Wednesday, November 25, 2015

REVIEW: Harry Starke ($25 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: Harry Starke
Author: Blair Howard
Series: Harry Starke #1
Pages: 326
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: N/A
Format: Kindle
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

It's almost midnight, bitterly cold, snowing, when a beautiful young girl, Tabitha Willard, throws herself off the Walnut Street Bridge into the icy waters of the Tennessee. Harry Starke is there, on the bridge. Wrong time, wrong place? Maybe. He tries, but is unable to stop her. Thus begins a series of events and an investigation that involves a local United States congressman, a senior lady senator from Boston, a local crime boss, several very nasty individuals, sex, extortion, high finance, corruption, and three murders. Harry has to work his way through a web of deceit and corruption until finally.... Well, as always, there's a twist in the tale, several in fact.
~My Thoughts~

~Try an Excerpt!~
Now here she was in the wind and the snow, running, frightened, looking back over her shoulder, as if she thought she was being chased. Then she tripped, stumbled, almost fell. I started toward her, but as soon as she saw me, she stopped, put her hands to her mouth, looked desperately about her, then turned, ran to the rail and started to climb.

"No!" I sprinted the few yards that separated us, but I was too late. She was on the rail before I could reach her. She looked wildly around, first along Walnut and then at me... and then she jumped. I dived the last couple of yards, my arms outstretched, and I managed to grab the collar of that fancy parka with both hands. I slammed into the rail. Man was she heavy? I hung onto the fabric, hauled on it as hard as I could, but it wasn't enough. She simply threw her arms over her head, slipped out of it, and down she went. I barely heard the splash over the noise of the wind howling through the ironwork above. I leaned over the rail, looked down. Nothing, just the white caps on the river some eighty feet below. She wouldn't last more than a few minutes in those icy waters, always supposing she'd survived the fall.
~Meet Blair!~ 
Blair Howard was born and raised in England. He writes sweeping historical epics, and is the author of four historical novels, with a fifth due to be released at the end of July this year: be on the lookout for Three Days in Hell: a Novel of the American Civil War. His current novels are: Chickamauga: a Novel of the American Civil War; The Mule Soldiers: a Novel of the American Civil War; The Chase: a Novel of the American Civil War: and Comanche: a Novel of the Old West. His new book, Harry Starke, mystery novel will be available on September 4, 2015 All of Blair's books are available on Amazon as eBooks or Paperbacks.

Blair is also a travel writer and professional photographer specializing in golf travel, vacation travel, and golf course photography. His travels take him throughout the United States, Europe and the Caribbean playing golf, writing about his experiences, and photographing the golf courses he visits.

Blair is the author of more than 40 books and more than 4,500 magazine, newspaper, and web articles. His work has appeared in many national and international publications, including Delta's Sky Magazine, PHOTOgraphic magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Walking Magazine, Petersen's Hunting Magazine, The Boston Herald, The Detroit Free-Press, The Anchorage Times and many more.

 Blair Howard will be awarding a Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Shadow in the Smoke (+$Giveaway!)

Title: Shadow in the Smoke 
Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Date Published: 2015
Format: Kindle
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours
Buy Me!

Janet Ennis tragically died five years ago in what the police labeled an accidental fire. But Janet’s mother, Nora, believes it to be murder and arson. And she’s hoping ex-cop Michael McLaren can prove it quickly, for she’s losing her memory to dementia.As McLaren pokes through the case details, he becomes emotionally involved with the dead woman. Yet, Janet isn’t the only person who threatens mental well-being. A series of arsons on his own property hint that he’s upset someone connected with this case.

Motives for Janet’s murder rise like the smoky tendrils of a fire. And, motive aside, the murder scene seems a bit too pat: a drought-stricken landscape eager to lap up flames, and a conveniently locked door barring Janet’s escape.

Will McLaren solve the case while Nora can still comprehend the resolution, or will Harvester’s plans see McLaren’s career go up in smoke?

~My Thoughts~

~Try an Excerpt!~
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Ennis, but even if I did take on your case, I don’t think you could afford my fee.”

“You haven’t told me what it is.”

He named his price, watching her intently.  She didn’t flinch at the amount but said, “I’d double that if you could find Janet’s killer.”

His right eyebrow rose in skepticism and as he opened his mouth to reply, she added, “I’m serious.  I’ve got the money.”

“It means that much to you, then.”

“Yes.  And it will to you, too.”

“The money’s nice, I admit, but”

“Oh, I’m not referring to the money, Mr. McLaren, though I suppose that will be welcome.”

“Then, what?”

“I meant coming up against your nemesis again and proving him wrong after all these years.”

“My nemesis…”

“Yes. The man you tangled with, the man who’s responsible for you leaving your police job last year. Charlie Harvester. ”
~Meet Jo!~ 

Jo A. Hiestand knew in grade school that she wanted to be a mystery writer. But life got in the way: singing in a semi-pro folk group, traveling to New Zealand, working as a camp counselor, co-inventing P.I.R.A.T.E.S. (a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game), becoming a tour agent for a Scottish folk singing group, attending a citizen police academy and riding along with police officers… But she needed to immerse herself in All Things British for her books. England beckoned and she responded.

She bee-lined to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of her books. Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed the St. Louisan into an Anglophile. 

She’s returned nearly a dozen times to Derbyshire, researching and photographing for her McLaren cold case detective novels.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.

Her cat, Tennyson, shares her St. Louis home.

 Jo will be awarding a tote bag and water bottle to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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Dragon Apocalypse Blog Tour! (+$25 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: Dragon Apocalypse
Author: Josh Powell
Series: The Berserker and the Pedant
Pages: 244
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: Pedant Publishing
Format: Kindle
Genre: Fantasy 
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours
Buy Me!

On their way to apprehend a temple thief, Gurken Stonebiter, a templerager of the temple of Durstin Firebeard, and Pellonia, a little, but infuriatingly clever, girl stumble onto a quest to save a town from an evil dragon. The dragon is demanding sacrifices of maidens, and the town is fresh out. Can they discover a way to sate the dragon's bloodlust and save the town?

Along the way, Gurken and Pellonia meet up with Maximina, a half under-elven woman that also happens to be a tad psychic, a ranger with a dash of necromantic ability, a smidgen of samurai training, and just enough time living as a rogue to acquire the ability to sneak up on and stab a foe in the back. Maximina is full of clever ideas on how to gain a tactical advantage over her foes, and on occasion they even work.

During their adventures, Gurken, Pellonia, and Maximina face a snarky unicorn, do battle with a terrible frost giant, contend with a rival adventuring party bent on their utter humiliation, and confront the end of the world in the form of an evil sorcerer and a teeming dragon horde. Can they save the world one more time?
~5 Ways to Write with a Full Time Job~
1)     Go to bed and get up early

The single most effective way to carve out time to write is to go to bed early and get up early.  Some nights I go to bed at 8 pm and get up at 3 am to write for up to 6 hours before heading into work.  That’s the most extreme, normally I wake up at 4 or 5.  I have the home to myself because my family is still in bed and I get can a lot of uninterrupted writing done.

At night, I’m too tired to write and end up watching a few hours of TV instead.  Much better to spend my time at night sleeping and wake up rejuvenated and ready to write.  It’s much easier to write funny fantasy stories when I’m awake, and my sense of humor is operating on all cylinders.  Maximina Nobility, the half-under elven (don’t call her a drow!) warrior who enjoys trying out new and clever tactics that either work brilliantly or... not so brilliantly, was created in the wee hours of the morning.

2)     Write on your lunch break

Another way to squeeze in another hour or so is to write on your lunch break.  Instead of gabbing with friends, puttering around on Facebook, or putting in extra unpaid time at work, find a quiet space, wolf down your food and type away.

While this doesn’t work out every day, I can usually eek out three days a week using this tactic.  Three hours of writing a week isn’t much, but it helps.  I wrote the scene where a small village is in trouble because it has run out of maidens to sacrifice to the dragon on my lunch break.  This excerpt is included at the end of the article.

3)     Write on your commute

This one may involve changing your work commute around.  If you can telecommute, that will save you up to an hour a day you can put towards writing instead.  If you can take the bus or train to work, you can fit in some time that way as well. I was able to telecommute to work once a week.

4)     Stop doing unessential things

A good friend of mine once asked me how I managed to write a book; he barely had time to read even one. Later in the conversation he told me that he’d watched over eighty basketball games that season.  Eighty!  At two hours each, that’s 160 hours of writing time.  Four full-time weeks of writing.  That’s a big chunk of a novel.

When I’m writing a novel, I also give up reading.  Time spent reading is time spent not writing.  I save my reading for when I’m not writing a novel, or I listen to audiobooks on my commute.

5)     Take a writing vacation

If you get vacation days at your job, use them to take some time to write.  If you don’t get vacation days, you’ll have to evaluate how much you need the cash from working against how badly you want to write.

There you have it, five ways to steal time to write your novel.  If you think of any other ways, please contact me on twitter @seasoup.  You can also find me on my website at
~Try an Excerpt!~
“We’ve run out of maidens,” the mayor told the crowd in the morning, shaking his head sadly.  The mayor stood beside a wooden pole with chains and manacles attached to it.  The manacles were empty.  “I’m afraid that last night, the last maiden in the city, shall we say… disqualified herself. 

“Trollop!” said a voice in the crowd.

“In about five minutes, the dragon will be here and we’ll all be scorched and eaten alive.  Please, don’t panic.  There’s nothing to be done.”

The people in the crowd looked around at one another.

“Can’t we still pretend she’s a maiden?” said a voice in the crowd.

“A good idea, for sure,” said the mayor.  “But the dragon can tell these things, he’s got a unicorn with him.  I’m afraid we’re doomed.  Nothing to be done about it.”

“You can’t fool a unicorn,” someone in the crowd shouted.

“How about a male maiden? I’m sure we’ve plenty of those.  Roger here, for example.”

“Hey!  I’m not a maiden!”

“Sure, sure, we all believe that.”

“It’s no good anyway.  The dragon quite prefers that the maiden in question be a woman,” said the mayor.

“The dragon’s really quite particular,” another voice criticized.

“What about a young maiden?  I mean, technically, if we can just find someone young enough…” said someone in the crowd.  He turned and looked at Pellonia, as did the rest of the crowd.
~Meet Josh!~ 
JOSH POWELL, wielder of the Sommerswerd, destroyer of the thread, expeditioner to Barrier Peaks, discoverer of his magic talent, and venturer into the Tomb of Horrors is known for having survived a harrowing adolescence full of danger and fantasy. He's gone on to write The Berserker and the Pedant and Dragon Apocalypse and is currently working on the yet to be named third book in the series.

He also spends some not inconsiderable amount of time wiggling his fingers over a keyboard as a software engineer.  He lives with his wife, Marianne, and two amazing children, Liam and Chloe, in sunny California, where winter is, most decidedly, never coming.
 Josh will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

The Santa Claus Man (+$20 Amazon GC Giveaway)

Title: The Santa Claus Man
Author: Alex Palmer
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Format: Kindle
Genre: Historical 
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours
Buy Me!

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop. 

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide Christmas tree and Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

~Try an Excerpt!~
It’s impossible to say who wrote the first Santa letter, but it was almost certainly from the mythical saint, not to him.

From the earliest conception of Santa Claus in the United States, parents used the voice of St. Nicholas as a means of providing advice and encouraging good behavior in their children. The earliest reference to a Santa letter in America that I could find came from Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, recalling his childhood in 1820s Western New York when he “once received an autograph letter from Santa Claus, full of good counsels.”

Fanny Longfellow (wife of poet Henry Wadsworth) regularly wrote her children Santa letters, commenting on their behavior over the preceding year. “I am sorry I sometimes hear you are not so kind to your little brother as I wish you were,” she wrote to her son Charley on Christmas Eve 1851.

Soon enough, children started writing back, generally placing their letters on the fireplace, where they believed smoke would transport the message to St. Nick.

By the 1870s, scattered reports appeared of the receipt of Santa letters by local post offices. But with no actual fur-coated toymaker to receive his mail, each January, the department destroyed them.

It was a depressing business. But, officials asked, if mailmen began delivering Santa’s letters, to which other fictional characters would mail be shuttled?

In the face of negative publicity, however, New York City’s postmaster finally relented. Every year, for the entire month of December, any approved organization could answer Santa’s mail. No one volunteered. Then, in 1913, just as the Post Office was about to give up, a man named John Duval Gluck stepped forward. He’d be Santa Claus.

He was also a con artist.
~Meet Alex!~ 

Alex Palmer is the author of The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York, called "required reading" by the New York Post and "highly readable" by Publishers Weekly.
Alex will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

REVIEW: Tested by the Night (+$25 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: Tested By The Night 
Author: Maxine Mansfield
Series: The Academy #5
Pages: 254
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Format: Kindle
Genre: Romance
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

Mia Hammerstrike was always the meek, mild mannered, spare to the heir. But when her brother abdicates his position as heir to the throne of Alaria, she is faced with a decision—marry a man to rule her people or take on Queen Adrina’s Challenge so that she can someday rule the country herself. After all, why should gender decide her future? Granted, the broad shouldered, dreamy eyed barbarian sent to look after her during her quest makes her VoT glad she's of the female persuasion.

Barbarian Talon Starkweather made a promise a long time ago, and now he must make good on it. He must play bodyguard to his best friend's sister, a little princess on a big mission. There are those who want her to fail, but he vows to help the barbarian princess earn the right to rule. There's only one problem—while he's protecting the stubborn and insatiably lusty female, who is going to protect Talon from the one woman trying not only his patience but also his willpower?

Their journey leads to danger, passion, and a battle of wills, and both will find themselves Tested by the Night.
~My Thoughts~
This is a saucy romance through and through. I liked that there were some fantastic elements (creatures!) but that the story was primarily a historical romance set in another land...Fantasy Romance? Either way, it was a good genre-blending book with lots of details, facts, and world-building. 

I felt as though entirely too much attention was put on making Mia say that she was meek and mild. From what I felt, she wasn't really either. She certainly didn't make any choices or actions that seemed mild. She definitely questions everything that's being forced on her...It kind of seemed like a case of telling us what to believe rather than showing us, because if we look at Mia's actual movements even at the beginning, she's everything but quiet. That being said, her "character development" didn't really resonate with me because as the book went along she seemed to get less interesting. She stopped making decisions for herself and kind of just got swept up in Talon...not that there's anything wrong with Talon...yummy...but still, as a heroine, I would have liked to see Mia have a more empowered role at the end of her own book. 

Mansfield's writing was a bit of a mixture of classic historical fiction with good old-fashioned raunchy romance novel. There were a lot of "my good man!" type exclamations that did throw me a bit because I like my writing to be a tad more realistic than that, but it definitely camped up the drama and made for entertaining reading. Either the book was written entirely in a satirical snark about romance books or it was entirely too sappy for me...I can't tell! Tested by the Night is made for the mavens of historical fiction, for those of you who like the type of bodice-ripper that's got Fabio on the cover. Enjoy!
~Try an Excerpt!~
He nuzzled her neck again, and shivers of delight scampered up and down her spine, landing with a resounding thud right in the middle of her belly.

“When a starving man is set before a fine feast such as you, princess, he does not simply gobble his meal down and walk away. Oh, no, he savors every morsel of it, dines to near bursting, and thoroughly licks his plate clean afterward in appreciation.”
~Meet Maxine!~ 
Hi, my name is Maxine Mansfield and I write fantasy, erotic romances. I live in the far northern state of Alaska where the summer days are long and the winter nights even longer. I have one very special man, his three equally special children, and our six delightful grandchildren in my life. Not to mention a very bossy African Grey parrot named Gabriel. Oh, and gnomes! Many, many gnomes! Visit Maxine at www.maxinemansfield.

 Maxine will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

As Dragons From Sleep (+$20 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: As Dragons From Sleep 
Author: J.Ellen Ross
Series: Tahaerin Chronicles #2
Pages: 426
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: One-Armed T-rex
Format: Kindle
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

Two years have passed since the attempted coup that nearly cost Leisha, Queen of Tahaerin, her crown, her lover, and her life. With her fractious and peevish nobles cowed into submission, she can finally enjoy the peace she work so hard to forge.

But, war has come to the kingdoms of Ilayta. Sailing over the horizon, vicious invaders arrive first on the shores of Tahaerin. Under the banner of their nameless god, they threaten to drown the land in blood and bring a weapon never imagined here.

Leisha will fight ferociously to save her kingdom and her people, while once more, powerful men plot against her. Conspiracies she thought long dead return and her one-time lover reappears with grand promises. One of her closest friends and advisers guards a secret that threatens everything she has built. Isolated and betrayed, she has only a pitifully small army and a handful of people she can trust.

As her enemies drive her from her home, turn friends against her and threaten her life, where can Leisha turn?

~Try an Excerpt!~
Once the horses recovered and her adrenaline started to wear off, Aniska knew they had to move. “Come on,” she said. “The horses are ready. We can make it back to the men. Eamon is still out there, he’ll see what’s happened and follow. We’ll know where they’ve taken her. We have to let everyone know what’s happened.”

Zaraki could not hear her. “I did nothing. Just like before. I did nothing. I left her there,” he choked out. After seeing his family murdered before his eyes when he was a boy, he had always sworn he would never hesitate again if anything threatened someone he loved.

Aniska stalked over to where he crouched and slapped him. It surprised her a little. She had never struck anyone that way before, much less him. Bending over, she shouted in his face, her voice hard. “Listen to me. Listen to me! Until this is over, this is the last thing I’m going to say to you as your friend. I’m sorry for the things I’m going to say and do, things that are going to hurt you. But from now on, I’m her Spymaster, only.

“Now, get up and get on your horse,” she commanded, standing up. “The only thing that matters is getting her back alive. We don’t have time for you to wallow in your self-pity and self-recriminations. Do you understand me? I have a job to do and I’ll leave you here if you don’t do as I say.”
~Meet J.Ellen Ross!~ 
J. Ellen Ross lives in Texas with her husband and their four rescue dogs. She works in high tech, which has nothing to do with fantasy or writing. As Dragons from Sleep is the second novel in her series, ‘The Tahaerin Chronicles’. The first A Gift Freely Given is available on Amazon.

When she’s not busy chasing dogs around or rushing someone to the vet, she loves to read and play video games. She has a hobby of having hobbies, so she’s also been known to do sculpting, beadwork, and painting.
 The author will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Cover Reveal! Dating on the Dork Side (+$10 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: Dating on the Dork Side
Author: Charity and Darcy 
Series: N/A
Pages: 236
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: Collins Mark Books
Format: Kindle
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

Stung by an epic betrayal, Camy Cavanaugh relies on the sure things: her best friend, her job as peer tutor, and her safe spot on the sidelines of life. But when she hacks into a secret, trash-talking website, it ignites a war between the sexes that won’t end until the whole school is turned upside down—and Camy’s world is turned inside out.

Now the hottest girls in school refuse to date the A-List boys. But with the Homecoming dance looming, everyone from the queen bee to the girl “most likely to” pushes Camy to hook them up with guys from the nerd herd.

And then there's quarterback, A-lister—and former crush—Gavin Madison. He hasn’t spoken to Camy in three years … but he’s talking now, begging her to pair the guys on the football team with girls from the Honor Roll.

It’s a contest of wills and everything is on the line—even Camy’s heart. Will she retreat to the sidelines, or will she find the courage to get back in the game?

~Try an Excerpt!~
Elle sat on the desk so the skirt of her cheerleader uniform fanned out around her. She crossed one leg over the other and planted her palms on the surface behind her.

“In case you haven’t noticed, the guys in this school are tools,” she announced. “And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sick of it.”

A few girls shifted in their seats. Elle gave me the tiniest of nods, my cue to start the PowerPoint presentation. I clicked the mouse and the presentation lit up the screen just as one of the cheerleaders hit the lights. Elle, now standing to one side, fired up a laser pointer.

The first slide contained a list of sins committed by the boys in our class through the years. They started with bra snapping in fifth grade and ended with the prom date scandal last spring.

“Any of this ring a bell?” she asked. “Make you the teeniest bit angry? Anyone? How many of you seriously considered paying for a date?”

In the dark, I sensed a few involuntary arm jerks. A few fierce whispers floated in the air, but no one raised a hand.

“And what did you think when these guys, who we’ve known since kindergarten, went over to Prairie Stone and found dates there? How many of you ended up alone at the dance?”

This time, a chill settled over the group. Prom hadn’t really been on my radar, but I’d heard the stories, of dresses bought, boutonni√®res ordered, and no-show dates.

“What’s your point?” The question, sharp and angry, came from Clarissa. She’d been stood up too, and only had a date for the dance because Elle arranged a last minute substitute--her own cousin, from Prairie Stone of all places.

“My point.” Elle shook out her hair. “Is that the guys in this school store their brains in their butts and I think it’s time we did something about it.”
~Meet the Authors!~ 
Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She spent twelve years as a Girl Scout and six in the Army; that she wore a green uniform for both may not be a coincidence. These days, she writes fiction (long and short) and works as a technical writer for a software company in St. Paul.

Her short speculative fiction has appeared in UFO Publishing’s Unidentified Funny Objects and Coffee anthologies, Flash Fiction Online and Cicada.

Darcy Vance is the slacker half of the author duo of Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance. She didn’t start writing seriously until she was 40, and didn’t publish her first novel until she was 50. Even then, she needed a co-author to get the job done.

While Charity was busy slinging corn for Green Giant and jumping out of airplanes for the Army, Darcy was busy making out with boys and perfecting the art of the doodle. She only makes out with one boy now (her husband) but she still doodles wantonly.
 Charity and Darcy will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.