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  1.  Every Friday I'm going to do a New Release slot on my blog and I'm delighted to start with the wonderful Looking At The Stars by fellow Sassie, Jo Cotterill the author of  the popular Sweet Heart series. Looking At The Stars is an inspiring, topical story about the power of love and the importance of stories that grips you from the first page and holds you until the end.

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    When there's nothing left to lose, stories are all we have....

     

    Blurb:

    Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong. The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . . 

    Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on - of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?

     I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, Jo. Amina is a fiesty, credible character and the plot is very moving.

     

    Buy Links

    Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Looking-at-Stars-Jo-Cotterill/dp/178230018X

    Foyles:

    http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/childrens/looking-at-the-stars,jo-cotterill-9781782300182

    Waterstones:

    http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/jo+cotterill/looking+at+the+stars/9759005/

    Blackwells:

     About Jo

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    I asked Jo to tell us a bit about herself.

     How did you get started writing?

    I wrote a lot of stories when I was a child. Most of them were about unicorns! When I reached secondary school, writing stories and using your imagination wasn’t valued very much,  and I was doing so many other things, like music and dance, that story writing fell by the wayside. I started again in my twenties. At the time I was working as an actor/musician, and when I couldn’t get acting work, I did boring office jobs. To keep myself creatively stimulated, I did a correspondence course in writing for children and I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to get published and see my name on the front of a real book! Of course, to start with I was pretty rubbish, but over time (and a LOT of submissions) I understood more about what was needed, and I can’t explain the joy I felt when my very first book was accepted for publication!

    I'm glad you persevered, Jo. :)

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I can put my big toe in my mouth. Oh, and I can sing ‘Old Macdonald’ in Chinese.

     

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Read the sort of stuff you want to write. I’m astonished how many people want to write for children but haven’t read any children’s books in the past ten years. Children’s books have changed dramatically since I was a child, and I think it’s really important (and inspiring!) to know what you’re up against!

    Great tips!

    A brief Author bio.

    Jo’s first story at the age of five was a festive one entitled 'Chismas’. After writing a lot of stories about unicorns, she decided at the age of thirteen to become an actress. Her professional acting career was enjoyable but frustrating, so she became a teacher instead, writing stories on the side. Her first book was published in 2004, and she gave up teaching in 2009. Jo now lives in Oxfordshire and fits writing around her young family. She enjoys music and card-making, and is an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing.

    Author Links

    http://www.jocotterill.com

    @jocotterillbook

     

     

     

  2. A big welcome today to fellow Astraea author, Jo Grafford. Jo's latest book, Breaking Ties, is out now.

    Breaking Ties

    BLURB:

    ROSE PAYNE'S world is shattered after a secret betrothal to the duke’s son ends up costing her job as a clerk in his father's household. Without a letter of recommendation, Rose becomes an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Desperate for work, she signs up for a risky overseas venture and sails for the New World, hoping for a fresh start and vowing to never again fall for a wealthy gentleman.

    Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, CHIEF MANTEO is bewitched by the fiery-haired ship’s clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one that forces her, honor bound, to serve as a slave to his tribe – a plan he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in BREAKING TIES.

    It sounds a fascinating story, Jo.

    Buy Links

    Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00FYIYM7A

    Barnes and Noble: 

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breaking-ties-jo-grafford/1117230076?ean=2940148412823

    Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/368485

    iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/breaking-ties/id734879755?mt=11

    Astraea Press: http://astraeapress.com/#!/~/product/category=662245&id=28863116

     

    Jo Grafford

    I asked Jo to tell us a bit about herself:

    How did you get started writing?

    According to my parents, I created some rather excellent murals on the walls of the nursery as soon as I could hold my first crayon. By elementary school, I was writing poems and short stories and entering district-sponsored writing contests. In high school, I edited our school newspaper called Lions Roar, typeset for a local news journal, and participated in American Legion oratory contests – winning more than a thousand dollars in scholarships. For the next decade, I wrote training manuals and financial curriculum at the corporate, college, and high school levels. I finally figured out I was born to be a writer. Last year was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel for publication – a huge “bucket list” item – which resulted in BREAKING TIES, first book in the Lost Colony Series. It has been an exciting and very rewarding journey to becoming a published author. I wouldn’t trade anything for all the life-shaping adventures along the way.

     Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I burned out the motors of three reputable models of kitchen blenders on my quest to create the ultimate guilt-free smoothie. I finally completed my quest with: a single banana, three cups of frozen berries, a dash of Splenda, a dollop of frozen fat-free Cool Whip, exactly fifteen granules of salt (must count under a microscope) and just enough light cranberry juice to get the blades of a commercial-grade blender spinning on the “ice” setting.

    I hope it as tasty after all that hard work, Jo!

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Just write. Write every day. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write at the bar while dinner is simmering on the stove. Write with a laptop balanced on your knees between appointments. Persistence and practice are the surest ways to reach the top of your game. Ask any NFL player, Hollywood actor, or prime-time TV anchor.

    Great tips, Jo. :)

    Author Bio

    Jo is an award-winning author at Astraea Press who loves to indulge in marathon showings of CSI, NCIS, and Castle. From St. Louis, Missouri, she holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, college finance instructor, and high school business teacher. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter.  The mother of three children and the wife of a soldier, she serves as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.

     

    Contact Info:

    Website: www.JoGrafford.com

    FB: https://www.facebook.com/JoGraffordAuthor

    Twitter: @jografford

    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7360736.Jo_Grafford

    Google+: https://plus.google.com/114780404475283292643/posts

    YouTube Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/nBB8_qcG-9I

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  3. balloons-birthday-2

     

    My YA, Perfect Summer, was published one year ago today by Astraea Press, USA. To celebrate I'm giving away two free copies, a paperback (UK only) and an e-book. All you have to do to enter is post a comment below telling me the name of Morgan's little brother. On Friday I'll put all the names in a hat and choose two winners.

      'In A Society Obsessed With Perfection, Being Different Is A Crime.'

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    'I was really taken away by this book - it is full of excitement, danger, shocks, gripping scenes and a thick plot. It is a truly brilliant story, with some fun - but SO realistic - characters. It makes the reader think - could the future turn out to be something like this??' Bookworm1, Amazon UK review

     

    Lots of other authors are helping me celebrate by hosting me on their blogs. Drop by and join in the celebrations!

    Here's some of the links below:

    Ann Evans, author of The Beast Trilogy: http://annsawriter.blogspot.co.uk/

    Sherry Gloag, author of Name The Day: http://sherrygloagtheheartofromance.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/karen-kings-book-birthday-bash.html

    Ariella Moon, author of The Teen Wyche saga:   http://www.ariellamoon.blogspot.co.uk/

    Wendy Knight, author of Feudlings: http://www.wendyknightauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

    Kathy Bosman, author of  Wedding Gown Girl: http://www.kathybosman.com/2014/01/author-and-book-spotlight-karen-king.html

     Felicia Rogers, author of The Rennaisance Hearts series:

     
     
     Elaine Cantrell, author of  Grandfather's Legacy: http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.co.uk/

    Heather Gray, author of        http://heathergraywriting.com/entries/in-the-spotlight/Spotlight-on-Perfect-Summer

     Amy Mullen, author of Redifining Rayne: http://www.authoramymullen.com/1/post/2014/01/about-a-book-perfect-summer-by-karen-king-interview-with-karen.html

    Stephanie Mitchells, author of Trouble In Paradys: http://chunkingupthepage.blogspot.co.uk/

     

    Thank you everyone for sharing my Perfect Summer Book Birthday Bash celebrations!

     

  4. I came across this poem the other day, it has lots of memories for me as it's one I used to read with my dad. When Dad read this poem to us he often said that it reminded him to try and take time in the busy day to notice what was around him. To look at the clouds in the sky, to smell the flowers, to listen to the birds singing. Especially good advice for a writer.

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    My dad loved books and he instilled that love of books in me. We spent many Saturday afternoons browsing through the dusty shelves of a second-hand bookshop, where my brothers and I would be allowed to choose a book each - and sometimes two - to take home. Oh the delight of being surrounded by so many books, and the agony of deciding which one to choose.

    I still remember some of them now. The book of ballet that told all the stories behind the ballets and inspired in me the desire to be a ballet dancer -  two or three ballet lessons where I constantly danced out of step soon put me off that idea. The travel books that inflamed my desire to see as many different countries as possible - a desire I still have today, the poetry books which we all used to take turns to read, the story books about magical wooden horses, vengeful leprechauns and fairies, flying carpets and naughty schoolgirls which inspired my love of reading and writing. That's where it all started, where the budding writer was born, in those backstreet second-hand bookshops with their creaking shelves of passed-on books. So I owe my love of reading and writing to my dad.

    Unfortunately Dad died when he was 51, he never lived to see me become a writer but I'm sure he knows and I hope he now has time 'to stand and stare.'

    What about you? What inspired your love of reading and writing?


    Karen x

    (This post first appeared on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure)

  5. A warm hello to my Guest Author, Amy Mullen. Amy's latest book, Redefining Rayne, is published by Astraea Press.

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    Blurb:

    Rayne de Latham, cousin to King William Rufus, should be enjoying a life of privilege. Instead, she has only known misery. Her disastrous first marriage yielded nothing but pain, suffering, and three stillborn children. She believes she is cursed and is certain another pregnancy will end in another tragedy. When the king seeks to get rid of her by sending her to marry one of his knights, she will do just about anything to get out of her betrothal.

    Widower Andre de Grelle is father to two small boys who came to him by marriage. When his first wife jumps off the castle walls in a fit of madness, he keeps the boys he has grown to love as his own. When the king sends him a new bride, the lovely but troubled Rayne, he vows to have more patience with her than he had with his first wife.

    Once Rayne arrives at Cuxton Castle, Andre realizes there is much more to her than meets the eye. She does everything she can to force him to send her away, but nothing works. Frustration grows as Andre discovers his betrothed is hiding something from him about her past, something so devastating she cannot speak the words out loud.

    In the midst of a siege on nearby Pevensey Castle, a truth comes to light that changes everything. As the real story of Rayne’s past emerges, lives change forever. Will love be enough, or will it be easier to walk away?

    Excerpt:

    Andre moved closer to her. His body was mere inches from hers as he lifted his other hand and slowly tilted her face toward his. Cupping her cheek, he wiped away a tear with his thumb. "You have no idea how fascinating you are," he whispered.

    Involuntarily, her eyes closed and she tilted her chin up. She felt his soft lips brush hers and she started to tremble. The short, light touch of his mouth stirred something in her. A young maiden's dream of love, of being loved and cherished, welled up from a place where she had hidden her hopes a long time ago. She returned his kiss, but just for a moment.

    Her eyes flew open, and she pulled her head back. This was all wrong. This was not how this was supposed to happen. In a rush to break the spell, she stammered out the first thing she thought of, "Someone will see us! Odo may come."

    An expression of disbelief washed across his features and was replaced by irritation. "Odo? What has he to do with this? He is my guest but hardly has a say in what I do with you."

    "You…" she stumbled over her words, "you… he is your…"

    Andre stood and stepped away from her. He stared down at her, but she could no longer read his face. "Do your affections lie with Odo, Lady Rayne?"

     

    Buy Link:

     Amazon    

    Barnes and Noble

    Astraea Press

     

    About Amy

    Amy Mullen

    I asked Amy to tell us a bit about herself

    1.  How did you get started writing?

    I was young, full of angst, and needed an outlet. I started writing really dreadful poetry at age 12 and wrote some stories with a friend a few years later. I began writing seriously in my twenties, but did not pursue publication until recently. I have worked pretty steadily as a freelance web writer in the past as well.

    2.   Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I have been all over the east coast of the US seeing…the Wiggles. My daughter (now 12) loved them and I guess I did too. I still do. We had a lot of fun and met a lot of amazing people, many of whom are still good friends today. We attended a live taping of a concert, sat in the front row, and ended up on a DVD. I’m not telling you which one though!

    3.       What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Find someone who will go over your work with you. You could be making some basic mistakes that will get your manuscript tossed aside. This does not mean you are not a good writer or that you do not have a good idea for a story. It just means there are things you do not know. I have two published books and I know I have tons yet to learn. If you can find someone to go over it with you, jump at the chance. Do not take their suggestions as defeat. Think of this as learning. You’ll be glad you did.

    Author Bio

    Amy Mullen is a freelance writer and romance author living in Corning, NY, with her husband, Patrick, her two children, and an orange cat named Steve. She has written two medieval romances called A Stormy Knight and Redefining Rayne.

    Amy has been writing about love both lost and regained since she was old enough to have her first broken heart. Her love of history and her intermittent jaunts into amateur genealogy led her to a love affair with writing historical fiction. When not writing, she snaps pictures, gets nutty over football, enjoys the company of her family, and when time allows, loves to bury her nose in a good book.

    She can be found online at www.authoramymullen.com or www.facebook.com/authoramymullen.