Interview: Mary Hogan, author of LEFT: A LOVE STORY

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Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I was a nerdy, chubby, lonely kid who felt like the only nerdy, chubby, lonely kid in the world. My middle school librarian took pity on me and introduced me to books about girls like me. I devoured them! Back then, there were so few young adult novels I felt bereft when I’d read them all. So, I started writing stories about girls like me. And women like me. And families like mine.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I like to think my work is a nice blend of humor and heartbreak. Like life.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

I’m obsessed with the “Anns”: Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, Annie Proulx. I read my first Anne Tyler novel, “Searching for Caleb” one night in my college dorm room. I found it in the lounge. Wow. How could a person write so well? That night I decided to aim for the pinnacle: to be an Ann. Still working in it.

FUN STUFF

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

I walk my dog in the park with my ear buds in and the other end tucked into my pocket so people will think I’m talking to someone when I’m actually plotting the next chapter aloud.

How many donuts are you capable of eating in one sitting?

Capable or willing? Capable: Numerous, especially if hot. Not pretty.

Willing: None.

Say there’s like a whole box of your favorite snack in a room all by themselves. Say I left them there and told you not to eat any until I got back. How long would it take you to disobey my wishes?

I would never disobey you. My parents taught me that bad girls go to hell.

If I gave you a pencil and piece of paper and told you to draw something funny, what would you draw?

This sentence: Ifs, ands, and butts. Then, I’d draw a bottom. See, you’re smiling, aren’t you? 

Do you have a favorite Girl Scout Cookie?

I LOVE anything with the word, “butter” in it. So, I’d have to say Butter Cookies.

How many times does it take for you to listen to a song that you love before you actually hate it instead?

My favorite song is still, “Call Me Maybe.” Nuf said.

Finally, and this one is important, so please pay attention What do you think cats dream about?

No idea. I have a dog. But I DO know that dogs dream about running because their feet wiggle in their sleep.

This or That?

Tea or Coffee? Strong, black coffee

Winter or Summer? Winter

Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla (with chocolate chips)

Vintage or New? Vintage

Fried or Scrambled? Fried, over medium

 

Aboutthebook

Left_PB

It started as a dream vacation in Spain, with Fay and Paul Agarra enjoying all the delights of a European holiday. A respected New York City judge, Paul has always been the man Fay can rely on, no matter what. When he inexplicably disappears from a Barcelona street corner, Fay knows something is terribly wrong. Once reunited, Paul shrugs off the episode as a simple misunderstanding—but Fay suspects her almost perfect life has taken a dark and sudden turn. Soon there are more signs that Paul is beginning to change. Bouts of forgetfulness lead to mistakes in the courtroom. Simple tasks cause unexplainable outbursts of anger. Fay’s worst suspicions are realized when she learns her husband—her rock, her love, her everything—is succumbing to the ravages of dementia. As her husband transforms before her very eyes, Fay copes with her fears by retreating into a fantasy life filled with promise instead of pain. In Fay’s invented world, she imagines herself living a glamorous life free from heartache, with a handsome neighbor she barely knows rescuing her from a future she can’t accept. Poignant and beautifully crafted, Left is an unforgettable tale about life’s aching uncertainties—and a woman who discovers that somewhere between hope and reality, an unexpected future will find its way forward.

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PRAISE FOR LEFT

“A touching novel. The book poignantly portrays Faye’s struggle to come to terms with…uncomfortable yet necessary questions about the conditions of love.”—Publishers Weekly

“Hogan (The Woman in the Photo, 2016) does a good job of mixing humor and heartbreak in this sharply observed novel, drawn from her own experience.”Booklist

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MARY HOGAN is the bestselling author of Two Sisters and the historical novel, The Woman in the Photo. Previous novels include the young adult titles, The Serious Kiss, Perfect Girl and Pretty Face (HarperCollins).

Mary lives in New York City with her husband, actor Robert Hogan, and their Catahoula Leopard rescue dog, Lucy. Find out more at MaryHogan.com 

Interview: Ann Mah, author of THE LOST VINTAGE

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A Conversation with Ann Mah, author of The Lost Vintage

You were inspired to write The Lost Vintage after volunteering for the wine harvest in France, which you documented in a travel piece for the New York Times. When did you know you wanted to write this novel?

I first visited Burgundy in 2010 to research an article on Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vineyards in France. The minute I set foot in the region, I was captivated by the vine-covered slopes and charming villages. And if I sensed ghosts there, hovering amid the beauty, they only added to my fascination. I think the seed for this novel was planted then. A few years later, I volunteered to pick grapes at the harvest in Champagne. Harvest volunteers are often given free room and board, and I was put up in an empty attic apartment at the vineyard house. The rooms hadn’t been touched since the 1960s: they were sparsely decorated with mid-century hospital furniture; the floors creaked; the wallpaper was peeling; and at night the rural silence was deafening – and bone-chilling. Even though I was exhausted from long days of physical labor, whenever I lay down to sleep, my imagination would cartwheel. And so, I slept with the lights on, and when I woke, I wrote in my journal. This story was born from those wild scribblings.

Kate, the protagonist in The Lost Vintage, is a wine expert and is studying for the prestigious Master of Wine exam. What is your own history with wine? Do you consider yourself an expert?

It was important to me to be able to write accurately about the wine world, so as part of the research for this book, I took classes through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, which is the same organization that administers the Master of Wine program. I learned just enough to know I’m definitely not an expert! As part of the class we did blind tastings, in which we smelled and tasted different wines and identified flavors from the wine aroma wheel. People would call out things like “dill,” “petrol,” or “green peppers,” and everyone would argue until the teacher came down with the final verdict. My fellow classmates were really competitive. I used to joke that it was like a blood sport.   

As a food and travel writer, of course, you’re always weaving narrative into evocative sensory descriptions of what you’re tasting or seeing, and that skill is apparent in The Lost Vintage, as well. How did you find writing about food and wine different in fiction, if at all?

When I’m writing an article, I’m trying to accurately relate an experience. But for fiction, I can’t imagine two better metaphors than food and wine – they speak to our deepest desires (or disgusts), our most visceral memories. You can communicate so much through a character’s favorite foods. As well, the dinner table remains my absolute favorite setting to write a scene of family conflict – everyone is tidily in one place, but each person has their own motivations and distractions.  

Much of your book deals with history, in particular that of World War II in Europe, and how people reconcile their family legacy with their own values. What prompted you to challenge your characters in this way?

As I mentioned, I was captivated by the beauty of Burgundy – but I felt something ominous there, too. I didn’t really understand it until I started researching World War II and learned more about the “épuration sauvage,” the spontaneous “wild purge” that punished thousands of women throughout France in the days and weeks following the Liberation. Accused of “horizontal collaboration,” or sleeping with the enemy, these women were targeted by vigilante justice and publicly humiliated. Their heads were shaved, they were stripped, paraded through town, smeared with tar, stoned, kicked, beaten, and sometimes killed. Yes, some of them had slept with Germans. Some of them were prostitutes. But some had been raped. Some were women who merely worked for German soldiers, as was the case with one cleaning lady. Some were framed and falsely accused out of jealousy. Many were mothers desperate to feed their starving children. In almost every case, their punishment was far worse than their male counterparts. These women – over 20,000 of them! – were the most vulnerable members of society, and they became scapegoats for a humiliated nation. I felt it was important for their story to finally be told.  

The Lost Vintage shows that though there were many French résistants acting during the war, there were also many French people who essentially supported the Nazis through complicity, often for survival’s sake. As Rose says at one point, “It’s much safer to do nothing.” Do you think these actions are wartime phenomena, or are there ways in which we can show courage or remain complicit in a similar way in day to day life?

I think World War II is ultimately a morality tale and so many years after it, we’d all like to believe we’d have fought for the right side. Of course, the reality is always more complicated – and wartime complicates things even further. I think a lot of regret and shame about the war still lingers in France. If I learned anything while researching this book, it’s that small actions can have unforeseen and lingering consequences.

Aboutthebook

The Lost Vintage cover

About THE LOST VINTAGE

Kate has spent years building her career as a sommelier in San Francisco, despite a weakness for identifying Burgundian vintages. While she’s carefully managed to avoid them thus far, she can no longer do so as she faces her final attempt at passing the notoriously difficult Master of Wine Examination. With the test only a few months away, she travels to her family’s vineyard in Burgundy—a place she has purposefully avoided for nearly a decade—to help with les vendanges, the annual grape harvest. While there, she does everything she can to bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian wine, while also ignoring both the bittersweet memories of her childhood and Jean-Luc, her first love.

While Kate helps her cousin, Nico, and his wife clear the enormous basement of the vineyard house, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, dozens of Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. As Kate digs into her family’s history, her search takes her back to the dark days of WWII and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed: a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation. As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to question who, exactly, her family aided during the difficult years of the war and the fate of six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection.

 

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abouttheauthor

The Lost Vintage Ann Mah authorphoto_credit Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington, DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating and Kitchen Chinese, a novel. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section, and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue.com, BonAppetit.com, Food52, and others.

You can learn more at www.annmah.net.

 

Interview: Vivienne Lorret, author of HOW TO FORGET A DUKE {giveaway}

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Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I come from a long line of storytellers, all gathered around a huge harvest table at my grandparents’ house. On Sundays (when I was a child), my dad and uncles would tell story after story of all the mischief they got into when they were younger. As a young spy in training (my chosen profession at the time), I was a stealthy eavesdropper and found myself enthralled (and sometimes horrified) by their tales. Even so, I was hooked. A child story-addict. I guess I never outgrew it.  

What do you like to read in your free time?

Romantic comedies, mysteries, poetry, nutrition labels (I always have a good laugh over those), and the Starbucks menu.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m currently writing my 2019 release (book #3 in the Misadventures in Matchmaking series), tentatively titled THE ROGUE TO RUIN.

In addition, I’m putting together a proposal for a sub character in a previous book. I’ve received a slew of emails from readers, asking for Lord Holt’s book (he appeared in the novella, Just Another Viscount in Love). It’s such a wonderful blessing!

What do your plans for future projects include?

This December, TEN KISSES TO SCANDAL (book #2 of the Misadventures in Matchmaking series) will be available. And in October, I’ll be hosting a table at the Buns & Roses Tea for Literacy at the Hyatt in Richardson, Texas. So exciting! http://www.bunsandroses.org/

Fun Stuff…

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

Well, I don’t think it’s strange, but I typically wear a black sweater (my son calls it my “writing cloak”), and I start off my day with two big mugs of chai tea. I’ve also been known to partake in the sacrificial ritual of the scone, on occasion.

What is your go-to method for getting rid of hiccups?

Holding my breath while drinking water in a bent over position, from the opposite side of the glass. Works every time.

If I gave you a pencil and piece of paper and told you to draw something funny, what would you draw?

I’d probably write the words “something funny” next to a smiley face. : )

Do you have a favorite Girl Scout Cookie?

Thin mints, fresh or frozen.

Finally, and this one is important, so please pay attention What do you think cats dream about?

World domination.

This or That?

Tea or Coffee?  Tea, always.

Winter or Summer? Fall

TexMex or Italian? Italian

Chocolate or Vanilla?  There is only chocolate. What is this “vanilla” you mentioned?

Bond or Bourne? Bourne

Aboutthebook (1)

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All Jacinda Bourne wants is to find a bride for a handsome, enigmatic duke. There’s only one problem: she’s certain he’s hiding something. Determined to discover what it is, she travels to his crumbling cliffside estate. Yet, by the time she washes up on his beach, she can no longer remember who she is, or why the duke is so familiar to her. All she knows is that his kisses are unforgettable—and she intends to use every skill she can to discover what’s in his heart . . .

When Miss Bourne can’t remember what brought her to his ancestral home, The Duke of Rydstrom intends to keep it that way. Yet as the days pass, his true challenge will be safeguarding his secret while resisting this woman who—confound it all—may well be his perfect match.

Praise for HOW TO FORGET A DUKE

“Lorret’s Misadventures in Matchmaking series starter and print debut sparkles with wit and passion. … A smart, fun charmer!” —RT Book Reviews

“…captivating, passionate, well-crafted … Simply divine!” — Romance Junkies

“This book is absolutely going on my top 10 of the year list.” — Book Besties

“Full of laughter, passion and some characters that fairly leap off the page in their need to be understood and cheered on – this new series from Lorret is sure to please many this summer.” — I Am, Indeed


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abouttheauthor (1)

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USA TODAY bestselling author Vivienne Lorret transforms copious amounts of tea into words. She is an Avon author of The Wallflower Wedding series, The Rakes of Fallow Hall series, The Season’s Original series, and the Misadventures in Matchmaking series. 

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Interview: Jan Reid, author of SINS OF THE YOUNGER SONS

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SINS OF THE

YOUNGER SONS

by

JAN REID

Genre: Literary Fiction / Romance / Spy / Thriller

Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 

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Publication Date: February 28, 2018

Number of Pages: 296 pages

Sins of the Younger Sons has received the Jesse H. Jones Award for Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters! Luke Burgoa is an ex-Marine on a solitary covert mission to infiltrate the Basque separatist organization ETA in Spain and help bring down its military commander, Peru Madariaga. Luke hails from a Basque ancestry that came with the Spanish empire to Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and, seventy-five years ago, to a Texas ranch. Neighbors consider the Burgoas Mexican immigrants and exiles of that nation’s revolution, but the matriarch of the family speaks the ancient language Euskera and honors traditions of the old country. Luke’s orders are to sell guns to the ETA and lure Peru into a trap. Instead he falls in love with Peru’s estranged wife, Ysolina, who lives in Paris and pursues a doctorate about an Inquisition-driven witchcraft frenzy in her native land. From the day they cross the border into the Basque Pyrenees, their love affair on the run conveys the beauty, sensuality, exoticism, and violence of an ancient homeland cut in two by Spain and France. Their trajectory puts Luke, Ysolina, and Peru on a collision course with each other and the famed American architect Frank Gehry, whose construction of a Guggenheim art museum seeks to transform the Basque city of Bilbao, a decrepit industrial backwater haunted by the Spanish Civil War—and a hotbed of ETA extremism. Ranging from the Amazon rain forest to a deadly prison in Madrid, Sins of the Younger Sons is a love story exposed to dire risk at every turn.

 

PRAISE FOR SINS OF THE YOUNGER SONS:

“Reid’s story is a fascinating blend of page-turning thriller and vivid tableau of Basque culture and the movement that battled the Spanish establishment for many decades. A reader can’t ask for more—a book that’s engaging, entertaining, educative, and unique.”  —Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross and The White League

“What a fine book Jan Reid has written!  At once history—both cultural and political—and sensual love story, it reaches beyond genre to make for a magical and profound reading experience.  Don’t start reading it at night unless you want to stay up until dawn and then some.” —Beverly Lowry, author of Who Killed These Girls? and Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life

“Page by page, Sins of the Younger Sons invites the reader to dwell for a while within its unique world, to suffer and celebrate with its unforgettable characters. It’s a trip that, if taken, is well worth the effort.” —Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News

“Sins of the Younger Sons vividly takes us into a world few of us have seen and into a bitter conflict most of us have never considered nor understood.” —Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News

 

 

AuthorInterview

What kinds of writing do you do?

The first decades of my career were defined largely by wide-ranging magazine non-fiction, most of it for Texas Monthly. I’ve now written or collaborated on twelve nonfiction books and three novels. First with The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, three of my nonfictions concern music and the lifestyle and craft of musicians. I’ve written much about football and boxing. I believe my best nonfiction books are Let the People In, a biography of Texas governor Ann Richards, and a memoir of friendship, love, personal crisis and challenge, and Mexico, The Bullet Meant for Me. I’m proudest of my novels Comanche Sundown, about their last war chief and a freed slave cowboy, and Sins of the Younger Sons, a love story and thriller set among the Basque separatist conflict in Spain.

What was the hardest part of writing Sins of the Younger Sons, and what did you most enjoy about it?

The hardest part was shelving a false start for twenty years. I loved the settings and the three major characters—a Basque separatist leader named Peru, his wife Ysolina, and Luke, a covert American intelligence agent who falls in love with her. But I didn’t have enough story to make the novel work, at least to my satisfaction. My greatest enjoyment on returning to the novel was a plot breakthrough that led me to fictionalize as supportive characters the celebrated American architect Frank Gehry and Spanish king Juan Carlos, who led his nation out of the darkness of their civil war and the long fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Which character from your book is most like you?

The protagonist Luke Burgoa.  He’s an ex-Marine, a onetime boxer, and a Texan. He knows the rain forest of the Amazon and its tributaries. He knows horses and mules. And he comes to love el País Vasco, the Spanish-ruled Basque Country and its showpiece coastal city, San Sebastián.

What projects are you working on now?

Both draw on my past experience and in different ways are sequels. A nearly completed novel, The Song Leader, is narrated by an Austin-based rock and roll singer who changes his name to Haid Pecos to hide from his past: an aggravated assault conviction in a Marine court martial and a year of brutal infantry combat in Vietnam. Haid’s marriage to a lawyer has its extreme highs and lows. In his youth he was a gospel song leader in a small church in his hometown Deerinwater (the setting and title of my first novel) and then a state Golden Gloves boxing champion.  First as a sparring partner in the Marines, Haid overcomes the obstacles of his origins and American racial barricades and forms a long friendship with the black heavyweight champion of the 1970s, Ken Norton—and through Norton’s perspective, Haid gains an entertaining sense of Kenny’s great rivals, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Beyond that, involving two characters in Sins of the Younger Sons, I plan to start a novel pitting the separatist rebellion in Catalonia against the Madrid government’s military-style assault on the Catalans and their great city Barcelona.  An infant and little girl in the earlier novel, the protagonist Enara is now a 22-year-old woman. Her father, the ex-spook Luke, is scared to death about what she’s getting herself into.  

What book do you wish you had written?

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.

What is something funny about you that most people don’t know about you?

Even in my old age people still tell me I look like Jimmy Carter.  I consider it a compliment. When he was president I first heard it while traveling in Mexico. “Jeemy!” people would yell. “Jeemy Carter!”        

Author Reid

Jan Reid’s highly praised books include his novel Comanche Sundown, his biography of Texas governor Ann Richards, Let the People In, his memoir of Mexico, The Bullet Meant for Me, and The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. Making his home in Austin, Reid has been a leading contributor to Texas Monthly for over forty years.

 

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Interview: Kat Martin, author of BEYOND CONTROL {giveaway}

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BEYOND CONTROL

The Texas Trilogy, Book 3

by

Kat Martin

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publisher: Zebra

Date of Publication: May 29, 2018

Number of Pages: 368

  

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Present Danger

When Victoria Bradford got engaged, she told herself to give love a chance. Six months later, she’s on the run from her angry, abusive ex-fiancé with her four-year-old daughter and nowhere to go.

Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere. That’s what its new owner, Josh Cain, wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.

One look tells Josh the pretty redhead with the adorable little girl will give him trouble of the most personal kind. But he’s seen trouble before, and he doesn’t scare easy. Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory’s best friend back in Phoenix is abducted and brutalized. Not even when it looks like their current problems are only the tip of the iceberg.

But if he gets too close to fierce, determined Tory, Josh knows his nights are going to be anything but quiet. And that’s one possibility no amount of training can prepare him for…

 

PRAISE FOR BEYOND CONTROL:

“As the excitement in Iron Springs continues, two strangers with tragic pasts form an unbreakable bond. Beyond Control is the last installment in the Texas Trilogy. It’s delightfully fast-paced, riveting, and amazingly compelling. Martin has outdone herself with unpredictable twists and suspense that will leave readers panting for more. Definitely a must-read for readers who enjoy mystery, thrills, and romance to spice up their life.” – RT Reviews Top Pick

“Bestseller Martin brings her Texas Trilogy … to a hair-raising finish with the gripping tale of a single mother on the run and the Marine veteran who offers her a second chance at happily-ever-after. Martin has a consummate skill for developing the most loveable and the most despicable characters; readers will cheer when sadistic Damon meets his well-deserved end. Martin’s finely described Texas is a delight.” – Publishers Weekly

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AuthorInterview

Interview with Author Kat Martin

Part Two

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I write full-time, two novels a year, and have almost from the start.  It’s a ton of work, but it’s helped me build my readership.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  Have any of them impacted your writing?

I had a lot of jobs before I started writing full-time.  Everything from a cleaning job in a convenience store, grocery checker, retail clerk at J.C. Penney’s (in the men’s department!), worked as a PR person in a real estate title company, then went into real estate in sales and finally as a broker.  I think every job I ever had helped me as a writer. Tons of material for stories!

How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?

I graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara was a far different place from Bakersfield, California, the country town that was home to Buck Owens and Meryl Haggard.  Very sophisticated. I learned a lot about the lives of the wealthy, much of which pops up in my books. Beyond Reason, the first book in the Texas trilogy, centered around Lincoln Cain, a multi-millionaire from Dallas.  I’m comfortable writing people who live in those surroundings.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I’m known for fast-paced, high-action adventure novels with a deep and abiding love story.  I try to create a page-turner with lots of plot and romance.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

As with all of my books, Beyond Control was difficult start-to-finish.  There are sections that come together effortlessly, but they are rare.  I spend a lot of sleepless hours working on the storyline, the characters, the romance; but it’s very rewarding when the puzzle pieces all come together.   

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I like writing the action scenes and the dialog.  I like the hero and heroine and writing romantic sex scenes that bring them together.  Work but fun.

How do you decide if your main character will be male or female?

In my books, the male and female characters have equal parts in the story.  They learn to work together to solve the mystery and, as they are forced into danger, learn the strength and value of each other and come to realize they are perfectly suited to be together.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m very excited about my next project–a series of hardcover novels set in Dallas around the Maximum Security detective agency.  In Until Midnight, Chase Garrett is the owner, a private investigator, former military, very wealthy family, a high-action adventure set around Colombian cocaine smuggling.  The heroine, Harper Winston, also comes from money–unfortunately, her father is a criminal. A definite problem for Chase. It’s out in January. I’m really hoping readers will enjoy the book and the ones about Chase’s brothers and other men and women in the office.    

  

Till then, all the best and happy reading!

 

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New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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Interview: Lisa Brown Roberts, author of SPIES, LIES, AND ALLIES

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I love writing about teens because I vividly remember how it felt to be on the cusp of everything. When you’re a teen, life is full of possibility and everything seems possible. You aren’t yet weighed down by adult responsibilities, for the most part, though I know some teens do face these challenges. And for some reason, writing in a teen voice comes naturally to me.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve loved stories forever. I can’t remember not having my nose stuck in a book. My parents were big readers and my mom taught English, so no doubt that was a big influence.

How long have you been writing?

Forever. I have story notebooks going back to the second grade. However, in terms of buckling down and getting serious about making this happen, that started around 2011.

How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?

Spirituality is important in my life, and I think that’s the case for many readers, which is why I sprinkle in casual mentions of it. Also, my characters’ growth arcs have spiritual components – generosity, compassion, acceptance, etc.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Humor and heart, with a dash of nerdy.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Writing a romantic comedy while my dad was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. It was the hardest book I’ve ever written, but it ended up being an homage to dads and daughters, and I’m very proud of that.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?

If so, discuss them.The interns competing for the college scholarship are dealing with limited financial means, but this doesn’t define them. They’re all dedicated to their future and finding a way to pursue their dreams.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?

What was least useful or most destructive?Most useful has been studying story structure and story beats. I write character-based novels so plotting is sometimes challenging for me. Least useful is any advice that begins, “Every writer should(fill in the blank).” There’s no magic formula that applies to all writers.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

I have a full-time day job so I’m technically a part-time writer, though most days it feels like I have two full-time jobs! Juggling the two means I’m not able to put as much time into promo as I should, and it limits my productivity. I say “no” to a lot of social engagements and don’t spend much time relaxing because most of my free time is spent writing/revising/marketing. Still, writing is my bliss so it’s worth the lack of sleep.

What do you like to read in your free time?

Lots of YA, of course, and lots of adult romance and women’s fiction. I also enjoy cozy mysteries and some spec-fic.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I just finished a spin-off of The Replacement Crush. I had a blast writing it and can’t wait to share it with readers who asked for this particular story. I’m also working on another nerdy YA rom-com, and several adult romance projects.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, Jane Austen, Kristan Higgins, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, J.K. Rowling, and Julie Anne Peters.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

Names are very important. I often choose names based on their meanings. I use online resources to research names.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

She never gave up on her dreams and neither should you!

What literary character is most like you?

I hope I’m a bit like Lizzie Bennet.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

Australia

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

A penguin.

 

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Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media…and I’m afraid it’s working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

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About Lisa Brown Roberts:

Award-winning romance author Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage catastrophes of tweezing off both eyebrows, or that time she crashed her car into a tree while trying to impress a guy. It’s no wonder she loves to write romantic comedies.   Lisa’s books have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. She lives in Colorado with her family, in which pets outnumber people. Connect with Lisa at www.lisabrownroberts.com.

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Interview: Shelton L. Williams, author of COVEY JENCKS

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COVEY JENCKS

by

Shelton L. Williams

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller

Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC

Publication Date: February 10, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 pages

 

Cover med res Covey Jencks

 

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Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 

 

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PRAISE FOR COVEY JENCKS: 

 

I just love Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls! They are a modern couple who remind me of Nick and Nora in West Texas. Characters, crimes, and social commentary leap off the page. Shelly can tell a story! Deborah Crombie, author of the award-winning mysteries of Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid

I loved the story, the writing, and the prospects for future Covey Jencks adventures, but what I love the most, as an African- American author and documenter of human experience, is the proof that this work presents of the inextricability of Black and White lives in America. Sharon T. Freeman, CEO of Gems of Wisdom Consulting, author of 24 books, and global development expert

A dead body and a miscarriage of justice? What is a West Texas boy to do? Well, Covey Jencks, an Odessa native who knows some secrets, spurns his job with a Washington, DC law firm, and heads back to his hometown to solve the crime. Prudence Mackintosh, Contributing Editor, Texas Monthly, author of Thundering Sneakers and more

“I have unfinished business in Odessa, by God, Texas.” And with that, we are off on a wild ride with Covey Jencks as he tries to find out who killed Freddie Mae Johnson, a black prostitute, when Covey was a junior in high school. If you like your detectives to be misfits who chafe at the social rules, idealists who try to find the order behind apparent chaos, attractors of a cast of characters as contradictory as the detective is, you will grab hold of Covey and hang on until the end of the ride. When you get there, you’ll know for sure that you’ve been somewhere. Carol Daeley, Professor Emerita of English, Austin College.

 

AuthorInterview

 

 

Where did the name “Covey Jencks” come from?

The name Covey Jencks has been with me for over 30 years. The original unpublished version of the book that became Washed in the Blood had Covey as a minor character. That book but not that name went away. Covey’s personal history is an amalgam of my family history, some aspects of some of my favorite students’ careers, and pure fiction. The focus on Freddie Mae’s death, that is the death of an older, black, sometime prostitute, came to me during the troubles of 2016. The Black Lives Matter movement vs. Blue Lives Matter set group against group and politicized death. Curiously, none other than Joseph Stalin said that “a million deaths is a statistic, but one death is a tragedy.” I wanted to show how one life, no matter the person’s color, could affect many people and also reveal social assumptions and maybe biases. Who better to solve the crime than a black and white duo who defied stereotypes? JayJay is a unique woman, but her sassy personality is familiar to me. I have lived with her for over fifty years. Yeah, I am an old dude. 
You teach in a grad school and run a busy non-profit? How do you have time to write a book? 

I write between 5:00 and 8:00 AM when the writing monster takes hold of me. Fortunately, the monster stays in the closet for years.
Really? It seems like you are setting up a series of mystery books based on Covey and JayJay?

Yes, that is correct. the monster is still roaming loose.
You have not lived in Texas for almost 15 years and not in Odessa for 55 years? Why write about Odessa, Texas?

Have you ever been to Odessa? It is unique, and it has real-life characters almost too big to be believable in mere fiction. In addition, when I wrote Washed in the Blood, and a guy from Simon and Schuster told me that it was well written but of no interest to anyone outside Texas. That frosted my mug! Every book has to have a sense of place and neither Brooklyn, nor Moscow, nor London, nor any other place has a monopoly on good stories. Of course, Friday Night Lights proved that, too. I re-visited Odessa countless times in researching and promoting Washed in the Blood; I still have family and friends there; and you can take the boy out of Texas, but…
You teach political science but your books aren’t overly political. Why not?

I think the politics are there, but not in-your-face. Buckminister Fuller, creator of the Geodesic Dome, once told me that politics is like physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is better, he said, to make forces tangential rather than collide head on. I have never forgotten that.
Is that why there is so much humor in this book?

Perhaps, but then Covey and JayJay are inherently funny people. Covey had to learn how to navigate through bullies in middle school and high school and JayJay just tells it like it is; sometimes that comes out funny.
Are you trying to be trendy with so many gay and lesbian characters in your book?

Hardly, more like pay a penance. Growing up in the 50s, we were totally aware of LGBTQ folks. I was not particularly mean to them, but not until one of the most talented guys from my high school come out in the 70s (and later died of AIDS) did I stop to reflect on the systematic discrimination they faced. One of the characters in my book is still in the closet, and I hope I have conveyed how hard a life that is. It was a situation in which some folks chose death or imprisonment rather than public shame. 
So, you are crusader?

Nope, I simply like to tell stories. And I think I have a few more to tell.

 

Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

 

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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

4/10/18

Character Interview

4/11/18

Review

4/12/18

Excerpt

4/13/18

Review

4/14/18

Author Interview

4/15/18

Top 11 List

4/16/18

Review

4/17/18

Scrapbook Page

4/18/18

Notable Quotable

4/19/18

Review

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Interview: Diana Rodriguez Wallach, Author, LIES THAT BIND

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I’ll warn you, this story is kind of strange. I started writing my first novel because I had a dream one night that I was a young adult author, and I dreamt the concept for an entire series of books. Seriously. When I woke up and told my husband, he reminded me of a vacation we took five years earlier through New England.

We had stopped in Salem, MA to see the witches’ houses. While there, I decided to visit a psychic (when in Rome, right?). So I sat down and the psychic immediately said, “You’re a writer.” And I was; at the time, I was a reporter. I told her this, and she asked what I wrote about. Intentionally trying to be cryptic (I mean, she is a psychic, shouldn’t she already know?), I told her that I wrote about “business.” She swiftly said, “No. I see you writing books, little books, like children’s books.”

I had never considered writing a book before. But after the dream, and my recollection of the psychic, I figured it was “a sign.” So I sat down and started my first novel.

 

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I write young adult novels. My current book, Lies that Bind, is the sequel to Proof of Lies. They are the first two installments of a trilogy YA spy thrillers. They’re about a girl named Anastasia Phoenix, who is my personal blend of Nancy Drew meets Buffy Summers in the world of Spy Kids. Essentially Anastasia’s a combination of the kick-butt heroines I love from the mysteries and thrillers that have impacted me. The series also indulges my love of travel. Proof of Lies is set in Boston (where I went to college) and Italy. I take readers through the streets Rome, the vineyards of Tuscany, and the canals of Venice. Lies that Bind continues with more scenes in Boston, then whisks the reader to Bonfire Night in Lewes, England; a covert meeting on the London Ferris wheel; and finally death threats and confrontations in Rio de Janeiro. I went to a wedding recently in Rio, and the location features prominently in the book. Honestly, I don’t know how the novel would end if it weren’t for that trip! I feel like with a spy novel, you need a touch of the exotic—how interesting would James Bond be if every movie were set in Des Moines?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love to travel. So you can trust that all of the scenes in both Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind—from Boston, to Italy, to England, to Rio de Janeiro—are based on places I’ve visited. Every hotel I describe is based on the exact room I stayed in with my husband. When Anastasia stops for fish and chips in London, you can bet I ate there. When she goes to a lavish wedding in Brazil, I can describe the exotic floral arrangements and gorgeous bartenders, because I attended a wedding there myself. My settings are real, vivid, and authentic, down to the salty humid air in Rio and the smoky fire festivals in Lewes, England. One of my favorite compliments is when a reader says my settings feel like a character in their own right. Big smiles for that one.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?  If so, discuss them.

I intentionally make the characters in my books very diverse, because I’m setting my stories in major US cities where I have lived. So when I think back to those times in my life, I think of the people I knew there and I purposely add characters that give a subtle nod to some of them. For example, large chunks of both Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind are set in Boston where I went to college. One of my college roommates was Filipina, so Anastasia’s closest school friend in the series is Filipina. Anastasia’s love interest in the books, Marcus, is from Mardid; I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain when I was a junior in college. One of Anastasia’s other close friends is half black, and one of my other roommates was half Chinese and half Jamaican. I’m also half Polish and half Puerto Rican, so I try to include a little Spanish in all of my novels. To me, this diversity is natural because it’s simply a representation of my own life experience.

 

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I grew up loving the YA thriller genre, so honestly, the Anastasia Phoenix series is a return to the books that inspired me. As a child of the 90s, I was obsessed with Christopher Pike. I vividly remember waiting for the release of each of his books—from Chain Letter, to Remember Me, to Fall Into Darkness. He’s one of the reasons I write for YA now, and I would completely geek out if I ever met him in person. I think that’s why I wanted to attempt a YA thriller of my own.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I published my first novel when I was 30, back when I still had a full time job working in communications for a nonprofit specializing in improving inner-city public schools. When my first novel sold, Amor and Summer Secrets, I decided to start writing full time. This was before kids, so I had plenty of time to write all day, every day. Ahh, memories. I had no idea how good I had it. Now, I’m a mom of two small kids. So writing is something I need to schedule into to my day and multitask. But it never feels like work. I love plotting new stories, doing research, creating outlines, and imagining my characters. Also, I love editing! Strange, I know. And I teach Creative Writing online for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m planning to return to YA contemporary romance. I’m currently working on a stand-alone title featuring an extremely gifted Latina student, under immense academic pressure and dealing with unresolved issues surrounding the death of her brother. It takes place during that space at the end of her senior year, when the college acceptances have rolled in and students start to check-out. But for this character, she’s not simply taking a mental vacation from stress, she’s considering a major life change that will mean standing up to her overprotective parents for the first time. I’ve been deep in research mode lately, conducting lots of interviews to really nail down the character. I’m so excited to start something new!

 

What do your plans for future projects include?

Book three of the Anastasia Phoenix series comes out next year, End of  the Lie! I’m in edit-mode for this one. It’ll be so sad to see Anastasia’s journey end, but at the same time I can’t wait to hear reader’s reactions to her story.

How do you get your ideas for writing?

Ideas come at random times—while watching TV, brushing my teeth, driving my car, etc. But usually the ones I act upon, the ones I start writing, are based on something true that happened to me at one point in my life. The first novel I ever wrote, still unpublished, was based on my bullying experience in middle school. The first novel I ever published, Amor and Summer Secrets, is based on my ethnic background and what it was like visiting family in Puerto Rico. And the first spark of inspiration that ultimately led to the creation of Anastasia Phoenix came when I was in high school. I was attending a college fair in Philadelphia, and I was listening to students talk about Boston University. One kid was glowing about the professors—Pulitzer-prize winners from the Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The NY Times. Then he spoke about a very unusual professor, one who was a former communist spy for Czechoslovakia during the Cold War and who now taught budding journalists how to tell if they were being fed false information or “fake news.” The tale of that rouge spy stuck with me.

But by the time I ultimately got to BU, Lawrence Martin Bittman, the spy-turned-journalism professor, had retired. I never got to take his course. However, years later when I decided to attempt an international thriller packed with super spies, that story came back to me as if it had always been waiting. I wanted my world of espionage to be focused on a unique specialty that offered me some creative freedom, and disinformation fit the bill.

I eventually meet the spy who inspired me, and we had a fascinating conversation in his home that led to many of the espionage elements in Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind, as well as the name of the CIA agent that appears in the novel, Martin Bittman.

 

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About Lies That Bind:

What if saving yourself meant destroying everyone you love?

Still reeling from everything she learned while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. Then she and her friends learn that Marcus’s—her kinda boyfriend—brother, Antonio, has also gone missing. Luckily, they track down Antonio in a fiery festival in England, only to learn he has been working for the enemy, Department D, the whole time. But Antonio wants out. And so does Anastasia.

But before any of them can leave espionage and their parents’ crimes behind them, a close friend turns up dead. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists. So Anastasia and her friends embark on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire, using every Dresden Kid they can find.

As their world becomes surrounded by spies, and the children of spies, Anastasia starts to question who she can really trust. Including her best friends…

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About Diana Rodriguez Wallach:

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix series, three YA spy thrillers set to debut beginning in March 2017 (Entangled Publishing). She is also the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection based on the Narcissus myth, entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013). In 2011, she published a highly regarded essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins). It was the only essay chosen from the anthology by Scholastic to be used in its classroom materials. Diana is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015), and she is currently on staff as a featured blogger for Quirk Books. In 2010 Diana was named one of the Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch by LatinoStories.com, and she placed second in the International Latino Book Awards. She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, and is a Creative Writing instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.

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Author Links:

Author Website: dianarodriguezwallach.com

Author Blog: http://dianarwallach.tumblr.com

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dianarwallach

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianarwallach/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1404210.Diana_Rodriguez_Wallach

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianawallachauthor/

Interview: Kathleen Rowland, author of ONE NIGHT IN HAVANA

One Night in Havana 
#34 in the City Nights Series from Tirgearr Publishing
by Kathleen Rowland

Kathleen will be awarding 3 lucky winners a $10 Amazon Gift Certiticate. Winners will be chosen randomly with Rafflecopter. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.

About the Book:  

A desperate competition and sizzling attraction leads to dangerous desire.

New York Marine biologist Veronica “Roni” Keane is attending the Havana Bay Conference in Cuba. Tomorrow only one grant will be awarded which will provide the winner with professional recognition, resources for a project, and living expenses for two years. She hopes to continue her deceased father’s work, but smooth operator, Carlos Montoya, has won many grants in the past.

Carlos, a freelancer for the Havana Port Authority, works to help protect Havana’s reputation as a bastion of safety. As international travelers flock to the island, attracted by its 1950’s time-warp and colonial architecture, the drug business is running rampant, particularly on Roni’s cruise ship. Something’s not right, and when her scuba tanks are tampered with, Carlos brings in the military police to investigate. For her safety, he keeps her close, but he craves her body.

Their attraction leads to a fun night with a bit of kink. But Roni finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for when the criminals blame her for alerting the military police and come looking for her. Can Roni trust Carlos to protect her? Will she stay in Havana if Carlos wins the coveted grant, or kiss her lover goodbye?

An erotic romance with mystery. 

Amazon Buy Link

Excerpt:

— Chapter One

“Why, Veronica Keane.” A voice heavy with a Spanish accent drawled from behind her. “A dive bar?” A taunting tsk. “What do we have? A slumming New Yorker?”
She stiffened and closed her eyes. She knew that voice and its owner, Dr. Carlos Montoya, a finalist like her, competing for the same damn grant at the biggest Cephalopoda conference of the decade. Her heart pitter-pattered against her ribs. To turn toward him would intimate distress, or worse yet, weakness. She wouldn’t fail to win this grant, not when she was a final contender. “I like this funky little place.” Sia Macario Café, smack in the center of Havana, allowed her to observe locals and their daily lives.
“You need to eat with all the mojitos you’ve downed.” The big tease wasn’t  counting. This was her first drink, but his rumbling, sexy timbre hinted at all kinds of dark, hot promises. She’d rubbed shoulders with the Cuban scientist all week. This splendid specimen of Latin male brought on a physical ache that punched low.
A flare-up stirred fear. For her own good, she needed to resist. “I ordered camarones enchiladas.” By now she knew the menu on the chalkboard by heart. She tipped her head back to whiff grilled shrimp soon to arrive in sofrito sauce with fried sweet plantains.
“The flan is good. Just like my abuela makes.”
“I bet. Your grandmother would be happy to hear that,” she said, knowing he brought out the best in most people. Two days ago he’d invited her and a handful of others scuba diving. The chance to ogle him had been one of the perks. He’d worn nothing but swim trunks, his bare chest on display. Every glistening muscle was finely etched. Not a drop of fat on him. Since he’d not given her the time of day, she’d checked him out without him noticing.
The hard-bodied host had led the way toward habitats of soft-bodied creatures. To find where invertebrates lived was never an easy task. Octopuses squeezed into narrow passages of coral for protection and gave females a place to keep their eggs. She’d discovered the remains of a few meals nearby.Octopuses scattered rocks and shells to help them hide.
 This grant meant so much to her and no doubt to him as well. Veronica mindlessly toyed with the gold necklace around her neck, but anxiety crackled through her brain. Unlike this man of action, she lacked the flamboyant personality necessary to talk people into things. Carlos had that ability. He’d made friends with judges on board while she’d conversed with an older woman about a box of scones made with Cuban vanilla cream.
That day the wind had picked up to a gale force, and this woman named Bela with Lucille Ball red hair needed help walking to her home. The half mile down the seaside promenade, The Malecón, had provided her with time to practice her Spanish. Turned out Bela was Carlos’s grandmother. She’d worked as a maid when the Castro government came to power. When private homes were nationalized, titles were handed over to the dwelling occupants. Bela owned a crumbling home in the respected Verdado district and rented out rooms.
What Veronica detested about Carlos was his abnormal level of talent for schmoozing. Not that he wasn’t charismatic; he drew her like a powerful magnet with emotions hard to untangle. Why was a self-assured woman who ran her own life thinking about a man who commanded everyone around him?
She inhaled a breath and turned around on the barstool, caught fast by a gut punch of Carlos Montoya in the flesh. She sighed and surrendered to the tendrils of want sliding up between her thighs.
Tall and muscular, his lush dark hair curled to his collar giving him a wild, roguish appearance. His face was lean and chiseled. His mouth full and tempting. His eyes the smoky-gray of a grass fire and fringed with black lashes as dense as paintbrushes. He smiled. A faint hint of mockery curved his mouth, a sensual mouth she imagined to be either inviting or cruel. Or both at the same time when he leaned over a woman with a diamond-hard gleam in his dark eyes while she drowned with pleasure. She fought a fierce desire to run her hand across his broad chest, tip her face upward, and…
His breath tickled her face.
Not going there. She blinked and forced her mind to focus. Carlos Montoya was not the kind of man you lost focus around. But that image of putting her mouth full on his and peeling away his shirt once introduced in her mind was impossible to expunge. Pointless even to try.
He was an intimidating blend of intellect and sexy danger. Both qualities had her leaning back against the bar’s edge. If it weren’t for him, she’d have a chance at winning the grant.
His lips twitched. “You’re staying on one of the cruise ships, am I right?” He rolled up the sleeves of his linen jacket to reveal a dusting of manly hair.
”Yes.” Her cabin served as her hotel room while attending the January meetings with perfect high-seventies temperatures. His eyes locked with hers. She willed herself to move and yet she remained seated, clutching heat between her legs, a wetness so intense that her breath stalled in her chest while her heart hammered faster. Soon she’d return to freezing New York City.
“So, Bonita, give.” He slid onto the bar stool next to her. “What brings you down from a lofty ship to grace us lowly Cubans with your presence?”
Bonita. Pretty lady was not an endearment coming from the mouth curved in a taunting smile, but not a slight either. Not with his deep, melodic voice speaking words as if he knew secrets about her. What secrets did he know? Would he pry into her personal life? She doubted this bad-boy college professor acknowledged boundaries.
“Just drinks and dinner.” She scrambled for composure. “Aren’t we attending a world-class conference? I find the local population to be friendly and kind. That’s not slumming.”
The bartender set down a saoco. “Hope you like it, senorita.”
“Gracias,” she said. “Very nice, served in a coconut.”
“Ah, the saoco,” Carlos said. “Rum, lime juice, sugar, and ice. The saoco,” he repeated, disbelief heavy in his words. “Um. Wow. Once used as a tonic for prisoners of the revolution.”
“Medicinal?” She couldn’t help it. She chuckled and sounded as if a rusty spoon had scraped her throat raw, but it was genuine. The warm glow in its wake was welcome and needed. .
He leaned an elbow on the bar, his beer bottle with the green-and-red Cristal label dangling between his fingers. “Be careful with that one.” He dipped his head toward the front door as if he needed to go somewhere soon.
That fast, the glow snuffed out. She cleared her throat and gripped the fuzzy surface of the coconut container.
He placed a five-peso coin with a brass plug on the counter and whirled it. The spinning motion mirrored a dizzying attraction going on in low parts of her belly.
She cleared her wayward mind and nodded toward artwork on the opposite wall. “I plan to buy a painting tonight.”
“Don’t buy anything unless the seller gives you a certificate. You’ll need one to take art from Cuba. Artists deal in euros in case you don’t have pesos.”
She’d come prepared but said, “Thanks for the info.”
His coal-black eyes widened as he gazed from her head down to the tiny straps around her ankles as if she wore high heels and nothing else. “You give off a Barbie doll image,” he replied and stood up.
“Huh?”
“Where’s Ken, anyway? Kenneth Morton. He came with you to the talks in Antarctica. Five years ago.” He grinned, and the mortification in her belly gave way to a longing which she had no business feeling toward her competitor.
“Ken and I broke up.” She hesitated for a moment. “You have a gift for remembering names. Like a salesman.”
“A person’s name is, to that person, the most important and sweetest sound. Back then I introduced myself to Ken in the men’s room.”
“I remember now. Didn’t you give a talk on a specialized pigment in the octopus?”
“Ahh, si.” He splayed his fingers over his chest. “A pigment in their blood is—”
 “—called hemocyanin. Turns their blood blue and helps them survive subfreezing temperatures. Were you awarded something?”
“The antifreeze protein grant? No. It went to a deep-diving photographer. He wasn’t chicken about getting lost or trapped under the ice.”
She slid from her stool and strutted around, jutting her chin in and out like a chicken. “Bock, bock, bock, bock, bock, begowwwwk.”
He chuckled. “Cute chicken dance. Very cute in that skimpy black dress.”
Her cheeks heated, and she clutched her necklace. He’d seen plenty of women in body-fitting attire. In Cuba, women wore dresses to meetings. If she’d harnessed sexier mojo, she’d have livened up presentations. Her presentations with an abundance of dull data went south. She slid back against her stool and clutched her purse to her stomach as if the small satin bag could calm the nerves playing deep down kickball. She belonged in her tidy New York office filled with computers, modems, and research manuals. Not in this softly lit café where passion oozed from a man’s pores, and artists displayed their canvases. Here was where Havana’s trendsetters congregated, and Ernest Hemingway wrote about desire.
“Good luck with your purchases, Veronica Keane.”
Okay, so they weren’t going to pretend they were going head to head for the grant.
As if he had more to say, he grinned at her, his perfect white teeth flashing.. “Do you find us different, like apples and oranges?”
“What am I, an apple or an orange?”
“Hmm. You’re an apple.” He was doing that sexy voice thing which made her brain shut down. Heady.
It started with an unexpected spark, an instant attraction, the jolting jab of oh-I’m-feeling-something. Something like a flashfire in her belly, but now they were talking. “Am I the apple of desire? Want to take a bite out of me?” She pulled in a breath. Had she really said that?
“Bonita, do I ever.”
“Tomorrow is the final ceremony.” Would she watch him walk to the podium to accept the grant?

 

About the Author: 

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with an erotic love story sure to melt their hearts.  Her latest release is One Night in Havana, #34 in the City Nights series.

Kathleen also has a steamy romantic suspense series with Tirgearr Publishing, Deadly Alliance is followed by Unholy Alliance. Keep an icy drink handy while reading these sizzling stories.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.   She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji.  Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors.  While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write.

If you’d enjoy news,  sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter at http://www.kathleenrowland.com/
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Interview: Jenny Morton Potts, author of HIDING {giveaway}

Hiding

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Another (very successful) author read my novel ‘Piano from a 4th Storey Window’. He admired my work and asked me to write a thriller with him. I had been writing non genre literature and wasn’t sure I could ‘do’ thrillers. But I loved it. LOVED it!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

It’s something hardwired in me. Firstly, just a huge love of words and the magic of them. I didn’t come from a bookish background but once I found stuff like ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ and ‘The 39 Steps’ as a kid, I was off.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing plays at about nine. I directed them, produced them, cast them (myself in the leading role, obv).

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I still write plays. I’m writing one now about a woman who is to be killed by the robot she has lived with for decades (her contractual time is up). Her son is sharing her last hours too.

Used to write lots of short fiction.

I’ve had quite a lot of poetry published and I still read a lot of poetry.

Mostly novels though.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?

Oh lordy, that’s an essay. Every art form is story telling whether it has words or not. Art brings us the world’s joy and pain and everything in between. Without it, what would we be?

How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?

I’m not sure what this means. I’m overwhelmed with the earth, its benevolence and its cruelty but I don’t think I’m spiritual in the sense I imagine the question implies.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Its voice.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Death. The death in my hands.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Spending time with the characters. I love them all; the very small to the very old. I care for them deeply.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.

Not really ‘underrepresented’. We know about vulnerable people. We know that people are in difficulty around us but it is very difficult to resolve, or to even involve yourself. And of ourse suffering has a way of creating hell amongst the undeserving.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

Solzhenitsyn, Tartt, Forster, Kate Millett, Colette, Smiley. I love comedy writers too. They are a huge influence in my life, so surely make their mark on the page.

The above have all had a huge imact on my mind, and they must affect my writing therefore, though quite in what specific way, I couldn’t say.

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

I learned to classify my thoughts, to answer (some) questions, to find a way of being (somewhat) understood.

The most destructive is the rejection and whilst one can always learn from that, the toll is hefty.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Full time, till I drop.

What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

I’ve been mostly in sales and marketing. I lived in France for a long time running my own business. I had a job as a director in a marketing firm. The boss there was, um, a character. I wrote a story about it called, ‘The Wonderful World of Wankler (with a silent ‘l’)’ . I’ve never tried to publish it.

What do you like to read in your free time?

Mostly contemporary literature. Lots of poetry (so happy with all the new rappers and fab performance poets coming up now). But anything really, ‘as long as it’s brilliant,’ as French & Saunders used to say.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I have three more thrillers/domestic noirs written and need to edit them a little before publishing this year. Also, I am writing a book with another man which will be a bit triptychy, like The Hours: Anna Magdalena Bach (wife of), Pau Casals (the cellist) and a batshit crazy author lady with an autistic child.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Writing psych thrillers set in amazing locations (but always with one strand in Blighty). I’d love to travel to these places but can’t till my son is finished schooling.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it.

How can your books be so serious, yet so hilarious, Jenny? How, how, HOW?

(and this is me) I don’t know. I’m just blessed (holding hand tenderly on heart).

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

Standing on my head? With my neck? No. I am always thinking of writing, including in the shower, but I don’t actually take a notebook and pen in with me. (I have written underwater though, with a diver’s notebook. Overrated.)

What book do you wish you could have written?

I’ve never had that response because a book is like a person. You can’t be another one.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Well, when I started writing, I don’t know that I had read a book. Of course there are the authors mentioned above but I am also incredibly attentive to screenplay writers. Dare I say that I think screen dramatists are blazing the trail?

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Ha! Well, I used to have a theatre company, so I’d be bound to pick some of my old pals there, but of famous people, Dame Jude for ‘Primmy Anctillious Brown’, Sairse Ronan for ‘Rebecca’, Max Minghella for ‘Keller’, Derek Jacobi for ‘Ralph’, Helen McRory, Tom Hollander, Tom Hiddleston, Jennifer Garner etc etc.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

Very, very important. I spend a lot of time in this and I know when I have fallen upon the right one. I am always looking and analysing and judging names. On credits, lists, everywhere. Love names.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I can’t think of one.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I don’t think I’ll have one but I would do the dishonourable thing and leave that for my partner to decide. Probably a Victoria Wood quote.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility, hands down.

If you were a superhero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

It would be Jenny Mouse, as I sign myself on many a card. And a mouse costume. A grey mouse costume.

What literary character is most like you?

Any female protagonist with a calm exterior whilst on the inside, her guts are being ripped out.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

Patagonia.

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

I’d like to be a spider monkey, but more accurately, one of these meerkats peeking in and out of the burrow.

What is something you want to accomplish before you die?

Securing the safety of my child (the most talented, happiest, painter boy on earth) who has a profound language handicap.

If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

I have a mild Scottish accent, which is ok. I’d stick with that.

 

Aboutthebook (1)

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Hiding

A gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists, from a unique new voice. 

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?

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Hiding - jenny

Jenny is a novelist, screenplay writer and playwright. After a series of ‘proper jobs’, she realised she was living someone else’s life and escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England, to write her socks off.

Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, settled with family.

She tries not to take herself too seriously.

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