Thursday, November 26, 2015

Burning Bright by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern and Jennifer Gracen

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Burning Bright
Four Chanukah Love Stories
Megan Hart, KK Hendin, 
Stacey Agdern and Jennifer Gracen
Releasing December 1st, 2015 
Avon Impulse

This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.

It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?

Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away-then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.

When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman’s apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together, they just might discover a Home for Hannukah.

All Tamar Jacobs expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi Levinson, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed. 


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Chanukah Fun with KK Hendin

Favorite Chanukah Memory or tradition:

My favorite memory is from the first year I lived in Israel. I was in school there, and we had the afternoons off that week. A bunch of us wanted to do something fun before lighting the menorah in the evening, but we were all too poor to do anything that really cost money. So we split up into two groups and wrote a ridiculous list of things to do. The goal was to see which group could do more things on the list, with picture evidence to make sure nobody lied. By the end of the afternoon, we had done things like decorate a public bathroom, confuse the heck out of a bunch of soldiers, ask random strangers both silly questions and very serious questions, and hired ourselves to work at people's restaurants. And all for the price of a bus ticket.

My favorite tradition... hmm. Lighting the Chanukah candles every night is really nice, because we do it as a family. Everyone gets together in the living room, and we all light our menorahs together, and sing. And laugh when my dad reminds us not to go near the candles, because when it comes to menorahs, he seems to forget we're all perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves near fire.

Favorite Chanukah Dish/Dessert:

It's traditional to eat both dairy products and fried food on Chanukah, which is the greatest possible combination of foods to eat. One Chanukah night every year we ignore the concept of a balanced meal for dinner and have latkes, homemade french fries, and a bunch of different kinds of cheese. It is a ridiculous overindulgence, and the next day everyone just eats salad as a recovery food. (I eat my latkes with cottage cheese, not applesauce. I don't understand the appeal of latkes and applesauce. I'm sorry.)

(When I called my mother to make sure I got the latke recipe correct, I mentioned eating latkes and cottage cheese. Her response was something along the lines of, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?? WHO EATS LATKES AND COTTAGE CHEESE??". When I reminded her that I have ALWAYS eaten latkes and cottage cheese together, she told me she probably blocked the memory.)

The recipe we use for potato latkes is our potato kugel recipe tweaked.

Potato Latkes (Or Potato Kugel)

5 pounds potatoes

1 large white onion

(You can substitute a zucchini for a few of the potatoes if you want for the potato kugel.)

6 eggs

(1/2 cup oil-for kugel)

1 tablespoon Salt


LATKES: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, salt and pepper. Use a food processor to shred the potatoes and onions, then add to the mixing bowl. Form into patties, and fry them

in oil. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, or (to quote my family), if you're irrevocably broken somehow like KK, cottage cheese. Makes a lot of latkes.

POTATO KUGEL: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, salt and pepper. Cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan in oil and place it an oven set at 450. Use a food processor to shred the potatoes and onions, then add to the mixing bowl. Combine all ingredients together, and the take the mixing bowl directly to the oven, and pour the mixture into the pan without taking the pan out of the oven. Cook for an hour and a half, or until the potato kugel is at the consistency and texture you'd like. Serve hot with anything at all, because potato kugel, and if you have extras somehow, potato kugel is delicious cold with a bit of mustard on top or dipped in humus. Makes one delicious pan of potato-y goodness.

(Alternative, if you're feeling fancy: instead of baking the kugel in a 9 x 13, you can bake it in cupcake tins for fanciness and extra crispy bits. Adjust temperature and cooking time accordingly.)

Do you have any real life experience with finding love during Chanukah?

I think I really and truly fell in love with Israel on Chanukah- I finally was settled in, I knew how to get places without taking the bus, and there were an abundance of cheerful soldiers. It was finally sweater weather, and every person, regardless of religious observance, was excited about Chanukah, and about sufganiyot.

Also, as a New Yorker, getting to go to the beach in December without freezing your face off is pretty cool.

What was your favorite scene to write for ALL I GOT?

Besides the ending? Probably the rain. I've done my share of dance parties in the rain in Israel, and it was so much fun to write one for Avi.

One line that describes your holiday romance.

Sometimes you can meet the love of your life at a bus stop.

Megan Hart is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than thirty novels, novellas and short stories. Her work has been published in almost every genre, including contemporary women’s fiction, historical romance, paranormal and erotica. Learn more at

Jennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two young sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and has fully embraced her lifelong passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance and romantic women’s fiction for readers who yearn for better days, authentic characters, and satisfying endings. When she isn’t taking care of her kids, doing freelance copy editing/proofreading, reading, or talking to friends on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She’s shocked her family hasn’t yet staged an intervention for her addiction to social media. But the concerts she gives in her car and the dance parties she has in her kitchen are rumored to be fabulous.

Stacey Agdern is an award winning former bookseller who has reviewed romance novels in multiple formats and given talks about various aspects of the romance genre. She also a romance writer. You can find her on twitter at @nystacey. She’s a proud member of both LIRW and RWA NYC. She lives in New York, not far from her favorite hockey team’s practice facility.

KK Hendin writes books where people flirt awkwardly, make out, dish out a whole lot of sass and ridiculousness, and live happily ever after. She’s the author of many books, including the TWELVE BEATS IN A BAR series and the upcoming UNDERCOVER series. She also writes books as K. Hendin, where people aren’t as nice and Happily Ever After isn’t a guarantee. KK is currently writing way too many books, and is still waiting for the subway to run on a regular schedule. When she’s not playing book Tetris in an attempt to fit everything onto the bookshelves in her tiny NYC apartment, she’s probably wandering her neighborhood with her camera or drinking yet another cup of coffee.

The Match of the Century by Cathy Maxwell

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The Brides of Wishmore Series

Marrying the Duke #1
Cathy Maxwell
Releasing Nov 24th, 2015
Avon Books

In New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell’s glittering new series, wedding bells are ringing… until the return of a rake throws a bride’s plans— and heart—into a tailspin.

Every debutante aspires to snag a duke. Elin Morris just happens to have had one reserved since birth. But postponements of her marriage to London’s most powerful peer give Elin time to wonder how she will marry Gavin Baynton when she cannot forget his brother, Benedict.

Already exasperated at being yanked from the military to meet “family obligations,” now Ben must suffer watching his arrogant sibling squire the only woman he has ever loved. Joining the army saved Ben from sinking into bitterness, but seeing Elin again takes him back to the day they surrendered to their intoxicating desire.

As the wedding draws near, Elin tries to push Ben far from her thoughts. When danger brings them together, there is no denying their feelings. But can Elin choose love over duty…?


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Her bedroom door flew open, interrupting her thoughts, and her mother, Jennifer Morris, sparkling in the famed Morris diamonds, swept into the room. Her dress was of Belgian lace dyed in her favorite shade of sapphire, a color that matched her eyes. Her honey blonde hair barely betrayed a trace of gray. She glowed with eagerness for the evening ahead. She enjoyed crowds and being the center of attention. She had looked forward to this night for over twenty years, ever since the old duke of Baynton had suggested a match between their children.
Jenny shut the door and took in the situation in the room—Elin in her petticoats, her hair curling without a sense of order or style—and focused on the supper tray on the desk by the window overlooking the back garden.
“What is this? You haven’t touched any of your food. Sarah said she encouraged you to eat but I can see you haven’t taken even a bite.” Her mother approached her. Jenny was half a head taller than her daughter. She cupped Elin’s face in warm, loving hands. The rose scent of her perfume swirled around them. “Elin, you must eat. This evening is all about you. You are going to be very busy tonight. So many people will beg your attention, you won’t have time to sit let alone enjoy a bit of supper. And then, sweet bee, you need to finish dressing. Cook prepared the chicken in that French cream sauce you like so much. In fact, while you are eating, let me call for Sarah to come in and do your hair. We don’t want to keep Baynton and his guests waiting--”
Elin caught her mother’s hand before she could move away. “I can’t do this. I thought I could but I can’t.”
“You can,” her mother answered. “You were meant to do this. Born for it. Elin--” She paused, closed her eyes as if searching for the right words, or patience. When she raised her lashes, her expression was one of loving concern. “Elin, forgive yourself. You made a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. However, it was many years ago. What were you, fifteen?”
“I was to turn sixteen?”
“So very young. How could you have known? You trusted Benedict. Your father and I trusted him.”
“I was foolish.” A hard lump formed in Elin’s chest at the mention of Benedict Whitridge’s name. Ben had been her closest friend and he had taken what she should have protected—her virginity. He was also her betrothed’s younger brother.
Not only had the experience been painful and humiliating, he’d gone away the very next day. He’d left for a career in the military without a word of farewell. Or a warning that he was leaving, that he wouldn’t be there to reassure her when she needed him most.

New York Times Bestselling Author, Cathy Maxwell spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, “Why do people fall in love?” It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.

Don't Miss the Marrying the Duke Novella
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Nashville Nights Boxed Set by Stacey Mosteller

Nashville Nights Boxed Set by Stacey Mosteller  
Published by: Swoon Romance 
Publication date: November 27th 2015 
Genres: New Adult, Romance 

Save Me From Myself 
(Nashville Nights Book 1) 

Tragedy and betrayal sent her running… 

And now she’s starting over far away from the person she used to be. 
Lyric Hayes tried to be the perfect daughter and the perfect girlfriend, but those days are over. She’s ready to begin again with a vow to herself: no relationships, no complications, and no turning back. 

Easier said than done… 

Confident, successful, and charming David Pearson makes her vow nearly impossible. He has it all, and David knows better than anyone not to judge someone by what’s on the surface. Wanting to own her heart, he’ll do anything to gain her trust and save her from herself. But David’s family could have secrets and baggage of their own, which could send Lyric packing and on the run once again. Is his past just another version of a song Lyric has heard before?

 Never Wanted More 
(Nashville Nights 1.5) 

Originally part of the Southern Seduction Box Set 
Never Wanted More is book 1.5 in the Nashville Nights series 

Peyton Williams is spoiled, entitled and a little too stuck up. The daughter of an influential Mayor and a socialite mother, she’s trying to get through college and make her own path. She’s perfectly happy being a loner until Spring semester when she gets not only a roommate, but a math tutor. 

Wyatt Parker is the boy from the wrong side of town. Known as the son of the town tramp, he jumps at the scholarship to play basketball in Nashville where no one knows his roots. Spending this semester tutoring a friend’s snobby roommate wasn’t what he envisioned, but Peyton quickly gets under his skin. 

Peyton never wanted more until she met Wyatt, but is she willing to be what he needs? 

Everything I Shouldn’t: Jeremy & SarahBeth #1
(Nashville Nights Book 2) 

It’s been eight days, sixteen hours and forty-seven minutes since life as I know it ended. I know, it sounds so melodramatic and teen-soap worthy, but it’s the truth. Eight days, sixteen hours and forty-seven minutes since David found out. Since he kicked Jeremy out, ended their friendship and told me I could never see him again. 

I didn’t plan on David getting suspicious, and I definitely didn’t plan on getting caught. My selfishness has cost Jeremy everything, my brother won’t even look at me, Lyric must hate me for practically blackmailing her to keep silent and my best friend is barely speaking to me. 
Now my life is full of secrets and lies. The people around me have been affected by the choices I’ve made and the lies I’ve told. But what will they do when they discover the biggest secret of them all? 

Jeremy is everything I shouldn’t want, and the person I can’t live without. 

Everything I Need: Jeremy & SarahBeth #2
(Nashville Nights Book 3) 

SarahBeth Pearson has made mistakes, and I might just be the biggest one of them all. After spending months keeping secrets and lying to everyone close to us, it’s all fallen apart and we are each left alone to pick up the pieces. 

I’ve loved SarahBeth in one form or another her entire life. The steps that brought us closer together weren’t easy for me to take. After letting her dictate our relationship, I’ve found myself practically homeless and estranged from my closest friends. 

Now I’m left trying to move on, finding a new place to live and getting everything I need in order, while she’s trying to mend her broken heart. There’s just one problem…SarahBeth’s still keeping secrets – and her secret just might change everything. 

Pretending He’s You 
(Nashville Nights Book 4) 

Part One of Two 

Olivia Barrett’s always had a weakness for bad boys and Tyler Chamberlain is no exception. His tattoos, his piercings, and even the fact that he has a girlfriend doesn’t keep her away. 
Interested in Tyler since she first saw him pick up a guitar, she’s been trying to find ways to be with him for years. He’s the one Livvie runs to when she needs a friend, the one who makes her laugh and holds her when she needs to cry. Unfortunately, they are never single at the same time and sneaking around is getting old. 

Now, tired of making bad decisions, Livvie’s making changes. Her friends are all starting to grow up and she doesn’t want to be left behind. Terrified her friends are moving on without her, she’s determined to make things work with Emmett, her on-again off-again boyfriend since high school. 

The only problem? Tyler isn’t ready to let her go. Despite her boyfriend and his girlfriend, these two are drawn together like magnets. When she’s with Emmett she wishes she was with Tyler and vice versa. 

Will Livvie ever get tired of pretending and pick one guy? Or will she keep bouncing back and forth between the two of them indefinitely? 

Note: This book contains themes of infidelity which may be a trigger for some readers 
*This book contains adult situations and is recommended for 18+ 

1. According to You by Orianthi

2. Save Me From Myself by Christina Aguilera

3. Forever Night Stand by Rayen Belcher

4. Bitch by Meredith Brooks

5. B­e­a­utiful by Megan Nicole

6. Endlessly by The Cab

7. Just a Fool by Christina Aguilera & Blake Shelton

8. I Can’t Not Love You by Every Avenue

9. You Don’t Know Her Like I Do by Brantley Gilbert

10. So Soon by Marianas Trench

11. Unconditionally by Katy Perry

12. Lovers or Liars by Lauren Aquilina

13. Beginning of a Bad Idea by Tyler Ward

14. Give Me One Reason by Brett Young & Jason Reeves

15. Unfaithful by Rihanna

16. Thinking of You by Katy Perry

Stacey is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author of Second Chances and Shadows of the Past (co-authored with H.M. Ward), the Nashville Nights, Two Sisters and Nashville U series (coming late 2015 from Swoon Romance). 

She is also a wife, mother, writer and self-professed bookwhore – not necessarily in that order! As the mother of three growing boys, her Kindle has become her temporary escape from the insanity of boys, dogs and her husband. Stacey can usually be found curled up with her iPad when she’s supposed to be writing or creating endless Spotify playlists! 

Author Links:

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Hooked Series by K.B. Winters



Riley Simmons is on a mission. When all else fails, she logs into an exclusive website—looking for a discrete encounter. A paying discrete encounter. What does she have to lose? Her dignity? That went out with the eviction notice and she knows desperate times bring desperate measures.

Alexander Maxwell is a very wealthy man. When he finds Riley on the site, he’s drawn to her immediately—and he has the ways and means to take care of her.


Will Riley jump in with both feet? Or will she realize escort is another name for hooker—and she’s hooked?





Heterosexual couple enjoying each other. Shallow depth of field


KB Winters is the author of the brand new Billionaire Romance Series, Plush. She has an addiction to caffeine and hard-bodied alpha males. The men in her books are very sexy, protective and sometimes bossy, her ladies are...well...bossier!
Living in sunny Southern California, this hopeless romantic writes every chance she gets!



Eighteen (18) by J.A. Huss

Eighteen (18) Based on a True Story
J.A. Huss
Publication date: November 18th 2015
Genres: New Adult Taboo Romance
Eighteen is hard.
And so is Mateo Alesci.
He’s hard to read, hard to predict, hard in every way that counts. He wants things from me.
Dirty things, nasty things, forbidden things.
And I have to give in.
His attention is completely inappropriate, but I can’t say no. The way he looks at me… the way he watches me through my bedroom window… the way he drags me deeper and deeper into his completely forbidden fantasy world just… turns me on.
He knows it turns me on.
He holds all the power. He holds all the cards.
He holds my entire future in his hands.
And I have to give in.
Because Mr. Alesci is my teacher.
           And I need everything he’s offering.

release price



“You came,” he says, after a few moments of rest. His eyes open and he looks straight at me. “You came in my mouth.”
I just stare back. Unable to talk. Unable to comprehend what he’s saying. “You’re a liar.”
He smiles. “But I’m a good one, right?”
“You believed me. And you know why you believed me, Shannon?”
“That never happened?”
He scoffs. “Please, how drunk would you have to be for me to suck you off and never wake you up? Do you know why you believed me?”
“You’re a psycho,” I say, floored.
“Because you want to believe me.”
I shake my head slowly. “I don’t believe you. You’re a very good liar, Mateo. And that’s not something to be proud of.”
“Right. So why are you so sure Danny Alexander is the nice one, and not me?”
“Because look at you,” I scoff. “You’re such a fucking freak.”
“I’m sitting here in a chair, masturbating as I tell you a fantasy, Shannon. It’s hot.” And then he laughs. “You know it is.”
“It’s weird,” I say. “I’m speechless with you most of the time because you’re blowing my fucking mind. You make no sense to me. You don’t follow the rules.”
“Whose rules? Your rules?”
“School rules, for one. You’re my fucking teacher!”
“Technically, no. I’m a subcontractor. But ethically, yes.”
“It’s the ethics that count, don’t you think?”
“So walk out. Report me to Bowman. Call the police. Do whatever the fuck you want.”
My thoughts are racing around in my head. “Maybe I will.”
“At least you’d be invested. At least you’d stop just sitting here, begging me to get you out of this.”
“Beg you!” Holy shit. “To get me out of what?” I just want to punch him in the fucking face right now.
“OK,” I huff. “I’m done here.” I push my chair back to stand, but his words stop me.
“You want to skate through school, you said, take tests and call it learning. You want the prize without the work that goes into it. You want things you don’t deserve.”
“You don’t know what I deserve,” I say quietly. “You have no idea what I deserve.”
“I know,” he says, nodding. “But I do know what you don’t deserve. And you can deny it all you want, it won’t change the fact that you didn’t earn it. I’m asking you to earn it.”
“Earn what, Mateo? You make no sense.”
“It.” he replies. And then he lifts his hands up towards the ceiling.
“What’s any of this,” I say, lifting my hands up in the same way, “have to do with sex?”
He just smiles. “Nothing at all. It’s got nothing at all to do with sex. I just like you and I want to fuck you, and tease you, and play you. Not like that,” he says, seeing the anger inside me building. “Not like a victim, Shannon. Like an instrument.”
He reaches over for a roll of paper towels sitting on the table next to him, rips one off, and cleans up the mess on his stomach. He throws it into the trash, stands up, and puts himself back together.
“If you want to walk away,” he says, grabbing his book from the table, “go ahead. Report me to Bowman, tell the police, do whatever the fuck you want. But I’m trying to tell you, I’m invested. So go date Danny Alexander if you want. You can quit this class and drop out of school. You can fuck everything up. You’re a grown woman, you can make whatever choice you feel is best. But when you look back in ten years and wonder where it all went wrong, don’t blame me, Shannon. Because I gave a fuck and you walked out.”
And then he walks out. He’s got that stupid book in his hand and he just walks out and leaves me there.


Author Bio: 
JA Huss is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty romances. She likes stories about family, loyalty, and extraordinary characters who struggle with basic human emotions while dealing with bigger than life problems. JA loves writing heroes who make you swoon, heroines who makes you jealous, and the perfect Happily Ever After ending.
You can chat with her on Facebook (, Twitter (@jahuss), and her kick-ass romance blog, New Adult Addiction (
If you're interested in getting your hands on an advanced release copy of her upcoming books, sneak peek teasers, or information on her upcoming personal appearances, you can join her newsletter list ( and get those details delivered right to your inbox. 


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Soulshifter by Barbara Pietron

Soulshifter by Barbara Pietron
Genre: Young Adult
Publication: November 24th, 2015

Sixteen-year-old Jack Ironwood knew exactly what he wanted. Until he got it. 
Jack was content to stay unnoticed by pretty and popular track-star, Natalie Segetich, until he overhears her claim that something took her friend Emma. As a soulshifter who can cross into the underworld, Jack knows the human-stealing Enuuki—hell's messengers—are real and that a successful rescue mission would secure a future otherwise out of his reach. Working together, Jack and Natalie devise a plan to outwit the ruler of the underworld. Then on the eve of the quest, as Jack stands on the verge of seeing his dreams come true, he realizes he's no longer sure what he wants. But it's too late to back out. Pursued by the dark lord's henchmen and ghastly mutant creatures, Jack and Natalie struggle to come out ahead in a battle and barter for souls. In the end, Jack will have to decide his own fate, because nothing short of a deal with the devil will get all three of them out of hell alive.


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They pulled into the parking lot and the surprising number of cars—especially so early—added fuel to Jack's nerves. The simple ceremony wasn't supposed to be a full-blown sect event, yet inside, twice the amount of people he'd expected had already claimed seats in the large meeting area as more trailed through the door. 
Jack took Natalie's hand as they wove through the people and down an aisle to the front. He flipped a reserved sign so it hung over the back of the chair and motioned for her to sit. Then he did the same for himself and sat down next to her. 
Natalie glanced at his knee which was jigging up and down. "Nervous?" 
Jack bobbed his head. "Yeah, maybe more than I was aware of. Funny, the last time I was the focus of a ceremony, I was nine, and I loved it."
"Probably because that time you weren't about to risk your life." Her voice sounded odd.
Jack studied Natalie's face, taking in the small creases in her forehead and the tense set to her lips. "Hey, are you okay?"
She nodded without looking at him. "All these people." She scanned the room. "They all believe, don't they?"
Jack frowned. "Believe..."
"In the underworld." Her voice was so low, he almost didn't hear her. She didn't wait for an answer. "It makes what we're doing so real all of a sudden." She swallowed. "It's overwhelming."
Jack opened his mouth but she must have guessed what was coming because she spoke before he could say anything. "It doesn't change anything. As long as you're going, I'm going with you."
He could hardly tell her not to worry when his own anxiety was off the charts, so instead he wrapped his hand around hers and squeezed gently. She held on tightly for a moment and then relaxed her fingers. As he released Natalie's hand, Jack raised his head and his gaze fell on Shera, sitting directly across the oval, her eyes on him. He felt a flush of shame, as if he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but Shera smiled and gave a low-handed wave. He managed a return smile, the butterflies in his stomach doubling. Did she know her father had talked to his father? 


About the Author

After years in the corporate world, Barbara found herself with a second chance to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Her lifetime love of books and the written word returned one answer: writer.  Drawing from her experience with technical writing, she began by writing non-fiction magazine pieces and achieved both regional and national publication.  Her success encouraged her to complete a novel.  She learned much from her first manuscript, critiques, books, contests, and blogs.  In 2012, her novel Thunderstone, was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and won a critique by Publisher's Weekly.  A few months later, she was offered publication by Scribe Publishing Company.

Barbara has a few other novels in the works, including a Thunderstone sequel. If she's not reading or writing, Barbara likes to walk, garden, and sew.  She works in a library and lives in Royal Oak, Michigan with her husband, daughter, and their cat – who often acts like a dog.

Find Barbara online:

Website | Facebook



The Family by Marissa Kennerson

The Family
by Marissa Kennerson
Publisher: Full Fathom Five Digital
Release Date: October 8th 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Cult


Just like any average seventeen year old, Twig loves her family. She has a caring mother and a controlling father. Her brothers are sisters are committed to her family’s prosperity…

All one hundred and eighty three of them.

Twig lives in the Family, a collective society located in the rainforest of Costa Rica. The Family members coexist with the values of complete openness and honesty, and a shared fear of contagious infection in the outside world.

So when Adam, their Father, prophet, and savior, announces that Twig will be his new bride, she is overjoyed and honored. But when an injury forces her to leave the grounds, Twig finds that the world outside is not necessarily as toxic as she was made to believe. When she meets Leo, an American boy with a killer smile, she begins to question everything about her life within the Family, and the cult to which she belongs.

But when it comes to your Family, you don’t always get a choice.

The ceremony would begin in less than an hour. Neither girl had a watch nor could see a clock, but they both had an innate sense of time, as did all members of the Family. There was only one clock on the compound. Its face sat impassive and oversized on a small tower in the center of the white, clapboard cottages that served as their living quarters. But they had other ways of knowing the time: the way the sun shone hot and bright at the height of morning or how the air became moist and the mosquitoes started to buzz shortly before dinner was called. The church bells from Turrialba, the city that hemmed the compound in at the foot of the mountain, chimed faintly on the hour until darkness took hold each night.
“Almost done.” Twig took a few steps back and looked over her work. She had laced Rose’s strawberry-blond hair with Lluvia de oro, buttercup yellow orchids that looked like candlelight flickering through Rose’s long, thick locks.Lluvia de oro. Rain of gold. The Family was segregated from the rest of society, but some bits of Costa Rican culture had managed to seep in. The twisting yellow orchid would glow in Rose’s hair in the moonlight. Perfect for a wedding night, Twig thought. Then she felt herself blush. What did she really know about what happened on a wedding night?
She knew a little from their lessons about procreation, but not much else. She imagined Thomas would be kind to Rose. Would her husband, whomever they picked for her, be kind?
“What are you thinking about?” Rose suddenly asked. “You seem far away.”
“I’m sorry. I was. I was thinking about marriage.” Twig was embarrassed that she had been thinking about sex and didn’t want to say so out loud.
Adam’s voice droned on through the intercom in the living room. Confess your sins daily to a sister or brother. Do not try to hide the evil that is inherent in every one of us. I will cleanse you of sin, but you must admit the truth of your nature before I can do that…
“Okay, turn toward me.” Twig gently steered Rose’s shoulders toward her. “Perfect,” she said.
Rose smiled weakly.
“You’re nervous,” Twig ventured.
Even though she and Rose had shared a single bedroom with their mothers for as long as she could remember, they had rarely spent time alone together. There was a slight awkwardness between them.
“I’m okay,” Rose replied, letting out a big breath. “Thomas is amazing. I got so lucky. They could have paired me with Doc!” Both of the girls erupted in nervous giggles, relieving some of the tension.
Doc was a psychiatrist in his fifties, but he served as the Family’s medical doctor. As far back as Twig could remember, if she had a fever or a sore throat or a bee sting, Doc had taken care of it. When she was a child, she had suffered from constant headaches. She had vague
memories of lying in Doc’s office with ice packs on her head. Those were lonely memories she didn’t care to recall. As she got older, her headaches had faded.
Doc was also Adam’s right-hand man. He was nice enough, but now that Rose mentioned it, Twig had never thought of Doc as someone’s husband. He was older than most members of the Family by quite a bit, and while he was nice enough, he always seemed a bit removed. If Twig had to give him a color, it would be gray. A cold blue-gray. Twig loved to give people colors. There was something visceral about them, something pre-speech. Sometimes a person’s color came to her when Twig first met them. Sometimes she had known a person for years and still couldn’t assign them a color.
She turned her attention back to Rose. “Come on. Let’s get you to the mirror, and then I think we’d better get going.”
Rose paused. “It is okay because it is a special occasion, right?”
“Yes,” Twig reassured her. “You aren’t straying. A bride is allowed to look in the mirror on her wedding day.”
Twig led Rose gently by the hand out of the bedroom and into the living area of their cottage. Adam’s voice became louder as they entered the room. The space was not large, but it was bright, and the big stone tiles that made up the floor helped to keep the cottage cool. The south wall had two bay windows that faced the compound and the rainforest that spread out behind it. A dining room table made of blond Cocobolo wood rested against the far wall next to an open kitchen. The rest of the room was sparsely decorated with two handmade wooden armchairs polished to a shine and a white, slipcovered love seat. The only mirror in the cottage was hung high on a wall next to a large framed photograph of Adam. The glass on the frame and the mirror gleamed. Twig had dusted them herself that morning. You never knew when Adam might send someone to make sure the cottage and his photograph were dust-free. It was best to keep the place spotless at all times. An unclean cottage or a dusty photograph meant a verbal lashing in front of the Family.
Twig dragged a chair from the kitchen and helped Rose stand on it in order to see herself. The young bride wore the same white eyelet dress that every woman in the Family wore, but Twig had gotten permission to alter it into a modest strapless gown for the wedding. She had woven the ribbons usually used for their hair into a wide sash that she now tied around Rose’s small waist. Twig taught knitting and sewing classes to the younger brothers and sisters. When it came to anything clothing- or fabric-related, the Family deferred to Twig.
Rose wobbled in front of the mirror, turning this way and that. Twig was glad she couldn’t see her shoes. There was nothing to be done about the shoes. Everyone in the Family wore the same heavy, dark brown hiking boots. They were comfortable, practical, and ugly.
Twig smiled, watching Rose admire herself in the mirror. Despite her small pangs of envy, she was happy for Rose. She could also see why Adam discouraged vanity—it could get out of control. But it was lovely to see Rose smile like this. Rose’s color was definitely pink. Not a cloying pink, but a soft, creamy pink.
“You’re a genius, Twig.”

Guest Post 

I am honored to be here today. Thank you for having me!
Crystal asked me to share some thoughts on cults. In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, I thought it would be appropriate to share some information on brainwashing and how vulnerable EVERYONE can be to cults and their charismatic leaders at one point or another in their lives.

Cults can come in many forms. It is scary how many cults are out there. They might be selling diet pills, salvation or who knows what. Here are some warning signs.
1. A charismatic leader. Someone who may seem really cool, really wise - with all the right answers. This person may seem to "get" you in a different way than others have before. Maybe you feel really special being around them. 
2. The organization or group and their leader claim they have the key to transcendence (in other words - they have the answer to the meaning of life). Stick with them and your problems will be solved. (They might tell you it happens in the afterlife.) They will say it is THEIR WAY OR NO WAY. It might be a soft sell at first - but his will be their bottom line. EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG and JUST DOESN'T GET IT. 
3. They isolate you. This would happen in subtle ways. They point out how your friends and family just don't get it. More and more they MAKE SURE YOU ARE CUT OFF FROM THOSE THAT REALLY DO LOVE YOU AND CARE ABOUT YOU. 
These are huge red flags. If you find yourself involved with people like this - get help. There are organizations. Janja Lalich who wrote the book, Bounded Choice (VERY helpful in my research for The Family) has a great list of questions on her website too for warning signs:
Are you or someone you know at risk for being negatively impacted by a cult? Read the list below to learn about what to watch out for. Then, look at 20 questions to evaluate if a group or leader is truly credible. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
*Someone who becomes overly friendly right away. Instant friendships.
*Person or group who presents easy answers to life’s complex problems.
*Someone who is excessively pushy with invitations to lectures, meals or retreats.
*Someone who tells you it’s okay because look who else is doing it.
*Person or group using guilt to get you to agree to come to something or do something.
*Someone who invites you to a retreat or workshop at another location, could be a hotel or an isolated area, and won’t tell you what is going to happen when you get there.
*Someone who pressures you to make a decision right away and doesn’t give you time to think.
*Someone who turns all your questions back on you or makes you feel there’s something wrong with you for asking the question.
Remember, there are no free lunches, no instant cures, and no easy answers.
So if you ever find yourself in this situation - reach out to a teacher, a friend, your doctor, your mom! 
I hope you enjoy The Family! It's a cautionary tale about cults, but it also very much a story about growing up and finding your own identity.
- Marissa

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Marissa Kennerson received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. Before earning her master’s degree in psychology and art therapy, she worked for Wired and Glamour. She lives in California with her family. The Family is her first novel (Full Fathom Five Digital) and will be coming out October 2014.