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Book Buzz – Rising review

Delivering the salt- and blood-kissed depths readers expect, this vampire tale is everything a sequel should be. — Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus published its official review of RISING, the second book in the DARK SURF series! Kirkus has a reputation for being “the world’s toughest book critics,” so it can be a nerve-racking experience for an author to submit a novel for review. Kirkus’ coverage includes the big 5 houses, small presses, genre publishers, and more. Kirkus also has an indie review program for independent authors like me.

Kirkus Reviews

Here is the Kirkus review of RISING. (SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t yet finished reading DARK SURF or RISING, don’t read this review! It reveals plot elements that give away important details in both books.)


“This second installment of a new-adult series complicates matters in the dangerous world of California surfing and vampire sharks.

“Despite difficult beginnings, Jake Ryder and Leilani Waters grew accustomed to the Nomads, a group of vampire sharks and protectors of the natural world of beach and waves, especially Skylar and Tristan, their friends and lovers. But while Jake is now a vampire shark himself and Leilani has largely left her old life as an FBI agent behind, the rest of the group has scattered after a bloody war with the Rogues, a cabal with a bloodier agenda. In addition to the lingering threat of Dean, the murderous, still at-large leader of the Rogues, the two have to contend with real loss and an unfolding mystery, as Skylar and Tristan have both disappeared in the aftermath, the latter presumed dead. Still, the two friends are committed to hunting down Dean, and they follow him to Hawaii. But while Leilani purely misses Tristan, her fiance, both she and Jake have doubts about what Skylar’s been up to. And there’s still more going on behind the scenes. After all, Jake got into this world in the first place to solve his best friend Cody’s murder at the hands of a former Nomad. So what will he do when he finds out that his cohort isn’t dead at all, but undead? As in Zmak’s (Dark Surf, 2014) previous romantic thriller, the prose is sharp and pithy here, with plenty of surfer dialect to add personality to the writing. And with high stakes already well established, the narrative doesn’t have to make detours to establish the characters’ identities and histories in the way that the first book did. This leaves the speedy, page-turning rhythm of the chapters room to shine and the relationships space to mix and evolve. As before, there’s romance mingled into the blood and chills. In addition, the book does an excellent job of developing the players’ connections beyond those initial sparks and through further and further trials, making this sequel a real treat to read, maybe even more than the original.

“Delivering the salt- and blood-kissed depths readers expect, this vampire tale is everything a sequel should be.” — Kirkus Reviews 

You can also find the complete review here:

Kirkus published a review of DARK SURF earlier this spring—and the review was featured in the June 1st issue Kirkus Reviews magazine (page 173)!

Thank you once again, Kirkus!

Book Buzz – Dark Surf review

Passionate, fun, and delightfully new.” — Kirkus Reviews

DARK SURF was selected by the Kirkus Reviews Indie editors to be featured in the June 1st issue of Kirkus Reviews magazine! Less than 10% of Indie authors are selected for this, so I am incredibly grateful—and super-stoked! The full book review is featured on page 173 (pictured below).

Kirkus Reviews magazine ( is published on the 1st and 15th of each month in both digital and print formats. It goes out to industry professionals such as literary agents, librarians, publishers, book sellers, film executives, and others.

You can also read the full DARK SURF review on the Kirkus website:

Kirkus Reviews magazine

Book Buzz – Dark Surf review

“An entertaining and emotional novel in which blood is thicker than salt water.” — Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus published its official review of DARK SURF today and I am stoked! Kirkus has been an industry-trusted source for honest, accessible, unbiased reviews since 1933, and it has helped countless authors build credibility in the publishing realm ever since. Kirkus reviews 10,000 books a year. Its reviews are often listed on the back covers of best-selling books. Kirkus’s coverage includes the big 5 publishing houses, small presses, genre publishers, and more. Its indie reviews are written by qualified professionals, such as librarians, nationally published journalists, creative executives, and others.

Kirkus Reviews

Here is the review of DARK SURF in its entirety:

Dark Surf Cover“Zmak sets a vampire romance in the California beach community in this offbeat debut New Adult thriller.

When surfer Cody Hansen is killed in an apparent shark attack, it sends his best friend, Jake Ryder, spiraling. How could this have happened? Shark attacks are very uncommon, particularly on the California coast. As Jake seeks out another surfer—the last person to see Cody alive—to learn the truth about what happened, his quest leads him into dangerous waters. But it turns out that he’s not alone in his investigation. The story gives the reader a variety of perspectives on that tragic night in short, sharp, and occasionally brutal chapters. What’s more, the prose, while pithy, manages to give unique voices to characters with vastly different life experiences, providing the novel with a sense of depth. Among these characters is Lani Marley, a vacationing FBI agent looking into a rise in lethal, unpredictable shark attacks, which coincides with the movements of a surfer group called the Nomads. Both Jake and Lani find themselves drawn into the Nomads’ web; Jake, by the jealous, beautiful Skylar, and Lani, by the Nomads’ darkly charismatic leader, Tristan. It turns out that the carefree night-surfers are actually a cabal of shape-shifting vampires. As the romances between the Nomads and the outsiders intensify, all of their lives are threatened by the Nomads’ enemies and the cabal’s own bloody sense of justice. For the most part, the story flows quickly and smoothly. It sometimes takes abrupt turns, though, as in flashbacks to Tristan’s vampiric origins, his and Skylar’s first transformations, and the beginnings of the Nomads. At the same time, the story provides genuine depictions of the joy the characters take in surfing and the sea, and the tribulations of love, guilt, and loyalty. It’s all passionate, fun, and delightfully new.

An entertaining and emotional novel in which blood is thicker than salt water.” — Kirkus Reviews 

You can also find the complete review here:

Thank you, Kirkus!

Crave – food & drink

Recipe – Bruschetta

  • 8 slices firm, crusty Italian bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 3–4 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium, ripe tomatoes
  • ½ c. fresh basil leaves
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Core and dice tomatoes. (Note: I grow wild cherry tomatoes, so I sometimes use these, as pictured below.) Chop basil. Combine tomatoes and basil in glass bowl. Add 1 t. olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bruschetta Fixings

Bake bread slices on cookie sheet, turning once, until golden brown (approx. 2–3 minutes on each side). Remove from heat and rub surface of bread with garlic; use ½ clove of garlic for 2 slices of bread.

Brush each bread slice with extra virgin olive oil.

Finely chop one clove of the garlic that was used on the bread slices; stir it into the tomato mixture. Place tomato mixture atop bread slices. Serve immediately.


Crave – food & drink

Recipe – Stuffing (includes Vegan option!)

  • 1 lb. firm French or Italian bread (including crusts), cut into ½-inch cubes
    (I like to use a mix of 6 oz. of French bread, 6 oz. of Italian bread, and 4 oz. of baguette)
  • 8 T. butter (Vegan option: 4 T. extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 c. onion, chopped
  • 1 c. celery, finely chopped
  • ½ c. minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 ¼ t. dried sage or 1 ¼ T. minced fresh sage
  • 1 ¼ t. dried thyme or 1 ¼ T. minced fresh thyme
  • 1 t. salt
  • ¾ t. ground black pepper
  • ¼ t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 t. ground cloves
  • 1 ½ c. chicken stock (Vegan option: 1 ½ c. vegetable stock)
  • 2 large cage-free eggs, beaten (Vegan option: 2 t. ground flaxseed and 2 T. water; mix and let stand for 2 minutes)

Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toast bread cubes until golden brown (approx. 10–12 minutes). Place in large bowl and set aside.

Heat butter in large skillet on medium-high heat until foam subsides. (Vegan option: Heat olive oil on medium heat). Add chopped celery and onion to skillet, cook and stir until tender (approx. 5 minutes).

Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. Add this mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs and toss until well combined.

StuffingMixture & Bread Crumbs

Add chicken stock and eggs to bowl (Vegan option: Add vegetable stock and flaxseed/water mixture to bowl) until stuffing is lightly moist but not packed together.

Place stuffing into 13” x 9” buttered baking dish. (Vegan option: Use extra virgin olive oil to grease the dish.)

Bake at 350ºF until the top is crusty and the stuffing is heated through. Approx. 25–30 minutes.


Book Buzz – Awards

RISING named a finalist in the international Book Excellence Awards

The 2018 Book Excellence Awards selected RISING, the second novel in the DARK SURF series, as a Finalist in the “Fantasy” category.

2018 BEA Finalist Seal 72 DPI PNG

The international competition is described as a “global celebration of literary excellence.” According to the awards program: “There were hundreds from entries from around the world and your book was selected for its high quality writing, design and market appeal. Receiving a Book Excellence Award is a tremendous honor that represents the hard work, dedication and commitment that went into creating a book.”

2018 BEA Certificate 

In 2017, the Book Excellence Awards selected DARK SURF, the first novel in the DARK SURF series, as a Finalist in the “Fiction” category.

Book Buzz – Events

“Page Turners” — A Local Authors Book Fest on July 15, 2018

You’re invited to attend the first-ever “Page Turners Book Fest.” The free public event will take place Sunday, July 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Monterey Elks Lodge, 150 Mar Vista Drive in Monterey, Calif.

I will be one of more than 30 local authors displaying and selling books at the event. Come meet and talk with us in the ocean-view exhibit room. It will be a great opportunity to get books signed for yourself or for gifts. A wide variety of books will be offered at “below Amazon” prices. A no-host bar and snacks will be available.

As a bonus, from 1 to 2 p.m., author D.S. Kane will discuss “How to Write a Thriller Novel” in the lodge conference room. Kane, a covert intelligence agent for more than a decade, is the author of the “Spies Lie” novel series.

Page Turners is co-sponsored by Central Coast Writers and the local Elks Lodge. Part of each participating author’s registration fee will be donated to the Food Bank at the Veterans Transition Center at Fort Ord, and a donation box will be available at the event.

See you there!

Book Buzz

In the March/April 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, Paul Goat Allen has a very informative article on what it takes to earn a 5-star review. He has worked as a genre fiction book critic and written thousands of reviews for companies like, Publishers Weekly, the Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews. In this article, he offers 5 criteria that provide a glimpse into how a veteran book reviewer dissects and evaluates a novel.

BlueInk Review logoIn December 2014, Paul Goat Allen chose DARK SURF as one of 10 must-read self-published vampire fiction novels. He said in his review written for BlueInk Review, “This debut novel is so good—so insanely audacious—I actually stood up and applauded when I finished reading it! … This novel blew me away—one of the most imaginative vampire novels I’ve ever read.” Thank you, Mr. Allen, for that review and for this article!


Where will today take you?
Footsteps in Sand


Watching the Super Blue Blood Moon set over the Pacific Ocean on Jan. 31 was incredible!

Super Moon & Glowing Wave

Super Moon Crescent & Wave