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Happy Holidays, Booklovers!

It's time for our weekly coffee chat. Today's guest is Kim Cleary,, who writes dark urban fantasy with a romantic element.

Welcome, Kim! How do you take your coffee?

I dislike the taste of milk, but drink cappuccino as long as it's with skim milk and the coffee flavour is strong. Otherwise I drink my coffee black and sweet.

Ally: I think we'll play it safe and go with the black and sweet! While I pour, please introduce yourself.


Kim Cleary is the award-winning author of Path Unchosen, the first title in the Daughter of Ravenswood series, which earned a bronze IPPY award in 2015. She grew up in Birmingham, United Kingdom, studied medieval history and psychology at Adelaide University in Southern Australia, and has worked all over Australia and in London.

Forced to leave a successful career in marketing after multiple sclerosis damaged her hands and prevented her from typing, Cleary learned how to write using voice software.

A self-described chocoholic, Cleary loves writing, gardening, cooking, playing with her dogs, and spending time with friends. She lives with her husband and two dogs, an adorable cocker spaniel and a mischievous moodle, in Melbourne, Australia.

Something unique/unusual not in your regular bio: "
I'm not sure how unusual this is… But in spite of the fact that I love an eclectic range of music, I must have silence to write to. Imagine how annoying this is for my husband as he is a musician! I've tried listening to instrumental music, I’ve followed recommended playlists from various authors blogs. Nothing except silence works for me, excluding the birds singing in my garden, or the white noise on trains and in cafes."

Contact the Author:


Ally:  Tell us about the urban fantasy world in the book you've brought today. Setting, type of supernatural characters, powers, etc.

KIM:  The setting is vaguely apocalyptic, enough like our own to feel familiar, but set in an uncertain future. Some dead people live again, and my heroine is a young necromancer who struggles with balancing her powers over the dead with her sense of justice and compassion.

Ally:  What made you decide to write urban fantasy? Did a particular author or book inspire you?

KIM:  I've always enjoyed speculative fiction more than any other genre. I started reading science fiction in primary school, under my father's influence and with his love of writers such as Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury guiding my reading choices. I branched out into all kinds of fantasy as a teenager and voraciously read series by writers such as Anne Rice, J.L.Ward, Stephen King, Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffery, and many, many more. Reading science-fiction and fantasy takes me to another place, where my imagination plays in the worlds created by these superb writers.

I'd love to try my hand at science-fiction one day, I'm already dabbling on a historical suspense with a stronger romantic plot and speculative elements. Finishing my daughter of Ravenswood series is my main focus at the moment.

Ally:  What is your writing schedule?

KIM:  I struggle with chronic fatigue which tends to be much worse in the afternoons so I try and write in the morning. My favourite places to write are my study overlooking the courtyard when I'm dictating, and in my garden under a spreading ash tree when I'm plotting and planning. I have a weekly rather than a daily word goal as some days I just can’t get anything done. Most weeks I aim for 2,500 words.

Ally:  What is your next writing project?

KIM:  I've got two projects I am dabbling in, the historical suspense I've already mentioned, and a non-fiction book about living well in spite of chronic fatigue.

I'm really enjoying the research for the historical suspense. It’s set in the1850’s, starting in Lancashire in the United Kingdom, then traveling to Victoria in the gold rush days. This is a story about a young woman finding love after losing her fiancé tragically, and it’s woven around spiritualism which was so popular at the time.

Ally: Try your hand at these short answer questions:
  • a.       If you could have a supernatural power, what would it be?  I'd like to be a healer
  • b.      What's the most unusual thing in your closet?  Crocheted and quilted handbags, I love making things!
  • c.       Favorite holiday song:  Anything by the Steve Miller band – brings back memories of touring around Europe on a shoestring budget.
  • d.      Have you started your holiday shopping?  No, I'm an leave it until the last minute person.
  • e.       Favorite holiday tradition:  Lunch with family where I make the famous Christmas trifle (a new one every year, always with a splash of liquor)

Ally:  Thanks so much for joining us today. One last thing to do before you go. Please share the book you brought...


She'd rather be a normal eighteen-year-old … but not much chance of that, when she can raise the dead.

When an eighteen-year-old discovers she's a necromancer who can raise the dead, she does her best to deny this unholy gift. But after leaving the orphanage for a mysterious manor house, she learns that not only have the dead started walking again, her power means she's the only one who can stop it.

Judy Hudson wants to be a normal girl, but the nuns who've raised her treat her with fear and suspicion. When a beautiful, otherworldly stranger whisks her from the orphanage to a dignified old estate, he promises to help her wield power beyond imagining. Dare she trust that her abilities aren't evil after all?

But when their lessons go awry, Judy learns she can do great harm. To make matters worse, new undead attack--corpses raised from among the long-time dead. Another necromancer is at work, and he must be stopped before he destroys the innocent inhabitants of the nearby town, including the handsome sheriff.

To save them all, can one young girl learn to control the darkness inside her--a seductive darkness that promises her power beyond her wildest dreams?

Buy Link for Path Unchosen:



Meagan Greystone, a new necromancer who grew up orphaned and homeless, has finally discovered a community where she belongs. But as she settles in at Ravenswood Manor, her ancestral home, a strange voice in her head unravels her newfound peace.

The source of the unsettling communication is Quintus, Meagan’s distant ancestor, known for his brutality and incredible power. When she attempts to enlist her father’s help by raising him from the dead, it’s Quintus who regains a foothold in the land of the living. Now reborn, he vows to obliterate everything Meagan treasures unless she joins him in his quest for power.

Meagan must overcome the heartbreak of unimaginable betrayal and fight in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation. Will she find the strength she needs to defeat the power of darkness and save the people and home she has grown to cherish?

Buy Link for Truth Unveiled:



  “Players. Welcome to the apocalypse…”

Kelly Lawrence is a grieving widow. Jack Minnow is a website designer. Reis Anderson is the son of a senator. Each of these players has their own reasons for signing up to The Apocalypse Games, a state of the art virtual game designed to entertain doomsday preppers, gamers, and cosplayers. Altogether, over 100 people enter NASA designed simulation pods and hook up to the mainframe computer with one goal: survive 24 hours of an apocalypse. Instead of game over at the end, they’re plugged straight into a new game. Then another. It’s clear the computer has malfunctioned. What’s not clear is why. With no communication to or from the outside operators, they can only fight endless battles and hope they’re rescued before it’s too late. While they can’t die inside the game, they can die if the pods break down while they’re still hooked up. This game of survival just got real.


"From the very first to the last page, the story is emotionally charged, the action intense, and the conflict driving the plot forward." - Readers Favorite  ( )

Book Details:

Pages:            437 ebook / 416 print
ASIN:               B01N01QFTQ
Digital ISBN:   9781370736201
Print ISBN:      9781539545699
Release date: November 21, 2016
Genre:              apocalyptic sci-fi

SPECIAL PRICE: 0.99c ebook intro price till end of Nov 2016
                               0.99c from 1 Jan to 7 Jan 2017 to celebrate National Science Fiction Day in the US

Buy Links:

Amazon US:
Amazon AU:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CA:
Barnes & Noble:

About the Author:

D L Richardson is a writer of speculative fiction, with reviews such as "exciting and fast-paced book with an original story line--Buzzwords Books", "I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this YA novel--Night Owl Reviews" and "This was a marvelous book--Lit Pick Reviews". She conducts workshops at writers centres and has appeared on panels at Conflux 2015. She recently held a mentor a role at a writer weekend retreat. Writing credentials include "Writing Feature Articles for Newspaper and Magazines" Sydney Writers Centre, "Writing for Children and Young Adults" Sydney Writers Centre, and "James Patterson Teaches Writing" Masterclass. Her published books can be found on her website

When she's not writing, she can be found wandering in her yard waging war on weeds, watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix, playing her piano or guitar, curled up on the couch reading a book, or walking the dog.


Website               Facebook                 Twitter               Google +               Blog    

              The First Thanksgiving (Fact and Fiction)

       We know all about the first Thanksgiving, right? The big feast when the pilgrims invited the Native American Indians to celebrate the fall harvest? After all, it's recorded in our history books. But would it surprise you to learn the version we know is a combination of a few facts, some fiction, and a lot of guesses?

        That some kind of event occurred appears to be fact, but the details are a bit sketchy. While we're enjoying our families and traditions this holiday week, let's take a look at that first feast and why we still celebrate it today.

When did it happen:
It's generally accepted that the original fall feast in this country occurred sometime between September and November 1621, following the first successful harvest. The colonists were perpetuating the tradition of the Harvest Festival brought from the continent to give thanks for sufficient food to carry them through another winter. (

Who was there:
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, and the other men and women (approximately half of the original 102) who had survived the first harsh winter were joined by Massosoit and 90 of his Wampanoag American Indian tribe. Whether this was by invitation or the first instance of party-crashing isn't clear, but the feasting lasted three days. (

What was on the menu:
Waterfowl, wild turkey, venison, fish, Indian corn, bread of some kind, probably onions, squash, beans. No potatoes, cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie. (

When and why did it become a national holiday:
On Oct. 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November would be a national day of giving thanks. This was following a pivotal battle at Gettysburg during the Civil War and was seen by many as a political decision to start to bring the country back together.
This wasn't the first attempt to nationalize the holiday (, but it was the one that has lasted.

        As we gather around our own tables this holiday, giving thanks for family and friends, we--like Lincoln--must hope the days ahead will heal our nation and remind us how very blessed we are.


Happy Wednesday, Booklovers!

Poetry author Laurel Peterson is joining us with her debut mystery novel, Shadow Notes.

Welcome, Laurel. What may I fix you to drink?

I drink tea with two sugars. Coffee makes me edgy.

Ally: Lol, me too. Only I like it. :) Tea coming right up. While I pour, please introduce yourself.


Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two  poetry chapbooks. Her first mystery, Shadow Notes, has just been released by Barking Rain Press, and she is currently serving as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.

Something unique that isn't in your regular bio: "
As a psychology major, I was required to do an internship to complete my college requirements. I wanted to use my degree in business, rather than in a health-care setting, and U.S. companies wouldn’t hire an undergraduate (not enough experience to pay me, and too much liability to have me around for free), so a family friend set me up with Pfizer in Sydney, Australia, where I lived and worked for three months".

LINKS:; on Twitter, @laurelwriter49; also on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Ally: You described your novel as a traditional mystery with a slight paranormal element due to your main character's intuitions. Why are readers so fascinated with mysteries? Are those the same reasons you chose to write in that genre?

LAUREL:  I think people read mystery fiction because, for the most part, the good guys win. Some current fiction deals with unreliable narrators who turn out to be wicked (Gone Girl comes to mind), but in most of it the moral order disturbed by the crime is restored by the end of the book. We like justice. We like it when bullies are given their comeuppance, when their sordid pasts are revealed for all to see.

As for me, my father used to say that the world wasn’t fair. True enough, it turns out. That doesn’t keep me from wanting justice and fair treatment for the people around me. But more than that, I write because I’m curious about people. What makes them do what they do? Even after that psychology major, people’s behavior still doesn’t make sense. I write to try to figure it out. 

Ally:  Do you write on a schedule or with daily goals?

LAUREL:  I’m a college professor, so my writing schedule responds to the school year. I write most steadily during the summer, when I’ll write for several hours in the morning, and then declare myself *free*! During the school year, I get more writing done at the beginning of the semester than later on. And I get none at all done in April, which is, as T. S. Eliot claimed “the cruelest month.” All I do in April is grade papers and survive.

Ally:   Do you do blog tours? If not, what do you do instead?

LAUREL:  This is my first book, and I am so green at this game. If you call my accepting every offer of a guest blog post a blog tour, then yes. That’s what I’ve been doing. I have no idea how it has affected my sales—or if it has. At this point, I’m focused on getting my name out there and selling enough that my publisher will be interested in doing a second book, if I can ever find the time to finish writing it.

Ally:  Which leads right into my next question. What is your current work in progress?  

LAUREL:  The next book in the Clara Montague series, The Fallen, is a split POV between Clara Montague, the protagonist of the first novel, and Kyle DuPont, an African-American chief of police who moved from New Orleans to Connecticut after Katrina. A fellow officer is shot in a gangland-style drive-by in front of Kyle and Clara, something that never happens in their idyllic Connecticut town. What connection does the shooting have to the case that drove Kyle from New Orleans?

Ally: It sounds like a book we should watch for. In the meantime, try your hand at these short answer questions.

  • a. What are you currently reading?  This is a short answer?! China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan; Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty; Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers (research for The Fallen); a book on meditation, various books of poems.
  • b. Do you read print magazines or newspapers? Yes! I love print. New York Times, Writer’s Chronicle, Vogue, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit.
  • c. A favorite song: Crosby, Stills and Nash: Southern Cross.
  • d. Favorite color of lipstick: Burgundy.
  • e. A place you'd love to visit: Greece, especially Meteora, an Eastern Orthodox monastery on a cliff.

Ally: It was very nice to meet you, Laurel. I hope you'll visit again when book two is ready. Before you go, tell us more about Shadow Notes.

LAUREL:  Thanks so much for having me, Ally. It’s been a pleasure to be here!



Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?   

Buy Links:

Barking Rain Press
Amazon    Kobo    iBook     B&N    GooglePlay 

Thanks for visiting the blog. Come back soon...

This book spotlight also comes with a personal recommendation. I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Thief of Hearts. I hope you will too!
The Thief of Hearts

genre: sweet historical romance

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.
To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He's the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Buy Links:  -  - - 

Opening lines:

"Caroline Addison had been kissed under the mistletoe once before and hadn't much liked it.
On second thoughts, she reflected, perhaps disappointed was a better description."

How can you resist hoping for Caroline to give it another try? You'll be surprised what other intrigue this indomitable little lady gets herself into!  Read the sample here.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats.

Contact links:

Book Trailer:


Thank you for your service.


Some Gave All on Youtube:


Happy Wednesday, Booklovers!

Whether you're celebrating, mourning, or ignoring yesterday's US elections, we have something--or rather someone--to smile about. Author Veronica Scott is vising this week with her SciFi and Paranormal Romances.

Welcome, Veronica! What may I get you to drink?

VERONICAI drink tea, with milk and sugar. Here’s a photo of one of my favorite tea cups, a reproduction of one from the Titanic, and the tea spoon has been in my family more than 200 years.

Ally:  Ooh, elegant. I think we can whip up a beverage that will do it honor.
In the meantime, please introduce yourself to readers.


Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.”

I write science fiction romance, including my most recent book Trapped on Talonque, and I usually say it’s about a 3 on a five point heat scale. There’s one tasteful sex scene. I also write a paranormal romance series set in ancient Egypt.

Something unique that isn't in your regular bio? "I occasionally have precognitive dreams, but never of winning lotto numbers though."

Amazon Author Page:

Ally:  Tell us about the heroine of the book you brought, how you built that character, and why you found her so interesting.

VERONICA:  I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of alien civilizations that rose and fell in the galaxy long before our time. When I was establishing my Sectors universe, which is the interstellar civilization in my scifi romances, I knew I HAD to include this element that I love so much, with all the mystery and ability to drop tantalizing hints. So, Bithia, the ‘sleeping beauty’ in Trapped on Talonque is a survivor from an ancient, spacefaring civilization. To make the story work I had to think long and hard about why such a person would be left behind on a more primitive planet by her own people and how she could survive. Then I got to have fun imagining what it would be like to be her, and finally be set free…but thousands of years into her future. Suffice it to say nothing is as she hoped or expected.

One of our favorite fairy tales at my house has always been Sleeping Beauty, so I enjoyed doing a scifi take on the story…but there’s no prince, only my gallant and resourceful Special Forces soldier, Nate Reilly. He becomes fascinated with Bithia, needs her help to survive and rescue his men, and of course falls in love with her. So he’s not leaving her behind, is he? Instead of helpful fairies, we have a clan of priests and priestesses who know many of the secrets of the Sleeping Goddess, as Bithia is called on Talonque, but have their own agenda.

Ally:  What drew you to the field of science fiction? Was it a movie, a book? Why do you think the genre attracts such loyal fans? Have you attended any scifi conventions?

My father was a huge science fiction fan, so I picked it up from him. One of my earliest memories was watching the scifi classic movie “Forbidden Planet” on the TV late show with him and being fascinated by the possibilities. He also gave me my first science fiction book to read, Catseye by Andre Norton, and again, I was nothing short of mesmerized by the idea of telling stories in outer space. I think the appeal of the genre is that ability to place yourself into an entirely new, non-Earthly situation and have amazing adventures that could never occur here.

I tend to go to more author conventions than scifi, but I did attend WonderCon this year in LA and was in total admiration of all the cosplayers.

Ally:  What is the hardest part of writing a novel? Whatever you chose, I'm sure there are other writers who face the same issues. Do you have tips how to get through that task or make it easier?

Maybe the very last round of edits. By then I’m really ready to move on and start telling a new story, but I do want to make the book the best it can be before releasing it. I use a professional developmental editor as well as a copy editor because the author is too close to the words and the story. You need that outside pair of eyes to catch the things you won’t. And still the occasional typo or small inconsistency slips through. But it’s best to have editors who are familiar with your genre. I had a copy editor once who knew nothing about ancient Egypt and her feedback was pretty unusable to me. Someone who routinely edited Ancient World Historicals wouldn’t have flagged the things she did.

Ally:  What are you working on next?

My next book is in final edits and is the long awaited sequel to Wreck of the Nebula Dream, telling what happened to two of the survivors, Twilka the Socialite and Khevan the D’nvannae Brother (think sexy in black leather deadly assassin/bodyguard). It’s the sequel I get the most requests for from my readers and I hope not to disappoint. I plan to release the book in November. I’m just beginning a sequel to Star Cruise: Stowaway (my novella in the Pets In Space anthology).

Ally:  Please answer these short answer questions:
  • a. I couldn't resist asking: Star Trek or Star Wars? Actually, “Aliens”. But I enjoy aspects of both Star Trek (Vulcans!) and Star Wars (droids, Ewoks, Han Solo)!
  • b. A real or fictional location you'd love to visit: Anne McCaffrey’s  Pern so I could be a dragonrider.
  • c. A scifi book you'd recommend (other than your own):  I always recommend Michelle Diener’s Class Five Series and Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (not strictly scifi but so good)
  • d. Most unusual thing in your handbag:  an ink pen shaped like Gandalf the White’s staff
  • e. favorite holiday song (any holiday):  “We Three Kings”

Ally:  Thanks so much for chatting with us, Veronica. I hope you'll visit again. Before you go, I'd love to hear a little more about Trapped on Talonque.

The blurb for Trapped on Talonque:

Will an alien sleeping beauty awaken to save him, or destroy everyone around her?

When a Sectors Special Forces soldier and his team crash land on an alien planet, they’re taken captive and given a challenge–win at the violent ball game of sapiche and live. Lose, and they die, sending a mysterious, alien beauty to an even uglier fate. To survive, these soldiers must win the game and find a way to free the dangerous prisoner from her locked chamber.Nate Reilly and his team are in deep trouble. Prisoners on a backward alien planet, they’re brought before an alien ‘goddess’, sleeping in her high tech seclusion. Nate is astonished when she awakes and establishes a psychic link with him. But her news is not good–he and his men must win a brutal challenge set by their captors, or they will die. She’ll give her aid, but in the end their courage and strength must win the contest.

Bithia sleeps in her chamber, as she has for thousands of years, since her own people unaccountably left her there. Viewed as a goddess by her captors, she must hide her ancient secrets to survive. But only the bravest of men may free her. Can she use her psychic powers to keep Nate and his men alive long enough to help her escape, or will her only hope of freedom die with them?

Apple iBooks       Amazon       Kobo      Barnes & Noble      All Romance eBooks 

Have a great week! Come back soon...


Skin of Tattoos
Genre: thriller

Sometimes your best friends are your worst enemies.

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment.

Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach.

Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice.


Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon:


“Ay yo, homes!” A familiar voice sliced through the bustle. “Mags!”

I twirled faster than a ballet dancer, my stomach clenching. Fuck. It was him. Rico. Slashing across the street aiming the shopping bag in his hand at me. His baggy shorts slung so low the waistband of his boxers showed. Socks, white as fluorescent light, pulled neatly to his knees. Ink flowing out of the arms and neck of his plaid shirt. Exactly how he looked the last time I saw him.

The memory of that day bore down on me. We were kicking it at a street corner, and Rico was bragging about how he shot a trey-eight into the ceiling of a liquor store he was jacking, and the storeowner pissed his pants. As he was talking, he took the .38 out of his waistband in a live re-enactment, and I just had to take the piece, feeling its cold weight in my hand for just a second or two before handing it back to Rico. That second or two cost me twenty-six months of my freedom.

Rico threw his arm around me. A thick gold chain shone around his neck. I had a cord with an orange arrow slung around mine.

Ese.” My voice had as much life as a three-day-old soda.

I never knew if he dropped that thirty-eight by accident, as he said, or if he saw his chance to set me up. I kinda figured the latter. Someday, somehow, I’d get him to admit the truth to me.

“I thought that was you. But I said to myself, ‘Mags, in that fuckin pendejada? Couldn’t be.’ But I looked again and simón, it was. Whatup with this shit?” He flicked the red nose ball. I caught his wrist in midair and stared him down in his swamp eyes. “Easy, fool,” he said.

I dropped his wrist. “Just making a few bones.”

“I heard you was back. We been waiting for you at the garaje, but you ain’t showed up.” Rico drilled my eyes. “You avoiding your homies or what?”

The ball was itching my nose like an oversized mosquito bite. “I got parole and all that. I just wanted to get set up first.”

“I figured you needed a couple days to get readjusted, get some pussy.” He shook his head. “But damn, this shit?” He shook his head. “You ready to get crazy again?”

“Keeping it lo pro, Rico.”

Rico studied me. I suddenly glimpsed myself in his eyes—I had become a small brown man.

He brightened up. “Hey, I just had a kid. A boy. I’m buying some bottles and blankets and shit right now.”


“With Maribel. But I got my side action, feel me?”

“You were always real slick with the jainas.” I knew a little flattery would soften the rough edges of the meet. He smiled big.

“Tell you what, loco, I’ll give you some lessons, make you real smooth.”

“Yeah, I’m out of practice now.” I tried to laugh.

“A lot of changes gone down in the barrio. We need to catch you up.” His arm hooked my neck in a chokehold. “You our firme homeboy, man, you’ll always be part of la familia. We need you, fool.” He squeezed a little too hard. “You come by the garaje. We got a jump in day after tomorrow. We’ll be waiting. We’ll hook you up again, then you can dump this shit.” He pointed his forefinger at me with a barbed wire smile. “Missed you, Mags.”

I watched him vanish into the crowd of shoppers, and spat on the ground to get rid of the bad taste that had flooded my mouth.


Christina Hoag’s new novel Skin of Tattoos carries a message of anti-violence with a protagonist whose decision to join a gang haunts him both emotionally and physically for years afterward.

The novel, published by Martin Brown Publishers, is available via Amazon and other leading booksellers in ebook and paperback.

“My goal with this novel is not to glamorize gangs, in fact quite the opposite,” Hoag says. “I wanted to show how tough and stressful life in a street gang is. Members have to constantly be looking over their shoulders and live within the gang’s demands and narrow confines of gang rules while constantly putting their freedom and lives on the line for the gang.”

 Hoag is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a book on turning former gang members into community peacekeepers that is being used as a text in three universities. She also covered gangs many times during her career as a journalist. The genesis for Skin of Tattoos came from her interviews with gang members deported from Los Angeles to El Salvador in the early 2000s.

“The spread of gangs was an odd yet fascinating consequence of the civil war in El Salvador, which caused a huge migration of Salvadorans to the United States, many to L.A. where they encountered gangs and formed their own as protection,” Hoag says. “Years later, the United States started deporting these young men to El Salvador, a country most had left as small children. Some hardly spoke Spanish. Many simply formed new gangs in El Salvador. Gang violence is now sadly a huge threat in that country.”

Says Kirkus Reviews -- “Hoag is a talented writer, summoning Mags’ world on the page with remarkable empathy and detail…A well-crafted, engaging novel about an ex-con trying to break free…surprisingly nuanced and wholly enjoyable. Readers will become quickly invested.”


Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishers, August 2016) and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults about teen dating violence (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website:


Welcome to this week's Coffee Chat with visiting author Beth Barany, who brought her sweet romance Christmas Elf collection, Christmas Magic!

What may I get you to drink, Beth?

BETH:  I love the tall cappuccinos at Starbucks, but coffee with cream will do in a pinch.

Ally: Since my magic pot can do Starbucks as well as Starbucks, that cappuccino is coming right up! In the meantime, please introduce yourself.


Award winning author, Beth Barany writes in several genres including young adult adventure fantasy and fantasy romance. Inspired by living abroad in France and Quebec, she loves creating magical tales of romance and adventure to empower women and girls to jump into life with both feet and be the heroes in their own lives.

In her off hours, Beth enjoys walking her neighborhood, gardening on her patio, and watching movies and traveling with her husband, author Ezra Barany. They live in Oakland, California with their cat named Leo, a piano, and over 1,000 books.

When not writing or playing, Beth runs her own company helping novelists as a coach and teacher to help them write, market, and publish their books. More resources here:

Something unusual not in my regular bio: "
I played percussion in high school and college. As a tom drum and snare drum player, I loved marching band and playing cadences for the whole band to stay in time."


Twitter: @Beth_Barany


Ally:  What kind of books do you write?

BETH:  I write in several romantic genres, but today
I'm sharing a book with two stories, my sweet/sensual romance Christmas collection. Each story is about a Santa's elf who comes to the Human world to finish their training and then returns to the North Pole with new knowledge and expertise. But, love happens, and they're not supposed to reveal who they are or else they loose their magic. (These stories are part of the Touchstone series, magical tales of romance and adventure, and can be read in any order.)

In A CHRISTMAS FLING, Dahlia needs to complete a toy so she can become a Master Elf. She meets Liam, a San Francisco up and coming financial executive who needs a date to show up his rival and ex-girl friend.

In A CUPCAKE CHRISTMAS is about Florian, one of Dahlia's younger brothers, come to the Human world to round out his cooking and baking experience, so he can be in charge of Santa's kitchens. But he needs one more gig before he goes home. So he applies for a baking job at Kate's cupcake truck in downtown San Francisco. Sparks fly as their attraction grows, but Florian must not reveal who he really is, or he won't be able to go home again.

Ally:  Do you consider yourself a romantic? What does that mean to you? How does it affect your writing and your real life?

BETH:  I do consider myself a romantic, but more of a practical romantic these days. I love romances that are real and hopeful, and fold love into the whole of one's life. I don't think we need to have romantic love with a significant other to feel whole, but we do need to love ourselves to have a full life.

The way in which this affects my writing is that I write stories that are about capable individuals who discover that love brings more into their lives, but they weren't searching for it in the first place. In my life, I'd say it's affected many of my choices, including who I married. I believe that I am whole and well on my own, but that sharing my life with another makes me that much happier. I also make decisions based on what will make me happy, not what my husband will think. Together we make decisions based on our individual needs: we're both authors. But then we come together to support each other's dreams and projects wholeheartedly.

Ally:  What does your writing day look like?

BETH:  I don't have a typical writing day, since I also run a business and my schedule changes from day to day. I like the variety. But there are some constants I put into my schedule about 4-5 days a week.

I like to walk down to my local Starbucks, about a half a mile away, and get my cappuccino, and write, even if it's Q&As like this, brainstorming, or journal writing. I write my books only part of the year. So when I'm in a writing phase, I write 4-6 days a week, depending where I am in the process. At the beginning, I write about 4 days a week, then ramp up as the project is in the middle and end. My daily word count goal varies too. At the beginning, I'm happy to do 500-1000 words per session. But as the story gathers steam then I aim for bigger daily word goals, 2000, then 3000, and then at the end often 4000 words per day. I'm a goal oriented, deadline driven writer and love having these daily goals, as well as an end date I'd like to get the book done by.

I love writing my first drafts at cafes and diners, especially seated at the counter or a high table. I often go to the diner with my husband on Saturdays to write or hand-edit the first draft. Once I'm into editing the second drafts and beyond, I like to be sitting at my desk, listening to baroque music, or whatever playlist I created for the story as I was writing it. My cat Leo often comes and sits on my lap or desk at these times; he's instrumental to the editorial process. ;)

As for time of day, I prefer to write and edit my own work in the morning, mid-morning, or early afternoon. I don't write in the evenings or at night. Those are times to be inspired by other people's stories via books, TV, and movies.

Ally:  What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

BETH:  I'm very self-directed and don't take other people's advice well. :) But I recall something Neil Gaiman said, which is "finish what you started." This is so important to me, because I spent years dabbling in fiction before I committed to finishing my first novel. My only goal at the time was to write and complete a novel, which I did, in 5 years. I knew then and still remind myself of it now, that the important thing is to finish the projects I'm committed to. It's easy to worry about the quality of our work, wonder how well it will be received, if at all, but all that doesn't matter if the story isn't finished. I've now written and finished 12 books. It's such a good feeling.

Ally:  What are you working on next?

BETH:  I'm about to start writing a 4-book series, a space station mystery, set about 100 years in the future. I'm excited to dive in. This series will be different than anything I've ever written, so I'm excited and a bit nervous, a good nervous.

I'm also editing the sixth book in my Touchstone series, a full-length novel, called Bringer of the Rose.

Ally: Ready for your short answer questions?
  • a. Favorite color of nail polish: none. I don't wear nail polish.
  • b. Favorite accessory (scarf, earrings, etc.): I love scarves and hats.
  • c. A winter sport you enjoy doing or watching: I do enjoy watching football and basketball, and need to get out and have my walk-jog. Our Northern Californian environment allows for that.
  • d. Favorite actor or actress: Really depends. I'm deeply impressed by Scott Bakula and really also love Scarlet Johannssen.
  • e. A childhood book you loved: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle.
Ally: Thanks for visiting today! Now, I'd love to see your Christmas book...

Christmas Magic (two books in one)


What if falling in love put the life you cherished in jeopardy?

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?

Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?


What if you risked losing your baking legacy by cooking up a love truly special?

Florian MacMillian needs a final job to complete his baking resume—preferably a job where he’s unlikely to blow things up with his unruly magic—before returning to the North Pole and taking his rightful place as Master Baker to all the elves.

Kate Delore desperately needs help in her fast-growing cupcake business. Florian is a perfect fit, so she brings him on as baker. Florian is happily up to his elbows in batter, and Kate’s business is booming.
But when things heat up between them, Florian wonders if he should risk his legacy to cook up something truly special.


PictureCourtesy of Nat'l Novel Writing Month
Every fall, social media chatter picks up on the word NaNo. But what is it? Has everyone suddenly gotten exited about the metric system? Not quite...  In fact, the complete logo referred to is NaNoWriMo.

The National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to complete a novel of fifty thousand words (approximately 1,667 per day) during the month of November. It's grown from a handful of participants in 1999 to more than 450,000 worldwide participants in 2015. It's an opportunity for writers, published or aspiring, to push themselves, make new writing "buddies," discuss the ups and down of novel writing in the website forums, congregate with other writers in local area "write-ins," and even join lively discussions on online media, such as Twitter.

It's a seat-of-the-pants style of writing, ignoring your inner editor, and simply concentrating on getting down those daily words. Editing as you go is discouraged, placing the emphasis on words rather than style or even plot. In some ways, it's more like free association than the serious business of writing. But it's a fantastic tool to get you started.

It's also messy. The first book I completed during NaNo was almost unreadable. Holes, holes, and more holes. Not to mention the terrible dialogue, typos, and inconsistencies.  I rewrote it a dozen times or more over three years before I had most of the imperfections fixed. It became my first published book, Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1) in 2012.

The next year (although still unpublished), I was an experienced noveler. And I came prepared. I've never been able to force myself into a real outline, but I did have a decent story summary. It kept those plot holes to a minimum, requiring less rewrites. I like to think I've gotten better at it every year, and all but two of my NaNo novels are now on online bookshelves, published by Etopia Press.

So of course I'm participating again this year! I hope to have another novel close to a first draft when the month is over. Although the challenge started Nov. 1, it's not too late for you to get in the game. Why not click here and get started today? Not only will you feel a great sense of accomplishment on November 30, but you'll also have a lot of fun!

And by the way, if you decide to join the NaNo challenge, give a shout out to Iowagal...that's me!