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MadisonsSong_medMadison’s Song is the latest addition to the Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective fantasy/mystery series. Though not the latest instalment, it is a stand-alone, companion book to the series and, though there are mystery elements in it, it is primarily a romantic fantasy.

So far I’ve read and enjoyed all of the books and this one didn’t disappoint. As usual, Amsden delivers a fast-pace, highly entertaining read with fully sympathetic and compelling characters. This time I was especially swept away by the romance between Madison and Scott.

Madison Carter is a sweet, shy music teacher from a small town. When her brother Clinton’s life is put in danger, she must unwillingly join forces with Scott Lee, a very alluring and dangerous alpha werewolf, to find Clinton and help him. Scott is slave to the moon, a vicious killer and man-eating monster, but he has a soft spot for Madison, whom he was forced to “mark”, make love to, two years ago in order to save her life. Since then, they’ve been bonded in more ways than both are willing to admit. Needless to say, sparks fly from the very beginning. As they follow the trail to Clinton, they find themselves thrown in a secret lab, prisoners of a psychopathic doctor with a very dark agenda. Romance, suspense, mystery, action and thrills abound, and then some.

Fans of the Cassie Scot series and romantic fantasy will gobble this one up. Amsden hooks us from page one and doesn’t let us go until the end. With minimalist descriptions, non-stop action, and skillful characterization, this author delivers a tale that both engages and captivates. I was also impressed by the world building and all the fascinating dynamics about werewolves and their packs. I was able to forget reality and immersed myself into the world of the impossible. Highly recommended!

Visit the author’s website or find out more on Amazon. You can also check out the publisher at Twilight Times Books.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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“Writing has taught me the importance of self-confidence in becoming good at anything,” says Christine Amsden, who, in spite of having been diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision, has gone on to become the award-winning, bestselling author of the Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective fantasy/mystery series published by Twilight Times Books.

“My parents encouraged reading a LOT,” says this speculative fiction writer, who grew up gobbling up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, and Flowers in the Attic. “I know they read to me too, but I was an advanced reader at an early age and preferred to read on my own when I could. I have memories of staring at picture books, making up stories about the pictures though I couldn’t understand the words.” At the tender age of 8, she wrote her first short story, about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars. From then on, she wrote fairly consistently until 2003, which marked the beginning of her professional career when she attended a workshop with Orson Scott Card.

Amsden may be legally blind, but she hasn’t allowed that part of her life to stop her from becoming a prolific author, and nowadays she splits her time between writing, freelance editing, and coaching — with a keen focus on writing. She loves to write about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations, giving special attention to people and relationships, her way of making science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. “I will continue to marry romance with speculative fiction because I simply love both genres,” states the author. “I love a good character story. I think character is more important than just about anything else, and a great character will have me reading any genre at all and loving it. I get a lot of people telling me that they like my books even though they ‘don’t normally read stuff like that.’ I think it’s because of the characters.”

In what she describes as her messy, cluttered desk, and with a special arm attached to her monitor to help her eyes and back, Amsden creates her stories rich in characterization and world building. Her latest book, Madison’s Song, a companion to her Cassie Scot series, is about a shy young woman who has suffered more than her fair share of betrayal in the past. A friend of Cassie (the only ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers), Madison now gets a chance to prove that she can be more than a plump, shy sidekick. When her brother’s life is in danger, she faces her greatest fear with head held high to save him. The story is equally about Scott, a werewolf who has fallen in love with a woman he doesn’t believe he deserves.

MadisonsSong_medAmsden’s writing style is straightforward and conversational, which is probably why most readers and reviewers describe her work as highly entertaining and fast paced. “I’m not the sort to hide the story behind flowery prose,” she says. “I like the words to get out of the way of the story.” She’s a fast writer as well, finishing the rough draft of the book in only two months, though she then put it aside for a year before revising it, a process that took her five additional months. Her writing process, though fluid, is different with each book. “My best story ideas are the ones that come to me while I’m doing something else, although this doesn’t excuse me from putting in my hours of conscious effort. No two projects that I’ve worked on have developed in exactly the same way, either. I like to try new strategies, mix things up, so life doesn’t get boring.”

Like the Cassie Scot series, Madison’s Song will also be available in audiobook format, which is how Amsden “reads” most books these days. “It was important to me, when I became an author, to make my books available to listen to as well as read, and not just for others with disabilities. Audiobooks are a terrific way to enjoy books for busy people whose reading time can be combined with a daily commute, or with housework.”

Like most authors, Amsden loves sharing her creative ideas with the world, something which can be understandably challenging. “Nothing is universally liked,” states the author. “I try not to read negative comments or reviews, but it’s almost impossible to avoid all of it. When someone ‘gets me’ I feel an almost euphoric connectedness to the world; when someone doesn’t, (in a really big way), it almost makes me feel isolated.”

The definition of success varies from writer to writer. For Amsden, it has changed since she started writing. “At one time (not too long ago), I had an unrealistic expectation of success that involved becoming a bestseller and making an upper-class living off of my books,” she confesses. “When the Cassie Scot series came out, I sold thousands of books but still didn’t make the kind of money that would let me ‘earn a living’ off of it. It made me rethink my definition of success, because MessyDeskby all measurable standards my books are doing well – I’ve got great reviews, I’ve won several awards, I’ve sold many thousands of books, and I’m making money. I feel most successful when I connect with readers who love my books. So maybe that’s what success is. I’d love to connect with more readers, sell more books, and make more money, but I’m becoming satisfied with who and what I am now. (Like Cassie.)”

At the moment, the author is waiting for her next book, Kaitlin’s Tale, to be released by Twilight Times Books. She’s also hard at work on a new series set in a completely different world and with a new cast of characters. Though it’s way too early to say much about it, readers can count on it being filled with romance and the paranormal.

A native of St. Louis, Christine Amsden now lives in Olathe, Kansas with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success, and their two beautiful children.

TouchofFateSigningBibliography:

Touch of Fate (Twilight Times Books, 2006)

The Immortality Virus (Twilight Times Books, 2011)

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Secrets and Lies (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Mind Games (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Stolen Dreams (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Madison’s Song (Twilight Times Books, 2015)

Connect with Christine Amsden on the web:

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Terry Jackman was christened Teresa, and is married with kids. She’s not pretending to be a guy just for the book. It’s just that nobody, but nobody, calls her anything but Terry, so Terry is actually the most honest name to put on the cover.

To go with her two names she inhabits two worlds. In one she’s a mild-mannered lady who tutors children and lives in a pretty English village, called Lymm. [It’s not far from the Manchester United football ground. You can take a peek at it on www.lymmvillage.co.uk/gallery If you look carefully at the picture of the old stone cross in the village centre you might see the ancient stocks below, where villagers would have thrown rotten eggs etc at local miscreants – but we don’t do that now, honest.]

In the other, she’s written articles and study guides, is secretly on the committee of the British Science Fiction Association, coordinates all their online writers’ groups, writes a regular page for Focus magazine and reads submissions for Albedo One magazine in Ireland. Oh, and has been known to do convention panels and some freelance editing.

When Ashamet goes public the two worlds will finally collide. She suspects there’ll be some raised eyebrows so she’s stocking up on fortifying tea and biscuits – and lots of chocolate!

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Ashamet, Desert-Born. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Honestly, it was bad temper. I got really cross that a writer made the all-powerful prince in her story stupid, basically to make the plot work out the way she wanted, where if he’d had an ounce of sense it would have fallen apart. Why, I fumed, did powerful characters so often have to be bad, stupid or both? And just like that Ashamet walked onstage. He’s lots of things, but he’s definitely not stupid.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Maybe you know someone who says one thing and does another, or is different things to different people? Or maybe they hide their true character, even from themselves? That’s Ashamet. He’s also about the fact that even those who seem all powerful are still bound by some restrictions, and that in the end it’s how they cope with those that defines who they really are?

Ashamet-CoverQ: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: Ashamet, Desert-Born took several years to write. The first fifty pages came in a mad rush then I had stops and starts, because while Ashamet and Keril arrived fully formed, the world they lived in didn’t. It took me at least three tries to define the society Ash was born into well enough to make total sense of who he was. I couldn’t finish the story till I got that right.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: Ah, an easier answer. I listen to my characters. If it’s not what they’d do, or say, then out it goes. Otherwise the story loses its credibility, just like that stupid prince I mentioned. The story slumps, and frankly I get bored writing it.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: Actually, no. I get anxious about showing stuff to others but not about writing it. Some days I can’t wait to write, others I have to remind myself there’s a deadline, but after the first couple of sentences I’m usually in the groove. I’m no longer aware of what I’m doing, as long as I’m not interrupted.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I have a VERY flexible schedule, because it depends largely on when my husband is playing golf! Crazy as it sounds, and I know it does, I can write around strangers, on trains, around other writers – but not around people I know well but aren’t also writing (otherwise known as friends and family). When they walk out the door I reach for pen or keyboard.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success was selling my first three articles in one week, then turning one of them into a series. Less successfully, that ambushed me. Regular requests for more got me writing nonfiction for ten years. Between a more than full time job and articles I had no time to try fiction.

So an even greater success was having Dragonwell ask, out of the blue, if I’d “like to send them something” because they’d heard about me from another writer. Wow.

And the final and greatest success will be if people like reading the result, and take a second to review it or tell me so.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: It will make it harder but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go for it, if they’re sufficiently driven. Hey, I grew up in a house without books and look where I ended up. Due to my extreme shyness problem my family didn’t even know I wrote for several years, till I was selling articles regularly.

And in the end I only owned up about fiction because an amazing author/university lecturer, Adam Roberts, said “You are a writer”. After that even I had to ‘come out’.

But it helps a lot if people at least humor you.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Gosh no. Hearing strange voices in your head. Spending hours writing, assessing, rewriting. Crying over those nasty critiques – which are right, damn them – editing, polishing… How could that possibly be exhausting?

Seriously, sometimes it’s exhilarating, others depressing. So yes, I can’t imagine anyone doing it if they aren’t driven to. Me, I have to get those voices out of my head before they drive me mad.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Well, I guess I should tell people who don’t know me that Terry is actually short for Teresa, but that I regard Terry as my real name. I’m definitely NOT pretending to be a guy for my publisher. Since no one calls me anything but Terry, if I’d put Teresa on the book cover it would have felt more like hiding who I was, not less.

So unlike most of my characters I’m female, and as you’ll have gathered married with kids. I’ve visited some beautiful Moorish architecture, but I’ve never ridden a camel. In fact I’ve only once ‘sat’ on a horse. But hey, if we only wrote what we already knew science fiction and fantasy wouldn’t exist.

But I hope, very much, readers will enjoy reading Ashamet as much as I enjoyed writing it, and maybe tell me so, so I can breathe easier.

ABOUT THE BOOK

TitleAshamet, Desert-Born

Genre: Fantasy/adventure/romance/paranormal

Author: Terry Jackman

Websitewww.terryjackman.co.uk

Publisherwww.dragonwellpublishing.com

Find out more on Amazon

A desert world. A warrior nation that worships its emperor as a god. But for Ashamet, its prince, a future filled with danger…

Ashamet is confident his swordsmanship, and his arranged marriage, will be enough to maintain the empire’s peace. But when a divine symbol magically appears on his arm, closely followed by an attempt on his life, he no longer knows who to trust. Worse, the strange attraction he feels toward a foreign slave could be another trap. As events unravel, too fast,Ashamet must find out if this innocent young male is a tool for his enemies–or the magic key to his survival.

“Ashamet, Desert-Born” is a debut adventure fantasy with an exotic Arabian-style setting and elements of same-sex romance.

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laurieLaury Falter is a bestselling author of young adult romantic suspense and urban fantasy. She has three series out: the Guardian Trilogy, the Residue Series, and the Apocalypse Chronicles.

Website: http://www.lauryfalter.com

Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/LauryFalter

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Laury-Falter/196033543803745

Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/lauryfalter

Q: Welcome to The Dark Phantom Review, Laury! Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Fallen. What was your inspiration for it?

A: In January 2009, Joyce Durham lost her battle to colon cancer. I am good friends with her daughter, Erika, who was then faced with the very difficult task of learning how to deal with the loss of her mother. Witnessing her struggle and that of the Durham family, I wished there was someone who could visit with those who had passed over to the other side and bring back messages to the living, reassuring them that all was fine with their loved one. And from it, Magdalene Tanner was born.

I went on to write FALLEN in just under two months, releasing it in March 2009.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: She visits the afterlife when she falls asleep, and she’s fully cognizant while doing it. She talks to others on the other side, passes through spirit’s realms, and trains to fight her enemies who are here on earth.

fallenQ: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I wrote after work (I worked in marketing before becoming a full-time novelist) and on the weekends, typically for several hours at a stretch. Three hours could pass and it would feel like twenty minutes. I finished Fallen in less than two months. It poured from me, directly onto the page. The only bump I faced was that I couldn’t write fast enough. My sister, who insisted I write the novel, continually pestered me for the next segment before it was done. And I thank her as often as I can for being such a pest.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I walk. Regularly throughout the day, I’ll leave my novel and walk around the building, the block, etc. This always clears my mind and when my mind is clear the narrative that I’m stuck on comes to me in a rush. It’s a good rush.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: Never. I might have too much going on in my life (moving or a buildup of chores) that keeps me from focusing, but I’m never nervous about writing. It’s a release for me, a movie in my mind, so it is more of a vacation than anything else.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I write, hard, for two to three months straight, never leaving my office darkened with blinds and drapes other than for sleep, food, and unavoidable necessities. During that time, sadly, I am void of family and friends. I live with my characters. But when the novel is finished, I open the doors, emerge into the sunlight, and rapidly fill up my calendar with visits to family and friends.

Q: How do you define success?

A: A healthy balance between all major parts of your life (social, romantic, financial, spiritual, etc) . In short, if you wake up with a fresh, invigorated expectation that the day will be a good one, you’re on the right path.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Ignore them. Do what you want to do. It’s your life.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: He must have been having a bad day. Sure, writing can be challenging if you aren’t in the mood or have too many other responsibilities competing for your attention or you simply can’t get your head wrapped around the plot or a particular character. But to consider it painful sounds a bit melodramatic. My advice to him would be to grab a glass of wine, sip, and let it come to him.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Nearly all of my young adult fantasy romance novels have been bestsellers on Amazon. Hopefully, you enjoy this genre and decide to give them a try. If you do, I hope you enjoy them!

About the Book

Fallen

Guardian Trilogy

Book 1

Laury Falter

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance

Publisher: Audeamus LLC

Date of Publication: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-9855110-3-6

 ASIN: B00280MFEY

Number of pages: 274 pages

Amazon

Fallen – the first book in the Guardian Trilogy…

Maggie is unaware of the terrifying fate that awaits her. It isn’t until she lands in New Orleans for a full year at a private high school and her unknown enemies find her does she realize that her life is in danger.

As a mystifying stranger repeatedly intervenes and blocks the attempts on her life, she begins to learn that there is more to him than his need to protect her and that he may be the key to understanding why her enemies have just now arrived.

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Mind Games
 is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.

In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.

And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.

Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?

I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.

Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.

Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Connect with the author on the web: 

Website / Newsletter / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google+

My review was originally published on Blogcritics

 

 

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Soon from Twilight Times Books!

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Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

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Known Devil is the third instalment in Gustainis’ Occult Crime Unit urban fantasy series. Though I had not read the first two books, this one was completely stand-alone and didn’t make me feel I was missing anything. I have, however, read other books from Gustainis in the past (Evil WaysBlack Magic Woman and Sympathy for the Devil), and thoroughly enjoyed them. He is a fabulous writer.

In this exciting new series, Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit,  and his partner, vampire detective Karl Renfer, try to keep law and order in a world where supernaturals — or supes — have come out of the closet and walk the streets with humans. Markowski’s daughter, a vampire witch, is eager to help and offer her expertise, especially because she’s attracted to Karl.

A new drug has hit the streets, Haemoglobin Plus — better known as Slide — the first drug that addicts supes, and as a result, a new wave of crimes has risen in Scranton. Stan and Karl are right on the case, interrogating both humans and supes alike, trying to find out who is behind the new drug: Pietro Calabrese, the Godfather of the local vampire family? Wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city’s whole supernatural community?  The Delatasso family? Or the new Patriot Party, who has  declared supes “abominations before the Lord?”

If you love urban fantasy a la crime noir, you’ll love this book. Gustainis is smart, gritty, snarky. I just love his sharp, witty descriptions. Take a look at a few:

“He had salt-and-pepper hair, wide-set brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall.”

“He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire.”

“The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I’m likely to encounter have two legs.”

“I saw a puzzled look on his face — maybe because Karl’s grip, like every vampire’s, is colder than a banker’s heart.”

Gustainis is also a master at providing comic relief. I laughed out loud at times. Stan is a likable, sympathetic character, tough yet kind when needed. The world building, the setting, and all the supernatural details come through in a genuine, realistic way. I also enjoyed all the police procedural, showing once more, as in his other books, that Gustainis has done his research well.

The story moves at a fairly quick pace, propelled by entertaining dialogue and lots of action scenes. Particularly interesting is the dynamics between humans and supernaturals now that they have to co-exist side by side. But best of all, is the author’s gifted prose, a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of detective urban fantasy!

Visit the author’s website.

Find out more on Amazon.

My review as originally published in Blogcritics.

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