Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Art & History Feature - Inside Italian Renaissance Palaces

Previously, I we've covered some French royal palaces (such as Versailles and Louvre) and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, I thought we could look at the Italian renaissance palaces.

We'll start with the personal summer residence of Popes, Castel Gandolfo.

The gardens at Castel Gandolfo
A grotto inside Castel Gandolfo

Our next stop is at the gorgeous Doge's Palace in Venice. It's style is Venetian Gothic, and it has been the primary residence of the Venetian Authority for hundreds of years. The current construction was done around 1170s. The Palace opened its doors as a museum in 1923.

Sala del Senato

Next, we move on to Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Built in 1450s to be a residence of a powerful Florentine banker Luca Pitti, it was eventually acquired by the Medici family in 1549. In 18th century it was used as a power base for Napoleon. It is now one of the biggest art galleries in Florence.

Galeria Palatina
Illiad Room

Next stop - Palazzo Ducale - Urbino. Actually one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the palace was initially built for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro in mid fifteenth century. The seat of the ducal power for many  years, it was also used as a government building in the 19th and 20th centuries. It contains archives and a public collection of antique inscriptions and sculpture. Following renovations in 1985, the palace's subterranean network was also opened to public.

An interior court

(left) Door of the first floor (da Montefeltro period); (right) door of the second floor (della Rovere period) (

What are your favorite palaces around the world?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guest Post - All About Shifters by Paige Tyler, author of HER PERFECT MATE (X-OPS Book One)

All About Shifters
Paige Tyler

As I started writing HER PERFECT MATE, the first book in the X-OPS Series. I stumbled across an interesting article on the internet about genes and DNA, and how much common building block material humans share with animals. And the article wasn’t just talking about the whole primate thing. It pointed out how many common genes we share with completely different animals—like chickens.

Much of the article was over my head, but one particular part really stuck with me. It pointed out that humans can have a particular gene that in another animal would result in a tail growing, except in humans, that tail gene never “turns on.” And aren’t we fortunate for that? I mean, can you imagine what clothes would look like?

But that little comment about shared genes/DNA and genes “turning on” became the foundation for the shifters in my series.

In X-OPS, shifters aren’t monsters, cursed to live in the darkness, or possessed by a demon (which are all very cool ideas by the way). They simply possess shared animal DNA that has turned on.

In HER PERFECT MATE, the heroine Ivy Halliwell is a cat shifter. In her case, her feline DNA shows up in the form of claws and fangs that slide out when needed (and sometimes when they’re not), drastically improved senses (like great night vision—oh, and she can smell a tempting man a quarter mile away), enhanced muscular strength and endurance, and of course catlike reflexes.

But there is bad with the good. Ivy (and all the other shifters) has hidden her abilities from most of the world, knowing she’d be labeled as a freak if people knew. Even her previous partners in the covert organization she works in treated her that way. The organization doesn’t really help matters much, considering her and others like her to be nothing more than Extremely Valuable Assets, or EVAs for short. Nothing like being told you’re just another covert asset to make you feel inferior, huh?

The lack of trust and respect makes shifters hide a lot of things from their employer. Some hide certain abilities, while others hide weaknesses. One of the things Ivy tries to hide is how much closer to an animal she can be in certain situations.

But as much as Ivy tries to hide it, all her secrets will come out with her new partner, Army Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan. Will he think she’s a freak, too? Or will Ivy’s inability to trust anyone destroy their partnership? Or maybe they’ll just get each other killed first.

He's a High-Octane Special Ops Pro

When Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan is chosen for an assignment with the Department of Covert Operations, he's stunned to find his new partner is a beautiful woman who looks like she couldn't hurt a fly, never mind take down a terrorist.

She's No Kitten

Ivy Halliwell isn't your average covert op. She's a feline shifter, and more dangerous than she looks. Her feline DNA means she can literally bring out the claws when things get dicey. She's worked with a string of hotheaded military guys who've underestimated her special skills in the past. But when she's partnered with special agent Donovan, a man sexy enough to make any girl purr, things begin to heat up. He doesn't think she's a freak-and he's smokin' hot. Soon they're facing a threat even greater than anyone imagines...and an animal magnetism impossible to ignore.

Landon frowned at the next obstacle—a thirty-foot solid wood wall. On a normal military confidence course, the same wall might be ten feet high. Tough to get over by yourself but doable for a two-person team. Nobody could get over this one, even with teamwork. No average human anyway.

Landon glanced at her. “I don’t suppose you can fly, can you?”

“Not quite” She hesitated, then added, “But I can climb it.”

He raised a brow. “Climb it? You’ve gotta be kidding me.” When she didn’t answer, he folded his arms across his chest. “This I’ve gotta see.”

Ivy’s pulse quickened. Part of the reason the DCO made them do the confidence course was to expose Landon to her true nature so he could recognize its value. Or cringe in revulsion. Time to see if he could handle it or would go running off for a psych evaluation.

Turning to face the wall, she let her fingernails extend until they were as long as those of the great cat with which she shared her DNA. Then she took a deep breath and ran toward the wall. Jumping onto it, she dug her claws into the wood and climbed hand over hand all the way to the top. Heart pounding, she peeked down at Landon, praying she wouldn’t find the disgust she’d seen so many times before.

"An absolutely perfect story-one I honestly couldn't put down. One of the best books I've read in years. I hope this is the beginning of a very long series, because I definitely want more of Paige Tyler's shifters." - Kate Douglas, author of the bestselling Wolf Tales and Spirit Wild series

"A wild, hot, and sexy ride from beginning to end! I loved it!" - Terry Spear, USA Today bestselling author of A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing

"Once I began, the outside world ceased to exist. It's exciting and fast paced." - Paranormal Kiss

"I love a good paranormal romance and this series has started off with a bang!" - Hopeless in Literature Reviews

Available Online and in Bookstores Everywhere

Buy Links:

Amazon, B&N, ARe, iTunes,Sourcebooks

Paige Tyler is a USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, romantic fiction. She and her very own military her (also knows as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education but decided to pursue her passion and write books and hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.

She is represented by Bob Mecoy.

Author Links:

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quote of the Day

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, May 23, 2014

PREDATOR by Janice Gable Bashman - Cover Reveal and Giveaway

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

PREDATOR by Janice Gable Bashman

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
"Predator is a fast-paced, creepy page-turner! Bashman had me at the opening sentence and she's still got me. I want more!"
Nancy Holder, New York Times Bestselling Author, The Rules
The hunt is on!

Sixteen-year-old Bree Sunderland must inject herself with an untested version of her father’s gene therapy to become a werewolf in order to stop a corrupt group of mercenaries from creating a team of unstoppable lycanthrope soldiers.

When Bree went with her scientist father to Ireland, she thought it would be a vacation to study bog bodies. She never expected to fall in love with a mysterious young Irishman and certainly never expected to become the kind of monster her father said only existed in nightmares. Dr. Sunderland discovers that lycanthropy was not a supernatural curse but rather a genetic mutation. When they return home, her dad continues his research, but the military wants to turn that research into a bio weapons program and rogue soldiers want to steal the research to turn themselves into unstoppable killing machines.

Bree’s boyfriend Liam surprises her with a visit to the United States, but there are darker surprises in store for both of them. As evil forces hunt those she loves, Bree must become an even more dangerous hunter to save them all.

Predator gives the werewolf legend a couple of new spins by introducing the Benandanti (an actual folkloric belief that certain families of Italy and Livonia were werewolves who fought against evil), as well as a modern scientific approach to mutation and the science of transgenics.
add to goodreads
Publication date: October 14 , 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Janice Gable Bashman
Janice Gable BashmanJanice Gable Bashman is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Wanted Undead or Alive and Predator. She is managing editor of the The Big Thrill (International Thriller Writers' ezine). Janice lives with her family in the Philadelphia area, where she at work on her next novel. Visit her at
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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(Winners will receive their book on release day)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Dark Duet by KaSonndra Leigh - Cover Reveal

The Dark Duet (A Musical Interlude, #3)
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
55,000 words
Release Date: June 24th, 2014

What does that word mean?
Kindness. Generosity... Love?
None of that applies to mine.
I think we should try vicious, corrupt...
I am not an innocent.
I do not believe in fate.
Revenge should have its moment to shine.
I’ve been a slave to circumstance...
A child of the shadows.
Now, I embrace the gloom and thrive inside it.
Revenge. Love.
Vengeance. Salvation.
The battle inside me rages on.
At least it does until one day when... I find her.
I do not understand.
I cannot allow myself to believe that...

There is light inside the darkness.                  

~Nikolai Belikov
** This novel contains mature content. It is intended for an audience at 18+ years of age.**
Add the Dark Duet to your to-read list on goodreads!

 Other Books in the Series

The Crescendo (The Musical Interlude, #2)
New Adult Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Release Date: May, 27th 2014

He taught her how to walk outside the line. She taught him how to leave the past behind. In the end, fate brought them both together. 
Six months ago, Erin Angelo was hired by Alek Dostov, the charismatic Maestro who hired her design firm, the same man who healed the wounds of her tragic past. 
In the highly anticipated, reader requested sequel to THE PRELUDE, Alek and Erin are preparing to embrace their new life and love for music while nurturing Erin’s blossoming singing career. But when a mysterious figure from Erin’s past walks back into her life, Alek and Erin’s belief that their love will conquer everything is put to the test. As Alek continues to struggle with the ghosts of his past and recent family troubles, Erin finds a way to reconnect with her fiancĂ©e. The couple set out on a tour of Italy, taking Alek’s music group to the next level. 
But Alek’s mother, Katerina, has other plans in mind. She orders the tour manager to go along with them. Now, they will face new challenges while dealing with the pressures of their careers. 
Passion, excitement, adventure, danger, and a Maestro that has more swagger than a rock star. THE CRESCENDO lifts you up to a high you won’t soon forget.

Add to your want-to-read list on goodreads:

The Official Musical Interlude Series Book Trailer:

The Prelude (The Musical Interlude #1)
An Amazon #1 International Bestseller!
Contemporary Romantic Suspense
New Cover Reveal

After finishing design school six months ago, Erin Angelo left her tragic past behind in the States and started a new life in Milan, Italy. Burying the grief, silencing her demons, and living a life without any real attachments has worked well for her so far. But when Erin secures her first real job as a budding clothing designer, her controlled world is shaken to its core by the mysteriously sexy director of the local symphony.
Alek Dostov is a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. He’s successful, hot, the son of a millionaire, and women all over the world flock to see one of his performances. For Alek, Erin represents the ultimate challenge: sexy, smart, and unaffected by his charms…or so she thinks. Just like Erin, Alek avoids attachments that leave him emotionally vulnerable. But unlike Erin, his pursuit of all things pleasurable is ruthless. 
Knowing how wary they both are concerning any kind of committed relationship, Alek finds a way to pursue Erin, satisfying the intense attraction between them without sacrificing the freedom they both enjoy. Sometimes the deepest passion brings out the darkest emotions. And Erin finds herself completely unprepared for the forbidden world of the young maestro and his truths and even his secrets, as she struggles to deal with her own.
Music, passion, betrayal and forbidden love spun together in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

**This novel contains mature situations and language. It is intended for an audience at 18+ years of age.**

An Aria In Venice (The Musical Interlude #1.5)
New Adult Contemporary Romance (Standalone)
99,000 words
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014

His goal…One night with the ballerina.
Her goal…To beat the player at his game.
The outcome...Something completely unexpected.

Adriana Dostov pegged Luca Martuccio from day one: gorgeous, talented, arrogant, a man who has had difficulty committing to one woman in the past. He is known in fashion circles as the player with a scandalous history. So when the girls in her ballet troupe suggest she gives up her virginity to him, she doesn't say no. But she’s not sure that a ‘yes’ is the right answer either. Yet, she can’t stop herself from making the offer... a one night stand in Venice.

Luca wanted feisty little Adriana the moment they first met - and he fully intends to have her, hence why he's agreed to accept her proposal. In the end, he'll get what he wants. No commitment. All sex.

But, as Luca discovers, there's more to the ballerina with the overbearing mother - and he can't help but care about the frightened girl behind those sad eyes.

Adriana discovers Luca isn't just walking sex on a stick - he has a wildly passionate side, a lost soul who has suffered just as much grief as her. And it could be, they're exactly what the other one needs. 
Purchase on Amazon:  
Add to your want-to-read list on goodreads:       
** This novel contains mature situations and language. It is intended for an audience at 18+ years of age.**

Coming Soon:
The Overture (Book 4 of the Musical Interlude Saga) - Release date August, 2014

About the Author

Author of the Lost Immortals Saga and the Seraphine Trilogy, I'm also a mother, blogger, reader, gardener, home renovator, and a slayer of Egyptian mummies in Tomb Raider. I believe in karma, coffee, and seriously wish that the producers of Xena would bring my favorite show ever back.

I was born in the race-car city of Charlotte, NC, and now live in the City of Alchemy and Medicine, NC, when I'm not hanging out in Bardonia (Lost Immortals). Most of my characters are based on people that I've met throughout my travels and adventures. People tend to stop and start conversations with me as if I've known them my entire life. Does this freak me out? Not really. My mom says that one day I'll get kidnapped by one of them. I told her that if it weren't for these lovely people then I wouldn't be able to create the stories that I do.

I have many favorite authors but there are some who truly rock my socks: Octavia Butler, Anne Rice, Kami Garcia, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz (on his good-book days), Stephen King (same as DK) Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Kostova, and so many more...

Some other common tidbits...hmm. I've watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun almost 200 times. Seriously, the way I see it is if I keep watching it enough, then suddenly the house that Diane Lane lives in will magically appear in my backyard. I know. I have a huge imagination!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nail That Opening - Overview of one panel from RT14 convention

Well, I'm back home from attending the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans the last few days. It was a blast and I'll do a separate post with pictures and general impressions.

Today, however, I wanted to outline some great points and advice from one of the panels: Nail That Opening - Lesson From Hollywood on Capturing Your Audience, which was run by Mallory Braus, Editor at Carina Press, and Elizabeth London, Editor at Ellora's Cave.

They talked about:

5 Things To Look For In An Opening

1. Engaging from the beginning with a strong, compelling character. Compelling and likable character may not be the same thing. For example, a book (or a movie) can open with a villain. But the character has to be interesting and compelling throughout the story. What can make a character more compelling? Idiosyncrasies are a great way to add to well-rounded personalities. Characters acting heroic and/or making sacrifices are usually compelling and inspire viewers/readers to keep following their story.

2. Setting the (correct) expectations. The opening has to set the tone and the genre of the work. It is the author's promise to the reader. The author then can play with how that expectation will be delivered, but it does have to be delivered by the end of the work.

3. Setting the atmosphere. Think of an opening in a movie. The atmosphere is often set by the music scores and the lighting effects. Creepy or suspenseful music will pull the viewer into the right feel and alert him to the type of the movie. An author does not have the luxury of including music or lighting effects in a book - so an author has to be a screenwriter, a music composer and a lighting director at the same time, all with words. The feel, the texture of the scene is all about relaying sensory details. Atmosphere is not just the setting, but how the characters experience and engage with their environment.

4. Introducing the dramatic question. It doesn't have to be a complicated question. It could be as simple as "Will they or won't they get together?" It can be an "what if" question. Once this question is answered, the book (or movie) is over.

5. Presenting the inciting incident. The hook where "normal" changes. It is especially effective to start from the character's "normal" and then have the inciting incident take them out of their comfort zone. The contrast between that norm and the change is what makes the story compelling. But the change has to happen quickly - first few scenes of a movie or the first chapter of a book. The change can be very drastic (the end of the world is coming) or something that will be a change only for the character (they have never been out of their tiny town, but now they have to go to Japan for a new job).

Monday, May 12, 2014

RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans - This Week!
On Wednesday morning I'm leaving for the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, and it's really exciting. I've been to a couple of smaller writers conventions in the past, but this is a biggie. I'm looking forward to attending a number of panels and workshops, as well as meeting some of wonderful on-line writer friends.

If you are in New Orleans for the convention, stop by Club RT on Thursday, May 15th, at 4pm and say hi to my writing partner Tina Moss and moi.

I'll do a post-convention recap next week, hopefully with a lot of pictures.

To find out more about the RT Convention, follow this link:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cover Reveal - Qualify by Vera Nazarian

Here's an exciting new cover reveal for Qualify, a YA sci-fi dystopian novel by Vera Nazarian


Qualify by Vera Nazarian
(The Atlantis Grail #1)
Publication date: May 25th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult

The year is 2047. An extinction-level asteroid is hurtling toward earth, and the descendents of ancient Atlantis have returned from the stars in their silver ships to offer humanity help.

But there’s a catch.

They can only take a tiny percent of the Earth’s population back to the colony planet Atlantis. And in order to be chosen, you must be a teen, you must be bright, talented, and athletic, and you must Qualify.

Sixteen-year-old Gwenevere Lark is determined not only to Qualify but to rescue her entire family.

Because there’s a loophole.

If you are good enough to Qualify, you are eligible to compete in the brutal games of the Atlantis Grail, which grants all winners the laurels, high tech luxuries, and full privileges of Atlantis Citizenship. And if you are in the Top Ten, then all your wildest wishes are granted… Such as curing your mother’s cancer.

There is only one problem.

Gwen Lark is known as a klutz and a nerd. While she’s a hotshot in classics, history, science, and languages, the closest she’s come to sports is a backyard pool and a skateboard.

This time she is in over her head, and in for a fight of her life, against impossible odds and world-class competition—including Logan Sangre, the most amazing guy in her class, the one she’s been crushing on, and who doesn’t seem to know she exists.

Because every other teen on Earth has the same idea.

You Qualify or you die.



VERA NAZARIAN is a two-time Nebula Award Nominee, award-winning artist, and member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a writer and reader with a penchant for moral fables and stories of intense wonder, true love, and intricacy.

She is the author of critically acclaimed novels DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE and LORDS OF RAINBOW, as well as the outrageous parodies MANSFIELD PARK AND MUMMIES and NORTHANGER ABBEY AND ANGELS AND DRAGONS, and most recently, PRIDE AND PLATYPUS: MR. DARCY'S DREADFUL SECRET in her humorous and surprisingly romantic Supernatural Jane Austen Series.

After many years in Los Angeles, Vera lives in a small town in Vermont, and uses her Armenian sense of humor and her Russian sense of suffering to bake conflicted pirozhki and make art.

Her official author website is

Author links: 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Quote of the Day

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” 

~ Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fade In by M. Mabie - Excerpt & Giveaway


Fade In by M. Mabie


Tatum Elliot is a successful writer on a hit television show, lives in an Upper East Side apartment and loves her life. She wouldn’t change a thing. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a choice. She's losing her sight. Tripping over her tongue and her heels, Tatum all too quickly realizes that the things which appeared so important before are slowly slipping away leaving room for what really matters. With the support of her best friends, family and colleagues, she begins to see that there’s much more to life… and herself. When Ben Harris enters her life as her new personal assistant, she can’t tell if it’s his good looks and charm that are working on her libido, or his kind and helpful nature working on her heart? Whatever it is, neither one of them can resist it. As her vision fades out, a world of love and happiness just might…Fade In. Fade In is a contemporary-romance novel about laughing through your tears and telling life to, quite frankly, “Suck it.” This novel contains sexual situations that the author may or may not have tried at home… for your safety, of course. Research is research.


"Tatum."  Hearing my name cross his lips in that sultry voice is more of a turn-on than I could have ever imagined and I need to shut it down.  "You looked really pretty this morning."
"I did?"
"Yep.  And I bet you look even better right now in bed." 
My pulse races.  How does he know I'm in bed?
He yawns, and that makes me yawn too, even though now I'm wide awake. 
"Thanks.  You weren't that bad to look at yourself.  What makes you think I'm in bed?"
"I don't know.  I was just guessing.  It is the middle of the night."  He pauses before adding, "And that's where I've been picturing you."
I blush.  "You're picturing me?  What am I wearing?"  I laugh to myself, thinking that the clichĂ© question is suppose to be "What are you wearing?"  But we're in his imagination and I'm eager to know what he keeps there.
He makes a humming sound that vibrates all the way through me.  "You really want to know?"
"Yes."  My one-word answer comes out slowly and wavers in and out, sounding like a question.
I hear the air hiss through his teeth before he says, "It isn't much.  Sleep well.  I'll see you in the morning."  Then he's gone before I even say goodnight or talk him further into a pay-by-the-minute type of conversation.
I won't bore you with the details, but my faithful device, Mr. Right, just didn't cut it tonight.   Maybe it's time for a new one.
Or new lots of things.

Author Bio:

M. Mabie lives in Illinois, NOT Chicago, with her rock-star husband. (True story.) She loves writing for Fifty5Cents Book Blog, which she owns and operates- at the moment quite poorly. She's a proud member of the Indie Author Romance Author Chicks writing group where she maintains a high standard of professionalism and lady-like maturity- or not. She cares about politics, but won’t discuss them in public. She uses the same fork at every meal, watches Wayne’s World while cleaning, and lets her dog sleep on her head. M. Mabie has never been accused of being tight lipped or shy. She’s THAT girl. (She doesn't usually speak in third-person, but surprisingly does when weirded-out about writing her bio.)


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Amazon Author Page:

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