Review: Forbidden + Interview with F. Stone + Huge Giveaway

Welcome to Forbidden’s book launch celebration

Better Wear Your Flak Jacket



February 14th to 18th at AMAZON

My Review:

I always love a book with a different premise. A complex plot and characters with complicated lives are of course very attractive. And that’s what we have here.

My own neighborhood is a real cultural mosaic. We have a lot of new immigrants, many of whom are Muslim. I know a lot of Muslim kids because I used to work in our public school. These are kids who learn English at school and then go home to teach it to their parents. They are–almost always–fantastic kids. And of course I meet their parents and grandparents up at the corner plaza. So phobias and prejudices against average people grieve me. Allah, God and Jehovah are the same God and so how could I hate someone who worships Him?

Of course, I’ve never understood people who hate others.

Here’s an interesting novel: a love story between a white woman and a Muslim man who’d give Jason Bourne a run for his money. Wow, the action and suspense are gripping. Ms. Stone has put a ton of research into this so the setting and mindset of the characters are credible. As well, they’re extremely likeable and heroic. Impressive work. I look forward to reading more of this author’s books. Five stars.


Feather Stone: Consequences of Writing a Novel About Islam

When the impulse to write Forbidden began, I resisted. Bartholomew’s (my muse) urging to write the thriller continued with greater intensity. I knew so little about the religion and the culture. DSCN0547

“So what,” he croaked. “You got a brain. Learn. Study.” My muse thumped his froggy flippers.

I shivered at the thought of intense research required, searching for contacts and support. “It’ll take years,” I moaned.

“Ya, so what!” Bart jumped onto my shoulder. “No one can tell this story like you. You’re without bias, a clean slate, a virgin, a – .”

“Now just a minute, Croak.” I call him Croak when he’s gone too far. “What the hell do you mean by virgin?”

Bartholomew blushes as much as a green frog can – kind of an ugly puce. “Don’t get all twisted, sister. You’re unbroken, untainted by hate and fear. Not card carrying religious zealot, or have need for ancient dogma. Your vision is deeper. Unspoiled. Pure.”

Now I’m blushing. “I’m not that pure, Bart. I’ve done things, you know.”

It took Bart almost a year to convince me I had been selected to tell Forbidden’s story. And so the research began. My first task was to approach our local Muslim community. Imam Mustafa Khattab met me at his mosque. I could see he had serious doubts about my ability to tell any story about Islam. He was not alone on that count. However, he handed me an armful of books and videos, advised me to have a Muslim read / edit my work, and gave one final piece of advice – take the middle road.

Over the next many months I studied, including reading the Koran. Gradually, a fascinating world began to take shape. History, music, academics, geography, and weather, social and religious practices, faith in God / Allah, allegiances and warfare, shifting borders and tribal lands, customs and culture merged into a dynamic and complex segment we know as the Middle East. What I learned is that unless you are born in that region, most of us cannot fully understand the depth of devotion, nor the passion for the lands once tread by Mohammad, the prophet.

shutterstock_57827968To ensure Forbidden was an unbiased and ‘middle of the road’ reflection of Islam, I needed support. It’s amazing how when you put out the intention to the universe, things happen. Lots of things. I am now so blessed with several amazing friends who are Muslim. The are from Canada, United States, and the Middle East. In particular, Dr. Albakkal read each chapter of Forbidden and provided feedback and information. Although I did pay her for this service, she in turn forwarded those funds to charity. She continues to volunteer her time with medical support to the Canadian Syrian refugee children.

In the beginning, I feared a back lash from the Muslim communities. After all, why should a non-Muslim person be writing a novel about Islam? Absolutely, a valid concern. No doubt, Forbidden’s account of the thoughts and behaviors of a Muslim cop in the Middle East may have missed the mark. The local expressions, the body language, etc. – I would loved to have been able to paint a far more true to form image. My most fervent hope, however, has been to not insult or misinterpret the basics of Islam and the Koran.

What I didn’t expect when I started writing Forbidden was resistance, even some hostility from members within my culture. And though I had gained enough knowledge to appease their fears, they dug in their heals resisting the idea they could be wrong, misled, or misunderstood the average moderate Muslim. Pointing out that the media have focused on one small segment of militant Muslims and, thus, giving the impression Islam is a religion of hate and terrorists did nothing to persuade some of my friends and associates to reconsider their opinion. So entrenched is their fear. Fear makes us blind and impotent.


The consequences?

I sacrificed a lot to write Forbidden. Four years was devoted to research and writing. I threw all my energy into creating a story that cannot be compared to another novel. I gave up my love of water color painting and my social calendar was trashed. There were three complete rewrites. Just ask my editor, Leigh Carter, who had to deal with changing character personalities, shifting plots, and an ending that eluded me until the final year. I put my relationships at risk, may have lost a few friends. There may be Muslim and non-Muslim who will want to thrasdownloadh me and trash my book.

But, through it all, the sleepless night of searching for that perfect word, the plot twist, infusing my passion into the characters – I regret nothing.

Giving Bartholomew a big froggy kiss 🙂



Year 2047, City of Samarra, capital of the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories

Fifteen American travelers have vanished. Surrendering to Mayor Aamir’s demands, Captain Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, Eliza MacKay. The devout Muslim is horrified to discover that if he exposes the cover-up, his family will suffer dire consequences.

The CIA has the lying Sharif in their cross hairs. Sharif’s only hope is to prove his country’s government is free of guilt. Secretly, he hunts forensic evidence. Cryptic messages, backstabbing informants, and corruption threaten Sharif’s resolve to see justice served. When he discovers the shocking truth, he and MacKay become the targets of a ruthless killer.

Sharif is tortured by his attraction to the impetuous Eliza MacKay. In spite of her struggle with PTSD, he’s drawn to her vivacious personality. Islam forbids the intimacy he craves. In desperation to save Eliza, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.


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February 13:

Review by Lily Eva Blake

February 14:

Guest Post with Pat Garcia

Review and Guest Post with Juneta Key

February 15:

Featured in OPAL Magazine

Guest Post with Lily Eva Blake

February 16:

Review and Showcase with Nicki Elson

Showcase with Jennifer Lane

February 17:

Showcase with Nancee Cain

Interview with Tyler Wiegmann

February 18:

Review and Showcase with Yolanda Renee

Showcase with Michelle Willms


Romance Under Fire
Author Feather Stone / F. Stone / Judy Weir:

1-b078f2221d6ec0463539f01708b9e727On our cattle ranch, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.The Guardian's Wildchild

For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.

My first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, was published by Omnific Publishing in 2011. The setting is on a naval ship, under the command of a surely man who is under suspicion of treason. When a battered woman is brought to his ship for execution, he has no idea that she is about to turn his disciplined life into chaos – and that she is no ordinary woman. The Guardian’s Wildchild has a rating of 4.1 at Amazon.

Social Media Links: Stop by and say hello at:

Romance Under Fire Blog

Facebook: FSauthor

Twitter: Featherwrites










Interview with Debra Anastasia: Poughkeepsie Begins



It ends with the beginning. This legendary,
indie, cult-favorite series ends its tale with the story of the Poughkeepsie
brotherhood before the tattoo. Before the train station, before the church,
before a criminal empire there was a foster home and three teen boys who chose
each other as family, because the ones they were born into didn’t exist.
Still in high school, Beckett is already laying the groundwork for a grander
life ahead, one where his brothers want for nothing and get some respect for
once. But even as he plans, Beckett must decide if he’s ready to make that
choice—diving in to a life that trades his chance at a future, his chance at
something as simple as first love with a girl named Candy Cox, for their chance
to find happiness.Blake, Beckett, and Cole’s devotion to each other is forged by fists and the
driving need to belong somewhere, to do more than just survive this life.
Readers of the series know they each get there in the end, but before we count
smiles, we must first shed tears. These early days of the Poughkeepsie brotherhood
will play on your heartstrings before serrating them with a knife; they’ll lift
your soul with music, only to leave you with nothing but a desperate prayer for
hope. And when you reach the end of the beginning, you’ll be ready to start the
series all over again.
Buy Links:
Find the whole Poughkeepsie Brotherhood Series here:
Free App as a present from the boys:

Okay, here’s the log in info:


Mobile app

Navigation is on the upper right side.

Any questions? Find me here:

Win an eSet of the Series here! 

When she ducked under the bleachers, he was a dick, right off the bat. His buzz was
wearing off, but he was still high and broken at the closeness of her. “You’re
missing your boyfriend during his lawn ballet.” He assumed a stance—douche
mixed with confrontational—that he knew stopped people. It set up his walls
real nice. With everyone.
Everyone but her. She walked right up to him. She pushed him hard once, twice, until his
back hit one of the supports. And then she slapped him.
He took the slap and rolled his eyes. “That all you got for me, pink princess?”
And then she was kissing him. Oh, God. Kissing him and palming him with the same
ferociousness he felt. He grabbed the metal behind him to keep from attacking
her and nailing her right on the concrete floor littered with cigarettes and
chip bags.
She pulled away and slapped him again, growling, “Fuck you, Beckett Taylor. Don’t
you ever do that to me again. I’m worth more than that, and you know it.” She
stepped back, leaving cold space and his heated erection between them.
He swallowed, his pounding heart trying to beat some common sense into his brain
again. It wasn’t working. He let go of the bleachers and advanced. “You have
some fucking nerve. You’re the one up there prom-queening it with goddamn
She stood her ground as he came at her. And he knew he was intimidating. Shit,
full-grown men stepped aside when he was coming. But Candy raised her chin. He
was amazed at the fight in her, right there. He pulled her into a dip, just
like fucking Pyler had, except he did it like a man who wanted a woman and knew
what to do with her body. Candy needed to push him away; she needed to turn her
Instead she groaned and bit his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. He put his hand
between her legs and dragged it up to her breast, squeezing hard so she would
feel it through her coat. She sunk her nails into the skin at his neck. She was
a buried treasure. He was sure as fuck no one knew about this side of her. Only
he could get her panting like she was. He spanked her bottom once.
“Ow.” She was shocked.
He stopped kissing and looked her in the face as he spanked her again, more
forcefully this time.
Her “Ow” was quieter, and the hunger in her eyes far deeper than her years.
Again he spanked her. And this time she purred. Fucking purred. He began slow,
circular caresses over the denim that covered her ass. He was desperate to see
the red imprints from his hand.
“Fuck it.” Beckett picked her up and set her back against the metal support he’d
tried to cling to before.
They weren’t alone. Red tips of cigarettes glowed, gentle murmurs of illicit
behavior could be heard if you knew how to listen for trouble. Still, he held
her against the pole and mimicked the motions he was desperate to do with her.
He dropped his mouth to the zipper on her coat, which kept her safe from all
his intentions. He used his teeth to pull it down to her cleavage. He buried
his face, licking and nuzzling her sweet-smelling neck. He used his chin to
move material so he could access more of her chest. She smelled like goddamn
candy. His dick could pack gunpowder in a cannon it was so fucking hard.
After a moment, the murmurs added up. Too many. He glanced around and noticed the
cigarettes being stubbed out. He let his prize slide down the metal gently. He
leaned down to kiss her lips, then her forehead, right under the edge of her
fuzzy hat before whispering, “Go. Cops are here. Go.”
And then Candy, sweet-smelling, homework-doing Candy, stuck her hand in his
jacket’s hidden pocket and took the gun out. He pulled her hands and his gun
close to make sure the safety was on before letting her tuck it into her bra.
“Anything else?” she asked.
And then he slipped the rest of the merchandise in his left pocket into her right
one. She turned and left.
“And don’t you ever talk to me again, Taylor. I have a boyfriend!” She stormed away
as the resource officer stepped up next to him.
“You have a way with the ladies, son.”
“I’m not your son.”
“That’s the truth right there. ’Cause if you were, you’d be on that field kicking
footballs instead of selling at my school.”
When Beckett was let off with a warning due to lack of evidence, his one thought was
of her. Candy was so perfect for him it hurt. 
My Review:

Today, I have been granted the honour of interviewing Debra. I had so many questions to ask her that I may have to ask to host her again.


I’ve loved this series for a long time now. This book brought everything together for me. There’s an intricate plot but the whole shebang is character-driven and I learned a ton in this instalment about the boys. I finally understand Cole and have a much deeper respect for him now. He’s far more damaged than the others. Blake should be scary, he’s delusional. But instead, he’s somehow the solid one. The one who holds the others up. That’s some brilliant writing, there. And Beckett? This kid should have gone to college to be some kind of counselor. He has the biggest heart. Instead, to rescue his brothers, he chooses the only way out that he can see.


We also meet a new character: Candy. Based on her name, I made assumptions about her. That was silly. She’s strong, worthy of respect and has a great relationship with her parents. Could there be more story here?


To be honest, I expected this book to be depressing. It isn’t. Each boy has sunny pockets from his childhood where someone loved him. All of them have a solid capacity to nurture others and they do that whenever given the opportunity. Had their shared foster home not been abusive, all three might have become very different men.


I was glad to notice that in the last book, Saving Poughkeepsie, there’s one plot thread that wasn’t tied off. It gives me hope that there still might be room for another story someday. I’ll look forward to that day. Five stars.


Sorry, I just need a better look at this gorgeous cover.



Now I’m happy. Let’s get on with the interview!


Can you remember the moment when you realized you were a writer? I think I was always interested in telling stories. The members of my family love to retell beloved family stories around the dinner table. I tried my hand at writing and I kept putting down what I thought people wanted to hear. Once I started typing what I wanted to say? That’s when I became a writer.


How did the idea for this series germinate? I was in the shower thinking about role models for girls and how a lot of my favorite stories had rich heroes. I wanted to showcase a love that didn’t need any material possessions as well. So I went to extremes and Blake was created.


Which of the boys spoke to you first? Blake. And his cardboard piano.


Have any of the characters evolved in a way that surprised you? I think they all did except for Blake. His circumstances changed, but he had remained true to himself. I feel like he came to us full developed in his character. But he did learn how to live with his anxiety attacks, and that was a huge step.


Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked that nobody’s asked? Will you answer it? I think I get asked some really great stuff! (See above interview!) I have the most intelligent, heartfelt readers and blogger friends, they always surprise me with interesting things.


Thanks so much for being here today! Thank you! <3


Guest Post: Diane Munier~Finding My Thunder~Sale

SALE!!! Finding My Thunder is 99 Cents for Two Days!!! Sale Starts at Midnight! Thank-You Readers and Reviewers

Reblogged from

Finding My Thunder Cover

Finding My Thunder is Literary Fiction with a strong love story. It is the book of my heart. All of my stories are dear to my heart, but this book stabs me in a special way. It is closest to my own story even though it is not autobiographical in the truest sense. But the emotions of it, the rejection, the desperation, the joy, the levels of those feelings…wow. I get those levels right out of my own life. This story takes place in a time gone by. Each character is inspired by someone I’ve known. Truth takes so many forms. Each one of these players are important with a distinctive voice. They were here, they are here. I write to make sense of life. Mine. Yours. Ours. I have respect for the dark times. When we get those right in the worlds we create, the light is a no-brainer. It is not what we go through that ultimately matters as much as what we learn and share, how we grow, what we give, how we bless. Finding My Thunder is about a girl’s courage and conviction. It changes her and ultimately it changes the people in her world. For the next week it will be on sale starting at 99 cents. If you read it, or have read it, I would love to read your review.


Diane Munier




Interview with Lissa Bryan: Shadows Have Gone Giveaway


cool TWCS logo


Shadows Have Gone

Book 3 of End of All Things Series

by Lissa Bryan


Release Date: March 26 , 2015

Genre: FICTION / Dystopian/ Romance / General

ISBN e-book: 978-1-61213-375-1

Available from: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and TWCS PH


Carly Daniels knows what it is to suffer loss. She knows what it is to sacrifice. In the two years since a pandemic virus—known only as the Infection—decimated humanity, she’s made choices she never could have imagined. She’s condoned violence in the name of peace and done the unthinkable in the name of mercy. But with Justin at her side, she’s also learned there’s nothing she can’t face and nothing she wouldn’t do to protect those she loves.

But now another threat has arrived in the form of a uniformed man driving an army truck, claiming to represent the remnant of the United States military. Someone has set their sights on their community . . . and on Justin. The struggle to defend their little homeland is far from over, and the visitors may have brought more danger with them than just their weapons.

The shadows are closing in. Carly has to find out whether she has the strength to stand on her own when all of her support has fallen away. What remains when the shadows have gone?

Goodreads * Add to Want To Read List


Jess: Holy cow, woman. This is our third interview in a month. It actually feels like we’re socializing on a regular basis!

Lissa: And you still want to talk to me. It’s a marvel.

I will always want to talk to you. All right, Trouble. What are we going to talk about today?

“The time has come,” the walrus said, “To talk of many things. Of shoes, of ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.”

Father Theo's Blog

Father Theo’s Blog

Hmm… Seems to me that the walrus cried before gobbling up his oyster friends, no? And you say I like to torture my readers. Do you know how many times you had me in tears during this book? I was beta reading and had to record comments while dying. My kids actually came to see what was wrong with me at one point!

Yeah, you love it, don’t ya!

Actually, no… I’m not a sadist like you, darling. 🙂 I don’t really enjoy torturing my readers, so it’s not intentional. I feel the same pain. When a character dies in one of my stories, I lose them, too. I never hear their “voice” in my head again. I wouldn’t kill off someone unless I was sure the story required it. Several times, I’ve attempted re-writes in my head to try to find a way around a death, but it almost inevitably leads me back to the same point.

You just had to kill off somebody I love, didn’t you.

In this case, yes. I loved that character, too, but the death only made sense, if you think about it. Life in the Wasteland would be brutal and pitiless.

In the name of Verisimilitude, I may forgive you someday. Just this once. So, you’ve been traveling again. Find any really creepy abandoned buildings to wander about in?

The schedule so far hasn’t permitted much exploration, but I’m going to try to squeeze some in.

2013-03-23 12.09.08 The End Lissa

Photo by Lissa Bryan

2013-04-06_The End Lissa

Photo by Lissa Bryan


I have been following your exploits. I live vicariously through you.

If the Apocalypse hits for reals, do you have plans?

You mean besides curling up on the floor and crying?

Hey, that’s my plan!!!

I’m not sure I would make it, honestly. I talk a good game, but I don’t have Carly’s moxie. I am very much a spoiled 21st century girl who needs her creature comforts. “Roughing it” for me is staying at a hotel without room service.

Tell me about it. Every time my kids ask if we can camp or fish, I start stammering, make an excuse and run away.

no camping

I had to start a fire from scratch over at my grandmother’s house last winter, and I was dismal at it. I found myself having to stop and say, “Okay, Lissa, if Carly can do this, so can you.” It took me several tries to get the blaze going. Justin would surely have chided me for wasting matches.

I can start a fire, only because we have a fire pit out in the yard. But Hubbs likes to dump green or wet wood in there (it’s convenient). That ticks me off.

You would laugh so hard if you could see my office right now. There was a really good sale on, so I picked up all sorts of treats the fam likes, but if I were to leave the goodies in the kitchen they’d be gone in a day. So I have 6 boxes of cookies, a huge bag of mini chocolate bars, some chips, nachos, popcorn and a 40 box package of Kraft Dinner in here. The wine is conveniently close. If the zombies show up tomorrow, I have stuff to barter. Do you stow food in sneaky places? Do you hide the yummy Cheezits from others?

I’ve discovered the hard way that if I hide things, I forget where I put them. Hilarity ensues.

But then you find hidden treasure. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. 🙂


I do have survival-type stuff, but not because I’m prepping for the apocalypse. What I’m thinking of is natural disaster and a short-term interruption in the flow of supplies. So I have gallons of water, a case of peanut butter, survival food bars (which taste abominable, but are light in case of evacuation), a supply of necessary meds for the humans and pets, and various weather gear. My household could survive comfortably for a week or two if we were cut off by a flood or tornado. Albeit, I’d be extremely grumpy because of the lack of tea.

I only keep survival supplies on hand during the summer. Well, we do have supplies in the trunk of the van, in case there’s a blizzard. I figure there are a lot of hands in the house and in an emergency they can all help carry something. It’s probably a bad plan. LOLOL!


Unlike me, you aren’t a foodie. But you like your tea. I’ve never asked you what your favourite kind of tea is.

English breakfast – as black as my soul, and strong enough to tan hides, but sweet enough to induce diabetic coma in an elephant. “One lump or two?” Are you joking? Leave the sugar bowl and go get another.

I can drink my tea without sugar, but I put a lot of it in my coffee. We need to have a cuppa tea. And maybe, watch some Vikings.

I’ve told you: getting us together would likely destroy the earth.

Then we’ll do it when we’re old.

by Merja's Dreams -flikr

by Merja’s Dreams -flikr


I love the book.

Thank you. I love it, but I also hate it, because it means saying goodbye to Carly and Justin. I’m going to miss those two, especially hearing Justin’s “voice” in my head. Carly is so upbeat and optimistic, but Justin is more like me with his sarcasm and dark humor.


Depositphotos_12160317_XXL The End Lissa

I’m thinking and sporadically working on other “Wasteland” books, and maybe Carly and Justin would pop up in my new characters’ travels. That would be neat.

Well, you know where to find me when it’s time for a beta reader. 😉 Good spending time with you, Sis. Thanks for joining me. xoox



Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

She is the author of four other novels, Ghostwriter, The End of All Things, its sequel, The Land of the Shadows, and Under These Restless Skies.








Praise for Shadows Have Gone

“I laughed, I cried, I was gently amused, but what could I expect? Times are tough, no one is trustworthy and yet there is a sweet innocence about some characters that hit you right between the eyes; they are always so positive and wanting to see the best in others. Once again, Lissa Bryan has taken the handoff from a previous book and run with it at breakneck speeds with barely a misstep in sight!” – Dianne

Goodreads Review


After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.
She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.
Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.
But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.
This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.



Tales from the End Book 1.5

The Horsemen
L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …
When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things.“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax– the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture.Birthday
(A previously-published bonus story.) Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.

The Land of The Shadow Book 2

After surviving the Infection and a perilous journey through the wasteland that was once the United States, Carly and Justin have found a safe home in the isolated town of Colby.Even so, balancing the duties of survival and a growing family isn’t easy. As they emerge as leaders, they face difficult questions about justice in a lawless land, basic human rights, and freedom in a world where strength defines worth. More than ever, they have to rely on one another for strength and support during the darkest of times.

The Crisis is far from over. Their fences won’t keep the world out forever, and a new threat is emerging—a gang of predators who see the town as easy pickings. When danger looms over Colby, Carly must decide how far she’ll go to protect those she loves.

It’s a journey down the long and broken road through The Land of the Shadow.





Interview and Tour Mega Giveaway: Debra Anastasia

Poughkeepsie App Tour




















Welcome to the Poughkeepsie Enhanced Collector’s Edition App Tour!


Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia has been a cult hit bestseller since 2011. A homeless guy counting the smiles of a kind train commuter spiraled into a novel that was nominated by the Rockstars of Romance as one of the most romantic stories ever and won 2nd place!   It was a story that deserved getting a jumbo-sized enhancement. Extra scenes out the ying yang was, of course, a huge part of the fun. Getting to spend some of those previously undiscovered first moments with Blake and Livia or the moment he proposed was worth exploring. In Debra’s wildest dreams she imagined Poughkeepsie with its own soundtrack, anchored by her favorite musicians. When blockbuster talent Ron Pope signed on with fourteen songs and then Rustic Overtones agreed as well, she knew things were going to get crazy cool.


After almost two full years of development, the Enhanced Poughkeepsie is ready.  Debra lost count of the hours spent, as did the developer poured into this. It was beast, and more amazing than she could have ever imagined. This app became the most exceptional reading experience Debra could devise for her readers.


Check out what’s in store for you:


Trailer Link


This app will be available for all kinds of devices!


It is available now as Enhanced Poughkeepsie for iPad

Website for Droid, iPhones, and Computers is coming soon! Visit

Debra’s Facebook Page


The website app (which is the same content as the iPad app) will be available this week.


For this tour, there is one HUGE giveaway that you totally should treat yourself to entering.


Poughkeepsie PicMonkey Collage App Prizes


Poughkeepsie BookdonationsCollage



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Rafflecopter direct link:





Immerse yourself in the world of Debra Anastasia’s Poughkeepsie.
Experience this bestselling novel for the first time…again as you break all the rules about books with Omnific Publishing and Debra Anastasia. In this enhanced version of the novel, you’ll enjoy insights from the author, music by Ron Pope and other artists to set the mood, and images and video that bring the scenes to life as you read. You’ll delve deeper into the world of Poughkeepsie through nearly 50,000 words of added scenes (more love, more drama, more romance!) and informative insights into how this marvelous story and its characters came to be.

Self-contained in this app (no wifi needed after downloading):
•complete novel Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia
•author/director’s pop-up commentary
•music by Ron Pope, Rustic Overtones, Monoxide G, Violet Winter, Bo Heart, and Jeff Epstein and the City Line Singers
•more than 100 images to enhance the story
•videos of your favorite characters in action
•special animation
•sound effects
•interviews with the characters, author, and more
•interactive games
•trailers for the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood series
•how-to knitting instructions
•how-to instructions for making a paper rose
•recipe for the dinner Livia makes for Blake


Debra Anastasia Author2013_edited-1


Debra’s twitter

Debra’s Facebook


Debra’s website


Interview with Debra Anastasia:

I’m so glad to have Debra here today! She’s a friend to everyone she meets. And what a talented storyteller! The ground breaking, Enhanced Poughkeepsie app is an experience you don’t want to miss. Now let’s talk to Debra about the Poughkeepsie stories.

I love the covers of the Poughkeepsie books. How did you come up with them and how were they executed?

It was a team effort. With Omnific, they sort of ask for a general feeling from the author and then we work together. Micha Stone (the lead designer) and I have very similar tastes, so the process is pretty fast for us. Now that we have the hands set as the tone for the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood, it’s fairly easy to knock them out.


Animated Cover eebpough
















This seems like a series that would require a lot of research into organized crime. How did you tackle it?

Google is a beautiful thing. I get to research anything! I’ve been known to tap my husband and his friends for suggestions on various guns and things too. And you’d be surprised how much a PTA board and the mafia have in common.


LOL! Not many surprises there! The subject matter of these books is gritty but fascinating. What made you want to write about these characters?

Thank you! It’s interesting, once they develop they sort of tell me how they want to be portrayed. Like I’ll plan for Beckett to do one thing, then he waltzes into the scene and changes everything. I think I’m driven to see what’s next for each of them.


I love it that Trish changed all Ryan’s phone contacts to Fifty Shades of Grey names!!! How brilliant. I laughed my ass off. But, wow, is she vindictive. It amazes me that people spend that much effort on being spiteful. Did you google ‘things people do to get revenge after break-ups’? I always thought sending bouquets of dung was kind of fascinating. Such people! *shakes head*

Sounds like you are coming up with a good idea there! I loved writing Trish. I actually changed my son’s phone’s contacts to Dr. Who characters a few weeks ago. He’s left them that way too! I pretty much turned any fun-loving pranks I could think of and mixed them in with a few mean ones and Trish was born.


In Return to Poughkeepsie, Father Callahan tells Kyle, “God does give us more than we can handle.” How important is that message to the overall series arc?

I think it is more of a life lesson. When I hear of things happening to people, I think we do get more than we deserve. We handle what we have to, but nice people deserve smooth lives.

Readers? This was my first reaction to this amazing app:

Capture Debra Poughkeepsie app FB chat



Guardians Blog Tour Interview: TM Franklin












Ava’s life is . . . complicated.

After all, it’s not every day a girl learns she’s not entirely human, or unlocks hidden powers strong enough to make even the First Race sit up and take notice. After surviving an attempted kidnapping and standing up to the Race’s Ruling Council, Ava Michaels returns to college and what she hopes is a normal life. But Ava quickly realizes that for her, normal may not even exist anymore.

In fact, the Council wants her under their control, and they’re not the only ones. The mysterious Rogues have a plan of their own, and it turns out Ava’s a big part of it, whether she wants to be or not.

On top of that, her new relationship is tested in ways she never expected. Her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, has disappeared—accused of betraying the Race—and Ava herself stands implicated in a crime she didn’t commit.

Clearing their names will mean uncovering a web of deceit and intrigue with Ava woven right in the center. To unravel the strands, she joins forces with some unlikely allies; a Protector who once haunted her nightmares, a young girl with secrets as unexpected as Ava’s, and a group of rebel Guardians who have their own fight against the Council.

Together they stand in a battle to find the truth, bring Caleb home, and secure Ava’s freedom—not to mention save her life.

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TWCS Publishing House | |More Information | Goodreads



About T.M. Franklin

T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.


She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.


In addition to MORE and The Guardians, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short story, Window, as well as another short story, A Piece of Cake, which appears in the Romantic Interludes anthology.

Connect with T.M. Franklin:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads




I’ve been acquainted with T.M. for some years and have had the good fortune to spend time with her in my writers’ circles. She writes elegantly, with a sort of direct yet colourful prose that is very immediate to the reader (which is great for Young Adult fiction). The first two books in this trilogy are presently available and they would probably be my number one recommended gift for teens this holiday season.


Jess: Thanks for being with me today! I find that I have a zillion questions to ask you, but I don’t want to give too much away. Do you get frustrated when someone spoils the ending of something you’re reading?

Oh absolutely!! I hate to be spoiled. I’m definitely one of those fingers-in-the-ears-and-scream-la-la-la people when someone starts talking about the ending of a book I want to read.

Jess: What do you like to read?

I enjoy a variety of genres, depending on my mood. I do read a lot of YA, and I like a little bit of fantasy/paranormal, so I think that’s why I like to write it. I also love general romance, humor, adventure – anything with a good story.

Jess: I must start with something cheeky. LOL! Ava Michaels has a mom who would like to be planning her wedding ASAP. My own series features a group of matchmaking moms. Ava and my characters have a common feature: they really roll their eyes at the idea that marriage is the ultimate achievement in life, while (at the same time) pining for their soul mates. It’s a nice bit of irony. Would you like to expound on that?

Well, I don’t know that Ava’s pining exactly. She is young and in love, and that can kind of take over your world if you let it. At the same time, she has a lot of other things to deal with. I mean, all of these people want her and she’s accused of a crime she didn’t commit and she’s still trying to figure out how she fits into this strange, new world she’s discovered. On top of that, she’s only nineteen. So marriage is kind of on the back burner for now.

Jess: I always forget she’s still a teenager. She seems older. LOL! How does your newsroom background influence your writing style?

I think it affects it a lot. Writing news, you definitely develop a concise, conversational style. Everything is timed and we’re constantly trying to tighten up copy because the newscast is always running long. So, I tend to write in shorter sentences, without a lot of flowery words and descriptions. I write how I talk.

Jess: You started writing your debut novel, MORE, during NaNoWriMo. Did you also work on The Guardians as a November project?

I did work on it, but I didn’t get as much done last November, mainly because I was also promoting MORE at the time. The same thing is happening this year. I’m promoting The Guardians and attempting to write the third book in NaNo. I’m not doing so well, honestly. LoL!

Jess: I’m doing NaNo this year and achieving a word quota per day can be really tough. I wanted to do it, though, because professional authors tend to follow this kind of writing schedule. How much do you write a day, normally? And was NaNo tough for you?

The part of NaNo that was tough wasn’t so much the word count. It was the not going back to fix things. I had a constant desire to edit while I was writing, and NaNo is all about just letting it flow – getting that first draft written and then going back to edit and fix things later.

Jess: Ooh, that drives me nuts, too!

As for how much I write a day, it varies. Some days it might only be a couple hundred words. Others I might write two or three thousand, sometimes more. It just depends on what’s going on and what’s distracting me, and how the story’s flowing.

Jess: You work outside the home and have a family. What’s your normal writing routine like?

I don’t know that I have an actual routine. I write when I can – in between everything else and sometimes during! I write while I’m at work if it’s quiet, or waiting at the doctor’s office, that kind of thing. I write while my son’s doing his homework or while everyone else is watching TV. (I can’t listen to music while writing, but TV doesn’t distract me for some reason. Maybe because I grew so used to TV noise while working in a newsroom.)

Jess: R Cubes remind me of Jello vitamins, and they don’t sound very appealing. The Protectors use them a lot and they seem to be very practical people.  So if they need these R Cubes to sustain their strength after teleporting, why don’t they make them tastier? (Yeah, I’m a bit of a foodie!)

In my mind, there are a couple of reasons. First, the Protectors are tough. R-cubes are there to get the job done, and the Protectors don’t need a lot of fancy flavouring, because they’ve got other things to deal with. Boo-yah! Second, if they tasted good, you’d have kids chomping on them all the time, and that’s not what they’re for. Yes, they’re essential, but I think of them like our vitamins – you swallow them down and move on. They’re not there to be enjoyed.

 Jess: Self-sacrifice defines the Protectors’ relationships: duty before all. When they can’t follow their duty, they really suffer. If their soul mate’s ideals go contrary to their own, they choose ideals and duty over love. Was there a special source from which you drew this idea? 

Not a particular source, but the concept is one that I think is important and carries through all three books. What happens when what you’re raised to believe is challenged? Do you stick to what you know, or do you explore the possibility that there could be something else out there? In Caleb’s case, Ava leads him to question what his role is in the world, and he has to decide what’s right for him. We see another side of this in Tiernan’s backstory, and how that molded him into the person he is today. Ava, although not a Protector, deals with this issue as well. She learns the world is not what she thinks, and basically that everything she thought was true, isn’t. Does she have a destiny or does she have a choice? Does where she comes from define who she is? That’s an underlying theme through the whole trilogy.

 Jess: You do a lot of artwork including book covers, banners and book-themed jewelry. What draws you to this kind of artistic expression and how do you choose your materials?

I’m by no means a professional, but I started doing banners for friends a couple of years ago. I’m self-taught on Photoshop and have spent a lot of time combing forums and learning how to do things, although obviously, I still have a lot to learn. I find creating graphics to be kind of calming, actually. It’s creative, but in a different way from writing. It’s all visual, so there’s no searching for the right word or phrase. That part of my brain can take a break!

As for the jewelry, I haven’t done a lot, but that’s fun too. I’ve been hanging out a lot in the bead section at the craft store. There are so many cool kits and things to create your own charms and jewelry. I don’t see myself doing a lot of it, but it’s fun for giveaways to be able to make some one-of-a-kind pieces.

 Jess: Comic relief is important in this story. Early on, Ava displays a reluctance to introduce Caleb to her Uncle Bobby, who takes out his dentures to… ah… I’m not going to spoil it. Tell me how these quirky ideas manifest.

Oh, I have no idea. Lol! I have all kinds of weird things going on in my head.

Jess: Snort. Me, too. I guess we shouldn’t question the weirdness. 😉 Tiernan is way more than meets the eye. What can you tell us about him without giving too much away?

It was a lot of fun sharing more about Tiernan’s character in The Guardians. In MORE, we only got a few glimpses of him, and they were all kind of terrifying. But in the Guardians, we get to see a different side to his personality – including a rather wry sense of humor – and we find out a little about his past, and why he is the way he is. Developing his relationship with Ava was one of my favorite parts of writing The Guardians. They definitely get on each other’s nerves and push each other’s buttons, but they also grow to trust each other.

Jess: Why heterochromia (different coloured eyes)?

June's multi-colored eyes by Keith Kissel

June’s multi-colored eyes by Keith Kissel












I wanted something to identify the Race, but that couldn’t be covered by the Veil. The HC also serves as an identifier of those who have no desire to “fit in” with the humans, so don’t use contacts – like Tiernan and the Rogues, for example.

Jess: Crystals and magic stones actually work in this universe and Ava has a special necklace which is on your cover: Azurite stimulates mental activity and Fluorite gives clarity and peace. I myself have a necklace which is supposed to stimulate creativity but I don’t wear it all the time because the maker claimed it would also make me irritable. I’m not sure it does anything! Birth stones are also based on this idea. Do you have a special piece of jewellery that you hope gives you an emotional or creative nudge?

I don’t. I definitely could use Ava’s necklace on occasion, though!

Jess: Star Trek or Star Wars?


Ooohhh… I love them both, but I have to go Star Trek. Just because I found the second Star Wars trilogy so disappointing.

Jess: We were obviously separated at birth. I feel the same way. Love Spock! I digress… Psychic gifts can be used benevolently or malevolently. This book is a battlefield fought in minds. Each Race member has a gift: telekinesis, influence, manifestation or erasure of objects, the blurring or supplanting of memories, intuition, sensing… This is some pretty scary stuff when one considers that if your control over your own mind isn’t strong, you can be influenced, even to the degree of betraying your loyalties. Where did you get the inspiration for this?

If a hero has no weakness, he’s not much of a hero. Overcoming weakness is what makes us strong. I think that’s all I can say about that without giving too much away.

Jess: In effect, although Race members are physically strong, it’s the mind that ultimately matters. The physical playing field isn’t level, since some can teleport, for example, but ultimately it’s strength of mind that matters. Or should I say, “mind over matter”? LOL! How did this concept become intrinsic to the trilogy?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the smart heroes – the ones who use brain rather than brawn. I’ve also always been fascinated by those studies that say we only use a small percentage of our brain. It just opens up a world of possibilities – of potential – which is where the idea of the Race abilities came from in the first place.

Jess: Kewl. I really like it that the main characters in these books are ones I wouldn’t mind my teenagers idolizing. For a long time, it seemed like authors and filmmakers presented us with nothing but antiheroes. How important are heroes?

I think heroes are very important, and I’m not talking about perfect people or people who never make mistakes. I’m talking about people who do the best they can. People who take what comes at them and try to do the right thing. Maybe they’re right and maybe they’re not, but their motivation is pure. This, to me, is a true hero, and it’s something we all can be.

Jess: I ate up these books and then pouted for more. When is the last book going to come out?

I just got the release date – October 9, 2014.

 Jess:  Yay! Thank you for being with me today! I hope we get to WC again soon!!!

Me too – thanks so much for having me!




Blog Tour: Interview with Amber L. Johnson

Amber Blog tour1


Remaining Tour Stops:

Sunday October 27
Fandom Fanatic – AUTHOR GUEST POST – Writing  from a male point of view
The Blonde Mark – REVIEW

Monday October 28 – Release Day
FicWishes – EXCERPT
Fandom Fanatic – EXCERPT
First Page to the Last – EXCERPT


An Interview with Amber L. Johnson






I first encountered Amber online, when she was writing fan fiction under the pen name of 107yearoldvirgin, and she had a huge following -for good reason. She writes highly-relatable characters, knows how to plot and is blessed with a charming sense of humour. I used to love to escape into her stories, so I’m very pleased to share this interview with you today.


Jess: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little, but I didn’t actually get serious about it until a few years ago.


Jess: You were a prolific fan fiction author when your son was just a baby. In fact, I remember a funny author’s note in which you said that you’d hidden out in your bathroom to get a chapter done. I don’t think I did anything terribly creative when my kids were small. Seriously, how did you manage to accomplish so much?


Back when I had just started it was because I’d been going through some crappy stuff and wanted an outlet. It was cheaper than therapy. When my son was first born, he had colic. He’d cry for upwards of 20 hours a day and was consistently sick from being in daycare. Once he hit ten months he started walking and his colic started going away so he was actually sleeping at night. Because I was used to not sleeping I used the extra hours while he was in bed to write. I’d crank out 2,000 words an hour most times, so I’d write for two or three hours and – bam – a new chapter would go up.

The day I locked myself in the bathroom was a snow day and there were five people in the house – all wanting something. Food or attention (this was before we had my son evaluated and weren’t aware of the extent of his needs). I just needed a break and to be able to sit in the quiet for ten minutes by myself. So I faked a stomach ache and sat on the bathtub to finish a chapter and upload it. Not my proudest moment, but one that makes me chuckle nonetheless!

Jess: Tell me about it! This is how I feel most days:



Jess: I definitely remember those colicky kid moments. And we moms need to take our Mom Time and our laughs wherever we can get them! What is the most valuable lesson that writing fan fiction taught you?

Patience. My editor, Kathie, used to tell me to slow down and stop updating so fast. She said that people would become overwhelmed by the amount I was writing – that I didn’t give them time to appreciate a chapter. Or a story. And it was one of the best lessons I ever learned. Being prolific is one thing but over saturating your readers will make a lot of them simply give up on trying to keep up.


WhereWeFellFINALCOVER small


Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live.

Available October 28th on Amazon Kindle.



Jess: What was it about this particular story that made you decide to write it as your first published piece of fiction?

Honestly it was because I felt like it had an important message. I’ve always said that I wanted my first piece to be something I was proud of. Something that really sets the tone as to who I am as a writer. And I think this hits all of my requirements.


Jess: What was your biggest challenge in moving from fan fiction to original fiction?

Fan fiction is still propelled by original ideas, but we have to be honest with ourselves that it’s a lot easier than coming up with our own worlds and characters that people don’t know. If I write a character name in a fan fiction, I don’t even have to describe them. Your mind already knows what they look like. It already knows their back story, even if we give them a new one. Starting from scratch is tough. And it’s even tougher when you think that your old readers won’t be able to see the new characters that you’ve created because they’re so used to reading fan fiction.


Jess: Lots of things must have happened as you developed and published this novella. What came as the biggest surprise to you?

The biggest surprise to me was the outpouring of positive support I received from bloggers and other authors that were willing to take a look at something I’d worked so hard on. I’m my own worst enemy and I was feeling like maybe I didn’t stand a chance – but the feedback I’ve received from everyone has made me think that maybe I’m not as hopeless as I once thought.


Jess: You’re definitely not hopeless, bb. Trust me. Tell us something about your newest release that isn’t in the blurb.

Hannah’s obsession with health through being a vegetarian was inspired by my husband. After I got sick, he watched a bunch of documentaries and we started changing our lifestyle to be more vegetarian and organic. This was my way of honouring him and poking a little fun at the same time.


Jess: Very cool. What’s your preferred climate for writing? Do you like to write in a certain place, with music? Is there a specific time of day that you write?

I can write pretty much anywhere if I’m in a comfortable chair and have music playing. I prefer to be alone so that I can concentrate.


Jess: What comes to you first, the plot or characters?

It always starts with one scene. A conversation will take place between the characters and I lock it into place to write around. The plot usually changes as I write because my characters act of their own volition, no matter how much I try to rein them in.


Jess: Can I possibly talk you into writing a comedy?

I write comedy! It’s just usually comedy about really tragic things.


Jess: LOLOL! Touché. Who has most influenced your own writing?

It sounds weird, but John Hughes has been my biggest inspiration. Probably for my entire life. I actually have to go back through my three new in-progress works to remove mention of him because I talk about him ALL THE TIME.


Jess: I’d better bone up on John Hughes. 😉 In your opinion, what makes a good book?

I love books that suck me in. I need the characters to be believable and to react in real ways to things that are happening. And I want, more than anything, for a book to make me feel.


Jess: I think you’ve always been very talented at doing exactly that. Best of luck with your new novella. I can’t wait to see more from you.


Amber L. Johnson’s novella, Where We Fell, will be available on Amazon Kindle on October 28th.




An Interview with Abria Mattina

Wake - AbriaMattinaEighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.


Pigeons feather front cover smallIn this companion novella to Wake, Frank invites the Kirk family home to Smiths Falls for Thanksgiving weekend. Holidays are always a trial for the family that lost their daughter and sister, but Frank is hopeful that this Thanksgiving will be the exception. He has some happy news to share. If only he wasn’t so reluctant to talk about it.



Today, I’m chatting with Abria Mattina, who is a published author, editor, respected blogger, book reviewer and book designer. She loves to mentor writers and I’ve learned a lot from her.

Jess: When did you decide to be a writer? How did you get your start?


I don’t think it’s something I consciously decided. Born gay, born straight, born an artist… you get it. Smart money was on me ending up in some creative field, and I tried them all as a kid – visual art, dance, gymnastics, piano. I knew I liked to write as a kid, but I didn’t have my first don’t-eat-don’t-sleep-just-write episode until I was fifteen. I have had many more joyous episodes since, and I’m lucky enough to have a partner who understands them.

For a long time I resisted the thought of writing as a career, though. I thought the only way to make any money at it was to be a journalist, and I hated the thought of writing assignments. I felt that if I was going to write, I was going to do it for myself and write what I wanted.


Jess: What’s the one thing you’d tell an aspiring author?


Being an author is very different from being a writer. Nobody tells you that, but it’s true. When you’re a writer you write for pleasure, and there’s no pressure because any success or failure is still hypothetical. Once you’re an author, all that changes. You have to perform for your audience. You have to be engaged, consistent, and you have to keep churning out material. Whatever you publish next will be compared to what you published last. There’s a whole new world of pressure waiting and the end of your journey as “just a writer.”

I like to blog about my mistakes in publishing, especially when it comes to marketing, because that’s information that I wish I had known beforehand. Maybe someone else will benefit from knowledge of my mistakes.


Jess: You’re very accomplished. How do you balance the many facets of your life and career?


Honestly, I don’t. The thing about juggling so many things is that you can only hold so many balls at a time. Something always has to be up in the air while other things are firmly in your grasp. Learning to let go, to accept that I don’t always have to be on top of everything, is how I manage. When my writing life is going well, I find I don’t blog as much. When I experience writing slumps, I tend to blog more or try out new hobbies. It’s okay to fluctuate because it keeps the mind active and engaged.


Jess: We’re both Canadian. What do you consider the challenges of being an artist in Canada?


Although my books are set in Canada, I can never see myself writing “Canadian Fiction” for two reasons: the market is much smaller and Canadian fiction has a reputation for being grim. There’s an emerging publisher in Toronto whose mandate is to publish “non-depressing Canadian fiction.” It’s a little sad that they had to say that openly in their mission statement. The vibrant, wonderful things about Canada never seem to make it into supposedly “great” works of Canadian fiction.

As for the practicalities of being a Canadian author, there are hoops to jump through, from ITIN acquisition to working with foreign agencies to making sure your work is protected and your pay deposited. I have an ITIN, and I would recommend that any Canadian author get one before working with an American publisher or retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). It makes payouts so much easier.


Jess: Do you self-edit, or do you have pre-readers? Your published works are pristine. If you tell me nobody looks at your drafts, I’m going to scream.


I have beta readers and I hired a professional copy editor for Love Among Pigeons. Never underestimate the value of the ARC, too. I had a few early reviewers email me before the book launched to share any last typos they spotted.


Jess: How much time do you spend on research?


This is difficult to quantify because research is always an ongoing process. I don’t spend six months doing nothing but research and then write. Most often, I research a subject that interests me until I feel that I know enough to write about it competently. After that, I keep going back to my sources in order to get the details and nuances right. I particularly like journal-style blogs for this reason, so I can read the perspective of someone who has firsthand knowledge of my topic. If I can talk to someone directly, even better.

The tricky bit about research is resisting the urge to insert little factoids into the text simply because you know them. Sometimes I see this in the books I read, and it kills me every time. There is a limit to what the reader needs to know to enjoy the story, and it’s the author’s job to keep a handle on that.


Jess: I adore ‘Wake’. It’s one of my go-to reads. What inspired you to write it?


The first scene that came to me was the scene where Jem and Willa are taking a walk through her neighbourhood, just chatting like normal teenagers – talking about death and serious illness. Once I started, it was one of those stories that just kept coming. I went with it and enjoyed the ride, because there are few occasions in a writer’s career when a story comes so easily.

pigeons-mate-for-life-300x190Jess: ‘Love Among Pigeons’, the companion novella, distills complex elements into a strong, meaningful story. I tend to write epic-length tales. How different was it, going from writing a novel to writing a novella? What were your biggest challenges in each?


If I’d tried to write them back-to-back, it would have been much harder. After producing that mammoth, Wake, I worked really hard to cut down the length of my projects. The longest draft of anything else I’ve done since was 70k words. Length wasn’t a problem with Love Among Pigeons, especially after I decided to frame it in the setting of Thanksgiving weekend. Because it centers around a holiday, it has a natural three-day trajectory.

About six months after I published Wake, I started playing around with the idea of a prequel because people had requested it. I couldn’t make anything work, and at the time I chalked it up to my state of mind (my mother was undergoing chemo and radiation), so I shelved the project for a while. A few of those scenes ended up in Love Among Pigeons, and it was nice not to have to reinvent the wheel. I’d been thinking about the story far longer than I’d been writing it. I didn’t feel like a challenge to write. The hardest part was finding the time to write.

As for Wake, the biggest challenge was editing a work of that scope. It still makes me shudder.

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Keith Quintanilla, Deviantart

Jess: Your books deal with some tough, controversial subjects with compassion and tact. You don’t shy away from difficult moral questions. How have your experiences shaped you?


I think being fundamentally obnoxious helps. The thing about taking on difficult, controversial subjects is that you’re always going to offend somebody. There were so many things about Wake that offended people – that Willa didn’t handle Jem with kid gloves, the way Tessa died, the way Frank deals with problems, and so on. It happened. I could have gotten my panties in a twist about it, but on the contrary, I was glad. Books that challenge us, piss us off, and make us think, are books that we remember. They’re books that we pass on to friends just so we have someone to talk to about our opinions.

I didn’t feel like I compromised on anything with Wake, even when I knew I was handling a scene or situation in a way that wasn’t conventional or even politically correct. That’s why I could stand by it.

I’ve always been a pretty opinionated person, especially about issues with lots of gray area, but what drew me to writing about disability and illness in particular is my adolescent experience with severe scoliosis. I wore a spinal brace for 23 hours per day, every day, from the age of twelve until the age of eighteen. You can imagine how cool I looked, walking around school in that. The experience toughened me mentally and physically. There were stares, questions, and plenty of pain. By the end I had convinced myself that none of it bothered me, but when offered a chance to wear the adult Spinecor brace, I burst into tears at the thought of putting on a brace ever again. I had a lot of negativity and self-consciousness stored up, just waiting to be channeled into Wake.


Jess: One of the things I love most about these books is their clean, direct style. Who has influenced you?


I don’t know if I can pin it down to a definite source, because I read so much and always have. I suppose it boils down to the way I perceive tone and topic. I prefer florid language in the historical fiction I read, and spare language in contemporary fiction. I think sci-fi should be very detailed, but fantasy novels don’t have to be. I wrote in a style that reflects my tastes within the genre.


Jess: Your characters’ banter is so engaging. Willa, in particular, has a snarky sense of humour that cuts through bull and causes other characters to re-evaluate their behaviour. Where did you get the inspiration for her character?


Willa is the person I would have been at seventeen if I’d had the guts to say what I was thinking every minute of every day. Willa feels that she has very little to lose, so she doesn’t care about offending people or being ostracised. She’s brash, but also clever and insightful, and that’s how she gets away with voicing unpleasant truths – sometimes.

Jem’s behaviour is a little closer to my actual teenage experience. He’s always putting his foot in his mouth and then wasting time by agonizing over it.


Jess: You’re a synaesthete. I know someone who sees music in shapes and colours. What kind of synesthesia do you have and how do you think it influences your work?


I read in color, perceive sounds as colors, shapes, and tactile stimuli, and I perceive inanimate objects as having genders or personalities. Often tastes have colors, but that one isn’t universal for me. I don’t know that it really influences my work that much, but it definitely gives me a better-than-average memory.


Jess: How do stories germinate for you?


They either start with a color or a character. With Wake that color was turquoise and it had a sound similar to the bridge of I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake. With one of my other projects, it was the color of the protagonist’s name. I rarely outline because I like having the freedom to let the characters surprise me. I find the story doesn’t grow organically when I outline, because I’m too focused on fulfilling a checklist of plot points.


Jess: If there’s one thing readers could take away from your books, what would it be?


I think the value of my books lies in the way people use them to explain difficult situations or emotions to others. Over the past two years I’ve received emails from cancer patients and survivors who recognized themselves in the characters. Some of them couldn’t even finish the book because it cut too close to the bone for them. What these emails generally have in common is that the people writing them have used Wake to guide their friends and family into conversations about their feelings or experiences. The characters become stand-ins for their real-life problems, and it becomes easier to talk about it.


Jess: What’s the one thing you wish an interviewer would ask?

Abria: I guess, What’s the weirdest comment on your work that you’ve ever heard?

The answer would be: “I expected them to just stop arguing and start making out.” The person who said this was talking about the argument in the middle of Wake. That scene is loaded with tension, and in a typical romance book it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the protagonists let the passion of the argument turn into sexual passion. But I absolutely hate that. It’s such a cop-out, every time. If you’re going to start a fight between characters, finish the fight! It’s more believable, more satisfying for the reader, and better for you as a writer.


Jess: What do you think you might be doing 10 years from now?


Pursuing world domination from a bunker in Greenland.

But seriously, being able to write full time someday would be sweet.


NOTE TO READERS: Wake is one of my favourite novels. I’m guest-blogging today at . Please visit to read my review.

You may visit Abria on her websites, , , and follow her on Twitter @AbriaMattina. Thanks for spending time with us today!