Saturday, December 17, 2011

Matchmaking Fun -- Is it horrible mistake or happy ever after?

Hello readers! I know I've been away for awhile.  A moved from California back to Oregon (Yea!). A job change. (Yea!) And lots of details have kept me away from my blog.  But I am sooooooooooooo happy to be back and to present you with a fun book with a wonderfully, kind, funny, and talented woman.  Though this isn't your traditional Christmas story, I promise it will bring a smile to your face.

Please meet Jamie Brazil and her book Prince Charming, Inc.  You can't help but laugh, empathize, and root for the heroine in this book.  Whether you want a fun read, a bit of feminist treatise, or just a great romance, you can find it in this book.  I just finished it, and I am dying for the next one in the series. It meets all its promise and definitely portrays a modern woman that I love.

Let's get to know Jamie.

Prince Charming Inc. Book Cover This book and the series follow-on are in what I call the light-romantic-caper genre.  Would you agree?  What is it about this genre that calls to you?

The late Olivia Goldsmith, with her laugh-out-loud novels, is my idol.  Contemporary romance, especially fast-paced, funny stories, are my favorites. 

I understand you immigrated to the U.S. from another country.  Can you tell our readers where from and how that might influence your writing and your sense of humor?

  In Canada, British comedy rules the airwaves.  At least on the non-cable stations.  Fawlty Towers, Black Adder and the lotAnd just like the Brits, Canucks tend to watch the  same series over and over until we’ve committed every line of every episode to memory.  It’s a little OCD-ish.

A few years back, attending a writing conference in Corte Madera, I had the pleasure of meeting a major British author whose best-selling thrillers have been translated into almost every spoken language.  In his opening address, he marvelously ripped off some of Hugh Laurie’s best lines from Black Adder.  Talking with him later, I told him I knew where he’d cribbed his one-liners (because I do the same thing in conversations with family).  He smirked and said, “I only steal from the best.”  And then I proudly announced, “I’m Canadian.” He replied, “I’m sorry.”

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of their stories. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what? 

You got me.  I have a bit of a knack for matchmaking.  I’ve sworn off the habit these past few years, but yes, I’ve introduced several couples who’ve later married.  Including two literary agents. 

Are there more books planned in the series? I can see this going for a long time.  Anything you can share about future plots, release dates?

The next matchmaker book in the series is set in Seattle with a different heroine… in an entirely different end of the ready-made-relationships pool.  In the meantime, I’ve just Kindle-released another, quite different novel, “The Mayan Sisterhood.”  It will be a free download available on Amazon from Dec. 25th-Dec. 27th, 2011.

Prince Charming, Inc. is really a twist on the matchmaker concept.  TV typically has a matchmaker hook up "poor" good-looking women with (tends to be jerks) millionaire men, but in your story you are doing the opposite by finding solid, nice men for millionaire women.  What is it about this twist that drew you to the story?

I subscribe to O, am addicted to HGTV, and break out the glue gun on full moon nights to pursue some crafty remodel project that usually ends in disaster.  I’m so NOT crafty, though for some reason I delude myself into thinking I am.  So the fantasy of rebuilding a man is just an extension of my “let’s improve stuff” gene.  When I break out the feathers, sparkles, cinnamon sticks and yes, the glue gun, my husband disappears to the shed where he tinkers with his chainsaws until my madness passes, and I funnel that energy  back to the pursuit of writing.

So, to answer your question, Maggie, it was fixing up fictitious grooms or seeing a therapist.   

I love the whole "makeover the man" concept too.  I bet women the world over know good, solid men that only need a little help (or maybe they married that guy).  What was the brainstorm behind this idea?  Would you consider being a matchmaker as a business?

Matchmaking as business is a definite “no.”  Too hard to please everyone all the time.  I’ll stick with writing where I can play God and guarantee the outcomes for the characters.

Bloodhound Frankie
The concept for the series of matchmaking novels came from, drum roll please, dog-sharing with my neighbors.  Max was a Pitbull-Rhodesian-Ridgeback cross who stayed with us Monday-through-Friday, 8 a.m. ‘til his parents picked him up.  He’d drop in for “night snacks” and weekend visits, too.  He had us trained.  We had him trained.

Like Rex Von Terrance in Prince Charming, Inc., Max was the perfect dog without ever losing any of his gigantic, naturally territorial personality.  (We’ve all seen over-trained zombie dogs, right? All obedience, zero personality.)

So we had the ideal arrangement.  And one night, over a few gin and tonics, my husband and I were tossing around concepts and wondered out loud if spouses could be trained, too.  Just like that, a premise was hatched.

Max passed away in May of 2008 and we keep a picture of him in our kitchen.  We’ve since adopted another canine family member.  A Bloodhound named Frankie.  She’s a  loving, gentle, food-obsessed work-in-progress.  

Thanks for joining Behind the Book, Jamie!  I'm looking forward to the next matchmaking book, and I'm running out to download Mayan Sisterhood immediately.

You can get copies of Prince Charming Inc. at these fine distributors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Slaves, Curses, and the Sweetest Blood

Want to know what new series has so much buzz, I suspect it'll be a bestseller out of the box? It's Kristen Painter's new urban fantasy series about the House of Comarré. At the Romantic Times convention it got lots of interest. I've heard of readers dying to get ARCs.  And I have to say, it couldn't happen to a nicer person.

Here's the blurb for the first book in the new series.

Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of a comarré -- a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world...and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign. 

Kristen's previous publications have all been solidly in the romance genre, including contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, and steampunk. This is her first foray into urban fantasy, and it uses all of her talents in world-building, characterization, and imagination. I've long been a fan of the way Kristen builds worlds with description, mood, and themes. This world is one that twists both the vampire mythos and the urban fantasy genre.

Kristen Painter has long been a mentor and friend to many authors. She is also the co-founder of the amazing Romance Divas site which has supported authors since 2004.  On top of all that, I have loved her writing since I read her Viking paranormal fantasy, All Fired Up.   I've always loved her characters and the crazy way her mind works--a combination of serious thought and snark-- to imagine these worlds and the situations her characters encounter.  So, please welcome Kristen to the blog as we learn about her new series.

Vampires are certainly all the rage, but in your series you have a twist in that your heroine is NOT a vampire. She is a comarré.  Can you share what that means and how you came to choose the actual “bodily” servant of vampires as your heroine?

I've been carrying the idea of Chrysabelle in my head since I was in college - this seemingly docile girl with a gold tattoo who was actually much more than she seemed. It wasn't until I started writing Blood Rights that the idea for the comarré really came into being. They are a specially bred species of human raised to provide the vampire nobility with blood and in doing so, they protect mankind from the vampires.

The other unique twist with your story is that it is set in Florida.  I must admit that Florida and vampires are not a natural mix in my mind. New Orleans, New York, maybe Chicago.  But Florida?  What made you select Miami as a locale and how does the culture of your new Florida play into the story? 

Miami - or what it's become in my series, Paradise City, is made up of many nationalities, so what better spot to mix in some completely new and not entirely human nationalities? Also, vampires might abhor the sun, but they like warmth.

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of their stories. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what? 

I've never been a vampire, a blood slave or a cat shifter, so no, there's not much of my personal life in this book. The emotions in the book - loss, anger, the sense of wanting to make one's own way in the world - those come from my real life experience, but everyone has emotions they can pull from. I hope those emotions ring true.

I love that you have back-to-back books in this series, so that readers don’t have to wait a year to find out what happens next.  Does Book 3 end your involvement in this world, or can your readers expect something more? 

There will be two more books in the House of Comarre series. And possibly a spin off series if my editor likes it.

I know you also have other books outside of this vampire world.  If a reader falls in love with this series and wants to explore your backlist, what would you suggest they read next? 

That's a tough one since the rest of my books are romances, whereas Blood Rights is much more urban fantasy. I'd say pick whatever looks good!

Thanks very much for joining Behind the Book, Kristen. I really believe this is a great world and I hope you have millions of readers who sign on to read about the House of Comarré.

Because I don't want to miss a single chance of reading these books, I decided to pre-order the whole set.  This means I'll have a new book every  month. I recommend other people do the same. Below I've linked to the whole set at two major retailers.  Of course, you can go to your local bookstore and pre-order as well or wait in line the end of this month for this one.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Cursed Viking Shapeshifters

 Today we are talking to Lisa Hendrix about her third book in the Immortal Brotherhood series, Immortal Champion.  With cursed Vikings who shapeshift, a well-researched history and mythos, and love that can last forever how could you not love the premise of this series?  All three of her books in this series have garnered the coveted Top Pick from Romantic Times book reviewers. The two review quotes below are reflective of the craftsmanship reviewers have recognized in her latest book.

Romantic Times Top Pick! Kathe Robin said [readers] "will be enthralled by Hendrix’s masterful storytelling and talent for seamlessly blending magic, myth and romance."

Romance Reviews, Lenore said "IMMORTAL CHAMPION is a glorious book that begs to be read. From the eye-catching cover art to the depths of the pages, readers will be enthralled by Lisa Hendrix's craftsmanship."

Please welcome Lisa Hendrix to Behind the Book.  Pull up chair and get to know more about Lisa, her series, how each character matches perfectly with his animal self, and more specifically learn about this wonderful third book in the series, Immortal Champion.

These three words--medieval, paranormal, and romance--aren't often seen together, but it's sooooo cool. What made you chose the Middle Ages as the setting for your Immortal Brotherhood series?

First, I love medieval romance. My introduction to historical romance was Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove, and even before that I loved the whole Robin Hood, knights and ladies, storm-the-castle thing, so that’s where my heart lies. And then there’s the fact that my guys are Viking warriors. Since the Vikings started raiding England heavily during the mid-800s, that was when my guys were cursed. All the stories would have to take place in the centuries following.

And really, can you think of a better setting for a paranormal story? Gloomy castles, windswept moors, the Black Death, alchemists...

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of their stories. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what?

Well, Gunnar is a bit like my husband in that he’s an ordinary man, just trying to get by and live his life with honor. (Perhaps that’s why I love Gunnar so much. Hmmm.) I’ve also loosely modeled a few minor characters on folks I’ve known over the years, and used real incidents for bits of action in my various books.

Additionally, I have a degree in biology, and that (and a lot of research) informs the stories in this series. The animal each man becomes reflects the human personality of each man. You can see the raven in Ari’s love of bright objects and talkativeness, the bull in Gunnar’s way of stubbornly plodding ahead no matter what, the wolf in Jafri’s sullen wariness, the eagle in Ivar’s loyalty to his mate, and so on.

To date you've published 3 books in this series, and it looks like book 4 is due next year. How many more can your readers expect in this world? Will the timeline of later books extend beyond the middle ages?

Though the first three of the Immortal Brotherhood books are set in medieval times (1096, 1290, and 1405-15), the entire series will span approximately a thousand years, with the next one set in Elizabethan times (1583), and the others working their way forward in time up to the present. After all, if a group of men are immortal, you wouldn’t expect them all to find their true loves in the same three-week period one summer.

But I would like to clear up something. “This world” is the real world of England. I make everything as historically accurate as I can, except for the warriors themselves and the magic of the curse. They are simply men, forced by the curse to try to make their way in a very un-magical world where (at least for the first books) most good men and women fear the very idea of magic. That’s part of the fun of this series to me. What do you do if you turn into a bear every day at sunrise, or a dog every night? How to you create any semblance of a normal life when you’re hunted as a beast for half of each day and considered a demon during the rest? How on earth can you find companionship, much less real love, when they’re burning ‘witches’ all around you?

As for numbers: I’m planning nine books, one for each of the men. I’ve introduced most of the crew in the first three books, and readers will meet the last two warriors, Rorik and Ketil (aka Kjell), in next year’s book, Immortal Defender, when the pair of them interrupt their wenching to ride to Torvald’s aid. They are, to say the least, the worst scalawags of the bunch. 

If someone was just starting the series, would you recommend they start with Book 1? Does it matter which book they read first?

 Immortal Warrior (Book 1) does have the “creation myth” for the whole series, plus it introduces Brand, the captain, and Ari, his friend and skald, who are the crucial characters for the series. But each book has a Prologue that consists of a section of Ari’s written chronicle or saga, which ties the stories together and lets the reader catch up on the story without missing a beat. I work hard to make each book stand alone, so you really can start anywhere, and then go back to pick up the others. Gunnar, from Immortal Champion, really is my favorite, though, (and my editor’s and agent’s, for that matter), and I think his story makes a wonderful place to jump in.

What's next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming releases?

As I said, Immortal Defender is coming next August 2012, and quiet, monkish Torvald has a real adventure in store after he bumps into Josian Delamere one night. You see, Josian is definitely not the shy, virgin widow of romance mythology. She’s talkative, quick, and shall we say...a bit fast.  In other words, she’s a true merry widow for the contemplative man I sometimes refer to as my Zen Viking. She boldly invites Torvald to come on up to Chestershire and see her sometime, and oh my, do the sparks fly. But madmen, zealots, and ancient magic conspire to destroy them, and it will take all the courage each of them has to beat back the darkness and find their way to freedom and love.

Since I’m one of the slower writers in the biz and people are already emailing me that they’re getting impatient, I’ve decided to self-publish a short story to tide everyone over. I’m not sure yet whether it will be about Tom, Ivar’s squire from Immortal Warrior, or Robin/Robert from Immortal Outlaw. I have stories for both churning around in my head, so we’ll see which one won’t leave me alone after I finish my current WIP. Or maybe I’ll write both. All I’m certain of right now is that my newsletter subscribers will get it for free. (How’s that for a bribe? Sign-up for the newsletter here.)

And finally, I’ll be republishing my out of print works in ebook format over the next several months. Readers should sign up for my newsletter to keep up with the news.

Wow! You certainly have a lot going on with free reads, a long series, and a newsletter to keep us all up to date.

Thank you so much for joining us, Lisa.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to download books 2 and 3 right now!  I liked book 1, Immortal Warrior, but then I got busy and the next two slipped by without me buying them. This interview convinced me I was missing out. 

Be sure to visit Lisa's website, where you can find excerpts from all the books, interactive maps of the locations, and info on how to get some fun swag. (like cool romance trading cards)

Below are links to all of Lisa's books in this series.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Strong Women Through The Ages

 Karen Harper is a NYT bestselling author.  She writes both contemporary and historical novels.  I must admit, she is a new author to me.  However, as I prepared for this interview I was very impressed with her output (over 30 books since the mid-80s), her strong heroines, and with her intelligent and thoughtful approach to her stories. Karen's historical novels have been praised for her  attention to detail and for making the characters truly come to life. Her historical novels tend to be in the Tudor or Medieval periods of history.  The Romantic Times Book Club said of her contemporary Amish suspense novels:

“Multidimensional characterization, fascinating details about Amish culture and a twisting, complex plot make for the kind of rich reading experience readers have come to expect from Harper.” 

I must admit, when I learned that Karen had been a professor at The Ohio State University, I had an immediate affinity for her.  I began my academic career in Columbus, Ohio at Franklin University (known as the other university in Columbus).  Through RWA I have learned there are many academics who write wonderful romantic fiction, and every time I meet someone new I smile.
Please join me in welcoming Karen Harper as she talks about her career, and the two books released in the past two weeks. The Queen's Governess, her historical released in paperback, and Fall from Pride, a suspense novel set in Amish country.

You write both contemporary and historical fiction.  It seems what binds them together is a suspense or mystery element.  What is it about suspense that draws you to write these stories?

My contemporary books have much more suspense than my historicals, although the thrill of the heroine escaping disaster is prominent in both genres.  Above all, I love a story of a woman who conquers huge odds with the help of the man she comes to love.  My “amateur sleuths” in my romantic suspense novels don’t set out to be crime solvers.  Something terrible impacts their lives, and they have to find and stop the criminal. 

Another common element in my writing is a culture clash of some sort:  the hero and heroine come from different worlds.  This may mean one is a commoner and one nobility in my Tudor novels.  In my contemporaries, I’ve lately been fascinated by a mismatch of one Amish character and one ”worldly.”

Most often the woman is Amish and the hero an auslander or outsider.  That means, when they are thrown together to solve a crime, they learn a lot about each other’s worlds.  Besides, what is more interesting than forbidden love?  If an Amish person dares to fall in love with or marry a worldly person, the community of Plain People will shun them—a big price to pay.

In my current rom/sus, Fall From Pride, Amish Sarah Kauffman and worldly arson investigator Nate MacKenzie are forced to work together to solve a series of barn arsons.  As the barns blaze, their feelings for each other do too.

But as to your original question that does suspense draw me to write my stories, that is true also.  I love for each character to have a secret—to be hiding something.  Aren’t we all?  Suspense comes in many forms:  how members of the same family can be so different…how two opposites can fall in love…how a seemingly “good” person can commit a crime.  One of the best comments I get is, “I had no idea that person could be the killer until the very end!”

 In your most recent release, Fall From Pride, your heroine is Amish.  It seems rare to see an Amish novel that is not marketed as an inspirational.  What was the spark that led you to come up with this story, and how did that spark blossom through your characters?

It’s true that most Amish novels are inspirational fiction today.  Mine are suitable for those readers and a broader audience.  They are not faith-based per se—though with the Amish beliefs, that always comes in a bit.  I’m not writing to get on a current, popular “bandwagon,” as I began writing my Amish books ten years ago, including:  Down To The Bone, Dark Road Home, Dark Harvest and Dark Angel.  (The last three have been re-released twice more recently.)  My spark for these, as well as for my Aug. 2011 Amish novel, Fall From Pride, is simply my fascination with and familiarity with the Amish. 

I live two hours from their largest US settlement (Holmes County, Ohio, not Lancaster, Pennsylvania anymore!)  I’ve studied them, mingled with them and learned from them for years.  Because they live isolated, rural lives with no phones in the home, “slow” transportation, mistrust of police and lawyers, they make perfect subjects for suspense novels. 

After all, they often must solve their own problems.  They do call in outside help at times, but they can’t/won’t just “call the cops.”  Also, they’re pacifists and don’t fight back physically against evil; therefore, they must find other clever, careful ways to protect themselves.  And yes, I must admit, that sometimes means cooperating with an arson investigator, sheriff or FBI agent who is thrust upon them.

Your reputation is one of writing “proto feminist” heroines in your historicals which seems anathema to the historical genre (except in romantic fiction).  What is it about how you choose and form your characters that interests you in exploring power dynamics?

The heroines in all my historicals are real, dynamic women who actually lived, so I write historical novels with romance rather than historical romance.  I try to keep my main characters true to their times, but these are not weak women and I research their lives carefully.  My heroines pulled themselves out of difficult situations and triumphed in life.  Each of them has a great love story. 
Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, is one of these in my The Last Boleyn.  My Boleyn book was published about 20 years before Philippa Gregory wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, and our takes on her are completely different.  (Check out Alison Weir’s Oct. 2011 nonfiction book on Mary if you want to see which author came closest to the real person!)

Joan of Kent (The First Princess of Wales) rose from obscurity to marry the Black Prince; Kat Ashley (The Queen’s Governess) was the once impoverished woman who became Elizabeth Tudor’s governess and foster mother; Elizabeth Fitzgerald (The Irish Princess) was the Irish spitfire who dared to challenge the Tudors.  Each woman (at least eventually) wed the man she really loved—a bit of a novelty for those days—so that sounds a bit modern too.  In Mistress Shakespeare, the heroine stands up for herself against great odds.  My nine-book series the Queen Elizabeth I Mysteries focuses on the queen herself—her happy marriage was to her nation.

Most authors either purposefully or subconsciously use parts of their own lives in their novels.  Do you find yourself in these two novels?  If so, in what way?

 My books, of course, reflect my interests and world view.  The assured, take-charge heroes are my ideal kind of man.  And all my books are ultimately uplifting:  true grit and love conquers all, even deadly crimes.   There is always a triumphant, happy ending in a Harper novels.

 Is there a particular scene in each book that you really loved when you finished it?  Which ones and why?

I love reunions scenes, be they between lovers or families.  Also, I am an author who must write about the settings I know well and love.  Many authors start with character or plot, but I almost always begin with a place I relate to emotionally.  That helps the story and people in it to come alive for me and, hopefully, for my readers.  And how do I know when to stop researching and start the story?  When the characters start talking to each other and I have to scramble to write what they say.  

 What’s next for you?

I have already written Return To Grace, book 2 of the Home Valley Amish trilogy, which will be out in March.  Book 3, Finding Mercy, is almost through the planning stages and ready to come to life.  In the historicals, I have recently completed Mistress of Mourning, a book set in 1500 where the Medieval world clashed with the English Renaissance.  Mistress of Mourning is a historical mystery probing whether Prince Arthur Tudor (Henry VIII’s older brother) was murdered and what happened to the Princes in the Tower, a long-time debated historical mystery.  The book has two heroines, Queen Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII, and Varina Westcott, a merchant-class candle-maker and death mask wax carver, who, with the hero, solves the murders of the queen’s brothers and son. 

My big author news of the year is that I now have a British publisher for my historicals and a recent review said they would never have guessed I was American and not English.  I hope all my books seem that real and “right on” in bringing people and places to exciting life.

Thank you for joining me at Behind the Book.  I can barely wait to begin reading Fall From Pride!

You can find all of Karen's Books at these fine retailers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mining for Love

Mary Vine always brings tidbits of history, a little suspense, and a great relationship to her sweet, inspirational novels. One of the things I love about her books is the setting in North Eastern Oregon among the rugged mountains, the desolate high desert, and the small towns that may have existed in the old west.  An afficianado of ghost towns, Mary always takes the reader to an unexpected place.  

Please join me in welcoming Mary Vine to behind the book as she talks about her new novella, Wanting More.

What was the spark that led you to come up with this story, and how did that spark blossom through your characters? 
I own two lots on Main Street in the ghost town of Bourne, Oregon. It is an old gold mining town in Northeast Oregon. It is a place you can sit and listen to the creek and think about what must have gone on there from 1862 through the early 1900s. The second step in putting this story together came from two Asperger's syndrome students that I taught awhile back. Both had an interest in the Civil War and as the story was coming together in my mind, I asked them questions. The hero in my story is fresh from being a doctor during the war and has escaped to the mining area to perhaps try his hand at finding gold and heal his inner wounds.

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what?
My father has five brothers and one sister. Some families cherish their only girl and treat her like a princess (like my aunt) and other families have a kick-butt kind of girl that tries to keep up or outdo her brothers. My heroine is mostly the latter and a fun character to write.

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? Which one and why?
 Actually there are two scenes that come to mind since the book went to print. One is how the heroine flirts with the good doctor when she is under the influence of the “medicine.” The other is towards the end of the story when her brothers come to bring her home. They roll her up in blankets next to their campfire, and take turns keeping watch so she doesn’t outsmart them and get away. I suppose it’s the humor I like in these situations.

You've written about a number of historical places in the Pacific Northwest. What is it about ghost towns that so intrigues you? 
My father always said to invest in real estate. In the summer of ’96 my husband and I looked across the state of Oregon for affordable river front property and bought some acreage between Baker City and Sumpter. We spent every chance we could four wheeling amongst the junipers, pines, firs and rocky crags. My husband’s interest was in panning for gold, while I was enamored with the decaying buildings, the caves, or equipment left behind in the mining districts and still visible today. 

What's next for you?
I’m working on a contemporary story once again set in NE Oregon, having to do with a clash between the mayor and an attorney who just passed his bar and taking a much earned vacation. He is looking for Spanish treasure on the outskirts of the fictional town of Salisbury Junction that I’ve used in two of my other stories.
That next book sounds intriguing too.  I'll have to add it to my pile when it comes out. Thanks for joining us at Behind the Book.
You can find Mary Vine's latest book at these fine retailers. Also be sure to check out her previous titles:  Maya's Gold and  A Place to Land for more wonderful historicals that take place in NE Oregon. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Masks We Wear

Terri Reed is always an automatic buy for me, so I am very happy to have her on Behind the Book. This book is written in Terri's page-turner, suspense style with a faith element that very naturally sustains the story. What drew me into this book from the beginning is the blurb. It has everything to hook me --heroine's horrible childhood and loveless marriage, an autistic son, and a protector who has failed a witness before and so he is determined not to fail this time.

I suggest you run to buy The Innocent Witness. You won't regret it. Please join me in learning more about Terri Reed and this particular book.

What was the spark that led you to come up with this story, and how did that spark blossom through your characters?

I stumbled across an article from 2002 about a plane crash that killed a US Senator.  There was some question if the crash was really an accident or was murder.  I started playing the ‘what if’ game. I knew I didn’t want to do something as big scale as a plane crash.  And I wanted there to be no question that the crime was murder.  But who? And why? And what if there were a witness?  As I started to answer those questions, the characters began to take shape and the plot developed. 

When I read this book, the theme that smacked me between the eyes was how we all wear masks, and how even the mask changes depending on the occasion.  I know there have been times in my life when I wondered if the mask I wore was the real me or not. Why did you choose this as one of the important themes in your book?

You’re right, I think we all wear masks.  I think it starts out subconsciously but can be deliberately developed as either a way to cope or overcome some flaw or for more sinister reasons.  I know that my persona when I’m in public is much different that the shy and reserved person I really am deep inside. This dichotomy provides much fodder for a writer.  So when I was developing the character of Vivian Grant, I decided to explore this. Here was this woman who on the outside was polished and seemingly had everything, but inside was a different story.  I wanted to reveal her inner psyche through the circumstances of the story.  

In your January interview with Behind the Book you mentioned that redemption, forgiveness, trust, hope, giving up the illusion of control are threads that run through all of your books.  How does that play out in this  one?

All of these run through the book and can be seen at various points.  Anthony Carlucci, the hero of The Innocent Witness, needed to find redemption from something he blamed himself for.  In order to be redeemed he had to forgive himself and give up any illusions he had that he could control life or circumstances. Ultimately, Anthony learned through Vivian to place his trust in God.  On the other hand, Vivian’s trust in God was tested many times, but she never lost hope.  Her faith was the one constant she could count on.  But trusting another man? That was harder to do and took every ounce of hope she had.  

Your heroine's son is autistic. This is a disability that has a wide range, from someone who needs constant care to a person who can lead an independent life.  What made you choose this disability for this particular story?

I needed a reason why Mikey couldn’t tell what he’d seen the night his father was murderer. I chose autism because I have some personal experience to draw from.  Growing up my best friends little sister was autistic and my neighbor’s son is also. The disorder is very individualized and has such a wide variety of symptoms, which helped in creating the character of Mikey.

Because of the subtitle "Protection Specialists" this seems to be part of a series.  Can readers expect more from you in this series?

Yes, this is a series. The Innocent Witness is the first book.  The second, The Secret Heiress, will be a January 2012 release. The third book, as yet untitled, will be a September 2012 release.  More books will be coming in 2013 and beyond.

What's next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming releases?

January 2012, The Secret Heiress
June 2012, The Deputy’s Duty-book 6 of the Fitzgerald Bay continuity series
September 2012 Untitled-A Protection Specialists book.

Here’s the blurb for The Secret Heiress


Finding out she is heir to a fortune shocks Caroline Tully to her core. And to “qualify” for the inheritance, she just has to visit her newfound grandfather’s Mississippi home from Christmas to New Year’s. Adopted as a baby, Caroline knows nothing about her mother’s family...and doesn’t realize they can’t be trusted. When attempts are made on her life, there’s only one man who can protect her. Donovan Cavanaugh—a man who made her lonely heart want to love again. Posing as her fiancé, Don promises to find the would-be killer. But will his protection—and his love—be enough to keep her safe?

Protection Specialists: Guarding the innocent
Thanks for joining us on Behind the Book!  As always, you provide intriguing plots and thought-provoking themes.

You can purchase The Innocent Witness in ebook form or paperback at these retailers. You may also order it at your local bookstore.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Will the Truth Set You Free?

Margaret Brownley is a new author to me. Always interested in inspirational messages, I read this book with high expectations of both history and inspiration. Being the 4th of July, it seemed appropriate to a read a book about the old west, a time which was the fermenting of social innovation.  The suffragette movement was going strong and men and women were figuring out new ways of interactions and rights that facilitated a different relationship to work and family.  In A Vision of Lucy Margaret Brownley brings us into this time through a young women who loves photography, and in her own way brings illumination of the truth about people and their lives.

All of us have secrets--some of them small secrets like a convenient lie, some secrets are larger like a betrayal.  Every secret hurts someone, including  ourselves. Some people have secrets so large it effects their entire life, it changes everything they do and sets them on a path God never intended.  In her own naive, stumbling, and sometimes humorous way Lucy learns of a secret that will change every life in her small town, including her own. The saying "the truth will set you free" is one I was brought up to believe. But even in facing the truth it is not easy.  And the longer one waits, the more debilitating it becomes.

Please join me in welcoming Margaret Brownley with her wonderful third book in the Rocky Creek series.

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?

The idea for my protagonist Lucy Fairbanks was sparked by an advertisement in an old newspaper. In 1860 Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife. How could I not be intrigued? After seeing that ad I just had to write about a woman photographer.

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what?

One of the underlying themes of the book is abandonment. It's an odd thing but I think every child who loses a parent at a young age, even if it’s to death, feels abandoned.  I know I did and I delved into that pain to write the book.  I guess the ability to write serious themes with humor is a survival tool.

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? Which one and why?

It's a romance so of course I loved writing the scenes with the hero, but I also enjoyed the scenes with Lucy with her brother.  Caleb is the brother I never had. 

Your books all take place in the Old West. This seems unusual for a Southern California gal. What is it about this time period that draws you to write these stories?
I love writing about the old west because that’s when women came of age. The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian mores and rid themselves of confining clothes.  The gun may have won the west, but it was the women who tamed it. They brought churches, schools, newspapers and helped build community. These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer.  It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories.

I also like writing serious themes with a touch of humor and the old west lends itself nicely to laughter, don’t you think?  Since people lived so close to the land it’s also a perfect setting for an inspirational novel.    

I noticed that your three books are all subtitled "A Rocky Creek Romance." Is this book part of a series? If so, should the reader start with an earlier book or does it matter the order in which they are read?

All three stories take place in the fictional town of Rocky Creek, Texas, but the books don't have to be read in any particular order.  I planned it that way.  The other two books are A Lady like Sarah and A Suitor for Jenny.

What's next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming releases?

My story Snow Angel will be in the Log Cabin Christmas collection due out in September. I'm currently working on a new series that takes place in Arizona Territory. The first book Dawn Comes Early will be out March 2012. 

Thank you so much for letting me visit your blog today.  Readers can reach me through my website.

Also my publisher is running a “Vision of Funny” photograph contest with prizes. To enter go to the Margaret Brownley Books Facebook page.

You can get Margaret's Books in print or e-book from these fine retailers and from your local bookseller.  Margaret is also willing to give away one free book to a lucky commenter.  I know I really enjoyed reading this, so please take a chance and see if you can win a book.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ghosts and Humor and Love, Oh My!

MINNETTE MEADOR is one talented writer. She writes SF, Historical, and now a paranormal romance with humor. She is genre bending and does not skimp How one person can write in each of these genres and keep you glued to your seat is amazing.  My first exposure to Minnette's writing was with her Starsight novel.  I was drawn to the Spider Robinson quote--a favorite writer of mine, and when I finished it I knew this was someone to watch.  Then I read her first Centurion Novel, The Centurion and the Queen. I must admit, I thought no one who writes SF well can also write a good historical.  Boy was I wrong.  Historical Romance is definitely a genre Minnette can handle.  So, now she has a ghost story with humor and romance, A Ghost of a Chance.This is a woman who is always pushing the envelope.  Believe me, I am not going to misjudge her again. It's already in my buy list for the release date on Wednesday.

Please join me as we find what makes this author tick.  I am certainly excited to download my copy of A Ghost of a Chance ASAP.

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?

I am a devoted ghostie. I not only believe in them, but I've seen them quite a few times. It was late at night, just as I was getting to sleep (and I think after a Ghost Hunters marathon), it suddenly dawned on me that a poor guy who sees not just one or two ghosts, but all of them, might make for an interesting comedy. Voila! Keenan steps in and the book takes off from there. I had a blast writing this and, since it's my very first comedy, it was nice to laugh instead of cry like I usually do with my historicals or fantasies.

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what?

I think in some ways, Keenan is a male Minnette. Like him, I put out streetlights when I'm angry or upset on a walk. I have seen ghosts and I consider them more of a pain in the ass than something that frightens you. I LOVE the Hawthorn District of SE Portland, including the Bagdad theater, micro brew, McMenamin's and The Hotcake House. These are all places that are as familiar to me as my husband's smile.

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? Which one and why?

I think I like the scene with the succubus on the 2nd night. It is surprising and life changing for Keenan.

You've written in a number of genres: SF, Historical, and now a paranormal. Is there a theme that carries you to all these different places, or are you one of those writers who just like variety?

I always seem to have music somewhere in my books, whether as a main character, like Starsight, or as something important, like A Ghost of a Chance. However, I really do like variety; I am an avid reader and I've never met a genre I didn't like, so I guess that carried over into my writing. The ideas that pop into my head know no genre boundaries!

What's next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming releases? Will you be traveling in the next few months where readers can find you?

I'm am extremely excited about my next two projects: The Gladiator Prince, historical romance (third book in the Centurion Series, though this one is completely stand alone), and The Bell Stalker, an urban fantasy thriller. See blurbs below for more info. I will be in downtown Portland on July 30th from 11am-5pm at the Pioneer Square for the NW Book Festival, and then at Jan's Paperback Books for a book signing on August 4th from 12-4.

THE GLADIATOR PRINCE:  Book III of the Centurion Series
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2011  Resplendence Publishing.
Prince Thane is the last surviving royalty of the Trinovantes Tribe in Roman Britannia, having surrendered to the Romans after the Boudicca Revolt to save his two daughters, whose identities he sacrifices his freedom to protect. He is condemned by Nero himself to become a gladiator, to fight until he dies in the arena. When his two daughters are taken in a slaver's raid, Thane escapes, forcing the daughter of his master to take him to Rome to save his children.

Little does he know that the beautiful Syrian woman holds not only the key to his passion, but a secret that triggers a disaster that ignites the world. Will this spoiled willful girl betray him in the end or sacrifice herself to save them all?

THE BELL STALKER - an urban fantasy thriller
RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2011  Resplendence Publishing
For a year, Belle Stark has struggled to conquer fears plaguing her since being attacked by a maniac who continues to roam free and the murder of her father. And she nearly succeeds, until she discovers her lover's murdered body spread over the furniture, making Belle a prime suspect.  Certain her attacker is to blame, she seeks help from her ex-husband, homicide detective Mike Cranston, the one person she swore she would never let back into her life, or heart.

In their hunt for answers, the two uncover more than a lunatic: a supernatural underworld hidden beneath the tall skyscrapers of the city and a secret that could kill them both. Faced with a terrible choice, Belle surrenders herself to the hands of a monster and Mike must solve an ancient mystery before it's too late to save her---

Thank you for joining us Minnette!
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm surely buying everything Minnette is writing.  Now, if only I could get them all right now and stock up for all my business trips.

NOTE:  Resplendence Publishing marks this as a book with sexual content that may not be suitable for anyone under 18. If you are uncomfortable with explicit sexual content, you may not find this particular book suitable.

Here are the fine retailers that carry Minnette's books.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fishing for Love

This week we are featuring Leigh Duncan, and her new Harlequin American Romance, The Daddy Catch.  I first met Leigh several years ago while visiting a friend in Florida.  I have to say she is one of the nicest, sweetest people I've ever met.  Even though it was our first introduction, I immediately thought "this is the kind of woman I would hang out with if I lived in Florida."  She is down to earth and considerate of others.  Yet she walks with quiet confidence.  I only wished I wasn't clear across the country where I rarely get a chance to see her in person.

Even with all these great personal qualities, the real reason you should read Leigh's books is because they are just darn good. Her books are charming, heartwarming, and uplifting.  Most of all they are romances that make you feel good. When I finish one of her books I just want to curl up and say Thank You.

Here's the blurb for The Daddy Catch.

More than hooks and lines are in the lesson plans when an upcoming fishing trip with his new business partners forces a hunky thoracic surgeon to hire a feisty fly fishing guide.  Dan Hamilton is a foster care success story whose wildest dreams are within reach when he’s asked to join in building a medical center on Florida’s east coast.  Widowed Jessica Cofer wants little more than to help her young son grow into an honest man and preserve the natural beauty of Phelps Cove. Their temperatures rise faster than mercury on a summer day...until she learns the handsome doctor has his eye on more than her curves—he plans to steal the land from under her feet.

Maggie,  thanks so much for inviting me to Behind the Book.  I’m thrilled to be here today.  Before we get started, though, congratulations on your just-released book, Eternity, and the upcoming release of Expendable.  They both sound like winners!

Well thanks, Leigh.  I certainly hope the readers see it that way too. :)  So, let's get on with this interview. After all, this week is all about you and your wonderful Harlequin American Romances.

So, what was the initial spark that put this story in your head?

THE DADDY CATCH actually started out as an entry in a short story contest.  My husband had stumbled across an ad for the Robert Traver award in one of his fly fishing magazines.  This contest offered an amazing thousand-dollar prize for a story about fly fishing.  Hubby challenged me to enter—more as a dare than anything else, since I’d been writing, writing, writing and not selling, not selling, not selling.   Over the next couple of months, I wrote a mistaken identity story that revolved around a doctor who spies a fly fisher on his way to work.  Her grace and beauty inspire him to take up fly fishing, but he’s a smug sort who’s certain he’ll master the sport without help.  When he visits a fly fishing shop, he quickly realizes three things—the owner is the lovely woman he saw in the river; he needs her help in learning how to cast; and, by the end of their first lesson, that he’s made his “catch of a lifetime.” 

Unfortunately, I missed the deadline for submission that year.  And by the time the contest rolled around again, the judging committee had switched gears.  Instead of fiction, they wanted essays about fly fishing. 

So, that short story collected dust in my desk drawer until after I sold my first book (THE OFFICER'S GIRL, April 2010).  When my editor asked, “What else do you have?” I pulled that short story out and took a hard look at what parts of it would work for Harlequin American.  There wasn’t much, except for the germ of the idea—a woman fly fishing guide and a doctor.    

I loved The Officer's Girl!  I'm so glad you had another idea and could develop it.  I must admit, I've never read a romance before where fly fishing is a key element. Congrats!

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story.  Is there anything in this story like that?  If so, what?

Several years ago, I took a Voice class from Barbara Samuel O’Neal.  Up until that time, I’d tried very hard to weed my personal experiences out of my manuscripts.  But in that class, Barbara taught us to use our experiences, to incorporate them in our writing.  What a valuable lesson that was!

Hubby and I both love to fish, although we approach it differently.  I’m one of those throw-out-a-hook-kick-back-and read-a-book types.  He’s an avid fly fisher.  We’ve both caught our share of fish and love the exhilaration of something huge on the other end of the line.  And we both practice catch-and-release, returning our fish to the water so they can brag to all their friends about the big one they got away from. 

I pulled from all of those experiences in writing THE DADDY CATCH.  When Jess takes her little boy to Phelps Cove where she hopes he’ll catch his first red fish, I called upon my own memories of fishing for reds.  Those fish are notoriously skittish so, of course, our hero Dan, startled the school, costing Jess’s son Adam his catch-of-a-lifetime and setting up the conflict for the rest of the story. 

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? Which one and why?

The very last one.  This scene wasn’t part of the manuscript when I submitted THE DADDY CATCH.   But my editor thought the book needed a more romantic, more emotional ending.  She was right!  Now, I can’t read that last chapter without getting all teary-eyed.  And I wonder how I could ever have thought the book was finished without it. 

You seem to have found a home with Harlequin American Romance.  What is it about this line that fits what you want to write?

 Each of the Harlequin lines has its own focus, its own heat level.  Harlequin American romances are set against the backdrop of home, family and community.  That means children and small towns are almost always features of our stories, both of which I love to write.  These books are a little shorter than some of the other lines and because of that, we don’t have a lot of subplots or extra characters that could distract from the primary focus, the romance.  I love that about Harlequin American Romance.

What's next for you?  Can you tell us about any upcoming releases?  Will you be traveling in the next few months where readers can find you?

Right now, my editor is looking at my next two proposals for Harlequin American.  The first one is a reunion/second chance at love story with a heroine I absolutely love.  Mandy grew up on the professional rodeo circuit, but walked away from that life to go to school and become a lawyer.  Sparks fly when her client sues Mandy’s first love for custody of his daughter.  I’m not sure which story I like better.  That one, or the one that takes place during an old-fashioned cattle drive across the heart of Florida.  Both sound like the perfect fit for Harlequin American, don’t they? 

Yes, they both sound perfect.  If your editor is smart, she'll take both of them!

As for travel, other than a quick appearance at the Florida Panhandle RWA chapter and a book signing next weekend (June 18th), I’ll be sticking close to home this summer while I work on those next two projects.  On July 24th, though, you can catch me at Fish Tales and Cocktails, a fund-raiser for Casting for Recovery, a group that sends breast cancer survivors on fly fishing retreats.  I also have a full slate of blog appearances.  You can read about those on the News Page of my website at

As always, you amaze me, Leigh!  Great stories and now a great charity as well.
You can get Leigh Duncan's book, The Daddy Catch, at any of these fine retailers.  Add it to your summer reading list.  You will be truly happy you did!

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