Saturday, November 30, 2013

Featured Author: Lou Aronica

Lou Aronica was here on November 1st to talk about his book Differential Equations, and I'm happy to have him back as my guest today to talk about his newest release, Flash and Dazzle, published by The Story Plant.

About the book:

What happens when everything you thought was true changes all at once? What happens when each relationship that means anything to you suddenly becomes far more real than you ever thought it would be? What happens when every moment becomes invaluable as all of them pass far too quickly?

Flash and Dazzle is the story of two friends who have known the best of times who develop a true taste for life during the worst of times. It is the story of the friends and lovers who enter their orbit, some for a long time and some only for a moment. It is the story of legacies, burdens, and the kinds of secrets that are only revealed when there’s nothing left to tell.

It is a funny, moving, deeply honest novel that will inspire you to call everyone you care about and thank everyone you know for what they’ve given you.

Interview with Lou Aronica

Lou, several of your books are bestsellers. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve been writing professionally for ten years now. Before that, I did a great deal of thinking about writing, but never quite committed to it. When it actually happened, it happened in a sideways fashion. I sold The Forever Year to Tor based on a lengthy proposal with the understanding that I would hire a writer to write the actual manuscript. When it came time to do that though, I realized that I was much too close to the story to let anyone else write it. I remember being absolutely terrified when I realized that I had to actually create the novel rather than simply creating the idea for the novel. It took me days to get the first words down because the entire process seemed so daunting. I’d been around books professionally for more than twenty years at that point, but it wasn’t until that moment that I fully appreciated the effort required to write an entire novel.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m also the publisher of The Story Plant, the imprint that is publishing Flash and Dazzle. The Story Plant publishes about thirty-five new books every year, and Flash and Dazzle just happens to be one of them. I’m a bit self-conscious about it, if you want to know the truth. When I presented this book to our distributor, I started by saying, “This book is awful, but the author is one of the company’s principals so we had no choice.”

I started my career on the business side of publishing. I was Deputy Publisher of Bantam Books and then Publisher of Berkley and Avon. I’ve always loved the book business, and I’m very excited about the opportunities created by digital publishing.

These days, I split my time fairly evenly between writing and The Story Plant. We’ve put together a great team of authors and publishing professionals at The Story Plant, but I also greatly value the time I can spend alone writing.

It sounds like you have the best of both worlds. How did you create the plot for Flash and Dazzle?

The entire plot for Flash and Dazzle came to me while I was at the playground with my daughter. Before that, I only knew that I wanted to write a novel about male best friends. Then, while I was pushing her on the swings, the situation – a couple of successful guys in their late twenties living the dream in Manhattan, whose understanding of friendship changes completely when one of them gets sick – popped into my head. I had all of the major plot points in place by the time we left the playground that day.

How do you get to know your characters?

I spend a tremendous amount of time developing my characters before I start writing. Much of the process involves asking myself lots of questions about them that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. When I get to the point when I can easily answer these irrelevant questions, I know I’ve formed the characters well in my head. To me, as far as fiction is concerned, everything starts with the characters. If I can make them real to readers, then readers will connect with the story. If I can’t, it’s going to be very difficult to keep readers engaged.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

My favorite character in this novel is Eric Dazman, the best friend of the narrator. Eric is goofy and loose, but also supremely competent and caring. I love that combination. Eric is also carrying a very heavy burden that he doesn’t want to impose on anyone else, which made him endlessly interesting to write about.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

My favorite scene happens about halfway into the novel when Rich, the narrator, and Eric tell each other stories – revealing stories – that neither has heard from the other before. There’s a combination of surprise and disappointment in this scene, disappointment at the realization that Rich and Eric don’t know each other nearly as well as they thought. To me, that’s the fulcrum point for the novel and I think an apt representation of what “best friendship” is often like for men.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

When I wrote this book, I had a rotation of songs playing in my head. They would just sort of “switch on” while I was writing. I’ve found this happens very often when I’m writing. I’m every easily suggestible when it comes to music. Someone will say something to me and a song with a similar lyric will be playing in my head the rest of the day. Lines that I write often prompt songs for me as well.

Ultimately, the song that best captures the spirit of this novel is Ben Folds’ “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You.” There’s a great break in that song that goes: Life is wonderful/Life is beautiful/We’re all children of/One big universe/So you don’t have to be a chump. In many ways, that’s the core message of Flash and Dazzle.

I had the opportunity to see Ben Folds in concert this past summer. That is a great song. Okay...suppose you’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

That’s easy. I would go to a great walking town (someplace like Essex, Connecticut or Nyack, New York, assuming that I only had one day and had to stay nearby) with my family. We’d have great music playing on the drive there, then explore the shops, get lunch at one of the fine local restaurants, explore some more shops, get coffee from an indie coffee house, explore some more shops, and then stop somewhere for a snack for the kids. I would abstain...or not.

What would your dream office look like?

It would have a wraparound window with a view of Mt. Etna. This would require the office to be in Taormina. Really, just about any office in Taormina would be a dream scenario for me.

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

I have no shortage of hobbies. I love cooking and try to make dinner for my family every night. I’m a huge music fan and an amateur songwriter with a recording setup in my basement. I’m also a sports (especially baseball) and pop culture junkie. I love reading, but I tend to do very little reading during my off time because I do so much reading during the day.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m writing a major nonfiction book on education with Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken was knighted in the UK for his contributions to education, so this book is going to be a very important statement. I’m noodling with the ideas for another novel as well as a collection of novellas.

Other books by Lou Aronica

Excerpt from Flash and Dazzle

     It wouldn’t be fair to call Daz a slug. After all, he had been a third team all-conference striker in college, and he was still slim and fleet. However, getting him out of his apartment in the morning had always been a considerable task. There was the ringing the doorbell seven times before going in with my key part. There was the don’t you remember we have that meeting at 9:30 part. There was the I really don’t give a shit what your hair looks like part. Then there were the inevitable battles with toothpaste choices (Daz was the only person I ever met who kept multiple flavors of toothpaste in his bathroom), Cap’n Crunch (the only thing he deigned to eat for breakfast), and Power Rangers (which appeared on ABC Family at 8:30 every morning and from which Daz took surprising delight for someone his age.)

    On most days, by the time I got to his place to pick him up, I’d already read the relevant sections of the Times and the Journal and surfed three or four entertainment, media and business sites on the web. About a year ago, it finally dawned on me that I could sleep fifteen minutes later in the morning if I brought my bagel and coffee with me so I could have breakfast while I waited for Daz to get ready. On certain days I thought it might be smart to bring a lunch as well.

    It was this way from our first days in the City. The only difference at the beginning was that we were in the same apartment and Daz sometimes dragged himself out of bed earlier if I made enough noise or if I did something like flick water on his face after my shower. . . 

    “Who do we have a meeting with this morning? He said, coming out of the bathroom with a toothbrush in his mouth. He had different colored toothbrushes for the different flavors. The gray brush meant fennel.

    “It’s just us.”

    “Us? Like you and me?” He returned to the bathroom to spit.

    “And Michelle and Carnie and Brad and Chess.”

    “Sounds like the meeting we had at Terminal 5 last night.”

    We’d all gone there to see Beam, an incredible British trance rock band.

    “Except this time we’re going to have a serious business conversation and it won’t look as cool if your head lolls back and forth.”

    “And what will we be talking about again?” He asked this question from his bedroom, where he was almost certainly trying to decide if it was a red flannel shirt day or a blue flannel shirt day.

    “The Koreans.”

    “Motorcycles, right?” he said, sticking his face out the door.

    “Cars. Affordable luxury for twenty-somethings.”

    “Twenty-somethings want luxury?”

    “They do if it’s affordable.”

    “That’s why you’re the word guy and I’m the picture guy. I wouldn’t have a clue how to pitch this.”

    “Good thing I’m around then, huh?”

    He disappeared back into the bathroom, meaning we were somewhere between eight and fifteen minutes of departure time, assuming I kept him away from the Power Rangers . . .

    “I mentioned that the meeting was today and not in August, right?” I said, my voice vibrating from the thumping my back was receiving.

    “I’m done,” he said, walking over to stand in front of me in blue flannel. “Just a quick one-on-one with the Cap’n and we’ll be out of here.”

    I turned off the chair and got up. Daz opened the box of cereal and poured it directly into his mouth. “Let’s go,” he said, taking a swig from a milk carton and grabbing his keys.

    I gathered my stuff and we made our way out the door. Daz locked the two deadbolts and my eye fell on his keychain – a plastic hot dog that he’d burned with a cigarette lighter in honor of our first (and only) camping trip. He’d toted that thing around for the last ten years.

    “I think Michelle and I had a little thing last night,” he said as we walked out onto Broadway to begin our search for a cab.

    I laughed. “I was with the two of you the entire time. You didn’t have a thing.”

    “No, I think we might have. It was an eye thing.”

    “An eye thing as in she saw you and said hi?”

    “Don’t be a schmuck. I can tell the difference, you know. I think she kinda likes me.”

    “Daz, everyone kinda likes you. See that woman who just stepped in front of us to steal our cab? I’ll bet she likes you. You’re a likable guy. I just wouldn’t get my hopes up about Michelle if I were you.”

    “She came to my office just to see my drawings the other day. She’s never done that before.”

    “Daz, reachable goals, remember? Reachable goals.”

    “I think you might be surprised here.”

    “Surprised wouldn’t begin to describe it. Stunned speechless maybe. Or shocked to the point where I needed a defibrillator.”

    He regarded me sternly. “Why do you think I couldn’t get a woman like Michelle?”

    “Did I say that?”

    “Pretty much exactly that.”

    “You’re misunderstanding me. I’m speaking specifically about Michelle. A woman like Michelle – you know, gorgeous, smart, clever, burgeoning career – you could get a woman like that. Anytime you wanted, probably.”

    “But not Michelle specifically. Translation, please.”

    “A translation isn’t necessary. Right now, the only thing that’s important is that we find some way to get the hell downtown.”

    Eventually we took a gypsy cab, one of those out-of-town car services that roamed around the City skimming off fares from Yellow cabs during rush hours. I hated doing this – I was very loyal to my city – but at 9:05 on a weekday, it really was the best we could do.

    “If we left earlier, we wouldn’t be riding in a fifteen-year-old Impala right now, you know,” I said.

    “If we left later, we wouldn’t be doing this either.”

    “You know, it’s a good thing you’re an artistic genius. Otherwise you’d be working at Burger King. No, you’d lose your job at Burger King because you’d always be showing up late. Then you’d be out on the street collecting bottles to exchange for cheap liquor.”

    “Never happen.”

    “You don’t think so?”

    “Nope. Cause you’d be around to drag my ass out of bed so I could keep my job making French fries.”

    “Don’t be so sure.”

    “Of course you would.”

    Yeah, of course I would. If I could be relied upon for anything, it would be making sure that Daz got to work at a reasonable hour. Beyond that, as it turns out, I was lacking in an entire suite of skills best friends were supposed to have. However, he would never be homeless as long as I was around.

    We rode in silence for a couple of minutes, bucking and stopping every eight seconds or so as traffic dictated. Then something caught Daz’s eye and he pulled out the sketch-pad he always carried in his backpack and started drawing.

    “What are you doing?”

    “That jogger we passed gave me an idea.”

    I hadn’t even noticed a jogger. “An idea for what?”

    “For the Space Available campaign.”

    Space Available was a custom-built closet company whose account we recently acquired. How a jogger related to this escaped me.

    “Let me see,” I said, leaning toward him in the seat.

    He pulled the sketchpad back. “Not yet.” He smiles over at me. “I want to show it to Michelle first.”

    “She’ll never love you like I love you, Daz.”

    “There’s another thing we can all be thankful for.”

    He drew for a big longer, and while I knew there was a very good chance this brainstorm of his wouldn’t produce anything – so many of our ideas didn’t – I was curious. I tried to angle my eyes over without appearing too obvious, but Daz was doing a great job of blocking my view. Finally, he closed the sketchbook and returned it to his backpack, glancing out at the street as though there was nothing to this.

    “Traffic’s a bitch today,” he said. “We really should have left earlier. You gotta get on the beam, Flaccid.”

About the author:

Lou Aronica is the author of the USA Today bestseller The Forever Year and the national bestseller Blue. He also collaborated on the New York Times nonfiction bestsellers The Element and Finding Your Element (both with Ken Robinson) and the national bestseller The Culture Code (with Clotaire Rapaille). Aronica is a long-term book publishing veteran. He is President and Publisher of the independent publishing house The Story Plant.

Connect with Lou:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | IndieBound

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Featured Author: Mary Burton

I'm happy to have bestselling author Mary Burton here today to talk about her romantic suspense novel, No Escape, the second in a series, published by Kensington Publishing. Don't miss the first book in the Texas Rangers series, The Seventh Victim, look for the third in the series, You're Not Safe, coming in April 2014, and enjoy an excerpt from No Escape here after the interview.

About the book:

Forensic psychologist Dr. Jolene Granger has helped the Texas Rangers solve cases of multiple murders in the past. In fact, Jo did her dissertation on serial killer Harvey Lee Smith. That's the only reason she can think of that he wants her--and only her--to be the one to hear his dying confession. She agrees, vowing not to let this monster who buried his victims alive claim a foothold in her psyche. She hopes to learn about bodies never found and to bring closure to families who have not been able to lay their missing loved ones to rest. She knows Harvey has secrets to share. It just turns out that they're just not all the sort that Jo wants to hear.
She's also not expecting to encounter Brody Winchester, whose arrest of Harvey earned him his Texas Ranger star. But there he is. Newly transferred to Ranger headquarters in Austin and determined to stick close until the unaccounted victims are found. Too bad the two haven't spoken since the divorce that severed their brief and painful marriage.

Ill and with his every movement monitored, Harvey still exudes menace, despite no longer being a threat. Or is he? Someone is killing women just the way Harvey did, sending furtive messages to him, claiming credit and seeking approval. 

Harvey's got a protégé, one who's becoming bolder and more vicious every day.  Brody and Jo have to uncover the secrets within the trail of shallow graves and finish the puzzle before its creator takes his final bow. They need to do it now. Harvey's about to die and the killer isn't finished yet.

Interview with Mary Burton

Mary, you have twenty published books. How long have you been writing, and how did you start? 

I’ve been writing forever. I started writing when my children were babies. I'd put them down for a nap and then write as fast as I could, knowing I only had a couple of hours.  Those babies are in college now so that’ll tell you I’ve been at this a while.

What’s the story behind the title No Escape?

My editor named the book, and I really think he nailed it!

Do you have another job outside of writing? 

Writing is a full time job for me.

How did you create the plot for this book? 

When I was plotting No Escape, I was attending the Writer’s Police Academy, which brings mystery and suspense authors together with law enforcement experts. It’s a great event and never fails to inspire another story for me. Anyway, at the conference I attended a shallow grave seminar. (I know, sounds crazy.) As I stood in the woods with my fellow classmates and listened to the instructor, the ideas for the next book started spinning.   I had a rough outline for the book within a couple of weeks.

What’s your favorite line from a book? 

“The autopsy revealed what Brody already suspected. She’d been buried alive.”

How do you get to know your characters?

I do my best to map out their lives, but it’s not until I start writing the first draft that I really get to know them. When you put a character under pressure you really find out what they’re made of.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Jolene Granger. I liked her the instant she popped into my mind. I love her because she’s smart and so together but suffers from the same doubts and worries that we all struggle with. 
What would your main character say about you? 

LOL. She might not think I’m all that exciting. I’m either behind the computer, cooking or chasing dogs.

I can relate! Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

No. I might notice something in particular about someone and brazenly steal it for one of my characters but across the board they’re a mish mash of people, experiences and research. 

Is your book based on real events?

No. I have a very active imagination, and it doesn’t take much—-for instance a shallow grave seminar--to get me spinning a new plot.

Are you like any of your characters?

I wish! My heroines don’t worry about calories, their snappy comments are well thought out (except in the first draft when it’s still mostly my voice), and they’re brave enough to run toward danger. 

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? 

I’m thinking poison. Mix that poison in a carrot cake and I’m done for.

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

I’m very partial to Dr. Jo Granger. She’s smart, kind hearted and she is fearless. She is one of my favorite characters.

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

Brody Winchester. He is one nice-looking man, and he has a wicked sense of humor.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book. 

When Brody sees Jo for the first time in 14 years. He keeps reminding himself that his visit is business and not personal but the minute he sees her on a climbing wall in the gym, surrounding by the cheering at-risk teens she mentors, he’s fascinated by the person she’s become.

What song would you pick to go with your book? 

Zac Brown’s "Jolene." If you listen to the song’s words it has nothing to do with No Escape, but there is something about the mood and emotion of the song that really caught my attention.

Who are your favorite authors? 

Love Nora Roberts, Tony Hillerman and Lisa Gardner.

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

It’s a nonfiction book called Grain Brain. I love books on nutrition and cooking. It’s in audio form, and I listen to it when I’m at the gym. 

Do you have a routine for writing? 

I write every day. I don’t work for a set number of hours but have a set number of pages I feel I should write. Once I’ve hit my page goal, I’m done for the day. Sometimes the pages take me a few hours and sometimes they’ll take me all day.

Where’s home for you? 

Richmond, Virginia.

You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

A hamburger, French fries and a vanilla milkshake!

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore? 

I did work in the library when I was in college. I enjoyed it a lot, so I think I’d like to go back there.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it? 

The Gayton Library in Henrico County is my go-to library. I love that place!

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

Hike, shop and a massage!

What’s one of your favorite quotes? 

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” --Thomas Edison

What three books have you read recently and would recommend? 

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner, The Time Between by Karen White, and Half a Lie by Darin Strauss.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on a new romantic thriller set in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Come back when you can tell us more about it!

Excerpt from No Escape

Jo turned on the shower, kicked off her shoes and socks, and then leaned on the sink, staring into the fogging mirror.  She was grateful her expression looked calm and her cheeks had not flushed with shock.  Brody Winchester.  She’d heard he’d moved back to town but had hoped Austin was big enough for her to avoid him. 

For several seconds she stared until the steam misted over all traces of her.
“Holy shit,” she whispered as she turned and pulled off her hoodie, workout shirt and pants.

She stepped into the shower and ducked her head under the hot spray, barely noticing as it streamed over her body and rinsed the salty sweat from her skin. 

Brody f-ing Winchester was in her house.  Getting a soda out of her fridge.  Brody f-ing Winchester was sitting on her sofa like it was old home week. 

Brody f-ing Winchester.

Her ex-husband. 

It had been fourteen years since they’d last seen each other.  For several years after their divorce she’d dreamed of facing him again and demanding an apology.  She’d imagined him seeing the error of his ways and offering sincere regret.  The dream had sustained her for a time but after several years, she’d simply grown tired of being angry.  And so she’d let Winchester go, truly believing he was out of her system.

And then she’d seen him standing in the gym, staring at her as if she were an odd curiosity.  She’d been taken aback, lost her hold, and practiced speeches recited too many times after the divorce were forgotten.

She groaned.  She’d invited him into her home.  Offered him a soda.  And a sandwich.  You were always a pushover around him.

She willed the water to wash away her thoughts and disappointments.  Let go.  Let go.  The familiar mantra lapped over her, taking with it some of the emotion.

Brody’s arrival wasn’t personal.  It was business.  And he was acting like an adult, a professional.  He wasn’t the newly enlisted twenty-one-year-old Marine who had all the answers, and he wasn’t looking at her as if she owed him.  Nor was she an awkward eighteen-year-old grateful for any kind of love and attention.  She didn’t need him, not as she thought she had all those years ago.

The hot water beaded on her forehead.  She was thirty-two.  He was thirty-six.  If they couldn’t act like grown-ups now when would they ever?  The past was the past.  Let it go and move on. 

This time tomorrow her interview with Harvey Lee Smith would be over and Brody would be out of her life again.  Case, hopefully, closed.

She shut off the water, toweled off, dried her hair quickly and dressed in a dark pencil skirt, white blouse and matching jacket.  She put on her pearl necklace and earrings and as she promised was ready to leave within thirty minutes.

When she emerged from her bedroom, her cats had surrounded Brody.  Atticus, a sixteen-pound orange cat, sat at the end of the sofa staring at Brody as if he wanted to attack.  Shakespeare, a wiry black cat with a snub nose tail, sat on the floor out of his reach, and Mrs. Ramsey, a small gray tabby, sat in his lap, purring as he rubbed her between the ears.

God, what he must think of her.  All these years and she was still not only the nerdy smart girl, but also the single lady with the house full of cats. 

She snatched up her purse and snapped it open.  “Ready?”

He finished off his soda and gently nudged Mrs. Ramsey back onto the couch.  As he rose, his gaze lingered on her a half a beat before he held up the can.  “Yep.  Where’s your trash can?”

Her first instinct was to take the can and throw it out for him.  She’d have done it for anyone but him.  “Under the sink in the kitchen.”

As he disposed of the can, she checked her wallet to make sure she had enough cash as well as her ID.  She tucked in a notebook, extra pens as well as a point-and-shoot camera.  “I’ll follow you to the airport.”

He moved toward her, hat balanced in his hand, each step measured. 

When had she forgotten he was so tall and broad shouldered?  He’d been like that in college, possessing a room simply by entering.  Age had certainly not whittled away his muscle tone.  He was broader in the shoulders and his legs and his wrists had grown thicker. 

He’d never been classically or pretty-boy handsome.  “Very male” had been the best way to describe him.  Age had not only wiped away the traces of youth, but had left his face with a raw-boned leanness that bordered on menace. 

“It could be a late night,” he said.  “Better not to leave an extra car at the airport.”
No doubt his frame all but filled the front seat of that Bronco.  “I don’t mind.”
“It’ll be easier if I drive.”

A rebuttal danced on the tip of her tongue and then she swallowed it.  The more she protested, the bigger deal she made out of the whole situation.  And this was not a big deal.  It was business. 

“Fine.”  Atticus meowed, jumped off the back of a chair.  “Let me feed the cats.”

He held out his hat, indicating the way to the kitchen.  “You’ve wrangled yourself a real herd here.”

“They kinda found me.”

“You’re a soft touch.”

“Maybe.”  She opened the kitchen pantry, scooped out a mound of dried food and dropped it into three different bowls scattered around the kitchen and den.  Atticus took the bowl by the bin.  Shakespeare moved to his bowl under the kitchen table and Mrs. Ramsey ate behind the chair.

“That big red one runs the roost,” Brody said.

She filled a water bowl and set it beside Atticus.  “I’ve had him a year.  But as soon as he arrived he took over.”

“Is he growling?”

“He growls when he eats.  Defense mechanism, I suppose.  Vet thinks he fended for himself a good while.  He was half starved and pretty banged up when he came to me.”

“Give the ’ol boy credit for surviving.”

“Let me check in with my neighbor and let him know I’ll be gone.  There’s a fifty percent chance of rain this evening, and if we get grounded the cats will need to be fed.”

He followed her out the front door.  “Still watch the weather every morning?”

Still eat Frosted Flakes in the morning?  The unexpected memory had her pulling the front door closed with a too-firm slam.  She turned the key in the lock until the dead bolt slid into place.  “The first personal reference to our short but brief marriage—the elephant in the room.”

He stood at the base of the stairs, one foot on the bottom step.  “I never was good at pretending.”

“Cutting honesty from what I remember.”

He settled his hat on his head.  He tightened and released his jaw.  “There something between us we need to lance before we get this show on the road?”

“No.”  Emotions tightened and released.  She nodded toward the house to her right.  “I’ll be right back.”

About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Mary Burton has been intrigued by investigative work and the people who do it since Virginia, her home state, was stung by a string of serial killings that spanned more than twenty years. Not surprisingly, many of Mary's suspense novels are fueled by the acts of multiple killers and the people who pursue them, as is No Escape, her latest and the second in a trio of stories set in and around Austin that began with The Seventh Victim. Her third Austin-set novel, You're Not Safe, will be published in April 2014.

The author of twenty novels and three novellas, her earlier novels include I'm Watching You, Dead Ringer and Dying Scream, set in her home town of Richmond, and Senseless, Merciless, and Before She Dies, set in Alexandria. 

She is a member of Thriller Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, for which she is president of the Central Virginia chapter.

Mary is currently at work on her next novel, set in Nashville.

Connect with Mary:
Website | Facebook | Twitter  
Buy the book:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Featured Author: Sean-Paul Thomas

Today I'm talking to Sean-Paul Thomas, the author of the contemporary adult fiction novel, The Universe Doesn't Do Second Chances, published by Tirgearr Publishing. Sean-Paul answers some of my burning questions, and he also brings us an excerpt from the book.

About the book:

A lonely man in his late thirties living an average life of missed opportunities and regrets especially regarding the opposite sex, dies in a plane crash somewhere over the English channel. When he awakens in a subdued and bizarre subconscious state, he is granted by the powers that be a second chance to spend a day with the two women in his life who made an impact on his heart. Yet never had the courage to let go of his social fears and inhibitions and act upon his natural instincts and desires at the time of meeting them.

The first part of the book takes place over one day in the awe inspiring Gothic city of Edinburgh in 2004. When our hero meets Alex on a bus. A beautiful young tourist girl from the Czech Republic. They embark upon a magical one day adventure around the city together. Only the more time our hero spends with his new love interest, the more her hidden secrets and real intentions for being in the city come to surface.

The second part takes place in the late eighties. Our hero wakes up back in high school upon the gorgeous tropical Island of Cyprus. Here he is granted the second chance to meet Sarah. The pretty and athletic tomboy. Who steels his heart while helping each other deal with school bullies, army brat life, dark troubles at home, all in one magical summers day adventure, both young lovers will never forget.

Interview with Sean-Paul Thomas

Sean Paul, you have three other published books (Ugly Beautiful, Alone, and Sarah Smiles) in addition to this newest one. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I've been writing in some format or another for around 20 years. It all started after watching Bram Stokers Dracula for the very first time when I was around 14 years old. I then decided to write a sequel.

What’s the story behind the title The Universe Doesn't Do Second Chances?

It's loosely based on some real events which happened in my own life. With fiction writing though, I'm able to exaggerate things and bend the true life events to my own satisfying outcome.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

There are some pretty funny and filthy ones from my favourite author Irvine Welsh, lol. But I'll keep it light for this interview :)
The opening few lines of Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women always stuck with me while growing up:

To young men without lovers. This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women - and the connection between the two is my proposition. I'm not an expert on sex, but I was a good student of the women I loved, and I'll try to recall those happy and unhappy experiences, which, I believe, made a man out of me.

Tell us a book by an indie author for which you’re an evangelist.

Is Irvine Welsh still considered an indie author? Or Charles Bukowski? Then Filth by Irvine Welsh, Women and Factotum by Charles Bukowski, Ask the Dust by John Fante, and of course In Praise of Older Women by Stephen Vizinczey.

How do you get to know your characters?

They are usually just a combination of various different weird and wonderful people and personalities who I've had the pleasure and displeasure of spending time with and getting to know throughout my life.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Sarah, from the second story in my book. She is one feisty, kick ass, adventurous tomboy, who, if she isn't already your friend, then definitely shouldn't be messed with. Every young teenage boy should get to hang out with a Sarah for at least one day in their lives. I, of course, had the amazing pleasure of briefly getting to know the real thing.

What would your main character, Liam, say about you?

Hurry up and write a best seller you lazy arsehole :) Actually I think Liam and I would really get along just fine, especially the changed Liam at the end of the story, which is where I'm kind of at now anyway. I'd think he'd be proud too of how I've changed my life around in the past 15 years. Losing weight, getting in shape, becoming more social and even having some good success with a love life :)

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? 

Ha ha, lol. All of them really, but like I said before, everyone is pretty much a combination of different people, and exaggerated to an extent, at that. The truest to form character in the book is definitely Sarah, though. I knew a girl just like her at high school, so she was very easy and enjoyable to write about. I always knew I'd write about her one day.

Is your book based on real events?

Kind of, yes. Apart from the plane crash and time travel element. At least 70 to 80 percent is based on true events. Some of them happened to me, some of them happened to other people.

Are you like any of your characters? How so?

Absolutely, past and present. I've been where Liam is at the start of the story, but many years ago. Kind of unsocial, awkward and shy with girls. But right now, with the experience I've gained through traveling and socialising with a lot of places and people these past ten years, then I'd like to think I'd have the confidence to go over and chat to a cute girl on a plane if she smiled at me first :) No problem.

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?

Food poisoned to death :) I love my food but I've never experienced any kind of food poisoning yet, fingers crossed. But it's my greatest fear. Both my brother and sister have had it pretty bad over the years. My brother, three times now, and it sounds just awful what he went through, mostly hugging a toilet bowl for 48 hours.

Yikes. Sounds like a horrible way to go! If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose? I'm guessing you're going to say Sarah.

Definitely Sarah. She is one street wise, tough son of a gun. With a come-back and smart answer for everything, she pretty much does whatever she likes. Although she does have a very soft core, if you can indeed find it.

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

Both Alex and Sarah, young or old, would be more than entertaining enough.

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Audrey Hepburn, Charles Bukowski, Irvine Welsh, Eva Green, and Ewan McGregor.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I guess Liam and Alex, just chilling out on Calton Hill, shooting the s*#t, having a crack. And the scene where Liam and Sarah get stuck in a cave for a few hours during a torrential rain storm. It got very dark in that cave and of course ended up being a very emotional scene to write.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

Guns N Roses "Sweet Child of Mine."

I love that song. Who are your favorite authors?

Easy, Irvine Welsh, Charles Bukowski, Knut Hamsun, George Orwell, John Fante, Stephen Vizinczey. I'll give out a free copy of my book, lol, to whoever can tell me how many of those guys are still alive.

You heard him, people--comment below for that free book! Okay, you get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Ewan McGregor. He has a lovely, vibrant, cheeky, energetic voice.

Yep, I love him too. What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

Actually Irvine Welsh's latest release, Skagboys on the Kindle. It was out in May this year, but because I've been so busy writing and traveling, I just haven't had time to read it until now. And it is awesome.

I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, but there are some writing techniques (or mistakes) that stand out to me when I read (e.g. when an author switches POV mid-scene). What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

Toooo much description. I think readers have a better experience with a book when they have more freedom to use their imaginations. It was fine 100 years ago when people couldn't get around much and had to rely on the authors awesome description of every brick, stone, flower and clothing from the next city. But these days people have amazing and flamboyant imaginations. They've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things, whether in real life or on TV. Readers are so much more intelligent now than they ever have been and writers have to realise this and adapt accordingly. I struggled with this for such a long time when I first started writing. I wanted to describe everything in detail and leave nothing for the mind. I ended up boring a hell of a lot of people. But now, I think and hope, fingers crossed, I'm slowly getting better at this.

Do you have a routine for writing?

I always kick start a writing session with a delicious cup of black coffee (Carte Noire), one sugar, two digestive biscuits and a banana.

Where’s home for you?

The beautiful, Gothic, magical, inspirational and just plain Goddamn awesome city of Edinburgh :) Without a shadow of doubt. I've been to a lot... a hell of a lot of different places in my life, and there is no place like her, the burgh :) That's my opinion.

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

Trai...Fil... no... Prai... no... Wom... nut, sorry, I just can't decide. It could never be just one :) Sorry.

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

Drive somewhere, to some city or town or place or countryside, where I've never been before, singing along, as I drive, to some good tunes on the radio/CD/USB player.

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

Sick boy from Trainspotting. That guy had a lot of fun and did a lot of crazy things that I would be far too S*$t scared to even consider.

What would your dream office look like?

If I could move the city of Edinburgh to Fiji and then build a small glass office on top of Calton Hill to see that view everyday...

Agreed. What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must lead." --Bukowski

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

Reading, rugby, tennis, boxing, traveling, cooking, movies, music, hiking, driving, google, red wine, dark chocolate.

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

Edinburgh, in 20 degrees or higher heat, no higher than 30 mind. That would be perfection. Sadly, we only see temperatures of 20 degrees and slightly higher for about two weeks of every year here.

I'm assuming you mean Celsius, which would be 68 Fahrenheit. Right? Seeing as how it's below freezing right now, 68 degrees does sound good. But I digress...What are you working on now?

The best I can do to briefly describe my next book is - to think Trainspotting meets Fight Club meets Drive meets the Bucket List meets Taxi Driver meets Bukowski. Mix them all into a huge big fat pint glass of whiskey. Throw in a new writing voice for an extra good measure and you're almost halfway there :)

Here is a brief Synopsis:

Set in modern day Edinburgh, an average Joe in his early thirties, is given the news that he has terminal Brain Cancer. Refusing any kind of help or Chemo treatment, he struggles with overbearing thoughts of becoming a better person while desperately wanting to give into his urges, fears and desires to do and act however the hell he pleases. While most people around him remain stuck inside their social fear sheep bubbles. Obeying the rules, regulations and boring routines of monotonous, every day, working  life. Our protagonist yearns to know and feel what it's really like to live a life without regret and the consequences of tomorrow while still healthy and able to give a damn.

The story unfolds with slow burning tension as our hero eventually turns his back on modern day society and begins using his terminal illness as a license to act out his biggest dreams and fantasies. Good and bad. While squaring up with a few buried, but not forgotten, demons from his past along the way.

If you knew you only had a short time left on this planet to live, really live. What would you do?

A dark, sexy, black humorous tale of sex, violence, modern society, the male psyche, unstoppable whirlwind adventures and finding love in the most least likely location.

And you'll be back when it's published...right?

Sean-Paul's other books:

Excerpt from The Universe Doesn't Do Second Chances

'So at school, did you ever fancy any of your teachers?' I asked, re-igniting our conversation from earlier. Alex, with her arms spread out behind her back and supporting her upper body on the grass, glanced at me with a very confused look.


'You know, like have a crush on or find attractive.'

Alex continued to stare at me blankly.

'Did you want to kiss any of your teachers?' I said blatantly spelling it out.

Alex chuckled. 'Are you kidding me? All my teachers were as old as the Earth.' She shivered with an over reactive gesture and shook her head in disgust. She then turned back to face me with a mischievous grin.

'But I'm guessing you did since you brought this up.'

'As a matter of fact I did, yeah, when I was around nine, now that I come to think about it.'

'Nine!' Alex looked shocked.

'Yeah, I had the biggest crush on my primary school teacher, ever.'

'You did not.'

'I did too, I swear.'

'I remember how I'd always be the first one to volunteer to do anything for her in class whenever she asked me, like cleaning off the chalk from the black board or collecting everyone's homework and staying behind after class to help tidy up.'

Alex playfully pinched my cheek like a little kid. 'Oh, that is so cute and sweet of you, Liam.'

'Yeah well, it gets better. Eventually I found out that the bitch was married, and it nearly broke my little nine-year-old heart.'

Alex started laughing, almost choking in the process.

'And from that point onwards I just became such a little shit to her in class.'

Alex continued to smile and shook her head.

'Always playing up. I stole her stapler a few times then sneakily wrote rude words on her blackboard before she arrived to class. I started throwing pens, paper, pencils at the other kids around class or whatever I could find whenever she wasn't looking. I was pretty sneaky like that.'

'Wow! What a little shit you were, Liam. So what kind of rude words did you write on her blackboard?'

'Too rude to share with a cheeky Czech tomboy like you.'

'I'm the cheeky one now.' She smiled. 'Hey, can I ask, what is the difference between sneaky and cheeky?'

I chuckled as a crazy thought entered my head.

'You don't know?'

'Well, I think I do, but I'm sure everyone has different interpretations.'

I stood to my feet immediately and held out my hand.

'What, what are you doing? More dancing?'

'Come, stand up.'

Alex took my hand and I pulled her onto her feet. We were standing close now, only a few inches apart.

'Okay. Now close your eyes.'

She gave me a suspicious glare and grinned. 'No, I don't trust you, you might do something bad.'

'What, like steel your camera.'

'Hmmm, that too.'

'Just close your eyes.'

'What are you going to do?'

'I'm going to show you the difference between cheeky and sneaky.'

'Why don't you just tell me?'

'Because it's more fun this way,' I said with a sly grin.

She paused in thought for a long moment before letting out a deep sigh. Finally she closed her eyes.

'Okay! Then show me.'

The adrenaline surged through my veins. I couldn't believe I was about to actually try this. I had no idea where this mischievous playful thought had come from, but it was too late to stop it now, I had acted in the moment, so I had to go through with it.

'Okay, so this is cheeky.'

I leaned in very close to Alex, almost like I were going to kiss her gently upon her soft and delicious, lush red lips, but instead, I lowered my hands down to her perky buttocks and gently squeezed her cheeks. Alex let out a playful scream and slapped me on the shoulder.

'That was bad.' She giggled, although, she didn't back away.

'Okay.' I smiled back. 'And now for something sneaky.'

'Oh! That wasn't the sneaky thing.'

'Close your eyes.'

She did what I asked and closed her eyes tight.

'Okay, now this is sneaky.'

This time I leaned in really slow, but right up close towards her, my face and lips millimetres from her own. At the same time I lifted my left hand and gently curved it around the bottom of her face and neck and underneath her soft-flowing blonde hair. I softly kissed her cherry lips. She never flinched in the slightest and even better, her small pretty mouth moved in unison with mine. The act lasted for a good ten seconds and just as I felt the tip of her tongue brushing against the top of my lip, she gently pulled away. I opened my eyes to find Alex unleashing a radiant and devilish smile.

'Well that was unexpected.'

All I could do was smile back. I was glowing.

'So this is the difference, huh?' She continued.

We eventually sat back down upon the grass, but this time a little closer together. Alex was still smiling and blushing slightly from cheek to cheek.

'So before your little demonstration you were telling me about your first crush on a teacher.'

'Oh yeah.' I had almost forgotten.

'So you misbehaved in her class after you found out she was married.'

'Yeah, well, until she called my parents into school because she thought there was something wrong at home.'

'Your parents must have been livid?'

'Oh, they were, but to this day neither of them knew the real reason why I'd acted up like that.'

Alex shook her head and smiled. Another comfortable pause lingered in the air. She glanced away for a brief moment but I couldn't take my eyes away from her still. Once again, Alex broke the silence first.

'So how old were you when you had your first kiss?'

'My first kiss.' I replied, a little surprised at her question. 'Twenty-nine and a few months, I guess, right in the shadow of the national monument on a little shade of grass on top of a perfectly stunning hill in the middle of Edinburgh.' I teased.

Alex chuckled.

'Wow! You are so funny. But seriously, tell me?'

'Well, Jesus, let me see. My first kiss was with a girl named Kelly. She was about ten and I was about seven.'

'Seven.' Replied Alex looking even more shocked than hearing my teacher confession.

'What can I say, I was an early starter?'

About the author:

Born in London to Scottish and Irish parents, Sean spent most of his childhood and teenage years growing up on the move in the likes of Cyprus, Germany, Wales, and England as an Army brat. With a keen interest in both reading and writing, he was diagnosed with the travel and writing bugs very early on in life.

Now, writing, reading, and traveling are his main passions in life, but he also loves outdoor sports too from rugby and hiking to tennis and boxing.

His main inspiration for writing today comes from living in such a beautiful, Gothic, hauntingly, awe inspiring, dramatic and historical city such as Edinburgh. This place has given Sean so much amazing inspiration to write the more time he spends dwelling here with her. And he challenges anyone with 'so called' writer's block to take a walk up and around the magical Carlton Hill in Edinburgh's city center sometime. (In any kind of weather too, which will usually be a windy rain storm even in the heart of summer) Then just kick back, relax and enjoy the majestic views of our glorious castle, Princes street gardens, the bridges, the breathtaking and spectacular volcanic Munroe 'Arthur's seat', The river fourth, the Greek influenced national monument on the very top of the hill. (Which is where Edinburgh gets its nickname 'Athens of the North' from.) And of course, the view of the fabulously Gothic monument of Sir Walter Scot, Scotland's greatest and most famous ever writer to date.

At this moment, he is writing another two books, one is about a young man working in a dead-end job and life who discovers that he has a terminal illness so decides to withdraw all of his life savings from the bank, go out into the world, and do all the things that he's always dreamed of doing, but was restricted by the rules and regulations that society feeds into us from birth.

The other book is about his recent four month awesome back packing adventure through Eastern Europe last year, from Estonia to Sarajevo.

Connect with Sean-Paul:
Website | Facebook | Goodreads |  

Buy the book:
Amazon author page | Amazon | Smashwords 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Featured Authors: Joyce & Jim Lavene

Today, I'm turning the blog over to my main character, Tess Tremaine, to talk with Jessie Morton, the mc in Joyce & Jim Lavene's newly-released novel, Murderous Matrimony, a supernatural mystery. And there's a giveaway! Enter to win a copy of each of the five print books in the Ren Faire mystery series as well as the E-novella, Perilous Pranks and an E-copy of Murderous Matrimony, plus the entire collection, for now, of their Ren Faire Mysteries and a Ren Faire Mystery tote bag to hold all of them.

About the character:

Jessie Morton is a woman who loves the Renaissance faire where she lives with her lover, Chase Manhattan. She enjoys history and crafts. Her dissertation for her PhD was Renaissance Crafts in Modern Day. She is an excellent archer and has skills in hat making, basket weaving, glass making, sword making and tapestry.

Tess talks with Jessie Morton

Jessie, how did you first meet Jim and Joyce?
We were introduced in Wicked Weaves, the first Renaissance Faire mystery. Joyce and Jim were crazy about the Ren Faire and so was I. It was a good fit from the beginning.

Want to dish about them?

They write a lot – five mystery series and counting. They have paranormal and supernatural leanings. They live in North Carolina with two cats and a dog. They enjoy long road trips into the mountains, and like pizza.

They sound wonderful. Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?

No! Are you kidding? Why would anyone write about me? I’ve lived an ordinary life – except my summers at the Ren Faire.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

My favorite scene in the new Ren Faire mystery book, Murderous Matrimony, is when Wanda (the blue ghost that haunts me) gets her comeuppance. Can’t say anymore about that without giving away the plot, you know. But I LOVED IT!

Did you have a hard time convincing Jim and Joyce to write any particular scenes for you?

Oh no! Joyce and Jim and I are simpatico. They write what I tell them.

Lucky girl. Did you hear that, Amy? Jessie, what do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?

I like to walk around the Village and see everything that’s going on. I love Vegetable Justice where people throw squishy fruits and vegetables at their friends while they are trapped in the stocks. I love spending time with Chase, my fiancée.

I can think of a few people I would love to introduce to Vegetable Justice. If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

I would rewrite the wedding so there weren’t so many people there. I really wanted a simple wedding with just me and Chase and a few friends.

Tell the truth. What do you think of your fellow characters?

Well, I love Chase (of course). Wanda, I could do without. Merlin the Magician is a little strange. Madame Lucinda, our resident fortune teller is a little odd. I think she may be part dragon.

Oh my. You do have some interesting friends. Do have any secret aspirations that Jim and Joyce don’t know about?

I would love to be in a story about making food. I mean, the craft stuff is good, but let’s do some food!

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I have no idea. I’m not that person.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while?

I like to think that people read me as an every day kind of character. Nothing special, really. Just a little snoopy. After they’ve known me for a while, I hope they see that I’m smart and thoughtful.

What's the worst thing that's happened in your life?

The worst thing was when I dyed Wanda blue with a dye pack in her shower, and when I went to gloat, she was dead. I didn’t kill her, but someone took advantage of my prank.

Tell us about your best friend.

My best friend is sword maker Daisy Reynolds. She’s a big woman with blond curly hair and kewpie doll lips. She makes amazing swords and knives. She wears a breastplate with a phoenix on it and lives with a giant of a man, Bart.

What are you most afraid of?

Being bored.

What’s the best trait your author has given you? What’s the worst?

The best is common sense – it means I can see things that to her characters miss. The worst is my size twelve feet. What’s up with that? 

Oh dear. I don't know. But you're perfectly lovely, so don't let that one trait bother you. What’s your author’s worst habit?

Leaving me hanging from roofs (and in other perilous places) to go to bed.

Describe the town where you live.
I live in Renaissance Faire Village and Marketplace in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s on the site of the old air Force base. The Village is five miles around, not counting Sherwood Forest, of course, or the jousting arena. There are crafters, shopkeepers, and other real people living here, but also characters like Robin Hood, fairies, Little Bo Peep, Mother Goose, and others.

Sounds lively. Will you encourage your author to write more in this series?

This is already their sixth book in the series with Wicked Weaves, Ghastly Glass, Deadly Daggers, Harrowing Hats, and Treacherous Toys. There is also a novella – Perilous Pranks. They tell me there is another book on the way too. I’m hoping for Killer Kites!
Thanks for having me here today!

And thank you for being here, Jessie. Call me when Killer Kites comes out! Jack loves kites!

About the authors:

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at

Connect with the authors:
Website | Facebook | 
Twitter |

Buy the book:
Amazon | Amazon author page

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Featured Author: Anthony Napoleon

Virtualbookworm Publishing has Anthony Napoleon on tour for his non-fiction political/social psychology book that he wrote with Yevgeni Yevtushenkov, A Look Inside the Playbook: How Marxists Plan to Destroy America

. Intriqued? Keep reading for an excerpt and a guest post by Dr. Napoleon.

About the book: 


Playbook incorporates the actual training manual used by Russian operatives trained in the former USSR.  In Playbook you will learn that America’s traditional culture has been targeted for subversion using highly sophisticated psychological measures with the goal of imploding the United States upon itself.  Once imploded, a Marxist inspired central government will be reconstituted by both elected and unelected American political operatives.  It is the author’s contention that this subversion plot was initiated in the 1960s and is well on its way to success.

Excerpts from A Look Inside the Playbook: How Marxists Plan to Destroy America

Excerpt No. 1

“We begin as we always begin, with great patience and a plan. We must first attack our enemy’s nuclear family structure because that is the framework within which they pass down their traditional American values to their children and all future generations. We will focus our assault upon their children while they are away at school. Young minds are malleable and vulnerable. We will have access to their children for six or more hours per day, nine or more months out of the year. America’s public schools will become our indoctrination camps where child by child, mind by mind, we will chip away at everything our enemy holds dear. We will not move too quickly, for it is much easier to sneak up on your enemy and kill him little by little than it is to attack everything he stands for all at once.”

Excerpt No. 2

“We must condition children to believe in communal and socially rooted determinism, not personal responsibility.  Even when confronted with, as our enemy would say, “God-given talent,” we shall emphasize the environment and diminish internal factors.  Rest assured that our view will come to dominate and give us the leverage needed to control our enemy. This is because citizens like to think that given the right opportunity and environment, they too would have been great, talented and rich. It feels good to blame others or outside forces for your shortcomings. The fact that the vast majority of people are average, by definition, means we can blame our enemy for the average person’s relative lack of brilliance, talent and achievement.  We shall brainwash all children to be treated as though they are geniuses in the making. We shall give them rewards, accolades and special achievement awards for merely showing up in class. Remember, there are no “average” children, only brilliant children who have been oppressed by our enemy.”

Guest Post

At the outset author Dr. Napoleon wishes to disabuse the reader of the understandable misunderstanding that he is a political writer.  Nor is he a political ideologue or partisan.  Playbook is a journalistic effort not a political tome.  As an expert on mind control strategies Dr. Napoleon came to recognize that something and/or someone was orchestrating the changes he saw on objective psychological tests among clients, patients and the general population.  Not only were American attitudes changing at an unprecedented pace but the degree of homogeneity of attitude change suggested to him that a coordinated effort was being made to create a uniformity of thought in the population as a whole.  Who would do this?  How would they do this and why?  The search for the answers to these questions spawned Napoleon’s first book on the subject, The Progressive Virus.  In that book he identified the cognitive distortions epidemic in America and much of the western world.  He traced the origins of the root cause of the distortions, the “virus” and documented who created it and why.  Enter Yevgeni Yevtushenkov.  Yevgeni approached Dr. Napoleon after reading The Progressive Virus and, much to Napoleon’s surprise, disclosed to him that operatives in the former USSR had set about to create the changes in cognition and attitude that Napoleon had discovered and written about in his capacity as a forensic psychologist.  The “Active Measures” used against the people of the United States over the past half-century are revealed for the first time in the actual training manual that is his newest book.  Playbook had previously been available to only a select few of high-level operatives working to subvert America.  People will be surprised to learn that the last 20 years of the KGB’s focus was not upon espionage or “spying.”  Spy work only consumed about 20% of the KGB’s total budget.  The other 80% was spent on developing then implementing the subversion strategies and tactics found in A Look Inside the Playbook:  How Marxists Plan to Destroy America.  Napoleon’s message is quite simple:  “It’s not politics folks, its with it.”

About the authors:


Dr. Anthony Napoleon, PhD is a California licensed clinical psychologist, with a specialization in medical and forensic psychology.  His work at Indiana University at Bloomington included dual majors in the psychology department’s honor’s program and in I.U.’s school of journalism.  Dr. Napoleon is an expert on mind control and how psychology can be used to modify cognitive and affective neurological function. 

Yevgeni Yevtushenkov was a high ranking operative in the KGB who was responsible for helping to provide fundamental research for its “Active Measures” unit.  This group of Russian human behavior experts was charged with developing the psychological strategies and tactics that have been used so successfully to subvert the people of the United States. 

Connect with the author:
Website | Twitter

Buy the book:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Featured Author: Heidi Joy Thretheway

Heidi Joy Tretheway is on tour with CLP Blog Tours and she's stopping here today to tell us about her new chick lit novel, Won’t Last Long. She also brought along an excerpt from the book, and don't miss the Rafflecopter at the end of this post for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.


Interview with Heidi Joy Thretheway

Heidi, you have four published books. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

There has never been a time since adolescence when I didn’t write literally thousands of words each week. I started with journals, letters and poetry, and then made it a career with news articles, food columns, business features and marketing copy. Writing a novel is its own special brand of insanity, though. It’s like running a marathon: it takes forever and there are precious few people to cheer you on through 26.2 miles, never mind all the training runs. I’ve been writing novels for eight years now but began publishing last year. In addition to Won’t Last Long, I published the new adult contemporary romance novel Tattoo Thief in October of this year and I published a children’s fairy tale adventure called A Handful of Gold last year.

How did you design your cover art?

I love being an independent author because I have so much control over every aspect of my book, including the cover. I worked with a graphic designer to develop the concept, and while we went through several options including illustration and typical chick lit images (how many headless bodies or legs have you seen on covers?), we selected one strong image of a woman’s face leaning out of a car on a road trip because it captures the hopefulness and journey of Won’t Last Long. The designer worked a miracle with recoloring the photo, and I selected the classic font Futura for the title.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I added several scenes to Won’t Last Long after the manuscript was complete on the advice of my developmental editor. I especially love how the scenes with Joshua and Melina’s exes turn out. When confronted with Joshua’s pushy ex, Melina handles herself in a surprising way, rather than dissolving into tears, finger-pointing or jealousy. It’s a pivotal scene that forces Joshua to “man up” and take greater control of his life.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

I know not everyone will like every book or character. I appreciate the feedback I get from readers tremendously and try to learn from it. For example, many reviewers’ comments for my series Tattoo Thief have influenced my writing of the next book in the series. As a reader, I think the only real sin a writer can commit is to publish a poorly edited book. It drives me nuts to see a book I paid for strewn with typos and poor grammar, and so I work with two professional editors and a handful of proofreaders to give readers the best possible quality in whatever story I write.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do when it happens?

Yes, I think everyone gets creative blocks. My approach is to shift my focus to something else that’s still creative, such as working with graphics and photos or cooking. Occasionally I get a massage right before a writing session and focus on my story during that hour on the massage table. I can get more writing done in the two hours following a massage than if I’d sat down with my computer for three hours total.

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

The last three books I read were all outstanding, and I’m proud to recommend them: Left Drowning by Jessica Park is an emotional, erotic story that had me reading through tears. The Long Game by J.L. Fynn is a fantastically original picture of nomadic con artists with great chemistry between the characters. The Rose Gardner mystery series by Denise Grover Swank is fresh and funny and keeps me up until the wee hours (I finished the third in that series, Thirty and a Half Excuses, tonight).

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

I love to cook and kayak, and one thing I do that you’ve probably never tried is razor clamming. My husband proposed after our first razor clamming trip. (Something most people don’t know is that I met my husband because of a book: I was intrigued by Bringing Down the House, a nonfiction story of a blackjack card-counting team, and he played on a team connected to the book. Even though I’d gone on nine bad dates and swore to my girlfriends I was done dating, I had to hear his story.) Click here to see about razor clamming.

What are you working on now?

I just took another research trip to New York City for my rock star romance series, Tattoo Thief. I anticipate finishing book two, titled Tyler and Stella this month, and I’ll release it early next year. You’ll find out what’s behind Stella’s dating motto, “A bad boy can’t break your heart.” Tyler and Stella is love story with heaps of sexual tension, but at its core, it’s about forgiveness—-how much can love forgive? I think the answer will surprise you.

Other books by Heidi:


Excerpt from Won't Last Long

Setup: Melina has a lot of rules about dating. Always pick the location. Always arrive early. And before you agree to the date, ask what kind of car a guy drives. It’s not only an opportunity to size him up—it’s a chance to watch him size up himself. In this chapter, we see Joshua’s perspective and realize the mistake Melina’s made long before she does.

“Hello, Melina? This is Joshua—we met at Eric’s party? I got your number from him? How’s it going?”

“Do you only ask questions?” she fired back.

Joshua plunged his hand into damp, unruly hair. Get a grip, man. You’re rusty, but you’re not dead yet. “No. Sorry. I just wasn’t sure if you remembered meeting me a few weeks ago.”

“Joshua. Joshua, Joshua, Joshua. Nope. No match. I haven’t met any Joshuas recently,” Melina countered, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “You said we met?”

“Yes, at Eric and Juan’s party—”

Melina cut him off. “No, we didn’t meet. You never told me your name or asked me mine. But I saw you there.” She paused. “We talked for a moment.”

“You called me dastardly,” Joshua feigned injury. “I remember that. I wondered who used that word anymore, unless they were describing a villain from the nineteen twenties.”

“So how did you get my number?”

“I had Juan and Eric over for dinner, and Eric gave it to me. I wanted to talk to you more, without a video game grabbing your attention.” Joshua’s tone took on a sudden intensity as his confidence returned. “So hello, my name is Joshua, and I would like to take you out on a date.”

“I see. Exactly what do you propose?”

“Dinner, drinks, conversation. Isn’t that what people normally do on a first date?”

“I don’t. I don’t do dinner. But I’ll meet you for a drink. Do you know the restaurant Next in Belltown?”

“What do you mean, you don’t do dinner?” True surprise registered in Joshua’s voice. “You mean you only eat breakfast and lunch?”

“I don’t do dinner on a first date,” Melina said simply. “So, Next? Have you been there?”

“No, but I’m sure I can find it. How about Thursday at six?”

“Six-thirty would be better,” Melina countered.

“Can I pick you up? I’m not sure where you live,” Joshua offered, curious. He knew nothing about Melina beyond what Eric told him, and he hadn’t Googled her—it felt a bit too stalker-ish before a first date. He liked the idea of seeing where she lived to get a sense of who she was.

“What kind of car do you drive?” Melina asked suddenly, catching Joshua off-guard.

“Short answer or long answer?”


“A Porsche.”

“I’ll meet you there. See you Thursday.”

Joshua heard the dial tone. What just happened? Did I give her the right answer, or the wrong one?

Whether Melina turned out to be worthy of romancing or they never got past the first date, Joshua knew: She is sure to keep me on my toes.

About the author:

Heidi Joy lives in Happy Valley off Sunnyside Road. She swears she did not make that up.

Heidi’s obsessed with storytelling. Her career includes marketing, journalism, and a delicious few years as a food columnist. Media passes took her backstage with several rock bands, where she learned that sometimes a wardrobe malfunction is exactly what the rock star intends.

You’ll most often find Heidi Joy with her husband and two small kids cooking, fishing, exploring the Northwest, and building epic forts in their living room.

She loves to hear from readers via messages at Facebook.

Connect with Heidi:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Buy the book:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Featured Author: Annie Wood

CLP Blog Tours brings Annie Wood here today, to guest blog about finding time, to talk about her romantic comedy, Dandy Day, and to treat us to an excerpt from the book. Plus, don't miss the Rafflecopter at the end of this post for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

About the book:

Dandy Day is a thirty-five-year-old free spirited commitment-phobic, Venice Boardwalk roller skating waitress. When Dandy is suddenly dumped by her therapist, right when they were on the brink of figuring out why her relationships last only a whopping three months, Dandy decides to take her relationship issues into her own hands.

With the reluctant help of her lifelong best friend, Simon, Dandy tracks down her exes one by one and does a relationship autopsy on each of them in order to get to the bottom of her relationship challenged life.

Interview with Annie Wood

Annie, by my count, this is your fifth book, plus you write screenplays and a web-series. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I remember, around the age of six or so, having an idea about a leprechaun and a pot of gold. The idea was immediately followed by an intense need to write it down. The point of the story was that instead of the pot of gold being on the other side of the rainbow, the leprechaun had the pot of gold all along. It was under his hat. (I didn’t know how to spell leprechaun back then and I still don’t now. Spell check is my favorite invention.)

How did you come up with the title Dandy Day?

I like old-timey phrases, so I once I told someone to have a “dandy day.” Then the thought occurred to me, what if their name was Dandy? And, like Doris, what if their last name was Day? Would they constantly feel pressure to have a dandy day because they are Dandy Day? These are the things that keep me up at night. Until I write them down. So, I did.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m an actress, on-camera as well as voice-over. I also write comedic scenes for actors on a “writer-for-hire” basis.

In the past I have done all sorts of stuff. I was a nanny, I taught acting to kids and teens, I sold Bonsai trees and rain sticks that I made at swap meets, and my first real job was as a front office receptionist at a talent agency when I was 15.

Wow. I am such a slacker. How would you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)

A short novel about love, friendship and grown ups, (sort of), growing up (sort of).

Do you have imaginary friends? When do they talk to you? Do they tell you what to write or do you poke them with a Q-tip?

They wake me up in the middle of the night! Usually whatever characters want to be written about next. The characters nudge me and then put them in situations. That’s usually how it works for me. They don’t poke me with a Q-tip though. They gently massage me. (I’ve trained them well.)

In that case, can you have your imaginary friends talk to my imaginary friends? I love massages...but I digress. When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be?

I usually know the main character. After I allow myself to get to know him/her better, they introduce me to their friends, like a host at a party.

As it should be. Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Simon’s niece, Ashley and Dandy’s Grandpa. I love writing kids and seniors. I feel a great respect for kids and seniors because I think they know things the rest of us have either forgotten or haven’t learned yet. Plus, there’s such a freedom in being very young and being very old. You usually say what you mean and mean what you say, without a filter. That’s appealing to me.

I’m constantly on the lookout for new names. How do you name your characters?

I love this question! (Actually all of your questions are damn good.) Why thank you! I enjoy name searching. I’m in Italy right now, and I’ve been keeping a list of Italian names of people I meet for my next book. (Part of it takes place in Italy.) I sometimes, with permission, use friends’ names. I also search online sometimes for baby names that were popular when my characters were born.

What would Dandy say about you?

Dandy would be very impressed with my happily married state. Then I would remind her that I had to go through much of what she went through before I was rewarded with this curtain state of being. Then we’d drink some wine and tell stories. I think we’d be pals.

Are you like any of your characters?

I was like Dandy in the over-thinking way. I was like Debbie in the free spirit way. I was like Ashley in the “tell it like it is” way. Now, I’m a calmer version of all of them. Grown up but not entirely. Never entirely.
Who is? What song would you pick to go with your book?

I always have a soundtrack in mind when I write something. This book was based on my screenplay by the same name and in the first scene I had in my mind the song "Tell Him" by The Exciters (1962.) I LOVE that song! The chorus repeats the line - "I know something about love" (which is what I always thought the title of the song was). The tune is so optimistic, and it was in one of my favorite movies, The Big Chill.

Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?

I sometimes create a playlist to write to. Working out on the treadmill and chilling on my hammock in the front yard helps with the flow. So does driving. I do act out the dialogue often. But mostly, when I sleep at night, those characters gently massage me awake and lead me to my office where I write by the light of the silvery moon. (If this romantic idea of the silvery moon is not practical on any given night because the moon is not at it’s silveryest, I will turn on a small, amber light and light a candle.)
What are you working on now?

Another novel (or novella, not sure yet) La Tua Casa, based on my screenplay, Martin’s Theory. It’s another romantic comedy, this time with a male lead finding the love of his life in a parallel life where he manages a B&B in Italy. Which is ironic because in his current life he hates traveling, hates the country and doesn’t much care for other people either. Here’s the logline: With the help of an eccentric professor and his book, a lonely man discovers the ability to travel to his parallel lives, falling for the woman of his dreams in one of them while trying desperately to avoid some of the others.

Thank you so much, Amy! I really enjoyed answering this terrific questions!
Love and Peace,
Annie Wood

Thanks for being here, Annie! Come back anytime.

Animated Excerpt

Excerpt from Dandy Day


I’m in the middle of a field, with my arms outstretched. It starts with Robert Downey Jr, then Johnny Depp, quickly followed by Colin Farrel, Bradley Cooper and then Hugh Jackman. They all come raining down upon me from the sky, each one trapped inside their own personal raindrop. I feel like I can catch them all, save them all and then, by doing so, save myself. I reach out my arms, preparing to gather the man-droplets but something goes horribly wrong. They are much heavier than I expected, and it turns out the raindrops are made of glass. The weight of the droplets is just too much for me so I drop them and then watch in horror as they loudly crash to the ground. Bradley, Hugh, Colin, all of them shatter into a million little pieces right before my very eyes. All because I wasn’t able to hold on.

I think about crying, but instead...

I wake up.

My alarm clock is playing the same tune it always plays, I Know Something About Love. I’m a fan of irony. My recurring raining-men dream doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to it. Although, there’s always a moment, when I’m watching them slip through my fingers, where I’m deeply saddened. Saddened because I know it’s inevitable.

The crash.
The shatter.
The end.

I grab my breakfast, which consists of one large chocolate Yoo-Hoo, and I put on my roller skates. I remind myself to try a strawberry Yoo-Hoo one day to shake things up a bit. It’s another sunny day on the Venice boardwalk and I’m ready to skate on over to my head-shrinking visit. Why am I getting my head shrunk? Because, I live in Los Angeles. It’s what we do here. Besides, my health insurance covers it and I was curious as to what my subconscious is up to. Mostly about men. I love men. I think they love me but seemingly just in small bursts, then, “POOF” the love is gone. I can’t seem to make a relationship stick.

I’m thirty-five years old. 

I’d really like one to stick.

Other books by Annie Wood:

Guest Post

Time Finding

by Annie Wood

I’m a life long actress and writer and a big fan of creating my own stuff. Short films, web-series, books, plays, you name it, I’m creating it. I do it because I need to create. I need to create and share stories or else I’d go bonkers. Because of this driving need, I often have a continuous outflow of projects. The question I get all of the time is, How do you find the time?

My answer has remained the same for years now. “I just do it.” Sometimes the simple answer is the most honest, useful answer that was used in a Nike shoe campaign. In this hustle and bustle world, how does any of us find time to do anything at all? Because the honest, simple truth of the matter is, when we want it bad enough, we find the time. Or better yet, we create the time.

It’s true that we can’t actually create time by adding additional hours to the day but it’s also true that we can get up earlier, stay up later or replace facebook time with writing (or whatever it is you want to have the time to do). Since life is a series of choices, we, at any time, can change or add to those choices.  For me that sometimes means not going out on the weekends and waiting to watch my favorite TV show on TiVo tomorrow instead of immediately (averting my eyes while on twitter to avoid spoilers.) For me, those aren’t such huge sacrifices. If you have family obligations, by all means tend to them, but remember that your family wants you to be a complete, fulfilled, happy person so explain to them that in order for that to happen you are taking the time to get what you need to get done for yourself.  Even if that’s just thirty minutes a day, take it! You’d be surprised how quickly it all adds up and by the end of the week you could have a short story written, a new drawing, new ideas, a song, whatever it is you’re doing, it can be done if you create the time for it each day.

Seriously. Just do it.

About the author:

Annie was born in Hollywood, raised in the valley. She avoided the valley girl accent by speaking backwards for the first 15 years of her life. As an actress she has guest starred on several TV shows. You may remember her best in her recurring role on Becker with Ted Danson, Lara in Good Luck Chuck and as the host of her own nationally syndicated dating show, BZZZ! which she also co-produced. As a writer, she is a produced and published playwright and recently had a comedic scene in the NBC/UNIVERSAL showcase. Her web-series, Karma’s a B*tch was chosen by Virgin America as BEST OF THE WEB, and season 2 is now in the works. Her books of comedic scenes, Snapshots! & Act Up & Make a Scene have been performed on Hollywood stages and is available on Amazon. She lives in Los Angeles with her charming, Italian husband and her equally charming, Jewish/Buddhist/Italian dog, Lucy.

Connect with Annie!

Website | Blog (Annie occasionally blogs at SheWrites) | Lucy's Blog (Annie's dog, Lucy, blogs when they travel each year to Italy, where Annie's husband is from.)
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy the Book!

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