Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Featured Author: Jennifer Vessells

Jennifer Vessells birthed two babies last year--one in human form and one in book form. Chick Lit Blog Tours brings her here to talk about the one in book form--her debut novel, Life in Plan B.



About the book:

When twenty-eight year old Haley Simpson, a sales associate for her best friend’s clothing boutique in Columbus, Ohio, begins a secret affair with the boutique’s potential New York City business partner, she digs a cavernous hole of deception that not only threatens to end her blossoming career, but to destroy a life-long friendship. 

Jennifer Vessells's debut novel, Life in Plan B, encompasses everything classic chick lit should: the dynamics of friendship, the nuances of high-reaching career aspirations, and the struggles – both usual and unique – presented by romantic and familial relationships. An entertaining story at every turn, Life in Plan B is identifiable for readers of any age. In short, Ms. Vessells hits her debut novel out of the park!


Interview with Jennifer Vessells

Jennifer, this is your first novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?
 

Although it’s hard to believe, I have been writing now for almost two years! The start of it came rather suddenly. I quit my job as a litigation attorney in April 2012 after almost three years of practice. I was very unhappy with what I was doing and knew I needed a change. The idea of authorship started to work its way into the forefront of my mind and eventually lodged itself into my brain, nagging at me until I decided it was the right path to pursue. Quitting a stable job and stopping a promising career as an attorney was scary at first, but with the support of my husband, it’s been a very enjoyable ride! I have never regretted my leap into authorship.

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

With my first novel (and only published novel thus far), Life in Plan B, I wrote by the seat of my pants. I knew generally where the story was going, but always found myself in strange and exciting places at the end of the day. It was fun to wake up and not know where I was going until I got there. Conversely, the novel I’m currently working on (title yet to be released), requires extensive outlining. I’ve known about the novel’s twists and turns from the very beginning, and want to make sure to fit all of the details of the story in the right places. It’s a slower beginning process, but once outlined, I have a feeling the actual writing will be much quicker.

Are you like any of your characters? 

I find pieces of myself in most of the characters, honestly. I write my characters based on people I know or character traits with which I’m familiar - it makes them more real and easier to describe. I’m like Haley in that I have constant feelings of self-doubt. I would say her soul-searching is more extreme than what I’ve experienced, but I can certainly relate to the overall struggles she has with her general self-worth. I’d say that I’m also like Alex in that I’m fiercely loyal to my friends and also maybe a little too honest at times. My husband occasionally suggests that I purchase a filter for my mouth - something for which I think Alex could also find great use.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

I think I’d choose Lindsay. Although she faces struggles I never hope to face myself, she seems to be the most grounded of all of the characters. She has a great job, is in a loving, loyal relationship, and is a loyal, even-keeled friend.

What are your favorite books or favorite authors a) as a child; b) as a teenager; c) as an adult?

A) I loved Brian Jacques’ Redwall series as a child.  I read them as soon as I was able, and reread them still to this day.

B) As a teenager, I’m ashamed to admit that I spent most of my time avoiding books (assigned by my English teachers, of course) and perusing Cliff Notes. We shall call this stage in my life the “dark period.”

C) As an adult, it’s too hard to pinpoint a favorite book or author. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I love the Harry Potter series - so much so that I’ve not only read the books a million times, but display them on the mantle above our entryway fireplace. My husband can only roll his eyes at me and pretend he doesn’t love it when we undertake Harry Potter movie marathons.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

From peers who offer to edit and comment on my writing, I take criticism rather well. I remind myself that their suggestions for improvement often do exactly that - improve my writing!

I think it’s harder to take criticism from anonymous reviewers, especially when the criticism is more name-calling than critical. For example, it’s harder for me to stomach “this book was the worst thing I’ve ever read” than it is “I wish she hadn’t written about how green Haley’s eyes were as often as she did - it was annoying.” The first is hard to hear because you don’t have any explanation as to why the reviewer felt that way, whereas the second at least pinpoints what annoyed them!

Where’s home for you?

Columbus, Ohio - more specifically, Victorian Village. This is where Haley lives in Life in Plan B.  I moved here to attend law school and have lived here ever since - a little over seven years now.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Pre-baby (my daughter was born 12/20/2013), I enjoyed soccer, happy hour, football games, and pretty much any other social event out there. Now, I’m just trying to keep my head above water while caring for a newborn!

Congratulations! That's fantastic. Besides taking care of a new baby girl, what are you working on now?

I’m working on a women’s fiction novel based in Durango, Colorado. I don’t want to share too much, but I will say that it involves death, horse racing, romance, and mystery. I’m hoping to announce the title this spring.


About the author:

After practicing law for nearly three years, Jennifer Vessells decided to leave the practice to pursue her dream of being a novelist. After an intensive year and a half of writing, Ms. Vessells is proud to finally present her debut novel to the world - a story that's been marinating since her early college days.

Passionate about women's fiction and children's chapter books, Ms. Vessells plans to enjoy a long writing career. Keep your eye out for more exciting publications from this author in the future!


Connect with Jennifer:
Webpage | Facebook | Twitter 

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Featured Author: Kasper Beaumont

Kasper Beaumont is the indie author of an epic fantasy adventure series, Hunters of Reloria. She currently has two novels out, Elven Jewel and Hunters’ Quest, and she's hard at work writing the third book in the trilogy. She's here to talk about her books, writing, and a little bit about herself today.

About the books:


 
Elven Jewel:
The peaceful continent of Reloria is threatened by cruel invaders from the wastelands of Vergash. Halflings Randir and Fendi leave their peaceful farm village with their bond-fairies and race against time to stop the invaders. They join forces with dwarves, elves, men and a mysterious dragon, on a quest to rescue the stolen Elven Jewel. Book one of the trilogy.


Hunters’ Quest: 
Scaly Vergai invaders have captured the Elven Jewel from Reloria. Halfling friends, Randir and Fendi, their
bond-fairies, men, dwarves, an elf and a dragon are a group of brave hunters on a quest to recover the stolen Elven Jewel. They must search for a mage who can make a portal to Vergash to rescue the princess and restore the protective forcefield.



Interview with Kasper Beaumont:

Kasper, tell us the story behind the title of your books.

Elven Jewel is the title of my first book, and it is the crystal which is used to create the Shield of Reloria, which is an invisible forcefield. Naturally, the Vergai invaders are on a mission to steal the jewel.

Hunters’ Quest is the title of the 2nd book in the trilogy. A band of heroes called the Hunters of Reloria set out on a quest to recover the jewel.

Dragon’s Revenge is the final in the trilogy. Those Vergai should have known better than to anger a dragon!

What’s your favorite line from a book?

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.  The more I write, the more true I find this to be.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides
to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?


Well, if it were the dragon, I’d be hiding far, far away from his deadly breath, to be sure.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

I think I’d choose Sienna. She's a brave huntress, who is an awesome halfling fighter, seems totally fearless and has a handsome little bond-fairy who can heal her. She’s had a hard life to be sure, but her great attitude and sense of adventure are admirable.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Most days I would say it is the attack at Stonefield Inn. Of course if I’m in a romantic mood, I do love the picnic at Goblin Falls too.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

I reckon I’d be the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist or maybe Ginger Meggs or Huckleberry Finn.

Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?

Yes, although I still live in hope that Peter Jackson is going to knock on my door and offer me a 3 movie deal.

Don't we all!

I honestly haven’t tried contacting many publishers, because they seem to be looking for works with guaranteed sales these days, so I thought I’d give it a go myself. I tried about three publishers with my first novel before I had it properly edited, and I didn’t hear back. I’ve learnt to accept people's help and advice and try and write the best novels I can. 

Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?


Firstly, I sent my books to a local review company called Writers’ Web. Then I published on Amazon and then Smashwords. I have printed paperback copies of my first book and am in the process of getting the second book printed. 

I think I’ve been very lucky to find people who can help me and teach me the trade, such as my editors and a local artist I discovered.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

Seriously, I could quote about 100 favourite lines from the Star Wars movies, but I’ll settle for this wise gem from Yoda, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

Fairies of Feyllan by Cat Spydell - a fantasy.
African Hearts by Laura O’Connell - a romance.
Fake Profile by Khyiah Angel - a great book for teens on the hazards of social media.

All three are indie books by up-and-coming new writers. I like to support and review new authors.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the third novel in my trilogy, Dragon’s Revenge and am doing some epic battle scenes as well as a nice romance. It’s so much fun, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.
 
Come back when it's done and tell us more about it!

Thanks so much for the interview. I really enjoyed doing it and hope it helps people to understand me a little more and want to read my books.


Book trailer for Elven Jewel


Excerpt from Elven Jewel:

An excerpt from chapter 5 of Elven Jewel and the first time we see the beast...


The characters are 2 elves: Princess Shari-Rose and her guardian Daeron; the dwarven brothers Baja and Raja; and four brave halflings: Old Fandri; his son Fendi; friend Randir and a huntress named Sienna. They have been tracked to an inn by their adversary, the Vergai invaders. 

They followed the sounds of struggling around the corner of the inn and saw an incredible sight. A sopping wet Princess, wearing only a towel, was being held by the arms and legs by four of the scaly Vergai. Another of the creatures was trying to muffle her screams with his clawed hand, which she was biting on as hard as she could and causing him to growl in frustration.



All around them was a battle. Sienna held a green-stained dagger in one hand and was struggling with three of the creatures, two of which had arrows protruding from their torsos. Green blood was drying around the arrow shafts. The huntress stabbed at the invaders and aimed at the thinnest area of their thick hide on the sides of their neck.  Her bond fairy was a short distance away and was so intent in watching the fight that she did not see a Vergai’s rough hand closing around her from behind. The Vergai clapped his hands together and both fairy and halfling collapsed to the ground unconscious.



Fendi had grabbed a long dagger from the inn and Old Fandri drew his broad sword. Fendi was momentarily stunned by being in such close proximity to the large and fearsome Vergai. He exchanged a wide-eyed glance with his father, who gave a short nod. Together they charged towards the Vergai with a roar. Old Fandri stepped ahead to engage a Vergai with his sword and didn’t see one of the creatures whip around and strike Fendi solidly with his long thick tail. The young halfing gave a grunt and fell to the ground.



The final four Vergai were moving to surround Raja, who was flailing about a two-headed axe, as though he was berserk. Baja gave a yell and rushed to his aid. Baja threw a small axe, which felled one of the creatures, and then the dwarf got out a large wooden club and proceeded to bash all the Vergai on their knee caps. The two dwarfs were much shorter than the Vergai (who were about human height), but they made up for it in their fighting prowess. The Vergai all stood well back from the half-crazed little men.



Old Fandri had entered the fight over by the Princess. One of the Vergai had let go of her arms and had rushed at him with a chained morning star, spinning around dangerously.  Fandri was forced back towards the wall of the tavern and stumbled to the ground. The Vergai was just about to land a killing blow with his rotating spike, when a long sword covered in green blood, appeared through his chest. Daeron had come to Fandri’s rescue.



The powerfully-built elf looked dizzy on his feet and still had a bandage wrapped around his head from Lakehaven. He extricated his narrow sword from the Vergai and threw him to the ground. Then he held his hand down to help up the old halfling. “Thanks,” panted Fandri. “I’m getting too old for this.” He looked around and saw that the Vergai were taking advantage of the chaos and half-carrying, half-dragging the screaming Princess off into the night.



Fandri looked at the other fighters and realised that the Vergai were gaining the upper hand. Fendi, Sienna and Baja had been knocked out cold and Raja was the only one still fighting, but was totally surrounded by several big fighters. Old Fandri was just thinking that all was lost when a powerful screech filled the night. There was suddenly a flapping of great wings and a mighty burst of flame lit up the sky. The Vergai around Raja screamed and ran off after the Princess.



The sky went dark again, after that brief burst of light. All that Fandri could see was a huge dark shape, blotting out the stars. It screeched again and gave a huge burst of flame, which whooshed right over the top of the fleeing Vergai. Their thick scaly hides appeared to deflect the flames, but they screamed and howled and ran in all directions.  The winged beast flew to where the other Vergai were running with Shari-Rose and it picked them off her, one by one and threw them far into the distance, where they land with dull thuds.



Then the beast tenderly picked up Shari-Rose in its great talons and very carefully carried her back to the halflings and dwarves. Her wet towel flopped to the ground by Old Fandri’s feet. She looked like a child compared to the enormous creature carrying her carefully in one sharp claw.



By the light from the half-shuttered inn windows, Fandri, Daeron and Raja could see that the beast was a great, grey dragon. Its body was four times as tall as a man and had a thick, scaly hide. Its wing span must have been about 40 foot or more and the flap of the huge wings brought large gusts of air swirling all around them. Emerald jewels gleamed from under the wings, as though they were embedded in the scales. The dragon’s head had many horns and a large mouth with sharp teeth. Its muzzle was long, with wide nostrils, issuing trails of smoke. 

The dragon’s large, yellow eyes looked at each of the fighters below intelligently and then it placed the Princess gently on the ground. Shari-Rose stared up at the great beast which had rescued her and was utterly speechless. She didn’t even have breath to scream in terror. The dragon flapped its gigantic wings and rose up into the sky. It circled the inn once and then flew off in the direction of the Vergai.



Excerpt from Elven Jewel by Kasper Beaumont. © 2013

About the author: 

Kasper J. Beaumont was born and raised in Australia and lives a quiet life with the family in a seaside town. Kasper has combined a love of fantasy and a penchant for travel in this trilogy. Kasper started to write on the urging of friends and family and enjoys watching readers become immersed in the magical world of Reloria.

Connect with Kasper:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |  

Buy the books:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Featured Author: Colleen Helme

Colleen Helme and her cozy mystery book, Trapped By Revenge, are on tour with Great Escapes Book Tours and she's here today for an interview. Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway after the interview. One person will receive all five books in the Shelby Nichols Adventure series.


About the book:

With summer over Shelby is looking forward to having some time to herself while the kids are back in school. A phone call from Uncle Joey ruins her plans, but she manages to take it in stride. After lunch with her friend, she promises to meet with the private investigator who was spying on Uncle Joey, but this simple task turns into a disaster. Not only does she find the P.I. dead, but a slip of paper with her name on it under his lifeless hand, implicates her for his murder. Desperate to prove her innocence and find the person who killed him, Shelby begins a frantic search. She enlists the aid of the local mob boss, Uncle Joey, his hit-man, Ramos, and her police detective friend, Dimples, but soon finds that nothing can save her from becoming entangled in a sinister plot. With her life on the line and no way out, she finds herself trapped by revenge, and realizes it will take all her skills to escape. Now she must choose where her loyalties lie, and hope she doesn’t trade something bad, for something even worse.

Interview with Colleen Helme

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I have been writing seriously for about ten years. I began writing my first book, Flame of Destiny just for fun and enjoyed it so much that I decided to learn all I could about the craft of novel-writing. My sweet husband found a novel-writing class at the community college and signed me up. That great class helped me understand the important aspects of writing, such as; point of view, showing rather than telling, character motivation, writing scenes, the importance of a universal question, and much more! From there I took off and never looked back.

How would you describe Trapped by Revenge in five words?


Suspenseful, intriguing, humorous, fun, page-turner.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

It comes from my first Shelby Nichols Adventure, Carrots: “What people think determines basically who they are. Putting a voice to thoughts doesn't change that. But there are times when we say things that aren't true. Not because we want to lie, but because the truth can cause more harm than good. There are times when a satisfying lie is better than the awful truth.”

Tell us a book you’re an evangelist for.

All of mine!!!

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Shelby Nichols! I feel like she is my alter-ego in some ways! She gets to do all the crazy things I wouldn’t dare, but then she also gets in a lot of trouble for it.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

I put my best friend, Holly, in all my books as Shelby’s best friend, and she’s pretty much true to character.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Definitely Ramos. 


Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

My favorite scene is hard to pick, but I think it would have to be when Shelby is out golfing with Ramos, Uncle Joey and one of the judges. She is just about ready to take her first swing, and hears what all of them are thinking about her...“What a wiggle” Nice butt” and “Babe.” It freezes her in place and she can’t seem to move. Then Ramos comes over and offers his help while he imagines standing behind her and guiding her through a swing or two. It rattles her so much, she drops her golf club.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

I am so lucky because I already have a contract with Wendy Tremont King to narrate Trapped By Revenge! She is an amazing producer and is narrating all of my Shelby Nichols Adventures. Carrots and Fast Money are already available on Audible and iTunes with the rest coming soon! Here’s a link to a sample of what Shelby sounds like on Audible.

I also have an interview with Wendy on my website.

What book are you currently reading? 

Deadly Heat, the latest Richard Castle novel – I love the TV show Castle and have read all the books! So clever to have real books on the market – I would like to know who really writes them!


You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?

I’d pay off my house and then buy a new car!

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

That’s easy. I’d want to go on a bike ride, and then take a hike in the mountains. After that I’d soak in a nice, hot, bubble bath and read!

What are you working on now?

It’s an urban fantasy that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for a couple of years. Once I’m done with that, I’m on to my next Shelby Nichols Adventure!

About the author:

A long career as a wife and mother while juggling several part-time jobs gave Colleen the ambition to dream of being a published author, where she could put her imagination to good use. Now instead of making up stories to tell her children, she writes books they love to read. Hopefully you will too. She is the author of three romantic fantasy novels, Songbird, Flame of Destiny and The Relic. Her Shelby Nichols Adventures include Carrots, Fast Money, Lie or Die, Secrets That Kill, Trapped by Revenge, and more to come.

Connect with Colleen:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Shelby Nichols Consulting

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
Shelby Nichols Adventure Series:
Carrots | Fast Money | Lie or Die | Secrets That Kill 
Romantic Fantasy:
Songbird | Flame of Destiny | The Relic


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Featured Author: Colleen McCarty

CLP Blog Tours brings Colleen McCarty here today with a guest post inspiration for writing and an excerpt from her book, Mounting the Whale.



About the book:

"Cartel got me, tell mom."



The siblings, drowning in their own problems, are forced to focus on the task at hand: a half-cocked rescue mission that involves a borrowed yacht, a favor from a notorious drug kingpin, and a shocking reunion none of them expected.



When the family decides to sneak into Mexico, mother Cybil is forced to deal with a rival CEO whom she's developed feelings for in secret. Her only son, Tom, is willing to risk bodily harm to save Janine while his other sisters, Carlyle and Valerie, suspect that the kidnapping is less than legitimate.



The long sea voyage tests the limits of the family's already frail bonds. Dark secrets of infertility, drugs, gambling and extreme taxidermy begin to float to the surface. But nothing compares to what they begin to learn about their missing sister. 



If they're going to make it out alive, they have to recognize they're fighting the same battles and facing life's greatest challenges: love, loneliness, and the struggle to find a place in the world.



Amidst all the chaos, the Pierce family is brought face-to-face with the ugliness of Janine's addictions, the truth about their mother's fortune and the most terrifying question of all: Can you really save someone who doesn't want to be saved?

Guest Post by Colleen McCarty

Did Someone Else Write This? On Muses and Ghosts


I can't tell you how many times I've sat down at the computer, ready to continue my hot streak, when something catches my eye. I scroll up and begin to read what I'd written mere hours--at most, a few days--before.

What is this? I think to myself. I read on. Pieces of it begin to sound familiar, and yet entire paragraphs are wholly unrecognizable. I know I'm the only one who's used this computer. I know no one else sat down here since the last time I was here. And yet--it's strange.

Sometimes the unrecognized passages are terrific. Sometimes not so much. And I have to wonder--did someone else write this? The answer is yes and no.

The phenomenon I am referring to is known by many names. Some writers call it "the muse." Others, "inspiration."  Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when inspiration struck. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.”

I call this mystery my subconscious, because that is, in fact, what it is. The subconscious is a weird, wild place. It's where your dreams, your creativity, your real motivations lie. Ever wake from a dream and think, "wow, I am one twisted weirdo!" Well, you're not alone and your subconscious is the culprit.

I believe we are all great artists. Great art exists in your subconscious. Carl Jung believed that humans have a shared consciousness--a collection of shared stories and memories that we are all inherently born with. When we tap into the subconscious, we are speaking to those memories. In turn, those memories can speak to our readers on a deeper level.

But we cannot live our lives in our subconscious. We we would be ruled by emotions--lust, rage, unending sorrow--we would be unable to escape them. We would have no inhibitions. It would be chaos. Thus, your conscious mind serves a very important role. But for many writers, your conscious mind can be your undoing. Our conscious minds are where doubt lives. Our internal editors, our critics, our self-hatred...all the things that speak to you when you're staring down the blank page. The things that keep you from tapping into your greatness.

Let's use an analogy. It's like drilling for oil (I'm from Oklahoma, so this is familiar territory. Bear with me...) -- in some places in the earth, you have to drill very deep--past the crust, the mud, the rocks, the air pockets-- before you reach the oil. In other places, you just have to drill a few feet before you strike the vein. People are like this too. Some of us have to drill through quite a bit of mud before we get to the oil. Others of us wear it quite close to the surface. It depends on your personality, your temperament, what you've been through, and how in touch with your emotions you are.

My hope is that when you sit down, and you read what you've written, you catch a glimpse of the ghost of yourself. If you don't, chances are you're not tapping your true potential as a writer. If you painstakingly choose every word so that it's burned into your memory, you're not doing it right. Some passages will be painstaking, but the majority of your writing should be fluid, transitional, easy.

We are all great writers, underneath all that mud.

Excerpt from Mounting the Whale

Carlyle felt the phone buzzing at her side, but her gaze was focused on the digital image inside the framed box on the back of the large panning camera. Even though Cybil was standing on the stage only fifteen feet away, Carlyle was more concerned with how her image was being displayed than with what was actually occurring in front of her.

“The most important thing to remember is that you’ve got to go all in,” Cybil was saying. “When I was sitting at the table at the World Series of Poker, I suddenly saw how all the parts of the game relate to business. If you’re on the fence about starting your own company, or you’re on the fence about hiring people, or even if you’re on the fence about falling in love, remember these three words: Go. All. In.” Good one, Mom, Carlyle thought. Her mother certainly knew just when to insert emphatic pauses so the audience hung on her every word.

Cybil was trim and professional and her voice was sure. She had been on stage for years promoting Naturebar, so she was a pro at public speaking. When she decided to launch her personal brand of entrepreneurial self-help, she used her platform as a successful female CEO to springboard herself into the market. Though there had been repeated national marketing efforts, her books really only took off in and around Omaha, where a healthy hometown hero complex made her feel as if her success was global.

The same old catchphrases were being thrown around—“You are your own shareholder” and “Don’t lose sight of the end goal—soulful sales!”—peppered with snippets from the new book: “If you don’t believe you have a winning hand, you’ve already lost” and “Your poker face is only as good as your bluff.”

The crowd erupted in applause as the host of the show, a bubbly woman with hair the texture of cotton candy, beamed a smile back at them.

The set gleamed with staged precision. The green screen read, “Good Morning, Omaha.”

“Isn’t she wonderful? We’re so lucky to have the CEO of Naturebar right here in our little nook of the world. We’re going to take a break now, but when we come back we’ll find out what wonderful surprises Cybil has in store for our studio audience!”

The cameraman counted down and the image on his screen revealed the now overly-ordinary looking couch in front of a green screen. Carlyle looked down at her phone for the first time. What felt like a balloon inflating in her stomach was what she vaguely recognized as hope. She had hoped that the gentle buzzing was Ethan, and said hope was blooming rapidly.

Her little hope-balloon popped violently when she saw the message.

Cartel got me. Tell Mom.

About the author:

Colleen McCarty is a graduate of the University of Tulsa and an entrepreneur. She and her husband own Tulsa restaurant Mod's Coffee and Crepes. She's been featured on Entrepreneur.com, and in the Wall Street Journal. This is her first novel. Though Colleen has ghostwritten books for CEOs and New York Times Bestsellers, this is her first foray into publishing her own work. Colleen lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, daughter and two large dogs. Follow her writing at colleen-mccarty.com.


Connect with Colleen:
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads| Book trailer

Buy the Book: 
Amazon

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Author Rights

As some of you may know, I'm very interested in author advocacy issues. When I heard about a post on Make Mine Mystery about getting rights back from a publisher, I hightailed it over there. I liked the article so much, I asked author Janis Susan May if I could re-blog it, and she graciously agreed. The following was originally published on Make Mine Mystery, on January 15, 2014.


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May

 

 

But it shouldn’t be.

Like so many other writers I am in the process of trying to get my rights back. Why is it such a hassle?

Most new contracts are written where it seems the publisher controls all the rights forever, with little or no hope of reversion to the writer. Apparently many publishers feel that they own the book instead of just having the license to publish it, and that’s just wrong, especially if they do little or nothing to sell the book. Instead they just sit on it.

A friend of mine has had several books with a major publisher for years now and try though she will, she cannot get the rights back. There is a catch in her contract that she can expect her rights to be reverted only after her book has been on sale for a certain length of time. As her sales had been okay but not spectacular she wanted to try for the gold ring in self-publishing. Every time the magic reversion date comes close, though, the publisher brings out a new, cheapie edition in Rumania or Patagonia or somewhere. It’s a new edition, however potentially unprofitable, and that resets the reversion clock. I guess they don’t want the author to make any money that they don’t control or the ability to put the book on the market where it might be bought instead of one of theirs. Either way it’s a dishonorable practice, whether or not it’s contractually legal.

Even worse is the publisher who has a distinct reversion of rights protocol in their contract, but who simply refuses to acknowledge it. Certified letters are refused, takedown requests are ignored, sometimes even royalties are withheld, but like a dog in a manger they keep the books – usually without doing anything for them. The books are simply held hostage and the author is forced into getting a lawyer to regain her property. I believe that I am facing this prospect now.

To add insult to injury, there are publishers who do not pay the proper amount of royalties earned and, as there is no law that sales figures (from their website or from third party retailers) have to be shown to the writer, the author must just take on good faith that the publisher is telling the truth. The author receives only dribs and drabs as royalties without having a way to check if this is right while the publisher keeps the money. In any other business this would be called theft; in publishing it is sometimes unfortunately business as usual. Sites like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors are full of warnings about such publishers. And, sadly, it seems that these ‘publishers’ are the worst about reverting rights. Doubtless they feel they shouldn’t have to let loose of a cash cow, no matter what the law says.

Some publishers act as if a writer requesting reversion is a personal attack and respond in kind with rants, threats and tirades over the phone and through email. Sometimes they even go to the extremes of harassment through bad reviews on all the author’s books no matter where they are published or by whom. Such vicious attacks are designed not only to increase the publisher’s sense of power and personal vindictiveness, but to browbeat and punish the author for daring to want to recover her books.

Of course even the legitimate publishers are scared. After decades of being the omnipotent Grand High Pooh-Ba who must be placated and courted by the writer in order to be published, of doing as little as possible for the author while keeping as much as possible of the money (6% royalty, which some houses still offer? Of net and not even of cover? Really?) the specter of the independence of self-publishing must be terrifying. Books go directly from the author to the reader and the publisher is totally cut out of the equation. One of the downsides is the potential for a really big number of really bad books to flood the market, but there are no more gatekeepers. On the other hand, one of the upsides is that there is so much more variety and servicing of niche markets (markets too small to really interest a big publisher) because there are no more gatekeepers.

Publishing is changing, but that does not give the publishers the right to violate contracts and refuse to return authors their legitimate property – their books. The authors write the books and the publisher is only licensed to handle them for a proscribed amount of time. It’s time that all publishers – good and bad, honest and dishonest – realize that without authors there would be no publishing industry and they should be treated with honesty and respect. The author-genie is out of the bottle of traditional publishing and it will never go back to the old ways again.

About the author:

Janis Patterson may be new to mysteries, but she is no stranger to writing, publishing romances as Janis Susan May and children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson.

Like her idol, the legendary Auntie Mame, Janis Patterson believes in trying a little bit of everything. She has held a variety of jobs, from actress and singer to jewelry designer, from travel agent to new home sales, from editor in chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups to supervisor of accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab.

In December of 1980, just before the release of her second novel, Janis met with approximately 50 other published romance writers in the boardroom of a savings and loan in Houston, Texas to see if an association of working, professional romance novelists were practical. The organization which evolved from that meeting was Romance Writers of America. Janis has maintained her membership from the beginning and is very proud of being a ‘founding mother.’

Janis is very proud of being a seventh-generation Texan on one side of her family and a fourth generation one on the other. She and her husband share their Texas home with two neurotic cats and a hyperactive little dog (half terrier mix, half pure diva), all of which they rescued.

Find out more about the author on her website.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Featured Author: R. Michael Phillips


R. Michael Phillips' novel, Passage of Crime, is a traditional English mystery that brings together the unlikely combination of a dowdy old Scotland Yard Inspector and Ernie Bisquets, a reformed pickpocket, in a whodunit set in contemporary London. This is Michael's third book in the Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series. He's here today with a great guest post about how he gets ideas for his novels. (I love this line: “Your last statement gave me a rather unique way to murder someone.”) Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post. And I have to say, I think Michael has the best title for a mystery author's website: Murder, Tea & Bisquets. Check it out!



About the book:

London’s East End, once known for poor boroughs and a derelict rail yard, is enjoying an optimistic resurgence. It’s becoming an affordable option for middleclass residents looking to have their pounds go further. Despite this sweeping out of old rubbish, a cautious step is still advised when passing by a few remaining dark alleys. If only Mary Walsh had listened.

Prophet Brown, a disfigured, pathetic little man, called Detective Inspector Flannel after stumbling upon the body of a young woman in one such alley. Flannel quickly realizes she is not the random victim she appears. Add to that, the crime scene is hauntingly reminiscent of an old unsolved case; a case that almost ended an otherwise brilliant career eight years ago.

For the moment, Prophet Brown is the only solid link between the two cases. He has been in the employ of a charismatic and well-connected Member of Parliament for 17 years–the very man Flannel unsuccessfully accused of the murders in the previous case.

Flannel finds himself navigating a very treacherous course. His superiors have warned him for the last time to tread cautiously around the MP, and the rising tide of the past threatens to pull him under. Reluctantly, Inspector Flannel turns to a most unlikely ally, a reformed pickpocket named Ernie Bisquets. Together they disentangle a mesh of old lies and current clues attempting to bring a ruthless murderer to justice–ignoring the dangerous notion of murder being a carefully disguised trait passed from one generation to the next.

The Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series



Guest Post by R. Michael Phillips

So, where do I start?


Starting a new mystery book is the exciting part for me. Having a mystery series affords me a small group of main characters to work with. So with each new mystery I need to establish three factors–crime, antagonist, and motive. Filling in those blanks can come from the most unexpected of places–a phase overheard on a train platform in Worchester; the headline from a centuries-old newspaper; the chance meeting of an interesting (or not so interesting) guest at a party, and so on. It seems the seeds for murder and mayhem are endless. For that reason I keep a small notepad in my pocket. It isn’t odd for me to excuse myself during a conversation to quickly jot down a few notes. The action usually prompts a somewhat confused look from the person I’m speaking with over what was so important that I had to write it down. Some leave it at that; other will go so far as to ask what I was doing. “Just a thought I don’t want to forget,” is my usual reply. I dare say it would be quite unnerving if I replied, “Your last statement gave me a rather unique way to murder someone.”

After returning home I take the note and place it in one of three small boxes I keep on my desk that it most aligns with. If you haven’t guessed, those boxes are labeled: Crime, Antagonist, and Motive. Because of Ernie Bisquets being the protagonist in all the stories, there is, at time, a deuteroganist in the stories. There is a box for that too. This is where it starts to get exciting.

When I sat down to start the most recent book in my Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series, the first thing I did was place the boxes in front of me. Having been compiling small shreds of paper in each of the boxes over the course of time I’m at odds to remember what any of the scraps had written on them. Reading the resulting scrap of paper pulled from the first box, Antagonist, rekindled the flame it raised in me when I first jotted it down. The note read thus: Older Member of Parliament. Well respected, but with a dark, hidden past. Not obviously evil. I’ll not reveal where I was when I jotted this note down, but I will admit I was terribly intrigued more with the outward appearance of the person I was talking to than to what he had to say.

To add a twist to the dark past and hints of evil in the Antagonist I felt there was a need for a Deuteroganist. From that box I pulled the following note: Pathetic wretch, valet or servant of some sort. Kind but hints of a questionable character or background. (I eventually named this character Prophet Brown.) As I remember this note derived from a combination of two people I met within minutes of each other. One seemed incredibly kind, the other not so much. Combined they created an exceptional character persona.
Next came the Crime. The notes in this box are short and to the point. Reaching in I extracted the following: Murder.

The final piece of this puzzle was Motive. There is no shortage of scraps of paper in that box. It’s sad, but people are driven to do bad things for three basic reasons–greed, jealousy, and revenge. This scrap read thus: Revenge for mistaken belief.

With all the pieces assembled I started the synopsis for Passage Of Crime, third book in the Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series released a few months ago. Not to worry though, this post is not the spoiler it may seem. I reach a point when writing the books where I break away from the synopsis and allow the characters to take over direction of the story. This usually leads to an “Aha!” moment for me. I also feel if it surprised me, it most certainly should surprise my readers. It’s that twist at the end where you thought you had everything figured out and then, without warning, the ambiguous foreshadowing comes flowing back like a flash flood. The obscure becomes the obvious and a smile of satisfaction comes over you. It’s what we writers live for.


About The Author

Michael is a classically trained artist who has been painting for over 25 years. By combining his creative talents with a passion for London he conceived the fictional world of the East London Adventurers Club, home to The Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series. Three books in the series are complete and there are plans for at least five additional books following the adventurers of London’s most remarkable pickpocket. Michael is a proud member of the Crime Writer’s Association and Mystery Writers Of America.

Connect with Michael:
Website/Blog | Goodreads |

Buy the book:
Amazon 



Rafflecopter

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Featured Author: Laurel Osterkamp

Laurel Osterkamp is here with CLP Blog Tours to talk about her women's fiction novel, The Holdout. After the interview, read an excerpt from the book. And after that, go to CLP Blog Tours and leave a comment! Anyone who comments on the tour page will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of The Holdout before  January 24 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com will get 5 bonus entries.



About the book:

Robin wanted to win The Holdout, a cutthroat reality TV show, so she gave it her all, challenge after challenge. Then she fell for Grant, with his irresistible eyes and heartbreaking life story.


But Grant was only using Robin as they competed for a million dollars. Once home, Robin wants to hide from the humiliation as episodes of The Holdout are aired, and she worries her family was right all along; she's not a survivor.



Yet she could surprise everyone, and have the last laugh.



Besides, Robin now has jury duty. And as she forges ahead, confronting her demons about bravery, justice, and romance, Robin will come to decide which is more important: the courage to stand alone, or the strength to love again.
 

Interview with Laurel Osterkamp

How did you come up with the title The Holdout?

Since it was partly based off of Survivor, I looked up synonyms, and holdout is a synonym for survivor. I thought that was perfect. The reality show she goes on is called The Holdout, and she also becomes the holdout on her jury.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I teach high school English in a high poverty/diverse district.

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

I try to go by the seat of my pants as much as possible, because my best work always comes from letting my characters tell me what to write. If my characters are actually talking to me, I know I’ve gotten into the groove of my book!

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?


For The Holdout, lots of characters were based off of real people. Joe Pine is obviously Jeff Probst, and I also based several of the contestants off of past show members. Also, all the members of the jury are based off of the people I served on a jury with, but their personalities in the book are exaggerated quite a bit.

Are you like any of your characters?

For all of my novels, I can look at each one of my central characters and see an aspect of myself. It’s nothing I ever plan on doing, it just happens. For example, Robin is occasionally awkward and insecure, but also very driven, and I can totally be that way.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island--or a reality TV show?!

Definitely Robin. She knows how to fish and she can start a fire. She’s a tough cookie.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Without giving too much away, there’s a scene where Robin has a breakdown at “Island Assembly,” which is like tribal council. She acts the way I’ve always wished a contestant on Survivor would act, given her situation. It was fun to go a little over the top, and be sad and funny at the same time.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles. It was playing on the radio a lot while I was finishing The Holdout. This is going to sound cheesy, but those lyrics are what I imagine Robin’s dead mother would say to her if she could.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“Can you imagine a world without men? No crime, and lots of happy fat women.” Nicole Hollander said it. I think it’s funny, and sort of true – but I don’t REALLY want a world without any men. Maybe we could just get rid of the really violent ones?

I love that quote! What are you working on now?

I just started the follow up to The Holdout, which will be called The Fallout.


Book Trailer


Excerpt from The Holdout

My only mistake was falling in love. Other than that I played a nearly perfect game. But it doesn’t matter. Do you remember Janet Jackson’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl back in 2004? It was stunning but nobody will ever recall the actual dance because at the end of it, she showed her nipple on national television. Well, Janet and I have something in common. I didn’t think things through, I exposed myself to the nation, and now that is what I’ll be remembered for.

Except it hasn’t happened yet.

I filmed the current season of The Holdout months ago, but it’s still airing. There are three episodes yet to be broadcast, and my most humiliating moments are still to come. Right now I only occasionally get spotted on the street, but I was edited out of a lot of the earlier footage. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that will be the case later on. What happened was devastating but it will undoubtedly make delicious TV.

So I’m wondering if anyone will recognize me today, and if so, will that increase or decrease my chances of being dismissed? I park my car and walk from the lot to the federal court building, clutching my jury summons in my hand. If I’m chosen, it will be the second jury I’ve been on in a year.

Inside, I give my bag to the security guards and walk through the metal detectors. They give me my bag back on the other side, and I take the elevator to the fourth floor, which is where my summons said to go. When the elevator doors open I immediately see a desk and behind it stands a perky brunette wearing an adorable suit jacket with bell sleeves and a Peter Pan collar. She totally pulls it off.

I pull on the edges of my oversized sweater and smooth out my skirt. My outfit seemed reasonable when I left this morning but I’ve never worked downtown and I’ve never owned a pair of heels. What do I know?

“Hi,” she says, with a floating voice. “Can I help you?”

I hold up my summons. “I’m here to report for jury duty.”

She takes the summons and looks it over. “Robin Bricker. Great. Please sign in.” She gestures toward a clipboard with a sign-in sheet. Mine will be the fourth signature.

“Here’s your card.” She gives me a new piece of paper, and it has a stamp with today’s date on it. “Hold on to this. If you’re selected for a jury, you’ll present it every morning to be stamped and that will be documentation for your boss.”

“Oh,” I stammer. “I'm sort of between jobs right now, so there's no need.” I tilt my head to the side, trying to stretch away the tension. Who cares if I don't have a regular, nine to five gig? I'm not obligated to explain how I support myself.

She nods and oozes sincerity, and even though she’s wearing heels I tower over her. She’s the sort of girl I wanted to be when I was in high school. “Well, then you’ll get paid for your time here!” Her perfect brown bob curls just so, right under her ears. Maybe if I blow-dried my hair every morning I could get my hair to do that too. “You’re a little early, but go ahead and have a seat in the lounge. There’s coffee, juice, and muffins, and in about half an hour, we’ll get started!”

I thank her and walk into the lounge, a large room with oversized windows and strategically placed tables and chairs. Although I’ve had breakfast, I grab a chocolate muffin because I’m still hungry, and besides, it’s my policy never to turn down anything chocolate. I lost a lot of weight while filming The Holdout, but even if I gain it all back I’ll still be thin. For the first eighteen years of my life I hated that I was always the tallest, scrawniest girl in my class. No cute curves for me. But once I went to college I appreciated that I could eat cafeteria food and still fit into my size six jeans, while my friends all struggled with the freshman fifteen.

I sit down in one of the many cushy chairs, take out my book, and settle in to read while enjoying my muffin. Who said jury duty has to be awful? But then the television that’s mounted to the ceiling switches from the morning show to commercial, and an ad for The Holdout comes on. My castmates are walking along the beach, some wearing teeny tiny bikinis, others shirtless in swimming trunks. Joe Pine’s voice can be heard over it all, loud and clear.

“This week, on The Holdout. The stakes are high, loyalties are tested, and hearts are broken.” Then it switches to a close up of Grant. He’s sitting and smirking; even the way he blinks seems self-satisfied while the waves lap the shore behind him.

The Holdout is a game,” he says, “and I’m not here just to play. I’m here to win. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Then – oh my God – it switches to a shot of Grant and me, locked in an embrace. But even worse, it switches again, and now Grant and Klemi are making out. Finally it switches back to Grant, sitting alone on the beach, laughing to the camera and clapping his hands. Joe Pine’s voice comes on again. “Will lover boy Grant endure? Will he persist? Will he be The Holdout?”

The commercial ends and I shrink down in my seat. I look around the room and see that others are all busy on their phones or reading the paper or nodding off as if they’re practicing sitting in the jury box. Nobody seems to recognize me, which is my goal. I’ve cut my hair since the show and I dyed it a darker blonde. I’d have gone more extreme, but contractually I’m only allowed to make minor changes to my appearance. So I’m wearing thick rimmed glasses with fake lenses, and I dress in ways that will hopefully help me blend into the wallpaper.

All my life I’ve wanted to be famous. Now that my day has arrived, I’m clinging to my old, faceless existence like J.D Salinger gone into exile after writing Catcher in the Rye. Except instead of publishing a groundbreaking classic novel, I got duped by a pretty boy and his girlfriend and cheated out of a million dollars. What’s worse though, is soon the world will see it all play out on national television.

About the author:

Laurel Osterkamp's award winning novels have been hailed as funny, intelligent, snarky and poignant. She is the author of four novels and two novellas, including the November Surprise series, which, like The Holdout, features the Bricker family. Laurel was recently on a federal jury, and she loves watching Survivor.


Connect with Laurel:
Website | Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Publisher 

Buy the book:
Amazon

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Featured Author: Mary Marks

Mary Marks' new novel, Forget Me Knot, is book one in her new series, A Quilting Mystery, published by Kensington. I'm happy to talk to her today as part of her tour with Great Escapes Book Tours.



About the book:

Forget Me Knot is the adventure of Martha Rose, a sassy, sarcastic woman of a certain age and her two quilting friends Lucy and Birdie. The trio discovers the corpse of another quilter and days later the victim’s prize winning quilt is stolen. Martha is enlisted to draw on her knowledge of quilting to decode the secret messages the victim left behind. But the deeper she digs, the closer the killer gets to stopping Martha permanently.


Interview with Mary Marks

Mary, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, mostly journaling my private thoughts. After retirement, when I started quilting in earnest, I kept a photographic and written log of all my quilts. I realized this record constituted a sort of diary that I wanted to turn into my life’s story. So I enrolled in memoir writing classes in the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

I was shocked to learn how much I didn’t know about writing. I worked on the memoir for four years, honing my skills. Then I made a weird left turn and took a mystery writing workshop. I had never aspired to writing fiction—-let alone mysteries. But after that class, I was hooked. The next two years were spent in workshops learning to write fiction. The end product of all that work was Forget Me Knot, which will be published approximately ten years after I started my writing journey at UCLA.

How did you come up with the title Forget Me Knot?

It just popped into my head. And since my characters are quilters, I wanted to include a word that referenced sewing, so I changed the word “Not” into “Knot.” Now, all the titles in this series have the word “Knot” in them.

How would you describe your book in five words?

Funny quilty mystery with romance.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Like most of my plots, it created itself as I wrote. I had a bare-bones idea of a story and just fleshed it out as I went along. Many times the characters will tell me where they want the story to go. You have to have a lot of faith in your own intuition and subconscious to write that way.

How do you get to know your characters?

I write a character biography for my main characters. I need to know who their family was, where they came from, what their life was like, preferences and traits before I know how they’re going to react or think. For the minor characters, I just let them start talking or acting in a scene. It doesn’t take long before their true selves show up.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I love writing the quirky, humorous characters. But most of all I enjoy Martha Rose. She’s not a perfect human being. She’s sarcastic and funny, has a heightened sense of justice, and is often foolhardy.

What would your main character say about you?

"That’s what I want to be when I grow up."

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?


One of my main characters Lucy Mondello, is modeled after my late sister-in-law. Most of the other characters are composites of people I’ve known. My bad guys are often inspired by real-life. That’s the great thing about writing fiction. You can take villains you know and expose their crimes or kill them off with impunity.

I totally agree! Are you like any of your characters?

There’s a little part of me in all of my characters. Otherwise, how would I know so much about them? But I’m most like Martha Rose except I’ve made more mistakes than she has.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I have several favorites. But the chapters I had the most fun writing were when Martha is arrested and has to spend the night in jail—-from her horror and disgust to her clever way of surviving.

Who are your favorite authors?

How long can I make this list? In the mystery genre I love Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, Sue Grafton, Jacqueline Winspear, and Preston & Child’s Pendgergast series. In the cozy mystery genre it would be Janet Evanovitch, Brad Parks, and M.C. Beaton. Other authors I love are Kent Haruf, Rumer Godden, Fannie Flagg, and Jan de Hartog.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Bette Midler.

Do you have a routine for writing?

Yes. I like long stretches of uninterrupted time to write. I don’t do well with short bursts. Normally I wake up Saturday morning and make a pot of coffee. Then I sit down in my jammies with my laptop. I usually stop by five or six in the evening. One Saturday, I wrote for twelve hours straight, but that was because I had a deadline looming. On Sunday and Monday I’ll repeat the process, winding up at around four in the afternoon. The rest of the week is taken up with other things.

Where’s home for you?

I live where Martha Rose and her friends live, in Encino, a suburb of Los Angeles.

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?


The Bible. It has great drama, mystery, romance, wisdom, and comfort.

Your last meal would be...

Fattening.

LOL! Great answer. Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

I worked in the Powell library on the UCLA campus when I was an undergrad. I loved the atmosphere. Would not like the commercial aspect of a bookstore.

You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?

A full-time cook.

You and me both! What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel by Fannie Flagg
Auntie Lee’s Delights : A Singapeorean Mystery by Ovidia Yu

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My secret guilty pleasure is playing Hidden Object Adventure Games on the computer. The Mystery Case Files series are my favorites.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d split my time between Los Angeles and Israel.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the third novel in the Martha Rose series called Gone But Knot Forgotten. (See what I mean about putting “Knot” in every title?”)

About the author:


Writer Mary Marks was born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. After retirement from UCLA Administration, Marks became an award winning quilter. Writing about her quilts led to writing cozy mysteries. Forget Me Knot is the first in her new series. The author also contributed a chapter to an anthology based on Jewish mysticism, From Ashes to Healing. She has also been published online and in various newsletters. Marks is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books.

Website | Facebook 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Featured Author: Kate Hilton

I'm happy to have Kate Hilton here today with CLP Blog Tours to talk about her contemporary women's fiction novel The Hole in the Middle, published by HarperCollins Canada.



About the book:

Sophie Whelan is the epitome of the modern superwoman. When she operates at peak performance, she can cajole balky employees, soothe her cranky children, troubleshoot career disasters, throw a dinner party for ten and draft an upbeat Christmas letter — all in the same day.

But as Sophie’s fortieth birthday looms, her seamless life reveals disturbing web-like fractures. Conflict with her boss, blossoming jealousy of her husband’s femme fatale business partner and her feelings of hopeless inadequacy as a mother and daughter are cracking the edifice of her life.

Rescue may be at hand when Lillian Parker, a wealthy widow who befriended Sophie during her university days, makes Sophie an irresistible offer. Why, then, does Sophie hesitate? The answer is the reappearance of Lillian’s nephew, Will Shannon, the great unresolved love of Sophie’s life. As she remembers the vivid drama of their college romance, Sophie confronts the choices she has made in life and in love and looks for the one answer that has always eluded her: what does she really want?

The Hole in the Middle is a heartbreaking love story, a laugh-out loud portrayal of the twin demands of work and family and a fresh take on the hot debate about having it all.


Interview with Kate Hilton

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve always had jobs that required me to write. But I didn’t start writing creatively until three years ago, when I realized that I was heading towards my 40th birthday and I needed to get moving if I wanted to write that novel!

How would you describe The Hole in the Middle in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)

Modern superwoman has midlife crisis. Contemplates road not taken. Seriously funny, and just the right amount of sad.

Perfect! Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

I always write with an outline. I’m a lawyer by training, so I’m a fan of structure.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Lillian Parker. I absolutely love her. People often ask me if she’s based on a real person in my life. I wish she were. She’s who I’d like to be when I grow up.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have so many, for so many different reasons. To name just a few: L.M. Montgomery, Lionel Shriver, Jane Austen, Jonathan Franzen, A.S. Byatt, Nora Ephron, Nick Hornby, Kate Atkinson, Helen Fielding and Allison Pearson.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

My husband and I bought an old house that had been broken up into apartments and I took over one of the many kitchens for my office. I ripped out all of the cabinets and appliances and painted it white except for two walls, which are hot pink. It’s a funky, feminine space that is my refuge in a house full of boys. I prefer to write in the morning, which is when I think I do my best work, but I’ll take any quiet block of time I can find. 

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow." Alice Mackenzie Swaim

I love that! If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I think I’d live where I live now, which is in Toronto. It’s an amazing, multicultural city with fantastic food and a rich cultural scene. Plus all of my friends and family are here. But I’d have a second house in Italy. And maybe a third in Turks and Caicos to get away from the Canadian winters.

Excerpt from The Hole in the Middle

I show up at Sara’s house around eight, and book club is in full swing. I’ve come straight from the office, and my prescription is still in my purse. I’d say that I haven’t had time to fill it, but even I know that for once, lack of time isn’t the issue.

I ring the bell. Zoe answers and steps out onto the porch with me for a moment. “I was hoping it was you,” she says. “I’m not ready to tell anyone else about what’s going on with Richard, OK?” She gestures toward the house, where the rest of the book club is waiting.

“Of course,” I say. And in any event, I feel a little fuzzy on the details of Zoe’s marital crisis. Lunch feels as though it happened a week and not six hours ago.

“How are you feeling?” I ask.

She shrugs. “It helped to see you at lunch,” she says. “But I think this is one of those situations where it’s going to keep feeling worse until something big changes. I’m just not ready to think about what the something big is.” I give her a hug, and we go in. “Look everyone,” she calls. “It’s a special guest appearance by Sophie!” She drags me into the living room, where the rest of the book club bursts into enthusiastic applause.

“I haven’t read the book,” I say.

“Don’t be silly,” says Laura. “No one ever reads the book.”

“I do,” says Sara pointedly. “And it would be great if we could make a tiny effort to talk about it once in a while, even for five minutes. Hi, Soph.” She pauses. “What did you do to your arm?”

“I sprained my wrist,” I say. “It’s nothing.”

“What was the book again?” asks Laura.

Sara raises an eyebrow. “Are you really interested, or are you just trying to humor me?”

Laura laughs. “Was it good?”

“Not especially,” says Sara. “We can stop talking about it now. What’s Megan going on about?”

Like Sara, Megan is one of my old friends from the student newspaper, and I’ve caught her in mid-rant. Nora is leaning back slightly to avoid Megan’s violent gesticulations, which are, as usual, aimed at hapless, absent Bob: “And then he looks into the stroller and says, ‘I’m starting to get to the point where I remember that he’s around. Do you know what I mean?’ And I think, ‘What kind of fucking question is that? It’s kind of hard for me to forget that our baby is around when he’s hanging off my tit 24/7, but I guess you don’t have that problem, do you Bob?’ Honestly! I just looked at him and said ‘I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.’”

Megan takes a breath, looks around, and realizes that she is the main attraction. “Hi, Sophie,” she says. “Good to see you.”

I wave. “Still married?”

Megan snorts. “Barely,” she says, but she smiles a little before turning back to Nora to continue itemizing Bob’s shortcomings as a husband and father.

“What can I get you to drink?” asks Zoe. “Prosecco?” I nod, and she disappears into the kitchen. I sit down next to Sara.

“How have you been?” she asks.

“Bad day to ask,” I say. “I’d say I’ve been stressed to the point of hysteria, while at the same time struggling to find enough meaning in my work to justify my level of anxiety. I mean, shouldn’t you have to care about a job to get this worked up about it?”

“Of course not!” Zoe reappears with my glass and plops down on the sofa with us. “Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working on an assembly line at a chocolate factory? No? You know the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts up to the penthouse for the first time, and they have a fight, and then they make up, and then they stay up late watching TV?”

“Oh, yeah,” says Sara. “Right before she gives him the blow job.”

“Exactly. That moment where you think, am I really supposed to be rooting for these two to get together in the end?”

“Totally.” Megan and Nora have finished with Bob and rejoin the group. “But they aren’t watching the chocolate factory episode,” Megan says. “They’re watching the wine-making one, where Lucy runs around in a giant barrel and throws grapes at everyone.”

Zoe rolls her eyes. “The point I’m making,” she says, with the deliberate enunciation of a woman who has had too much Prosecco, “is that the chocolate factory is a perfect example of a job that is both stressful and meaningless. The chocolate starts coming faster and faster and they can’t wrap it quickly enough, and by the end they are stuffing the chocolates down their shirts and in their mouths and looking completely panic-stricken, but to no real end.”

“And this relates to Sophie’s job how?” asks Laura.

Zoe waves her hand vaguely. “Email, voicemail, staff meetings – the whole tedious routine is a modern-day, white-collar version of the conveyor belt.”

“Well, that’s a pretty bleak assessment,” I say.

“Only if you plan to be stuck beside the conveyor belt for the rest of your life,” says Zoe. “But since you don’t actually work in a chocolate factory, you have a few options. And if you would admit that you are having a midlife crisis, you could start looking at ways to change it up.”

“I’m not having a midlife crisis,” I say.

Laura laughs. “Everyone’s having a midlife crisis, Sophie,” she says. “You might as well join the club.”

About the author:

Kate Hilton has worked in law, higher education, public relations, fundraising and publishing.  She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.  She holds down a day job, volunteers for community organizations, raises two boys, cooks, collects art, reads voraciously and likes her husband.  In her free time, she writes. On good days, she thinks she might have it all.  On bad days, she wants a nap.

The Hole in the Middle is Kate’s first book.  Kate is represented by Beverley Slopen of the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency in Toronto.

Connect with the author:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Buy the book:
Amazon  



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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Featured Author: Cara Alwill Leyba

CLP Blog Tours brings Cara Alwill Leyba here today to talk about her self-help book, The Champaign Diet: Eat, Drink, and Celebrate Your Way to a Healthy Mind and Body! I don't know about you, but that title caught my attention, and I was eager to talk to Cara. Sadly, I have no champagne samples, but wait! Cara gives us a sample of the book! So eat, drink, celebrate, and read on...


About the book:

This book is for the woman who wants to feel good about herself and her body, and learn how to start incorporating healthy habits into her life. It's for the woman who doesn't want to trade in her champagne for skinny jeans. It's for the woman who is done with dieting, and ready to start paying attention to her health before that number on the scale. It's for the woman who is ready to stop letting her weight define her, and is ready to understand why it always did. This is not a diet book. This is a lifestyle guide. This book will change the way you view your weight and yourself forever. You will walk away feeling empowered, inspired, and downright sexy (and probably craving a glass of bubbly). You will learn how to celebrate yourself and your body. You will learn to make your health a priority, always. And most importantly – you will learn to love yourself, exactly as you are. So get ready to embark on a complete dieting and lifestyle overhaul, sister. You are now on The Champagne Diet!

What reviewers are saying:

"The Champagne Diet will resonate with every woman with it’s realistic and simple approach to dieting. Alwill delivers a personal, relatable, and funny guide to shedding pounds without deprivation." - Kim Barnouin Co-Author, Skinny Bitch

Interview with Cara Alwill Leyba

Cara, this is your second book. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I started writing short stories in grade school and wrote my first book as a project in the 4th grade. I got a 100+ :)

But of course! What inspired you to write The Champagne Diet?

I've always struggled with my weight. I have tried every diet known to man, and it wasn't until I learned to eat for my health as opposed to the number on the scale when it clicked. As soon as I started eating whole, real foods, and truly loving my body, I was able to maintain a normal weight and get off the crazy diet train. Is my body perfect? Absolutely not. But that's okay. I'd much rather enjoy a bowl of pasta and a glass or two of wine than be a size 2. I wrote this book because as women, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be skinny that we forget to live our lives. We also forget that we'll never reach a healthy weight until we get our minds right. I wanted this book to be a love letter to all the girls out there who have forgotten how to be kind to themselves and their bodies and remind them what life is all about. I wanted to teach them the importance of eating nutritious foods as opposed to chemical-laden frozen meals. And I wanted to teach them that deprivation does nothing but fuel the cycle of misery and disappointment. There is an easier (and much more enjoyable) way!

The book sounds amazing. How long did it take you to write it?

About three months, but I started it five years ago.

What do you hope readers will get from The Champagne Diet?

I hope that readers will see that their lives are so much more important than their weight. That there's more to life than toning their abs. That they are beautiful no matter what size jeans they wear. And that life is meant to be enjoyed.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

A few years ago, when I finally had my "healthy eating/healthy life" epiphany, I remember asking one of my close friends if I could still enjoy a cocktail while being healthy. She told me that I should start drinking champagne because it has the least amount of calories out of all drinks (about 100 calories per glass). Plus, she added, when you drink a glass of champagne, you immediately feel glamorous and sexy. I was sold. I started exclusively drinking champagne whenever I went out and it became my signature drink. I joked and called my new lifestyle "The Champagne Diet" and it just sort of stuck. That title became the name of my blog and my entire brand, and ultimately this book.

Well, you sold me! Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I am a Digital Advertising Director at MTV Networks.

How would you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)
 

The Champagne Diet is about learning to eat for your health, love your body, and always leave room for champagne!

I love your cover art. How did you come up with it?

I wanted something simple and elegant, so I worked with my designer to help convey that concept. I was inspired by a photograph my friend/photographer Angelica Glass took at my friend's wedding. The bride had just taken a sip of her champagne, and it left the most perfect lipstick mark on the glass, and I just fell in love.

Tell us about your favorite chapter in the book.

I love Chapter 5 titled "Ditch the Dead Weight: Why Stress Will Make You Fat and Miserable." I really feel like this chapter is the foundation of the whole book. If you are feeding your soul with crap, you will likely eat crap. This chapter is a great way to assess your current life and figure out what needs to change so that you can achieve optimal health and feel amazing.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jennifer Lancaster and Wayne Dyer.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I'm currently reading Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer and Think Like a Stripper by Erika Lyremark (a brilliant business book).


Do you have a routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?

I write best in the morning after a good night's sleep and some strong coffee!

Where and when do you prefer to write?

I prefer to write in my living room at the dining room table while listening to 80's music.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"To bring anything into your life, imagine that it's already there." ~ Richard Bach

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to travel and try new restaurants with my husband.

Okay...think fast, and answer quick! 

Name one thing you couldn’t live without. (It can’t be your phone!)

My dog!

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?

The Secret
.

Your last meal would be...

Eggplant Parm.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

Bookstore.

You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?

A one-way ticket to London.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

Shop.

Where would your dream office be?

I'd probably pick two: one in Soho (New York) and one in Chelsea, London.

Where’s home for you?

New York City.

Good job! And finally, what are you working on now?


I'm currently putting together two self-help workshops that I'm launching in January (one is virtual and one is located in New York). If you'd like more info feel free to email me at Info@TheChampagneDiet.com!


Excerpt from The Champagne Diet

Comparison Will Kill You


Can we just address this right now before we go any further? The fastest way to be miserable is to compare yourself – especially your body – to anyone else’s. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve stared obsessively for hours at photos of other women, trying to identify with someone who looked most like me, and then convince myself that she wasn’t really “that fat.” What a serious waste of time.

I’ve seen countless women do this to themselves and guess what? It makes you even fatter. Yes, seriously. The more you stress and obsess, the more you self-sabotage and overeat. If you are that down on yourself, you’re so much less likely to eat a super healthy dinner or go for a run on a Saturday morning. Instead, you’ll be wasting that energy wishing you had your sister-in-law’s ass. And that is a one-way track to Loserville.

Remember this: nobody in this world will have the exact same story as you, or the exact same body as you. Nobody in this world will lose weight at the exact same pace you do, or see results from working out the exact same way you do. You know that cute little Dr. Seuss quote, “There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” We brainwash kids with that message because it’s f&%#ing true. So why can’t you believe it? The sooner you realize that your body is a unique gem that is like no other, the quicker you’ll be on your way to health and happiness. And the quicker you set goals that make sense for you and only you, the quicker you’ll reach them. There is no “one size fits all” for weight, body type, or beauty. We don’t all need to be a size two. Define your “happy place” when it comes to weight and health and do whatever it takes to get and stay there.

**********************************************************

What Are You Waiting For?


A major theme of The Champagne Diet is “living your most effervescent life.” Not ten pounds from now. Not next year when you’re finally wearing a size eight. Right now. If I think back to all of the times in my life where I waited to do something until I lost weight, I get really sad. I missed out on so much: so many dips in the pool, trips to the beach, parties that I skipped out on because I didn’t want to wear a sleeveless dress in the summer, dates I declined, and events that I didn’t host because I felt like I wasn’t thin enough yet. It really sickens me to think that I could have had so much more fun if I had just learned to let go a little and stop waiting to get skinny.

As women, we seem to have this idea that life will be perfect when we lose weight. We’ll finally start that business, have the confidence to wear a bikini, or go on that vacation. We’ll start dating when we’re thin, and we’ll be ballsy enough to ask for that promotion. It’s completely ridiculous to assume that any of those things will be made possible by a shift of the scale. Guess what? It’s the exact opposite. Once we start actually doing those things, the weight will come off. I promise you that. When you’re fulfilled in your life, it is so much easier to eat healthier and eat less because you have so many exciting things going on. Think about that one for a moment.

Make a list of 3 things you’re waiting to do until you lose weight:
1.     __________________________________________
2.     __________________________________________
3.     __________________________________________

I want you to examine that list and come up with a valid reason for each one explaining why you need to be thin to do any of them. Remember, I said valid. Write the reasons below:
1.     ___________________________________________
2.     ___________________________________________
3.     ___________________________________________

If you actually filled anything out above, cross it out right now. It’s bullshit and I don’t buy it. There is nothing in this world that you should be waiting to do until you lose weight. Nothing! If that’s your excuse, you’re missing out on more than you can imagine. By the end of this book, I want you to promise me that you will have an action plan in place to do at least two of the things on that list. You don’t have to have completed them, but you’ve got to at the very least be planning for them. Got it?

About the author:

Cara Alwill Leyba is a best selling author and life coach from New York City who encourages women to live their most effervescent lives and celebrate themselves. She runs an international private coaching practice where she works with women who are ready to make their happiness a priority. Through loving guidance, support and an expert perspective, Cara empowers women to be the change agent in their lives.

Her blog, TheChampagneDiet.com has been featured in Glamour, Shape, Marie Claire UK, Cosmopolitan South Africa, and a host of other publications worldwide. Cara's writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, Marie Claire, xoJane, Mind Body Green, and many other sites.

Cara is the author of two books: Sparkle: The Girl's Guide to Living a Deliciously Dazzling, Wildly Effervescent, Kick-Ass Life, which was a #1 Amazon best seller in the Happiness and Self-Esteem categories, and The Champagne Diet: Eat, Drink, and Celebrate Your Way to a Healthy Mind and Body, which was a #2 Amazon best seller in Self-Esteem.

When she’s not popping bubbly and blogging, Cara spends her days leading a digital advertising team at MTV Networks. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and dog.

Connect with Cara:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Publisher 

Buy the book:
Amazon