Monday, 12 January 2015

Author Promo Spotlight -- Debbie Cowens

Debbie Cowens is a writer and English teacher who lives on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand with her husband and son. She writes mostly crime, horror and other speculative fiction. In 2012 she co-authored the collection of adapted Katherine Mansfield stories, Mansfield with Monsters (published by Steam Press), which won the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best Collected Work and was listed in the Listener's best books of 2012. She also won the 2012 SJV award for Best New Talent. Her short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and magazines, and her short story Caterpillars (published in the Baby Teeth anthology) won the 2014 Australian Horror Writers Association Shadow Award for Best Short Story.
Her novel Murders and Matching is to be published by Paper Road Press in 2015. She is currently working on a horror fantasy-adventure novel for children, The Land beneath the Shadows, and eating too many gingerbread cookies.

Mansfield with Monsters - available from Steam Press (
At the bay of Cthulhu - a Lovecraftian adaptation of Katherine Mansfield's novella
Steam Pressed Shorts - an anthology of short stories by Debbie and Matt Cowens
Baby Teeth - a horror anthology
Information about the upcoming Murders and Matchmaking - to be published by Paper Road Press

Debbie Cowens blog:
Facebook: Debbie Cowens

Sneak-peek into a book by Debbie Cowens

Guest post by Debbie Cowens

You'd love to read some of Debbie's brilliant works, wouldn't you? Email us right away. Two lucky winners will win digital copies of "Baby Teeth", a horror story anthology that Debbie contributed to.


How does a typical book get written in your world - what do you start with?

Every story is different for me. Sometimes I’ll have a just a small seed of an idea and it’ll just lurk in the back of my mind for days or weeks, slowly germinating and growing into a proper storyline with characters and plotlines. Other times the idea is close to fully formed as soon as I think of it. A lot of times novels come out of short story ideas that expanded and became more complex than I anticipated. I usually don’t write up a complete plot summary before I get started; I just know where to start and where it’s going to end up but the middle is a bit of a mystery.
A few years ago I did Nanowrimo and for that I made a detailed plot outline for every chapter in advance but I didn’t find it made writing any easier and it didn’t really suit my style. I enjoy pondering plot issues and toying with how characters might react depending on how things go in my non-writing hours of the days. I like it when my characters do things I haven’t anticipated and create curly problems for me; trying to untangle those surprising encounters or plot twists is a lot of fun, sort of like solving a cryptic crossword only you can do when you’re unloading the dishwasher, taking a shower or going for a run.

• How would you compare the protagonists of your books with yourself?

I’m rather dull and boring in comparison to any book character. Generally my protagonists are much more assertive than me and are far more likely to get involved in mysteries, adventures or conflict. I’m non-confrontation and try to avoid anything that might involve danger, awkward social situations, spiders or heavy-lifting. Little bits and pieces of my own experiences will end up in things that I write and some of my characters have been loosely inspired by people I know.

• How would you typically choose the names of your characters? 

It’s different every time. Sometimes characters spring into existence with their names and personalities already formed. Other times I’ve spend a long time deliberating over what name to give a certain character. It can be tough. It’s easier to know that’s a name is wrong and doesn’t fit a character than it is to put your finger on the right one.
With Murders and Matchmaking the characters are all inspired from Jane Austen works and Sherlock Holmes stories so the genesis of the names like Mr Sherlock Darcy are rather obvious.

• What's that one Classic work that you wish had been written by you? 

Frankenstein, Bleak House, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Jane Eyre… so many to choose from!
I suppose Pride and Prejudice does stand out for me as it’s probably the classic I’ve re-read the most times and I think the characterisation in it is perfection. Elizabeth Bennet has to be my favourite heroine – she’s smart, witty, kind, active, observant, and yet still flawed and makes mistakes. The unpleasant characters like the nasty, snobbish Caroline Bingley and the superior control-freak Lady Catherine de Bourgh are both thoroughly believable and yet humorously awful in the terrible things they say. I don’t think I’ve read a character has me more cringe more than Mr Collins and his proposal to Elizabeth is hideous.

The other classic I would have loved to have written is The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, although it’s more a novella than novel. I love Oscar Wilde’s writing; the beauty of his use of language and his clever humour. The set-up of this story is perfect to show off his talents – the gothic macabre meets satirical wit. Canterville Chase is a haunted country house in England is bought by a wealthy American family and the traditional ghost Sir Simon de Canterville has to contend with their modern ways. I really like how Wilde expresses the ghost’s perspective:

With the enthusiastic egotism of the true artist he went over his most celebrated performances, and smiled bitterly to himself as he recalled to mind his last appearance as Red Reuben, or the Strangled Babe, his début as Gaunt Gibeon, the Blood-sucker of Bexley Moor, and the furore he had excited one lovely June evening by merely playing ninepins with his own bones upon the lawn-tennis ground. And after all this, some wretched modern Americans were to come and offer him the Rising Sun Lubricator, and throw pillows at his head! It was quite unbearable. Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this manner. Accordingly, he determined to have vengeance, and remained till daylight in an attitude of deep thought.

One of things I love about the story is how much I ended up sympathising with the ghost despite him being a murderer hell-bent on terrorising people who is also rather pompous. The ending of the story is actually quite sweet and moving.

• How would you deal with reviews? 

There are so many great books and stories around that anyone choosing to read your book and taking the time to review is paying you a huge compliment in that alone. Getting a good review is certainly something to celebrate with much glee and merriment. I wish I could say I was the type of person who wouldn’t mind getting a bad review but I tend to get a little wounded by criticism. I think as a writer you just have to write the stories you want to read and hope that there’s other readers out there who will like it too and focus on the people who say they enjoy your writing more than those who don’t. Having said that, I can see that maybe a slightly negative review might offer some insights into what to do better next time which is valuable information for the writer – once they’ve recovered from their weeping and bitter objections.

• What's your favourite writing location? 

I write in the dining room on the table – not during meals usually. I wouldn’t trust myself not to spill my food on my laptop. I usually write first thing in the morning before my son gets up so it’s a nice quiet space at the far end of the house from the bedrooms. It also gets the morning light so it’s a nice to be there at that time of day.

• What awesome books and projects are you working in at the moment?

I’m currently finishing the final edits of Murders and Matchmaking which will be published in 2015 and then I will spend the Christmas holidays working on finishing a kids book The Land beneath the Shadows which is a sort of horror/fantasy adventure novel about a young girl whose little sister gets kidnapped by a closet monster on Christmas Eve and she has to venture into the Shadow world to rescue her sister. I also have a few short stories ideas swirling around at the moment so I’m hoping to get a chance to write those as well.

Author Promo Spotlight -- A.J. Ponder

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A.J. Ponder is the author of Wizard's Guide to Wellington as well as numerous short stories and plays. She lives in a hundred year old house overlooking Wellington harbour, so she can keep an eye on stray taniwha while not missing out on coffee.  

Awards include, Sir Julius Vogel Short Story Award 2012, with Frankie and the Netball Clone, runner up for Arc and The Tomorrow Project’s 2012 competition: The Future Always Wins, with Dying for the Record, and co-winner of the Northwrite 2014 Collaborative Writing Competition with Ahi Ka. Her latest story Lilly Lionheart and the Labyrinth of Doom (Part 1: Once Bitten) is now available for pre-order here at

You'd love to read some of A.J. Ponder's brilliant works, wouldn't you? Email us right away. Two lucky winners will win digital copies of her books.

Firstly I’d like to thank you for this opportunity, what a wonderful website for authors and readers.
• How does a typical book get written in your world - what do you start with?
I love writing, so a typical book starts with an idea and a character. Lilly Lionheart started as a girl genius fused with dangerous genetically designed animals Mastermind's Lair. The evil mastermind idea never quite panned out as the character decided to be pompous rather than clever, but the whole mad science angle was fun. On the other hand, Wizard's Guide to Wellington's inspiration was in a round-about way The Hobbit. Tolkien used the countryside of Britain to create a legend he felt Britain lacked, discovering a “forgotten” history. As New Zealand and specifically Wellington already had its own legends, it was a matter of discovering how the local landmarks and legends interacted to create a very magical and dangerous city. 

• How would you compare the protagonists of your books with yourself?
The difference between the protagonists and myself, are my protagonists are awesome. They're adventurous and fun, if a little bit flawed. I'm deeply flawed, and not particularly pro-active, more of a spider trying to pull bits of webs together to make some kind of glamour.

• How would you typically choose the names of your characters?

My characters tend to be rather bossy about their names. Mostly their names arrive as an inseparable part of the package, although some names are rather more difficult to find, as if the character is hiding them. Baby name books can be helpful, so can lists of "most popular names." For certain worlds the meaning of names is important, so searching the internet for names with particular meanings can be useful. But mostly these fail to find a character’s name (although they do often create new characters), and a walk along the beach is as likely to resolve the conundrum of a character’s name.

• What's that one Classic work that you wish had been written by you?
If you'd asked me this a few years ago, this would have been The Hobbit, hands down, but it pales in comparison to Verdigris Deep (Also known as Well Witch by Francis Hardinge. Verdigris Deep is a gorgeously written, beautifully plotted, modern fairy tale full of a rich darkness. It more than deserves a place as an instant classic. I would so love to write a book like this where every word is it pulls you into danger.

• How would you deal with reviews?

I've been very lucky with reviews, most have been positive and I'm so grateful to the reviewers. A bad review? Of course it would hurt, but a reader also brings themselves to a story, so as a writer it's probably best not to worry too much. And certainly to never comment. I suspect a walk on the beach with a good friend and a cup of coffee is the best way to cope with a bad review, also with a good one, because it puts the world back in perspective.

• What's your favourite writing location?

I like to generate ideas when I'm out and about, but I love to write in comfort, lolling on a couch, or in the swivelly chair in front of the computer.

• What awesome books and projects are you working in at the moment?

Fire Crow with Peter Friend: It's a secret project, so I can’t really say anything, except that it’s really exciting and I love working with Peter who is a master of the Science Fiction. His Voyage to the Moon, published in Asimov’s is amazing.
The Sylvalla trilogy: Written by a pompous old university lecturer, F. Fradherghast's Quest, Prophecy and Omens follow the adventures of Princess Sylvalla who desperately wants to be a hero. This series takes the tropes of fantasy and gently mocks them, while landing the protagonist in deeper and deeper trouble. I’d love for audiences to be able to read the trilogy on two very different levels, not unlike Winter of the Birds by Helen Cresswell. The idea is that it can be read as a straight adventure, but it can also be read at a deeper level, where things are not quite what they seem on the surface.

And finally I'm putting the bells and whistles on Miss Lionheart and the Labyrinth of Doom. It’s been the most crazy fun to write. …duck the gelignite, avoid the Acme fuses. Do whatever you need to, just make sure you don't miss out — it's more than your life is worth! Delayed by a run of bad health, Part One: Once Bitten will now be released on the 31st of Jan.

Guest Post by A.J. Ponder
I love writing, creating worlds and discovering new characters. On a good writing day the whole world seems to fade away. It’s as if someone is telling me the story, and I am just writing it down. Finding ideas is not so hard once you realise there are no new ideas, just new ways to write them, and nothing in this world that is so liberating, so fun, and so difficult all at the same time.
But no matter how fun and rewarding writing is, there’s adversity around every corner and dealing with adversity is something I’m qualified to talk about. Mostly because as the author, it’s my job to make my characters’ lives as demanding as possible. And also because I’ve faced just enough adversity to realise just how rubbish I am at dealing with it myself.
As far as I can see, there’s just one rule. “One step at a time.” It should be easy. Facing adversity is not like spelling, or grammar, where there are a hundred rules and they change every time you hop on a plane - or want to talk about last week – or tomorrow. One step at a time and you’ll make it out the other side. However crazy your life. However convoluted the plot. And the worse the stress, the more tricky the problem, the more I focus on, and even celebrate each footstep. Completing major sections like the first draft or the plot outline are exciting, but so too is discovering each character’s voice, a plot twist, and most important and difficult of all – simply opening the document. Yes, in the process of writing, opening the document, and putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard is probably the hardest step of all.  And yet I’ve discovered that it can be done. Every day. Especially when you don’t think that you can.
Kev’s “Dear Santa,” was written when my boy was in hospital. It’s not even particularly sad – well, just a little bit, but it still makes me cry. I took my computer, knowing I had a deadline, but not thinking it would be possible to write under such awful conditions. But once the computer was out, the story wrote itself. “The Collector” (Published Disquiet 2014) was also written around that time. This time much of the adversity I faced was the story itself.  I’m sure every writer has these, the story you love that doesn’t quite work. On the surface it was a perfectly reasonable action piece, but the ending never quite worked, and editing wasn’t going to fix the problem.
Cue big important music and a Firefly quote – Tracey: “When you can't run, you crawl, and when you can't crawl - when you can't do that...” Zoë: “You find someone to carry you.”
And much as this is inspirational quote is great for soldiers of fortune who’ve fallen on really tough times, it’s also not a bad fall-back for authors when they are stuck. So I brainstormed my dystopian thriller with some writer friends and rewrote from scratch. And step by step the story changed, until the next thing I knew I was no longer writing a dystopian thriller about a heist that goes wrong. The story now had a different setting, different protagonists, and the only thing that remained was the attempted heist.  It might seem like a lot of work for one short story. And yes, it was, I could have enjoyed reading several books in the time it took to get the one short story into shape. But for me, that is the joy of writing. It’s a little like life, sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes when you start something, you’re never quite sure where you’ll end up - but you won’t know, until you take that first step.

My Demonic Ghost: Reapers by Jacinta Maree

The Reapers by Jacinta Maree
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was provided with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The second instalment in the My Demonic Ghosts series, this book continues to take us through troubled and distressed demonic elements. In this story, we meet Jordan, a reaper. Assigned with the task of collecting human spirits at the moment of their deaths, Jordan leads a miserable life, with a lot of internal conflicts and turmoils. To add to his woes, he realises that the pet wolf he has been given, is having a lot of difficult adjusting to Jordan as his new master. Does Jordan manage to solve his personal and responsibility issues, is what the book takes us through.

The book has an interesting storyline and keeps up the momentum of the first book in the series, Banished Spirits. Maree's writing style is captivating and keeps the reader engaged. I would have loved to have the pace a tad more brisk, but the author manages to cover up such nitpicks with a nice narrative.

I definitely enjoyed the book and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

My rating for this book: 4 stars

View all my reviews

My Demonic Ghost: The Reapers
My Demonic Ghost # 2
By- Jacinta Maree
Genre- YA Paranormal/Ghosts
Published By- Staccato Publishing

The day you die is meant to be the end, but for 18 year old Jordon Hastings, his death was only the beginning.
 In a dark and twisted world, lost spirits known as Reapers remain behind after death to help collect the spirits from the realm of the living. A new Reaper, Jordon struggles to accept his fate and lingers in the shadows of his mortal life. But when a demon wolf starts to live through his shadow, hunting his family and friends Jordon has no choice but to leave. As soon as he accepts his new role the truth behind the relationship between Reapers and Angelic Hunters is revealed. His loyalty is tested, making him choose between a corrupted God and a single Banished Spirit.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda by Tara Lee Reed

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda by Tara Lee Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was provided with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Armed with an innovative narrative technique, Tara Reed lets us live the life of Elle Masters, a begruntled girl who is over dating of any kind. As Elle and her friends figure out the good and the bad of finding meaning behind dating and romance, Elle meets the captivating Nick at a bar. As Elle, what would you do next? You have many different options, and each option takes you through a different path.

I loved the writing approach - it had a lot of fun element, no doubts, but there was a lot of serious lessons to learn from this as well. As the reader and Elle, choose their options, some right and some wrong, the author cleverly writes about how one moment and one impulsive decision can shape good or bad consequences. There is not much on the characterisation of Elle or Nick, making the choices a trifle more difficult to deal with, but the excitement of the book overcomes all such issues.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to lovers of romance with a twist.

My rating for this book: 4 stars

View all my reviews

Elle Masters is over dating. It used to be fun: the drama, the angst, the exhilarating beginnings, the bittersweet middles, the blowout endings. Then the tears, hangovers, rebounds, and another addition to the Heartbreak box in her closet. Now Elle can’t remember the last time a guy made his way into her box.
When her friends Rachel and Valerie insist she snap out of her post-breakup funk with a girls’ night out / rebound hunt at a San Francisco bar, Elle isn’t expecting tall, dark, and hummuna-hummuna, Nick Wright. This is no rebound guy. He’s definitely, maybe, The One.
In Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, you play Elle as she and her pals put the “antics” in “romantics.” You’ll question everything you thought you knew about love, over-analyzing and second-guessing your way through hundreds of dating dilemmas and passionate predicaments. With 60 happily sometimes afters, you’ll always get another chance with Mr. Wright.

You and Nick have been dating for six weeks and it’s been wonderful. You can’t remember the last time you had this much fun with someone. You’re never bored when you’re together, never at a loss for conversation, and when it is quiet, it’s a good quiet.
You are happy!
During your Friday night dinner date at your favorite Thai restaurant, you’re hard at work trying to convince Nick of his completely wrong, unjustified and undeserved preconceived notions of The Vampire Diaries, and that he should really give the show a chance – if not for himself, then for you.
“I’ll hate it.” He shakes his head rapidly.
“You don’t think I know what you’ll like?” you ask with a wriggle of your eyebrows. He coughs.
And that’s when you hear it.
“Oh, myyyyyyyyy god! Nick!”
If it’s possible to be allergic to a particular audio frequency, then you are allergic to this one. Wincing, you rub your ears and follow the shriek to its source – a tall, curvy, dark-haired beauty whose face must prevent heterosexual men from hearing her voice. Yes, she’s hot enough to turn men deaf and make you incredibly catty. “What are you doing here?”
Seriously – like acrylic nails on a chalkboard.
Hottie McHotterson, as you’ve named her, invades your table. She flaps her glossy lips and you try really, really hard to listen to what she says so you can report (and mock) her every word to Rachel and Valerie. Unfortunately, you’re powerless against staring at her spectacular breasts. It’s fine, they’re staring at you, too. And, anyway, you’re not sure she’s even noticed you yet.
A few awkward moments later, she squeals goodbye to Nick and leaves a big, shiny mouth-print on his already crimson cheek before she struts off.
Nice to meet your breasts, too.
You look at Nick, who wears a thoroughly pained expression. He starts to babble an explanation of how he and Hottie know each other, which, of course, you’re dying – dying – to hear.
At the same time, it’s not really your business, is it?
Give him some rope to hang himself, turn to section 108.
Give him a stay of execution, turn to section 120.

Tara will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Tara Lee Reed is the accidental writer from Toronto, Canada, not that chick from Sharknado. When her public relations career was forced into hiatus by a jerky plot twist, she wrote the first in a series of interactive novels. She was voted Most Sarcastic Female at her high school prom, which she went to alone. (Not that she thinks about it.) She can fit her whole fist in her mouth (which makes the prom thing surprising), and she can sing with her mouth closed, but she can’t do both at the same time. She once appeared on a romance novel cover with her longtime partner who has done 79 more – with other women.
Official Site:
Amazon Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Choose Your Own Love Story (Once Upon a Theme Book 1)

Veiled Intentions by Eileen Carr

Veiled Intentions by Eileen Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was provided with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Beginning with a compellingly impactful court scene, the storyline takes us through a set of events beginning on a fateful night when a young war veteran in Afghanistan is hit and run over, putting him into a coma. The police rest their suspicions on a high-school student, Jamila. Although Jamila denies the charges, no further efforts are taken up to find out what happened that night. Jamila's parents sue the police force for harassing their daughter owing to her religion. What starts as a legal enforcement issue turns into a politico-religious devastation, with religious hate crimes and bullying feed on themselves and spread out. Lily, the one person determined to get to the bottom of the whole issue, is not ready to let matters rest until the truth is found out. But she needs to face the wrath of religious haters as well. Does Lily manage to save her sanity and also Jamila's dignity, is what the book takes us through.

The author utilises the premise and plot of a thriller, to instill the right and wrongs of the society effectively. Lessons on morality and how the society should keep bigotry and religious hatred away, is a lesson that comes out strongly. The real culprit behind the crime comes as a surprise. Daniel Richardson's character, the silent and observant class fellow of Jamila's is a surprisingly strong character. The pace of the book was brisk and engaging.

This was an intense and brilliant work and highly recommended for everyone.

My rating for this book: 5 stars

View all my reviews

When a Muslim high school student is accused of a crime she didn’t commit, her school counselor gets involved to clear her record in this ripped-from-the-headlines novel.

When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she’s a guidance counselor, she’s not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn’t commit, Lily’s high school becomes a powder keg.

Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she’s not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila’s arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Lily read Daniel Richardson’s article with a horrible sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. She brought up Facebook on her computer and started searching.

She found the “Jamila Is a Terrorist” Facebook page by following a fairly long line of comments among other students. Despite being incredibly computer savvy, it surprised Lily to see how few kids had much regard to their privacy online. Even the ones who had made their profiles private didn’t seem to realize that if they commented on a page that wasn’t private, someone could have limited access to their information.

She felt physically ill when she found the page. Scrolling through it made her feel even worse.

“Cast your vote! Which one of these Darby High students is the most likely to bomb the place to the ground?”

Lily’s stomach dropped when she saw the poll. At this moment, Lily wasn’t sure what horrified her the most. Was it the fact that someone had created a poll like that on Facebook? Or that so many of the kids at school had already voted on who they thought was most likely to commit an act of terrorism against the school. Two hundred and seventy-nine votes had already been cast.

Four of the five choices were Muslim students. Jamila, of course. Then Hakim Massoud, Abdul El-Sayed, and Fareed Bahri. The fifth choice was SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob was trailing by quite a few votes.

About the Author:
Eileen Carr was born in Dayton, Ohio. She moved when she was four and only remembers that she was born across the street from Baskin-Robbins. Eileen remembers anything that has to do with ice cream. Or chocolate. Or champagne.

Eileen’s alter ego, Eileen Rendahl, is the award-winning author of four Chick Lit novels and the Messenger series.

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