Readers' Favorite

January 6, 2017

Character Development: How to Raise Your Characters Right

by Chris

In my books, I usually write about people. People who do things, go places, think thoughts, and generally get up to no good. There are, of course, settings—the places in which these people exist are important—and sometimes they bear a brief description. However, to linger too long on a scene or image risks boring the reader, no matter how interesting the mouse holes and snowflakes are in your mind.

The balance of this is difficult to achieve; sometimes you don’t want to give a character’s thoughts away, so you describe what they’re doing, or wearing, or you spend some time discussing the importance of trivialities. Or you might fill the space with intense action, blow-by-blow sword fights and the whizzing of bullets past your ears. For many, this can be an easy out, because of course action is mindless and entertaining, and that’s exactly what many people want from their books: an escape from the realities of life.

But do it too much and you lose the dynamic of the story. Action needs to ebb and flow, rise and fall, come and go. There must be moments of reflection to offset the noise, or it all becomes too much and overwhelms the senses. This is true especially of film, where the temptation is to wow the audience with spectacle and no substance.

So how does one do it? How you do create interesting characters that can drive the action and plot, without overwhelming the audience with unnecessary background and/or intense action?

To start with, I think, it’s worth thinking about why the characters in a story are so important. This might seem an odd question—it’s difficult to imagine a story with no people in it. Mountains and buildings don’t generally do anything themselves, unless a person gets involved. You could film a rock for two hours and call it a movie, but it’s unlikely anyone would want to see it.

The implication, then, is that it’s people that are interesting, rather than the things that surround them. We want to know about what people do, what they think, and how they live. All the better if those people are somehow exceptional, though there are certainly great stories about relatively ordinary people. And if it’s people that are interesting, it only makes sense to fill your story with them, so that the people reading your book or watching your movie stay through the end.

If you choose to write about people (and I use ‘people’ in the loosest of terms: they can be aliens or robots, so long as they are still characters in some way), you then need to make sure that the audience can relate to those people. Why? There’s probably more depth to this question than I have the inclination now to explore, but for me it’s a question of imagination. A lot of people have very little of it, to begin with; asking them to imagine what it’s like to be a seven-tentacled sea-demon from Neptune can be a step too far. But if you give them a character they can relate to, it becomes easier for them to imagine how that character thinks, what their motivations are—what they want. Hence why stories about kings and queens are often far less popular than stories about farm boys and stablehands.

And of course, when it comes down to it, that’s all stories are, really: an act of imagination. As the writer, our job is to do the imagining for our audience, for those who struggle. I generally feel that people deserve some respite from the grueling fates of life, and getting lost in a good book or falling in love with a movie is a wonderful way of doing that.

So why are characters so important? Because they are the link to the audience, the connection with the reader and the watcher. Unless your audience is a fish, it doesn’t bear much relevance to describe the wetness of water. But describe how it quenches the thirst of a man lost in the desert, and it becomes suddenly real: everyone has felt thirst, or hunger, at some point in their lives and can understand how agonizing it must be for that poor, poor character—who, thankfully, isn’t them.

And as it turns out, it isn’t necessarily important for the audience to like the character, or even feel pity or empathy with them. You could have a cast of villains and still come out on top, so long as the audience cares about them. The reader needs to feel something for the character—love, hate, revulsion, fear—and a reason to feel that way. Snow White without the evil queen would be nothing, and the queen has very few redeeming qualities—yet we can fear the queen, as we would fear the tyranny of a vile parent. Remove Snow White and you still have a character that we can connect with, even if it’s in a dark and terrible way.

So if characters are the meat of the story, the main thread that ties everything together, it becomes important to write compelling ones. And this is, often, where the great difficulty sets in. Writing about people—real or fictitious—is easy. Writing about them in a way that actually makes them interesting and worth learning more about is insanely difficult. The writer doesn’t want to resort to tropes and clichés if they can avoid it, but there are only so many places to start.

When I started writing The Redemption of Erâth, I had to come up with a whole host of characters to populate the books. At first, I thought this would be no more difficult than coming up with their names, but it soon became apparent that much more was going to be required. And to that end, I ended up thinking of my characters almost as children—to be raised, grown, nurtured and matured until they were ready to take part in the story. I’ve at times been criticized for giving too much background information in the opening chapters of my first book, Consolation, but for every piece of information in the book, ten more were left out. I had to know what my characters went through before they ever showed up in the story so that their motivations in the story were as believable as possible. Why would someone want to kill another person for no reason?

This was a lesson I learned as I went on, and interestingly it has meant that some of the most compelling characters I’ve written about aren’t even the main ones. Although I know more about the central cast, there are wonderful side characters whose mystery and enigma make them, in a way, far more appealing. I’ve had a lot more fun in the end writing about the secondary protagonist than the primary, and the villains are even better.

The great thing about knowing a great deal about the characters and their motivations is that once you are ready to thrust them into the drama of your fictional world, their reactions will seem very real. Suspension of disbelief is a thing, but it can only take you so far: I’ll believe Superman can fly, but why does Lex Luthor want him to fight Batman so much?

The downside, of course, is that it hurts all the more when you have to do something terrible to your own characters. But then again, if it’s painful to the writer, it should be agonizing to the reader. If you can kill a character without blinking an eye, then don’t be surprised when your audience doesn’t shed a tear, either.

Now, there are scores of examples of when the development of characters was done beautifully, and quite a few where it was, for lack of a better term, botched completely. If you’ve read some of what I’ve written here before, you’ll know that Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors of all time. He’s a master of engaging and compelling character writing, even though his characters are very often entirely unassuming. From thieving orphans to reclusive spinsters, every single one of the people in his stories have a story of their own, and although we often see only glimpses of these tales, enough is alluded to for us to understand exactly why Scrooge hates Christmas so, or why Miss Havisham keeps the shutters closed and the curtains drawn.

Of course, Dickens also wanted us to feel compassion for his characters, and rarely wrote a villain who deserved no redemption. Others, however, have been able to make us feel a terror for an antagonist so real that we keep our own curtains drawn for nights afterward. When I first read Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, I was petrified of Hannibal Lecter. Yet at the same time, I was fascinated by him: despite his brutality and predilection for feasting on other people, he somehow became the hero—because the people he killed were, often, even worse.

This bizarre blend of terror and compassion transferred beautifully to the big screen when Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster portrayed the disturbing relationship between the FBI rookie and the infamous serial killer. It becomes even more difficult to develop characters successfully in movies since there is so much less to work with: instead of five hundred pages, you have a mere two hours in which to enamor the audience of your characters.

One of the modern marvels (pardon the pun) of character development in cinema has been the adaptations of Marvel’s comic book characters in movies such as Iron Man and Captain America. On paper, these movies shouldn’t have worked at all: their source material isn’t always known for being realistic or relatable to the everyday. But in nearly every Marvel movie that’s been released, including the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises, we are given not only believable characters but character-driven stories, as well. In what could have easily become mindless action (think Transformers), we instead got severely flawed and antagonistic heroes who are at each other’s throats as often as they are at those of their enemies.

Of course, we don’t have to have crippling flaws to have great characters; the original Star Wars films were centered around heroes and villains that, again, could have been cardboard cutouts. Instead, we’re given characters who have genuine motivations and good hearts, and just enough is said and left unsaid to keep us rooting for even the roguish Han Solo.

I find the Star Wars franchise an interesting one for this very reason, in fact: it runs the gamut from beautifully written characters to clumsy storylines and boring bad guys, depending on the movie we’re talking about. I recently watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (naturally), and came away thinking that, whilst is wasn’t bad, it could have been better. The primary flaw, as I saw it, was character development: unlike every previous Star Wars movie since A New Hope, we were introduced to a wholly new cast of characters—and were asked to care about them.

Regardless of the fact that we already knew how the movie was going to end (remember—many Bothans died), this required us to learn about new characters quickly, and feel compassion for them. Yet vitally important scenes from the very beginning left me feeling flat. When Luke’s family is killed by the Empire in A New Hope, we see his grief, his anger, and his determination. When essentially the same thing happens to our new hero, we suddenly skip forward sixteen-odd years with nary an explanation of what happened in the intervening time. Another character turns from a benevolent rescuer to a warlord with, again, little explanation. Yet more seem to have Jedi-like powers without probing into their past, and ultimately their deaths felt far less impactful for the lack of knowledge about these people.

However, Rogue One was rescued by a nonetheless interesting storyline and good acting, and while it certainly isn’t the best Star Wars movie out there, it by far isn’t the worst. Superhero movies, on the other hand, can be phenomenal, as we saw with Marvel’s cinematic universe—or appalling, as have been many of the DC franchise films of late. Another movie I watched recently with little enthusiasm was Suicide Squad, the story of a ragtag bunch of convicted villains sent to defeat an otherworldly foe to redeem themselves. The concept is great, and this could have been a wonderful movie: but the characters were so poorly written that even Will Smith and Margot Robbie couldn’t act their way out of it.

The essential, fatal flaw of Suicide Squad was in giving too many characters too little screen time. The same could be said of the Avengers movies, although I’ll give them a pass since they’re primarily based on much more successful films. But with Suicide Squad, we’re given only a fleeting glimpse into the lives of these antiheroes before the action takes over—and never relents. One character is madly in love with the main villain, yet we never know why; another would do anything for his daughter yet spends his time murdering people for money.

It isn’t that the characters are inherently unlikeable; it isn’t even that most of them have almost no dialogue; it’s simply that we’re never really given a reason to care about what happens to each one of them. Perhaps the best scene in the movie is where Deadshot is asked to kill Harley Quinn, and he doesn’t—it shows a maturing of the character. There was very little else like this.

In the end, the characters we write are vital to the stories we tell, and it’s therefore, all the more important to ensure that the audience can grasp on to something about them. Some tiny shred of mortality that allows us as readers and watchers to think to ourselves, yes—I could imagine myself doing that. I can understand where they’re coming from. Without this, the characters might as well be made of wood—and the stories would be just about as interesting.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters in fiction, and why?

Chris, features writer. Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris' creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art, and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgment that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at

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January 5, 2017

4 Books about Family

by Susan Roberts

Families come in all sizes and shapes, some are traditional families and others are single parent families.  Some families work well together and some are so dysfunctional that it's amazing that they stay together.  Whatever type of family an author writes about, it is held together by love and respect for each other or broken apart by the lack of these traits.  Today, I have reviews of 4 different types of families - all very different from each other.  What do you think makes up a good family??

cover This was Not the Plan
October 2016; Touchstone; 978-1501103766;
ebook & print (368 pages); humor;
a free book was provided for this review
This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

Charlie's life isn't going as he'd planned -and he was a planner and a person who expected himself to excel at everything. At the beginning of the novel, Charlie's life is in crisis - his sister who had taken care of his 5-year-old son for the two years after his wife died in a plane accident, needs some vacation. Charlie has barely had time to spend with his son because he works 70+ hours a week at his law firm. After being fired from his job when he made some remarks in front of partners of the firm, Charlie doesn't know how to live his life. He misses his wife and doesn't know how to live without the stress of his job and definitely doesn't know how to be a father to Caleb. The novel is about how Charlie - with lots of mistakes along the way - learns how to become a better father and how to relax and enjoy life.

I really enjoyed this book - it was a fun, light read. My favorite character was Caleb. At five years old, he has lost his mom and is obsessed with natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes) and is just a quirky young kid. His style of dress makes his dad nervous because Caleb loves to wear tiaras, tutus, and bright colored clothes. The other main characters - Charlie and Zadie,   were great but Caleb was the star of the book.

I plan to order Cristina's first book- The Darlings - because I enjoyed this one so much.

cover The Education of Dixie Dupree
October 2016; Kensington; 978-1496705518;
ebook & print (352 pages); thriller
a free book was provided for this review
The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart

(This book was provided by Edelweiss)
In Donna Everhart's debut novel, we meet 11-year-old Dixie Dupree in 1969. Dixie lives in Alabama with her parents and her older brother. Her home life is very unstable - her dad drinks too much and her mom is very unhappy in Alabama and longs to return to her home in New Hampshire. In order to try to make sense of her life, Dixie keeps a diary and it becomes the only place that she can share her deepest thoughts and questions about her life and her family without worrying about her mother's anger and punishment. She also copes with her life by telling lies and her family has learned not to believe much that she tells them. So when a situation occurs that really needs to be shared with her mother, she keeps it to herself because she knows that no one will believe her.

This novel covers several very difficult subjects to read about but they are subjects that need to be addressed and discussed.

This in a remarkable book told by an 11-year-old girl who is trying to figure out her family and her life. Dixie is a character that I won't forget.

cover Her name is Rose
July 2016; St. Martin's Griffin; 978-1250092311;
ebook & print (304 pages); women's fiction
Her Name Is Rose by Christine Breen

This is a debut novel for Christine Breen and based on the novel, I predict more great books from her in the future. She's not Maeve Binchy yet (as advertised) but has the potential to get to that level.

Iris is a gardener and blogger in Ireland and has been a widow since her husband Luke died several years earlier from cancer. Their adopted daughter Rose is 29 and studying at a prestigious music institute in London. As the novel begins, Iris receives a bad report on a mammogram and because she is worried about a possible cancer diagnosis, she decides to try to find Rose's birth mother as Luke had requested on his deathbed. Her search takes her to Boston where she meets several interesting people. Rose, in London, is faced with many problems and decides to go home, unaware of her mother's search for her birth mother.

This is a novel about family and motherhood and adoption. Iris really sums up her feelings about her life "Rose is my life work. I can't leave unfinished." It's also about starting to live again after a spouse dies. I thought that the author handled these issues very well and I definitely enjoyed this book and the main characters. I would love to read a sequel to this story.

cover Boots and Bedlam
October 2016; Leisure Time Books; 978-0986167287;
ebook & print (166 pages); women's fiction
a free book was provided for this review
Boots and Bedlam (Sweeney Sisters #3) by Ashley Farley

This is book 3 of the Sweeney sisters series but can be read as a stand alone without confusion. If you haven't read the first two books, you will want yo read them soon to learn more about this delightful family.

Samantha (Sam) and Eli want a Christmas Eve wedding but can they arrange it in only 4 weeks? To say that they have obstacles to their wedding is putting it mildly. Finding a church, a pastor and a place for the reception are difficult enough but they are also buying a new house and need to move by year end. Add to that a very unexpected and difficult house guest, the Christmas rush at Sam's job and issues with her son and the wedding begins to look like it isn't going to happen.

I loved the Sweeney sisters and I loved reading Sam's story. The good news is that the next book in the series will be published in January so readers don't have to wait too long to read more about the Sweeny family.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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January 4, 2017

Review: Between Dreams by Cynthia Austen

by MK French

April 2015; Limitless Publishing; 1680581104;
ebook & print (198 pages); fantasy
a free book was provided for this review

In Between Dreams by Cynthia Austen, Sidney Sinclair is eighteen years old, and her boyfriend's band scored a major contract with a recording company in LA. While she dropped everything to go with him, she is called back home to help care for her grandmother, who suffered a stroke. While there, she finds a pendant that had belonged to the mother she never knew. She begins having odd dreams, meets the man featuring in the dreams, and has to reconcile what others want from her.

There were a lot of descriptions of the places and music within the story, which is fitting for a plot the hinges on a character being involved in the LA music scene. It was very difficult to like all of the characters, though. Sidney gives up everything she thinks she wants just to please others. When she acknowledges this trait and is determined to change it, she does it again. Her friend is materialistic and her boyfriend is emotionally manipulative. Adrian is meant to be charismatic and smooth, but I found him a little creepy. There is a religious undercurrent that abruptly takes center stage for a while, then retreats as Sidney again is manipulated by Ray into agreeing to remain his girlfriend, even if he had cheated on her. That Ray and his band mates blame Sidney leaving to care for her grandmother as the cause of Ray cheating bothers me greatly; there is no excuse for that behavior, and the gaslighting is atrocious to see treated as normal. A minor point, but it also took me out of the story to have Sidney's best friend described as a clothes horse and constantly buying new things when it's repeated several times that they live in Northern California and her father is a primary care physician. The standard of living is pretty high there, and doctors don't make that kind of money! I also didn't see how a good friend could bring Sidney somewhere she didn't want to go, then not notice when she leaves the bar and doesn't return. These kinds of inconsistencies really bothered me, and then there was an abrupt cliffhanger ending to lead into the second book of the trilogy.

I understand that the characters are all teenagers, and they're still discovering who they are and how to relate to others. I'm sure there are plenty of teens that would read this book and relate to the characters. I found it very difficult to care about what would happen to them, or even what the dream sequences would lead to.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 3, 2017

Review: A Bandit's Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

by Donna Huber

April 2016; Knopf Books; 978-0385754996;
ebook & print (304 pages); middle grades, historical
a free book was provided for this review

Late Winter 1887
-Containing the history of a contract, with a word or two about a donkey-
All my troubles began with a donkey. If it hadn't been for one obstinate, bad-tempered beast, my parents wouldn't have rented me out to a stranger for twenty dollars a year.

A Bandit's Tale by Deborah Hopkinson is a delightful middle grades historical novel.  It is told in first person from a character that, at first glance, should be an unreliable narrator. However, for all the lies Rocco tells the people he encounters, he is most truthful in the telling of his life.

As you know, I don't have a literary background and I liked that at the end of the book the author provided quite a few notes, including a literary term that I had not learned before. A Bandit's Tale is a picaresque novel.

A picaresque novel is one where the main character is not an aristocrat. Such stories were first published in Spain around 1600. Typically they are told in first person with an episodic plot. A popular picaresque novel is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

The main character in A Bandit's Tale, Rocco, is a poor Italian-borne immigrant. From the opening lines you learn he is sold to a stranger who "rents" young boys (and sometimes girls) to take to the U.S.. The children then are forced to be street musicians, begging on the street corner to bring a dollar back to the Padrone in order to have a filthy place to sleep and a measly bite to eat. Rocco's life is a difficult one, but an adventurous one.

I love the chapter titles and that is just the first step into the fun. The language is easy, making the story a quick read. But the way that Rocco relates his first year in New York City immerses the reader in immigrant life in the late 1880s and keeps you turning the page. Sometimes I'm bored by middle grades books. While I can appreciate the stories for their value to the intended audience, I'm usually only mildly entertained. I have to say this was not the case with A Bandit's Tale. I couldn't wait to delve back into Rocco's life each evening.

If you are a parent, A Bandit's Tale would make an excellent story to share with your child. Your child won't be the only one begging for one more chapter.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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January 2, 2017

Review: The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts
December 2016; MIRA; 978-0778319764;
ebook & print (352 pages); suspense
a free book was provided for this review

I started The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle one morning and didn't put it down until I finished it. This book is a definite page-turner and the reader doesn't know what the truth is until the very last pages. It's full of fantastic characters and believable situations that just keep you guessing.

Iris and Will have been married for 7 years and are still very much in love and planning to start a family. Iris's world falls out from under her when Will is killed in an airplane crash but this is when the mystery starts. Will was supposed to be on a plane going to Florida for a conference but he was killed in a plane crash of a flight going to Seattle. Iris is grief stricken and confused and knows that someone somewhere made a mistake and Will isn't really dead. As the days pass and there is no word from Will, she has to accept his death but then she begins questioning WHY he was on a flight to Seattle and what else he had been hiding from her during their marriage. As she tries to find out answers, she is beginning to wonder who the man she loved really was!

The Marriage Lie is written so well that it will keep you rapidly turning pages to try to get the answers you need. The characters are so well done, that I felt the pain the Iris was feeling in her grief for Will.

Add The Marriage Lie to your reading list - it's a book you definitely need to read and one that you will enjoy immensely.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

January 1, 2017

New Year, New Books

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were wonderful and I wish you a year filled great reads. My resolution is to continue to read through my mountain of review copies and not adding to it, too much. That will be difficult as the new year is starting off with a great set of new releases.

cover The Sleepwalkers
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room comes a spine-tingling novel of lies, loss, and buried desire the mesmerizing story of a wife and mother who vanishes from her bed late one night.

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body?

Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers."

Available January 10
Buy The Sleepwalkers at Amazon

cover Blur
There’s a new kid in town, and he’s hell on wheels.
From what we’ve heard, it may be because
he knows exactly what hell’s like.
You may know his brother,
the NRR hotshot
(and former GearShark cover model)
It’s only natural a driver with
his background and family connections
has sped his racecar
into the newest, hottest division.
But that’s not all.
Arrow may be following in big bro’s tread marks,
but he doesn’t plan to stay there.
He’s swerving onto the road less traveled…
and a lot more controversial.
he’s opening up about his private struggles with sexuality
to tell a story that’s gone unheard until now.
One thing’s for sure; Arrow may have a painful past,
but his foot is heavy on the accelerator.
With speed like this, he’s bound to leave everything behind
nothing but a #blur.

Check out the full feature article inside…

Available January 10
Buy #Blur at Amazon

cover Carve the Mark
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Available January 17
Buy Carve the Mark at Amazon

cover Scene of the Grind
After a bitter divorce, Roxanne Davis (her friends, though few call her Roxie) has moved back home to Honey Springs, Kentucky where she's opened the tourist lakefront town's first coffee house, The Beanhive.

With the excitement of the Beanhive opening and rush of business, Roxie is moving on with her life until she finds that one of her best customers was found dead after eating one of Roxie's best-selling doughnuts.

Gossip in Honey Springs is as hot at the coffee served at the Beanhive and Roxie has to uncover who is behind the murder not only to save her shop, but her life.

Available January 27
Buy Scene of the Grind at Amazon

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