Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Author Interview: Kendall Talbot (Treasured Secrets)

Author Kendall Talbot joins us today to talk about her book Treasured Secrets

So, this is not a typical book that I usually promote. Where are the vampires? The ghosts? Zombies?

But, I loved the locations. And I was drawn to the idea that these characters were modern-day treasure hunters searching for riches. Swoon!

Kendall is a Romantic Book of the Year winner, and she totally does her own stunts! (Seriously, read on! Plus there’s a Rafflecopter giveaway at the end!) 

Here’s the description:

Some secrets should remain hidden forever…
The last place Rosalina expected the clue to a 700-year-old mystery to lead her was back into the arms of Archer, the man who broke her heart. When neither can solve the puzzle without the  other, they set off on a new adventure. They’re forced to ignore the sparks that still fly unhindered between them as their search for the golden riches weaves from Tuscany’s underbelly to Archer’s luxurious yacht in the Greek Islands.
Archer desperately wants to salvage his shattered relationship with Rosalina but fighting for her love soon takes a back seat to fighting for their lives. Ruthless competition is hot on their heels and will do anything to get his hands on the treasure. With evil close on their trail, and Archer wrestling with the remnants of a childhood tragedy, Rosalina begins to wonder if some secrets were never meant to be revealed.

This book is such an adventure, taking readers from Tuscany to a yacht off the coast of Greece. Where did you come up with the plot idea?

There were two instances that inspired my Treasured series of books. The first came from a friend of mine. She was dating a guy who wore an unusual necklace and whenever she asked him about it, he refused to elaborate on it. And he never took it off, even when she told him that it nearly knocked her teeth out when they had sex. Of course she became obsessed about it and eventually, after 8 months, he told her it belonged to his previous girlfriend who had died. Not long afterwards they broke up. My character in Treasured Secrets, Archer, wears an unusual gold pendant around his neck that he too refuses to talk about or take off. The story behind the necklace is central to the entire treasure hunt. 
The other inspiration for the story stemmed from my 20th anniversary a trip to Tuscany. We went to a little church in Florence that was very insignificant compared to the other beautiful churches around it. Inside, inlaid in the mosaic floor tiles, was an oval pattern. Our tour guide told us it was the trap door where they threw the bodies during the 13th century plague that killed 50 million people in Europe. My mind went crazy thinking about entire families being wiped out by that horrible disease. Then I began to wonder what happened to all the precious things those families left behind. On the plane flight home, I began plotting my Treasured Secrets action adventure romance.

Do you find it hard to weave the romance into all the action? 
Not at all, love is one of the most incredible emotions to delve into. My stories are full of action and adventure. Especially this series. It was brilliant unveiling clues to a 13th century missing treasure and all the while exploring an emotionally satisfying romantic journey for my hero and heroine. Despite the tumultuous ride, my characters truly do find love.

You’ve traveled extensively and are up for adventure yourself! What locations have inspired you the most as a writer? 
My stories are as much about the location as the thrill of the adventures I’ve done. For example Treasured Secrets is inspired by a couple of wonderful tours we did in Florence and a cruise I did around the Greek Islands. But the scuba diving in my story comes from a diving holiday we did at the Solomon Islands. The shark scenes come from scuba diving at Christmas Island. There are several scenes in Treasured Secrets that were inspired by the Underground Tour we did in Seattle, USA. The helicopter scenes come from my visit to the Grand Canyon. There’s a plot theme in Treasured Lies, book two in this series, that comes from a deserted beach we went to in Brazil. Much of my inspiration for my debut novel, Lost in Kakadu, came from hiking in the Milford Track in New Zealand. And I already have plans to use places I visited in Brazil, Egypt and Russia in my future books. I live to travel and I always have a holiday on the horizon. This year’s holiday is to Mexico, New York and Las Vegas… I wonder what stories they will bring on?

The way you research the books is kind of off the charts! (Witchetty grubs? You are a braver woman than I!) What type of research did you do for Treasured Secrets
I was really lucky with those witchetty grubs as I just happened to find them in my garden. How else was I going to get the texture and flavor right in my scene? I like to draw on my actual experiences to get the details right. Obviously much of my work is pure fabrication, and thank goodness too, some of my characters go to hell and back. Treasured Secrets is as much a treasure hunt as it is a culinary adventure. Rosalina, my Italian heroine in Treasured Secrets is a talented chef, so food and flavors abound as much as the treasure hunt action. Every one of the meals she makes in my books I made for myself. In fact, recipes from “Treasured Secrets” debut in their own book “Rosalina’s Treasured Treats” you can find this on my website and cook along as you read the book if you like. In addition to the cooking, Rosalina’s home in Treasured Secrets is a 700 year old villa that I holiday in in Tuscany. Villa Pandolfini is in Signa, a little village just a fifteen minute train ride from Florence. This spectacular historic villa with extremely high ceilings, magnificent frescoes and original antique furniture was surrounded by vineyards and olive-groves and offered an extensive view of Arno Valley… perfect for a romance set in Tuscany.

What are you working on now? Any new books on the horizon?

I used to daydream about robbing a bank that I worked at in 1992. So guess what? I robbed that bank. In a book of course. Double Take my first crime novel, is a gritty Quinten Tarantino meets Nora Roberts story set in that bank I worked in. I also chose to set the story in 1992 too. It was a time before the internet, mobile phones and electric windows. It was also a time of Cheers, Cagney and Lacey, boom boxes and Carrington Blush champagne. It was so much fun writing in that era.

Also, book two in my Treasured series, Treasured Lies will be out in October 2015 and book three, Treasured Love, will be released April 2016.

Do you have any writing rituals? 
My husband works interstate 3 to 4 nights each week, so that’s my writing time. I don’t watch any television, instead I write about 4 hours each night and usually at least ½ a day on the weekend. I also restrict my social media to 45 minutes each morning and 1 hour each night. The social media aspect of writing can be a real time sap if you’re not careful.

Where is your favorite place to write? 
I love writing by my pool in the afternoons, which overlooks virgin Australian bush. Kookaburras and cockatoos usually give me company. Along with my fluffy little dog, Josie McLuvin. I especially like sitting out there with a glass of wine to get my creative brain flowing.

What inspires you to write? 
The story. Once I get an idea for a story in my head it won’t leave me alone. I dream about it. I think about it constantly, even at work when I’m trying to do my boring bookkeeping job. It’s like I’m possessed and the only way to rid it from my brain is to write about it. My bank robbery stayed in there for 22 years, so when I finally sat down to write it, it took just 3 months.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now? 
Cherry Adair - Gideon
J.D Robb - Obsession in Death 
Matthew Reilly - The Great Zoo of China
Mandy Magro - Driftwood
Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train

What do you recommend people see/read/hear? I recommend you watch Game of Thrones - twice. The first time because you will get so caught up in it. The second time I recommend really listening to the dialogue and concentrating on how each character ‘owns’ their voice.

Another recommendation is Friends. An oldie but a goodie. Each one of those actors stay so true to their character it’s almost predictable how each one would react in a situation. They have good, strong, unique roles and by watching and analyzing you’ll learn ways to improve your voice.

Grab a copy of Treasured Secrets on Amazon, Booktopia, iTunes, Kobo or Google Play.

Stalk Kendall on the web at her site, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest

Enter for a chance to win an ebook bundle of Treasured Secrets and Rosalina's Treasured Treats, the companion cookbook (yes! cookbook! witchetty grubs!). Ends 5/6

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book review: Zombie-saurus Rex

Being a teenager is tough as it is. Now imagine you are a zombie. That's the premise of the wildly imaginative young adult novel Zombie-saurusRex by Mark Souza.

Here's the description:

Rex Morton, a seventeen year-old zombie, has arrived in the small farming town of Plain View, Nebraska; just another stop in a long string of small towns left behind in their rear view mirror. Unlike the zombie stereotype, Rex is bright and friendly - as long as he doesn't get hungry. He hopes this time he can manage to stick around long enough to get his diploma. Rex’s fiercely protective mother has strong-armed yet another school district into accepting her son by threatening a discrimination lawsuit. At Plain View High, a dismal pattern of fear, prejudice, and bullying steers Rex down a familiar path toward expulsion. The difference this time is that Rex has fallen for fiery Goth girl, Ariella Klopenstein, the daughter of the Police Chief, and decided he will make his stand in Plain View. As the Z-virus spreads west and the country panics, Rex and Ariella must find a way to overcome Rex’s mother who wants to break them apart and flee town, a school principal who wants Rex expelled, Ariella’s father, the Police Chief, who thinks Rex is dangerous, and a government zombie round-up aimed at solving the zombie problem once and for all. 
Zombie-saurus Rex is a story about perseverance, overcoming prejudice, stereotypes and adversity. What it isn't is a story about dinosaurs. The title is inspired by a nickname a school bully hangs on Rex due to his size, posture, and slow plodding gate. 
Since I am not the target audience, I gave it to my 11 year-old daughter. Here's her 5- star review.
I enjoyed the book very much it kept me interested the whole time. It was a great mix of action and comedy, and the style of the writing wasn't confusing or unclear, which is very good for me. I loved the personality of the characters and how different and interesting they are.
I was kind of bummed that Rex's dad didn't show up somewhere to get Rex and his mom to forgive him.
I was apprehensive to give her this one, because she's still at that anti-romance age (and that cover makes the book look steamier than it actually is).  One of her school assignments is to read 20 minutes a day. Every time she picked up this book, she went well over her 20 minutes. (And no calls from the other room: "Mom, has it been 20 minutes yet?") So although she wasn't terribly verbose with this review, but I know she really loved it.

You can find out more about Mark's really interesting (and not-just-for-kids) books on his website, Tweet at him,  and find him on Facebook.

Mark is hosting an awesome $50 Amazon gift card giveaway. Be sure to enter!
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Author Interview: Amy Boyles (Rendered)

YOU GUYS! I have a awesome interview today with Amy Boyles, and we’re talking about her book RENDERED which seriously had me at hello.

Here's the official description:

Ten years ago, Drian Becker underwent the Rendering, a humiliating body exam imposed upon the masses by her father, a commander in the Patriot Army. Being a high ranking official’s daughter, Drian thought she was safe from the practice—not so. Her father’s betrayal left her emotionally scarred and dishonored. 
It’s now 2098. Drian hasn’t thought about the Rendering since she became leader of a rebel faction—mostly because she’s an expert at hiding her feelings behind a thick outer wall of badass attitude.  
All that changes when Colvin Hinton walks into her camp. With his easy swagger and even easier demeanor, Colvin makes being a rebel look good enough to taste. But when Drian finds herself tangled in his charms she lets down her guard, giving an old enemy the chance to take her out once and for all.  
If loving a man is this dangerous, would Drian have been better off remaining in the clutches of her father and living with the scars of being RENDERED?

It’s got a great set up, a creepy world, and a kick ass heroine and a smokin’ hot hero. So let’s get to it! (PS: Giveaway at the bottom of the post! Go and enter!) 

Tell us a bit about RENDERED.

Sure thing. The year is 2099. All the oil is gone. So is the United States government as we know it. It’s been replaced by a faction called the Patriot Party, a group that maintains control of the people by imprisoning anyone who speaks out against them and by subjecting young women to the Rendering, a physical exam that you either pass or fail. Pass it and you’ll marry well, most likely to someone the party has picked out for you. Fail and you’ll be removed from all good society. 

RENDERED follows Drian, a rebel who’s failing miserably at leading her group of people. Her band is on the verge of mutiny when Colvin, a rebel from a neighboring group, appears with a solution to her problem—all she has to do is trust him. That’s easier said than done. Drian’s been burned by those she’s loved and trusted before and wants to avoid it happening again at all costs. But her attraction to Colvin is impossible to ignore. Can Drian give herself over to passion without getting attached? 

Can you explain what a “rendering” is? What sparked the idea for a “rendering”? And is it something only forced on the women? 

Simply put, the Rendering is a virginity test. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? However, the procedure is used as a tool to determine what happens next to the young woman. Pass the exam (be found whole) and you bring respect to your family. Fail and you humiliate them. The Patriot Party also uses this as a means of controlling the masses—after all, you have no choice but to allow your daughter go through with the test. If a mother or father decided to speak against the party at the time their daughter was being rendered, she might not return to them in one piece. 

What sparked the idea? I have no clue. It just came to me in the middle of writing UNLIKELY REBEL, book one in the Dark Revolution series (of which RENDERED is book two). 

I love rebel factions! Can you tell us a bit more about the rebels Drian joins? What are they trying to overthrow?

So the rebels want to overthrow the Patriot Party. Since the party has come into power, not only have they mandated the Rendering, but they’ve also forced people to dress from the time period of the American Revolution, outlawed weapons and rationed food. People who live in cities and towns must line up daily to receive their ration of bread, cheese or whatever is available that day. People have very little to hope for in this world that they no longer control. 

This book has a real post-apocalyptic ring to it. Are you drawn to post-apocalyptic themes? If so, do you have any ideas why?

That’s a good question. I never considered writing anything post-apocalyptic until this idea came to me. I generally write fantasy or contemporary novels. Once the idea for this series hit me, I felt I needed to get it out. 

What are you working on now? Any new books on the horizon?

I’m currently writing book four in the Dark Revolution series. In this book, girls who fail the Rendering are sent to a place called the Hold, which is part workhouse/part hell. There, we meet a woman named Tess who knows a secret that could ruin the Patriot Party. But will she be able to share it with the right people before the party finds her and kills her? You’ll just have to read it to find out.  

Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, I make a cup of coffee before I start writing every morning. Every single day I drink that cup as I work. 

Where is your favorite place to write?

My kitchen table. I have a couple of desks but there’s something about the space that table affords that I like the most. 

What inspires you to write? 

Knowing that one day I will be able to quit my day job. That inspires me. Also, great characters living inside my head fighting to get out. 

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Revival by Stephen King

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

That depends on the person and what their interests are. If you live in a city with an active theater community—go see plays. Hear how people talk to one another. Go sit in a subway or airport and watch people. See how one person’s movements affect another person’s. Eat awesome food. Read whatever you want, but if you like fantasy read Mistborn, if you like romance, read Pride and Prejudice, if you like suspense, ask someone else because I’m not well versed in that genre.

Amy is giving away three copies of RENDERED and two $10 Amazon gift cards. Enter below! 

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