Monday, February 25, 2013

Watcher by Audra Middleton - a Review by Rita Bay

The world of Anthelion is doomed to war among its nations unless the holy man Goran can fulfill the Prophecy. Goran’s problem? He has no idea what The Prophecy means. Undaunted, he leaves his comfortable position at the university to embark upon a twenty-year-long quest through foreign lands searching for those with the special gifts he needs to prevent a war and save the world.

Along the way, Goran takes under his wing a wild child from the forest—Watcher—who has a peculiar habit of merging into trees and traveling through the ground when threatened. He also befriends a healer in a village where he finds the Chosen One, Benaiah. Goram places Benaiah in a fine school where he’ll be well-prepared for his role in establishing peace in the world. Benaiah returns home well-educated but, after years of military service, a fierce warrior. Could Goram have made things any worse? Absolutely! Goram must scramble to make things right before his world falls into anarchy.

Middleton in her debut novel with Burst Books creates the fascinating fantasy world of Anthelion inhabited by normal people and those with special gifts. Readers will fall in love with her characters as they grow over the years. It was a pleasure to follow little Watcher as she grew to adulthood and Benaiah as he struggled with his dark side. Finally, there’s the lovable curmudgeon Goram who couldn’t quite figure out what he was supposed to do but dedicated his life to his quest for peace. Watcher is a great read for those who like world-building, fierce battles, and romance.

To read the blurb or buy Watcher: click here, or

Visit Audra’s webpage:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fictional Heart Strings

I was having a cup a coffee the other day when a female friend ventured by, tapped me on the shoulder, and continued to the counter to get her own mug of brew. For simplicity, let’s call her Joy. On her return passage by my table, Joy sat down across from me, and began to chat. I love it when my local friends and acquaintances offer idle chit chat. Joy is a sweet but mysterious young lady. She conveys a unique reflection about life and all its complexities. Behind those green eyes resides a spark and compassion that is missing in many of today’s lost souls. Finally she came to a topic we often discuss, my books. You see, she loves to read my stories. I’m not sure whether it’s because she really likes them or because I’m the only author she knows.

Anyway, she began to ask about a character in a particular story (TAINTED HERO) and discuss how touched she was at what happened to this particular person. Then she caught me off guard with the question, “Isn’t it hard to do that?” I smiled with pride, “A little.” Joy continued. “I thought so. I’m not sure I could do that. I think I’d be crying over the keyboard.” Then I realized the insight of this young women’s inquiry. She wasn’t asking about the creativity process; she was probing into the nature of people to empathize with the plight of others, even if they were some fictional character that was conjured from their own mind. And she was right. I remembered back to when I struggled with that particular scene. I was moved, not to tears, but my throat actually tightened and I wanted to reach through the screen and help the character, and especially to strangle the villain. I was so moved, I actually changed the outcome. In my original outline the female character died, but I was so struck by her and all she had gone through, I couldn’t deal with losing her. She still suffered, but she survived.

Then I realized I had experienced this same heartstring relationship with fictional characters in all my stories. I guess they became so real I empathized with their plight. I know it sounds weird to be moved by a scene evolving out of your own head, but I really do. Some stories more than others, but always to some degree. Maybe that’s why I enjoy that first breath of the story when I initially create the scenes, and see it happening for the first time. I remember in one story (Shadow of Guilt) I was moved to such a degree. I literally had to stop and go outside to split some wood and relieve my anguish. The character was suffering so deeply, her path in life so sad, I could not stand it.

I know that’s strange, especially for a big guy, and I’m not a wussy, but don’t most of us choke up when we see another human suffering. In this case I hated the outcome of the story, but I couldn’t change it. It was what the novel was all about. Without her history, what this poor girl experienced, you had no Shadow of Guilt.
I’m curious if other authors encounter this same heartstring response when their fictional characters undergo pain and sorrow. Or maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I need to get some testosterone injections to reaffirm my guyhood. My wife always did say I was too emotional.

See you next month.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Win A Kindle (Or Free Books)

Offered by: Dani Collins

Deadline for entry: March 1, 2013

I’m drawing for prizes from my list of newsletter subscribers on March 2nd, at my book launch for The Healer. To be eligible for the draw, all you have to do is sign up before then. My newsletter will only come out when I have a new book and will include details of future contests.

Full prize list includes:

•Winner: Basic Kindle ereader (or cash value approx $US 90.00) with a gift card for one electronic download of The Healer.
•Second Prize: One signed print copy of Hustled To The Altar with a gift card for one electronic download of The Healer.
•Third Prize: One gift card for one electronic download of The Healer.

To subscribe, click here or follow this link: and enter your email address on the right.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Looking Back on 2012, Looking Forward to 2013

It’s that time of year when we pause to reflect on the year we’ve had. And Champagne has had one hell of a year!

Change and growth is what keeps us moving forward, instead of sitting stagnant and unable to keep up with the changing times. Ebooks have grown into a very profitable and viable option over print, just as I knew they would years ago, when I was told it was a crazy pipe dream. "Ebooks? Really? Why don't you want to publish real books?" Not that I am ready to break out and do the 'I told you so' dance, but... um... I TOLD YOU SO! (okay so I lied. I've been dancing for days.) Our small, home-based publishing house is now a vibrant, successful independent press with an office in trendy downtown High River, AB. Now, anyone that's been to High River is probably giggling, because it's not all that trendy, but it's a nice little town just the same. Heck, they film Heartland here so it can't be all bad! And where we once managed with a small handful of staff, we have grown to include 7 editors, 3 line editors, 4 artists and other support staff such as slush readers, customer service staff, and manuscript formatters.
This year, we've increased our sales by 166% overall, from the previous year. Most of those sales are in the digital market, which isn't a surprise if you've been following the trends. The prediction for 2013 is that ebooks will outsell paperbacks in all forms. I am certainly curious to see how that's going to play out.
I think I'm still on a high from last year's stats and stuff. I'm so very excited about the state of the publishing industry these days. It's such a vibrant, almost living-breathing thing right now, that it's hard not to be enthusiastic. Part of it, I think, stems from seeing all the new hardware coming out. Yes, smartphones and tablets are popular for reading, but stats are showing that a whole lot of people (myself included) prefer a dedicated reader for their ebooks. I don't like all the distractions that go along with reading on a smartphone or tablet--and I have both, so I'm speaking from experience. It's too easy to 'quickly check email', or see what's happening with Twitter, and before long, I've done everything else but read the new mystery that I'd been itching to read.

I recently got a brand spanking new Kobo Glo and I love it! The backlight feature is my favorite, because I can turn it off when I don't want to use it, turn it on when I want to read late at night. Got the Kobo software on my smartphone, on my laptop and on my Galaxy tablet, so I can truly read anywhere. What's amazing though, is it's the only reader that syncs all your devices--meaning, if I'm reading on my Kobo and stop on page 74 of Borderlines by Archer Mayor (which I am currently reading), all I have to do is hit sync on my Kobo app on my phone and it'll open up to page 74 of Borderlines. Same on my laptop or my tablet. I really like that.
This month we have a couple of chat events with our friends at Coffeetime. The first, a live chat at the Coffeetime Romance chatroom. February 13, is Love-Champagne Style, so we'll be talking romance. We've got another multi-genre loop chat on February 14, on their Yahoo group, so if romance isn't your thing (and even if it is), come by and yack with us. We'll have authors of all sorts, and some might even be dressed! Good thing it's not a video chat, that's all I can say about that.

This month we have a fabulous offering of books. Feels like mystery month at Champagne, as we've got an accountant combatting terrorism in Blood Money by Erika Mitchell. When a theatre director is murdered, an actor discovers the shocking truth behind the gruesome murder, and The Rest Is Silence by John Paulits. Anita Whiting says The Killing Hour is a time for magic and murder. Then we lighten things up with some terrific fantasy. Amber Gifts by Kevin Henry takes us on a scavenger hunt through time. Too bad it turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Before Prince Charming, before Snow White, there was William. Tainted Glass by debut author Brian Carufe is probably the most imaginative take on the classic fairy tale that I've seen in quite some time. You don't want to miss it. The Silver Catacombs by Kyra Dune has Charlie searching for his lost magic and Tower Of Obsidian by L. T. Getty is a fantastic medieval fantasy with dragons, witches, magic and the hero who gives his all to save the princess in distress.

Until next time,