Stacking the Shelves (9)

And we’re back! What better way could there be to get back into the swing of things than Stacking the Shelves? Not just any Stacking the Shelves (hosted by the estimable Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews) but with an extra-special shelf-stack.

I just got back from the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim, and I came back with the flu. So not only am I still coughing, I brought books back with me from the conference floor.

Earlier this week, I described ALA as BEA for librarians. And it is. BEA is the industry conference for publishing and book-selling. ALA is the industry conference for librarians. It just so happens that both conferences have a lot to do with promoting new and upcoming books, so the best way to do that is for the publishers to give away Advance Reading Copies of the books they want to push.

And we all want to get those books because we want to read them. We love books, or we would have found something else to do with our lives. Scoring the tallest pile of books, books we might not even want to read, just for the sake of the score, isn’t supposed to be the point of the exercise. I’ll be posting more on this topic later this week.

So I limited myself to the books I could carry and pack. I did hunt for the titles that my fellow book lovers specifically asked for last week, and found two: Throne of Glass and Outpost. I’ll be sending those on, and they’ll be reviewed on their blogs. But the rest you see here. Series I’ve followed, authors I love, and finally, a copy of John Scalzi’s Redshirts.

From NetGalley:
The Black Isle by Sandi Tan (ebook)
Advent by James Treadwell (ebook)
Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (ebook)
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke (ebook)

For Book Lovers Inc.:
West of Want (Hearts of the Anemoi #2) by Laura Kaye (ebook)

For Library Journal Review:
Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman (print ARC)

Picked up at ALA:
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (print ARC)
Still Life with Shape-Shifter by Sharon Shinn (print ARC)
An Apple for the Creature edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (print ARC)
Lord of Mountains (A Novel of the Change) by S.M. Stirling (print ARC)
City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley (print)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (print)
Redshirts by John Scalzi (print)
L.A. Theatre Works Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (full-cast audio adaptation)
L.A. Theatre Works Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (full-cast audio adaptation)
L.A. Theatre Works Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler (full-cast audio adaptation)

As always, I’m curious. What’s stacking your shelves? Or, since those of us in the U.S. have that lovely July 4th Holiday in the middle of the week, what are you planning to take off your shelf and read this holiday week?


Back on the Horse

After a week (a whole week) of flu-ishness. I will get back on the blogging horse tomorrow with the post-ALA edition of Stacking the Shelves.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to get back into a routine after a week of conference and trying (and failing!) to cough up a lung.

But life has to return back to normal. Thanks for bearing with me!

Interview with Jilllian Stone + Giveaway

I am so excited to welcome Jillian Stone to Reading Reality today to talk about her fantastic (review here) The Seduction of Phaeton Black and a little bit about her other Victorian series, The Gentleman of Scotland Yard. Phaeton Black has been on my wishlist forever, so I was thrilled to get a chance to ask Ms. Stone a few questions about this decadent and delicious steampunk paranormal series.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What does Jillian Stone do when she’s not writing?

My life, pretty much 24-7 writing and book promotion. Currently, I am writing an e-novella for The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series (Pocket Books) and this summer I will begin the last book in the Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator series for Kensington Brava.

Most of the time when a writer tackles, or re-tackles, the Whitechapel Murders (AKA the Ripper Killings), their detective solves the case. What made you decide to have Phaeton Black be linked to a previous failure, however unfairly?

The premise sets up Phaeton’s story as a misunderstood paranormal investigator. In the opening chapter the reader meets the one man at Scotland Yard who believes that Phaeton might have been onto something in the Whitechapel Murders, (before he was fired) and now there’s a second series of murders along the Strand. Could it be the Ripper again, or a new fiend? That’s all I’m telling!

Absinthe shows up, or drips down, in so much decadent Victoriana. What was the fascination with absinthe? What exactly IS absinthe, anyway?

Absinthe, or the green fairy, is a liquor distilled from herbs: anise, sweet fennel and wormwood. It gained its romantic reputation during the late Victorian period, and was a particular favorite of the Parisian artisan crowd. There is also a wonderful ritual to making the drink and a visible chemical reaction that takes place when the chilled water drips slowly into the glass and mixes with the absinthe. The effect of several glasses has been described as clear-headed or lucid drunkenness. Absinthe is Phaeton’s drink of preference and it suits his character perfectly. He also enjoys a good single malt whiskey.

What attracted you to steampunk for your paranormal series instead of the usual contemporary setting?

I enjoy writing historicals and I liked the idea of combining a few genres, paranormal and steampunk romance with a Byronic antihero character (occult detective). The book also has a few erotic love scenes, so it really covers a lot of subgenres! In The Moonstone and Miss Jones, the sequel to The Seduction of Phaeton Black, the historical characters do some dimensional time travel and explore contemporary London, which was fun to write.


If you were casting Phaeton Black, who would play the part?

Johnny Depp or Ben Barnes would be the closest to Phaeton in terms of looks. Personality wise, Phaeton is a libertine, somewhat brooding character, who can be very funny at times. He is a magnetic force throughout the story.

Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

Both. I wrote a seven or eight page synopsis for The Seduction of Phaeton Black and then adjusted the story as it developed.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

All the time.  Sometimes I have to beat them back with a stick, other times I let them take me to a new, interesting place.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

I have always loved reading for pleasure, back as far as I can remember, whether I was being read to by my parents or reading to myself.

What was the first moment you knew you wanted to write?

I flirted with the idea of writing for years but never applied myself to learning the craft and business until the last five or six years.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

I think that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was one of my more recent influences, along with Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Just read them over and over. Neither book is perfectly written, so that should tell you something. It’s not about perfection or how lovely you can turn a phrase, it’s all about the story.

Can you tell us a little bit about your future projects? Phaeton will be back, right?

Oh yes, it takes three books to completely straighten up Phaeton and even then…! In book #2, I’ve introduced a number of new eccentric characters (The Nightshades) as well as several interesting antiheroes. The relationship between Phaeton and America takes a few twists and turns in book #2 as well.

I saw on your website that you also have another Victorian romance series coming out. How do The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard compare to Phaeton Black?

Actually, the first book in the series is available now, An Affair with Mr. Kennedy (Pocket Books). This is my historical romantic suspense series, with a bit of James Bond Steampunk tossed in. The heroes are all detectives for Special Branch, Scotland Yard, who become involved with spirited, heroic young women. The books are full of action, adventure and romance. I have two more full length books coming out this fall and an e-novella for Pocket Star.

Coffee or Tea?

French Roast in the morning. Iced green tea during the day!

Great questions Marlene, thanks for having me!

And thank you so much for answering them! The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard sound every bit as intriguing as  Phaeton Black, even if they are based just slightly closer to the ground. (And that’s a bit of a hint about some of Phaeton’s adventures).

If you want to keep up with Jillian Stone, you can find her on her website or on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

If you want to find out about Phaeton’s adventures for yourself, you’ll have your chance if you enter the giveaway below.



The Key to Phaeton’s Heart steampunk necklace (designed by Ula Kapala and pictured at right)  and ten (10) print copies of The Seduction of Phaeton Black are being given away tour wide.

To enter the giveaway just fill out the Rafflecopter below.
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Sick As A Dog

I’ve always wondered why the cliche is “sick as a dog”. Being owned by cats, I can attest that cats “sick up” every bit as messily as dogs. At least for their size.

That being said, the blogger at Reading Reality, meaning me, came back from the American Library Association Conference sick as that proverbial canine.

Feels like the flu. You know the drill.

And since I love sharing, I’ve already given it to my husband. He still loves me anyway.

But that’s why there’s no bookish post today. We’ve been lounging on the couch watching DVDs. This is why I collect back seasons of TV shows I like.

We’ve blown through three seasons of NCIS so far. All puns intended.

Interview with Lilly Cain: Wild Woman and SFR Lover

Lilly Cain is here to celebrate the release of the third book in her fascinating science fiction romance Confederacy Treaty series, Undercover Alliance (review here). Ms. Cain has visited Reading Reality before. Her guest post on “Writing and Loving the Alien” gave me a chance to re-read and review Alien Revealed, the first book in the Confederacy Treaty series, and take a look at The Naked Truth again as well.

Take it away, Lilly!

So tell us a little bit about who Lilly Cain is when she’s not writing.

When I am not writing, I spend my time with my family—I have two daughters. I am a single mom, so I work hard writing and more recently, freelance editing. When playtime rolls around I like to relax by a campfire, roast marshmallows and sip vodka loaded lemonade, LOL. I have a cat; she’s evil but her nefarious deeds have slowed down to trying to sleep on my laptop and chew my proofs more than anything else.

Your blog says you’re a wild woman.  Is that only on the pages of your books, or does it have something to do with your real life?

Once upon a time it really was me. Now I remember it fondly (with the occasional backslide into a party – hey I don’t have the kids every weekend) but as you can see from the answer above, my wild side has slipped into the pages of my books more than anywhere else.

The Confederacy Treaty series is science fiction romance. What made you choose SFR as the venue for this series?

When I am plotting a new series I love to play what if and one day I was watching NCIS, and wondering what if the woman accused of terrorism was innocent?  What if she fell in love with one of the investigators? What if the explosion she was charged with causing actually happened in space? So love came first, then setting. 🙂  This was The Naked Truth. I wrote it first, but then realized there was another story that had to come first – Alien Revealed, the first meeting of an Inarrii alien and a human.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mother is a bigtime reader. And so was my grandmother. I used to look at them reading and pick up books of my own. Soon I’d read the entire contents of our small school library and was looking for more.

Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

My sisters perhaps. One actually hated English class. I loved it. The other simply claimed not to be able to write and I believed her. I wrote papers for them both, and had fun doing it! Then I took my first creative writing class in high school and I had a teacher whom I both loved and despised. She kicked me out of class after we argued over the meaning of one of my own poems! Yet she could hold her own and I so respected that.

What was the first moment when you knew you wanted to write?

I’d finished University and was getting married. Or I thought I’d finished. I was told I was a credit short and had to finish via correspondence while living in Bermudawith my new husband. I didn’t have a job, knew no one and the course kept me sane. I knew then I wanted to write.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plan everything, or just let the story flow?

I usually write a synopsis – about a page per 10K words. It gives me a plan, or enough of one that I want to start writing. Everything else is in my head. Once, I tried using pictures, but it didn’t help, so I still with the simple outline (which becomes useful when pitching to editors) and try to work on it every day until it is done.

Do your characters sometimes take over the story and just run away with it?

Occasionally. What I find is that I am writing along and then all of a sudden, I am stuck. And I think what the heck happened? I pull out my synopsis and guess what? Wherever I am, it is not in the plan. The story, not necessarily the characters, has pushed off in a new direction. Then I usually need to either back track or write a new synopsis!

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

I don’t think there is any one singular book you should read. I suggest, if you want to write, you should read hundred of books. But for myself, I will never forget certain books. I fell in love with the worlds of Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Jean M. Auel, Isaac Asimov. Stephen King scared me. Nora Roberts soothed. Catherine Coulter intrigued me.  I can’t pick just one.

Speaking of science fiction, are you a fan of any science fiction series? Books, TV or movies?

I’m a Trekkie all the way! Every series, although I have my favorites. I also enjoyed Firefly, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica (old and new).

What’s your next project? Will there be any books set in the Confederacy Treaty universe?

I am actually writing one more for The Confederacy Treaty Series, currently called Honor Bound. It wraps up this particular series, but I love the Inarrii – the aliens in my series – so I imagine that they will pop up in another book or two. After that I am planning on something entirely different, some non sci-fi work as Lilly Cain.

Your blog says you love coffee and chocolate, so night-owl or (ugh) morning person?

LOL!!! Night person for sure, I am only forcibly a morning person while my kids are home.

I’m always so happy to meet a fellow Trekkie! Lilly, you named all my loves, Trek, Firefly, the Doctor, wow! Galactica reboot, yes, first, not so much. I’ll be looking forward to revisiting the Inarii in Honor Bound.

Thanks so much for answering all my geeky questions.

Undercover Alliance

One of the neat things about genres like science fiction romance is that the author gets to use the science fiction part of the blend to “play” with or comment on some of the aspects of the human experience from a slightly different perspective.

Undercover Alliance by Lilly Cain lives up to its claim of being erotic science fiction romance. And it does a very good job of it, too!

But the alien race in her Confederacy Treaty series, the Inarrii, are not merely empathic, they literally require sexual healing as a means of processing tension and staying sane. Their bodies, although very similar to humans. are covering in l’inar, lines of nerve endings that convey and express pleasure, pain, stress and every emotion.

Undercover Alliance is the story of an Inarrii woman, a warrior named Sarina. Her l’inar were permanently damaged in battle, but she survived. However, with her l’inar severed, everyone believes that she will eventually lose her sanity, because she cannot achieve the full mind-contact and sexual release that is needed for an Inarrii to de-stress and remain sane.

Sarina thinks she’d be fine if she could just keep working. She’s a trained warrior. She thinks if she keeps doing her job, eventually a battle will solve the problem for her. The enemy won’t mind if she’s damaged goods.

But her own people are afraid that she’ll go berserk and don’t trust her in a combat company. So they assign her as a bodyguard to a low-status human during the final stages of the Human-Confederacy Alliance treaty negotiations — while they wait for her to crack.

The only problem is that her supposedly low-status human charge isn’t. He’s an undercover Spaceforce Security agent sent to make sure that the treaty does get signed. There are both human terrorists and alien Raveners out to break the alliance before it begins.

And John Norton absolutely hates pretending to be a bureaucrat. But not quite as much as he hates having to even let it look like he’s letting someone else handle his security. He’s used to working strictly alone. No partners.

It’s only in the silence of his own mind that he can think about how much he really wants to be in charge of everything…including his strong and beautiful bodyguard. It astonishes, and delights him, when she reads his thoughts enough to decide that maybe they can try being in charge of each other. Or take turns. Or all of the above.

Then someone tries to blow up their section of the ship. And only their section of the ship. Along with John’s cover story. While they are fleeing from marauders and fighting for their lives, John and Sarina discover that the moments between life and death are a great time to reach past the broken places for something wonderful.

They’re just not sure if they can hang on once the shooting stops.

Escape Rating B+Undercover Alliance is the third book in Cain’s Confederacy Treaty series, after Alien Revealed and The Naked Truth. The series keeps getting better.

Undercover Alliance reveals a bit more of the world behind the story, and I enjoy seeing how they get where they are. Unfortunately, not everyone on Earth would welcome an alliance. There would be terrorists, damn it. Whatever we do, someone is always against it.

The Raveners remind me a bit of the Reavers from Firefly. I don’t think they’re that bad, but the name is close. There are always the good guys and the bad guys. And politics. Undercover Alliance has the political story in the background, making sure the treaty gets signed.

We also see that the Inarrii are just different from humans. Some of those differences are physical, not just the l’inar, but also that they are stronger, see better in low light, have better hearing. But also their society works differently. And it should. They aren’t human.

I hope there are more books in this universe. I want to see what happens next. Now that the treaty is signed, do the Raveners come in force?


Everybody’s Wishlist

As you read this, I am probably standing, no, make that searching, the exhibit hall floor of the American Library Association Conference, trying to find hunting down last minute ARCs.

You see, the ALA exhibits are kind of like BEA for librarians. That’s not all ALA is, but that’s definitely part of what ALA is. And on Monday morning, as the exhibitors are starting to pack up their booths, that’s definitely what ALA is. Miles and miles of books.

My kind of place.

Since I was going to send myself a box (or two) of books from the conference, I asked some non-conference going book-loving friends if there was anything they wanted me to look for, you know, while I was in the neighborhood.

The Advance Reading Copy neighborhood, that is.

Even though we are book bloggers, and we get ARCs, there are still some books we’re all chomping at the bit to get, just that teeny, tiny bit ahead. If we can. If there’s a chance.

Here’s the “shopping list” my book loving friends sent me with.

Endgame by Ann Aguirre (Ace)
Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway (Berkley)
Temptation’s Edge by Eve Berlin (Berkley)
The Space Between Us by Megan Hart  (HQN) (2 copies)
Burning Up by Anne Marsh (Kensington)
A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian Stone (Pocket)
Outpost by Ann Aguirre (Feiwel & Friends) (2 copies)
Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout (Entangled)
Cursed by Jennifer Armentrout (Spencer Hill Press)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)
Riveted by Meljean Brook (Berkley)
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper (Pocket)
Trapped by Kevin Hearne (Random)
Into the Woods by Kim Harrison (Harper)
Cherished by Lauren Dane and Maya Banks (Berkley)
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (Ace)

I was offered someone’s firstborn for the Kim Harrison. I’m not…interested. I’d rather have the book. But it says something about how passionate we readers are about getting our hands on new books. Especially ahead of schedule.

Is there anything on this wishlist that you’re waiting for with the proverbial bated breath? What books are you on “pins and needles” about?


Sharing My Favorite Book Giveaway Hop

Sharing My Favorite Read Giveaway Hop is being hosted by Reading Romances!

I never can pick just one.

As part of the Share My Favorite Read Giveaway Hop, I was supposed to pick my favorite book, and share it.

My one and only? That’s my husband’s place in my life.

When it comes to books, not remotely possible to choose.

Favorites of different types, absolutely!

After all, I love steak and I love chocolate. But is one better than the other? Is one better than the other for what? There is nothing in the universe like chocolate. Maybe sex.

But chocolate does not take the place of an excellent filet mignon. It’s what you have after an excellent filet mignon. Or after a perfectly grilled hamburger. It depends on what I’m in the mood for.

So for flavors of favorites, let’s see what Marlene has in her stacks of books. This blog hop is organized by my friend Nat at Reading Romances, so the requirement was that all the books be romances.

No problem! There are plenty of flavors of romances. I did sneak one in where the opinion varies. I think of it as having a romantic undertone. Your mileage may vary.

(I want a drumroll in here. Consider it understood)

My favorite time-travel romance, of course, is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. If you are looking for the explanation, read my Lovestruck post.

Science fiction romance has always been a favorite, since the first dragon flew over Pern. But when it comes to authors that I recommend to people now for SFR, Two names come to mind. Well, three really, because two of them write together.

Linnea Sinclair’s Games of Command is still one of my favorite single-title SFR books. Either that or her Accidental Goddess. Everything is there, space travel, other worlds, kick-ass heroine, cyborgs, rebel alliance, evil empire. love story, the works.


If you like space opera sagas with mercantile empires and yummy love stories, you can’t go wrong with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe. Start with either Local Custom or Agent of Change. I started with Local Custom, and it really brought the SFR elements to the fore.

And my sneaker. By now, readers have figured out that I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes books. If the current number of  Holmes projects is any indication, I’m not the only one. Not only is Robert Downey, Jr. playing the great detective on the big screen (not his best role, I much prefer him as Iron Man), but there are not one, but two 21st century adaptations. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have captured the essentials of Holmes and Watson in the BBC’s Sherlock, and CBS is about to bring out Elementary, with Holmes and Dr. Joan Watson in modern-day Los Angeles.

Laurie R. King re-imagined Sherlock Holmes an entirely different way. In 1915, retired at 54, on the Sussex Downs, keeping bees, bored and suicidal. With Sherlock Holmes, bored and suicidal tended to go hand in hand. Or needle in arm. But in Ms. King’s version, someone tripped over Holmes with her nose in a copy of Virgil. A 15-year-old girl in need of rescuing. A female version of himself, born with the century. Mary Russell becomes his apprentice. She gives him a reason not to be bored. Eventually, very, very eventually, she becomes his wife. The first book, the story of her apprenticeship, is fittingly titled The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

This giveaway hop is all about Sharing Favorite Books, so this is how I’m going to share my favorite books with you. There’s a Rafflecopter below here. In it there’s a question. The question asks you to share your favorite book.

The lucky winner of the giveaway here at Reading Reality will get to choose from my favorite books. Any one of the books listed above, or any title I’ve given an A, A- or A+ Rating (under $10) since I started blogging. I want to share a book or ebook with you, so this is a US/International giveaway, as long as you can receive from Amazon or Book Depository or Baen Ebooks in the case of the Liaden Universe books)

Don’t forget to visit all the other hoppers! Everyone has lots of cool favorites to share and giveaway.
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Hop and enter the other giveaways!


Stacking the Shelves (8)

This is my shortest Stacking the Shelves post EVER. And there’s a really good reason for that. As you are reading this post, I am somewhere lost in the depths of the American Library Association Annual Conference.

Think of it as BEA for librarians. A booklover’s paradise. (Also endless agony of the feet. The exhibit floor is carpet over concrete. While you are hunting for ARCs, you forget. When you sit, your feet remind you. Usually in phrases with expletives.)

I’ll be sending books back to myself. A temporary post office or UPS store will be on the exhibit floor for just this purpose. (Very smart) So I tried to be good in advance, because I’ll be bad later.

From NetGalley:
Hidden Paradise by Janet Mullany
Blade Song by J.C. Daniels
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Forbidden (The Scandalous Women of the Ton #6) by Nicola Cornick

From Edelweiss:
The Lady Risks All by Stephanie Laurens

Purchased from Amazon:
Taste Me (Underbelly Chronicles #1) by Tamara Hogan

All books this week were ebooks, even the one I bought. Especially the one I bought. The Kindle version was on sale for 99 cents.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. See her site for the details about the meme.

Midsummer Blog Hop Giveaway!

Welcome to the Midsummer Blog Hop, sponsored by the SFR Brigade.  Woo-hoo!

As a blogger-member of the SFR Brigade, my mission, and I have decided to accept it (no apologies for trope mixing) is to promote science fiction romance in general, and today, the Midsummer Blog Hop in particular.

Isn’t it funny that there are LOTS of Winter Solstice stories, and not so many Summer Solstice stories? In the dead of winter, we’re all huddled around the campfire (metaphorically speaking), with plenty of time to tell stories.

In the height of summer, we’re too busy running around to sit and tell stories. There is one very famous mid-summer story. It’s a classic. But not, unfortunately, science fiction romance.

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of course. Definitely fantasy, and not science fiction. Darn.

Just because I can’t find an appropriate midsummer-themed science fiction romance doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of celebrating. After all, each new planet that an SFR writer creates is going to have its very own midsummer solstice. They aren’t all going to be on June 23.

Let’s just celebrate the one in our little corner of the galaxy with a giveaway, shall we? In addition to the Grand Prizes listed below, I will be giving away a US$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card to one commenter chosen at random from the folks who participate here at Reading Reality.

~~Giveaway Details~~

On Friday 22nd June (Pacific Time) the SFR Brigade will be holding its first ever Blog Hop to celebrate Midsummer. 36 fabulous science fiction romance authors will be telling you mystical or scientific stories related to the event, and they’ll each be giving away a prize – books, gift cards, swag bags…and lots more!

Plus there’s TWO GRAND PRIZES!

1st Prize – a Kindle Touch or Nook Touch
2nd Prize -a library of science fiction romance titles from over 20 authors (these will be mostly ebooks with one print anthology), and an Anabanana Gift Card.

All you need to do to enter is pop along to the blogs listed below and comment on as many as you want (only ONE comment per site will count as an entry). Each time you comment at a stop, you’ll earn one entry into the grand prize – so the more sites you visit, the greater your chances of winning. The winners will be drawn at random on the 24th June and announced on this site. The list of participating authors can be found below this post. Spread the news!