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Move Forward And Find Healing

Wilda Rodriguez Author Interview

Being Transparent tells your story about dealing with your son’s drug addiction and how you found the strength to move forward in life through your faith in God. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me because I wanted to reach out to someone in a similar situation and bring hope and encouragement by letting them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you don’t lose hope and faith. I also wanted to share how important has been my faith in God to be able to move forward and find healing.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

I think the hardest part to write about was how I felt like a failure as a mother and my mixed feelings at that moment about raising my grandson.

What is one piece of advice someone gave you that changed your life?

Take one day at a time, yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promise.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

With God all is possible!  And by this I mean that we might not get what we want at a specific moment or for a hard situation to be change the way we want to, but God will provide at the moment what we need if we put our trust in Him. And as we put our trust in God, we will be change for the better.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

Being Transparent
My Story: Facing my son’s drug addiction
Are you facing what seems like an impossible situation in life that has had you asking, “Why, God?”
Do you feel like screaming or running away just to escape from the challenges you face everyday?
Are you wondering if you will ever see the other side of the situation and finally find victory in your season?
Facing her son’s drug addiction, Wilda has asked herself all these questions and more. In excerpts from her journals, she shares the raw truth of her experiences with denial, anger, and depression, as well as the steps she took to find peace in trusting in God’s plan for her life. Acknowledging that God’s ways may not be her ways, Wilda shows us that being transparent with God, others, and most importantly herself, is an important step in the journey of healing.
What Wilda offers here is more than just a timeline of events and series of facts that may feel familiar to those who have watched a loved one battle addiction. She gives us an unfiltered, honest and vulnerable account of her thoughts and feelings as she navigated through one of the most difficult seasons of her life. And she leaves us with a simple but powerful truth that has been one of her core convictions-God never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is with us through it all, present and working in every moment. Those of us that know and love her are deeply appreciative that her readers will have the opportunity to benefit from the powerful life lessons she has conveyed to so many of us.

Twisted and Anything-But-Simple

Kaaren Sutcliffe Author Interview

Undercover Mage follows a young spy mage on a secret mission who meets up with interesting characters and finds romance while trying to save the provinces. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

Mage Everand was a key character in my first fantasy with romance series, The Saga of the Ambitious Mage. Initially aloof and cold, he started to thaw when he saved the life of a warrior woman who inadvertently fell into his world. Even though he largely saved the day, the woman chose the other guy and went back to her home world.

For ages, I’ve been troubled about starting Everand on such an epic character arc and then leaving him hanging. In this new series, through his twisted and anything-but-simple mission, he has further chances to evolve, and a second chance at love. Lamiya, boat team captain and mystical bird caller, explodes into his existence, literally almost running him over with her dragon boat! On top of this, doing what he does best, sleuthing, he progressively uncovers a barrage of lies and deception surrounding the foundation of his beloved Mages’ Guild.

Through working on reports to do with the Murray Darling Basin, I became interested in the concept of a massive river travelling through several provinces and how this might influence relations between the peoples. Add to this my fascination with the Chinese mythology underpinning dragon boat racing, and of course there is an irate river dragon that needs to be appeased. They just have to find him first.

Everand is an interesting and complex character that happens to be a spy enhancing his identity further. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I’m fascinated by why people do things, how they make decisions, and how the consequences of those decisions ripple out to affect others. Everand, despite being a loner, strives to do what is right. He tends to be a bit black and white, so he’s greatly conflicted when what he thinks he should do doesn’t align with what others, particularly his master, the Head of the Guild, want him to do.  In this series he’s tested by one life-changing decision after another, the stakes higher each time.

The guilt he feels about not being able to save his assigned Guild mentor on his previous mission is thrown in his face when he uncovers his mentor’s son, a forbidden half-mage, loose in the river provinces. Another second chance: can he save his mentor’s son? But doing so would see him disobey direct orders … thank goodness he has Lamiya to ground him when he struggles.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Good question! I confess, what started as a relatively simple mission with the idea of continuing to explore the themes of self-identity, doing what is right, and being open to love, kept gaining in complexity as the plot unfolded. Even I felt like sitting Everand down and saying, “Seriously? You want to add another layer?”

Somehow, I ended up with a whole layer of deep deception about the foundation of the Guild and its relationship with water dragons, which in turn brought to light the complexity of Everand’s relationship with his master, Mage Mantiss, who has been a surrogate father to him since he was twelve.

Lamiya is an awesome foil for Everand as she evolves into her own spiritual being, which leads to some interesting considerations of how we define power, ability and magic. Their undeniable attraction allows me to look at love, working together … and sacrifice. 

On a lighter level, an aspect I definitely wanted to expose was the history, rigour, discipline, awesome training and camaraderie associated with dragon boat paddling. I’ve been a keen paddler since 2018 and am totally impressed by, and loving, the sport. I’m not aware of other novels in English that feature dragon boating. The paddling generates some wonderful moments of humour, and some hopefully highly original scenes. Paddles up!

Can you tell us where the book goes and where we’ll see the characters in the next book?

 In Fugitive Mage, the dynamic between Everand and Malach, the half-mage, comes to a head pretty quickly. To quote Lamiya: How did she come to be snared between two mages; one she loved and one she feared. Malach is the wild card in the series, totally unreliable and unpredictable, with Everand trying his hardest to redeem him … We also see Mage Mantiss failing in mind and body, introducing the potential for chaos in the Guild with the rapid rise of the ruthless Mage Pelamis.

Lamiya, bless her, decides to call the dragon in her lake in Riverplain, and enter Akachi — the original, superior river dragon with a massive grudge to bear. The ultimate plot twist arrives as Lamiya worries whether she called the dragon, or did the dragon call her?  

Everand and Lamiya are fortunate they have loyal paddlers as friends to help them navigate the increasingly turbulent waters.

With so many moving parts, I’m told it’s a fast-paced read. The first beta reader read book two in one sitting and the editor told me she didn’t want it to end! Lucky there’s still Eminent Mage to come (September 2023) as Everand and Lamiya both have a way to go to complete their journey arcs and find a sure way to be with each other. Let alone save the dragons, the provinces and the Guild.

Author Links: Amazon | Website

Kaaren Sutcliffe delivers a richly layered fantasy tale with intrigue, romance and compelling characters. The trilogy weaves together a young spy mage on a covert mission, a rogue half-mage, an alluring bird caller with uncanny abilities. A fiercely competitive dragon boat teams and river dragons with a hidden past seeking amends from a Mages’ Guild founded on deception.
A grumpy river dragon withholds rain. Their crops wilting in unrelenting sunlight, the provinces plan a festival of dragon boat races to appease the dragon.
But someone doesn’t agree … As the incidents of sabotage mount, Riverfall sends a desperate messenger to the aloof Mages’ Guild, hidden behind its deadly warded wall.
Mage Everand, a spy, is astounded when his master sends him to Riverfall to find out what’s going on.
The catch? ‘Under no circumstances, none whatsoever, reveal your identity.’
The undercover mission unfolds with layer upon layer of intrigue, until Everand starts to question everything he believes.
The alluring boatwoman, Lamiya, insists on helping him, making it increasingly difficult to conceal his purpose – and retain control of his heart.
Everand faces an irate dragon, a rogue half-mage and, worst of all, a legacy of treachery and secrets underpinning the foundation of his beloved Guild.
Can he save the provinces and make things right without sacrificing his soul and sense of self?

A Perfect Place For A Murder

James Gilbert Author Interview

Murder at Amapas Beach follows an American consul living in Puerto Vallarta who discovers a murdered woman while on vacation at the beach. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

For the last several years, I have spent considerable time in Puerto Vallarta and once took a similar outing (as described in the novel) to Amapas Beach which is located about 20 miles south of the city.  Walking in the jungle toward a small craft village, I was struck by the setting—the overgrown trees and bushes and ominous twists and turns of the path.  It seemed a perfect place for a murder. 

More generally, I have always enjoyed reading fiction set in unusual places and Puerto Vallarta seemed to be a perfect location to set my Amanda Pennyworth series.  The resort has a large indigenous population in the old part of the city, a sleek and expensive section for time shares and American and Canadian tourists, and a trendy quarter with night clubs and restaurants…and a large expat community.  In other words, it’s a wonderful jumble of all sorts of people in a variety of distinct areas.

How did the mystery develop for this story? Did you plan it before writing or did it develop organically?

Because this is the third book in a series featuring the same amateur sleuth (Amanda Pennyworth, the American Consul to Puerto Vallarta), I already had my main character.  The inspiration for her, however, came from a stint working for the U.S. State Department on their promotion panel.  There I read hundreds of job descriptions and evaluations, and I was impressed by what embassy staff did in their foreign assignments.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to create a character who had to negotiate two cultures.

In terms of composition, when I conceptualize a story line, I generally have an overall idea of the plot and I am pretty certain as to how it will end.  But as I write, I find that some situations and characters develop in ways that I had not originally anticipated.  That’s the greatest enjoyment in writing: the surprises that your imagination springs on you!

What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?

In the course of my career as an academic historian, I had the unusual privilege of teaching in a wide variety of locations abroad.  The most important aspect of those assignments was the opportunity to experience very different cultures and learn about the ways that people spoke and acted.  I think that any writer is also an observer—someone who tries, above all, to understand the human motivations.  Above all, this seems to me to be the source of creating characters and the stories they inhabit.

What is the next book in the Amanda Pennyworth mystery series that you are working on, and when will it be available?

I have not begun the fourth book in this series, but trouble always seems to find Amanda Pennyworth, my amateur sleuth.  And I am certain that it will happen again soon, and she will find herself struggling to solve the murder of an American tourist or expat living in Puerto Vallarta.   

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Trouble always seems to find Amanda Pennyworth, the American consul to the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

First on a romantic outing to a secluded cove along the Mexican coast where the beautiful Danielle Maglin is found bludgeoned to death; and then at an elegant dinner party thousands of miles away only days later with the killer surely present, Amanda finds herself drawn into the search to find the culprit’s identity. When Danielle’s close friend Terrence Blanchard is found dead from an apparent suicide, Amanda is convinced that the killer has struck again. But there are too many possible suspects and just the usual list of motives: jealousy, greed, sex, money, and hatred. Nothing seems to make sense.

Working with the police first in Mexico and then in the United States, Amanda is sure that the killer was among the group of friends on an excursion to Puerto Vallarta from the small city near Chicago. But which one? The police are stymied when their forensic investigation leads nowhere. It is up to Amanda to find out why Danielle and Terrence had to die.

LITTLE TOY CAR

Little Toy Car by Gabe Oliver is a heartfelt story based on the life of Gene, from an innocent child to a young adult. Growing up in a house filled with charity donations that were always not quite perfect, with a mother with scrambled self-confidence and an abusive alcoholic stepfather, Gene’s idea of love cannot help but be severely warped. For readers who enjoy exploring the growth of characters as they experience the torment of painful relationships and conflict into mature and beautifully deep personalities – Gene will steal your hearts from under you.

The use of symbolism in this novel is outstanding. The stolen toy car, the bible verses, the guitar, the frying pan, and the car crash; are articulated in such a way that you could feel the rollercoaster of Gene’s life from a fragile child who saw no hope in the world and love only in the form of violence, to a reflective, considerate adult. It contains heavy themes, including religious coercion, physical and sexual violence, child abuse, and other criminal activity, that would be better understood and appreciated by readers who can decipher the teachings contained in Oliver’s work.

From its opening pages, Oliver’s writing style draws you into the plot – immediately greeted by the story behind the novel’s title and the purest insight into our main character, who is seemingly always a not-quite-right in his fit in the world. Parts of Gene’s childhood were weaved into the plotline perfectly to convey a certain message. There is a certain element of a psychological lesson to be learned about how children perceive interactions – especially where there is a lack of positive parenting or familial relationships – and how this manifests continuously in the form of life decisions and behavioral patterns.

Little Toy Car by Gabe Oliver is a gripping book that I would highly recommend to mature audiences. Readers will enjoy this coming-of-age story as they follow Gene as he navigates a challenging childhood to the heartwarming ending of this novel.

Pages: 379 | ASIN : B0BG3FKQC4

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Rilloön

Rilloön: Dark Passage by Justin Grimmett is a seafaring sci-fi epic that is sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats. The story follows Rilloön, a young echniodyne living on the island of Chloelle on a diamond-shaped planet called Karoquil. The echniodyne are a scaly humanoid race living under the despotic rule of the cruel lect’veneel after being abandoned by their gods eons ago. After a vision calls into question everything the echniodyne know, Rilloön must make a dangerous journey into forbidden waters in hopes of finding a better life for her people. Along the way, she’ll face up against the deadly leviathans that inhabit her world’s oceans and the secrets and history that have been hidden from the echniodyne for generations.

Though science fiction on its surface, the worldbuilding appears to draw heavily from the fantasy and dystopian genres as well, coming together to form a setting with a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you want a tale of rediscovered lost technology or an action-packed adventure on the high seas, this book will not disappoint. It also features a strong female protagonist, something that can be a bit of a rarity in the genre. The author does a good job of avoiding some of the more negative tropes associated with female characters- while Rilloön is unquestionably competent and fierce, she’s also allowed to be vulnerable and, for lack of a better term, human, in a way that many a “strong female character” is sadly lacking.

While the worldbuilding is incredibly in-depth, I found some of the word choices odd. For example, as it takes place on an alien planet completely disconnected from our own, slang terms like “heebie-jeebies” felt a bit out of place. Other than that, the writing is incredible and readers are able to immerse themselves fully into the world created by Grimmett.

Rilloön: Dark Passage is a gripping sea story adventure novel that science fiction and fantasy novel readers will be able to enjoy as elements from both are present. The unique world the author has created is truly fascinating, and I look forward to spending more time there in future installments.

Pages: 460 | ASIN : B096ZK86JX

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She’s Still Here

Kate Sablowsky just moved to Iowa with her famous news anchor mom, Maria Silver. Following the move, Kate starts the seventh grade at Ravendale middle school, where she discovers more than just a cast of kooky teachers. She quickly finds out that she has a gift passed down that allows her to see and speak with the dead. With this skill, she meets Jane, a shy girl who loves chemistry but who died a tragic death in school over 20 years ago. Jane is not fully sure of why and how she died; is there possibly a killer on the loose? You can find out in the first installment of the Kate Sablowsky Paranormal Investigator Series, She’s Still Here by Caitlin Alexander!

This exciting book is a much-welcomed refresh to the middle-grade detective/horror genre. It has all of the simple but entertaining qualities of a classic Nancy Drew mixed with the spookiness of John Bellairs’ works.

Alexander’s writing is simplistic in language but has enough complexities in the plot to make the book appropriate for the targeted audience. As an adult reading this, I was still thoroughly entertained and engaged. Throughout the book, Alexander hints that the killer may still walk amongst the school halls, but all is not what it seems, and I appreciated that final twist to make the book less predictable.

Seeing as She’s Still Here is the first book in a series, I am hoping to see Kate’s character grow and evolve. I feel that Kate comes off as a bit shallow and unwilling to embrace small-town life at the start. The characters encounter typical teenage social situations and struggle to adjust and fit in with peers. Middle-grade readers will be able to relate and sympathize with the characters’ feelings as they navigate middle school. These themes are mixed into the storyline seamlessly next to the paranormal mystery and adventure components.

She’s Still Here by Caitlin Alexander is a gripping paranormal mystery and adventure novel for middle-grade readers that a wide age group can enjoy. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Pages: 184 | ASIN : B0BHFDRYVW

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Khaos Has Come

Fast-paced events, swift yet meandering dialogue, and hilarious wit combine with a convoluted yet wonderfully wacky plot in Simon Carr’s Khaos Has Come. The next book in the Apocalypse Blockers series, this science-fiction book can be read independently without feeling too lost—the nature of the plot and the dialogue ensures that.

The entertaining book is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s universe-building. Rick Toenail, leader of a small group of people known as the Apocalypse Blockers, and his team are desperate to stop Khaos from taking over Earth in all its versions and simulations. To do this, they must stop Khaos from crossing over from the realm of information into the material realm. The team comprises various characters (two priests, a Goth girl, a vampire, a blob, and a seventeenth-century English scientist, to name a few). It picks up several others along the way, not restricted to humans (Evil Mouse, the kangaroo being one such). The directness of the writing, along with the sometimes deliberate repetitions and humorous stating-of-the-obvious, certainly puts the reader in mind of Adams’ writing, and the side-splitting laughter on account of the Pratchett-esque wit of subtlety and ribaldry makes this book utterly gripping.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Khaos Has Come. The characters were well-drawn, the dialogue was rambling and delightful, and it juxtaposed nicely with the fast-moving plot. I also especially liked how the author breaks the fourth wall and makes known his feigned exasperation with readers who pick up the nineteenth book in a series and expect to understand all references. I’d most definitely go back to read the previous nineteen books!

Khaos Has Come is a rousing dark humor science fiction novel that will have readers laughing and also asking, “what just happened here” as the characters take them on a journey they will not forget. This addition to the Apocalypse Blocker series is sure to keep readers of the series coming back for more.

Pages: 403 | ASIN : B0BJC6H589

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Eat, Eat, Eat! Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!

Eat, Eat, Eat! Cheese, Cheese, Cheese! is the cautionary tale of three hungry mice in search of the big payoff of cheese. These three are named Footloose, Fancy, and Free, and they plan to indulge in some gourmet cheese at the cheese emporium. After sneaking into the cheese store, they enjoy a night of stuffing themselves full of wonderful cheese. However, when it is time to head out, they discover they are overstuffed and can no longer get out of the store. The resident cat, Gourmet, discovers their plight, and she is all set to dine on fat mice for dinner. After a series of events that leave the mice and cat in quite a state, a valuable lesson is learned by all.

T.C. Bartlett has written and illustrated a humorous children’s book that even adults will find entertaining. From the original and funny names of the mice and cat to the amusing situations the three mice get caught up in, each page gives readers something new to laugh about. This amusing story does end with a cautionary note reminiscent of a fable. It is perfect for opening up discussions with children about the moderation of snacks and the importance of taking care of their eyesight. I can see this story being used for a lot of creative lessons in kindergarten or preschool classes, like building a mouse trap and mapping out an escape route.

Eat, Eat, Eat! Cheese, Cheese, Cheese! is an adventure tale of three mice and their daring escape after a night indulging in cheese. Teachers and families will love reading this extraordinary picture book to children and sharing the exceptional artwork created by T.C. Bartlett.

Pages: 48 | ISBN : 173390865X

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