Monday, 25 May 2015

Cover Reveal for The Adventures of Isabelle Book I: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho by R. Nicole Cutts

The Adventures of Isabelle Book I: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho

The Adventures of Isabelle Book I: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho is the first book in the chronicles of Princess Isabelle of Xamayca. Born to the powerful Sun King Vata Helios and the imperious yet stunning Ice Queen Cythona; Princess Isabelle is no ordinary princess, but a wild and fearless heroine.
The Adventures of Isabelle series is a heroine’s quest told within this cosmic fairytale. Book I takes you inside the formative years of this half goddess, half mortal in the seemingly idyllic kingdom of Xamayca. Life in the palace is not always what it seems, and magic shrouds the secrets behind the castle walls.

Join Princess Isabelle and her faithful companions Xerxes and Philippides on this exciting, sometimes perilous, journey--and discover yourself along the way!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review for "Carrier" by Timothy Johnson

Carrier By Timothy Johnson

Carrier by Timothy Johnson Is a mysterious thriller set against the backdrop of space travel. It centers on the crew of the Atlas and glances at their lives, their history and their reasons for signing up to be the crew on a ship that travels hundreds of miles away from the planet Earth. Everyone on board the Atlas is looking to escape something; whether it be the new totalitarian regime on Earth or the decisions they made in a past life, for everyone on board the Atlas, this is their home. Everything changes when a secret agent for New Earth’s Council comes on board and orders them to the edges of space to obtain a mysterious material from a dying planet. When they do the haven that was the Atlas becomes anything but, and some difficult decisions need to be made.

What author Timothy Johnson has crafted here is superb. Carrier blends together mystery, suspense, horror and science fiction into this energetic tale that pulled me in and did not disappoint. Johnson created such a vivid world on board the Atlas that at every turn and twist in the story I was at the edge of my seat and felt fully immersed. There are a few characters we get to hear from and they are just as expertly rendered in the book as the story-line that you feel like they are about to jump off the page and start a conversation with you.

Johnson strives to pack in as much detail and imagery as possible into every scene and every interaction, which is sometimes detrimental to the story-line. Johnson’s tendency to load up on descriptives can sometimes bog the reader down and slows the progress of the plot. The book is also heavy with symbology which at times is woven seamlessly into the story and other times sticks out like a sore thumb, but if you are a fan of mysteries with a touch of science fiction and romantic turmoil this is the book for you.

My greatest hope for this book is that it be turned into a movie pronto, because it is beautifully set up for an adaptation and is a story that desperately needs to be up on the big screen. 

You can buy the book here.

Check out the author's website.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Author interview: Marti Melville

I got together with Marti Melville, the author of the Deja Vu Chronicles to talk a bit about her series and her writing process.

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Hi Marti, thanks for meeting with me! Your latest novel, 'Midnight Omen', sounds really interesting! Can you give us an idea of how you developed the concept?
Hi Nichole. Thanks for having me with you today. My novel series came about as the result of sleepless nights spent worrying about my sons who were deployed to separate wars. I would spend evenings with my laptop researching my Welsh relatives from the 18th century and happened upon a pirate by the name of Captain John Phillips. I decided his story was too good to pass up and wanted to write it for posterity. The Deja vu Chronicles was born.

Writing historical fiction can be difficult, but even more so when an ancestor is involved. How did you deal with trying to combine fiction with your own family history?
Fortunately, Captain Phillips is not part of my family tree (he's a pretty rotten pirate). However, his last name is a common one and a similar version of a great-great-grandparent of mine from Scotland. I found Phillips' story amazing and, prompted by my love of history, I was able to write it as a fictional twist on real historical events. I love the idea that history is only as accurate as the person who tells it. That concept leaves me the opportunity to take real events, add fictional elements, and create the "possible." My tools are the paranormal and my imagination.

When you began writing, did you know you would be writing a series or did it turn into something more than you planned?
My initial plan was to write a children's book, mostly for my grandchildren. That manuscript was found by an agent on the East Coast who advised me to "beef it up" into an adult novel. She then suggested I write a series, "Get back to the Caribbean and finish this story."  I listened to her and have written three novels thus far (the 4th book in the series is in the works now). In addition to the novel series, I was approached by a Hollywood producer who showed interest in the books as possible feature films. I've since written (with my writing partner, Kevin Du Toit) two adaptation feature film screenplays from the first two books.

It's amazing how a project can transform into something so different! You mentioned that one of your tools is the paranormal, and there obviously seems to be that theme in the series. Can you expand on that?
Absolutely! The paranormal aspect is one of the themes of the novel series. I've taken real 18th century superstition, nautical folklore, Celtic and Caribbean beliefs (aka: Voodoo and Celtic diety), and woven them into the story. The antagonist is the Celtic goddess, Morrigan.  Kathryn, the main character, discovers her powers as a witch and develops them as she sails the Caribbean, meeting a vodoun priest and Obeah priestess during her travels. There's an undercurrent of overcoming death and the grave throughout the story. I really like good, creepy ghost stories so there is a lot of that in The Deja vu Chronicles as well.

During the 18th century, there's quite a bit of religious persecution, especially when it comes to...well, basically anything other than Christianity particularly due to the Christian revivial. Do you touch on that at all within the series?
A little bit. I do dabble with the witch issue of the time (i.e.: healers who cure the sick are paid under the table, those who don't are tried and hung for witchcraft). I also use "pagan" rituals and terms that are appropriate for that time period. However, I tried to stay historically accurate - although this is loose fiction - and write about the diverse practices of the cultures in the Caribbean. Obeah and Vodoun practices filled the Caribbean islands during that time so there is a lot of the island practices in the Chronicles.  

The titles suggest omens drawn from the moon (astrology). Deja vu, also in the titles, is that experience everyone has when something feels uncannily familiar — as if we've "been there before." I tie that concept into past lives and the possibility that we never really die — instead we return to live adventurous lives again with the people we are meant to be with. Deja vu happens.

Kathryn's "gift" as a witch has its foundation in healing (I am a retired emergency RN and draw off of my experiences). I've researched the healing practices of the 18th century and link it to superstition, which is what happened back in those days. It all makes for great storytelling!

Definitely! I think it's always great when an author can pool together research, life experience, and imagination into one novel. Or in your case, a series! I've asked this question to other authors and I've always gotten varied responses, so I'll try it on you! Have you put any of your own self or beliefs into the characters, or do you try to keep it separate and let the concepts/characters evolve on their own?
I would like to believe that I am able to keep "me" out of my characters but alas, I cannot. In fact, my kids and several of my closest friends accuse me of writing Kathryn as an extension of myself. Some believe I am telling the story of my own past life (which would be awesome — I'd love to be a pirate reincarnated). If what they say is true, it wasn't intentional. I am not clever enough to create pure fiction so I draw on reality — history, my own experiences, and others.

I think the rest of the characters in The Deja vu Chronicles are based on history. Most of the pirates are actual pirates who lived during the Golden Age of Piracy. The events that happen are real, as are the ships and their travel locations. Most of the women are fiction, however. In fact, three of the main female characters have the personalities of some of my best friends. So, I guess I am guilty of stealing my characters from people I know, including myself.

Hopefully you didn't write your friends as any villains!
I did! One of the villains is my dearest friend. She is gorgeous, feisty and brilliant. She was a perfect model for Jacquotte Delahaye (a real pirate). My friend knows how much I love and respect her so writing her into a villainous character was something we both could laugh about because it's absolutely not true.

Oh, that's great! I love that she was able to enjoy that.
Let me add one last comment — the characters really do evolve on their own.  I have had ideas about what I wanted to happen and to whom, but that's not what the characters wanted and the story evolved differently, as did the characters themselves.

Characters have a way of taking control, whether we like it or not. And it's not necessarily a bad thing! I have one last question before we wrap up! What's the one thing that you want readers to walk away with after reading your novels?
I want readers to walk away feeling that they have the ability to overcome anything — to have faith in fate, in themselves, and in undiscovered individual strength. Of course, I want readers to enjoy the romance and swashbuckling adventure of the Caribbean and perhaps garner interest in Caribbean history along the way.  

The Deja vu Chronicles is a dark, adventurous novel series that will take the reader through time to meet ghosts, pirates, voodoo priests, witches, and monsters. Overcoming these is a choice — something we each do as we create our own moments and deja vu memories.

...Because everyone should experience love in the Caribbean at least once in a lifetime!

That's a great goal, and I'm sure your readers can say that's exactly what happened. I want to thank you so much for getting together with me to talk about your writing.
Thank you for this opportunity Nichole.

Visit Marti's website for more information about her, and the Deja Vu Chronicles, and click here to follow Marti on Facebook.

You can buy books from the Deja Vu Chronicles on Amazon.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Book review: The Return by Carter Vance


"Thriller, suspense, action, intrigue: The Return is a story of the modern day fulfilment of the Grail prophecy.  The time has come for the prophesied return of Christ. Long thought extinct, the secret Order of Knights Templar battle the Dark Forces that fear His return.  At the center of this battle of good & evil are Sarah Davidson, an expectant mother with an unique heritage, & Peter Christos, her shipping magnate husband. The couple, who were married in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, is confronted with a series of surreptitious schemes & attacks causing them to flee to seek a secure birthplace for their son. They are aided in this endeavor by the Knights Templar, a clandestine organization that has, over the centuries, amassed enormous wealth & power & the organization to deliver it in anticipation of this day. Ultimately, they engage in a grand battle for the prophesied birth."

There are two types of fiction writing: plot-driven, and character-driven. 'The Return' takes plot focused novels to a whole new level. There was nearly nothing in terms of character development. They were cold, one-dimensional, and entirely emotionless. I also have a confession to make. I didn't read the entire book. I just couldn't. I have never not finished a book. I've always tried to make a point to read the entirety of books so I can give fuller comments, and try to find something else that's positive. I just couldn't do it. I read about a fifth of the book before I skimmed through the majority of it to get basic plot points.

It's obvious that Vance started with an interesting concept. While not unique, it's still interesting. I was initially drawn to the book because I've taken courses in medieval pseudohistory and how false histories and conspiracies are developed is really quite fascinating. I had hoped this would be a new twist on the Templars, and in a way it was. The background is mostly the same (although how the characters come to this conclusion isn't described at all other than Geoff going to libraries) and I would have liked to have seen a new theory. But the concept of Christ's second coming through his bloodline was a new and welcome addition to the popular Holy Grail theory.

Unfortunately, that's about where the positives stopped for me. As I mentioned before, the characters are basically non-existent. Two of the characters fall in love, and get least, I'm told they fell in love. I didn't really see it. I was told a lot of things. Actually, I was told pretty much everything. It read more like a list of events rather than a novel. There was absolutely no emotional or personal connection with any of the characters. One was told about her bloodline going back to Jesus, and her response was "Okay Mom I have to go now." And we're told she said this cheerfully. Yeah...I don't think so. This probably doesn't matter to many people..but I hate the names of the characters. They're so obvious, it made me angry. I mean, seriously...Peter Christos?

I'm sure someone somewhere out there will enjoy this book. Maybe they'll like point form style writing with no characters. I am definitely not one of those people.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Book review: SHIAM Conspiracy by Joseph Heck

SHIAM Conspiracy

Zak Harris, a retired ASID agent, has been hired to do a job he can't talk about. Hired by the Grimrok Corporation, he must find an extremely valuable AI known as a SHIAM. During his investigation, he discovers the faint use of magic on the theft. Together with an Elf from the Institute of Paranormal and Occult Sciences, Zak must solve the mystery of the missing SHIAM, and the growing magic that threatens the lives of everyone in his city before it's too late.

Joseph Heck has created a fascinating world, showing a great mix of fantasy with sci-fi. It was actually quite interesting how he made the combination and I liked it. It wasn't just a typical space saga with weird alien races, but instead with familiar fantasy characters most people would know. Unfortunately, the novel didn't quite speak to me. My biggest issue is actually with the main character, Zak. He has a thing against elves. How do I know? I was told nearly every page he hates them. If I wasn't told that, I was told about his confused feelings for the Elf he was working with. I don't think it would have been so bad if I was given a reason. There's obviously some issues with his Elf father who didn't seem to be in the picture, but all I know is that he left at some point or died. I assume there's more to Zak's hatred than that and I would have loved to get a bit more inside his mind to at least empathize with his internal struggles. We all have issues.

The story itself was interesting, but maybe more complex than necessary. Will people find it enjoyable? Absolutely. Zak's judgement against SHIAMs is interesting and I think realistic. While it only piled onto his hate of Elves (oh, and Orks) it shows how I think people would react to AI formed to be human-like. Most of what I took away from the novel is how we, humans, on the earth we have, can maybe treat each other a little bit better. Forget all the differences, and just be. The fact that people can't do it even in fiction is shown at the end of the novel, and will likely continue throughout the sequel and any following novels. I hope more of Zak's history is explored in the next novels, as I feel it would really help readers get into his shoes and really understand where he's coming from.

Buy the book on Amazon
Visit the author's website

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Book review: Delusional by Scott Spotson


Delusional by Scott Spotson is an entertaining, and thrilling read. The pacing was spot on, and kept me engaged the whole way through. I actually really enjoyed how the majority of the novel was based on reality rather than focusing on the fantasy, or perhaps paranormal. It made it so that when those elements were fully exposed, I was already engrossed in the plot and characters that the paranormal just seemed...normal.

I think that's the appeal to this book: it was normal. I could connect with the characters. I felt like they were people I'd see at a coffee shop any day of the week. Those are the people I want to read about. I don't want perfect sounding characters. I want to think that anyone I see could be these characters, like they're in my world as much as I am in theirs. That's what Spotson wrote, and I'm thankful I was given the chance to read his work. I would have liked to see some elements fleshed out a bit more (specifically with Samantha, and the confrontation with Paul, Wendy, and Patricia) and there was definitely enough room to do so but overall it still worked without it.

Buy the book on Amazon
Visit the author's website

Friday, 15 May 2015

3 Things I've Learned as a Canadian Indie Author

I’m going to be completely upfront and say that I am not an expert. Surprise! I don’t think anyone can really say that, not when it comes to being an independent author. I don’t have all the answers. I wouldn’t complain, of course. What I do have is an inquisitive mind and a ferocious need to learn, so when I made the life-altering decision to do it on my own I researched. Well, I began researching to make the decision, but you know what I mean. While I found many useful articles and blog posts about how to go about self-publishing, I found I had to alter much of what I was reading for either my audience (which was obvious) or the more surprising country.

I am a Canadian author. And there are very few resources for people like me, despite there being so many of us.

As a Canadian author, I wanted to put together a few things I've learned along the way that can be useful to other Canadians who plan to embark on the same journey, and to indie authors in other countries. It’s quite an eye-opening experience.

How to obtain an ISBN
What the blogs will tell you: You can purchase a batch from R.R Bowker. 1t will cost you $125USD, 10 is $295USD, and 100 is $575USD.

How it is for Canadians:
Get ready…this was the biggest blow to what I thought I knew about self-publishing. I was all ready to scrounge the money together, knowing that this was the route I wanted to use to publish. And then I found this wonderful website: Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian ISBN Service System.

For authors who are Canadian citizens, you can register as a publisher (for free) and obtain an ISBN…for free.

I am now a registered Canadian publisher, with my own ISBN prefix. With each format of my novels, I can request an ISBN for them (which is required, as an ISBN is for one specific format each.) With this comes responsibility, of course, but also great options. You can get together with other indie authors you know and form an indie publishing house under which you can all publish your novels. You can even have imprints, if you want to isolate novels of a certain genre. It’s what I’m thinking of doing for my historical fiction novels (still in the works) as I’d like to keep that separate from my sci-fi series.

You’re a publisher now! And what publisher doesn't have a logo? The lovely Becky Carlyle designed my logo, after going back and forth with concepts and how I wanted to be represented. That brings me to my next point.


Okay, so this isn’t necessarily just for Canadians…but being a Canadian author is a type of brand. We are a special breed, with a unique history to work with and unique settings in which to place our characters. But aside from that, before a novel is even published, an indie author needs to decide how he/she wants to be known. Am I going to be known as a super serious author? Am I going to pigeon hole myself into one genre? Which genre? Will I be the helpful author who does reviews? Well, maybe you won’t ask yourself those questions, but those are some of the questions that I pondered. Do they count towards my brand? I have no idea. Did I make any decisions? Some. I wanted my logo to represent not only me as an author, but me as a person. I knew eventually I would publish something other than sci-fi, and so I wanted to be able to reserve a portion of myself for that imprint. My umbrella logo for N.M Sotzek Publishing is a simple feather. Take is as a quill to represent writing. Take it as a dove’s feather to represent my faith. It’s sleek. It’s simple. It’s me. Could I have used something more Canadian? Maybe. Who doesn't love a good maple leaf? As proud as I am to be Canadian, I needed my logo to be relatable to more than Canadians. That’s something to think about. Who are you speaking to, and why?


Who looks this happy doing taxes? Seriously.

You know, growing up I always heard adults complaining about having to do taxes and blah blah blah. My first time doing taxes on my own, I rocked it. Thanks, free online tax software! I’ll admit that now being married, being a first-time homeowner, and being partially self-employed makes tax season a little more complicated. But it’s something I’ve needed to research. There are so many resources for Americans when it comes to how to declare your sales as income, what to declare, et cetera. The best resource for Canadians is honestly the Canadian Revenue Agency website. Yes, it’s tedious and a little difficult to maneuver. But there are some good resources on there. Google is a really good resource as well.

Most of us indie authors are published on Amazon through Kindle, or Createspace (which is also an Amazon company.) Amazon is an American company. That means you’re earning money in the United States of America. The IRS website is also a great resource, as there are entire sections for foreigners earning money either in the US, or through an American company. Very helpful.

What you need to know:
If in doubt: declare it. Keep records of every expense related to the book (editor, book cover design, proofreading, etc) and keep records of every sale. I have a receipt book for every in-person book sale. According to the CRA, you can only claim specific things as business expenses if you have an area in your home designated as ONLY a workspace, and if it was directly related to your income. Did you buy a new laptop? Could you potentially claim that as a business expense? Those were all questions I needed to ask, and could only find American answers. Until I went to the CRA website, of course. Why do I say declare it? Because why not? Unless your sales push you up into the next tax bracket (which likely isn’t the case for most indie authors…if your sales have been that good, keep going, and obviously you need to declare it, you tax evader. Sheesh.) there’s no harm in doing it. This way you have a record of it, and if anything were to come back to bite you, it’s there.

While these don’t seem like much, or overly Canadian specific, they were the top issues I had when trying to research self-publishing in Canada. I’m still having trouble at times. As a Canadian publisher I am required to submit a certain number of copies of my novel to the Library and Archives of Canada for historical documentation (whaaaaat. History for the win!) Most of the form to send it in was pretty straightforward, but I had to research if my book was even eligible since the print copy of ‘Revealing the Revolution’ has an ISBN produced by Createspace, an American printer. I contacted Createspace to determine whether or not they are they printer or also the publisher, they said they are the printer. The truth is that the book has been published under their independent publishing imprint, so the rights are all still mine and as the book is registered to me (and I’m a Canadian author/publisher) it counts towards my Canadian publications. But the ISBN is also links to Createspace. That made me dizzy.

What I found great is the amount of grants offered to independent authors. Most I wasn’t eligible for, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re a Canadian.

If you’re a Canadian author, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell me about your experience, or e-mail me through the contact form.
If you’re not a Canadian author, I’d still love to hear from you about your own experiences.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Book Review: Dark Southern Sun by Shaun J. McLaughlin

Dark Southern Sun

"In this sequel to Counter Currents, Ryan washes up on the southern shore of Australia near death in 1845. Rescued by two Wathaurung native children and nursed to health by their parents, his life and theirs are entwined through good and sorrow for the next ten years. Set against the historical backdrop of Australia’s formative years, Ryan witnesses the displacement of the Aboriginal people, and he faces the chaos of the world’s largest alluvial gold rush and the bloodshed of Australia’s only armed uprising. Throughout, two very different women—one white, one black—tug at his heart as he struggles from penury to prosperity. As he rises in social esteem as an astute businessman and cunning streetfighter, Ryan creates two bitter enemies—one white, one black. In time, they set aside their vast racial and emotional hatreds and combine forces. Can Ryan survive their vicious attempt to destroy him and save the good life he has built?"

This may be the first time I've read a historical fiction novel and didn't even bother worrying about the accuracy. McLaughlin has created such a compelling story that nothing else really matters. And believe me, I'm usually extremely picky. I've never read a novel set in Australia, so this was a refreshing change of pace. It's clear through the writing that countless hours of research went into the writing of 'Dark Southern Sun' but not in a way that felt like a textbook. I was instantly transported to 19th century Australia, and now finishing the novel I'm encountering a bit of a culture shock. That's never a bad thing to feel after reading a novel.
The characters are well developed, and I quickly grew to love them. I felt their joys and sorrows, their frustrations and times of contentment. As an author and a reader, there's not much more I can request. I can see some readers not enjoying certain paths or the ending of the novel, but to me it's the most honest ending and it stayed true to the characters and story. 'Dark Southern Sun' is a well-written, and entirely thoughtful novel that depicts the early colonization of Australia. It shows the hardships to both whites and Aboriginals, and how love and the bonds of friendship transcends race and background. Despite it being a sequel, nothing in the novel suggested it and I was actually surprised (and happy) to find out there's a first in the series I can read. We're told a bit about Ryan's past, but it in no way hindered my enjoyment of McLaughlin's work.

Buy the book on Amazon
Visit the author's website