Book Review: SPARK by J.M. Hackman

This week, I am honored to have the chance to review Spark: The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One by J.M. Hackman! Hold on to your seat! This action packed YA fantasy novel will take you places you never expected and will leave you yearning to read the next book in the series!

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The Synopsis:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

The Review: 

This YA fantasy novel is filled with fun (Can you tell by Brenna’s sarcastic wit in the synopsis?), adventure (Romping around an alternate reality will do that to you!), and suspense (Will she be able to save her mother and return the Veil, or will there be a price to pay?)

Brenna is your average 21st Century teen–her favorite shoes are Chucks, she’s always on the search for waffles, and she tosses around adolescent-attitude like it’s confetti–until she’s drawn into a hidden world she never knew existed! Once in Linneah, we are introduced to a cast of characters that will keep you on your toes! From faithful griffins to questionable royal figures, Brenna must learn to navigate a new culture and find her purpose in this unfamiliar alternity. Baldwin (the hottie!) is always a source of attraction (and tension) and she can’t decide if his presence on the quest for the Veil hinders or helps. Hackman’s twists and turns within the story–and a villain with a secret you won’t see coming!–will keep you glued to the book. And wait until you meet Anna! She’s sure to become a favorite character for all! Continue reading

Flash Fiction Friday: No Trespassing

No Trespassing.

Mary Ann read the words allowed as she and her three friends stood on the sidewalk outside the abandoned, dilapidated Cape Cod.

“So, the old witch finally died,” Sammy said. At thirteen, he was the oldest of the group.

Sarah crossed her arms. “Oh posh, Sammy. She was just an old lady. Weirdly reclusive and totally mean to anyone who walked by, but still just an old lady.”

“Yeah, but she’s been around forever. I mean, at least as long as we’ve all been alive.” Thomas scratched a hand through his shaggy brown hair.

“We’ve only been alive for twelve years, Tommy. That’s not forever.” Mary Ann pushed her glasses up her nose.

“Whatever.”

“Well, I’m going in.” Sammy walked around the side of the house as the rest of the group sprinted to catch up.

“But—” Sarah whisper-yelled as she glanced around for nosy neighbors.

“You can’t just—” Mary Ann pled in a high-pitched voice.

Thomas just laughed. At five feet ten inches, he was the thinnest and tallest in their class, always ready for an adventure.

“Sam!” Mary Ann begged. “Would you just—”

“Too late,” Sammy sing-songed.

He jiggled the latch on the backdoor and it swung open. Amid protests from the girls, the four slipped inside the dark house.

“Whoa,” Sammy said. “This place hasn’t been dusted in a while. Gross.” He dragged a finger along a tabletop and cringed.

Sarah huffed. “Be nice, Sam. She was super old. Like, a hundred or something.”

“Yeah, and she was also a witch, remember?” Thomas gave her wink and laughed.

“Doesn’t look like a witch lived here,” Mary Ann said. “This place looks normal.”

“Normal?” Sammy held up a bowl filled with animal bones. “Does this look like something in your house?” Continue reading

Four Ways to Give Your Fantasy or Sci-fi Character a Name

Hello friends! The SFF post I wrote over at AlmostAnAuthor has gone live! Visit here to glean a few ideas on how to choose a name for your characters. I’ve had a busy week moving into my new home in North Carolina! Yesterday was official “signing” day and today we have a team of people coming to help us unload our moving pods! Yippee! Hopefully the next post I write will be from my official writing desk!! Prayers appreciated!

Happy writing friends!

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Photo credit Unsplash by NASA

ACFW New Releases–May 2017

Wow. When did it become…erm, May?! Did I blink or was it just January a month ago? No? Okay, maybe not. BUT the good news is, at least there are some rockin’ new titles out from fellow ACFW authors this month! Check them out and gather your summer reading list! Yippee!!

May 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard — Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring–fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)


Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer — An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham — God’s love…reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican]) Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Doctor’s Office

The already cramped doctor’s office is packed. Seriously? I check in and grab a seat near the window.

A copy of In Style magazine with an attractive blonde on the cover catches my eye. I flip past Lose 10 lbs fast! to the recipe section. That’s always the best part, anyway.

Whispers distract me. I glance up. A little girl with dark hair that hangs in her face and ragged clothes that have seen better days, sits directly across. She’s barefoot, feet grimy and scabbed. I hide my disgust. How did they let her in like this? She quietly talks in the ear of the elderly woman beside her. The woman puts her hand to her head, moans, then grabs her stomach.

“Beatrice!” the nurse says from the door.

The elderly woman fights to walk to the nurse, hunched over as she shuffles.

I bite my lip. That was…strange. Whatever. The next recipe calls my attention and I ignore the room around me for another minute.

Until those whispers return. Those whispers.

My gaze jets around the room.

The girl has changed seats. She sits near a young man, now. He wears ear buds, his chin bobbing up and down to the beat of his music. The girl leans in. Whispers. His eyes glaze then crinkle as he grabs his chest, his side. The guy pulls the ear buds out and leans over, elbows on his knees, hands on his head.

“Jeremy!” the nurse says.

She stands at the door with a clipboard in her hand. He struggles to his feet and lopes after her, his jaw flexed the entire way. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. This is weird. Too weird.

Once more, I shove my nose back into my magazine but I keep an eye on the girl and her movements from behind the pages. She moves from one person to the next. Each time she whispers. Each time the person reacts like they’ve just been stricken with sudden illness. Yet, no one comments on her presence, or even acknowledges her, for that matter. Not a single person looks in her direction.

Like she’s not real. An apparition.

I suck in a breath and my stomach clenches. I’ve had enough of this. It’s time I told the receptionist and got this girl kicked out of the office.

I toss the magazine on the table, grab my purse and—

The girl sits beside me. I can’t see her eyes from the way her stringy hair covers them. I cringe. A scent of something rotted drifts over, something sour and moldy. I cover my nose and lean away.

She whispers. Words I don’t understand. Can’t comprehend.

Pain lances across my forehead, shoots through my gut. My muscles go weak and my throat lights on fire with heat.

“Linda!” The nurse calls me.

I look beside me.

The girl is gone.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit LL Zimmerman

ACFW New Releases–April 2017

Don’t miss out on this month’s new releases from fellow ACFW authors! Pick up a new book to read over spring break!

April 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
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Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon — When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])

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Oh Baby by Delia Latham — Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart’s Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

General: Continue reading

Flash Fiction Friday: The Neighbor

Anya slid her fingers through Fabio’s thick curls, marveled at his broad chest. How had it only been twenty-four hours? The love of her life had swept in, whisked her away to paradise—

Jessica snorted and tossed the paperback on the sofa before she headed to the kitchen for coffee. Ridiculous. Romance novels were all the same—perfectly plain heroine meets perfectly chiseled hero and they fall in love immediately. Not reality.

She leaned against the counter, sipped her beverage and sighed. Then again, who was she to judge, right? She hadn’t had a date in over a year. Apparently perfectly plain Jessica wasn’t perfect.

Charlie, her cat, rubbed along her leg. She picked him up and nuzzled him. “You would be the perfect man if you were human, wouldn’t you?”

If only finding a man was as easy as picking a cat. Heck, she didn’t even need a six-foot-four model named Fabio with jet black curls that fell to his shoulders, thick biceps and straight alabaster teeth. She’d take Mr. Average with a dad-bod, who was balding.

Jessica showered, got ready, unloaded the dishwasher, and folded a load of towels. Maybe someday Mr. Wonderful would appear.

“Have a good day,” she whispered to Charlie before she headed out the door of her apartment.

As she locked her door, she heard bangs from the new tenant as they moved in across the hall. She turned to leave and—

“Hello, beautiful. I’m new here.” A man with dark curly hair, the broadest shoulders she’d ever seen, and a smile that would put Jake Gyllenhaal to shame, towered before her.

Her jaw dropped.

The man smiled. “My name’s Fabio. I’d love to get to know you.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Pixabay by Olichel

Caffeinated Speculation: Have you seen the trailer for “It”?

All right, where are my Stephen King fans? Are you obsessed with his books? Love his movies? If so, this post is for you!

So, this week the brand new trailer for Stephen King’s “It” came out. (You can watch it here, if you’re brave enough!) I have a confession—I probably wouldn’t have even known this movie was coming out if it weren’t for my teenaged girls. See, we happen to be pretty big “Stranger Things” fans. (Like we have a countdown for season 2 in flashing neon lights dead center of our living room. Just kidding! The colors are in glitter, not neon. *winky face*) Anywho…just as any teen likes to do, my girls particularly enjoy following their favorite actors on every form of social media possible. (“Watch this clip of Gaten Matarazzo falling, mom! It’s hilarious!”) Naturally, they know every single detail of every star of the show and regularly tweet to them. (*Mom hides face in palm*) My middle daughter even bought the same ring Millie Bobby Brown wears because, duh! That makes her just like Millie!

I digress. Back to confession: Okay, so the only reason “IT” was on my radar in the first place is because Mike from ST (Finn Wolfhard—And yes, my “middle” also owns the “Finn Wolfhard” T-shirt!) happens to be in “It”! Are you following me? (Phew. I think I need to sit down.) So, my girls have been waiting eagerly for this trailer to come out and this week their heads exploded into a million pieces because it did.

The end.

Okay, maybe not. But they did get super excited and have watched the thing a billion-and-one times already, if that’s a thing. But here’s the sad part—their writer-mama has never even read this book. (*Writer-mama runs and hides in corner*) Yes, yes. I hear you guffawing but really, I like horror just as much as any other girl, but I haven’t read this book. Because, CLOWNS!

Ack! Are you kidding me? I’ve never wanted to read the book—or certainly never see the original movie—because I don’t have a death wish of clowns. But here’s the thing: I think I’m going to read it now. For real! I’m geared up and ready to hit the library today so I can grab me a copy of the SK-man and read up on some scary scary clownage. And the weird part is, I’m sort of excited about it.

This begs the question: Will I be in the theater in September when this baby hits the big screen? Answer: If I can get through the stupid book, then yes. I’d like to see how the movie compares. One thing is for certain, though. I’ll be sitting alone in that overly crowded theater watching Pennywise scare little children because neither of my girls will be with me. They’ve watched the trailer a hundred times but have already said they’re too afraid to see the movie. Because, ya know…

CLOWNS.

What about you? Have you read the book? Seen the original? Plan to the see new installment? What are you thoughts on this classic horror novel and where is your excitement level in this whole thing? Feel free to share below! I’d love to find someone who’s just as scared of clowns as I am!

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Freaking scary poster for the freaking scary movie.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Gas Station

The GPS was dead.

There was no cell service, either. Fifteen miles had passed without any connection with the world.

“Think we’ll find a gas station soon?” Ben said.

Maryann cringed. “How low are we?”

“Let’s put it this way…once we’re out of fumes, we’ll be walking.”

“And you’re sure this isn’t the right road?”

“Positive.” He ran a hand through his hair, gave a futile glance in the rearview mirror. Not a single car had passed by in the last hour. “Maybe this road-trip through the desert wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Well, at least it’s cloudy so it’s not so hot.” She stifled a smile.

“For now,” he grumbled. “With my luck—”

“Hey!” She sat up. “Is that a gas station ahead?”

He squinted. “Huh. Maybe my luck is changing.”

The car rolled into the vacant station and stopped in front of the pump, chugged, then died.

“Whoa.” Her eyes were wide.

He began pumping. “Hey honey, check this out. This thing looks like it could be from the 1950’s or something. It’s one of those old style pumps.”

She bit her lip and looked around. Where were all the other patrons?

Once done, they went inside to pay. A bell rang over the door and the two stopped cold.

“Wow,” she said. “This place takes the vintage thing to another level.”

She ran her fingers over the varnished wood counter, eyed the jars of penny candy. Norman Rockwell paintings covered the walls. Signage for Texaco and an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes that said, “So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed” sat on the counter.

“Check this out,” he said.

He stood next to an ice-filled red chest labeled Coca-Cola. An hourglass shaped glass bottle of purple liquid fizzed in his hand.

“Grapette?”

“Ooo, grab me one,” she said.

“You folks ‘bout done?” A man with white hair stood at the register.

“Just need to pay for our fill up. How much is it?”

“Cheapest price in town. Twenty-five cents per gallon,” the man said.

Their jaws dropped.

“Excuse me?” she said.

“That’s impossible,” Ben added.

The man held one hand up. “Sorry. Can’t go a penny lower.”

“He takes this old fashioned thing seriously,” Maryann muttered.

Ben smiled. “No problem. Also, we’ll take these sodas.”

“They’re a nickel a piece,” the man said.

She guffawed but Ben threw a five on the counter and turned to leave.

“Wait!” she said. “We need a map.”

“That’ll run you a dime.”

“How in the—”

“Great!” Ben said. “We’ll take it.”

Once in the car, they pulled onto a side road and stared straight ahead.

“Did that just happen?” she said.

“Yep.”

“How does he stay in business?”

Ben shrugged.

She frowned. “Maybe I should’ve used the bathroom. Mind if we run back?”

“Sure, we—” His mouth fell open and he froze, his gaze behind them.

“Ben?”

“Where’s the station?”

She turned to see nothing but desert landscape.

“Maybe this was our lucky day, after all.”

 

© Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Original artwork by Anthony L. Croman

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Original artwork by Anthony L. Croman

Flash Fiction Friday: Honey

“Heather, did you take the honey?”

The little girl withered.

“It was a full jar,” Momma said.

“Well….” Heather fidgeted with her dress.

Momma crossed her arms. “Did you give it to your imaginary friends again?”

Heather looked down.

“How many times have I told you?” her Momma huffed. “It’s a waste of food! We’ll get rats if you keep shoving food under the floorboards!”

She threw her hands up and stomped away.

Heather knelt and lifted the floorboard. “You okay, Scrimrim?” she said to her Brownie friend.

The fairy nodded and smiled, then took another lick of his honey.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo Credit Unsplash by Amelia Bartlett