Monday, May 11, 2015

Mah Jongg The Art of the Game



This is the first book to fully capture the story of the exotic and exciting game of Mahjong or "Mah Jongg", offering an intimate look at the history of the game as well as the visual beauty of the tiles. When authors Ann Israel and Gregg Swain began playing Mahjong, they were unaware of the vintage collections that existed not only in the United States but also as far ranging as Africa to New Zealand. Slowly, they started to collect their own sets of Mahjong and as their collections grew, so did their appreciation of the history of, and interest in the game.

Finding few references, Israel and Swain set out to create a book that chronicles the early beginnings of the game and documents Mahjong sets from the most basic, made simply of paper, to the most precious materials such as ivory and mother-of-pearl. Recognized and respected scholars and game experts have collaborated with Israel and Swain, contributing important chapters on the game's history and its pieces as well as technical information on the tiles. Lastly, great collectors from around the globe have shared their incredible sets and memories for the first time in one book for everyone to enjoy.

With hundreds of beautiful new images by renowned photographer, Michel Arnaud, and including historical documentation and ephemera, Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game fills the void between the past and today's game, providing vision, inspiration and resources. Anyone who has ever been intrigued by a Mahjong tile will find in these pages visually stunning photographs that will entice them into becoming an enthusiast of the timeless game of Mahjong.

Review:

This book is the perfect addition to any avid player or collector's library. Featuring full color photographs by Michael Arnaud, the vast array of different sets come to vivid life. From bone to bamboo and even soap these gorgeous Mah Jongg tiles make you just itch to feel them under your fingers. Wonderful book! My husband plays the game and he was fascinated looking at the history and variations of the pieces.

5/5

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sweet Trouble by Sharon Lynn Fisher

SilkWords is the go-to source for interactive romance and erotic fiction.

With gorgeous custom covers and a clean, sophisticated design, the SilkWords site offers a secure, upscale reading environment. In addition to content on their web site, they offer stories for purchase in the standard e-book formats.

SilkWords is owned and operated by a full-time mom with a background in genetics and an RWA RITA-nominated, multi-published sci-fi romance author.

Their technology guy and site designer was the founder of Microsoft Xbox Live.

SilkWords features two formats that allow readers to choose how the stories will proceed.

Pick Your Path:

Will she or won't she? With which man (or woman) in which location? With Pick Your Path romance, you decide. Romance and branched fiction are made for each other, like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream...positions, partners, and paraphernalia, oh my!

Reader Vote:

Readers vote at choice points and decide how the story will continue. These stories are a great way for readers and authors to connect. It’s exciting to be part of a developing story!







Sweet Trouble
B’s Book Labyrinth Series
Sharon Lynn Fisher

Genre: Contemporary erotic romance

Publisher: SilkWords
Date of Publication: April 2

Cover Artist: Indie Designz

Book Description:

Welcome to B’s Book Labyrinth and Bistro! The first novelette in this SilkWords Shared World Series, Sweet Trouble is the story of smart and feisty bookstore owner Bronte and sexy Seattle-area rock musician Brody.

Brody appears at the store’s grand opening to pick up a book recommended by an ex-girlfriend — and to meet the woman responsible for him losing his apartment.

The awkward first meeting does nothing to dampen the instant chemistry, but with Bronte wrangling menus, book buyers, and the resident ghost, and Brody’s rockstar-complicated past, can either of them afford even the sweetest kind of trouble?

Available at Silkwords.com

Excerpt:
Heading for the stairs, I met Trissa coming down. “You’ll never believe it!” she whispered urgently.

“What’s up?”

“I think Lenny Kravitz is here.”

Having Annabelle on my mind, I had braced myself for news of mischief directed at customers. Relieved, and feeling a little mischievous myself, I raised my eyebrows and replied, “Who?”

She groaned and rolled her eyes. “God! Do you do anything but read?”

As the grin I’d suppressed broke free, she frowned in annoyance. “B! You have to go talk to him.”

“It’s not Lenny Kravitz.”

“Come on.”

She grabbed my arm and dragged me upstairs to the fantasy section, where she gave me a shove toward a man in distressed denim and black leather. He stood eyeing a shelf on the L-through-P aisle.

To be fair, he could’ve been Lenny Kravitz — like twenty years ago. This guy’s denim was truly distressed, not distressed by machines for that perfect, overpriced lived-in look. And the cracks in his leather jacket traced a map of a rugged landscape in some unknown, dark country. The heel and sole of one of his motorcycle boots were held together by duct tape. He was as poor as I used to be. Maybe poorer.

But his sculpted features were framed by a glorious but compact starburst of spiky dark hair bleached burnt-orange at the ends. And I’d stake my store on him being a musician.  

As I stood there studying him, he looked up, and I took a few steps forward. “Can I help you find something?”

His eyes moved over me, but not in a way that felt creepy. He was studying me back. And what he was probably seeing was that the money I’d spent on my outfit would have bought him groceries for a month. It wasn’t the way I usually dressed. Well, it was now. But a year ago my clothes were all the same vintage as his.

“You work here?” he asked.

“I … ” I couldn’t bring myself to say I was the owner. “Yes. Can I help you?”

“Do you have sci-fi? This is all fantasy.”

I nodded. “We’ve got them in two sections. If you’ll follow me … ”

Chill bumps washed over my back as I listened to the thud of his boots against the hardwood floor behind me. I was suddenly self-conscious about the length (or lack thereof) of my skirt. No way of knowing whether I was imagining his eyes on my ass, but I was glad he couldn’t see my face, because the heat there confirmed my belief that they were. 

“Here we are,” I said, waving at the first of the sci-fi shelves. Alpha by author. Is there something specific you’re looking for?”

He considered me a moment, delicious chocolate eyes fixed on my face. He was intense about eye contact. Finally he gave a slight nod. “Solaris.”

“Oh yes,” I said too eagerly, “that’s one of my favorites.” I walked to L through P and sank down to study the bottom shelf. “Looks like we have both a used and new copy.” Solaris was on the obscure side for sci-fi, and now my curiosity was piqued. Or rather more piqued.

“I’ll take the used,” he said quietly.

“Of course,” I said, again in a quick, nervous voice, as I slid the book off the shelf.

I held it out to him, and he said, “What do you mean?” Something dark flashed in his eyes.

I felt my smile slipping. “I’m sorry … ?”

Clearing his throat, he shook his head. “Nothing. I’ll take it.”

I handed it to him, annoyed that my heart felt like a box of wrestling kittens. The guy had spoken a handful of words, and he had me completely unsettled.

“What interested you in the book?” I asked, trying to sound casual and friendly rather than neurotic or stalker-like. 

He hesitated, studying the cover. “My girlfriend recommended it.”

“Ah.” I swallowed hard to prevent any more words from coming out.

“Ex-girlfriend, I mean.” He glanced up, and a slow smile swung one corner of his lips up. “She left me for a guy with a PhD. I decided it was time to educate myself.”

“Ah.” I didn’t have to swallow this time. There was no way to reply to that without ending up a mess of blushing awkward.

“You’re Bronte, aren’t you?” he said, tucking the book under his arm. “The owner.”

I cleared my throat. No avoiding it now. “Yeah, that’s me. But it’s just ‘B.’”

“Nice to meet you, Just B.”

I tried and failed to stop the eye roll. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one.

He grinned. “Sorry. But I can’t call you that.”

“Why?”

Encore of the intense chocolate stare. “It’s a less than perfect grade, and that’s not you.”

I was so startled by this I forgot to notice that it sounded an awful lot like a cheesy pickup line. “That’s exactly what my moms say.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Your moms?”

Now the pickup line thing sunk in. “Yeah. You got a problem with that?”

“No,” he laughed.

No one here was ruffled but me, and I felt like a jerk. I couldn’t think of a single word to say to him now, except “if you’ll excuse me,” which at this point would only emphasize my discomfort. Luckily he took pity on me.

“I’m Brody, Bronte. Thanks for helping me with the book. Good luck with the store.”

Grateful to him for coming to my rescue, I smiled. Genuinely. “Thank you. I hope to see you here again.”

He gave another shake of his head, and his gaze slid around the second floor. “I don’t read much. But I had to see if it was worth it, me getting kicked out of my apartment because some rich kid wanted to open a bookstore.”










About the Author:

An RWA RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart — meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat). In addition to her SilkWords stories, she’s authored three science fiction romance novels for Tor Books: Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8 (2015). She’s also the editorial director for (and a partner in) SilkWords! Visit her at www.sharonlynnfisher.com.








Shared Worlds: The new story format from SilkWords

SWEET TROUBLE is the first story in the SilkWords World B’s Book Labyrinth. Shared worlds were introduced just this week, along with some other fun new features on our web site.

SWEET TROUBLE is the story of Brontë (the “B” of B’s Book Labyrinth) and local rock band frontman Brody. Each story set in this world begins with an introduction (in B’s point of view) that sets the stage for the reader. Here’s a little taste of that:

My name is Brontë Austen O’Neill, and I have the best job in the world. If you took even one course in English literature, you can probably figure it out just from my name. (My moms are both literature professors.)

Yep, I manage the world’s last bookstore. Or at least the last one in Seattle. Well, maybe not the last, but certainly the biggest. In the heart of the Fremont neighborhood, which is accepted by all Seattleites (or at least the ones living in Fremont) as the Center of the Universe, is a funky old turn-of-the-century mansion, just south of the world’s only real troll-under-a-bridge. Its architect was insane, or possibly a drunk. Six floors, piled atop each other in higgledy-piggledy fashion (much like a stack of books someone has tripped over and righted without bothering to straighten), connected by a staircase winding like a corkscrew through its heart.

In and around this bookstore, our authors will set stories about various customers. Currently in the works is a story about a bike messenger and a mystery author who writes all his books in the store’s bistro. The setting is contemporary, but will likely include a range of genres. (The store has a resident poltergeist who is sure to be the subject of a future story!)

B’s will feature romance of all heat levels (the first story is erotic romance), and we have a second world in the works that will focus more on erotic adventures. (More on that soon!)

Along with the launch of our first SilkWorlds World, we also introduced ratings, comments, and a game-inspired system of currency (hearts, of course!). 

Here are five fun facts about SWEET TROUBLE:

- This is my first contemporary romance! I’m a sci-fi romance author for Tor and have always written speculative fiction. (Let me know what you think in the story’s comments section!)
- The story was inspired by this song: Disco Lights [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0MqEtqSoH4]
- Brody, the frontman for the fictional band Iron Clementine, mentions a real Seattle group called the Mark Lanegan Band. (Mark was the frontman for the grunge band Screaming Trees.)
- The “Book Labyrinth” in the series was inspired by Portland’s Powell’s Books [http://www.powells.com/], one of the last of the big indie bookstores.
- B’s signature cupcake is called “Heart of Darkness” — vanilla cake, grenadine buttercream, and a truffle-sized ball of soft chocolate at the center.




Tour giveaway

3 bundles of 30 hearts, which can be used for buying stories on the SilkWords site (www.silkwords.com)



Display link

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112ffc964
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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl


Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn’t recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just ... creepy.

In the days that follow, things only get stranger. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut, and eventually, the laughter Sunshine hears on her first night evolves into sobs. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become more frightening—and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger—Sunshine must accept what she is, pass the test before her, and save her mother from a fate worse than death.

Buy link:

Amazon

Review:

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl was a book I couldn't put down. I received the book as an arc from work (bookstore) and was thrilled. I watched the Youtube video and loved the creativity behind it and was not disappointed in the book.

Sunshine has just moved from sunny Texas to the Pacific Northwest and isn't really happy about it. Her mom has a new job and she struggles to fit in. The house they move into is creepy (her words) to the extreme and the uber pink bedroom resembles an exploding pepto bismal bottle. When things start to go bump in the night, Sunshine realizes there is a lot going on with her new house. She is changing too. But that is only the start of her problems. Her mother may be possessed, her new friend is creating some romantic tension and the odd teacher at school may know more than she is letting on about the goings on at her house.

If you love haunted house tales, this is one for you!

4/5 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Vanishing Wife


The Vanishing Wife
by Barry Finlay

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

How far will a man go when his family is threatened?  Mason Seaforth is about to find out. He is a mild mannered accountant living a quiet, idyllic life in the quiet community of Gulfport, Florida with his wife, Samantha.  At least, it’s quiet and idyllic until Sami, as she’s known to her friends, vanishes the night of their 20th anniversary.

Mason is thrown into a life that is meant for other people as he and their brash friend, Marcie Kane, try everything to find out what has happened to Sami.  A search of Sami’s computer uncovers notes describing a past that Sami has buried for more than 20 years.  Then come the threatening phone calls: to Sami, to their daughter Jennifer at university in Miami, and to Mason.

Mason and Marcie are thrust into a race against a sadistic killer to discover what has happened to Mason’s wife. He reluctantly exchanges his spreadsheets for a Glock 17 and he and Marcie follow a trail left behind by Sami which leads them to a potential confrontation with some very dangerous men in Canada.  Mason is required to make decisions that he could never imagine himself making and each one has deadlier consequences than the last. The wrong one could result in the death of his entire family.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~


  1. Name three things on your desk right now.

I have a notepad that I use for jotting down ideas and questions for my next book, a tray full of papers that should have been filed a long time ago and a list of people I need to contact for my next fundraiser, a golf tournament in August to raise money for Wounded Warriors Canada.  I’m glad you only asked for three. We might have been here for awhile otherwise.

2. Plotter or pantster?

I suppose the notepad might have suggested I’m a plotter but I think I’m a bit of both. I jot down the main ideas and questions for which I need to do some research but I let the story take me where it will. I was actually surprised with my last book, The Vanishing Wife, in that it went in unexpected directions as I was writing. I like to have the basic outline in my head before I start, but other than that, I’m willing to go along with the characters and events as they unfold.

3. Hamburger or sushi?

I love hamburgers cooked on the barbecue in the summer with lots of relish and pickles. That first burger after a long winter is always a treat. But occasionally I will eat sushi. I just won’t go out of my way to do it. 

4. What authors have influenced your work?

I have been asked this question a few times and haven’t been able to come up with an answer. I’m influenced by any author that can engage a reader in the first few lines and keep their attention throughout. I think Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher series, is good at that. It’s incredible how much trouble Reacher stumbles into, but I’m always engaged. Steve Berry, Michael Connally and Daniel Silva always keep me interested. That’s the type of writing I aspire to. Okay, maybe I can come up with an answer.   

5. Heels or flats?

Well, I did wear heels back in the day when Beatle boots were popular but not quite the kind of heels you are asking about. How is that for ageing myself?  I was just reading in this month’s Men’s Health that the higher a woman’s heels, the more likely a man is to help her. Not only that but higher heels make a woman taller, her gait is sexier and we males are conditioned by the media to associate high heels with sex. So, I guess that answers the question. Definitely heels!


Excerpt Two:


Sami never went anywhere without her cell phone, and if she had gone out for a walk, she would certainly have taken the phone with her. He reached for his own phone and dialed Sami’s number. The number rang. And rang, and rang again. Mason held his breath.  “Please, Sami, please, pick up,” he whispered.  On the sixth ring, he heard Sami’s confident voice message. “You have reached Samantha Seaforth. Please leave a message, and I will call you back.”

In a shaking voice, Mason heard himself doing as she asked. “Sweetie, it’s Mason, I’m leaving a message. Where are you?  Please call me back right away.”

It had been two hours since he first noticed Sami was gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

In 2009, Barry Finlay went up a mountain as an accountant and came down as a philanthropist. After over thirty years in various financial roles with the Canadian federal government, he took his life in a different direction and climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro at age sixty with his son Chris. The climb and their fundraising efforts to help kids in Tanzania led to the award-winning book, Kilimanjaro and Beyond: A Life-Changing Journey. He followed that up with the hilarious travel memoir, I Guess We Missed The Boat, which was named Best Travel Book of 2013 by Reader Views. Now, he has completed his debut fiction book, The Vanishing Wife. Barry was named to the Authors Show’s list of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” in 2012. In 2013, he received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for his philanthropic work in Africa. He lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife Evelyn.

Website: www.keeponclimbing.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBarryFinlay

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Karver2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5213951.Barry_Finlay

Amazon: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile


Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/karver2/

Barry will be awarding a medium or large t-shirt with the author's "Keep On Climbing" logo on the front to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour (US/CANADA ONLY).

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Broken Dreams Tour and Giveaway


BROKEN DREAMS
by Nancy Pennick

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

Two friends...
Blood sisters till the end...
Until they're not.

One cold night in a boarding school dorm, two fourteen-year-old girls make a blood sister pact. Friends forever. As young schoolgirls, they're determined to find true love, learning the hits and misses along the way. As graduation nears, the girls have different outlooks for the future. Lucinda longs for adventure. Anna chooses city life and marriage. Finding their way back together, the girls head west for an experience of a lifetime until a handsome cowboy bursts into their lives, changing the course of their friendship forever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Excerpt Five:

“Don’t worry. It’s not the first time it’s happened.” He gave her a wicked smile, part imp and part seductive. He hopped up in one smooth motion and moved the cart to the side.

Anna, surprised by his answer, burst out laughing. She pictured him being knocked down by carts in every aisle of the library. She quickly covered her mouth.

Roy put a finger to his lips. “You don’t want to be asked to leave, do you?” That caused both of them to double over in silent laughter.

Anna took deep breaths and slowly straightened up. When she made eye contact, the hysterics started all over again. His eyes held a hint of mischief, drawing her in. Roy ran his hand through his wavy brown hair and leaned against the bookshelf as if having a casual conversation with an old friend. Funny thing, it felt like more than friendship.

“Anna!”

She spun around at the sound of her name. “Lucinda! This is Roy. I just knocked him over with a cart.” As soon as she said it, she had to swallow hard to suppress the giggle that begged to escape.

“Yes, she did. She’s lethal.” Roy held out his hand. “Hello, Lucinda, nice to meet you.”

She leaned across Anna and shook his hand. Anna took a few steps back so Lucinda could get closer to Roy. “I’ll just be over there.” She gestured and grabbed a book off the shelf as she went by.

I can’t believe that just happened. I find Roy. I knock Roy over. I instantly fall in love.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Nancy currently resides in Mentor, Ohio with her husband and son, plus a delightfully entertaining lovebird. Her writing is influenced by all the years of working with young people as a teacher and raising her own son. When not writing, Nancy loves to travel with her husband and enjoys a good cup of tea. Broken Dreams is a stand alone companion piece to her young adult Waiting for Dusk series.

Publisher- Fire and Ice


Links to me:
Twitter- https://twitter.com/npennick   @npennick


Wordpress blog- http://nancypennick.wordpress.com/



Links to other books:
Waiting for Dusk

Call of the Canyon
Stealing Time
http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Time-Waiting-Dusk-Book-ebook/dp/B00IM2RMYA

FREE short story:
Taking Chances: A Waiting for Dusk Story
http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Chances-Waiting-Dusk-Book-ebook/dp/B00NSC1W7M

Win a $20 B&N or Amazon gift card and follow the tour for more chances to win!

http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2015/01/book-blast-broken-dreams-by-nancy.html

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Monday, January 26, 2015

A Heart for Copper Blog Tour and Giveaway

SilkWords is the go-to source for interactive romance and erotic fiction.

With gorgeous custom covers and a clean, sophisticated design, the SilkWords site offers a secure, upscale reading environment. In addition to content on their web site, they offer stories for purchase in the standard e-book formats.

SilkWords is owned and operated by a full-time mom with a background in genetics and an RWA RITA-nominated, multi-published sci-fi romance author.

Their technology guy and site designer was the founder of Microsoft Xbox Live.

SilkWords features two formats that allow readers to choose how the stories will proceed.

Pick Your Path:

Will she or won't she? With which man (or woman) in which location? With Pick Your Path romance, you decide. Romance and branched fiction are made for each other, like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream...positions, partners, and paraphernalia, oh my!

Reader Vote:

Readers vote at choice points and decide how the story will continue. These stories are a great way for readers and authors to connect. It’s exciting to be part of a developing story!





A Heart for Copper
Sharon Lynn Fisher

Genre: Steampunk romance

Publisher: SilkWords

Date of Publication: May 9, 2014

ASIN: B00LDYFKQ6

Number of pages: 67 pages
Word Count: 14K

Cover Artist: Indie Designz

Book Description: 


An automaton created by an inventor's son, Copper has finally been given a heart by her young master. Her choice of whether to keep the key or give it to him will determine what happens next in this "pick your path" steampunk fairy tale.


Will she join his family in their English country manor, where she'll be forced to consider the question of whether she's really human? Or will she search out the quirky alchemist responsible for giving her life?

Will her master hold onto her heart, or will she be tempted by the charms of an automaton man?

January 19 Guest Blog
Jill Archer

January 20 review
karen writes stuff

January 21 Interview
The Reading Pile 

January 21 Review
Ogitchida Kwe's Book Blog

January 22 Spotlight
Counter Culture Critic

January 23 Guest Blog
Fang-tastic Books

January 23 Spotlight
Share My Destiny

January 26 review
Indiewritersreview

January 26 Guest blog and review
Book Girl Knitting



Excerpt:

I have a heart-shaped hole. Like an empty bird's nest, it rests among marigold-hued ruffles above the topmost hook of my corset.

The hole was not left by something removed, but for something anticipated.

I am an automaton. I have never moved of my own volition — never lifted so much as a finger, save by the power of the windup mechanism at my back. Never felt a chill-bump, or the orange yarn rising on the back of my chicken-wire neck. My amethyst eyes follow my young master without motion. The dead, glass eyes of a doll. My face no more than a bone-colored mask with faint pink smudges where my cheekbones would be.

If I were alive.

My brain is sacking stuffed with cotton, my torso salvaged from a discarded mannequin. My limbs are dark, spindly things, like they belong on crows. But my master has wrapped them in ivory silk, and in the dim light of his workshop, I can pretend they are arms like his.

I am not a living thing, but the work of man's hands. Man does not give life. Not since The Regression. The Digital Age machines are all dead. My master was born into the Neoclassical Age, named not for cultural or artistic reasons, but for the laws of science to which all citizens are required to conform. Post-classical physics are banned. Reserved for the gods, the only ones fit to wield them.

How does a stuffed-head, cobbled-together, life-sized doll know all this? Know anything at all? Because my master talks to me. Reads to me. From the time he was a schoolboy, he has shared every lesson with me, from The Odyssey to odious French (his descriptor, not mine). I was his schoolmate. Watched him grow to manhood while I remained the same, unless he himself wrought change — replacing dingy fabric with fresh, tinkering with moving parts, shifting my head so I could watch him work.

I spend many lonely hours in my master's workshop, when he is away at school or in the city with his family. In those hours I feel empty and soulless, and I have often prayed that when he loses interest in me — which he inevitably shall —he will also unmake me, rather than leave me collecting dust in my chair.

For my master is the only light in my life, though I am no more to him than the toy ships he played with as a boy. Less than the pup who licked his heels, followed his footsteps, and finally sank into a straw-stuffed bed near the fire, from which, occasionally, I still hear the thump, thump, thump of tail against floorboards.

***

"Hullo, Dutch. Hullo, Copper."

Thump, thump, thump.

If I could have wagged, I would have. Master William entered the workshop, light beaming from his every feature. I knew the expression well. He'd been out in The World. He'd encountered something — or someone — interesting. Something he wished to share with me. You'd think he'd tire of my colossal implacability.

"I have something for you," he said, sinking onto the stool in front of me.

At moments like these I almost imagined that the hole in my chest had been filled. I could feel an ache there — an ache that should not have been. His eyes were green as the ribbons of my corset. His hair black as the coal in the bin. His lips were soft and expressive, like the women of the house — his mother, his elder sister, the chambermaids. Master William was everything lovely, everything beloved, in my dust, dark world.

He slipped a bronze chain from his pocket. A necklace, with a heart-shaped pendant — the shape of the symbol, not the visceral, beating thing itself.

The shape of the hole in my chest.

Tiny metal gears and copper springs were encased behind a small glass window embedded in the crimson resin. It was beautiful, a work of art. As I watched, he slid open a small compartment in the back of the pendant and produced a key. He held out the pendant in the palm of his hand.

"Happy birthday, Copper," he whispered.

The echo of my nonexistent heartbeat sounded in my cottony brain, behind my porcelain mask.

If my lips had breath, his proximity would have stopped it as he moved to slip the chain around my neck, letting the heart fall into its readymade grave. Pinching the key between his fingers, he inserted it into a tiny keyhole in the tapered bottom of the heart.

Bolts sprang from the sides of the pendant, penetrating the stuffing in my chest, locking the heart in place. I felt it as if I were flesh and bone.

A loud, dry, sucking sound came from my throat as I took my first breath.

Master William's eyes widened — with shock? with horror? — as the change took me over. The pain was excruciating.

"The old woman was right," he murmured, aghast.

I could barely hear him from behind the wall of pain — or over the very real pounding in my chest. His face blurred, and I was sure I felt moisture seeping from the holes in my mask. What was happening to me?

"You must choose, Copper," he continued. "Hephaesta said if you want to be like me, you must give me the key. If you want to be like you, you must keep it."

I glanced down at the tiny thing of brass still lodged in the base of my heart. 

What did it mean? A riddle, perhaps? What was I to do?

"Quickly," he said, worry dimming his brightness. "The heart will stop beating without the choice."

Pain spiked up my arm as I raised it from my side. My wooden, wire-jointed fingers wiggled to life. I grasped the key and removed it. 

1. I've waited all my non-life for this. I give him the key.
2. I want to find out who I am. I keep the key.





Will she? Won't she? Yes!

My gracious blog host has asked me to talk about what’s different about writing Pick Your Path stories. The difference in the writing is the same thing that makes Pick Your Path fun for readers, and it’s something I think every author can relate to.

In SilkWords stories, the introduction sets up a choice. In mine, A HEART FOR COPPER (sweet romance), the heroine is an automaton who has been given a clockwork heart by her inventor, William. As a writer, at this point in the story I naturally start to think about what is the most interesting outcome of this? Does the heart make her fully human, so she can be with William? Or does the heart make her realize she needs to come into her own as a person before she can find love? There is the potential for fascinating fallout from both choices.

Probably by this point you’ve figured out where I’m going with this: Both choices are believable, and both have potential for tension, conflict, and plot twists. So how does the author choose?

With Pick Your Path, the author leaves that choice to readers. They have the option to make one choice at each choice point, following one path just like a linear story, or they can return to the beginning and read about all possible outcomes. For the author, it’s a wonderful creative exercise — something we don’t get to do in our regular world of linear fiction with its deadline-driven reality.

Following two (or more) potential choices is challenging from an author perspective. It’s sort of like writing in parallel universes, and it makes our brains work in new ways. Connecting up the dots of different stories about the same characters and situation can be tricky. But there’s also something very satisfying about it. If you go off in different directions with your character —oftentimes even end up at different finishing points — and the characters still feels whole and compelling (and all versions of the story satisfying) you’ve really accomplished something!

For me, considerations in writing A HEART FOR COPPER were:
·         How do I make all choices/paths feel realistic? In other words, the reader believes it’s a choice the character might really make. There shouldn’t be a choice that feels so out of character the reader is left scratching her head over it.
·         How do I make all choices compelling? It doesn’t work to have choices like: A. She kisses William. B. She goes home and soaks in the tub. Who’s going to choose B (unless William is a jerk, and then I’ve failed in other ways)? In a successful Pick Your Path, all choices are tempting.

SilkWords publishes both romance and erotica. In romance, choices can be about which man the heroine chooses, where they go on their first date, and how many conflicts they have to overcome before they can be together. The best choices are very true to life. Say a heroine meets someone who has the baggage of a dead spouse, for example. She’s worried about his emotional state, and maybe there’s another man vying for her attention who seems easier and safer.

In erotic stories, Pick Your Path is typically about sexual exploration. These can be light-hearted and fun, or angst-ridden and bittersweet. The choices have to do with the number and sex (M/F) of partners, flavor of sexual activities (spanking, bondage, etc.), and types of sex toys.

And just to keep things exciting, SilkWords doesn’t require all endings to be HEA. All romances will have at least one HEA, and for erotica there must be at least one hopeful or positive ending. Whether you find it depends on how you choose! This can be cathartic for romance authors, who get an opportunity to rebel a little. And it also brings something fresh and unique to the reading experience.

Do you like Pick Your Path stories? What’s your favorite aspect?

Review:

This story hooked me from the get go. As I read, the song Shatter Me began to play and I had to laugh-this is the perfect song for this particular book. Wind up girl meets her future in an unsure world. The imagery is very inspiring and I had to keep turning the pages to see what the author was going to do next-what choices she would allow me to have to weave my own version of this tale. Such a lovely romance! I can't wait to read more by this author.

5/5






About the Author:

An RWA RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart — meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat).

Sharon has written three science fiction romance novels for Tor Books — Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8(2015) — and she's indie publishing her erotica series Fantasies in Color.

She’s also the editorial director for (and a partner in) SilkWords!











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