Book Features, Meet The Author

Interview with Kevin Brown, Author of Hard Knocks High

Hard Knocks High

Hard Knocks High is the most notorious high school in the Bronx, where the streets and the classroom collide.

As a sheltered, bible-studying teen, when inside of his strict single-parent apartment, and a menacing thug when on the rugged Bronx streets, Tafari King struggles to live a double life. On one side: his overprotective mother, who is unaware that her son is the most feared young thug on the streets; his caring girlfriend, who opposes his new found life style; a devoted teacher who warns Tafari of the unseen traps in the streets; and a budding rap career that may offer a way out. On the other side: an intoxicating freedom of a life in which reputation is all that matters, of living the lyrics, of his corner boys’ crew, thugs, and ghetto star-struck girls all whom Tafari has fooled with his fabricated thug persona. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, an old enemy resolves to reclaim dominance over Tafari while a new threat seeks to remove him from the equation entirely. With his life on the line, a gang initiation looming, and time running out, Tafari needs to make a choice before it’s too late.

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About The Author

Kevin Brown is a teacher, coach and writer. He has a B.A in Broadcast Journalism and a Masters in Education. Kevin has taken the opportunity to inspire a new generation of writers and athletes while still pursuing his own passion for writing.          Project Windows is Kevin’s first novel in the Hard Knocks High series and he is currently working on his second book in the series. Kevin still lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and two daughters.

Q & A with Kevin Brown

Where did the concept for Hard Knocks High come from?

Once I realized my true calling was writing young adult novels, and not adult novels, the ideas just started flowing. I knew I wanted a way to tie the ideas together and I wanted a way to stand out and make it easier to be found. At the time, young adult book series were popular like the Harry Potter series and the Twilight Saga. But my stories were going to be more realistic, with real life situations and consequences. I wanted to tell the stories of at-risk-teens from the projects that are forced to deal with the daily trials and tribulations of the streets and combine that with the issues of having to attend a low income school. With that in mind, the first title I came up with was the school of hard knocks but I thought it was too long and too obvious. Then I flipped it and titled it Hard Knocks High.

Why did you feel you had to write this particular book?

When ever I develop an idea for a book, I make sue there’s a theme or moral message that I want to get across. In this particular book, Project Windows, I wanted to point out that impressionable teens are vulnerable to peer pressure regardless of their background. Whether the teen has both parents at home, or in this book Tafari has an overprotective parent, he attends church and bible study and still, he falls victim to the allure of the streets. He falls victim to the pressure of his peers and the pressure to fit in. This book shows the consequences of trying to be something that you are not. How one bad choice can lead to a series of bad choices that can ultimately cost you your livelihood.

What was the hardest part in writing this book?

The most difficult aspect of writing this book trying to find the time. I am an eight grade language arts teacher and its near impossible for me to write during the school year. Just the day to day job in the classroom is a lot in itself, but even at home, I’m lesson planning, reading and grading papers, attending staff developments, reading educational resources. Mentally it’s a 24 hour job. So, the summer time, was the only time I was able to really dive into the book. In the classroom, if an idea popped up in my head, I would find myself, writing myself notes on sticky notes, and on index cards in the classroom, so that I wouldn’t forget. I wanted so desperately to go home, turn on my laptop and write, but I had papers to read and grade, lesson plans to develop, etc. So I had to put it off.

What do you want readers to take from Hard Knocks High?

When readers read Hard Knocks High, I want them to feel that the story is real and authentic. I want readers who enjoy the written word to get a since of fulfillment from the imagery and the use of metaphors. I want the readers to be able to relate to the characters. Long after the readers put the book down, I still want some of the memorable scenes, the imagery, the conversations amongst the characters and the overall message of the book to still resonate. Hopefully, its good enough for them to come back for the second installment.

What tips would you give a person wanting to write a young adult book?

Being a teacher has helped me a lot just being around teens and seeing their habits, and issues. I pull a lot of ideas from my own teenage years but not all them are relevant. Time changes. So it’s important to understand what makes this generation tick. Spend time with them and pay attention to what they are into. And make it worth their while. And if you do get the opportunity to write for young adults, make sure you put some valuable information in there that can help them grow.

What tips would you give a teenager dealing with issues of bullying or self-identity?

It’s important to confide in someone. Most times the victim doesn’t want to share because they are embarrasses or scared. When this happens, we see the consequences when kids inflict pain on themselves or unfortunately take their own lives. So its important to confide in an adult, whether it be your parents, a trusting teacher the guidance counselor or a friend. It’s also important for parents to be involved in their kids lives and talk to them. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn about your kids just by asking them detailed questions like, “How was school today?” What did you do in school today?” “Anything interesting or unusual happen at school today?” This will only take about 5-10 mins. A lot of parents don’t take the time to talk with their kids after school. Many times, the kids come home and go straight to their rooms and parents have no idea what their kids are going through.

Who is Kevin Brown?

I am a father, a husband, a writer, a teacher, a basketball coach and a mentor. I am a native New Yorker, born in the Bronx and raised in Edenwald projects, the second largest housing development in the Big Apple. I imagine most novelists developed a passion to write by reading other novels. I actually developed a passion to write by listening to hip hop music. I was a big hip hop head growing up and listening to lyricists like Rakim, G rap, Lord Finesse and Nas to name a few. They inspired me to write. I Started out writing rhymes, through junior high and high school. Then once I reached college, the rhymes gave way to stories and manuscripts which are still a burning passion of mine to this day. Outside of writing, I enjoy watching and coaching basketball, I spend a lot of time with family, I’m a bit of an introvert with a small circle and I also make very good cakes.



What has been your biggest challenge/achievement as an author?

The biggest achievement so far was having young adults from as young as fourteen to as old as twenty-four years read my book and tell me now great the book was and in some instances said that it was the best book they ever read because they could relate to the characters and the realistic situations. Having teachers tell me that it is a great read with a great moral message and they want to use it as a book study for their classroom. Having some parents request the book for their teens. That’s why I wrote the book

The biggest challenge was getting my book published. I sent out a different version of my manuscript to different agents only to get rejected. I was determined to get Hard Knocks High published so I rewrote it and decided to publish it myself. I did a ton of research on self publishing by reading books, asking questions of other self published authors, attended free seminars at the library and learned how to secure isbn’s and barcodes. I was able to secure my publishing license soon after. Then I had to seek out professionals to help me with my book cover and the interior design. Finally, when I received the advanced copy in the mail, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of achievement. To have an idea that started in head and end in my hands was a great achievement and the biggest challenge overcome.

What new project (s) are in the works for you?

I am working on the second book in the Hard Knocks High series which will follow Mahogany, who was the girlfriend of the main character, Tafari King in Project Windows.

Where can readers find you?

I am on Facebook under my name. I am also on instagram and twitter as Hardknockshigh…

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Book Features, Giveaways, Meet The Author

Interview with Ceri Grenelle, Author of To Mate An Assassin

Ceri Grenelle

I’ve always had an active imagination. An imagination that usually took form in the way of zoning out in the middle of conversations. I eventually decided it was time to share my daydreaming with the world and began to put my musings on paper. It started with Harry Potter fan fiction and grew from there.

I am currently living it up in Northern California after a big move from New York City. And by living it up I mean staying home with my cats, obsessively watching episodes of my favorite TV shows, all of which are extremely geeky, and simultaneously reading the next book on my reading list. I do all this while trying not to pig out on unhealthy snacks. As you can tell, I lead a busy life.

Q& A with Ceri Grenelle

Tell our readers about To Mate An Assassin. 

The world of The Lost Alphars series takes place in a slightly altered modern day America. In shifter culture, the continents are divided into territories and each territory is ruled by its own Alphar. To Mate an Assassin tells the story of two shifters who both hold very important roles in their society. One is the leader of North America, while the other is the Incendiary, raised in the shadows and turned into a nightmarish fairy tale. The two are from opposite sides of the spectrum, yet when they finally meet their inner beasts latch on to one another instantly and they mate.

You have a great cover, how does it relate to your story? 

I had a very specific idea in mind for the cover. I wanted the colors to be shadowy and dangerous, reflecting the heroine’s inner darkness, and I didn’t want the main characters touching or interacting. Cymbeline is a loner, and she does not make Kerrick’s courtship easy on him. It was important to me for the cover to reflect that. Originally there was a different woman on the cover, and she was just too cutesy to be an assassin. Both my editor and I nixed her immediately.

This is a Paranormal Romance, will you write in other genres? 

I have written in other genres! I’ve always loved paranormal romance but when I first started writing I wasn’t prepared to take it on. I have two other books and one short story in an anthology in the contemporary romance genre. Check out my website for more details!

Tell us about Cymbeline Kendall.

Cymbeline is the Incendiary, a shifter trained from birth to hunt down rogues or shifters who are beyond redemption. She is a product of her upbringing and is very rigid in what she believes herself capable of. She has never known true familial affection and doesn’t understand anything about mating. She’s confident in her strength but not so much in her ability to break down the way she’s been taught to think about herself, she needs someone else to take on that daunting task. She finds that person in Kerrick.

Tell us about Kerrick Masterson.

Much like Cymbeline, Kerrick was trained from a young age to become the Alphar. He was born as a Potential, someone who has the ability to take the Alphar power from one already in existence. When the book starts he has been Alphar for only a short time, but is already feeling the toll his immense powers are starting to take on his mind. Cymbeline throws a wrench into his carefully constructed world, and he latches onto her with all his might.

Which character was the hardest to write? 

Cymbeline and Kerrick were both difficult in their own ways, fighting me at every turn for what decisions they would make about their lives or their mating. But there are other characters in the book that we are going to follow across the series. I don’t want to say much more about a particular character than that, but starting this person from a young age and then watching them grow without being able to tell their story from their own point of view, is consistently frustrating. But I plan for this person to have their own story, and I can’t wait until the time is right for it.

Who is Ceri Grenelle?

This question is slightly terrifying, and I could give a deep and philosophical answer, but for now I think short and sweet will do it. Ceri Grenelle is a woman with an immense imagination that had almost burst to overflowing before she started to put her thoughts down on paper. I’m constantly thinking of new stories and ideas for my characters, but my mind can sometimes be a little chaotic, so it takes time for me to organize my thoughts. When I’m not writing I have a job at a non-profit organization in San Francisco. I live with my cat and always have music playing in my home.

Where does your passion come from to write paranormal books?

The most fascinating part of the paranormal genre is the world building. I get to create an America that is like ours but has known of magic since the dawn of time. How has that affected our history? What is the relationship between human and shifter governments like? How has it affected technology? There are so many questions to answer, it provides an endless amount of possibilities. Shifters are also just very sexy.

What should readers expect from Ceri Grenelle in five years?

I can’t imagine I will have finished this series in the next five years, but lets keep our fingers crossed. I’m currently working on another contemporary romance, and I have started writing a new Science Fiction romance series. I don’t have the slightest idea of when either will be ready for publication, but I am working furiously at them in my spare time.

Where can readers find you now?

I am on Facebook and on Twitter, though I’m terribly inconsistent in updating both. If a reader would like to contact me with a question they can do so on my website on the Contact page. I love hearing from readers so please don’t hesitate to fill out the form and send me a message!

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To Mate an Assassin Cover

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Love is her enemy…until his beast sets her free.

Cymbeline Kendall’s life is quiet, solitary—until a letter appears in her P.O. box. Then she becomes an Incendiary, a human chosen at birth to be trained to strike like lightning to take out the most dangerous of the Werekind, then fade back into the shadows.

She is a weapon only to be used by the leader of North American shifters. But when she learns the Alphar was unseated three years ago, she sets out to find who’s been pulling her trigger.

Kerrick Masterson has borne the burden of leadership for only a short time, yet he already feels the Alphar power tempting his soul toward the insanity that destroyed his predecessor. He has no time for the woman who breaks into his compound claiming to be his Incendiary, but his beast insists he make the time—for his mate.

In one searing, soul-consuming breath, everything Cymbeline was taught to believe is ripped away. Yet the mystery of who’s been sending her orders remains…and finding the answer could lead to all-out war.

Warning: Contains an assassin who doesn’t tolerate those who hurt the weak, and a shifter leader determined to unlock his new mate’s repressed emotions—even if that puts his balls at risk. Explicit sex, violence, and references to abuse that could be rough on sensitive readers.

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Book Features, Giveaways

Excerpt Friday with Rebecca Zanetti, author of Over The Top

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Dawn Freeze had a huge crush on Hawk Rain for years, and the entire town knows it. It’s understandable– the man is total hotness. That tall, lean body. Intense dark eyes. And always one foot out the door. Now he’s on leave for exactly one week. And this time, he’s made it crystal clear that he only wants one thing. Her.

Hawk’s been fighting his attraction to Dawn for as long as he can remember. She’s his best friend’s little sister, and that means hands-off. Except now she’s all grown up, and her sweet sexiness is exactly what he craves. But just as Hawk allows himself one mindblowingly intense night with Dawn, he learns that everyone he loves is in danger. Especially her.

And the only way to protect Dawn is to push her away…


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“Head injury?” Hawk rumbled, his gaze penetrating Dawn’s. He looked deep, and he looked hard, and the hand at her nape didn’t relent.

“No,” she croaked out. “Little head bump…nothing to worry about.” Why was it so hard to breathe all of a sudden? If he didn’t back up, she was going to completely humiliate herself and flatten his ass on the icy road. It’d be worth it just to feel that impossibly hard body against hers for a few seconds.

He lifted an eyebrow. “Blink.”

She huffed and blinked several times. “I’m okay.”

“Your pupils look all right.” He leaned in a bit more. “Seeing stars? Blurry vision?”

“No.” She wanted to burrow into his heat, so she kept perfectly still. “I’ve had a concussion before, and I know what it feels like. This is just a bump.” She’d been bucked off horses her entire life, and she knew she was fine.

Hawk rubbed the nape of her neck, and she couldn’t help the small whimper.

That quickly, his face lost all sense of irritation. Something else replaced it…something heated and all male. “Let me see your wrist,” he whispered, releasing her.

She couldn’t take it if he touched her like that again, so she handed over her wrist.

He gently clasped her arm and turned it this way and that in the light from the car. “Bruised.”

“I know.” She gingerly retracted her arm. “I’m fine.”

“No she isn’t.” Mrs. Poppins clucked her tongue.

Hawk straightened and glanced around the quiet road. “You didn’t hit a moose.”

“Of course not.” Dawn shook her head and then winced as pain cut into the back of her eyes. “It was just a flat tire.”

“Okay.” Hawk rubbed his chin then slowly drew her from the car to open the rear door and place her in the backseat. “Let’s take Mrs. Poppins home, and then we’ll figure out what to do with you.” Without waiting for an answer, he secured Dawn’s seat belt, shut the door, and slid into the driver’s seat without missing a beat. Seconds later, he pushed the seat back and drove onto the road.

Mrs. Poppins bounced happily against her seat belt. “She shouldn’t be alone, you know. Just in case it’s a concussion. Could be.”

Hawk glanced into the rear view mirror. “She won’t be alone. I promise.”


 About The Author

Rebecca Zanetti

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner – only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She writes dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and sexy contemporary romances.

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Book Features, Giveaways

Author S. Donahue shares Acquiring Hearts and a chance to win a Free autographed copy


Have you ever met someone and just knew that they were the one that you were supposed to spend the rest of your life with? In S. Donahue’s Contemporary Romance novel, Acquiring Hearts, Bradley Roberts accidentally meets Giavonna Coppi, his secretary’s sister. He immediately has an attraction to her, but she is not like any of the women that he has dated before.

Gia is an independent, hardworking lawyer who’s been hurt in the past. She invested all of her time into establishing her career. When she meets Bradley, she senses the connection but is afraid to give him her all.

As Bradley finds himself wanting to spend more time with Gia, many dilemmas begin to surface. When their romance is tested, can they see past the obstacles that are standing in their way? Are they meant to be together or is it just easier for them to be apart? There’s only one way to find out…check out this heartfelt fairytale full of emotion, devotion and passion.

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S Donahue

S. Donahue is a romance author who resides in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, with her husband and their four-year-old son. She has two book series titled The Heart Series and The Boston Kirkpatricks, and a holiday romance titled One For The Holiday. She is currently working on several novels to be released, including the highly anticipated Provoked.

When she is not writing, Donahue loves shopping, reading, and spending time with family. She loves to connect with her readers, so feel free to find her on Facebook or visit her blog at

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