Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New Books Just Released & Coming Soon

If you're looking for your next read, be sure to check out these new books!  Happy Reading!!


A collection of tantalizing tales with more twists than braided hair:

Here you will find mystery, murder and mayhem – plus a moment of romance. All the stories will make you stop and think, even question your role in the world and the universe. Just what are we doing here, and where are we going? Easy questions with problematic answers.

This anthology of sixteen short and thrilling tales of unusual, extraterrestrial and conspiratorial stories is the latest compilation from Clayton Graham, the author of science fiction novels Milijun and the soon to come Saving Paludis. The characters in this eclectic collection are mostly ordinary people whose reactions to their fears and to unexpected events will have you guessing at every turn of the page.

This collection is intriguing reading which, among many other things, encourages the reader to:

Sympathize with a doomed husband and connect with an altruistic robot. Explore an isolated Scottish isle and touch down on a far-flung asteroid.

From the light-hearted to the darkest depths of the human psyche you would be hard pressed not to find something to like about Silently in the Night.

Many different visions of the future are within these pages. And as a bonus, there is an excerpt from the soon to be published Saving Paludis, which introduces the reader to two of the principal protagonists in this tale from the edge of mankind’s known universe in the year 3898AD.

If you love mystery with a hint of the paranormal, and the interplay of human foibles, grab this smorgasbord of short stories then get yourself a copy of Milijun, the mind-bending sci-fi novel by Clayton Graham.  

The Vault
Why would a multibillionaire create a customized vault that is controlled by watch mechanics inside and have a self-destruct mechanism inside to destroy the billion dollars worth of artifacts inside?

Simple, because he can.
On paper, Sam Montgomery is your typical eccentric philanthropic pharmaceutical billionaire whom has literally mailed five dollars to everyone in the US so they can “pay it forward.” But what people didn’t know when made a rare public appearance was that he was announcing he had leukemia. And more shocking was that when he said, “I’d rather die than give my sister the opportunity to save my life,” no one even knew he had a sister.
Elena Diamante nailed the sit down interview – at his small home on the tiny island of Antikythera in Greece. She was only planning on getting the scoop about Sam and his apparently estranged sister but she was also going to be the first journalist to see inside Sam’s custom made vault. It was built using watch mechanics, so it was completely self-sustained, and only opened once a year. It was even rumored that if it were ever tampered with, everything inside would be destroyed in a custom acid.
Come to find out for Elena, there would be one item inside Sam’s vault that could save his life, or end it even quicker, it was just a matter of whether or not the vault would open in time.
The vault explores Sam’s family dynamics and how they inspired him to become the successful man he is. The story is also told using Sam’s own family photos growing up, as well as text messages and Facebook/Twitter. There are even hyperlinks within the novel as “Easter Eggs” for those readers that want to explore even more of Sam’s personal life, further blurring the lines of fact/fiction.

With the daily discord taking place worldwide, I wonder if the United Nations is up to the task of calming the numerous threats and wars that are occurring. From my vantage point, I’m skeptical that the U.N. members can maintain peace. Due to the numerous agendas maintained by the membership, I believe that their self-interests have created an atmosphere of apathy concerning issues that conflict or fall outside of their own agendas.

In contrast, any actions the members do take, often serve to enflame the existing conflicts without resolving the underlying issues that exist. 

In addition, I believe the cost to the United States in membership dues is prohibitive. When you understand that the U.S. pays for 22% of the annual U.N. budget as compared to the nearly 8% provided by both the Republic of China and the Russian Federation combined, I become angry while realizing that our country is once again being taken advantage of. Understanding that the United States is considered a pariah nation by many of the U.N. members, I wonder why we continue to maintain our membership in such an ineffective and biased organization. 

In my novel, “Conflux Threat from the Troika” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and her staff are discriminated against by members of many foreign governments. As a result of the overbearing discrimination and disrespect displayed toward the U.S. delegation to the U.N., the United States ultimately withdraws from the United Nations, producing panic and shock among the remaining members.

The actions taken next by the U.S. are completely unexpected and result in utter chaos worldwide.

What steps do you think our country should take in the future with regard to our membership in the U.N.?

Find out more about Bill Brazzel at http://www.scifiauthorbrazzel.com/
You can find his new book Conflux Threat from the Troika on Amazon.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Interview with Illustrator George Neeb

Today I'd like to welcome George Neeb. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I have taught Elementary school in Canada for over 25 years. I enjoy history, art, travel and spending time at my cabin on a lake in Ontario. I have just written and illustrated my first picture book called, "Pharaoh's Arrow". I could see a need for more historical fiction picture books to help teachers make history more enjoyable for students. So, I wrote this book. I did months of research so the book told a fictional story but included factual information about Egypt. I drew the illustrations in Egyptian style and included authentic hieroglyphics on some pages to reinforce the story. I added a tempera paint wash to give the illustrations the look of papyrus. I wanted my book to look as if ancient tomb paintings had come to life.

George, if there was one thing you wished author’s knew about illustrating what would it be?

That illustrations take a long time to create effectively. There is a lot of thought that goes into telling a story with pictures, just like there is a lot of thought in using words. I think both are equally important.

How do you communicate with the author on a project? Do you like it when the author gives a lot of direction or just lets you have creative license?

I have only illustrated my own books. One is published and two are in the process of being published.

What has been your favorite project to work on so far?

My next book is done using dyed paper for the backgrounds and then I am cutting out the characters and laying them on top of the backgrounds to give a three-dimensional feel. I also glued tissue paper on each character to create texture in their clothing. It is time consuming but fun to see come to life.

What is your preferred method to illustrate in?  Digital? Pencils? Watercolor? 

I do not do anything with digital. I use pencil crayon, water colour, tempera paint, dyed and cut paper. I love experimenting with different media and finding ways to incorporate texture and colour into my work.

Any last words?

I hope people will check out my picture books

Thanks for Sharing with us today!  Don't forget to check out more of George's work.  Happy Reading!!

I have a website that highlights some of my work: https://georgeneeb.ca

Friday, February 23, 2018

Interview with Nix Whittaker author of Hero is a Man

Today let's give a warm welcome to Nix Whittaker. Tell us a little about yourself  

I was born in South Africa with snakes and other creepy critters. When I was a young girl I moved with my family to New Zealand. A very different place. There are hardly any critters at all. But at least it was safe from political turmoil. It also opened up opportunities for me. Being able to go to University and living on my own were things just not achievable in South Africa, unless you have money. I started writing because I ran out of things to read. I didn’t really get anywhere until a few years ago. Mostly I didn’t believe in myself. I had to dust off my ego and admit I have a story inside me people would like to read.

I think sometimes we are our toughest critics. Have you been given any helpful advice? If so What?

The best advice I’ve gotten was from a fellow self published author. He told me that you don’t have to know everything when you start. You just become an expert on the next thing you need. This allowed me to take away most of the hurdles to writing and just start.

I know I have learned so much between the publication of my first and second book.  Currently, what are you working on?

I have two projects at the moment. I’m working on a four book series and I’m only half way through. But I got the urge to start another project and I’m almost done with my very first mystery novel. Exciting to try new things.

What has been the most difficult thing you have struggled with since you began a career in writing?

Finishing a book. I have about five hundred stories that I’ve started and never finished. I didn’t have enough confidence as I am dyslexic and I thought that meant I could never reach the bar. It was only when I realized I had just as much skill as other authors that I brought myself to finish my first novel. I’ve written 9 since then.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

I design my own book covers. I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you have some skills and an artist’s eye. I did think about going into art but that is an even harder gig than writing to get into. All I had to do was teach myself how to use photoshop. I now sell covers to other authors.

Nix, one thing we have to deal with as an author is negative criticism, no one can please everyone. How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

I’m terrible. I want to see what I can learn and where I can improve. Usually I don’t read bad reviews because they annoy me. Mostly because they don’t get what I’m trying to do. Or it is something I don’t intend to change. One of the criticisms I usually get is the need for more detail. I’m dyslexic and reading even one word takes colossal effort so when I read I skip over bits that aren’t important otherwise I would never finish it. When I write I write only the parts I normally read. I hate all that fluff in books that don’t help with the story line or the characters but sounds super pretty and sophisticated. That’s nice for some but not for me. Otherwise I always get good reviews but even those I avoid as I nitpick and wonder if they are just being nice.

Is there something you learned from writing your first book?

How to finish a book. I always struggled. In my first book I decided not to write one of my precious babies that I had been sweating over for years. Instead I took one of my throw away ideas. I didn’t have to be perfect so that allowed me finish it as I only had to write it, I didn’t need a master piece.

Nix, which do you find more challenging inventing the hero or the villain?  Why?

Villain every time. My recent mystery novel. I had the bad guy all planned out and his motivations and then I started writing him and realized he was too evil to be the big bad. He was obvious. I kept him but I wrote in another bad guy who in the end was a better fit.

How many times do you think you read your book before going to print?

It feels like a million but it really is about ten times. Even then I re-read my books every year and make changes. I don’t think I’ll have it completely perfect until a decade after I’m in my grave.

Nix thanks for sharing with us.  Happy Reading!!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Interview with Illustrator Allison Holland

Welcome Allison Holland, please tell us a little about yourself .

I always wanted to do something creative with my life, but I was lured by the temptation of a steady paycheck and company-paid benefits and ended up trapped in the soul-sucking machinery of corporate America for far too long. Finally, after yet another layoff, I just couldn't go back and do it anymore and decided I needed to chase my dreams before I was too old and tired to run after them anymore. Illustrating happened by necessity. I wrote a couple of children's stories and they needed pictures and being the clichĂ© starving artist, I couldn't pay anyone to do it for me. I'd been dabbling in animation at the time, so I had the tools available, and I've always had the desire to draw … it's just the ability that's somewhat lacking :)

If there was one thing you wished author’s knew about illustrating what would it be?

It takes SO long! When a story idea hits me, I can have the first draft pounded out on the keyboard in a matter of days. But I'm lucky if I can get through two illustrations in a day. And my work is very basic. I can only imagine the time and effort that goes into some of the artwork in children's books. I probably spend as much time erasing and starting over as other people spend creating, but you're trying to capture a moment or convey feeing and emotions. The illustration can't just reflect the text, it has to compliment it. It's harder than I ever thought it would be.

How do you communicate with the author on a project? Do you like it when the author gives a lot of direction or just lets you have creative license?

So far I've only done illustrations for my own writing. But I've done a fair bit of animation for other people and I like it when the person has a clear idea of what they want, but lets me get there in my own way. There's nothing worse than someone who's completely vague about what they want up front, but very sure that you did it wrong when you've finished. I don't mind being given a lot of direction … if my job is to bring someone's idea or vision to life, I'd rather feel confident that I've got all the information I need.

That's good to know. What do you typically charge per illustration?

If someone ever let me illustrate one of their stories or books, I'd be so flattered I'd probably pay them for the privilege.

What has been your favorite project to work on so far?

I liked doing the third Raspberry Sassafras book. Raspberry was doing some interesting things so I had fun trying to figure out how to accomplish some of the effects. I also learned how to draw a big, pink Cadillac convertible, so that was awesome. I also made a little “meet Raspberry Sassafras” animation for my website, which was fun. I'd like to do more animation with Raspberry. Nothing long or involved … just quick little mini-movies. Somehow the magic of seeing her come to life helps hide the fact that I really can't draw. :)

What is your preferred method to illustrate in?  Digital? Pencils? Watercolor?

I tried using a graphics tablet, but I just couldn't get the hang of looking at my laptop screen while my hand was off to the side doing the drawing. And I LOVE colored pencils … I'm a huge fan of the Prismacolor pencils and I use them in all my coloring books. But what I finally settled on for my books is a Lenovo MIIX notebook because I can draw right on the screen with an active pen. So I get all the digital benefits of a graphics tablet, without the frustration of my hand refusing to cooperate with what my brain is telling it to do.

Thanks Allison, any last words you'd like to share with us?

I would encourage people in a position like mine to take a stab at doing their own illustrations. I mean, if you've got the means to hire someone, do it. There are some outrageously talented people out there and when I get rich and famous, the first thing I'll do is hire a proper illustrator. But doing my own work has brought me closer to my stories and my characters. I'm very attached to Raspberry and Jane and I think all of the time and effort I've put into the drawings has a lot to do with that.

Find out more about Allison at the links below!  Happy Reading!!


- I'm @RazSass on Twitter

- My books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble … the prices are all over the board right now because I just left Lulu.com for the more cost-effective Kindle Direct Publishing, so all of the higher-priced Lulu books are still lurking about.

- My email address is RasSass@yahoo.com

- You can purchase all manner of Sassafras swag in my online store https://www.zazzle.com/raspberrysassafras

Friday, February 16, 2018

Interview with T. A. Hernandez author of the Secrets of Peace

Today I'd like to welcome author T. A. Hernandez! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve always loved a good story, whether it comes from a book, movie, television show, video game, or anything else you can think of. I dabbled in writing stories a little bit as a kid, but when I was fourteen, my family moved from southern California to a rural town in Idaho, and writing became a sort of escape for me. I began to take it more seriously and actively looking for ways to improve. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always something I was passionate about—something that eventually became a part of me. I still have a lot to learn, but I think that’s the great part about writing. You’re always learning something, always growing, and that’s exciting. Aside from being a writer, I’m also a mother, an artist, and a college student majoring in social work.

Share a short excerpt from your novel

Zira pretended not to notice the way Jared’s hands shook so much he couldn’t even get the key into the ignition. He dropped it on the floor and slammed his hand against the steering wheel, cursing. Zira focused on the branches of a tree outside, but she could see him in her peripherals, hunched over with his head bowed as he rubbed his hands over his coarse, black hair.

“I’m sorry,” Zira said. “About your team and…what he did to you.”

“I don’t need your pity,” Jared growled.

“I know. I don’t pity you.”

He sighed and sat up. “Yeah, well, it’s over now.”

“Are you relieved? That they’re dead?”

Jared met her gaze, and Zira was caught off guard by how much pain she saw in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before, or maybe he’d just done a good job of hiding it until now. “I wouldn’t say that I’m relieved. But I do feel better somehow—safer—knowing they’re gone.” He took Zira’s hand, an unexpected gesture that made her flinch. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“I’ve been dreading this since we first saw Li in that diner. It was easier knowing I wasn’t going into it alone.”

“Anyone could have done that.”

“Maybe. But it was you who put me at ease all week and gave me something else to think about.”

“I didn’t—”

Jared shook his head and gave her a small smile. “It’s just a ‘thank you,’ Zira. You don’t need to get defensive about it.”

“All right,” she muttered. “You’re welcome.”

Well I am intrigued! What brought about the idea for this book?

The idea for Secrets of PEACE came from a few different places, and it’s hard for me to identify any one thing or even a series of things that gave me the idea. The characters came first, or at least the main protagonist did. I had been through some difficult personal issues in the two years before I started writing the book, and I think I just wanted to write a character who was strong and resilient in spite of having the odds stacked against her. I had also just finished playing the first Assassin’s Creed game, and I was intrigued by the idea of murder being used as a tool for peace. That idea formed the foundation for the plot, and the story evolved from there. It changed a lot along the way, and it took five years to really get it right, but I’m satisfied with the way it turned out.

Tell us a little bit about your main characters

Secrets of PEACE has two protagonists, both of whom are assassins working for the authoritarian government in a future America. Zira is the primary protagonist. At eighteen years old, she’s inexperienced and a bit reckless, but hardworking and determined to prove herself. She doesn’t trust people easily, and her abrasive personality can be a fun challenge to write. Jared is the other protagonist of the series. He’s a couple years older than Zira, fiercely dedicated to his job, and the best assassin in their unit. He’s skilled and tough, but he definitely has a softer side that he isn’t afraid to show to the people he trusts. Chairman Ryku is another major character in the story and serves as a mentor to both Zira and Jared.

In Secrets of PEACE, what was your favorite scene to write?

It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’m going to have to choose the scene at the end of the first act of the story in chapter 11. It’s an intense scene, and things take a definite turn for the worst for Zira. But that’s really what starts her personal journey of self-discovery and self-determination, which continues throughout the rest of the series. The scene also introduces a character who has become one of my favorites to write (and seems to be a favorite among readers as well), so that’s exciting.

Currently, what are you working on?

There are three planned books in the Secrets of PEACE series. The second one, Renegades of PEACE, came out in July 2017, and I’m currently working on the third book, Survivors of PEACE. It was kind of a surprise novel. I had originally planned to end the series with Renegades, but then somewhere during the revision process, the characters began insisting that there was more of the story to tell. Ever their obedient servant, I of course gave in to their demands.

T. A. what has been the best compliment you have received?

Anytime someone compliments me on my characters, I’m beyond thrilled. It’s great to see when they come to life for readers the way they do for me. I had one reader in particular who mentioned the complex character relationships and relatable human emotions as a highlight of the book, and that was probably the best compliment I’ve ever received about anything I’ve written.

That's great, as a writer it is so nice to see that a readers has enjoyed something you worked so hard on. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

Oh yes, I definitely have people read my drafts before I publish. Several times. It’s a key part of my writing process, and I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without the feedback I’ve received from beta readers and critique partners along the way. I have two betas who read for me regularly and whose input I value and respect tremendously. One is my critique partner and fellow indie author, EJ Fisch, who writes amazing science fiction novels with complex characters and fast-paced plots. The other is my best friend, who reads way more than anyone else I know and is great at spotting big-picture issues like poor characterization, pacing, and plot holes. Aside from that, I usually try to do beta reading swaps with other writers. I find most of them through Goodreads and social media. I prefer to use people who write in the same genre I do, or as close to it as possible.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

Being an artist as well as an independent author definitely has its advantages. I designed the covers for all of my books myself. It’s fun, and sometimes it serves as a nice motivation to keep me going when I’m halfway through the writing process and feel stuck. I can whip up a cover and remind myself that someday, I’ll be holding that book in my hands, and all the crap I had to go through to get the dang thing finished will have been worth it.

One of the less fun side to writing is the negative comments that readers leave. How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

This has probably been said time and time again, but it’s important, so I’ll say it anyways. You can’t take criticism personally. Sometimes that’s hard, especially when someone criticizes something you were really proud of or thought was nearly perfect. And if you need to take a minute to scream into a pillow or drown your sorrows in a chocolate milkshake, that’s fine. But don’t wallow. It’s not about you. It’s about making the story the best you can possibly make it. At some point, you just have to pick yourself up, take a step back, and try to look at the story objectively so you can fix what’s wrong with it. Not all criticism you receive will be helpful, but if you can put your own personal feelings aside, you’ll be able to sort out the useful stuff from the nonsense and do what works best for your story.

Any last words?
Thanks so much for the interview! I always love talking about writing with readers and fellow authors, so if you ever want to reach out, please don’t hesitate to contact me through my website or social media.

Thanks for sharing with us.  Don't forget to check out Secrets of Peace and the rest of Hernandez's series.  Happy Reading!!

Secrets of PEACE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J24PNUQ

Renegades of PEACE: https://www.amazon.com/Renegades-PEACE-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B073W3ZPP1/

Website: https://www.tahernandez.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ta_hernandez5

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tahernandez05

Monday, February 12, 2018

Interview with Illustrator Carole Chevalier

Today I'd like to welcome Carole Chevalier, a French illustrator.  Thanks so much for stopping by, can you start by telling us a little about yourself.

Bonjour! I'm Carole, a 28 year old French graphic designer & illustrator. I love the outdoors, cute cats and eating loads of cheese (of course!). I grew up and studied graphic design in France and started my career as a creative in North Wales, UK, back in 2011. After more than 5 years living in this beautiful part of the world, I came back to France to continue pursuing my freelance career. I’m now happily living with my Welsh fiancĂ© in Brittany!

I started off specialising in illustration but quickly developed my skills and passion for all areas of graphic design. Even though I enjoy working on many fun projects, my true love is for colourful children’s book illustration and beautifully hand-crafted typography.

I’m always very excited to work on fun and unique illustrations for books and I love bringing stories to life, using a lot of imagination and a touch of magic. In the past year or so, I’ve had the chance to work on a few children’s books with some very talented authors and it’s been such a great experience!

If there was one thing you wished authors knew about illustrating what would it be?

Tricky question! I think one thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes, authors don’t realise how long an illustration can take to complete. There are so many steps, from the initial sketch to choosing the right illustrative style and even down to deciding on the right colour palette. Also, when we need to think about illustrating characters, there’s always a time of research purely to decide on how the character will look and how it will be represented. Does he/she need big cheeks, small or big eyes, short or tall legs? You get the idea!

However, I also think that it’s up to the illustrator to talk about all this to the authors as some of them have never done this before and I find it logical that they might not be familiar with the whole process. We’re also here to guide them in a way :)

How do you communicate with the author on a project? Do you like it when the author gives a lot of direction or just lets you have creative license?

I always ask for as many details as possible about the story and characters before starting anything. It’s crucial for me to make sure that I’m getting the right idea and that the illustrations I create will represent what the author had in mind. I either ask to have a meeting on Skype with the author so that we can be on the same page, or I send a list of questions by email to help the author put together a small brief about their book.

It’s nice to have a lot of direction from the author but it’s also great when they’re happy for you to get creative based on their brief and put your own stamp on the illustrations and layout. For example, when I worked on the illustrations for ‘Who Can, Toucan!’, Jenne (the author) had a look at my website beforehand and although she had a few requests about the characters, she was happy to let me do my thing and see how it goes. She was very pleased with the result and I really enjoyed the fact that I could follow my instincts. If you trust your illustrator and love what they do, sometimes it’s best to give them full creative license!

What do you typically charge per illustration?

Every book is unique and illustrations will never look the same from one book to another. Once I have a good idea of the type of illustrations the author would like to go for (style, amount of details, dimensions, etc.), I can then think about how long one illustration will take me to complete. It’s very important for me as I charge per hour and some illustrations could take only 2 hours to complete whilst others will most likely need at least 6 hours.

Because of that, the cost per illustration is never the same! I charge at least $30(US) per hour so for example, an illustration could cost as little as $60 but can be more around $150 depending on the direction we’re going for style-wise and what the illustration will be representing. The best thing is to contact me to discuss first about the project and see what type of budget you’ll need ;)

What has been your favorite project to work on so far?

Although I’ve enjoyed working on so many projects since I went freelance, my favourite so far has to be the children’s book ‘Tales from the Woodpecker Tree’. Lesley, the author, was a pleasure to work with, and I knew that I would enjoy working on the illustrations from the moment I read her stories. They truly talked to me and are the kind of stories I love reading myself. I felt inspired straight away! The project went very smoothly and when I received my printed copy, I was very proud.

What is your preferred method to illustrate in?  Digital? Pencils? Watercolor?

I used to prefer illustrating with watercolour and various pens and brushes in general, but I’ve quickly realised that it had a lot of restrictions and the result would sometimes not match what my client was after. So I decided to develop my skills in digital illustrations and now it’s my favourite way of illustrating! I got more and more comfortable illustrating on Illustrator and Photoshop thanks to my graphics tablet and I love the fact that it’s very flexible. If I create an illustration and I receive some feedback to change a certain colour or element, it’s a lot quicker to amend it digitally than on paper.

Your illustrations look like a lot of fun.  I wish I had that talent.  Any last words before you go?

Thank you Sarah for having me featured on your blog and I hope you all enjoyed reading my interview. It’s always a pleasure to talk about my work and experience, and if any of you out there would be interested in working with me, feel free to get in touch!

Where can we find out more about you?

You can have a look at my work on www.carolechevalier.co.uk and to contact me, you can send an email to design@carolechevalier.co.uk

Thanks for sharing with us today Carole.  Don't forget to check out Carole and more of her illustrations.  Happy Reading!!

Social media:

Instagram: @carole.chvlr

Twitter: @CaroleChvlr

Facebook: /carolechevaliergraphicdesign