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Monday, October 20, 2014

Up the Tower: Dystopian Fiction

Up the Tower
by J. P. Lantern



Disaster brings everybody together. A cloned corporate assassin; a boy genius and his new robot; a tech-modified gangster with nothing to lose; a beautiful, damaged woman and her unbalanced stalker—these folks couldn't be more different, but somehow they must work together to save their own skin. Stranded in the epicenter of a monumental earthquake in the dystopian slum, Junktown, there is only one way to survive. These unlikely teammates must go...UP THE TOWER.


Before anything else—before the riot, before the flood, before the gap and the deaths and the fires and the pain—before all of that, Ana just wanted to get the hell out of Junktown.

But she was stuck there with Raj, and Raj had all the bodyguards, so she couldn't very well leave on her own. Walk into Junktown without any protection? No, thank you. She had a knife on her, but that was hardly enough. The knife fit neatly in a small, luxury Cardion-brand sheath at her side.

The rest of her outfit was direct out from a fashion magazine. She wore tight black Cardion slacks, her patent leather Aushwere ankle boots sexy and stylish and perfect for inner-city walking. Her dark blue blouse was Cardion again (there had been a sale); already she had noticed the way Raj had been hugging his eyes to how it cupped and clung to her body. He would have been looking a bit more, perhaps, but she wore her favorite Kadaya Sarin-brand leather jacket, allowing her a bit of modesty with the long sleeves and tight collar, despite the thinness of the material. She was a woman dressed to impress, but also was no whore—she had her man. He liked her dressed attractive, but not like some slut. Ana knew what he wanted, because that was her entire life, as she saw it, from now on.

They were inside the ground floor of a tall building. Cleanbots rushed around them, sweeping up dust, guided along by retrofitted eyebots that spied out areas of dust and disrepair.

 “Here's where we'll have the lobby,” said Raj, opening his hands out wide to the open space.

Ana had presence of mind to hold her tongue.

What she wanted to say was, “Really, dear? Here in the first possible place that someone could enter from the street? That's where you'll have the lobby? That's so inventive. You're so smart.”

What did she say was, “Oh! It will look beautiful, I'm sure.”

A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR: What does dystopia mean?

So, a dystopia is a spin on the word “utopia.” Sometime during the Enlightenment, Utopian Fiction and Philosophy came into being, because large amounts of people were becoming rather well educated for the first time in history. Because of this, a great many folks started to believe that the “perfect society” was just around the corner. This made sense, in a way, because the formation and success of the United States—and then the French Revolution—made it seem like human history had forever changed course into toward something that would heavily favor peace and rational thought.
Well, this wasn't the case.

After The Great War promptly trounced most of humanity's dreams for a decent future, a new kind of fiction and philosophy started sliding around—dystopian fiction. This was fiction about how, despite all our education and good intentions, humans are basically prone to being completely terrible (due either to systems of government, technology, or some other trapping of civilization), and how we can't escape being inhuman to our fellow humans.

After World War II, this intensified further, because all of a sudden, for the first time in the history of civilization, we had the ability to absolutely wipe out every trace of all life on earth with nuclear weapons. There have been lots of times in the past when a civilization has been completely wiped out due to plague, or war, or famine, but never before had we been positioned to utterly destroy even the possibility of life across the entirety of the globe in just a matter of hours (if we wanted).

So, with the belief that we're all kind of idiots fueling this tank of destruction, dystopian authors figured it would be sort of inevitable for us to destroy almost everything. Or, alternatively, they figured the fear of destroying everything would destroy all our fundamental concepts of freedom (the thought being that the more rights you take away in order to protect life against some shadowy threat, the more you've destroyed the freedoms of a given country). This is why so many dystopian novel—like 1984 or THE HUNGER GAMES—focus on totalitarian governments being in charge.

I like to write in this genre for several reasons. For one, I like to explore science-fiction worlds and ideas because it gives the author a little more allowance to just fabricate things out of pure thin air. The only thing keeping a science fiction author from being a fantasy author is the joined belief by the audience that the science fiction possibilities posed might exist someday (with fantasy, the understanding is more along the lines of the world might exist somewhere, be it in another dimension, planet, or time).

For another reason, though, back to this idea of incidentally or purposefully destroying the world, I feel like we're not out of the woods yet. I think it’s important to consider that with the world so close together these days, it only takes a small amount of decisions to really start to unhinge everything. Dystopian fiction allows us to hold a mirror up to the world with everything distorted just the right way, so that the problems are more problematic and the extremes of opinion and thought are just scary enough to (hopefully) initiate some change.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

J.P. Lantern lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word.
Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.


The author is giving away a backlist ebook copy to a randomly drawn winner at every stop during the tour and a Grand Prize of a $25 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour. Use the rafflecopter link below to enter. You can find the author's tour schedule at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vanished from Dust

Vanished from Dust
by Shea Norwood





Eric Stark is not insane. Or at least he doesn’t think so. He wishes everyone in Dust, Texas, felt the same way. But that’s not going to happen since the whole town thinks he’s crazy. Why didn’t he keep his mouth shut?

No one understands. Eric is alone as he battles his sanity in a town of tormenters. Suddenly a new friendship emerges after the new kid, Kyle Barrett, moves to town.
Eric reluctantly reveals his secret. Is it a curse or a gift? He isn’t certain, but with Kyle by his side he finds the courage to seek the truth.

They soon realize that something sinister is descending on the residents of Dust.
Is it caused by Eric’s phantoms or is it something else? Is it connected to the mysterious death of hundreds of townspeople over sixty years ago? One thing is certain—only Eric and Kyle can save them.

They set out on a heart-pounding adventure and find themselves transported to a disturbed and deserted version of their small southern town. They quickly discover that this new world has mysteries of its own to uncover. What they find could prove more than they bargained for, and it only leads to more questions. Eric and Kyle must face a horrifying fact—they may never get out alive.

“We’re gonna die here,” Kyle muttered.

 “I don’t believe that,” Eric said. “And neither do you.”

Will they survive their encounter with these dark and mysterious beings?

Will they find a way back home?

Or will they be lost forever?

The Vanished from Dust series is perfect for anyone who craves a hair-raising thriller packed with mystery and suspense. This paranormal story for young adults can be compared to Stand by Me, mixed with Odd Thomas, and a twist of The Dark Tower.

“I’m not crazy,” Eric Stark shouted at the crowd of seventh graders as they surrounded him. He looked up from the ground, which consisted of patches of grass and dirt, to see the sunlight glinting off of the metal braces of a girl with pigtails as she pointed and laughed with the rest of them. Another boy kicked him in the stomach, causing him to retreat nto a fetal position to guard against another blow.

“Oh yeah?” Greg Coffey asked as he towered over Eric. His lip was curled, showing his crooked, heavily stained teeth. “What happened last week in class? You said, ‘They’re watching
me.’ Remember that, loser?”

“I didn’t say that.” Eric tried to get up, but Greg pushed him back down and kicked dirt in his face. Eric rubbed his burning eyes with both hands. When he opened them he saw four more kids sneering over him, all laughing at his expense. Where was a teacher when you needed one? The hot Texas sun was high on the horizon, almost blinding him as he stared back at his tormentors. Sweat was pouring from his brow, mixing with the tears that streamed down his face.

“Yeah you did,” Adam Marshall said with a smirk. “You’re going off the rails, crazy train.”

“I like that—crazy train. Just like the song,” Greg said. He laughed and gave Adam a high five. “That’s your new name. Like it?” Greg kicked another pile of dirt at Eric.

Eric tried to spit it out, but his entire face was covered in a muddy film. He wished that he’d just kept his mouth shut about it, but it was too late now. News traveled fast in a small town, and he was sure everyone thought he was insane by now.

He didn’t know what he was.

“Leave him alone,” a kid said. He leaned over to help Eric to his feet. “I don’t like bullies.”

“Stay out of it, new kid.” Greg said and gave him a scowling stare.

“Or what?” The kid got closer.

“Let’s go,” Adam said. “There’s a teacher coming.” He slapped Greg on the shoulder.

“This ain’t over,” Greg said as he walked away.

“Thanks,” Eric said.

“I’m Kyle Barrett,” the kid said, extending his hand.

Eric shook it. “Did you just move here?”

“Yeah, this is my first day,” Kyle said. “It’s hard being the new kid. No one talks to you.”

“No one talks to me either, except to make fun of me,” Eric said.

 AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Shea Norwood is a West Texas native that currently lives in the DFW area with his wife and son. He's an avid reader and enjoys the craft of writing. The fictional town of Dust is loosely based on a small town south of Odessa, TX.



 Handle: @sheanorwood



 Shea Norwood will be awarding a $25 PayPal, Amazon or BN GC via rafflecopter. Use the link below to enter.  You can find the tour schedule at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 17, 2014

Saturday Sample, Snippet Sunday, and Weekend Writing Warriors

Today's sample comes from Rest Thy Head which at present has 8 five star reviews and 2 four star reviews. You can get it at Amazon and most other online retail outlets. In this excerpt my hero and heroine have gone to a farmer's market, and she hears an ice cream truck and wants an ice cream.

She grabbed his hand before she thought what she had done, but she had grabbed his scarred side. He jerked away from her as if she’d burned him and fished in his pocket. He handed her ten dollars and turned his back. “Get whatever you want.”

Oh, poor Jake. Peyton’s heart burned for him. She had a sudden urge to put her arms around him and whisper in his ear that he was okay now. Afghanistan was behind him, and he was home where he belonged, home where no one cared if he had scars or not.

Fashionista Friday

A Day at the Office

White top

Mavi black jeans
$68 -

Tory Burch leather bag

Burberry watch

STELLA McCARTNEY round sunglasses

Suzusan black shawl
$830 -

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bar V5 Dude Ranch Series

Bar V5 Dude Ranch Series
by Melissa McClone



Three couples. Three stories, where you can follow one pair from meeting to wedding day!

1. Mistletoe Magic – short story – Free at Amazon and Smashwords
2. Kiss Me, Cowboy – eBook novella — $0.99 on Kindle Oct 16 - 22
3. Mistletoe Wedding — eBook novella — New Release! only $2.99

Mistletoe Magic

Spending a quiet Christmas housesitting and reading novels about hot cowboys sounds perfect to Caitlin Butler. Until a stray kitten brings her face-to-face with Noah, her crush from college. Watching the handsome vet in action melts Caitlin's heart and brings back long forgotten emotion. She would be safer back at the house lost in the pages of a book. But a toe-curling mistletoe kiss tempts her to stay. Maybe she won't be spending this Christmas... alone.

Veterinarian Noah Sullivan isn't a Scrooge, but the Christmas Eve tradition of hanging mistletoe in the clinic's waiting room annoys him. Kissing doesn't belong at the Copper Mountain Animal Hospital. Noah rethinks his position when Caitlin arrives with a stray kitten she found freezing in the snow. All he wants now is to maneuver the pretty preschool teacher under the mistletoe. If he's not careful, he'll wind up on Santa's naughty list.

Kiss Me, Cowboy

She didn’t mean to kiss him…

When dude ranch wrangler Charlotte – aka Charlie – Randall kisses Zack Harris in an act of empathy, she falls hat over spurs for the handsome military veteran turned cowboy. Zack has too many demons, however, and refuses to get involved. A year later, he's still stonewalling, and Charlie needs to move on with her life so she can find a fulfilling relationship, not frustrating unrequited love. Putting distance between them seems the best way to get Zack out of her head and heart...but that means quitting the job she loves and accepting a position in Colorado.

He didn’t mean to kiss her back…

Growing up, Zack longed for a real family, and had one with his squad while deployed in Afghanistan. Now, he's back in the States and doesn't want anything messing up his new ranch family, no matter how much he's attracted to the sexy, hard-working Charlie. She could break his heart and ruin the comfortable working relationship they and the other wranglers enjoy. Besides, her friends claim she's looking for the perfect guy, and perfect he's not.

A kiss is just a kiss…or is it?

When Zack learns Charlie's thinking about leaving the ranch, he decides to find her a boyfriend — someone so good, so perfect, she has a reason to stay in Montana. Until he realizes too late that the only cowboy he wants her kissing is him. Can he commit to love and convince Charlie not to leave? Or has she made up her mind to put the past, and the kiss that started it all, behind her and move on without him?

Mistletoe Wedding

Longer: Event planner at the Bar V5 Dude Ranch, Meg Redstone is dreaming of a white Christmas with twinkling lights, sparkly decorations and strategically placed mistletoe. She loves making dreams come true for others, whether planning a holiday wedding or giving her young daughter the best Christmas ever.

Ranch foreman Tyler Murphy loves the holidays, but his newest employee has taken over his barn with her over-the-top decorations. He admires Meg’s desire to give her daughter the perfect Christmas while planning a winter wonderland wedding, but he wants to show her that a Montana Christmas is more than glitter and lights.

After raising his younger sister, an instant family is not on Ty's Christmas wish list. But he finds himself falling hard for the single mom and her little girl. Meg, however, is not interested in a romance with a cowboy like Ty, or any man. Getting her under the mistletoe is going to take a Christmas miracle . . . or a little help from Santa.


The clinic’s front door opened.

A woman in a puffy powder blue down coat entered. Her hat pushed long strands of brown hair over her face. She carried something bundled in a black and white checked fleece blanket. “Please help me.”

The crack in her voice and pale complexion sent him into action. Two long strides, he was at her side. “I’m Noah. A vet.”

Worried green eyes met his. Familiar eyes, except these weren’t as young and innocent as the ones he remembered. These eyes were wary and concerned. But they still reminded him of that girl he’d just thought about, the freshman with cute freckles and twinkling jade-green eyes.

Her gaze widened with recognition. “Noah. It’s you.”

His heart crashed against his chest. His world tilted.

“Caitlin.” His arm reached forward, as if touching her would assure him this —she—was real. That of all the vet clinics in Montana, she’d walked into this one. “I can’t believe it.”

“Me, either.” She gave her head a shake, then lifted the blanket toward him. “I found a kitten in the snow. Something’s wrong with him. Or her. I don’t know which. Can you help?”

Noah remembered where he was, what he was. He took the bundle, ignoring the million questions racing through his mind. Talking could wait.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa McClone worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! Since then, she has published over thirty romance novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She’s also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities. She also sends care packages to deployed service members and fosters cats through a local no-kill animal shelter. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house. They do!



Twitter: @melissamcclone

Buy links:

1.         Mistletoe Magic


Mistletoe Magic is FREE on Smashwords:

2.         Kiss Me, Cowboy

3.         Mistletoe Wedding

Melissa will award a $25 Amazon Gift card and a Mini Swag Goodie Bag to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour (international giveaway). Use the following link to enter. You can find her tour schedule at

The Count's Lair

The Count’s Lair
by Stephanie Burkhart



Count Anton Varga is haunted by the curse of the moon. It tugs on his emotions, ravishing his soul. Anton abhors the beast he must learn to tame if he is to find peace.

Lady Amelia Andrassy is an accomplished pianist, but her life in Budapest has been filled with heartache. When Amelia faints in the Duma's bookstore, it's Anton's strong arms that cradle her fall. His unusual eyes spark with hers, replacing their individual loneliness with the promise of feral passion.

After a two-month separation, Anton is ready to walk into Amelia's life again, but is Amelia ready to fan the spark they shared into a flame?


"Amelia, to be honest about my intentions, I want to court you."

"Court me?" She stepped back.

He grabbed her wrist, as if desperate to keep her near him. His eyes impaled her, making her breathless. Was it too soon to think of always and forever with him? Had he really changed? Her heart believed so. Now, she just had to convince her head.

"I have no one to ask for permission, but you. Search your heart. I care for you deeply. I want to explore this, Amelia, but only if you do. I swear I'm ready for this."

Her lips trembled as she stepped forward, moved by the conviction in his voice. Dare she fall in love again? The chance was worth it. "Yes."

"Thank you." He wrapped his arms around her, infusing her with his warmth. She melted against the length of his body, savoring the contact. It felt right.

He parted from her, placed his hands on her upper arms, and looked at her. "The feelings I have when I'm near you are nothing like I've had before, but--"

"Go on." She prompted when he delayed too long.

"But I have a secret, too -- a secret that chokes me when I think of telling you."

"Anton--" A secret?

He held up his hand. "Let me finish. I promise to tell you, but I can't right now. I can only
give you clues." "Really?"

"You must accept this, Amelia. I know it may be unusual, but it's the only way I can think of to be honest with you."

Taken off guard, she faced him. Anton's full lips and smoldering eyes riveted her to him. In fact, his looks were everything she was attracted to in a man, but it all came down to trust. Could she trust him? If she said yes to him right now, then she was giving him her trust, which included his secret.

"How many clues do you have?"

"Three. Once you know my secret, if you want to break our courtship, you can. I'll understand."

Her body shivered. Was his secret dangerous? Even if it was, did she care? A part of her just wanted to throw herself into his arms and let come what may. Another part of her told her to keep her feet firmly on the ground.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD.  She was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire.  She served 11 years in the US Army and currently calls Castaic, California her home. Stephanie was married in Denmark in 1991 and has two young sons. She adores chocolate and is addicted to coffee.  She writes paranormal, contemporary, and steampunk romance and has two children's books published with 4RV Publishing.








Buy Links:

Stephanie will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Use the link below to enter. You can find her tour schedule at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Review

There are several things I really like about The Count's Lair.  First, the book's setting is in Budapest, and I've never read anything set in Budapest. The author didn't bore with long descriptions, but she was able with a few well-placed paragraphs to set the stage beautifully.

Second, I love the way she wove history and fantasy into one seamless blend. I think she caught the historical flavor of the times very well, and at the same time, she gave her heroine an independent spirit that made her a worthy consort for the count.

Third, I liked the count. He's a complicated man with a secret that may destroy his hope of a future with Amelia, but he loves her so much he shares the unsharable with her in hopes of winning her heart. He was willing to give his life for her if needs be, and I loved that about him. I don't know if you know the count's secret or not, so I won't share, but it's big.

Fourth, the count's adopted gypsy family are great secondary characters. They've got his back and helped him do some things he couldn't do for himself.

My only complaint is that the book ended too soon, but I think the third book in the series is on the way, so I'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Well done, Stephanie Burkhart. I'll give you a 5 out of 5 on this one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prince Hafiz's Only Vice

Prince Hafiz’s Only Vice
by Susanna Carr



What a royal wants…

Prince Hafiz devotes his days to his people and his nights to indulging his desires with his stunning American mistress, Lacey Maxwell. But duty requires him to marry a "suitable" bride.

In her deepest secret fantasies, Lacey naively hopes to one day wear Hafiz's ring, until her dreams are shattered and he chooses someone else.

Faced with the reality of a passionless union, Hafiz realizes the years spent with Lacey have done nothing to slake his hunger for her. Instead he's determined to turn his only vice into a virtue for the sake of his country…and each other!


"I will miss you, Hafiz," she said brokenly as her throat closed up. The tears she thought couldn’t happen beaded on her eyelashes.

Hafiz let out a shuddering breath. He swept his fingertip against the corner of her eye, taking her tears with him. The moisture clung to his knuckle, and he rubbed it into his skin with his thumb, silently sharing her agony.

The image took a chink out of her hard-earned resolve. Lacey wrapped her arms around her stomach before she crumbled altogether. "I had so many questions to ask you, and now I can't remember what they were." All except for one that danced on her tongue. "Did you ever love me?"

Silence throbbed in the air.

Lacey blinked at the question that had tumbled from her mouth. Of all the things to ask, her mind screamed.

Hafiz went unnaturally still.

"I don't know why I asked." She shrugged as her pain intensified. "Please, don't answer that."

The words were ripped from deep within her. She desperately wanted to know the answer. She never questioned it before, but she had been living in a fantasy.

Lacey had always felt Hafiz loved her. It was in his touch, in his eyes, and in his smile. But he never said the words, even when she chanted her declaration of love in the height of ecstasy.

It was too late to find out. If he didn't love her, she would never recover. If he did love her, then she would never let go. Even if he was married, even if he kept her hidden. And she couldn't let that happen.

A Word From the Author

In my latest romance novel, PRINCE HAFIZ'S ONLY VICE, the hero is unable to be with the woman he loves because he must enter an arranged marriage. When Elaine invited me to write a guest post here on her blog, she had asked if I thought arranged marriages work.
The short answer is yes.

While attending college, I worked at the foreign student office and got to know a lot of undergrads and grad students who were from other countries, religions and cultures. Many of them were either in or getting ready to enter arranged marriages. It was their way of life and the only thing they found strange was the bewilderment Americans had about a marriage process that had been around for centuries.

That didn't mean these men and women approached the life-changing moment with nonchalance. Far from it! Some would break out into hives at the mention of a wedding while others were eager to reach this point of their lives. A few went through an arduous task to find a spouse that sent them around the world. However, I had one friend (who had broken up from a decade-long love match) agree to marry his bride after meeting her for just an hour.

Over the years I discovered that an arranged marriage had just as much of a chance to be successful as a love match. A lot of it came down to the betrothed understanding what they wanted in life. If someone wasn't ready to marry, or was marrying while having feelings for another, they were going to have a very difficult time. But if the man and woman had shared goals, clearly defined expectations and respect for each other, they could build a foundation for a strong relationship. As long as they were willing to work and make this relationship a priority, whether it was created out of love or by matchmakers, they could find the greatest partner to share their lives. Although there was no guarantee, a deep love or friendship could develop between husband and wife after the marriage.

Of course, it doesn't always work that way. I know of the couple who defied cultural expectations and family demands to have a love match only to break up. There is a man and wife I've known since they were introduced. They reluctantly married and, twenty-five years later, continued to be married with great reluctance. And the man who decided on his bride within the hour? Still together in one of the strongest marriages I have witnessed.
So, yes, I think an arranged marriage has the same chance for success as a love match if the couple is willing to put the work into the relationship.

 Author Info

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Susanna Carr is an award-winning author known for her contemporary romances. Readers throughout the world find Susanna's stories a delightful escape that has often helped them through difficult times. Reviewers frequently describe her work as "fun", "sexy" and "a must read." When she isn't writing or spending time with her family in the Pacific Northwest, Susanna enjoys reading romance and connecting with readers online.





Buy links:

Amazon Kindle:

Barnes & Noble:

Google Play:


Susanna will be awarding a $50 gift certificate to one lucky winner via rafflecopter. Use the link below to enter. You can find her tour schedule at

a Rafflecopter giveaway