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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Exclusive Vlog: The Story Behind the Story: Knife's Tell by Daniel Dark

Explore the shadows of Victorian Era London and encounter a new Jack the Ripper tale like you’ve never read before.

Knife’s Tell contains a tantalizing blend of thriller, horror, erotic, and alt. history elements. As an added bonus, author Daniel Dark (a former Victorian chef) also has included the authentic Victorian Era recipes of the dishes that are featured in the story!

by Daniel Dark
October 6, 2017
173 pages
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
In 1888 one of the most notorious serial killers in history plagued London’s East Side.

Knife’s Tell is not about those murders, but the life behind them. What would cause a normal person to slay in such a horrific way?

Daniel Dark has explored an alternative tale of a doctor lost in reality trying to correct his past. With the help of his personal servant, he searches the Chapel for answers about his connection to the man with the knife.

Where did he come from? And how is the doctor part of his plans for escaping the police at every turn?

Read Knife’s Tell to learn the story behind the blade that killed London

by Daniel Dark
May 27, 2018
118 pages
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
The book you now hold in your hands is nothing new, only forgotten by most.

It is, however, how Chef Daniel, the Victorian Chef, recovered many missing segments of his knowledge after having a stroke in 2012. At that time, he had a forty-seat restaurant where he was recreating dishes from the Victorian Era. He was also developing his signature catsups to serve with each receipt that he placed on the menu.

After the stroke, he was forced to give up on his dream for the time being and start the long journey of rehabilitation of both body and mind. When Chef Daniel was able to stand in front of a stove again, he went back to what he knew best, making small batch catsup that he took to local fairs and sold so that he could make more.

This book is a big part of what kept Chef Daniel going each day. Now he wants to share that with others by contributing ninety percent of his proceeds to the Blood Banks that kept him alive by furnishing over twenty units to him when he was in need.

About the Author:
Daniel Dark, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, grew up with homicide every day. Having a homicide detective as a father, he was able to learn about those that were brought to justice, and the ones that were not.

Spending many hours in Central police headquarters and in his grandfathers hematology lab gave Daniel an unusual childhood and a love for science. Along with this, his great uncle owned the oldest book store in Nashville. His parents took him there regularly, where developed a love of reading and found out about history.

Daniel went on to become an Electrical Engineer and Industrial Maintenance Manager till NAFTA took away his job. A year later he went to culinary school and studied Victorian cooking, after which he opened a Victorian-style restaurant.

He became a heart attack and stroke survivor at fifty years old, where he used writing to rehabilitate his brain. The first book written by Daniel was on Victorian Catsup, which had over two hundred catsup recipes in it from the late 1700’s to 1910, with over sixty different flavors. Daniel used the book to start his 1876 Catsup company as Mr Catsup.

Knife’s Tell represents his debut novel as an author.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Excerpt: Kingdom of Ash and Soot (The Order of the Crystal Daggers) by C.S. Johnson + giveaway

by C. S. Johnson
July 3, 2018
299 pages
Genre: YA/ Historical Fiction/ Adventure
In an age of political unrest and racial divide, one girl's search for truth will determine the future of her kingdom.

Prague, 1870

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother's household, dreaming of the day she will be free to live life on her own terms.

But when her estranged grandmother, Lady Penelope, comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria, everything changes. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup, and Lady Penelope, as the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, is determined to discover the perpetrators. When she offers Eleanora the chance to help her prevent the kingdom from falling apart, she is hesitant to trust her. And while joining means freedom from her stepmother and protecting the people of Prague, Eleanora knows her life will never be the same--or her own.

Can she find a way to be free and still do the right thing? Or will joining the Order only lead to disaster?

With castle intrigue, true love, and family dysfunction, Cinderella meets Mission Impossible in this historical fiction spy adventure series by C. S. Johnson.

“What is it?” I asked him, noticing that he was staring back at me. “It seems you have remembered your dancing quite well,” he said, and I shook my head at once, keeping my forced smile steady as we passed by Lady POW.

“The practice helps,” I replied neutrally. “And it did help that Karl was a good dancer last night. Some of the others I danced with were not as good, but fortunately they blamed it on their own poor performance.”

“They were likely distracted by your beauty.”

“You don’t have to talk to me like that.” I rolled my eyes. “Besides, you might distract me now with your false flattery.”

“Flattery is always false, mademoiselle. I was speaking truth.”

Amir smiled. “You may have that problem in the future, when other men are dancing with you.”

“I can learn to handle it later, then.”

“You can also learn it now. There is nothing efficient about wasting time, after all.”

“I’d rather not, thank you very much. There is no need for you to continue talking to me.” My tone was frosty and bitter, every part a perfect complement to the kindness in his eyes. “Unless, of course, you’d like to tell me why you stole my father’s book from me when we unfortunately met?”

“I would not say it was unfortunate.” “What would you say it was, then?”

Amir’s mustache curled around the corners of his mouth. “God’s humor at work.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, frustrated and infuriated. “Are you insulting me?”

“Never, mademoiselle.”

Before I could accuse him of lying in addition to insulting me, or before I could “accidentally” begin stepping on his toes, Lady POW began calling out instructions, making me feel even more insulted and infuriated—and even worse, isolated, and unable to do anything to escape.

“Hands up, Eleanora,” she called. “Yes, take a step closer. Now, remember to smile. Watch your timing; men are supposed to lead. And show your interest. Pretend you are dancing with a prince!”

Between Amir’s dancing and Lady Penelope’s snappy judgements, I felt trapped in a world of soft tyranny. It was a world where the truth was too impolite to be spoken, and even if it had to be, it had to be dressed up in clothes as strange and as ornate as the ones I was wearing, and it was likely as unrecognizable as I was in the end.

I certainly felt nothing like my usual self.

The others did not seem to believe it was me, either.

Amir held me at a polite distance as we danced, but I was still close enough I could see the pained delight in his eyes as he watched me, and recalling Lady POW’s earlier mistake of calling me by my mother’s name, I suddenly wondered if he was thinking of her, too.

The last note of the waltz rang out, and we finally slowed to a stop.

“Why did you take my father’s book?” This time, my question

was quiet but harsh against the growing silence. Amir seemed surprised, but he did not refrain from responding.

“It was not your father’s book, mademoiselle.”

I slowly dropped my hands from his. Already, I knew what he was going to say.

“When I saw you, it was like falling into a portal to the past, twenty-six years ago. I saw the book, and I knew it could only belong to my Naděžda.”

“You knew my mother.” The words were chunky and foreign to me as they came out of my mouth. I knew I had no reason to accuse him of something I already knew to be true.

“Yes. She was my dearest friend for many years before … ” Amir said quietly. I saw his gaze lower to the scar on his right hand. “And when she … left … I was angry.”

It plagued me, knowing that Lady POW was not the only one who seemed to prefer my mother to me.

“When she left the Order, you mean?”

“She did not leave the Order,” Amir whispered. “She left me.”

It took me a long moment to process everything. Amir and I were still standing in the middle of the room. Somewhere, a thousand moments and a million miles away, Lady POW clapped and praised us, telling us I was already much better at the waltz than before. She was calling for another song, but I barely heard any of it, as I watched while Amir’s eyes swam over with memories and emotion.

There was suddenly no denying the full truth of the matter. Amir had been in love with my mother
About the Author:
C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at

I have an amazing giveaway for you all today! The author is giving away a print copy of each book in her new Order of the Crystal Daggers series, including a brand new companion novella about some of the other characters. A prequel to this book! Just click the link below to enter!

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Character Confessions: Damon Kalon complains about author Sarah Lampkin + giveaway

Character Confessions: Damon Kalon

SARAH: First off, I just wanted to say thanks for letting me join you on I Smell Sheep as a guest! I was going to write about my process and how I came up with the Dead Dreamer series, but Damon is standing over my shoulders. With his arms folded, and foot tapping, he’s ready to give me some of his complaints.

All right, Damon. What are you complaining about now?

DAMON: My mother, for one.

SARAH: What about her?
DAMON: You’re demonizing her! The woman is a devout Christian and has never done anything deserving of the reputation Brenna is giving her. She’s worked hard as a single mother to raise me. It’s not fair that you’d just talk bad about her. Or at least, let Brenna talk bad about her.

SARAH: First off, calm your tits. No one said you mom wasn’t a good person…I think. She’s just involved in something a little insidious. She made her choice. Good mother or not, she’s kind of working against the universe here.
DAMON: Put Brenna back in her shell. I’m talking to you, not her. My mom just doesn’t know that what she is doing is bad. Why can’t we tell her the truth and help her? It would be easier than all of this stupid sneaking around.

SARAH: I’ll let you tell Brenna and Aeria that suggestion. You forget, it isn’t just your mother involved in all of this. There are so many others, and she’s leading them. The last thing she is going to do is listen to some freshmen telling her about the secrets of the universe. Even you know that.
DAMON: I can’t argue with that, no. She wouldn’t even listen to me when I tried to tell her I could see the dead.

SARAH: Exactly! My guess is she was trying to keep you as far away from that world as possible. At least until you were older. She does love you. But she’s making some very poor decisions.
DAMON: You can have your way this time, but I have one more bone to pick with you.

SARAH: Let me have it.
DAMON: Why is Brenna mean only to me?

DAMON: Okay. Everyone except Aeria.

SARAH: Brenna has been through a lot. It’s extremely difficult for her to trust anyone. I’ll admit, she’s a little rough around the edges. Dying does tend to do that to you. Something about it makes your natural filter disappear. Brenna says what she thinks fairly often because she can’t physically help it. Think about Wilson! He was just as short-tempered, if not cruel.

If we’re being honest here, she is mean to you for a very specific reason. Technically, she doesn’t know why she’s so mean to you, on a conscious level. Don’t worry. She’ll get over it.
DAMON: What is the reason? Maybe I can tell her, so she can be a little nicer.

SARAH: I wish I could tell you, love. But sadly, I cannot. Some secrets have to be revealed over time. Life can be tricky sometimes. You can’t always get the answers you want right off the bat. You have to live life to discover the answers.
DAMON: That’s cryptic and stupid.
SARAH: Love you too.

DAMON: Then what is the next installment going to be called? At least give me some sort of hint as to what I’m in for.
SARAH: Glad you asked. The next installment of the Dead Dreamer series will be called WAKING DEAD.
DAMON: …Waking? Not Walking?

SARAH: No, no. Not Walking. How is the dead supposed to walk?
DAMON: Seriously?

SARAH: This isn’t a zombie novel! Well…not really. I guess Brenna does call herself a zombie sometimes. But she’s being sarcastic.
DAMON: When is she not sarcastic?

SARAH: Fair. Either way, you’ll have to wait until October for your sophomore year at Nephesburg College to find out what will happen.
DAMON: Considering the title, I’m guessing Maura is going to cause more trouble.

SARAH: Always, love. Always. Now! Get back home. The last thing we need is your mom discovering what you’ve been doing.
DAMON: Yeah, yeah.

by Sarah Lampkin
January 8, 2019
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal
Eighteen-year-old Brenna Whit is entering college as a freshman and starting to meet new people, but she hides a dark secret. Because of an accident that happened three years ago, her spirit wanders the Fade whenever she falls asleep. It’s something she wants to keep hidden from the world, but when she sees someone watching her in spirit form, she fears the secret’s out. With new friends, possibly new enemies, school, and a new crush, Brenna has too much to worry about for just her freshman year of college.

About the Author:
Sarah Lampkin is a New Adult/Young Adult fiction author from Southern Virginia. She currently resides in Northern Virginia with her cat, Fox (who is practically a dog). When she’s not writing, she’s playing video games, rock climbing, or getting ready for hunting season. Sarah began writing over a decade ago with her first novella called Angels: Moon and Sun, which is now being rewritten as Tainted Wings on Wattpad. She draws inspiration from Celtic mythology in her stories and aims to create unique worlds following strong female protagonist. In 2015, Sarah was able to utilize her Dead Dreamer series in her graduate program and graduate with an MA in English.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book Review: Prince of Midnight (Dracula's Bloodline Book 1) by Ana Calin

Prince of Midnight (Dracula's Bloodline Book 1)
by Ana Calin
December 18, 2018
genre: paranormal romance
173 pages
Let me tell you a secret – Dracula had a brother. This is true. They called him Radu the Handsome, but his beauty was deceiving, and it hid a deadly secret...
With high ambitions as a journalist, Juliet Jochs travels to the Carpathians to investigate a mysterious and unnaturally beautiful prince. She suspects that he’s a dangerous man, and that this mission may cost her life. But, as the prince’s masks begin to peel off, she fears she may lose her sanity.

Prince Radek’s dark powers suck Juliet into a whirl of hypnotic desire–no woman has ever resisted his lures. But something is different about her, special, and he’s growing dangerously addicted to her. She must keep her head above the water if she is to save herself, run away and not look back before he consumes her completely. But can she resist opening the last door to his most terrible secret?

Did someone say, vampires?????? Oh, hell to the yes count me in sister! All day, every single damn day! Mike, Mike, Mike......guess what day it is??!! It's hump day and you know I'm about to have some MAJOR vampire hump dreams tonight!

I loved the whole idea of this new PNR series. It's not all about my main squeeze Vlad but his totally hot prince brother! I mean, come on. A girl can have some really nasty fantasies about a bro party. Just saying. *licks lips* Moving on, I thoroughly enjoyed this new series just about the kickoff. You get a juicy bite of the authors writing style, her characters and what's to come. Pointing out though, a few poor;y edited potions where writing errors were missed. Sorry but it's true.

Personally, I would have loved a tad more snark. But that's just me. Overall, the plot sucks you into this darker tale and yes some parts may be too dark. But it's all about personal taste and how you absorbed the pages. Our leading male is handsome as all get out and rich to boot. It's not realistic at all but knock-knock, vampires aren't real.

I suggest you enjoy this for what it is and you will be pleased with the result. 

Getting 4 Sheep


About the Author:
Born in vampire land Romania and living in romantic Germany, Ana Calin writes paranormal romance with vampires, shifters and other mysterious creatures who stalk their love interests from behind mirrors, or using other paranormal powers. Dark, intense, these love stories are not for the faint of heart.
Influences: I.T. Lucas, Bella Forrest, Christine Feehan.

The Story Behind the Story: The Storm by Dan Jolley

So if you’re looking for a tense mystery-thriller… if you’re interested in a formidable female protagonist described as “a tall glass of Serena Williams”… if you’re intrigued by just how vile and deviant some aspects of human nature can get… and if you want it all wrapped up in a bow that smells like fried chicken and apple sauce? Then I invite you to check out The Storm. 

I’ve been writing books with fantastical elements, but which take place in the real world, for a while now. The Five Elements trilogy was set mostly in San Francisco, and the Gray Widow trilogy took place almost exclusively in Atlanta. But my new novel The Storm differs from those in a couple of significant ways.

First, this is my first book without any fantastical elements. No fantasy, no sci-fi – it’s a dark, sometimes nasty mystery thriller, and relies on nothing but good old-fashioned human awfulness for most of its conflicts. (A beta reader described it as Silence of the Lambs meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.)

Second, The Storm takes place in a tiny, fictional northwest Georgia town called Red Springs, inspired by a location that’s far more personal to me than San Francisco or Atlanta. I grew up in a tiny northwest Georgia town called Ringgold, and a lot of the features of Red Springs had direct inspirations from Ringgold itself.

This is not to say that Red Springs is a literal stand-in. Big chunks of the fictional town came from my imagination and nowhere else.

But there are a few bits, here and there, that I can point to and say, “Yup, that’s where that came from.”

The whole project began in my head in 2011.

I left Ringgold when I went to college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and in the intervening twenty-odd years, lived in a few different places around the country. But in 2009 I came back to Ringgold, married a girl I had known literally all my life, and settled down here.

Then, a couple of years later, one fateful afternoon in April, a massive tornado hit Ringgold and essentially tore the town in half. Eight people died, including one retired school administrator and one entire family. The town suffered millions of dollars in property damage. Most visibly, about ninety percent of the trees throughout the town got knocked over, or uprooted completely or, in many cases, snapped off about ten feet above the ground.

This used to be a Shell gas station:

I took that photo this year. Eight years later. It’s taken that long to rebuild on the site.

One of the places the tornado hit the hardest was Cherokee Valley Road, the direct inspiration for Fox Valley Road in The Storm. Most of the houses there have been rebuilt now, but this is one that wasn’t:
That’s a driveway that used to have a house at the end of it. A lot of the houses along that road were reduced to driveways that just led out to bare concrete slabs.

There’s a cemetery right in the middle of town — Anderson Cemetery — and it used to have a lot of beautiful old trees that provided welcome shade for visitors on summer days. The tornado took almost all of them. The trees are still gone, but the town was quick to replace one of the two flags that fly over the graves. You might recognize it from the cover of the book.
By the grace of God, my house was spared completely.

It took a while for the roads to get cleared. Once I was able to drive through town again, I barely recognized the place. There were fields of rubble where once there had been houses and businesses. Vehicles lay upside down, cast about carelessly, some of them lodged in the branches of surviving trees. The steeple of my parents’ church lay in the middle of the main street.

My brother-in-law’s house took a little damage, mainly to one end of the roof, but the most unusual thing he found in the wake of the storm was the mangled, crumpled-up trampoline in his backyard. My brother-in-law did not own a trampoline.

Pretty soon, I started thinking about that. How something from some other household, something that belonged to someone else, just showed up in the wake of the tornado. And I thought about a house, a couple of miles from my own house, that had been abandoned for as long as I could remember.

This is that house:
I started wondering, what if the tornado destroyed that place, and scattered bits of whatever was left inside it all over the county? That idea eventually refined itself into, what if the tornado ripped that house off its foundation, and revealed something horrible underneath?

What if the thing that got revealed was a torture dungeon? A recently-used torture dungeon? What if the storm revealed that a predator had been dwelling among the townsfolk, undetected, for years, and that it took the tornado to expose this monster?

The rest of the book took shape pretty quickly after that. The question of who was using that torture dungeon, and for what, and who was going to be the one to try to stop that person, all fell into place, one after the other.

I soon realized that the protagonist was the first Black female sheriff the town had ever had. I realized that the story needed to be set in mid-2017 when Trump and all his supporters were still in their relatively-unblemished honeymoon phase. And I realized that the antagonist — a creation I’m pretty damn proud of, if I do say so myself — would be inextricably linked to the kind of systemic, baked-in, Deep Southern racism that still lives and breathes and thrives in ugly little corners of the country. The kind I’ve witnessed first-hand way too often.

So if you’re looking for a tense mystery-thriller… if you’re interested in a formidable female protagonist described as “a tall glass of Serena Williams”… if you’re intrigued by just how vile and deviant some aspects of human nature can get… and if you want it all wrapped up in a bow that smells like fried chicken and apple sauce?

Then I invite you to check out The Storm.
Dan Jolley
February 16, 2019

by Dan Jolley
December 13, 2018
292 pages
A tiny town in Georgia’s northwest corner — ninety-five percent white. Five percent black. Utterly unprepared for the devastating tornado that rips and smashes through it one dark August day. 

SHERIFF ZANDRA SEAGRAVES already faced an uphill battle. Elected by a fluke, Red Springs’ first-ever black, female sheriff leads the recovery efforts, despite knowing how much the townspeople–and her own department–loathe her. But Zandra has no idea just how hellish things are about to get. 

Because one of the relief workers stumbles across a ghastly secret: the tornado tore a long-abandoned house off its foundations, revealing a grisly, recently-used torture dungeon below it. 

A monster has been dwelling in Red Springs. Undetected for years. Preying on the unsuspecting populace. His atrocities only brought to light because of the storm. 

Now, amid the tornado’s wreckage and surrounded by people who want her gone, Zandra has to hunt this monster down before he disappears again. 
And to do it, she’ll have to peel back all of Red Springs’ dark, corrupted layers. One vile secret at a time. 

About the author:
Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007 and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website

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