not yet. 

His plan? To keep up the royal charade as long as it takes to convince Eva he’s the guy for her. Even if he’s lying to everyone…including himself.

Disclaimer: May cause disillusionment. Those girls looking to find their Prince Charming might consider scouting out hockey rinks.



*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

First off, I love the way this book was written. The story flows so easily and before you know it you're caught up in the drama, eagerly waiting, watching and hoping for Eva and Tyler to find love. 

I love how the book went back and forth between Eva and Tyler, showing the reader both of their worlds and how they perceived each other. I felt this added a great dynamic to the story. 

This book reads like a romantic comedy, with plenty of heartfelt moments. I did find myself sometimes annoyed with how down Tyler could be on himself but was easily able to look over this fact due to the drama that is created early in the story. 

If you like a fast romantic read, young adult, or any story with a queen/royalty in it, pick up Just Pretending now! 

Amazon   Goodreads 


Leah and Kate Rooper are sisters who live on beautiful Vancouver Island, BC. Ever since they were little, they have loved playing make-believe. Now even as "grown-ups", they play make-believe every day in the stories they write. When they're not glued to their laptops, Leah and Kate spend time studying Elementary School Education at university, cosplaying as Disney princesses, and frequenting their local libraries.

Website   Twitter

Monday, December 17, 2018

Guest Post by Author Mark Engels: Hold Fast

HOLD FAST


So you want to write a book, eh? Glad to hear it. I have too, and I can tell you, without reservation, it's been one of the most challenging things I've ever done. Must've not learned my lesson just yet because just after finishing the manuscript for the next paranormal sci-fi thriller in my werecat family saga series, I went and started another.

Which strikes me as odd, now that I reflect upon it. I never really had in mind to even become an author. Sure, in the past I was active in several anime and manga fanfiction communities. But then as now, something has to move me mightily to where I'll put aside life's busyness and write. This last time, that something manifested in the form of a werecat, coming to me while on a job site late one night. Shredding away at my subconsciousness before even having decency enough to tell me her name. Jerk.

Before long she told me her name was Pawly, and that she wanted me to write about her and her family. The modern-day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats, torn apart by militaries on three continents vying to exploit their deadly talents. Though as I began, I really didn't know how I was going to do that. But I did know I desperately *wanted* to. If for no other reason than for Pawly to let me be whenever I finished. Suffice to say that claws and fangs make for a very convincing argument.

My muse's initial nudge is what led me to grasp onto my novel-writing goals. Led me to figure it out as I went (and am still figuring it out, in fact.) Research and plotting and drafting and editing. Submitting and pitching and revising. Marketing and platform building and outreach. Any one of these subjects requires consistent effort and study, being there is no one correct way to do any of them. I had to discern which approaches were best for me, best for the story I wanted to tell. I'm still making course adjustments, and I expect I'll continue to do so.

Pawly is a Navy sailor, descended herself from a long line of sailors. In the face of raging storms, sailors encourage one another to "hold fast." Hold fast to the vision of my book when I doubted my story outline. Hold fast to the vision of my book while working full time and being a spouse and parent. Hold fast to the vision of my book reading "no vampires, no werewolves" on one submissions page after another, which I came to realize meant "no shifters of any kind." Hold fast to the vision of my book as paranormal romance publishers continued to accept shifter stories, knowing mine was no romance. Hold fast to the vision of my book even after publication and finding its audience, one whose size and shape and characteristics nothing like what I had first thought.

Writing is a test of endurance. From the initial concept through planning through drafting through critiquing through editing through publishing through marketing. It's a slog. Anyone who would tell you otherwise is likely trying to sell you something. But it's one I found eminently worthwhile, and hope you will too. Spend the time necessary to understand what you're doing and why, so you too can apply the mariners' ancient wisdom Pawly shared with me.

Hold fast.



Boyhood interests in trains and electronics fostered Mark's career as an electrical engineer, designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. Along the way, Mark indulged his writing desire by authoring articles for rail and transit industry trade magazines. Coupled with Mark's long-time membership in anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms, he took up writing genre fiction. Growing up in Michigan, never far from his beloved Great Lakes, Mark and his wife today make their home in Wisconsin with their son and a dog who naps beside him as he writes.

Mark is a member of Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state's oldest writing collectives. He also belongs to the Furry Writer’s Guild, dedicated to supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.

Twitter   Facebook   Deviant Art   Linkedin

Friday, December 14, 2018

Author Interview with Mark Engels, author of Always Gray in Winter

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to become a writer.


Thank you for asking! I geeked out over trains and electronics as a boy growing up. That’s the main reason why I work now as an electrical engineer designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. But I’ve been every bit as long a part of media fandoms like anime, manga, and anthropomorphics (“furry” writing and art.) So I came to enjoy creative endeavors like role-playing games, acting, and, of course, writing. I am an American, born and raised in Michigan, never far from the shore of one or another of the Great Lakes. Kept that trend going through moves following college to Minnesota and Indiana. Now I live in Wisconsin together with my wife, our son, and a dog who keeps my favorite spot on the sofa warm until I sit down to write.


After writing anime/manga fanfiction for years and gettings articles published in rail and transit industry trade magazines, I got into my head I ought to take up creating my own original genre fiction. (Well, more precisely, she got into my head but more about that in a moment.) My paranormal sci-fi thriller ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER, first in my werecat family saga series, was the result. It became an itch I couldn’t bear not to scratch.


Do you remember the first anime/manga that you read?


As a boy I would sneak into the living room at 6:00 AM weekday mornings and plop down right next to the TV to watch Kimba the White Lion (with the volume way down low so as not to wake my parents!) As I grew older I thrilled to Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, Voltron, Captain Harlock, and Robotech. But I wouldn’t actually come to know the term “anime” until the first time my mates and I watched Bubblegum Crisis on a fifth-generation fansub my sophomore year of college. Within a month, I was at a comic store purchasing my first manga--North American first run copies of Johji Manabe’s Outlanders, Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed, and Hayao Miyazaki’s NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind.


How would you describe the genre for “Always Gray in Winter”? I kept thinking of it as “realistic fantasy” but that didn’t seem right.


As I wrote the book, all I knew about my story was that it was, well, my story. I didn’t get around to figuring out genre labels until the time came for me to seek publication. A query or pitch would require me to identify my book’s genre beyond “first in a werecat family saga series.” So I came up with “paranormal sci-fi thriller”, capturing what I thought was the book’s most important elements. I anticipate successive books will be billed similarly.


How do you get inspired for your writing?


Something has to really move me before I’ll write‎. Whenever I wrote fan fiction based on my favorite anime and manga series, I did so because I felt the creators left interesting and exciting parts of the story untold. And when I couldn't find any paranormal sci-fi thrillers about the modern-day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats, I knew Something Must Be Done.


Do you hope that one day someone will write fanfic for your novels? I see you already have some art on your website, is that from your fans?


šŸ¤© YES, PLEASE! Because then I’ll feel I’ve come full circle. Creators whose works I loved enough to write fan fiction inspired what would become the genesis of my own work. I hope someone desiring to play in the sandbox I’ve built for a while will go forth and build one of their own. So others can play too. The artwork featured on my website are mostly developmental and promotional pieces I’ve commissioned (aside from ALWAYS GRAY’s cover, which Thurston Howl Publications arranged themselves) but you’ll find a couple of fan pieces there, too. I appreciate each and every one of them so very much! Given the manga, anime and anthropomorphic stories I drew from as inspiration for my own, I’m thrilled to work with artists willing and able to depict my characters in similar stylings. Click on my site’s “Gallery” link and sit back to enjoy the slideshow. Click on any piece to pause; title, artist credit and an artist contact link appear beneath the image.


Where did you come up with the idea for Always Gray in Winter?


Aboard a test train one night while commissioning Metro's Silver Line west of Washington, DC in northern Virginia. (No, really!) My novel’s origins go back to a plot outline I’d worked up for an “anthro” artist to help launch his webcomic. The guy's live streams featuring his own cloak-and-dagger characters helped pass many a lonely weekend lying about my hotel room. He’d publicly bemoaned lacking a firm grasp of his antagonist’s motivations, so I thought I’d help him out. We sat down at a nearby convention one weekend together to go through my outline. When I finished he told me “it’s a great story, but it’s not my story” and that was that.
Or so I thought. ‎My muse she be a werecat, you see. She accosted me as I deadheaded back to the yard that fateful night and started slashing away at my subconscious. I tossed and turned on my rack all day long at the hotel trying to ignore her. But Pawly, as I came to know her, makes a very convincing argument with fangs and claws. And she wanted out of my head. Insisted I recount her family's struggle, hostages within their own bodies. Forced to live as societal outcasts on account of their Affliction while hiding in plain sight. I could hardly think about anything else until I caved and began outlining the story.


Why do you think you’re drawn specifically to werecats? Or is it just this specific character and she just happens to be a werecat?


Some of my favorite anthro characters are felinoid. Erma Felna, the titular character from Steven A. Gallacci’s cornerstone-of-the-genre work. Omaha and her lover Chuck from Waller & Worley’s Omaha the Cat Dancer. Flora and her kin from Twokinds by Tom Fishbach. Brett A. Brooks’ reimagining of the 40s-era Pussy Katnip comic in novel form. Tracy Butler’s Lackadaisy. Nearly the entire cast of White Shadow by Keiron White. One of White’s endearing characters, a Siamese-styled assassin named Violet, suffers from a debilitating condition called “feral psychosis.” I expanded upon that, exploring how shifter characters might need to mitigate primal urges in human and anthro form. Though I deliberately eschewed werewolves because others had done them and done them well. I wasn’t sure I could add much to that body of work. So I settled on werecats for much the same reason my stories draw from Polish and Korean culture, customs and folklore--because they’re different!



What is it influenced by? It definitely feels like it has a lot of Asian influences - it that just from your own love of Manga and graphic novels or from other areas, as well?


I set out to tell a story where I share so many of my own experiences and interests. Mostly to enshrine those parts of my past I myself don’t want to ever forget. Like growing up amongst Polish-Americans near Detroit. My love of Great Lakes lore and legend. Ice hockey. Staring out through a tractor-trailer's windshield at the passing countryside. Practice in and appreciation for traditional Korean fighting arts.


Since boyhood, I've been a fan of anthropomorphic characters from both east and west. Along with Tezuka’s Kimba, my faves included Disney's Robin Hood and O' Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In my teen years, I’d come to love Thundercats (if for no other reason than Cheetara was hawt.) As I entered college I discovered Steve Gallacci’s Erma Felna, EDF, and Birthright. Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. Waller & Worley’s Omaha. Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All faves to this day. Though many furry fans grew up with Brian Jacques, I myself wouldn’t come to read and enjoy the Redwall books until well into my adulthood. ("Boo hur!")


One particularly bittersweet influence I wanted to share, beginning when my mom had subscribed me to the Weekly Reader's Book Club. Every month a fine new book would show up for my twelve-year-old self to devour. One day came ‎Gene DeWeese's The Adventures of a Two-Minute Werewolf; I must've read that book cover to cover a dozen times at least! Ronald Fritz's illustrations really helped me identify with Walter, just your average kid who comes to realize his whole family share secrets like none other. And Werewolf Mom was badass!


DeWeese was also a member of Allied Authors of Wisconsin. To my great regret, he passed away several years prior to my joining the organization.


After you finish up this book series do you plan on continuing your writing into other stories?


Who knows? When I finish my series a couple years from now, I’d be quite glad go on with life knowing I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. To quote a fellow author’s Twitter profile "I didn't write these stories to become an author. I became an author to tell these stories." (Thank you, @HRuthMiller.) Because if I wasn't writing about Pawly and her family, I wouldn't be writing at all. Like I mentioned earlier, something really has to move me to get me to write. Whether something will between now and then, we can only wait and see.


Uh oh, my muse is giving me that look. Methinks this doth bodes ill.


Who are some of your favorite writers?


In no particular order: Hayao Miyazaki, Rumiko Takahashi, Yuu Watase, Leiji Matsumoto, Ben Dunn, Steve Gallacci, Stan Sakai, Reed Waller/Kate Worley, Hiroyuki Morioka, Sheryl Nantus, Gene DeWeese, Ken Akamatsu, Yukito Kishiro, Kenichi Sonoda, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, David Michael Williams, Brett A. Brooks, Stephen Coghlan, Grant Cravens, M. Crane Hana, William Alan Webb.


Do you have a favorite/go-to book?


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. It was the first book I recall reading, early in my high school years, where the protagonists didn’t end up with the “happily ever after” I had been led to expect everyone did. (Spoiler alert--the “good guys” all die.) This wasn’t a book intended to entertain; it intended to graphically, viscerally showcase the horrors of war and the fortitude of men who stood together in the face of madness. To make a statement about our world and the people in it. And a crusty old squad leader named Stanislaus Katczinsky, whom everyone knows as “Kat”, became the archetype for one my novel’s most influential characters. He's the namesake of my protagonist’s family, in fact, though I did transpose a couple vowels. His name and mannerisms imply he’s an ethnic Pole, which is in part why my werecats’ clan hails from Poland.


What is your biggest piece of advice to writers just getting started?


There is so much writing "advice" out there. Some of it free, some of it you have to pay for. But keep in mind anyone telling you anything can only talk about what’s worked for them/there/then. Some (or maybe most) of it may not be practical, feasible nor helpful for you/here/now. You will have to find your own way, but be decidedly skeptical of those suggesting your way is wrong. Because your way is every bit as valid as you are. Though I believe a writer would do well to consider other people’s successes and failures, keeping in mind Bruce Lee’s timeless adage:


“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”


So go on now, write the book in your heart to write. The one you wanted to read but couldn’t find. And perhaps one I'll be excited to read myself.





Boyhood interests in trains and electronics fostered Mark's career as an electrical engineer, designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. Along the way, Mark indulged his writing desire by authoring articles for rail and transit industry trade magazines. Coupled with Mark's long-time membership in anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms, he took up writing genre fiction. Growing up in Michigan, never far from his beloved Great Lakes, Mark and his wife today make their home in Wisconsin with their son and a dog who naps beside him as he writes.

Mark is a member of Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state's oldest writing collectives. He also belongs to the Furry Writer’s Guild, dedicated to supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.

Twitter   Facebook   Deviant Art   Linkedin

This interview was done by MJ. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Review of Always Gray in Winter by Mark J. Engels


A distant daughter. A peculiar device. A family lineage full of secrets. When werecat Pawlina Katczynski finally resurfaces, her location previously unknown to anyone close to her, the reunion is short of welcomed. Instead, she finds herself thrust tooth and nail—tooth and claw—into a feud between opposing werecat clans as her family and their enemies reignite a battle that has raged for years. Always Gray in Winter invites the reader to join the feud and see if blood is truly thicker than water... 



*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Always Grey in Winter was a very unique read, at least for me. A departure from my usual genre, this novel follows some anthropomorphic werecats, their struggle to find their place, and their relationships.

This book is extremely well written, with vivid descriptions and great dialogue.   Mark Engels does a great job of making a family of humans that transform into cats seem relatable. You can definitely see the influences of Manga and Asian culture, which are mixed in well with American themes, including military service.

There is great pacing throughout the story and you get a good sense of who the characters are and what they are struggling with, whether it be siblings, secrets, romantic relationships, or other family drama. I had to re-read a couple of sections because it went into the past without much of a transition and I didn't know what was happening (so, heads up!), but overall it didn't affect my reading flow too much.

I definitely recommend this to anyone out there looking for something new and different, or is a fan of fantasy, in a realistic world. And if you enjoy this, I hear this is just the first book in a series!

Goodreads   Amazon 

This review was done by MJ. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Boyhood interests in trains and electronics fostered Mark's career as an electrical engineer, designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. Along the way Mark indulged his writing desire by authoring articles for rail and transit industry trade magazines. Coupled with Mark's long-time membership in anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms, he took up writing genre fiction. Growing up in Michigan, never far from his beloved Great Lakes, Mark and his wife today make their home in Wisconsin with their son and a dog who naps beside him as he writes.


Mark is a member of Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state's oldest writing collectives. He also belongs to the Furry Writer’s Guild, dedicated to supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.

Twitter   Facebook   Deviant Art   Linkedin

Monday, December 10, 2018

When Life Gets in the Way



Whilst contemplating this month’s Mystery Monday post, my life got in the way. Such is the existence of a struggling author. As much as you’d like to mull over your ideas and creative battles, sometimes pressing matters like a roof over your head and cooking dinner have to take precedence – that is, if you happen to enjoy things like a roof over your head and a warm dinner.
I know what you’re thinking: this is an apology post for not having a real topic for a Mystery Monday blog. And you’re not wrong… except that in the midst of all this life getting in the way, I started to think how often a character’s ‘life’ gets in the ‘way’ of the story.
I put ‘LIFE’ and ‘WAY’ in quotes because A) a character is doesn’t actually have a life, it’s imaginary and I know that and I don’t want the crazy police to come and haul me away and B) because – and this is important – it’s not really in the way of anything.
Hear me out.
You can use “Life Interruptions” (for lack of a better turn of phrase) to do multiple things in any story, but it is an extremely handy literary device in a mystery.
An interruption can place your main character or detective in an unexpected situation that could put them in more or less mortal danger than to which they are accustomed.
A big city detective’s divorce leads her to move to a small town where she now sees danger everywhere yet everybody around her tells her that no danger exists. Sounds like a pretty cool setup for a suspicious death, no?
A small town banker has to go to a dangerous metropolis to help his sick sister. After several events where he cries wolf, a really wolf comes to call and he must solve the crime.
Life interruptions are not just good devices for a plot, they are also good devices for a clue.
In Chasing Those Devil Bones, my main character must attend a funeral. At that funeral, she’s given the critical piece of information she needs to solve her crime. A teeny tiny little clue to push the story towards its conclusion. But the event surrounding that single moment provides an opportunity to explore some of Clementine Toledano’s inner world that the reader wouldn’t otherwise know existed.
I use these interruptions a lot. And if done well, they will enhance the mystery, rather than distract from it. In October’s Mystery Mondaypost, I talked about different techniques to hide clues in plain sight. This device is definitely one of them, but it’s also a good spot for a little misdirection, should you need it.
James Lee Burke is a master at these interruptions. Sometimes they’re as dramatic as a plane crash, other times as mundane as a child’s homework assignment, but they always move the story forward. And that’s really the trick.
You can’t just add in a new life event without it having a direct impact on the story you’re writing -  even if it’s an interesting one to you that allows you to deepen your understanding of your characters. While these self-indulgent little darlings are usually some of a writer’s favorite moments, they are also the parts of a novel that will drag the story to a standstill and force the reader to skim through your precious words until you’re back on track with some relevant text.
The bottom line is that even in a genre as formulaic as a good mystery, your characters have to live. And in any life, even a fictional one, life will get in the way from time to time. The important thing to remember is that every interruption must move the story forward.