Monday, October 14, 2019

Interview + Giveaway: The Long Night: Blood Will Be Served by M.G. Darwish (@infrangilis, @XpressoTours)

UFI welcomes Author M.G. Darwish. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

My stories are dark, and if there’s one thing I don’t particularly enjoy, it’s books that are too predictable or often shy away from portraying the darker side of reality. Although what we write is fiction, but I find stories that shy away from horrendous life or death situations to be boring. There was one time where I was challenged to write a “happy” book and ended up with a story of ducks just trying live their lives (but the mother duck was brutalized and killed in front of her own children by a pack of wolves -who then proceeded to kill all the children). Recently, I was asked on Twitter why all my stories are dark, to which I responded with: “Tragedy and calamity bring the best in us -I believe, a candle will only shine its brightest in the dark.”

What do you enjoy doing on your down time?

I love to read -obviously- books and random articles about ancient civilizations and old pantheons and try to get the reasoning behind every statement and law that was used. Aside from that, I really just enjoy working on stories (some of which do not see the light of day, and just remain in my folders). 

What is your favorite part of writing?

It has to be the outlining process. That is where I generally plan the twists and turns in the story and sometimes it gets so.. tedious that in order to pull off the plot twist, the story has to ease readers into it. There's just something about outlining that I absolutely love. That is what writing is all about, and if done correctly, it all builds up and creates one hell of a world for readers to delve into.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?

I light a few candles, close the lights, connect my laptop to my giant TV and my 'writing' chair (it has bluetooth speakers on the back and it vibrates!). There are also two types of writers, those who can only write when listening to music, and those who can write in absolute silence. If you're the latter, congratulations, I hate you, you magnificent ******.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?

I actually don't read a lot of Urban Fantasy, but I'd mention the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare as being one of my top reads recently. I tend to enjoy dark fantasy (The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the Witcher Series).

I'm currently reading the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas as well (I'm at Heir of Fire) and plan to go on a reading sabbatical pretty soon and finish the entire series.

How would you pitch The Long Night (Fortier Series) to someone who has not heard of it before?

I wrote Fortier for many reasons, one of which was the growing misrepresentation of true vampire origins nowadays. It portrays the darker side of vampires, in how vicious and deadly they could be. It's definitely not for the soft-hearted as one reader found out and couldn't finish the book.

It is definitely not the usual "vampire" take and forces readers to forget any preconceived notions of vampires, this can be a different take on vampire mythology all-together. What makes it so exciting (for me at least) is how the bulk of the cast are as ancient as they can be. For example, the main character has lived during the times of the Roman Empire and the Fall of Carthage. So if you enjoy a bit of history, this is definitely one read you'll enjoy.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Long Night (Fortier Series) is set in?

It takes place in modern Texas. Vampires have lived for almost as long as humans deep underground after the Salem Witch Trials, they are families, ruling hierarchies. They trade, and buy just as any mortal would do.

Nearly all historic events and civilizations have influenced the world of today, as most characters have deep roots in history as they have lived it. There are also ground rules set by the Elders for all vampires to follow, one of them forbidding the supernatural from contacting the natural world. Yet within every society, there are rebels and mischiefs as much as there are those who live and honor the rules.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Long Night?

There was one scene in particular that sparked the entire concept of the book in my head. I knew that whatever happened, I just had to reach that point in particular. I can't really mention what it is, but the combination, tension, and conflict of power around just one table was thrilling to write.

You hear stories how authors kill their darlings, and to me this scene was a prime example of such practice. When I first wrote that scene, it was just like I imagined it (I avoided writing it in advance, to serve as a motivation to continue writing) but in the grand scheme of things, it just fell short. It was hurting the plot more than it was helping and that is why I completely rewrote it to the point where I couldn't recognize it -being my favorite scene to write- but all in all, it was for the greater good.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?

You would imagine it would be Alfred, the main character but no. It was Dave. An insecure, dimwitted but kind writer who had a death wish. I loved writing his character and the growth and impact that he had on the story almost demanded that I write something exclusive to him.

The hardest character to write for was -ironically- the main character Alfred, and not just because he scared the heck out of me. In terms of writing, you have to avoid writing overpowered characters; that is a sacred law. A character without weakness is just lazy writing... or is it? There are so many things you can do with a character like Alfred, so what if he's the Strongest? What sense of danger would he be in? Can he be everywhere at the same time? Those are some of the questions I had to answer when writing the book.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?

I have another series called "Titanlord" which was my first real project. Book 1 is out right now, and currently, I'm in the process of finishing the first draft of book 2. Meanwhile, I've already started outlining the next installment of Fortier. I do have a working title, but I think a better announcement here would be the first few words that open the next book:

You are your father's son.

M.G. Darwish is an award nominated author who writes dark, twisted and action-packed fiction. He tries his best not to base his characters on anyone he knows in real life to avoid that extra weird conversation about how they were brutalized and killed in the book. Oh and he’s terrified of a penguin uprising more than ghosts and demons.

He is best known for his Secret of the Moonlight which was featured on Wattpad.

Find M.G. Darwish and his books

The Long Night: Blood Will Be Served
Fortier #2
The Vampire Alfred, is known as the Fortier. Vicious, renowned and feared.

Alfred Zeidan is proclaimed Fortier, the Strongest amongst the vampires. After ending a century old feud between the two most prominent vampire houses, he sets out to rid his race of a shadow that has long haunted them.

The Elders have been the deciding factor in the fall of so many civilizations that date back to Carthage and the Romans. So many have fallen to them, but now Alfred as the Strongest takes on this challenge.

No one has ever considered a world without the Elders running it, would it spread chaos in the Underground? Or will it shift the balance of the supernatural completely? One thing is for certain: Alfred intends to see this through. Will he succeed? Or will succumb as those before him?

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Week in Review: 10/6-10/12

Books Received for Review

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin
Boundary Haunted by Melissa F. Olsen

Books I've Read

Delayed Admission by Renee Heather
Firstborn Academy: Shadow Trials by Isla Frost
Deadly Declaration by Heather Renee
Fortune Academy: Year One by J.R. Thorn

Reviews Posted

Sharpest Sting by Jennifer Estep (@ Jennifer_Estep )


* New Releases for the week. Was there anything you were looking forward to reading?

* Monday- Cover Reveal + Giveaway: Off Balance by Aileen Erin (@aileen_erin, @XpressoTours, @InkyTheMonster)

* Wednesday- Promo + Giveaway: The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy (@LaurenMansy, @XpressoTours)

* Thursday- Interview + Giveaway: Beasts of the Frozen Sun by Jill Criswell (@JillCriswell, @XpressoTours)


* Did you know you can follow UFI on these other sites?

You can also add me (as in Stacy) to your friends on these sites if you're on them.

 * I love comments so if you see something you like (or not) please comment away and let me know.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Sharpest Sting by Jennifer Estep (@ Jennifer_Estep )

Sharpest Sting
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Self-Published
ASIN:  B07VZ8L7F7  
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Author

The truth won’t set me free—but it will probably get me killed ...

As Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, I’m used to having a target on my back. But ever since I started investigating the secret society known as the Circle, that target seems bigger than ever.

Still, I’m trying to relax and enjoy the events leading up to my friends’ wedding when I learn that an old enemy has returned to Ashland. And that’s the just beginning of my latest nightmare. Soon, I have Circle goons watching my every move, but I have no choice but to continue searching for a key piece of evidence against the evil group.

The deeper I dig, the more horrifying secrets I uncover, and the more dangerous things become for me and my friends. Just when I think I finally have a handle on things, a shocking revelation shatters my heart and leaves me with an ugly realization—that betrayal is the sharpest sting of all ...

Plenty of action and suspense. Lots of danger and deceit. I don't see myself ever getting sick of Gin Blanco.

It's getting really hard to review these books after 18 have come and gone. I don't want to give away any spoilers and I also don't want to continue to say the same things I have said in the past (ie: I love Gin, I love her friends, I love the world, etc).

SHARPEST STING continues the Circle storyline. We get some pretty big revelations and we finally get to meet the uncle. I knew he was evil because of the things that have been revealed in past books, but I was still really shocked by the level of evil that came out of him. A new character is introduced and he stirs some things up on multiple fronts. Some good, some bad.

I don't know why, but I still really want to see Gin and Owen get married and have babies and fight to keep them safe. I can't imagine getting sick of Gin and her friends. Bring me more.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Interview + Giveaway: Beasts of the Frozen Sun by Jill Criswell (@JillCriswell, @XpressoTours)

UFI welcomes Author Jill Criswell. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

I’ve always been captivated by heroes and heroines from sci-fi and fantasy stories, and it’s shaped some of the most important decisions in my life. I was determined to travel the world after watching Indiana Jones movies as a kid. I starting working out and took martial arts because it made me feel more like my favorite female warriors—Ripley, Sarah Connor, Valeria (from the Conan series). I started writing because I wanted to make my own characters and stories that were like the ones I loved. 

What do you enjoy doing on your down time?

I read a lot, especially young adult fantasy (currently reading The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, and loving it). I try to work out every day to stay in shape. I hang out with my husband and my daughter, and if I have any extra time, I like to binge-watch shows (currently catching up on season 6 of The 100).

What is your favorite part of writing?

When something surprises me! Sometimes I think I know what’s going to happen in my story, and then my characters go off-script or something I never planned for drops in like a bomb. Once a writer creates a world and characters, they really do take on a life of their own.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?

It often depends on the scenes I’m writing. Usually I need music that fits the scene’s mood. Sometimes the words come easily and I write straight through for hours, sometimes I take lots of breaks to mull over details and plot points. I have a convertible desk, so sometimes I stand up to write and sometimes I sit down. Sometimes I drink hot coffee, sometimes cold coffee. Whatever keeps me writing is what I do. 

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?

For urban fantasy, I love Karen Marie Moning, Ilona Andrews, and Sarah Fine. For high fantasy, I love Juliet Marillier, Jacqueline Carey, Leigh Bardugo, and Sabaa Tahir. Recent books that knocked me off my feet are The Fever King by Victoria Lee, The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

How would you pitch BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN to someone who has not heard of it before?

Beasts of the Frozen Sun is a young adult fantasy inspired by Viking invasions in Ireland. It's about Lira, a chieftain’s daughter with the power to read a person's soul, who saves Reyker, a foreign invader sent to attack her village. Despite being from enemy nations, they begin to care for each other. But Lira’s father and Reyker’s warlord will do anything to keep them apart, forcing them to choose between loyalty and love, between the fates of their countries and the desires of their hearts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that the FROZEN SUN SAGA is set in?

Glasnith (based on ancient Ireland) is an island nation divided into villages ruled by chieftains, the patriarchs of powerful clans. In every clan, one female magic-bearer is born each generation—the Daughters of Aillira—to help protect Glasnith in the name of the True Gods. Glasnith has a bloody history of wars between gods and men that ravaged the lands a thousand years earlier.

When a tribe from the Frozen Sun (based on ancient Iceland) invades, Glasnith’s clans turn on one another, and the island falls into chaos. Blood spills, gods walk the earth once more, and a new war between mortals and immortals begins that threatens to destroy Glasnith and its people.

Do you have a favorite scene in BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN?

There’s a scene where Lira winds up a hostage of one of Reyker’s arch enemies. It’s very cinematic and has a great mix of all the things I love to write—an action-packed emotional battle scene, followed by romantic confessions and a bit of kissing. There’s a lot of meaning packed into a handful of pages, and I had a great time writing it.   

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?
It's hard to choose between Lira and Reyker. Lira starts out an idealist, but as the people she cares for die or betray her and the gods she worships use her as a pawn in their schemes, her character gets darker and darker. Reyker has already hit rock bottom, and his journey is about clawing his way back to redemption, with many setbacks and relapses along the way. Both of them are flawed and struggling through tragedy and trauma, which made it fascinating to write from their points of view.

Lira’s father, Torin, was the most difficult to write because he’s neither a hero nor a villain, but has aspects of both. He wants power and status, but in his mind, it’s a required tool to protect his people. He does horrible things to achieve this power, but he thinks the ends justify the means. I wanted him to be monstrous, but still sympathetic and honorable, and that was a hard line to straddle.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?

Right now, I’m focused on promoting Beasts of the Frozen Sun and finishing up work on the sequels (which should be released in 2020 and 2021, respectively). But I do also have a draft of a Hindu-inspired young adult fantasy sitting on my computer, just waiting for some attention, so I’m hoping to polish that up and make it my next book project.


Jill Criswell is a writer of Young Adult Historical Fantasy. She was born and raised in the swamps of northeastern Florida. She earned degrees in English and Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. Her greatest passion, besides reading and writing, is traveling the world; she's visited fifty countries across six continents, falling in love with places like Iceland, Namibia, and Cambodia. She works as a university English teacher and lives in South Carolina, near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with her husband and daughter (who is named after a volcano in Iceland).

Find Jill and her books

Beasts of the Frozen Sun 
Frozen Sun Saga #1
Burn brightly. Love fiercely. For all else is dust.

Every child of Glasnith learns the last words of Aillira, the god-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair sparked a war of gods and men, and Lira of clan Stone knows the story better than most. As a descendant of Aillira and god-gifted in her own right, she has the power to read people's souls, to see someone's true essence with only a touch of her hand.

When a golden-haired warrior washes up on the shores of her homeland--one of the fearful marauders from the land of the Frozen Sun--Lira helps the wounded man instead of turning him in. After reading his soul, she realizes Reyker is different than his brethren who attack the coasts of Glasnith. He confides in her that he's been cursed with what his people call battle-madness, forced to fight for the warlord known as the Dragon, a powerful tyrant determined to reignite the ancient war that Aillira started.

As Lira and Reyker form a bond forbidden by both their clans, the wrath of the Dragon falls upon them and all of Glasnith, and Lira finds herself facing the same tragic fate as her ancestor. The battle for Lira's life, for Reyker's soul, and for their peoples' freedom has only just begun.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Promo + Giveaway: The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy (@LaurenMansy, @XpressoTours)

The Memory Thief
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal's" memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.

Q+A with Lauren Mansy:
  • What was it like to write your first book and have it published?
Incredible! It’s been such a wonderful journey filled with many sweet moments. I began writing over seven years ago, and it’s definitely surreal that The Memory Thief is now on shelves! As of late, there have been quite a few teary moments—and I’m totally not a crier! I’m truly overwhelmed by every kind word, the support, and the willingness to walk alongside me as The Memory Thief has gone from something imagined to a real book. I couldn’t be more excited to share this story with readers!
  • What was your inspiration behind TMT?
When I was a teenager, my mom was diagnosed with a heart condition, which led to an unexpected heart surgery. On the way to the operating room, her heart stopped six times, and the doctors warned my family that it was unlikely she’d survive. And if she did, she may not remember us due to the trauma she’d experienced throughout the entire ordeal.
I was sitting at her bedside when she first began to stir after her surgery, and I slipped my hand into hers and told her that it was me. Then she began to squeeze my hand three times, our signal for I love you! That’s my most favorite memory because I’d never felt such fear suddenly overcome by the most incredible joy. That collision of emotions was the moment which first sparked the idea for The Memory Thief.
Ever since then, I always struck by how memories make up so much of our identity and influence our relationships with others. It terrified me that my mom wouldn’t remember me, but I’m so thankful to say that she made a full-recovery. Though it was long and difficult process, she never gave up hope that things would one day get better. Her unwavering courage inspired me to want to share this story.
  • What kind of impact did writing TMT have on you personally?
Writing TMT has had a huge impact on me. I first began writing after completing treatments for Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. It was a very difficult time in my life, and writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before. It helped me process through some of my most difficult memories.
When I first began drafting The Memory Thief, I realized there were still some emotions about being faced with the possibility of losing my mom that I’d yet to express out loud. Writing this book proved to be a source of healing, and a wonderful platform for exploring truth in my own life through a backdrop of fiction.
This story is very dear to my heart, and reflecting back on the process of writing this book is what made the moment of holding it in my hands so amazing.
  • What is your favorite part about TMT?
I think my favorite part is the relationship that Etta has with her mother.
Gwendolyn was one of my favorite characters to write because she’s full of opposites. Because of her coma, she hasn’t spoken a word in four years yet that entire time, she’s been teaching Etta how important it is never to give up, even when all the odds are stacked against you.
On her journey to save her mother, Etta discovers that Gwendolyn’s story is intertwined with Etta’s in ways that she never imagined. Writing this aspect of the plot was so much fun, and definitely one of my favorite parts of the drafting process, as well!
  • What do you hope readers take away from TMT?
The main thing I hope readers take away is that it isn’t the hardships of the past which define us but the strength we find in overcoming them. Etta has been through a lot of difficult things, and she struggles with trusting others because she has a hard time trusting herself. At the beginning of the story, Etta has spent four years hiding from both the people and events which haunt her, but to save her mother, she’ll have to come face-to-face with the past. I hope her journey will inspire readers to never lose hope, even in the midst of impossible odds.
  • How are you reflected in TMT (or, how much of you is reflected in the book)?
Because this story is based on my own journey with my mother, many of Etta’s worries, doubts, and fears are things I also experienced when faced with the possibility of losing my mom. The questions that Etta asks about how to deal with a situation like this are questions that I often pondered myself.
So when I first began writing TMT, I thought, “What if I wasn’t the only one who faced this fear? What if there was an entire society that feared their loved ones no longer remembering them?” It was these kinds of thoughts which ultimately let me to want to explore a world where memories reign over everything. Then writing Etta’s emotional journey also helped me process through a lot of my own memories, as well.
That’s one reason that I love not only writing but reading fantasy novels. Even though these characters live in worlds that are vastly different than our own, what they love, hate, and fear can often be so relatable. That often sticks with me long after I read the last page, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with readers.
  • What is your favorite thing to do to promote your book?
My favorite thing has been getting to know readers. I had the privilege of attending BEA and ALA this past summer, and I loved meeting librarians, educators, fellow writers, bloggers, and industry professionals. Writing can often be a solitary venture, but the publishing process has been filled with creating some wonderful relationships. I couldn’t be more grateful for this community!
  • Why should readers be sure to place TMT on their TBR list?
The Memory Thief is a book full of secrets, lies, and betrayal. It’s set in a world where memories are currency, people are struggling to hold onto their true identity, and nothing is quite what it seems. And Etta is a very flawed character. She has a lot of regret and has made many mistakes, yet she never stops fighting to save her loved ones. If any these things appeal to you, I hope you’ll consider adding TMT to your TBR!
  • What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being a writer?
I think the biggest lesson being a writer has taught me is the importance of the “story behind the story”. Though the publication journey is filled with exciting moments (like seeing the cover for the first time and holding the final copy!), the journey of getting here has changed me for forever. There have been highs and lows, moments of uncertainty coupled with unexpected encouragement, and wonderful support from family, friends, and even strangers! Writing fiction gave me a voice when I was still struggling to find mine, and I’ll be forever grateful that even as the last page of The Memory Thief ends, my own life story is still being written
  • Additional thoughts?
If you’re interested in learning more about The Memory Thief, I have more information of my website, and I also LOVE connecting with readers!
Instagram: lauren_mansy
Twitter: laurenmansy

Lauren lives in the Chicago area, where she's spent years working with youth, from young children to high schoolers. When she's not writing, Lauren is usually with her family or exploring the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren's own journey with her mother, is her first novel. You can visit her online at

Find Lauren and her books
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