Thursday, September 14, 2017

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Re:View

Riveting and thrilling, Ronie Kendig delivers a truly epic adventure with Crown of Souls.


I eagerly awaited this book after finishing Conspiracy of Silence and I was definitely not disappointed!

I really enjoyed this second installment of the Tox Files and getting to know more about Cole “Tox” Russell. I think one of my favorite things was the fact that we got to see a bit more of the depth of his character in this book. He was already a fully-fleshed character in Conspiracy of Silence but even more so in this book you could see sides of him that he’d kept hidden in book one.

I also loved the blossoming and deepening of his relationship with Haven, whom I love. She's such a sweet and steady character and creates a perfect foil to Tox's internal turmoil. I loved that there was still a lot of tension present as well as a greater depth that can only be found in the midst of dire circumstances.

Ronie is so good at creating emotionally charged situations as well as increasing the intensity of any (and all) relationships whether that be romantic or those based on the brotherhood of the team. We see a lot of this in Crown of Souls, but in the context of an overarching plot that barely lets you breathe. It all makes for a wild and thrilling ride.

Speaking of wild and thrilling, the search for the Crown of Souls artifact is so fantastic. It was such a intriguing yet complex idea (very Indiana Jones) which made for a lot of questions asked and guesses made leading to a good bit of misdirection. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat through the whole book, just waiting for something else to happen – which it always did!

I highly recommend this book to any and all who love suspense, thrillers, military action, tension-filled romance, and excellent writing!

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Crown of Souls

Book Description 
(from Amazon)
Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole "Tox" Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he's out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating--he's using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shelly Roark {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Shelly...

Hello! My name is Shelly Roark—wife, mom, sweet tea aficionado, lover of old wives’ tales and writer. My husband Geoff and I have been married 26 years. We have three kiddos—all teens now. Katie is 17, Ethan is 15, and Gracie is 13. Our family also includes a black lab named Rosie and a kitten named Tigger.

Connect with Shelly...


Purchase: The Bubble Who Would Not POP! 

Get to know Shelly...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing…

I loved writing stories as a child. But when I joined the newspaper staff in high school, I was hooked! Out of college, I worked for a local newspaper. After about 10 years, I began writing for ministries and nonprofits. I have been blessed to share the stories of so many absolutely incredible ministries that feed the hungry, save babies, shelter children, distribute Bibles and more. Today, I’m a senior writer for Focus on the Family. I absolutely love telling stories of people and for people . . . people are so interesting!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book…

My debut children’s book combines two of my loves—storytelling and children’s ministry. The Bubble Who Would Not POP! was originally written to share a simple message about prayer with kids in children’s church. I told it to my own children when they were very young before I even wrote it down. Some of the parts I made up as I went along. When all three were still, quiet and paying attention during the story, I knew it was a winner! I quickly wrote the early version down before I forgot it!

I love the character Billy Bubble—he’s brave and shows compassion toward the little girl who asks him to take her prayer up to God in heaven. He faces challenges but learns some very important lessons about the power of prayer on his journey, including that God ALWAYS hears our prayers. In fact, God knows our needs before we even pray about them! We are never told what the prayer need of the little girl is in the story . . . but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t want to put boundaries on what children might need to pray about and thought the kiddos might just insert their own needs into the story. God hears our prayers no matter what they are. Now, that doesn’t mean that we always get the answer we want when we pray for something. But the first step in living a life of prayer is to believe that God will hear you when you talk to Him. He really does! It is as simple as that. One of the Scriptures that inspired this simple lesson is “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24 NIV).


Let’s talk about your writing life…

How long did you write before you got published? 
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. But, professionally, I’ve written for about 26 years. The first decade, I wrote for a newspaper. Since then, I’ve been a ghostwriter for nonprofits and ministries. I write fund-raising copy, newsletters, articles, and even some books. For much of that time, I’ve helped out with children’s ministry at church just for fun. In that capacity, I’ve written little stories here and there, puppet scripts, skits, etc. One day a friend of mine encouraged me to send one of my kid stories to a new publisher. I did and God took it from there!

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
From a faith perspective, just know that God has your plan. He knows the desires of your heart, your giftings and talents . . . He gave them to you! So, be patient with His timing. Maybe you need to have some specific life experiences before He gives the green flag on your writing career in order to share lessons and encouragement with others. Just keep following your heart, ask His guidance and He will work out the details.

What does your writing process look like? 
The writing process for a children’s book is a little different than for an adult book I think. The message, setting and plot must be simple and easy to digest. They must work together with the visual to capture and keep small attention spans. So . . . when I get a thought, I let it bounce around in my head for a while before I write it out. I start with a simple lesson that I want to share and try to imagine it from a child’s point of view. It is also fun to start with a silly title and work from there.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 
I do love to listen to music when I write . . . especially Christmas music. I listen to Christmas music off and on all year long!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Hmmmm. Well, something I’ve learned is that a great story doesn’t go very far if no one knows about it! Ha! Because I’ve always been a ghostwriter, I had no audience of my own to talk to . . . it’s been a little challenging to try and cultivate that. I would recommend anyone who wants to be published eventually to start developing a social media presence now by blogging/posting/tweeting.


September is Classical Music Month (who knew?). In keeping with that theme, do you have a favorite character from a classical novel?
Since we are talking about children’s books, can I use The Grinch? It is from a classic children’s book. Hee! Hee! OR, Winnie the Pooh . . . love that little round bear!

What is your favorite fall snack food? 
This sounds so typical, but I LOVE anything pumpkin-flavored or cinnamon-flavored in the fall—pumpkin break, pumpkin muffins, spice bread, pumpkin-flavored coffee.

What are you currently reading? 
Well, my daughter just got Wuthering Heights to read. I haven’t read it since high school so I told her I would read it with her. It’s great because I have forgotten a lot of it (or maybe I just didn’t read it very thoroughly at the time).

Shelly has graciously offered up a copy of her book to one lucky winner! Enter below: 

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Jeanne M. Dickson {Writer Friday}

A little bit about Jeanne...

Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four brothers. Her grandmother lived with them and was a constant source of stories about life in Ireland and the saints and ancestors long gone from this earth. She credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother with her love of storytelling.

Connect with Jeanne...

Purchase: Grounded Hearts

Get to know Jeanne...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

I was born into an Irish-American family. I have four brothers and no sisters. My Irish grandmother lived with us, and she had a way of telling stories that could either make us laugh or scare the daylights out of us. I started writing in sixth grade because I was so angry with my brothers that I wanted to kill them off in a murder mystery. It only took one page. But it was satisfying.

After a brief career as a ballet dancer, I returned to college and earned an undergraduate and masters degree in business administration. I worked in the high-tech industry until I got the writing bug. Once I started my family, I put writing on hold to enjoy motherhood—actually, I was too done-in at the end of the day to write. I admire women who can do both! Once the girls were in grade school, I started working on my writing again. And here I am, finally a published writer.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Why did you write it?
My father was stationed in England during WWII. Issued with a weekend pass, he decided to fly to the U.S. Army base in Northern Ireland, and then visit family who lived nearby. Once there, he borrowed a bicycle and peddled across the border into Eire, “Free Ireland.” A few minutes into his ride, a member of the Garda, the Irish National Police, stopped him. The officer told him to turn his army jacket inside out, or he’d have to arrest him as a combatant and send him to the K-Lines internment camp. My father did as directed and continued on his way without further incident, which was fortunate because 240 soldiers from both sides of the conflict faced internment in Ireland during the war.

Remembering the story, I started the “what if” game. The more I researched the period the Irish called “The Emergency,” the more fascinated I became, and a WWII romance between a downed RAF pilot and a feisty midwife emerged.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
When we receive forgiveness from God for our sins, we need to accept His amazing grace and not keep punishing ourselves.

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?
You have turned my mourning into dance. Psalms 30:11. When my heroine Nan opened the door to flyboy Dutch, she had no idea he would help her escape her mourning.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
There are many books set in Ireland, but not many set during WWII. It was a fascinating time for a newly formed country.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? We hear this a lot, but dig deeper. Is there something else that helped you?
Connect with other writers. Find a supportive writing community. Other writers know what you’re going through. I write romance, so I joined RWA and ACFW. Both organizations proved a place to learn and meet wonderful mentors and lifelong friends.

Go to conferences. Listen to what agents and editors are seeking for their lists, and then ask questions. Meet authors and hear their stories.

Above all, learn your craft and trust in the Lord.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I lost count after twenty. It took me seven full manuscripts before I sold Grounded Hearts. I was in for the long game.

What does your writing process look like?
In my first draft, I allow myself to write junk. I’m the only one who will see it (thank goodness). My second draft is the hardest. It’s where I narrow down character arcs and emotions and plot points, and then I start refining the writing. The next drafts—there can be up to six—I continue to refine and define and improve how the story flows.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
Family stories and research, plus photographs of people and places.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?

I usually need music in the background so that I can concentrate on writing. Instrumentals only though or I’ll start listening to the words. My go-to is Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Besides finding a writing community and going to conferences, enter writing contests. It’s a thrill to final and/or win, plus the comments will toughen you up. There’s a lot of rejection in the writing world. Set a goal that’s realistic such as “I’ll finish this scene” or “I’ll write 1,000 words.” Don’t set yourself up for failure with goals that are impossible to meet or you’ll give up and get discouraged.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
Join RWA and ACFW. Both organizations offer online classes and depending on where you live, these organizations have chapters that meet on a regular basis with outstanding speakers.

How do you grow in your writing craft?

Reading and listening to audio books, I attend workshops from the masters. Margie Lawson comes to mind along with James Scott Bell. And writing is like any other art form. Practice, practice, practice—I show up. Breakthroughs only come to those who work.


Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it?

I’ve attended many conferences, but two stand out-- Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. Both conferences offer excellent opportunities to meet editors and agents, learn more about the craft of writing, and how to tackle social media. Plus, it’s fun to meet up with fellow writers.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
I’m going to pull a Californian reply—Acai Roots Sorbet. See you in yoga class.

What are you currently reading?
I’m listening to In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’m reading When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin.

Emilie here: Thank you so much for being on my blog again Jeanne! Reader friends, don't miss out on getting to know Jeanne better in her Author Chat interview as well. You can read it here. 

PLUS the Kindle edition of Grounded Hearts is currently on SALE for just $1.99 for the month of September! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Out on Epic Adventures

Hello friends! I am, as the title suggests, about to head out on epic adventures! I just packed up everything (all my books *sad face*) and just said "see ya later" to the trailer hauling all of my stuff to California. What now? Well,  I'm headed on one massively epic road trip!

I've been so blessed by my time here in Ohio. My church, Apex, welcomed me with open arms and I am SO thankful for the Springhill House Church for taking me in and making feel like family immediately. I will miss them all so much!

I wish I had time to tell you all of the amazing ways I've seen God work in my life here in Ohio, but for now, I'll share one of the things I've learned:

God is a trustworthy God. 

He is faithful. Always. In any circumstance, whether good or bad, He will see me (and you) through. I've had both good and bad times here in Dayton, and the same can be said for the rest of my life, but ultimately--no matter what happens--I know He will be with me.

All my stuff!
I'll try and keep you all updated here (along with my regular blog posts) but make sure to check out my Instagram stories (in the app under @createexploreread) to follow my adventrues. I promise to share silly faces and random things!

Prayers appreciated for my travels - they are rather extensive and take me through Texas!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Cheer for Series! by Valerie Comer | Guest Post

Hands up if you love reading a series!

Me, me! My hand is sky high. Although I admit I sometimes don’t read the books in quick succession, and then I get confused about which backstory character is which. It’s just that authors are so slow! They might take anywhere from two months to a year to pop out another story in that series, and I don’t have time to reread the previous books to catch back up. But neither do I want a recap of the previous story lines dumped into the first chapter.

So what’s an author to do?

Well, let’s start with what kind of a series it is. There are genres where one complete story arc often spans several books. This is often the case in speculative fiction or action-adventure. There are genres where all the books are about one m character, but they can really be read in any order. Like sleuth or police procedurals, for instance.

And then there are the kind I’m most familiar with, namely romance series. Readers expect each book to end in a happily-ever-after, or HEA, and they don’t take too kindly if the author comes back in book two and rips that couple apart and puts them back together. Do it a third time and, my guess is, your career is over.

So, if having an arc that covers several books is a no-no, then what?

Popular series can be created out of a group of siblings or friends, in which upcoming characters play the role of secondary characters in earlier books, while the previous heroes and heroines continue to cameo in later stories. Readers love to catch glimpses of earlier characters’ weddings and babies!

My first series, the Farm Fresh Romance series, was set on a farm in northern Idaho. Each new couple met, worked, and settled right there. The problem was, I’d set it up communally, so they worked together, they ate together, and they interfered with each other. All. The. Time. By book six, I had so many secondary characters I needed to send some of them away on vacations (hard on the budget, I tell ya!) just to narrow down the number of people involved in each scene.

Check out the first book, Raspberries and Vinegar, if you’re curious. It’s free on all retailers.

I got wiser when I planned a spin-off series. How about a community with a group of friends? That way there were more logical breaks. Not everyone is everyone else’s best friend, roommate, or work buddy. Toss in a community church, a community garden, a community bakery (are you sensing a theme yet?), and populate the set with families and characters of all ages, not just young singles.

What did I get? The fictional neighborhood of Bridgeview, set in Spokane, Washington, a city I’m quite familiar with. I’ve walked the streets of the area I transformed and taken hundreds of photos, smelling its air, feeling its breezes, and absorbing its vibe. I imagined the people I’d populate it with and how they knew each other, whether they’d grown up here or were transplants.

Secrets of Sunbeams, the first in the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, launched last summer. Recently Memories of Mist, the third novel in this series, released. It’s definitely a stand-alone within the scope of the series, the only one so far about a single mom with school-aged kids whose life revolves around PTA projects, which was a total change from the single twenty-something vibe from the earlier stories. Still, the life of the community moves forward, and readers will enjoy seeing Adriana, whom they’ve already come to love, get her happily-ever-after.

Also (sneak peek!), Adriana’s relationship with her sister, Alaina, is introduced here… and Alaina is the heroine of Rooted in Love from another one of my series, Arcadia Valley Romance, and Adriana reciprocates in that story, which releases in November. So not only can characters cameo in other books of the same series, but can cross over. How much fun is that?


Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary Christian romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie grows much of her own food and is active in the local foods movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith into her green clean romances.
Connect with Valerie on her website:

As memories linger in the past,
so dreams stretch toward the future.

Single mom Adriana Diaz isn’t about to let the new teacher derail the PTA’s hard work in securing a greenhouse and garden area for Bridgeview Elementary School, but taking matters into her own hands turns awkward when she realizes her attraction to the teacher.

Pro-level conflict-avoider Myles Sheridan finds himself against an entire community with his reluctance to incorporate gardening into his classes. The only thing that could make his situation worse is falling in love with the ringleader, whose child is his most difficult student and whose husband had died a hero.

How can Myles compete with the man from Adriana’s memories? He’s not the material champions are made of. Or is he?

Purchase: Memories of Mist 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Get In The Show | Adventures in Odyssey

It's no secret that I love Adventures in Odyssey. I post about the show frequently and have been a LONG time listener. Like...since I was a kid and now I'm...well, that's not really important, is it?

Anyway, they are have a super cool event that I had to share with you all. Check this out:
You have a chance to make history happen during the Get in the Show Finale Event in Colorado Springs. With an exclusive digital pass, you'll have access to 4 hours of behind the scenes, backstage coverage that will surprise and delight fans before the event even begins. Plus the Finale Event, emceed by comedian Bob Smiley, features live performances by the top 3 Get in the Show finalists along with the voice actors of Adventures in Odyssey characters Whit, Connie and Jules. And you can vote for the grand prize winner. Be part of this history making event Saturday, August 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
(from AIO website)

Register now:

What is something you used to enjoy as a kid that you still enjoy now?  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Heidi Chiavaroli {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Heidi...

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring Boston's Freedom Trail. She writes Women's Fiction and won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.

Connect with Heidi...

Purchase: Freedom's Ring

Get to know Heidi...

You and Writing 

How did you start writing?
I started writing in third grade. My first book was called I’d Cross the Desert for Milk. 😀 I wrote on and off growing up, but after I had my two boys and began reading Christian fiction, I knew I needed to write. I wanted to do what these authors were doing: sharing their faith with the power of story.

Why do you write?
I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I love creating through words. There’s something special about story, something magical. And when God shows up and walks with me as I create, it really is an awesome act of worship.

Your writing

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
That being weak, being inadequate, isn’t a bad thing. In fact, as soon as we think we’ve “gotten it right,” then we often stumble on our pride. We often think we can look to ourselves for strength. Or if not ourselves, then our great faith. But maybe it’s not how together we have it, or even how big our faith is. Maybe it’s who we put our faith in. Jesus is strong enough to take all our regrets and mess and make them into something beautiful.

What was a challenge you faced while writing your book?
It was so much fun to explore the same themes within the same story but along two different storylines. But it wasn’t an easy task, either. I wasn’t always confident the stories would merge together nicely. I was having one of those rough writing days when my husband came home and said, “Hey, did you see that they uncovered a time capsule in the State House buried by Sam Adams and Paul Revere?”


It was those times—when real life handed the inspiration to me, when the timing between reality and story just absolutely fit together so perfectly, that it seemed God was affirming the novel.

Then, all the headaches were totally worth it. 😁

What made you choose the setting for the book?
I’ve always been fascinated by Boston’s Revolutionary history and knew a story was waiting there for me. When the Boston Marathon bombing hit so close to home, it really shook me up. I realized around that time how much I was living in fear. So what does a writer do to work out her problems? She writes a book about them! I combined my love for a good historical story, grounded in another Boston tragedy almost 250 years earlier, and dove in with my characters, exploring the answer to my question, “How can I conquer fear?”


How long did you write before you got published?
It took me about eleven years from when I seriously began pursuing publication to get to the point of signing that beautiful contract. There were six manuscripts during that time, along with a lot of rejections, a lot of bad contest scores, a lot of, “God, are you sure this is what you want me to do?” But now that I’m here I can say every minute invested, every headache and rejection, were all worth it.

What does your writing process look like?
First, there is A LOT of brainstorming ideas, usually around tons of historical research. While I used to be a Pantser, plotting has definitely become more of my friend as deadlines loom. I never plot scene-by-scene because often my characters surprise me and I like to leave room for that. But it does help to hit the major plot points and have an idea where I’m going.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My favorite part is the very beginning, when those ideas are just coming and the possibilities are endless. I love the research, and even that sometimes scary first blank page. My least favorite is probably the very beginning of edits. Sometimes the changes needed seem so insurmountable, I wonder if I can get it all done! But I do, mostly by reminding myself that I’ve put in so much work already and I want the book to be all it can be for my readers.


Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, which one(s) and what were most helpful about it?
Oh yes! I love conferences! Though I’m not able to go every year, I love the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. I’ve met some wonderful friends there (so great to meet those who have a passion for both Jesus and writing!). I also attend a retreat closer to my home, the reNew retreat for New England Writing, being held in October in Connecticut this year.

While I love all I learn at conferences, I think the most helpful thing (and what I appreciate most) is connecting with other writers and with those in the industry. Writing can be lonely, and at conferences you realize you are not alone. In fact, there are tons of people out there just like you—desiring to create with words, desiring to make a difference through story. It’s also wonderful to talk to those farther along on the journey, those who have the gift of encouragement.😊

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
I do love Lemon Meringue Pie, but my absolute favorite is ice cream—either mint chocolate chip or some sort of coffee flavor depending on the day. 😀

What are you currently reading?
A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti. She is such a masterful storyteller—I’d highly recommend any of her books!

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman | Re:View

Beyond Justice takes me back to the beauty of Washington, D.C. while sending me on a thrilling mission for justice fraught with twists, turns, and duplicity.


Not only have I had the pleasure of getting to know Cara Putman through her work with ACFW, but I've also had the chance to do her headshots. Let me tell you - she is the sweetest! When I heard about this book I was sooo excited to read it and let me tell you, it delivered.

Hayden McCarthy is a character that I instantly fell in love with. I could easily picture her walking the streets of Arlington after a long day at work just as I could see her seeking out the truth through the justice system. Alternatively, I loved Andrew Wesley's character. He was multi-faceted and I appreciated his perspective juxtaposed with Hayden's.

The stakes of the book are obvious from the beginning and I liked how Cara was able to tie Andrew's work in with Hayden's case. I also appreciated the difference this book represents for the romantic suspense genre. I really enjoyed the fact that neither of their professions are 'typical' for a current romantic suspense. I feel like it was a fresh take on this genre and drew me in immediately.

I would point out that (at times) I felt a little ignorant of our justice system *cringes* and couldn't follow along on all parts. Cara did a great job explaining, but maybe I'm just too far gone to grasp some of the legal ideas and the court system. Still, wherever possible, I felt like she slipped in explanations that were not far fetched in the context of the conversation and made the "technical side" easily readable.

Lastly, the setting. OMG I miss D.C. so much and this book was like taking a walk along the Tidal Basin or seeing the Washington Monument in the sky line. It was beautifully portrayed and I felt like I was back there as I read this.

I'd definitely recommend this to those who like legal and suspense reads. It's not "high octane" action, but there's enough suspense to really grip you. The romance is wonderfully done as well and will really hold you to the end.

My rating: 4.5*
Purchase: Beyond Jusice

Book Description 
(from Amazon)
Hayden is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious DC law firm . . .

If the case she’s just been handed doesn’t destroy her first.

Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain that follows when justice is not served. It’s why she became an attorney and why she’s so driven in her career. When she’s assigned a wrongful death case against the government, she isn’t sure if it’s the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership—or an attempt to make sure she never gets there.

Further complicating matters is Andrew Wesley, her roommate’s distractingly attractive cousin. But Andrew’s father is a congressman, and Hayden’s currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to kill the case—or her. Logic and self-preservation indicate she should close the case. But how can she, when justice is still just beyond her reach?
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Truth About Book Cover Design

I design book covers. To some of you, this may be a surprise. It's not a full-time job for me, but it made sense to add book covers to my design repertoire because a) I love books b) I stare at book covers almost every day c) I have an eye for design. I say none of these things in order to sound egotistical or persuade you that I have "all knowledge" of book covers and best design practices, but I do tell you this for the sake of this post and the good of human kind. Ok. That was too dramatic.

Dad and I at one of his art shows
But really...I am a designer and a photographer and was blessed with "the eye" as my dad calls it. Coming from a him, that's a huge compliment because my dad is a seriously amazing artist. Like. Wow! And growing up in our artistic household meant I was given instruction about artistic things--sometimes when I wasn't even realizing it.

I've taken this knowledge along with my passion for books and started to create art that expressed how I feel about books, writing, and my love of reading. You can see my designs on Society6, Redbubble, and in my Etsy shop. Then came the book covers.

In this post, I'm mostly speaking to Independently published authors because they are the ones making the decision to hire a cover designer. But, traditionally published authors can definitely take note here because you have to work with designers as well. 

**Please Note**
I am in no way writing this to gain clients for my business. This post goes deeper than that for me. This is for the sake of the industry and for all of the times I cringe when I scroll through Amazon's eBook section and see covers that were badly photo shopped, have poor font choices, or look like the creator did no research into the market aspect of their book before they or someone else created their cover.

The truth about book covers

I hate to break it to you...but the old axiom that says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover is FALSE! We do it. I do it. Everyone does it. You can't help but look at a book cover and think something about it. To be fair, not everyone will allow that initial feeling to rule their decision to buy said book, but I have to believe that even the most religiously non-book-cover-judgers still judge...just a little.

Because of this, your book cover design is essential to selling your book. (tweet this) Can you re-read that? Please? Because it's soooo true!

Who needs a good book cover? 

You may agree with me on my first point, but now I want to address the need for a good book cover. You may have heard it said that there are two things you should put money into when independently publishing: editing and your book cover. For those of you who thought the book cover part was a joke, you're wrong (see my first point). Because of this, it is crucial that you hire someone who not only grasps the vision of your book, but someone who has a good eye (there's that "eye" again).

I'm going to ask you, dear author/writer friend, to take a mental step back with me so that you can honestly ask yourself: Do I have the eye, or am I hiring my designer to have the eye?

This is crucial because, unless you're a graphic designer with experience creating book covers, the chances that you know what's best for your book cover are little to none. >Holds up hands to stave off argument<

I'm not saying you can't see when a cover is good or make good suggestions to your designer. I am saying that if you trust someone enough to hire them, then you should trust their vision (after your input) for the cover design. Yes give input, yes make suggestions, yes be sure to tell your designer when you don't like what they've done, but consider asking your designer for their input. If they don't have experience in your genre, then that's a different story, but either way--trust them to create a design that will not only look amazing, but sell your book too! In most cases, a designer isn't out to make their design known, but to sell your book. If not, then maybe choose another designer ;-)

What makes a cover bad? 

There is no way I could fully list all things that make a cover bad (or good) in a post, and it's difficult to do so without visual examples, but I'm afraid of picking on covers and possibly insulting someone so...for the sake of this post, I'll just list things I often see on covers that make me cringe.

- More than two fonts used (generally). It's a good rule of thumb to stick to one or two fonts for a cover in order to keep things simple and clean. Don't believe me? Check out the best sellers area of Barnes and Noble. Most covers use only one or two fonts.
- People, animals, objects are photoshopped and the lighting/color is not taken into account. This creates an uneven look to the cover.
- Placement of title and authors name*
- Balance of the cover. This goes to the overall feeling of the front cover, where the title/text/subtitle is, as well as the images featured.
- Colored text. This has to be done really well and make sense within the context of the title.
- Concept. I've found myself thinking: Ok, so why is there a HUGE face of a woman/man looming in the sky along with several other fading images spliced together on this one cover? If you are trying to convey your whole book in a series of images on the cover, I'd recommend not doing it.
- Shadowing of text. This, if done well, will set off the text perfectly, BUT if done wrong will be the only thing you see. Be wary of glowy highlighting around text that makes it look like it's got a neon sign around each letter. Also, dark black shadowing does not (usually) look professional.
- Paintings used as digital art. Ok, sometimes this can totally be done well and look amazing! I've seen it. But, it can also be done really poorly and must be treated with caution.
- Poor model choices. This one's so hard--especially if your budget is tight and you can't afford premium stock photos--but it's crucial that your models a) fit the descriptions of your novel b) don't look awkward. Come on, you know what I'm talking about ;-)
-Unprofessional. This is kind of a catchall for anything I forgot to mention. When you hold up the book next to a traditionally published novel, can you tell the difference? If so, that's a fail (in most cases).

*This one is a particular pet peeve of mine. Where the title and authors name is placed, their relative size, and their font is a big consideration to the overall continuity of the book.

Why you shouldn't trust yourself--probably.

I may be belaboring the point here, but far too many people  seem to have a misconception about what constitutes a good book cover. I see on Facebook or through Twitter where people post covers of their books and I cringe because they are doing a disservice to their book.

To be majorly honest here, most people cannot create their own book covers and do a good job of it. The obvious exceptions to this are people who are designers themselves (and even then, they should put in the research to make their book competitive within their market).

To be fair, you may have a fantastic idea for your book, but in order to bring that idea to life, your cover designer may need to change things in order for it to look visually appealing or to fit the market. Trust them.

Again, I'm not setting myself up to be some magical guru who knows everything about cover design. I will say I can typically spot a "good cover" over a bad one. Being a member of the Bookstagram community on Instagram, I also know how majorly important a good cover is to the success of a book on that social media platform. I can't tell you how many times I have people comment on my posts for the sole purpose of saying a cover is pretty/stunning/amazing etc. And you know what they usually say next? That they need to add it to their TBR pile or that they need to purchase it.

See a recorded talk I did on this very subject: Writer Chat Book Cover | Guest Talk

What do you think? Was I too harsh? Do you see what I see? Do you have a book cover pet peeve? I'd love to know in the comments below.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Popular YA eBook DEALS under $6

I'm having WAY too much fun compiling these posts. I've grabbed a few more popular Young Adult deals you shouldn't pass up. Hope you find some great reading material! I haven't read all of these, so I can't attest to their content, but as a member of the Bookstagram community, I've likely seen them around which is why they've made the cut.

Red Rising is one of my favorite books! The series is fantastic! 

I enjoyed Defiance!

Six of Crows is on my TBR!

I'm a HUGE fan of the Illuminae series! Can't believe they are SUCH a good price: 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Christian Speculative Fiction ebook DEALS under $6

I had such success sharing some of my favorite Christian Fiction deals that I thought I'd continue the trend with some speculative fiction. I wasn't able to attend Realm Makers this year >insert extremely sad face< so I thought I'd bring the love to the blog! Whether that be Fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, or dystopian, here are some GREAT deals you'll want to check out!

I love Jim's writing!

You cannot go wrong with ANYTHING that Ronie Kendig writes!
One of my dear friends and a FANTASTIC author, Nadine's books are like GOLD!

This sweetheart has a few on sale as well! I'm so happy becuase this series is AMAZING!

Yay for sci-fi awesomeness!
Another super talented writer:

I've long been a fan of Ted Dekker's writing. These are such great deals! (Hacker is a personal favorite):

Frank Peretti has always been a favorite of mine!
Love this lady and had the pleasure of doing her headshots!

Becuase Kerry is just so cool - and you know you need to read a book about Amish Vampires in space!
A few fantasy novellas:

This lady is the sweetest - so excited for her first novel!

Just had Deanna on the blog a few days ago. Check out her book:
I've heard nothing but great things about this series:

Mike has a powerful way of apporaching things. I think you'll find his books to be intriguing - if they are "your style":

I am just in LOVE with this cover:

J.J. is a friend of mine and I also have done his headshots! Check out his books:

I've seen this everywhere (and really need to get a copy) but now you can too!

I love this lady so much! Check out her book:

Haven't read this yet, but it looks fantastic!

Kat has a TON of awesome books but here are a sampling:

Plus this great compilation:
Definitely couldn't forget Morgan!
For the discerning sci-fi fan:

Laura is quite the prolific writer! These only scrape the surface of her writings (so check out the rest on Amazon):

Another great author with a ton of amazing books:

C.S. Johnson has a TON of amazing books. The first few are even free! If you like epic fantasy, this is your GIRL!
Here are a few others from friends that are part of the Realm Makers group!

Also, as if this wasn't enough, you can check out a bunch more books on The Crossover Alliance's page (all for $3.99 or less!).