follow up on Vanessa’s Blog Tour

As a thank-you present for hosting Vanessa on my blog, I got both “Wizard of Ends” eBooks from her. I read them in October and loved them. What I like about them is that the characters feel so alive. The stubborn refusal of Lashlor Leaflin to use magic unless severely threatened is refreshing. And King Lanaran’s love for his wife, although it causes some big problems, is something most women dream of. The villain is strong enough to cause the heroes some really big difficulties, but not so big that this becomes a Don Quixote fight against windmills. Also, the writing held just enough detail to keep me grounded in the world. If you get a chance, get yourself copies of both books on Smashwords (Book 1: Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature).

Doorway to Destiny

Doorway to Destiny

So, when Vanessa asked if I would host a one day book blast for her, I couldn’t refuse. She and her colleague TC Southwell have bundled eleven novels and two short stories into a gigantic volume called “Doorway to Destiny”. For a short time, this huge amount of reading pleasure will be available for 99ct only. Don’t be put off by the low price. Both writers are skilled (I’ve read books by both of them). This offer is clearly a bargain. I will get a copy myself.

About the Book

With eight novels by TC Southwell and three novels and two anthologies by Vanessa Finaughty, this box set offers fantasy and sci-fi lovers escapism that will keep you up long past your bedtime. Dive into fantastic worlds and meet fascinating characters whose trials and tribulations will enchant and inspire. Discover how a vengeful assassin reshapes the fate of three kingdoms and share in a quest to discover the origins of mankind, then follow the tale of a young queen’s fight to be free with the aid of a combat cyborg. Two short story anthologies spice up the fare with dragons, sorcerers and magic galore, and a child of another god strives to save his world from mankind’s ravages. When a mortal dark god treads a tragic path as he rises to destroy the Overworld, a brave young girl risks her life to try to change his savage ways. Each hero and heroine takes a definitive step through a doorway to destiny as he or she seeks to right wrongs and save worlds.

Get your copy of the book on
iBooks or
Barnes & Noble

Two Authors Worth Reading (both from South Africa)

TC Southwell Vanessa Finaughty

<- Vanessa Finaughty


TC Southwell ->

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Review of Soulless by Chrystal Collier

When I was asked to review “Soulless” by Chrystal Collier, the sequel to “Moonless”, a book I had read and reviewed before, I hesitated because I never got warm with the main character of the series (read my review on goodreads). After much thinking, I came to the conclusion that my dislike for her was mostly due to the fact that I cannot stand a typically Victorian woman. The way they accept the “superiority of men” raises the hairs on my neck and makes me aggressive. The problem was that the book is set in a Victorian world, so the main character’s view of the role a woman must play was perfectly logical in the context of the story. Also, I like Crystal a lot, so I finally decided to read the second book. Boy, was I glad I did.

volume 2 in the Maiden of Time series

The second book focuses much more on the history of the Soulless and the Passionate. The romance between Alexia and Kiren blooms, and this time, the feelings seemed more real to me than last time. I think it highly possible that the author is very happily married. 😉

The problems the nearly-wed faced mounted with every page I turned. Some scenes left me breathless (although I have to admit that I did skip a few kisses – as I said in my review of the first volume, I’m not really a romance reader at heart), and I loved to see Miles and John return. They’re my favorite characters by far.

In my opinion, this sequel is a lot better than the first volume. The characters are more rounded and the seeds planted in volume one finally begin to make things hard for Alexis and Kiren. By now, I’m hooked and can’t wait for the next volume. Well done, Crystal.

About the Book

The Soulless are coming…

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she’s forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

About the Author

Stories literally siege upon Crystal Collier (usually in the middle of the night) and threaten to destroy the universe if not set free. Through the years she has visited many realms of creativity in hopes of purging these life-threatening menaces, but, the only true way to satiate those hazardous narratives is to trap them in an electronic page.

Crystal Collier

Crystal is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids with a thriller pace. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

You can also win a couple of great things from Crystal. Just participate:

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Freak’s Fun Friday: Tweaking Covers

Since I can’t afford to hire a top-of-the-art cover designer, I have to do my own covers. Since I was never quite happy with the results, but couldn’t say why, I took a course on how to create professional looking covers. It opened my eyes.

With only a few minor tweaks, my covers changed from good but not spectacular Indie covers to professional looking covers. Let’s take Scotland’s Guardians as an example. The artist I hired captured exactly what I wanted, and still the cover did not satisfy me.

Then, I tweaked it a little bit. The changes are barely noticeable if you don’t have the covers side by side. But the new version looks much more like I wanted it.

cover for Scotland's Guardians before / after

The best example of my learning curve (from when I started out 2 1/2 years ago) to now is Urchin King. The first cover is extremely busy and indicates historical novel rather than fantasy. Also, it has no color scheme whatsoever and not much to do with actions in the book. The second cover at least tries to show what the book is about (the royal twins). But it is clearly visible that the designer (me) was an amateur. Again, it didn’t even begin to hint at fantasy.

Urchin King old covers

The third cover is a little better, although it still doesn’t hint at the fantasy genre. For the fourth cover, I finally found the right piece of art. But even with a fantasy feel to the picture, the cover still didn’t look like one by a traditional publisher. The fifth and final version does.


Let me know what you think. Can you deduct what I learned just by looking at the pictures?

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New Release: Treasures Retold 1

When I learned to read, I inhaled fairy tales. The first book I ever wrote (now sleeping peacefully in a drawer) was a fairy tale kind of story. Many of my early attempts, handed in to editors with a hopeful heart, reminded of fairy tales. And then… nothing for many, many years. I wrote Fantasy, SciFi, Urban Fantasy, Historical novels and even Non-Fiction, but never a fairy tale any more. I guess it was because of all the rejections I got and that basically said, fairy tales don’t sell.

The Dwarf and the Twins

The Dwarf and the Twins

These days, I believe differently. So when my Muse (my creative side) offered me a series of fairy tale retellings at novella length (100 pages max.), I was delighted. In three months, I wrote three stories, revised them and translated two of them. There are more to come since I already got ideas for at least two more stories set in the same world. I’m having a blast.

But for now, I have the pleasure to announce the release of the first volume in my “Treasures Retold” series: The Dwarf and the Twins, a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” by the Brothers Grimm.

The original story tells of two innocent maidens who help a talking bear through the winter. They also help a vicious dwarf despite his bouts of anger. In this tale, the dwarf is a little different, as is the bear…

Martin lives a solitary life in the kingdom’s big forest. One day, he encounters a pregnant woman who is fleeing from the king’s soldiers. Little does he know that helping her will change his life forever, for the twins she bears will not stand idly by when his life is threatened.

The books in this series will all contain the retelling, a bonus story and the original tale (for some fairy tales will be quite unknown).

I hope you will have as much fun reading the tale as I had writing it. Please help me spread the word.

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Get a free eBook

Judgement’s Tale vol. 2:
Strength of Conviction

My friend William L. Hahn releases his new eBook “Strength of Conviction” today. It is the second volume in the “Judgement’s Tale” series. To celebrate it, you can get the first volume for free until the 3rd of October on Amazon. Please help us spread the word.

About the Book

As the central kingdom of the Lands of Hope languishes without rule or reason under a worsening pall of chaos, most Children of Hope stand by and do nothing. The few who would dare are outcasts and strangers, either too high up, or too far inside, or still too young to help. Worse, all their scattered mysteries seem unconnected.

Treaman the Woodsman struggles to guide his companions through ensorcelled wildlands to safety. The poorest knight in the city prays by Conar’s statue for weeks without ceasing, as though his life depends on it. The young scribe Anteris copies histories for his master by day, dreams of adventure till sunset, and searches the stars by night for the riddle of his future. A noble Conarian heir seeks to join a lost legendary Order, putting his duty before his life. A gentle Elvish sage confronts the greatest of puzzles, the closed door barring the way to friendship with his greatest, and most dangerous pupil.

For Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, is learning that names are indeed important when he shows… Strength of Conviction.

Go and grab it, and if you like it, please leave a review and buy the second book too. He needs all the help you can give.

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back from the summer with alien news…

Usually, I wouldn’t write anything specific about my private life (that’s why it’s called private, you know) but this time, I’m going to make an exception. For a reason.

Most of you might know how much I love to combine knowledge and fun. I like nothing better than reading a book I thoroughly enjoy only to find at the end that I learned something too. I’m trying to do the same in many of my books, especially the historical fiction.

During the summer holidays, I participated in a night walk through a Slovakian forest that achieved just that. Like most kids, yours might not like going out for a walk even if it is at night and in a forest. My kids at least weren’t very keen on the idea. With a forester for a grandfather, they thought they’d seen it all. However, I knew they were in for a treat. First, we were in Slovakia at that time (and their forests are a little different from ours), and second, a group of locals had prepared an elaborate background to make this walk more interesting for kids. The tour was open for children from 8-13, but since my girls are not good enough with their English (yet), I was allowed to accompany them.

The organizers pretended that an UFO had crash landed in the forest. Men in Black were searching the area trying to find the one surviving alien. Their scientists were examining the UFO’s energy source. Luckily, a group of people had decided to help the alien get back his energy so he could return home. They were the ones leading the kids through the forest.

the crashed UFO

the crashed UFO

At the place we had gathered, there was a tent with information about stars, galaxies, the universe, and the biology of the alien who crashed the UFO (for obviously, some of its comrades had not survived). We set out in small groups of 3-5 children and passed 9 stations where the kids had to perform small tasks. The first was an astrologist who explained the stars and where the alien had come from. At the second station, the kids had to steal the UFO’s energy bulbs (little glowing plastic containers) from the lab. At one point, we were captured by MIB’s who searched unsuccessfully for the energy bulbs (the kids were delighted they hid them well enough) and took photos and finger prints. Another time, the army, in charge of the safety of the area, lead us on a detour through a low tunnel and past the crashed ship (illuminated with flickering Christmas lights – unfortunately the photo didn’t turn out well, see above).

After much cross country walking in the dark (we crossed a brook twice), we reached the alien, and it was the highlight of the walk (see picture). It was extremely thankful for the help. Each kid got a little reward, and then we could go home. I was delighted by this little play. My kids never noticed how fast two hours had passed.

the alien

the alien

Advice for teachers: if you want kids to learn something, make it fun. My kids are still talking about stars and galaxies two weeks later.

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Time Off!

Just a very short notice to let you know that I’m going on a horse riding holiday with my kids. Won’t be in for a while.

BTW, I finished the fairly tale during my CampNaNo and most of the time travel story. I’ll write the ending as soon a I’m back. Then, I’ll need to concentrate on getting the stories I’ve got line sup published in a timely manner. At the moment I’m looking at 5 short stories, 2 novels of the time travel series, 3 fairy tale retellings, one spooky MG story about ghosts and beasts, and Juma’s Rain, my YA historical fantasy set in Stone Age Africa. I’ve also got to finish the first volume in a MG superhero story tentatively called Rainbow Girl that I started during NaNo last year and have always wanted to get back to.

So there’s enough to do, but for now, I’ll be enjoying my summer vacations. Enjoy yours too.

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Second Try

From the feedback I got I realized that the fairies are a matter of taste. Half of the commenters liked them the other half didn’t. I like them, so they’ll stay (for now, I might still change my mind). Also, I’m aware of the fact that “Treasues Retold” is only readable when the cover is full size, but I don’t mind. It’s a logo and easily recognizable as such even if the writing isn’t clear at thumbnail size. Thank you all for helping me come to these conclusions.

However, there are a few more issues, and I think you might need to know at least a little bit about my stories. The first one is a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” with the dwarf as the main character (he’s not the villain in this tale), the second a retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast” in a steampunk setting. I incorporated as many of the suggestions as I could. Since it seemed that the cover for volume two was universally liked, I mostly worked on the cover for volume one.


My biggest problem at the moment is what to put into the big medallion. I found a wonderful picture of a man in a leather jerkin resembling a dwarf. Unfortunately, he’s much too old to be the dwarf in my story. So I started looking for two girls, one blond the other brown and close to each other to fit in the frame. One problem was that the clothing often was too modern. These are some I found. Do you think one of them would work?

Band1-3 Band1-4

Band1-5 Band1-6

I could try to find some fans of medieval clothing to pose for a picture (Oops, I just realized that I forgot to capitalize “twins”). Ideally, they would be having fun like the two girls on the left in the bottom row but look a little bit older.

Please give me some more feedback. I appreciate it a lot.

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Help me with the Cover

Oh dear, the hardest bit about publishing a new title is the cover art imho. I didn’t have any trouble whatsoever with the cover for my middle grade time travel series, but my fairy tale retellings cause me headaches. Maybe you can help? Here they are.

possible covers for volume one:
Band1-0 Band1-1 Band1-2

possible covers for volume two:
Band2-0 Band2-1 Band2-2

Which layout do you like best? Or do you have a completely different idea? It is important to show that all volumes belong to the same series. Also, the cover should look enticing. Sigh.

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Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop

Traditionally, summer is a time for me where I read a lot. Since I can’t write my own stories when my children are on holiday, I do the second best thing: reading someone else’s.

Kathy from I am a Reader initiated this Giveaway Hop, and I thought I’d participate. After all, you might be a little bit like me. Go ahead and win an eBook I haven’t published yet (although it is edited and proof read).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want more chances to win eBooks, go here:

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