Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review Friday - Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Book Review for: Pillars of the Earth
Written by: Ken Follet
New American Library/Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-451-22524-5
Avail as print & ebook
5 Stars

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

"Pillars of the Earth" is full of greed, ambition, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Set in the 1100's England during the troubled times of Stephen and Maud, their clash for the crown challenges the lives of the lower classes in unforeseen ways.

The story takes places over several decades. The novel opens with a woman cursing a knight, a monk, and a priest at the hanging of an innocent man, raising the reader's curiosity immediately. From there, the reader meets Tom Builder who is fired from a project. With no money, he can't support his family. His wife dies in childbirth and Tom abandons the child. Feeling bad, he goes to recover the baby only to find out the monks found him and are willing to raise it.

Prior Phillip takes over the crumbling Kingsbridge Cathedral and faces many obstacles. Percy Hamleigh, the local landowner, learns the local Earl is plotting against the king. His son, William, brings the traitor to light and eventually the Hamleighs are rewarded. Aliena, the Earl's daughter, fights with passion to obtain the castle stolen from her. Follet masterfully weaves the lives of Tom, Phillip, Percy, William and Aliena together against a backdrop of greed, war, betrayal and secrets. Will truth and love prove to be the pillars of the Earth that overcome the darkness of the soul?

Follett's writing style is a bit stilted at times, but as the story progresses, I became used to it. The plot is slow, but I learned that every event is succinctly linked to the last and there were times I had to really think about what had happened. In that regard, I really enjoyed how the book made me consider the plot and characters.

The characters were not only interesting, but compelling. Even the monks, who are men of God, have human failings. These characters will make the reader cry, laugh, smile and cuss.

Follett is a superb storyteller. Pillars of the Earth is an epic historical fiction that takes the reader to another time and place with ease. There's plenty of action, suspense, adventure and romance. The novel taps into primal, core emotions and will resonate long after the last page. While the novel took me several months to read, it was worth it. If you're a fan of historical fiction, I'd give Pillars of the Earth a try.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

California Thursday - Ansel Adams

Growing up in New Hampshire, I had no idea who Ansel Adams was, but I loved his photography. My favorite is "Monolith, the face of Half-Dome" and a winter picture, "Half Dome Apple Orchard." What I love about his photography was how detailed the picture was using black and white tones. The detail made me pause, whistle, and say "that's really cool." For me, "Monolith," is simply majestic, and "Apple Orchard" captures the beauty that I find in winter.

Now I knew a majority of his photography was taken in Yosemite, but silly me, I didn't realize he was a native Californian until this year when my son, Andrew, picked Ansel Adams as his wax museum project for school.

Andrew and I learned a lot together and now we both share a love of Adams' photography. His favorite is: "Mt. Williamson."

Ansel was born in San Francisco in 1902. Hyperactive, he was also a sickly kid. He had no patience for sports, but he loved being in nature. When he was 12, he taught himself piano and began grooming himself to become a professional piano player until his dad took him to Yosemite for the 1st time in 1916. His father also gave him a Kodak Brownie camera on the trip and Adams' love of photography was born.

In 1917, Adams joined the Sierra Club were he nurtured his sense of respect for nature. The Club's goal is to preserve nature's wonders. Adams fit right in and over the years was very active in the club.

He picked up photography and dark room techniques quickly. His 1st photos were published in 1921.

Adams did it all – he experimented with soft focus and etching, but he preferred a more realistic approach to his photography relying more on sharp focus, heightened contract, and precise exposure as well as expertise in the dark room.

In 1927, he took "Monolith" (my favorite). He also published his 1st portfolio: Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras.

In the 1930's, Adams expanded on his work, focusing on detailed close-ups and large forms. In 1931, the Smithsonian hosted his 1st solo museum exhibition. Most of the photos used in the show came from the high sierras.

In the 1940's during World War II, he went on several photographic assignments for the government. One included traveling to the Aleutians and taking pictures of secret Japanese installations.

In 1963, he released his 4th (and last) portfolio – What Majestic Word. The 1960's also saw major art galleries begin to exhibit his work.

In the 1970's Adams worked to reprint negatives from his vault to satisfy demand for his work. He did experiment with color, taking portraits mainly of landscapes and architecture. Adams didn't like color. He couldn't control the balance as well as a black and white photo and he found color distracting, but he does have some color prints.

Did you know? His photography "The Tetons and The Snake River" is one of 115 images on the Voyager spacecraft?

QUESTION AND GIVEAWAY: Adams took the first official portrait of a president. Who was the president?

Answer the question and leave your email. I'll pick a winner out of the right responses to receive a copy of my upcoming vintage release, "Journey of the Heart," set in 1946 Sonoma California.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Post: Must Read Romance Books for the Teenager

Teen romance novels are rarely just about romance — often, these novels are intertwined with action, adventure, deceit, or any number of other things. So when you are looking for the very best in teen romance novels, you might not necessarily find them in that particular section in your bookstore. Here area a few of the most popular and entertaining teen romance fictions of today:


The Twilight series is a good place to start. While there are heavy elements of the supernatural — vampires and shape shifters — this book is also very heavy on romance and love. The plot follows Bella Swan as the falls in love with a vampire Edward Cullen. She also has a thing for a shape-shifting wolf named Jacob Black. Soon Bella finds herself in peril as a rogue group of vampires marks her as a target, and Edward struggles to save the love of his life. This is the first part of a four part book series. The next is New Moon, which digs into the budding romance between Bella and Jacob. Eclipse is the third and sees a struggle for Bella to choose between her loves. The fourth is Breaking Dawn, and it allows readers into the marriage of Edward and Bella and the drama behind her becoming pregnant with a Halfling.

The Vampire Diaries

As a result, of course, of the Twilight series’ success, vampire novels are all the rage right now. So when looking into teen romance books, another popular vampire series will also emerge. The Vampire Diaries was a widely popular collection, much like Twilight. However in this story, Elena Gilbert struggles between her love for two brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore. While threats and drama abounds, offering a consistent page turner in every book, the real enticing aspect of this story is finding out who she ends up choosing and why.

The Hunger Games

Another book that you will find in teen romance, and which has recently captured the imaginations of young and old readers alike, is The Hunger Games series. This three-book set details a world in the future that features different districts of the country. Each year, a boy and girl are selected from each district to fight to the death in an arena of sorts. The romance is Katniss having to find out through all three books whether she is in love with her boyfriend/best friend Gale, her tribute partner Peeta, or if she is even capable of loving at all.

All in all, these novels lay out well over ten novels to get you started into the genre. If you want to find out where all the teen romance is, it is intermixed with a lot of the action and adventure books as well. These added plot points have caused all three of these novel sets to become widely popular media presentations. The Hunger Games is one of the top grossing movies of all time, and the same could be said about each of the Twilight films that have come out in theaters. Finally, The Vampire Diaries has inspired an incredible popular television show offering the same romantic struggle Elena Gilbert faces within the book.

Sheila Tribbs loves indulging her guilty pleasure — teen romance fiction — and she is a contributing author at Flower Delievery.Net

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The 7, 7, 7

Laurel Hawkes, Jillian Chantel and Melanie Atkins tagged me in their facebook posts, and I've been tagged a couple of other times on facebook, too. I think I'm ready to follow through. I'm taking the broader possibility of page 7 or 77.

1. Go to page 7 or 77 of your work in progress (or most recently completed novel).
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 other authors, Jude Urbanski
Maria Hammerblad
Shana Galen
Tami Dee
Diane Craver
Paula Martin
Cheryl Pierson

From The Secret Door, my WIP, I chose what's currently page 7, which will change once the editing is done, but for now here it is:

Meklau stood, a shard of glass embedded in his neck and blood pooled at his front paws. His eyes lost focus. Meklau's howl was low.

Zoltan stumbled off the main road and into the bushes, collapsing next to a tree. He heard the humans scatter forward.

"Bloody Hell!"
"Let's go!"

Zoltan couldn't make out the rest of what was said, but he heard an engine roar to

Have Fun, All!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome Guest Author - Ann Miller

Interview With Ann Lee Miller, Author of Kicking Eternity
Winner of First Place Long Contemporary in the Romance Writers of America Faith, Hope, and Love Contest

Note: Anyone who leaves a comment with an e-mail address (JaneReader[at]msn[dot]com) will receive a free e-book copy of Kicking Eternity. Those who don’t want to leave an e-mail may contact Ann for their free book at

STEPH: I don't know much about Kicking Eternity. What's it about?

ANN: Stuck in sleepy New Smyrna Beach one last summer, Raine socks away her camp pay checks, worries about her druggy brother, and ignores trouble: Cal Koomer. She’s a plane ticket away from teaching orphans in Africa, and not even Cal’s surfer six-pack and the chinks she spies in his rebel armor will derail her.

The artist in Cal begs to paint Raine’s ivory skin, high cheek bones, and internal sparklers behind her eyes, but falling for her would caterwaul him into his parents’ live. No thanks. The girl was self-righteous waiting to happen. Mom served sanctimony like vegetables, three servings a day, and he had a gut full.

Rec Director Drew taunts her with “Rainey” and calls her an enabler. He is so infernally there like a horsefly—till he buzzes back to his ex.

Raine’s brother tweaks. Her dream of Africa dies small deaths. Will she figure out what to fight for and what to free before it’s too late?

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

ANN: One year.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the story?

ANN: My daughter has had a passion to become a foreign missionary since she was in first grade. She just completed her junior year of college and is still headed for missions, probably to an orphanage in Peru. Also a close family friend fell in love with a young man and felt strongly that God told her to marry him. When the guy broke off the engagement, she was devastated on multiple levels. In Kicking Eternity the hero has to come to terms with the same dilemma.

STEPH: What's the theme of the novel?

ANN: Kicking Eternity is all about chasing dreams—our dreams, God’s dreams, and the mixed-up tangle of both.

STEPH: Raine is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weaknesses?

ANN: Raine is utterly committed to Jesus. She’s tenacious, self-sacrificing, and humble. But she’s pigheaded once she gets stuck on a course of action. She’s lonely, and sometimes she tries too hard to fit in.

STEPH: Drew is the hero. What does he find appealing about Raine?

ANN: Drew is attracted by Raine’s faith that matches his own. She’s gorgeous and doesn’t have a clue. They work together as if they’d done it all their lives. Teasing her becomes his favorite sport because she’s so easily flustered.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

ANN: Drew and Raine encounter each other or their footsteps on the beach every morning when they individually seek God. Drew worships with his guitar. Raine is attracted to Drew through his worship of God.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the story?

ANN: I traveled to New Smyrna Beach, even though I once lived there. I took lots of pictures and asked questions wherever I went. From home I researched on the internet.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

ANN: I have a Nook.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

ANN: I wrote my first draft of my debut novel fifteen years ago, but have been writing seriously for the past 10 years.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

ANN: I detest plotting, but consider it a necessary evil. I plot every scene for the whole book before I actually write the book. It takes… forever. My first two books were written without plotting. Going back through whole books to fix plot lines felt counterproductive.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state/country you live in.

ANN: I live in Arizona where rain comes from sprinklers. This time of year all the cacti are in bloom across the desert like an army of pencil-thin porcupines with bows in their hair. In the summer the thermometer can read 117 degrees. People say it’s a dry heat, but try sticking your head in the oven at 117 and see whether it feels hot to you. Phoenix is one magnificent hot flash from Mother’s Day to Halloween. But the entire population of Canada winters here, so sunshine has its fans.
Twitter @AnnLeeMiller
Facebook Author Page:


Barnes and Noble:

Bio: Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.

Book Blurb:
Fresh from college, Raine scores a teaching job at New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp. A crush on the camp rebel/art teacher threatens to derail her plans to teach orphans in Africa. The broody recreation director spots her brothers meth addiction and Raine's enabling. Raine believes she is helping her brother--until lives are threatened.


“Ann Lee Miller writes stories straight from the heart with characters who'll become friends, remaining with you long after you turn that final page. You won't want to miss Kicking Eternity!”
Jenny B. Jones, Author of the Katie Parker Production Series from Think and The Charmed Life Series, and other single titles from Thomas Nelson

“In Kicking Eternity, Ann Lee Miller masterfully weaves the delicate web of emotions experienced in that turbulent ‘twenty-something’ stage of life. Powerful family dynamics, intense loyalty challenges, and tender new loves find their niche in your heart as this story unfolds layer by lovely layer.”
Mesu Andrews, Author of Revell titles Love’s Sacred Song, and Love Amid the Ashes, which won the 2012 CBA Book of the Year, New Author Category

Thursday, June 21, 2012

CA Lighthouse Series - Battery Point, CA

I love exploring California's lighthouses – even if I haven't had a chance to visit one yet. ☺. I've discovered that a majority of lighthouses are in the San Francisco area, so for this adventure, I opted to visit Battery Point, in Crescent City, CA.

Crescent City is just a couple of miles south of the Oregon border. Sound familiar? When the recent 2011 Japanese Tsunami hit, Crescent City was struck with higher than normal waves that ripped out docks and swept a photographer out to sea.

For me, the most interesting part about a lighthouse is the history and Battery Point has several stories in it's past. In 1855, the ship, America, burned in the Crescent City harbor. 3 cannons were recovered and mounted on the northern entrance. The cannons were used in Crescent City's 4th of July celebration, earning the name Battery Point.

In May 1855, Congress set aside 15,000 dollars for the construction of the Battery Point lighthouse. It was built on a tiny islet connected to Battery Point by an isthmus at low tide. Due to the location, the lighthouse can only be accessed at low tide.

The lighthouse opened with a 4th order Fresnel Lens. (A Fresnel lens allows the construction of lenses of large aperture and short focal length without the mass and volume of material that would be required by a lens of conventional design. Compared to conventional bulky lenses, the Fresnel lens is much thinner, larger, and flatter, and captures more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing lighthouses to be visible over much greater distances.)

The first lighthouse keeper was Theophilis Magruder. His starting pay was $1,000, but when he received a 40% pay cut he resigned. (Author's Note: I'd quit too if I had a 40% pay cut!)

In 1953, the lighthouse became automated. The Del Norte Historical Society became involved and now the lighthouse is a museum. The lighthouse is also listed as a private aid to navigation and is still in use.

In March 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck in Alaska, triggering a tsunami. Waves raced southward, hitting up to 20 feet in Crescent City. Incredibly, the lighthouse received no damaged, but Crescent City suffered the most damage on the Pacific Coast.

Watch where you step! The lighthouse has a ghost that haunts the halls.

Interesting side note: Battery Point is the setting for 2 novels: "Walk Across the Sea," by Susan Fletcher, a historical YA fiction, and "The Lightkeeper's Daughter," by Colleen Coble, a 2010 inspirational romance.

Question: Have you visited a lighthouse? What did you like about it? Any stories you'd like to share?

References for this blog:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Character Interview with Mihai Sigmaringen from "The Wolf's Torment"

ABOUT THE WOLF'S TORMENT: It's 1865 in Moldavia, a country nestled against the shores of the Black Sea, and Crown Prince Mihai Sigmaringen returns after receiving an education in England. His best friend, Viktor Bacau joins him. Mihai is intent on modernizing his nation, but he's also a witch, and it's time he embraces his heritage. The tasks in front of him are many including getting married.

Lady Theresa von Kracken arrives in Constanta as Mihai's intended. Mihai has vowed not to fall in love again, but Theresa manages to break the battlements around his heart.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, Viktor is bitten by a werewolf. Viktor's transformation threatens everyone around him including his wife's safety and Mihai's happiness with Theresa. Viktor's bite is the wolf's torment.

Interviewer: Mihai, How did you find out you were a witch?

Mihai: I've always known. My mother was a very powerful witch who practiced white magic, but she was killed by a dark witch, Hecuba, when I was ten. I had no desire to explore this part of my heritage until recently.

Interviewer: How did your parents meet?

Mihai: When my father was the Crown Prince of Moldavia he met my mother while attending a grand ball in Wallachia. My mother was a gypsy witch, promised into servitude by her father to Hecuba. My mother did everything she could to avoid serving Hecuba and that night, she had run away from her father. The moment my father saw her, he knew she was the only woman for him. She was honest about her plight and he hid her, contriving a false royal identify for her and then marrying her.

Interviewer: What piqued your curiosity about your heritage?

Mihai: My dreams I shared with Theresa von Kracken sparked my interest, but I have to learn to protect my family.

Interviewer: And who might this Theresa be?

Jon Hensley circa 1985
inspiration for "Mihai"

Mihai: Theresa is my fiancée. She's very attractive and I enjoy spending time with her. She's a breath of fresh air, but I fear I'm not as attentive as I'd like to be. I care for her very much, but I need to find the right words to tell her.

Interviewer: Is Theresa a witch like you?

Mihai: She is, but she doesn't know she is. Her family is a royal witching family, but her father has decreed she's not to know about her heritage.

Interviewer: So, you're keeping secrets from your fiancée?

Mihai: I'm not happy about it, but I'm honoring my future father-in-law's request. The situation is complicated.

Interviewer: How is it complicated?

Mihai: My best friend, Viktor, is being stalked by a werewolf – and my sister, Sonia, is madly in love with him.

Interviewer: Sounds like you've got your hands full.

Mihai: Yes, and I must learn my lessons well –and quickly.

Interviewer: Who is giving you witching lessons?

Mihai: Theresa's sister, Beatrice.

Interviewer: Do you think your mother would be proud of you?

Mihai: There's never a time when my mother is far from my thoughts. I want to be the kind of witch she was and I hope I live up to those expectations.

Pen & Muse: "A complete werewolf story through and through, Burkhart does it again with an amazing cast of characters, entertaining dialogue and plot."

Long and Short, 4.5 Stars: Nominated for Long & Short's Book of the Week, NOV 2011. The Wolf’s Torment is certainly more than a story about a werewolf. There is quite a bit of depth in this multifaceted story of a family’s struggle with life, love and loss.

Reader's Favorites, 5 Stars: "The Wolf’s Torment has it all, witches, werewolves, a vampire, princess and prince. This is paranormal romance at its finest.

Joy Cagil, Amazon Reader, 5 Stars: This novel is not only a highly entertaining page-turner but also it boasts its author's mastery of fiction. I loved it."

Dina Hickman, Amazon Reader: "Stephanie creates the perfect blend of romance and suspense in her novel, "The Wolf's Torment."

Romance Reviews: 3 Stars: "I would highly recommend THE WOLF'S TORMENT. You will find it satisfying, even as it leaves you hungering for more."

Keena Kincaid, Amazon Review, 5 Stars: "Ancient heritage and modern technology collide in the dark, tense tale The Wolf's Torment by Stephanie Burkhart."

Mona Risk, Amazon Review: 5 Stars: "I enjoyed this book enormously and read it in one sitting."



Her voice was matter-of-fact, pricking at his faults, but damn if she wasn't beautiful in the firelight. The rest of his plans for the evening could wait.

He held up his glass. "Would you like a drink?"

"What is it?"


She clapped her hands and a smile tipped the corner of her lips. "I've never tried it, but it smells like it would be an interesting adventure."

He chuckled at her lightheartedness and went to the hidden bar, disguised as a closed shelf in the library walls, and removed a clean glass. He poured her the drink and gave it to her, his eyes sweeping over her face, probing her soul. Her emotions were an open book.

Jennifer Ferrin inspiration
for "Theresa"

She wanted him to touch her. She ached for it. She wanted him to drive the loneliness away. The thought of sharing a more intimate embrace with her was enticing. He held up his drink and they clicked glasses, sipping the amber liquid.

She didn't gag or choke, but swallowed hard and narrowed her eyes. "What a crisp adventure. I do believe it's warming my stomach."

He chuckled and held out his hand. She gave him the glass. He put it on the desk, then leaned against it again.

A burning curious look came into her eyes.

"Come here." His voice was raw and husky. She walked toward him slowly, her hips swaying.

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm sorry you were lonely."

She stopped in front of him and he lunged out and grabbed her waist, pulling her closer, settling her between his legs. Her body pressed against his and she put her hands on his chest.
For an instant, an intensity stole into her expression, an intensity he hadn't spotted before.

"I don't believe I've ever been this close to you."

"No, I don't believe you have either, but I rather enjoy it. I hope you do as well."

"Lent starts tomorrow."

"What do you say we do a little sinning tonight so we have something to be penitent for?"

Her face grew eager at the suggestion. Damn. His blood raced through his veins as his heart hammered in his chest. Desire for her overtook his senses. He had an intense awareness of her thrumming through his body.

"Such naughty thoughts, my Prince."

Desire smoldered in her eyes. He wanted to kindle that into a raging fire. For him alone. He claimed her sweet lips, crushing her against his body. She slid her hands up his chest and clutched his shoulders. Her body tensed, needing release. He deepened the kiss, refusing to let her escape. God, no, he refused to let his woman out of his arms. Mihai traced the soft fullness of her lips and she parted her mouth for him. Lord, her mouth was soft and sweet and giving. His tongue explored the recesses of her mouth, coaxing her to explore his.











Saturday, June 16, 2012

New England Saturday - A day at Hampton Beach

I remember when I was a young girl in the 1970's I'd get very excited when my parents told me the family was going to Hampton Beach. Mind you, the New Hampshire coastline is not long, (it's the shortest state coastline in the U.S.) but I think it was the simple ambience of going to the beach that I loved.

My family would leave in the morning after packing picnic/lunches, towels, umbrellas, and sun tan lotion – along with my pails and shovels. What made the day really special though is meeting up with my granny, grandpa, Auntie Sue and the rest of my family. I loved riding the waves (even though the water was always cold!) scouring the rocks for muscles, crabs, and lobsters, building sandcastles, and playing on the playgrounds. Hampton Beach is full of fond memories, so any chance I have to visit, I always try.

Once I left NH and joined the Army, I definitely missed visiting the ocean. There's something about the water that is beautiful and in that beauty, calming and peaceful.

I've been back a handful of times and while the beach hasn't changed much in it's look and appearance, it certainly has gotten busier.

The Hampton Beach Village District formed in 1907 with the goal of providing electricity to the summer tourists.

In 1988, the chamber of commerce organized the Hampton Beach seafood festival. It's held the weekend after Labor Day to extend the summer season. The event helps local non-profits and has earned "One of the top 100 events in North America."

The chamber of commerce also sponsors a sand sculpting competition. Established in 2011, the contest starts 15 June and lasts until 23 June this year.

There's a lot more stuff to do and if you're in the area, you can visit for more info.

The last time I went to Hampton Beach was August 2010. It was bittersweet. My sister and son, Andrew, were with me. Andrew's a California boy, so I think he was a little homesick. He dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean, but that was it – he didn't dare to go further. He thought the waves would suck him in. Maybe next time I'll get him on the rocks to go crab hunting.

Question for you: I'd love to hear about your favorite beach. Drop me a line and share your memories. I'll pick one lucky winner to receive a PDF copy of my free read, Moonlight Sonata.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review Friday - Chameleon's Shadow by Tami Dee

Book Review for: "Chameleon's Shadow"
Written by: Tami Dee
Desert Breeze Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-61252-178-7
Avail as: ebook only

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

Dee pens an exciting tale filled with adventure, betrayal, greed, and longing with "Chameleon's Shadow." Set in England during the 1620's, Lady Elizabetta Mitchell bears witness to her parents' murder. Will her heart grow cold in the cruel world or will she find a ray of hope with an unlikely benefactor?

The novel opens with young Elizabetta witnessing her parents' murder at the hands of her unscrupulous uncle. She has no choice but to run away and take her chances on the streets. Elizabetta's five-year-old brother, Nicolas, has also run away. Bruised and battered, she searches the shadows of Southwark, finding a moment of comfort in a stranger's strong arms. Soon, though, she's fending for herself and taken to a brothel. A Scottish laird, McClasky, saves her from a terrible fate and teaches her enough skills to get by on the tough streets.

Unfortunately, Elizabetta, now going by "Cricket," picks one pocket too many when she pilfers the Duke of Sussex's purse. She's forced to become his indentured servant where he trains the young woman to be one of England's chameleons. (spies) It's a tough life, but she adapts well. As the danger mounts, dare Elizabetta give her heart to the Duke's son knowing that if her activities are ever discovered, she'll be killed?

Having read several of Dee's previous novels, this one is one of her most endearing! She fashions a tale of taut suspense that heightens as the novel progresses. Dee paints vivid pictures with a good economy of words and brings a rich authenticity to the setting.

The rich characterization is Dee at her finest. Elizabetta has nothing when she loses her parents, but her courage, inner strength, and endurance, which sees her though some tough times. Will, the hero, makes a misstep, but is willing to face his mistakes instead of running away from them.

The novel is sweet for romance readers with Will and Elizabetta sharing a kiss or two. The story wraps the reader in a wonderful cacophony of emotion and won't let go until the last page. "Chameleon's Shadow" will make you believe in the power of love. If you enjoy historical romance filled with suspense and highly charged emotion, I highly recommend this story.

Publisher's Buy Link:'s-Shadow-Tami-Dee/Detail.bok

Amazon Buy Link:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

California Thursday - A Visit to Solvang, CA

About 2 hours north of where I live is Solvang, CA, a town in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley. For those who enjoy California wine, The Santa Ynez Valley is home to several fine wineries including Alexander and Wayne and Blackjack. (seen in the movie "Sideways.")

I love to visit Solvang for several reasons. In fact, these last couple of years, it's been a rare opportunity to have a night with my husband. We usually like to go around my birthday which falls around the first weekend of June.

Solvang is a town that captures Danish ambience with replicated facades, Danish cooking, and old-fashioned charm. For me, personally, its strikes a romantic chord in my heart. My husband and I were married in the Danish city of Nykobig, Denmark in 1991. And while Nykobig and Solvang are miles apart, both have an ambience that endears itself to us.

Since my husband enjoys camping, we usually camp out at the local RV park in nearby city of Buellton. After we set up, we head off to Los Olivos to visit the wine tasting rooms.

One of our favorite rooms is the Alexander and Wayne winery. They do a wonderful job on their reds. The Pinot is my husband's favorite, while I tend to enjoy the Cuvee Five, which is a blend in the French style. This year, I tried their chardonnay and found it enjoyable. I don't care for an "oaky" chardonnay, but this one was light on the oak with nice fruit flavors.

Then it was off to test some olive oil. Usually we arrive when the town is having an Olive & Jazz festival, but we missed it this year. We popped into Olive Hill and sampled the flavors, buying a bottle of the basil and garlic. Think I just found a new novelty gift.

We then headed over to the Hitching Post for a steak dinner. I had the filet mignon. It was a bit pricey, but a nice treat. The steakhouse next to the Hitching Post, AJ Spurs, was also seen in the movie "Sideways."

My husband and I loved that movie. We adore Paul Giamatti, who is a great character actor.

The next morning, we grilled our breakfast, packed up the 4Runner, and hung around Solving. I enjoyed a "Danish waffle" and coffee while Brent had a doubt chocolate delight pastry with his java.

We walked up to the Santa Ynez mission. I usually take a mass at the mission, but I didn't this trip, just opting for a stroll. The rose garden at the mission isn't what you might think of as a traditional garden, since its surrounded by desert rocks and cactus.

The Santa Ynez mission is part of the missions established by Father Junipero Sierra. It has a traditional mission façade. The missions of California helped to settle the state in the late 1700's, early 1800's.

Solvang itself was settled in 1911 by Danish colonists wanting to avoid the mid-western winters. The name means "sunny fields."

On 5 June 1960, Princess Margrethe of Denmark visited the city. She returned in 1976, now Queen of Denmark. In 2011, Solving celebrated its 100 year anniversary. The Queen's husband, Prince Hendrik dedicated Solvang's centennial Plaza on 11 June, which was also his 77th birthday.

Other interesting facts:

Cyclist Lance Armstrong trained for the Tour de France in the area around Solvang since it provides a variety of conditions similar to the French challenges.

There's a vintage motorcycle museum in Solvang with bikes from 1910 on up.

My husband and I found a charming little shop with a Christmas-all-year theme. We also stopped into the Thomas Kinkcaide art gallery. I was surprised to learn Kinkcaide had painted a lot of Disney motifs, but my favorite was a portrait of Venice and St. Mark's Cathedral.

For me, Solvang reminds me of Denmark and my fond memories of Europe. Inspiration can be found everywhere. You go from the wineries, to the Olive tastings, to the mission, to the town itself and ideas just grow. Solvang is low-key, quaint, and charming. It's a nice getaway. Maybe next year I'll get 2 days to explore instead of one. ☺

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

News from the Publishing World - June 2012

Kobo Vox, price: 179.00

I haven't had a chance to compile my "News from the Publishing World" in a while, but I'm back. Enjoy!

** Ebook Retailer Kobo unveiled its "Kobo Writing Life" at Book Expo America. "Kobo Writing Life" is a self-publishing platform similar to Amazon's. (KDP Select) The new service will use the epub format and offers independent authors 70% of royalties up to $12.99. Over 1,600 writers have signed up to use the service.

Steph's Note: While not as big in the U.S. as Amazon and B&N, I have noticed Kobo is worldwide, reaching readers form Canada to New Zealand. I'm curious how well the program will do with the international markets.

** Rick Riordan who writes the "Percy Jackson" Series is due out with his 3rd Heroes of Olympus book, "The Mark of Athena" on October 2, 2012.

Riordan is also traveling to Europe to research a new series based on Norse lore.

Riordan's "Sea of Monsters," Book 2 in the 1st Percy Jackson Series will be released as a movie March 15, 2013. Logan Lerman will return as Percy.

Steph's Note: I saw the "The Lightning Thief" with my son, Andrew a couple of weeks ago. While it wasn't very accurate in reflecting the novel, my son enjoyed the movie very much. Sean Bean played Zeus, Kevin McKidd was Poseidon and Melina Kankakaredes was Athena.

Riordan says he wrote the stories for his sons and is fortunate to have the level of success he's had.

** Random House reported that six weeks after taking over the publication of "50 Shades of Grey," the series had sold over 10 million copies, print and digital.

** Oprah's Book Club is back! Now called "Oprah's Book Clue 2.0," her pick for June is "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," by Cheryl Strayed. The story is a memoir of the author's 1,100 mile hike she took after a personal tragedy.

Reference: Information for today's blog was taken from Publisher's Weekly, an online magazine.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Excerpt Monday - The Green Rose

Today's featured "Monday Excerpt" comes from the fantasy romance, The Green Rose. Enjoy!

Eight hundred years ago on the continent of Gaia, war rocked the countries of N'Gasse, Tapin, Daháka, and Ravenrock. The fearsome wyldebeasts of the black east threatened to destroy the known world. King Xeres of Daháka gathered the most powerful magicians of Gaia along with Queen Rhysia of N'Gasse, King Erik of Ravenrock, and Nyla, the High Priestess of Tapin at Komodo Field.

Daháka brought pollen taken from the bees of the Tagrassé Forest. N'Gasse brought sap from the old mahogany trees. Tapin presented dust from falcon eggs. Ravenrock offered a rose. Together, they forged the indestructible green rose, a harbinger of powerful magic.

Using the green rose, the nobles and peoples of Gaia fought the wyldebeasts, led by the dark wizard, Augustin. Once the evil threat was defeated, the Eastern Wall was built along Ravenrock's borders to keep the foul wyldebeasts out of Gaia. Ravenrock was given the responsibility of guarding the 50,000 kilometer granite barrier.

King Xeres feared those who harbored evil in their hearts would seek the green rose. He tasked three witches to guard the flower and sent them into the heart of Tagrassé Forest.

Now, hundreds of years later, the peace of Gaia is once again threatened.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Ivánstan stood behind her, pressing the firm muscles of his chest against her back. He wrapped his arms around her waist and placed both his hands over hers. His warm breath caressed her ear and her body tingled from their contact. Despite her unease, she felt protected in his arms.

"You're tense. It's understandable, but I need you to relax -- to trust me." His voice was low and seductive. Sonia nipped at her lower lip with her teeth. How could she relax when the physical presence of him drove her senses to distraction?

"Clear your mind. Think of your father. Recall a happy memory of him. That's it -- he's smiling at you, pride on his face."

"You can see my memory?" she whispered.

"Aye. We're sharing heat -- magical heat. Now push out. Space doesn't exist. Only your father. Concentrate on his face."

Sonia drew in a breath and brought her father to mind -- the sound of his voice, deep and commanding, his face, rugged and lined, his scent, currants and earthy, his touch, gentle, yet firm. A vision of him appeared in her mind, but it was blurry and dark. Her father's tunic was torn, and he had been stripped of his weapons. The coppery scent of blood lingered over him.

Fear ripped through her and then the vision was gone. She grew limp, but Ivánstan tightened his grip. "He is not dead, but wounded and in a dark place."

"Thank Nyla," she whispered. "Is there more? Can we try again?"

"Not now. Your body is exhausted and needs rest. Tomorrow morning we can try to connect with your mother. The calling should be easier." His lips brushed against her ear, sending a warm pulse of physical awareness through her. Ivánstan was all male. Slowly, she turned around in his arms to gaze into his eyes. They were soft now, the orange reminding her of the sun; his pupils, while still slitted, were narrow.

5 Stars, Scorching Book Reviews
I don't read much romantic fantasy, but this was so well structured and so lovely, I could not put it down.

Stephenia Mcgee, Author "A Legacy of Lies"
Stephanie Burkhart weaves a delightful blend of action, intrigue and adventure into her fantasy romance, The Green Rose.

Regina Andrews, Author of "Destiny's Designs"
"The Green Rose" reaches the reader on an emotional level that rings very true and very sincere.

5 Stars, Amazon Reader, Sherry Chancellor
I've read a lot of Ms. Burkhart's books and this one is right up there at the top of my list. She nails the medieval time period and her characters are well-rounded and their conflicts are really well done.

5 Stars, Tami Dee, Author of "The Mists of Time" Series
Fantasy lovers will devour this story, and for those who have yet to try a fantasy romance; this is a story that will draw you into the realm and have you searching for more.

5 Stars, Joy Cagil, Amazon Reader
Even if you are not a reader of romance, fantasy, and action/adventure stories, Stephanie Burkhart's incredible skill will keep you engaged and deeply interested. Give it a try; I recommend it.

5 Stars, Sue Perkins, Author of "Dragon Flame"
Like fantasy and magic? Then The Green Rose is a must for you.

Book Trailer:

The Green Rose is available as an ebook only.











Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review Friday - The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey

Just finished reading The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey - 5 Thumbs Up! Awesome book! Now, I haven't read Georgette Heyer, but I hear that this book by Bailey has Heyer influences so if anyone can recommend a good Heyer book, let me know, I'd like to read one.

Onto the review:

Book Review for: The Deathly Portent
Written by: Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN: 978-0-425-24567-5
Avail: in print or ebook

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

Bailey pens a taut, suspenseful "who-done-it" with The Deathly Portent. Set in the small English town of Witherly, Lord and Lady Fanshawe find themselves stranded when their carriage loses a wheel. Unfortunately for them, the only person in town who can help them with their problem has just been murdered. Can Lady Fan solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

Set in the 1800's against a rural English backdrop, the novel opens with the citizens of Witherly chasing Cassie Dale. They call her a witch and blame her for the death of the local blacksmith, Duggleby. Thankfully, the new pastor, Aiden Kinnerton comes to her aid. He's going to need help in solving Duggleby's murder, though. In a stroke of luck – or unfortunate circumstance – Ottila and Francis Fanshawe find themselves stranded when their carriage breaks down. Ottila is a bit of a sleuth and can't help but investigate the circumstances surrounding the blacksmith's death, especially when she discovers the fire which destroyed the smitty was set deliberately to hide the blow on the head that killed him.

Lord and Lady Fanshawes' arrival and investigation stir up the cobwebs in the quiet town. Ottila and Francis met an assorted cast of characters, all who have motives to kill the blacksmith. There's Duggleby's long suffering wife, Mr. Uddington, whose wife had an affair with the victim, and the old bittys, Mrs. Radlett and Miss Beeleigh, who hated the smith for killing Mrs. Radlett's dog. Unfortunately, the prime suspect is Cassie Dale, the young lady the townsfolk call a witch because she has the gift of foresight.

Ottila isn't fooled by the obvious and can scent out a secret like a bloodhound. As she closes in on a potential suspect, there's another murder. When the stakes are erected – literally – can Ottila avoid danger and reveal who the killer is before she's next?

Bailey's writing is lush and vivid, striking to the heart of the setting by enveloping the reader into the story with authentic dialogue and rich narrative. I felt like a serving girl at the Pakefield's establishment, the Blue Pig, watching as Ottila investigated Duggleby's death. The pacing takes its time as it introduces the colorful citizens of Witherly and slowly uncovers the clues behind the murder. What makes the wait entertaining is the rich characterization.

The Fanshawes are a delight! Ottila and Francis compliment each other well. Lady Fan is a force to be reckoned with. She's determined, focused, and courageous – which gets her in trouble when danger arises. Lord Fan gives Ottila the space she needs while offering his steadfast support. The suspects shine against Witherly's landscape from the old bittys, to the serving girls, to the witch, to the crusty old lawmen – they're serious, entertaining and all will worm their way into the reader's heart with their very human faults and honest emotions.

The Deathly Portent is a sequel to The Gilded Shroud, but the story reads well as a stand alone. As the suspense builds, the novel culminates in an exciting ending. If you're a fan of historicals and mysteries, you'll enjoy this story. This is my first Elizabeth Bailey novel, and it won't be my last. "The Deathly Portent" sweeps the reader off to another time and place and leaves them breathless.

Amazon Buy Link: