A Kristen Ashley Kind of Birthday… and a REALLY Huge Giveaway

KA time, book junkies!!!! If you know anything about me, you know that I am not JUST a Kristen Ashley fan. I am addicted, dependent on, always craving and find nirvana in a KA book. It leaves me hazy-eyed for days to come and I’m shamelessly proud of it.

When I started planning my Birthday Extravaganza, I knew I wanted to have as many of my favourite authors in it as possible, as a sort of ‘homage’ to the incredibly talented individuals who make my life richer with their beautiful stories and make me dream with my eyes open. It might be my birthday but this has all been about them. I was uncertain about what to do for the ‘grand finale’, but nothing could have ever prepared me for the offer that flew into my lap when I was told I could have an interview with the Queen of the Alpha Males, the rockin’ one and only, Kristen Ashley.

Welcome to my little blog, Ms Kristen!

Wow, honey. What lovely, lovely things to say. I’m honoured to have been asked to help you celebrate your birthday and I so hope I can keep you “hazy” for a long time to come!

There is absolutely no doubt about that! If you continue writing at the pace we’ve become accustomed to, I see only KA-haziness in my future. Now, let’s get down to business and talk a bit about those fabulous alpha males of yours! I have on more than one occasion “blamed” you for ruining all men for me by creating heroes who are not only perfect male specimens, but they are also kind, protective, dominant, territorial, loving, sexy as hell …. *fans herself* … where was I? Oh yes, your heroes …  They take no rubbish from anyone with their no-nonsense attitudes, they love their leading ladies fiercely, body and soul, and they never deliver a bad line. Who inspired these fabulous badass men, Kristen, and please include full names and addresses?

HA! The truth is I grew up around alpha-males, from the strong, silent type to the strong, not-so-silent type so I guess it’s just what I experienced. In my books, there is, of course, a healthy dose of fiction involved and some embellishing, but sometimes my brother will say something, or my uncle, or I’ll remember how my grandfather used to be, and I’ll think, “Ah, there it is. That’s where it came from.”

I still see no addresses in front of me… You mention the way the men in your life talk – the language used by your alphas, especially those from the Dream Man series or the Colorado Mountain series, is quite unusual for someone who’s never heard men speak that way, very direct and uniquely to the point. They also make for some of the sexiest dialogues I have ever read. No one can make a male character say, “Babe.”, and make him speak volumes with just that one word. This is what defibrillators are invented for, Kristen! My favourite book quote ever is one of yours, of course …

“I was your man, you were halfway around the world from me, honey, I’d f*cking phone you … If you told me you needed a timeout, first, I wouldn’t f*ckin’ let you have one. Second, I wouldn’t give you reason to f*ckin’ want one. And last, you took off anyway, I’d f*ckin’ phone.” (The Gamble)

You manage to make it sound so authentic and unforced. So sexy and yet so to the point. To me, KA males are really gentlemen that just happen to have a deliciously rough exterior. Apart from your family members, did you grow up around men who always spoke like that?

Kind of. But mostly it comes from how I write. It’s very strange but my books play like movies in my head and I’m frantically typing to get down what I’m seeing there, where people are, how they’re moving their bodies, their faces, what they’re wearing and, perhaps most crucially, what they’re saying. I’m also “in” the characters so, especially in the voice I’m writing (say, if I’m writing in the heroine’s voice), I actually experience what they’re feeling.

I’m delighted it doesn’t sound “forced” because it isn’t. These characters exist in an alternate reality in my head, I hear their voices, I see their faces, I watch them move and it just flows through them to my fingertips to the keyboard!

And then they end up in our heads, ruining all men for us in the process! What about your heroines? Your female characters are just as strong and just as opinionated as your male ones. They are smart-mouthed, sassy and they give their leading men a run for their money. No one could ever accuse your books of being sexist when you have created inspiring female leads that are so passionate and independent in their own right. From the endless interviews with you that I have read over time, I think I can safely conclude that there is a bit of you in each one of those ladies. Did you also grow up around strong women who inspired such characters?

Absolutely. Thinking of this and wracking my brain, I can’t actually think of a single woman in my life growing up who wasn’t her own brand of strong and wise, kind and funny, loving and gracious. And also those in my lives now that I’ve grown up! So I have a very deep well to draw from for my heroines and their friends and loved ones.

I think I want your life… These fabulous stories you write, Kristen, they must make your mind race all the time like constantly changing channels but with no control of the remote. Before you start a new book, do you have the entire plot in your head or does it develop as you go? I’ve heard of authors waking up in the middle of the night because they’ve had a breakthrough in their story, desperate to jot down these thoughts before they forget. When do you find that ideas most frequently come to you?

I never have any clue how a book is going to go until it’s going and I don’t know how it’s going to end (except there will be an HEA) until it’s done. It develops as I go. Sometimes, there will be things that I know are going to happen somewhere in the book, a reveal, a piece of history explained, and I write to that then beyond. But I get to see it play out in my head much like you get to read it play out in my books.

There are times when characters don’t “come to me”. Usually, they come to me very strong and I know pretty much everything about them. There have now been two times, Sam and Kia in HEAVEN AND HELL and the heroine of the book I’m currently writing, who are sharing their secrets with me as I write. It is a bit anxiety-inducing because I’m wondering what’s going on and where the story is leading me. But I think of it as very much having what my readers have when they read my work, not having any clue what will happen until I turn the page. Which is awesome!

As for inspiration, I find it everywhere. It can happen all the time. There isn’t a time when it most frequently comes to me. As you probably know, recently, I was supposed to be writing the final ROCK CHICK, but I was sitting outside, staring at the night sky, saw a shooting star and on the heels of that, Raiden Miller came to me full-on. BAM! I tried to fight it but he took hold so I had to go with him and tell his story with Hanna, I was desperate to get him to his happy ending. So I just did it.

Now, I have no idea why that star led me there. I’m just so glad it did!

The stars must have been on your side because you self-published all your books (am I wrong?) and became one of the first authors to achieve international stardom that way. You focused on eBooks rather than old-fashioned paperbacks, making it no secret that that was your priority because it meant your books would be widely accessible to readers at lower prices and instantly. In hindsight, is this a path you would recommend to new aspiring authors? If you could impart one piece of advice to someone who wishes to write for a living, what would that be?

I am, indeed, self-published however, I am journeying forward both as an indie author and with a traditional publisher. I signed with Grand Central Publishing last year and they are publishing my Dream Man and Colorado Mountain series in print (they’re still in eBook) this year. I am also working with them on the launch of the Chaos Series (a spin-off of Dream Man) and the next two Colorado Mountain books.

That said, I’ll still be publishing indie and have, until GCP, published only indie. I chose to focus on eBooks mostly because I had decided to change the path of my life and focus only on writing and publishing for a time to see if my passion could take flight. And I didn’t have a great deal of money to test this theory! And eBook publishing is very inexpensive (that is, free). If I could have afforded to go to print at the same time with all my books, I would have. Many, many, MANY readers still only read traditional books and I have not even begun to tap that readership (though, at least nineteen of my books will be available in print in the coming 12 months).

I also didn’t have money for a good editor and copy-editor and these relationships are very important. I would hate to see my books in print in the state they were in with grammar and punctuation errors, as well as needed editorial pruning. So, as it turns out, the way it worked for me worked!

As for advice, I’d say the absolute most important piece of advice I’d give to someone who wanted to write is… do it. Finish your book, get it where you want it to be but then let it go and let fly. It might not work but at least you’ll know. Don’t hesitate. Explore your dream. Always, always explore your dreams.

Did you say NINETEEN paperbacks?! Dear Santa, I promise to be a very reasonably good girl … What is next for the fabulous KA? What stories should we be anxiously awaiting?

Personally, I’m anxiously awaiting all of them and wish I could write five books simultaneously because there’s a great deal rolling around in my head that I’m dying to get out!

But what’s definitely coming up next is RAID, the next in the Unfinished Heroes series, will be available in eBook on February 28 (with the print book available on or very close to that date). The first in the Chaos series, OWN THE WIND, will be available in eBook on April 2 (print June 25). The second in the Chaos series, FIRE INSIDE, will be out in eBook in July 2013. With the next in the COLORADO MOUNTAIN series coming out later in the year. And I hope to squeeze in the final ROCK CHICK and, if my fingers can go fast enough, the next in THE ‘BURG series and the FANTASTICAL series in late 2013, early 2014. And then onward!

OMG, Kristen, so MANY stories to look forward to!! I don’t think I have that many sick leave days left… By the way, I have to ask this and I know I am not alone in this, when are you coming to Australia??

Ha! I wish I could say next week. I love Australia. Since having a vacation there years ago, I’ve wanted to go back, like, bad. And I hope one day to do just that. And we’ll have a drink, darlin’, and go find this awesome bike above! Holy cow! That freaking rocks!

It’s a date! THANK YOU so much, Kristen, for turning a day that normally gives me hives each year into a truly special one! No one will ever make me dream about biker dudes and rock chicks like you do.

Thank you so much, Natasha, for asking me to be a part of your special celebration. It truly is an honour! Wishing you a happy birthday, hoping you have fun, find trouble but don’t get caught and here’s to many more blogs and birthdays!

Now, about those names and addresses, Kristen…

Connect with Kristen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy a Kristen Ashley book: Amazon
The HUGE Giveaway

Since there are 36 candles on my birthday cake, it only makes sense that I should be giving away 36 FABULOUS eBooks!! That is 6 winners, 6 randomly selected books per winner, peeps! To win, please enter below. By entering, you accept the following Giveaway Conditions.

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BOOK REVIEW: With Everything I Am by Kristen Ashley

One night, Callum is driven into the woods by instinct, an instinct to protect… what, he does not know. Until he, in the form of wolf, meets a young, human child who he is instantly drawn to in a fierce way he doesn’t quite understand.

But in the end, she protects him. Then he finds this human child is his destined mate.

Sonia Arlington has lived a lonely life. She has certain abilities that make her strange and she has a rare disease that, if untreated, could kill her. Her mother and father are assassinated but before, her father makes her vow that she will never let others discover her abilities. This forces Sonia to stay distant from others, no family, no close friends and always guarding against exposure.

Then the intelligence leaks that Sonia is Callum’s human mate. He is now King of the Werewolves and therefore she becomes targeted by the wolves who have aligned with other immortals to enslave the human race. Callum has war on his hands and is forced to claim his mate and quickly integrate Sonia into a world that is strange and frightening to her.

As Sonia attempts to adjust, not entirely successfully, Callum attempts to cope with the knowledge that his mate is mortal. He will have her beauty and gentleness only the length of a mortal life and as werewolves only have one mate their entire lives, their union for him is unbearably bitter as well as unbelievably sweet.

Then he finds that due to her illness, her human life will be even shorter and he is forced to endure the increased bitter while doing everything he can to make Sonia’s short life incredibly sweet.

review

“Every day, I would wake up and think you were perfect and every night I’d go to sleep thinking, somehow, during the day, you got even more perfect. If I could have wished what I thought was my perfect mate on the wind and had her come back to me in a storm, I could never have come up with anything as exquisite as you.”

There is something very comforting about picking up a Kristen Ashley book. You know you will love it even before you start, you know she will rock your world and ruin all men for you with her delicious alpha male characters, and you know that once you dive into the story you will never want it to end. Once again, KA delivers.

In this second book of The Three series, the second Prophesy is fulfilled, where the King of Werewolves, Callum, finds his lifemate, Sonia, bringing this fantastical world one step closer to an eternity of peace between species.

Sonia is a mortal with supernatural gifts. She first meets Callum as a child while in his wolf form and they are immediately and inexplicably drawn to one another. Callum then becomes aware of their destiny together but Sonia does not. They live apart for thirty-one years, Callum patiently waiting for his mate to become a woman and to finally make her his Queen, while Sonia dreams of Callum every night, both as man as well as wolf, her vivid dreams soothing her loneliness, completely unaware that her dream man actually exists. When they meet again, they are thrown together by unexpected events, forced to rush what Callum always planned of making a slow re-acquaintance between them. Their attraction is sizzling, their connection unquestionable, but they are given very little time to actually develop gradual feelings for each other.

“You’re my mate, Sonia, my queen. … You were destined for me before you were even conceived. I’ve been waiting for you for longer than you can imagine.”

Callum has no doubts about Sonia’s role in his life, his attachment to her is stronger as he has known of her all her life and has had time to prepare for their future together. Sonia, on the other hand, is unable to fight her body’s response to Callum and her dreams of him only serve to confuse her even further, but she resists the attraction. Her misplaced conviction that he is taking her as his mate only out of obligation to his people and not genuine affection for her serve only to make her even more determined to guard her heart around him. Sonia struggles to accept his ways, his dominant and possessive nature, but most of all, she struggles to hand control of her life to him.

“Callum didn’t date. He didn’t court. He seized.”

What follows is an unconventional courtship between two individuals with very different ideas of romance, and a not-so-subtle battle of wills. Callum and Sonia might have been brought together by supernatural forces and pre-destined events, but their journey to become true lifemates is a bumpy and slow one. Their story is one of acceptance of their destiny and the pull between them, as well as of the unstoppable growing feelings for each other. They complete one another, in more ways than one, Sonia taming the beast in him by calming and soothing him, while Callum offering her the sense of belonging that she never hoped of finding again.

“I dreamed of you,” she whispered and watched as his body grew visibly taut. “Since I was a teenager, I dreamed of you.”
He said softly, “You know me.”
“In my dreams, you’ve been coming to me for twenty years.”
“You know me,” he repeated.
Sonia nodded a jerky, frightened nod.
“Do you understand you’re mine?” he asked.
She swallowed. Then she nodded again…
“Come to your wolf, baby doll.”

Throughout it all, we get an exciting and well developed storyline driving the series forward and keeping us at the edge of our seats, desperately wanting more. There is no way of describing the chemistry that Kirsten Ashley creates between her characters and actually do it justice. There is never any doubt in our minds that they not only belong to each other, but that Ms Ashley is going to take care of the hopeless romantic in us and give us an unforgettable love story. Her writing is original, flawless and utterly addictive. I always step away from a KA book with a ridiculous grin on my face – this time I also had an unexplainable need to be called “baby doll”!

“You love me?”
“With everything I am, baby doll, and everything I’m meant to be.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Until the Sun Falls from the Sky by Kristen Ashley

Leah Buchanan’s family has been in service to vampires for five centuries. Even so, Leah wants nothing to do with her family’s legacy but when she’s summoned to her Selection by the Vampire Dominion, under familial pressure, she has no choice but to go.

Lucien has been living under the strict edicts of the Vampire Dominion for centuries but he’s tired of these ancient laws stripping away everything that is the essence of the vampire.

So he’s taking it back.

And this is because Lucien has also been watching and waiting for decades for Leah to become available for a Selection and he will not be limited with what he can do with her. He will have her, all of her.

Therefore, Lucien is going to tame Leah, even if he gets hunted and killed for doing it.

What neither Leah nor Lucien expects is the strong bond that will form between them, connecting them on unprecedented levels for mortals or immortals. And what will grow between them means they will challenge their ways of life and their union will begin the Prophesies which makes them one of three couples who will save humanity… or die in the effort.

review

I have four words for you – Kristen Ashley does vampires. All the usual suspects that you would expect in a KA book are there – sexy alpha males, strong and outspoken heroines, sizzling chemistry, great secondary characters, interesting plot – but this time we are in a world of supernatural creatures.

In this world, the existence of immortal beings is veiled in secrecy except to a select group of mortals. These mortals include concubines, women who live to serve vampires by feeding them. Each concubine is selected by a vampire during a Selection and the length of her service depends on the vampire’s wishes.

Lucien is his species’ über-alpha male whose status among his kind is legendary. Leah comes from a long line of proud concubines but she is a reluctant concubine. She has never wanted to serve the vampire species that way and she has so far avoided participating in a Selection. This time, however, she has no choice because she has been summoned. Leah is unaware of the fact that Lucien had selected and “marked” her as his future concubine twenty years ago and has waited for her all this time. What she also does not realise is that concubine agreements only allow feeding, no other physical intimacy between vampires and their concubines. Lucien changes that contract, making Leah believe that “servicing” a vampire implies sharing his bed as well.

This is in essence a Taming of the Shrew type of story – the heroine is under obligation to fulfil a family legacy but she is everything but a willing participant. The hero gets a kick from taming the heroine, he appears to want her compliant and obedient. Initially, this was a major obstacle for me in this book but I also do get that the world that Ms Ashley has weaved for us is a world where immortals and mortals are not equals and where those servicing vampires are considered just that – servants. They are expected to be respectful and never insolent, but I found that hard to swallow when we are given a female character like Leah whose strong personality and independent streak make her a believable match for someone like Lucien. Leah’s desire to assert herself as an equal in her relationship with Lucien made me love her even more as a heroine and made me cringe at Lucien’s do-what-I-say-and-don’t-ask-questions type of behaviour in the first half of the book.

It soon becomes clear, however, that their perceptions of taming are quite different. Leah fights it because she equates it to giving herself to him, trusting him with all that is truly her and believes that Lucien needs to gain her trust before she lowers her defences with him.

“The mass of bad traits, stubbornness, impatience and sometimes fumbling idiocy and all the good traits too, my loyalty, sense of humour and compassion. I wouldn’t hold onto me anymore. I would be giving it to him and I didn’t trust him to take care of it.”

For Lucien, on the other hand, it is an issue of being accepted for what he is rather than breaking Leah’s indomitable spirit or changing her.

“He wanted her trust, her acceptance of his power, his dominance, not to wield it against her, but to use it to keep her safe, protected, nurtured, thriving.”

He loves her strength and he wants her to stay exactly as she is, but also freely acknowledging him in her life, forever. “Until the sun falls from the sky.”

“I’ve been waiting to have you since I knew you existed. But I’ve been waiting for someone like you for five f*cking centuries.”

I believe what he really wanted from her is submission – he wanted her to accept him as a mate willingly rather than pretend to be the perfect concubine. He preferred her stubbornness to her untruthful compliance, and in a world that either sees his as an unreachable hero or makes him hide the essence of who he is, he desperately wanted to let someone into his life who would accept him and allow him to be himself around them. He wanted to look after Leah, to be her protector and for her to be his life. In every way. When Leah finally accepts him with her heart, their bond grows and changes everything.

This book might have fangs but it is ultimately just a story of two people learning to trust and accept one another. Their dynamic was slightly warped due to the paranormal nature of the world they live in and the embedded imbalance between mortals and immortals, but even against that backdrop, they are just a couple learning to communicate with each other. Most of the conflict that gets created between them emerges out of misunderstandings and truths withheld. Once they start trusting each other with their secrets and feelings, their relationship blossoms.

The storyline around Leah and Lucien’s romance is perhaps not as strong as I would have liked it to be, a few things get resolved with minimal conflict making it all appear somewhat rushed given the seriousness of those issues, but it is still strong enough to set the scene for quite an original and very imaginative trilogy. I really liked this book and have great hopes for the rest of the series.

Did I mention that KA does vampires?

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