Please help me welcome today’s guest, Diane Scott Lewis…
SPOTLIGHT Unwed and pregnant, Norah Cooper flees England to hide with her cousin in Brittany before Germany’s 1940 invasion. After her baby is stillborn, she’s trapped under the Occupation. Norah consoles herself by sketching wildlife. When she’s caught near the coast, she comes under scrutiny of the German commandant, Major August von Gottlieb.
August loathes what Hitler is doing to his country and France but is duty-bound to control the people in his jurisdiction. The young Englishwoman piques his interest. Is she a spy? He asks her to sketch his portrait so he might uncover the truth.
Soon, their relationship evolves into a passion neither can deny. He plans to sabotage a major war machine of the Reich, while she secretly helps the Resistance. Will their love ruin her and end in heartbreak? Or will they overcome the odds and survive the surging threats.
Can a damaged Englishwoman find love with her worst enemy, or will the brutality of war rip them apart?
Norah sighed and blinked quickly. “I have feelings I shouldn’t have.”
“Ja. As do I.” Two lonely people, or something more? Silence followed, punctuated by rain and the whistle of wind around the building. Her eyes looked huge, and startled, even in the shadows. A woodland creature; but was he a savior or a predator?
Finally, August said, desperate to say something, “May I see what you’ve done so far on the portrait?”
She smiled, looking relieved by the change in subject. “No, not yet. I want it to be completed first.”
He moved toward her, playfully. “Just a peek won’t hurt.”
She spread her arms as if protecting her masterpiece. “Mais non. I’ll tell you when.”
August took a long step toward her. Fräulein Cooper came forward at the same time. They bumped into one another, her breasts right below his chest. He clasped her upper arms. She stared up at him, lips parted, inviting, yet wary. Past helping himself, he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers. A tightening started low in his body.
She quivered beneath his hands, but didn’t move away, her breath warm on him.
**GIVEAWAY: Diane is giving a copy of her book to one lucky commenter!
Diane Parkinson (Diane Scott Lewis) grew up near San Francisco, joined the Navy at nineteen, married in Greece and raised two sons in Puerto Rico, California, and Guam. She’s a member of the Historical Novel Society and wrote book reviews for their magazine. She’s always loved travel and history and has had several historical novels published.
Diane lives with her husband and one naughty dachshund in western Pennsylvania.
Please help me welcome author D.V. Stone with an interview and her new release…
Hi, I’m D. V. Stone. Currently, I’m in Northern Florida living the life of a Snowbird in my 5th Wheel Camper with my husband of twenty-eight years, Pete, Hali, my doggo, and an almost twenty-year-old camp cat, Baby, who loves traveling and camping. We’ll be home in Northern New Jersey in April.
Sea Hunter is book four of The Mortar & Pestle Series. This is my first cooperative writing with six other amazing authors. It was a pleasure working with them. We are made up of international authors of different genres and vast backgrounds who came together and are offering this exciting, often humorous series. From world travelers, teachers, bloggers, magazine editors, and award winners, there’s something for everyone in this series. Paranormal to contemporary and various heat-levels, but we made it work.
~Do you collect anything?
I have a parliament of owls. Yes, a flock of owls is a parliament. At home, in my camper, the décor is owlish. When choosing one to add to my collection, it’s all about the eyes. Sometimes they are just weird. My most recent addition is a mercury-glass owl who stands about a foot high. Small figurines that stand on a pile of books are my favorite. I’m always on the lookout.
~What was your first job?
I’ve worked at least one, if not two, paying jobs since I was sixteen. But I’m going to count before that. I lived on a dairy farm and milked cows and goats. Mucking out the barns. Feeding all the livestock. In the summer, we plowed, planted, harvested, mowed, baled, etc. Farming is hard work, and even little kids pitched in by feeding chickens and collecting eggs.
~ What do you want readers to come away with after they read [your book]?
I want readers to find hope and happiness in my work. Life is tough. If we can escape for a little while and enjoy a great story with a happy ending, I’ve done my job.
~ What is your favorite quote?
Your thoughts of God are too human. Martin Luther
~What celebrity would you most like to be stranded on an island with?
Lassie. She’d snuggle and help me out of bad situations.
~What do you want your tombstone to say?
Even when it was scary, she did it.
Or— She made a difference.
~How much of the book is realistic?
Sea Hunter is my first book set in historical reality. Post WWII. I did so much research and even traveled to Maine and Cape Cod to visit naval museums. I spent time on the computer reading about underwater archeology, diving, sea life, and the dangers of diving off the east coast due to mines. My favorite part was learning the vernacular popular in the post-war era.
On the turbulent high seas, an archeologist must protect a historic shipwreck from treasure hunters—not fall for one.
A wisp of smoke, a swirl of promise, a breath of destiny…a message within the Mortar & Pestle for those who want to believe. Throughout time people have sought their heart’s desire. But true love is often elusive. Carved with ancient Norse runes, the Mortar & Pestle shows paths to happily-ever-afters. Once you capture the Mortar & Pestle’s scent of magic, you’ll want to read all seven individual romances.
Sea Hunter: Blurb
I’m a Sea Hunter. As an underwater archeologist and professor of antiquities, it is my duty to stop treasure hunters and looters from raiding Sea Wraith. But fate is a funny thing. Now I find myself working with Jack Alexander, a treasure hunter, to protect history from a known looter. Did my heart’s desire change?
Captain Jack Alexander.
I’ve been told women on a ship are unlucky, but this one has the two pieces of the map I need to finally claim Sea Wraith. Now I find myself in a deal that makes me one-third partner with her and a known scoundrel.
Can the two unlikely allies work together while safeguarding their hearts against the power of the Mortar and Pestle?
If you like Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, you’ll love Zahra Corbyn and Jack Alexander.
Zahra flailed when he pitched her over the rail of the steamer.
The sneering smile got smaller, and he saluted before the frigid Atlantic water closed over her.
Splashing into the rough water, she suppressed her initial gasp. As an experienced diver, she understood the peril of aspirating saltwater. However, her heartbeat was out of control. When the disorienting shock of hitting the cold ocean in the darkness dissipated, she kicked toward the surface, following the bubbles up. Gasping and sputtering, she stared at the disappearing ship while treading water in its wake.
The fall hurt, but it hadn’t killed her, not like the cold water would. Already her arms and legs were becoming uncoordinated. Tingling along the nerves turned into stabs of pain. Her muscles contracted. Thinking became muddled.
In the distance, a lighthouse flashed a beacon before another wave swamped her.
Zahra kicked her way back to the surface, but a current dragged at her legs like a sea monster’s tendrils.
So close to home, and she would die out here. Alone. Killed by the elements she loved and researched. Maybe another underwater archaeologist would find and study pieces of her clothes and jewelry.
She’d survived two ocean crossings, a world war, and a stint working for the Office of Strategic Services.
Boston was only about fifty nautical miles away.
She’d read most deadly accidents happened close to home.
Stop and focus, Zahra.
Surfacing once more, she coughed and turned three hundred sixty degrees, looking for anything to help her. A buoy, a plank, floating garbage.
She wasn’t shivering anymore. Uh-oh, this was it. Her body was shutting down. Slowly, she descended below the surface. A flicker of light caught her attention. Was that a ship? Or rather the wreck of one? She must be hallucinating.
The depth of the water here wasn’t bad, considering. Only about twenty to thirty feet. Could it be Sea Wraith? Archeologists and fortune hunters had been searching for her for years. The figurehead poking from the sand and silt resembled a specter with its gaping maw and tendrils like an octopus. Spots developed in her vision. The last thing she saw was the shape of a man standing on the ship’s figurehead.
D. V. Stone is an award-winning, multi-genre, traditionally and independently published author. She writes books people want to read. Whether romance or fantasy, contemporary or mid-grade, her stories are about the importance of friends and family. About overcoming obstacles while often with humor.
Around the Fire is a popular weekly blog where she introduces both established and new authors giving an insider’s look into their lives and books as well as tidbits about her own life.
Now retired, she is a full-time author and incorporates her life experiences into her books.
A former Emergency Medical Technician, she volunteered in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At the same time, she worked as a professional EMT in a women’s state prison. She was the proprietor of a coffee shop, and a small restaurant/ice cream stand in the years that followed. The years following were as a manager in an animal emergency hospital, while her last position was in a human medical office.
When not behind the wheel of 2Hoots—a 41-foot long 13.2 feet high 5th Wheel camper, she rambles around town in Northern New Jersey in a white Camaro. She also loves travel and history.
D.V. is a wife to an amazing husband, mother to one son, and not your average grandma to three beautiful grands. A woman of faith, she believes and trusts in God.
“My greatest pleasures are spending time outside with friends and family, cooking over the open fire, sipping a glass of wine, and reading.”
Hali, her rescue dog, always reminds her to let readers know, “Woof, woof.” Which is loosely translated as support your local animal rescue.”
Please help me welcome author Susie Black with the moments that changed her life, and her latest release, Death By Pins and Needles.
10 Moments That Changed My Life
Getting my driver’s license was the moment I experienced tangible independence for the first time and it shaped the way I approached life. I learned to plan ahead, think proactively, and that with independence comes responsibility and ownership of ones decisions and actions.
Receiving my college diploma and graduating Magna Cum Laude was the moment that pride and a tremendous sense of accomplishment taught me to always reach for the stars and that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.
Answering the phone call from my apparel sales rep dad asking me to come to Atlanta and take over a trade show when he was called away to deal with a family emergency changed everything in my entire life. It precipitated a challenging and unexpected lifestyle and career change, leaving my friends and comfort zone with a cross-country move from LA to Atlanta to a region that was completely different in every aspect from the one I had lived almost all my life in. But most important, I learned to trust my gut, take chances, and not be afraid to fail.
My first solo road trip traveling the southern states after accepting the sales rep position my dad offered me was the beginning of a career where I successfully broke every glass ceiling in an historically male-dominated industry.
The first entry I ever made to my daily journal as a sales exec would someday be the foundation of leveraging my apparel sales career into a successful writing gig. Those journal entries gave me the characters and stories to tell.
Answering the phone call from my future husband and accepting a blind date with him set up by a mutual friend changed my life. A blind date was not something I was interested in, but my friend was so insistent, that I accepted out of sheer curiosity. By the end of the evening, I was glad I’d taken the call. Forty plus years later, I am still glad.
My wedding day six months after my husband and I went out on our blind date changed my life in countless, wonderful ways. My mother always said to marry a man who makes you laugh every day. I did, and he still does.
When the doctor put my newborn son into my arms for the first time, I was certain that my life was never going to be the same. And it wasn’t. Thank goodness. The awesome sense of responsibility and unconditional love that filled my heart was overwhelming and remains there to this day.
When I left my son at his college dorm, I cried tears of joy mixed with anguish realizing my reward for doing a wonderful job of raising him was that he would not be living under my roof again.
Signing my first publishing contract and then seeing my debut cozy mystery novel Death by Sample Size posted on Amazon the first time filled me with an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and pride. And proof positive that things happen for a reason, even when I didn’t always understand why. My Nana predicted when I began my career that the reason I became an apparel industry sales exec is because I was destined to write about my experiences. As usual, my wise Nana was right.
Susie has a giveaway for each of you… CLICK HERE to get your FREE copy of her Swimwear Fit Guidebook.
(Link for Fit Guide: Please insert this link at the end of the post with the instruction to click it for a FREE swimwear fit guide.)
She gave ‘skeleton in the closet’ a whole new meaning.
BLURB: Who wanted Lissa Charney dead? The list was as long as your arm….but which one actually killed her? The last thing Mermaid Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected to find when she opened the closet door was nasty competitor Lissa Charney’s battered corpse nailed to the wall. When Holly’s colleague is wrongly arrested for Lissa’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth sticks her nose everywhere it doesn’t belong to sniff out the real killer. Nothing turns out the way she thinks it will as Holly matches wits with a heartless killer hellbent for revenge.
I walked to Lissa’s in case God made a mistake, and by some miracle, she’d hung around. The Royal showroom lights were dark, but the internal ones leading to the offices blazed bright as a beacon. For giggles and squeaks, I pushed on Lissa’s showroom door. Remarkably, it opened. Hot Diggity Dog. Amazingly, the fabric Goddess covered my play. My envelope with the fabric swatches lay on the first workstation table. Now for the key, and I’d be all set.
“Lissa,” I called out, “It’s Holly from Mermaid. I came for my package. Thanks a bunch for accepting it. Listen, Patti left early and I forgot my mart key in my desk drawer at the factory. Can you give me my spare?” Dead silence. Weird. Maybe she’s on the phone with her office door closed?
“Lissa,” I funneled my hands around my mouth into a megaphone and yelled, “It’s Holly Schlivnik from Mermaid.” Still a whole lotta dead air. God short-changed me in the height department at four feet nine inches tall, but the Good Lord compensated for it by blessing me with a strong set of pipes. Unless the woman was deaf as a post, no way she couldn’t hear me.
The clock said eight minutes left. Crap. Buyers in this industry are famous for keeping vendors waiting. My luck, I get the one who’s never late. I stuck my head out in the hall. Hallelujah. Lady Luck smiled down on me. No Sue Ellen. If the congestion goddess loved me, the Queen of Mean sat stuck in Friday night rush hour traffic with the rest of the homebound Angelinos.
Since shouting at the top of my lungs failed to get her attention, I went back to Lissa’s office. Lights on, but nobody home. Her beige leather purse sat on the desk with her keys on top of it. I jangled the chain. Lots of keys, but none of them mine. I slid my fingers over the grainy purse to move it out of the way, and my digits got coated with dust. Weird. I opened all the drawers and rooted around her desk, but no key. Her jacket lay haphazardly draped on her chair behind the desk. She obviously hadn’t left for the day, but I’d combed the place from one end to another and found no sign of Lissa. Where the Sam Hill could she be? Not in the showroom. Not in her office. Not in the kitchen. Not in the copier room. In the ladies’ room? Abducted by aliens? Hiding in a closet? I was out of options and time; so, for giggles and squeaks, I pulled open the doors to the enormous sample closet that stretched across the back wall and peered inside. Good news. I found Lissa Charney. The question was; did she have my key?
Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Fashion & Foul Play Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Dan Rice…
Author Dan Rice – Photography in my New Release: The Blood of Faeries
Since college, I’ve been passionate about photography—specifically, anything nature-related. The photo bug bit me while visiting Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. I recall being impressed by the refined beauty of Delicate Arch, which is often seen on postcards and advertisements promoting the area. But what blew my mind was a book I picked up at the visitor center, Our National Parks by Ansel Adams. I was addicted.
This was in the early 2000s, so digital photography was relatively new. I spent several years shooting slide film and scanning slides with a film scanner. Not the ideal workflow, let me tell you. The scanners weren’t the best back then, and dust was a great annoyance. Switching to digital was a godsend, although it didn’t eliminate the dust problem. Every time you change a lens on the camera, there is an opportunity for dust to invade. However, the overall workflow is vastly improved with digital photography, and the cost of film is eliminated.
I’ve had great fun hiking and traveling with my camera. In the summer of 2021, my older son and I visited Yellowstone and the Tetons. Both are superb locations for landscape and wildlife photography. It was a memorable trip for both of us. At the time, he was trying out photography for himself and was obsessed with snagging photos of a bear and a wolf. He got his wish, capturing both in Yellowstone.
In my novels, Dragons Walk Among Us and The Blood of Faeries, the protagonist, Allison Lee, is a high schooler with dreams of becoming a photojournalist. She shoots photos for her school’s online news source and rarely leaves the house without her camera. In Dragons Walk Among Us, her photography plays an essential role in the plot as she attempts to capture photographs of antagonistic characters who might not be from this world. In the sequel, her photography doesn’t play a prominent role in the plot, but it is still central to her characterization.
I decided to make Allison a photo bug because I believe in writing what you know. Photography is an activity I know quite a bit about, so it’s easy to impart that characteristic to Allison. She spends most of her time behind the camera photographing high school basketball, her squad, and a street protest. I’ve never photographed a basketball game, but I have taken thousands of snaps of my sons playing soccer. The protest Allison photographs is far and away wilder than anything I’ve experienced. However, a few months before the pandemic resulted in a lockdown in my neck of the woods, I participated in and photographed a woman’s march. It’s not my typical photographic event, but it was invigorating to document it.
Writing about photography in my fiction is a fantastic way to share my passion with more people. Also, it adds a sense of verisimilitude to Allison that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without time-consuming research. For the busy author, time is a priceless currency.
Sometimes there’s no going back.
Allison Lee wilts under the bright light of celebrity after being exposed as a shape-shifting monster. She’d rather be behind the camera than in front of it. Being under the tooth and claw of her monstrous mother is even less enjoyable. All she desires is for everything to go back to the way things were before she discovered her true nature.
But, after she accidentally kills a mysterious man sent to kidnap her, she realizes piecing her old life back together is one gnarly jigsaw puzzle. When Allison’s sometimes boyfriend Haji goes missing, Allison and her squad suspect his unhealthy interest in magic led to his disappearance. Their quest to find Haji brings them face-to-face with beings thought long ago extinct whose agenda remains an enigma.
“This is the Seattle PD,” booms an announcement from a loudspeaker. “Do not attempt to breach the police line.”
Like everyone else, I turn toward City Hall. I stand on my tiptoes but can’t see much. The vanguard of protesters is within feet of the police line. When I turn back to where I expect to find Drake, he’s gone. The march has slowed almost to a stop. People gather in small groups chanting and dancing. Sunlight glinting off her copper scales, Mauve towers above the crowd off to the left at least twenty feet behind me.
“We the people demand the mayor take measures to make Seattle carbon neutral now!” someone shouts into a bullhorn. “Come on, everyone. Let’s make sure Mayor Andretti hears us! Carbon neutral now! Carbon neutral now!”
The chant reverberates through the crowd, growing into a roar. I join the chanting and shoot pictures of young people screaming and waving signs. I dart between people, desperate to take photos of the action up front.
“In fact,” roars the voice from the bullhorn, “we want Seattle to be carbon negative! We want Seattle to be the capital of carbon capture technology! Invest in carbon capture technology now, Mayor Andretti! Before it’s too late!”
The mob repeats: “Carbon capture! Carbon capture!”
I weave between clusters of protesters, occasionally brushing against people. The screaming and sign waving are riotous near the frontline. I stop and snap more photos, zooming all the way out to 20 mm and getting up in peoples’ screaming faces. A couple people give me offended glares, but most are too caught up in the moment to notice me. As I continue onward, I review the photos on the camera’s LCD. A few are wicked. I can see teeth and spittle and tongues and wild eyes while still having a view of the seething mass all around. I smile when I break through the crowd to the frontline.
A handful of brave souls are yelling in the faces of stoic riot police lined up on the lower steps leading to City Hall. A tall man with a bushy beard, reflective aviator sunglasses, and a red bandanna wrapped around his head shouts into a megaphone, leading the crowd in climate protest mantras. Off to the left are the drummers, frenetically thumping on their instruments. I start shooting and keep shooting until my SD cards are full.
DAN RICE pens the young adult urban fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles in the wee hours of the morning. The series kicks off with his award-winning debut, Dragons Walk Among Us, which Kirkus Reviews calls, “An inspirational and socially relevant fantasy.”
Please help me welcome today’s guest, C.B. Oresky…
Hello C.B., please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I grew up in suburban New Jersey. Over the years, I have collected a wheelbarrow full of degrees. I have a passion for plants and can grow just about anything. I currently live in a small town in Connecticut that most people have never heard of called Gales Ferry. I have a body-builder husband, a naughty Scottie dog and cat, ten chickens, and a magnificent perennial garden.
Where did you get the idea for The Warlock’s Curse?
My debut novel all began as a dream… I sailed a white ship on a pristine sea of whispering turquoise waves. The inhabitants of this alien watery world, mystical whales, surrounded my vessel, their eerie voices lifted in song. I made a story out of this…and other magical dreams.
What is your favorite scene in The Warlock’s Curse
There are many wonderful scenes in The Warlock’s Curse, but my favorite occurs when Captain Claudius Grace brings his twin granddaughters on an oceanic journey to encounter magical whales. He hopes the massive leviathans will open the portal to their birthplace: the realm of Oceana where the wise Master lives. Far beneath the rolling waves, The King and Queen of the Whales sing a haunting song. A massive ethereal whale appears swimming right before Claudius’s approaching schooner. The phantasm of a whale opens its yawning maw. Claudius’s schooner hangs momentarily on the edge of the watery precipice of light, then slips straight down the monster’s wide-open chasm.
How did you come up with the book’s title?
I kept the title to my book short as suggested by my diligent, hawk-eyed editor. Of course, the title also had to do something with the story. My original title for my novel was The Master, The Captain, The Warlock, and The Warrior, however this was longer than a flight to the moon. I therefore shortened the title to The Warlock’s Curse, as the story is about twin sisters going on a perilous journey to remove an ancient curse.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
The theme in my life is software developer by day, writer by night. I do like writing code…it’s like composing a symphony. However, if I could, I’d prefer to write full time.
What do you dislike that most people wouldn’t understand?
It may sound weird, but I dislike shopping… I’m not into running after a bunch of stuff that just doesn’t make me happy.
What’s your favorite childhood book?
I love C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. This quick-moving adventure is full of amazing imagery and sensory delights. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I feel the soft fur coats as the children jostle through the wardrobe. I hear the snow crunch under their feet and shiver in the bitter cold as they traipse through the forever frozen land the White Witch has enchanted. Finally, I love the deep magic found in Narnia: the mystical, speaking animals that are so believable…the written wonders that whisk me off to a place so real—I never want to leave.
What actors would you like in the main roles if your book were made into a movie?
A monkey, two Siamese cats, dancing whales… Wait! This actually is a really good question. I’ve always thought that if my book were made into a movie, I’d like it to be cast by unknown actors with loads of talent. It gets tiring to see the same people over-and-over again in films. I believe in giving someone new a chance.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, where Strider, secretly Aragorn the true king of Gondor, appears to be a mere Ranger.
“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
This quote is for all those that run against the wind and holds a message about ceasing judgement on outer looks alone. From the moment one is born, the busy bees of society are whispering in your ear…how to act, how to be. Many are followers, attracted to the flash…a rolex or bmw gives one a certain status. But what about someone with purpose and inner goodness…all that is beautiful and true, existing without glitter. Someone who wanders their own path, following their own internal calling, may be seen as a fool, but may truly be a queen or king. To be true to one’s own calling involves strength and perseverance in the face of darkness and strife.
Your most prized material possession? Why?
My Scottie dog, of course. Scottie dogs are so adorable, loving, and intelligent…they keep me on my toes for sure.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
So long and thanks for the food…
If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please 🙂
I would spend time with Phileus, The Bliss, a joyous, magical creature who transmits healing light, loves nature, and only takes what little he needs. I would explore his enchanting underground home full of plants, gardens, flowers, and relaxing pools of hot water. On this adventure I would certainly enjoy listening to his words of wisdom about cherishing the natural world.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are a few important messages in my novel… The importance of caring for our good Earth. Also, no matter how bad life gets, there is always someone out there who will lend a helping hand. Finally, Magic exists and is everywhere.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I idolize J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of fantasy. I love how Tolkien’s artistry with words, masterfully paints scene after scene about a magical world where creatures talk and everything from the trees to the mountains seem alive. The Oxford English scholar could do it all when it came to world building: he created his own languages, geography, unique races, and relatable characters who fought for justice and those they love. I find myself easily swept away into his ingenious books and totally connected to the characters.
Twin sisters on a perilous journey to remove an ancient curse…
Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.
Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.
The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master. But all is not a bouquet of lovely lilies…they are hunted by a cunning warlock and must rid themselves of The Warlock’s Curse.
Winner of The Literary Titan Gold Award
“Help! Please help!” Angelica cried, turning toward the direction the voice had come from.
Veils of darkness greeted her eyes.
Suddenly, a strange sight seized both girls’ attention. The oddest-looking creature the girls had ever seen emerged from the gloom, waddling along a curved path near the pool’s edge. Its shape gradually came into view.
The squat creature stood about two feet tall, an amethyst stud adorning its short nose, its long face crowned by a single lock of fair curly hair. In place of normal clothing, a grasshopper-green mossy material covered its small hands and feet, while an amber mesh filament, appearing like thinly braided laces, swathed its arms and back. It eagerly flew toward the girls, appearing like a goldfinch, its smooth, translucent body quivering like firm jelly and glowing as the shimmering sun. The creature’s unforgettably deep eyes were grave and dark and splashed with touches of ocher, like glossy black beetles.
Clara trembled in her well-worn boots, imagining the approaching creature as a monster in some horror movie. She wrapped her wool cape more tightly about her, wishing it might somehow guard her from harm.
Angelica also eyed the peculiar-looking being fearfully and staggered back a step.
The golden creature stopped just short of them.
“It smells good…like meadow grass and flowers,” Clara whispered.
“Hummmmmm, Hummmmm,” its melodious voice buzzed, like bees flitting over flowers. The odd creature licked its rubbery lips.
Fascinated by the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, award winning author, C.B. Oresky, began writing her own fantasy novel, The Warlock’s Curse, after dreaming of being whisked off to an alien realm. Besides her debut novel, she has seen four of her short stories published in a small, national literary press: Conceit Magazine. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through the woods, dancing flamenco, or planting flowers in her garden. She currently lives in a small town in Connecticut with her bodybuilder husband, their exceptionally naughty Scottish terrier and Siamese cat, ten chickens, and a yard filled with majestic flowers.
Please help me welcome today’s guest, Avis M. Adams…
Good morning, Avis…please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I am a Pacific Northwest native, and I love this area. All of my books take place in this region (so far). I live on a farm that was my grandparents homestead of ninety acres. I still have 3 ½ acres. I have two grown children, a son who is married and lives a mile down the road on a beautiful lake, and a daughter who is married and lives in Portland with my granddaughter. I have one rambunctious dog named Zero after the ghost dog in A Nightmare Before Christmas.
Where did you get the idea for The Christmas Wish Knotts?
I chose The Christmas Wish Knotts for my title because it is part of the TWRP Christmas Cookies Series, but also because of the importance of the changing name of these cookies. They begin as Knotts, then become Wedding Knotts, then Friendship Knotts, then Thanksgiving Knotts, and finally by the end of the book, they are Christmas Wish Knotts, because Sif’s wishes come true.
Why did you choose this genre (is it something you’ve written in before)?
I wrote this book as a challenge from my crit group. Almost all of us took a stab, and two of us got ours published. I’d never written romance before, so I enlisted my best friend Nancy. With her cat, Mr. Martini, we sat for hours laughing and plotting out this book. It was so fun, and we had done so much plotting that when I sat down to write, the book practically wrote itself. Nancy died last spring of renal failure, but I have the memories of writing this book with her, and all the fun and laughter, and the pride I took in telling her the book would be published.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
As I said, I’d never written a romance, and my friend Nancy loves romance, so I picked her brain, and she told me: this is when they have their first kiss, and this is when they have a disagreement, and this is when the misunderstanding takes place, etc. Her cat was on her lap the whole time, so he was given a major role, but Nancy’s condo and her million-dollar view really stole the scene, pun intended. It was a blast to write, and I miss my friend with all my heart, but she is alive in this book! She is the bad-ass lawyer.
What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular? The most difficult thing about this book is Nancy isn’t here for the release party. She’s here in spirit, though, lifting her glass and toasting. P.S. Her favorite drink was a lemon drop martini. 😊
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
I’ve been an English Instructor at Green River College for almost thirty years. I had a coveted tenure-track position but retired early so that I could focus on my writing. I still teach one class, though, because I love working with students to help them become better writers. Also, I love to read and write, and I get to do both at my job, which is more vocation than job. I still can’t believe I get paid to do this!
What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?
I love to write poetry, and many of my friends and relatives can’t understand why and tell me they don’t understand poetry or even like poetry. I’ve also published a book of poetry, Quilcene. Over the years, I have published many single poems, and some have won awards.
Do you collect anything?
I collect many things, but books are a major love of mine, and one type is graphic novel versions of Beowulf! I love seeing the artists’ rendition of Grendel! My favorite version is by Gareth Hinds. He draws an amazing Grendel and a fierce dragon. I have since given that collection to my eleven-year-old nephew. I also collect picture pop-up books, and my favorite was a book that started my collection. I bought it thinking it was an illustrated “Jabberwocky,” and I wanted to see how they imagined the monster. When it arrived, I was so confused them delighted to find it was an amazing and beautiful pop-up book.
What was your first job?
My first job was veterinary assistant and horse farm worker. I lived and worked on Blue Spruce Farm where the vet I worked for raised thoroughbreds, had a stallion he used for breeding, and a horse hospital with an operating room and barn for animal recovery and rehab. I assisted in operations and learned to give injections, dress wounds, and the special care these beautiful animals needed. My first love has always been horses, and this was an amazing job, but it was also physically demanding. Once when they brought in a truckload of hay, the men were so disgusted to find me as their helper. They thought I was a runty boy until I took of my stocking cap, and they saw I was a girl. I was eighteen and looked twelve. I was so angry that I pushed myself to keep up with them, and later vomited for my efforts. I didn’t let the guys know, though. They let me drink beer with them after, slapping me on the back, and teasing me about being the toughest runt they’d ever met.
What’s the main thing that you could get rid of in your life that would give you more writing time?
My farm and my dog. I’m in the process of doing that now, and it’s breaking my heart. The housing market sucks, and I love my dog, so each day I’m still here is a blessing because I really don’t want to do this, but financially it’s a must. My dog is going to a new home, and I’m happy that she’ll be on an even bigger farm with people who know how to handle tough dogs. My big house and yard still need to be vacuumed, mowed, and tended, and the dog still needs to be walked, but I look forward to the days when I can spend my mornings writing without interruption, and save my energy for revisions instead of marathon lawn mowing sessions, window washing, and worrying about the bills that come with a big house and farm.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read The Christmas Wish Knotts?
I want my readers to think about our planet, or think about relationships, or about an ever-changing world and our place in it. My first novel is about climate change. It’s a genre known as clifi with elements of dystopia. I wanted to discuss this important issue without preaching or being too pedantic, but I wanted people to think about climate change, and perhaps do something about it. I love dystopian novels, but they always show a world after something happened, and the reader often doesn’t find out what it was that destroyed the world. I wanted to write the book that showed the event that changed everything, and created a world where people had to struggle and work together to survive. I guess the short answer is I want people to come away with the fact that our world can change at any moment, and we need to pay attention and prepare if we can. We need to make good decisions if we want to continue to enjoy the privileges we enjoy.
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
I would rather have a bad review. I’m not afraid of bad reviews. They are thought provoking, and I think readers want to know why a person only gave a book one or two stars. It brings attention to the book. I just hope not all my reviews are bad ones! So far, I’ve been lucky. 😊
One woman’s journey from jilted bride to independent woman who believes, once again, that wishes can come true.
Sif dropped her bouquet. “This is all my fault. If I only . . .”
“None of this is your fault.” Nanc took her hands and gripped them. “Look at me. He did this. Not you. We’ll see him in court.”
“What will I do with two-hundred Wedding Knotts?” Sif rubbed her eyes trying not to smear her mascara. Who cared about mascara?
“Send them to Boris’s family?” Dad said. “I thought it was odd when they didn’t show.”
Mom brushed a strand of hair from Sif’s face. “I never liked him, by the way.”
Avis Adams loves to write. Her first YA novel, The Incident, released in 2022. Several of her poems have won awards and been published online and in various literary journals, and Quilcene, her first chapbook was released in 2019. She belongs to the Baker Street Writers Group, and the Flamingo Writers, and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She loves to present sessions on writing craft at local conferences. She lives in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, where she writes, hikes, kayaks, gardens, and walks her dog. She teaches English at a local community college.
Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Barbara Bettis…
Emily and I Share a Fascination with Newspapers
When I decided to write a story for The Wild Rose Press series Wylder West, the choice of a major plot element was almost a given.
There was no question of what my heroine would do. Work at a newspaper of course. The fictional town of Wylder is set in 1870s Wyoming, some fifteen miles from Cheyenne.
Nearly every frontier town had a newspaper of one kind or another. Daily, weekly, twice-monthly—didn’t matter. Having news and information available to residents was considered almost a necessity. News reports from around the world that could be accessed by newspapers were sent via telegraph, although news organizations like The Associated Press charged a fee and contracted with only one paper per town (at that time). Formed May 22, 1846 by five New York newspapers, the AP is still in operation.
Back to frontier news—not every paper that came into existence lasted long. In fact, papers had a tendency to pop into existence and then out again fairly regularly. On the other hand, some produced both daily and weekly editions. Editors of course were influential.
In the1870s, real Cheyenne newspapers flourished. It seemed easy to have a weekly paper nearby. And of course, Emily should have a contact there—actually, her brother had just purchased the Wylder Sun a year or so before Emily decided to visit him and give him a hand with the operation.
She was a natural for the job. In Kansas City, where she lived with her parents, she periodically wrote an opinion column for the fledgling Kansas City Star. Of course, she published under her initials and last name so none would know the author was a female.
Respectable females didn’t write political comment that doubled as opinion columns. Respectable females would never allow their names to be used in such a manner. If they wrote at all, it might be a society piece that reflected a women’s place in the home. They all had pen names of some sort.
(You’ve undoubtedly heard the old saying that a lady’s name should appear in newspapers only three times during her life: birth, wedding, and death.)
Emily’s career as a columnist came a few years before the famous Nelly Bly went to work for the Pittsburgh Dispatch and ultimately did a tremendous job of enlarging the role of women in newspaper reporting and writing.
Emily, as my first Western heroine, was rather doomed to become a newspaper lady because that’s what I was every day of my life for twelve years before I went into teaching. And after that, every other summer during my teaching career. (Alternate summers I worked on my doctorate). Throughout the year, as a stringer, I occasionally did stories for the local daily news. I taught newspaper reporting and editing at an area four year college, and I firmly believed—and still do—the discipline demanded practice in order to keep up with the changes in the industry.
Yes, I am saddened at the demise of many newspapers now that technology makes television and internet news so available. But both have a place in the news business.
The ability of newspapers to do thorough, often lengthy, investigation into topics is one that most electronic organizations don’t duplicate.
Although retired, I still share with Emily a passion for getting accurate, objective, complete reports out to readers.
In Last Stop, Wylder, her passion for newspaper writing is central to her personal story. I hope you enjoy reading, as well, how it plays a part in her romance with Morgan.
A gunman’s word is his bond, and a lady’s heart can shatter.
Gunman Morgan Dodd is headed to a new life in California, where no one knows his name. Or his reputation. Just one last job to raise money for his fresh start—gunhand for a railroad agent in Wyoming. Easy enough. Until he meets the woman who could change everything.
After ending her engagement, Emily Martin longs for independence. She sets out for Wylder, Wyoming, to help her brother with his newspaper. But when she arrives, she finds he’s off investigating a story. Well, then! She’ll simply publish the paper herself until he returns. Emily’s prepared to face challenges, but not the dangerous stranger who ambushes her heart. The same man hired to destroy her livelihood.
When a common enemy threatens, Morgan and Emily must find a way to defeat danger and save their budding love. But a gunman’s word is his bond, and a lady’s trust can shatter.
The stranger had winked, cool as you please. Should she be insulted? Angry? Oh! She’d neglected to thank him. Now she was embarrassed.
Her brother had much to explain. And I have a lot to learn. More than she’d imagined.
Tommy unwrapped the reins, unlocked the brake, and the horse clopped forward. “Where to, ma’am?”
She straightened her back, firmed her shoulders, and waved her hand in front of her nose to dispel engine fumes. “The newspaper office, please.”
The reins jerked and the horse stopped. The youth’s face beamed red again.
Multi-award-winning author Barbara Bettis can’t recall a time she didn’t love adventures of daring heroes and plucky heroines. A retired journalist and college English and journalism teacher, she lives in Missouri where she tries to keep her grandchildren supplied with cookies. When she’s not editing for others, she’s working on her own stories with heroines to die for– and heroes to live for.
Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Amber Dalton and her heroine, Belle Hamlin…
Hi, readers. I’m Belle Hamlin, the heroine from Amber Daulton’s new romantic suspense novel, Arresting Benjamin. I’m excited to talk about my greatest passion—playing music. It’s also my career, but the money I make from it dumps it into the hobby category. Yep, that’s right. I’m a struggling musician with a dreaded day job at an insurance company that is sucking the life out of me.
I live in Denver, Colorado, but I travel all across the state for a paying gig. I mostly play at bars and clubs, but sometimes I perform covers of classic songs for weddings, birthdays, and funerals. I can’t afford to be picky when it comes to a reputable gig. You’ll often find my best friends—Mia, Chanel, and Shea—running the merchandise table for me at a bar. They’re my biggest supporters. (By the way, have you checked out their oh-so-sexy books yet? You can find them here.)
Anyway, I need my music like I need the air to breathe. My heroes are music legends like Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Nicks, so I write both folky and rock ballads. Since I draw inspiration from my own personal experience, most of my songs delve into relationships gone bad. I’ve met a lot of fans at my shows, and I’m honored and humbled every time someone tells me how much they relate to the pain, frustration, and rage I’ve vented into my songs. I write from the heart, but sometimes it’s hard to share my pain and humiliation so openly. It’s worth it, though, if I can make anyone feel better about themselves and let them know they aren’t alone. Music should heal and offer hope, and that’s my goal in writing and playing music.
Since several of my songs lean toward man-bashing and revenge tales, I thought for sure that Benji, my new guy, would run far away once he heard them. Thankfully, he proved me wrong. I gotta say, Benji has made me happy and healed some of my wounds, but that’s put a dent in my angsty creative process. Now, I’m not knocking our relationship or anything, but I’ve written a few sappy love songs lately and they clash with my damn-all-men-to-hell songs. I’m worried I’ll lose fans if I don’t keep up my angry, bad girl rocker persona with lyrics that match, but I write what I feel, and I’m in love. Sue me.
All in all, though, songwriting and performing is who I am. It’s my hobby, career, and passion all wrapped into one. I can’t be anyone other than who I am, and I don’t want to be.
Are you interested in reading about one of my performances? Check out the excerpt below. It’s in Benji’s POV, but I think he did a good job of describing the situation.
With enemies at every turn, how will they survive with their lives and love intact?
A one-night stand, a surprise baby, and a mysterious stalker.
Mechanic Benjamin Starwell can’t stop thinking about Belle Hamlin, the ballsy musician he slept with and skipped out on months earlier. He never meant to get her pregnant, but he’ll do whatever it takes to win back her trust and be a part of his child’s life. His desire for Belle drives him to be a better man, but he’s worn thin with a garage to run and his estranged sister dumping her troubles on him.
Belle’s juggling impending motherhood, her indie rock career, and a stalker who’s determined to see her fail. Even though she’s desperate to get her priorities straight, she pushes aside her past hurt and welcomes Benji back into her bed. She never expects him to slip into her heart.
When the danger escalates, they face the greatest challenge of all—protecting their unborn child.
Benji’s heart pounded harder as Belle strutted onto the stage from a rear door. Her hips swayed with a ba-dum beat as her hair flapped behind her shoulders. Was there an air vent above her? Dark eye shadow, mascara, and a dark slash of blush on her cheeks deepened her sultry eyes. Her lips swelled like a juicy plum. God, was her lipstick purple? Burgundy, maybe? She bent over, showing off her fine ass, and plugged her acoustic-electric guitar into the amp.
A baby-faced gopher carried a stool and a water bottle to the middle of the platform.
She patted him on the back and stared out at the crowd.
Several men ogled her, despite the baby bump. Their lady friends laughed, but some frowned and slapped the guys’ arms.
Wow. Benji swallowed hard. What he wouldn’t do to unzip her knee-high leather boots, pull down her stockings, and flip up her short pleated skirt? Her red sleeveless blouse emphasized the breasts he couldn’t wait to suckle.
“Hiya, Tempes lovers! How ya doin’? Thanks for coming out in this cold weather.” Her voice echoed through the speakers. The lights lit Belle and the stage in a soft white glow. She strummed the guitar, testing it, as the audience shouted. “I’m Belle Hamlin, and this badass girl is Matilda.” She held up the sunburst-finished instrument. “We’ll rock you for the next hour, so let’s get started.” She ignored the stool, jumping into a song as her fans applauded. Deep, rumbling chords reverberated from the guitar and speakers.
“She’s starting with ‘Stay True’.” Chanel clapped. “It’s my favorite.”
“This is rock-and-roll. She sang folk and singer/songwriter-type stuff the night we met.” He bit his lip as her friends stood and danced in place.
“What did you expect? She’s a solo female artist sandwiched between testosterone-filled rock bands. She has to up her game.” Shea tapped his CD case and flashed a grin. “Give it a whirl later. Belle is a cross between Melissa Etheridge, Stevie Nicks, and Eric Clapton. Her guy issues and social opinions bleed into her songs.”
Wonderful. Guy issues. He had his work cut out for him.
Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through Daulton Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.
Please help me welcome today’s guest, Patricia McAlexander…
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I grew up in Johnstown, New York, a town of about 11,000 in the foothills of the Adirondacks. I lived for a time in New York City and Madison, Wisconsin, attending graduate schools, and in Denver, Colorado, where I taught at an extension of the University of Colorado. I now live in Athens, Georgia, where I moved with my husband when he took a position in the University of Georgia’s English Department—and soon I taught there myself. Our grown-up son lives and works in Atlanta. I’ve had various much loved pets throughout my life—a turtle, a guinea pig, a cat. And there were the dogs. I grew up with a cocker spaniel named Rusty (one of my first words was ‘Russ,”) and later a beagle named George. Here in Athens there was Daisy, a poodle, and Peanut, a dachshund. Right now, however, I’m “between pets.”
Why did you choose this genre (is it something you’ve written in before)?
The genre of The Student in Classroom 6, like that of my first two published novels, is romantic suspense. I chose romance because love is something most of us need and hope for in our lives—look at the themes of songs, movies, literature. Now, in these difficult times, we need such themes more than ever. Also, romance can involve personal growth, something I’m interested in as a teacher. In my fiction, I portray individuals further developing their own values and identities as they discover love. I included the suspense (in this novel, a murder mystery) to add extra drama to the romance.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
A specific event inspired this novel. I live on an historic street in Athens, Georgia, lined with old houses and huge, old trees. One night my husband and I came out of our house to find the road and sidewalk in front of it completely blocked by gigantic magnolia limbs. Part of the ancient tree across the street had split off and fallen. The city cleaned up the road, but a private tree service had to come and take down the dangerous remaining portion of the tree. From our porch we had a front row seat, watching the drama of the tree removal and the skilled men up in the bucket and at its base taking it down. That event inspired me to create one of the main characters in The Student in Classroom 6—Tyler McHenry, the young arborist taking Katherine Holiday’s continuing education course.
What is the most difficult thing about writing a book? What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?
Fort me, the most difficult thing about writing a book is accurately portraying situations and actions I’m not familiar with. I do a lot of research, a lot of Googling, to find answers to questions that arise. For example, for The Student in Classroom 6, I researched the arborist profession—I even read an instruction manual on operating bucket trucks—and interviewed the owner of a local business, New Urban Forestry, who answered my questions and let me come with his team to one of their work sites.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
I’m now retired, but I taught literature and writing at the college level—first as an instructor at the University of Colorado, then as teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin, and finally as a professor going through the tenure and promotion process at The University of Georgia. In all these places, one thing stayed the same: I loved working with students.
What was your first job?
In the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, my hometown, Johnstown, New York, was a center of the glove-making industry. I worked in a glove factory for two summers while I was a college undergraduate. Maybe someday I’ll write a novel about those experiences. It would be an historical novel—according to some sources, these novels are about a time period at least 25 years before the book was written.”(It’s hard to believe, but novels set in 1987 would thus be considered historical.) The glove factories have all closed now.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I’ve written Second Wives, an historical novel based on my ancestors who emigrated from Baden (now part of modern Germany) to New York in 1850. It is about my widowed great-great-grandfather, Martin Kornmeyer, who sold all his belongings and, with his seven children and a servant, Rosa, sailed from Rotterdam on the Jane E. Williams, arriving in the New York harbor on October 7. He married Rosa, bought land in Boonville, New York, and farmed, as did his oldest son. The novel goes on to describe the life of Martin’s granddaughter, my grandmother, who was twice married. I’ve visited the cemeteries where Martin and Rosa and my grandmother’s two husbands are buried and the farm where my grandmother grew up. I’ve just returned from a cruise on the Rhine—tracing the route the original family surely traveled by barge to reach Rotterdam. Second Wives has not yet been published. I say “not yet,” as I hope someday it will be, and in the meantime, I continue to learn more about these ancestors and revise it.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Many of the characters in my novels are at least in part based on real people. In The Student in Classroom 6, Tyler’s mother, a strong woman who home-schooled Tyler, is inspired by my own mother. Also woman with a strong personality, Mom was my high school Latin teacher, and before that she homeschooled a physically handicapped girl who at that time could not attend the high school in person. Just as Tyler’s mother was a contrast to his arborist father, my intellectual mother was a contrast to my more pragmatic father, a coach and teacher of what was then called “industrial arts.” Of course, my English teacher protagonist, Katherine Holiday. is based in part on myself.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
They are some of my biggest fans, and I appreciate them greatly.
How did you come up with the title?
I thought the title “The Student in Classroom 6” reflected both the suspense and the romance of the novel. There has been a murder on the campus of The University of Georgia, and for all anyone knows, the murderer might be a student—even one of the students in protagonist Katherine Holiday’s continuing education class, which meets in Classroom 6. And in the back of that classroom there is that the sexy, intelligent young man to whom she is strongly attracted.
How much of the book is realistic?
Much of The Student in Classroom 6 is grounded in reality, drawing on my experiences teaching at the University of Georgia and living in Athens. At the same time, of course, I tweaked that reality to advance my plot. For example, Katherine teaches adult continuing education classes, but by 2009, the year most of this novel takes place, such classes for UGA credit were no longer offered—and even when they had been, they were not part of faculty members’ regular assignments. The campus murder takes place near an outside elevator with a glass through which the killer apparently saw his victim descending. An outside elevator does exist at UGA’s Psychology-Journalism building, but it has no window.
Although a faculty member has been killed on campus and the murderer is still at large, English instructor Katherine Holiday never suspects the criminal might be one of her students. In fact, there’s a man in her adult evening class she wishes she could know better.
Seeing no need for a college degree, Tyler McHenry, a partner in his father’s successful tree service, writes fiction for his own pleasure. No one at the University needs to know his personal reasons for enrolling in a first-year composition course. Still, he finds himself fascinated by the pretty teacher, who believes his writing should be published.
“You know, Ms. Holiday,” Tyler said as he walked with her back to her porch, “it was against regulations to bring you up in the bucket. Only accredited personnel are supposed to go up.” He paused. “Just like it’s probably against regulations for University instructors to get too friendly with students in their class.”
“It is,” she said, feeling somehow bold. “But if you can break a rule, I can. Would you like to come in for a beer?”
“That may not be so wise. I am an owner of this tree business and an owner of the bucket truck. I was not worried about breaking that rule tonight. I knew it was safe for you when I brought you up in the bucket. That is not the way it is with you and the University. And you don’t know—” he hesitated.
He smiled a little, as if joking. “Whether you’d be safe alone in your house with me.”
Patricia McAlexander is from upstate New York. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English She is now living in Athens, Georgia, with her Southerner husband, whom she met as a graduate student in Wisconsin. As a teenager, Pat wrote fiction for her friends, but she turned to academic writing with her career. Now retired from the University of Georgia, she has renewed her interests in photography, travel, and history—and in writing fiction.
Please help me welcome today’s guest, Joylene Nowell Butler…
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I am Canadian/Métis, the author of the suspense novels Dead Witness, Maski: Broken But Not Dead, Break Time, and Matowak. Dead Witness was a finalist in the 2012 Global eBook Awards, and Broken But Not Dead won a silver medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards in New York.
Born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, I am the youngest of three children of Charles (Charlie) Murray Nowell, veteran, farmer and truck driver, and Gabrielle Frances, a member of the wartime singing trio The Desjardins Sisters. When my father was discharged from the Navy, he moved us from Victoria to Haney (Maple Ridge) B.C.
I grew up with horses, cows, pigs, chickens, cats and dogs. A die-hard tomboy, I received a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Philosophy from Douglas College and attended Simon Fraser University.
In 1979, my husband and I moved our five sons to Prince George, BC. In 1992 we built a log/stick home on Cluculz Lake, 36 km east of Vanderhoof. Twenty-five years later, we sold our house and today split our time between Bucerias, Nayarit and Cluculz Lake, B.C.
Where did you get the idea for KISS OF THE ASSASSIN?
I wrote the first half of Kiss of the Assassin, my second manuscript, in 1991 and finished it in early 1993. I think it began with the question: Can a child survive the most unspeakable tragedy?
This is me guessing that it began with that question because it was 30 years ago and, honestly, I don’t remember. While writing my third novel I noticed that all my novels begin with a question, and they all exhibit the same theme: the parent/child relationship. The nice thing is that despite having written Kiss of the Assassin so long ago, every time I pulled it out and reread it, I was amazed that I’d written such an intense and riveting story so early in my career.
Q: Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
It’s painful to receive a negative review but better than no review at all. That’s another reason I advise authors not to read their reviews. You’ll never satisfy every reader every time. It’s impossible. Bad reviews create controversy. Controversy stimulates book sales. If you receive 100 bad reviews and 100 good ones, buyers notice. They’re curious about what side of the spectrum they’ll fall on. One hundred readers took the time to read your book and leave a negative review. But one hundred also took time to leave a positive review. Which begs the question: How many enjoyed the book but kept their thoughts to themselves?
Statistics have proven that reviews are essential. It’s about word-of-mouth. More reviews, more visibility. Good or bad. I don’t concern myself about bad reviews because I know I wrote the best novel I could write.
Q: What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I once had a beta reader tell me that if she had a hard copy of my book, she would have thrown it across the room. She said my protagonist was a wimp. That was tough to hear, but it made me want to be a better writer. The book in question eventually became a finalist in the Global e-Book Awards.
The best compliment I ever received was when a Vietnam Veteran read a draft of Kiss of the Assassin and asked me when had I been in-country. Meaning: Was I a Vietnam Vet? When I told him I wasn’t, he was stunned.
Q: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Thank you, Alicia, for asking that question. I think there are two messages in Kiss of the Assassin.
Firstly, I hope anyone reading this novel comes away believing that no matter how traumatic a childhood, you are a miracle, a miracle that deserves to be happy. Don’t let the past beat you down. And if it has—get back up!
Secondly, even in a harsh and cruel world, lost and broken souls can find each other.
Q: How much of the book is realistic?
Another good question. I write suspense thrillers, so I hope my novel seems realistic. If it doesn’t, I’ve failed. My job is to pull you into the story and make these events and characters seem real. That’s what I, as a reader, want in a novel.
Q: Your favorite…
Movie – The Jason Bourne movies and The Polar Express.
Music – Rock, Jazz, Classical, and Reiki Music.
Place you’ve visited – United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Indonesia, U.K., and Bali. I love Canada so much, I’ve driven across it four times, once by myself.
Thank you, Joylene…I’ve enjoyed getting to know you!
Readers, Joylene is offering a Giveaway!!! One winner will receive an ePub version of Kiss of the Assassin. To enter, comment and share the post on Twitter. (You can use the Twitter button under ‘Share This” found at the bottom of the post).
Marina Antonovna, a Soviet spy, and Mateo Arcusa, an American homicide lieutenant, first meet in Cambodia during the Vietnam War as enemies. Fearful that the most powerful man in the Soviet Union, KGB Chairman Vladimir Kurenkov, has ordered her death, Marina risks everything to defect to the United States. She promises Mateo that her days as an assassin are over. Vladimir is determined to do whatever it takes to bring her back and, by threatening Mateo’s life, forces Marina to break her promise.
“Maybe you do value life,” he [Mateo]said as if she hadn’t spoken. “You spared mine. Why?”
For the first time since childhood, Marina could not focus. Memories of Cambodia were clear enough, but her thoughts weren’t. Too many unresolved sentiments. How could she answer? She looked away from his intense mien and pressed the back of her hand to her moist forehead. A chill swept across her arms and she shivered. She had spared him because…?
Whatever the reason, a drunk didn’t deserve an answer.
Her head tilted, looking up at the stars. True, he wasn’t just any drunk. But what good would the answer serve? It would bring back no one.
“Your V.C. buddy wanted to kill me,” he said. “You stopped him. Look, I don’t want to know your secrets. I just want to know why me? Why did you risk getting me back over the border? To imply I was a traitor? The CIA had a lot of questions I couldn’t answer. Mostly ’cause I couldn’t remember. Lucky for you, my memory was one gigantic fog until tonight.”
“Are you threatening me, Sergeant?”
“No. I told you I wouldn’t tell anyone and I won’t.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because I’d have told the CIA about you when I had the chance. I didn’t.”
“And now? They suspect you of treason. Point the finger at me and problem solved.”
“And have your death on my conscience? No thanks. Look, as I said before, I’m not asking for state secrets; I just want to know why you stopped him from putting a bullet in my brain. Tell me, and I’ll be out of your life forever.”
Again, Marina reiterated in her mind that she owed him nothing. “I have to go. My guardian will be wondering where I’ve gone.” She jumped down and brushed off her backside, moving past him. His fingertips skimmed across her arm and her skin tingled.
“I’m haunted—can’t you see that? My brothers are dead. Please, I need to know why I’m alive. Is there a reason? What reason? Is it my second…third chance or just a fluke?”
Marina kept walking. “I’m sorry, sergeant. I can’t help you.”
Joylene Butler lives with her husband in the tiny village of Cluculz Lake in central BC, Canada in the summers and Bucerias, Nayarit in the winters. She is the author of three suspense novels and a contributor to one anthology.