Tuesday, July 31, 2012

4 Audio Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling (Order of Darkness, Book One)
Author: Philippa Gregory
Read by: Charlie Cox
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: May 24, 2012
Running Time: 6.5 hours
ISBN: 978-1-4423-5023-6
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher


Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.  

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.  

My thoughts on the audio:
Charlie Cox has appeared on series such as, Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. His acting credits are numerous to say the least. Cox takes on Phillipa Gregory's Changeling with little fault. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. He reads the dialog with expression and great feeling. The only problem I encountered was with the narration. When the characters weren't speaking Cox's voice was very low, and at times almost mumbling.  I had to listen very carefully  so that I didn't miss anything. If he continues narrating this series, I hope that is something that he will work on. Other than that, this is an enjoyable listen. 

My thoughts on the story:
Changeling is the first book in a new young adult series, Order of Darkness by Phillipa Gregory. Gregory is well known for her historical novels about the Tudors. She once again dives into the past for her latest novel.
The story follows Luca Vero who is accused of heresy for questioning the Church. He doesn't take things at face value. However, his questioning gets him recruited by the Pope to join The Order of the Dragon. He is sent out on missions to investigate strange and unusual things as well as to root out evil. You could call him a paranormal investigator of sorts. Luca is sent to investigate a nunnery that has had occurrences of strange events. There his meets Isolde, a lady abbess, who was sent there by her brother after her father passed away. Isolde is being accused of witchcraft, a series charge. Both Luca and Isolde are out to discover the truth.
The story line was interesting. Luca is sent out on missions to discover the truth behind the superstitions and fears of medieval times. Luca is very observant and level headed. He doesn't give into histrionics easily, but has an eye for detail. He is thrown off by Isolde. Isolde is not like the women of this time period. She is very strong and intelligent. Luca admires her from the beginning. Isolde's characters is a bit of a mystery. Together with her long time friend and companion, Ishraq, they risk everything to find out the truth and live life on their own terms.
Changeling is a good first book to this series. The story kept my attention throughout. Gregory did a fantastic job at exploring how fast superstition and rumors can cause hysterics in medieval times. How one whisper of dark magic could turn a whole town into a raging mass. It was a little predictable at times, but it's definitely worth checking out. I think fans of Phillipa Gregory will enjoy this series. Gregory will reach a younger generation with this new series. I will definitely want to keep up with this series to see what the author has in store for Luca and Isolde.

My rating:
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Monday, July 30, 2012

0 Terry J. Newman Guest Post

Greetings from across the pond!
In the email exchange that we had when discussing this guest post, Marcie suggested that I might consider writing on the subject of “the best/worst thing about 25th Century Britain.”
I suspect she realised that just about my only reference source for this would be my own book, “Drayling” – so I agreed readily. Many thanks, Marcie!
Drayling is, in fact, the name of a small district in Southern 25th Century Britain, and it is typical of communities throughout the country at that time.
Its citizens revere the memory of Dunstan Heathfield, a 24th Century statesman who formed the Government of National Unity, and went on to show how, by non-violent, yet determined political means, peace could be achieved throughout the world.
Such a prize did not, of course, come without a price. Over a period of time, competitive sport, religion, currency and non-administrative travel and communication were all abolished and banned by law.
Controversial, certainly, but Heathfield –  who also renamed the country “The British Friendly Federation” –  succeeded in convincing the populace that such measures were “a necessary and small price to pay for global peace.”
Over a hundred years later, school children would quote, from memory, his most famous quotation:
“To be able to change the most vital pieces of the jig-saw, every piece of jig-saw must change to a greater or lesser extent. After all, the most important feature of every jig-saw is, and must always remain, the overall picture.”
And so it is that the citizens of the BFF live in harmony and contentment. Until, that is, the head of the national government dies unexpectedly. Suddenly, there is a significant shift in approach – so much so, that a small group of ordinary people conclude that they have no alternative but to take radical action to protect their way of life.
“Drayling” is their story.
I don’t want to spoil the read for those who have yet to pick it up, so I’ll simply say that it is a different kind of science fiction book – for the intelligent reader.
To quote from the back-cover synopsis, “Reality collides with fantasy and philosophy as they embark on a mission of suspense, danger, deceit and death – with far-reaching ramifications.”
“Drayling” lays bare the best and worst things about 25th Century Britain.
I really hope you’ll read it - and I really hope you’ll enjoy it.
And don’t forget to let Marcie know what you think on “To Read Or Not To Read”!
With best wishes,
Terry J. Newman

Book Summary:
Twenty-fifth century Drayling, and Britain as a whole, has benefited greatly from advances in technology and medical science, and life in the Graves' household, and in those of their friends and colleagues, is secure, clear and very content. The desire and need for clarity, truth and order has motivated communities to live in harmony, abandoning any potentially controversial aspects or ways of life, including all religions, in favour of a modern civilised society that upholds order, simplicity, honesty, love and honour as its ideals. However, the death of the Premier brings a significant shift in approach - which forces a small group of ordinary people to conclude that they have no alternative but to take radical action to protect their way of life.

About the author:
Terry J. Newman lives with his wife, Linda, in Sussex, England. He is a member of English Heritage, The National Trust, Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters' Club and Mensa. Drayling is his first novel and is, in his own words, "more Futuristic Drama than Science Fiction. There aren't any little green men or spaceships, it all just happens to take place in the future. It's a different kind of Science Fiction book - for the intelligent reader."
As an aside, Newman has revealed that, woven into the book, are twenty six "allusions to my home county of Sussex". The most obvious example being the title, "Drayling", which is an anagram of "Ardingly" - the author's birthplace.

0 Deleted Scene from Anastaia Forever

Here is a bit of background on the scene from Joy Preble:
“The Anastasia Forever deleted scene is my favorite. I had originally envisioned Anne turning into a full blown Baba Yaga much earlier. And so I wrote this scene where she and Ben and Tess and Ethan all go to that Swedish film festival, but in the middle of the story. And there's all this wonderful tension and just at the moment that Ben decides to confront Anne about Ethan and her feelings, Anne realizes that smelling Ben's cologne is making her hungry. Really hungry. And well, she almost eats him. And after that much wackiness ensued. But in the end, I didn't go this route. But it is fun to see what might have been had my editor seen it.”

Deleted Scene:
We stop at the base of the Grand Staircase - all pretty marble and elegant looking. I’ve always loved those stairs – regal in a way that most things aren’t these days. Once when I was five, David chased me up and down the stairs until we were both red-faced and out of breath and Mom was pissed that we wouldn’t settle down and let her show us the paintings. The stairs were more fun.
“My stomach hurts,” Tess observes.
“It should,” Ben comments testily. “You just ate your body weight in Red Vines.” Then to all of us: “Coffee’s in the other building if that’s what you want.” Since we walked into the lobby, he’s been directing his comments sort of generally into the air.
“In a minute. Let’s run to the top. I need to stretch.” I don’t wait for group agreement, just lope up the stairs and assume they’ll follow me, which after a few beats, they do.
On the second floor landing, I stretch my arms into classic ballet third position – arms over my head, elbows rounded, palms inward but fingers not touching. My gladiator sandals aren’t the best footwear for this, and I’m wearing a pair of gray cargo pants and a short white tee – hardly ballet clothes -  but that’s okay. Until I’d started back subbing at Miss Amy’s, I’d forgotten in the mess that is my life, how much I love dance.
“Your form needs work,” Tess says. She rises up on her toes as much as she can in her black Chucks and skinny jeans and pirouettes around me. She’s a way better dancer than I am these days, even goofing around. Of the two of I us, I’d always been more focused and disciplined. Not any more.
“Coffee?” Ethan asks again. “Wasn’t that the plan?” I know he thinks this is a waste of time – and also dangerous since everything’s at risk for girls who make bargains with witches. Ben needs to man up and move on. But I can’t just push Ben under the metaphor bus like that, and I’m sure he knows this.
I ignore his cranky tone and try out my arabesque - also in need of some serious work.
“Let’s get that coffee.” It’s Ben’s turn to sound cranky. He beckons toward the stairs. “You know that first movie won an award at Sundance. It’s really--”
“Your after shave is really strong.” The comment pops out of nowhere and I feel my cheeks redden. What a stupid thing to say. But suddenly the smell of his cologne is all I can think of. My stomach rumbles, embarrassingly loud. Maybe I should have had some of that popcorn.
I jump on the coffee train. “You know what? A latte would be great right now.”
I’ve just spent almost four hours trying not to fall into a coma while watching Swedish people look unhappy and occasionally have sex in metro bus stations and in one instance, a barn. My fingers feel all tingly. My skin feels sticky and clammy. Am I having a panic attack?
Other museum-goers stream around us. The light overhead through the huge skylight dims noticeably. I look up. Thick gray clouds. The faint sound of thunder rumbles. My heart kicks into overdrive. Am I about to throw up? Maybe it’s the flu.
“You want to talk,” Ben says. “So let’s talk. You’re right. I can’t keep pretending all those things didn’t happen. I dream about them, you know that? Your boss, Mrs. Benson? Those things – those mermaid things – they surrounded her. I heard them breaking her into pieces. You know that, right?”
“Ben.” I’m feeling sicker now, but I try to focus. But Ben doesn’t want to be interrupted. He glances at Ethan  - something dangerous brewing in his eyes and the set of his jaw.
“Outside,” I gasp. What the hell is wrong with me?
“Anne?” Ethan’s voice rises above the buzzing in my head, but I ignore him, too.
I turn and stumble down the stairs. My ears are ringing. Or is it just the thunder getting louder? I shouldn’t be doing this. But I can’t seem to think of anything but putting distance between myself and Ben. In my head, I see us a few weeks ago – my hands burning his face. Me running then, too, and calling Ethan.
I’m in the lobby now, shoulder against the heavy front doors of the Art Institute. Out onto the cement landing and then down the stairs - running onto Michigan Avenue. It starts to rain – small drops that get larger and fatter, falling on my head, my face, my hands. Even in my panic – it is pure panic right now, mixed with something else I can’t identify – I wonder if it’s somehow me that’s making it rain.
“Anne!” All three of them are calling my name – Ben and Tess and Ethan. The sound of it echoes in the air around me.
On the sidewalk, standing between the two huge lion statues that flank the Art Institute steps – the ones David and I used to love to shimmy so we could straddle their backs while Dad snapped pictures - I force myself to stop. This is ridiculous. Why am I running? What is it that I’m afraid of? My heart skips then steadies, then skips again. That weird feeling skates the inside of my stomach.
I turn. Ben’s reached me first and he puts his hands on my shoulders. His hair is wet from the rain and a drizzle of water inches down the side of his face.
“Should I be afraid?” he asks, his face serious now, his brown eyes locked on mine.
It’s the question that sparks everything inside me like a lit match falling on dry wood.  Not  What’s wrong? or What do you need? But “Should I be afraid?”
“Ben,” I say slowly because I understand now what’s happening and I don’t know if I can stop it. “I think you need to run. I think you need to do it now.”
He stares at me like I’m crazy. “What are talking about?”
“You need to get away from me,” I say again, but I can see that he’s not going to. That even after everything he’s seen, he still doesn’t get it. “Oh God, Ben. Go. Ethan!” I look blindly around me and even though I’m sure Ethan is right there, my vision is red and hazy and I can barely make him out. “Oh no. Ethan. You  have to--”
I’m her then, not completely, but more Baba Yaga than me. Her power stretches inside me, a spiderweb of fury. I clench my fists; try to hold it back.
Ben doesn’t get it yet – how could he? He presses a hand to my cheek, palm against my skin.
“You’re burning up,” he says. And all I can think is how good he smells. How good he’ll taste.
Ben pulls his hand back. I lean toward him, my face close to his. Someone – Ethan maybe? Maybe him and Tess? – tries to pull me back, but I’m too strong. I hold my ground. Watch the confusion in Ben’s eyes.
No one should underestimate your power, says a voice inside me that sounds like Baba Yaga’s.
Anne, says another voice that I think is Ethan. Don’t. Don’t give in to it. Hold on.
“I can’t.”
“Can’t what, Anne? Anne, are you okay?” Ben sounds scared.
I try to stop. I really do. But I can’t. Or maybe I don’t want to. This scares me more than the sound of Ben’s voice.
Lightning, I think.
It shears through the sky.
Thunder, I think.
It crashes overhead.
Roar, I think.
And the two lion statues open their mouths and howl.
I press my lips to Ben’s. Will him not to pull back. His eyes widen as I sink my teeth into his lower lip – hard, then harder - until I draw blood. I lick it from his lip. Swallow. My stomach muscles ripple, seize, ripple again. My jaw loosens; the bones pop. My breath comes in ragged gasps. Pain. Red hot and everywhere.
“Anne!” I hear my name again. “Anne.”
My jaw loosens some more. I press my lips shut, a tight seam, desperate to stop it. My teeth dig into my lower lip so hard that blood starts to trickle. The taste of it mingles with the taste of Ben. The combination is suddenly the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I’m not just hungry anymore. I’m ravenous.
Understand crashes through me. No. God no. If I open my mouth, it will unhinge like hers. I know it. I know it.  It’s not Ben’s cologne. It’s just Ben. He smells so good because he smells like food. And if someone doesn’t do something right this second, I’m going to eat him whole.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2 Austen in August

I've recently signed up for Austen in August. I've read all of Jane Austen's books except for Mansfield Park, and this is the perfect opportunity to read it. I also have a few books in my reading pile that fit this reading challenge perfectly. I'm a huge fan of all things Jane, and so excited to participate.  If you'd like to join me for Austen in August, you can sign up here. Which Austen book is your favorite?

2 Give@way: The Serpent's Bite by Warren Adler

The Serpent’s Bite, is set on the treacherous trails and isolated wilds of Yellowstone Park, where an aging father, George Temple, seeks to use a nostalgic horse trek to reconcile with his estranged daughter and son.  They hadn’t seen one another since the passing of George’s wife nearly five years earlier and the family reunion is intended to bring back memories of their first trek 20 years earlier. The story reveals hidden secrets that plague the family and lead to disaster.
George, a wealthy man, had  previously cut off his children from additional handouts after having given each of them millions of dollars to further their failed dreams.  Scott still hoped to get his business off the ground while Courtney was still looking to make it big as an actress.  But George wants to unite the family and ask for their support as he announces plans to wed again, so he decides to resume funding what he knows are lost pursuits, feeling both guilty for cutting them off earlier and  now for enabling them with the reinstatement of payments.
The Serpent’s Bite leaves a trail of destruction that forces the reader to question just how far one will go to pursue failed dreams. It also raises many questions: Will love win out over greed? Can the bonds of family override the selfish desires of individuals? Can one get what they want when guided by a broken moral compass? This novel draws us into the snake pit of the human soul -- with little chance of survival.
Warren’s books have achieved a high level of success.  Two were made into movies—The War of the Roses and Random Hearts.  One, The Sunset Gang, was turned into a PBS-TV trilogy and an off-Broadway play.  Nine other books were optioned to Hollywood, including Private Lies for a then-record 1.2 million dollars.  The War of the Roses, which starred Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (Danny DeVito directed), was also sold this spring to become a Broadway musical (the non-musical has been adapted in over a dozen countries).  His books have been published in 25 languages and have been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Today Show, Rolling Stone, and scores of leading media outlets.  He’s been dubbed “the master of dysfunction.”

Thanks to Media Connect I have four copies of The Serpent's Bite to giveaway. To enter the giveaway you must be at least 13 years old. This giveaway is for US/Canada addresses only. Please fill out the form below.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

0 Review: Gold and Glory by Brian Libby

Title: Gold and Glory (Mercenaries #2)
Author: Brian Libby
Publisher: Avid Readers Publishing Group
Published: April 22, 2010
paperback, 454 pages
ISBN: 1935105477 (ISBN13: 9781935105473)
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Author

Summary (From Goodreads):
GOLD AND GLORY The second volume of the Mercenaries series After a long winter of training and reorganization, the Pelicans Mercenary Regiment marches out of obscure Ironport to look for a contract, its inexperienced commander wondering if she is up to the job for which she was so unexpectedly chosen. There is indeed work available for sharp halberds and accurate bows, and not just locally, as the slowly-approaching storm takes more definite shape.

My thoughts:
This review is of the second book of a series and may contain spoilers for book one!

Gold and Glory is part two of Mercenaries by Brian Libby. You can read my review of part one, Storm Approaching here. This book picks up pretty much where part one left off. Andiriel is the leader of the mercenary group now known as the Pelicans. The have had some modest success as a group, which is completely foreign to them since they had been historically a notoriously bad mercenary group. Andiriel is looking to build on that success and secure work for them. Work is available for good mercenaries. I will not go into the plotlines any more than that for fear of giving away the excellent story that is continuing to build from book one. With book one the story was very much in the development stages, so it focused on building the character of Andiriel. Book two is a wonderful balance of well written story, and a continuation of Andirliel’s character development. There are many story elements happening at the same time, but never did I feel confused or lost. They are woven together so that you see them overlap with the main story of Andiriel and the Pelicans.
Most or all of the more major characters from book one reprise their stories in book two, but this book focuses in on Andiriel’s relationship with the men, women, and children associated with the regiment, especially the two humans and one fox closest to her, Lana, Dagget, and Sandy. We meet several of the commanders of other mercenary groups, but General Demantius, a professional general of sorts is the one I'm most taken with. When he is introduced he is unassuming, and you think he is not a commanding presence. As the story continues, the air about him grows, and he becomes a most respected mentor figure to Andiriel and also one of her most adamant admirers and supporters.
The storyline continues to be strong and only builds on what began in book one. You learn more about the political maneuvering and intrigue that is working to change the landscape forever. The story has grown into one of the better epic fantasy series that I have read in recent years.
I am loving Andiriel and the Mercenaries series. I cannot wait to dive into book three, Resolution (out now) and book four, The Free Lands (coming soon). Just like I said in my review of Storm Approaching, “If you are looking for a good fantasy story without all the trappings of convenience found in most contemporary fantasy then this is a book you need to read.” Brian Libby is a self-published author, but this is as well written, if not better than most stuff coming out of the big publishing houses. Give the Mercenaries Series a go and you will not be disappointed.

My rating:
For More information on this author check out:

Friday, July 27, 2012

0 Guest Post: The Olympic Beat by Shannon Young

The Olympics Beat
By Shannon Young

As a little girl growing up in America, I watched the Olympics religiously. There was a surprise every time we turned on the TV: a sport we’d never heard of in the throes of a dramatic moment, an inspirational commercial about the human spirit, a special on the culture of the Olympic city. We watched diving and gymnastics, the 100-meter final and every Michael Phelps race. I loved it all.

My favorite was the Opening Ceremony, a celebration full of colors and lights and symbolism I didn’t understand. During the four-hour production, I’d bounce back and forth between the TV and the kitchen (for snacks), eager to see what each country’s athletes would be wearing that year.

When I had the opportunity to attend an Olympics in person, I jumped for it like I was in the pole vault finals. The 2008 Beijing Games occurred just before my senior year of university, just when my college had given me a fellowship to study anything I wanted. It was the perfect time to become one of the faces in the stands. I expected it to be like watching on TV times ten. I was wrong.

In real life, we stood in endless lines, wandered lost through Beijing drenched in sweat, and froze inside the over air-conditioned venues. We couldn’t see the outfits in the Parade of Nations up close and we had no commentary to help us understand what was going on. It was awesome.

The Olympics in real life are less comfortable than the highlights-only version on TV, but you are immersed in the action. You see the lesser-known competitors in their moments of triumph. You see the mistakes, the frustrations, the little victories. When one of the athletes does something amazing, people jump up and wave their flags in front of you; they scream in your ears and fill your body with pure adrenalin. You are part of the moments, sometimes close enough to smell the sweat and see the tears.

When the events are over, instead of watching a special about the culture of the host city, you walk out into the middle of it. Jostled by hawkers, assisted by volunteers, courted by waiters, you join in the lives of those people for a week or two. You taste the spices, warm your fingertips on the teacups, and immerse yourself in the tones of words you don’t understand.

Being at the Olympics is a whole body experience that is both powerful and intimate. You are connected to the people filling the seats around you, the watchers behind the forest of cameras, and the hosts eager to impress you with their city and their culture. Furthermore, you are connected to the Olympians and spectators in Olympic cities throughout history.

As a spectator, you won’t be the focus of a TV special or a medal ceremony. No one will know your name or remember you were there, but you helped to create the energy and passion that make the Olympics worth watching.

About the Author
Shannon Young is an American writer currently living in Hong Kong. She is the author of an e-book exclusive, The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing. A graduate of Colgate University in New York, Shannon writes a blog called A Kindle in Hong Kong, which features her walking tours, book reviews, and bookspotting adventures. She recently finished writing a travel memoir about the year she followed a man she met at a fencing club to Hong Kong, only for him to be sent to London a month later.
Visit Shannon’s website to see original photos from Beijing illustrating each chapter of this story.
The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing
The drama, the variety, the spectacle - Shannon can't get enough of it. She is an American student who has always been fascinated by the Olympic Games; her father has a lifelong love affair with China. They team up for the Beijing games and the adventure of a lifetime. Without the filter of a small screen, Shannon and her dad are hypnotized by the passion of a great nation unveiling itself to the world. This mini travel memoir is a picture of a new China and the experiences that would change one American girl's life forever.
Now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble for $0.99.

3 Give@way: All Things Different by Shawn Underhill

Late in the summer of 2005, starkly independent Jake Thornton was on the verge of turning 16, expecting little more than his driver’s license in the fall, and the continuance of the quiet life shared with his father. So when 14-almost-15 year old Sara moved in next door and began vying for his father’s attention, Jake wasn’t exactly thrilled, and couldn’t quite understand his father’s motives for allowing it. But certainly he never anticipated the dramatic shift their lives would take as a result.

As the summer fades and autumn takes over, friendship between the two teenagers begins blossoming into a bond, until fate steps in once more, threatening to tear them apart as quickly as they’ve come together. The decisions that follow, and the emotive tale that results, opens Jake’s eyes to the simple yet life altering truth, a truth that Sara has understood all along: that love—not the feeling but the action—is the most powerful force in the world.

Thanks to the author I have an e-copy of All Things Different to giveaway to a lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. You must be at least 13 years old to enter. Please fill out the form below.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

0 Review: The Elusive Mr. McCoy by Brenda Baker

Title: The Elusive Mr. McCoy
Author: Brenda Baker
Publisher: NAL
Published: July 3, 2012
paperback, 336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-451-23689-0
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

While trying to identify a man who collapses in a Portland, Oregon, coffee shop, two wallets are found: one belonging to David McCoy, the other to Eric McCoy.
Devastated by their comatose husband’s betrayal, Kendra and Lesley reluctantly join forces in an attempt to piece together a true picture of the man they both fell in love with. Instead, they uncover a vast web of deceit as they learn their husband lived a third life neither of them suspected.

My thoughts:
The Elusive Mr. McCoy by Brenda Baker is a very intriguing novel. From the first page, it had me hooked. David/Eric McCoy collapses in a coffee shop in front of Jason Cheddick, who is a private investigator. Jason  discovers two different ID's on this man when he checks for identification; one for Eric McCoy and one for David McCoy. Confused as to why someone would have two aliases, they contact the different address to hopefully find out the true identity of this stranger. At the hospital two women show up, Kendra and Lesley, who might be possibly married to McCoy. When they both are asked to identify this man they soon discover that not only is he married to Kendra, he is also married to Lesley. He has been leading a double life. McCoy is in a coma and unable to explain the why of it all. Kendra takes is upon herself to hire Jason to uncover the mystery of Mr. McCoy. Kendra and Lesley work together to try and figure out the pieces of this crazy puzzle.
There are four main characters in this book: Kendra, Leslie, Jason, and McCoy. Baker not only focuses on finding out who McCoy really is, but also focuses on the other three characters and their families. She gives you an inside look at the lives that McCoy has invaded. At times it almost seemed as if McCoy's story took a back seat to some of the families side stories. Although I did enjoy reading about them, I was more interested in finding out who the real slim shady is. Brenda Baker did keep me in anticipation throughout the novel, which made it all the more enjoyable. The way the characters reacted to finding out that McCoy wasn't who they thought he was, was very interesting as well.
Overall this book is very enjoyable. I like the characters and the plot. This is a great book for the summer. My imagination went wild trying to guess who McCoy really is. I was shocked to find out that he was . . . Only joking. I would never tell you the ending. You'll just have to read the book yourself.
My rating:
I would rate this book a 3.5 so I'll round it up to 4
To find out more of the inspiration behind The Elusive Mr. McCoy, check out this guest post by Brenda Baker.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Give@way Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson's Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.
Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can't stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see.

Thanks to Tor books I have five copies of Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson to giveaway! This giveaway is for US/Canada addresses only. To enter you must be over 13 years old. Please fill out the form below.

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0 Q&A with Andrew John Rainnie

1. Why did you choose My Right Leg is Tastier Than My Left for your title?

It is the name of one of the chapter is the book, specifically Bangkok. When I was travelling I tried to make my blog titles funny or interesting. This specific one came about due to the fact that while sleeping in Bangkok, all the biting insects feasting on my right leg, but not my left, which meant I had one leg dotted with big splotches, while the other was relatively unscathed!

2. Why did you quit your job to travel the world?
I think the question should be why more people don't! I had been working the same job for five years, as well as freelancing and filmmaking, but my job was just a paycheck; the only thing I miss now are the friends I had there. But after I finished shooting my second short film, The Collector (based on a short story by acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem), I knew I had to go travelling then because I would not have the opportunity to do so again. We had shot for eight days in late 2010, which was quite a big shoot for a short film, and creatively I was very frustrated and depleted. Once there was an edit of the film I was happy with, I passed it onto the post-production sound team, who were going to be working on it while I travelled, then booked all my flights and ran!

3. What was one of the best experiences you had while traveling?
There are literally too many to choose from. I'm tempted to say one of the big activities I did like black water rafting or bungy jumping, but I think just meeting other travellers and connecting with people, especially with an old school friend Kenny Cook in Australia, and the friends I made around the world. I started out travelling very much still in the mind of a workaholic, but slowly realised that it was not just about seeing these amazing places, but meeting lots of new people on the road.

4. What was one of the worst experiences you had while traveling?
There are two. One was a con artist stealing $30 from me in Hanoi, which I eventually got back but after half an hour of shouting and swearing. Vietnam was a lovely country but as a solo backpacker I found myself the target of lots of people like that.

The second gives away the end of Part Three of the book (SPOILER ALERT) but I managed to break my leg in Peru, and ended up spending a few weeks in hospital being operated on before I could come home. While I did end up finishing my trip (or the last two weeks of it), it was such a devastating accident to have happen to you, especially when you have taken time out of your life, only to have it stolen away.

5. If you could have taken anyone (past/present) in the world with you, who would you choose?
Well I would say my friend Victoria, but she joined me in South America for a few weeks! I often mention an ex-girlfriend of mine in the book, Debbie, I guess she would have been the ideal companion from my own life, because I realised I do not know her as well I would like, so it would have been ideal (for me at least).

But if you mean ANYONE, I would have to go all geek-mode and say Joss Whedon. The man is pretty much my personal hero, and I found myself writing a lot on the road, so it would have been fun to have a writing guru to pitch ideas off of while we were say, swimming off the coast of Fiji or climbing the Great Wall of China.

Of course then The Avengers movie would never have been made, which would be criminal!

So no, no Joss Whedon. Let's go with Olivia Wilde. Hot, amazing actress - can't go wrong!

6. The Cover to your book is quite interesting. Do you often stow a cup in your bra?
Haha! Yeah, that picture was my Christmas card in 2011! It was from a pub in New Zealand called the Manipua Pub, or as it is affectionately know, the Poo Pub. The bus tour I was travelling on, The Kiwi Experience, booked it out for a private fancy dress party. We had chosen a Bags & Drag theme (girls in bin bags, boys in drag). None of the girls on the bus had anything remotely in my size, so I nipped off to Postie and picked up a pair of bra and pants, while my friend Lawrence purchased some balloons for our breasts!

However, for my sheer lack of shame I won a prize (second; the winner was this girl who created a massive wedding dress out of white bin bags). My prize was a DVD and photo package for a bungy jump, which I was not planning on doing as I'm pretty scared of heights. I took it as a sign that I should throw fear to the wind, and what an amazing experience that was.

But I'll tell you something, the balloon bra pint holder was very handy! I might even patent it! Many of my friends know I have little to no shame, and will do anything for a laugh.

7. Besides writing and traveling, what do you like to do?
Well writing is a large part of my life, but to relax I like to just chill in front of the TV or watch a film. I'm also an avid gamer, I'm currently News Editor at WarpZoned.com. If I wasn't so into filmmaking I think I would want to design video games.

8. What is one book you would recommend  everyone should read?
What a question! It would be a toss up between One Day by David Nicholls, which I read while travelling, or Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, which I have bought five times as gifts for other people. I think I cried while reading both.

9. What is your favorite thing from your hometown in Renfrew, Scotland
I'm not sure actually. I lived in London for six years, so coming back to Renfrew, everything has changed and most of my friends have moved away. There used to be a great tree I climbed as a kid, but its been knocked down for housing. As sad as it sounds, I would probably say Tesco, the local supermarket I used to work in while funding my way through university. I have lots of happy memories of that place (I made a short film inside it once!). I remember one shift, a packet of jelly burst open, so me and the other shelf-stackers took the individual cubes and tried to get them to stick to the ceiling which was trickier than it sounds, as you had throw it so that the arc of the throw caught the roof, otherwise it just bounced off. Anyway, a few of us managed it, and they are still there nearly a decade later!

10. What did you do last night? 
Nothing I will repeat in print!

Check out Rainnie's website @ www.andrewjohnrainnie.com

Buy the book:
amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/Right-Tastier-Than-Left-ebook/dp/B0088ES282
amazon.co.uk - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Tastier-Than-Left-ebook/dp/B0088ES282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342308670&sr=8-1
smahswords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/168188
google play - https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Andrew_John_Rainnie_My_Right_Leg_Is_Tastier_Than_M?id=ajoML7EaUyEC&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImJvb2stYWpvTUw3RWFVeUVDIl0.
barnes & noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-right-leg-is-tastier-than-my-left-andrew-john-rainnie/1111649021

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

0 A Short Q&A With Victoria Hanley

How did the idea for Wild Ink come about?
Participants in my workshops at writers’ conferences were eager for more complete information on writing for young adults (YA). There’s so much to say about this fascinating subject—more than can be covered in a few hours.

Why do you write young adult fiction?
I’m drawn to coming-of-age stories full of intensity, growth, and passionate voices.

What do you see as the future of young adult fiction?
More and more readers will discover this genre, and for good reason. YA novels are fast-paced and well-written, starring dynamic young characters who wrestle with all the pressures of life. Irresistible! I expect the market to keep expanding.

What about the future of YA nonfiction?
Nonfiction YA is an exploding genre right now. Hundreds of topics are just waiting for knowledgeable authors to write about them in a refreshing style that appeals to teens. (Wild Ink includes a chapter on writing nonfiction YA.)

What makes Wild Ink stand out from other books on writing/publishing YA fiction?
Wild Ink is packed with examples from novels such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, giving readers in-depth tips on how to turn their own ideas into riveting stories. Dozens of interviews with writers, editors, and agents provide an inspirational view of what’s happening in the industry and how to approach finishing a book and getting published.

How can I contact you to learn more about Wild Ink or the young adult market?
Please contact reviews@prufrock.com for more information on my book or visit my website, http://www.victoriahanley.com, to find out how to contact me directly.
Wild Ink: Success Secrets for Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market

Victoria Hanley loves to nurture emerging writers. She is the award-winning author of the best-selling books, Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write and Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction for Young Adults. She is also a YA novelist published in 13 languages. Her books have received awards and honors in the U.S. and abroad, including the International Reading Association Young Adults’ Choices, the Colorado Book Award, Kallbacher-Klapperschlange Award (Germany), Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award, Publishers West Silver Award, and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Her work has also been placed on state award lists in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, and Colorado, and earned a Carnegie Medal nomination in the United Kingdom.

Victoria is an active speaker and workshop leader, and the recipient of the Colorado Broadcasters Association Award for Best Regularly Scheduled Feature. She has been a featured speaker for the Young Adult Literature Conference, the Colorado Chapter of the International Reading Association, the High Plains Library Association, the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Colorado Association of Libraries, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Rock Solid Writers Conference, Big Sur in the Rockies, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She has been published in the ALAN Review, and also has led workshops for thousands of teens at libraries and schools across the mountains and plains region. Growing up, Victoria lived in California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Oregon. She now lives with her family in Colorado at the foothills of the Rockies.

For more information on Victoria Hanley, visit her website at
About Victoria Hanley

Monday, July 23, 2012

7 Jackie Bouchard Guest Post: Four Lessons From Three Dogs

Four Lessons from Three Dogs

In “What the Dog Ate,” Maggie Baxter, a practical, rule-follower uses her Lab, Kona, as her guru to find tail-wagging joy. Just like Kona helps Maggie in both her career and her life, the three pups my husband and I have owned have taught me valuable lessons about my work—and about life.

1. It’s okay to be scared, but you still have to put yourself out there.
Our current rescue pup, Rita, was found on a Mexican beach. Whatever she went through as a stray made her a bit leery of new dogs and people. But that doesn’t stop her! We often visit an off-leash beach, and even though visibly trepidatious, she still approaches every dog looking for some playtime. Even though shaking in her furry boots, she bravely marches on.

I’m pretty shy myself. But writing means putting yourself out there, whether on the page or through marketing efforts. Rita reminds me to be brave.

Do fears hold you back? Rita says: Don’t let ’em! Just drag them along while going for your goals.

2. Determination is key!
Our previous rescue, Abby, got bone cancer at 15-months old and her front leg had to be amputated. There were so many things I thought she’d never do again: use the doggy door, dig (well, I’d kinda hoped…), sit up and shake (she lost her shaking paw!). But she did them all—with grace and gusto.

For me, writing is hard. I don’t sit at the desk and the words flow like water from a faucet. I’m more like a shriveled sponge, and I wring out each word. Abby reminds me to keep wringing.

Do you have a goal? Abby says: What are you waiting for? Go for it!

3. If you need help getting what you want, ask.
Bailey, our first pup, was a stubborn, funny beagle. Although lacking words, she excelled at communication. If she wanted something she couldn’t reach, she would demand ask that you get it for her.

Writing is mostly solitary work, but sometimes you need to ask for help—you need readers to give feedback, and when the book’s done, you need help marketing it. I tend to be a DIY girl, so it’s hard for me to seek help. Bailey reminds me it’s okay to ask. (I just try not to sound whiney…)

Do you need help with something? Bailey says: It never hurts to ask!

4. Make it fun!
Bailey, Abby, Rita and Kona were/are all about the fun. Yes, life’s not always a picnic (there are vet visits! And baths!), but dogs don’t dwell on the negative. They see potential for fun everywhere.

To me, selling books isn’t fun. Sometimes even writing them isn’t! But making people laugh is. I’m still working on this lesson, but I try not to dwell on the negative and focus on the fun.

Dogs remind us that the potential for fun is all around. All the dogs say: Stop and let a breeze ruffle your hair, chase a butterfly, romp!

Have you romped a little today?

About the book
“What the Dog Ate” is "Must Love Dogs" meets "Marley & Me." When Maggie Baxter, a practical, rule-following accountant, finds out what her chocolate Lab ate, her world turns upside down. Maggie thought she had the rest of her life meticulously planned out, but now she needs to figure out Plan B. With her dog, Kona, as her guru, Maggie embarks on a funny, heartwarming quest to find tail-wagging joy.

It is available via the following:
Print and e-book: Amazon
Print only: CreateSpace
E-book only: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and iTunes

Connect with Jackie at:
Her site: www.jackiebouchard.com
Her blog: http://poochsmooches.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JackieBouchardWriter
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jackiebouchard
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5781094.Jackie_Bouchard

Saturday, July 21, 2012

38 To review, or not to review . . .

To review, or not to review. That is the question. This past week has been terrible for relations between authors and reviewers. A lot of damage has been done, and people have stepped way over the line. A review blog, such as this one, is a platform for readers to express their opinions about the books they read. Some people only review books that they love, some people review books with a snarky tongue, and some find a happy medium in-between. Yes, I know there are internet trolls out there that go out of their way to make life miserable for other people. They go onto Amazon, Goodreads, and whatever social media outlet they can find to do nothing but spread hate and discontent. I don't know why these people feel the need to do so. Maybe their mother never hugged them as children.  Maybe they have a low self-esteem. Maybe they're just assholes. I don't know. However, the majority of the review blogs out there, review books for none other than the love of reading. Sometimes we love the books we read, other times not so much.
If you're not familiar with Goodreads, it's a social media site for book lovers. I'm a member. I particularly like it because I can keep track of my books, see what my friends are reading, and also keep track of upcoming titles. Lately Goodreads has become a war zone. Some readers have left reviews on books that they don't like in the way they saw fit. This angered some people, authors I think. So in turn if a reviewer leaves a bad review on a book, they are equating it to being a bully. You read that right, bad review = bully. A site has been created, black listing has been done, names have been called,  pitch forks and torches have been grabbed. Basically these people are crying out "The only opinion you can have, is the one I give you" Basically denying freedom of speech. They've crossed lines and potentially endangered the 'called out' reviewers. Others authors have joined this 'Goodreads crusade' for taking down these unruly reviewers.

As a reader, this saddens me. It kills the joy of reading. It evokes fear of stating my opinion of the books I read. We live in a country where our forefathers fought to give us the right to express ourselves; to be able to say 'I don't like this' and not to be persecuted. I've seen posts this week that have been threatening to harm other people. Names such as 'bitch, slut, and cunt' have been freely used to refer to people that have opposing opinions. Racial slurs have been thrown around. I think it's great when people are passionate about something, but seriously? It would be great if people could have a rational discussion without resulting in name calling. How grade school is that? I think that might be insulting to even grade school. And why are people acting this way? Over a book. A book! I know authors put a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Criticism is hard to take no matter who you are. Don't go seeking out these reviews if it bothers you. Walk away. Don't follow people on twitter, facebook, or goodreads that offend you. The internet can be a wealth of knowledge, but it can also be very hurtful. Kids today are taught 'think before you hit send' and 'if you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't post it online'. I think some adults need to learn this lesson as well. 

As a reviewer, I am shaking my head. This reflects badly on the industry. Self-pub and Indie authors have taken a lot of heat for this. Many blogs won't even consider reviewing these types of books. And now, I fear, even less will be open to the idea. I have worked with indie/self-pub authors and read many indie/self-pub books that are fabulous. In that time, I've only have had one bad experience, but I did not let that deter me  from working with these authors. However this week I seriously gave it some thought. I decided that I will continue working with these authors because in truth, the ones I've worked with have been fantastic, and I'm not going to be intimidated. I strongly urge the reviewers who are on the fence with this issue to give indie/self-pub authors a chance. If needed, shoot me an email and I will give you a list a authors who have been great to work with. (See, I can make lists too.)
This blog is MY platform to talk about the books I love. Goodreads, Amazon, and any other social media outlet I use has also given me a little space to express my thoughts. As long as I don't violate their terms of service I am free to state my own opinions, good or bad. I am under no obligation to anyone other than myself. I use this website as a platform to help promote authors at my discretion. I have the right to choose what gets posted and what doesn't.  The same goes for all the blogs out there. We don't get paid for this. It is done for the love of reading. We do this in our 'spare' time even though it's like having a part-time job. I take what I do seriously, as do most of the bloggers out there.

So if this posts gets me put on a 'list' because I won't conform or bow down to the pressure to post only positive reviews, then so be it. In fact, please do put me on that list because I would not want to work with someone like that. There are so many other books and authors that deserve the spotlight instead.

0 Andrea Kane Q&A


1.      Q: Where do you do most of your writing?
A: Wherever my Pomeranian lets me.  It’s amazing where he can place his snout, his paws, his tail and his body on my laptop to prevent me from writingJ

2.      Q: Do you have an inspiration board for each book? Maybe a scrapbook? What inspires you when you’re writing?
A: No boards, no scrapbooks.  I’m a pretty cerebral person.  For me, the inspiration comes from within – characters with a story they’re excited to tell!

3.      Q: Are any characters in the book based on people you know or have met in your personal life?
A: I am constantly inspired by people (and animals) I meet while researching my novels:  FBI agents, cops, other law enforcement personnel, doctors, nurses, vets, dogs, as well as people I meet in my everyday life.  I think my characters embody the best and worst traits of all of them.  Working closely with the FBI has given me the opportunity to see integrity, dedication, intelligence, and insightfulness up close and personal.

4.      Q: Which part of THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE was the most enjoyable to write?
A: The best part of writing THE LINE, for me, was bringing back the whole FI team. They've become so real to me, I love "spending" more time with them!

5.      Q: Which part was the least enjoyable?
A: My readers know how I feel about children and animals. And, as a mother, it was so hard for me to write from Amanda's perspective as she watched her critically ill baby struggle for his life.

Click the button at the top of the post or click here to check out more interviews, reviews, and giveaways!

Friday, July 20, 2012

0 Alex Clermont Guest Post: “Smiling With a Full Stomach”

“Smiling With a Full Stomach”

In order to create a convincing world through words one of the things a writer must do is look at things. And not to tout my horn on this otherwise useless talent, but I do it very well. I sneak looks when people are being candid; I gawk when something strange is happening; I stare when beautiful or amazing moments grab my attention. I’ve been a great looker since I was a kid, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that people tend to be much happier when they’re eating food together.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sunday dinners all suggested this to me. I can remember enjoying any holiday where my loosely knit extended family of second Uncles and grand cousins came to the dinner table. People that I only saw during funerals would show up and gossip cheerfully with my parents and other grownups between mouthfuls of hard to make food that I, even now, could never recreate without cutting a finger or burning some important part of my body. Growing up I thought these events were specific to my family, but soon I learned through experience that getting together to eat was something everyone in the country enjoyed.

That perspective of what the dinner table looked like expanded beyond national limits when I moved to South Korea in 2009. I had accepted a job offer to be an English teacher there, and though I had never lived outside of my native New York City, I planned to stay at least one year in a country I knew nothing about. One of the most important things I was exposed to was their food culture, which was very different, but very similar to our own.

During one of my first dinners there I was offered plate after plate of strange but delicious food while everyone around me smiled and told jokes about horrible things that happened to them. “And I’m just stranded there! No money and my cell phone’s not working cause its Russia! Ha Ha!” The story could just as easily have come from one of my uncles, if I replaced Russia with New Jersey and cell phone with nothing.

Sharing life stories while laughing and learning about the person next to you is universal. I knew it before I left the U.S., but to see it in person was something else. From my adolescent years of being a good looker I knew that people were living their lives in varying degrees of alienation. What I saw on the other side of the world was that if we just slow down and sit with other human beings to do something as simple as feed ourselves those barriers fade slightly (The reasons behind it are a mystery to me, though I suspect everyone has a hidden fear of starving that’s temporary beaten back by the act of eating with see others who are eating.).

Noticing such general human trends such as the pleasure of a good meal with good company was one of the reasons I wrote my first book, “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely.” It’s a collection of true stories about my time in South Korea. If you didn’t know, Kimchi is fermented (read “rotten”) cabbage mixed with chili power and other spices. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever eaten, but while sitting with some wonderful people I ate bowls of it. I laughed and joked and looked around to see that everyone was smiling.

Alex Clermont is a creative writer born and raised in New York City. He has been a contributing writer to Beyond Race Magazine, covering and interviewing independent creative artists and musicians in New York. Alex has been featured in several publications such as, Out of Place – an anthology featuring authors from around the globe. He also regularly posts short fiction pieces on his website AlexClermontWrites.com

Alex’s first book, available now and titled "Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely," is a collection of narratives about his time living in in South Korea.

He also smiles a whole lot. Say “Hi” if you get the chance. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2 Review: The Girl's Ghost Hunting Guide by Stacey Graham

Title: The Girl's Ghost Hunting Guide
Author: Stacey Graham
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Published: May 1, 2012
paperback, 192 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4022-6612-6
Genre: Nonfiction/Juvenile
Source: Publisher


What was that noise? The cat? The wind?
Little brother stealing a peek at your diary?
Or is it a ghost?
The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide will help you identify the creepy crawlers from the spooky spirits, the howling winds fromt he haunting phantoms. And with this guide you can learn from real experts how to investigate and contact your very own ghosts!

My thoughts:
The Girl's Ghost Hunting Guide by Stacey Graham isn't what I thought it would be. I thought it would be cute stories and tricks that would be shared during a slumber party, or the like. I didn't realize until I started reading it that it is an actual ghost hunting guide. If you're familiar with the television show, Ghost Hunters, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I was pleasantly surprised by this book.
The first thing I want to do is give Stacy Graham a high-five for pointing out and emphasizing safety. As a parent, I really appreciated it. Graham makes several points such as, don't investigate alone, ask advice from an adult, and use common sense. This book is a great guide to children who want to investigate the paranormal. This book includes interviews from actual paranormal investigators, ghost stories, quizzes, and more information. The Girl's Ghost Hunting Guide gives you step by step instructions and tips for ghost hunting.
If you know a kid who's interested in this field, I would suggest this book. It's definitely a 'To Read'

My rating:
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

4 Guest Post Lonely Together by Kathleen McFall

Lonely Together

When you have the loneliest job in the world — writing — it helps to have a partner

Few professional pursuits are as lonely as writing. A lighthouse keeper comes close. Or a hermit seeking enlightenment. Or possibly a toll booth operator.
It’s not that writers purposefully cut ourselves off from people, it’s just that we tend to live mostly inside our heads — forever spinning out plotlines, testing stories, creating characters, constructing new worlds and constantly, chronically, obsessively observing. And taking notes. It’s not normal behavior, truthfully, and it can make us feel alone, even in crowds.
Most productive writers don’t spend too much time in crowds anyway because we’re generally sequestered away somewhere scribbling in notebooks or pounding a keyboard. So it’s lonely AND boring. Think of the worst tortured artist from some subtitled French black and white film, magnify that by a god complex of biblical proportions and then add years of disappointment and the final product is somewhere near a typical writer. And chances are, that writer is probably single or has a sorely disappointed, long-suffering and very patient partner.
What’s the anti-mating call of the writer? “Not tonight dear, I’m making great progress on my book/short story/screenplay/manifesto.”
We are either lucky or crazy (probably both; about 60/40) because we fell in love knowing full well that our intended had the derangement of the senses that comes with being a writer. Then we went full blown loco and began writing together.
It started with The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance in 1999. At the time, we were trying to figure out how to put the pieces of our relationship back together after a fiery break up and two years in separate seclusion. The strategy worked. We’ve been writing together for more than ten years now and growing even lonelier together.
Now we happily (note: all writers are a little bit depressive) spend those fevered, stolen moments writing together, but apart, and taking comfort in the long silences, the frenzied work and crazed muttering. Instead of trying to minimize the self-imposed mental exile, instead of trying to schedule time to be social and “do” things together, we forged a writing partnership based in our shared loneliness.
Our second book, Blood and Whiskey, was just released and we barely did anything at all while we worked on it except write, talk about writing and then write some more. And it was kind of awesome.
When you have found the person you can be alone with, no matter what you do together, you’ve found the right person.
About the books
Blood and Whiskey (Pumpjack Press, May 2012), by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays, is the second book in the Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series. It’s a wickedly funny tale of love, loyalty and sacrifice in the modern west.
About the authors
Stuff Clark likes: sagebrush, the American West, clouds, whiskey and graphic novels. Stuff he hates: running quarterbacks, drivers who don’t use turn signals and the sound of flip-flops.
Stuff Kathleen likes: Russian literature, anarchy, martinis, lava and the ocean. Stuff she hates: intermissions, Halloween corn mazes and high-speed vehicular sandwiches. And the Muppets.
Find out more about The Cowboy and the Vampire Thriller Series:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

0 Q&A with Brent Wolfingbarger

1. What made you want to write a political thriller?
I’ve always been interested in politics, and my experience handling election law cases served to heighten my awareness as to the myriad of ways that a very determined group of people could corruptly influence the results of an election.  Thus, the seed for The Dirty Secret was planted in my brain, and I’m very happy that I was able to drawn upon my real world experience to craft a story that reviewers have consistently found enjoyable.

2. Who is your favorite character in The Dirty Secret and why?
I’d say probably Sheriff “Silent” Doug Vaughn.  I really love Silent Doug because he is an enigma throughout most of the book.  A big, strong, by-the-book law enforcement guy who isn’t real big on small talk, he just keeps his nose to the grindstone and gets his job done without much fanfare.  However, there’s an air of mystery about him – especially when it comes to his missing left eye – and readers tend to be quite curious about him, wondering exactly what role he will play when the drama reaches its crescendo.  Slowly disclosing Silent Doug’s backstory, setting the stage where his key role is revealed, was one of the most satisfying parts of writing the book for me.

3. What sort of coffee would Rikki and Dave order from Starbucks?
Wow.  Great question!  Rikki is a very particular woman who knows what she wants, and I think she would probably order a White Chocolate Mocha.  She would relish its decadent white chocolate taste while resolving to run a few extra miles on the treadmill to burn off the extra calories.  And she would definitely get the grande size, as I can just hear her saying, “Go big or go home!” 

Dave, on the other hand, is known to relax with an ice cold Yuengling or Diet Coke in his hand.  So if he is venturing into a Starbucks, my bet is he would go with something cold like a Caramel Frappucino or an Iced Caramel Macchiato.

4. Why did you pick West Virginia as the setting?  
First of all, West Virginia is my home state, and I feel like I have a pretty good grip on its political currents.  I have represented both Democrats and Republicans in election law cases in West Virginia, and I believe my familiarity with the state’s history and laws helped me create a story that rings true with people.
Plus, I think it’s a pretty unique place with a unique culture that provides an entertaining setting for a political thriller:  After all, even a political thriller junkie like me gets a little tired of reading about the same old scenes in Washington, DC over and over and over.  Choosing West Virginia allowed me to break the mold just a bit, while also faithfully adhering to the advice that New York Times best-selling author, Stephen Coonts, has been kind enough to share with aspiring authors on his website:  “Beginning writers are well advised to write about something they know. Many beginners try to write about people and places and events that they know absolutely nothing about, and consequently expend vast quantities of time and effort but cannot get the story to read right.”

5. What do you hope to say to people with your writing?
As goofy as it may sound, I honestly have no underlying “message” I’m trying to convey.  I just wanted to write a story that people would find enjoyable, entertaining, unpredictable, and occasionally humorous.  And from the reviews I’ve received thus far, I think I succeeded.

6. Do you have any dirty secrets you want to share?
I remain a die-hard fan of 80s “arena rock” music!  From the big names like Guns N Roses, Great White, Dokken, Night Ranger, Judas Priest and Tesla, to lesser known bands like Tyketto, Baton Rouge, and XYZ, there’s just something about that genre of music that gets me pumped up and ready to take on the world!

7. What book do you recommend everyone should read?
On the fiction side, even if you’re not a fan of science fiction, you can’t go wrong reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  A great story with one of the most jaw-dropping curveballs I’ve ever read.  On the non-fiction side, if you’re interested in learning about American history and how regional cultural influences carried by immigrants from various parts of Britain continue to influence American cultural and political views today, I’d strongly recommend Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer.

8. What did you have for dinner last night?
Some home cooking, compliments of my wife!  BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and green beans. Oh, yeah! 

9. What book are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Coup D’état by Ben Coes.  It’s the second book in his series of thrillers featuring a former Delta soldier named Dewey Andreas, and it was a great read.  I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Power Down , so now it looks like I will need to pick up the third and most recent book in the series, The Last Refuge.

10. What's next for you?
I’m working on a sequel to THE DIRTY SECRET, after which I will shift gears and focus on another thriller project featuring an entirely different group of characters.  That is, when I can find the time late at night, after my wife and I have put our two kids to bed. LOL

Additionally, here are the links to my author website, as well as to online retailers where my book can be purchased:


Amazon.com (also available on all of Amazon’s European channels)

Barnes & Noble

Books A Million

West Virginia Book Company

Brent Wolfingbarger has been practicing law for almost two decades, representing both Democrats and Republicans in closely contested, high-profile election law battles.  He spent five years as a prosecutor in West Virginia, handling the full spectrum of cases including murder, sexual assault and computer-related crimes and actively focusing on cutting-edge issues related to the acquisition, analysis and use of digital evidence in criminal cases.
Wolfingbarger lives in Washington, DC where he continues to work as a prosecutor, handling white collar financial crimes and violent crimes committed against elderly and disabled victims.  Visit his website at www.wolfingbarger.com.

Monday, July 16, 2012

0 The Language of Flowers: Marie-Anne Mancio Guest Post

The Language of Flowers

I've always been taken with French philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir's statement that  'one is not born a woman, one becomes one.' What she meant was culture teaches us how to be feminine; it constructs our identity as women. (It wasn't so long ago that it was considered 'unnatural' for women to like sex for instance!)
As a historical novelist, I'm fascinated by context and the choices people make. And, whichever way you look at it, women's choices were more limited in the 19th Century. For me, many of our choices are led by our personalities but are also very dependent on other circumstances: economic, familial etc. It's the old nature/nurture debate.

Whorticulture (a hybrid word, a play on ‘whore’ and ‘horticulture’) has many references to nature. In the 19th Century, flower dictionaries were hugely popular, published in the U.S. in journal articles from the late 1820s onwards and in books such as Flora's Interpreter (ed. Sarah Josepha Hale, 1832). Lovers would consult the dictionaries, make bouquets, and send them to one another. It was like a game because then you had to decode the meaning and it wasn't always obvious because sometimes flowers were used ironically. And because meanings weren't standardized across dictionaries, you also had to make sure you were using the same book! In Whorticulture Abigail  ̶  this rather pragmatic shopkeeper who makes an enormous journey from the east to what will become San Francisco  ̶  plays that game with Jerome, a charismatic thief whom she falls in love with. I created my own bouquets for my female narrators so if the reader wants a quick insight into their character, it's there in the title chapter. There are also references to specific flowers within the text and these too are relevant to their context.

But Whorticulture is not just about flowers themselves but about everything flowers imply  ̶  planting, growth, seeds, nurturing, transplanting, pruning, weeds, cultivating etc. If you want to grow a certain kind of plant, the conditions (the soil, climate, and so on) have to be right. So I started thinking how the nature/nurture debate applies to morality. Are some people just born bad (do they inherit it like a genetic predisposition?) or is their badness the result of many factors including upbringing, surroundings etc. What would happen to you if you were taken from one environment and transplanted? Would you wither or would you bloom? Are you a hardy weed or a delicate hot house plant? And if you had to construct a bouquet to represent you, what flowers would you choose?

Marie-Anne Mancio

Friday, July 13, 2012

0 Q&A with Richard McCartney

1. Please tell us a little about Desmond Cory's new novel, On The Gulf?
On the Gulf is a departure from the previous novels written by Desmond Cory. Having written a number of successful detective novels with series characters Prof. John Dobie and before that Johnny Fedora, the author wanted to experiment more and touch on some modern themes. It is the first novel from the author based in the Middle East where he lived for a number of years, and is arguably quite topical given the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world right now.

2. Why did you feel the need to publish it after his death?
In addition to several requests we received at the Desmond Cory website asking for more novels, we felt that On the Gulf was probably one of the best Cory novels ever written, and therefore deserved to be published. It was 99% finished needing just a few tweaks, and with many well-known authors turning to self-publishing, we felt this was the best way to go.

3. What was Desmond Cory like as a father?
Incredibly modest. He never really told us about his success as a novelist, as a screen-writer of Graham Greene's novels, or many of his literary awards he won.
More likely than not, he was often typing industriously at the keyboard, puffing away more than just occasionally on his favourite brand of cigarettes, nonchalantly stroking a sideburn with the middle finger of his left hand, completely impervious to the world around him, lost in silent meditation and creative thought, weaving his magic on his next novel. Only later did we learn how successful his novels became.

4. Has your dad ever given you any advice that has stuck with you throughout the years?
He was a strong believer in learning yourself from life. It's something I've appreciated more as I have grown older myself. He also taught me the importance of following your own gut feeling and not to be too influenced by others.

5. Do you have a favorite book written by your dad?
The Catalyst   (published as The Strange Attractor  in the UK) remains my favorite. The humor in it is great, and the plot is just so clever.

6. Do you fancy yourself a writer or do you have other passions you pursue?
No. One has to know one's limitations, so while I can edit and promote books online, I leave writing to those who clearly have a talent for it.

7. What is one thing you want people to remember about Desmond Cory?
Some critics have rendered Desmond Cory a disservice by indiscriminately linking his name more or less exclusively with the fictional secret agent genre. He was much more than another Ian Fleming. He was a prolific and marvellously eclectic artist, equally at home with spy novels as with thrillers (Deadfall – subsequently made into a movie starring Michael Caine with music by the late John Barry), detective stories (the Lindy Grey series: Begin, murderer; This is Jezebel; Lady Lost; The Shaken Leaf), psychological masterpieces (The Night Hawk; The Circe Complex), creating a very credible and amusing stylistic imitation of some of the giants of English literature (Lucky Ham), children’s books (Anne and Peter in Southern Spain; Jones on the Belgrade Express), combining all these facets with his own unique humour (The Dobie Trilogy: The Strange Attractor; The Mask of Zeus; The Dobie Paradox), writing film scripts (England Made Me), while at the same time publishing numerous erudite academic studies on English and European literature. His work also won important accolades such as the Sunday Times best crime novel of the year, and crime critics' choice of the year. Moreover, he could twinkle on the old ebonies and ivories with a certain panache, was a dab hand with brush and canvas, a talented amateur photographer and spoke Spanish and French quite fluently. But perhaps even more importantly, he was a loving and currently greatly-missed husband, father and grand-father.

8. When and where will this book be available?
It has just been published on Amazon Kindle at:
What they are saying about it:
"It has been far too many years since I had the pleasure to read a new work by Desmond Cory and now that wait is over. "On the Gulf" is a terrific return by a master who creates really interesting and complex characters and throws them together with a plot that keeps the reader guessing. Though several different people have major parts in this tale, the one called Bone is my favorite and I really enjoyed following him. The craziness of the Middle East political scene is a must read but will leave you shaking your head at the way allegiances seem to change for reasons that are realistic as they are frustrating. The Cory style of writing is truly a pleasure.
By Randall Mastellar, editor of critics website "spyguysandgals.com

Check out more books and information about Desmond Cory on his website.

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