Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rise of the Branded by Scott Keen

Title: Rise of the Branded
Author: Scott Keen
Series: Scar of the Downers #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: November 22, 2016

Summary:
Pursued into the wild by the soldiers of Ungstah, former slave Crik and the other freed Downers encounter the magical and terrifying nature of their world. They face spectral Shepherds, man-eating Rukmush, and the ancient giants of the earth. When two of their group are captured, Crik is distraught and powerless.

Meanwhile back in the city, Durgan, former Captain of the King’s Guard who allowed Crik and his friends to escape from Ungstah, is now a Downer, one of the Branded. Amid the murmurings of an uprising among the Branded, Durgan just wants to be left alone to search for his missing son. But in the process, he discovers how dark the powers of Sulfus the king truly are. Durgan must take a stand in the coming war between the Branded and the powerful armies of Sulfus.

To kill any hope of escape for the city’s Branded, the army comes after Crik and his friends to make an example of them. The answers for Durgan, Crik and freedom for all Downers lie hidden in the dark recesses of the Northern Reaches, in the treacherous places Crik and his companions are about to enter.

Scar of the Downer #1
Summary:
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah.

What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
I would have to say that the biggest influence in my life that brought me to writing fantasy was J.R.R. Tolkien and his work. The Simarillion and the history of middle-earth fascinated me, all the stories and characters that grew out of it. It revealed to me the depth that is possible in a fantastic world. But even before I knew of Tolkien, I always loved fantasy. I remember watching The Neverending Story as a kid and being amazed by it. Whenever there was a special and The Wizard of Oz came on television, I always wanted to watch it. There is something inside of me that has always been drawn to that genre more than any other. I think it gives me, as a writer and the way I write, the chance to explore what it means to be human.

When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process(outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
My favorite part of the creative process besides writing the actual book is developing the story. Before I sit down to write, I usually spend quite a lot of time just thinking about the story and the characters. I take notes of the plot points, the characters and their names, and any other detail I want to include. In screenwriting, I begin outlining the story with what they call a step outline. When I prepare to write a novel, I spend time listing the chapters and what each one may include. That way, I can see the story progress as a whole. That’s not to say that it doesn’t change while I do the actual writing. It is always fluid. But that, I would say, is my favorite part. Discovering the world I’m building is exciting. It is completely unchartered territory. You can go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone you want. As the saying goes, the world is your oyster, and that is most definitely true when writing fantasy.

When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
My reading tastes are very similar to my writing ones. I spend a lot of time reading young adult and middle grade fantasy. After all, that is what I write. I like to see what other authors are writing and what children are reading. But beyond that, I am drawn to books that take me away from the modern setting. So, the classics and stories set in history have always been intriguing. In a way, if the story sits too close to home, I find myself having very little interest in it.

If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
That’s a very good question, and one I’ve never thought about it before. In fact, the more I think about it, the more difficult it is to answer. Although I’ve never written with someone else, I have brainstormed a stage play before with my wife. She left the writing of it to me. I would imagine that it could be a sensitive process unless the visions matched. But if I had to choose someone, I would probably choose Tolkien.

Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
I didn’t come to novel writing until quite late. As a teenager, I wrote songs for the band I was in. I also wrote poetry to some extent, but it was very sporadic. Looking back, I believe I was trying to scratch an itch, but I couldn’t ever satisfy it. When I went to college, I signed up for a screenwriting course and loved it. But the idea of trying to write for a living hadn’t entered my mind. At one time, before I started law school, I did try to write a novel. I never got past the first page. I didn’t know where to go. Then, after one semester in law school, I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer. So, I entered the Script & Screenwriting MFA program. However, it wasn’t until I read The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. that I truly sat down to write my first novel. That was in 2006-2007. I was nearly 30 at that time. But I have worked at some form of writing since my teenage years.

Author Bio:
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools.

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The Rise of the Binded #2

Scar of the Downers #1




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Truly, Madly, Whiskey by Melissa Foster

Title: Truly, Madly, Whiskey
Author: Melissa Foster
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 10, 2017
Summary:
A new, emotionally riveting, sexy standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. Watch mysteriously sexy Bear Whiskey claw his way to his happily ever after with sassy, rebellious Crystal Moon.

In TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY…

Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm’s length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She’s a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey’s midnight fantasies. She’s also one of his closest friends.

Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.

The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there’s no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotionally charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew.

What Others Are Saying:
"When it comes to contemporary romances with realistic characters, an emotional love story and smokin' hot sex, author Melissa Foster always delivers!" The Romance Reviews

"Like Nora Roberts, Melissa Foster has captivated me with her fantastic, sexy, romantic stories." K. Winning

"One of the greatest contemporary romance authors of all time." Underneath the Covers

"I'm highly addicted to her stories, and still want to kick my own behind for taking so long to finally read her." The Power of Three Readers


They drove to Woody’s Burgers in silence, which was how he knew there was probably more to this than a shitty visit with her mother. He also knew she wasn’t going to tell him what was really going on. At least not yet. He came on strong, but they had a solid friendship that felt more like a relationship and went beyond his desire to finally taste her luscious mouth. He cared about her, and one way or another, he’d figure out a way to get her to talk. He had to, because knowing she was hurting and not being able to fix it made him want to tear someone’s head off.

He parked the truck and reached across the seat, giving her hand a comforting squeeze. “Hey.” He waited until she met his gaze. “Whatever’s going on, you know you can talk to me.”

Her eyes fell to their hands, and a hint of a smile lifted her lips. “Yeah, I know. Thanks.”

Woody’s was a low-key burger joint with brick walls that had been painted white and bright green tables and benches. Overgrown ferns and decorative iron lights hung from metal rods along the ceiling. The floor was a mismatched patchwork of wooden planks. It didn’t look like much, but they had the best burgers and fries in Peaceful Harbor, and tonight Bear had the prettiest girl in the harbor on his arm, too. It was a good night, despite the cloud hanging over Crystal’s head. He’d shelter her from whatever storm came her way.

He slid into the booth beside her.

“There are two benches for a reason,” she pointed out.

“Oh, right.” He kicked his feet up on the bench across from them, the tips of his black leather boots visible over the edge of the table.

She laughed.

“Your turn.” He tapped her thigh, leaving his hand there as she lifted her feet beside his.

She pushed his hand from her thigh without a word, and he stretched his arm across the back of the bench.

“Are you always like this?” She picked up the menu and looked it over.

“You’ve known me for a long time. You tell me.”

“I know how you are with me. I mean with other girls. I’ve never been out with you, like on a date.”

He began kneading the tension from her shoulder. “Then maybe it’s time to remedy that.”

The waitress interrupted before she could respond, and they ordered burgers and fries, and Crystal ordered a milk shake. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry mixed, please. She was unique in everything she did, and he loved that about her. Their food came quickly, and they made small talk about getting ready for Tru and Gemma’s wedding.

When he couldn’t stand the edge in her voice any longer, he said, “Tell me about your mom.”

She shrugged. “Nothing to tell. We’re not very close.”

“Why was tonight so rough?” He picked up a fry and dunked it in her shake as she lifted her burger to her mouth.

“Um…?” She lowered her burger to the plate. “What are you doing?”

“Dunking my fry in your shake.” He popped it in his mouth. “Haven’t we done this before?”

“No.”

“We’ve known each other for almost a year and we’ve never had fries and shakes? That’s not true and you know it.”

“You’ve never dunked your fry in my shake,” she clarified.

He brushed his shoulder against hers. “Whose fault is that? I would love to bury my fry in your luscious milk shake.”

She laughed. “Not happening.” She took a big bite of her burger, her cheeks puffing out like a chipmunk, clearly trying to avoid talking about that.

He finished his burger and put his arm around her again, dipping another fry in her shake. He held it up for her, and she swatted his hand away, pointing to her full mouth. Her eyes were wide, but smiling, which he totally dug.

“Okay, I’ll tell you what. Tell me why tonight was so rough, and I’ll leave your shake alone.”

She shook her head, and he dunked another fry. She whimpered, trying to swallow her burger as quickly as she could.

“My girl doesn’t swallow well. Noted.”

She laughed/snorted and choked on her burger. He patted her on the back, both of them laughing.

“I’ll help you with that whole swallowing thing,” he offered, which made her laugh harder, causing her to snort again.

She tried to catch her breath, and he dunked another fry.

“Hey!”

“Just try one. You’ll like it. I promise.”

She eyed the fry as if it were poison.

“One bite.” He dragged the fry along her lower lip. Leaning closer, he said, “You’d better lick that off before I do.”

Her eyes narrowed, and her tongue swept over her lower lip.

“Christ Almighty,” he grumbled.

She laughed. “That’s pretty good. Salty and sweet.”

“Stick with me, baby. I’ll make sure you get your fill of salty and sweet.”



Author Bio:
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance, new adult, contemporary women’s fiction, suspense, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Caf√© and Fostering Success. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine.

Melissa hosts an Aspiring Authors contest for children and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family.

Visit Melissa on social media. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.


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