Book Launch & Review – Burdens of a Saint by Joan Hazel

One of the coolest things about being with Myrddin Publishing Group (apart from the awesome writers, great friendship, and the support we give each other), is discovering when new books are going to be launched before everyone else. It’s exciting to find  some real gems and having the chance to review them, especially when they’re fantasy or paranormal romance. Such is the case here.

My good friend and Myrddin colleague, Joan Hazel, launched her latest book on Monday – Burdens of a Saint. Check out this fab cover:

Cover BOAS3

This is the blurb on the back:

Your life will change today…

When Janet Beesinger writes the words in red on her calendar, she has no idea what they mean. But, as a psychic, she knows when the Universe gifts you with personal information, you listen.  How was she to know the Universe meant an irritating and sexy shape-shifter who would challenge everything about her life?

Saint Wolfe can feel the gravity of his arrangement with the goddess Hel closing in around him, forcing him to confront his past and the betrayal of the woman he was to marry. Needing to make peace with his past, he returns to New Orleans in search of forgiveness, only to be confronted by his own immortality. His only hope for atonement lies in the hands of a woman claiming to be a psychic. Will she be able to help Saint find salvation before his debt to Hel comes due?

Intrigued yet? Well, if you want to know what I thought of it, read on. Here’s my review:

After reading, and enjoying, the first book in this series – The Last Guardian [What? You haven’t read it yet? Get over to Amazon now and click that buy button! Yes, I’ll wait for you to come back . . .] – I was looking forward to seeing how the story would develop. I was also a little concerned as to whether Burdens of a Saint would live up to my expectations. I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t like writing spoilers, although it’s going to be hard with this story running through my head, but I’ll try.

The characterisations in this book grew beautifully and organically from book one. I felt I got to know them in greater depth and found myself longing for Saint to achieve the happiness he’d been denied for so long. Ms Hazel created further nuances to the personalities of the characters which made them more fascinating, although with some, not always more likeable. Saint, the main character in this book, was like an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum – at times puzzling, occasionally a challenge, sometimes uncomplicated yet also with an endearing vulnerability. I love the way he was portrayed – the author did a great job of balancing the different facets of his personality while still making him relatable and believable.

The new cast interacted interestingly with the existing members. I particularly liked Janet and could empathise with her on many levels. I was intrigued by Eric; it was a tad exasperating not finding out from where his powers originated, but hopefully that will be covered in a future book. It was great to see how CJ (the Guardian) had grown into her role – I had to smirk a little when she exerted her authority – but I would have liked to see her do so a bit more often. However, maybe that’s yet to come; CJ wasn’t the main focus of this story.

The plot moved along at a steady pace and kept me turning the pages long after I should have stopped reading and switched off the light! The introduction of clairvoyance in this story was very realistic and the author obviously knows this subject well. The paranormal and magic aspects were believable and natural.

Thus far, this series has left enough cracks and lingering thoughts about what’ll happen to certain characters in the future for there to be more books about the Guardian and her wards. There are also some unanswered questions. There’s certainly plenty of scope for the author to do so, and I really hope she does.

Would I recommend Burdens of a Saint? ABSOLUTELY! I would advise you to read The Last Guardian first though, as it firmly establishes the relationships and hierarchy, and it would make reading Burdens of a Saint even more enjoyable.

My rating: 4.5 / 5

Now I’ve told you how good it is, click on one of these links and get yourself a copy:

Amazon US / Amazon UK

Oh, and check back next week for a character interview (and no, I’m not telling you which of the shapeshifters it is)!

About the author:

Joan Hazel Pic

Joan Hazel has written three novels that range from paranormal fantasy to contemporary to historical fiction. An accomplished actress and vocalist, she has performed with companies across the eastern United States. In her spare time, she plays with a colorful cast of characters who live in her head. She currently resides in DeLand, Fla., with her husband, Ricky, and their two fur kids.

Joan’s contact info:

Website: www.joanhazel.com

Blog: http://joan-hazel.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @guardianwriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Hazel/362411800440684?ref=hl

Advertisements

FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY

How many books could you get with a $100 Amazon Gift Card? Huh? Enough to make a serious dent in most wish lists, I’d bet! Wanna know more? Read on . . .

There’s only a couple of days left to enter this amazing giveaway run by my publishers, Myrddin Publishing Group and it’s so easy to do. Just click on the picture below which will take you to Rafflecopter. A couple of easy clicks and you’re in the draw!

If you want to know more about Myrddin Publishing, just click on the logo in my sidebar and it’ll take you straight to the website.

Good luck in the draw and remember, you have to be in it to win it!

Myrddin Giveaway

#BlogFlash2013 Day 16 – Community

I want to dedicate this post to a very special group of people – my colleagues and friends at my publishing group.

Community

 community1

Eight months ago, I was invited to join Myrddin Publishing Group, a community of indie authors dedicated to supporting each other in the pursuit of excellence.

At the time, I was the unpublished newbie in a sea of published authors, most of whom had an established fan base, and I felt something of a fraud. Who was I to rub shoulders with this elite group?

From day one, I was welcomed. The community ensured I was included in everything and felt comfortable.

The support I’ve received from them has been incredible; I’m so thankful and love them all dearly.

MP Oak BEST light

Reflections

First off – Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, happiness and success in all your endeavours.

looking back

 

In the first few days of a new year, most people are making resolutions and setting goals, and whilst I do that, I also take some time to reflect on the year just passed and ask myself some questions:

 

What was my biggest trial during 2012?

This would have to be the major problem with my spine. The first signs appeared mid-February, but by the third week in April, it had deteriorated to the extent I could no longer work, drive my car, dance, sit for longer than half an hour, stand for more than fifteen minutes, bend, and needed a stick to help me walk. Suddenly I was taking medication by the handful (or that’s how it seemed); muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-inflamatories and nerve blockers were thrown down my neck in the vain hope they would take the pain away. Yeah, they took the edge off, but that was about it. The doctor could have given me stronger tablets, but I really didn’t want to become a barely-functioning zombie.

There were two things which helped me through this nightmare (until I had surgery at the end of September) – my daughter and my writing. It was because of both I refused the more powerful drugs. My writing and editing work kept me sane; in my writing I was able to immerse myself in the world I was creating, and in between I had the honour of editing fantastic novels by Connie J Jasperson, Johanna Garth, Alison DeLuca and Nicole Antonia Carson; Johanna’s (Losing Hope), Alison’s (Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special) and Nicole’s (Yum) are already available, and Connie’s (Forbidden Road) is due to be published within the next couple of months. In the rare times I wasn’t writing or editing, my lovely daughter kept my spirits up.

What was my biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, the publication of Heart Search: Lost through Myrrdin Publishing Group. The joy I felt seeing it up on Amazon for the very first time was indescribable; I still get a buzz from it three months after the launch! When the paperback arrived, I turned it over and over in my hands, scarcely able to believe my dream of publishing a book had come true, especially after the difficult time I had trying to get it written in the first place.

What was my greatest challenge?

I think this would have to be organising and running the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Heart Search: Lost. I’d never done one before so was feeling my way with it a bit, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. I also wanted to combine the tour with a giveaway, so had to choose and design the items too. I wanted each participating blog to have original guest posts and excerpts – if people were kind enough to support my launch, the very least I could do was ensure they had exclusive pieces to share with their followers.

I had some wonderful people supporting me on the tour, a number of which have become dear friends as a result. The fact that the tour began just ten days after the surgery on my spine, when I could only sit for 10-15 minutes at a time, increased the challenge. I had 17 guest posts to write, 14 interviews, and to pick out 20 suitable excerpts. Add this to the actual administration of the tour, the launch itself and all the requisite publicity, it would be fair to say it was a challenge I wondered if I could rise to. I managed it, somehow, mainly by ignoring doctor’s orders and sitting for longer than I should have done!

What was unexpected?

Finding myself holding the reins of a writers group! I had only been a member of Writebulb for about four months when the leader and last remaining founder had to bow out. It had taken me quite a while to find a group I was happy in and I didn’t want to see it close. I volunteered to take over and have been running Writebulb ever since.

I’m proud of the achievements of the group since I took over. Apart from myself, others have published their work for the first time and collectively we published a charity anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, to raise money for our local hospice.

What surprised me the most?

People! To be more specific, how wonderfully supportive my fellow authors, bloggers, followers and readers were. Every member of Myrrdin Publishing were incredible and I’ve found some wonderful new friends as well as very talented authors. The Heart Search Blog Tour crew were all fantastic, most going out of their way to help publicise all the activities/posts/reviews etc as well as their own and offering me loads of encouragement. My fellow writers at Writebulb have been responsive and supportive of my leadership and ideas. Last, but by no means least, my wonderful readers who have given me such fabulous feedback on my debut novel.

What have I learned?

Loads! I’ve learned to stare adversity in the face and find a coping mechanism to deal with pain (admitedly doing something I love and would have done anyway, but still . . .). I’ve been honing my craft, trying to improve my writing, so as to give my readers better quality stories to enjoy. I’ve learned how wonderfully supportive other authors and my blog and social media followers are. Finally, although I’ve been writing since I was a child, I’ve come to realise it’s a much bigger part of my life than I ever expected and I can never stop doing what I love so much!

 

 

You, Me and Mr W B

Next up on the Heart Search Blog Tour was this post written for my ‘stable-mate’ at Myrddin Publishing Group and dear friend, the fab Connie J Jasperson. She asked me to blog about the scourge which affects virtually all writers at some point – the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ – and how to deal with it. Here are some thoughts for you.

Block

The vast majority of us authors have day jobs and families, so we try and squeeze in some time when we can to write. But it’s just not that easy.

Picture the scene; you’ve had a rotten day at work so you’re feeling kind of up-tight and frustrated – angry even. When you get home you find some bills in your post box so now you have to work out which ones you can pay now and which will have to wait a week or two. Your spouse/partner is worried about money, the kid(s) and is fed up because he/she broke a favourite ornament. One of the kids is ill; they’ve got a bit of a fever and keeps throwing up, and the dog has decided to expand its’ culinary repertoire by chewing on your slippers.

After all this and having had dinner, you manage to find half an hour to sit down and write. You fire up your PC or laptop, open the relevant page and nothing. Mr Writer’s Block has taken up residence in your head and you can’t think of a single thing to write. You re-read some of what you’ve written before in the hope it’ll spark something, anything, so you can continue with your story. But what happens? Zilch, zip, nada, nothing. Before you know it, your half an hour has gone, it’s time for bed and now you’re even more frustrated.

Is it any wonder?

Our busy lives get in the way of our writing and just trying to find the time is hard enough, but when you’re worried about money, job, kids et al, it’s really no wonder so many of us suffer visits from Mr Writer’s Block, is it?

For us to be productive with our writing, we need to be able to put aside all the stresses, strains and problems thrown across our paths. We need to allow our imaginations to soar in a creative way rather than imagining what will happen if a particular bill is not paid by the due date. We need to find our zone and shut everything else out. Sounds easy, right? Like heck it is!

So how do we do it?

Preparation is key here and there are a few techniques you can use to get past it. I’m going to share three with you here.

If you’re the sort of person who listens to music when you write, put on a CD or your iPod for a good 10-15 minutes before you start and really concentrate on it. If it’s instrumental, listen to how the notes rise and fall, the harmonies created by the different instruments and think what scene the music conjures; if there are vocals, listen to the words very carefully, and try to picture the artist’s mood when they were writing it or how they would look performing it on stage. By concentrating on the music, you’re beginning to free your mind.

Another way is deep breathing relaxation exercises with a twist. Sit or lay – it doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable – and close your eyes. Start breathing deeply then begin by thinking about your feet and mentally picture the muscles relaxing and the stress as a puff of black smoke or a black cloud which appears outside your feet as the muscles relax. Then you start working your way up your body; ankles to knees, knees to top of thighs, hip / groin / stomach area, chest, shoulders, arms and hands, neck and last of all your head. Then you picture a shape, any shape you like. It starts off small then gets increasingly larger until it fills your vision. Then you allow the shape to morph or distort itself, bending in on itself, twirling around, basically anything your mind can invoke. Now you’ve spent that time relaxing and playing with the shape, it’s pushed out the worries and let your imagination go to work.

The final one is ten minutes of free-writing, using pen and paper. Most, if not all of you are likely to know what this is, but in case you don’t I’ll explain. Pick a word, any word you like, at random. Now you just write anything which pops into your head about that word. Spelling, grammar and punctuation go out the window. You don’t even need to worry about sentence structure. You can write a list of words you associate with your chosen topic, you can write sentences. It doesn’t matter what you write, how it sounds, how arbitrary it is, the important thing is concentrating on your chosen word and just keep writing. The mere fact of you concentrating on something else has opened your mind and allowed the creative side to emerge.

After doing one of these exercises you go straight to your computer or writing pad, whichever you use and begin to write. Allow your mind free rein on your work in progress; it’s primed and ready to accept the sparks of inspiration your preparations have encouraged. It might be a little hokey at first, a little off compared to how you normally write, but that’s okay. The important thing is you’re now writing and as you progress your style, sentence structure and all the things you’re used to will materialise and ‘hey presto’ you’re back in your groove. The worst thing you can do is concern yourself with your first few lines which may not be up to your normal standard – it can always be edited later – you’re putting words on the page or screen and that’s what matters.

So the next time you’re tense and Mr Writer’s Block come knocking on your door, slam it in his face, do your chosen exercise(s) then write to your heart’s content.

I really hope you find these techniques useful!

The Dream Land by Stephen Swartz

I’m taking a short break from the Heart Search Blog Tour posts to bring you something a little special. My good friend and colleague at Myrddin Publishing Group, Stephen Swartz, has just released his latest novel, The Dream Land, book one: Long Distance Voyager, and it’s so cool, I wanted to share it with you.

This great new novel is a genre mash-up. Predominantly Sci-fi, it also has elements of steampunk, psychological thriller, a bit of romance and a little humour. Here’s the blurb:

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.  

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly–he calls it “research”–and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates. 
 
Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. 

Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.  
 
But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue, alien romance, and world domination by a pair of nerdy sweethearts, spiced up with some police procedural and psychological thriller, then marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.

Sounds really cool and different, huh? I was really intrigued when I read that and wanted to learn more. I managed to twist Stephen’s arm a little and get him to agree to part with an excerpt for me to share with you and here it is:

“Sebastian had pulled on his adopted name, wore Set-d’Elous with confidence as he stepped out of the bushes and found himself somewhere in Lyas. He remembered Lyas was particularly dry on that spring afternoon when he escorted Gina through the curtain into the municipal park, set between blue Lake Zarmê and green Lake Orosz. The two of them slipped out and in two steps blended with several other couples passing by, admiring the flowers.

Regarding Gina, feeling her hand clasping his, he could not speak.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked him.

“You’re young! Look at yourself. You’re not the age you were back in my apartment.”

“I’m a First-Class Voyager, I told you.” She laughed. “Someday I’ll teach you that trick. Or maybe not.”

She took his hand and led him through the park. The woman still looked older than him, evidence of her longevity on Ghoupallesz, but she had shed about twenty years during the passage through the tangent. He saw her more like the person he had rescued from the Zetin, the same girl he had kissed in high school. It was still Gina, no matter what appearance she had.

“The first thing I always do, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in,” she told him as they crossed the street to a news bulletin board, “is check the date. Then you’ll know how to act, and what to do.”

He stared at the paper tacked up, realizing the language had faded somewhat in his memory.

“My god! It’s 1472!” he cried.

“Relax.”

“B-b-but the year was 1455 when I returned for Zaura last time. That was seventeen years ago? I lost ten years with her the first time. Now I’ve lost seventeen more years?”

“I said relax.” She linked her arm in his. “You don’t have to stay. You’re just helping me come back, like the Eagle Scout you always were. See me over to my son’s wedding and you’re free to go.”

They walked along the avenue, catching stares from the people they passed, hearing them speaking English.

“But you’re not old now, Gina. Can’t you go by yourself? I don’t want to be here. There are too many bad memories for me.”

She shushed him, gave his hand a playful slap, pulled him along.

“Why don’t you indulge me this one afternoon,” she said. “Look around us. Here is a fine spring day, perfect weather, not a yellow cloud in the whole green sky. Are you looking? The trees are in full bloom, and—look at that stighal over there, the way its long pink petals droop all the way down to the ground. What’s that, about forty feet? You won’t see anything like that back on Earth. You see the beauty here? the harmony? Look at the lugê-feq with the big, orange roso on its branches. See the halêl flying over the roof of that townhouse? Why can’t you just relax and enjoy this day? If you leave here by tomorrow, you won’t have missed more than an hour of your precious Earth.”

He looked around as much as her impatient tugging would allow. She was ushering him quickly down the walk, certain that she would be late for the wedding. Everything was passing by him too quickly, and her words were like breezes, part of the environment.

“Here we are,” she announced, pulling up in front of the red stone House of Union.

A priest in the traditional yellow raelor robe stood outside and welcomed the people who were arriving. The priest seemed to recognize the flustered woman with the younger man on her arm. Inside, Set scanned the group of Ghoupalles—and he presumed they were scanning him, too. He sat beside Gina, the place of honor for the groom’s family. They were the only ones there, he saw. And the bride’s family was no where to be seen.

“Wait here,” she whispered to him. “I’m going to find my son.”

He waited, in that conspicuous seat at the front, closest to the wedding mat. Feeling curious stares sticking to his back, he realized he still wore his Earth clothes.”

This book is definitely on my ‘to-read’ list, not only because of the blurb and this excerpt, but also after reading the review featured on ‘Best In Fantasy’. It’s now available on Kindle – click the cover below to go to the Amazon page where you can read the first seven chapters in this epic tale FREE.

TheDreamLand-frontcover_small

Meet Stephen:

Stephen2006xStephen Swartz grew  up in Kansas City, Missouri where he dreamed of traveling the world. His  writing usually includes exotic locations, foreign characters, and smatterings
of other languages–strangers in strange lands. You get the idea: life imitating art. After studying music and composing a symphony, Stephen planned to be a music teacher before he decided to turn to a career in English and fiction writing. “I write first and foremost to entertain,” says Stephen, “and if readers
are able to escape into a fictional world I create, even for a short time, I smile long into the night!” Stephen now teaches English at a university in Oklahoma and continues to write fiction late at night.

THE DREAM LAND (December 2012) is an epic of interdimensional intrigue and world domination by a pair of well-meaning hedonists, marbled through with twisted humor and steampunk pathos, a patina of psychological thriller, and the quirky conundrums of time and space. Book I: Long Distance Voyager will be available December 2012 and Book II: Dreams of Future’s Past will be available in 2013. Book III: Diaspora is under
construction.

Blog: http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @StephenSwartz1

Wading Through the Publishing River

Michelle Birbeck was my next fabulous hostess on the Heart Search Blog Tour. She wanted me to write on the subject of publishing and this is what I came up with.

You’ve spent untold hours writing your story. You’ve lovingly crafted your character and skilfully designed your plot. Having gone through editing and beta reading, your manuscript is now as perfect as you can make it and now comes the hardest decision of all – how to publish it.

As writers, most of us dream of getting an agent and being contracted to one of the ‘Big Six’ publishers, but it’s not as easy as that, is it?

Basically you have three choices; attempt to get an agent who will tout your masterpiece until you get a publishing contract, go through an Indie Publisher, or self-publish.

Traditional Publishing:

These days, it’s even harder to get an agent than ever. They are inundated by manuscripts and you can wait months for a response. The wait is agonising – I know, I’ve been there! You have to pen a killer query letter which will grab them in the first couple of sentences (no longer than one page), write a single page synopsis which will highlight the most exciting parts of your book and send in two or three chapters for them to consider. Writing a query letter which will have the desired effect is, in some ways, harder than writing the book itself. You need to research your potential agents thoroughly and adhere to their submission requirements to the letter with every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. No mean feat that!

Having done all of that, you send it off with hope in your heart and wait. Several weeks or months later comes the email you’ve been dreading – the rejection. However, if this is your dream, you keep trying other agents and wait some more. It’s like a never-ending circle. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who gets picked up by an agent, but there’s more waiting in store as your agent suggests possible changes to the book and you may have to re-write sections and then there’s the time to kill while your agent tries to get you a publishing deal. While all this is going on, you are depriving potential readers of your work of art. Still, if that’s your dream you must follow it.

Indie Publishing:

This is a similar process to traditional publishing except that you submit direct to the publisher. Again, you need to do your homework and ensure the publishers you choose want the genre your novel is based in and most of them only accept submission at certain times during the year. If you send your submission in speculatively outside of their ‘open window’, it will either be deleted or thrown away.

Again, it’s important to follow the submission guidelines to the letter, and you still have to wait and be prepared for rejections.

Self-Publishing:

This is, by far, the quickest and easiest way of getting your book out to the public. You can sign up to Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and upload your manuscript. It’s a simple process and quite quick. If you want a paperback as well, CreateSpace or Lulu are the best, and again the process is simple. You can get free or cheap ISBN numbers through both (an ISBN is not needed for e-book through Kindle, but it does limit the availability – more on that in a minute). However, you may be limited to their distribution networks only.

If you purchase your own ISBN number, you have the flexibility to place your novel in so many more sales channels for either your e-book, paperback or both, and is something I would recommend. However, if you don’t have the time to place your book on Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble et al, you may be content to go with the distribution packages offered by these print on demand companies. Your choice!

One word of caution – don’t think about putting your novel out there before getting it professionally edited. Readers will be put off by typos and inconsistencies and ultimately this could be the kiss of death for your work. The money spent on getting your novel edited will pay off in the long run when weighed up against a tarnished reputation which is unrecoverable.

I’m lucky – I have the best of both worlds! I’m self-published under the banner of an Indie Publisher, Myrddin Publishing Group. This means I own the legal rights to my book and not the publisher, but I have the support of the team behind me.

Whatever you decide to do, you will still have to be prepared to market your book yourself. This takes time and dedication and where some authors fall down – they have no idea where to start. My advice is to look around on social media platforms and see which individuals or companies offer advice on marketing to authors and learn fast. Marketing is a whole different post so I’m not going to go into that now.

*

At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s best for you and your book. I have one or two theories of my own which are yet to be put to the test, but ultimately you need to follow your dream. Good luck!

I hope you found this useful!