Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Daughters of the Nile is the final book in Stephanie Dray's trilogy about Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. In this part of the story Selene and her husband, King Juba II, finally enter into a marriage that is personal as well as political. They must learn to rule together to hold Mauretania and their children out of the reach of Augustus Caesar.

In my review of Lily of the Nile, the first book in this trilogy, I said that Dray reminded me of how much I enjoy historical fiction. Daughters of the Nile again reminds me of that fact. I think much of this has to do with Dray's writing. While I was reading this book I was completely immersed in Selene's world. The sights, smells, sounds, emotions, rituals, politics - I was caught up in it all. Dray uses language that is appropriate for the time period and the characters. Her words flowed around me and when I was interrupted it took a moment for me to return to the modern world.

In each book Selene has grown as a person and a woman. She enters Rome a frightened child, leaves a queen, and returns again queen and mother. She moves from dreams of her own importance as queen to protecting her children and listening to their dreams as well. Her heart which was hardened in her childhood opens to her husband, her children, and her new country. Although she will never return to rule Egypt, Selene rules Mauretania with wisdom and care for its people.

While Daughters of the Nile is the end of the story, it could be read as a stand alone novel. This is no small feat considering the trilogy spans the majority of Cleopatra Selene's lifetime.

Buy Books by Stephanie Dray on Amazon

I received a copy of Daughters of the Nile from the author for review purposes. Amazon affiliate links are used within this post.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Grammar Lesson - Relative Clauses: which, who, whose, and that

Today I have a bit of a different type of post for you. Chryse Wymer is here to talk about the mechanics of writing and editing. Chryse is also offering a chance to win one of three Amazon gift cards so be sure to keep reading.


Thank you so much to Angela Donner for allowing me to guest post. I’m a weirdo (as usual) to most book-reviewing bloggers because I’m not interested in promoting a book. Instead, I’m promoting good grammar and usage . . . as well as my editing business, of course.

This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author—published both traditionally and independently. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get you started on your editing bookshelves. You can contact me at, or, for more information, visit: At the previous site, I’ll also be keeping a list of the blogs I’ve visited and the subject matter I’ve shared.

I’ll warn non-word nerds that the language here is rather . . . technical. Just stick with me. You’ll get it. This is very important information to know so that you understand when to use which with a comma, that without a comma, who or whose with a comma, who or whose without a comma. If you don’t know the previous, your writing can potentially become muddy.

Let’s get down to business.


If this information is a bit confusing or overwhelming, go through it slowly and understand the definition first, and then go back and understand what it’s defining.

Nonrestrictive relative clause: A clause beginning with which, who, or whose and adding nonessential information about the noun it describes or changes; a relative clause that narrows and identifies the head phrase. -The clause is always set off by commas . A nonrestrictive relative clause could be omitted without affecting the sentence's meaning (in the preceding example, My aunt is the subject of the complete sentence and the who-clause adds nonessential information). Also called nondefining relative clause; appositive relative clause.

Restrictive relative clause: A clause beginning with that, who, or whose that contains essential information about the noun or noun phrase it modifies. -It is never set off with commas. If the clause was deleted, the meaning of the sentence would be affected. Compare The snow that I walked in felt crunchy with The snow felt crunchy. The restrictive clause that I walked in identifies a particular thing (snow). A restrictive clause never begins with which. -Also termed defining relative clause.

That’s it. You made it through :-)

Thank you for reading. Join me tomorrow on, where I will begin the first in my series on hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes.


Chryse Wymer is a freelance copy editor and proofreader whose main focus is on indie writers. Her clients have been well reviewed, and one was recently chosen as a top-five finalist in The Kindle Book Review's 2013 Best Indie Book Awards in his category: mystery/thriller. For some years, she has been particularly obsessed with William S. Burroughs’s writing, who happened to coin the term heavy metal ... her favorite music. You can contact her at, follow her on twitter: @ChryseWymer, or like her on Facebook:

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Product Review: Immortal Sleep

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Sleep has never come easily to me. My mom says that I had difficulty sleeping even as a child and that has certainly not changed over time. I'm often in bed for at least a couple of hours just thinking before I fall asleep and then I'm lucky if the remainder of the night is spent in a good, restful sleep.

I have tried a variety of sleep aids from lavender scented anything to melatonin to prescription sleeping pills. I try not to take anything for too long because I don't want to become dependent on it and my body adjusts quickly so nothing works consistently. I'm pretty sure the doctor and I tried at least three different sleeping pills before we even found one that would get me to sleep!

In what feels like my never ending quest for sleep, I'm always happy to try a sample of something to see if it might work. I received enough immortal sleep for three nights. I did not use it for three nights in a row.

Immortal Sleep claims that it may:
  • improve quality of sleep
  • create deep relaxation of the mind and body
  • increase alpha waves in the brain associated with feeling calm and peaceful
  • promote your body's ability to produce GABA, a substance that is your brain's own tranquilizer
  • alleviate depression
Unfortunately, I was disappointed to not see the majority of these benefits. The first night that I took Immortal Sleep I fell asleep very quickly and was in a very deep sleep for several hours. Unfortunately, I woke up around 3 am and was unable to get back to sleep which was very frustrating. The second and third nights I had difficulty falling asleep and once I did I woke up after only a few hours. I feel like the sleep that I did get was deeper than normal but I still wasn't getting enough of it.

Immortal Sleep, as well as other herbal supplements, may be purchased at Immortal Herbs. They do offer a 90 day Money Back Guarantee. Immortal Sleep may also be purchased on Amazon (affiliate).

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Celebration Crossing at Indiana State Museum

Although Indianapolis has tons of great stuff for families to do all year long, I've never been great at getting us out of the house. Part of that was because I didn't really know where to find information about events that are appropriate for my kids. Now that I've discovered Indy with Kids I definitely don't have that excuse any more! When Katy invited a group of bloggers and their families to check out Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum, I jumped on board. We had never visited the Indiana State Museum and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to go.

Celebration Crossing offers fun for kids and adults alike. The big draw for us was riding the Santa Claus Express and the opportunity to see Santa. Even with the large group of bloggers, the line for the train went fairly quickly. On our way home Elizabeth declared that the best part was the train before we even had a chance to ask about her favorite activity.

I wasn't sure how visiting with Santa would go this year. Last year Victoria was fine but Elizabeth nearly strangled me when I tried to get her closer. This year Elizabeth gave Santa a huge hug and climbed right up on his lap! Victoria wasn't too sure at first but she did great too. I love how beautifully Santa's room is decorated. Photo packages may be purchased from the museum or parents are allowed to take photos from the doorway.

Santa's Playground was another fun part of our visit. There were a good variety of activities from crafts to games to a constantly changing playground built by the kids. I loved that I was able to see all areas of the room so I was comfortable taking a break and letting the kids figure out the activities on their own.

Celebration Crossing runs through December 31,  so there is still plenty of time to go check it out. Be sure to check the Indiana State Museum website for a list of dates and times for special events like Santa's Holiday Breakfast and Hoosier Radio Hour: A 1940's Christmas. Museum admission is $10 for adults and $5.50 for children (3 - 12). Parking is available at the White River State Park Garage for $3 for 3 hours with museum admission. The Indiana State Museum is also having a special free day on December 16, 2013.

Disclaimer: My family and I were given tickets to experience Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum as part of a blogger event. All photos and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and accurately reflect our experience.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Writers have Voices Too (Even If We Don’t Sing) - Ciara Ballintyne

Writers have Voices Too (Even If We Don’t Sing)

I confess – I’m a lawyer. A financial services lawyer. Sounds boring, huh? Don’t hold it against me!

The vast majority of my writing is technical legal writing. That’s what I do, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and it’s hard for the few hours of creative writing a day to compete.

Technical legal writing is, by its very nature, formal. Even in a plain English format, it’s still formal and often passive, the very antithesis of what a well-written story should be. I have the dreadful bad habit of writing drafts in very formal language, and all my characters sound stilted, pompous and overly formal.

This is something I strive to change during revisions, but inevitably my editor asks for more changes. But some of it will always remain – and why?

Authorial voice.

Voice is a hard thing to describe. It’s often defined as the combination of style, word choices, sentence structure and so forth that an author makes, which combine to create the author’s ‘sound’. Acquiring editors are often heard to say voice is what makes a manuscript stand out for them, and make it compelling, and while that is true, that’s not a definition of voice. Also, voice is subjective – what one person likes, another will not.

This is reflected in the reviews of Confronting the Demon. One says the book is ‘worth it for the prose’. Quite a few others praise how the prose immerses them in Alloran’s world, to the point they can smell the rotten garbage and see the stairway of starlight. On the other hand, a couple chide me for trying too hard to use words that sound too ‘high fantasy’. The fact that I don’t try hard, that this is just naturally the way I speak and write, is irrelevant. What we can really take away from these conflicting reviews is that some people love my voice, and others don’t. That’s natural, and there’s no point in me trying to convert the ones who don’t – they simply aren’t my audience.

Authorial voice can be distinguished from character voice. When we submerge ourselves deeply in a character and write from their POV then, if the character has a distinct voice, it will at least partially eclipse the authorial voice. Then it is important to use words that character would choose.

What should be noted from this is that voice can be changed – but many writers find it difficult to write contrary to their natural authorial voice, and it’s even harder to do without a clear character’s personality dictating the new voice. How can one write differently to oneself? If not like ourselves, then like whom should we write? You could, of course, mimic another author’s voice, but that’s undesirable. How does one strive to make one’s own voice different yet not something else specifically?

So to some degree, my formality and word choice is part of my voice. We tone it down to make the story work, but it can’t be completely erased. My editor chides me for formal or archaic word choice, but I am clueless unless she tells me which words, because to me this is natural. It’s not only how I write, but partly how I speak. These are words and language and formality that I would use in my verbal language, not just at work, but casually, to the right audience.

Being a lawyer presents challenges to my creative writing, but it has also subtly, and indelibly, influenced my voice, and voice isn’t something that should be edited out.

Can you think of authors whose ‘voice’ you love? These will be the books that really sweep you away, take you to another place and time, and find truly compelling. Part of it will be story and character, but part of it will be the way the story speaks to you and stands out from other books you’ve read - that will be voice.

Confronting the Demon

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is hunted by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living. Now Alloran must face his demons, or damn the woman he loves.

Includes the short story A Magical Melody

When a lethal spell is stolen from a locked and warded room, Avram must hunt down the thief before the song of power buries a city of innocents beneath a thousand tons of ice.

Buy Confronting the Demon on Amazon

About the Author:

Ciara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practising financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic.

She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.

She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.

* Amazon affiliate links are used within this post

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Spotlight: Mind Trace by Holly McCaghren

What would you do to possess unlimited knowledge and power?

Nineteen year-old Alice McArthur never had a choice. A shy girl from a small town, Alice has gained a reputation for her near-genius programming abilities, even getting the attention of EngineerCorp, a rising electronics empire. With her unique skill-set she is hand-picked to test their network security by hacking into their global mainframe.

But something goes terribly wrong.

The next thing Alice knows, she wakes up on the floor with a migraine, unnatural powers, a server’s worth of data in her head and the realization that this job was not what it seemed.

Now a fugitive from justice and on the run from the evil leader of a corporate empire, Alice doesn't know who to trust or where to turn. She must find a way to secure her freedom and stop those who would keep her prisoner for life — or worse.

Buy Mind Trace on Amazon

Win a copy of Mind Trace (print or eBook) - 5 Winners

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About the Author:

I was born and raised in the Houston, Texas area, and have lived in Texas my whole life! (Gotta love humidity!)

Nothing makes me happier than settling down with a good book, but they aren’t always easy to find! Some of my favorites (in no particular order) include: Jane Eyre, The Blue Sword, Dracula, Ender’s Game, Heir to the Empire, and the Harry Potter series. I love a good scifi/fantasy book, but it certainly isn't limited to that genre.

My first book was just published via Createspace, called Mind Trace. It is a science fiction/adventure novel, appropriate for all ages! It is currently available through (paperback and Kindle), (paperback), and the Createspace store.

Facebook * Website * Goodreads

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spotlight: Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra's daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Read the Reviews

"A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray's crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life." ~RT Book Reviews

"The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned..." ~Modge Podge Reviews

"If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you." ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I'm paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don't notice that I'm gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.

And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, "That's enough. We've seen enough of the snake charmer!"

There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, "Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?"

The story the world tells of my mother's suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her.

And I have gone on without her. I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor's agents or whoever else is responsible for this.

If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. "Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away."

I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. "Oh, but they're never far enough away."

About the Author:

STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt's ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Abandon Series by Meg Cabot

One of the problems I've encountered with having a book review blog and accepting books for review is that books that I've obtained in other ways (mainly purchased or won from giveaways on other blogs) get buried at the bottom of the "to read" pile. This was certainly the case for Abandon by Meg Cabot. The book was published in 2011 and I won a copy from a blogger giveaway so long ago that I cannot remember who I got it from. The only advantage to finding books like this hidden on the bookshelf is that the trilogy is now complete and I was able to read the books one right after another with no painful wait in between.

Meg Cabot references the mythology of the Persephone in this modern tale of Pierce Oliviera, who nearly drown when she was fifteen, and John Hayden, the lord of the Underworld who falls in love with her.

I admit that I had some difficulty getting in to Abandon. I wanted to love the story but at seventeen Pierce seemed immature and naive. Combine her innocent outrage and John's lack of communication skills ("I thought you knew!" was his favorite excuse) and I was rolling my eyes at each bump in their relationship road. The good news for me was that the story and supporting characters were strong enough to keep me reading and I could see the relationship evolving as the characters learned more of each other's secrets. That was enough to keep me reading the series.

The second book in the trilogy, Underworld, is again filled with miscommunication and misinformation. Now stuck in the Underworld, Pierce must convince John it is worth the exposure to the Furies for her to return and try to help her friends and family. The more Pierce learns about the threats from supernaturals and mortals, she realizes how much of what she thought she understood about the world is incorrect or incomplete. In trying to do the right thing both Pierce and John stumble in to more danger. This book is a solid transition between Abandon and Awaken.

The final book of the trilogy, Awaken, was the strongest part of the story for me. Pierce and John finally stop fighting each other and start working as a team. While there are still missteps on both sides, John and Pierce are more aware of how their actions affect the larger group and realize that the well-being of all needs to be considered. Will their efforts be enough to stave off the Furies and restore the balance before the worlds collide and destroy each other?

Overall the Abandon trilogy isn't my favorite series by Meg Cabot but the books were a quick read and the story kept my interest.

Find more books by Meg Cabot on Amazon

Amazon affiliate links are used within this post.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crosswind by Lynne Cantwell



Storm’s coming…

Life on Earth is much improved since the pagan gods' return. As conflict eases around the world, attention -- and money -- has turned to more humanitarian goals: improving the lives of the First Nations peoples and others who were repressed for thousands of years.

But the former ruling class – the military, religious, and corporate leaders who profited under the old system -- are about to stage a last-ditch effort to bring their good times back.

The gods refuse to start a new war against those men, because that would make them no better than Their opponents. Instead, They have drafted three humans to help Them. Together, Tess, Sue and Darrell must find a way past their own flaws to ensure the gods' peace will not be destroyed.

Genre - Urban Fantasy
Pages - approx 275 (68K words)

Buy Crosswind on Amazon


About the Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne CantwellLynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book, illustrated by the author, about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks. Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. In addition, she is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited.


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