Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Authors to Watch: Lord of Shadows by Shania Tyler

Author: Shania Tyler
Publisher: ColleenNorman Publishing House
Pages: 330
Genre: Paranormal Romance
The Power of Love and Darkness
How strong you need to be to face your sealed fate?

Kelly Green had plans for her senior year of college.
Graduate. Get a job. And hopefully find love.

What she didn’t include was:
1. Getting kidnapped by an arrogant vampire 
2. Getting swept into his world of eternal darkness
3. And she certainly didn’t plan on falling for him...

Mason is the leader of the Rebels, an army fighting in a secret war that is about to get real. Vampires have enslaved elves for centuries, and Mason’s men fight for their freedom.

He’s willing do anything to see his people as the victors… whatever it takes.
This includes kidnapping a woman who isn’t what she seems and doing whatever he must in order to keep her close…

including pretending to fall in love…

But all the magic in the world of Asea can’t protect the heart and sooner or later, they’ll both have to make a choice that could change the future of an entire nation.

In the world of Asea, destiny’s course is set like a dance.
Nothing in life has been left up to chance.

“Destiny must be fulfilled.”

*Are they ready?*

*Are you?*



Book Excerpt:

“Hey!” she called as he headed toward her. “What’s with the robe?”
A strong gust pushed her dress backward. She looked over her shoulder at the administration building and then back at the stranger, who stood only a few yards away.
He’d been so far away a moment ago.
Kelly did a double take, noticing for the first time that he wasn’t wearing a robe. The black was like a shadow that floated around him. The image of Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic strip—the little boy with the cloud of dirt always circling him—stopped her from totally freaking out.
Then the image of Pig-Pen vanished and she freaked out.
She turned and saw the stranger from inside and frowned. How did he know her name?
He held out his hand, his green eyes wide and his dark hair windblown. “Come to me.”
She rushed to him, too afraid of the thing behind her to think about the consequences.
A peacefulness fell over her at his touch and then she was flush against him, chest to chest and thigh to thigh. “I—” Her body jerked and a fast wind stung her eyes. Her hair whipped in her face, and it was only then that she realized they were moving.
Her stranger, with his arm around her waist, held her with her feet off the ground and was running faster than humanly possible. “Hold onto me.”
Kelly’s jaw dropped, but her arms went around his neck to hold onto him for fear of being dropped; she could feel the strength in his body and knew he wouldn’t let her go.
What was happening to her?
Maybe she’d been drugged.
She tried to remember everything that had happened. Had she even attended the event? What if she was dreaming? It was the only explanation for the fact that she was being carried by a man who was speeding past buildings and trees like some sort of superhero. The street lamps’ rays splashed onto the sidewalk in quick patterns and everything about the dream felt real.
The man holding her certainly felt real. His thick muscles and the coolness of his leather jacket under her hands all felt real.
But then she looked up and saw they were being chased by the shadow. She thought it a dream again, especially as the shadow seemed to spread into the darkness around them, turning the already dark night into a blackness she’d never seen.
She closed her eyes and, like she did with any nightmare she’d found herself stuck in, told herself to wake up.
Her body jerked when they turned, and she heard the opening of a door before her body jolted again when they came to a complete stop.
The stranger set her down on her feet and then turned to close the door.
Kelly looked around and recognized the president’s house. She’d attended a few dinners at the house last year with her friend Amity, who’d been part of every major organization on campus.
“Come on,” the stranger said, holding out his hand.
She didn’t move. “What is going on?”
Something flickered in his green eyes, anger she thought, before he smoothed it away and said, “We have to go.”
“No.” Kelly shook her head. “I want to know what’s going on.”
The front door began to rattle, and she jumped.
“Come on!” the stranger shouted.
Kelly pressed her fingers to her temples. “Wake up, wake up, wake up.”
He grabbed her arms.
She looked up into the stranger’s eyes and the intricate shades of green began to dance.
Kelly blinked as a heaviness settled in her head and over her eyes. She grew tired instantly and the stranger wrapped his arms around her.
Ote-oun’a,” he whispered again. His eyes held a touch of tenderness and then darkness claimed her. “Sleep,” she heard him whisper, before there was nothing.

About the Author

As a young girl, Shania Tyler has always been fascinated with the world of vampires, dragons, fairies, elves and angles. So strong was her fascination that she always felt there is indeed such a world out there. A world where creatures of supernatural powers can transcend beyond time and space, not confined to the rules of the human world, and being able to live for eternity.

In Shania’s writings, you will find an infusion of passionate romance, action and mystery, and sometimes with a touch of suspense. She enjoys creating a dark complex world containing entities of a supernatural or otherworldly nature and being able to bring a romantic flavour to the plot and amongst the characters. It brings her great joy to see her childhood fantasies becoming a reality through the pages that she wrote. Some of her inspirations of writings include Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton .

Shania’s latest book is the paranormal romance, Lord of Shadows.

You can connect with Shania on Facebook.

Shania Tyler is giving away 7 paranormal romance paperbacks by Bella Forrest, JR Ward, I.T. Lucas, Dannika Dark, Karen Marie Moning, Patricia Briggs and Christine Feehan. BONUS: All entries will receive a free copy of FALLING INTO DARKNESS by Shania Tyler.

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive  a 7-pack paperback collection of paranormal romance novels by bestselling authors. All entries will receive a free copy of Shania Tyler's FALLING INTO DARKNESS.
  • This giveaway ends midnight May 31.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on June 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!



Friday, May 26, 2017

One to Watch: The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy by Burt Hall

For over thirty years, World War II veteran and author Burt Hall assessed accountability in government and national security. Now, this seasoned, professional analyst delivers a tough account of what went wrong in our politics and system of government over the past two decades and what we can do about it. 

The right wing (not to be confused with Conservatism) has hijacked the Republican Party and wrecked havoc on our nation. It exploited basic flaws in our system to gain power and a series of major setbacks and a weakened democracy have followed. 

The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy lays out clearly what the basic flaws in our system are and how they can be fixed. The danger is that an ongoing shift of political power to the very wealthy and suppression of voting rights is silencing the voice of the average citizen. 

If elected officials do not fix the basic flaws, the American people have alternatives in our democracy and must take matters into their own hands.

After early careers in the aircraft electronics field and as a CPA, Burt Hall joined the USGovernment Accountability Office (GAO), where he served as group director analyst on national security and other matters. For more than thirty years, he reported to Congress and testified before its committees on behalf of the GAO. Mr. Hall graduated from the Harvard Advanced Management Program and was loaned twice for two years, once to a bipartisan congressional commission and later to the Reagan White House.

With Ed Asner, who also contributed to The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy, Hall coauthored Misuse of Power. He coauthored the bestselling book, How the Experts Win at Bridge, with his wife, Lynn.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Authors To Watch: Daniel A. Blum, author of The Feet Say Run

Daniel A. Blum grew up in New York, attended Brandeis University and currently lives outside of Boston with his family. His first novel Lisa33 was published by Viking in 2003. He has been featured in Poets and Writers magazine, Publisher’s Weekly and most recently, interviewed in Psychology Today.

Daniel writes a humor blog, The Rotting Post, that has developed a loyal following.

His latest release is the literary novel, The Feet Say Run.



Author: Daniel A. Blum
Publisher: Gabriel’s Horn Press
Pages: 349
Genre: Literary Fiction

At the age of eighty-five, Hans Jaeger finds himself a castaway among a group of survivors on a deserted island.  What is my particular crime?  he asks.   Why have I been chosen  for this fate?  And so he begins his extraordinary chronicle. 

It would be an understatement to say he has lived a full life.  He has grown up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl.  He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess.  After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, finds solace among prostitutes while his wife lay in a coma, and marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her. 

By turns sardonic and tragic and surreal, Hans’s story is the story of all of the insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself.  


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tell us a little about yourself.
grew up in the exotic hinterlands of Long Island, New York.  For the most part, it was the sort of run-of-the-mill, suburban background that I have little desire to write about.  (The old adage, “Write what you know” sounds great, but what if “what you know” is lot really all that remarkable?).  The most unusual part of my background is that my my immediate family are all either psychiatrists (father and brother) or psychologists (mother and sister).  So I suppose I could either be at least marginally introspective or go crazy. 
These days I live outside Boston with my own family. 

When did you begin writing?
Well, I tried writing in high school.  But those efforts have thankfully been lost to the ravages of time. 

My first passably decent piece of writing was actually letter I wrote to in college to a girl who I was interested in.  It was a long, rambling, comic description of a train ride I was on, and it was something of an “aha” moment about how to inject life and wit into descriptions of the everyday world around you. Thinking back, it is not really surprising that my best early bit of prose was born of an effort to impress a girl.

The letter itself was definitely a success with its target audience.  Unfortunately, the ensuing love affair was rather less successful.  It lasted all of a month.  Yet my love affair with the written word is still going strong. 

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
I have no particular pattern.  Although wife assures me that I write best when there are dishes in the sink, when the trash needs to go out, or when there is an errand that needs to be run.   
I try to plot out a storyline, but I like big, complicated plots, so I am always going back and revising.  The first version of the plot is pretty much unrecognizable by the time I’m finished. 
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
The Feet Say Run is not an easy book to describe or classify.  It’s really the story of the twentieth century told through a single, long, extraordingary life.  The narrator, Hans, is an eighty-five year old castaway, reflecting on his past. 

Hans grows up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl.  He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess.  After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her, and keeps reliving his war experiences.  There are many, many interwoven stories. 

I think of it as a literary novel that is also a page-turner - full of comedy and tragedy and suspense.  

What would you say is the message or meaning of the book?
It seems that survivors of Literature 101 assume there is always a hidden meaning of sorts to a serious novel.  Yet few novelists go around planting secret messages, symbols, like so many Easter Eggs, waiting to be discovered.  (Perhaps some modern poets make a habit of this, but if you ask me, it’s a pretty annoying habit.)  In my own experience, what a good novelist wants to say, in almost every case, is pretty much right there in the story itself:  What it feels like to be alive, to have this odd thing we call consciouness, to have this or that extraordinary experience, to be alive in this time in history and in this particular place.  

In The Feet Say Run the plot is intricate and involved, but what it says is not: That humans are capable of extraordinary cruelty and kindness, stupidity and brilliance; that life is chaotic and complex;  that this sturdy-seeming thing we call civilization is in truth desperately fragile.   

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
That would have to be Hans, the narrator.  I’m pleased to find that most readers are quite drawn to him.  He has seen humanity at its worst, and has a sort-of worldly pessimism, yet he is also a romantic, an adventurer and a lover, flawed in ways that are very human and recognizable. 

What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

There is a scene in The Feet Say Run that is just after the end of World War II in the ruins of Berlin.  The narrator takes his lover to the first concert at the re-opening of the Berling philharmonic.  There is still no heat inside.  Everyone is more-or-less hungry and in rags.  But the settle in to hear a Beethoven symphony, and it fills the narrator with this sea of emotion – grief at the horror of the war and this desire to turn back time, but also a sense that it was truly over, that it was possible again to think about something besides pure survival, to marvel at human achievement instead of human brutality. 

Tell us a bit about the road to publication?

It was more a roller-coaster ride than a road. 

This is actually my second novel.  My first novel was Lisa33, which was published by Viking over a decade ago.   I actually went from a long string of rejections to having publishers suddenly in a bidding war for my novel.  That was quite surreal.  In the end, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, book was not promoted at all by the publisher.  They took a financial bath on it, and I soon returned to obscurity.   Ironically, my agent, who had assured me I would be famous, later came out with his own memoir and found fame with it. 

For years after that experience I ceased writing fiction entirely and even reading it.  Yet one day I found myself working again, crafting this new story, and before I knew it I was in deep and – as they say in a military campaign – the only way out was forward.  When The Feet Say Run was completed, I had few connections left in the publishing world.  But I had posted a few poems to a public website, and my publisher had read an admired them there.  She emailed me and asked what else I wrote, and I sent her the manuscript.

In a way I feel I am one of the few writer to be “discovered” twice. 

 What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
First, forget everything anyone has “taught” you about writing.  Nobody knows.  There is no assembly manual.   There is not carefully marked trail.  You must find your own way through the wilderness.  Second, a novel is not just a long short-story.  You must have an ever-advancing plot-line, and you must make the reader want to find out what happens next.  Many writing classes seem to work from short stories, yet the requirements of a short story and a novel and qualitatively different.  Third, please please please, forget, “write what you know”!  Worst advice ever.   Write the type of book that, as a reader, you would most want to read. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Authors to Watch: R.J. Blain, author of Playing with Fire & Win $25 Amazon Gift Card

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she's a cartographer and a sumi-e painter.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.



Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, action, excitement, adventure, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it.

Working as the only human barista at a coffee shop catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day. Bailey Gardener has few options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up the world’s nastiest magical substances.

Unfortunately for her, Faery Fortunes is located in the heart of
Manhattan Island, not far from where Police Chief Samuel Quinn works. If she’d been smart, she never would have agreed to help the man find his wife.

Bailey found her, all right—in the absolutely worst way possible.

One divorce and several years later, Bailey is once again entangled in Chief Quinn’s personal affairs, and he has good reason to hate her. Without her, he wouldn’t be
Manhattan’s Most Wanted Bachelor, something he loathes. Without her, he’d still be married.

If only she’d said no when he asked her help, she might have had a chance with him. While her magic worked well, it came with a price: misfortune. Hers.

When Quinn’s former brother-in-law comes to her for help, he leaves her with a cell phone and seventy-five thousand reasons to put her magic to the test. However, when she discovers Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, Bailey’s tossed in the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.

Playing With Fire is available at Amazon.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m RJ! Thanks for having me here today. I like to think of myself as an average, run of the mill person with a twisted sense of humor (and a fondness for puns and bad jokes.) When I’m not writing, I either have my nose in a book or am playing computer games with my husband. I read a lot of things, but my guilty pleasures include romantic comedies, romances involving billionaire bosses (I prefer the non-erotic ones,) and CIA/spy thrillers—or anything like the Patriot Games / Hunt for Red October era Tom Clancy novels.

My main reading interests involve fantasy—urban, paranormal, epic, you name it, I probably like it. I skirt away from dark fantasy, though. I like thrills and chills, but I’d rather not need therapy by the time I finish reading a book. I enjoy happily ever afters, and that often reflects in what I write. (Albeit, it might take my characters a while to get that happily ever after.)

When did you begin writing?

I’d like to say I’m one of those kids who started writing out of the gate, but that’s simply not true. I was barely literate in 4th grade. (By barely, I mean it—I classified as functionally illiterate.) Nothing against the school I went to growing up, either. It was all on me. I was the girl who wanted to play sports and that was it. I had no interest in anything other than recess, a little bit of art, and playing any sport possible.

Enter a Wrinkle in Time and a teacher who figured out I just didn’t like the ‘normal’ offerings. So, she put a science fiction/fantasy in my hand, and I liked it so much I turned the train wreck around and went to town. By 5th grade, I was reading Stephen King, Robert Jordan, and tested more towards college level reading.

I didn’t start writing until high school, and it didn’t even occur to me people could become writers. I was in school for engineering. Had I actually finished college (which I didn’t) I would have had a degree in biomedical engineering.

I became an author instead, and I am so glad I made the choice I did.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

This is a tough question for me. My process changes with every book. Some books I write by the seat of my pants, some are meticulously plotted. Others are a mix! I’ll talk about two titles which use two totally different methods of writing.

I’ll begin with Playing with Fire. It started as a joke, in a way. I wanted to read a romantic comedy, but I couldn’t find one that wasn’t just about the explicit sex—or an urban fantasy. Or actually any fantasy. It was a bad day on the reading front for me. Anyway, I was talking with a few friends, and we were making fun of a lot of clich├ęs, and I decided I’d go to town. I grabbed a moleskine writing journal, picked a character name (Bailey) and went to work. I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided it’d be funny and I’d have a lot of fun writing it.

I gave her a serious case of misfortune, a huge crush on her worst enemy, and an even worse case of miscommunication. Thus began her love story with Quinn. Since I can’t seem to write a book without thriller elements or killing someone, it became a romantic comedy with a body count. Add in the fact that magic is my bread and butter, and it became a world filled with faerie, incubi, succubi, gorgons, phoenixes… you name it, they’re in there—or might be in there.

While I wrote Playing with Fire by the seat of my pants, I also spent a great deal of time going back and fixing everything. So, in a way, my process looked a whole lot like “write this, re-read that, write some more… oh, crap. I need to go fix that because I did this.”

It was a lot of work, but I had a great time with it.

Now, on the opposite side of the fence, I have a story named Memento Mori. The concept for this project include eighty pages of notes, and that excludes the actual outline. The outline is done on an arc by arc level, includes critical plot points, information, and structure notes, and character tidbits. I have book one plotted out with parts of book two ready, too.

I’ve already begun writing this book, but it’s going to be a long time in the works. It’s a play project, but it’s one I’ve approached in a very meticulous fashion. When I finish each arc of the book, I write down how many words the rough draft is, notes on the timeline, and all sorts of other little bits of information. Memento Mori’s world is really complex, involves a great deal of history, and goes far beyond anything else I’ve written before. (It also includes a lot of references to mythologies from all over the world!)

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Playing with Fire is a magical romantic comedy with a body count. It’s a little bit of a mystery, a little bit of a thriller, a little bit of a romance, over the top fun, and ridiculous. It tells the story of Bailey Gardener, a young woman who has gotten the short stick in life. She’s from a family that takes pride in being absolutely normal—plain old vanilla humans—in a world filled with magic and wonder.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t live up to the family tradition of being plain, vanilla, or normal at all. She’s essentially been disowned, has enough self-esteem problems to keep an entire mental health ward busy, and is immune to pixie dust, the recreational (and legal) drug of choice, one that takes the edge off life and helps people see the brighter side of things.

She also has a serious case of lust for Samuel Quinn, Manhattan’s Most Wanted Bachelor. Unfortunately for her, she proved his ex-wife had been cheating on him in one of the worst ways possible, so the object of her lust has every reason to hate her.

Unfortunately—or fortunately—for her, Samuel Quinn has had her in his sights all along.
And thus the mayhem begins.

How did you get the idea for the book?

I have three people in particular I’d like to blame for this book: Diana Pharaoh Francis, Mel Sterling, and Grace Draven. Instead of a dedication, this entire series needs a blameication. Di gets the blame because she fell in love with Bailey and Quinn right out of the gate and kept asking for more… going as far as bribing my editor to make certain it got finished faster. (Really, she did! And my shameless editor accepted the bribes…)

Mel Sterling gets the blame because when she gets together with Grace Draven, they start ridiculous conversations, I get caught up in them, and the whacky ideas come out, as do the crazy jokes.
I took one of the jokes from the conversation and turned it into a book. Mel practically goaded me into it. And so the book came to be.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

This is a tough one. I have so many characters I enjoy. One of my favorites is Dustin Walker, a secondary character from Beneath a Blood Moon. He’s gotten a life of his own and features in short stories I post in my newsletter whenever I have a new release. He isn’t always a newsletter staple, but he gets a lot of attention there. One day I hope to write a novel dedicated to him. But for now, short stories.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

The editing. The writing came easy—I had so much fun with the book it flew by. The editing work is always a challenge, because I want the book to be as good as I can make it, but I also want to get to work on the next book. It’s a really tough balance, as I want to write the perfect book, but I also want to write the next story.

Which authors have inspired your writing?

There are a lot of authors who have influenced me in some fashion or another, but I’m going to go with my favorites, as the books I love to read determine the type of books I want to write. In no particular order: Jim Butcher, Patty Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Madeline L’Engle, Mercedes Lackey, Robert Aspirin… there are so many more, but that’s a decent start.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have several books in the works I’m hoping to have ready for release this year, including Water Viper (A Jesse Alexander novel), Silver Bullet (Book 4 of the Witch & Wolf series), Hoofin’ It (Book 2 of the Magical Romantic Comedy series), and Wolf Hunt, (Book 1 of Wolf Hunt, technically Witch & Wolf #5.)

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Keep writing. It’s hard. It never really gets easier. It’s frustrating at times, it’s probably one of the hardest careers you could pick up, and there are never any guarantees… but keep at it. And while you’re at it, don’t beat yourself up too much when you make a mistake.

We all make them. Just keep writing.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!


R.J. Blain is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive $25 Amazon Gift Card.
  • This giveaway ends midnight May 31.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Authors To Watch: George Finney, author of No More Magic Wands

GEORGE FINNEY, ESQ., has worked in Cybersecurity for over 15 years and is the author of No More Magic Wands: Transformative Cybersecurity Change for Everyone. He is currently the Chief Information Security Officer for Southern Methodist University where he has also taught on the subject of Corporate Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. Mr. Finney is an attorney and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional as well as a Certified Information Security Systems Professional and has spoken on Cybersecurity topics across the country.



Book Blurb:
Once upon a time there was a company that made magic wands, but when they were hacked all the magic in the world couldn’t prevent their data from being stolen. If that company had a chance for a clean start, what would they have done differently? The unlikely hero isn’t a security guy. She’s a business elf who makes it her mission to change the way her company does business from the top down.

Most books on Cybersecurity are written for highly technical professionals, focus on specific compliance regulations, or are intended for reference. No More Magic Wands is takes complex security concepts and puts them into practice in easy to read, relateable stories.

No More Magic Wands is available at AMAZON

Tell us a little about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a sci-fi nerd.  I got teared-up when I saw the movie, The Martian.  Then I got teared-up again when I read the book even though I knew what was going to happen.  I’m more of a trekkie than a jedi, but I think they both fall short of what James Corey is doing with The Expanse series.  Somewhere along the way to becoming a writer, I got into technology, then became a lawyer, then got into cybersecurity.  Having a career has felt a lot like what I expected being an adult to feel like, but now that I’ve tied my writing to my profession I feel like a kid again.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve been a writer for a long time.  It’s always been a hobby, and I’ve had this dream of being a writer.  But when it came time to get a job, I realized that writing didn’t necessarily come with health care or a retirement plan.  Instead, I went into technology and after I went through law school, I started to focus on cybersecurity.  I love my job, and I realized that I could start to follow my dream by writing about cybersecurity.  I started a cybersecurity blog and eventually wrote my book, No More Magic Wands.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
No More Magic Wands is a kind of case study about a company that has been hacked.  This company just happens to make magic wands. I wanted to explore the idea of how a company would respond if they could use magic to solve all their problems like we sometimes jokingly say at work. While there is some magic involved, ultimately the enchanted forest creatures have to work together to fix their company.  Each chapter is a kind of fable focusing on a particular security concept.
How did you get the idea for the book?
When I became Chief Security Officer, my boss hired an executive coach for me to continue developing my leadership skills.  At the same time, I was teaching an introduction to cybersecurity class for undergraduates.  Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of cybersecurity, I focused on the big picture.  In light of the leadership topics that I had been working on, this meant that I began to focus on people.  I wanted to write a book that someone with no technical background could pick up and start to understand the basics of security, and actually enjoy themselves while they were reading it.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
The main character of the story is Harmony Evergreen. She is the daughter of the founder of a magic wand company and takes over the company from her father. I had originally written the character as a man, but something my wife said challenged me. I had written the book with only a handful of female characters, and when she pointed this out, I was astonished. I rewrote the character as a woman, and it made the story so much better. I have a daughter and I want her to be inspired that she can run a business one day.  Women are becoming a bigger part of the workforce and are increasingly a part of the management of companies. These companies will need strong leaders who understand cybersecurity. And we need more women in the cybersecurity profession.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
The subject of cybersecurity is massive in scale and very technical in nature. Writing a story for normal people that doesn’t get too technical or too preachy can be a big challenge. This is part of why I wrote the book through stories or fables. I want to make cybersecurity fun and approachable.  
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve made a new year’s resolution to write a blog post every week,, focusing on the leadership and business aspects of cybersecurity.  My hope is to turn this into my second book, but I want to keep readers having fun by writing choose your own adventure stories to help illustrate how to spot common social engineering techniques and hopefully prevent them.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Authors To Watch: Laura Evans Serna, author of Desert Melody

Laura Evans Serna grew up in Albuquerque wandering the Sandia mountains and enjoying magnificent sunsets each night. She was spoiled by the mountain and desert wilderness and the freedom it offered. Now that she’s lived in Oxford, Washington, DC, and Tokyo, she knows how rare and precious that kind of experience is. 
As a teenager Laura would lie on her concrete driveway with her siblings and friends, watching Hale Bopp slowly cross the sky. She discussed science and theology with no reservation. What are the laws of physics, and where did they come from? What do they mean? Where do humans fit into all of this? What binds society together? Laura believes that these are the questions that make us human. They don’t belong to the scientists, philosophers, or theologians. Everyone has a right to make them their own.
Laura started her undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of New Mexico. At the time, she was tired of Albuquerque. Until she left she didn’t appreciate the unique mix of cultures or the abundance of intellectual activity of her home town. She married a man in the Air Force and followed him to Colorado, where she spent her time teaching English with Catholic Charities and finishing up a degree in math at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Next Laura moved to the UK where she had the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford. She earned an MSc in Mathematical Modelling while pregnant and experiencing motherhood for the first time. (It was a struggle, to be sure!) Laura found Oxford to be a fantastic, walkable city perfect for pushing a newborn around in a pram. Although they only spent three years in Oxford, she will always feel as if it is a home of sorts for them.
Laura spent periods of time teaching math and doing technical editing, but motherhood suits her more than any other hat she’s worn. Her three daughters are a constant joy. She has come to the conclusion that the world over needs more, not less, of the maternal touch, and she wants to write stories featuring strong, intelligent mothers.

You can visit her website at or connect with her on Facebook.

For generations the Ahn, Voyan, and Humans have thrived living side by side. The ambitious Ahn need solitude.  The communal Voyan thought share and hear the voices of the sacred dead around them.  Now Humans are becoming more like the Ahn, and the Voyan are struggling. 
 Teagan is a single Voyan mother and wet nurse. She lost the ability to thought share.  Though she
spends hours walking in the desert searching for the voices she once heard, she embraces her new found intellectual focus and is drawn into the Human world of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Teagan plans to go into hiding to avoid being forced back to a Voyan community where her daughter would be an outcast. However she meets Josh, a generous and handsome man who understands her better than anyone.  She loves him, and Josh takes an active role in parenting Teagan’s daughter.
Teagan discovers that her behavior is more Human than Voyan because she has been unknowingly medicated.  She is part of a secret and manipulative eugenics program designed by Josh’s best friend. Teagan questions her faith in Josh while needing him in her life more than ever. Once off the medication, Teagan loses her focus, and her dream of helping her people through research slips away. 
Teagan is kidnapped by the Voyan and put into a lucid trance for months.  During this time she feels the desperation of her people.  But Teagan hears the call of the Kokopelli’s flute. She knows she is called for a purpose, and she escapes back to Human society.  At this point, though, Teagan can no longer speak verbally.  She asks the Ahn to continue providing her the medication so she can live as a Human and stay with her daughter and Josh.  She knows she is called to help her people.
Desert Melody is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you begin writing? 
For much of my life, I believed fiction was pointless. I’ve always been in the science and math fields. Spare time, I thought, should be spent on useful, productive things. Unfortunately, I didn’t believe writing, or any kind of art, for that matter, fit the bill. Only now in my mid-thirties am I trying to live a more contemplative, slower life. “Wasting time” is good. Getting outside and socializing just for the fun of it is good. And art? Art is something we need to hold on to as many in society idolize technology as our salvation. 
I started writing fiction when I was homebound during my third pregnancy. It is important to find balance. I try to be disciplined. I don’t spend too much or too little time writing. I aim to spend some time in unfettered creativity and some time editing with a critical eye. I always consider what message is coming across to the reader and if that message is something I believe in.   
Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
I tend to have writer’s block most of the day. It isn’t until about 9 pm at night (bedtime for my kids) that my creative brain turns on. My books almost always start with two characters with an interesting dynamic I want to explore. However I do try to be disciplined about developing the plot early on in the process. 
Can you tell us about your most recent release? 
Desert Melody is about a strong young mother who is Voyan. The Voyan are a sister species to humans, and they are fighting for their survival. Teagan struggles to balance her duty to her people and her desire to live with her daughter in human society. She wants to study biology and marry her human boyfriend. Her choices, however, aren’t completely her own.  
How did you get the idea for the book?
I’ve long been intrigued by how populations of people deal with change as well as how they maintain cultural continuity. I created a world where there are two subspecies of people other than humans. The Ahn and the Voyan have lifestyles that represent two extremes of human behavior. The book explores the benefits and hardships that might be experienced by populations who embrace these extreme lifestyles.   
Another significant aspect of the book is the focus on breastfeeding. I started writing Desert Melody when I was pregnant with my third daughter. Much of my life was consumed with aspects of motherhood which were rarely described in fiction. 
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?  
I identify most strongly with Teagan from Desert Melody. She’s a breastfeeding mom with a strong interest in science. However my favorite character is Teagan’s love interest, Josh. He is willing to sacrifice things he has worked for as well as many aspects of his comfortable life to make a leap of love and faith into the unknown. Comfort is a poor measure of a life well lived. It is terrifying, but sometimes we have to take the leap, hoping to achieve something higher and more satisfying. 
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
The length of the book. I’m an amateur novelist, and each step of the process is new. Each edit of the novel took several days from beginning to the end. Looking back, I should have broken into writing with a few novellas first. 
Which authors have inspired your writing?
I look up to Deborah Geary, author of A Modern Witch and the Witch Central series. Her stories are relaxing but inspiring. I think about them often. Her vision of family life and community has affected my own hopes and goals. I hope I can do something like that with my readers. 
When I’m working on dialogue, I almost always pull out one of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Wolves of Mercy Falls books. Her characters aren’t terribly likable, but what they say is poetic. Her style is consistent, and that is something I strive for. 
I look to the writing of Deborah Harkness as an example of how to integrate the character and feel of a special place into a story. In The All Souls Trilogy, Harkness captures the feel of Oxford, England. In Desert Melody, I wanted to do the same with New Mexico
I have to mention Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. One of the things I like about this book is that it isn’t formulaic. The ending isn’t happy in the traditional sense, but it is happy. 
Emily Bronte is a cautionary tale for me. Her writing is depressing. What I love, though, is how even the most despicable characters have something compelling about them. When I want to be a little more courageous with my characters, I think of the depths to which she plunged Heathcliff and Catherine.     
What projects are you currently working on? 
Right now I’m working on two stories. Both are set in modern times and have elements of mysticism. The characters are immersed in the business of life with all of its stressors, yet they have these profound experiences most often associated with bygone times. I want to consider how people embrace and explore the mysterious, the unknown, and the spiritual, in an increasingly materialistic world. In addition, I can’t imagine writing any story without at least a touch of romance, so there’s that, too!
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Your writing is something unique to you. It is a job that can never be outsourced. It is a way to communicate with not only those around you but future generations as well. Write with honesty and integrity. Take risks.