Discovering Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland

Once upon a time, my reading choices were limited to my favourite authors but since the purchase of my Kindle, I’ve discovered new-to-me authors. While romantic comedy and women’s fiction are still my number one choice, my reading tastes have broadened and become more eclectic. And IMO, one of my favourite parts of the reading experience is discovering a new-to-me author and then reading their backlist. To a diehard reader, this is better than chocolate.

So I’d like to share some of the books I’ve recently read and loved. First off is Hollowland by Amanda Hocking.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Amanda Hocking, she was unable to sell her books to traditional publishers so began to self-publish in April 2010. Since then, she has sold over a million copies of her books. In March 2011, she signed a four book deal with St. Martin’s Press and has gone on to have a book optioned for film and another one made into a graphic novel.

Hollowland is the first book I’ve read by this author and I’ll definitely be reading more. While I’d always intended to try one of Amanda’s books – she is, after all, a superstar in the self-publishing world – my Kindle is already filled with books that I haven’t yet had a chance to read. But the other day, when I received the Free Kindle Books & Kindle News email, I saw Hollowland on it. I immediately downloaded the book on to my Kindle.

My reading MO starts out with admiring the cover, reading through the reviews, acknowledgments, then finally delving into the opening lines of the book. Monday night, I started reading Hollowland and wow, does the story start out with a bang. To whet your appetite, here’s the first sentence:

“This is the way the world ends; not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

I’m halfway through the book and hope to finish it tonight. It’s that good. It’s the story of a nineteen year old girl’s quest to find her eight year old brother in the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic world that is filled with an army of flesh-eating zombies. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t enjoy carnage, Amanda Hocking has kept the unpleasant descriptions of zombie gore to a minimum.

If you’ve always wanted to try a book by Amanda Hocking but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, I highly recommend starting with this one. Last time I checked – just a few minutes ago – it was still free on the Amazon site.

I’m anxious to read the rest of the Hollowland series but see that book two hasn’t been released yet. It’s due out any day now but in the meantime, there’s Amanda’s My Blood Approves series to try.

So what new-to-you authors have you tried lately? And what books are high on your list of favourites?

(Originally published at Woman Unplugged.)



Wild Things, You Make My Heart Zing

We live on a tiny acreage on the outskirts of a small town on the Canadian prairies. Behind our property is miles of grain fields interspersed with huge patches of dense bush and a creek which meanders through it all. So when we have visitors of the four legged variety, it should come as no surprise and yet….

The other night, unable to sleep in our too warm house, I decided to slip outside, sit on the deck, and star gaze. Out the back door I went, the squeak of the hinges magnified by the silence of the night. As I closed the door and turned toward the yard, an enormous shape caught my attention.

My heart pounded in my chest. My legs vibrated with fear. I stood there frozen and eyed the creature staring back at me. It was only a moose but still, if it charged, would I be able to get back into the house before it cornered me on the deck and ate me?

(Yes, I know, moose are vegetarians but I’m a writer, hence I have a very vivid and exaggerated imagination.)

Unmoving, I stared at the moose. Unmoving, it stared back at me. Out the corner of my eye, something moved in the dark and I noticed a second moose just a few feet away from the deck where I stood. Silence swelled around us, thick with tension, fraught with the unspoken question … who would bolt first?

I did, of course, because I’m not only a few hundred pounds less than they are, but I’m also a bigger fraidy cat. I summoned the courage to unstick my feet from the deck floor and hightailed it back into the house where I flitted from window to window, checking out our visitors with the binoculars, trying to see them with only a sliver of moonlight shining on their huge bodies.

But then a third moose joined the first two and now that the humanly threat had vanished, they proceeded to consume the leaves from my roses and fruit trees, until finally they bedded down in the yard for the night. The next morning, they’d left behind proof of their presence, little piles of dark pellet turds all over the green grass.

Thanks for the thoughtful gifts, Wild Things.

Will they be back? As I write this post, I’m watching for them, wondering not if, but when they’ll return.  It’s not the first time a moose has wandered into the yard and so close to the house.

What wild creatures have you seen up close? What did you do and how did you react?

(Originally posted at Women Unplugged.)


My Love Affair With Book Covers

I fell in love with book covers in the 1980’s when Avon published the historical romances of Kathleen E Woodwiss, Shirley Busbee, Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Sutcliffe.  Today, cover art still fascinates me, whether it’s showcased in hardcover, paperback, or e-book form.  To see the beautiful cover art of the Women Unplugged authors, click here.

One of the most spellbinding covers I’ve recently seen is from the historical romance SECRETS OF A PROPER COUNTESS by Lecia Cornwall.  This intricate story involves a woman of breeding who stands to lose everything she holds dear, the incorrigible rogue who falls in love with her, and the masquerade ball where their secrets unfold. It’s a cover colored in hues of pinks and purples and blues and with one look, the reader knows this is going to be a romance reminiscent of the historical romances of old.

On the other side of the spectrum is FLEE by Ann Voss Peterson and J A Konrath. This is a high-octane spy thriller featuring an elite spy whose cover is blown. She has twenty-four hours to thwart a kidnapping, stop a psychopath, uncover the mystery of her past, and save the world from nuclear annihilation … all while dodging 10,000 bullets. This cover, with its heroine dancing across rooftops and a multitude of assassins within firing range, is as fast and furious as the story itself.

For inspiration, I have a tear-out advertisement featuring WHAT I DID FOR LOVE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips tacked on the wall in front of my desk. When a Hollywood actress is dumped by her movie star husband, what does she do but get caught up in a calamitous elopement with her detestable former co-star who is the dreamboat-from-hell. Before she knows it, she has a fake marriage, fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life. This cover, with its heroine (sans hero) in a beautiful white wedding dress, speaks of a woman’s journey to find happiness.

Since fun, humorous fiction is one of my favorite genres, I must include SPLITSVILLE.COM by Tonya Kappes. The heroine launches an online break up service where she works under an alias. When two of her clients end up dead, putting the future of her business venture on the line, she’s the first one on the trail of the killer. When I look at this cover, there’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to spend a lot of time smiling and laughing.

And from the young adult market is STATIC by Tawny Stokes. When a seventeen-year-old band groupie meets the lead singer of her favorite band, her dream turns into a nightmare. She’s changing, turning into something not quite human. With the help of the band’s roadie, she goes after the members of the band to destroy them. On this cover, the teenage girl in the funky clothes holding a guitar looks kickass and tough enough to take on any teenage boy who dares to threaten her.

So what book covers do you love the most? And what do the covers say to you about the story inside?

(Originally published at Women Unplugged.)



Tales From The Family Crypt

When my family gets together, the house is filled with laughter and joy and stories from our past. There’s one particular story which refuses to stay buried. It’s a tale of siblings at their worst and goes something like this:

First, let me introduce the characters in my tale: one very cool sixteen year older brother, fourteen year old Me who could’ve starred in Toby Keith’s song I Wanna Talk About Me, our eleven year old sister who would do anything her older siblings told her to do, and our four year old baby sister, who within the space of one minute could go from cute and cuddly to whiney and annoying as only a four year old child can do.

On a summer day off from school, with our parents away shopping, we played baseball in the backyard. Our baby sister was determined to join in but of course we wouldn’t let her. After much whining and begging, she finally threatened to run away.

With cruel glee, we grabbed mom’s kerchief, filled it with food, found an old broom handle and fashioned a hobo stick. We stuck one end of the stick in our sister’s chubby little hand, threw the other end over her shoulder, then shooshed her out the back gate.

Mad as can be, she stomped up the alley while we laughed and jeered and urged her on. But as she trudged further and further from home, her anger faded and doubts set in. Reaching the end of the alley, she had to make a decision – turn left or right. Continue on or stop.

She stopped. Nearly a full block away from the people she depended on the most, she stood with the hobo stick over her shoulder, alone and sobbing while we laughed at her. Eventually we took pity and brought her home but I think of that little girl now, scared to be so far from home, pushed away by the people she loved most.

Although it’s many years later, we still talk about this childhood moment and remember the laughter mixed with the cruelty. Our baby sister, who now has babies of her own, takes the teasing with grace and a smile – and gives us a jab or two back. Yet she holds no grudges … or perhaps she’s just biding her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to get even with her much older siblings, waiting until we’re in her care and too old to defend ourselves. Yeah, that’s the scenario I imagine, when that little girl finally has the opportunity for some payback.

What was the meanest thing you ever did to your sibling(s)? Or if you were nicer than my siblings and me, then feel free to share your favourite childhood stories from your family crypt.

(Originally published at Women Unplugged.)


Baby Biscuit Joy: Telling Stories With Fabric

I have a favourite sister-in-law. She’ll probably tell you she’s my only sister-in-law and while that’s true, I couldn’t ask for a better addition to our family. She’s intelligent – sometimes I need a thesaurus just to keep up to her – and funny and warm and kind.

Theresa is also one of the most creative people I know. Under the label Baby Biscuit Numbered Quilts,  she uses fabric as the medium to create art, like a painter uses paint or an author uses words.

“When putting together a Baby Biscuit Numbered Quilt, I select a palette for the interplay of colour, texture and pattern scale, cutting the fabrics into squares, pinning and stitching 160 squares to form 80 pockets, weighing fill to stuff the pockets, then closing them to create biscuits … little pillows of puffiness.

Why has Theresa chosen this labour-intensive craft as her creative outlet?

“There is the joy that flooded over me when I made my first biscuit quilt, more than 30 years ago, which has only intensified since I resumed with Quilt #7 in January of this year. It is the joy of total immersion in what I’m doing. I have so immersed myself in studying fabrics – juxtaposing texture, colour, pattern – that I now see or read their interplay as narrative. And even though each quilt is numbered  to reflect its uniqueness, I have discovered it also has a narrative and the story it tells has a name.”

Here’s Theresa to tell you about the stories in her Baby Biscuit Numbered Quilts.

The Personality of Baby Biscuit Quilts #7: PINK ZINGER
Baby Biscuit Quilts #7

“This quilt was made for a little girl I know so the foundation of the color scheme had to be pink. But the personality of the girl was not pastel. My search for fabrics took me to vibrant hues of pink patterned in diamonds and stylized florals. The pink paired itself to intense greens in paisley, stripes and dots. And the quilt came to be named Pink Zinger because the outstanding personality of its owner needed to be matched with a zinger of a quilt.”

The Philosophical Turn of Baby Biscuit Quilts #16: VERDIGRIS ET VERITE (Oxide and Truth)
Baby Biscuit Quilts #16

“I bought a fabric striped in shades of aqua and red to use as a piping strip. The colors reminded me of the patina of rust or metal oxide and the blood-red intensity associated with truth. Perhaps unpleasant to consider for a baby quilt but as I built the palette and worked with the fabrics, their color variations and patterns revealed a narrative. Truth is always contested and is always dependent on the interests at play in establishing its veracity. “


Truth may be overt or cloaked.

In different lights, truth takes on different meanings.

Truth can be maze-like, its core hidden at the centre, waiting to be found.

There can be half-truths.

Because truth shifts shape, it may need to be held in place.

“It was all there, waiting to be read. After I told this story to my daughter Erin, she said, “Mom, you need to write this down and include it with the quilt. You’re doing Biscuit Philosophy.”

The Puzzle of Baby Biscuit Quilts #17: CONNECT THE DOTS
Baby Biscuit Quilts #17

“I relinquish the solution to this puzzle reluctantly, but it’s fun, so I’ll let you in on the secret. Polka-dotted fabrics comprise the palette–at first glance, that is. What appears to be a teeny-weeny crimson dot on black background is actually an itsy-bitsy crimson diamond! And as with most things, all is not as it appears.”

To view select albums of Theresa’s Baby Biscuit Numbered Quilts, visit her Facebook page.

You may also contact Theresa at 

Now, take a look around your home or work area. If your favourite fabric could tell us about your personality, what would it say?

(Originally posted at Women Unplugged.)

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