Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cindy Pape-Spencer: Rust City Featured Author


#ConThu is back!  Welcome to your introduction to some of the fantastic authors who are already signed up for the Rust City Book Conference. Today I'm showcasing:


Can you tell us a little about your work, Cindy?

Sure thing! I've written almost all subgenres of romance, an award-winning steampunk series and a little bit of urban fantasy. My current project is getting a bunch of my backlist titles out again, so I'm honestly not sure what's coming next.

Ok, let's talk about RustCity!

1. Fill in the blank: "I used to be really good at softball , but these days I'm pretty rusty."
I was never a big softball player, but my mom and sisters were! I spent a lot of summer afternoons watching games.

2. Eminem or Aretha? Explain.

As a Detroit girl, I have to choose? Probably Aretha. Everyone needs some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Completely fair.

3. Choose One:
I'm confused. And not from around here.

4. What are you looking forward to most at the RustCity conference? Meeting new readers and connecting with other authors. Well, that works out great, since it's exactly what RustCity is about!

5. What is an off-the-cuff association you have with Michigan, Detroit, or Troy?
I lived in Troy through High School and was born in Detroit. I've spent a few years out of state, but I came back. No place like home, eh?

6. Your latest work of fiction features a wealthy industrialist and an R'nB singer. What's the first sentence? " Five hundred dollar suit in a blues club--talk about slumming," the singer said, his voice as deep and soft as velvet.

What's it about? Her development corporation is trying to take over the block that includes his club, as well as the youth center where he volunteers. Love it!

7. And finally, would you like to participate in the Alpha Heroes Five Words Fiction Game?  YES!!

YAY!! Your Mission: Write Part 4 of our STEAMPUNK Five Words Game, using the challenge words:
absinthe, bound, eight, menagerie, wish
Part 1, by Lorelei Brown
Part 2, by Marie Piper
Part 3, by Seleste deLaney
“Did you see the menagerie at the Tower of London?”

Alma shook her head. Which of her eight little brothers had asked didn’t matter. Her mind was on other things. “Apprentices don’t get a lot of free time to see the sights.” Especially apprentices who were being blackmailed by foreign agents into stealing one of the Alpha Cross’s most valuable inventions.

Paying attention to her family was difficult, as Alma had only one thing on her mind. She knew why the Frenchman had wanted to meet here, in Fairmeadow. Father, Mother, and eight young boys. Every one of them was a hostage, nothing but a pawn in the game. If she failed to deliver the analytical engine, they would all die—and so would she. Alma hadn’t wanted to ever return to this miserable little town, to witness the poverty her family had suffered after the factory closure, but that didn’t mean she wanted them all dead. So here she was, bound for her own destruction when the Order found out, but at least the others would be safe.

“I think I’ll go for a walk.” Trying to sound casual, she stood and brushed off her skirts. “Perhaps I’ll go see Jenny and her new baby. I brought her a gift.” Most of her school friends were married now, with children of their own. Aside from the dead or imprisoned, only Alma had escaped this place.

The boys clamored to come along and Mother abjured her to be home in time for dinner. Alma dismissed the boys and pinned her jaunty little hat on her upswept hair. How elegant this coiffure and ensemble had seemed in London, a perfect foil for her auburn locks. How out of place the cheerful coral and russet feathers and silk seemed here.

There was no gift in her valise, of course, only the stolen engine. Once Alma had turned the corner toward her old friend’s tiny house on the edge of town, she doubled back on the next block toward the pub.

Once inside, she blinked to allow her eyes to adjust to the miasma of cigar smoke and flickering gaslights. Her valise clutched to her side, she found a place at the very end of the bar and did as she’d been instructed. When the bartender came to take her order, she asked for absinthe—something she normally abhorred, as licorice had never been her favorite flavor. After her drink arrived, the vivid green liquid clouded from the sugar cube through which the liquor had been dripped, she pretended to sip as she studied the others at the bar.

One, at least, was probably a badger. She was certain they’d be after her by now.

*How I wish I’d never snuck out of the dormitory that night.* If she’d followed the rules, if she hadn’t had that illicit rendezvous with Franklin, then the Frenchman would have never targeted her for his blackmail scheme. And her family might be safe.

Never trust a Frenchman named Franklin, that's what I always say. Come back to visit Alpha Heroes for another installment soon! In the meantime, if you'd like more of Cindy's fiction, here are some (Amazon US) links:

Brand new! SEA CHANGE, winner of the Prism Award.

New re-release: CURSES, Cindy's first paranormal, which was an EPIC finalist.



Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2016, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Wanna Be An Avon Addict?

I rarely do straight-up promotional content on Alpha Heroes, but I'm looking at this as a public service announcement. If you love romance, Avon really does have some of the best authors in the business. I think they're especially good at historical, but their contemp and paranormal lines are also strong and getting stronger.

I've worked with the Avon team for more than four years now, and I can say that it's a system unlike any other I've found. The Avon Addict program was a pioneer in putting together a team of "super-readers."  It's kind of a street team, but different in important ways:
  1. The Avon PR team will never pressure you to up-vote good reviews or down-vote bad reviews on Amazon. They have NEVER remotely suggested any of the kind of shenanigans you see some street teams being called out for.
  2. The Avon PR team will never pressure you to post a review that is anything but 100% honest.
  3. You are not supporting an individual author. You get exposure to new authors, review copies from coveted favorites, multiples that you can offer for give-aways or to your book club, or whatever you want to do in order to share the book love.
  4. I have had so many opportunities to meet some serious romance ROCK STARS. We're talking Julia Quinn, Lyndsay Sands, Jeaniene Frost, Gordon and Ilona Andrews, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Eloisa James. (note: travel and event expenses are not covered by Avon -- but if you can get yourself to these events, odds are good that you'll have an inside track to meeting the Avon authors!)
  5. It's a limited time gig. Maybe you get tired of blogging or reviewing (never reading, I'm guessing!). After your time is up, the physical swag ramps down, but you're still in an inner circle of bloggers & reviewers with occasional lovely perks -- I just got a galley for an all-time classic favorite, the first ever FORBIDDEN full-length romance I ever read: Shanna, and it just makes me so happy. Being an Addict will bring a smile to your face more often that you can imagine.
  6. Last, and to be honestly, possibly least in my mind, is a handful of fun physical swag in every box. I would love being a part of this program without any of this stuff, but it's definitely a fun extra that you don't get from many publishers. In our first box, we received the most cuddly fleece blanket that I have STILL managed to keep out of the hands of my children and it's in my favorite reading nook. Over time, my group received tee-shirts, cute stuffed animals, a playing die from Sarah MacLean's "gaming hell," a beach mat, and just tons of fun little extras.  (should I work in the word "fun" a couple more times here? seriously, it's all super-fun!)
So here's the deal: if you want in, you have to apply! There are tons of applicants, and only 25 will be chosen, but if you don't apply, you won't get in!  Here's everything you need to know, straight from the most awesome team of PR pros you'll ever meet:

As Avon Books celebrates its Diamond (75th) anniversary, we are excited to announce that we are seeking 25 new Avon Addicts, dedicated book aficionadas who want to become part of the most coveted super reader team in the romance community!

Avon Addicts take their love for the genre to a whole new level, and love sharing their passion with the world! If this describes you, then you need to apply now for a chance to be one of the 25 accepted into the sixth sisterhood of Avon Addicts. If you became part of Avon’s social media-savvy inner circle of romance lovers, you will help spread the love of favorite Avon authors via blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads posts. You’ll also be given the ability to pass along physical copies to the other bibliophiles in your lives!

Applications should be submitted to us from June 1 through June 30, 2016.

To apply:
Avon Addicts receive special invitations to meet authors behind-the-scenes at book events, and to mix & mingle with all the Avon ladies at our special events at RWA, RT, BEA and other bookish gatherings.

If you think you have what it takes to be an Avon Addict, apply here!

What you’ll receive:
Over the course of a year, Avon Addicts will receive six special packages containing advance copies of forthcoming books to read and share with friends; fun promotional items (swag!), and other goodies. We will send our Addicts early copies of hand-selected Avon, Avon Impulse and William Morrow titles.

Addicts, in return, should share their feelings about these books on their social sites, on the Avon website, Edelweiss, and online retailers!

We hope the Avon Addict program helps us reward our most devoted readers – and we know your enthusiasm is infectious…so we hope you’ll help make everyone as excited about our extraordinary books and talented authors as you are.

Applications should be submitted to us from June 1 through June 30, 2016.

Does being an Avon Addict sound like all that and a box of romance novels to you? Well, don’t take our word for it:

“I have to say, I've been blown away by your generosity with books, packages, good times... I've done something similar with a couple of publishers and NO ONE has come close to the level of generosity Avon has. Totally blew me away, and continues to do so.”
—Ruth Salisbury, Avon Addict

“Thank you so much for selecting me to be an Avon Addict. It has been a joy and has done absolutely nothing to quell an already rampant addiction. ”
—Grace L., Avon Addict

“Being an Avon Addict has been the greatest privilege and experience. I am so proud to say that I am an Avon Addict and always will be.”
—Amy Valentini, Avon Addict

Thank you for participating! We hope to enroll you in the Avon Addict program soon!
Need more tempting? Here's what my first box looked like: 

Good luck, and good reading!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rue Allyn: Rust City Book Con Featured Author


#ConThu is back!  Welcome to your introduction to some of the fantastic authors who are already signed up for the Rust City Book Conference. Today I'm showcasing:


Can you tell us a little about your work, Rue?

Hi! my newest historical romance will be released April 25, 2016. Knight Defender is the third installment in my Knight Chronicles. Set in the Scottish highlands of 1295 the story centers around Baron Raeb MacKai who is done allowing himself and everyone he loves to live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems. He will do everything necessary to defend his home and his country, but can he defend his heart? There's plenty of action, intrigue and most of all romance between two people who never planned to fall in love.

Ok, Rue, let's talk about RustCity!

1. Fill in the blank: "I used to be really good at house cleaning , but these days I'm pretty rusty." I can certainly relate to that, although I'm not sure I can say that I was ever actually good at it.

2. Eminem or Aretha? Explain.

Sorry, both or neither. I love all sorts of music, both Eminem and Aretha represent Detroit in very specific ways, ways that no one else could manage. If I must pick a hometown voice as a favorite, it would probably be Bob Seeger.
I love this answer!

3. Choose One:
I'm confused. And not from around here.

4. What are you looking forward to most at the RustCity conference? Readers! Readers! Readers! Readers! Readers!

5. What is an off-the-cuff association you have with Michigan, Detroit, or Troy?
I'm from the west side of the lower peninsula and I never expected to live in SE Michigan, let alone stay for more than 20 years. That's a long time! I feel the same way about Seattle.

6. Your latest work of fiction features a wealthy industrialist and an R'nB singer. What's the first sentence? I don't care which music industry bimbo is at my table, you'll invite her and her entourage to leave, or I'll have a chat with your boss and you'll be out of a job.

7. And finally, would you like to participate in the Alpha Heroes Five Words Fiction Game?  YES!!

YAY!! Your Mission: Write Part 4 of CURVE AND HOOK, using the challenge words:

Misty, Crazy, Liquor, Flex, Dark
(personally, I think you're getting off pretty easy there!  I'd have given you aardvark and tango, or something like that. )

Part One, by Shelly Bell

Part Two, by Josie Kerr

Part Three, by MK Schiller

Part Four:

“Eggs Benedict on sprouted, dark rye with a side of Beluga caviar and mimosas to wash it all down.” She named the most outrageous meal she could imagine. She knew what he was up to. He wanted a roll in the sack for old time’s sake but without any of the social dancing required to sweet talk her into it. Not only no, but hell no. She wasn’t that misty-eyed, lust-crazy teen any more. Sweet talk wouldn’t work either. She wasn’t about to fall into his arms just because he offered her breakfast. Sheesh, how cheap did he think she was?

“You’re kidding, right?”

She wasn’t, not really. She liked every food item she’d listed... just not all together at one meal.

“Nah.” She tossed back the last of the liquor in her glass and stood. “Doesn’t really matter if I’m serious or not. I have an early flight in the morning, and I must decline your generous invitation. Goodbye, Hunt.”

She opened he purse and took out a twenty to pay her tab. Hunt’s fingers closed over her wrist as she laid the bill on the bar. He’d always been quick.

“I’ll get it,” he said and released her wrist.

Her gaze met his. “No thank you.”

He blinked those long lashes over his gray-blue eyes. “C’mon Maddie. For old time’s sake? I owe you. Back in high school I never had cash on me, and you always paid when we went out for burgers.”

The memory flashed before she could suppress it. The two of them in the local diner. Ketchup oozing down her chin from taking too big a bite. His finger flicking the juicy red condiment from her skin and into his mouth. Then his hand returning to her cheek. His palm flexing as if he didn’t quite know what to do with his hand or his feelings.

“I’m sorry, Maddie.”

The note of regret in his voice snapped her back to the present. One corner of her mouth kicked up. “You’ll have to tell me what for, if we ever meet again.”

She left the twenty, turned, and walked away, letting the party crowd swallow her from sight.

I like Maddie's style! Wonder what Hunter will do next? Thanks for hanging out and playing, Rue!

If you'd like more of Rue Allyn's fiction, you can find her at these locations:

Be sure to keep up with all things Rust City 2016, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Tumblr | Instagram | RSVP at the Facebook Event.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Allegiance of Honor, by Nalini Singh - Review

Title: Allegiance of Honor
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 14, 2016 
Reviewing: eARC for Kindle 
Reason for reading: Author love, series love

The Short Answer
This is the book for the die-hard fans who love epilogues (especially "baby-logues"), who love to catch up with old friends, and who have a list of loose ends from the previous 14 books and NEED CLOSURE. If you love the montage episode at the end of the TV series, you'll love this book. I absolutely loved this book. But just so you know, if you're looking for a traditionally-structured PNR with a single focal couple, this isn't quite built on those lines.

The Blurb
The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

On Optimism
One of the reasons I love romance is for its optimism. One of my friends uses a quote from Conan O'Brien as her tagline, and I love it:

"I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen."

And possibly the best part of this book is its optimism for the the future of the Psy-Changeling world. It's been a dark ride at times, with man's inhumanity to man spotlighted in a way that doesn't require paranormal trappings to recognize from our own world. In the past fourteen books, Singh has built an amazing complex, textured world-- and then she tore it all down. Shards of Hope and Allegiance of Honor are the beginnings of its rebirth. The notion of a new world order built on honor is a powerful one. I wish that just a few more politicians of this day and age ever seemed to demonstrate a passing acquaintance with the concept.

A Little More
I will say that this book meanders a little bit, sort of like when you've moved away from a close-knit family and then go home to visit. You spend a little time here, a little time there, talk about bits and pieces. It's less about the overall narrative and more about getting caught up. The revisiting is interspersed with an action arc related to events in Shards of Hope, as well as an epistolary thread about a beloved secondary character, who -- spoiler alert -- indeed, gets his Happily Ever After.  It's for sure not the place for a new fan or to start the series. For the die hard fans (like me), there's a distinct risk that it will push you into a re-read of the whole series... which sounds like kind of an awesome way to spend the summer, to be honest!

I've been lucky enough to see Nalini in person a few times, and sometime in the last couple years, when it became apparent that the series was leading up to a finale, she answered a question about a spinoff or future series. At the time, she wasn't making any commitments, but she mentioned that she thought it would probably be about the next generation -- all those pups, cubs, and various psy/changeling/human variations. Based on Singh's intro, and all the focus on the babies in this book, I'd say that is where she's going. And if cute cuddly babies make you melty, you are going to be a puddle by the end of this one. There are teenagers, little kids, teeny babies, and killer scene detailing what a shifter baby's first shift looks like. (And I thought parenting a regular toddler was a challenge...) 

See?! You can believe me!

Thanks to the awesome publicity team at Berkley, you get an excerpt! YAY! And it is a REALLY adorable one:
Lucas had had to chase Naya around the aerie at bedtime last night—her walk might still be a little shaky, but she was a rocket when it came to crawling. Dressed only in a diaper, she’d laughed uproariously and said a loud, firm “No” each time Lucas caught her and put her in her crib.

After which she’d clamber out—she’d figured out how to escape a month earlier—and the game would begin again. Of course, since Lucas was a cat, he’d been having just as much fun as their daughter. Sascha, meanwhile, had sat in the living room with a cup of hot chocolate and just indulged in the sight of her mate playing with their cub.

She’d had to pretend to be stern when Naya ran over and pleaded her case with loud sounds and wild gesticulations of her hands. “No, Naya,” she’d said, biting her tongue in an effort not to laugh. “It’s time for bed. Go with Papa.”

At which point, Naya had growled at her, eyes sparkling with mischief.

And Sascha had cracked, laughing so hard she’d had to put down her hot chocolate before she spilled it. Lucas had shaken his head as Naya plopped down on her diaper-covered butt and joined in, clapping her hands at having made her mommy laugh. “No discipline.” Lucas had mock-growled at her before picking up their misbehaving baby. “And you”—a growly nuzzle that made Naya laugh harder and pat his stubbled cheek—“time for bed.”

He’d finally got her to sleep—by walking around with her pressed up against his bare chest.

Today, their cub was playing in the living area just outside the kitchen nook. Sascha had locked the aerie door to ensure Naya wouldn’t undo the latch and go out onto the balcony, and Lucas had childproofed the entire main area of the aerie, so Naya was free to roam as she liked. A lot of the time she practiced her walking skills. And no matter how often she fell down, she started back up again after a little break. Stubborn, determined baby. Peeking out from the kitchen, Sascha found her concentrating on stacking the colored alphabet blocks Faith and Vaughn had given her as a gift. Beside her sat a more than slightly ragged wolf plush toy, aka “The Toy That Shall Not Be Named.” Hawke had given that to Naya when she was a newborn, and it remained her favorite snuggle toy, much to her father’s despair.

Though Lucas did enjoy it when Naya went leopard on the toy, growling and “fighting” with the wolf. Then he’d smile and say, “That’s my girl.”

Find Nalini online:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2016.

Bottom Line
I couldn't love this book more. 100% adoration from me.  But if you haven't been reading this series, first of all, YOU HAVEN'T BEEN LISTENING TO ME AT ALL, HAVE YOU??! and, uh, ahem. Secondly,  just go start at the beginning and get back to me.

Oh, and fair warning, this happened:

Around the Blogosphere --what others are saying

RT - 4-1/2 stars Top Pick!
Big love from The Book Eaters (what a great blog name!)
More love from The Book Swarm
Nice detailed review from Harlequin Junkies
There are a few folks who found it a bit slow in places or wanted a stronger focal couple. But most of the reviews I've seen are overwhelmingly positive.


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