Thursday, February 22, 2018

BOOK TOUR: Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon

Book Details:

Book Title: Waking Isabella: Because beauty can't sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon

Category: Adult Fiction, 250 pages

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Matta Press

Release date: December 2017

Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018

Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)

Book Description:

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.

To read reviews, please visit Melissa Muldoon's page on Italy Bok Tours.

Buy the Book:

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Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with Melissa: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube

Interview with Melissa Muldoon
Melissa Muldoon is an artist, graphic designer and award winning author of the Studentessa Matta Website, a dual language blog, where she promotes the Italian language and culture. Through the Matta Website, she organizes small group language immersion programs in Italy twice a year in collaboration with Italian schools as well as private Italian language homestay vacations with teachers all over Italy.
Waking Isabella is Melissa's follows her debut novel Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new book set in Arezzo, Italy, readers are taken on another art history adventure. Waking Isabella weaves together several loves stories as well as a few mysteries, as Nora the protagonist, begins to resolve the puzzle of a painting, which has been missing for decades of Isabella de' Medici — the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband.

1. What made you write a book about Arezzo and a portrait of Isabella de’ Medici?

Recently, I have spent a lot of time in Arezzo. It is a small Tuscan town about an hour south of Florence that isn’t quite as popular as Florence, Siena or for that matter Cortona. But it is a gem of a town, believe me. From the moment I stepped off the train I fell love with the city and feel quite at home there, so it seemed a natural decision to set my book there. Through my novel I wanted to introduce others to this magical town, its culture and especially its jousting festival.

One day when I was Giorgio Vasari's house in Arezzo quite by accident I came upon a painting of Isabella de' Medici and I was immediately drawn to the Renaissance princesses' image. Looking at the portrait of Isabella, I wanted to learn more about her, and I felt there was a story behind the painting. Thoughts of Isabella stayed with me, and after returning home, I began to read more about her and was fascinated by the things I discovered. She was brought up by the Grand Duke Cosimo I - her father - to be quite independent. But her waywardness also contributed to the plot to having her killed in a Medici Hunting lodge outside of Florence. After her Isabella's father died, she had no one to protect her. At that point the men in her life, her brother the new Duke of Tuscany and her husband, tried to control her and cut off her inheritance. After she died horribly, hung in her bedroom…it is said that her ghost remained caught in the villa and people to this day say they have seen Isabella. They call her La Dama Bianca - the white lady.

Of course, my imagination was immediately piqued, and the idea for Waking Isabella came to life soon after that.

2. Do you have another profession besides writing?

I am an artist and art historian and own my own graphic design business. In fact I designed and illustrated the artwork for the cover designs of both my novels "Dreaming Sophia" and "Waking Isabella." I am also the "Studentessa Matta" (which means crazy language student). I write a dual language blog in Italian and English to promote the study of the Italian language and culture. For the past five years, I co-lead, with my Italian partners, small group language immersion programs in Italy. I also help students of the language with personalized Italian Homestay Language vacations, in which a student lives for a week or two with an Italian teacher in their home, learns the language with them and immerse in language and culture. I also write and curate the "" website where I blog about art history topics.

  1. What do you like or dislike about writing a novel?

As I was working on my first book "Dreaming Sophia," I discovered that I really enjoy the process of fiction writing and creating new worlds filled with interesting characters. Inventing a story and weaving in historical details is a bit of a departure from the kind of writing I do on the Studentessa Matta blog – where I blog about language learning and Italian cultural anecdotes. So about mid-way through the first book I was already casting around for concepts for my second.

But as much as I like the writing process, it is also an all-consuming experience for me. Once I get started, I tend to disappear into a "black-hole" and don't come out for days and weeks on end. I become so immersed in the process that I'm up at dawn and writing until 3 am in the morning some days. I am constantly writing and re-writing and refining. It is a never ending process. Enjoyable but all consuming.

  1. What is your writing process?

After thoroughly researching my topic and story, I start with a 20-30-page outline and a whole bunch of loose ideas. I then begin to flush out my story and then after a while — perhaps several weeks — I dive in and start writing. I have to steel myself a bit, and warn my family, because as I mentioned previously, once I pen my first paragraph I give in to the story and lose myself in the story completely.

Once I’m off and running I write for several hours each day sometimes until 3am in the morning. When the first draft is done, I begin the revisions and filling in more detail, more layers and layers of dialogue and colorful imagery. It is like painting in a way. I create a rough sketch and then continue going back over the story adding more and more layers and colors.

During my draft writing, which can take several months, I stop periodically to review my work with an informal editor. With her I read chapters out loud. She gives me feedback as well as a few reality checks. We have a wonderful collaborative work flow and it is very helpful to me to have someone who is keyed into my story at an very early stage with whom I can bounce ideas off and talk about the characters.

When I feel the manuscript is ready, I send it to my "official" editor and then to the final proofreader. The tricky part is to know when you are done writing. I can still read sentences and want to make a change here or there, in word choice or stylistic phrases.

  1. What advice would you give to budding writers?

When I was writing my first book ”Dreaming Sophia,” I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Miss Sophia Loren in person. It was in Las Vegas after her one woman show at the Venetian. There were two things she said that resonated with me that evening. The first: “Believe in your dreams, dreams become reality.” The second: “Be brave. Just do it.” I would say this is also my advice to anyone who wants to write a book. You can second guess yourself all you want, but it really just comes down to hard work (lots and lots and lots of draft variations), believing in yourself and just doing it!

On the Studentessa Matta language learning site you can find lots of free ways to practice Italian. Melissa writes both in Italian and English so you can flex and improve your communication skills - for free. Each week she posts about Italian language learning as well as fun and interesting stories about Italian culture.
For those of you who want to dive in a little deeper into Italian language studies in Italy, Melissa also organize small group language immersion programs. This year the programs will be held in Montepulciano and  Arezzo. Please visit the Studentessa Matta site for more details:

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Ends March 31, 2018

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No Life, Only Death by Francheska Fifield

Life, Only Death
Francheska Fifield

YA SciFi

a killer save a species doomed to extinction?

is a killer. After her past was destroyed by an alien invasion her
job, her life, has been about survival. It is not always easy. Her
only, sometimes, partner in this is Phillip a killer who fights for
revenge. Neither have pure motives for fighting the aliens that
killed so many and continue to battle humanity for space domination
but they are ok with that. There is only one problem.

next step in the Helen's plan, according to her boss, is to go to the
academy. The training grounds for the next generation of military
fighting the invaders. At the academy is a link to Helen's past she
may or may not be ready to face….her ex-fiancĂ© Nick who thinks she
is dead.
can fly any jet, fire any weapon, and is a master in all hand to hand
combat. She can even pretend to fight the good fight alongside the
pure hearted military boys thinking they will save the world but when
push comes to shove she's a killer. She survived Nick's abandonment
of her, the aliens killing her entire village, witnessing and
experiencing things no human should go through, and now she will have
to survive a plot against the entire population of Earth, even if it
means destroying what remains of her past.
has no life anymore; the only thing that matters is death…hopefully

Excerpt 2:

“We aren't defenseless. We can fight, you know.”
I turned to look at Nick. “None of you, not even the graduates, are ready for what is out there. You’ll be killing not only the enemy but some of us as well. Well, partially us. You’ll be committing genocide. Can you honestly not feel bad or angry that you are being forced to kill? The rules of warfare mean nothing. You do whatever you must do to survive. Even if that means killing one of your own because they are in the way of your survival. Can you do that?”
“Can you?”
I sighed and turned back around. “I already have.” I walked towards the stairs. I needed to shower and get my head fixed. After a shower and some first aid I could think better, straight and with a clear head. Then I would call Jane and argue my point.

Story Award 2017 Nominee for NY Literary Magazine

enjoy writing everything. I like to read a variety and I write
because it makes me happy and allows me to use the voices in my head
for a good cause. To entertain other people. :)

the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!

Outcasts of the Worlds Outcasts of the Worlds Book 1 by Lucas Paynter

of the Worlds
of the Worlds Book 1
Lucas Paynter
Cosmic Fantasy


confidence man. A liar. A monster. Flynn has seen himself for what he
really is and has resolved to pay for everything. Even if it means
spending the rest of his days locked in Civilis, a tower prison for
society's unwanted - "half-humans" gifted by the fallout of
nuclear holocaust centuries past.

a prisoner in the neighboring cell, has different ideas and despite
himself, Flynn finds himself joining her daring escape. After
rescuing her friend Mack, the three flee Civilis as Flynn pieces
together the hours before his capture and finds himself drawn to an
abandoned facility where a rift to another world opens at his

they will venture farther beyond the stars than humanity ever
imagined, find others like them that will never belong, and tangle
with forces both ancient and immortal. They stand alone, hated and
scorned - and the last hope of making things right in a cosmos gone
terribly wrong.

Excerpt 2

From Chapter 2 – Cogs in the Machine
For a few minutes, Zaja just watched as the clatter of wood against wood became so loud that—had she not known better—she’d have expected a swarm of insects was coming through. Poe spun again and again, striking at each static foe with equal aggression. He only knew how to fight alone, and accounted for no allies at his back.
As his aggression for battle died, he hunched, breathing heavily, his white hair frazzled. His back was turned to Zaja.
“Hot enough for ya?” she asked, teasingly.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Poe glanced back at her with his deep purple eyes. “You’ve returned. I don’t imagine you as the bearer of good news.”
“It was a bust.” Zaja tossed Poe what remained of her water. “Desert—which was actually the best part! Except there was this thing with Renivar’s soldiers. Miles of them, all crossing right in front of us.”
“I find I regret not going,” he replied after draining the bottle. “I’d have thinned their ranks, given the chance. Though I remain mortal, I can do that much even now.”
Zaja noted the numerous pock-marks on the columns, and was about to comment, “You’re certainly showing those pillars who’s boss,” but the jibe died in her throat. Instead, she felt compelled to point out, “They’re not bad people, you know.”
“They were my torturers,” Poe replied darkly. “They saw me bound and humiliated. They made a mockery of me in my weakened state, and did so all on the orders of their god.”
Maybe they had a good reason, she vaguely considered.
He closed his eyes, shaking his head and wondering, “What commands could I give, were I in such a position …?”
“Out of any among us, you might get to find out.”
Poe met her intrigue with cynicism. “Most days, I doubt even that.”
Like Poe, what Zaja knew and what she felt were two very different things. Airia Rousow, the fallen Goddess of Eternity, had tapped Poe as her successor, that he might use his skill and her power to murder Taryl Renivar, a counterpart of her order. That Poe was poised to inherit such power remained difficult to grasp, and she surmised he felt little different when he softly spoke on. “More often, I feel I should have stayed where you found me, the butcher at Heaven’s gates.”
“It would have been a lie,” she told him.
“I know. Yet in my ignorance, at least, I felt no hole in my heart for what I’d let myself become.”
Zaja nodded, sorry to understand.
“I wish I could have stayed with Renivar’s people,” she replied softly. “Before I knew what they were doing to you, or how far their god is willing to go to give them the perfect world he’s promised.” Zaja wrapped her arms low, around her belly. “Back when I thought he was just going to make a better world where everything that had gone wrong could finally be made right.” She scoffed derisively. “A better world … but not one that would allow for people like us.”
Poe spared her a fleeting smile as he took up his black coat, wearing it loose while he refastened his blades over it, lest the straps chafe.
“The tragedy is not that we’re unhappy for letting aside our ignorance,” he stated. “It’s that we could not remain content with our lot, knowing more fully what we had.”

Traitors & Runaways
of the Worlds Book 2

reality nears its final days, worlds fall to ruin. A benevolent god
is shackled, and when freed, will create a new one ... allowing only
the pure of heart. A company of seven have united on a bloody quest
to stop him, but have little hope of emerging victorious.

outcasts are adrift--they have a mission but no means to fulfill it.
Airia Rousow, the fallen goddess who set them on their path, is gone.
Guardian Poe, her intended successor, believes deification will
absolve him of his sins and his remorse alike. And Zella Renivar,
daughter of the Living God, is still hunted by her father's agents,
drawing danger on them all.

in this storm, Flynn is able to find and open the ways between
worlds, but cannot discern which path is the right one. Since losing
the trust of his closest friend, the temptation to fall back on his
former, deceitful ways with grows with every crisis he faces.

Aubrey Paynter hails from the mythical land of Burbank, California,
where there are most likely no other writers at all.
in 2014, he published
of the Worlds
and he’s now releasing its follow-up,
Traitors, & Runaways

fan of gray-area storytelling and often a devil’s advocate, Lucas
enjoys consuming stories from a variety of mediums, believing there’s
no limit to what form a good narrative can take.

Guest Post:
Writing action sequences—be they actual fights, or just dynamic events—always pose a sort of interesting challenge. I actually feel that the written word is in many ways a terrible medium for it, as the absence of a visual component depends deeply on not just creating a flow of events the reader can follow, but avoiding creating something that’s so technically accurate it just becomes dry.
I say this precisely because I tend to think visually and like actions that are purposeful and precise. A simple one on one fight might have a fair number of punches, blocks, deflections and strikes being exchanged, but just writing “John delivered a right hook. Then a left jab, and then he jabbed again” can quickly fall into the area of tedium. A sustained fight can be exciting and even tense to watch; it can also easily be made boring.
Rather than relying on the action itself to carry the scene, then, I rely on the characters. The pain they’re feeling when they get injured, the confidence or nervousness they might be experiencing, the conditions surrounding them and how they’re affecting them … I tend to space out the actual action, most of the times, because while I love it, I find it dry.
Two of my favorite cases in my recent book, Killers, Traitors, & Runaways, involve protagonists Flynn and Shea, in different parts of a ship being rocked in a storm.
In Flynn’s case, he ends up clashing with an expert swordswoman, and it’s a fight in which he is badly outmatched. He can barely holding her at bay, and even when the ship rocks them both, she’s the first to recover, denying him even an opening of circumstance over skill.
For Shea, she’s being made to engage against a pair of fellow soldiers. Already she’s nervous about the engagement as she’s hardly a capable fighter herself, but as she draws her flintlock and fire a shot that would have ended one of them, the boat rocks and she misses, further wringing her nerves and making the brief exchange that follows frantic and sloppy.
In both cases the characters in question are out of their element and outmatched; this isn’t the sort of situation I would rely on exclusively, but creating even the smallest doubt that someone might not survive the peril they’re in (if only for a moment) is often a useful tool. If they hold the advantage in whatever conflict they’re in, I’ll simply find a different emotion to explore—one that pertains to something they went through or are currently experiencing, or something more urgent, like another person in peril and the clash they’re engaged in being not a fight for their own life, but a hurdle to save someone else’s.

I think it’s a bit more engaging at least than just a one-two punch.

the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

Sweet Dreams by Marika Ray

Title: Sweet Dreams
Series: Beach Squad Series #1
Author: Marika Ray
Genre: Romance 
Release Date: February 22, 2018

A romance so sweet it’ll give you a cavity…

After the devastating loss of my parents when I was in college, I vowed to focus all my energy on fulfilling my promise to my mom: to open up the hot chocolate store we’d always dreamed of running together. 

No distractions. My plans are set.

But things heat up faster than I can handle when a bronzed lifeguard pursues me in the most delicious of ways. Mix in a stalker determined to throw me off my game, and a comical, ass-kicking Beach Squad (okay, ‘squad’ is a littler over the top…it’s just me and my two best friends)…well, then you have a situation that requires a level of bravery I don’t know if I possess.

I may appear to be a damsel in distress, but I can save my own damn self, thank you very much. And I might just keep that hottie lifeguard as the whipped cream on top of my sweet dreams.

***Warning: this book contains references to sexual assault. 18+ strong adult content. Oh, and cursing. Let’s not forget the cursing.***

"My favorite kind of romance!! ...the climax near the end showed the strength of our girl and the support of our hero. It was PERFECT!!”

“This is the first I have read by this author and glad to see it is a series. I really like this group of friends and want more."
"Amazing debut. Great blend of sweet romance, heat, and light suspense."

Marika Ray spends her time behind a computer crafting stories, walking the beaches of southern California scoping out the lifeguards, and making healthy food for her kids and husband whether they like it or not. Prior to writing novels, Marika held various jobs in the finance industry, with private start-up companies, and then in health & fitness. Cats may have nine lives, but Marika believes everyone should have nine careers to keep things spicy.

Marika enjoys writing all types of fiction novels, based on what inspires her. Right now she's working on stand-alone romances in the Beach Squad series, all about California lifeguards and their equally fearless women. Moderate suspense, a splash of humor, and lots of steamy romance...all with the beautiful ocean as a relaxing backdrop!

If you’d like to join the Beach Squad, getting access to frequent sneak peeks and access to Handcuffed Hussy (a novella in the Beach Squad series), simply sign up here:

More information can be found at


Every Breath You Take by JE Parker

Title: Every Breath You Take (stand alone)
Series: Redeeming Love
Author: J.E Parker
Genre: NA / Romantic Suspense
Release Date: February 22, 2018
Photographer: Michael Stokes Photography
Cover Model: Kyle Clarke
Cover Design: Letitia Hasser, RBA Designs

Two damaged souls. One last shot at salvation.

I’m a single mom with a past as hideous as the scars marring my flesh.
I’ve endured a life of pain, escaped the clutches of a sadistic monster, and survived hell.
Because of my past, the walls surrounding my heart are strong.
Yet every time Anthony speaks my name, I feel them begin to crumble. 
With just one look, he makes me want things I can’t have.
Things like a father for my son and a husband for myself.
With the monster from my past closing in, I try to push him away.
But my heart and soul cry for me to pull him closer.
Falling for him is probably a big mistake.
Still, I can’t help but think it may be the sweetest mistake I’ll ever make.

One word to describe Shelby? Perfect.
As a homicide detective, I’m constantly surrounded by darkness.
But that all changed when her eyes met mine for the first time.
In less than a second, she became my light.
My hope.
My purpose.
And come hell or high water, I’m determined to keep her and her son close.
Terrified of a looming threat from her past, she tries her best to push me away.
But no matter how hard she pushes, I’m not going anywhere.
I don’t care what she’s running from, far as I’m concerned, her fate is sealed.
Both Shelby and her son are mine.

J.E. Parker is an American romance author who was born and raised in the great state of North Carolina. A southern belle at heart, she’s addicted to sweet tea, Cheerwine, and peach cobbler.

Not only is J.E. married to the man of her dreams (albeit a total pain in the rear), she’s also the mother of a herd of sweet (sometimes), and angelic (only when they’re sleeping) children. Despite their occasional demonic behavior and bottomless stomachs, J.E. loves her little tribe more than words could ever express.

On the weekends, you can find her sitting on the couch, cheering on (or cursing) her favorite football team, stuffing her face with junk food, and guzzling a bottle of cheap red wine.

When she’s not busy making sure her husband doesn’t burn the house down or acting as a referee for her fighting children, J.E. enjoys reading, writing (obviously), and listening to a wide variety of music.