Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Blast & Giveaway - Curse of the Holidays Volume One: Dead Show by Joshua Fuller

Donovan VonBreak, demon god, thinks he will destroy the world of light when he cheats his way into power. But something unexpected happens: Vampires and angels find that they have many characteristics in common, and they make peace. An angel and a vampire even fall in love, leading to the birth of Cloud, who is half angel, half vampire. This turn of events infuriates VonBreak, and for fifty years, he studies vampires and angels, trying to find out how he can destroy light and usher in a new era of darkness. By corrupting Cloud’s brother, he gets closer to his goal. And when he banishes Cloud to a new world, he can almost taste victory. Cloud must now fight his inner darkness and the chaos engulfing this new world if he has any hope of saving his own. Join him as he battles demons and fights for peace in the first volume of Curse of the Holidays.

Title: Curse of the Holidays Volume 1: Dead Snow
Author: Joshua Fuller
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Paranormal Suspense
Pages: 116
 Available at iUniverse

About the Author:
    Joshua C. Fuller is an accomplished artist who has always been fascinated by fantastic stories, including the works of J.R.R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling and George Lucas. He hopes to one day create movies and video games.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

First Chapter Reveal - An Amish Country Christmas by Charlotte Hubbard

The Christmas Visitors
Naomi King

            “Easy, Clyde. Back up, fella.” Nate Kanagy stood aside as his Clydesdale came backwards out of the horse trailer, sensing Clyde was every bit as excited as he was on this fine December twenty-third. The horse whickered and shook his massive head, then waited patiently beside his brother’s bay gelding while Bram shut the trailer gates. Nate stepped up to pay the driver who had brought them here from Willow Ridge this morning. “Thanks again, Gregg. And a merry Christmas to you.”
            “Merry Christmas to you boys and your family, too,” Gregg replied as he started his van. “Enjoy you new sleigh and courting buggy!”
            “Jah, we intend to!” Nate’s brother, Bram, piped up from behind them. “If you can’t have fun drivin’ a new rig, what’s the point of gettin’ one?”
            The two of them waved as Gregg headed back onto the county blacktop, hauling their empty trailer behind him. Then Nate gazed around the little town of Cedar Creek, Missouri. From where they stood in the parking lot of Graber’s Custom Carriages, the countryside rolled gently beneath a fresh blanket of snow, dotted with tall white homes, silohs, and barns. Deep green cedar trees followed the creek at the bottom of the hill, where cardinals called to each other. Across the snow-packed blacktop, Treva’s Greenhouse sported a sign that said CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS, but beside it the Cedar Creek Mercantile bustled with buggies and cars alike. “We’ll get our fill of Aunt Beulah Mae’s homemade goodies tonight—”
            “Along with a hefty helping of her nosy questions and Uncle Abe’s looooong stories,” Bram added.
            “—but a special occasion like this calls for some serious junk food.”
            “Jah, let’s hit the merc.” Bram hitched their two horses to the railing on the side of the carriage shop. “No tellin’ what else we might find there. Looks to be a place that stocks everything under the sun, including stuff you never knew you needed.”
            To Nate, Cedar Creek seemed a lot like most Plain communities, in that the businesses were scattered along the roadside, on the farms where their owners lived. Back home in Willow Ridge they didn’t have a carriage maker, so this trip was indeed a treat: their parents had given them their choice of new vehicles on the understanding that he and his younger brother wouldn’t go running the roads in cars like a lot of Amish fellows did during their rumspringa years. At eighteen, Bram had chosen a buggy so he’d be ready for that day when a special girl compelled him to court and marry her.
            Nate, however, had a hankering for a sleigh. Nothing else felt so grand on a winter’s day as skimming across the snow-covered hills—and what could be more glorious than such a ride on a moonlit night? After they ate their snack, he couldn’t wait to hitch Clyde to his new rig and take off. He’d been engaged to a special girl last Christmas, only to learn she’d been seeing other fellows, so at twenty, Nate wasn’t out to impress anybody. These days, he was pleasing himself.
            When they entered the mercantile, he felt right at home. The scent of bulk grass seed, stored in wooden bins along the wall, filled the warm air and a wide wooden staircase led to an open second level where they sold work boots and clothing. A banner on the railing said ABBY’S STITCH IN TIME, and a young woman—Abby, most likely—smiled down at him from her treadle sewing machine. Mesh bags of oranges and locally grown apples and potatoes were displayed by the check-out counter. Nate exchanged greetings with the gray-bearded fellow who was ringing up an order and then followed Bram toward the aisles of bulk snacks that had been bagged and labeled here in the store.
            “Here’s those chocolate coconut haystacks you like,” Bram said, “not to mention trail mix and sweet potato chips and saltwater taffy and—”
            But Nate wasn’t listening. Down the aisle a ways, where they sold livestock supplies, a girl was hefting a mineral block into her pull cart. Her auburn hair glimmered beneath her white kapp, and as she straightened to her full height, she caught his gaze. Held it for a few moments. Then she leaned down again.
            It seemed only polite to see if she needed help.
As Nate headed her way, he wasn’t surprised to hear the tattoo of Bram’s boots on the plank floor behind him. “How about if I get that for you?” he asked as the redhead wrapped her arms around a fifty-pound sack of horse feed.
Jah, how many of those do you need?” Bram chimed in. “No sense in strainin’ yourself when we toss this stuff around all the time.”
Nate had always heard that blue eyes could twinkle, but now he was seeing it for himself. The young woman looked from him to his brother as though she hid a secret behind her smile. “Not from around here, are you?”
He blinked. Had he sprouted a second head? Did he sound so very different from the Amish fellows here in Cedar Creek? Or was it Bram’s lovestruck-puppy grin that made her say that? “Just got here from Willow Ridge, truth be told,” he replied. “I’m fetching the sleigh James Graber’s built for me—”
“And he’s got a courtin’ buggy with my name on it,” his younger brother added.
“Well, you couldn’t ask for a better rig, then,” she remarked. “James has even built special carriages for Disney World and the likes of Miss America, you see.”
Nate didn’t know a thing about Miss America, but she surely couldn’t hold a candle to this girl. Her ivory skin glowed, with just a few freckles on the bridge of her nose—tiny ones, that he had to lean closer to see. And then there was the way her eyes widened as she gazed back at him. He caught himself and grabbed the bag of feed she’d been lifting. “So how many of these bags do you need?”
“Four, please. And what’d you say your name was?”
Bram laughed as he, too, hefted a sack of the oats mixture. “Last name’s Kanagy. I’m Bram—the cute one,” he teased, “and Mr. Shy here is my brother Nate. He got burnt by a girl he was engaged to, so now he mostly keeps to his horses.”
Nate closed his eyes against a wave of irritation as he placed a third sack of the rations in her wooden cart. “If you believe everything my kid brother says, well—but you look to be way ahead of him. And your name would be—?”
The redhead looked him over yet again. “Martha. Coblentz.” She pointed to the shelf where the mineral blocks were. “A couple more of those and I’ve got to get on home. Denki ever so much for your help, fellas. Have a gut time with your new rigs.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to invite her for a sleigh ride, yet Nate hesitated. After all, they were only spending the night with their aunt and uncle before returning to Willow Ridge tomorrow, in time to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their family. As though she suddenly needed to be someplace else, Martha strode down the aisle toward the check-out counter, pulling her sturdy wagon behind her.
“Well, you blew that one,” Bram muttered.
“And you, little brother, have a mouth bigger than your brain,” Nate replied under his breath. “We’ll have to work on that.”

 “Jah, Mary?” Martha murmured into her cell phone. She looked behind her as she walked down the road, with the wind whipping at her black coat and bonnet. “You’ve got to come see these two fellas who’re heading over to James’s carriage shop! I just now met them in the mercantile and, well—you can gawk at the both of them all you want, but I’ve already decided to go for Nate.”
“Puh! What makes you think you get first pick?” her twin retorted.
“First come, first served. Be there or be square,” Martha quipped. She loved the way her breath came out in a frosty vapor on this brisk December morning. Truth be told, she was enjoying this day a lot more now that she’d met the two Kanagy boys in the mercantile. “Better get a move on, though, or you might miss them. They’re here to fetch a sleigh and a courting buggy James built for them, and they might head right on home afterwards—unless we give them a gut reason to hang around, you know.”
“Well, I can’t get there any too fast if I’m on the phone with you now, can I?” Click.
Martha tucked her cell into her coat pocket and continued down the snow-covered road as fast as her heavy pull cart would allow. What with her dat and her older brother Owen out working on a house today, the barn chores fell to her, as they often did. It was just as well, because she preferred working outdoors while Mary was happier helping their mamm get ready for today’s meals as well as Christmas dinner. Martha was perfectly capable of placing those heavy sacks of feeds in their covered bins and then setting out the new mineral blocks for the horses, but wasn’t it a fine thing that two gut-looking fellows had come to help her in the mercantile? The boys around Cedar Creek seemed to think she was part of the landscape . . . always there, so mostly invisible. Apparently not worth a second look.
By the time Martha was within sight of the house, here came Mary up the road. Oh, but she had a glint of mischief in her eyes, too! “So what’s in that sack, Sister?”
Mary laughed. “That’s my beeswax, ain’t so?”
“Now don’t go thinking you can have those fellas all to yourself,” Martha protested, playfully blocking her sister’s path. “I was nice enough to tell you about them—”
“And Mamm’s already got her suspicions about me taking out of the house so sudden-like, too. This better be worth my time, Sister!” Mary declared. “After all, it was your dinner—your favorite oatmeal bread and goodies I was baking when you called.”
“Puh! If you don’t think the walk’s worth your while, then I’ll just have some fun with those fellas myself. Not a problem!”
“We’ll see about that, won’t we?”

Martha hurried on down the snowy lane to the barn with her cart, which was harder to pull on the clumpy gravel. No doubt her sister would know a fine opportunity when she saw one, so it was best to put these supplies away and feed the animals in short order. The Kanagy boys didn’t know it yet, but as thanks for helping her they were about to receive a Christmas gift like they hadn’t counted on.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Post - Charlotte Hubbard Author of An Amish Country Christmas


Because I feature a recipe section in each of my Seasons of the Heart books, lots of people ask me questions about Amish cooking and recipes. I’m going to let you in on a little secret! I love to cook! And while I have perused many Amish cookbooks to feature “authentic” recipes in my stories, you know what? Amish recipes aren’t any different from the dishes I’ve been cooking for most of my life! Amish cooks don’t always use as many seasonings as I prefer, but otherwise—right down to using convenience foods like cake mixes and Cool Whip—I’ve noticed little difference between traditional Amish fare and mine.

So, because AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS features many of my longtime favorite Christmas cookie recipes, I’ve decided to share one here, along with a little insight into why I love it. For more than 20 years I’ve baked cookies to send to family, friends, my editors—and I donated 25 dozen for my church’s Christmas Eve service, along with several more dozen for church dinners. I was baking about 150 dozen and cramming them into my deep freeze. That’s a lot of cookies!

Now that we’ve moved to Minnesota and my cookie demands have diminished, I still bake about 75 dozen. I’ve included only tried-and-true recipes in my Christmas anthology, and this one for Hidden Treasure Cookies is a perennial favorite. I never tire of biting into one of these frosted cookies to discover the hidden chocolate mintiness inside! I triple the ingredients to make about 8 dozen, so I don’t run short. If you tint the frosting bright pink, yellow, or green before pressing them into jimmies or sanding sugar, they’ll really stand out on a cookie tray. Wrapping the dough carefully around the Andes mint takes some patience, but I think you’ll find it’s worth your effort!

Hidden Treasure Cookies

1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. shortening (Crisco, for instance)
1/4 C. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 2/3 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
About 2 1/2 doz. Andes mints, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the sugars, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Add the flour and soda. Shape a tablespoon of dough around each mint, covering the corners and pressing together any cracks in the dough (be patient! It’s worth it!) Place the cookies about 2” apart on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-9 minutes or until barely golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Frosting: 1 C. powdered sugar, 1 T. plus 1 or 2 tsp. milk, 1/4 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, plus food color, if you want. (You can also use the buttercream recipe included on my website, below.) Frost the centers of the cookies and press into jimmies, sanding sugar, etc. to decorate them. 1 batch makes about 2 dozen.

For the buttercream recipe and the entire collection of yumminess, go to! And have your most wonderful Christmas ever!

Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a. Naomi King) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review - An Amish Country Christmas by Charlotte Hubbard

The Christmas Visitors is devoted to brothers Bram and Nate Kanagy and the identical twin sisters they fall in love with, Martha and Mary Coblentz. As the brothers woo the sisters, an out-of-towner threatens to dash their hopes. In Kissing the Bishop, Willow Ridge sisters Jerusalem and Nazareth Hooley are snowed in at Tom Hostetler's place with Vernon Gingerich from Cedar Creek. After Tom receives shocking news about his estranged wife, will that open the door for two more couples to find their happy endings? The devoted couples from the first tale also make a cameo in the second. Mouthwatering recipes complete this sweet collection.
An Amish Country Christmas is the second book by Charlotte Hubbard that I've read. I was a little nervous to pick it up because I LOVED the last one so much I was worried I wouldn't be as invested in the characters as I'd been before.

The worry was unfounded.

I loved Martha and Mary Coblentz. And I have to admit, I think I got them mixed up just as much as Nate and Bram did. They were mischievous and considered trouble makers by the community they lived in, but that didn't stop Bram and Nate from trying to win their hearts.

It was also wonderful to get to know Jerusalem and Nazareth a little bit better. In Winter of Wishes they'd just kind of been names on the sideline to me. Popping up every once in a while, but not peaking my interest at all. They were just kind of there. Finding out more about Preacher Tom was fun too. And meeting the Bishop from Martha and Mary's own town (I love how all the stories are intertwined even if the story lines are separate!). I was definitely rooting for all of them in this story.

There were definitely some hitches in the plans for the pairs in each of the two stories in this book. It was amazing how patient they all were when obstacles just kept jumping up in their paths. When they were met with resistance they didn't throw their hands up in the air, they took a deep breath and found another way around. I personally think that's fantastic and nice to read.

An Amish Country Christmas is a wonderful Christmas story. Well, stories. They are uplifting and refreshing and fun to read. Another great point for this book as well as the other is that they can be read as stand-alones. I generally don't like to read books in a series unless I've read all the previous books. Not the case with this or with Winter of Wishes. Yes, I recognized names I'd seen in the other story, but the stories themselves didn't seem to rely on the books before them. I wasn't lost and frustrated like I normally would be reading book three in a series I'd never seen before.

I definitely recommend this as a read to anyone. Whether you're looking for something to put you in a holiday mood or you're interested in learning more about the Amish... or you just want to hurry through and get to the delicious recipes at the end of the book (I know that's another plus for me!). They are wonderful to read and will leave you with a smile on your face when you're finished. An absolute must read!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Blast & Giveaway - Run with the Wolves Volume One: The Pack by T c Tombs

It is the fifteenth century, and three kingdoms are caught up in the dire conflicts of their time. As the possibility of a peaceful resolution provides hope that a decade-long war will finally end, no one realizes that dark forces are waiting to invoke chaos as a full moon rises.
On a farm nestled beneath the Euralene Mountains along the western border of Medinia, young Willie works for the Smythes as a serf. One moonlit evening when the Smythes are gone to a neighbouring village, Willie hears the terrified cries of animals in the pastures. When he goes to investigate, he discovers that this wolf pack attack is like no other. Badly injured during the raid, he survives—but now he is afflicted by the full-moon madness that will soon transform him into one of the wolf creatures he dreads. With his life seemingly warped forever, Willie must face the prospect of a lifelong descent into horror.
In a time of witchcraft, superstitious folk lore, and fearsome creatures roaming the night, Willie struggles with an uncertain destiny and must seek help from the one man he holds most responsible for the dark fate that awaits him during the next full moon cycle.

“Beware of the full moon. This one is for all of the werewolf lovers!”
—Top Book Reviewers

A well-written and addictive first novel.
—Blue Ink Review

A well-developed, tightly plotted fantasy; readers will want installments two and three.
—Kirkus Reviews
Purchase Your Copy:
Title: Run With the Wolves
Author: T c Tombs
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Pages: 410
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-46201-092-9
About the Author:
  T c TOMBS earned degrees from Trent University and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. Like many Canadians, he loves hockey and golf, and he has a passion for medieval history, folk lore, literature, film, and music. Terry and his wife, Sandra, live in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, where they have raised five daughters.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Review - A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge

"A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge" is a continuation of the beloved Christmas tale, that quickly goes flying off in its own comic direction. It begins five years after dear old Ebenezer Scrooge has passed away and left his thriving firm to his former clerk, Bob Cratchit. However, Bob's overly-generous benevolence with lending and charity-giving has driven the company into the ground, on the verge of bankruptcy. And so the ghost of Scrooge returns one Christmas Eve to teach Cratchit the true meaning of money. Making the swirling journey through Christmases past, present, and yet-to-be all the more of a chaotic ride for Cratchit are the dozens of characters from other Dickens novels woven throughout the story, together for the first time. God bless them, most everyone.
I jumped at the chance to review A Christmas Carol 2 by Robert J. Elisberg because, really, who hasn't read or seen A Christmas Carol? And I've been in a Christmas mood lately so this one seemed like a really good idea.

We find Bob Cratchit 5 years after the death of his benefactor, friend, and boss, Ebenezer Scrooge. His firm is in dire straights, his family is unhappy, and his co-workers have given up on him. The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future don't want to visit with him so they find stand ins who are definitely not happy about the task of escorting good old Bob around.

I will be honest (I'm always honest, but it just sounds like something that should be said before you tell people you were disappointed), but I WAS disappointed. Maybe it was that I expected more out of the story, I don't know. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't HATE it. But it was a little frustrating to read.

The footnotes at the bottom of (seemingly) almost every page was very distracting and made reading through the book slow and choppy. I loved seeing characters from other Dickens novels, but after a while I stopped reading the footnotes just so I could finish the book.

I felt like Bob was made to be this incredibly stupid and ignorant buffoon who had no clue about ANYTHING and that bothered me. I felt like the book was one of those comedians that gets up and cracks these jokes that just get NO laughs and you feel REALLY bad for them but still can't bring yourself to laugh so they feel better.... It was painful.

However. It WAS interesting to see just what 5 years had done to Scrooge & Marley under Cratchit's thumb. It was interesting to see Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger pop up, along with numerous other characters from several other stories. That was enjoyable.  I love seeing nods to other books or movies or tv shows in stories like that. So I think that was definitely a good call.

The ending redeemed the book for me. Not entirely, but it kept me from feeling like I shouldn't have read it. It was quick though. I wish that it had been drawn out a bit longer but what can you do?

I would recommend this as a read for those of you looking for a more... slapstick version of a Charles Dickens novel. An "Abbot and Costello" version perhaps. Because that's what it felt like. While it may not have been my personal cup of tea, it seems to have gotten good reviews from others, so don't let mine stop you from picking it up!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review - Lucy the Dinosaur by Joey Ahlbum (text by Molly Brouillette)

Moms and dads looking for the best kid's picture book will love Frederator Books' newest read along digital book! Lucy is an explorer and a leader. She has a natural curiosity about things because Lucy wants to learn. Meet Lucy and her other dino friends as they learn, joke and skateboard! Lucy is a larger than life dinosaur who loves adventures. With Lucy in the lead, her loyal crew crawls, skates, and dances their way to learning. Lucy’s curiosity holds no bounds—she counts, she hunts for treasure, she even puts on a play! Veteran animator, Joey Ahlbum will charm kids with his friendly and dynamic art. Fans of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, Sandra Boynton & Mo Willems will love these cheerful read alongs.
Lucy the Dinosaur is actually a series of books for children by Joey Ahlbum. It's absolutely adorable and greater for younger kiddos. It's bright and attention grabbing. The illustrations are simple but eye catching. There are lots of fun things for children to look at. The best thing about these books, in my opinion, is the fact that Lucy loves to learn. She and her friends count, sing, play outside, and problem solve. Which I think is a fantastic alternative to things like video games.

I would probably recommend this series for children Kindergarten and under. They're not too long so little ones learning how to read won't become overwhelmed with pages. And they're a great length because we all know how the attention span of kids can be. Relatively non-existant. This series is perfect for them.


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