Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Honey Bees, Coffee, and an Unexpected Angel... (Cover Reveal of My New Novelette!)

Couple covers are such fun! And I'm so excited to share my second "couple cover" with you today. :) This is for my next release: a novelette titled While You're Awake. (You might have heard of it by its first title, Sting Me to Sleep. Once again, I have been saved from an unromantic title. Gotta appreciate honest feedback!)

While Your'e Awake is about a freelance editor whose rental home is invaded by honey bees. Too afraid to bother her acquaintances and ask for help, but also too afraid to sleep, her panic and insomnia grow exponentially. And then she visits Coffee by Angels, a local coffee shop, and meets someone who sees her fear and can't help but get involved...

A Cover Story

My dear friend and awesome cover designer, Lena Goldfinch, works with me via Pinterest's secret boards to find the right images for my covers. For this design process, I began with pinning some contemporary covers I liked that conveyed a similar mood to this story. I threw in a few bee covers, because honey bees play a large role in the story. (But, as you can see, no bees ended up on the cover. I guess the main characters and the romance play an even larger role than the bees. ;))

Then came the model pictures from the stock image site, Dreamstime. I think the final couple we decided on was actually the first one I posted. There was something about the atmosphere of their shots that resonated. That, and I just love the female model for my heroine! We did look at some other images, though - a lot of really cute outdoor couple scenes.

Lena created two comps with the couple we both liked...and we found pros and cons for each. So I turned to my e-newsletter subscribers for help. :) These are the two cover comps (with watermarks) that they chose between:

While there were a good number of votes for Cover 1, you probably know which one was the winner! (And I confess I was quite pleased. There were some elements in Cover 2 that I wanted to incorporate in the book. I love tying a cover and story together!)

So there you go! This cover came together quickly (because Lena's fab like that!), but this cover story is extra special because my readers joined the process. :)

(If you'd like to subscribe to my author e-newsletter, you can sign up HERE.)

About the Book

Sweet New Adult Contemporary Romance Novelette

There's no rest for the fearful.

Ava always knew the bees would come. Just when she's settled into a place of her own, freelance editing and savoring her independence, her rental house is invaded by a swarm of honey bees. And with their arrival, her lifelong fear morphs into a full-fledged panic that steals her sleep—and her peace of mind.

Keegan knows all about fear. When he meets Ava at the coffee shop where he works, he can't help but come to her rescue. Together with his German shepherds, Sun and Moon, he sets out to break the "curse" that hovers over Tired Girl. But is it possible to conquer nightmares and live a dream while you're awake?

This sweet novelette is a contemporary re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale that sheds light on the worries that bind us and the love that leads to peace.

(Releases October 20th)

How Do You Inspire Others? (A Quiz)

Are you Sleeping Beauty, a barista, or an angel? This fun and quirky personality quiz takes some of the personality types from While You’re Awake and offers you a chance to discover how you inspire others. Hopefully you’ll be encouraged to keep being awesome, wonderful you!

*Disclaimer: This is just a for-fun quiz. The results are designed to encourage but not to diagnose! ;)

Cover Reveal Participants

It wasn't just the cover... This whole campaign came together rather quickly! So I'm so very grateful to my "Gems" for being willing to jump on board and help spread the word through participating in today's cover reveal and some release-day fun on October 20th. :)

If you'd like to join my street team, Amber's Gems, you can sign up HERE. And feel free to send me an email at amberstokes@corban.edu if you'd like to review While You're Awake this month!

Here's a list of the lovely gems participating in the cover reveal:
I know I usually do a giveaway with my cover reveals, but since release-day is only two weeks away, I thought I'd save the giveaway for then. It's going to be sweet, though, IMHO. ;) 

Tell me, do you think we picked the right cover/couple? And are you Sleeping Beauty, a barista, or an angel? :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Sunken Realm

Guys, The Sunken Realm is here!! The long-awaited sequel to The Seahorse Legacy and the fourth installment in the Eyes of E'veria fantasy series! (Here are my reviews of the first three books: The Ryn, The Remedy, The Seahorse Legacy)

Such an exciting time. :)

Learn more about the book and author below...

About the Book

She is an outcast among knights 

Her reputation in ruins, her knighthood revoked, and her future bleak, Erielle de Gladiel would have welcomed death as her due. Captured by pirates, she was beaten, whipped, branded a thief—and worse—and then set adrift to die. She did not expect—or even want—to be rescued. Especially not by the dashing blasted pirate now calling himself her husband.

He is the King of Pirates 

His oath satisfied and his Legacy secured, Cazien vows vengeance on all who harmed Erielle. But before he can hunt them down, a strange visitor appears with an urgent message—a message that aligns with prophecy Erielle has written in her sleep: The Seahorse Pirates must reach Nirista before the famed Tournament of the Twelve . . . or hundreds of stolen children will die. 

Together, they are relentless 

With the fate of many resting upon them, Cazien and Erielle sail to Nirista. Once there, they are forced to follow separate paths to achieve their aims. Treacheries are uncovered and allies are gained, but in the shadows, a hidden foe plots a grievous betrayal that could shatter not only their hope, but the Seahorse Legacy itself.

The epic conclusion of this series-within-a series, The Sunken Realm sweeps Erielle and Cazien along a pulse-pounding voyage to discover all they are meant to become, together. Giving subtle nods to several fairy tales, including an unexpected twist to the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this romantic YA pirate adventure is the final novel in the Eyes of E’veria series . . . but the Seahorse Pirates and their friends in E’veria may yet have stories to tell.

Available now on Amazon!

About the Author

Serena Chase lives in Iowa with her husband, two teen daughters, and a big white dog named Albus. A frequent contributor to USA Today's Happy Ever After blog, Serena is an avid reader of young adult fiction and inspirational romance and has become a respected influencer within those communities. When not engaged in her varied roles within the publishing industry, Serena can be found watching action movies and dreaming about someday living in a cottage by the sea. Connect with Serena Chase on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter (@Serena_Chase) and visit www.serenachase.com to subscribe to her newsletter and gain access to exclusive, subscriber-only content.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Spotlight: All Our Empty Places

About the Book

In 1935, when the bank calls in her mortgage, Sarah Picoletti – now a penniless widow – finds herself and her children on the brink of homelessness. Sick at heart, she plans to beg her brother in New Jersey to take her family in.

Then Doctor Samuel Giorgi knocks on her door. Godly and well-off, Sam seems to have put the careless ways of his youth behind him, and he also appears to have one desire: to make Sarah his wife, two decades after he broke their engagement.

However, nothing prepares Sarah for the storm that breaks once she makes her decision. Everywhere she turns, the errors of her former choices confront her, insisting on her inferiority and the irreparable brokenness of her past. Sarah begins to wonder if Christ really can bring true redemption or if He is limited by her frailty.

Meanwhile, her daughter Grace faces new challenges in her own life. When her relationship with Paulie changes unexpectedly, Grace realizes that she must make a decision with the potential to alter both of their futures.

Compassionate and intensely poignant, All Our Empty Places paints the portrait of a mother and daughter with broken pasts, who dare to step into a future overflowing with the grace of the Cross.

Now available on Amazon!

Purchase the 1st book, The Fragrance of Geraniums, for $.99!
(Promotion lasts through October 31, 2015.)

About the Author

Alicia G. Ruggieri writes Christ-centered fiction that speaks of redemption. She received her B.A. in Communications and History from Rhode Island College and lives with her husband and their emotionally-disturbed pug on the New England coast.

Find the author on her blog | Amazon | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter


One winner will receive – a signed softcover of All Our Empty Places; a mug with 2 Corinthians 12:9 inscribed on it; Caramel Apple Biscotti; and Harvest Spice Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate mix. (Open to U.S. residents only due to shipping costs.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cover Reveal: Love's Dream Song by Sandra Leesmith

It is with bittersweet pleasure that I introduce you to Sandra Leesmith's upcoming release and its colorful cover! (I only say "bittersweet" because I loved working with Sandra on her book projects and look back on my time of freelancing for her with great fondness. :))

First, want to hear about this exciting story?
Autumn O’Neill came to Arizona on an archaeological dig hoping to find out what happened to the ancient Anasazi tribes, but her true desire was to discover her own Navajo roots. It didn’t help that the dig was located on Jess Barron’s ranch and that the handsome rancher scorned his own native American heritage and believed Autumn was part of a drug ring operating on his land. 
When the dig is compromised and danger threatens their lives, Jess and Autumn can no longer fight their attraction for each other. They both come to understand that finding answers means listening to the voices of their ancestors and the longings of their hearts.
Sounds intriguing, right?? The setting and the Native American cultural elements certainly catch my attention!

And (*drum roll*) here's the cover...

Paperback version:

Love's Dream Song will release October 17th, but you can pre-order the ebook now on Amazon!

And don't forget to add the book to your TBR shelf on Goodreads!

My Thoughts on the Cover

In a word: dreamy. ;) The stark and gorgeous backdrop, the swirly script in the title, the eagle soaring in the bright blue sky above the swoony hero and lovely heroine, the intense look on the hero's face (and the stubble. of course! this is a running theme!)... Yep, it all comes together to paint a dreamy picture.

What are your thoughts?

Interview with Sandra

Sandra was gracious enough to answer several questions, too!

Amber: Welcome, Sandra! Love's Dream Song is a book that was written and published once before as Dream Song. How did you go about writing the book the first time, and what was it like preparing the book for republication? 

Sandra: Hello Amber, and thank you for revealing my new cover for Love’s Dream Song. This book was actually my very first romance novel. And as so often happens, it wasn’t the first one published. When I was teaching, we were given an assignment by my Arizona State University professor to write “what we loved to read”. I loved to read romance so that summer, I wrote a romance novel. We were camping in Northern Arizona Color Country, hiking around a lot of the Anasazi ruins, so the story evolved from the interesting facts we were learning about the ancient culture.

This has always been one of my favorite stories so I was very excited to re-write it for republication. The wonderful advantage of the new paradigm in printing is we can revisit novels that went out of print. Warner first published it in the eighties, but I have changed it a bit, hopefully using my improved writing skills.

Amber: How wonderful! I'm so glad this story is finding new life with a new audience (and a great new cover!). :)

What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching the Anasazi and/or Navajo tribes? 

Sandra: It has always been a mystery as to what happened to the very advanced and flourishing Anasazi people. They are the Native Americans who lived in the ancient cliff dwellings found in the Southwest. Hundreds of years ago, they suddenly disappeared and archaeologists are not certain as to why. I used one of the less popular, but more intriguing, speculations as part of the premise in Love’s Dream Song.

When I finished writing this novel, I happened to be invited (through my work with ASU) to the Navajo nation to present educational workshops to the teachers on the reservation. Several women I met helped me with many aspects of the culture of Dineh (The People).

Amber: Arizona is a state you know very well. :) What do you hope readers take away from the book about the setting?

Sandra: Northern Arizona and Southern Utah are called by the tourist industry Color Country, and they are called that for a reason. The red rocks in the area are spectacular. The picture on the cover is Monument Valley and it shows you the gorgeous array of color found in the area.

I hope readers become interested in exploring the popular area and seeing the beauty for themselves. The human history is fascinating as well.

Amber: What is your favorite part of the cover for Love's Dream Song? How do the models match up with the characters in the book? 

Sandra: I am an animal lover so I have to admit my most favorite part of the cover is the eagle. The mighty bird shows up at pivotal moments in the story. Animals are a major part of Native American spirituality and I think the eagle helps show that.

I really love how Debora Lewis at ArenaPublishing.org matched the characters to those in the book. When I look at that hero, I have to say “be still my heart”. I really like how she continued with the Love’s _____ theme established by you, Amber, and Lena Goldfinch in my previous books.

Amber: "Be still my heart," indeed! Debora did a wonderful job. 

So, how does Love's Dream Song compare to your other recent releases in terms of the story?

Sandra: All of my books are so different. I know I should be developing a brand or certain type of story, but I have to write what comes to me. I guess I like variety. Love’s Dream Song has a lot of historical elements and a relationship to another culture, which I don’t have in any of my other novels. There is more suspense also. Love’s Refuge had some suspense, but you wouldn’t call it a romantic suspense. I think Love’s Dream Song qualifies for that genre.

Even though all of my books are different, they all are written by a faith-based author so you will not find the bedroom scenes nor vivid violence. I may or may not refer to God directly, but it is understood that the hero and heroine are Christian and live by Christian values.

Amber: A romantic suspense? Awesome! And variety in this industry is a great thing in my book. 

Thanks so much for joining us today, Sandra!

* * *

Readers, don't forget that you can pre-order your copy of Love's Dream Song today! And please do feel free to share any further questions or observations in the comments. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Night at a Lighthouse

If you ever wonder where my characters get their impulsiveness from...well, wonder no more!

A few weeks ago when my sister and I visited Heceta Head Lighthouse on the Oregon coast, the lighthouse tour guide told us about the bed and breakfast operating out of one of the former lightkeeper homes. I was delighted at this discovery and definitely intrigued at the possibility of staying the night in such a beautiful location.

My thought was to come back in winter sometime, when the rates are a little cheaper (being off-season). But then last week I saw that one of the smallest rooms remained unreserved for Labor Day. After double-checking to make sure I could get Tuesday off, I promptly booked it.

And I'm ever so glad I did. :)

My comfy bed. (And that pile of papers? That's what I have so far for Where Trains Collide. Per my dear friend Lena's suggestion, I printed it out and read it. I think perhaps Trisha and Paul's story isn't hopeless!)

The breakfast room. (Seven-course meal, friends. Seven. Courses.)

The grand porch, perfect for sunny-evening reading.

See what I mean? (I re-read Daddy-Long-Legs. Once again delightful!)

A peek at the lighthouse.

Sunset glory.

A view from above.

The bed and breakfast.

Last light.

Next morning.

Hello from Heceta Head!

A distant view of the lighthouse (left) and B&B (right).

Such an amazing, relaxing, unforgettable experience! (The lighthouse at night, surrounded by stars? A memory to cherish.) I totally recommend Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast - and even just a visit to the lighthouse. Light is such a magnificent thing, isn't it?

And now that I've finally finished another story (the first draft of Sting Me to Sleep - didn't I tell you? :)) and had a chance to look back on my poor neglected novella, I feel grateful and encouraged and motivated to tackle Where Trains Collide once again. Wish me luck!

(Don't you think that Heceta Head Lighthouse should appear in a future story? Me too!)

P.S. This post was not sponsored by Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. I just wanted to share some pretty pictures and gush about the beauty of it all!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Review of Everything, Everything

About the Book (from Goodreads)

"This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster."

My Rating


My Review

I couldn't help but be intrigued by the blurb for this book and the wild, eye-catching cover. Everything, Everything screamed mystery and meaning, and I was happy to see what sort of adventure might be in store.

I enjoyed getting to know Madeline - her wit (especially evident in the awesome illustrations of her written "assignments," book reviews, and more), her big heart, and her desire to taste life, knowing that just one taste could be her undoing. And for the most part, I enjoyed getting to know Olly, too. His skills and interests, as well as humor and kindness, draw Madeline out of the isolation and rigidity she's always known day to day.

This story is an intriguing blend of the unexpected and the well-traveled...bordering on a fairy tale and yet well-grounded in real feelings...delivering something new while conveying a familiar but important theme. It's a quirky but clever read with a lot of personality.

(Potential Spoiler: There was one particular scene that I wished hadn't been included. For those who would also be bothered by it, note that there is a brief instance of physical intimacy. Unfortunately, while it's easy to skip over, it's rather integral to a certain part of the book, and I think it's sad that being "free" physically - outside of marriage and in a potentially risky situation - seems to be set up almost as a reflection of the real freedom of discovering the truth and embracing life. I personally don't believe those two "freedoms" share a connection.)

Everything, Everything makes a lot of thought-provoking points and raises some interesting questions about what life really should be like and how it should be approached. There are some sad circumstances and not everything gets handled "perfectly," but I admire the quest for truth.

*With thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Spotlight and eBook Sale: Goodbye, Magnolia

About the Book

Wedding photography is Maggie’s passion. The art of capturing a moment forever in time is magical to her, and she’s worked hard to become the best of the best. Week after week, she works with couples as they plan their happily ever afters, but she hasn’t been so lucky in love.

Behind the camera, it’s easy to hide from the pain and rejection of her past. The life she has made for herself is safe and predictable, until the owner of a rival photography studio sets up shop in her small town and comes to her with an unexpected proposal. Suddenly, everything she has worked so hard to build is threatened and her simple, controlled life is thrown into chaos.

As she travels the state of Michigan photographing weddings, she struggles to keep her business afloat and the wall around her heart intact. But along the way, she learns more about loyalty and love than she ever imagined.

Buy Kindle | Nook | iBook ($.99 ebook sale through August 28th!)

Book Trailer

About the Author

Krista Noorman is the author of the young adult novel, The Truth About Drew, and the contemporary romance, Goodbye, Magnolia. Most of her life has been spent scribbling away in journals, honing her writing skills, while documenting her every day life. But it wasn’t until she took part in National Novel Writing Month in 2008, that she found her true calling and turned her pen (or rather her computer keyboard) to fiction.

Krista studied music education at Cornerstone University. After college, she turned to her love of photography and spent nearly a decade running her own wedding photography business. She is constantly inspired by books and movies, enjoys beautiful instagram feeds, and loves a great cup of coffee. Krista makes her home in a small town in western Michigan with her husband, Jacob, and their two children.

She writes about life, family, faith and whatever else comes to mind at bykrista.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.