Interview with Award Winning Author R.D. Vallier

R.D. Vallier BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree R.D. Vallier today. The highlight of R.D. Vallier’s award-winning career was when her 6th grade teacher threatened to call CPS over a story about a runaway and a magic wolf. She avoided government capture, but continued creating dark tales in secret. Now she’s living the cliché as a storyteller in the remote wilderness, handcrafting an off-grid homestead with straw and mud and whatever she scrounges from the landfill. She holds degrees in wildlife management and hard knocks, only feels at home on the road, and believes humanity illuminates the most brilliantly during darkness.

Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed books which had done well in the various writing contests I was researching had earned indieBRAG Medallions. I looked into indieBRAG, and was happy with what I discovered—an organization which seemed to honestly care about both authors and readers. I liked the concept and agreed with their vision, so I submitted Darkshine!

How did you get into writing in the Paranormal genre?

I adore both paranormal and reality, and my brain tends to naturally mesh the two. I find myself questioning and making up stories about what I see around me. What really goes on inside that storage unit building? Is that graffiti just graffiti, or is it some sort of code? What’s hidden in plain sight? I love bringing an element of magic to the mundane, and believe the fantasy genres in general have tremendous capability to explore humanity.

Please tell me about your award winning book, Darkshine?

Darkshine BRAG

Darkshine is a dark urban fantasy/paranormal. The main character, Miriam, has a mundane, adult life, and no social or family connections outside of her emotionally abusive husband. Her whole life she has been treated differently, but it isn’t until a chickadee speaks to her that she begins to understand she is a lost changeling. Two fae–who are complete opposites of each other–try to convince her where her true home is, and each insists the other is lying to destroy her. Miriam goes on a whirlwind adventure, both physically and emotionally, to discover who she is and where she belongs, while staying ahead of her enraged husband who is desperate to keep her silent about truths which can damage his political campaign. Along the way, Miriam needs to confront the preconceptions of dark and light, good and evil, and hopefully choose the answer which will deliver the home she’s always yearned for, instead of her demise.

Will this be part of a series?

Yes. Dark Ember, book 2 in the series, is currently in the editing and beta reader stage. It should be released soon, but I don’t have a date yet.

Tell me a little about Miriam. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Miriam is a changeling and an intentionally mixed bag, especially early in the story. I often see stories where changelings learn what they are at a young age. I wanted to see what would happen to a changeling discovering who they were after having a spouse, a job, a mortgage, an adult life (and what type of life that would be).

Miriam never excelled in anything, has low self-esteem due to emotional abuse, and is someone who people treat as a chore to deal with. I wanted to write an “average” character who suffered social ostracism, and who had never experienced much good in life. But I also wanted a character where the reader had to question whether her background was a weakness which hindered her (as she always believed), or a strength to build upon and draw conviction. Thus, her weaknesses are also her strengths, melded together, which I feel is closer to reality. As people, our failings and shortcomings, while they do hold us back in some ways, often drive us forward in others. I often see books where the characters have specific weaknesses or strengths, and those aspects are written throughout the book as solely weaknesses or strengths. I sought to break that concept of static attributes, and instead strove to create an amalgam where each was both simultaneously. Where a beaten down woman can stand up, fight back, falter and still strive to overcome where others would give up, all drawing upon the myriad of experiences which brought her to this point. Thus, her strengths are found in accepting her weaknesses, fighting the internal voices of those who insist she could never amount to anything and that she is an unlovable failure. Her strengths are found in discovering that her shortcomings do not need to hold her down, she can move forward despite pain and fear, and her weaknesses only overpower her while she allows it.

Did you face any challenges writing this story?

Darkshine is what I called “my throw away novel.” I went into it giving myself permission to break a lot of rules (well, what I then considered rules, anyway), to explore ideas and themes I had, and to see what would develop. As Darkshine started morphing into a novel instead of a writing exercise, I had to keep preventing myself from writing the story I thought I should tell, and keep on telling the story I wanted to know. I fought a lot of internal programming, and in doing so found my style and voice and a story I love. It is a challenge I will forever be grateful for.

In addition, I explored a lot of my own past suffering to capture the tone I wanted for various scenes, making myself relive the memories over and over. To this day I have trouble reading some scenes in Darkshine because it calls up those personal memories I used. But in the end, I love the result, which makes me feel gratitude for those past grievances. This is as uncomfortable as it is freeing, and a continuous emotional challenge.

Where can readers buy your book?

Currently, Darkshine is available as an e-book at all major retailers. I just took it off Kindle Unlimited, and I’m unsure when or if it will return in the future. As a paperback, Darkshine is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Most private bookstores will order it in as well.

What is your current writing project?

I’m currently working on Dark Cinders, book 3 in the Darkshine series. I’ve always seen the story as a trilogy, so I hope this will be the final book, but there is a possibility it will be split into two books.

I’m also working on a series of free Darkshine short stories, going more into the background and hidden drives of the various characters. I will be releasing these only to people who have joined my email subscription.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve always considered myself a storyteller in various forms. My early focus was on comic book story and illustration, but I eventually discovered my ideas were too in-depth for this medium, and I couldn’t explore the inner journey as much as I wanted. I then shifted my focus, learning how to write novels instead. And here I am!

Is there a message you would like to give your readers?

Darkshine can be read as a fun adventure, but can also be dissected as a fictitious analogy of cultural and sociopolitical viewpoints, and life under different governing bodies throughout history, through which the main characters gain their own independence and honesty. This is all crafted into the background to remain unobtrusive and out of sight for the reader who simply wants to be whisked away to a dark fairytale, and who doesn’t want to think about politics or governments or whatnot. (Books where such details are in-your-face have always turned me off.) Foremost, I wrote the book to be an entertaining fantasy. Yet it is also written to have deeper substance, and for those who want more, it is there. I’ve had numerous readers tell me they were surprised with what they initially missed, and that they enjoyed a “different” story the second time through.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview R.D. Vallier who is the author of, DARKSHONE, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, DARKSHINE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Cover Crush: Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


Midwinter BreakMidwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

W. Norton & Company

General Fiction (Adult)

Pub Date 22 Aug 2017

A retired couple, Gerry and Stella, travel to Amsterdam for a holiday to refresh the senses, do some sightseeing, and generally take stock of their lives. Their relationship seems easy, familiar—but over its course we discover the deep uncertainties between them. Gerry, once an architect, is forgetful and set in his ways. Stella is tired of his lifestyle and angry at his constant undermining of her religious faith. Things are not helped by memories that resurface of a troubled time in their native Ireland. As their vacation comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are—and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves.

Bernard MacLaverty is a master storyteller, and this is the essential MacLaverty novel: compassionate observation, elegant writing, and a heartrending story. It is also a profound examination of human love and how we live together—a chamber piece of resonance and power.

My Thoughts: 

I LOVE this book cover! Everything about it draws me in and I am looking forward to reading the story.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Latest cover crush HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

Stay calm and support book bloggers

Wish-List 5: World War II History/Sea Bound

This month’s wish-list is a powerful one in my opinion. We will never forget the sacrifices our military made and still makes so we might be saved from oppression and for many other reasons. War is ugly, brutal and often times heatless one…Needless to say, it also saves lives and governments from falling into the wrong hands.   

This list involves war at sea and this collection of books is one I want to have for my library. Be sure to check out other wish-list from my fellow book bloggers below!


The Cruel Sea (Classics of War)The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

A powerful novel of the North Atlantic in World War II, this is the story of the British ships Compass Rose and Saltash and of their desparate cat-and-mouse game with Nazi U-boats. First published to great accalim in 1951, The Cruel Sea remains a classic novel of endurance and daring




The Battle of the Atlantic How the Allies Won the WarThe Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War by Jonathan Dimbleby

“The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril,” wrote Winston Churchill in his monumental history of World War Two. Churchill’s fears were well-placed-the casualty rate in the Atlantic was higher than in any other theater of the entire war. The enemy was always and constantly there and waiting, lying just over the horizon or lurking beneath the waves. In many ways, the Atlantic shipping lanes, where U-boats preyed on American ships, were the true front of the war.

England’s very survival depended on assistance from the United States, much of which was transported across the ocean by boat. The shipping lanes thus became the main target of German naval operations between 1940 and 1945. The Battle of the Atlantic and the men who fought it were therefore crucial to both sides. Had Germany succeeded in cutting off the supply of American ships, England might not have held out. Yet had Churchill siphoned reinforcements to the naval effort earlier, thousands of lives might have been preserved. The battle consisted of not one but hundreds of battles, ranging from hours to days in duration, and forcing both sides into constant innovation and nightmarish second-guessing, trying desperately to gain the advantage of every encounter. Any changes to the events of this series of battles, and the outcome of the war-as well as the future of Europe and the world-would have been dramatically different.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s, The Battle of the Atlantic offers a detailed and immersive account of this campaign, placing it within the context of the war as a whole. Dimbleby delves into the politics on both sides of the Atlantic, revealing the role of Bletchley Park and the complex and dynamic relationship between America and England. He uses contemporary diaries and letters from leaders and sailors to chilling effect, evoking the lives and experiences of those who fought the longest battle of World War Two. This is the definitive account of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Kappillan of MaltaThe Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat

As bombs pound Malta to dust, Father Salvatore–a simple priest, or kappillan, serving the poor–finds himself caught in the drama of World War Two. In the fragile safety of catacombs revealed by the explosions, he tends to the flood of homeless, starving, and frightened people seeking shelter, giving messages of inspiration and hope. His story, and that of the island, unfold in superbly graphic images of six days during the siege.

The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 by James D. Hornfischer

The extraordinary story of the World War II air, land, and sea campaign that brought the U.S. Navy to the apex of its strength and marked the rise of the United States as a global superpower

One of America s preeminent military historians, James D. Hornfischer has written his most expansive and ambitious book to date. Drawing on new primary sources and personal accounts by Americans and Japanese alike, here is a thrilling narrative of the climactic end stage of the Pacific War, focusing on the U.S. invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944 and the momentous events that it triggered.

With its thunderous assault into Japan s inner defensive perimeter, America crossed the threshold of total war. From the seaborne invasion of Saipan to the stunning aerial battles of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, to the largest banzai attack of the war and the strategic bombing effort that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marianas became the fulcrum of the drive to compel Tokyo to surrender with consequences that forever changed modern war.

These unprecedented operations saw the first large-scale use of Navy Underwater Demolition Teams; a revolution in the fleet s ability to sustain cross-hemispheric expeditionary warfare; the struggle of American troops facing not only a suicidal enemy garrison but desperate Japanese civilians; and the rise of the U.S. Navy as the greatest of grand fleets. From the Marianas, B-29 Superfortresses would finally unleash nuclear fire on an enemy resolved to fight to the end.

Hornfischer casts this clash of nations and cultures with cinematic scope and penetrating insight, focusing closely on the people who rose to the challenge under fire: Raymond Spruance, the brilliant, coolly calculating commander of the Fifth Fleet; Kelly Turner, whose amphibious forces delivered Marine General Holland Howlin Mad Smith s troops to the beaches of Saipan and Tinian; Draper Kauffman, founder of the Navy unit that predated today s SEALs; Paul Tibbets, who created history s first atomic striking force and flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima; and Japanese warriors and civilians who saw the specter of defeat as the ultimate test of the spirit.

From the seas of the Central Pacific to the shores of Japan itself, The Fleet at Flood Tide is a stirring and deeply humane account of World War II s world-changing finale. Advance praise for The Fleet at Flood Tide

This is a masterful account of the barbaric last year of the Pacific War, combining original scholarship, engaging prose, excellent historical judgment, and empathy for the soldier, to explain why defeating the Japanese proved so costly and how American military forces performed so effectively and, in the end, humanely. The Fleet at Flood Tide is, quite simply, popular and scholarly military history at its best. Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture, senior fellow in classics and military history, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University

We have here a carefully researched and well-written account of key stages and events in the final portion of the war in the Pacific that includes a careful look at the Japanese side as well as the American. The campaign in the Marianas and the background and reality of the atomic bomb are exceptionally thoughtfully presented. Gerhard L. Weinberg, author of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II, professor emeritus of history, University of North Carolina”

Pacific CruciblePacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (The Pacific War Series #1) by Ian W. Toll

On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.

Ian W. Toll’s dramatic narrative encompasses both the high command and the “sailor’s-eye” view from the lower deck. Relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, Pacific Crucible also spotlights recent scholarship that has revised our understanding of the conflict, including the Japanese decision to provoke a war that few in the country’s highest circles thought they could win. The result is a page-turning history that does justice to the breadth and depth of a tremendous subject.

The Caine MutinyThe Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

The Novel that Inspired the Now-Classic Film, The Caine Mutiny and the Hit Broadway Play, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial Herman Wouk’s boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status of a modern classic.



Here are the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired


Interview with Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly

C.S. O'Kelly BRAG

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly today. Born to a loving mother with little money, but an abundance of imagination she shared with C. S. during long walks, bike rides before helmets, and nightly readings from mountains of books.  Stories of giants and elves, mythical beasts and powerful maidens filled the world of C. S. from the earliest of memories.

After finishing graduate school, C. S. O’Kelly sold off all five possessions, purchased a 1974 Ford 19-foot motorhome and went north. After ten years in SE Alaska, C. S. landed in warmer climes on a small ranch in Northern California where crafting stories and story worlds seemed as natural as raising organic free range chickens (named after Stars Wars characters) for eggs only.

To this day, C. S. travels the world, but always comes back to the small ranch with a home built with C. S.’s own hands near San Francisco, California. The philosophy that we enter the world with innate, powerful and beautiful imaginations is the core for all of C. S. O’Kelly’s works and a belief that permeates all things C. S

Hello, C.S.! How did you discover indieBRAG?

First off it’s a pleasure meeting you, Stephanie and thank you for giving another independent author a medium to highlight their work. indieBRAG was highly recommended to me by our talented editing team and has a great reputation in the indie publishing realm.

A pleasure, C.S.!

Please tell me about your children’s book, The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear.

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear

It’s ‘Book 1’ in a picture book series about a friendship between a young girl, Gracie and her dog, MonkeyBear. Through the power of imagination and kindness, they travel to adventurous, far off places, helping those in need along the way.

Tell me a little about the relationship between Gracie & MonkeyBear.

They are the best of friends and the closest of family. Gracie is a bold and fearless adventurer while MonkeyBear is a brilliant scientist and inventor. Each is a different side of the same coin and when together… anything is possible!

What is an example of the adventure they take by finding portals to new worlds?

Gracie & MonkeyBear hear a mother whale calling for help from their wading pool in the backyard. MonkeyBear designs a submarine out of odds & ends lying around and together, they build the sub and launch it into the wading pool and are off to help the whale.

What was the inspiration for your story?

Watching my Niece playing with my Bernese Mountain Dog, Seamus (nickname: MonkeyBear) in the backyard. She was only 5 at the time, but would ‘put a bubble’ over his head as if he were carrying on a conversation with her. She has a boundless imagination and MonkeyBear adores her. I grabbed a notepad and sketched out the first few scenes of what became, Book 1 of The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear series.

How did you get into writing children’s books?

I worked with youth programs all through college in the summers and whenever I was working with the younger kids, they clamored for ‘storytelling’ time, so I spent many hours reading the best picture books from all the greats. Many years later, I stumbled upon works by Illustrator, Jordy Farrell; I knew it was time to give Gracie & MonkeyBear life. Book 1: Summer is our teams’ first book.

Who designed your book cover?

The wondrous, Arial Light took my loosely bound concept of creating a cover similar to those of the early adventure novels by Jack London and Jules Verne.  Arial created a cover that harkens back to the daring times of the past when the potential of adventure seemed on every horizon.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ask for it at their local bookstore, Signed Author Special Edition from the Gracie & MonkeyBear website.

What is up next for you?

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear, Book 2: Winter is coming out late October 2017 and I am also working on a picture book series with Illustrator/designer Arial Light at the helm that is going to be fantastically unusual! Of course…

Thank you, C.S.!


Gracie & MonkeyBear Website

Purchase on Amazon

Kirkus Best Books of 2016

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Instagram

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Gracie & MonkeyBear on Storytime Station and More

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.S. O’Kelly who is the author of, Gracie & MonkeyBear, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Gracie & MonkeyBear, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Book Review & Free Book Offer: A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories by Clare Flynn

A Fine Pair of Shoes and other storiesMy thoughts:

Award Winning Author Clare Flynn writes a collection of nine short-stories. She shares with her readers’ tales of the past to the modern day. It is not often I review short-stories, so I was delighted to agree to this project. I enjoy how Clare cleverly weaves these intriguing short tales. I’d have to say the first two stories and the story about two people’s trip to The Great Exhibition of 1851 are my favorite and I would love for her to expand of the character’s lives with a possible novel or maybe further short stories. One can only hope. What brings even more value to two of the stories in this collection is Flynn’s family history-or based on I should say. You get a glimpse into her family and find charming, heart-felt and extraordinary people.

In the last two chapters, Flynn shares with us the first two chapters of her upcoming novel, The Chalky Sea. My review for that powerful story will come soon.

Overall I have rated this collection of art four stars while giving a few of them a three-star rating. The overall presentation of the book was superbly done starting with the book cover and title. I hope to see more short-stories like this from the author and look forward to reading The Chalky Sea!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

You can download A Fine Pair of Shoes by Clare Flynn HERE now through June 30th.

About Author:

Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with a strong sense of time and place and compelling characters. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced – forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.

Born in Liverpool she is the eldest of five children. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea.

When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.

Author links




Amazon Author Page


Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Books

Cover Crush: The Lioness of Morocco by Julia Drosten

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


The Lioness of MoroccoIndependent-minded Sibylla Spencer feels trapped in nineteenth-century London, where her strong will and progressive views have rendered her unmarriageable. Still single at twenty-three, she is treated like a child and feels stifled in her controlling father’s house.

When Benjamin Hopkins, an ambitious employee of her father’s trading company, shows an interest in her, she realizes marriage is her only chance to escape. As Benjamin’s rising career whisks them both away to exotic Morocco, Sibylla is at last a citizen of the world, reveling in her newfound freedom by striking her first business deals, befriending locals…and falling in love for the first time with a charismatic and handsome Frenchman.

But Benjamin’s lust for money and influence draws him into dark dealings, pulling him ever further from Sibylla and their two young sons. When he’s arrested on horrible charges, the fate of Sibylla’s family rests on her shoulders, as she must decide whether she’ll leave him to his fate or help him fight for his life.

My thoughts:

I find this book cover, striking. I love the colors and the backdrop-if you will-and how the woman’s eyes draw you into her world. I am also intrigued with the title and premise. I will be reading this book very soon.


Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum


Interview with Award Winning Author Vicky Adin

Vicky Adin BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Vicky Adin today. Vicky is captivated by the 19th Century pioneers who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life in New Zealand. The women especially, needed strength of mind as well as body to survive, let alone flourish in a strange, new land. As a genealogist in love with history, these immigrants and their ancestors drive her stories.

Vicky lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Master degree with Honours in English and Education. Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. She has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, inspired by real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.

When not writing you will find her reading historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, caravanning or cruising with her husband, or spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also likes walking and gardening.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first heard about IndieBRAG through author Linda Gillard as several of her books have won this award. I was impressed with her books, so I went searching to find the criteria hoping that my novels might qualify. I was delighted to find they did.

Linda Gillard’s B.R.A.G. Medallions

Please tell me about your book, The Girl from County Clare.

The Girl From County Clare new cover BRAG

Although Brigid loves her home and family, she is torn. If she stays, she is another mouth to feed in a land plagued by starvation and poverty. If she leaves, she will never see any of them again. Heartbroken, Brigid boards the ship that will take her to a new life in Australia.

Brigid must learn to conquer her fears and overcome the stigma of being a servant, a female and Irish if she is to fulfill her dream. A new start in New Zealand offers hope – until the day the man who seeks her downfall finds her.


This story is loosely based on the true story of my husband’s maternal great-grandmother. I’m a genealogist and while researching her history I realised she had a fantastic story to tell. First, there was the long journey by one of the first steam/sail ships to Australia. On board, she meets new people and learns a lot about how they behave. She endures shipboard life, survives the storms and arrives in Brisbane stronger for the experience. Then she learns about life in Queensland and what people expected in a harsh new landscape, followed by a move to New Zealand where life is more egalitarian and forgiving.

I had to get inventive and give Brigid a useful occupation which provided both opportunity and hope. In real life, she was a domestic servant with little excitement in her every day routines, but the basic facts of her story and the actual events that happened during that time form the background to this novel.

What is one challenges of bigotry that Brigid faces?

Being poor, Irish and Catholic were all marks against girls in the 19th century. Proving yourself as good as the next and better than some took determination and spirit, all of which Brigid had in bucket loads.

In an endeaour to populate Queensland faster, The Domestic Servant scheme was introduced and many young poor Irish took the opportunity to escape starvation and search for a new life. It wasn’t always better.

Having a skill set Brigid apart, and Irish lace is famous for its intricacies and beauty.

What are her strengths?

Brigid’s skill as a lace-maker attracts the attention in the first place. Everyone wants a piece of lace that is made just for them, but her innate good nature is what draws people to her overall. Her ability to relate to people and her moral inner strength and determination means people lean on her. She never lets them down.

What inspired you to write a story during the 19th Century?

That period is significant in history because New Zealand is such a young country. Settlers didn’t start arriving until the 1840’s and by the 1850’s the European population still only stood at around 28000. After the Land Wars with the Maori in the 1860’s immigrants began to arrive in their thousands. The period between 1880 and the turn of the century was, in essence, the birth of a new nation. There are hundreds of fascinating stories of those times that are worth sharing.

What made you choose New Zealand where she sets up a home. 

Because it’s true, but she didn’t live in Auckland. She lived in the Taranaki region – and because I live in New Zealand. This country is stunningly beautiful with an absorbing evolution. The people who came here came of their own free will in search of a better life. They worked hard, and developed a ‘can do’ attitude long before such a thing was heard of or became popular. They made do with what they had and developed something from nothing and by doing that often became world leaders in new ideas. I believe that history should be kept alive.

What is some of the research that went into writing this story? 

 I spend a lot of time reading old newspapers. They provide an incredible insight into what happened, what people thought about those events and how they coped when things didn’t go according to plan. They would be my number one source, although I do use the Archives, online resources and the library when I want to back up my knowledge. My family history research also tells me a lot about how people lived. Old photos show what the houses and people looked like and what they wore, and the country is filled with amateur historians willing to share their knowledge.

How long did it take to write this book and what was your process? 

It takes me about a year to write a book, although many of the original ideas have been festering for a long while. Again, family history research brings up occupations most people know little about – an artist’s model, an author, Brigid is a lace-maker. My only male protagonist is a soldier who becomes a pacifist. In my current novel, Gwenna, she is a sugar boiler. I usually have to explain what a sugar boiler is. She makes sweets and creates a confectionery business.

I gather some facts that include a few unusual twists and turns and start to write. As I write, I research that what I’m describing is relevant and available at that time. I read the newspapers and include events that happened around that time which my characters could have been involved in – and if they weren’t involved, they would have known about it. I build a real life based on real events around the bones of real people. The love, they laugh, they cry, they grieve and they leave something of themselves behind at the end of every story.

Where can readers buy your book? 


Author links:






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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Vicky Adin who is the author of, The Girl from County Clare, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Girl from County Clare, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Cover Crush: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


People of the BookInspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

My thoughts:

I’m not quite sure how the cover relates to the story, but nonetheless, this cover really stands out to me. I find the title appealing as well and the premise. I am definitely moving this one up on my reading-list.


Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Erin’s latest cover crush HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!


Interview with Award Winning Author Loren Walker

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I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Loren Walker today. Loren is originally from Ontario, Canada, Loren Walker now works and lives in Rhode Island. She earned a Master of Arts in Literature, focus in poetry, from Rhode Island College. Her poems have appeared in QU Journal, the West
Texas Literary Review, and the anthologies Routes and Frequency Writers City and Sea. In 2016, she dove into the world of publishing through her company Octopus & Elephant Books. Her debut publication, the fantasy-sci-fi novel EKO, was a BRAG Medallion Honoree, shortlisted for the Half the World Global Literari Award, and was selected as a Shelf Unbound 2016 Notable Indie.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I learned about indieBRAG online, while researching award competitions that were open to self-publishing work. It was one of the first competitions I submitted EKO to, and I’m glad I found it!

Please tell me about your book, EKO.

The story follows Sydel, a medical apprentice with psychic abilities (called EKO), and a trio of estranged siblings, Phaira, Cohen and Renzo, who are tasked with the girl’s protection, and then her rescue, from malevolent forces. EKO is what I call “tech fantasy,” in that it takes places on another world, Osha, but there’s flying ships and other technology, plus fast-paced action, a little detective work, sibling rivalry, and a touch of romance. As one of the six siblings, I’ve always been drawn to stories that delve into the natural drama between brothers and sisters. I’m also a big advocate for the promotion of complex female protagonists in genre fiction; I want to see strong women who aren’t just tough and serious, but also funny, sexy, silly, and human, and I strove to create then in EKO. Overall, EKP will appeal to fans of paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction, comic books and anime, world-building, fast-paced action, and psychic phenomena.

What was the inspiration of your premise and how did you come to write fantasy?

I’ve written stories since I was a little girl: fairies and space battles and superheroes, very fantastical. But when I went to university and started creative writing classes, genre fiction wasn’t considered to be “real writing,” and was deeply discouraged. I was young and impressionable; I felt ashamed of my love of SSF, and didn’t write anything but poetry for many years. I am happy to say, though, that I’ve since realized that I adore fantasy and science-fiction. I love to write it, and its’ not “lesser” to me or millions of others out there. As far as inspiration for EKO, while sifting through screenplays, stories and sketchbooks from high school and college, I began to pull out characters and ideas that still resonated. I thought it be interesting to mash all these different ideas together in a single setting and see what happened in the course of a short story. But the ideas kept coming, and I fell in love with these reborn characters, and a novel (and sequel) were developed over the course of a year.


Tell me about your main character’s strengths and weaknesses.

There are two main characters in EKO: Sydel and Phaira. Both appears as total opposites; Sydel is small, shy, naïve to the world, while Phaira is tall, powerful, and the warrior among her siblings. But Sydel is unwavering in her beliefs; she may look traditionally feminine and not so strong, but she holds herself to high morals, and she never, ever backs down from them. Ever! She’s a real pain at times, but she will always do what is good and what is right, no matter the cost, and in many ways, she’s the toughest of them all. And Phaira: I’m proud of her layers, how she’s this brash ex-soldier/special ops expert who bickers with her brothers, struggles with addictive behavior, but she can also be warm, joking, protective, and vulnerable.

How did you decide on the title for your book?

Originally, when this was going to be a standalone book, the tentative title was Mobius Loop, in reference to patterns repeating, same old mistakes, which is a major theme in the story. But everything changed as the story progressed, and it seemed natural to title the books after the “abilities” that characters in this story possess, instead. There are four ‘powers’ (and four books) in this series: Eko, Nadi, Insynn…and I’m not saying that the fourth is yet. That will be revealed soon!

Who designed your book cover?

Deranged Doctor Designs do all my book covers. They’re fast, inexpensive, and easy to work with. Special shout outs to my girls Kim and Darja!

How much time did you take to write this story and what was your process?

The first draft of EKO took a year; editing EKO took two more, because I was still sorting out this world I’d created, and solidifying details.

Now that I know the world and my people, the process is quicker. And my process is snippets of time at a computer, writing ideas in a notebook, thinking about story-lines while I’m driving. It’s whenever I can get a spare moment. I work several different jobs. I have a young son, and finding the time to do any of this is always a challenge. But I always try to do something to move forward every day, even if it’s just thinking about the storyline and where I want to go with it.

Have you written other books? What are you currently working on now?

EKO was the first book I ever finished. The sequel, NADI, was released in March 2017, and the third book in the series, INSYNN, will be out in September 2017. The fourth and final book of the series will be released in March 2018; I’m =finishing the final draft now. I’m also releasing a poetry chapbook, DISLOCATION, a compilation of poems and illustrations about traveling in Japan with my mother. I workshop actively on WATTpad.

Where can readers buy your book, EKO?

Barnes and Noble
Barrington Books Retold 
Books on the Square

Other links:

Official Website
Twitter Handle: lorenwalker99
Instagram: lorenwalkerauthor
Wattpad Profile
Goodreads Profile 

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Loren Walker who is the author of, EKO, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, EKO, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Interview with Award Winning Author Kandi M. Siegel

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I’d like to welcome multi award winning author Kandi M. Siegel today. Kandi graduated from University of Central Florida is 2006 earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and was also certified in Special Education.  She received the Editor’s Choice Award for outstanding achievement in poetry by the National Library of Poetry in 1997.  She has been a member of the Space Coast Writer’s Guild since 2012. In 2008, Ms. Siegel was hurt on the job while working with special education and was unable to continue her job.  Her love for children brought her back to her earlier career of storytelling.  She finds writing books for children and meeting people at book signings a very rewarding experience.

Hello, Kandi! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Hello Stephanie, My editor of My Summer Triumph was actually the one who suggested I submit my book to IndieBrag and I was so honored when I found out that the book won the BRAG Medallion Award.

Tell me a little about your book, My Summer Triumph.

My Summer Triumph is based on a true life experience from when I first went to overnight camp.  All of the actual events in the story really did happen to me, though some of them were exaggerated a bit to make for a better story.

My Summer Triumph

What are Kalia’s strengths?

Kaila is a good person with a huge caring heart, which may have been one of her biggest downfalls as she was an easy target for being bullied.  She knew right from wrong, however, she wanted so much to fit in with everyone that she was easily lured into bad situations.  Her true strengths really didn’t come into play until the end of the story when Kaila’s dancing lessons gave her the encouragement she needed to be the center of attention, in a positive way.

What is an example of how Shayna helps her?

Shayna was always very positive towards Kaila.  She would encourage her to stand up to the bully, Mean Michelle.  Shayna even came up with a way for Kaila to get even with Mean Michelle, but unfortunately it backfired and on Kaila.  Shayna’s biggest plus was when she loaned Kaila some of her clothes to wear to the camp social, which made Kaila feel a whole lot better as her clothes were not exactly the most stylish in comparison to everyone else’s.

Your premise has a strong message, what would you say to encourage readers to read your book?

My Summer Triumph is a book that should encourage all young adults to be proud of who they  are and to stand strong and never give up.  The reader should learn from Kaila’s mistakes such as she knew it was wrong to smoke yet instead of walking away, she let the girls talk her into trying a cigarette.  Bullying is unfortunately a big part of today’s society, but if everyone joined forces to stand up to these bullies, rather than watching someone get made fun of, maybe we could wipe out bullying once and for all.

How did you get into writing young adult books?

I have been writing children stories since I was in elementary school.  My teachers all told me I had a very creative imagination and that I would make a good story teller someday.  I started keeping all my stories in a box and little by little, I am building on each story to turn them into actual books.

What is your writing process?

When I am about to write a story, first I jot notes.  I make an outline of the different chapters and what I want to write about in each one.  I list all the characters I am going to use in the book and I decide how each one is going to look and what their names will be. I keep the outline close by to use as a guide.

What advice would you give to inspiring writers to write in this genre?

Advice I would give to inspiring writers is to create a story where the reader can actually imagine him or herself in the book.  Make the sounds, scenes and characters come alive by the way you describe them.  For example, if you are writing about a cherry pie, don’t just say cherry pie, but rather exclaim that it is a sweet, juicy cherry pie.  By describing the pie in depth, it makes the reader able to actually taste it.

What is next for you?

I am currently working on a series of books, something I actually started writing in the third grade but never really did anything with the stories until now.  The main character is the same in all the books with a lesson to be learned from each story.

Where can readers buy your book?

My Summer Triumph is sold on Amazon in paperback form and on kindle.  Here is the link:  Amazon

Be sure to stay tune for my next interview with Kandi about her latest B.R.A.G. Medallion coming soon!  

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kandi M. Siegel who is the author of, My Summer Triumph, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, My Summer Triumph, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.