Category Archives: Author Interview

Author Interview: ‘Monogamy Book One: Lover’ by Victoria Sobolev

About the Book:

What starts as an affair and a new experience turns out to be a monogamous lifetime saga. The two fight with borders, morals, infidelity issues, cancer, dark secrets and win

People think that Alex was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, not only rich, but blessed by luck. Men respect him, women dream of him, and Alex alone knows the strength it takes to conceal his tortured soul and devastating secrets.

But despite those powerful life lessons, he has always believed in his father’s words, ‘When you fall in love, you love forever – it’s in our family blood. Look for HER and you’ll find your happiness beyond thought…’

Valeria has never experienced actual romance (an early pregnancy, a hasty marriage, a life filled with work and study) and considers herself a pragmatist. She was taught to live by the rules: if you get married, then you love your husband; if you dream of a new home, then you work hard. But when, against all logic, she finds a beautiful stranger in her bed, her world turns upside down. After all, falling for the forbidden can be too sweet not to try… at least once.

They come from the opposite ends of the globe, but the collision of two soulmates is destined. Fate will send them on a lifelong journey from Eastern Europe to Spain, France, the United States, and back.

Their story is a mix of a beautiful fairy tale and a painful nightmare. It`s not something you`ve heard before: everything is too vivid, too honest, too emotional and too profound.

An attraction at first sight;

A passion that breaks all rules;

A hypnotic melody – it conquers all.

This is one love for life and beyond time,

This is MONOGAMY…

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

There is a free extended preview of the first book in the series here: www.sobolevvictoria.com/subscribe

Monogamy Book Two: Husband is releasing in November: www.goodreads.com/book/show/55388348-monogamy-book-two-husband

 

Excerpt:

The First Kiss

*** ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ by Selig ***

My friendship theory lasts until one hot July day, when we find ourselves in an amusement park eating ice-cream – coffee and chocolate. It is melting so quickly that it drips out of the cone and covers Danny’s face, hands and even shorts in brown smears. On any other day this would make me upset and angry, but not today. We are laughing and joking around so much that life seems happy, the day magnificent, and dirty shorts unimportant. I laugh uncontrollably, with absolutely no fear of seeming inadequate, and, between these bursts of pure, unadulterated joy, I am aware of two brown eyes locked onto me. It is the gaze of a child staring at an expensive toy in a shop that he desperately wants and can look at, but is not allowed to touch and is definitely not allowed to play with. I like it. It wraps me in its honey-sweet caress, forcing me to lose all sense of reality, dive into the waters of desire and drown in euphoria.

It is on this day that I experience the most delicious and exciting moment of my life, one of those that remains a cherished memory and fills our existence with meaning, the kind that will flash through our mind as we depart this world – my first real kiss.

My ice-cream is melting just as quickly as Danny’s and is dripping down my chin, across my wrist, and onto my thigh. I laugh, throwing my head back and covering my eyes so as not to be blinded by happiness, and it is in this moment of weightlessness that I am suddenly aware of the lightest touch on my skin, like the wings of a butterfly. It flutters against my thigh then lingers on my wrist, but before its delicate wings reach my face, I force my eyes open and see only fragments: pink lips, a tanned cheek, the features and lines of a face silhouetted against the bright sunlight. My nostrils draw in his scent for the very first time and it is so strong that he is not just next to me but intimately close. His smell instantly takes me prisoner, overpowering me to such an extent that I have forgotten who and where I am.

I know that, moments before, Alex was using his lips and tongue to clean the melted ice-cream off my thigh and wrist and inadvertently treating me to the most ecstatic experience of my life. My body and mind are adrift in a sea of bliss, the sounds of the park suddenly fade away, and the world and everyone in it cease to exist. All I can see is a blindingly bright light and all I can feel are a man’s moist lips touching mine. Alex’s hot, passionate mouth is kissing me greedily as if there is finally enough air; as if he had been suffocating, but now he can breathe.

I know that a kiss like this is neither flirting nor dating and can sense with every fibre of my being that it was a sudden impulse, unplanned and impetuous.

When Alex comes to his senses and realises what he has done, I am already staring meaningfully into his eyes. He pulls away slowly and starts to apologise, but I assure him there is no need, just not to do it again. He replies that he won’t, but his eyes say otherwise: he looks as overwhelmed as I feel.

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’ve never been into books. I mean I used to enjoy classics when I was young but having work and family on my plate I stopped reading at all as I thought for good. I used to tell everyone that in our days reading is luxury – it takes too much precious time. Back then I couldn’t imagine myself as a writer.

But…as they say, “ If you want to make God laugh, let him know your plans”.

Many years later, at the age of 36, I realized that I’m going to explode with the emotions and the heaviness of images I had been carrying in my head for years if I don’t let them out. It was a story of a man tortured by his beauty and human desire to consume it. Somehow, I was able to feel not only his suffering and loneliness but his great almost endless ability to love. To love monogamously, unconditionally, investing every cell of his being into happiness of only one person on Earth – his soul mate. Well, I never created him, you see, he was born in my brain all by himself. Or maybe it was (and still is) some kind of mystiques.

My urge to get rid of those images, write them down and let them live their own separate life was so strong that I made myself learn how to draw with words. It took me two months to write the very first version (which was half as long as the final hundred times rewritten one) and when I was finished I called it “something”. And I sent my “something” to my sister with a message: “Kira, I wrote something, can you please read it?”

A couple hours later, at 3 a.m. to be precise, I heard from her back. “You MUST show THIS to people… ” she wrote.

And then “I’ve never cried so hard and I’ve never felt such profound happiness with every corner of my soul. I can’t believe it, my sister wrote a BOOK!”

That’s when I realized that what I was dealing with was an actual book. But having 13 of them now I still don’t consider myself a writer. I have a feeling that I can and must do better to earn that.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

The ideal place to write for me would have been Spanish beach in September: there are no crowds, no scorching heat, there is only you, the azure sea and the calming tale of the waves. In real life, I work sitting at my desk and looking occasionally through my window at the rainy dreary streets of Vancouver and realizing that every single day, I keep falling in love with this hauntingly beautiful city.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I would say that “Monogamy” wasn’t inspired but rather urged by my strong feelings of regret, sorrow, love for the man who lived in my imagination for years. It only happened this way with the “Monogamy”.

My other books were inspired quite traditionally. For example, I have another popular book “Opium” – a story about forbidden love, based on a letter from my reader. Of course, it wasn’t something new, I’d heard plenty about brother-sister stories, I neither judged nor supported, but in that huge reader’s letter there was one sentence that described what she (my reader) and her brother were both feeling about their lives being for years married to other people. It was the “emptiness” that finally led the woman to a deep depression. I wrote absolutely different story with different characters, but still connected to that letter through “emptiness”. It’s like one sentence, or even one word had opened a portal of inspiration and imagination.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Well, the plan, if it exists, is only in my head. But I doubt it’s even there. I just listen to my thoughts, and when I get from those thoughts strong emotions – that’s when I know that the book is going to be good.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I think it’s social drama with elements of romance, psychology, sometimes detective and thriller. I do not plan a genre; I let the plot choose its own path. The main thing is that it will lead me to the point of triumph of hope and faith. In fact, everything I write builds the idea “never give up, always fight”.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Rodrigo Guirao as Alex and Agnes Obel as Lera.

7/9: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors? and What is your favourite book and why?

It had already been a full year since I released “Monogamy”, I finished his book “Monogamist” and I went with my husband for a three marvelous weeks on vacation to Italy. That’s when I actually restarted reading myself. I got a TBR list from my readers with the “best books ever” and among them I found one that really touched me – “The Opportunist” by Tarryn Fisher. I read it in Rome (listened to the audio book, actually), and it was interesting since the last scene in the book was happening exactly there – in Rome.

My memory still keeps the moment where exhausted we crashed on a bench somewhere close to Forum, my husband happily fell asleep on my knees and even his snoring wasn’t bothering me as I was listening how Olivia entered Caleb’s office to see him with another woman. Well, to me with all I read before it was filigree – not too much, not too shallow. That’s why I love Tarryn, she is on the same wave as I am. She impressed me. And “The Opportunist” led me to my favorite of all times – MUD VEIN. That`s where I was crushed. That’s where I found my personal apocalypses, the deepness I needed so desperately and couldn’t find in other books.

Not only did Tarryn tell me “what love is”, but she found a way to show it in the most powerful and exquisite episode I had ever met. I am talking about the scene where freezing and dying Isaac covers Senna with his body to keep her warm and alive as long as he can. My fingertips went numb when I saw that image in my head.

I have a series of two books called “15 minutes” and “Strip games”. It’s a story about a couple struggling to live a normal life after their 3 year old girl drowned in the pool. Six years of ineffective therapy pushed the husband to take a dissonant attempt of bringing his “ghost-like” wife back to life. While we oversee her becoming alive again in the hands of her young lover, we can feel how deeply and desperately her husband is suffering. Months after the divorce, she founds her husband’s letters revealing that he had never cheated on her but had betrayed her in the most cruel way possible – he had bought her a lover. She can’t even think straight through the words and confessions of the most important man in her life, but she finely discovers how badly he was destroyed and hurt not so much from jealousy as from seeing the woman he loved falling in love with another man – the man whom he paid. Here I can see Tarryn’s influence – the idea of manifestations of love through sacrifice, ability to “give” despite self-preservation instincts.

I have read tons of books now and “Mud vein” still remains at the top along with The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons.

Do they inspire me? I think so.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’ve read recently Normal people and Conversations with friends by Sally Roony. I loved the latter.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Not to think about it, but to try.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?

Please, visit my site: www.sobolevvictoria.com

Follow my Instagram: www.instagram.com/victoriasobolev_author

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ViktoriaSobolev

Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/victoriasobolev

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomvictoriasobolev

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/profile/victoria-sobolev

 

About the Author:

Victoria Sobolev is the author of four bestselling series and one standalone novel that have gained her thousands of followers on Russian indie platforms and a Monogamy fan club.

She was born in Ukraine but spent most of her life living in Moldova until immigrating to Canada with her husband and two children. She currently lives in and marvels the beauty of British Columbia.

Join Victoria’s mailing list for exclusive material ➜ www.sobolevvictoria.com/#267

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Author Interview: ‘Complicated Heart’ by Nicole Higginbotham-Hogue

About the Book:

After Parker and the Avery Detective Agency leave Kansas, they are contracted to work in conjunction with the ATF and FBI on solving the mysterious oil trafficking case that is plaguing the area. The group is sent to Chicago in an attempt to get to the bottom of the crime ring that is terrorizing local farmers by confiscating oil from their land, but as they dive deeper into the case, figures from the past emerge, and the group might find that the culprit behind the whole thing is right under their nose.

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

“We’re not in Kansas anymore!” Kay called as their car sped down the road and out of the farm town that they had been staying at the last week or so.

“Well, technically, we still are for about another hour,” Parker replied with a smile. “But I agree, it’s about time that we move on.”

“How do you think that Iris is doing?” Kay asked, concern in her voice. “I told her that she could come with us, but she was bound and determined to get a ride from Cam.”

“You know Iris,” Parker said, shaking her head. “She’s in love, and when she feels that way about someone, she goes all in.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Kay replied. “She wears her heart on her sleeve. We do not even know much about Cam. What if she is the one behind the black-market oil smuggling? What if Vicki does not have anything to do with it? Maybe, it’s all just one big cover-up.”

“Maybe,” Parker mused. “But I have a good inkling that Vicki does have something to do with all of this. There’s no way that someone would fake their own attack to the point that they ended up in the hospital in order to frame an innocent person unless they were involved in some way, shape, or form.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Kay agreed. “I just can’t completely trust Cam yet. I need to know more about her before I am comfortable with her dating Iris.”

“You’re so motherly,” Parker grinned, sneaking a look at her wife. “Poor Iris is just trying to go out into the world to find Mrs. Right, and you are always there to tell her why each person isn’t good enough for her.”

“I care,” Kay said simply. “You should too. You have been friends with her longer than I have, and you know that Iris is impulsive. I just don’t want to see her diving into a relationship that isn’t healthy, and I certainly don’t want her ending up with some kind of criminal.”

“Yeah, she does know how to pick them, doesn’t she?” Parker commented, thinking about all the women that Iris had gone out with in the last couple of years. The other woman was always going out to the clubs and to the bars, looking for the one, and during that time, Parker had seen her fair share of contestants for the spot, none of them receiving her approval. Nevertheless, Cam seemed like a better match than most for Iris. Though they had just met while working on the Gifford Farm case, Parker felt like the other woman had a greater sense of responsibility than the other people that Iris dated did, and Iris was one that needed a responsible mate. “Did you ever think that Cam might be just what Iris needs?” Parker finally said to her wife, vocalizing her thoughts. “It seems like she has her life together, and I don’t think that Iris has ever gone with someone like that before.”

“Maybe,” Kay said. “But I’m not going to trust this woman until I know her better.”

Parker laughed at her wife’s stubborn attitude. “You know, maybe we really do need to have a kid,” she commented. “Then, you could use all of that extra energy to worry about them instead of Iris. She is a grown adult, you know.”

“A child,” Kay replied, a softness in her voice. “Have you been really thinking about it? I thought that you weren’t ready to have a family yet.”

“I wasn’t,” Parker admitted. “But something tells me that you are.”

“I told you a long time ago that I was ready,” Kay said. “Nevertheless, if you aren’t, then there is no point in proceeding forward.”

“Well, you can’t go your whole life not knowing what it is like having one of your own,” Parker told her wife. “And you are showing all of the signs that it is nearing time. I love you, Kay, and I went into this relationship knowing that there was a possibility of being a parent. I certainly don’t want to take that dream away from you.”

“What’s stopping you from wanting them yourself?” Kay inquired, fooling with the mixture of items in the middle console. “You would be a great parent. You have a decent job, a nice place to live, and an ample support system.”

Parker thought about this question for a moment. She knew the answer, but she was not sure how to present her concerns to her wife. She knew that Kay could not go through her whole life without being a mother. The other woman had showed her in so many ways that she was ready for the responsibility, and Parker honestly thought that she would be good at it. However, Parker also knew the risks in that endeavor. The job that they had was not a very safe one, and there were always unexpected risks. She certainly didn’t want to get in over her head by taking on a case that might put her family at risk, and she knew that if they did have a child, Kay would need to stay home to take care of their little one. She would not feel comfortable having Kay work alongside of her at the detective agency knowing that they had a baby at home. She wanted to have the comfort of knowing that her family was secure, and she was not sure how she could do the job that she loved and guarantee that.

“Hello, are you listening to me?” Kay urged, clearly not appreciating the silent response to her question.

“Yes, I’m listening to you,” Parker responded.

“Then, be honest with me,” Kay said. “Why don’t you want kids?”

“I do want kids,” Parker confessed. “I just don’t know if I would be a good parent, especially with my given career field.”

Kay looked over at her with a knowing look. “So, this is about our job?” she said, the stress in her voice easing with the realization. “You know, I would never ask you to leave the detective agency, right?”

“I know that,” Parker said.

“Then, what’s the issue?” Kay inquired.

“I just don’t think that it would be proper to bring a child into this world given our current job,” Parker commented. “We are constantly in danger, and we deal with several issues that a child shouldn’t have to even know about. How can I feel good about bringing another person into the world, knowing that there is a chance that I may not even make it home?”

“There is always that chance,” Kay said. “Look at my grandparents. My grandmother was in her own house when she was murdered.”

“Yeah, I suppose that you are right,” Parker sighed. “It’s just a lot to think about.”

“It is,” Kay replied. “But keep thinking about it, because I feel like it is the right time to expand our family. I can’t imagine going my whole life without children, and regardless of our job, I think that expanding our family would be a good thing for us not a bad thing.”

Parker was silent. Kay had never pushed the subject this hard, and now it was evident that her wife was not going to give up on the topic. She watched the road ahead of her, noticing the small clusters of fields on either side. Time had gone by rather fast in the last couple of years, and she knew that if she did not make a decision on expanding their family, they may never get the chance to do so, but now wasn’t really the time. They were in the middle of a big case, probably their most dangerous case to date. She decided to push the family issue to the back burner for the time being. Her decision could wait until they solved this case, and maybe, then she would have some clarity on the issue.

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I realized that I was fascinated with books when I was eight. I was walking in my school library, and I saw a book that was written by a boy my age. After looking closely at his work, I was inspired to try and create my own story. I started by creating picture books and comics, and later, I wrote screenplays and for newspapers. It took a while for me to realize that my true calling was writing novellas and novels.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I have two hours to write a day. I try to schedule this around my other responsibilities. I am a full-time writer, but I am also a full-time mother, so time constraints are a very real thing to me. I think that this affects my writing in the fact that I have to make decisions about what I can and cannot get done in a day, and since I write, edit, create my own cover designs, market, and advertise my own work, along with running my Website and promotions, it might take me a little longer to get what I want to accomplish done.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

The people that I have met in my life and the situations that I have gone through inspire my writing. I like to write fiction that is based on some sort of truth. For instance, the book, The Flood Between Us, was written after a flood devastated the cities around me.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I usually have some sort of plan. There are times that I write outlines, and I do this, because sometimes, I will have a scene completely thought through. However, that scene may be in the middle of the book, so to write out that scene, I have to keep track of what came before it and what will come after. There are also times where as I write, my story changes in ways that I didn’t expect as even though I have a basic idea of what I want to write, I let the scenes play out naturally.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I write lesbian fiction. When I was younger, there were not that many lesbian fiction novels to choose from. In fact, when I went to the store to find them, I would encounter a large amount of nonfiction books about coming out and the history of LGBT people in the United States. Nevertheless, I just wanted to read something adventurous where the main characters were lesbian. Since there were very few novels of this kind to choose from, I decided to write my own.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Honestly, I don’t have a particular person in mind to play Parker, but I would like to fit Amy Schumer in there somewhere, and I think that the person that played Iris would have to have a personality similar to Fran Drescher.

7: Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?

I read when I can get the time. A couple of my favorite authors are Harper Bliss and Radclyffe.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

It has been a busy year, so I have not had as much downtime as I would have liked. However, it is a goal to finish the Pink Bean Series by Harper Bliss, and I am also in the middle of two other novels, one by Miranda McLeod and another by J.A. Armstrong.

9: What is your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters. I feel like this book tells a heartfelt story about coming out.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

The biggest piece of advice that I have is to keep on writing. Sometimes, one reader may not like one of your books, but that does not mean that they will not like another one. This is a difficult industry to break into, and there is a lot of criticism that goes with it. However, it is important to accept the fact that other people have their own opinions and to keep your head up. If you keep writing, you might just write the masterpiece that you have always wanted.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

Website: www.higginbothampublications.com

Blog: www.higginbothampublications.wordpress.com/books-by-nicole-higginbotham-hogue

Twitter: @higginbothampub

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-higginbotham-hogue-66a349b9/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/14687751.Nicole_Higginbotham_Hogue

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/higginbothampublications

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Nicole-Higginbotham/e/B010OIGXAS

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/higginbothampublications

 

About the Author:

I began writing, because I liked the idea of using the imagination to tell stories. At an early age, I published poetry, news articles, and jokes for magazines, but I always was partial to writing books. When I finally had the chance to do this, I wanted to write lesbian romance books that incorporated other parts of a woman’s life. Many of us have families, jobs, and non-romantic relationships that are a big part of our lives, and I thought that it would be more realistic to incorporate these features into the books that I wrote. Later, I noticed that the availability of LGBT books in bookstores and libraries was sparse. I wanted to write more than one genre of lesbian fiction, so that those that were into other types of books like action, adventure, crime, and mystery were able to find a book that suited their personality with characters that were like them. I am currently working on my newest project, which will hopefully be available by the end of the year.

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Author Interview: ‘Costco As You Like It’ by Casey Giffen

About the Book:

Old Fashioned Romance, Lovers United, and Literal Drama Collide

Boy meets girl, girl meets boy—and everyone around them meet in this romantic comedy of errors where hearts melt and love abounds. Costco as You Like It takes readers into the worlds of a lonely librarian named Paul and an equally lonely school drama teacher and counselor named Maddie. A chance meeting in Costco over a table loaded with books and a few calamities later, and this match made of the minds and hearts ignites into a romantic ruse sure to delight readers everywhere.

While Maddie and Paul “fail to launch” out of self-induced stage fright and the belief that love only happens in fairy tales, not their lives, these two star-crossed lovers find their lives somehow coming together over a proposed Arts Center. Maddie exerts all her thespian prowess to convince residents that a civic arts center is practical and prudent. Incognito, she plays the part of Gaylord (aka Ganymede from Shakespeare’s As You Like It) to succeed. By performing a play to raise money and awareness for community folks, Gaylord (aka Maddie) becomes a hidden gift for Paul. However, as is the case with most things in life (and even fairy tales) nothing works out quite as planned.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?

NANOWRMO (National Novel Writing Month) birthed a challenge in me that lives today. I love creative writing. I wrote my first novel eighteen years ago, The NANOWRMO goal was to write 50,000 words during the month of November, for folks like me who said, “Someday I’m going to write a novel.” In 2012, I wrote Costco As You Like It but decided to publish it last November after meeting with Michelle Gamble, the publisher of 3L Publishing.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

Waking up at 4:00 a.m. allows me to sip the first cup of coffee in my household. By committing to writing the first thing in my day, I guarantee fostering a constant, persistent approach to writing. I never feel as though I’m procrastinating or wasting time. Sitting in a corner section with windows, I watch the sunrise, and I know that I’ve begun the day creatively, productively.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas originate by seeing the “old” in “new” ways. By watching, listening, and interacting with a variety of people, I consider how these real-life people would play out in fiction.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Prior to writing my current novel Apollo’s Broken Chariot, I reread Elizabeth George’s Write Away. George’s approach is fascinating. She explains the significance of characters’ names. I’ve never initiated a plot based on names. Also, she highlights the importance of thorough character development before penning a sentence of narration. For the first time, I outlined most of the plot prior to beginning the story. What Faulkner terms as the human condition in conflict, George elaborates with facets of the characters: emotions, environment, finances, intellect, quirks, needs and the usual physical, behavioral, and spiritual qualities. With a strong setting, the first chapter ushers in a terrific story and continues to advance from a great beginning which gets even better.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

Costco As You Like It is a well-played romantic comedy, so I thought that Costco As You Like It would be a terrific summer read. After some research, I had decided to market Costco As You Like It to women in their 40s because they purchase the majority of paperback fiction. Prior to Costco As You Like It, I wrote a trilogy with significant social influences. These mysteries set in the early 1970s reveal provocative settings: the Central Valley of California (the backdrop is the United Farm Workers’ plight); the Southern California locals of New Port Beach and Catalina Island (the backdrop of Roe v Wade ramifications); and in the California Sierras (the backdrop of the Oakland Athletics winning consecutive World Series).

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

I’m somewhat old school. With Costco As You Like It, I’ve imagined Sandra Bullock as the lead Maddie because Bullock displays such originality with romantic comedy roles. Perhaps Matthew McConaughey would appeal to women.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

A favorite adventure of mine is to visit the local used bookstore and discover first-time novelists. However, I appreciate the following: Flannery O’Connor because she reveals faith in new ways with characters; Cormac McCarthy because his storylines and characterization is intriguing; and Sue Monk Kid because her ability to mesh fantasy with real life is stunningly fresh.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I recently finished Kiran Desai’s national bestseller The Inheritance of Loss. She won the Man Booker Prize in 2006 for this novel. She organizes short chapters, which is an interesting style, but obviously she narrates a page-turner because of three-dimensional characters.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

For non-fiction, I love a God in the House, a collection of essays where poets talk about faith. Something about poets of varying faith experiences fascinates me. For fiction, I’ve reread To Kill a Mockingbird during so many Octobers.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Eventually, writers must decide whether or not to write because they feel like they have a story to tell or whether or not they must write the story…period. Regardless, someone considering being a writer simply must tell a story that is worth reading, especially for the author.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work? 

I have a website: www.caseygiffen.com that highlights my novel, my interests, and my blog. Those interested can follow me on Instagram and FB, too.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/casey.giffen.35

Instagram: www.instagram.com/caseygiffen

About the Author:

A teacher for the past 38 years, Casey Giffen lives in Hughson, California with his wife. They have four grown boys, three grandchildren, two golden retrievers, and one tabby cat—just the way he likes it. Writing has always been analogous to discovering golden ideas. He enjoys writing poetry, prose, and post-its in order to discover the hidden stories everyone wants to read. Costco As You Like It is his first novel.

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Author Interview: ‘Falling into Magic’ by Elizabeth Pantley

About the Book:

Welcome to Destiny Falls

When Hayden was a child, she lost her cat. Adults told her the cat has escaped the house and ran away, but she knew the truth. The mirror had taken her. Hayden knew this because the mirror had given her a glimpse of an alternate world, and it had nearly pulled her in, so she was certain the cat had suffered that fate.

. . . Twenty years later Hayden discovers the true secret of the mirror when she is thrust into it by a mysterious villain. She learns of a world she never knew existed, and a family she never knew she had. But danger brought her here, and it followed her. And now, Hayden is on a mission to see that the threat is removed so that she can begin her magical, meaningful new life in this enchanted world.


Falling into Magic is a magical cozy mystery novel with a touch of humor and a hint of romance. It is the first book in the Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic series.

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Excerpt:

I had spotted a library a few blocks away on the day that I’d last been in town, and we agreed I’d spend the time there while I was waiting. The girls felt bad for leaving me, but I told them that libraries were one of my favorite places and I rarely got to visit one. I assured them it would be more than okay; it would be wonderful.

I could have sworn the library was a few blocks away. But when we walked out of the restaurant it was exactly across the street. I pointed this out, but they just chuckled.

“I guess it’s not safe for you to walk a few blocks, so the library came closer.” Indigo said. Sapphire nodded as if this wasn’t the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. Well, since before coming to Destiny Falls, that is.

 

I love libraries. The smell of the books, the hushed tones of the people, the rows of books on every imaginable topic. I spent many happy days at the library as a young child, going to the weekly book readings and playing with the hand puppets.

I remember the first day I got my own library card. I was so proud when I took out my first stack of books. One had a picture of a husky dog on the cover, I can still see it in my mind’s eye. After that, either Nana or Gran would take me once a week. We had a blue plastic basket that held about forty books. They said the library was there to be used, and we took full advantage. To this day, just walking into a library fills me with so many happy feelings.

I walked up to the building and enjoyed the sweet, typical small-town library appeal. A yellow painted building with white pillars on either side of the entry. The word Library hanging above the front door. A neatly trimmed lawn edged in flowers along the walkway. A flag flying in the breeze.

I opened the door, stepped inside, and my jaw dropped. I stepped back outside and looked at the building’s façade. Still a quaint small-town library. It even had lace curtains in the windows. I went back inside. In and out twice more, just to help my brain wrap around what I was seeing.

 

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’ve been writing for twenty years – but it’s been all parenting books! I’ve had a novel rolling around in my head for years, and it was finally the perfect time to make that happen. It feels so fresh, new and exciting!

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I can write anywhere! On a typical day I’m either at my desk, or sitting in my living room. But I’ve written on a boat, at a beach, in a park, on a plane, in a coffee shop. You name it – as long as I have my laptop with me, I’m good to go!

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I would guess from being an avid reader since I was in the Principle’s Reading Group in kindergarten! So many wonderful stories live in my memories that blur and blend into interesting new tales.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I start with a main plot line that I write out in detail – but with lots of blank spaces. Once I begin to write things move and change, add and subtract along the way. It’s a very fluid process.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I chose to write a Cozy Mystery because I enjoy reading them. I love a good tale, but I don’t like to read the details of murder or explicit scenes. I also enjoy getting to know the people and places so that I feel like I’m part of the story. Cozies do that!

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Oh! What a fun question! I’d put Lacy Chabert as my main character, as she has the same wholesome, down-to-earth persona, with a smart and capable attitude. My two leading romantic possibilities would be Harry Styles and Henry Golding. Queen Latifa would definitely have to do the voice acting for the lead cat in my story!

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

It’s funny that even if I write for ten hours in a day my favorite way to relax is to read! I’m always reading four or more different books at a time. I hop around depending on my mood. I love cozy mysteries, of course! I also read romantic comedies, paranormal romance, chick lit, health and fitness books, and an occasional biography. I’d probably have to list fifty authors as my favorites!

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m re-reading Melanie Summers royal romantic comedy series in anticipation of her new book in the series. She creates happy stories that really work well for me in today’s stressful times. I’m enjoying cozies by Cindy Stark and Elle Adams, plus the Shadowvale books by Kristen Painter, and the Spellbound Paranormal Cozy series by Annabel Chase. I’ve also been making my way through Stephen King’s book On Writing – even though his genre is very far from mine, he’s an amazing talent and has great thoughts on writing. Of course, I always have a few parenting books on my shelf, as well.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I honestly couldn’t name one favorite book as I have many!

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Write what you know and write what you read. If you venture away from that you won’t sound authentic. Read some books about writing and publishing. Be realistic in your expectations. Every step along the way takes longer than you think!

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

You can find me here:

Website: www.nocrysolution.com

Blog: www.elizabethpantley.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ElizabethPantleyNoCryAuthor

Instagram: www.instagram.com/elizabethpantley

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nocrysolution

 

About the Author:

Elizabeth Pantley is the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family; and is the mother of four and nana to one. This is her first work of fiction.

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Book Blitz and Author Interview: ‘Incandescence’ by Elena Leman

Title: Incandescence

Series: Shadowlight #1

Author: Elena Leman

Genre: Fantasy Romance

 

About the Book:

Orobella is a cosmic wanderer, living borrowed lives in borrowed bodies. Her mission on planet Instaar is the same as always—collecting Crystals of Emotions while having as much fun as her new physical form allows, no strings attached. But once she meets the hypnotically mysterious Sambor, both her body and soul yearn for more. She makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
 
In the world where creatures of death and darkness drive men mad, emotional detachment has been Sambor’s greatest life achievement. As the future leader of the Lasota tribe and a spiritual tattoo artist, he can’t afford the luxury of mental weakness. Yet his meticulously constructed equilibrium is shaken up when an alluring nymph promises to save his baby sister, in exchange for a sacred Lasota tattoo. He can’t say no. Even if that means his demons will get the best of him.
 
Filled with elemental magic, spirit animals, psychic terror, and a whole lot of steaminess, this romantic fantasy is more than a love story. It’s a journey through a soul.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US / AU / CA

Smashwords

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?

I am a mystic, poet, traveler, teacher, and book author. With an MA degree in Russian and English Languages and a burning desire to travel the world, I left my native Poland in 2008. Since then I’ve lived in Turkey, Costa Rica, Colombia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal, working as an English teacher, a hostel manager, an assistant to the CEO of a personal development company, and… a bartender at Full Moon parties. Occasionally, I’ve got paid for cuddling cats. Currently, I’m living in Lisbon, Portugal.

I have been writing ever since I can remember—poetry, essays, and short stories. I’ve had several travel- and poetry-related blogs. When I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I cracked my Spoken Word cherry by performing on stage. Soon, my international escapades resulted in a collection of fervently passionate poems and an equally ardent debut novel Happy Ever(ywhere) After. Enchanted by the fiery beauty of Spanish and Portuguese languages, I absorbed the South-American music, folklore, and spirituality with every cell of my body and mind. They filled my imagination with magic, adventure, and a bit of drama—all the essential ingredients for a page-turner, which I hope Incandescence is.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

For some inexplicable reason, I’m the most creative at night, especially between midnight and three or four AM. I’ve tried to train myself into writing during the day but it was a futile attempt. I would spend hours on one page, my thoughts scattered like dandelion fluff. I could only focus when the world around me fell asleep. There’s something mystical about the night. It’s as if the muses are determined to come down from their astral plane to talk to us mortals only when we truly listen, without getting distracted by our mundane worries and chores. They demand our absolute attention. It’s all or nothing for them. As for my favorite place… my bed, of course! 🙂

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I think my ideas mainly come from my romantic and metaphysical experiences. Any angst or pain I felt as a teen was easily resolved by pouring it onto paper. It hurt less when it was transformed into something tangible and beautiful. On top of that, I have a ridiculously vivid imagination and an intense spiritual life. I meditate, visualize, practice Reiki, read tarot cards, perform moon rituals, and look at the world through the prism of symbolism and magic. That helps a lot in building fantasy worlds. As for my novels, each of them has a very unique story.

Happy Ever(ywhere) After is essentially a semi-memoir, loosely based on my life in Turkey, Costa Rica, Colombia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. It tells the story of a slightly lost twenty-something, trying to understand her role in the world.

With regard to Incandescence, my latest fantasy romance, it was born out of heartbreak I experienced two years ago. I lived in Brazil at the time and my entire world seemed to crumble into pieces. I moved back to Poland, to my parents’ house, and spent the entire winter in bed, miserable. The only thing that kept me sane was writing and, oh well, my mom’s pierogi. I wrote Incandescence in three months and when I finished it, it felt as if I were reborn. I woke up from my hibernation and left my cave with a manuscript in my hand. The time to share it with the world has finally come.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I’m a semi-plotter, semi-pantser. I usually have an outline of my story ahead of time, like a skeleton to hang muscles on. But I give my characters a lot of freedom and sometimes they don’t want to do what I’ve planned for them. Instead, they take me in drastically different yet exciting directions. I only sigh and ask, “Are you sure you want to do this?” In truth, they know better than I do what’s going to happen in the story. They live in it. I only observe it and take notes.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

Happy Ever(ywhere) After is a literary read, steeped in magical realism and self-reflection. Incandescence, on the other hand, is so many things at a time—dark metaphysical fantasy romance with sci-fi elements and a whole lot of steaminess. When I was writing it, I didn’t try to fit it within any strict genre criteria or a secret success formula. I just wrote it out of love, out of pain, as a way to escape my own suffering. I hope it will transport my readers into a unique and magical world they’ve never seen before.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

What a wonderful question! I normally write a story as if I were watching a movie, observing the scenes play out on the screen of my mind and noting down what I see and feel. Funnily enough, I’ve always seen Incandescence as an anime movie. I was obsessed with Japanese animation as a kid and loved the unique deres (personality types) the characters represented. I was enamored with the trope of a bubbly, girly spark of deredere type constantly teasing in a playful way the dark, mysterious, and emotionally unavailable tsundere man. That’s exactly what Orobella and Sambor’s relationship dynamic looks like. Also, since Orobella is a green-skinned water nymph with a talking gecko as a sidekick, it’s easier to visualize them in an animated form. Not to mention all the astounding battle animals emerging from the warriors’ spirit tattoos! If Incandescence is ever turned into a live-action movie, it’ll require some serious CGI awesomeness.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I’ve been an avid reader all my life; equally passionate about fiction as about non-fiction reads. Some of my all-time favourites are the classics of literature by Victor Hugo, Emil Zola, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Charles Dickens. I love how their novels transport you back in time. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov holds an eternal place in my occult-fixated, Slavic-folklore-infatuated, witchy heart.

From more modern reads, I love the metaphysical and visionary fiction by such mystics as Paulo Coelho, James Redfield, and Richard Bach. Funnily, I’ve never really read much fantasy or romance… before I started writing it! I do love the world that G.R.R. Martin created in the Song of Ice and Fire, mostly as a result of the crucial role women played in it. Haters gonna hate but I’m Team Daenerys forever.

As for the romance genre, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is what makes my heart sing… and dance… and shatter into pieces. I’ve never read about a love as epic as the one of Claire and Jamie.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Ugh, it’s very boring but what I’m reading at the moment are mainly books about self-publishing, book marketing, and, on a more interesting note, crafting a story. I also beta-read for some truly talented authors, which gives me a lot of joy. Recently, I got into Audible, which is amazing as it allows me to “read” while I’m jogging, cooking, or putting on makeup. I’m listening to Becoming by Michele Obama, which I found absolutely fascinating! I have two novels demanding my immediate attention, waving at me from the shelves of my Kindle library: Children of Blood and Bone and Kingdom of Souls. Their vibe is quite similar to Incandescence and I can’t wait to sink my hungry eyes into their mystical beauty.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

It is impossible to choose only one, but I guess, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is still the book that has left the biggest mark on me. I read it as a teen, when metaphysical concepts were still a novelty to me, so it unraveled a whole new and mysterious world before my eyes. I love reading stories of quests where the protagonists overcome internal and external difficulties, find love and life purpose, and go through a major transformation.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Read and write. Expose yourself to as many different genres and stories as possible. Don’t judge yourself too harshly on your first draft. It usually sucks. Write even if you don’t know what to write. The ideas will come whenever you get into the flow. Truly, write as if no one were watching. Because no one is 🙂

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

Instagram, for sure. I really don’t understand how Twitter works. I have an account there, just for the sake of it, but I don’t use it at all. I’ve had Facebook for about thirteen years now but I use it mostly to connect with my friends from around the world. I honestly can’t be bothered to have an author’s page on Facebook, not at the moment at least.

Definitely, Instagram is the network that gives me the most creative joy. I love all the cute things you can do with stories and how you can easily connect with bookstagrammers and follow gorgeous bookish accounts. I love Instagram. Follow me there if you want to stay updated on my writing and some occasional private shots of my life in Portugal and all the sangria I drink.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1 – Orobella

 

Being born starts with dying. You may be lying among rocks or drifting in the ocean, seaweed in your hair. You already know you exist. You open your eyes, if you have them, and look at the sky. It’s always so different—red like mashed strawberries with cream. Violet, resembling a planet’s silk sheet. Or turquoise, foamy dreams gliding across its joyous plain. Like here.

But my favorite moment is to see myself. The first thing that comes into sight is some sort of tentacles, paws, or fins. This time, I had hands. They were green.

“Welcome to Instaar, Collector,” a translucent critter spoke to me from a stone among bulrushes. “I am Smoku, your guide.”

I had many guides before—indestructible creatures with ancient wisdom from all over the Universe. Sometimes they took the form of a light being, an electric current, or a musical note. Other times—of a gigantic winged feline shaped by stars. Yet never had I had one that looked like a baby lizard.

I stood out of the water and walked towards the river bank. Two legs. Mmm, I had missed those.

“Clothes and accessories, as per the latest fashion. It’ll make it easier to blend in,” said Smoku while pointing with his scaled head at the bundle under a tree. I opened it.

“A map, a pouch, some local coin,” Smoku named the items as I was taking them out of the bag. “They use the money system here.”

When I got to a knife on a thigh strap, a little gasp escaped my mouth. “What about this tool of bloodshed?” Even in dread, my voice sounded sweet and joyful like the song of a bird.

“It might make itself useful, Collector. This planet is not as peaceful as Samoriah. That’s where your last mission was, wasn’t it?”

I sighed a longing, “Yes.” My eyes closed at the remembrance of the loving whispers and blissful collective chant of Samoriah’s bloom.

“Collecting crystals may be easier if you keep your new form in one piece,” said Smoku. “A little dagger under your skirt will do the trick.”

My eyebrow lifted in amusement. Not only was my new guide a very handsome reptile but also a real smooth talker. How did he even gather all these supplies? The knife on its own was triple his size.

I attached the strap to my thigh. Murderous or not, I had to admit, the weapon looked good against my new form’s emerald skin. “Oh, well. I’ll wear it,” I decided. “Just to blend in.”

Having brushed the duckweed off my body, I put on the rest of the attire—a turtleneck crop top, seamless panties, and a double slit maxi skirt, all in white. I slipped my feet into lace-up sandals and wrapped the long straps around my calves. I nodded with satisfaction. Shoes were the true reason why I loved having legs.

“You will need those, too.” Smoku waved his tail at two silver cuff bracelets.

I looked at my wrists marked with deep cuts. “Suicide?”

Smoku nodded. “It seems like.”

I hid the scars under the cuffs without asking further questions. That was the first rule of every collector—not to inquire into the form’s past experiences. The body was empty and available for use, that was all I needed to concern myself with. The less I knew about its life, or death for that matter, the better.

I tied the pouch filled with coin to the thigh strap and unfolded the map. It showed an archipelago of islands and its name scribed in the antiquarian font—The Middle Isles. Smoku stepped on one of them with his tiny foot.

“We’re here, on the Common Land. It belongs to no one and everyone. No wars or violence can be performed here. Theoretically.” He pointed to the big port city on the eastmost peninsula of the island. “That’s Amber Fields, thirty kilometers from here.”

“Is that where the inhabitants are?” The chrysalis in my chest itched for an exchange. It longed to know what wonders this turquoise planet held.

Smoku chuckled softly, amused by my excitement. “Yes. Diving through shouldn’t be a problem. Your new form allows hydroportation.” 

Huh, that was precisely what I loved about the planets covered with liquid matter. With the right body, you could just dip in at point A and dip out at point B. It saved a lot of walking. However, I didn’t want to get my new skirt wet.

“I will walk,” I announced. “Please join me.” I outstretched my hand to Smoku, who scurried up my arm and made himself comfortable on my shoulder. 

We took the forest path, among the merry twitter of flying creatures. “What can you tell me about this curious place, Smoku?” I asked, brushing away the slim branches, heavy with blossoms. The flowers giggled at my touch.

“Instaar is rather underdeveloped, compared to the planets you’ve visited before. The Middle Isles are believed to be the center of the world.”

“Funny. They’d be amazed if they saw the real planetary core.” I jumped over a tree root. “What about the Instaarii? How are they?”

“First of all, they don’t see themselves as the Instaarii. They’re all divided.”

“Typical,” I snorted. “So they have those… What do they call them? Nations?”

“Tribes,” Smoku clarified. “The most powerful ones in this region are the Lasota and their allies, the Mazuuria, occasionally in the state of war with the fierce Dargiin. The Baykush are mostly neutral.”

I rolled my eyes. “Ugh, war. And what do they do when they don’t kill each other?”

Train to kill each other.” Yet another chuckle vibrated through the lizard’s throat. “And when they get tired of that, they sail, fish, hunt, dance—”

My fervent new heart fluttered. “Dance?”

“Yes. That’s how they worship their gods.”

I touched my chest. “Splendid. That sounds like the perfect way to exchange a whole lot of crystals.”

“Indeed, Collector.”

“Orobella,” I corrected. “Actually, call me Oro, if you please. Have there been other Crystellians on a mission here?”

Smoku hesitated for a moment. “Yes, Oro.”

I clapped. “Collectors?”

“Mainly. But no one is collecting at the moment.”

“Oh…” My enthusiasm dimmed. Then I felt my mouth curling to the side and that immediately made me feel better. “I love this facial expression. Feels so sassy.” Exploring a new form was always fun. You never knew what features it came with. It would be nice if this one could fly. But a side pout was perfectly satisfying.

The path led up and down, unraveling an orchestra of colors and sounds with every step. The flying creatures zigged and zagged above my head, impishly diving into the air just to soar up before colliding with a tree. Or my face. A pink bird poked my forearm as if wanting to say, Hey, look how pretty I am.

“There seems to be so much joy on this planet,” I exclaimed. “Does it even need more?”

“It truly does. The Instaarii are not like these little beings. They are… complex,” said Smoku while stretching his weightless body across my shoulder. “Besides, Oniria is a special kind of forest. It has a mind of its own and loves to interact with its guests.”

“Ms. Oniria must be a sweetheart,” I concluded, my hand dancing with the pink bird in the air.

“No, it’s you who is a sweetheart,” said Smoku. “The more time you spend in Oniria, the more it adjusts itself to your mood.”

“How helpful.” I let the mischievous bird fly away. “You’re not sure why you’re salty, you wander into the forest for an hour and walk out all enlightened. Problem solved.”

“That’s not how the Instaarii see it. That’s why no one wants to live here. They’re scared of the forest.”

“So silly.”

Instaar was a young planet, its people still in development. My kind, the Crystellians, arrived here hundreds of thousands of years ago. We implanted crystals in a few of the most developed species but the experiment worked with only one. The second implementation happened six thousand Instaarii years ago. Now came the time of harvest. I hoped we had given the inhabitants just enough time to grow some magnificent minerals. That was what I came for. Well, and also for a bit of fun.

We’d just walked through a dense and very giggly thicket when I noticed the most unusual silky mandala among the branches. There were two creatures in it.

“What is this mystical being?” I asked.

Smoku licked his eye. “That’s a butterfly.”

“Well, I know this one, obviously. It’s all over the Universe. What’s the other one? Haven’t seen it before.”

“Oh, that’s a spider.”

I squatted and observed in silence how the extraordinary eight-legged animal wrapped its prey in silk and slowly sucked the life out of it. 

“So sad,” I whispered.

“I thought Crystellians don’t get emotional over death,” Smoku remarked.

“Being emotional is the goal of our existence,” I said, never taking my eyes off the spiderweb. “But I feel sorry for the spider. It must be tragic to have to kill something so pure and gorgeous in order to survive.”

I felt Smoku’s googly glance on me. I met it with a question, “Right?”

“Well, I don’t know. It’s pretty, indeed, but a spider must eat.” He flicked his tongue. “And so does a lizard.”

I laughed and rose to my feet. “I enjoy your pragmatic approach, my dear friend. I think we shall be a lovely team. Unless, by accident, you eat me.”

“I will do my best to avoid such an accident.” He sighed with regret. “Once my kind used to eat sharks and crocodiles. Those were the days!”

“Mmm, tell me all about it.”

Soon the trail merged with a dirt road. We walked until the day star moved from the East to the West, and the sky burned in all shades of red. As the treetops bathed in the deliciousness of twilight, a sucking sensation made its way to my abdomen. 

“I think I’m hungry,” I announced.

“We all are,” said Smoku, before licking himself all over his face. “Your form needs to be fed at least once per day. There should be a tavern right… there.”

A wooden inn stood on the side of the road, loud music and laughter coming from the open windows. “Uh-huh. That looks like my kind of place.” I strode towards the gate. 

A few horses idled about in front of the building, plucking the grass. I approached one of them and put my face to its forehead. The memories of endless steppes and wind in my mane crossed my mind. And then… ropes, gates, and darkness. “I’m so sorry, my friend,” I whispered in its ear. “I wish you happiness.”

Smoku called my attention. “Oro, before you enter, a word of advice. Different tribes communicate among each other in a lingua franca called the Language of the Birds, offered to the Instaariii by the Great Spirit.”

“All right. I speak it, don’t I?” Actually, I spoke all tongues. A language was just a code carrying vibrations. Or rather hiding them.

“Everyone is a brother or a sister,” Smoku continued his crash course on the Instaarii etiquette. “The customary greeting is, I see you.”

“Lovely. Can we enter now?” I walked towards the entrance of the tavern. The wild rhythm hit my ears and poured down my veins.

“There’s usually a hand greeting to it too,” said Smoku. “I wish I were able to present it properly.”

“Awww…” I caressed his chin. “Don’t worry, my sweet Smoku. I will watch and learn. It’s not the first time.” I placed my two hands on the heavy door, but the stubborn lizard on my shoulder stopped me by nibbling my ear.

I was on the verge of losing my patience. “Yes?”

“One more thing, Oro. They won’t see me. If anything happens, I won’t be able to help, you know that?”

I knew. That was the first rule of every guide—not to get involved. They provided the words of wisdom and local knowledge, but if things got physical, a collector was on their own. Nothing I wasn’t used to.

Smoku continued, “Some male representatives of this planet might be rather—”

I stuck my finger into his mouth. “I said, it’s not the first time. I’m protected, Smoku. Don’t forget who I am.”

He made a coughing sound and jerked his head away. “I remember, Collector,” he said, only slightly offended. “I hope you shall never forget it either.”

I just winked at him and threw open the door. The room was hot and loud, filled with diverse forms, male and female, big and small, of various colors—creamy, pink, beige, brown… Not even one of them was green.

“There goes blending in,” I whispered through my teeth to the invisible gecko on my shoulder.

“I would give a shrug but I simply can’t,” he answered.

I walked to the bar, followed by astonished looks. A group of women by the entrance started whispering in each other’s ears. A lanky dancer crashed into his companion’s monumental belly, spilling sunny-colored liquid over his beard. One of the drummers let his stick fall off his hand. He immediately got slapped on his scalp by an elderly musician. I smirked. I loved the attention, each and every time. 

I sat on a bar stool and watched the band perform, as casually as a solo green girl could. I took a minute, or maybe even less than that, before a peachy-skinned, wheat-haired “lumberjack” stood up from his seat and came to the bar.

“I see you, sister,” he said, his voice pure velvet.

I smiled flirtatiously. “I see you too… big brother.”

He choked on his beverage but quickly regained his composure. “Let my presence be a blessing.”

“It already is,” I coaxed.

He stroked his braided beard with relish. “I’ve seen people from the furthest corners of the world coming to Koliada, but I’ve never seen an exotic beauty such as yourself. Did you fall from the sky?”

“How did you know?” I bit my lip seductively. I had no idea what he was talking about but decided to play along. “It’s my first time to… Koliada.”

The charming giant took another sip from his mug. “I know it is. I would’ve noticed you before. The nights of the Winter Solstice Festival are dark and obscure, but some wonders can’t escape a man’s eye.”

“Aww, you’re just saying that because I’m green.” I playfully tapped him on the naked shoulder. It was time to read him.

A stream of images flew through my head—a clash of swords, ships on fire, dismembered bodies, a goblet of wine falling to the ground, an old man dying in agony, and then just drunken amok. “Hmm… What a pity.” I looked into his beautiful azure eyes with compassion before sliding off the stool. “I wish you happiness.”

“Wait,” he shouted after me. “Where are you going, beauty? Let’s have a drink.”

“Stop drinking,” I called out through the crowd. “Snail ale lowers your vibrations.”

“Lowers my what?” I heard him say. I didn’t stay to offer an explanation. 

“Ugh, all over the Universe, developing creatures find the most inventive ways to kill their souls. That makes my work so much more difficult,” I complained under my breath.

“You’d better get used to it, Oro. The Instaarii don’t like to face grief. They prefer to drown their sorrows in snail ale or skycherry wine,” Smoku said. He lazily climbed to the top of my head and scanned the room. He was tiny, and I was shorter than anyone else on the dancefloor, but soon his scouting mission paid off. 

“The musicians aren’t drinking,” he announced with pride in his voice. “They must stay sober for the spirits of music entering their bodies.”

“Smoku, you’re the best wingman ever,” I exclaimed. 

“At your service. Thousands of years of ancient wisdom shall not be wasted.”

I slid among the hot, wet bodies all the way to the stage. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Every crystalkind on every planet I’d ever visited looked for a way to travel astrally. The profound longing for an unknown source of their existence pushed them to create the masterpieces of galactic art. So far, music had been my favorite.

I let the rhythm sway my shoulders and hips in a spellbinding trance. I felt a forest growing in my head—little bells on the wind among the leaves, raindrops on the surface of the lake, thunderstorms and rattlesnakes… And something… Like a heartbeat of the jungle… A drum! Yes, it was a drum! 

Its hypnotic sound entered my mind, lifted my soul… My legs stomped back and forth in a pattern I didn’t realize I knew. My hands shaped sacred geometry in the air. My lips sang a song I’d never heard before, yet I’d known it from the beginning of time. My body was a vehicle and I was a passenger. I opened my eyes to see who was the captain on that flight.

He was looking at me, his big hazel eyes full of conspicuous desire. He was tapping the heart of the drum with his palms. Huh, so he had lost that stick for good? I smiled at him and saw his aura explode like a supernova. He wanted me more than anything in his life. Let’s do it, I thought.

And so he played for me and I danced for him, the flaps of my skirt swirling around my body, swaying against my naked thighs. The louder he played, the faster I spun. The stronger he tapped, the harder I stomped. Breathless and lightheaded, I felt the growing heat in my chest. The ball of light trapped under my crop top started to pulsate. It was happening. The chrysalis opened.

I looked up through my half-lidded eyes. A whirlpool of golden energy emanated from my chest, a yellow-white crystal spinning in its center—my core stone, the vibrational essence of my soul, my JOY. 

An energy vortex opened in the drummer’s chest as well. A dazzling turquoise stone, mottled with light green specs, left his chrysalis and pirouetted across the stage towards mine.

Tears came to my eyes as the two streams of luminescence tangled into a passionate knot, swirling with the speed of light, shooting into the sky. The turquoise gem floated into my chrysalis, while the sunny one merged with the boy’s chest. An orgasmic rapture poured over my brain as I felt the power of the green stone reaching every cell of my body. What was that sweet, gentle energy that filled the mind with music and the heart with tickles? It took a moment before I recognized one of my most beloved crystals in the whole Universe—DREAMINESS. 

I shook in unworldly pleasure—surely, an intriguing view for a bystander. Yet, my physical reaction was the only observable part of the process. No one could see the crystals or our little exchange, not even the drummer himself. It could only be visible to the eye of a Crystellian.

As the petals of my chrysalis furled, satisfied with its trophy, I faltered to the side, bumping against another dancer.

“We’d better go, Oro,” Smoku urged. “You should get a room here tonight. The first exchange is always exhausting. And you haven’t eaten yet.”

“Mmm,” I moaned. “This form… Such ecstasy… So powerful…” I walked with difficulty, my legs heavy, blind spots before my eyes. The music stopped, and I heard a tumult of female shouting coming from the stage. I turned around for the last time to look at the young man who’d shared with me his DREAMINESS. He was having a seizure.

Cold sweat dripped down my forehead. “Smoku… Smoku, we have to help him,” I gasped before hitting the floor.

The rest was darkness.

About the Author:

Elena Leman is a traveler, poet, English teacher, and the author of Happy Ever(ywhere) After and Shadowlight series. Her twelve years of expat life in Turkey, Costa Rica, Colombia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal filled her imagination with magic, adventure, and a bit of drama–all the essential ingredients for a pageturner. Currently, she’s living in Lisbon, Portugal. When she’s not writing, you can catch her kicking the guts out of a punching bag, finding her zen in meditation, swaying her hips to kizomba beats, or… traveling some more.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.elenaleman.com

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Twitter: @ElenaLemanBooks

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Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/18680844.Elena_Leman

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