When I think of beta males I think of Hugh Grant as the prime minister in Love, Actually. I think of Seth Rogan in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I think of Vicki Lewis Thompson.
The author of over 100 books, Vicki’s career has brought her New York Times bestseller status, an appearance on LIVE with Regis and Kelly, the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America, along with thousands of happy readers.
Romance: B(u)y the Book has called Vicki "An American original, Thompson writes well what few others in romance can--seriously not serious novels about fun and humor and sex and love, without any annoying angst or message.
She has brought us nerds, witches, wizards and werewolves and for the cowboy lover she’s given us the chance tocowboy up with her Blaze series from Harlequin. In most of her books she has enticed us with beta males.
Q: Vicki, why have you created so many of your male characters as betas?
First of all, thanks for the interview opportunity and for an awesome introduction! Love, Actually is one of my favorite movies, and Hugh Grant’s dancing scene is classic. My daughter and I have made it a tradition to watch that movie during the holidays. I haven’t seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but clearly I need to!
My love affair with beta heroes began early with Clark Kent. Even when he emerges as the muscled guy in the sexy blue tights, he’s still beta at his core.
Q: Your latest series is the Wild About You werewolf series with a new release taking us to Alaska. When can we expect that?
Werewolf in Alaska comes out July 2, so I’m going to pretend that those Fourth of July fireworks two days later are all about my new book, LOL. I adore Alaska, so setting a book there was a no-brainer.
Q: How many more books are you planning for this series?
Werewolf in Vegas comes out in March of 2014. Whether there will be more after that depends on the Idea Fairy. She can be capricious.
Q: Have you had an interesting experience in the research of one of your books?
You mean like the time I interviewed a werewolf? Whoops. Wasn’t supposed to reveal that. Actually the most fun I’ve ever had on a research trip involved going to Paris so I could nail down the character of my hero in Casual Hex, which came out in 2009. But I’ve also had a blast researching magic spells, and I’ve studied wolf behavior, which is fascinating. That research was excellent preparation for my interview with the werewolf. Uh-oh. Slipped up again. Forget I mentioned that, okay?
Q: Your books are just plain fun. You write to entertain. Do you read the same genre you write?
Thank you for a lovely compliment. Sadly, I don’t read books that are similar to what I write, which is a shame because of the great authors and stories I’m missing. But I tend to analyze them as I read, so it’s not an escape for me. My favorite escape is Regencies.
___________________________ Love. Them. I don’t ever expect to write one, so I can plunge into that world with abandon.
Q: Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
Andrea Laurence is someone to watch. She’s written five books for Harlequin Desire
with more in the works, and she’s also self-publishing paranormal novellas. She’s good, she’s young, and she’s brainy. I predict she’ll have a long and successful career, probably in more than one genre.
Q: Any thoughts on what your next series will be about?
You must be a mind reader! I have been thinking it might be time to try something new, but I’m still in the dreaming-it-up stage. I have an appointment with the Idea Fairy. If she keeps that appointment and doesn’t flake out on me like last time, then I might have some news in the next month or two.
Q: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I redecorate my house! One of my writer friends, Rhonda Nelson, recently came for a visit and helped me paint my living room. We pulled two colors out of a favorite piece of art. Dunn Edwards lets you name your custom colors, so my walls are Tender Dreamsicle and Bestseller Blue. Yep, my living room is soft orange and lavender blue. I love the colors so much I write in the living room instead of in my office!
Released: May 2013 The Wild Rose Press (Black Rose)
Spicy / Print and ebook
SPIRIT OF THE REVOLUTION
Released: May 2013 The Wild Rose Press
Mild / Print and ebook
Released: June 2013 / The Wild Rose Press
Spicy / Print and ebook
The period between the two World Wars was a time of intellectual and political ferment. In the United States there was Prohibition, the Roaring Twenties, followed by the Crash and the Depression. Across the Atlantic, the effects of the Great War were more immediate, and the shadows of what was to come got darker with each passing year. Here are some recent mysteries that take place during those tumultuous times.
PROOF OF GUILT, by Charles Todd (HarperCollins, 2013, $25.99), set in 1920, has Inspector Ian Rutledge dealing with a dead man deposited in a quiet London neighborhood with no identification and no indication of how he got there. The search to identify the body leads Rutledge to a well-known wine importer, Lewis French, who has disappeared, along with his cousin and partner, Matthew Traynor. Circumstantial evidence points to the chief clerk in the firm as the killer, but Rutledge feels there is more going on, and the voice of Hamish MacLeod, the soldier in the back of his mind, urges him onward, to reveal a twisted plot of revenge that has carried over two generations. There is one more surprise ending in this gripping drama of thwarted hopes and festering evil.
Much lighter in tone is Catriona McPherson's Dandy Gilver and a BOTHERSOME NUMBER OF CORPSES (Hodder and Stoughton, 2012, $14.95), which has Dandy Gilver, a well-to-do Scottish landowner's wife, investigating her friend's disappearance.. It's a decade after the Armistice, and Dandy recalls the glorious days before the War when she spent a perfect summer with the Lipscott daughters, their mother, and Batty Aunt Lilah. Now Fleur, the youngest and most fey of the girls has vanished, and the other two daughters want Dandy to find out why. Dandy tracks Fleur to her sanctuary, a girl's school in a seaside town on the coast of Scotland, but things are not as they seem. The head-mistress has no interest in the most intellectually brilliant student, teachers seem to
come and go at will, and parents are being assured that their daughters will attain University status that they can't possibly have earned. When the body of a woman is dragged out of the ocean, Fleur insists she doesn't know her, but mutters “Five” cryptically, before she disappears again. Dandy and her partner Alex Osborne have to chase all over England to find the missing teachers, then delve into the tangled history both the school and the Lipscotts to uncover the truth behind Fleur's strange behavior. The Twenties roared in England, too, and past misdeeds have repercussions that can destroy lives. Dandy Gilver may seem scatter-brained, but she and Alex are a formidable team. There are hints of what is to come, but Dandy is convinced there will always be an England, even in the wilds of Scotland.
By 1933, the comfortable world of Dandy Gilver is deep in an economic depression, and Jacqueline Winspear's heroine, MAISIE DOBBS, is faced with many dilemmas, both personal and professional. In Leaving Everything Most Loved (HarperCollins, 2013, $25.99), Maisie is hired to find out what happened to an Indian woman living in a London slum neighborhood. Usha had been well-educated, and had a gift for healing that made her suspect in her own country, but why would anyone want to kill her in England? A hostel for Indian women might hold some answers, but while its managers may be overly pious, and thrifty to the point of stinginess, they insist that they are not to blame for what happened to Usha. When another girl living in the hostel is murdered, Maisie looks for clues in other places, and finds a most unlikely connection between Usha and her employers. At the same time, Maisie makes important decisions about her own journey through life. Should she marry her devoted lover, James, who worries about her safety every time she goes out on a case? Can she rein in her desire to help her assistant, Billy, who carries physical and mental reminders of his war service around with him? And what will she do with the fortune left to her by her mentor, Maurice Blanche?
The answers will gratify readers of this series, which appears to come to a close with this book.
FEAR IN THE SUNLIGHT, by Nicola Upson (HarperCollins, 2013, $14.99) has writer Josephine Tey vacationing in the village of Portmerion, Wales, in the summer of 1936.
Her fortieth birthday is approaching, and she's celebrating with a group of theatrical friends, plus one odd man out, Chief Inspector Archie Penrose of Scotland Yard. Joining the party is celebrity director Alfred Hitchcock, whose wife has her eye on one of Tey's books as a possible property for a new film. Rumors of Hitchcock's defection to Hollywood are rife, along with gossip about the new king's devotion to his American mistress. Hitchcock's fiendish manipulations lead to a death, but why was the movie star killed so brutally? And who added rape to the mix, when a local girl is also murdered? The case seems to be solved when a has-been actor also dies, but there is more to it than meets the eye, and Chief Inspector Penrose has the last word, as he prepares to depart Scotland Yard after Tey's death. Tey's difficult relationship with another woman forms a large part of this mood piece, that focuses more on mystery than murder.
David Roberts' Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Browne live in a world far from the sunny shores of Wales. Lord Edward is in the Foreign Office; Verity is a reporter for the left-wing newspaper the New Gazette, who delights in putting herself in danger. In THE MORE DECEIVED (Constable and Robinson, 2004, $25.99), Lord Edward must find out who is leaking information to that embarrassing political renegade, Winston Churchill, about Britain's armed forces. His search leads him to Spain, where Verity is on the spot, reporting on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the attack on the town of Guernica. Both Lord Edward and Verity begin to question their own long-held beliefs, as the net closes in on a nest of spies in the Foreign Office. There is worse to come in A Grave Man (Constable and Robinson, 2005, $25.99), when Lord Edward and Verity get sucked into the affairs of a millionaire with odd ideas about race and genetics. A fashionable spa on the Riviera may be a front for something much more sinister. Storm-clouds are looming over Europe, and the one person who seems to understand what is going to happen is Churchill. A tense series, due to end with the arrival of the war that everyone insists will never happen.
Roberta Rogow is a retired librarian who enjoys books with characters that grab you, often set in exotic places or in other times. She reads a lot of historical mysteries, but also enjoys Alternate History, and has been known to indulge in an orgy of“cozy crafty” mysteries, set in small-town America or villages in Great Britain.
MYSTERY / THRILLER
Released: June 2013 / CreateSpace
Spicy! / Trade Paper and eBook
CAPACITY FOR MURDER
Released: June / Poisoned Pen Press
Mild / Hardcover, trade paper, large print trade paper and eBook
Released: August 14, 2013 TWRP / Currently out on Amazon
The Lance Temptation by Brenda Maxfield, Astraea Press, February 2013, 4 Stars
Sophomore Emili Jones has had it with being a boring, straight-A student. Itching for excitement, she sees plenty of it in classmate Farah Menin’s life of frequent dates and edgy adventure. Hoping the popularity will rub off, Emili latches onto Farah and manipulates herself into best friend status. The connection helps her land the hot new guy, Lance Jankins, but there’s a catch. Now a pawn in Farah’s dating games, Emili is on a crash course to betrayal. Will she realize it in time to save herself?
This contemporary novel about a young girl who has a lot to learn about life will not only entertain readers, but also hopefully teach a few life lessons. Who hasn’t wanted to be popular in high school? However, dumping her old friends to be the sidekick to Ms. Popularity isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and Emili has a lot to learn.
The book is a relatively short read, only 168 pages, but there’s a lot going on in the story. Fifteen-year-old Emili is tired of being a “good girl” and wants some excitement in her life. Maneuvering her way into being the new best friend to Farah may score the new boy in her private school, but is he really worth all her sacrifices, especially when he can’t remember her name. Literally! Meanwhile, she has to deal with her ultra-decent boyfriend who isn’t super-hot, but is super nice. I know the guy I’d pick, but then again I’m not fifteen.
For every action, there is a reaction as the saying goes, so Emili has to face the consequences of her choices which are realistic and well-drawn. She also has to face her parents as well as her friends when she makes mistakes. Again these details add to the story. Throw in some real-world problems like more teen angst, every-day dramas, lots of texting at inappropriate times, teen pregnancy and there is a lot happening to keep the reader guessing. Since the author is a high-school teacher, she definitely knows the teen world she creates and this makes the atmosphere extremely authentic.
The dialogue came across as genuine, but I didn’t have a clear view of the characters at times. That meant regular re-reading to discover what the girls looked like. Not being able to clearly
heroine distracted me from the story. The same went for Lance. Yes, he was supposed to be “super-hot,” but again, I couldn’t “see” him. The descriptions of the private school the girls attended were great and so was that of Emili’s home and room, especially her hobby of perfume-making. However, the city where the story took place wasn’t as clear. Occasionally, the few glimpses really connected with me. Other times, I wasn’t sure where the story took place.
Despite these minor glitches, this was a good read. In spite of her mistakes, Emili is a redeemable character and I hope to find out what happens next in her life. I can’t wait to read Maxfield’s next book.
My Wolf’s Bane by Veronica Blade released by Crush Publishing – January 2013 – 5 Stars!
Different species. Mortal enemies. It'll never work, but they'll die trying.
Autumn Rossi thought she was a normal teenager. Suddenly, she can outrun every critter in the forest, making her wonder if she’s even human.
When the new guy at school, Zack de Luca, witnesses a questionable scene, he unfairly pins her as stuck-up. He acts like he hates her, yet he keeps bailing her out of trouble. Not only is Zack both insufferable and irresistible, he seems to sniff her anytime he gets close.
As passion flares between them, Autumn isn’t sure which is more dangerous: her psycho ex-boyfriend, or falling for Zack — who’s risking his life just by being near her.
If you like shape-shifters and were-wolves, don’t wait for this book to come to you. Hunt it down and bring it home!
To be honest, you may think there’s nothing new under the full moon and then along comes an author who totally tweaks the genre and hooks you on her story. That’s what happened with me and this book. I’ve never read any of Veronica Blade’s books before – this was a first for me! Definitely not the last because I’ve found a new author, one that I’m hopefully going to be following for a long time.
Okay, so I’ve had cars break down on me and once that happened to Autumn on her way to
school, I could go with it. She’s rushing in the door and trying to get her make-up done before class. That was a great introduction to her controlling parents and I do mean controlling! Her mom texts this high school senior all the time and as if that’s not enough, Autumn has a nine pm curfew. That doesn’t sit well with our heroine who dreams of independence and staying in her new school long enough to graduate. Nope, her parents are talking about moving again. Plus she’s grounded from her boyfriend’s wild party, but he’s a jerk and she wants to break up with him, so I’m with her on that one. Who cares?
As if that’s not stressful enough, she has new talents to deal with. All at once, her sense of smell and hearing are much stronger. She has an insatiable craving for meat – a no-no in her strict vegetarian parents’ household. And there’s this new guy at school, Zach who is amazing – even if he does have a penchant for sniffing at her.
Ms. Blade has a gift for dialogue, setting and humor. I laughed more while I read this book than I have in a long time. Her characters seemed true to life. I wouldn’t be surprised if I met them in the woods after dark. Zach is a terrific hero and definitely not just a pretty face. He has depths that surprised Autumn and me. I’m not going to detail his baggage here – he’s man enough to carry it for himself.
This is not your typical sweet teen romance. Ms. Blade’s characters talk like “real” teens – so the occasional use of “potty-mouth” dialogue may offend some readers. Hey, I’ve been around teens for years so the authenticity worked for me and I enjoyed it. In addition, the romance may be a bit too strong for some readers. Think “New Adult” and the choices Autumn makes as a young woman are very realistic. She’s smart, brave and takes risks. This is the start of a series and I’m more than ready for Book Two. I know Autumn will kick butt and take names as she continues on her journey of discovery and I’m looking forward to her upcoming adventures.
Shannon lives on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills, where she organizes most of the riding programs and teaches horsemanship around her day-job as a substitute teacher.
She writes books in her spare time, mainstream western romance as Josie Malone for SirenBookStrand and young adult novels for Black Opal Books and Fire & Ice YA. She’s a member of RWA, YARWA, the Greater Seattle RWA and Evergreen RWA chapters.
HE BELONGS TO ME by Theresa Rizzo
Publisher: Theresa Rizzo
Format: Ebook and Print
Price: $3.99 ebook, $14.95 print
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Literary with Romantic Elements
In HE BELONGS TO ME I found dysfunctional family issues, a unique marriage relationship that is rarely used in novels, tragedy and triumph in spades, and none of it was won easily--none of it was tied up in a neat little bow. I was sucked in during the first chapter watching the setup play out between Catherine, her son Drew, and her parents. I was crying by the time the chapter was over. Then the involvement of her estranged husband, Thomas, and watching the ups and downs of that relationship kept me turning the pages and hoping against hope that these two young people would find a way to survive their past and move forward.
Adept strokes with characterization, description, a little humor at just the right times all conspired to make me fall in love with this book. By a third of the way through, nothing could stop me from continuing to read. This is not a light-hearted book, but it is a book with amazing heart. Ms. Rizzo slowly tears away the masks, self-deception, and guilt as she takes the reader layer by layer into the families of Catherine, Thomas, and their own tragic beginning with marriage at a very young age. It is like peeling an onion as each person faces up to his or her past and has to try again and again to find a way to move forward in spite of it.
This book is not a romance in the traditional sense, but the romance between Catherine and Thomas is one for the ages. Not an easy romance, but one that is so hard fought and so realistic that you truly believe they will make it for the rest of their lives. Even the dysfunctional romance of Catherine's parents is one to carefully evaluate and understand. Though I hated so many of the Catherine’s parents' choices, I still found myself rooting for them to recover from their own mistakes, to forgive themselves and be healed.
Much of the latter part of this book revolves around Catherine's court case to regain custody of her son. It is through that venue that the author chooses to reveal all of the family relationships and their myriads of interconnections, pain and tragedy--but also to provide healing. Just as in therapy one needs a third party to help see the truth, sometimes in dysfunctional families it is the court that provides that third party and allows the truth to come out. Unfortunately, learning the truth in court is one of the most difficult ways for a family to recover--many never do.
I heartily recommend HE BELONGS TO ME to anyone who has the heart to cheer for three families, in all their brokenness and tragedy, to survive their pasts and somehow find a future together. A Very Strong 5 Stars!!!
HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Collette Cameron
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Format: Ebook Only, Kindle Only until September/October
Genre: Historical Romance
This book surprised me on several levels. Though it takes an approach that appears typical for many historical romances these days—Scottish Hero, Regency Historical, and Virgin Heroine— nothing is completely as it seems. This very independent heroine is escaping a determined and violent suitor, and she has had persistent and sensual dreams of the hero for years. Both of these elements play into a nice mystery plot for the reader to unravel. Bravo to author Collette Cameron for carrying this off.
There is a lot to love about this book. The descriptions provide good detail about the era, the dress, and the landscape through the heroine’s eyes. This helps build a welcome and expansive picture in the readers mind. The addition of the mystery plot adds a wonderful twist to villain Edgar’s motivations, while providing plenty of external tension to keep the reader turning the pages. From the midpoint of the novel to the end, I couldn’t put it down wondering who would die and how the HEA would be fashioned. I stayed up way past my usual 1am to 2am time and dearly paid in lost sleep the next day. But it was worth it!
What makes this book really work, however, are the characterizations Ms. Cameron provides throughout her story, including secondary characters like the caustic Mrs. Pettigrove and the many individual men who are loyal to the hero and both teasing and protective toward the heroine. Most of all I fell in love with the hero and heroine, in all their complexity. From silly missteps to serious consequences, and from individual insecurities to assured self-confidence, I willingly went on their relationship journey with them.
The heroine, American Yvette Stapleton, is independent and prepared. Not only is she well-educated and speaks several languages, but she is also physically prepared to fend off rogues and ruffians with a combination of knives, guns, and her martial arts training. That is definitely unusual for a Regency novel and the way the author introduces and uses these skills throughout the novel is excellent. The hero, Scottish Lord Ewan McTavish, is the perfect combination of Regency Lord and bad boy rogue. I fell in love with Ewan from their first meeting and was pulling for Yvette and Ewan to get together permanently. Learning, along with the heroine, exactly who Ewan is and why she has dreamed of him all these years is a journey well worth taking.
This is not your average love story, nor your average hero and heroine. The characters’ flaws offer many opportunities for smiles and giggles, as well as a tear or two for lost opportunities. The love story builds on strong independence for each character, as well as intelligence and loyalty to family. This book stands up to the publisher’s moniker. Yvette and Ewan are definitely soul mates. This book was time well-spent as I followed this couple on their journey of building trust, discovering loyalty, and finding friendship. In the end, all of these qualities ensured a fulfilling forever love.
THE SOULKEEPERS by G.P. Ching
Publisher: Carpe Luna Ltd.
Format: Ebook and Print
Price: Ebook is currently a free download at all venues, $11.49 Print
Genre: YA Fantasy
I selected this book to read because it was on so many YA reading lists as a
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great book. I like the idea of good and evil, or light and dark in juxtaposition. I’m okay with fallen angels and some religious conceptual framework. So, I dove in with high expectations.
I really enjoyed the book until about Chapter 15. From then on the primary problem was that there was more telling (through dialog—Malini telling Jacob, Dr. Silva telling Jacob, etc.) about the world, the magic, relating it to the Bible and interpreting it in terms of the Bible’s passages.
There were plenty of action scenes, lots of magical spells, and several opportunities for the hero to be killed. All of these kept me turning pages. I enjoyed the adventure, but I felt gypped on the world-building. The author used the technique of letting the reader know about the world through dialog from a learned character, where the character painstakingly filled in every detail in the past and current environment. The details included the history, the culture, and various religious beliefs in long sections of dialog. As a reader, I wanted to discover the world through the hero’s experience, or Malini’s, rather than be told about it by Dr. Silva or Gideon or some other secondary character. I wanted to learn and analyze and guess along the way. I may be unusual in this desire, as it appears the book has garnered a number of excellent reviews.
In the final chapters, the deux ex machina use of magic, without practice or preparation, as well as the hero being saved more by others than by himself, made me sigh in disappointment. I understand it is hard to build a complex world with rules of magic and culture and religion. But I felt this book could have been so much better if the author had only let Jacob and Malini discover the world on their own, discover their powers through trial and error, and use what they learned about their powers in a specific way to get to the ending.
On the positive side, I did like Jacob and Malini. I felt that Jacob was realistically presented, though not
necessarily likable in the beginning. He was pretty angry about his situation and showed it. I liked Jacob’s quick-to-action and consequences-be-damned attitude juxtaposed with Malini’s go-with-the-flow and be patient approach. Watching the two of them interact, change and grow was well done. I was hooked enough by their relationship to want to see it become stronger.
This is the author’s debut novel, released in late 2012. It is the first in a series of what is now four books. I will likely try the next one just to see if it improves significantly enough to hook me into the entire series. Now that the author has the world established, I hope in subsequent books she won’t feel the need to do so much telling and instead let the reader discover new world ideas and powers along with the characters.
Maggie Jaimeson writes romantic suspense with a futuristic twist and romantic womenʼs fiction. You can read about her and all of her books at http://maggiejaimeson.com.
Two of her Romantic Womenʼs Fiction from her four part series,UNDERTONES and HEALING NOTES, are out now.
New Releases URBAN FANTASY
Released: May 2013 Pink Narcissus Press
Mild / Print and ebook
STRANGER AT THE HELL GATE
Released: July 2013, The Wild Rose Press (Black Rose Imprint)
Mild / Ebook only
An Interview with
Romantic Suspense Author
Award-winning author of over three dozen novels, Dana Marton has recently begun a new mystery romance series and the very first book, DEATHSCAPE, hit the #1 spot on Amazon's romantic suspense bestsellers list. The reviews are spectacular, the first book alone garnering over 200 positive reviews so far. Due to popular demand, book 2, DEATHTRAP was released just a few weeks ago, with DEATHWATCH coming in August.
1. When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?
I started writing the first day we finished learning all the letters of the alphabet in school. I knew about sentences, but we hadn't gotten to punctuation yet, so my first piece of creative writing, a long poem about the starry sky, had none. I took it home to show to my mom. She asked me where I copied it from. I told her I wrote it. Not one to put up with foolishness, she promptly grounded me for lying. Right there I learned that the life of a writer is no bed of roses. Not one to give up, I got my first poem published in 5th grade, in a regional paper. I got paid for it! That was it for me. I kept writing, mostly without any success whatsoever, switching to romance/suspense novels eventually. I was in my thirties by the time my first novel was finally
published, after 13 years of submitting books to NY publishers. I always say that if anyone is looking for a shortcut to getting published, don't look at me. All I know is how to be stubborn.
2. What inspired you to write Deathtrap?
I'm deeply fascinated by scarred and flawed characters, by the idea of redemption, that you can overcome the past, the hurt, that you can decide to remake your life. As soon as Police Captain Ethan Bing appeared on the pages of Deathscape, the first book (they don't have to be read in order), I knew I would have to tell his story. His wife had been killed two years ago. He feels that he'd failed to save her and keeps failing her every day that he doesn't bring her killer to justice. As a top cop, this is a bitter pill to swallow for him. He's convinced that he doesn't deserve to move on with his life until the killer is brought to justice. Not even when he meets a woman new to town who reaches him like no other could.
He's scarred by the past, but also by the very high expectations he puts on himself. Those are almost harder to deal with. The law is everything to him. So when he finds himself in uncharted territory with the woman he's falling in love with, when he finds out she's linked to his wife's murder... Things just completely fall apart for Bing. Honestly, I wrote the book because I loved his character and I needed to know what happened to him. He needed to find healing.
3. What do you enjoy the most about writing?
The absolute freedom of one's imagination. You think and worlds are born. People are healed or die. When the writing is going well, no feeling on earth compares. When it's going badly, it's a dark pit of hell.
Something that's just as important to me as the creative process is my relationships with readers. I have an amazing circle of reader friends on Facebook who help me with covers, titles, back blurbs, names etc. They hold my hand, they cheer me on, we swap gardening advice and recipes. I know their pets and they know mine. I know their grand kids. It's like an extended family that sustains me with energy. My readers are a blessing to me in so many ways. Meeting these friends is the best thing that has come from my writing.
4. What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Not knowing whether Sophie and Bing would be able to solve their conflict. There are major issues between them, things I'm not sure I could let go if I was in a similar situation. This is no made-up conflict for the book's sake that could be resolved with a frank conversation. As a rule, I don't force my ideas on my characters. I come up with the characters and they are often in very difficult circumstances. As I write the book, I find out more and more about them. I won't write a scene if I don't think that's something a character would do. To me, they're real people. I mean, if they're not real to the author, how will they ever feel real to the reader? So there were some panicked moments when I thought, no, Bing can't let go of the past. And he almost couldn't. But he's grown in the story. Even if he didn't know it, Sophie was good for him. I celebrated their happy ending, not just because without it I wouldn't have had a book, but because I rooted for them all along.
5. Where do you get the inspiration to write?
Oh, the impossible question! I have no idea. I always had them, as far back as I can remember. I dream books sometimes. Or I start watching a movie, love the first five minutes, then I'm like, "No, that's not what happened!" And then I go ahead and write the story the 'right' way. :-)
6. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
My ultimate luxury is time off from writing. With 4-6 books per year, that hardly happens. Paradoxically, more than a few days without writing drives me nuts. I can't handle it. I start scribbling on the back of things.
7. What books have most influenced your writing?
Books by Nora Roberts, Susan Mallery, Suzanne Brockman, Dan Brown and Clive Cussler. I love a good action-adventure, mystery and suspense. I receive email from men whose wives gave them my books. "I know you don't read romance, but you have to read this one. You'll like it." And these men write me to tell me that they really liked the book. That always makes my day.
8. Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Sometimes. For one book, I went to South America. That story never got published, but I've set other books in South America since, and I used my research. I went to Cyprus when I
was writing a book set there. And when we were in Venice, lost in the 'bad part' where no tourists go and boarded up palaces are crumbling into the water, I knew I had to set a book there. That's how Guardian Agent was born, with an undercover U.S. commando running over crumbling palace roofs in the night, chasing a rogue soldier and stumbling upon secrets that will change his life.
I'm currently considering going to Cuba in December. (Have U.S. Treasury license and approval to do so.) But just to be on the safe side, check my FB page around Christmas and alert someone if I haven't come back! :-)
I might moan and groan about the vagaries of publishing now and then, but I LOVE my job. I'm grateful to my readers every single day. I'm living my dream life because of them. Thank you, Book Breeze for this interview. I really appreciated the opportunity to connect with your readers.
Wishing everyone a great summer, good books to read and the time to read them!
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Modern Library (2012)
Cloud Atlas is a collection of six stories which all happen at radically different times in history, yet all entwined in such a way as to explore fundamental questions of reality and identity, and how the two link over time. On a secondary level, it is a study of oppression, of overcoming man’s worst enemy—himself.
It begins in 1850 as an American notary, Adam Ewing, voyages across the Pacific. Ewing falls under the care of a corrupt doctor, Dr. Goose, who treats him for a rare species of brain parasite, but has dark intentions. The second story jumps to Belgium in 1931, where an impoverished, gay composure, Robert Frobisher, takes a job helping an infirm maestro compose the last works of his life, and is seduced by the composures wife. Story number three takes place on the California coast in the 1970s. A troubled reporter for a third-rate paper, Luisa Rey, stumbles upon a corporate plot surrounding a nuclear power plant. She becomes tangled in a web of greed and murder that threatens her life. The next story is a tragic/comic tale of Timothy Cavendish, a publisher who’s brother locks him away in a mental hospital in present-day England. The most creative story is a futurist story in Korea where neocapitalism has run amok, and slaves are cloned to perform all service tasks. An underground uprising is in the works to free the slaves, and their only weapon is truth. The final story is set in a post-apocalyptic age in Hawaii, where survival is based on brute strength and cunning.
One of the things I loved most about this novel is that each story is told in a unique and purely captivating voice. Likewise, the characters and settings in each story are equally as distinctive. It felt like reading multiple stories from six different authors all on a common theme, yet all these disparate characters connect, their fates intertwine, and their souls drift across time like clouds across a globe.
I confess that Robert Frobisher’s story stood out as my favorite. Told in the form of letters to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith, it is one of the most touching gay love stories I’ve read in
years. The letters create an intimacy that is both moving and poignant. Still, all six stories are superbly executed, equally captivating.
This book has everything a reader could ask for, as fun and wild as a rollercoaster, as mysteriously wise as a Zen koan. It is grand and fearless, foreign and strange, yet strikingly intimate. I can’t wait to read it again.
Book Review: The Blackwater Lightship
by Colm Toibin
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Scribner (2001)
Set in Ireland during the early 1990s, Declan is dying of AIDS. With the help of two gay companions, he leaves the hospital to spend a few days at the seaside home of his grandmother. There, at the crumbling place of his youth, his sister Helen, his mother Lily, and his grandmother Dora gather after a decade of estrangement. The three women had no idea Declan was gay, let alone terminally ill with AIDS. Once they recover from the shock, their primary goal becomes caring for Declan, who had always been the binding force in this dysfunctional family.
Like six castaways on a desert island, from different generations and with clashing beliefs and lifestyles, they are forced to face their own dark histories in order to deal with each other to achieve the common goal of keeping Declan alive and comfortable.
The Blackwater Lightship is predominately a story of three generations of iron-willed women from a divided family who reunite to help each other face a tragic situation. It is beautifully told in luminous prose, and with all the tenderness and insight that readers have come to expect from this superlative storyteller. Toibin takes the reader deep into the hearts of a family at war with itself in order to explore the nature of love. It is an emotional study of people grappling with the love and resentments that bind them, and ultimately it is a story of hope, showing love (or perhaps tragedy) has the capacity to heal the deepest wounds.
This is a tragic and moving journey, not for the faint of heart. It is, however, a destination well worth the effort. It moves slowly for the first half of the book, and then builds in intensity until I couldn’t put it down. It is not simply a wonderful story; it is a literary achievement.
THE PLAIN OF BITTER HONEY by Alan Chin
Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, June 2013
Take a look at America in the year 2055. The fundamentalist Christians have taken over, and have brought government corruption to a frightening level. Banks failed, farms stopped producing, free enterprise no longer existed, and inflation made food and all goods a luxury. Rich people fled the United States in droves, until the government began to forbid it. Poor people, along with racial and religious minorities, and anyone gay or lesbian, were banished to guarded "slums" located in various locations, including what used to be The Castro in San Francisco. Most Americans felt powerless to do anything but comply, with the exception of a silent group of resistance fighters, which the government spent countless time and resources to try to destroy.
It is in this context that we meet Aaron Swann, a longtime resistance fighter, and his twin brother, Hayden. Hayden is gay, a lot less militant, but admires the work his brother does, and worries about him. When the government forces ambush Aaron's group, while Hayden was visiting, he takes off on his motorcycle to divert the attention of the attackers, and ends up in jail, where they believe he is Aaron. Aaron and his supporters vow to break Hayden out of jail, and then they can all retreat north along the coast, to a secret hideout of the resistance known as The Plain of Bitter Honey. The trip won't be easy, with the government monitoring their every move with a secret tracking device. They'll also need to contend with the Caliban, a rogue group of fierce cannibalistic fighters who control most of the land north of the Bay Area.
I've said in the past that Alan Chin is my favorite author, and that is still the case with this new book. It is best described as a sci-fi/speculative/political novel, so unlike any of his previous works I have seen, and he handles the genre with mastery. The story is action-packed, well-constructed and expertly told, with a diverse, developed cast of gay and straight characters working together in situations that risks not only their lives, but perhaps the future of this country. Bravo … five stars out of five.
Spicy like a nice salsa / Ebook now. Print available in late fall or early next year.
A Pioneer Trail Mystery
Released; Aug 22, 2013
Publisher: Writers AMuse Me Publishing
Spicy (it's rather a dark story, with a little sex) / Ebook and paperback
SHE’S GOT DIBS
Released: Aug 23, 2013, The Wild Rose Press
Sizzling / Available in ebook through Amazon's Kindle Select Program. Available in print on August 23, 2013
A Caribou Crossing Romance
Released: June 25/13 / Kensington Zebra
Spicy / Print and ebook
June 16/13 / Susan Lyons Books
Spicy / Ebook
CHAMELEON: THE AWAKENING (The Forest People)
By Maggie Faire
Publisher: Windtree Press (May 21, 2013)
Pages: 288 Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy, YA
Reviewer: The Book Breeze Score: 4.5
For fifteen years Camryn's world was unlike anyone else's and then, on her sixteenth birthday, it got really strange. A visitor arrives and tells her she is Wynbune, the chameleon, the long awaited answer to the troubled world of the forest people.
That was not what she wanted for her birthday.
Camryn’s journey was a realistic one as she
moved from confused and troubled into the beginning of an understanding of who she really is. I liked how the supporting characters are portrayed with plenty of questions about motivation and loyalties. Camryn is both drawn to them and leery at the same time.
One thing I didn't care for is the amount of explanation about the world. As someone who accepted that Star Trek's Scotty could beam someone up and never wondered how I found the amount of detail about the world too technical for my taste and felt it slowed the story. But if you have an inquiring mind, you'll love it.
I enjoyed the journey. This is a wonderful beginning to the trilogy and I look forward to the next book.
SCORPION (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
By Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (May 27, 2013)
Genre: M/M, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Reviewer: The Book Breeze
Blurb: “Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he's ever known—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed stranger offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.”
First let me say, WOW.
This book is pitched as dark, which is not a genre I normally read, and make no mistake this is a dark story, but it is told so well, with deeply portrayed characters, and a intricate story line with twists and turns that I will definitely not only look for the next edition of Kendras’ story but dive into more titles by Voinov.
This is a story about men in a world at war. Be warned the sexual situations are dark and harsh at times but I felt every situation fit well, revealed a great deal about the characters and moved the story forward.
This is a rerelease of the book with a new cover and kudos to the artist who captured the quiet intensity of Kendras perfectly. The original cover had the character from a side view, looking over his shoulder, but the new cover is from the front which to me is more in keeping with the way the character faces life – full on, not over his shoulder.
I’m looking forward to his new series in the works about WWII.
By Linda McMaken
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc (Aug 13, 2011)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Reviewer: The Book Breeze
Abby Clark finds herself dumped into the middle of a Wyoming snow storm. So what does a vegetarian with the voice of an angel and the attitude of a Marine do? She finds her way into McIvey's Cafe and runs smack into a job as a cook for a bunch of meat eating ranch hands.
Joe Baer is in no mood - for anything - especially the calamity ridden Abby but there she is strutting, in orange stilettos no less, through every aspect of his life. What's a cowboy to do?
The story flowed beautifully with memorable characters on a collision course with love. There is plenty of humor and action (loved the rodeo scene). McMaken writes well and delivers a great story. I look forward to the next two additions to the Baer trilogy.
A REALLY AWESOME MESS
By Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
Publisher: Egmont USA (July 23, 2013)
Genre: Teens & YA
Reviewer: The Book Breeze
This book is told from the POV of two teens, a boy and a girl, whose troubled lives landed them into the Heartland Academy.
It’s a familiar story as they journey from the stanch belief that they don't have a problem to the realization that they are their own worst enemy.
I didn’t think the POV’s distinguished the characters. It was fairly predictable and there were some formatting problems.