Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: A Horse Named Joe by Lisa Loomis

About the Book:

Roni Dugan, a wealthy investment banker from Wall Street, life continues to unravel two years after the financial meltdown of 2008. An intriguing story, which follows her to a small island in the Bahamas, Green Turtle Cay. Can the island, a horse named Joe, and a shy Bahamian dock master, help her to see life differently? 
This novel will amuse and subject you to a whole other world and culture where friendship, love, and self discovery abound. 

About the Author:

Lisa Loomis writes because she loves to. Her stories are about the human condition: love, life, and everything in between (including sex, drugs, alcohol, and things just crazy enough to be true). Her stories are not predictable, conventional, or lacking in the messiness of life. She tries to extract the real emotion in any given situation in her characters, with a touch of humor.
Lisa Loomis was born in Oakland California and raised in San Jose until she was a sophomore in high school. Her father then took a job in the San Diego area where he moved the family to Escondido, California (or hickville as she called it). She finished high school at San Pasqual High then went to junior college at Palomar JC, ultimately graduating from San Diego State University with a BS in Finance.

Finding more BS than finance with the financial meltdown in 2008 she went back to her passion of writing. Her currently published novels can be seen on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

She now lives and writes in Park City, Utah. 

 My Review of the Book:

A Horse named Joe was an enjoyable read from start to finish.  I enjoyed the writing and the descriptions of the settings the author created.  I have never been to the Bahamas, but I had finished reading the book and could feel as though I had just been there myself.  I also loved the fact that even though the weather has been quite cool here for summer, I still got to experience some warmth within the text of A Horse Named Joe.

The characters of the book are fun and lovable and people one might think they would meet on a trip like this.  Without a doubt the author has the skill of making her characters believable!

I believe that everyone would be able to relate to this book in one way or another.  There are many lessons to be learned and a gentle reminder that everyone has obstacles within their life where they are tested and it is important to be brave and preserver.

Check out Lisa Loomis's site to Find out how to get yourself a copy and more information about the author

Views expressed are 100% my own and not influenced in anyway!  I was supplied a book for review purposes and not compensated for this post.


Behind the Scenes with Lisa Loomis

I love when I have a chance to learn more about the characters in a book.  If you are anything like I am when I read, I love to get lost within a book.  I love knowing everything about the characters and thought it would be fun if we could go behind the scenes with one of the characters of the book!  I hope you enjoy Lisa Loomis's guest post as much as I did!  Be sure to check out the additional posts about the book today as well!

"A Horse Named Joe"

Recently I had a review in which the reader stated she didn’t grasp the horse thing. Every reader is not going to get every book, I understand that, but if she didn’t grasp Joe she missed a whole lot of points about what he meant/showed Roni Dugan, the main character. When Roni first meets Joe in the middle of the road, she is frustrated by his presence there. He’s blocking her way and appears not to care. Even when she tries to shoo him away, he seems to disregard her. It’s not until Devin arrives that she comes to understand Joe doesn’t see so well. Once Devin gets the horse to move, Roni finds the whole encounter incredibly funny….something that wouldn’t happen to her in New York.
When she stumbles on Joe another day as she’s exploring, Roni meets his owner, Calvin, and Joe’s best friend, a pig named Bacon. Again Roni finds the humor, something that’s been missing from her life since the financial meltdown of 2008, when she lost her job at Lehman Brothers. She enjoys Calvin, can see she will like the people on the island, and finds the animals and Calvin’s attitude “trouble-free”.
Another day she runs across evidence of Joe by his “messes” in the street, as Devin had described them. Joe then becomes a topic of conversation with Devin, her husband back in New York, and new people she meets on Green Turtle Cay. She even sends her son a picture, which he makes the comment “Joe looked laid back and cool, the king of his job”. This makes her reflect on her own lost job, a job she’d let define her too much; who she was, and what she had. 
 She loves the fact that Joe is so independent; “It amused her that he got to roam free—the big horse and his tiny island”. It made her feel happy every time she saw him. During a point in the novel when she is reflecting about things she has lost, a second home, a boat, she comes to the conclusion that if she got another boat she’d name it Joe because he represents freedom to her. It becomes the norm to her, Joe in the road, Joe in other people’s yards, Joe messing up the roads as Devin said; Joe was able to do what he liked. 
 There is a funny encounter when Roni seeks Joe out at his home and a family from Idaho is there on the grass visiting him. They were told about Joe by the local grocer, making her realize Joe is sort of the island mascot. When her girlfriends come to the island and they meet Joe, Roni realizes deep down she wants to be like Joe, or really what he embodies, independence, freedom, no-worries.
As she is getting ready to leave the island she runs into Joe in the road again and goes to him to say good-bye. A man comes to an abrupt stop in his cart and rudely asks Roni to move her horse. “Well, Mr. Memphis, let me give you a little Green Turtle Cay 101. This is not my horse. This is Joe. He runs the island, goes where he wants, does what he wants, and he doesn’t particularly like men,” Roni said, leaning forward, challenging. “He bites them, so if I were you I would stay out of his way, not the other way around.”
Having been to Green Turtle myself several times, I felt the same way about Joe that my character Roni did. I loved catching glimpses of him. It tickled me when he’d be standing in someone else’s yard peacefully eating their grass, just like he was supposed to be there. And yes I ran into him in the road a time or two. I’m going back to Green Turtle over New Years with my family and I can only hope we will see Joe on several occasions!

Movie Review: Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gunn

My review: 

Having seen the trailers for this for a while and while my husband was excited to see this movie, I had no background knowledge of this gang and the short teasers didn't appeal the movie to me.  Although by the end of the movie, I left the theatre wanting to see the next instalment right away.  The combination of acting and animation was well received.  I brought my 7 year old along and this movie resonated with me but also with her.  Packed full of laughter, sadness, action, innuendo and quips kids may not understand but, grown ups will love.  Without a doubt Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy was a delight to watch!  I will be taking my husband to see this movie in the next week. 

I fully enjoyed and would give this movie a 5 out of 5!

Views expressed are 100% my own and not influenced in anyway.  Two Children and a Migraine was supplied tickets for review purposes only.

A Horse Named Joe by Lisa Loomis

Later today Two Children and a Migraine will be reviewing A Horse Named Joe.  Check out an excerpt of the book below and be sure to come back later today to check out our review of the book and guest post by the author!

Roni rounded a curve just outside of town and there a horse stood in the middle of the road. She slowed the golf cart to a stop, and the horse simply stared at her, not moving.excerpt:
“Shoo,” she said, waving her hands.
The horse blinked its eyes and did nothing. Roni looked around for a rider, but there was nothing but vegetation surrounding her; there was no one to help. She tried to remember what horses liked—sugar, carrots, Honeycrisp apples—none of which she had. Shit she thought. She pondered trying to squeeze the cart behind the horse, but she was afraid he might kick, damaging the cart or her or both. She waited, the horse looking at her and she at the horse. Who let their horse just wander about? she wondered. Had it escaped? Thrown its rider? What? She didn't see a saddle or bridle, nothing that gave her a clue.
She got out of the cart and waved her arms in the air.
“Come on, shoo, go on,” she coaxed.
The horse’s ears twitched, and he looked away from her, not moving. She sat back down on the cart seat and waited. She wanted to laugh. Here she was stuck in the road because of a horse, something that would never happen in New York. It would have never been a horse that delayed her getting someplace. She figured that surely the horse would get bored or hot or both and wander back to where it came from at some point, freeing up the road. Just then, it lifted its tail and pooped, big round plops of green poop forming a pile in the road.
“Nice,” she chuckled, shaking her head. “Out of all the open space around us, do it in the road.”
The horse’s ears moved again, signifying he could hear her voice. She thought maybe now that he’d done his duty, he would move on. The sound of a motor came from behind her, and she turned around to see a blue motor scooter coming towards her carrying a rider with a shiny, silver helmet, like a mirror. The Bahamanian man—dressed in a white T-shirt that made his skin look that much blacker, khaki pants, and dark brown shoes—pulled up beside her cart and stopped.
“I see ya met Joe,” he said in a thick Bahamian accent backed up by a smile.
Roni tried to decipher his words in her head.
“Say that again,” she asked.
Joe,” he said and pointed to the horse.
“Oh, is that his name? Joe? Joe, right?” Roni wrinkled her forehead in question.
“Dis Joe. Da hoss, he Joe.”
“Well, he didn’t introduce himself,” Roni teased.
The man got off his scooter, took off his helmet, and set it on his seat. Roni rested her forearms on the steering wheel of the cart, watching him. He walked up to the horse and gave it a smack on its hindquarter.
“Git outta da way, Joe,” he said.
The horse moved forward slightly and stopped, turning to look at the man.
“He ain' see ta good,” he said, his accent so thick Roni couldn’t understand him.
“What?” she asked, shaking her head.
“He eyes,” he said, pointing to his eyes, “ain' good.”
“Oh, he can’t see very well,” Roni clarified.
“Yez, he walk over de whole islan'; like he own it,” he said, giving the horse a harder smack. "Git, Joe."
This time Joe started walking and kept on going.
“He make da mess all da time,” the man said seriously, looking at the pile of dung.
Roni started to laugh, the laughter shaking her and she couldn’t stop it. The man turned toward her and watched. She tried to catch her breath.
“I’m sorry, it’s just so funny,” she laughed.
The man smiled at her and waited for her to stop laughing.
“Does Joe have a home?”
“Yez, he have a home, jes' don' always stay home,” he said with a sigh.
Roni laughed again; the whole scene was so comical to her. The horse pooping in the road, and then a rescuer she could hardly understand. Each time he spoke she tried to listen carefully so she could comprehend him, but he talked faster than a speed-reader.
“So he runs away from home,” Roni joked. “Does his owner know?”
“Yez, he know. Joe stubborn. He do wha' he like.”
 “I’m Roni, by the way, Roni Dugan,” she finally said, extending her hand towards him.
“Devin McNally,” he said stepping toward the cart and shking her hand.
Roni figured, from his earlier pronunciations, that it must be "Devin". His speech was so rapid and chipped it almost sounded like a foreign language. She would have guessed it to be if she didn’t already know from her previous trip to the Bahamas.
“Well, Devin,” she tested, “nice to meet you.”
He didn’t try and correct her, so she knew she had his name right.
“Roni?” he repeated her name, making it sound like "macaroni".
“Rah-nie,” she sounded out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: Bitter Chocolate by Dawn Greenfield Ireland

  • File Size: 2171 KB
  • Print Length: 405 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Artistic Origins Inc (June 2, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00KQ6C2JA

The characters you loved in Hot Chocolate are back with more escapades of life in Houston’s wealthy River Oaks.

Lila Mae is in a tizzy over the Chocolate Ball – a huge event that she and her sisters, Dorothea and Madge, host every year. But due to unusual circumstances, Dorothea and Madge dump everything in Lila Mae’s lap. If it weren’t for Julian Gillespie of Event Is King, the Chocolate Ball would have melted.

Bernie, the Alcott sisters’ 92-year old father, decides he wants his Bentley back. The sisters and Bambi are horrified. They hire Joseph’s cousin Chewie as Bernie’s new chauffeur.

Wolfram, Lila Mae’s new astrologer, gives clues of things to come. This leaves Lila Mae and her sidekick Amelia with brows furrowed.

On her day off, Amelia decides to bake a chocolate blueberry pie. She discovers she needs to make a grocery run. When she returns home, she discovers her kitchen door is slightly ajar. Arms loaded with groceries, she toes the door open.
Three things catch her attention: a vase of flowers on the kitchen island that was not there when she left the house, her marble rolling pin covered with blood… and a dead body on her kitchen floor.

Amelia’s eyes drift toward the dining room and beyond – is the house empty, or is there a murderer in the house? She backs up, turns and hurries outside. After setting the bags on the ground, she slips back into the kitchen and snaps a picture of the dead guy. Then she calls Detective Chance Walker, Lila Mae and finally… 9-1-1. 

My review: 

I became a fan with Hot Chocolate and have remained one.  I enjoyed the quiet moments of chatty talk. I also enjoyed the plot twists that kept the reader interested and involved.  The classic "who done it" and all the clues to solve it were entertaining.  I kept changing who I thought killed him and in the end I was still wrong but the story kept me involved.  Well done 4 out of 5.

About the author: 

Dawn Ireland is the author of two independent published award-winning books: The Puppy Baby Book (a fill-in-the-blanks baby book for anyone who adopts a puppy), and Mastering Your Money which she hopes to get into every high school and college across the country, and the Amazon Best Selling wickedly funny cozy mystery novel Hot Chocolate.

She’s been writing stories since attending summer camp around the age of seven. To date she has written five novels (one contemporary mystery and four science fiction), 15 screenplays (comedies, dramas, one horror, action adventure and science fiction) three short scripts and five reality TV concepts.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review & Giveaway: Isolation by Denise R. Stephenson


Publisher: Mill City Press (April 15, 2014)Category: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Political Thriller, Medical ThrillerISBN: 13: 978-1-62652-760-7Tour Dates: June 15-July 30, 2014Available in: Print and ebook, 383 Pages

Isolation depicts a bleak but recognizable future in which the fear of contagion reaches a fever pitch as a bacterial epidemic catapults the US into an apocalyptic crisis.
Touch is outlawed. Mothers like Maggie bind their infants' hands, terrified they might slip fingers into mouths. Gary, a Sterilizer, uses robots to scour the infected, avoiding all contact with human flesh. Trevor, the Chief Enforcer, watches, eager to report any and all infractions.
One inadvertent touch will change all of their lives.

My review:  

As a novel Isolation would be a good read for someone who likes to put down a book and come back later.  If you are a reader that prefers those types of novels this would be well received as new stories always started up.  The issue I had for myself was that it seemed like about ten different short stories that were all left so open ended that when I was wanting closure it was not there.  I would get involved in the very detailed world and characters, and the next chapter would skip 10 years ahead with a small side note at what had happened with a new ban or something or that sort.  As a reader who loves to get immersed in the book I read and who loves not wanting to put a book down, I found this a bit confusing so I would need that break to fully grasp what happened or I felt as though I missed something.

 However, the topic itself is very entertaining and likely could be our future.  It left me feeling very anxious of the apocalyptic reality this book seemed to portray as coming while using real situations on today's news like GMOs and hand sanitizers everywhere.   Although a scary topic, it is one that appears as if it can be our reality, sooner than later.

I do recommend getting a copy for yourself as the topic of the book is interesting and appears as well researched!

About the Author: Denise R. Stephenson 


a Rafflecopter giveaway Views expressed are 100% my own and have not been influenced in anyway. I was supplied a book for review purposes and not financially compensated in anyway.  

Getting to know the Author of Isolation: Denise R. Stephenson

How to Make Your Characters Believable

It’s all about the little things. Like a pat of butter. You know the kind. The tiny gold-
wrapped pat of butter you get in any mid-range restaurant in America. It's a single 
serving, or maybe a single ounce of butter. Sometimes it smooshes as you open it, 
liquefied butter oozing out. Other times it's cold and hard and smooshes your bread 

But when it's perfect, when the foil-lined paper pulls back easily and a third of the
pat slices cleanly away from the rest and then spreads smoothly onto the slice of
baguette, I delight in that butter. The delight is not only the sweet, salty, richness,
but also the apportionment. It's not that I'm attentive to having only one serving.
Rarely is it that. Rather, I like taking a little at a time and knowing there's more. It's
something I've done since childhood. It's not an OCD thing. I don't have to do it. But
there's some weird pleasure I derive from eating a favored food in small bits.

Now that I've revealed more than I ever should have about my inner workings, let
me point out that the smallest of details are key to believable characters. It's not that
they must teeter on the edge of pathology, though the intriguing ones sometimes
do, especially the antagonists. No, it's that the attention to human detail is crucial to
creating characters that aren't cardboard cutouts serving a plot.

It's possible to observe such detail in ourselves or in others. In private or in public.
It's possible to do this with intention, collecting tidbits of lives lived to place in

For me, it's been an accumulation. I've been observing as long as I can remember.
And evidently, remember I do. I've never kept these observations in a notebook. I
haven't catalogued them or arranged which ones go together. Yet when I'm writing,
I find that each character appears not just in actions, but in the delight of a pat of
butter, or the delicate balance of a favored long-stemmed wine glass, or even in a
preference to buy double-washed, bagged baby spinach.

As I wrote Isolation, characters appeared to me. No, that’s not it, I didn’t see them.
Rather, I imagined something done and then followed the one who done it. One of
the earliest examples was a character who had just become vegetarian. He wanted
the ingredients for a salad, most of which he found in the organic section of a co-
op. But when he went to select the spinach, it had large leaves which folded back
on themselves clutching dirt within dark green pockets. He wasn’t willing to wash,
rewash, and chop such leaves. He knew he wouldn’t be able to make that into a habit
after long days at work. So he went for the baby spinach in a bag, certain of its safety
since it was double-washed.

A detail drawn from my research was that the washing of pre-packaged vegetables
can introduce E. Coli contamination. But the details of how this man would purchase
and prepare his salad was filled with the details of human observation.

You won’t find this character in Isolation. He made it to the next-to-final draft with
his name changed and his story reduced. Then he was cut from the line-up, his
story too much like that of another, and less compelling in its slowness. He was a
believable character, maybe too much so, his life too droll for the speed needed to
keep readers reading.

So, there are believable characters and interesting ones. The characters we want in
good fiction must be both.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Getting to Know the Author of The Infinity Program

If you have not had a chance yet be sure to check out the review for The Infinity Program that is on the blog today!   I thought it would be great to learn a bit more about the author himself, Richard H. Hardy.  Check out his guest post today about selling his first novel!

Selling a First Novel

My first published novel was not really my first novel. Over the years I had made about a dozen
attempts but something always seemed to go wrong. I would write a hundred pages or so and
then just run out of steam. I would lose enthusiasm or would find that I had painted myself into
a corner. Or I would get near that perilous mid-point and be stymied when I saw the possible
directions of the story branch out into infinity.

Finally, back in the 1990s, I completed a novel. Since I was working full time in the IT field,
I used vacation time and holidays as I struggled to produce a masterpiece. I was determined to
create that mythical beast, “The Great American Novel”.

When I finished it, I soon realized that I had not written a great novel. In fact, it wasn’t even a
good novel. While the prose was adequate, the characters were not. The main POV character
was a passive victim of a storyline that was nothing more than a collection of incidents. I had
pursued the great white whale but had ended up with a white elephant.

But the failed novel helped me move forward. I had finally written an entire novel, all 300
pages. I had learned the hard way that the principle POV character must drive the story and that
a collection of incidents is not the same thing as a story. But most important of all I learned that
an unrealistic goal—writing “The Great American Novel”—was nothing but a millstone.

Despite all I learned with my first full novel, I still hit a couple of speed bumps on my second.
Once again I experienced a crisis at the middle of it. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities
in front of me, all the different paths that could be followed. But then I had an epiphany— the
middle of a novel is not so much about new plot twists; it’s about the development of what has
already been set in motion. Once I had that realization, I began to make progress again.

After finishing The Infinity Program, I thought the hard work was done. But I quickly learned
that writing a book was the easy part. Finding a publisher was what was really difficult. I wrote
countless query letters to mainstream publishers and agents in the U.S. and Canada. Much to my
dismay, I could not find anyone who would even look at it. After six months of this, I became
completely discouraged. I’m ashamed to say that I let the manuscript languish for nearly a year.

When I finally decided to market the book again, I concentrated on small, independent
publishers. I started off with queries to three different independents. I struck out with two of
them, but Camel Press, in Seattle Washington, expressed interest and asked to see my book in its
entirety. On 09/11/12 the book was accepted for publication by them. It was my own personal
9/11, but a joyous one.

My advice to anyone trying to publish a book is simple: Never give up!
Find out more about the author or buy your own copy here!

Book Review and #Giveaway: The Infinity Program by Richard H. Hardy


  • Publisher: Camel Press (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • Hardcover or Kindle: 250 pages
Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole. Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways—Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn’t know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer. Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office’s Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions. Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.

My Review:  While I am not an IT professional and there was often use of IT jargon I wasn't familiar with, I still understood the storyline.  I found the storyline highly entertaining and was able to finish this book quickly, and left wanting more.  I liked the multiple different plot twists going on and the quirkiness of Harry in contrast to Jons' normalcy.  I have met individuals with similar personalities to Harry and while difficult at times these people often do have superior focus on what they are doing in my opinion.  Richard captured this personality type perfectly.  I look forward to the next novel!

I would rate this novel 3 out of 5 for content.

About the Author: Richard H. Hardy

I worked for an IT company for twenty-six years.  When I first started, the CEO of the company warned me about the programmers, "Watch out for these guys.  They're the orneriest bunch of people in the world!"

While there was some truth in what he said, I soon learned that I not only respected the programmers, I liked them too!  I saw them blow up and walk out the door over a point of logic and react to criticism like a mother who had just been told that she had an ugly baby. I saw them working 36 hours straight, absolutely ecstatic when they had a breakthrough, or banging their heads against their desks when they failed.  They were passionate, intense, and larger than life.

I decided to write a novel about people like these.  Not the same people, but imaginary characters filled with intense passion and bubbling over with that odd mix of logic and irrationality.  I called the book The Infinity Program.  It was published by the Camel Press on April 1, 2014.  It's about a systems programmer who meets his ultimate challenge when he encounters a sixty million year old alien information system.

Looking to buy a copy for yourself?  Check out Richard's website!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All opinions are 100% my own and not influenced in anyway.  I received a book for purpose of review and was not compensated for this post.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review & #Giveaway: Aqua Alaskan Nights by Amanada S. Jones

After losing her job, Hayley struggles to make ends meet and allows her career status to define her. She finds inspiration in successful photographer Trevor Tott, but their professional aspirations clash when she experiences his questionable ethics along with unwanted advances from her overbearing boss. With the help of the ship's crew, stunning Alaskan backdrops and a leap of faith, they might find business can be mixed with pleasure.
With cameos from favourite Aqua characters Harry and Casey, Amanda Jones weaves a plot that keeps the pages turning. 

Love happens on The Aqua… 

Have you jumped in yet? The Aqua series is the ongoing story of the cruise ship Aqua, where crew members such as Chef Amber and Captain Hallmann appear frequently, and other favourites, such as Harry and Casey, make cameo appearances. With each book in the series, the familiar characters and their stories grow and weave cleverly together. You’ll meet Hayley and Trevor again in books for the upcoming Alaskan and Caribbean series as well. Read along the entire series to get to know and understand the cruise ship, its passengers and regular crew members.

My Review:

Aqua Alaskan Nights is the first book I have read in the series and the first book by Amanda S. Jones.  It did not dissapoint and  I found it was an entertaining read.  If you are looking for a new author to read or if you love reading series then I think I have a perfect match for you.  Having never been on a cruise ship before it was fun to escape for a bit with Hayley and experience Alaska through the authors descriptive words!  One thing I most definitely did learn about myself is that I am soooo thankful I have never had a boss like Hayley's.

Author Bio:
Romance author, Amanda S. Jones, loves travel, chocolate and red wine. You'll find all of these elements in the books she writes! Her first romance series, “Aqua” takes place on the cruise ship, Aqua, a slow-burning pleasure dome of food and attraction that spurs the reader's imagination. Each book has exotic locations, sumptuous foods, seduction, enticement and true love, so open the pages and step aboard to see what's in store for characters with the help of the ship's crew, a romantic destination and a leap of faith.

If you're interested in updates on Amanda and her book series, sign up for the Aqua Club newsletter on her website!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was supplied a book for review purposes and not compensated for this post.  All views expressed are 100% my own  and not influenced in anyway.

Your Chance to Experience Aqua Alaskan Nights

 Late today the review for the latest book will be up, but in the mean time why not check out an excerpt from the book and grab a copy for yourself!

HAYLEY CAUGHT her hat as a strong breeze blew onto the deck. She shoved the brim in her pocket, pulled her red curls into a ponytail and kept her eye on the camera screen as an iceberg floated down the glacier-carved fjord. The sun bounced off the blue glass as it bobbed in the sea, the summer light shimmering as if the water was a celestial globe. She pressed the shutter release but by the time the camera processed the picture and took the photo, the image was blurry. Why did she ever think of doing this?
Minutes earlier the glacier had released the clear blue ice with a sound louder than a cannon blast. She had watched in awe as it calved and cascaded into the thin arm of the bay, pushing water onto the glacial plateau, rocking the smaller ice pieces around it. An iceberg had been born before her eyes.
Hayley looked toward the maze of islands and coves that stretched along the Inside Passage. These were the moments she lived for - the raw beauty of the wilderness stirred a longing deep inside of her each time she stood in its midst. To her, nature was a kindred spirit and since she was a teen, shed lived to protect it, from picketing at zoos to chaining herself to trees to protest against clear-cuts. That passion had led her to investigative reporting and she had covered the environment beat ever since.
She turned back to her camera. She had been in such awe of the moment, that she missed taking a photo and now struggled to capture the iceberg in some fashion. Words were her ability, to describe a moment rather than take a static image, but her prose wasnt valued anymore. In the last round of cuts at the newspaper, her job landed on the chopping block. They no longer needed an environmental reporter - the stories from the wire were good enough.
To her dismay, the only job she could land was in public relations - she had crossed to the other side. And of all things, she was assigned a cruise ship company. Not only had she left her meaningful beat behind, she was now covering luxury travel, far from the world she had vowed to protect. Hayley spent years journeying to destinations, uncovering a story, or highlighting an area with natural heritage features, but in her new PR position she had an endless laundry list of tasks: photograph daily scenic shots, attend the workshops, interview the crew, plan the media trip with the photo workshop leader.
While her client was dining with the captain, she was running all over the ship to deliver the requested photos on time. And worse was, she didnt have a creative eye. Some people could write music, others could dance to any beat, and photographers could capture a moment in one single image. She never could and always relied on publicity photos for her articles.
Yet she needed the job. She had a mortgage, car payments and college debt to pay. She had to hold onto the position at least until she found something better.
What made it worse was the client. Blake Harrison. The name already sounded harsh. He made it seem as if the free cruise was a big perk, yet with the workload she wouldnt get much time to relax. On top of it, he didnt cover any expenses and only dangled the carrot of a one-year contract if the cruise went well. She had to cobble together the money for the plane ticket to Vancouver and didnt have much left over for a good camera. She had bought a cheap digital hoping it would do the job. She spent the first few days learning how to use it and then realized its deficiencies. It was slow in capturing images no matter what speed she set it for - how would she ever get the wildlife pictures she needed? And she never knew she had a shaky hand - all the years she wrote for the paper, if she used a camera, it was their top of the line models that had an image stabilization feature.
She looked over to the man on her right. He had more than one camera body, a large format camera in his hand and then a Nikon with a telephoto slung over his shoulder. After so many years of holding down a steady job, one in which she won awards, it was hard to believe that she was starting over. Her life had been set, and then the entire global economy got turned on its side and her industry took the biggest fall. At times it seemed her life was coming apart and there was no way she could hold it together. It was at moments like this that she felt tears building up, and she pressed her lips together to fight them off. It was so unprofessional, in the middle of strangers on the deck of a ship, on a work assignment, but lately she couldnt control her emotions. She had dipped into her savings and was at the brink of financial collapse, not knowing where she would live or get health insurance from. The pressure month after month had become too much and she worried how she would cobble her life together.
She looked back to the sea, where the iceberg had turned exposing a large gap in the shape of a heart. Two thin arms of ice reached out to form an arch above the turquoise water. She felt small in the presence of these large cities of ice, these mountains that folded into the distance. It made her life and her problems seem inconsequential in the grander scheme of things.
The glacier was built one snowflake at a time, over thousands of years and it had now come to the end of its lifecycle, gracefully floating to whatever awaited it. Mammoth next to the ship, but the size of an ice cube when it reached the open ocean, it was changing, sliding to the edge, holding on, and then breaking, tumbling into the sea, sloshing about till it found solid footing in a new environment.
How unlike this piece of ice she herself was. It might float for years, enduring elements as it traveled along the coastline. It would eventually melt, bit by bit, erode and be forgotten. Would her life be much different? In time, her work would be cast aside, buried in cyberspace, nullified among more timely articles. Nor did her life matter to anyone but herself and her cat. She would be forgotten.
This is why she found solace in nature. It talked to her without a word. Thoughts slipped into her mind and found a home, made sense. There were times, in fact, that she found she was more interconnected with nature than people.
Hayley dropped her chin into the wide collar on her jacket and turned back to her camera bag. She pulled out an old tripod and started extending the legs. It was the one good thing about this cruise - when she was out in nature, she forgot the rest of her life. Even if she was stuck behind a camera lens for some of the next two weeks, she was still close to the one element that soothed her.
Dont bother setting up your tripod.
The voice pulled Hayley out of her thoughts and she looked toward the man with broad shoulders and a pointy face. I always use one.
Youve never shot on a ship before.
Of course I have, she lied, fumbling with the tripod legs splayed on the deck. She was in a time crunch to get a shot of the ice slab before the ship turned.
Its a moving platform.
Ive got lots of space, she said curtly. She looked beyond him, toward the fjord that stretched into the distance, then at his long lens and bulky camera bag. Perhaps he did know something.
True but youll be buffeted from the wind. He pointed his chin toward the fast-moving clouds, his windbreaker billowing from the breeze. It will be useless.
I have an anchor, she said sharply and hung her bag to the center post. She walked toward the other end of the deck to scout a scenic shot.
Dont leave your camera unattended.
She didnt have time to be interrupted - she had to get a good image and deliver it to her client in an hour. She threw her arms out toward the water surrounding them. What? Someones going to run off with it?
I never leave my camera unattended. He wrapped his long fingers around the body of his camera. Its too expensive.
Never say never.
He paused for a moment. At the top of his head, a small patch of bald skin glistened in the afternoon sun that poured over the mountainous coast. I never leave my camera.
She rolled her green eyes. The man irritated her but the scenery was so beautiful that she didnt want to leave the deck and miss something.
He walked toward her, then dug around in his bag and handed her a camera. I used to shoot with this.
Its old.
But good quality.
He pushed his sunglasses onto his forehead, and showed her the camera settings. He had soft blue eyes, the color of the ice floating past them, and his long face led to a warm smile. Then he handed the camera to her. Go get that iceberg.

HAYLEYS PONYTAIL bobbed from side to side as she walked toward the bow. Trevor watched her kneel next to her backpack and remove a filter. Even though she was tiny, her fiery curls gave her away from across the boat.
She rested her elbows on the railing and took a photo, then checked it in the viewfinder. A smile spread across her face and she turned to him with a thumbs-up. She walked further down the deck and took more pictures.
He knew the pressure of getting a good photo and could sense it a mile away. Besides, he had watched her for a while that afternoon. She seemed to be a perfectionist, muttering to herself and criticizing each shot she took. In time, she had stressed herself so much that it seemed nothing was working.
And then, the iceberg drifted by and she lowered her camera in awe. He heard her talk to it as if it were a human, and then she murmured over and over, Stay strong, and, as she did, her shoulders dropped. Trevor edged closer to her, drawn to the exclamation and the wonder in her expressions. She wasnt the only one susceptible to the iceberg - the lower deck was crowded the moment the iceberg calved with a loud boom, and when he looked down all he witnessed was a maze of hands pointing, and then the gasps and shouts. But among that chaos there was a sense of peace with this woman, as if she had stepped into a bubble of calm. She said, Stay strong one more time and at that moment, he felt a warmth spread through the palm of his hand. The unthinkable had happened to Trevor. The entire time the iceberg had drifted by, he hadnt taken one photo. Not one.
It seemed she had come to the realization at the same moment and fumbled with her camera. He focused his zoom lens and took a few photos, then turned back to her. It was then that he mentioned the tripod, and in doing so, seemed to pop her out of the magical bubble she was in. It didnt surprise him when she got defensive - perfectionists always did.
Trevor looked back toward the woman who now leaned her chin on the far railing, watching. He zipped up his bag and jotted down a note, then speared it on the hook of her tripods center post. It read: Play with the camera this afternoon. Ill see you around. -T
He hadnt signed his name - he wanted to leave her with an air of mystery.