Book Review – Smoke And Roses: A Steampunk Language of Flowers by Olivia Wylie

Rosemary is for remembrance. You give yellow roses to a friend and lilies to the bereaved. Ever wondered why?

In this illustrated volume you will discover the history of the symbolic code daring Victorian ladies and gents used to pass messages in bouquets: the roots of the practice in Turkey, its rise in Europe and its fascinating cultural connotations on both sides of the Atlantic. You’ll learn how a mispronounced word gave the tulip its name and why the colors of the rose have so many meanings. Included are recipes for bouquets useful in your own life, including the Bugger Off Bouquet, to be given to those you would rather not see again. Let this book lead you up the historical garden path.

A little about Olivia first:


Olivia Wylie is a professional landscaper who specializes in the restoration of neglected gardens in Downtown Denver. She snaps photos of garden beauty in her daily work and uses rain days, the photos and research to create art that shares the serenity of the green world with its viewers. On days when the weather keeps her indoors, she writes about the relationship between humanity and the green world. She currently has two ethnobotanic works in print: ‘Smoke and Roses’ and the book Roots: Insights From the Tree Alphabet of Old Ireland’. A book on the history of weeds in America is forthcoming in March. Her works are available at as well as Amazon.

My Review: 5-Stars

Smoke And Roses by Olivia Wylie is a very informative, fun read. The cover is beautifully hand-drawn as well as the flowers inside the book. This is my favorite book for research in romance writing.

The writing is strong and educational with a fun feel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and I cannot wait to use a recipe or two. Even if you don’t give a fig about flowers and what they mean, you will find something useful in Smoke And Roses.

I loved all the information of what flowers mean, and my most favorite part was the bouquet ingredients. I’ve got some in mind to send to people who need a pick-me-up or a dressing down. The wedding anniversary flowers are extremely helpful for anyone you know with an anniversary coming up. Each year of marriage has a flower.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The drawings are beautiful. I feel this book is going to come in handy for all kinds of stuff, and now I can’t wait to send some flowers to someone. I absolutely loved the paper the story is written on, it gives a great feel of reading an old book from the 1800s. I could almost smell the dusty pages.

We need to get back to the giving of flowers to brighten people’s day, and Smoke And Roses is just the book to bring us back to the tradition.

I recommend this book to everyone. You are sure to find something useful. And, it’s pretty.

Please feel free to share your review in the comments.

Every image of a cover is a link that leads to third-party retailers and are affiliate links. If you purchase the product in question by clicking on the cover, we earn a small portion of the profits.

Author Interview: Captain Lee Rosbach

1a2cYes, you heard that right. The Captain Lee from the hit TV show Below Deck is in the house! I took a chance an tweeted him a message, asking him to do an author interview, and he said YES! I am so honored to be doing this, I just can’t sit still. I love the show, and I hold Captain Lee in very high regard. I love his ethics, his way with people, and his Leeisisms. I found him to be extremely nice and accommodating.

Let’s get to the interview.

What drew you to write your story?

Captain Lee: The motivation for me writing the book was Frances Berwick, the President of NBC Universal. We met at the launch of Below Deck Med and had a very enlightening conversation and she wondered why I hadn’t written a book about my Capt Leeism’s and while this current book did incorporate some of them in it, it wasn’t the total focus. But she was my inspiration for doing the book. And for that, I am very grateful to her.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Captain Lee: It took about a year to write the book, a lot of back and forth with my collaborator Michael Scholl, who without him we may have not gotten it done. My hat goes off to him.

A year isn’t that long at all to take a book from an idea to the final product. It took me three years for my first book. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Captain Lee: As far as advice for aspiring writers, I really don’t have the experience to be giving advice at this stage, but if I had one for first-time writers, it would be just DO IT. How many people have said I should write a book, I know all about this, but never happens, life gets in the way. Well, get it done. Just do it. You will regret not doing it and trust me you will have enough things in your life to regret, don’t let this be one of them.

I agree! Did you need to do any research?

Captain Lee: I didn’t have to research, all I had to do was remember. I lived it.

You’ve lived a very fascinating life, and I loved your book. Where did you like to write?

Captain Lee: I liked to do my writing out by the pool in the hot sun, cool drink, and conversing or not with my collaborator Michael. It was the best. I looked forward to it.

That sounds like a great place to write. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Captain Lee: My view on bad reviews, I don’t know yet, I haven’t had any yet. Some with some suggestions on what else they would like to see, but no negative reviews. Not that they won’t come, but, I’m not a writer by trade, I do it to convey what I have experienced to people the way I saw it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I hope you don’t get any bad reviews, and that’s the truth. How was your experience working with traditional publishing?

Captain Lee: I never had a bad experience with the publishing process. My publisher was Gallery Books, which is the pop culture division of Simon & Schuster. So my best experience was seeing the completed project come to life. Had to pinch myself the first time I walked into a bookstore and there I was. Surreal.

What do your fans mean to you?

Captain Lee: My fans, what do they mean to me? They mean the world to me. Without them, there is no there. I’m not where I am today without them. So when I’m out and about and someone comes up and wants a pic or just to be acknowledged, I say why not. If I can put a smile on someone’s face for 10-15 seconds of my time, why would I not do that?

That’s so nice to take the time to make a fan’s day. Do you read your reviews?

Captain Lee: Do I read my review, of course, there is no better gauge as to how you are perceived.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Captain Lee: What do I want my tombstone to say? Tough one. I guess if I have one, I would like it to say that “The going up was worth the coming down”.

That is an incredible thing to have on your tombstone. I’m a little jealous I didn’t think of it first. Which famous person living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Captain Lee: Who would I like to meet or have met? John Wayne, he was a giant of a man, for his morals, his work ethic and integrity.

And I think you have a little John Wayne in you with your work ethic and integrity. Another question along that line. If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would they be and why?

Captain Lee: Who are the three people I would love to have dinner with, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, and my wife Mary Anne. Why would I want to deprive her of meeting these two giants among men. Both had everything that I admired then and still do now. That won’t ever change. At least not for me.

Aww. You and Mary Anne have the best relationship! So, at this dinner with John and President Reagan, what would be your favorite meal and beverage?

Captain Lee: My favorite meal is Kolbe Ribeye, which I don’t get very often, in fact only twice, mid-rare, baked potato with sour cream and chives, a side of broccoli al dente and a great glass of wine, maybe Caymus or something of that caliber.  As long as I’m wishing.

Thank you so much for stopping by and doing an interview with me. This has been one of my bucket list items that I can now cross off my list. Now if I could just be a guest on your yacht, that would pretty much round everything out for me. This was awesome!

Captain Lee was also kind enough to mail me a copy of his book, Running Against the Tide and will be reviewed by The Naked Reviews on February 6, 2019. We are so excited!

Book Review: The 942 Sereis by J.I. Rogers

“Protocol 9”
– Colonel Kael Sunde and his team are an elite search and rescue team, based on the edge of a toxic jungle known as ‘the Seep’.
– ‘Vorta Botanical’, a research station deep within the Seep’s boundary goes offline.
– Kael and his team are given the mission to find out what happened; ‘search and destroy’ if required.

– Isolde comes from a Ranking Korlo family, but dreams of a day where everyone, Diasporan, and Korlo alike, can share in all that the Cluster Cities can offer. She joins the ranks of the ‘Par Society’ and lends her voice to the peace movement.
– Isolde’s wealthy parents believe that she’s under the influence of a cult and make plans to have her sent away until she comes to her sense.
– Yul is attending the science symposium with his father, but a chance meeting and an invitation leads to everyone’s lives changing forever.

“Bride Price”
– The Makon family of Lorsa Cluster has Rank, but little else after the death of their father. Regina and Edric scramble to restore their lost empire.
– The Harlo family has more funds than any of the other families combined, but no Rank. William Harlo Senior will stop at nothing to get it.
– William Harlo Junior has his life happily planned out, or so he thinks.

My Review: 4.2-Stars

The 942 Series by J.I. Rogers is a good read overall. I’ve never seen a cover like this, and I think it works well for the short stories. I think they are written well with some good strong sentence structures.

I was a little confused and a bit lost with the first story, Protocol 9. There were a lot of characters, and I had a hard time keeping up with all of them. I’m pretty sure it was written in Omni, and the hopping around from one character’s internal thoughts to another was a little difficult. I felt that the action of some the search and rescue team getting killed could have been shown. I had a hard time figuring all of that out because it was told from the past.

But overall, Protocol 9 was a good read. I thought the setting was cool and the author did a good job of putting me in the story even though I felt kind of lost. This is worth a read.

The second story, Forget Me Not was better. A sad little story that brought out my emotions. I thought the characters were more well-rounded in this story. A young girl, Isolde runs away from home to attend a speech with the intentions of never going home again. What she didn’t expect was the suppression guards showing up and shooting into the crowd. I don’t want to give away the ending, but this story pulled out all of my emotions. Very well done! The characters of this story are done very well, the setting shines, and the writing is strong.

The third story, Bride Price was the best out of the three for me. I was giving more insight into the world the stories are set in. Regina is betrothed to William so both families will gain riches and status, but William isn’t so keen on the idea.

The writing is strong, the setting descriptions and world building are amazing, and I loved it. I recommend this book, it’s a great addition to the series and I’m looking forward to the rest of the books.

Please feel free to share your review in the comments.

Every image of a cover is a link that leads to third-party retailers and are affiliate links. If you purchase the product in question by clicking on the cover, I earn a small portion of the profits.

Book Event With The Naked Reviewers

Along with writing my own stories and doing edits on other author’s stories, I also run a book review site called, The Naked Reviewers. Black Friday Weekend, we are having a huge book event on Facebook to celebrate our one-year anniversary.

I would like to personally invite everyone. With 41 authors participating, this is going to be a fun book event. Everyone is giving away something. I’m giving away a copy of Voyeur in the Mist and As Cocky As They Come along with a special contest for a cool prize.

During the event, The Naked Reviewers are going to make some big announcements and host some fun games. One contest will involve sharing reviews on the books that will be showcased over the 3-day weekend. For an advanced list of all the books, run as fast as you can over here.

The Naked Reviewers are giving away a $100 Amazon gift card, an Avon gift set, and a $10 Amazon gift card. Join us, Black Friday Weekend and play some fun games, interact with some cool authors, and find some new books. Books make great Christmas gifts. Just sayin’.

Every image of a cover is a link that leads to third-party retailers and are affiliate links. If you purchase the product in question by clicking on the cover, I earn a small portion of the profits.

Someone Besides Me Likes My Writing

At least one other person thinks my writing is good enough to publish. I knew it!

My story, The Cocky Stranger was chosen to be a part of an anthology. The publisher of As Cocky As They Come felt my story was a good fit. As part of the #cockygate blowup a few weeks ago, Erin Navan put out the call to action and ten authors answered with stories. Well, I’m sure more answered the call, but only ten of us are good enough to make it.

Never heard of #cockygate? I’ll boil it all down to the highlights.

A romance author submitted and was granted a trademark for the word cocky used in a title of a series. Getting a trademark on such a popular word in the romance genre was a little cheesy, but probably would have gone unnoticed until the author sent out cease and desist letters to authors who had the word cocky in the title of their book.

She insisted these authors who had published a title with the word cocky in it before she got the trademark re-title their story and change the cover or she would sue them. The indie publishing community got wind of this and social media blew up with #cockygate.

Lawyers got involved, the RWA got involved, Amazon pulled books and reviews if they had the word cocky in them, and the author who started it all blamed her readers for not being smart enough to know if they were buying one of her books or someone else’s.

Then she sued some people, and a court date was had in which basically she didn’t get what she wanted and a few weeks later she pretty much dropped the whole thing and rescinded the trademark.

My story is called The Cocky Stranger. Where Sharon isn’t sure she can move on once the divorce papers are signed until the cocky stranger with an umbrella saves her.

Click on cover for the direct link:

Book Review: Painted Girl: The Spirit Key

Falling in love with RedHorse is easy. Keeping the ghost away from him? Not so much.

Sara’s intended is rejected by the Old One, but their love blooms even as the nefarious spirit works to tear them apart. Sara has a mind of her own, and she’ll do anything to keep the ghosts at bay.

The veil between the living and dead is thinning. War looms on the horizon in the spirit realm as two leaders compete for control. Ghosts warn of the consequences of not having a Spirit Key, one who embraces the dead and has the power to keep the peace between the two realms.

Failure to find the key will bring the dead into this world and it just might mean the death of her love.

But a shiver in Grandfather’s spine doesn’t bode well. The Old One has something else in mind. Something he won’t like.

Magical realism with a sweet tale of romance and family trials. A Native Woman’s journey to find her purpose, and love, while avoiding the spirits who taint her world.

A new world full of old spirits, love, suspense, and culture.

A Native American Woman’s journey as she discovers the will of her ancestors with supernatural influences. A world of spirits, a growing love, and nefarious forces collide in this paranormal Native American fiction.

My Review: 4.7-Stars

I loved Painted Girl. This is a wonderfully written story of a young woman coming of age and finding her way in the world. There is a love story, but this is not a typical romance. RA has done a beautiful job of bringing me Native American culture, beliefs, history, and spirits in a contemporary world.

The story starts with a tragedy that sucks you in so you have to find out what happens to the small child, Sara and from there we are allowed a look into her life as a Kiowa. She falls in love with RedHorse, who her Grandfather and the spirits don’t agree with, and RA weaves the spirit world into the story splendidly.

There were a couple of slow spots for me, and I always want more of the 5 senses to connect me to the characters, but overall this is an entertaning read.

Full of good description, Painted Girl takes us on Sara’s journey to find herself while living and believing her culture. If you want to read a good Native American story and learn more about the Kiowa, this book will take you there.

There is a cliffhanger, sort of. I thought it was well done and has left me wanting book 2, RedHorse (The Spirit Key Book 2).

Painted Girl is rich and full and strongly written. This book is a hit.

Be sure to stop by and check out the author interview I did with RA Winter.

Click on cover for the direct link

Author Interview: RA Winter


I met RA a few years ago, and she has become a very good friend. We are partners over at The Naked Reviewers. I love her writing! She tells honest stories about real life and her Spirit Key series is full of Native American culture with a look into the life of the Kiowa.

She is fun, she is always busy remodeling and traveling, and she is a prolific writer. I don’t know where she finds the time to do it all. Be sure to check out my review of Painted Girl.

I’m sure glad she had some time to stop by here for an interview. Please allow me to introduce, RA Winter.

Let’s get right to the questions. What are you currently working on and what is it about?

RA: The Queens of the Underworld Trilogy. The first book is finished, the second one is half-way. Demise is a Death Taker, but she harvests Aiden’s soul too soon. The whole realm of the dead comes alive with her mistake and will do anything to have the power that Aiden’s soul releases. Her duty is to Thanatos and Hades, and she must deliver the soul to the underworld. Only now, for the first time since her death, she can feel. Can prevent a war and keep the man to herself?

In the second book, Death has to stop the war in Tartarus for Aiden’s soul, but she finds herself on a deserted island with Ares, the God of War. For the first time, she has emotions and wonders how she can return to her dead life. Someone is twisting time, and now, war has overtaken Tartarus.

In the third book, Bane’s Truth, the keres Bane wants her own soul, so she steals one. Her truth is her armor, but can one man break through her defenses? The war is at a pinnacle point. Whose side will she choose? Hades or the other?

Those sound very interesting. I can’t wait until you publish them. Next, I want to ask a 3 part question: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest Fantasy/Urban Fic/Mythology book? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing as far as content? How much research do you do?

RA: When I was young, my father told me the stories of the Iliad, the Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno, among other works. I fell in love with Mythology and have been gobbling it up since then. In high school and college, I took courses in Greek and Roman mythology, but writing it isn’t as easy as I thought. Keeping the relationships, ideas and the Greek feel of a trilogy has taxed my memory. Now, I have a huge story bible filled with quotes and characters for my Queens of the Underworld manuscript.

How interesting! Does your book use any references to mythology or real-world folklore, or does it contain its own folklore?

RA: I use Greek mythology mostly but I do have references to Japanese, English and other folklore. If the situation arises and I know a really neat story, I’ll write that into a scene.

Where do your ideas come from?

RA: Insomnia. Seriously. Although with the Queens of the Underworld, the story is what kept me awake. I have stopped writing when I can’t sleep because I get too silly and have to cut half of what I write.

Have you written works in collaboration with other writers, and if so: why did you decide to collaborate?

RA: I wrote two shorts in the Bowman’s Inn Anthology. The writers in the series are fabulous and I really wanted to learn from them. I studied their stories and gave it my best shot. I’m also going to be in a new anthology coming out next month, based on fairy tale retellings.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years regarding published works?

RA: This is going to be my publishing push year. I published two already, I have a third one almost ready to go, a freaky-friday wolf/vamp piece, an anthology and the trilogy the Queens of the Underworld. Next year, I hope to finish the six pieces that I have half to two-thirds published. For a long time, I kept my pieces idle on my computer. No one is enjoying that, especially me.

I don’t know how you get it all done. You go with your bad self. What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your work?

RA: I have two trailers published for my works in the Spirit Key Series. I have another trailer that I am working on for the Queens of the Underworld. Do they work? I don’t know yet, but they are fun to put together and people like them.

Take a moment to watch the Spirit Key book trailers. These are two of the best I’ve watched in a very long time.

Painted Girl


I’m starting to fall for the idea of book trailers. Tossing around the idea myself. Let me ask you, do you read your reviews?

RA: Yes, always. The only way to improve is to get feedback from readers. I use crit circles, but I have noticed that after a time I get used to the writing and need to take a step back for a while.

Now for a couple of personal questions. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?

RA: It was a haiku in the fourth grade. My teacher entered it into a student publishing contest and mine was chosen. I don’t remember the name of the piece, but I drew a pretty princess to go with it.

What is your favorite way to avoid writing?

RA: Playing with Photoshop. I just discovered it, and I’m addicted. It’s so much fun and aggravating at the same time!

This was awesome! Thanks so much for stopping by and giving us a peek into your life. I had a blast!

Author Bio:


RA Winter, began her writing career under her married name, writing genealogy books. However, her love for reading romance novels intruded in on her daily activities. She started writing and fell in love with her characters and is writing many more books in the Romantic Western series, “The Spirit Key”. Each one of Grandfather’s grandchildren will have their story told, as will Grandfather himself.

RA spent many years traveling the world and has lived in many different countries. Turkey, Egypt, Germany, and Jordan, have all been called “home” at one time or another. Now you can find her quietly living in Pittsburgh, Pa, with her husband, writing her next novel.

Be sure to keep up with what RA is up to and all of her new releases by friending her on Facebook, following her on Instagram, Twitter, and Stumbleupon. Don’t forget to follow her blog for book reviews and her writing.

Click on covers for the direct link:




Author Interview: David Neilson


I know David from a writing and critiquing site we are both members of. He always has good writing advice, and his dry sense of humor always makes me smile. Learning and improving to speak different languages is important to him. I hear that in his younger days, he loved to read Scifi and fantasy. Now he’s turned his attention to women’s fiction, and he does a splendid job with the genre.

He claims to be laughed at for saying that his idea of a good Saturday night is staying in and reading the Vulgate. At the moment he’s getting a kick out of reading Harry Potter in Turkish. Personally, I think it’s cool.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to David Neilson.

Good day, David. I hope this finds you well. One of the burning questions I know I’d like to ask you is, why do you write historical crime?

David: The notion of working in noir always appealed to me, but I had no sense of a suitable main character. At the same time, I felt very much at home in central Europe and in the Rococo, the period of Mozart and the Habsburg empress Maria Theresia. It was only when it occurred to me to try something noirish in that place and time that Sophie Rathenau, the main character in my series, turned up and demanded to be written about.

How interesting! Does your main character face dangers that you couldn’t handle yourself? How would you respond instead?

David: Sophie faces threats I would simply run from: imprisonment, injury, death. She’s had encounters with grim grenadiers and homicidal Croat pandours, and her boss has often threatened to lock her up. That she possesses the nerve I lack probably means one of two things, either that I’m a hypocrite who plays at confronting unpleasant realities, or that I’m slowly working up a bit of the courage that one day, like everyone else, I’m going to need. I suspect it’s more the latter.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

David: I’m now on the third in the series. It’s set in Venice, where Sophie is guarding Isabella, the wayward daughter of Maria Theresia. It’s obvious from the start that Isabella is going to misbehave, dragging Sophie into a war with Corona, a Venetian moneylender who warned her years before never to return. A lot of the fun, for me, arises from Isabella’s fling with Lorenzo da Ponte, who will later become Mozart’s librettist, but who, at this point in his life, is a louche, down-at-heel, thoroughly disreputable wordsmith.

When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

David: The characters have always tended to appear just as required, as if listening out for their cues. Although I know what each is supposed to be doing there, it’s always good when they strike out on their own, expressing some reality about their own lives I hadn’t foreseen. Among the most interesting aspects, I’ve found, is that Sophie brings a host of female characters in her wake; and curiously enough, working from her point of view, the male characters strike me as much more plausible than those I produced before she showed up.

Your character, Sophie sounds very exciting and interesting. How do you publish your writing and why?

David: I self-publish, which is far from ideal—and actually rather galling, given that years ago I’d been discussing these books with a major publisher in a deal that went wrong. Still, the arrangement has some advantages for me: I can go at my own pace and please myself as to how to produce them. A critical eye is always cast over the text, via my membership of the writers’ site Scribophile—surely the world’s best—and the first two books were edited and proofread to exacting professional standards.

My readership, I’ve discovered, is decidedly literate women of a certain age, readers who aren’t troubled by the unusual language and settings. It could be, though, that I’ve a problem with such a sophisticated clientele: I suspect they’re not always very keen on e-books, any more than I am myself.

What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors? What is your best marketing tip?

David: For someone who worked in marketing—and who was, I think, held to be good at it—I’m terrible at punting my own books. I have a huge database of leads, ideas, and suggestions I’ve not yet followed up, and that I’ve promised myself I’ll pursue energetically when Serene is ready for publication. By which time, I’ve assured myself, I can reasonably talk about having a series.

There are two central marketing tips all aspiring writers should know: the first is to write for a well-defined market and be keenly aware of your niche within it, so buyers can find your books easily, and the second is to ignore the markets and write exactly what you want, until, some day, the market finds you. Of course these are quite incompatible! I’m following the second approach, and am still hoping these hordes of readers will turn up.

Great advice! Do you read your reviews? 

David: I don’t get so many that I could possibly miss one, so yes, I read each with great interest and would welcome a great many more. Fortunately, I haven’t really had bad reviews for Sophie, but when one does show up that tears me to shreds, I’m confident that I’ll follow the golden rule and not respond. Reviews are supposed to be a learning experience, of course; just the same, I think I already have a shrewd idea of the great weaknesses of the series (of and each book). Not that I’m planning to share these insights…

I’d like to end with a couple of personal questions. Which famous person (or author), living or dead would you like to meet and why?

David: More than any other writer, my master is C S Lewis, though of course I’m turning out work very different from his. I always think of him, somehow, as a friend, and for that reason it would be fascinating to have met him and discover what he was really like, moment by moment. At least in theory: I’ve an idea that I would be very uncomfortable indeed, just as I was the night I encountered Robert B Parker, a noir writer whose influence on the Sophie books is much more obvious. On that occasion I barely got a word out.

What are your favorite movies and why?

David: The movies I like best probably reflect something of the way I write, which is another way of saying that they influenced me hugely, much more than novels ever did. They’re classics of the thirties and forties, films like Now, Voyager, Random Harvest, My Man Godfrey – anything with people like Bette Davis, George Brent, or William Powell in it. I love the literate, even stagey, dialogue in that sort of film, and the way it conveys strong feeling while masking it in precise expression. I’ve been trying to do that for years, largely after their model.

Boo, our time is up. Thanks for stopping by and giving us a peek into your life.

Author Bio:

Scottish, born in Glasgow, and for many years I worked as a teacher and educational marketer. Nowadays I live on the Rhine, a little to the south of Bonn, Germany.

Be sure to keep up with all of David’s works and what’s going on by following him on Pinterest and his website dedicated to his series.

Click on covers for direct links:

Author Interview: Heather Hayden


I met Heather on a writing site, and I fell in love with her writing right away. She always has good advice and she is very nice. She writes wonderful fantasy stories, and if you have young people in your life, you should pick them up one of her books. You won’t be disappointed. She and I had a lot of fun together doing book reviews for The Naked Reviewers, and I enjoy her take on the books I read.

Please allow me to introduce you to, Heather Hayden.

Hey Heather! Welcome to my little blog. I’m excited to get started. For my first question, I’d like to ask what drew you to write fantasy?

Heather: Reading is my way to escape reality, so fantasy is naturally one of my favorite genres. When I began writing, it was only natural that I would write fantasy. In fact, most of the stories I’ve written to date have been fantasy, though a few have delved into other genres (including a YA science fiction novel and a YA horror short story).

I feel the same way about reading. My escape is historical romance. Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm fantasy story ideas.

Heather: A story usually pops into my head as a vague idea, which starts to flesh out as I think about it more. Sometimes it has to stew in my brain for a bit before I write it down, other times I simply open a Word document and start writing. I don’t usually plot out stories—I find it hard to enjoy the process when I’m not discovering the story alongside my characters.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

Heather: I’m currently working on Within the Ironwood, a gaslamp fantasy novel that will be the first in a planned series of fairy tale retellings. This tale is a retelling of Snow White. It is set in a world where magic is fading and technology is on the rise. The main character, Branwen, is an insecure princess who enjoys building clockwork creatures.

That sounds interesting! Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate, or longhand?

Heather: Always, always a computer, unless I have an idea I simply must write down and pen and paper are the only things available. I have used a typewriter before and they’re loads of fun, but it’s annoying to retype everything. I have also tried dictation software but was unimpressed by its ability to handle fiction—especially formatting dialog.

I love to write on my laptop. If it wasn’t for computers and spellcheck, I wouldn’t be writing now. Do you have an illustrator? What is that like?

Heather: My writers’ group, the Just-Us League, has an illustrator for our anthologies. She’s actually my sister, the incredibly talented Heidi Hayden. You can see some of her work here. The process is relatively simple. First, the authors provide her with suggestions and options regarding what could go into their illustrations. Second, she does rough sketches to demonstrate how she has taken those suggestions and turned them into a cohesive piece of art. Third, once the sketch has been revised and/or approved, she finishes the illustration and inks it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years regarding published works?

Heather: Ten years from now? Hm. Well, I’m hoping to reach a point where I’m releasing 2-3 titles a year, so in 10 years I hope to have 20-30 titles published. Perhaps even more. Once I reach a point where I can support myself with my writing, I’ll be able to focus more time on my stories.

What do your fans mean to you?

Heather: Every time I hear from someone, especially a stranger, who enjoys my stories, I am stunned. It’s still hard to believe that my writing has touched others, but it makes me glad. I originally began writing for myself, and I still do—but knowing that there are people out there in the world who are enjoying those same stories is inspiring.

It’s so great to take someone out of their hum-drum and help them escape into a world they’d love to live in. Do you read your reviews?

Heather: At times, yes. I enjoy seeing what others think about my stories, and it also tells me—through the more critical reviews—where I still need to improve as a storyteller.

And now for a couple of more personal questions. What is your favorite quote?

Heather: C.J. Cherryh, my favorite science fiction author, once said, “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” Being a perfectionist, I often need that reminder when I sit down to start a new story. It doesn’t have to be perfect when it first hits the page, it just needs to be written down.

I agree. What is your favorite way to avoid writing?

Heather: Me, avoid writing? Perish the thought! Haha, to tell the truth, I do sometimes procrastinate. Most often, it is either by watching Netflix (I’m currently wrapping up Star Trek: Voyager), or by gaming (usually with friends). Current passions are Magic the Gathering, Stellaris, and Dungeon Defenders.

At least your procrastinating is doing fun stuff. I tend to clean. Darn. That wraps up our time. Thanks so much for stopping by. I had a blast!

Heather’s Bio:

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. She is currently working on Upgrade (the sequel to her first published novel) and an as-yet-untitled series of fairy tale novelizations.

Her publications include Augment, a YA science fiction novel, and several short stories in the JL Anthology series. “Monsieur Puss,” a retelling of Puss in Boots, will be released on May 31st in A Bit of Magic, the fifth JL Anthology volume.

You can follow Heather’s writing adventures on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter, or through her newsletter.

Click on covers for direct links:

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Book Review: Along Came December by Jay Allisan

She watched him die. She won’t watch his killer live. Eighteen months ago, homicide detective Shirley Mordecai witnessed a bomb tear her husband apart, and her life is still in fragments. Panic attacks threaten her career. Bitterness alienates her friends. And her husband’s killer is about to stand trial, pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.


Mordecai’s poised to snap. But vengeance comes at a cost, and Mordecai still has a lot to lose. A series of murders has gripped the city, and Mordecai’s roommate and best friend is a lot closer to the investigation than she’d like. As the trial begins and Mordecai’s grief comes to a head, her obsession with revenge costs her everything she has left—including her best friend’s trust,

Alone, broken, and out of hope, it’s all Mordecai can do not to let the memory of the life she lost pull her under for good. But a knock on the door reminds her there’s another killer out there, and that her best friend’s still in the line of fire. …(condensed)

My Review: 3.5-Stars

This is the hardest review I’ve ever had to give. Along Came December by Jay Allisan held a lot of promise with the cover and the blurb, but this book needs an editor. The story is over 130k words long, and I feel it could be cut in half to rid it of all the repetitive and redundant writing.

Jay Allisan has a great passion for telling stories and it shows with her research skills. The dialog is fantastic, and I feel it is very well done to help bring the characters to life. To really make them shine and feel more like real people they needed emotions and feelings, maybe some internal thoughts and the 5 senses. The story has a lot of grief, sadness, killers, crime, friendship, and moments that should be filled with excitement, but the writer tells me these things in a list type of style.

I think the characters are good, and if you enjoy a long, slow read you will like this one. I do think a little too much time was spent on the main character’s mental issues, and I find it hard to believe she would still have a badge and a gun after some of her behavior.

However, I feel with some good editing this story will really shine brightly and be a great read with a good plot.

For more reviews on Along Came December, check out The Naked Reviewers.