Monday, October 20, 2014

Book review: Drowning in Fear

I normally don’t like reviewing books, but the opportunity for my kid to review the lower grade chapter book Drowning in Fear was hard to pass up.

So, I am handing the blog over to Syd:

Drowning in Fear is about about a boy who is trying to overcome his fear of water.  
Nolan is afraid of the water. His dad sends him to a camp that has a really good lake (Lake Weird) to try to get him over his fears.  After Nolan was told about the camp, he started to have dreams about Lake Weird and someone pulling him in and trying to drown him.  
Nolan gets sent to the camp, and he decides to try to conquer his fear. But when he gets chest-deep, something pulls him under. He was rescued by a camp counselor. They thought it was a plant that pulled him under, but the scratches on his lake looks like it was some kind of animal. Nolan, wisely, does not go back in the water. 
And then a couple nights later, Nolan and his friends, including a boy named Leo who is obsessed with ghosts, go for a walk and find an abandoned, pretty creepy old house. Nolan recognized the creepy house from his dreams and the boys….(Ed note: This is where I delete the rest because it is full of spoilers.
I think it was a good horror story for kids who don’t like really scary stuff because it was scary but not really really scary. Parts of it reminded me of RL Stine, who is one of my favorite writers. I definitely want to read more of the Weirdville series.   

Tainted Blood is out, tour time begins!

Today is the official release day for Tainted Blood, book 2 in the Hell's Belle series! I've opted for 90 days exclusive with Amazon, and will release on Nook in a few months (more on this for another post).

The Tainted Blood blog tour begins today. Here's a list of my stops. Hope you can swing by these awesome blogs over the next several weeks!

October 20 Interview 
Urban Fantasy Investigations

October 21 Guest blog
Jill Archer

October 22 Interview
Valerie Twombly

October 22 Spotlight
Fantasy Book Lane

October 23 Spotlight and review
Gizmo’s Reviews

October 24 Interview
Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

October 27 Spotlight
Books Direct

October 28 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books
topic: anything Halloween related

October 29 Interview
Angel’s Guilty Pleasures

October 30 Spotlight
Soaring Eagle Publicity

October 31 Guest Blog
Roxanne’s Realm

November 3 Spotlight
Sizzling Book Blog   

November 4 Spotlight 
Jodie Pierce's Ink Slinger's Blog

November 5 Spotlight 
Cover Reveals 

November 6 Spotlight and review
Penny For Them...

November 7 Guest blog and review
happy tails and tales 

November 10 Spotlight
Madison Sevier, Romance Author

November 11 Top Ten
Darkest Cravings

November 12 Character Interview
Eclipse Reviews

November 13 Interview
Author Karen Swart

November 14 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books

November 17 Interview
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

Friday, October 17, 2014

On Your Radar: Antebellum Awakening

I love finding amazingly cool books to get excited about. So having two books is pretty awesome.  

Antebellum Awakening is the second in Kate Cross’ Network Series.

Here’s the scoop:

Never underestimate the power of a volatile witch.
Still reeling in the wake of her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe is forced to move to Chatham Castle. Not even the sudden appearance of ancient dragons in haunted Letum Wood nor her two best friends can distract her from the strength of her deep, dark rage.
Her grief puts her magical powers into chaos, endangering any witch around her. She has six months left to destroy the curse that will kill her and fulfill her contract with the most cunning enemy of all: her former teacher Miss Mabel.
Bianca must make a choice: learn to control her restless powers, or let the powers control her.
Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the thrilling new fantasy collection The Network Series. It’s a haunting tale about tragedy, loss, and the power of moving on.

Kate, you had me at volatile witch. 

The first book, Miss Mabel's School for Girls (where Bianca confronts the powerful Miss Mabel for hexing her with a deadly curse), has moved to the very top of my TBR pile. Grab a copy — it’s only .99 for a limited time! No better deal than that. 

Contest junkies, head on over to Miss Mable’s website, where there’s a bunch of ways to win cool stuff

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Author Interview: Joanne Guidoccio, Between Land and Sea

Today I have a mermaid tale to tell you about! Between Land and Sea is a very cool new book by Joanne Guidoccio. What drew me to this title (well, apart from the mermaids) was that Joanne's heroine was on the mature side--a rarity in the urban fantasy/paranormal romance world.


Joanne and I talk about career transitions, kicking 20-year-old butt, and geriatric sex. (Okay, just kidding on that last part. Seriously, Dad.) 

Tell me about Between Land and Sea.

Between Land and Sea is the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy, a series that features mermaids who give up their tails and powers after falling in lust/love. While most mermaids retain their looks, Isabella is not as fortunate. Her grandmother (chief elder) is displeased and, in a fit of rage, ages Isabella thirty years and gives her twenty extra pounds to carry. After her horrified soul mate abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, Isabella is forced to reinvent herself as Barbara Davies. With the help of a magic tablet that has online mermaid support, Isabella embraces her new body and heals her bruised heart.

What inspired you to tell Isabella’s story?

About fifteen years ago, I started to plan for early retirement. As I completed an online Career Practitioner program, several ideas were percolating, among them a ReCareering office that would help boomers reinvent themselves after job loss or retirement. When health issues forced me to alter my career plans, I resurrected a forty-year-old writing dream and decided to focus on transition and reinvention stories. Interestingly enough, the protagonists of my three novels are career development practitioners.

I love that you created a heroine that is older than the typical paranormal romance heroine. Why did you decide to make her older? 

In my late forties, I realized that I no longer enjoyed reading novels with 20something and 30something protagonists. It felt like poking into the heads and hearts of young women who could easily be former students. While searching for novels featuring an older crowd, I discovered several late-blooming authors who had launched successful second acts. I was inspired and decided to populate my essays, stories and novels with boomer women and their older sisters. 

This is (literally) a “fish out of water” story. After getting dumped, Isabella is trying to survive in the human world. I see parallels to the woman’s journey as we age. Can you talk about this a bit? Was this a conscious part of your storytelling?

Definitely! The signposts that existed for our mothers and grandmothers have shifted. Babysitting the next generation and snowbirding are not the only options for “women of a certain age.” More and more, we hear about women returning to school, entering politics, or starting new business ventures. In writing Between Land and Sea (and my other books), I intended to provide inspiration and motivation to women searching for other alternatives. 

You have a background in math—specifically as a teacher (cue my sweaty palms!). Does math (i.e. working w/ equations, problem solving, etc) inform your writing at all? 

In my cozy mystery, A Season for Killing Blondes, the protagonist’s first career is that of mathematics teacher. Other than that, my second act is quite distinct from my first. I have taken to heart Carl Jung’s famous quotation: “But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”

Now that Between Land and Sea is released, what’s next for you?

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year! Soul Mate Publishing will release The Coming of Arabella, the sequel to Between Land and Sea. The Wild Rose Press will release A Season for Killing Blondes, the first book in the Gilda Greco Murder Mystery Series. 

Do you have any writing rituals?

I put away my “teacher hat” in June 2008 but found it difficult to release my need for structure. I cannot write amid clutter and chaos. After some experimentation, I came up with a formula that works. Each day, I treat myself to a leisurely breakfast and several cups of coffee as I check social media. I start writing around 9:00 a.m. While working on a novel, I aim for 1000 words a day. At first, I used the oven timer to keep me on task, but that annoying sound reminded me of school bells, so I invested in a bird clock. Each hour, one of my feathered friends, among them the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, and Great Horned Owl, chirp and remind me to pace myself.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Originally, I had hoped to write in my den but found it too confining. So, I set up a writing nook in the living room. I prefer to be surrounded by open spaces and large windows.

What inspires you to write?

The life journeys and publications of successful reinventors.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Tempting Fate by Jane Green
The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough
The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee
Five Days Left by Julie Lawson

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

See Grand Canyon in Arizona
Read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Hear (You Will) Set the World on Fire by David Bowie  

And here's the official Between the Land and Sea description:
After giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.
With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.
And there's a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card. Win it and buy the book!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Want to listen to my dulcet tones?

I’ll be yammering about stuff on Bewitching Book Tours’ radio show on Blog Talk Radio tomorrow. Kriss and I will ring in the Witching Hour talking about vampires, ghosts, Rhode Island, Coffee, Coffee Milk. We'll probably talk about Tainted Blood, too.

And guess what? 


11PM live! Since I can’t keep my eyes open past 10 PM, there is a very good chance that I will be completely incomprehensible. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Location inspiration

I am working on interviews for my upcoming Tainted Blood blog tour (Oct 20, mark your calendars!) and one of the bloggers posed a question about my book locations. Do I make them up? It was a great question, and it’s stuck with me. 

The short answer is no. Places I write about in my books exist or used to exist. 

There really is a Coast Guard House in Narragansett (which, freakily, was badly damaged in the Hurricane Sandy after I wrote in its destruction in Hell’s Belle).  NY System gets a mention in Tainted Blood. So does Haven Brothers. Babe’s bar is based on the old dive bar Babe’s on the Sunnyside, which is no longer. It’s still a bar, but now it is now much more fancy-pants. 

I also research homes and apartments. For Nina’s apartment, for example, I looked for floor plans of lofts to come up with a layout that worked for her. This means I often spend a lot of time looking at real estate listings. 

That’s how I found this beauty. Willimantic, Connecticut is home to Eastern Connecticut State University and a few miles away from UCONN’s main campus at Storrs. Even though it’s sandwiched between universities, it’s still a rather depressed town. It’s proximity to Boston and NYC made it a popular drug corridor, and it has the dubious distinction of being the Heroin Capital of the US. 

It also has some amazing old Victorian homes. 

I am working on a paranormal romance (not part of the Hell’s Belle series) that is set in the area. So I was trolling the real estate listings and came across this beautiful Willimantic home. Will the layout be exact in the book? No. I need an attached retail store (the listing says this has one, but damned if I can see it) and I need a parking lot/driveway, which this house doesn’t have. But the bones are there, and I love that it’s pink! 

So, this place exists. And while it will be tweaked for paranormal fiction, it began as a real place. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Author Interview: Christopher Mannino

School of Deaths is a new YA book that sounds promising. Here's the description:

Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death? 

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe.  Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. 

The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target.  Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

Author Christopher Mannino explains how a stranded night in Cornwall lead to this novel. 

What inspired you to tell Suzie’s story?

The idea for School of Deaths emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University. I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew. Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before. I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England. One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. After misjudging the time it’d take to get there, I became stranded. The tourist office was closed, and I couldn’t find a hostel. I walked from pub to pub asking if I could sleep above their bar. 

The next morning, having slept none, since I’d found a room over a noisy pub, I crept to Barras Nose before dawn. Barras Nose is a stone peninsula, or rocky outcropping jutting into the Celtic Sea, just north of Tintagel. Tintagel itself is a small island with castle ruins on its cliffs. Some believe it to be the birthplace of King Arthur. When I reached Barras Nose, the winds howled so fiercely that I had to crawl on all fours to keep from being blown into the ocean below. Then dawn broke. No other humans were in sight. I struggled to keep my balance, but watched the sun rise on the ruins of the ancient castle, listening to the thunder of waves pounding the fifty foot cliffs I clung to. Wind battered me with ferocity, and I imagined a character being buffeted by winds, completely alone. 

I love the idea of a female Grimm Reaper—honestly, it just never occurred to me that they were always men. When the idea struck, was that a eureka moment?

In all honesty, the protagonist was originally a boy. In the earliest draft, I modeled the main character loosely after myself, using my experiences abroad as a starting point. As I wrote, I wanted to increase her isolation even more. The idea of a female Reaper trapped in a world where she was the only girl really appealed to me, and the rest of the series suddenly took a completely new direction.

You teach high school — is that what drew you to the YA genre? Did you feel like there was a story missing for these kids?

The central idea of my story is one that’s far too familiar to many of my students- that school can be a rough place, filled with bullies. I wanted to emphasize how friends and personal strength can help overcome those problems. At the same time, it’s also a fantasy tale that encourages kids to read and imagine new places. With Common Core hitting the US Education system, and many kids becoming turned off to reading, I believe we have to do all we can to bring kids back to books.

Just like me, you have a background in theater (and a full time job in it as well). How do you feel that has informed your work as a novelist? 

On my blog, a while back, I wrote the following, about how theatre can help any writer.

As a full-time theatre teacher, and stage actor for over twenty years, I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue both of my greatest passions (writing and theatre) professionally. I’d like to share some tips on how theatre can help writers.

1.   Theatre in a non-linear process
If you don't have time to write a book from start to stop, you're not alone.  Part-time writers need to be able to write their story whenever they get a chance- picking up the story wherever they left off.  My advice: become an actor in a play.  The more shows you're in, the more you'll get used to thinking non-linearly.  Even if a play takes place in chronological order, you never practice a show like that.  You'll pick up in the middle, work one scene, then start a different scene.  You need to be able to keep the chronology of a play in mind when starting in the middle.  Eventually this skill becomes second-nature, and will allow you to pick up a draft in the middle with no trouble at all. 

2. Theatre builds dialogue skills
Have trouble writing believable dialogue?  Plays and musicals are nothing BUT dialogue.  You get used to language in a new way, by not just speaking it, but practicing speaking in different ways.  This builds skill at writing and using dialogue effectively in any setting.  Trying to incorporate appropriate methods of speaking into your characters voices can be very helpful. 

3. Theatre builds confidence
A number of authors at my publishing house Muse It Up have mentioned feeling hesitant about in-person events.  The image of a reclusive writer, afraid of the world, is perhaps overblown, but to be fair- writing is an insular process.  What better remedy to isolation than jumping onstage in front of strangers.  Sound terrifying?  In a way, it's not you up there at all.  Drama provides a "mask" - in that it's your character onstage, not you at all.  If I was asked to read a script onstage I feel fine, but if I was asked to tell my own story I might get nervous.  I reach into myself, and draw on that "mask" - becoming the character of myself.  It alleviates any nerves I might feel.

Now that School of Deaths is released, what’s next for you?

The journey for School of Deaths continues- the book will release in print this winter, and the sequel “Sword of Deaths” will release as an ebook this spring. I’ve started the third and final book in the series, which will be called “Daughter of Deaths.” After this series (“The Scythe Wielder’s Secret”), I intend to dive into other genres, including adult SF/Fantasy, Historical fiction, and perhaps playwriting.

Do you have any writing rituals?

During the summers (when I do most of my writing), if it’s nice weather, I like to take my laptop outside, sit on a bench, and turn my phone to the Pandora “film scores” station. With epic and stirring instrumental music playing in my ears, I let my fingers sing.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Either outdoors or in my home office, surrounded by books

What inspires you to write? 

To quote Douglas Adams: “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It’s important to find inspiration and joy in all that we do, and ideas can come from everywhere and anywhere.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Currently reading Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, next will read Dan Brown’s Inferno, Gregory Maguire’s Lost, and Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregerine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If George R.R. Martin ever finishes the next Song of Ice and Fire book, that’ll jump up on the list. 

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

I’d recommend anything by Hayao Miyazaki, whom I consider one of the greatest storytellers of our time. The last book I read that I absolutely adored was Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, and the most inspiring song I’ve listened to recently is “Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins.