Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Halloween Treat: Laura Del’s GRAVEYARD SHIFTS is FREE on Amazon!

Here’s a screaming good deal for lovers of paranormal romance. Graveyard Shifts, book one of Laura Del’s Pat Wyatt series, is FREE on Amazon! If that’s not cool enough, read on for a peek at book two, Dueling Moons!

Graveyard_Shifts_Cover-2

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3A5D58
Sent on an assignment to find the best diner in New York, Pat Wyatt is more than happy to complete it, but not alone. Recruiting her best friend Christina Iglesias to join her, she sets out on her fateful mission, completely oblivious to what lies ahead. When a handsome stranger walks through the doors of the last diner of the day, Pat is not impressed with the striking man, and quickly leaves the restaurant…only to be followed out by the attractive mystery man. Following a whirlwind of marriage proposals and Hamptons’ mansions is the creeping recognition that everyone seems to be afraid of her new husband and that he might not be as perfect as he seems. With everything inside pushing her toward an impossible realization, Pat must decide if she can trust the outlandish instincts she has inside and truly believe her husband, Samuel Satané, is a vampire. Graveyard Shifts: A Pat Wyatt Novel is a captivating piece of fiction that forgoes the traditional love story that is prevalent in so many novels. Pat’s story takes readers on a journey of love that happens after marriage, which adds real-world credibility to an otherwise fantastic scenario. Not to be confused with other novels though, Pat’s story is more about her strength of character than her reliance on any particular man. Written for women and men interested in horror fiction and romance, Graveyard Shifts is a gripping novel that is easy to pick up and hard to put down. With its sarcastic wit and dark tone, the novel keeps a perfect pace that never lulls.

Front_Cover.4951753Monsters, workplace headaches, and sordid love triangles collide in Laura Del’s delightfully dark Dueling Moons.

The adrenaline-pumping sequel to Graveyard Shifts: A Pat Wyatt Novel finds our sarcastically witty heroine once again fighting for her life.
After a move to rural Louisiana with her werewolf lover, Mike, freelance writer Pat Wyatt is hoping for a more subdued life. However, her demanding new editor makes work utterly excruciating, while her abusive vampire husband, Samuel, has frozen Mike’s assets and her attempts to get him to go to his werewolf pack for help go unheeded. Things go from bad to worse when Samuel begins appearing in her dreams—alongside none other than the queen of all vampires, Kathryn. Samuel and Kathryn’s ominous dream presence proves that, no matter where she goes, the vampires will always be able to find her. While still reeling from this realization, Pat’s car is set on fire by an unknown assailant. Soon, she finds herself in the middle of some major werewolf drama while a mysterious monster lurks within the city—a monster whose only mission appears to be murdering Pat! What, exactly, is this creature…and who is behind this deadly plot?

A Tense Legal Thriller Set in the Old West

In the winter of 1863-1864, a handful of brave men struggle to bring order to a territory overrun by criminals and roadside bandits.

God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana

God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana

When I started this book, I had no particular interest in westerns or in the history of the west, nor have I ever been to Montana. I like legal thrillers, and this one seemed to have a unique historical spin. The character of Dan Stark grabbed me from page one. This lawyer-turned-surveyor begins the book as a meek, frightened man who’s come to the gold fields of Montana to earn enough money to ransom his family’s good name after his father’s scandalous suicide. He’s pretty sure that he’s not going to survive long enough to complete his mission.

The Montana territory is overrun with murderers and thieves–supposed lawmen being the criminal ringleaders. The federal government, preoccupied by the Civil War, has been slow to even place the territory under the constitution of the United States. It is a place that’s both outside the Sturm und Drang of the war between the states and yet is also deeply impacted by it, as both Union soldiers and Confederate, equally bruised by what they’ve endured on the battlefield, struggle to dig their futures out of the same ground.

Dan’s downfall is double-edged, love and honor. When a friend is murdered in cold blood for his mules and gold, Dan cannot let the killers go unpunished. While there’s plenty of fear to get in the way of his best intentions, it has no where near the power of Dan’s yearning for the good opinion of Martha McDowell, the wife of a no-good drunk who keeps dangerous company. Martha demands the murdered man’s friends bring him justice…and they do. In the process, they unleash a series of events that will either turn the Montana territory into a fit place for decent people or doom it forever.

Carol Buchanan is a skilled writer with a keen sense of her characters’ emotional complexities. There’s very little black and white in the universe she gives us. Her people struggle to come to grips with their own mixed motivations and tangled feelings. Her heroes have moments of profound weakness, and her villains are given space to demonstrate humanity as well as vice.

GOD’S THUNDERBOLT is rich with historical detail that portrays the daily hardships of surviving in a hostile, newly settled environment. Buchanan gives us all the sights, sounds and (ick!) smells of life in an 1860s mining town. She also does a great job depicting the landscape with its harsh terrain and unforgiving weather.

The story itself is well paced and full of tension. There’s a nice balance between action (the scenes of violence are graphic and realistic) and romance. You can feel the excitement build at the Vigilantes come together and grow into a force powerful enough to take control of the territory and force order out of chaos. At the same time, there’s the suspense of Dan and Martha’s mutual attraction as undeniable as it is forbidden.

As I said, I wasn’t all that interested in the history of Montana when I started this book. But, now that I’ve finished it, I cannot wait to read the rest of the books of The Vigilante Quartet.

Meet Paranormal Romance Author Laura Del.

Visiting today is author Laura Del. A while back, I reviewed Graveyard Shifts, book one of her Pat Wyatt paranormal series. You can read the review HERE. Seeing as it’s nearly Halloween, I thought it would be fun to learn a little more about Laura and her spooky literary creations. Be sure to read past the interview to find out how to grab your own “treat” — a FREE copy of Graveyard Shifts!

Laura Del, author of the Pat Wyatt series

Author Laura Del

Pat Wyatt, the heroine of your paranormal romance Graveyard Shifts is a strong, straight-talking reporter who sets out to research a story and finds herself in the most unusual of marriages. How did you come up with this concept? Did Pat come first or the situation?

Pat actually came first. In fact, she was in several stories before I figured where she would fit. You could say that I have put her through the wringer. But then this storyline came to me and she fit so perfectly, I just had to write her in it.

How did you come to writing? Is it something you’ve always done?

I’ve always liked telling stories, ever since I was little, and then eight years ago I began to take my ideas and write them down in journals. That’s when I found my love for writing. It has helped me through some pretty tough times, and it makes me feel so wonderful when I know that people are reading my work.

Who do you trust with your early drafts? Do you belong to a writers group or have a beta reader?

I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t really like to send out my unfinished work. However, I wouldn’t object to finding some beta readers in the future. I know they can be helpful. I just have to get over that whole “they’re seeing my unfinished work, I may have a nervous breakdown” thing.

How do you approach the daily grind of writing a novel? Do you have a set work routine? What is most likely to get in the way of your writing sessions and how to you combat this obstacle?

I just sit down at my computer and write. I really don’t have a routine, but I must have music in my ears so that I can focus on the task at hand, and not get distracted by the TV and other shiny things. If that happens, I just put the music on, and all the outside noises and distractions go away.

Graveyard Shifts is the first of a planned series. Did you know there would be multiple Pat Wyatt books when you started? Do you have the entire series mapped out or is there room for improvisation?

Actually, I had no idea until I wrote out the first one in a journal that it was going to be a part of a series. In fact, I have all of them written out in journals just waiting to be typed up. I always do my first draft in a journal, so that if I want to make changes I can just type them as I go along. Sometimes the best scenes are the ones you improvise.

What do you find is the biggest challenge of being an independent author?

Trying to get publicity and trying to sell my books. I’ve tried so many things, and still it’s so hard to just sell one book.

What are your favorite ways to engage with your readers and/or to reach new ones?

I love going to book fairs. I give out cards, and try to engage them in conversation. Not only is it fun, but you get to hear some interesting stories from them as well. I also love writing teasers of works in progress on my blog. It’s fun when I see the comments saying that people love it. It makes my day.

What kind of books do you read? Does your reading impact your writing?

I pretty much read anything fiction. I love supernatural, mysteries, romance and historical fiction. And I think every book I read gives me ideas and makes me a better writer to boot.

Is there a book out there that you wish you’d written?

This is a tough one…
I don’t think so. I admire those who have come before me, and take inspiration from them, but I’m okay with what I write. They’re my style.

Are you working on anything new that you’d like to tell us about?

Well, Dueling Moons is coming out this Halloween, so there’s that. And I’m trying to figure out a story at the moment. It’s science fiction and should be young adult. But I’m having a hard time pinning down then ending. Cross your fingers for me.

No Trick! Just a TREAT:

Graveyard_Shifts_Cover-2Graveyard Shifts will be FREE on Halloween! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3A5D58

Connect with Laura:

Visit Laura’s Blog!

Say Hi to Laura on Facebook!

Saved by a Strong Point of View

A sensitive young woman finds herself attracted to her troubled stepbrother.

Stepbrother Dearest

Stepbrother Dearest

Greta’s father died when she was little. Her mom remarried a man she met online. What Greta didn’t realize is that he was already married. This betrayal and Elec’s protectiveness of his mentally fragile mother virtually guarantee that things will not go well between the step-siblings. Elec uses every dirty trick in the book to make Greta’s life miserable. Over time, though, it becomes clear that his real intention is to keep her at arm’s length. At the same time, being starved for unconditional affection, he can’t help but allow a connection to slowly build between them.

Normally I distrust books about girls falling for mean guys and putting up with anything and everything in the name of true love. In this case, Ward takes a lot of trouble building Elec’s character, so that his behavior is understandable if not excusable. Greta’s determination to “save” him isn’t off-putting because his father really does mistreat him. Her head is a nice place to inhabit for the duration. Her strong point of view anchors the narrative. She’s a bundle of compassion, insecurity and burgeoning passion. No one with any feelings could remain unmoved by the verbal and emotional abuse Elec receives–even if the kid does turn around and give as good as he gets. Ward’s deft writing also manages to take much of the salaciousness out of what is, on the surface, a “taboo” subject, turning her novel into a story about family alienation and misplaced loyalties.

I did find the first half of the novel more effective than the second. Elec’s family history, once revealed, is a bit over-the-top. If the characters weren’t so good, this melodrama would have ruined the book for me. Also, the very last section–dominated by Elec’s autobiography–feels rushed and under-written. It retells much of the first half of the book from his perspective but without enough new information to make it meaningful or interesting. I found myself skimming a lot of it.

On the whole, STEPBROTHER DEAREST is a surprisingly tender story about a couple of broken kids grappling towards adulthood.

Rereading and Memory

As many of you know by now, I’ve recently launched an email newsletter. “Carrie’s Notebook” is a weekly letter to fellow book lovers. Each issue has a bookish theme and offers a personal essay and some sneak peeks at my bookshelf. Back on October 3rd, issue #5  focused on the guilty pleasure of rereading. I had a ball putting that one together. Mostly because it was a good excuse to search out first-person accounts by other writers about revisiting their favorite books.

Two essay collections in particular helped me understand how reading and memory become intertwined and how rereading can revise how we see ourselves and interpret our past. Of course, they also added plenty more books to my must-read list! Below are reviews of Wendy Lesser’s Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering and Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love, edited by Anne Fadiman.

Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering

Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering

“Nothing demonstrates how personal reading is more clearly than rereading does.”
–Wendy Lesser, Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering

Lesser, editor of a long-running literary journal, revisits books that have been important to her over the years.

I was so happy to find this book. I’d heard about it back when it was first published but never actually grabbed a copy. It has come to mind on several occasions since. For some reason, I never followed through on the urge to read it. Thank goodness for Amazon’s 1-click feature (so good, it’s bad!) and the human weakness for instant gratification.

Lesser offers great insight into how, through the books we reread, we rediscover ourselves. Or, rather, get a glimpse at our multiple selves. She points out how aspects of a book that we skimmed over at twenty might hit us right between the eyes at forty. And how memory and life experience can exert opposing pressures, so stories that comforted us at ten might unnerve our adult selves, dark connotations and troubling symbolism emerging out of the friendly scenes of our old favorites.

But wait… The opposite is also true. Rereading can also act as a time machine that grants access to younger selves, to the very moment (along with a full “sense” track of sounds, smells, emotions) we first read Little Women or The Secret Garden.

I think what I love most about this book is the license it gives readers to step back from our towering to-be-read piles and revisit books we’ve already known and loved. It underscores that, whatever the marketing world would like us to believe, a book is not just another product, to be consumed and forgotten.

Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love

Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love

This collection draws from the “Rereadings” section of The American Scholar.  Writers consider books that have been pivotal in their personal or intellectual development.

Editor Anne Fadiman has gathered pieces from a wide variety of authors, film makers, and journals writing about everything from Pride & Prejudice to the album lyrics to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The essayists also vary sharply in their approach to their material. Some are nostalgic. Others tongue-in-cheek. A few are measured and academic. All of them speak to the intimate nature of our relationship with what we read.

My personal favorite is probably Barbara Sjoholm’s “The Ice Palace.” She explores the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” framed by her own travelogue of a visit to an ice hotel near the very top of the world. Nadine Gordimer’s discussion of the works of Colette was also a standout and shows a fictional world’s uneasy dependence on its historical era.

As a whole, the collection rekindled my interest in some old favorites and also introduced me to others that I’m now eager to delve into for the first time.

Romance and Russian Gangsters Battle it out in the English Countryside

Emma Grayson’s new life and love at Melton Manor is threatened when Trent’s international security work follows his team home.

Before the Dawn

Before the Dawn

In this second book of The Grayson Trilogy, the Melton estate is as magical a place as ever. Grayson herself is slowly breaking out of the emotional fortress she built following her daughter’s death and her husband’s betrayal. She and Trent are gaining some degree of security in their relationship, though both have their blind spots. Trent’s over-protective nature is a sore point for Grayson, but her doubts about his intentions wound and anger him. Still, they’re committed to making their romance work. Unfortunately, an offensive by dangerous outside forces threaten their relationship and their lives.

Yet again, author Georgia Rose gives her readers fully realized characters fighting through perilous situations. Emma Grayson is a complicated mix of emotion and intellect. One or the other is always getting her into trouble. Minor characters from book one are rounded out and given a lot more page time, adding to the fun. Cavendish, his wife Grace, and their two children are especially well done.

The pacing of the novel is unusual. As in the first book, there’s a long set up at the start, major action in the middle, and another long post-action trip to the end. Frankly, this structure should not work as well as it does. Here, though, the characters are so interesting that the reader wants to stay with them even when there’s little action happening…We just love eavesdropping on their interactions. And the action scenes are SO scary, that they keep you reading at a furious pace.

There are some intriguing hints dropped about Emma Grayson’s past. That her childhood in foster care may not be quite as straightforward as she believes. Personally, I think there’s something about her parentage that’s going to be a big surprise in the next book. I can’t wait to see if I’m right!

BEFORE THE DAWN is a great mix of romance and suspense played out against the beauties of rural England. Highly recommended.

Author Eliza March Talks about Her Sultry New Novella WITCH’S TATTOO

I’m very happy to have author Eliza March with us today. Eliza writes imaginative paranormal romances. Most of her recent books have an erotic flavor, but, as you’ll learn, her newest release, Witch’s Tattoo, is a little different.

Eliza March, author of WITCH'S TATTOO

Author Eliza March

So how did a nice grandma like you find yourself writing erotic paranormal romances?

I don’t know. The first few books I wrote were mainstream romantic suspense and the books I read seemed to get hotter and hotter. The first erotic book I wrote was Witch of Air and Fire. The erotic scenes were necessary to fulfill the prophecy so it just sort of happened. Then my characters took it from there.

How comfortable are you sharing your creative work with people in your day-to-day life?

I’m not. I pick and choose who I tell.

When the new neighbor next-door asks “So what do you write about?” what do you say?

Usually I leave it at romance. Guys don’t want to read it, so going into more detail after the raised eyebrow is unnecessary. If women act more interested, I warn them it’s hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey. The worst situation is that I still have people shaking their heads trying to figure out how I research. You can learn how to do anything on the internet. Don’t they know that? Google, people, Google.

Your newest release, the novella Witch’s Tattoo, is a sensual story, but the sexual content is pretty tame compared to some of your other work, say the Enchanted Mountain or Hearts of Darkness series. What factors go into your decisions to either ratchet up or tone down the heat level of a given book?

In this case, I was invited to write for the anthology, and although I was given the option to write an erotic story, I felt this would be a better fit with most of the other authors. Honestly, I wanted to work on writing sexual tension. Usually, I let the story determine how hot the sex scenes will get, but the language is determined by the publisher’s guidelines. I enjoy writing erotic romance with a level of raunchiness if it’s called for, but I’d also prefer writing to my own heat levels. It’s why I started writing independently.

What is your writing process? Does a character come to you first? Or a situation? Do you begin a new project with detailed notes, or do the specifics of a given novel unfold as you write?

I am working very diligently to nail down my process. I begin as a pantser and revert to a plotter out of necessity. I’m a planner at heart, but when the inspiration strikes and the scene pops in my head, I feel I need to follow. Sometimes a character inspires a story, other times, I develop a book around a scene. Once I get to know my characters, and put them in a situation, they will stay true to character and fulfill their roles in the plot. I believe they act out and tell my story.

How protective are you of your work? Do you keep the project hidden away until you have a polished draft or seek feedback early on? Do you have a Beta reader?

I seek help whenever I need it and am fortunate to have several critique partners who have come to my aid at a frantic phone call. I should be more protective and keep the bad stuff to myself, but I admit, I have shared unedited work on my blog.

How do you organize your writing time? Is it easy for you to find a block of hours to write or do you have to sneak it in between other responsibilities? What do you spend your time on when you’re not writing?

I wish I had a good answer for this. I’m one of those people who if you ask me to do something, I say yes, then try to figure out what I have to put aside to do it. This year, I’ve had to learn to say no. Finding writing time is a priority. I get up early and read my work emails. By the second cup of coffee, I’ve figured out which emails are critical and which I can deal with later. I write or edit my own work until about 9 or 10 o’clock then start my workday. When I’m not writing and editing my own projects, I’m a full-time editor. I freelance and work for an e-publishing company. I keep most Saturdays and Sundays for my writing unless I have an emergency edit.

Are you a big reader? What do you like to read? Do you think your reading influences your writing?

I’m a binge reader. Nora Roberts paranormal books, Christine Feehan, Sherilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Karen Moning, Alyssa Day, Kresley Cole, and Laurell K Hamilton have all influenced what I write. While I wait for them to write their next book, I try out other authors because I have a wide variety of taste.

What one book out there do you wish you’d written?

Harry Potter. It was just so good and so much fun.

If you hadn’t become a writer, what other career path do you think you might have wanted to explore?

After pursuing all those other paths, I finally decided to write quite late in life. I’m going to have to live to be ninety to consider this another career.

What’s next? Anything exciting brewing in your writer’s cauldron?

Yes. Something besides newts and eyeballs. The story I haven’t shared is a mainstream paranormal series inspired years ago. I began the series before I’d learned the art of world building, not that I’ve mastered it yet, and I’ve been working on it ever since. This year, my craft goal is story structure. I’d like to be more organized going into my story, thus saving the panic I feel at 75%, while screaming, “How do I get them to that fantastic climax I’ve already written?”

Visit with Eliza March:
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I’ve also reviewed Eliza’s Witch of Air and Fire

Read on for my review of Eliza March’s Witch’s Tattoo:

A young witch must find her soul mate and unite with him in order to defeat the dark forces gathering around her.

Eliza March's WITCH'S TATTOO

Witch’s Tattoo

Lisette Bouchard, smarting from being rejected by a man she’s insanely attracted to, focuses on making use of the powerful family legacy she’s only just learned about. Her parents were murdered when she was a child, and she may face the same fate if she doesn’t shore up her personal protection through sexual union with the male witch she was born to be with. As it turns out, finding him is the easy part. The problem is the demon who will stop at nothing to destroy both of them.

I love the chemistry between Lisette Bouchard and Michael Veret. There’s plenty of attraction, sure. But what’s fun is how unsure Lisette is of him. He really has to work to gain her trust. As this is a novella, there’s a limited amount of room, but Eliza March manages to give her characters and their relationship room to grow. Michael’s a little smarmy at times, but Lisette thoroughly “slaps” him down a peg or two. She’s got a lot of spunk.

March’s side characters also have a lot to offer. There’s a brawny nightclub bouncer with his own otherworldly story. And Lisette’s best friend is angelic in more ways than one.

The night of the Bouchard-Veret merging is full of voodoo magic. It’s also where we encounter some of the difficulties of the novella form. I couldn’t help wishing Michael and Lisette’s coming together was strung out a bit. Also, if the piece had been just a few pages longer, the climactic final confrontation between the lovers and their enemies would have had even more impact.

These are small issues, though. Even with the abbreviated length, March has given readers a sultry paranormal fantasy filled with passionate characters and exciting situations.

Micaela Fischer and THE DEMON’S CURSE

Today, Fantasy author Micaela Fischer has popped in for a visit to talk about how she builds a fictional world, creates fascinating characters, and balances her creative work and day-to-day life. Read on after the interview for my review of her novel The Demon’s Curse, book one in The Shadows of the Amazon series.

Fantasy writer Micaela Fischer

Author Micaela Fischer

How did you come up with the idea for The Shadows of the Amazon series?

My husband and I played Dungeons&Dragons for years, still do, but now we play Pathfinder instead. Cora and Percival from The Shadows of the Amazon series were from one of the campaigns we played in for a couple of years. Cora was my Amazon mage, and Percival was actually a character played by a friend of ours. My husband played the character Kalik from the series.

 

 

You have another fantasy series as well–The Shadows of Sorban. Do you find it difficult juggling two completely separate fictional universes?

The Shadows of Sorban and The Shadows of the Amazon are actually in the same world, just different areas of the continent I am currently writing about. The two will actually come together with the other two series I am writing, The Shadows of Time and The Shadows of the Assassin. They all meet and work together in a final series, Shadows of the Children.

How do you organize working on each series?

I outline each one separately. I also maintain a separate timeline for each story to ensure that when I do have them meet, they are meeting together at the right time and I can refer to backstory correctly in Shadows of the Children.

Both The Demon’s Curse and Hidden from Destiny feature strong-willed heroines and heroes with deep senses of honor and loyalty. How do you build your characters? Do you create deep backstories for them or let them come into focus as you write?

I spent a lot of time creating my characters when I played them in the role-playing campaigns. While I played them, I was working on their backstories, creating a family, goals, a reason for the traveling and adventuring. I feel strongly that a heroine or hero must have a reason for what they do and, being the hopeless romantic that I am (according to my husband), a strong reason does involve a romantic interest.

Your characters face serious obstacles—internal and external—so there’s lots of action in your books. But there’s also a strong romantic thread in your work. How do you strike a balance between romance and action, so that the story appeals to readers’ emotions while still maintaining necessary suspense?

Like I said, there has to be a reason the heroine or hero is trying to save the world, besides “It’s my destiny”.  Or, “the world needs me”. Who is the heroine or hero coming home to? That’s what I ask myself. Yes, both my heroines have their hero with them, but at the end of the day, we all want someone to talk about our day with. Overall, there is the main reason they are adventuring, so that part of the story still needs to be there.

What sorts of books do you read?

I read a variety of genres, and love most of them equally. I enjoy Fantasy, first and foremost. Unfortunately, finding the classic fantasy, sword and sorcery, books today has become difficult. I am very particular which urban fantasy I read. Too many of them are borderline romantic, and that’s not why I read Fantasy. I do enjoy romance and erotica, as well as paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, horror, and mystery, and occasionally young adult, however I am EXTREMELY particular about which young adults I read.

How has/does your personal reading history impacted your own writing?

With some of the borderline romantic books, they have shown me just how far not to go with the romance. And I have one particular author I read just to remind me how important emotion and movement is during dialogue.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you sit down and work out detailed outlines for each series, and each novel within that series? Or is it more of a seat-of-your-pants process for you? If you outline, how much room do you leave for spontaneous discoveries and surprises?

I normally write in scenes. So I start with a few scenes for the novel I want to do. As I process the scenes and what I want to accomplish within the novel and the way I want it to end, I will sit down and work out a detailed outline. I put each chapter on a color coded 3×5 card, each color denoting a specific point of view. I always leave room for surprises, which usually come during the editing between drafts. Or while I’m walking the mall.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time and motivation after a hard day. Going into a draft and adding the information I missed the first time and not skipping over the important stuff because I’ve read it so many times.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of writing? What activities do you turn to when the storyteller needs a rest?

I read, of course. I also like to cross-stitch, knit, crochet, or quilt, while watching B rate horror shows, or stories about ancient history and civilizations.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Currently I am working on the first of the Shadows of Time novels. It is currently stuck in the phase of adding information I need to expand on. The hero is very intense and I need to make sure he is still someone readers can like, while making sure he doesn’t lose his intensity.

If you hadn’t become a writer, what career do you think you would have chosen?

I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, then I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I wanted to write since I was really young. If I couldn’t be a writer, I think I would really have liked following through with archaeology or ancient history of some kind.

Read on for my review of The Demon’s Curse:

An Amazon princess falls for a soldier-turned-mercenary who shares his body with a rapacious demon.

The Demon's Curse (The Shadows of the Amazon)

The Demon’s Curse

Unlike most of her race, Cora is a mage rather than a warrior. Her mother isn’t pleased that she’s chosen magic over swordplay, but the Amazon queen did agree to allow her travel and learn all she could about the outside world. When the book opens, Cora and her body guard have been have been in “man’s world” for three years. They work with a small group of mercenaries (humans and elves) who make a living via guarding caravans, rescuing kidnap victims, and other protective services. Cora’s presence isn’t an accident. She’s had visions of a man with a black hand. Percival, the group’s agreed-upon leader, has a black hand. It marks the presence of Stromas, the demon placed in his body when he was a child by his power-hungry father. Early on in the novel it becomes clear that Cora and Percival have a shared destiny, and the bulk of the story concerns them battling the various forces eager to tear the couple apart.

THE DEMON’S CURSE is full of action and suspense, though the first half moves more slowly than the second. The chapters that take place on the Amazons’ islands just shine. Part of me wanted to race through to see what happened next and another part feared what each new chapter would bring. Percvial’s treatment at the hands of one of the more primitive Amazon tribes is unspeakable.

I will say that Cora gets hurt a lot for an Amazon. And her injuries lead to plenty of self-loathing for Percival. His self-doubts and sense of failure can get a little trying. There were times I wanted to shake him and say, “Crap happens. Get over yourself and move on!” Also his monthly confrontations with Stromas aren’t quite as scary as they could be. But Stromas is plenty scary near the end. Readers get a real sense of what he’d be like if he ever gained complete freedom. I like that Micaela Fischer, who has a gift for creating unique characters, gives Stromas plenty of psychological complexity.

Generally, I’m not crazy about open endings, but this book’s conclusion manages to satisfy and at the same time leave the reader excited to learn what happens next. THE DEMON’S CURSE is an action-packed fantasy full of fun characters and shocking plot twists. I’m looking forward to book two.

The Comfort of Your Own Company

In How to Be Alone, Sara Maitland offers an interesting historical/cultural view of solitude and considers its place in modern life. She presents the meaning and value of being alone as a sort of pendulum that has swung back and forth in popularity through time. I’m not sure I agree with a conclusion based on such limited evidence. Just because ancient Romans valued public life to excess doesn’t mean the same was true of other cultures in existence at the time. What about China and the Near East?

How to Be Alone

How to Be Alone

I’m also not sure Maitland makes her case that a strong preference for solitude is seen as a huge eccentricity in modern western culture. Rather, we seem to be living in an era when widely differing modes of living are acceptable. A lot, of course, may depend on profession and age. In the corporate world, being reclusive might indeed get someone pigeonholed as sensitive or introverted or a “deep thinker.” School-age kids and young adults who like to be alone probably run a greater risk of peer and parental backlash than older people do. Also, Maitland doesn’t really address how modern technology has blurred the lines of what constitutes “being alone.” People can now carry on active social lives without ever leaving their homes. Yet, physically, they are still alone.

Maitland does admit that her previous memoir/cultural history A Book of Silence suffered a bit from the confusion of the terms “alone” and “silence.” The same confusion is present in How to Be Alone, but I don’t think it’s a flaw. Rather, the two concepts naturally share the same space. Kind of like conjoined twins, you can’t easily tease them apart or examine one without considering the other.

I have to agree with Maitland that most people could benefit from expanding their capacity for being alone. More and more of us end up alone–through death or divorce or just long life spans. It pays to learn to be comfortable with your own company. Also, young people who don’t need to be part of a gang have the opportunity to develop their own interests and talents. Maitland provides numerous exercises for those who might want to experiment with solitude. Such as going to a crowded place by yourself or taking a trip alone or indulging in periods of private reverie.

I highly recommend How to Be Alone. It provides a lot of material for discussion in one concise, thoughtful package.

Mermaids Can Be Murder

A mermaid hiding out as a human finds love and danger as she eludes her murderous mother.

Descending (The Rising Series)

Descending

After reading The Rising, I was eager to dig into Descending. Though Sara and Xanthus are major players in this sequel, the story revolves around their best friends Gretchen and Kyros. Gretchen is a law student with a secret–she’s a mermaid on the lam from a psychotic mother. Her secret is outed when an assassin nearly kills her. Kyros is part of the security team Xanthus put together to protect his new wife while they are on land continuing Xanthus’s efforts to get humans to stop polluting the seas. Kyros hates being on land and he despises humans–for good reason. Unfortunately, he gets in over his gills when he runs into Gretchen. Much wet and wild mayhem ensues as the pair tries to stay alive and negotiate the rough waters of their feelings for one another.

Kelly’s fictional universe is well-established and believable. Kyros is a great hero. There’s a sourness about him that’s actually quite appealing. He doesn’t so much follow his heart as be dragged by it kicking and screaming. Gretchen is equally conflicted, especially about her own nature. She’s glad in a way to be out of human camouflage but worried that her deepest self might take after her vile mother.

While many authors would’ve found a way to bring back their old villains, Kelly creates a brand new one to terrorize her characters. Aella is a cold-blooded masterpiece of evil. It would have been easy to make her into an over-the-top caricature. Instead, Kelly rides the line. Aella is bad but also psychologically needy. Her tirades keep the suspense taut all the way to the book’s powerful climax.

The character interactions get a little giggly toward the end. In between the scary stuff, our heroes and heroines have too much time on their fins to make jokes and pull pranks. Sometimes it’s cute. Other times it undermines suspenseful situations. Overall, Descending continues the excitement and romance of the The Rising, while also prepping the ground for future twists in the ongoing series.