Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through my apartment
 each corner of the place received its allotment
of Christmas cheer and sparkles and cute little knick-knacks - 
while the kitchen had its share of sweet holiday snacks.

 Little Olaf was nestled all snug in my stocking,
Mouth closed, smile wide, though he'd rather be talking.
The rest of the treasures would have to wait to be seen,
Even if dear Patience would never make me its queen.

Over on the table, the candle flickered and crackled.
(Those wooden wicks make sounds that would leave Santa baffled.)
 Some snowflake lights shone brightly beneath one of the windows,
and green tinsel draped sweetly even without some red bows.

A bucket full of flowers ordered from a friendly coworker
Added a touch of elegance and class to my plain kitchen counter.
Christmas cards from thoughtful friends to my very own self,
marched one after the other across my kitchen shelf.

And way in the corner (you had to round the table to see),
was a little stash of presents and my mini book tree.
Feeling blessed by what I had, all that happened, and all that might -
I wished my dear readers a happy Christmas and a wonderful night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lena Goldfinch's The Brides Series Continues!

My author friend Lena Goldfinch has been hard at work to bring her readers a special gift for Christmas...a new short story!

It's the sequel to The Unexpected Bride (you might recall the pre-order party), and the perfect little Christmastime treat, complete with Christmas dinner, mistletoe, a reunion with your favorite characters, and a good life reminder wrapped up in holiday cheer.

Here's the full blurb...

What's a wife to do when her Christmas plans fall apart?

Join Becky and Isaac from The Unexpected Bride in a romantic short story complete with sleigh bells, mistletoe, and sweet holiday surprises.

It's Christmas Eve, and smoke isn't just rising from the chimney—it's pouring from the stove due to yet another batch of burnt biscuits. Becky wants everything to be perfect for her family, but a ruined meal spells disaster for all her high hopes. Will the night end in despair...or with a happy Christmas dream?

Reconnect with your favorite characters from Book 1 of "The Brides" series and learn more about Jem (the hero of Book 2) in Sleigh Bells and Mistletoe. Includes an excerpt from Book 2, The Bartered Bride.

A Short Story (The Brides Series 1.5)
Sweet Historical Western Romance / A Mail-Order Bride Short Story

Only $.99 for Kindle! | Add to Goodreads

Now, that excerpt included in the back of the short story? If you love sweet Western romance, you're going to want to read it - trust me! And you might want to take a look at the cover and blurb for the next book...

What’s a confirmed widower to do when he finds a bride in need of rescue? 

James (“Jem”) Wheeler just wants to get back to the ranch in Colorado and make a fresh start after the loss of his wife. But when his train stops at a town in the middle of nowhere, his 2-year-old daughter runs off—straight to a mute young woman and a puppy. Before he has a chance to reclaim little Mae, he overhears an itinerant preacher preparing to sell off the woman to the highest bidder. It’s an injustice he can’t ignore, no matter the fact that he’d never planned on remarrying.

From a young age, all Annie has wanted is to belong. Abandoned and cast aside by those who should have loved her, and with no voice to protest against the wrongdoings she’s witnessed, her hope is but a faint flicker. When Jem steps into her life, she simply tries to get him to save the puppy—never expecting him to save her too.

Could a bartered bride and a grieving widower ever make a happy home together?

Book Two in The Brides Series
Sweet Historical Western Romance | Coming 2015 

Intrigued, yes?? I don't generally gravitate toward romances with children in them, but A) this is by Lena Goldfinch (need I say more?), and B) the excerpt made me SO ready for the rest of the book!  Be. Still. My. Heart. Jem has grown a lot and became a hero in his own right, let me tell you! At least from what I can tell of the first two chapters. ;)

And now you know the latest from Lena! Read on to learn more about my friend/mentor/cover designer, in case you haven't yet met her (and don't miss the giveaway!).

About the Author

Lena Goldfinch writes romance and fantasy for adults and teens. She’s a sucker for a good old-fashioned romance, whether it’s a novel, novella, or short story, young adult or adult, fantasy or realistic, contemporary or historical. Elements of romance, fantasy, and mystery have a way of creeping into her writing, even when she's writing historicals or something light and contemporary. Lena has been a finalist in several national writing contests, including the RWA Golden Heart and ACFW Genesis contests. She lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. Visit Lena at


Deck the halls and bring on the books! One winner will receive mistletoe earrings from the LuvlyMint Etsy shop, as well as a signed paperback copy of The Unexpected Bride, Book 1 in “The Brides” series. This prize is only available to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Three runners-up (can be international) will receive one e-copy each of Sleigh Bells and Mistletoe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There's a mini tour for this story announcement/cover reveal, so do feel free to check out these awesome bloggers and their posts about Lena's latest books news:
Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot
Blooming with Books
Buzzing About Books
Inklings and Notions
My Favorite Pastime 
The Curried Nut
The Wonderings of One Person
Thilly Little Nothings
To Be A Person
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Release Announcement: The Battle of Castle Nebula (Review + Giveaway)

Can you believe it's been six months since the Five Glass Slippers blog tour? One of our guests during that fun shindig was Stephanie Ricker, author of one of the five stories that made it into that Cinderella collection.

Well, it's my pleasure to help announce a new story from Stephanie, which releases today! Better yet, this novella features some of the same main characters from A Cinder's Tale (an engaging sci-fi retelling). This series will include both past and future tales, starring Elsa, Bruno, Karl, and the rest of the cinder crew. Here's the official scoop on Volume 1:

She has nothing left, not even her dreams. But Elsa Vogel still has her duty, and she will do it, no matter the peril, no matter the anguish in her heart as she leaves her ravaged home planet, perhaps never to return.

And the same tragedy that tore Elsa’s life to pieces also transformed the lives of others. Others who may need a reason to go on living, after the cataclysmic Battle of Castle Nebula…

The Battle of Castle Nebula ebook is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Don’t have an e-reader? Not a problem. Amazon offers a free Kindle app for almost every device.

Stephanie Ricker is a writer, editor, and tree-climber. She adores the cold and the snow but lives in North Carolina anyway, where she enjoys archery, hiking, and exploring with friends.

Stephanie’s first novella set in the Cendrillon universe, A Cinder’s Tale, was published in Five Glass Slippers, an anthology of Cinderella-themed stories. Stephanie’s fiction has also been published in Bull-Spec, a magazine of speculative fiction, and in four consecutive editions of The Lyricist, Campbell University’s annual literary magazine. Her senior thesis on Tolkien was published in the 2009 issue of Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for the State of North Carolina.

Find out more by following Stephanie Ricker at her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter

My Review

This first volume of "The Cendrillon Cycle" takes us back in time (well, the future for us, but the past for the characters from Stephanie Ricker's novella in the Five Glass Slippers collection, A Cinder's Tale). Not only does the story begin in Elsa's past, but partway through it jumps back into the past again, to ten years prior and the lead-in to the Battle of Castle Nebula.

Suffice it to say, it would be good to come to this story with the knowledge that 1) you're getting some of the back story from Ricker's first novella, and 2) you'll be doing a bit of time travel during the reading experience.

With those caveats in mind, fasten your safety belts and prepare for a battle of galactic proportions!

Truth be told, when I began the story, I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish it. There's a wild beginning with some animal-related gore, and while the action caught my attention, I didn't think this sci-fi tale was going to be for me. I never did become overly emotionally invested, but I'm glad I kept reading, because the characterization shines.

Not to mention Ricker's world-building. I'm not a Trekkie or a Star Wars fan (do those fans have their own cool name like Star Trek fans?), but Ricker's inventions are graspable to a certain degree, while still being incomprehensible enough to be cool and futuristic. (Well, that sounded very intelligent, didn't it?)

But it's the people traveling in the spacecraft and using the new technology - their stories, their trials and heartbreaks - that make Ricker's stories accessible and enjoyable to those who aren't normally sci-fi readers. This particular set of scenes is rather battles are wont to be. War is no respecter of persons, and no character is left unscathed by the trauma.  

This is no light-hearted romp through deep space, but it's not without hope. And the ending brings everything together in a satisfying and optimistic way, leading fluidly into A Cinder's Tale. These are characters you'll love to meet up with again in Ricker's debut novella and in Volume 2 of the series, set to release December 2015.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a PDF copy of the book, in exchange for my honest opinion.*


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2014

Since everyone's posting about their favorite books of the year today via the Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), this seems as good a time as any to share my list! :) I'm going to cheat a little, though, and give the top 14 for 2014. I've read over 80 stories this year, so while I've tried to give an order to this list, just the fact that they're on the list makes them fabulous! The ones near the end were just especially awesome to me for one reason or another.

#14 Dash and Cinder by Bridget Ladd

This is a very recent read for me, and I was totally impressed by the novella! I learned about it from Anne Elisabeth Stengl's blog, when she shared about some of the other Cinderella retellings that didn't make it into the Five Glass Slippers anthology but had gone on to be indie-published. This particular retelling is very vivid and packs such an epic feel into so few pages. I went on to purchase The Lotus Effect and very much look forward to reading a full novel by this author.

#13 Awakening by Tracy Higley

I've been a fan of Tracy's historicals for years now, and this fascinating blend of genres was so mysterious and enthralling. I ended up reading it all one Saturday afternoon/night!

#12 Five Glass Slippers (Anthology)

I had the pleasure of working with Anne Elisabeth Stengl (editor/publisher) and the five authors of this anthology to promote this book via a blog tour. It was a blast! And happily, I very much enjoyed reading the collection of winning retellings. Each one was very creative, and a few in particular swept me away. You can read my full review of the book HERE.

#11 Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes

My lips are sealed on this one, as it releases February 3, 2015, and that's when my review will be posted. But let's just say this middle-grade story is awesome! And this is coming from a girl who mostly reads romance novels.

#10 Pilgrimage of Promise by Cathy Bryant

This story wasn't so much a favorite on the "fun" side of the list. But as far as emotional impact goes, it had to be included. Such a poignant romance! You can read my full review HERE.

#9 A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Kara of Flowers of Quiet Happiness brought this book to my attention, and I'm so glad she did! It's an enchanting middle-grade read. I read it around the time of a big life transition (moving, taking a new job, etc.), and its sweetness and cleverness offered such happy and comforting moments of reading.

#8 Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

This fantasy romance is another one that blogging friends really put on my radar, and wow. What an intense, intriguing romance! I wouldn't say it's for everyone due to the premise of the story and the darker elements, but I found it to be a completely engaging and thought-provoking read. I can't wait for Rosamund's next release!

#7 Cress by Marissa Meyer

This futuristic sci-fi (?)/fantasy series continues to delight me! I believe Scarlet remains my favorite of the series, but I've thoroughly enjoyed each installment, and I'm psyched for the two Lunar Chronicles books releasing in 2015. You can read my snack size review of Cress HERE.

#6 The Thief by Stephanie Landsem

Absolutely wonderful biblical fiction. From the setting descriptions to the characterization to the unfolding of the plot... It's really, really good. I'm eager to see how Stephanie's next release turns out. You can read my full review of The Thief HERE.

For me, this book is right up there with Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. Rich, romantic, and epic historical fiction. You can read my full review HERE

#4 This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

Joanne's novella has so much heart and soul - but in an understated, quietly poignant style. This historical tale is unflinching, honest, and beautiful. You can read my full review HERE.

#3 The Seahorse Legacy by Serena Chase

So...this is the kind of book that makes you want to curl up into the fetal position when you finish because you know you have to wait way too long for the conclusion. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that Book 4 of this fantasy romance series releases in early 2015, because I am SO ready to find out what happens to these characters! And you can never have too many pirates...or too much of Serena's writing. ;) You can read my full review HERE

#2 Thorn by Intisar Khanani 

Like Cruel Beauty, I wouldn't recommend this book to all of my blog readers due to its darker nature. But man - what a story! Thought-provoking, powerful, unique, raw. You can read my snack size review HERE.

#1 This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

I read a lot of really wonderful, creative stories this year. So why did I list this as #1? While it's hard to say for sure what really stood out as my favorite, I'm naming This Is What Happy Looks Like made me happy! It wasn't a "wow" book, but rather an "aww" story that offers such a great blend of authenticity and whimsy. This style is kind of the direction my own writing is taking in the contemporary realm, and Jennifer E. Smith is a fab example of how to rock the YA/NA contemporary romance genre. I still need to finish reading her latest novel, but I have no doubt it will be an enjoyable experience once I really give it my attention. You can read my full review of this book HERE.

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This has been a great year for books! Seven of the titles I listed were indie-published, and I love that a combo of traditional and indie avenues produces such a grand variety of stories for us to enjoy. I'm totally looking forward to what 2015 has in store on the publishing front!

If you're curious about some of the other books I read in 2014, you can see my Goodreads stats or view my "I've read" shelf on Shelfari.

Tell me, what books made your favorites list for 2014?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet the Author of It Took a War (Interview + Giveaway)

It's my pleasure to host a fellow indie author on this, the release date of her debut! Please welcome historical fiction author Emily Ann Putzke.

Emily Ann Putzke is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate and history lover. Besides writing historical fiction, she enjoys photography (especially photographing her nieces and nephew), reading, spending time with her family, Civil War reenacting, traveling and a good cup of coffee. She resides in New York State, where she drinks in the beautiful autumns and tries to endure the long winters.

Connect with Emily:
Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

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Amber: Congratulations on the release of your debut, Emily, and welcome to “Seasons of Humility”! What sort of battles did you have to face as a writer to reach this place of publication?

Emily: Thank you so much for hosting me, Amber! The biggest battle I had to face was fear. I’ve always wanted to be a published author but once I started pursuing it, I was definitely afraid of what people would think and wondered if my book was good enough. I prayed a lot, repeated Jeremiah 29:11 over and over in my head, and felt that publishing my book was what God wanted me to do.

Amber: Fear seems to be a common battle among authors. You're certainly not alone! It sounds like you've found an effective and admirable way to combat it, though. :)

Your blog bio states that you’ve done some Civil War reenacting. What role did those experiences play in the story-writing process? Can you share how you got involved in reenactments?

Emily: Civil War reenacting definitely played a part in the writing process! We reenactors wake up to Reveille, just like my characters do. We eat food cooked over the fire, sleep in tents, wear authentic clothing, and do our hair in 1860’s style. We sit around the fire at night, smell the sulfur from the guns, and our heads rattle from the loud artillery and guns going off.

After seeing my first Civil War reenactment in 2009, I really wanted to reenact. It wasn't until 2012 that I actually started. A reenacting family I know took me under their wing and got me hooked on reenacting!

Amber: I'm fascinated by reenacting and role-playing. That's awesome that you've found a way to get involved! You also have a love for photography. How has that passion intertwined with the indie publishing process?

Photos by Emily Ann Putzke

Emily: I love storytelling through my photography, so that plays a part in writing books. I love the quote, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” ― Dorothea Lange. Photography helps me notice small details, lighting, and facial expressions that result in descriptions I can visualize for writing.

Amber: Very cool!

This being the holiday season, I'm curious, how might your main characters, Joe and Lucas, celebrate Christmas in their day and age? And what’s one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Emily: For Joe and Lucas, they would be away from home on Christmas during the war years. There are accounts of soldiers putting Christmas trees outside their tents and decorating it with hardtack and pork. Their families might have sent them Christmas packages. Soldiers were homesick. Families tried to be cheerful, but they were missing their husbands, brothers, and sons. Here’s an excerpt from a Christmas poem called Christmas Night of ’62 written by Confederate soldier William Gordon McCabe.

There's not a comrade here tonight
but knows that loved ones far away 
on bended knees this night will pray: 
"God bring our darling from the fight." 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is going to church on Christmas Eve, then coming home and watching A Muppet Christmas Carol with my siblings until 2 in the morning. =)

Amber: Can readers expect more Civil War stories from you in the future?

Emily: I would love to write more Civil War stories in the future! However, the next book I’m working is a historical fiction about a German resistance group during WWII.

Thanks again for hosting me, Amber!

Amber: That's great to know you have another war story in the works. And thank you for being with us here today, Emily. Happy book birthday to you!

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About the Book

1861 - Sixteen year old Joe Roberts leads a mundane life as far as he’s concerned. His world spins in the same circle each day: working at his family’s store, taking his sisters on boyish escapades and bickering with his rogue of a cousin, Lucas. Joe can’t understand why his mother allows Lucas to live and work with them after all the pain he caused their family. When war is declared, Joe is quick to join up and become a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but war is nothing like he imagined. To make matters worse, he must endure having Lucas in the same regiment. Can Joe put the pain of the past behind him? Forgiveness is easier said than done.

Purchase the Book
Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

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In honor of this occasion, Emily is giving away some awesome prizes! Hit the arrow buttons on the Rafflecopter form below to browse, and enter via the form to get your name in the hat. Giveaway is limited to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Prettiest Paperback: The Novella Arrives!

Happy December and a very merry Christmas season, friends! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying some heartwarming Christmas movies and catchy Christmas songs. :)

I feel like I'm playing one massive game of catch-up during my free time...and shiny new books keep distracting me. Now I need to make time to actually read some of the new stories on my Kindle! This quote definitely seems to apply:

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them...
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

And this one:

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.
~ Desiderius Erasmus

I might also add, "And Christmas decorations!"

But that's a different post. Not that my apartment is bursting at the seams with trimmings, but I'm quite happy with my tinsel, candles, etc.

Back to books...

I got a very exciting package today!

 Behold the beauty! :)

I ordered a few copies of How a Star Falls, and since I never ordered a proof copy, this is my first time seeing the novella in person. And oh my! I couldn't be happier with Lena Goldfinch's design and formatting.

The epic front cover...

The stunning back cover...

And the colorful spine, which I adore!

It's so strange to think that around this time last year, I was psyched about the cover but had no clue that the story within would turn out the way it did. How much can change in a year, and how wonderful the twists and turns in our tales can ultimately be. It's a tremendous blessing to sit in my own sweet little apartment, staring at a copy of a book that came about after experiencing uncertainty, moving away, and looking back on God's bounty and faithfulness.

Well, to wrap up for now, here's a reminder that you still have 12-ish days to enter the How a Star Falls book blast giveaway (prize = $50 gift card or PayPal cash). And if you read the novella for the blog tour, I'd so appreciate any reviews on Amazon!

Hopefully talk more soon about bookish and Christmas-y things!