Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolutions Are A Funny Thing

Happy New Year everyone! I was going to write one of those year end posts where I list out my top ten posts of 2012, but I decided to check out the day's news first (aka - go to Facebook) I was amazed at the number of "anti-resolution" posts there were. Yeah, I kind of get it - those I need to eat better, lose weight, exercise more type resolutions can be stressful and difficult to stick to. But sometimes, a good New Year's resolution is just the push we need to jump start ourselves.

A few years ago on New Years Eve, I was majorly depressed. My Rheumatoid Arthritis was out of control, I had illness after illness, which ironically kept me from taking my RA drugs (since they are immuno-suppressants, you are not allowed to take them if you are sick), and I had a busy tax season looming in my future. I honestly did not know how I would get through it all.I honestly did not know if I could get through it all. I needed something.

As many of you know - it was years ago, while pregnant with my oldest, when the story for my first novel (which will finally be published this summer!) popped into my head.I tried a few times to get it on paper, but there was always something - babies, divorce, getting my life back on track, RA. Despite all that, the story kept nagging at me. For some reason, on that particular New Year's Eve, I was brought back to the memory of the excitement I felt back when I was pregnant and the initial idea of writing a book entered my mind. I needed to find that excitement once again. I resolved that night that I would write three chapters that year. They didn't have to be in order, they didn't have to be grammatically correct, they only needed to be enough to figure out if this going to be the thing to pull me out of my funk.

So in May of that year - after the end of tax season and battling my umpteenth round of bronchitis, I opened my laptop to an empty Word document. I let me fingers and my mind take over. Three chapters quickly turned into 85,000 words. The rest is well ... you know how the story goes.

Now if only I can figure out how to eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise more.

Dream big & resolve to have the best 2013 you can possibly have!

photo credit: photon bomb via photopin cc

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Author Spotlight: Wendy Nystrom

Happy Holidays everyone! Today we have a wonderful children's author to spotlight. Wendy Nystrom is the author of the exciting picture book James Saves the Moon. I love this book! My six year old loves it as well, and we even bought a copy for his 1st grade classroom.

Wendy was kind enough to let me interview her today...

Hi Wendy - Please tell us about your current release.

James Saves the Moon. Is a tale of a young boy living in Iceland who sees the moon on the mountain. He decides to climb the mountain to touch it. He meets a Icelandic Fairy named Syvok and Matthias the dragon and they discover the moon is really stuck and must work together to save the moon and Iceland.

Who inspired you to write this book?

My son inspired the book while we were living in Iceland. He looked out the window and it looked like the moon was sitting on the mountain. The first draft was written within a few days.

That's a great story! What exciting story are you working on next?

I am doing final editing Helga Returns. It is the second book in my James Adventures. James, Syvok and Matthias travel inside a cave to discover a troll village and save the leader. My third one is with an alpha reading. I am also working on my Novel for adults called the New Moon Brethren. It is a urban fantasy.

Wow - you are certainly busy! When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I really don’t consider myself a writer. I just like to tell tales.

I feel the same way. When and how do you find time to write in your daily life?

It is a challenge with three children. Mostly during the day.

Do people judge a book by its cover? Who makes yours?

Yes I believe a good cover will draw in a reader. My first book was illustrated by Jim Weidman. He retired after working with me on James Saves the Moon. The rest of my kids books now are illustrated by Kelly Murray. She is wonderful to work with.

I'm looking forward to seeing them. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

Kids saying Wow Mrs. Nystrom I love your book.

What is the best advice any one has ever given you?

My Aunt told me you are never too old to start a new career.

As someone who only recently started writing as well, I can say that's great advice. Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

In my short story in Paranormal Gone Awry, I see a little of me and many of my friends as well in the main characters, Carolyn and Blaze.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

NFL Coach

Awesome!! Cats or Dogs?


PC or Mac?


Coffee or Tea?


Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I am really enjoying working with Anchor Group Publishing.
I hope you and your children enjoy my books. I want to thank all the people who told me to keep going you will get published. Those Mom pals of mine who said it is ok to say no once in a while.

Where can people find you and your books online?

About Wendy:

Wendy Nystrom is a published author with Anchor Group Publishing, a wife, and a mother of three wonderful children. Wendy grew up in St. Paul, MN, and has lived at different points in her life in Minnesota, Texas, Idaho, Colorado, West Virginia, and Iceland. She currently resides in Michigan (USA). Wendy is an avid reader of many different genres; she love adventures; and devotes some of her time to being active in schools, the local library, and other community projects. She earned a BA in Geography concentration Urban Planning at Texas State University. Wendy began writing children stories in 2005 while living in the wonderful country of Iceland. Her writing style is, Imagine yourself sitting around a campfire deep in the mountains with a huge moon above. The mountain outlined all around while the story teller weaves a tale of adventure with a splash of fun as a pebble skips across the water. You can keep up with Wendy's writing adventures at her blog, facebook and twitter/wbnystrom.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Author Spotlight: Frederick Lee Brooke

Thanks so much for stopping by the Author Spotlight! Today I'd like to welcome Author Frederick Lee Brooke - author of two books that I loved:  Doing Max Vinyl and Zombie Candy (review posted below.) Fred's books are fun reads with lots of unexpected plot twists and clever dialogue. Here's Fred to tell us more:

Please tell us about your current release.

Zombie Candy is about a young married couple who have some problems ... Larry, when he’s not at work, mainly likes to watch zombie movies. His wife, Candace, is a gourmet cooking freak. So the two of them are talking past each other a lot of the time. Larry finally rebels in a way that husbands do all too often, and Candace, with the help of her best friend Annie Ogden, now a freshly minted private investigator, decides to take revenge in a way that Larry will best understand – using zombies.

What inspired you to write this book?

Talking to friends and reading stories about other people made me realize that a lot of relationships become zombified after a certain amount of time has passed. I wanted to explore what would happen in the characters’ minds when they reached the breaking point.

What exciting story are you working on next?

Annie Ogden was a central figure in both Zombie Candy and my first book, Doing Max Vinyl. She’s a returned Iraq War veteran who is a little confused when she first gets back. She doesn’t know if Chicago has changed or she herself, and she’s sorting a few things out in her mind. So right now I’m working on a third book in the series featuring Annie Ogden.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Some time late in my high school years I knew I wanted to write books. I liked nothing better than to read a good book, so I thought writing them would be the perfect way to prolong the experience indefinitely. That turned out to be true.

When and how do you find time to write in your daily life?

I had a career as an English teacher and language school manager before quitting my day job in order to write full time. Between family duties and other activities, I still sometimes have to work to keep to my writing schedule. But I can’t complain.

Any advice to aspiring writers?

Rule number one is to find your voice, as a young writer. I think many people manage this best by keeping a journal. Trust your voice and learn to embrace it and run with it. More than anything else, your voice is what will make someone keep reading. Once you’ve got a story going, rule number two kicks in, and that’s keep your backside glued to the seat. Writing is hard work. You have to put in a lot of time, and you have to turn on your brain and think.

Who is one of your favorite characters that you have written? Please tell us about him/her and what book they are in

Max Vinyl is one of my favorite characters. He’s the main character in my first book, Doing Max Vinyl. Max feels like everyone misunderstands him. He owns a recycling company, but he dumps old computer junk ten miles out in Lake Michigan; then he wonders why his girlfriend dumps him. Max is a con-man, but he’s also very charming and likable. He’s not all bad, and I think that makes him interesting.

Are you writing under a pen-name, do you use your own, or is your work out in both ways?

I use my own name, Frederick Lee Brooke. I don’t have any reason to use a pen name. But my friends call me Fred.

Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with?

I don’t think I could write a book together with another writer, although there are many writers I admire greatly. I like to make all the decisions about the things I’ve written. That being said, I have some fantastic beta readers who help me with feedback before I publish anything, and I have an excellent editor.

Do people judge a book by its cover? Who makes yours?

I think a lot of people look at a book’s cover and decide whether they want to look further or not. I have a professional cover designer named Mallory Rock who is in charge of my covers.

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

I love life, and there are many distractions in life, and so my greatest challenge is compartmentalizing in such a way that I get enough time for the writing I’ve set out to do.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

My most rewarding experience has been finishing my two books, Doing Max Vinyl, and Zombie Candy. Just the act of finishing them gave me great satisfaction, because you know how hard it is to finish a big, complex project. It has been very gratifying to know that many people enjoyed reading them, as well. But for me just the act of finishing them was the most rewarding thing.

What is the best advice any one has ever given you?

Happiness comes from hard work.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

I would say there’s a little piece of me in all my characters, even the women. I try to get inside their minds and be them, so it’s only natural that they take a piece of me in the process.

And now for some fun questions...

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

You’re going to laugh, but I wanted to be a rock star. I thought Elton John was the greatest (my parents were worried), but I didn’t practice the piano enough and stopped my lessons after six months.

Who is your favorite super-hero and why?

I like Spiderman. I guess it’s because he was a normal guy, Peter Parker, before he was bitten by that radioactive spider. And he has so much trouble in his romance with Mary Jane.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m learning Turkish. I like grammar, and Turkish grammar is interesting.

Cats or Dogs?

Cats AND dogs.

PC or Mac?

You can’t be serious ... Macbook Air since January 2011, and I’ll never go back.

Woohoo - another Mac convert! Coffee or Tea?

Tea to start the day, but coffee after lunch.

What is one thing that you could not live without?

My kids and my friends.

Do you have any hobbies?

Reading is my most decadent hobby. I read approximately 100 books a year and review almost every one. I also like to cook.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

To make people work for peace.

Great answers! Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

My phone recently died, and so I finally joined the ranks of people who own smart phones. The coolest thing about my smart phone is how easy it is to download songs. Within a couple of hours I had downloaded 30 or 40 songs. I then realized it’s just as easy to download books. And electronic books don’t even cost very much more than songs. I just thought that was worth sharing.

Excellent point, Fred! Thanks for pointing that out! Where can people find you and your books online?

My blog:

Zombie Candy Amazon

Doing Max Vinyl Amazon


More About Frederick Lee Brooke:

I write books because I love playing with language, on the one hand, and creating characters and seeing what crazy things they will do if you set them free. I've spent more than 20 years living in different European countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland. I speak French, German and Italian, and I've been learning Turkish for the last five years just for fun.

My books are mysteries, for lack of a better word. Doing Max Vinyl is about a computer recycling con man, while Zombie Candy is about a serial adulterer who happens to love zombie movies. In both books, Annie Ogden, a recently returned Iraq War vet who is having trouble adjusting to civilian life, gets personally involved in taking down these world-class jerks. I like a book with a good dose of humor, and the humor can come from the absurd situations people find themselves in. The world we live in is an absurd place, and you can either laugh or cry about it.

When I'm not writing I'm usually reading. I like to write book reviews. Of course I love it when people review my books, too. I like to cook and sometimes post recipes on my blog. Zombie Candy contains most of the recipes in the book in an annex at the end. I also like to hike and travel and learn about other cultures.

About Zombie Candy:

From her gorgeous husband to her acclaimed cooking classes, Candace Roach's life looks nearly perfect from the outside. Well, appearances can be deceiving. Her husband, Larry, has three unruly addictions that drive her to the brink--zombie movies, cilantro, and having sex with other women. Luckily, her best friend Annie Ogden is back from Iraq and armed with a private investigator's license and a fierce determination to see Candace happy again.

Together, the women uncover the ridiculous extent of Larry's infidelity. He needs to be punished,that much is clear. But how can they hit him where it counts? Oh, if only she could find a way to tap into those three little addictions--what a lesson that would be. Italy is calling, as are the zombies in the night, as suburban housewife Candace Roach transforms herself into the ultimate fidelity vigilante, complete with a badass motorcycle, a very small pistol, and the nom de guerre "Zombie Candy."

My Review of Zombie Candy:

Nobody was more shocked than I was that I was reading a "zombie" book, but since I loved Frederick Lee Brooke's first book, Doing Max Vinyl, I just knew I had to see what Zombie Candy was all about. I'm so glad I did. While I am admittedly not a fan of zombie stories, I am a fan of Frederick Lee Brooke's writing style, and this book had all the humor and quirkiness from Doing Max Vinyl that I loved - and it was not a true Zombie story, which actually made it more enjoyable for me.

 Instead, this is a story of betrayal, addiction, and revenge - in a way you never thought possible. I loved the play on the main character's name (Candace) with the title of the book. The ending totally surprised me, and it was great (although I would have preferred to not have been eating while reading it - you have been warned.) If you're looking for a fun read this summer, Zombie Candy is the way to go!  Loved it!!

Thanks so much for visiting the Author Spotlight, Fred!

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Pet Zebra

Some of the best conversations I have with my six-year-old are while we are walking to the school bus stop in the mornings. Today, he announced that he would like a pet zebra.

photo credit: Arno & Louise Wildlife via photopin cc

Me: I don't think we're allowed to have a zebra as a pet.

C: Uh-huh! My teacher said that all a zebra needs is a big grassy spot.

Me: Really? But, I don't think our yard is big enough.

C: But look at all this grass! (He points to all the neighbor's yards as we walk). The deer walk through everyone's yards, so could the zebra!

(Note - we have a family of six deer that do indeed walk through all our yards)

Me: Do you think the deer and the zebra would be friends?

C: Maybe. But the deer could go live on another street ... with the crows.

(This is in reference to the conversation we had yesterday about the extremely loud flock of crows that were in our neighborhood  - my son yelled at them to leave and never come back and sure enough they were gone this morning... magic!)

Me: Well, we'll have to ask the neighbors.

C: Okay - you do that while I'm at school and then let me know.

I'm not sure if any of my neighbors actually read my blog, but if you do, could you please get back to me before 3pm? Thanks :)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Author Spotlight: Stephanie Robinson & Jessica Haight

I know what you're thinking ... two authors? Yes! Stephanie Robinson & Jessica Haight are an amazing team of authors who work together both on their book and on their fabulous character blog:  Fairday's Blog. Every week, the blog is based on a theme that starts with a riddle. From there, you can find reviews, interviews, and other fun posts all based on the theme of the week. It's a super fun blog plus a great resource to find some amazing kids' books - so please stop by (& tell them I sent you too!)

But they are not just bloggers! They have a very creative book called The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow. All of the illustrations (several of which are displayed below) are done by Jessica herself! So what's The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow all about?

Here's what Jessica and Stephanie had to say:

The Begonia House keeps its secrets. Everyone knows that. Everyone, that is, except for clever
eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow, whose family has just moved in. Being the Senior Investigator
in the Detective Mystery Squad, more commonly known as the DMS, she’s ready to uncover the
mysteries hidden within the strange manor. As the investigation gears up and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, the DMS enters into a world where anything is possible, and the danger is most definitely real. Follow along with Fairday and her friends, as spooky meets lovely in this twisting tale of dark secrets and hidden pasts.

Sounds great doesn't it?  Well guess what - they want to give away one SIGNED hardcopy of this fabulous book - AND - what's even more special is that this book is not yet for sale, so the only place you can get it is right here!  Here's how to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Authors:

About Jessica Haight
Jessica is a quintessential New Englander, harboring a desperate need to be near the ocean and a personal desire to experience the four seasons every year. Now at the age of 38, she lives in New Fairfield, CT with her finance, James, her dog, Jack, and her cat, Bill.

About Stephanie Robinson
Stephanie lives with her husband in a quiet town in Connecticut, though not as quaint as Ashpot. She has been a fifth grade teacher for over ten years and learns something new every day. When she isn’t working, Stephanie spends her time writing, reading, and traveling.

For even more info on The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow:

Stuff for readers to do on the DMS sites: 

Thanks for stopping by today!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hanukkah Memories: Meet the Family Holiday Hop

Meet the Family Holiday Hop

So I originally published the below post last year, and I wasn't going to publish it again, but I was asked to   participate in author Terri Giuliano Long's Meet the Family Holiday Blog Hop. In the Toz household, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. My side of the family is Jewish, and my husband's side is Catholic. Yesterday, Nate Rocks posted on Millie's blog all about his family traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas (which, coincidentally,  do have some similarities to the traditions here in the Toz household . . . is it the part about waiting to open the presents, Dad's pancakes, or Mom's awful cooking... hmmm). Today, I thought I would talk about Hanukkah - a holiday that is also rich in traditions, with the following post which I wrote last December:

In my household, my side of the family celebrates Hanukkah. My husband’s side of the family celebrates Christmas. My husband and I collectively with our three kids, celebrate both. It’s important to me that each holiday is celebrated separately – with equal importance and wonderful traditions that my children can take with them. 

That's me on my Mom's lap with my brother, Dad,
Aunt, & our giant Menorah!  1973? 
As a child, I always looked forward to Hanukkah. My parents decided early on that in place of a Christmas tree, we would decorate a giant Menorah that my father made out of wood and an old bed bolster. Our Menorah was about seven feet tall and four feet wide. We would decorate it with tissue paper first and then hang Hanukkah cards on it that we had received over the years. I loved looking at the cards every year, and we were pioneers in recycling! We were the only house in the neighborhood (probably the only house anywhere) that had a giant decorated Menorah – it was a big deal.

Then we would move over to our smaller ‘normal’ sized menorah, where we would light the candles and say the prayers. I remember it was always coveted to be the one to light the candles (and usually resulted in a fight between my older brother and myself.)

My Aunt would always come over, and at some point, my parents would start bringing out the presents. Some families give one gift for each night of the eight day holiday, but we saved the gift giving for one day.  The day of course would end with a great meal and a rousing game of dreidel. 

I don’t know whatever happened to our giant Menorah, but I hope that my children are enjoying the Hanukkah traditions that we have incorporated into our family.

Our tradition: the kids each have their own Menorah - we take turns lighting
each night, and on the last night - we light them all!

However you celebrate your holidays, I hope you find yourself surrounded by the people you care most about! Happy Hanukkah!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It May Not Seem Like Much - But To Me It's HUGE!

I'm lying in bed unable to move with a heating pad that is not big enough to cover my entire body (note to self - must invest in one of these soon.)  Today was the annual Arthritis Foundation's Jungle Bell 5K Walk/Run. This is the 4th year my family has participated in this event. It is my sixth year living with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis).Three years ago, I did not run, but my husband did. Two years ago, I walked - and finished - dead last. In fact, I was so far last, that the time keeper had already packed up and was long gone. Last year, I didn't finish. I sadly had to call it quits at the two mile mark.

Here is me with two of my three children and my uncle pre-race. I look happy & energetic right? I like to refer to this one as "PP" or "Pre-Pain"

This year, the organizers took my advice and added a one mile course. I was THRILLED! 3.10 miles was just too much for me and so many others with arthritis to tackle. With the one mile course, so many who previously were unable to participate might now be able to walk or even run if they felt up to it. So once again, I put bells on my sneakers and headed toward the course. Only, I couldn't find the one mile course, and the volunteers who I asked, pointed me in the direction of the 5K course. So I headed off with the masses.

And we're off! It's a beautiful, warm, sunny day ... or not.

I figured at some point, there would be a turn off for us one-mile walkers. I was wrong. I walked ... and walked ... and walked. I passed the "One Mile sign." I considered turning back, but (a) I'd be going against traffic and there were a lot of people, and (b) I'd still be walking two miles. The 5K was just over 3 miles, so why go 2 when I could go 3? Did I mention I'm stubborn? Did I also mention it was cold and raining and I was only wearing a sweatshirt because I thought I'd only be outside for a 15 minute or less mile course?

Yes, I really am leaning to the left. That's because I'm about to fall over. This one is also"PP", but now it means "Pure Pain", but hey, I'm still smiling!

So - I trudged on - my hips gave out first, then my knees. My ankles and feet were not far behind. My 12 1/2 year old daughter walked beside me, telling me I could do this. She was right. I finished the race one hour and seven minutes later. There were even people still behind me. I'm proud and in pain. Lots and lots of pain - but I did it.

Is that the finish line or am I just hallucinating?

Look! There are people behind us - not many, but still! I'm not last this year, and I managed to cross the finish line before everyone packed up and went home!

It may sound ridiculous. I mean 3.10 miles doesn't sound like a lot, and to be honest, it's not to most people. But for me or someone like me who lives with RA (or other conditions which affect daily activity) it is huge, and the fact that I was able to finish the race puts a big smile on my face - despite the pain.

Thank you to all of my family and friends who supported me this year in the Jingle Bell Walk/Run! I so appreciate it!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Author Spotlight: Laxmi Hariharan

Welcome to this week's Author Spotlight! This week we have Laxmi Hariharan, author of The Desitny of Shaitan, the first in the Chronicle of the Three Series and winner of the Summer of 2012 Readers' Pick Awards.

Laxmi joins us today with a guest post:

Dare to be Indie

“So are you going to self-pub?” I asked a friend who has spent years polishing her manuscript, collecting rejection slips and looking out for that long awaited email which asks for the entire novel. “I don’t know, how do you know when you should, and what happens if I were to do so only to have an agent interested in my work?” To go Indie or not, that is the question. A hotly debated issue which has kept many a writer—with a burning need to be read—up many nights. My take: If Indie movies are accepted, why not Indie books? Rob Kroese, author of the self-published, bestselling Mercury Falls and its sequel, Mercury Rises has a great analogy: he likens the league of published authors to an elite night club, with gatekeepers, who decide who gets in and who does not. It struck a chord with me, and I suspect with many of the other ‘waiting to be discovered’ wannabes. So taking a cue from Rob, I have put together a quiz, to help you determine whether you should give Indie Publishing a go or not. Please answer “yes” or “no” to each of the following questions.

1. Are you waiting to be discovered or somewhere along the way have you discovered yourself?

2. Do you write to be read?

3. Is your novel unclassifiable? It spans so many genres that you know you will have lost traditional
agents within the first line of the pitch, for your writing and you cannot be pigeon-holed. My book The Destiny of Shaitan is YA epic fantasy inspired by Indian mythology, for example

4. Are you an entrepreneur, at heart? Do you normally jump in and think of the consequences later. Are you pragmatic about failure—enough to pick yourself up and move on swiftly to the next?

5. Do you like to experiment, and cannot resist a challenge? Do you thrive under pressure, and when the odds are stacked against you?

6. Are you impatient, probably a control freak? In fact, you want to control your own destiny, so keep checking in with the stars to find out what’s going to happen in your life, so you can steer it along the way you want.

7. Are you a technophile? Do you secretly indulge your inner geek? On a practical level are you at least on Facebook and twitter?

8. Are you social and love debating with tweet-friends around the world? Really, you adore your virtual home and obsess over getting your gravatar just right!

9. Do you have the courage of conviction, the doggedness of determination? Is the power of persistence strong within you?

10. Perhaps, like me you had a near death experience, and realized that life is too short. You just have to get your voice out there for tomorrow you may be too late.

If you said yes to at least eight of the above ten, then I believe the force is strong in you. You may be among the fortunate few able to take a punt on yourself. But wait! Before you press that enter button and send the words skimming out over the electronic waves, pause. Have you been true to yourself in your text—really? If you are still standing upright, then there is more to tell. Go back, revisit, revise, rewrite, until hand on heart, you can say you have stripped yourself bare. When you have died a few deaths getting the novel to that place where exhaustion weeps in the arms of elation, then, you know you have nothing more to say. Now you have one last thing to do. Make sure your baby is perfect—every infinitesimal millimetre brushed to its Sunday best—for once it is out there you will be reborn, as your Author Avatar. People will actually read you. Many will love your prose; some will hate it and tell you so. Can you deal with that too? If the answer is still yes, then what are you waiting for?


YA epic fantasy novel The Destiny of Shaitan is a delicious blend of gods & humans, offering a glimpse into your own power. This coming of age story is painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. When Tiina accompanies Yudi on a mission to save the universe from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. Driven by greed and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying everything in his path. Tiina wants Yudi to destroy Shaitan, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Shaitan being killed by his son. But she finds that Yudi is hesitant to do so. The final showdown between Tiina, Yudi, and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight, even kill Tiina. The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan's ultimate destiny be fulfilled? To find out get your own copy here


While born in India, Laxmi Hariharan has lived in Singapore and Hong Kong and is now based in London. She has written for various publications including The Times of India, The Independent, Inside Singapore, Inside Hong Kong and Asian Age. Indian mythology inspires her work. When not writing, this chai-swigging technophile enjoys long walks in the woods, growing eye-catching flowers and indulging her inner geek. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon.

Laxmi would love to hear from you. Reach her here

Find her on Pinterest:
Visit her Website at

Thanks Laxmi!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Have A Confession

photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc

No, I didn’t murder anyone or anything like that. But I have been pretending to be someone I’m not for the past ten months. Some of you already know this, but many of you do not. So I’m here today to set the record straight.

Ten months ago, I announced a new book, an adult contemporary fiction release, called Julia’s Song, by an unknown author named Elyse Pierce - unknown because she didn’t actually exist. She was a pen name that I created. For those of you who still haven’t gotten your first cup of coffee down, what I’m trying to say is that Elyse Pierce is me – Karen Pokras Toz – and that Julia’s Song is a book that I wrote. Those of you who have known me for a while and know me well, also know that Elyse is my middle name and Pierce is the last name I used as a college DJ back in 19longtimeago. So there you have it – the secret is out.

Are you wondering why I’m telling you this? Well, it’s because I have BIG news!! Julia’s Song, which I self-published, has been picked up by a publisher! But, before I get into all that – a little history lesson....

Julia’s Song was the first full-length novel I had written – in fact it was the first real anything I had written (oh yeah – let’s hear the cringes – I know). So it needed work and lots of it. I re-worked it more times than I can count and finally decided to self-publish it. Even after publication, I continued to re-work the story (and countless editing mishaps) based on reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads. (Ahh...the magic of being able to upload multiple files when you’re the publisher!)

I had originally decided to use the pen name, Elyse Pierce, because I didn’t really know how it would fit into my children’s book "brand". Also – admittedly, I knew the manuscript needed work, and I wasn’t quite ready to claim it as my own. I’ve since re-worked (again) and unpublished all remaining copies.

So now, thanks to the fabulous team at Anchor Group Publishing, Julia’s Song, now titled invisible, will get a brand new cover, a thorough editing (phew), and the attention it deserves, including having by Karen Pokras Toz, proudly displayed.

Coming summer 2013! Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Big No-No - But I Couldn't Resist

I'm about to break a huge rule in the Author World, but I watched Elf last night, and I'm suddenly in the holiday spirit. Plus, they're my books, so I can do what I want - right?

So I've decided that for one day only - today - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4th - two of my books, Nate Rocks the World and Millicent Marie Is Not My Name will be FREE for your Kindle or Kindle App.

No, that's not the rule breaker - authors do this all the time. The big no-no is that I decided to do this just yesterday at the very last minute. That's a huge rule breaker. We authors are supposed to plan these promotional days out - contact all the major blogs and websites and basically do everything in our power to help the news go viral. But it's too late for me to do all that, as most site require several days (& even weeks) notice.  So it's just me and my blog ... and you. YOU can help spread the word! Will you - please?  You're kids will love reading Nate and Millie and you will love hearing the giggles that come out of them as they read!

Here are the links:

For those of you Nook, Sony Reader, iBook users, you can still download one of the free books if you have access to a free Kindle app.

Also -  I've got some pre-fab tweets/Facebook/Google + posts you can put on your own pages to help spread the word:

#Free Today! Nate Rocks the World  - great #funny #read for your 7-12 yr old #kids #ebook #kindle #kidlit #mglit

#FREE #fun #read for your 7-12 yr old #kids about #bully prevention: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name. #kindle


Monday, December 3, 2012

Noah Zarc: Cataclysm - It's Launch Day!

There's nothing more exciting for an author than release day - so I was so excited when my friend and fellow author asked me to be a part of his release day for Book Two of his Noah Zarc series. I really loved book one (see my review here) & I know I'm going to love book two as well. I hope you will help spread the word about this great middle grade series!

“I can’t believe we’re seeing this.” Draben floated next to Adina, admiring the view. “If school was this cool, I probably wouldn’t skip so often.”
Off to our left, the curve of the Martian horizon glowed with dawn. Several streaks of light appeared in the lower atmosphere.
“Wait for it,” I said.
A bright flash exploded in the still-dark half of the planet. Another. Then another. We followed an asteroid as it hurtled toward the surface.
“This is as close as we get.” I pulled back on the yoke, bringing the ship out of a dive. The asteroid continued on.
Moments later, the ball of rock smashed into the red Martian soil. The control room filled with light.
We gasped at the intensity of the explosion. Without a sound, a shockwave expanded around the impact, throwing debris for kilometers in every direction. A plume of red dust launched into the air and boiled upward toward us.
Adina turned from the window. “How many will they crash into the planet?”
“I don’t remember. I think they worked over the course of several weeks—pulling asteroids from the belt between Mars and Jupiter. After another couple decades, the dust in the atmosphere caused the temperature to rise, melting the polar ice caps.”
I waved my hand toward the planet. “This is where everything began. How the terraforming of Mars—”
An alarm blared. “Collision imminent. Perform evasive maneuvers immediately.” The computer spoke casually over the siren.
I yanked the yoke right. Adina and Draben slid left along the windshield, grabbing for any handhold they could find. I glanced at the proximity display. Several pulses of light streamed toward the ship.
“Hold on.”
Using my neuro-implant, I pushed my mind into the ship, a DUV IV class I had named Screaming Eagle. I entwined my thoughts with the control system. The external cameras became my eyes. The flailing bodies of my two friends receded from thought as I focused on keeping the ship intact.
An asteroid had broken up after the terraformers nudged it in the direction of Mars. Three of the smaller pieces, a meter or two across, flew closest to the ship. There’d be no way to dodge them all.
“Computer, route all available power to the shield modulators on the starboard wing.” I spun the ship so the port wing would squeeze between two of the asteroids.
The smallest of the three flew barely above the leading edge of the starboard wing. For a moment, I thought it would miss entirely, but then blue and purple sparks exploded around the ball of rock as it scraped along the steel.
The shield’s magnetic field tugged at the iron within the asteroid, actually working like a dampening system. The asteroid slowed enough that it didn’t tear into metal. The rock slid off the back of the wing and continued on toward Mars.
The rest of the asteroid, including the largest chunk, zipped past. The Screaming Eagle shot out into clear space.
I pulled my mind from the computer, back into the cockpit. Draben floated spread-eagle against the bulkhead above the windshield. Adina drifted over my head. She had a big bruise forming under her right eye.
“Are you two okay?”
They looked at each other. Their faces were white, but they managed a smile and pushed themselves toward their seats.
Adina buckled herself in. “I’m fine. Draben socked me in the eye when you spun us between those asteroids.” She grinned at Draben as he worked his way into his seat. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
Draben looked ready to hurl. “I’m sorry, Adina. I—I was trying to help you. I thought we were dead.”
“Nah,” I said. “I had everything under control. Probably a good time to go home, though.”
We looked at each other and smiled weakly.
“I told you, we should have gone back to see my dad when he was my age.” Draben laughed. “I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have had to dodge asteroids, then. But no, you said it wouldn’t be safe.”
I checked to see if the ship was ready to make the jump. “What are you talking about? I kept us safe the whole time.”
Draben winked at Adina. “Yeah, as long as no one finds out about this little excursion.”
The smile faded on my lips as I thought of what Gramps would say if he found out. What was I thinking? Of course he’d find out. He always found out, and he’d let me have it.
After we came to live with Gramps on Mars, for what Dad called ‛a taste of normal life’, I discovered Gramps’ occasional temper. Not at all like Dad. Sometimes, I worried if I was about to be swallowed by an alien, Dad wouldn’t be able to yell at me to run. He’s just soft-spoken.
But Gramps, he can let it out. When he get’s fired up about something, get out of the way. Then I met Haon, and it all made sense.
Don’t get me wrong, Gramps wasn’t mean, just vocal. There were times when I caught him silently staring off at nothing. I could tell he was thinking—remembering something. But when I'd ask, he’d just sit there. I think that was even worse than the alternative.
But this little adventure? It wouldn’t bring out the quiet Gramps. Nope, I was in for it. My heart quickened, and sweat beaded on my forehead as I set the coordinates for home.
“What’s the matter, Noah? You’re as white as an arctic fox.” Nothing got past Adina.
“I was thinking about—”
She smiled at me. I forgot Gramps and the trouble I’d be in.
I couldn’t figure out what to think about Adina. Ever since I rescued her from the Ice Age—well, since she stowed away on our ship—I got these strange feelings around her. What made things worse was everyone treated her like another member of our family. Was I supposed to think of her as my sister?
My geek brother, Hamilton, was no help. He didn’t seem to have time for girls. And ever since Adina and I came to live with Gramps in New Cairo, Draben was always around. He certainly didn’t think of Adina as his sister.
“So, are we getting out of here, or what?” Draben stared at me. “You really need to pay more attention. Otherwise, we’re sure to get pummeled by another one of those asteroids.”
I shook my head clear. “Right. Um, sorry. Just thinking about how much trouble we’re gonna be in.” I turned to the display. “Computer. Make the first jump.” I glanced sideways at the two of them. Draben rolled his eyes at Adina and she giggled. Yeah, I’m not sure I should be asking Draben what to do about Adina. I think maybe he has his own ideas.
The excitement of our trip lasted exactly three minutes after we landed back on Mars in the present time. The moment we stepped off the ship, police dressed in trim, white uniforms and matching helmets surrounded us. Their face-shields were tinted, so I couldn’t make out their eyes, but I knew we were in trouble by the way they waved their plasma rifles around.
“Ugh,” I said. “The registry!”
Adina nodded. Draben looked confused. He’d figure things out, soon enough.
One of the cops stepped forward, his gun held at the ready. “We’ve been notified of an illegal time-jump.” His voice sounded synthesized through his mask. “You will submit to a scan.”
We were each assigned a thug who commanded us to raise our arms. Draben and Adina were forced, none-too-gently, to stand with their legs apart. They waved a scanner around their bodies.
My guy scanned me while I sat in my magchair. The wand beeped, hummed and finally chirped, “Scan complete”. The cop who checked me glanced at the display and nodded toward his commanding officer.
Adina was approved, too. She’d been added to the registry when Mom and Dad made her an official member of our family. Draben, on the other hand, got a shake of the head, and immediately found himself in handcuffs.
“Draben Alexander Breckenridge, you are under arrest for unauthorized time-travel. Come with me.” The cop grabbed him by the arm and started dragging him away.
“Stop!” I said. “He’s with me.”
The commander turned back. “I realize that. But it was his choice to break the law. If it were up to me, I’d take you all in, but my orders are clear.” He pointed at Adina and me. “You two are free to go home.” He pulled Draben along again.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll get you out.”
Draben glanced over his shoulder and smiled before disappearing in a mass of white-suited cops. I was shaking, but from the stories Draben’s told, he’s pretty familiar with the feel of cuffs around his wrists.
“I should have remembered the registry,” Adina said.
“Yeah. Me, too. It totally slipped my mind that he wouldn’t get past the scanners.” I pushed my chair in the direction of the magtrains.
“Let’s go talk to Gramps. I’m sure he can get things cleared up.”
Adina seemed skeptical. “Let’s hope so.”
“You did what?” Dad glared at me, his eyes blazing in anger.
“Don’t.” He waved his finger at me.
Mom didn’t appear angry, mostly disappointed. “Noah, this is not acceptable.”
As soon as I’d gotten home, Gramps called Mom and Dad on the holo-phone. Their shimmering images sat across from me at the kitchen table. Why couldn’t they be somewhere they could only transmit audio? Or, better yet, back in time so Gramps couldn’t reach them at all?
“Well, I’d promised Draben a trip last time we were on Mars.” I nuzzled my dog, Obadiah, who sat on my lap. He always knew when I was in trouble. He did what he could to protect me from the tongue-lashing I was about to get. Gramps had told Adina to wait outside till Mom and Dad were done with me.
Tears filled Mom’s eyes.
“You always told me to keep my promises.” Ugh. Why can’t I keep my dumb mouth closed?
“Don’t pull that one on me,” she said. “You knew this was wrong the moment you boarded the ship. No, the moment you thought about boarding the ship.”
Dad took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Noah, but I’m going to have to take away your piloting privileges.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe my ears. “You said I was too talented a pilot to keep on the ground. You said I had a gift.”
“You knew the rules. You were allowed to fly, only if you told us, or your grandfather, where and when you were going.” He looked at Gramps standing behind me. “Did he tell you about this little trip back to see the asteroids?”
I didn’t hear Gramps say anything, but he must have shaken his head.
“I didn’t think so.” Dad frowned.
“We had that project at school. What better way to study the terraforming of Mars?” I knew I was grasping at straws. No one else in my class had a time-traveling spaceship. Obviously, we didn’t need one to get a good grade in history.
“Until further notice, you are not to set foot on any ship capable of extra-atmospheric flight, understood?” He had a look on his face that said the conversation was over.
“What about Draben?”
“I’ll call Prime Senator Sarx’s office. We’ll get it straightened out.”
I had to try one more time. “Mom—”
“What? Do you think I’m going to contradict your father?”
“Enough, Noah.” Dad’s face contorted in anger—a hundred-year-old face I hardly recognized sometimes. After everything he’d done. Going back in time. Living all those years on the moon so he’d be ready to stop Haon. To save us. This was how I returned the favor.
“Are we clear, son?” Dad asked.
“I get it. I’m grounded.” Literally.

Release Party Notes

Noah Zarc: Cataclysm, the second book in the Noah Zarc series, is about a boy named, surprisingly enough, Noah Zarc. If you haven’t read the first book, Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, then you probably want to start there. But if you are well-versed in all things Zarc, then take a gander at the description of the next book below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleOVERVIEW

Thirteen-year-old Noah Zarc rockets to Venus in a quest to learn more about his past. He refuses to believe his father is really the monster everyone says he is. Could there be valid reasons for everything he’s done, including abandoning Noah at birth?

While searching for answers to secrets no one wants to talk about, even those that have remained hidden for over a thousand years, Noah becomes embroiled in a mission which could cause the greatest cataclysm in the history of the solar system. And the name, Noah Zarc, might be forever linked to the most devastating crime in humanity's existence, all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Get your copy today by visiting (available in paperback or as an eBook.) Other online retailers listed below.


Guess what? You could win a $25 Amazon gift card as part of this special release party. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $25 too by having the most comments. So tell your friends to stop by and comment on this post too!
You have until the end of December to comment.
Also, we will be giving away one pair of signed books (Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, and Noah Zarc: Cataclysm) to one winner as well.

D. Robert PeaseTHE AUTHOR

D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn't been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer's Sirens. It's not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.

Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at

THANK YOU! for visiting. And don't forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Cataclysm, for you or for the kids in your life.

Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Kobo | Amazon UK

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Friday, November 30, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is ...

Technically it's Hanukkah and Christmas since we celebrate both, but the answer to the question remained the same: Shoes. Yup – that’s the response I got when I asked my fifteen year old for gift ideas this year. Oh – did I mention this is my fifteen year old son? Not that I’m sexist or anything, but had I said my teen daughter, you probably would just be shaking your head, mumbling, “Teens.”

photo credit: sling@flickr via photopin cc
I’m personally not surprised by his response, my son has been shoe obsessed for at least three years now. I can remember the days when I could walk into Target, pick up one pair of sneakers and one pair of boots in his size and call it a day (or at least a season). Not anymore. Nope – he started getting picky . . . and playing sports, so we had to get him a different pair of sneakers for each sport that met with his approval. Then he wanted shoes that were for the training of the sport (because for some unknown reason, the sneakers he had couldn’t be used for that purpose), and finally he wanted “street” shoes to add to the portfolio. Those are just the athletic shoes sneakers. Then we have boots and dress shoes. That was last year - his feet grew - to a whopping size 13!

This year, he’s asking for multiple sneakers of each kind in different colors plus the boots. "Mom - I got have my swag on." Oookay... Oh did I mention that these shoes were inexpensive? No? That’s probably because they’re not!

I honestly have no idea where this kid gets this shoe thing from. I only have one pair of sneakers and just a few pairs of boots . . .


Happy shopping everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Author Spotlight: Alison DeLuca

Hi everyone! Today we have a really cool Author Spotlight. A while back, I met an author online named Alison DeLuca. We were instant friends, and it turned out that she only lived about 90 minutes away and was friends with someone I had met a few years back at my child's bus stop! Talk about a small world! Anyway, last month, we met in person at a writer's conference where we were both panelists. It was there, that I had a chance to finally check out her books. Alison writes Steam Punk which is a genre I honestly knew nothing about, but since I've been venturing into new genres lately (and for the most part have been enjoying them), I thought why not? At the end of the conference, we traded books and promised to meet up for coffee (Psst - Alison - we still need to do this!)

The book Alison gave me is called  Night Watchman Express. It is the first book in a series of three that make up the Crown Phoenix Series. I've posted my review below - but here's  what I thought in a nutshell: I loved it so much that I went out and purchased the next two books!  Okay ... now on to my *proper* review of all three of Alison's books (& hopefully without any spoilers):

Night Watchman Express

Poor Miriam Pearson has just lost her father, although to be honest, she really didn't like him to begin with. However, compared to the couple sent as her guardians, she would have preferred her father.

All hope seems lost until a mysterious governess from a far away island named Mana shows up to take charge and protect Miriam from her greedy guardians the Marchpanes and their evil business partners the Cantwells.

To pass the time, Miriam writes stories both in her journal and on her father's prized, yet mysterious "writing ball", the Crown Phoenix. She also enjoys hanging out with the Marchpanes' son Simon & his friend Neil . At night she fears the whistle of the Night Watchman Express - the steam train that passes through and haunts her dreams.

I just loved this story! There is so much going on right from the beginning, with the arrival of the Marchpanes & Mana. I loved all the characters brought into this story and the way the author described and developed them.  I felt I was living right alongside Miriam in her big old house. I have to admit, I had never read steam punk before and did not know what to expect. What I found was a great story which took place in Edwardian times. So many times, first books of series can be disappointing as the author spends way too much time on the back story and not enough time on plot. Not true here - there were plenty of plot twists, as well as a great ending! This book is perfect for adults and teens. I immediately downloaded the next book, Devil's Kitchen and couldn't wait to get started.

Devil's Kitchen

In this second book of the Crown Phoenix series, Miriam & Simon find themselves as captives after an unexpected ride on the Nightwatchman Express. While Simon winds up with luxury accommodations (albeit still a prisoner), Miriam is stuck underground in Devil's Kitchen, working long hours and living in a tiny cell. Lucky for them, Neil and Mana (who we learn at the end of book one is not quite who we thought) are on a quest to help Miriam and Simon escape.

This second book moves between Miriam's, Neil's, and Simon's stories all taking place at the same time. There is so much action and some great new characters (who we met at the end of book one) such as Riki & Kyoge. This installment brings us closer to learning the secrets behind the writing ball known as the Crown Phoenix. Another great book by Alison DeLuca. Once again, I immediately downloaded the next book!

Lamplighter's Special

This is the third book in the Crown Phoenix series. Here we get to meet Neil's family and learn about their story. In particular his sisters Ninna & Lizzie, who are now working as housemaids on a farm for a Squire and his two sons Toby and Priam.

In this book, we find out even more about the mysterious Crown Phoenix and the passage to get to and from Lampala on the even more mysterious ship, the Lamplighter's Special.

We also become reacquainted with the Cantwells who are now known as the Wilkins, and are as evil as ever as they continue their quest to become rich by harvesting illegal drugs.

I love how this fabulous book goes off on a side story and then reels itself back in to connect with the main story. Alison does such a great job with story development in this book, and I love the romantic elements that are subtly brought in (while still keeping everything appropriate for teens). With many questions answered, we are still left with so many unknowns! I'm so looking forward to the next book! (And here is where I enter my plea: Write Faster!!)

About Alison Deluca:

Alison DeLuca grew up on an organic farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Her parents were British, so in the summers she went to stay with her grandparents near Dublin.

There was no stereo or TV there, so Alison, her sister, and her cousins spent the summer inventing stories and plays for each other.  “This gave me the ability to entertain myself with my own imagination in any situation,” she says. “We used to be taken to tea with great-aunts, and we were expected to sit on an uncomfortable couch and not move or say a word.  It was possible to endure it because I was watching my own little stories play out in my mind.”

After graduating from West Chester University, Alison became a teacher of English and Spanish, teaching students from kindergarten up to college level. She loved teaching, and it was with reluctance that she left the classroom to be a fulltime mom when her daughter was born.

While she was teaching and raising her daughter, Alison took every free minute she had to write.  The Crown Phoenix Series was the result.

She is currently working on the final book in the series, as well as several other projects.

You can find Alison here:

Book links:

Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express Amazon US
Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express Amazon UK
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen Amazon US
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen Amazon UK
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special Amazon US
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special Amazon UK

Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special

Thanks Alison!

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