Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
History ReFRESHed | The Romance of Italy
History / February 19, 2016

What could be more romantic than Italy? The hush of a gondola plying the waters of a Venetian canal, the painted beauty of the countryside around Florence, the walled cities of Sienna and San Gimignano… For your Valentine month treat, I offer up a quartet of historical fiction that explores the art, craft, excitement and intrigue of Venice, Florence and Sienna. Enjoy! Progressing chronologically, we begin with THE TOWERS OF TUSCANY by Carol M Cram. In this story set in the beautiful walled city of fourteenth-century San Gimignano, Sofia secretly trains as a painter in her father’s workshop. But women cannot paint openly, and turning her back on her talent, she takes refuge in a traditional marriage. When her father is killed in a tragic accident, despairing of the husband who has come to despise her for not producing a son, Sofia flees to Siena, disguises herself as a boy, and returns to painting. There, her work attracts the attention of a compellingly attractive noble patron—whose growing interest in both her art and the artist force her into a desperate choice. Full of interesting detail about art and the city, Cram paints a vivid picture of early Renaissance Siena. About…

Sabrina Benulis | The Inspiration Behind The Books of Raziel
Author Guest / February 19, 2016

There are a lot of fiction books out there with angels. So how was I to stand out in the pack? Have you ever read a novel that claims to be about angels, but it’s really just plain ole’ everyday humans with wings stuck to their backs? I’ve encountered plenty of those. When I set out to write The Books of Raziel series, I knew one thing: my angels and demons had to be different. Really different. My book series is gothic fantasy, so the setting became the key to how my angels would be portrayed. Everything about them had to be otherworldly and at least mildly unsettling. Real angels throughout religious history have typically inspired people with fear despite their beauty. That was a key detail I wanted to weave into my own work. The angels and demons in ARCHON, COVENANT, and ANGELUS have very human emotions and feelings, but they are also above us. They work on their own set of morals. They can be cruel and capricious by our human standards. And the usual notions of good and evil don’t apply. Many of the angels in these books are weighed down by their own sins. There are…

Amy Matayo | A Story of Her Heart Inspired by an Abandoned House
Author Guest / February 19, 2016

I write contemporary romances. To be exact, I write lighthearted contemporary romances with a humorous edge. Yes, there’s always a serious thread tucked inside my plot, but most readers know me for my humor and sarcasm. But about a year-and-a-half ago I had this image that wouldn’t escape me. I kept picturing these kids—a younger boy, a slightly older girl—living in this abandoned house I remembered from my years growing up on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. About halfway between the Arkansas border and Tulsa, there is this house on the south side of the highway. It’s a beautiful house…now. But when I was younger it sat empty and unfinished, staying that way for a decade, maybe two. Unused rusty cranes and bulldozers flanked each side and became covered in cobwebs. Mounds of fresh dirt slowly sprouted weeds…eventually trees. Even though the house had the potential to be gorgeous, everything about it used to scare me. Every time we drove past—which generally averaged to be two or three times a year—I would stare at it. Hold my breath. Think up creepy little scenarios about what might be occurring in that gigantic, deteriorating house. I never forgot those stories. And so I kept…

Amy Clipston | How to Get Published
Author Guest / February 19, 2016

People often ask me what the secret is to getting published. I don’t believe there is a secret to getting published, but I do have a list of things that will help writers on their journey to publication. Join a Writers’ Group I accidentally found the website for a local writers’ group while in search for a professional group to join as part of my day job as a technical writer. That group is Chesapeake Romance Writers, which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. When I attended one of the monthly meetings, I met writers in all stages of their careers – from brand new (like me) to multi-published. It was then that I realized that I wanted to become a published author. Through this group, I learned how to plot and polish my novels, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter that would pique an agent’s interest. I strongly suggest you find a group near you and socialize with other writers. You’ll have fun and also learn a lot. If you’re not interested in attending local meetings, you always have the option of joining…

Young Adult Musings: Connections Across Time
Fresh Takes from the Teen Shelves / February 19, 2016

One of my favorite genres in YA is historical. With so many big historical figures being younger at the height of their fame and the rapid life progression in many historical societies (getting engaged/married younger, having kids early, etc.), the teen and young adult age is a perfect match for the protagonists. Beyond that, historical fiction offers a glimpse at a time period that present readers will never get to experience. Sometimes, historical fiction is our way of connecting to those lost to time and finding a shocking discovery that, though fashions, industries, and medical practices change, the emotions of living, the pain of loss, the excitement of new opportunities, the nervousness of a new relationship, are the same. Here are three recent historical YA releases that offer a chance to learn something about history, receive a lesson on life, and a reminder that the spirit of humanity connects us all through time. About ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN A stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of The Book Thief. Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up….

Vannetta Chapman | Seven Steps to Writing a Mystery
Author Guest / February 19, 2016

My recent release, Love In Store, appears in the collection AN AMISH MARKET. Like my other stories set in Indiana Amish communities, this is a mystery. Today I want to share my top seven tips for writing a mystery. Read a few first! When my publisher contacted me about writing a mystery, I immediately said YES, and then I ran to my local library. I pulled a large stack of mysteries from the shelf, sat in a big cushy library chair, and read through the back cover copy—taking notes as I went along. Then I read the first chapters, and finally I took the very best home with me. It always helps to read what you’re trying to write! Decide who your sleuth will be. Sleuths come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be young or old, female or male, eccentric or seemingly normal. They can have a special talent, or they might simply possess a quizzical personality. Pair them up with an opposite. In most mysteries your sleuth will enlist the help of someone else—someone who is their complete opposite but who possesses a knowledge or skill your sleuth needs. Have fun with this! If your sleuth…