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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Demons Without the Devil: How To Write Demons and Angels From A Jewish Perspective. + giveaway

Congratulations to author Elyse Hoffman on the release of her absolutely stunning novel, The Book of Uriel! 
"The Book of Uriel is a heartbreaking blend of historical fiction and Jewish folklore that will enthrall fans of The Book Thief and The World That We Knew."

Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Demons Without the Devil: How To Write Demons and Angels From A Jewish Perspective. 

To say that Judaism has contradictory opinions regarding demons and angels would be an understatement. From a Christian point of view, telling a story involving angels and demons is made at least somewhat easier by the presence of Lucifer, the fallen angel, an opponent of God. But in Judaism, Satan never fell. The figure of Ha-Satan (literally Hebrew for “the Adversary”) which in Christian tradition became synonymous with evil is, in Jewish myth, little more than a heavenly lawyer who is, at his worst, a pessimist. HaSatan works in the Heavenly Court, and he does not cause sin, not directly at least: in Jewish thought, HaSatan is the equivalent of Mr. Slugworth from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: an employee of the big guy who tempts people to sin in order to test them, but is not actually devilish in nature.

So if you, like me, happen to be a Jew wanting to tell a story about angels and demons, you now face a problem: in Judaism, the devil does not exist. So how are you going to write a demon/angel story without the devil as an antagonist?

Fortunately, while demons are never actually mentioned in the Torah, there is a relatively rich Jewish tradition of demonology. Within the Talmud—the over 1000-page book of Jewish oral law—we are even told that while there is no devil, there is a king of the demons, a creature known as Asmodeus (sometimes also called Ashmedai). Asmodeus, despite his title of Demon King, is not quite a ‘devil’ figure. His first and arguably most villainous appearance in Jewish lore is in the Book of Tobit, where he kills the seven husbands of a woman named Sarah out of jealousy, but was eventually defeated by her eighth husband, Tobias. However, later tales from the Talmud portray the so-called demon king as, at most, obnoxious and even occasionally helpful—-teaching King Solomon humility in the old story of The Beggar King and setting a drunk man on the correct path in the Talmud. Asmodeus, then, is less of a Satan-like figure and is, in fact, surprisingly humanized throughout Jewish lore.

More devilish is his partner—Lilith. Lilith is said to be the first wife of Adam, created like him from the dust of the earth and cast out of Eden after she and her husband had an argument in which she refused to submit to him (the exact nature of this argument varies from tale to tale and often ventures into NSFW territory.) she fled from the Garden of Eden (or was banished depending on the version.). Lilith is regarded in Jewish lore as the mother of all demons, a woman who slaughters human babies and seduces weak men away from their paternal and marital duties, and alternatively the wife of either Asmodeus or, alternatively, the Angel of Death.

Lilith, having a more fleshed out backstory and being more vicious than Asmodeus, appears in more works than the King of Demons---especially in darker stories, often involving adultery, witchcraft, and a child-murder. Lilith has the potential of being problematic if she is not handled with care; her backstory is laden with misogynistic overtones and undertones, as she is cast from Eden for refusing to ‘submit’ to her husband, turning her into a monster who ‘entraps’ weak but good-hearted men and who kills the descendants of her ex-husband out of pure spite. If reworked, however, Lilith can not only act as a frightening demonic figure but one with a tragic, sympathetic backstory that many feminists have latched onto. It is notable, however, that despite being regarded as a demon queen, the mother of demons, and despite being more wicked than her husband Asmodeus, Lilith is not herself a demon---she is a human woman, the first human woman in fact, and while that fact perhaps doesn’t say great things about Jewish lore’s opinions on women, it does demonstrate that throughout Jewish lore, humans are often portrayed as more evil than any demon.

The final creature in Jewish folklore that comes close to the Christian concept of the “Devil” is not a demon, but an angel, specifically the Archangel of Death, Samael. While some Jewish sources and scholars describe Ha-Satan and Samael as being the same person, many others separate the two. As with most Jewish lore, Samael’s characterization and backstory vary from tale to tale. Some stories describe him as the father of Cain, some post-Christian myths adopt a Luciferian take and say that he was the serpent who tempted Eve to eat of the Forbidden Fruit, and some take that a step further and describe him as a fallen angel who married Lilith.

Generally, however, these are from more Christianized stories and myths, and most folklore merely regards him as a dark angel---still within the Heavenly Court, but not a figure to be trifled with. Several stories even state that Samael, in addition to or even prior to being the Angel of Death, was the Guardian Angel of Esau, the brother of Jacob and traditionally considered the father of the enemies of the Jewish people. This generally puts him into conflict with the Archangel Michael, who in Jewish tradition is the guardian angel of Israel, and many times the two angels will come to blows over their respective nations. In this way, Samael represents not only death, but the specter of anti-Semitism who fights with Michael over the fate of the Jewish people---a tradition I utilized in my upcoming novel, The Book of Uriel.

Samael is certainly a backstory grab-bag of an archangel, and he offers a wide array of potential for any author seeking to write angel/demon stories from a Jewish perspective. If one feels better keeping with a more Luciferian fallen angel perspective, Samael offers the opportunity to write that without mischaracterizing poor Asmodeus. On the other hand, any one of his backstories—father of Cain, Guardian Angel of Esau, loyal servant of God with a nasty job—can potentially offer a sympathetic, interesting, even tragic villain. While most Jewish folklore does not make him a devil, Samael, even when he remains loyal to God, is significantly more dangerous than even the King of Demons.

If all of this seems confusing, you’re not alone! The diversity of the Jewish experience means that these folkloric figures range in character from friendly anti-hero to terrifying villain, from tragic fallen figure to ruthless monster. Their backstories are never consistent, their relationships to one another and other figures good and evil shift depending on the source.

There is no uniform mythology, which can be imposing to a writer. But all these contradictions and shifting backstories can be a blessing: it offers freedom to write what you want without stepping on any toes. Since these demons and angels are never or only briefly mentioned in the Bible, an author can pick whatever backstory suits them, whichever characterization will make their story better, and run with it while being fully backed up by existing lore. If you want a lot of freedom in what you write and how you write it while still having a lot of lore to fall back on, Jewish mythology is a great place to look! And if you want to add a lot of humanity and feature a lot of sympathetic villains in your angel/demon story, Jewish lore has a ton of lore bricks to build with.

If you’re interested in writing angel/demon stories from a Jewish perspective, the best thing to do is read some myths and get inspired! There’s a lot out there! I recommend anything by Howard Schwartz, especially his book Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism to get started! Lilith’s Cave also provides a lot of demonic Jewish lore to look at! The online Jewish Encyclopedia is a bit confusingly written, but pretty comprehensive. Gertrude Landa’s Book of Jewish Fairytales and Legends is free on kindle. Louis Ginsberg’s Complete Legends of the Jews is quite comprehensive and also free on kindle! Those are some bulk resources, but there are a lot of stories out there, and stories from a European Jewish perspective vary a lot from Mizrahi or Sephardic stories. Give them a read, pick whatever speaks to you, and go tell a great story!

The Book of Uriel

Elyse Hoffman
January 26, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Jewish Fiction/ Jewish Folklore/ Holocaust Fiction
Publisher: Project 613 Publishing
In the fires of World War II, a child must save his people from darkness…

Ten-year-old Uriel has always been an outcast. Born mute in a Jewish village known for its choir, he escapes into old stories of his people, stories of angels and monsters. But when the fires of the Holocaust consume his village, he learns that the stories he writes in his golden notebook are terrifyingly real.

In the aftermath of the attack, Uriel is taken in by Uwe, a kind-hearted linguist forced to work for the commander of the local Nazi Police, the affably brutal Major Brandt. Uwe wants to keep Uriel safe, but Uriel can’t stay hidden. The angels of his tales have come to him with a dire message: Michael, guardian angel of the Jewish people, is missing. Without their angel, the Jewish people are doomed, and Michael’s angelic brethren cannot search for him in the lands corrupted by Nazi evil.

With the lives of millions at stake, Uriel must find Michael and free him from the clutches of the Angel of Death...even if that means putting Uwe in mortal danger.

About the Author

Elyse Hoffman can write a lot of things, but finds her own story dull and difficult. She has been interested in the Holocaust and Nazi Germany since she was thirteen. Her somewhat morbid fascination is purely intellectual and emotional. She advises you to be careful when signing contracts. You never know where or when you may end up.

Twitter Tags: @Project613Books @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #TheBookofUriel

For a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card, enter the giveaway below! (International)

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TV Show Review: WandaVision (Season 1: Episode 3)

WandaVision (Season 1: Episode 3)
Jan 15, 2021
Executive Producers: Jac Schaeffer, Kevin Feige
Starring: Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Teyonah Parris
Episodes: 9
Genre: Action & Adventure
Based on: Scarlet Witch; by Stan Lee; Jack Kirby;
TV Network: Disney+
"Now in Color" is the third episode of the American television miniseries WandaVision, based on the Marvel Comics characters Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch and Vision. It follows the couple as they try to conceal their powers while living an idyllic 1970s suburban life in the town of Westview. 
Air date: January 22, 2021

The third episode of Wandavision dropped on Disney+ this week and it’s even trippier than the first two episodes!

The episode titled “Now in Color” pushes Wanda and Vision forward to the era of “in color” television shows, but that’s about the only straightforward aspect of the episode! Olsen and Bettany’s chemistry continues in this episode and frankly, they’re what is holding this show together as it twists and turns its way into something that I’m hoping will make sense soon. The stability of Wanda and Vision’s wacky life is starting to crumble, giving glimpses of another reality that will probably have some harsh truths with it since by this point Marvel fans know exactly what happened to Vision.

Anyway, 3 episodes in, and things are speeding up quite quickly. Episode 3 shows Wanda and Vision's life progressing like a 60s tv show until suddenly it's not. Without giving too much away, I will say that an event in Wanda and Vision's dream life triggers a memory in Wanda that connects this series with the MCU. Wanda's trip down memory lane happens in front of her new friend Geraldine who mentions someone in Wanda's past, something Geraldine shouldn't know.

Alas just when things are truly getting interesting, the episode ends with a pretty big cliffhanger. Honestly though? Disney+ might be a bigger deal than say Netflix but at least Netflix doesn’t make its viewers wait every week for a new episode like if it was the 1960s and there was no such thing as binge-watching.

Rating: 4 frustrated sheep

Adria Reyes

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Excerpt: Music of the Night (A Tower Knights Tale) by Angela J. Ford + giveaway

Music of the Night (A Tower Knights Tale) 
by Angela J. Ford
February 15, 2021
Genre: Steamy Fantasy Romance
Phantom of the Opera meets Beauty and the Beast in this gothic-inspired dark fantasy romance.

A haunted tower, a mysterious instructor, and the lure of the music of the night. . .

After the death of her father, Aria is left penniless and destitute. To avoid working the streets, she becomes the ward of a Count and moves to a remote town called High Tower.

High Tower is a gloomy place with one vivid attraction: the theater. Lords and ladies come from afar to be seduced by a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Many are warned to stay away from High Tower’s dangerous enchantments, but it’s a warning Aria is forced to ignore. Determined to take her life back into her hands, she and the Count make a deal. She can avoid an arranged marriage if she learns to sing for him.

When Aria stumbles across a mysterious man in a dark tower, she begs to learn the power of song from him. Although reluctant, the man agrees to teach her the music of the night. Between midnight meetings and emotional singing lessons, Aria falls in love with her alluring instructor despite his shadowy past.

But something deadly stirs, awoken by the desire of its master.

Evening reveries become haunted with terror, blood, and murder. Rumors claim the man in the tower is behind the madness that haunts High Tower, a truth Aria is loath to believe. For she just gained the desire of her heart.

What she doesn’t know is that her haunted instructor intends to use her for his own purposes. . .

Music of the Night is a complete, stand-alone novel inspired by Phantom of the Opera. Perfect for fans of dark and steamy fantasy romance.

*Order a signed paperback from the author and get a free bookmark and art print HERE
The first note pierced the silence as the orchestra warmed up. First the strings, their mellow tones drawn out and haunting, followed by the chords of the piano and chimes. The audience filtered in, ladies dressed in fine gowns, their fingers and necks covered in the glitter of sparkling jewels. Lords escorted them dressed their best, each carrying a rose for their ladies, and yet some wore masks to hide their faces for what was to come.

I stepped further back into the shadow of the black drapes, although no one would see me, hidden in my perch in the back of the theater. Lifting a spy glass to my good eye, I took in the stage and waited for the performance to begin. 

Opening night was the highlight of the theater, a fresh performance with exotic dancers and throaty singers giving a parody of life. I cared naught for such amusement, but I needed one of them for my plans. A singer, a strong one, to carry out my will. 

Hiding my loneliness and pain was no longer an option. My patience had run dry, forcing me to act. My song was ready, all I needed to do was find a singer, cast a spell, and the rest would fall into place. 

Aside from whispered prayers, they’d forgotten me, the one who haunted the tower, who brought chaos and terror into their lives. I’d returned in secret to haunt their steps, to make them realize that all along, this place was mine. I was its master, and it was time to take my freedom. 

The first song began, the dancers swayed on the stage. One caught my eye, hair as dark as a raven with long limbs, accenting graceful movements. She was too far away to see clearly, yet her movements made her stand out from the others. While she danced in sync, her eyes darting about the stage, causing her to miss a step or two. I wondered what drew her attention, and why she was not as dedicated to the dance as the others. Wistfulness twisted through me. If I were a normal human, like the lords and ladies who filled the hall, I’d go up to her after the performance, introduce myself and woo her. 

Not tonight for my purpose transcended the mundane, and I needed a singer, not a dancer. Still, watching her eased the ragged edges of pain that plagued my soul and increased my resolve. I would move heaven and earth to earn my freedom and a chance to live life, like the humans. . .

About the Author

Angela J. Ford is a bestselling epic fantasy author who has sold over 30,000 copies and has had over 10 million page reads in Kindle Unlimited. Her books have been ranked bestsellers in multiple categories.
She enjoys traveling, hiking, and playing World of Warcraft with her husband. First and foremost, Angela is a reader and can often be found with her nose in a book.

Aside from writing she enjoys the challenge of working with marketing technology and builds websites for authors.

Angela is passionate about helping indie authors succeed and runs a community and podcast called Indie Author Lifestyle.

If you happen to be in Nashville, you’ll most likely find her at a local coffee shop, enjoying a white chocolate mocha and furiously working on her next book.

$10 Amazon 
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway! 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Excerpts: Stealing Jia (Coletti Warlord Series Book 13) by Gail Koger + giveaway

Stealing Jia (Coletti Warlord Series Book 13) 
by Gail Koger
November 16, 2020
157 pages
Genre: SciFi Romance, Humor
Jia grew up in an orphanage that turned children into master thieves and gave the school of hard knocks a run for its money. Jia’s psychic talents have kept her alive, but not out of trouble. While searching for her adopted brother, Jia finds herself on a galactic adventure with a horde of extra-terrestrial kids she’s determined to protect. Adding to the chaos is an Askole Battle Commander who claims she is his mate. How is that even possible? They’ve never met.

Trayon, the Battle Commander, is a deadly Askole. Huge. Battle hardened muscles. A regular warrior’s nightmare with black, armor-plated skin and tentacles. Who knew the scary guy was such an excellent kisser and had the heart of a romantic? All Jia ever wanted was a family of her own. Maybe an alien family wouldn’t be so bad.

To win Jia, Trayon must prove he loves her and she’s not some female the Coletti Overlord just sold him. But first, he has to keep the trouble magnet alive long enough to convince her.

Stealing Jia Excerpt
I frowned as I stepped into the restaurant. The only light came from the numerous candles decorating the tables. The darkness and the access to the catacombs was a little too handy. Was Giovanni planning another kidnapping? If so, he had picked the wrong girl to mess with. 

Like a wraith, Giovanni appeared out of the darkness. His white silk suit could double as a lab coat. “My darling, I am so glad you came.” With a bow, he handed me a single red rose. 

“How could I resist someone who loves to Tango as much as I do.” I took the rose gingerly. A funny chemical smell emanated from the flower. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.” 

“It’s a simple gift from my garden. The unique fragrance stimulates the senses. Take a deep breath and you will see what I mean,” Giovanni said, watching me carefully. 

The chemicals tickled my nose. Ker-choo! Ker-choo! Ker-choo! Ker-choo! 

Giovanni recoiled in disgust as I sneezed repeatedly in his face. 

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry. I’m allergic to flowers.” 

His wiped his face off and gritted, “It matters not.” 

“Truly?” I snagged the red silk hankie from his lapel pocket and blew my nose vigorously. The expression on his face when I handed it back to him was priceless. 

Giovanni dropped the offending hankie on a passing waiter’s tray. 

I stuffed the stinky rose into his lapel pocket. “Much better.”

About the Author

Website-FB-TwitterHow do I come up with my stories? Being psychotic helps. I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for way too long. All those years of wild requests, screwy questions, bizarre behavior and outrageous demands have left me with a permanent twitch and an uncontrollable craving for chocolate. Don’t get me wrong. Working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher can be very rewarding. BUT - some days I felt like the entire world was nuts. I mean, c’mon, who in their right mind calls 9-1-1 for the winning lottery numbers? To keep from hitting myself repeatedly in the head with my phone, I took up writing.

I made the Night Owl's Awesome Paranormal Romance Authors List.

$25 Amazon gift card, a fired glass pendant, a copy of Arresting the Warlord - 1 winner each!
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Book Review: Bjorn Cursed (Forgotten Brotherhood Book 4) by N.J. Walters + giveaway

Bjorn Cursed (Forgotten Brotherhood Book 4)
by N.J. Walters
(Forgotten Brotherhood #4)
Published by: Entangled: Amara
Publication date: January 18th 2021
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Lucifer is up to his old tricks, causing problems for the Forgotten Brotherhood. This time, he’s had a woman removed from the Norse afterlife and placed her right in the path of Bjorn Knutson. After the slaughter of his wife and family centuries ago, tortured and broken, Bjorn was cursed as the first Norse werewolf. Now he’s been tasked by Odin himself with killing the woman who escaped. Failure is not an option.

Before he can track her, he stumbles across a woman being accosted by three men in the middle of the night. Even though she’s human, he intervenes and is shocked to recognize the face of the one woman he could never kill — his wife Anja.

She’s also the one he’s hunting…and if he doesn’t kill her then both their lives are at stake.

NJ Walters is back with another exciting book in the Forgotten Brotherhood, and I’m happy I’m all caught up!

After the murders of his wife and children, Bjorn was cursed to become the first werewolf by the Norse god Odin. Centuries later, Bjorn is a member of the Forgotten Brotherhood and has been tasked by Odin to hunt down and kill a woman who escaped the Norse afterlife. When Bjorn catches up to the escapee, he is stunned to find out that it’s his wife, Anja.  

I like the idea of a forever kind of love, like the one between Bjorn and Anja. The way the author wrote their romance came across as something genuine, passionate, and strong. I loved that these two had an established history that was used to reconnect them in the present without too much drama. The real conflicts for Bjorn and Anja were Lucifer, Odin, and Freya. All of them wanted to separate these two for one reason or another. The twists and turns of the plot from start to finish kept me reading late into the night, and while some of those twists and turns may have been predictable, it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story. I love well-written action, strong female characters, and worthy villains, which is what Bjorn Cursed has. I also enjoyed having a bit more room for previous characters to appear since the Brotherhood members tend to be loners, in some cases cranky loners, But when push comes to shove, they are there for one another. And while Ash is still my favorite of the Brotherhood, I can make some room for Bjorn too.

Rating: 4

Adria Reyes


“Can we discuss this later? We have company.” 

He’d always had a sixth sense about such things. It was one of the reasons he’d been such a fierce warrior. “Where?” 

“Two behind and at least one ahead.” Bjorn jerked his head to the left. “Across the street.” 

She didn’t need him to point out which man he meant. Over six feet tall, he wore jeans, boots, and a leather jacket. He looked similar to the ones who’d accosted them earlier. “Do they all look alike?” she muttered. “Is it a requirement or something?” 

Bjorn’s fingers tightened around hers, but he was smiling, his lips tilted up slightly, his eyes filled with laughter. He hadn’t forgotten for one second they were being stalked and hunted, but he’d always been good at living in the moment. It’s how they’d been raised, as much a part of them as their physical appearance. 

Laugh when you could, cry when you needed, revel in the joys of life, fight for honor and glory, and die well. 

“What can I do?” She would fight alongside her man, no matter what they faced. 

“Stay close. When I tell you to run, you run.” 

“Where are we going?” It bothered her that she had no idea where they were or where they were headed. 

“My truck isn’t much farther. About four blocks up the road. When we get there, turn right. It’s the black one.” He rattled off some letters and numbers. “Crap, can you even read them?” 

“Yes. I have some knowledge of this world. Not everything, but I understand much, including how to read the language.” 

“Good. The truck will have a piece of metal on the back with those on it. Here are the keys.” He reached into his pocket and pulled them out. “Hit this button when you’re close.” He showed her which one. “That will unlock the doors. Get in, hit this other button, and wait for me. I’ll be right behind you.” 

“Got it.” She gripped the keys and had her thumb near the button he’d showed her. Her heart was racing as they kept a fast steady gait. She wanted to run, but that was the wrong thing to do. Any animal would take that as a challenge, see her as prey and sprint after her. And these men were essentially animals in human flesh. 

Werewolves? They were the stuff of myth and legend but, like the gods, were real. Their kind never came to Freya’s Hall. Odin was rumoured to have all sorts of beasts in Valhalla, but she’d never seen proof, as she’d been unable to leave. That had been part of her pledge to the goddess, which is what made her being here all the worse. 

Her vow had been broken. 

“Another one just ahead.” 

“Should we detour?” She pulled her attention back to the present situation. Her immediate goal—protect her husband. 

“That’s what they want. They’re trying to herd us down that street, which means there are likely more of them. We go straight. They’ll do nothing until we make the turn onto the quieter street. As soon as we do, you run. I’ll hold them off and be right behind you.” 

“I won’t leave you.” 

“I know.” He dropped a quick kiss on her mouth. It was over far too soon. She licked her lips, wanting to savor his taste. It was familiar yet strangely new. Maybe because of all the years they’d missed. They were both different people than they’d been when they’d wed and started a family, shaped by their experiences. But one thing hadn’t changed. He was still a hunger in her blood. 

He groaned. “Stop looking at me like that, woman. Now is not the time.” 

She knew he was trying to lighten her spirits. Tension radiated from his big frame. He squeezed her hand. “Get ready, Anja. It’s just there on your right.” He kept his voice low. “As soon as we reach the corner, run hard and fast, and don’t look back.”

About the Author:
Once upon a time N.J. had the idea that she would like to quit her job at the bookstore, sell everything she owned, leave her hometown, and write romance novels in a place where no one knew her. And she did. Two years later, she went back to the bookstore and her hometown and settled in for another seven years.

One day she gave notice at her job on a Friday morning. On Sunday afternoon, she received a tentative acceptance for her first romance novel and life would never be the same.

N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks--all vie for her attention. It's a tough life, but someone's got to live it.

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$15 Amazon gift card