Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review from LASR

Grace Under Fire by Misa Buckley

Grace Under Fire by Misa Buckley
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (22 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Grace McKenna wakes up to find the world in danger – the sky is on fire and the only man who knows how the global satellite system works is languishing in a mental institute. Sent by the director of Global Solutions, she discovers a man largely forgotten by society, a man whose powers intrigue her.
Breaking Benedict Thomas out of the institute might be as crazy as he’s alleged to be, but someone is lying and Grace is determined to find out whom. Especially since those lies have put the entire world in danger…
What could very well be the end of the world is the perfect time to take risks. If it doesn’t happen now another chance might never present itself.
I can’t imagine a more electrifying opening sentence than this one: “The sky was on fire.” As soon as I read it I couldn’t wait to see what Ms. Buckley planned to do with her characters and the dying world that no one else has been able to save. The descriptions of what happens to a society that knows there may not be any days left for them after this one were as chilling as they were intriguing.
It’s difficult to discuss my criticism of this piece without revealing spoilers, but the scenes that earned it a sensual rating felt out of place when compared to the tone of the rest of the plot. Either section would have made a compelling short story on its own, but attempting to bind a thrilling science fiction mission with what happens later on never quite gelled for this reader. I did not sense much chemistry between the individuals involved in those scenes, and that made it difficult for me to understand certain interactions between them.
The fast-paced plot kept me interested from beginning to end. Just enough information about Global Solutions and the backgrounds of the characters is provided to explain what’s happening. There were a few details I would have preferred to have more information on, but none of it is strictly necessary in order to understand what Grace is trying to do. Leaving certain questions unanswered also means that there is space for a sequel to this piece. While I don’t know if Ms. Buckley is planning to write it, I would be quite interested in revisiting these characters in the near future.
Grace Under Fire is a solid tale that left me wishing for more. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a quick, satisfying read.
Review from LASR

Cleaning Up by Jophrael L. Avario

Cleaning Up by Jophrael L. Avario
Publisher: Carnal Passions
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (20 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum
A job application turns into a perfect sexy holiday.
When Carlie answers a job ad in the paper for a maid at Aphrodite’s Island, a holiday resort under the sun, she doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right there waiting for her. On the island for a weekend of fun and romance, Marcus takes a chance on the very confused woman, and together, they have a little fun in the mid-summer sun.
If all a reader is in the mood for is a sexy fantasy with role playing in a tropical paradise, this little snippet can do the trick.
Carlie is on her way to a job. It’s not what she thought at all and the owner/almost boss turns out to be a good egg about it. It left the heroine free to explore and what she finds is a pleasant interlude. The author made it clear that she wasn’t a loose woman. She had some standards and from what I gather, that means she won’t do sex for pay in any capacity. However, sex for fun, that’s a whole other issue.
Enter Marcus. He doesn’t explode on the scene. He comes to Carlie gently and seductively. The sparks were already there but he pursued the possible attraction. He seems to be a good guy but the author never fleshes out any of his character’s deep seated emotions, motivations or feelings. It’s all about what the island offers.
The tale is mostly told as third person point of view from Carlie’s perspective but every now and again, the author slipped into what seemed like Marcus’s POV. It didn’t make sense to me because Marcus didn’t have a lot of thoughts in his head except, ‘mine’ and possibly the feeling of jealousy. Most of the reflection and descriptions favor Carlie.
The ending is a happy for now. There’s no guarantees these two lovers’ relationship will see the light of day once the interlude ends but for now, Carlie is happy and that’s as good as it gets. It’s upbeat and hopeful at best.
Cleaning Up is a quick slam dunk into an erotic moment in time. If a reader wants to read a short story that can inspire a certain mood or frame of mind, this might get the job done because eroticism is explored but it never gets out of control. I appreciated that.
Review from TRS

In The Spirit by Linda Rettstatt

In The Spirit
Linda Rettstatt
Paranormal romance
Champagne Books
ISBN: 978-1-77155-076-5
November 2013
Jessica Windsor is a renowned writer on the verge of a serious writer’s block that could affect her career. Leaving the stress of New York and her son in the loving care of her parents, she rents a mountain cabin for the summer in order to find her muse to finish her novel. What she didn’t expect was finding a ghost in need of her help and finding an unexpected romance in the process.
Linda Rettstatt writes an exciting plot that keeps you at the edge of your seat. This heartwarming story of love, mystery and humour has you glued to the pages. The main characters Jessica, Andrew and Ben work very well together and their interactions make the story an amazing read. Jessica comes across as a strong female character that, even with her vulnerabilities, she prevails. Her reactions when she is confronted by a spiritual being is believable and amusing. The male characters are honorable, brave and handsome. The main plot is intriguing and convincing with an underlying subplot that doesn’t detract from the story, but enhances it and makes it stronger.
In The Spirit is well written and has a great dialogue that makes you fall for the characters. The setting of the secluded cabin in the woods, where she is all alone, creates an eerie atmosphere that contributes to the paranormal genre. The author has a way with capturing the essence of the spirit and doesn’t make it appear comical but makes it seem as a real person to the main character. Meeting up with some strange characters in the town while she is doing her research adds to the mystery. Watching her try to break down the barriers that Ben built around himself, makes you route for them to get together. Jessica is a formidable hero, as she not only finds it in her heart to help a wayward ghost but she also unknowingly helps a man find love again, by finding her.
Overall rating: 4hearts
Sensuality rating: Sweet
Reviewer: Catherine Anderson

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tales of Submission

If you think this is some sort of BDSM blog, think again. There are many types of submissions. The one I’m going to talk about here is submission to a publishing house, like Champagne. I wear two hats, editor and author. And I angst over submissions, even though I’ve been in this business for several years. So thought I’d talk about the process I go through when submitting a story for consideration.

First, I write and do a round of edits on a story. I make a few notes about things I still need to work on. Then, if possible, I put it away for a month and work on the next story. That way, when I go through on round two of edits, it’s fresh and easier to see the places I need to fix. This is when I’m really looking closely at the emotion, where I need to slow things down, where to speed them up...and what to gut. After this, I go through one more time, looking closely at grammar and punctuation. Now, I’ve already been through the story three times, but you’d be amazed how many things I catch on this last pass.

Then, my story goes to my critique partner, who catches even more things to fix. After I’m done with that, I send it to a beta reader. Yep. She catches a few more things, but by now, they’re pretty minimal and easy to fix. While my story is being beta read, I check out what the publisher I want to send it to is looking for, making sure my story’s a good fit.

At this point, my story is polished and ready to go, so that’s when I format however much the publisher wants (like first three chapters) to the specifications they ask for. Champagne uses pretty standard formatting (TNR size 12, one inch borders, double-spaced, etc.)

Now it’s time to work on my submission package. Oh, that infernal synopsis. Ugh. I hate writing them. How can I tell my story in 2-3 pages? FYI - for a 2-3 page synopsis, I generally start out with a 4-5 page one and pare it down. For a one page synopsis, I first write what my story is about in one sentence. One very lo-o-o-ong sentence.  That’s the real trick to deciding what’s most important about the story, in my opinion. Then I expand it to a page.

Okay, so now I’ve got my chapters and my synopsis ready to go. Time to do that query letter. Remember that lo-o-ong sentence I wrote above that describes my story? I can use that here as a quick book descriptor, adding word count and genre. Then I need to do the bio. I hate, hate, hate talking about myself. I’m a crowd blender, not a leader. But I do it. It’s part of the business. One word at a time, I remind myself that there’s a reason why I write. That my submission is worthy. Early on, when I didn’t have a writing resume to draw from, I listed my affiliations in the business, what kind of volunteering I do (again, in the business), and what type of education or craft classes I’ve taken. Another good option is explaining why you are qualified to write the story you wrote (for instance, you write a story about an injured soldier, and in real life you’re a nurse.

I finally get it done. Read everything over (yep, chapters, synopsis, and query letter). Let it sit overnight, then read it over again. At that point, I think my OCD is definitely rearing its ugly head. So I plunk it into an email, attach my documents, and hit send.

At that point, I really should just walk away from my computer. Take the cat out for a walk, settle down with a cup of tea and a good book, or anything else that’s relaxing. But no, I have to drive myself nuts by reading over my query letter and synopsis AGAIN. I did mention I have this OCD thing going on, right?

And you know what? I find a typo. Almost every single time.  It’s infuriating, but it happens. Here’s the part I’m still trying to learn. It’s okay to have a typo in your query letter.  If you’ve gone through the process to make your story shine, and you’ve addressed all the important points in your synopsis and query letter, one typo is not going to keep the publisher from contracting you if the story’s right. Ten or twelve might, but one is not.

So the moral of my process is to make it shine, then forget about it. Easier said than done, but it’ll keep you sane in the long run. 

Happy submitting!

Laurie Temple
Editor at Champagne Books

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Proof your Manuscript Before Submitting

Eck! You’ve just submitted a manuscript to a publisher and discover a typo in the first chapter, after you hit send. What to do?

Well, good news: one typo, even in the first chapter, won’t ruin your chances for a contract, as long as there aren’t multitudes of typos or other errors later on. Let’s face it, typos are ubiquitous. Even after edits, somehow, they’re still there. Those of you who have published will be familiar with proofing the galleys after both content and line edits, quality control, and formatting by the publisher. You still find errors, don’t you? Truthfully, I find errors in published books all the time. But not very many, and we try extremely hard to minimize them. By the law of averages, the more typos or errors in the initial submitted manuscript, the more errors will remain in the published version, making your work look amateurish. And no one wants that.

It never ceases to amaze me how many writers submit manuscripts without a meticulous proofreading. A poorly proofed manuscript gives a poor impression of you as an author. Why is this so important? Isn’t the story, characterization, timing, and so on, much more important? The answer is you have to do both to be taken seriously at acquisition time. Many fine stories are marred by lack of proofreading. Missing words, incorrect tenses, even sentences that make no sense as written, all combine to make an editor groan. In reality, a manuscript riddled with errors probably won’t get read past the first few pages, no matter how good the story is. The editor will be thinking the author is, at best, careless, and that doesn’t bode well for a productive editing cycle. At worst, she might think you don’t know the basics of how to write. Either way, she will conclude that it’s too much work to whip your manuscript into shape for publication, and you’ll get a standard rejection letter.

Why do you have to worry so much if the book will be edited anyway? The days when editors pored over every single word are past. Editors now are expected to guide you, the author, in preparing for publication. We aren’t expected to do the work for you. In fact, we’re encouraged not to. And in any case, contrary to the image we like to project, editors are not infallible. We miss things, too. And the more there is to correct, the more we might miss. This means it is ultimately the author’s responsibility to proof a manuscript.

A lot of my authors tell me they have trouble proofing their own work. They get caught up in the story, or they simply don’t see the errors. This is quite common, but there are ways around these problems. One is to read the manuscript aloud, even to yourself. The effort of reading aloud will cause you to be much more conscious of what you actually wrote as opposed to what you intended to write. You’ll be surprised at what’s on the page. Another method is to read backwards, sentence by sentence. Combine these two methods and you’re golden.

Why risk rejection of an otherwise good story? Proof your manuscript before submitting.

Diane Breton is an editor with Champagne Book Group

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Read An Ebook Week

March 2-8 is time to celebrate ebooks, and how far we've come from the earliest days of digital publishing. It's an exciting time of change and growth, as the world embraces new technology and the ability to read anytime, anywhere. Who ever would have thought that you could order a book, AND have it in your hands in seconds?  It's commonplace nowadays, thanks to Amazon, Kobo, BN and other retailers.

Because we're excited to be part of this reading revolution, we are happy to share our world of ebooks with you. Find 50% off all our ebooks at our three imprints, and enjoy some new books, new authors, and new adventures today!  -- prices automatically reduced  use coupon code E4ME at checkout to get your discount           use coupon code E4ME at checkout to get your discount

Happy Ebook Week!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review from Bitten By Books

Touch of Blue by Michael Davis

Touch Of Blue by Michael DavisRiggs is a retired intelligence officer who just wants a little peace and quiet. Still mourning the loss of his wife, his only desire is to be left alone. After being coerced into one last mission by the government, he is about to make a discovery that will change his entire belief system. But will he come out the other side better or worse?
Logan Riggs is an interesting character. He is a hardened military man who has seen and done it all. Yet, he still manages to find a kind word and a soft spot in his life for the new recruit, an exotic alien named Yarra. His immediate attraction and innate desire to protect her are endearing. The further you get into the story, the more complex you discover he is.
I really enjoyed the mission part of this short novel, as well. It was gripping, realistic in a futuristic point of view, and had an ending I was not expecting. I have always thought that would be the hardest part of writing science fiction — finding a plot that is both fantastical and yet still something present day readers can relate to. The author was able to do both here, combining interesting aliens, creatures, and an obtainable goal that resonates with the reader.
Touch of Blue was a short but intense story of pushing the boundaries and discovering more than you knew could exist. Despite its brevity, the author did a fantastic job of developing two likable characters that you want to know more about. He also threw in just enough science to make the story realistic, but not enough to overwhelm you.
For someone who does not normally gravitate towards science fiction, this novel made me want to delve more into the genre, an was an exciting and intense way to spend an afternoon.

Review Overview

Overall Rating


Summary : A Touch of Blue was a short but intense story of pushing the boundaries and discovering more than you knew could exist. Despite its brevity, the author did a fantastic job of developing two likable characters that you want to know more about. He also threw in just enough science to make the story realistic, but not enough to overwhelm you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review from Long and Short Reviews

Midnight At Ripley Inn by Stephanie Beck

Midnight At Ripley Inn by Stephanie Beck
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (159 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
A family vacation becomes more than a mother’s worst nightmare.
Rene only wanted to temper her mommy guilt with a nice family vacation to the coast. Waking up to a room covered in blood and her youngest child biting herself never entered her plans. With her seven-year-old trying to hurt the ones around her and no way off the island, Rene and her husband rely on the help of the locals.
While storms rage on, both outside and inside the Ripley Inn, Rene must decide whether to trust the kind island pastor, or the ghost trapped inside the walls of the hotel. One claims to want to help them, the other wants them gone before what’s inside Rene’s daughter bursts free and kills them all.
It’s hard to trust someone you’ve just met, but that’s exactly what Rene must do to save her family.
The fast pace kept me glued to this novel from beginning to end. Ms. Beck knows how to pack quite a bit of action into a short period of time, and while I was able to anticipate many of the plot twists in advance I really enjoyed seeing how certain surprises were so tightly woven into what was already occurring.
This is a heavily plot-based novel and the consequences of that focus show up as the story progresses. It was a little difficult for me to get to know these characters as individuals because so much time was spent focusing on solving the mystery. I would have liked to spend a few more scenes exploring their personalities before all of the strange things that occur at the Ripley Inn start disrupting their lives.
I also some trouble determining when this story is supposed to be set. Due to lack of cell phones, computers, or other portable electronic devices I originally assume it happened before the late 1980s or early 1990s. The true time period is eventually revealed, but I still have questions about certain clues that showed up early on in this piece. What I learned was intriguing, and I would have really liked to see a more thorough exploration of this topic.
Slowly decaying buildings can’t help but to be a little gloomy. The descriptions of what it feels like to visit what was once a popular and well-maintained hotel add a subtle sense of dread to this story. Nowhere is this more true than in the opening scene of this tale, and I can’t imagine a more satisfying way to introduce the reader to this particular group of characters.
Midnight At Ripley Inn kept me on my toes. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a truly scary mystery.


Tattle popped into the office bursting with enthusiasm.  "It's all about BURST this month!"

"Huh?"  Wrye had been dozing with his head on the ornate desk.  He popped up quickly, blinking the sleep from his eyes.

"CBG's Science Fiction/Fantasy/young adult etc. line of books, under the BURST insignia.  We are traveling into the unknown, the different, the strange, and the alternate of where we have been."

"I repeat, huh?"  With a dazed look, he fumbled with his monthly itinerary to see where the next jump would lead.

"Oh, just come on, it is time for our Love of Literature Leap.  Ready?"

"I guess as much as I'll ever be."

"I feel queasy."  Tattle held her stomach and made a swaying motion as she looked around.  "Are we on a ship?"

"The Queen Mary."  Wrye's attire transformed into that of a seaman from a different era.  "Beautiful, isn't she?"

"Ah, we're in the Science Fiction/Time Travel novel THE TRAVELERS by KEITH WAYNE MCCOY, and I do believe we are in 1947!"  Swallowing several times to keep her stomach from an upheaval, Tattle pointed.  "Look there's the radio room, a key component to this story."

"A message was sent and the stage set for an encounter between a GI and his war bride, as well as a frantic mother and her young children."  Wrye's bushy brows wiggled as if they were bouncing to a tune.  "Ahhh, but no one suspects ET captured the message."

Tattle held on to the railing, swearing silently that the ship is bobbing faster than Wrye's eyebrows." "ET as in the little guy and the candy?"  Remembering the candy in her own pocket, she popped one into her mouth, certain it would help.  

"Nooo, as in extraterrestrial intelligence."

"Duh, that's what ET stands for..."  Tattle excused herself for burping, believing candy wasn't such a good idea, after all.  Thankfully, they suddenly leaped out of the past and appeared nearly on top of Guy Turner.  “I believe this filmmaker is on a phone interview.”  Tattle sighed in relief, and eavesdropped.  "Oh me, oh my oh, that message we were just talking about from 1947..."

"Way ahead of ya, m'Candy Munchin' sleuth, the message from the Queen Mary from so long ago has just been received in the present day."   Invisible to Guy, Wrye leaned closer to the man so as to hear both sides of the conversation.  "He's making a documentary about the ship.  He wants to know what Julie knows about this message."

Tattle practically pressed her face to Guy's.  "Shhh, I'm listening.  Julie tells him it's a hoax."

"It's not!  And he's calling her on it, revealing he knows about the seventy times the Leviathan received the message."

"Ut oh," Tattle blurted out as their surroundings changed once more.  "Where are we now?"   

"On the retired Queen Mary, standing in the middle of a supernatural phenomena with Guy and the mother of those young children.

"She is not so young.  Neither is the GI and his war bride."

"And Guy has been propelled on an undesired journey into his own awareness as well as helping the three beings come together one more time, trying to help tie together all that should have been."

"Speaking of time....  We’re out of it, let's leap!"

As an eerie strain of music twirled in Wrye’s head, the snooping duo found themselves in a clearing.  “Look what I found.”  He opened his palm to Tattle to reveal an ancient coin.

Taking it, she examined the battered orb.  This is very old, I mean like beyond ancient old. That’s the goddess of hunting, Artemis.”  She pointed to one side and then turned it.  “And a bull is on this side.”

“Like you really know that, are you bullin’ me?”  Wrye grinned crookedly, thinking himself funny.

“I bull you not.  I am that smart.”

He pulled the skeptical look.  “Are you?  Or did you just flip through a couple of pages of THE LAST ANCIENT by ELIOT BAKER?”

“Guilty.”  She tossed the coin up in the air, caught it, and covered it with one hand.  “Goddess or bull?”

“Enough with the coin, m’gossipy snoop,” Wrye snatched it away and tossed it back to where he had discovered it. “Instead, let us spy on Simon Stephenson, a Pulitzer-nominated reporter.”

Tattle slipped into the pages and nosed about.  “Ah, Simon has been told by a cryptic alchemist and bang-bang, you’re dead affable Greek hit man that he must kill a mythological creature.”

“A what?!”

“A hit man?”

Wrye joined Tattle on the same page.   “The hit man is a nice guy?”

“Rhetorical, I assume, Watson.”

“If anyone is Holmes, I am.  For….”  Wrye does a lavish, exaggerated pause seen only in the most corny mystery movies of old.  “I know that Simon’s family has dark secrets, and that a trail of ancient coins leads him to a fiendish conspiracy, toxic beasts, foul characters, and everything and anything of the twisty antiquated world of not so nice entities, human and not so human.”  He had let it all out in one breath and now inhaled a deep gulp of air and offered a ta-da flash of teeth with an extravagant bow.  

“Ah, but did you know the creature is hunting on Nantucket.  And despite knowing money and lives are at stake and a fabulolicious story is involved, he doesn’t want to do it?”  Tattle snapped her fingers as if to say top that.

“Squeamish, eh?”

“Not at all!  He’s in love.”

“Love?  With who?”

“The creature who told him no-no to the story, and asked him for something only he can give her.”

“What!  And what?”

After whispering to Wrye, Tattle then winked at the CBG audience.  “Y’all have to read to find out.”

Hope you enjoyed our BURST only Love of Literature Leap.  Til next month, keep reading!
Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq.
and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat

Created and written by
Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane