Saturday, December 28, 2013

Featured Author: Maria Grazia Swan

I'm happy to tell you about Italian Summer, book #3 from Maria Grazia Swan's psychological romantic suspense series, Mina’s Adventures. Book #1 is Love Thy Sister, and book #2 is Bosom Bodies. Check them out, as well as Gemini Moon, Maria's first book in a new series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Hot tip: the Kindle version of Gemini Moon is currently on sale for .99! You're welcome! But first, read my interview with Maria and an excerpt from Italian Summer...

What reviewers are saying about Italian Summer:

This is the third book in the series, and our girl is growing up. Once again Italian-born, California import Mina Calvi manages to get herself in more trouble than a virgin at a frat party. This time around she has lots of company, some new faces along with some familiar faces. Looking to find out where she belongs once and for all, Mina travels to Vicenza, Italy and the town of her birth. On arrival, she finds much the same, but also much changed. As usual, there's a mystery at hand which plays out among the gravestones of a sometimes charming, sometimes creepy local cemetery. There’s a chance love will rekindle and a chance it will be snuffed out. The author shows us this lovely area from the authentic viewpoint of someone who knows it and loves it. Swan pits her charming, unpredictable heroine against a manipulative, conscienceless antagonist. Her characters are eccentric and colorful, richly portrayed in clean, succinct prose. The plot is built as lean and taut as a Pilates addict, with many surprises throughout. While third in the series, Italian Summer stands on its own. A quick, entertaining and satisfying read.


Maria Grazia Swan takes her readers on another great adventure, this time to Northern Italy. This latest novel keeps your interest from the time you pick it up until you finish the read (for me in one sitting). The characters are so believeable that you feel you are on this adventure with them. Her references to Verona, Venice and Vicenza allow you to invision the wonders of the cities. If you have ever visited any of these cities - you are there again - shopping in Piazza Erbe, attending the Opera in the Verona Arena, and visiting the Juliet's balcony. Intrigue follows where ever Mina goes. Where will we find Mina next? I can't wait!

About the book

When they say, “you can’t go home again,” they’re talking about Mina Calvi, twenty-something Italian transplant to California. Still nursing a broken heart, desperate to discover her place in the world, Mina arrives in the town of her birth in Veneto, Italy. In the decade she’s been gone, the village nestled at the foot of the Dolomites has changed much, yet remained oddly the same. Friends have moved on, family members passed away. Mina feels even more alone in her motherland than in America, and there seem to be too many bizarre deaths for such a tiny, serene village. Then a fresh chance at true love and a welcome bonding with a dear new friend give her hope. But the deadly secrets moldering in the centuries-old cemetery could rip it all from her and leave Mina emptier than before. Will she find herself or lose her heart again? Will Mina survive her Italian Summer?

Interview with Maria Swan

Maria, you have several published books, not to mention short stories and articles. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

Writing has always been my favorite form of escapism. Growing up in a small Italian town without television, phones, and only one theater controlled by the Catholic church, reading books I found in boxes in my grandparents’ attic was pure heaven. By the time I started elementary school, I discovered that kids loved to hear stories. Often I would trade stories for chocolate. I was hooked. Won my first literary award at fourteen. 

Good for you! What’s the story behind the title Italian Summer?

Honestly, Italian Summer was supposed to be the title for my WIP. I’m a writer, I write fiction, and certainly I could come up with something a little more original. Then I went to Italy, my hometown, and I visited the places I write about and looked at the familiar corners and streets with clean eyes and took lots of pictures to bring back with me as to not forget what it felt like to rediscover the place of my youth. This was this past summer, and then I knew no other title would do. I’m getting misty revisiting the experience so dear to my heart. 

Understandable! What’s your favorite line from a book?

“You show me your things, and I show you mine.” This is from Bosom Bodies, and it’s a very misleading line. I often use it on twitter. It has nothing to do with sexual innuendos, but like I said, the reader is not the only one getting confused.

How do you get to know your characters? 

With the exception of my main character who is always female, Italian-born and living in the Unites States, the rest of my characters are based or inspired (take your pick) by a real person. I’m not saying they are a mirror image of such person; it’s more the case of how I perceive the real deal and how I translate such perception of the person into my fictional character.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Mina Calvi, without hesitation. It started with Love Thy Sister; it was first published in 2001 by a traditional publisher. When the business sold, I asked and received the rights back, sat on it for years, then self-pubbed in 2012. The real Mina is a well known Italian pop star, she was at the height of her career when I was in my 20s, and her voice was the background sound to some of my most memorable...encounters. I wrote Love Thy Sister while going through my divorce, thinking about Mina soothed my soul.

What would your main character say about you?

Stop writing and start living the fantasy.

What song would you pick to go with Italian Summer?

This is sort of funny; I have lines from "Hotel California" opening various chapters through out the whole book.

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

Sopia Vergara, because of the accent. The Mina’s series is told by Mina and Gemini Moon is first person, also with an accent...

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

I just started reading Shame, Alan Russell. It’s an e-book, but I own some of his older hardcovers. We go way back, met through Sisters in Crime when I was living in Southern California, and I like his writing a lot.

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?

People using foreign languages or countries they know nothing about, but what really gets me is a book written in first person, we are in the character’s head the whole book and then in the last scene we are told something totally outside the story. For example, I read a book about a family decimated by hired killers, it’s told in first person by the survivor. In the last chapter she is discussing the deaths with a man she feels may be responsible for the killings and she casually drops they had been lovers in the past...helloo? Selective amnesia to trick the reader? No. Poor writing, the author needed some way out of the situation and improvised.

Where’s home for you?

I was born in Italy, lived in five countries. Now I live in Phoenix, Arizona because that’s where my kids are.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

This is a little tricky. My first two books were published by traditional publishers. I already explained about Love Thy Sister. My second traditionally published book was a non-fiction, had an agent, and he sold the book and it was published in 2008. By 2008, people were already discovering and Kindle. Well I wasn’t one of them. By 2011, I decided to do something with Love Thy Sister and gave it to BookBaby because I had no idea what e-pub was and all that jazz. When the publisher with my non-fiction closed the doors, I discovered that both my non-fiction and the paperback version of Love Thy sister were sold in many places, except I wasn’t getting a penny. I’m not going to bore you with details, I was finally able to stop the nonsense and get all rights reversed, and I self-published Love Thy Sister as a Kindle, with the help of many good friends. Since then I self-published Bosom Bodies and the book got terrific reviews, so I wrote Italian Summer.

But wait, there is more. My second series, Gemini Moon, was sitting on the desk of my new agent for 8 months, I heard about Gemma Halliday starting her own publishing company. I go way back with Gemma, we had the same agent and same publisher back in 2008. I asked the agent to let me out of my contract, sent the manuscript to Gemma, and she released the book December 1st. It’s too soon for me to tell you about sales, but the reviews coming in are good...

What steps to publication did you personally do, and what did you hire someone to do? Is there anyone you’d recommend for a particular service?

I use an editor I trust and a person/company for my covers and formatting. Regardless of how great of a writer you are, you need an editor, believe me. I feel lucky I found the editor who edits without changing my voice. Not easy when you write with an accent. Here are the links:  and

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

Volunteer. I volunteer in a strange way. I have a background in dress designing. You know, give me a piece of fabric, and a sewing machine, I’ll make you an outfit. Yes, I can! Well, now I make cage covers for a rescue group that works with feral cats, and I also work with a group that makes pillows for foster kids. I wish I could do more; kids and pets are so dependent on us.

What are you working on now?

On my computer is Venetian Moon, the sequel to Gemini Moon, and twirling in my head are Ashes of Autumn, book #4 of Mina’s adventures.

I can't wait to hear more about them all!

Excerpt from Italian Summer

Chapter 1

Veneto-Italy. Summer 1992

The stench of death permeated the air.

Morning rain didn’t wash it away. Afternoon sun didn’t singe it away. It hovered, unaffected by the chirping of birds, the scurrying of spooked lizards or the skittering of pebbles under Mina’s shoes. She stopped by the open grave and watched the burly man digging inside. Sweat put a shine on his bald head. When he saw Mina, he rested the shovel against the dirt wall, waved away the flies buzzing around his furrowed forehead and squinted. “Giorno.” He wiped his face with the back of his gloved hand, exposing the large wet spots under his sturdy arms.


Ten years had brought little change to the way they buried their dead in her small hometown.


“How come it smells so bad?” she asked.

“We are exhuming bodies before their time. It used to be twenty-five years, now is eighteen or even fifteen, depending on the needs. This one here just wasn’t ready to come out yet. I have to make room for the next burial. We are out of space.” He shrugged, shield his face from the sun while looking up to talk to her. “Visiting someone?” His eyes settled on the potted plant of white cyclamens Mina held in her hands.

“My family’s crypt. Haven’t been around in years.” She turned her head toward the row of vaulted porticos running the length of the cemetery. “Calvi.” The sorrow she’d fought since morning caught in her throat.

“Oh, l’americana.” The gravedigger straightened up and moved closer to the dirt wall marking the tomb’s edge. He looked taller than she first thought. His body odor mixed with the nauseating sweetness of the pile of earth removed from the grave became overwhelming and Mina lifted the cyclamens to her nostrils in an effort to neutralize the smell. She stepped back, away from the empty hole. L’americana? Did he have her confused with Paola? Mina doubted she ever met this man before today and besides she was barely sixteen when she left for the United States and he looked to be in his late forties. Could he have been one of Paola’s schoolmates? A polite wave, then she turned around and headed up the path leading to the arched vaults and her family underground burial chamber. Well, the Calvis weren’t exactly her family. However no one in Italy knew about that and she intended to keep it that way. No need to rewrite her birth story now that everyone involved had died. Neatly marked graves lined row after row all the way to the steps leading to the portico housing the crypts.

So different from American cemeteries where grass covered the grounds and the markers were simple and unassuming creating the illusion of a green, peaceful meadow. Italians had an opposite type of relation with their dead. Graves had borders made of bricks, granite, or wood. Unique and massive headstones told the story of the dear departed with statuaries, lamps and flowers, lots of flowers. It was all meant to let the world know this was one beloved soul. During spring and summer, most flowers were fresh, elaborate creations with messages printed in gold letters on gaudy ribbons woven between ferns, blooms and even balloons. Mina glanced at her modest plant. Cyclamens were her grandmother’s favorite. A token of the Dolomites, the mountains surrounding the valley. Mina wanted to focus on her destination, but she couldn’t shake the disturbing feeling of the gravedigger watching her every move and the persistent smell floating through the cemetery. A few people walked around the place. All women. Changing water in the vases, pulling weeds from the tombs. Only buzzing bees disturbed the silence until Mina’s feet landed on the thick slabs of granite forming the floors of the arched corridors. The coffins were below ground inside neatly organized drawers. In essence, the floor she walked on was the crypt ceiling. Each family owned crypt sat between  two arches so it was architecturally defined. A massive iron ring centered on a square block of granite was the only indication of the spot where a crane would be hooked to lift the cellar-like opening when a new coffin had to be lowered.

Her open toed sandals clicked against the stone and the echo resonated in the domed arcade. As a child Mina dreaded walking on those slabs because they weren’t sealed together, only cut to link into each other like giant pieces of a puzzle. The first time she witnessed the lowering of a coffin, she had nightmares for weeks. After that she refused to visit the cemetery for a long time, afraid the stones would slide off and she would fall below among the rotting bodies. Even now, all grown up and with the place bathed by the midday sun, Mina carried a faint memory of distant fears inside her. None of that mattered when she reached the Calvi’s crypt and her grandmother’s forever-sealed smile welcomed her. The rest of the pictures in the oval ceramic frames were of people she hardly remembered, and that included her step grandfather. A fancy wrought iron lamp cast an amber reflection on a dried up fern placed in the center of the back marble wall where names and pictures were posted. Mina went to remove the dead plant, stopped and ran her fingers over her nonna’s framed smile. It felt cool to the touch, unlike Mina’s tears landing on the back of her wrist.

The ache she’d been carrying in the middle of her chest for so long caught her off guard and her tears turned to sobs. It was okay to cry. It was okay to mourn. Paola’s picture should be next to Nonna, even if her body wasn’t. After a while Mina felt a sense of relief being there alone no longer sorry for herself because of that. She replaced the dead fern with her cyclamens. Her fingers touched her forehead to do the sign of the cross, a built in Catholic ritual she had not been able to shed. Ave Maria, Gratia plena. She concentrated, trying to remember the prayer her grandmother taught her.

A hand touched her shoulder.

About the author

Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona—-but stay tuned for weekly updates of Where in the World is Maria Grazia Swan?

As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a writer. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living in Belgium. As a young woman Maria returned to Italy to design for—ooh-la-la—haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people find happiness.

Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, tasty Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco—-but then, who doesn’t?

Maria has written short stories for anthologies, articles for high profile magazines and numerous blogs tackling love and life. She engaged her editorial and non-fiction skills for Mating Dance-Rituals for Singles Who Weren’t Born Yesterday. Her romantic suspense novels Love Thy Sister and Bosom Bodies are available at

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

Buy the books:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Featured Author: Kerry Peresta

Author Kerry Peresta is here today with a guest post and a heart-pounding excerpt from her book, The Hunting. After getting not one but two bad reviews this week, I can totally relate to Kerry's guest post about the necessity for writers to develop a thick hide. Thank you, Kerry, for reminding me! By the way, everyone who leaves a comment on the tour page will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of The Hunting before January 6 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries.

About the author:

Kerry Peresta's publishing credits include a popular newspaper and e-zine humor column, "The Lighter Side," short stories in the published anthology, That One Left Shoe, and her debut novel, recently released by Pen-L Publishing, The Hunting, contemporary women's fiction.

She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, and copywriter before deciding to devote more of her time to writing.

She is currently working on her second novel, participating in writing conferences, and serving on the leadership team of the Maryland Writers' Association.

Kerry was a single mother for many years to four great kids, all grown and successfully carving out their own unique paths. Her debut novel, The Hunting, is available on and her website. She and her husband live in the Baltimore metro area.
Connect with Kerry:
Website | Facebook | Twitter |

Guest Post by Kerry Peresta

A Writer Must – Above All Else – Develop Rhinoceros Hide

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee, Writer's Digest

"If you're gonna try to write, the first thing you gotta do is develop rhinoceros hide," Warren (Rip) Ripley, author of the successful Storme Wyatt mystery series, told me ten years ago, dark eyes full of mischief. "Rhinoceros hide," he repeated.

This little nugget of wisdom lodged deep in the back of my mind, root strands snaking around my brain until it presented in my frontal lobe about the same time as my first novel released. Now, I cling to his words like a kid with a kite on a windy day.

My first publishing experience was a fluke: the associate editor of a local newspaper asked me to write a humor column after one of my letters to the editor got a flurry of response. Thrilled, I immediately asked about salary. My glee unpeeled itself from the ceiling and thumped to the floor when the editor said, "Well, no salary, but you get publishing credit, and that's worth quite a lot." Seriously? My first getting-published lesson: no creds, no moolah. Reluctantly, I agreed to write an 800-word column FREE once a week in order to establish a public writing profile.

The responses to my humor articles ranged from raging to rhapsodic. I learned later that simply to get response was a major triumph, but as a writer-virgin, I was unprepared for the negative stuff.

My first hater comment caused a few emotional tailspins until I remembered my friend Rip's admonition. I grasped the edges of an imaginary rhinoceros-hide-cape and plopped it on with virgin-writer zeal.

This seemed to help. Until the same hater commented again and again. In print. Publicly. The rhinoceros-hide-cape slipped from my shoulders. I researched a few brethren humor columnists (not that I was in their league, but hope springs eternal) and stumbled over Dave Barry's legendary columns. I was shocked to find that his hater comments not only bounced off him, he recycled them into new material.

I located my protective cape and slid it back on. With fresh eyes, I revisited the comments and laughed myself silly. Of course! Wasn't mocking your enemies a Biblical truth of sorts? The subtly-admonishing, follow-up column was delivered with fear and trembling plus several gallons of sarcasm.

I bit my fingernails waiting forty-eight hours until the article published. Had I made the wrong decision? Would all my comments be hater-comments from now on? I quickly thumbed through the paper on publication day, reading it over a few times, sweat beading my forehead. Then I logged onto the paper's website, where comments had already sprouted. To my surprise, my readers pummeled my detractors, encouraging them to lighten up. My confidence soared. The haters were undeterred, and ramped up the mud-slinging. The newspaper was delighted with all the attention.

Lesson learned: Developing a tough hide not only insulates from detractors, it frees a writer to write from deep places of honesty instead of trying to please everyone, which absolutely kills creativity.

Two years down the road I completed a novel. It was exhausting and glorious at the same time. The query turndowns body-slammed me to the floor. Picking myself up was harder. I joined a critique group. Got involved with the Maryland Writers' Association. Locked in on friends that encouraged me. This helped me get up, stay up, and keep going. I renounced the dratted second-guessing and fear of rejection that plagues most writers and dragged my tattered rhinoceros-hide cape back into place.

Lo and behold, I was picked up by a small publisher and received a couple of stunning reviews on advance copies of my novel, The Hunting. My beta readers loved it as well. I was delighted! In a manic moment born of euphoric hysteria, I signed up for four weeks of fiction writing classes culminating in a group critique of a short story assignment. By this time, I figured my hide was tough as nails, so why not hone my skills?

I pulled out one of the sections I'd lopped off my novel during rewrite and shaped it into a short story. In final critique responses, I received three wild applauses, four ho-hums, and one total washout. The total washout response was from my instructor.

I self-consciously caressed my rhinoceros-hide-cape, lifted my chin, and thanked the group for their remarks. A positive takeaway: the three wild applause responses had been from the target demographic for my novel, women 35-65. I ran home, made adjustments based on the critique, and put it on my website, bouncing back with a vengeance. The adjustments made it better, and I didn't collapse in self-defeat. A huge win!

I've learned I cannot – and don't have to – please everybody.

And neither do you.

Merry Christmas, and a have a crazy, wonderful, inspired, New Year!

About The Hunting:

Isabelle Lewis, top advertising salesperson at the Chatbrook Springs Sentinel newspaper, has a habit of falling in and out of marriage. After her last divorce, she shoved the emotional pain into a compartment in her brain to deal with later. With three teenagers to raise, bills to pay, and sales quotas to meet, introspection was a luxury she couldn't afford. Her mind needed a happy place.

When Isabelle (Izzy) discovered online dating, it immediately became her favorite stress reliever and best friend. Often, she'd steal into the night after her kids were asleep to meet someone new. One fateful evening, the hunt for the perfect guy took a sinister turn when the mystery man she met turned out to be her worst nightmare! Reluctantly pulled into a web of lies, Izzy is forced to confront her demons.

Snarky, suspense-filled, and real, The Hunting is an exquisite entwining of the crippling emotional fallout of divorce with the quest for a healthy, fulfilling relationship. This inspirational story rivets!

Excerpt from The Hunting       

I sit in my car a minute, adjusting to the darkness of the garage. My eyes land on the kids' car tucked in already, and I know they are inside the house, either asleep or going that direction, because I'd talked to them on the way home. I shake off the feeling that something is wrong, get out of the car, start up the stairs to the kitchen, reconsider and click on the overhead light in the garage to sniff around.

Brightness illuminates the area. Rakes, loppers, an air pump, and various gadgetry cling to a pegboard nailed to one wall; an aging lawnmower sits in a far corner with its best friend, the gas trimmer. Metal shelving climbs the back wall, loaded with fairly common family paraphernalia. My eyes scan the cement floor and the kids' car, searching for signs of inappropriate activity. I smell old grass, a little oil that has leaked from one of the cars, gas, paint thinner.

My heels striking the cement garage floor in the middle of the night remind me of old Law and Order episodes, where Eames and Goren discover a body in the garage, draped halfway out of a car, drenched in blood. I should stop watching those shows. Then I see it. Not tonight, my mind screams. Tonight? After this horribly long day? My stomach clenches in fear.

A tightly folded, small, white square mocks me from the windshield of my kids' car. What time is it, anyway, I mutter to myself as I cautiously approach the car, lift the windshield wiper, and hold the small square gingerly between thumb and forefinger. I grab my phone from my purse with my free hand and click the screen on. Almost midnight.

Self-pity, despair, and several other emotions I have no energy to identify zip through me at warp speed. I turn off the garage light and climb the three stairs into the kitchen, firmly locking the door behind me. The note sails through the air and lands on the kitchen table.

I scroll quickly through my contacts to find Detective Faraday. His phone rings several times, a groggy voice answers. “Yeah?” Cough. “What?”

"Detective Faraday?” I whisper.

“You got him. What’s up?” I picture him wiping his eyes and focusing on a clock by his bed. Maybe a lovely wife by his side, sleeping. I feel awful for interrupting him at home.

“I got another note,” my voice is hushed, and has begun to warble. I am whispering because I don’t want to alarm the kids, but the stress has rushed to every extremity and overtaken my vocal cords. I cannot stop shaking. Detective Faraday is instantly alert.

“Okay. This is Izzy, right?”

I shake my head, realize someone on the other end of a phone call cannot see a head shake, and murmur “Yes.”

“All right, I'm going to call and get a patrol car out there immediately. What does the note say? By the way, we have analyzed fingerprints on the note, and it is definitely the man you indicated, so he is not using an alias. That’s good news, because it means he’s not trying to hide, and it’s probably not pre-meditated. Probably just a reaction to a personal crisis. Which, unfortunately, you seem to be triggering.”

“So what should I do?” I whisper.

“Read me the note, Izzy,” he says, calmly.

“It was on my kids' car.” I feel tears forming. One trails slowly down my cheek. I slap it away.

“Oh, man,” Detective Faraday whooshes out a long sigh. “You weren’t home, then? But your kids were?”

“Yeah, and I'm pretty sure the garage was locked. They know they are supposed to shut the garage door when they get home, no matter what.”

“Izzy, is there a window in your garage?” I think a minute. Yes! There is one in the small storage room at the back of the garage, one we never use.

“Well, yes, there is one in a storage room, but – ”

“Is it locked?” he barks. I start to cry.

“I don’t know! Why is this happening?”

“Go check, Izzy, right now. Keep me on the phone while you do it. Take a flashlight or a bat or something with you. I'll wait.”

The implication hits me that he wants me to find a weapon before I check the window. Seriously? I quietly enter my sons' room and pluck up the bat that is leaning against their bookshelf. They stir, but do not wake.

“Okay,” I whisper. “Got a bat. Heading for the garage.”

“I'm with you, Izzy. Be careful.”

His voice is reassuring and I am thinking how grateful I am for our police force. Funny. I am grateful now, but just let me get a speeding ticket. I enter the garage, and tiptoe toward the closed storage room door, my heart beating violently. I hold the bat in my right hand and turn the knob slowly with my left. The darkened room emerges bit by bit as the door creaks open. Light from the garage spills into the room, illuminating old cans of paint, a broken lamp, basketballs, a football, boxes. I push the door open further, and see the window, which is located high on the wall, shards of cobwebs hanging from the edges.

I lift the bat in pre-strike position as I push the door all the way open. I hear Detective Faraday’s breathing on the phone.

“What’s happening, Izzy?” he says, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.

I locate the string that turns on the lone light bulb in the room, and pull. The forty-watt bulb creates an eerie glow. To my utter and profound relief, the room appears empty.

“I am in the storage room. It’s empty.”

I lean the bat against one of the boxes and look around.

“How often are you in that room, Izzy?”

“Rarely. It’s for stuff we don’t have room for. Kind of forget sometimes, that it’s here.” 

“Okay,” he says, “go to the window and check the lock.”

My nose wrinkles in disgust. “Okay,” I say and move aside two squashed storage boxes. Looking around, I locate something to stand on, and reach up to check the latch. Push up on the window, which holds. Try again, and it reluctantly slides open. “It’s not locked,” I say, miserably.

“Lock it,” Detective Faraday says. “Don’t worry, Izzy, we'll get him."

Buy the book at

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Featured Author: Stacey Kade

Stacey Kade, on tour with CLP Blog Tours, is here today to talk about her mystery novel, Bitter Pill. She's also written a great guest post with which I'm sure most authors can identify, and she's giving us a taste of Bitter Pill with an excerpt. Read on!

About the book:

Rennie Harlow is having a bad year. She had a handsome husband, a good job, and a renovated condo in Chicago. Now, thanks to one "exotically beautiful" paralegal, she’s divorced, faking her way through a writing career, and living above her hypochondriac mother's garage back in Morrisville, the small town she couldn't leave fast enough at eighteen. On top of all of that, she just found Doc Hallacy, the local pharmacist, dead behind his counter. And the worst part is, he's the third body she’s stumbled across this year. 

Jake Bristol has lived in Morrisville his whole life. A former bad boy turned sheriff, he doesn’t believe it’s just Rennie’s luck or timing that’s the problem. He thinks she’s too nosy for her own good. The last thing he needs is her messing around with his murder investigation so that she can freelance for the Morrisville Gazette. But as they both delve deeper into Doc's death, they find that things don't add up. This isn't a robbery gone wrong or the work of a desperate junkie. Someone has a secret they're killing to keep. The only question is—who's next?

Interview with Stacey Kade

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

I’ve been writing for publication for about seventeen years now. Now, mind you, I haven’t actually been published for that many years! :) That was just when I started with the intention of completing a book and querying for an agent.

I started writing seriously once I graduated from college. I’d taken a job as a copywriter and project manager and figured out that it was an entirely different kind of writing that I wanted to do.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a full-time writer for the last three years or so.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Trial and error? :) I was actually working on revising another book in a totally different genre when this idea came to me and would not leave me alone. Normally, I limit myself to one book at a time so I don’t get too distracted. But I was frustrated with my attempts to revise the other book and this story was calling to me, so I gave in.
It was the first mystery I’d ever attempted writing. The first draft was only 80 pages long, and that was mainly because I let Rennie and Bristol go straight to the correct suspect. Ha! It was only after I sat down and studied the mysteries that I’d read and loved for so many years that I figured out what I was doing wrong. Which was a lot, in that initial draft.

How do you get to know your characters?

Honestly, I don’t feel like I really know them until after I’ve written a draft of the book. But I always start with writing down everything I know about them—-including the facts I know will never make it into the finished book. And even then, things change as I get a better sense for who they are during the writing process.

I also “cast” all of my characters. I find actors who represent the character in my mind, and that always helps a great deal. 

When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be?

Ha! Nope. New people crop up all the time and surprise me. Sometimes they’re just passing through, a secondary or tertiary character; other times, the entire plot changes around that person. I’ve learned not to ignore anyone who drops in unexpectedly. ;)

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I love the scene where Rennie goes inside the Parkmueller house for the first time. It’s played for humor obviously, but her surprise at finding all of that junk crammed into every inch of the house works on another level as well. Rennie believes that she knows everything that goes on in this tiny town. The fact that Mrs. Parkmueller had this secret that Rennie knew nothing about means that maybe other people have secrets as well.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

For whatever reason, there was a LOT of Bruce Springsteen on my playlist for this book ("Glory Days," "Tunnel of Love," etc.) The one song I’d pick for this book, for Rennie and Bristol in particular, is “I’m On Fire.”

Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.

Fact: I live in a subdivision that was abandoned by the builder during the real estate crash in 2008 or so.

Weird thing: Because of the fact above, there are empty houses, ranging from completely finished to just giant holes in the ground, all throughout our tiny neighborhood.

Nice thing: The few of us who do live here know each other pretty well. It’s like a small community inside of a much larger one!

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do when it happens?

I have kind of a controversial take on writer’s block. :) I don’t believe it exists, at least not in the way people usually think of it. Writer’s block, or being stuck, as I prefer to think of it, is a signal, a symptom rather than the disease.

It can mean a couple of different things. 1) You’ve run out of conflict or tension in your story. In other words, the main story problem may not have been solved yet, but the urgency behind solving it has gone flat. Or 2) you’re trying to make your character behave in a way that is out of character in order to suit the story.

Most of the time, it’s that last one that gets me!

To fix it, I go back to the last scene or chapter where it felt like the story was really flowing and try to find where it went off the rails and then send it in a new direction.

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

I love story in all forms, so I’m a huge movie and television buff. If I’m not writing or reading, I’m at the theater or trying to catch up on my recorded shows.

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

England! I’d love to see all the historical sites and museums. Especially anything and everything related to Jane Austen. I love her books.

I do too! Can I go with you?! Tell us what you're working on now.

I just turned in a first draft of the final book in my young adult Project Paper Doll series. Which is both thrilling and a little sad too. When you live with characters in your head for years, it’s amazing to see them finally reach the end of their journey but there’s also a small sense of loss. They don’t need me anymore, you know?

Of course, I’m not quite finished with that book yet!  Revisions are coming…

Guest post by Stacey Kade

Breaking The Rules

I cheated. I'm a cheater. I two-timed a book. More than once now, actually.

The standard wisdom, which I happen to agree with, is that a writer should focus on one book at a time. Otherwise, you end up with a bunch of started manuscripts and nothing finished. The new shiny idea calls to you, and you abandon your work-in-progress, over and over again. Because even the most enjoyable story turns into work at some point, and it becomes difficult to keep going.

I was in the middle of revising another book when Bitter Pill showed up in my brain. It was completely the opposite of the book I was supposed to be working on: contemporary, non-paranormal, and a mystery, for heaven's sake.

I tried to ignore it. I really did. I eventually jotted down notes for it (which I highly recommend, by the way, to help you remember the ideas when you need them) and attempted to set it aside.

But one night, after a long evening of revising that seemed to be going nowhere, I couldn't fall asleep. I found myself getting out of bed and grabbing my AlphaSmart. 

I climbed back under the covers and wrote the first chapter of Bitter Pill that night by the glow of a book light. (I didn't want to wake my husband.)

That chapter flowed out of me with a smoothness and ease that was such a relief and a delight compared to the frustration I was experiencing on my official project. I was hooked, then and there.

So, I struck myself a little deal. I'd work on my revisions and make real, definable progress earlier in the day. And if I did, I could "sneak out" at night and work on this new fledgling story. (I was also still working full-time as a copywriter during this time. I wasn't sleeping much!)

The entire first draft of Bitter Pill was written between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. with that book light illuminating the screen of my AlphaSmart and HGTV on in the background to drown out the sound of my typing (my poor husband).

And what I discovered was that the revising on my "real" project started going a lot faster and more smoothly. Was it the bribe of being able to work on a passion project at night if I did well? Sure, maybe that was some of it. 

But looking back on it now, I think it was more that I was putting too much pressure on myself with those revisions. I was questioning every decision, every change. I had paralyzed myself with self-doubt and the desire for perfection. 

Working on a fun project, one without a contract or any associated expectations, helped rebuild my confidence, helped me break free. It reminded me that writing was fun and that I just needed to let go a little.

Now I know that focusing on two projects in two different stages (drafting and revising, for example) can actually help me when I get stuck. I still have to be careful, of course, to make sure I'm staying on track for deadlines and not letting my extra-curricular project get too much attention.

But when that impulse comes to jot notes on another project, I don't ignore it. I don't even try. :) I open my notebook to a fresh page and start writing. If it becomes my fun, secret project, so be it. If not, those ideas will be there waiting for me when I'm done with my current book. Either way, it's the right (write?) thing for me to do. :)

Every book writes a little differently. Sometimes you have to make adjustments to your process. Sometimes you have to break the rules and find what works for you.

Excerpt from Bitter Pill

Bristol rubbed his face wearily, then stared at me, his warm brown eyes too intense. “How do you get yourself into this? The first person found on the scene is usually a viable suspect for the murder. But not in this town, not with you.”

“I can’t help it, it just happens.” I tried not to sound too plaintive.

“No, Rennie, lightning strikes just happen.” He shook his head with a tight smile. “You are a walking disaster.”

Stung, I shoved the thermos lid back at him, sloshing coffee onto the leather interior, and jabbed my car keys into the ignition. “Screw you, Bristol.”

He sighed. “Rennie…”

“What?” I jerked the gearshift into reverse.

He started to say something then shook his head. “I’m going to need you to come in to make an official statement.”

“Not till this afternoon.” I lifted my chin defiantly, daring him to challenge me. “I have to get home to explain to my mother that she’ll have to wait for her prescription and then I’ve got an interview with Gloria Lottich.”

“Fine. We’ve already got your prints on file, so we can rule out anything you touched.”

His mouth tightened and he hesitated for the slightest of seconds. “We’re going to need your shirt.”

“What? Why?” I looked down at myself and saw, for the first time, a splotch of blood shaped like a tear drop on the stomach of my pale blue t-shirt.

“Crime lab will want to make sure that’s Doc’s blood and not the killer’s.”

I swallowed hard, struggling against the urge to pluck the fabric away from my skin. “So, I’m just supposed to drive home topless? This is Morrisville. There are laws about how long Christmas decorations can stay up. You’re telling me there are no ordinances about half-naked driving?” I asked, discomfort setting my tone a little too close to rude.

He walked back to his squad car, tossing out the remains of the coffee in the thermos lid on the way. He returned with a paper bag and a bright blue bundle of fabric. The fabric, a t-shirt, he handed to me, while he held onto the bag.

I put the car back into park and unfolded the t-shirt. The front had a small patch of writing over the left side in the shape of star. Morrisville Sheriff’s Office, it read. Interdepartmental Softball League. I flipped it over to look at the back. Bristol 17.
“Your softball shirt?” I asked. God help me, despite the circumstances, I loved the idea of his name on my back, his shirt against my skin. Bad, Rennie. Bad, bad.

He shrugged. “Unless you have a better idea.”

I shook my head. He stood and turned his back toward the window, blocking the view from the side of the car. That helped, but it didn’t keep anyone from looking through the windshield. I sighed. Oh, well, what little I had, they were welcome to see. Besides, Deputy Sheffey appeared to be occupied with taking notes anyway, and the first curiosity-seekers on the scene had their attention focused on the pharmacy door, now blocked off with crime tape.

I yanked the bloodied shirt off over my head, silently thanking whatever voice of caution in my brain had urged me to wear proper undergarments this morning. Much to my chagrin, bras were more wishful thinking on my part than a strict necessity. However, it would have been nice if the voice of caution had also recommended a little more time on my hair this morning—-I could feel it standing up in messy spikes, like a blonde tumbleweed on top of my head. Very attractive.

I thrust my arms through Bristol’s t-shirt. The familiar smell of him, the clean scent of his clothing, surrounded me. I tugged the rest of the shirt down into place, loving the feel of it against my skin even as I knew it was wrong. After all, Bristol’s shirt smelled good, like him, because it had been recently laundered…by his wife, Margene.

Without thinking, I bumped his arm with the back of my hand to let him know I’d completed my wardrobe change. As usual, he’d rolled his shirt sleeves up, revealing tanned and strong forearms. I jolted slightly at the warmth of his skin against mine, and my heart flipped up and twisted in my chest, like a paper cutout on a string in the breeze.
Bristol turned around and opened the paper bag. I dropped my bloodied shirt inside.

“So, how’s Margene?” I asked Bristol, as I always did when I started having trouble remembering he was married.

His face closed down, like he’d shut some internal door against me. “Fine.” He didn’t really sound surprised at the strange conversation twist I’d thrown him. “Getting ready for the Garden Show.” He closed up the top of the bag with precise, crisp folds in the paper.

“Right,” I said. Margene had been more than happy to settle into her role of Mrs. Sheriff, second only to Mrs. Mayor, Gloria Lottich. Margene and I’d also gone to school together, although she was a couple years younger than me. She’d moved to town in the seventh grade when her father took a job at the propane factory. By her junior year in high school, she’d worked her way up from trailer trash to co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, second only to Laura Brown. Apparently, Margene’s ambition had limits. Word was, she’d caught wind of Jake’s upwardly mobile plans as soon as he’d returned to town from the Army and she’d trapped him with her reportedly magnificent thighs. Chelsea was born barely inside of wedlock, and then all Margene had to do was sit back and wait while Jake’s star kept rising.

“And Chelsea?” I asked.

“Finishing fifth grade in a couple weeks.” He frowned at me, highlighting those marvelous wrinkles near his eyes.

Time to change the subject again. “What about Max?” I asked.

“Max,” he repeated with a frown.

“Yeah. Editor of the Gazette, nosiest human being alive?” I waited for some flicker of recognition from Bristol and got a grim nod. “He’s going to want details for a story. Time of death, potential motives, the weapon…”

Bristol frowned. “I don’t want to share any of that information with the public just yet. Incidentally, I think you’re right about the cane being the murder weapon.” His eyes dropped to the phone in my lap. “I don’t want that part in the paper, got it?” He rubbed his face, the stubble on his chin making a rasping sound against his hand. “I’d rather not have anything in the paper just yet.”

I shook my head. “Max is sitting right over there.” I pointed at the Gazette office. “It’s not like he can’t see it for himself. You know him, he’ll print something. Better he get most of the facts from a reliable source.”

“You run all of it past me before anything hits the printer,” he said.

I made an exasperated sound. “We’ve been through this before. I get the lecture from you about responsible media. Then I turn around and get the freedom of the press speech from Max.” I glowered at him. “I should put the two of you in a room together and let you duke it out.”

Bristol’s mouth twitched upward in a smile. “Wouldn’t be fair.”

“Why not?”

“Max could convince a snake to go vegetarian. I just have a gun.”

I pretended to consider his words. “True enough. I guess my money’s still safe on Max.”
“Oh, ha, ha.”

I smiled at him reluctantly. “I’ll see you this afternoon.”

About the author:

As a former award-winning corporate copywriter, Stacey Kade has written about everything from backhoe loaders to breast pumps. But she prefers to make things up instead. She's the author of two YA series from Hyperion: The Ghost and the Goth trilogy (The Ghost and the Goth, Queen of the Dead, and Body & Soul) and Project Paper Doll trilogy (The Rules, The Hunt, and Book 3 TBD).

Stacey lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Greg, and their two retired racing greyhounds, Tall Walker (Walker) and SheWearsThePants (Pansy).

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

Buy Stacey books:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Featured Author: Julie Moffett

CLP Blog Tours brings Julie Moffett here today to talk about her fourth Lexi Carmichael mystery novel, No Place Like Rome, published by Carina Press (Harlequin).

About the book:

A Lexi Carmichael Mystery: Italy might seem like a long way to go to hide after a disastrous date. But when sexy uberhacker Slash (no, that’s not his real name) asks me to go with him to Rome on an investigation, the timing is sort of perfect. My messed up love life becomes the least of my worries though, after the dead body, the near-kidnapping, and the discovery of a top-secret encrypted file that even I can’t hack. With time running out, there’s only one thing to do: call in the legendary Zimmerman twins and my best fluent-in-Italian friend, Basia, to crack the code. Now if only someone could help me solve the mystery of whether Slash is flirting, or if all the kissing is just one of those “when in Rome” things… But when we finally uncover the secret someone would kill to keep, it’s up to me to solve the case and save the lives of my best friends. Just another week in the life of geek-girl Lexi Carmichael. Read about Lexi’s previous adventures in No One Lives Twice, No One To Trust and No Money Down.

Excerpt from No Place Like Rome

I’ve loved listening to music since I was a little girl. Not because I’m musically gifted, but because notes, themes, chords and tempo all have an intrinsic mathematical logic that speaks to me. After all, music is defined by its numeric divisions, such as a beat, a measure or a bar. Musical scales are actually harmonics based on the numerical ratios present in the Fibonacci series, which are a sequence of integers beginning at zero and one and continuing with each new number being the sum of the previous two.

I know all of this because I’m a geek first-class. My name is Lexi Carmichael and I’m a mild-mannered twenty-five-year old who, thankfully for music aficionados, is not employed in any part of the music industry. By day, I work as the Director of Information Security at a hot new cyber-intelligence firm just outside of Washington, D.C. By night, I’m a gamer, book nerd and fangirl (Bond, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings). I’ve got long brown hair, no discernible curves and zip in the social skills department. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science at Georgetown University with a specialty in cybersecurity. Ask me to talk about a rigorous axiomatic framework or computational complexity theory, and I’m all over it. Ask me to make small talk and I’ll imagine myself jumping off a bridge.

Yet here I am, dressed in my fanciest dress—okay, it’s my only dress—and attending an opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with a man whose social skills and intellect far exceed my own. Small talk is inevitable, and I have a sad feeling that my observations on the Fibonacci series in Don Giovanni won’t fill more than a few minutes.

My acquaintance’s name is Slash, which is short for “backslash” in hacker lingo. I’m pretty decent myself at the keyboard, but Slash is a hacker of extraordinary ability. Of course, Slash isn’t his real name but so far he’s never felt compelled to tell me what his family named him at birth. In fact everything about Slash is a mystery, except that he assures me he’s Italian-American and he works, at least partially, for the NSA, where I was once gainfully employed. He’s so good at what he does that he’s watched around the clock by a team of FBI agents who I’m pretty sure are instructed to kill him rather than let him fall into enemy hands.

Tonight, Slash looked jaw-droppingly handsome in three piece suit and tie. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a date because I’m quasi-seeing my boss, Finn Shaughnessy, and Slash knows that. But Finn’s and my situation is fraught with complications and I’m having a hard time sorting it all out. Maybe Slash doesn’t care about Finn or maybe he does. I wouldn’t know either way. Technically, the word date wasn’t mentioned once in relation to our evening. So, as far as I know, this is just Slash’s goodwill gesture to expand my personal horizons into areas, up until now, unexplored.

Interview with Julie Moffett

Julie, you have thirteen published novels--wow! How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

Well, I published my first book in 1993. I wrote it because publishing a novel was something I’d always wanted to do. It was a Scottish historical romance with a strong heroine and two leading men. It wasn’t overly sexy, just an unusual romance featuring a woman who had to choose one man, even though she loved them both. Luckily, I was clueless that this was not standard at the time, and sent in the manuscript on my own to several New York publishing houses. I had two offers on the book within two weeks.

I actually wrote my first book in the second grade when I penned a love story between Prince Valen and Princess Tina who met, fell in love and got married on Valentine’s Day. I still have it. It was a big hit with all the girls in my class. The boys held their noses. After that I won a 3rd grade poem contest about a haunted house. I followed up that with a stint on my college newspaper, and later moved into international journalism. Eventually I got brave enough to pen a novel for publication purposes.

What do you like best about writing?

I love writing because the voices in my head finally get heard! It’s a wonderful, magical, frustrating and agonizing process.

What’s your least favorite thing?

My least favorite part is putting my bottom in a chair and writing every day. Writing and wrestling with my Muse is really hard work.

How did you come up with the title No Place Like Rome?

My first novel in the Lexi Carmichael series, No One Lives Twice, is a word play on a Bond movie because my heroine, Lexi, is a Bond geek (and in the spirit of full disclosure, so am I). Since then, I have kept NO as the first word in all the titles in the series. I love the title of the latest book, No Place Like Rome. One of the main characters in the series, a sexy uberhacker named Slash, is Italian-American. He enlists Lexi to go with him to Rome to help his uncle who is accused of hacking money from the Vatican Bank. I’m not sure Rome will be the same after a visit from Lexi!

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I do. I am a proposal writer for a defense contractor in the Washington, DC area. Proposal writing is quite similar to fiction on occasion! 

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

Get your geek on in No Place Like Rome with hacker extraordinaire, Lexi Carmichael. Spies, Geeks, and Lies, oh, my! #mystery #romance #adventure

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

I write with an outline. I know, boring. I’m a total plotter. Think Dragnet: “Just the facts ma'am.” I need to know the plot up front and all the way to the end, including the series arc. That doesn’t mean things don’t sometimes take an unexpected turn. They do. But I’ve always got a goal in mind. I really wish I could write by the seat of my pants, have curly hair (it’s as straight as it gets), and brush my teeth with my eyes closed. But we are who we are.

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?

My first imaginary friends were the Chipmunks when I was three years old. I kid you not, Alvin was my closest buddy. My mom said the Chipmunks hung around for some time. As I grew up, I just replaced the Chipmunks with other characters in my head. Finally, I decided to write stories about them. My characters talk to me all the time, no Q-tip required. The first time I heard an audio book of one of my novels was surreal. The voices in my head were actually talking aloud! That was a real ‘whoa’ moment for me.

Sophie’s choice: Do you have a favorite of your characters?

I think my favorite character is Lexi herself. She’s such a conundrum. She’s smart enough to know she needs people and a life outside her “virtual existence,” but she doesn’t know quite how to go about it. Enter her best friend, Basia, who is essentially the expositional character in the series. She plays off Lexi’s inexperience and offers suggestions to help bring her out of her geek shell with sometimes—-well, most of the time—unexpected results.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Honestly, things, people, and events in real life inspire me. A lot. So, to know me is to be in danger! You could be in my next novel in one form or the other.

Are you like any of your characters?

I think there are definitely parts of me in Lexi. I’m also a lot like her best friend, Basia, but much less of a fashionista!

What song would you pick to go with your book?

Here is the soundtrack that I typically listen to while I’m trying to write... “Mommy, play with me, please,” “Can I have a popsicle?” “Mom, he’s in my stuff again!” “He breathed on me.” “MOM!!!” 

I'm not sure that's on YouTube, but I've heard it often! Who are your favorite authors?

Okay, I like Michael Crichton, Robert Crais, Dean Koontz, Lisa Gardner, Stephen King, Tess Gerritsen and Nora Roberts/JD Robb, among a thousand others. Favorite book of all time: Watership Down by Richard Adams. The rabbit fantasy thing just does it for me every time.

Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix him?

Oh, Lexi and I would have a blast at dinner eating cookie dough ice cream and chocolate ├ęclairs. But a dinner with Slash would be eventful to say the least. A good Italian wine, some spicy pasta, all while playing a game of strip poker. Hmmm...

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

I just finished The Farm by Emily McKay. It’s a young adult vampire novel. It’s not my typical reading fare, but someone whose taste I trust highly recommended it to me, and I enjoyed every page. I just purchased I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. I’m looking forward to reading that book, too. Both of them are in e-book format.

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

Are writers with young children allowed to have a writing routine? I simply snatch every writing moment I can find. Someday, I’ll have a real writing schedule, or at least I hope so!

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? (Don’t worry about the money. Your publisher is paying.

Egypt. It’s on my bucket list to see the pyramids. Then I could know for sure if they were engineered by aliens or not.

What are you working on now?

Just finished up the next book in the Lexi Carmichael series, tentatively titled, No Biz Like Show Biz, and should be sending it out to my editor any moment now. Lexi goes undercover on a reality television dating show to catch a hacker. Hilarity ensues, of course!

Of course! And I'm looking forward to hearing more about it!

About the author:

Julie Moffett is the award-winning author of thirteen published novels in the genres of historical, paranormal fantasy, and time travel romances, and action/adventure mysteries.

She grew up as a military brat (Air Force) and has traveled extensively. Her more exciting exploits include attending Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, backpacking around Europe and Scandinavia for several months, a year-long college graduate study in Warsaw, Poland, and a wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland where she fell in love with castles, kilts and brogues.

Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is nearly finished with her M.Ed. Able to speak Russian and Polish, she worked as a journalist for the international radio station, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Washington, D.C. for eleven years, publishing hundreds of articles. She now works as a proposal writer and research advisor for a defense contractor in the Washington, D.C. area.

Julie is a single mom with two sons, who keep her quite busy. She belongs to Romance Writers of America and Washington Romance Writers where she served six years on the organization’s Board of Directors. She was also the Market News Columnist and Feature’s Editor for the organization’s monthly newsletter, Update, for eleven years.

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

Buy the Book:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Featured Author: Christine Meunier

Christine Meunier is treating us to excerpts from two of her books today. New Beginnings is book 1 in the Free Rein series for pre-teens, and In Pursuit of a Horse is book 2. And check out my interview with Christine from when she was here in June to talk about her book, Horse Country--A World of Horses.

Book 1: New Beginnings:

A job transfer for Jacqui King’s father means that the 10 year old and her family have moved interstate. Jacqui is excited that the move has allowed her family to take up a lease on a large property.

Since she could remember, Jacqui King has had a love for horses. Now with the family’s move she wonders if her dream to learn to horse ride could come true. Jacqui’s mum Kate plans to turn the property into a place where they can offer horse agistment, only concreting Jacqui’s desire to have a horse of her own.

On a property titled Genesis, it does indeed seem that the new beginnings for the King family are looking promising.

Excerpt from New Beginnings

Jacqui hurriedly finished her breakfast, keen to see all of the property that morning.  It was half past eight already and her mother had told her that rain was forecast for the afternoon – she needed to get moving!

Pulling on a jacket and a pair of gumboots she stepped off the front porch, running to the back of the house.  Here were the two paddocks she’d looked out at through her bedroom window.  She unlocked the large gate into the first paddock, being sure to lock it after her in spite of there being no horses on the property.

Jacqui dodged puddles as she walked the perimeter of the paddock, looking at the fences.  She patted the pen and paper in her jacket pocket, making sure that they were where she’d put them.  The fencing looked old but ok to her, but she wasn’t sure what horse fencing should look like.  She made a note to ask her mother if she knew.

Jacqui made it to the end of the first paddock and decided to go through the gate into the second.  She wanted to turn right and continue around the perimeter of this first paddock she’d entered, but to the left of the next paddock in front of her it looked like there was an arena of sorts and a few figures riding horses.

Curious, she climbed over a small hill that was made up of a large concrete pipe covered over with soil.  Water trickled through the pipe and into a large ditch that lined the paddock fence.  Jacqui made a note on her piece of paper to tell her mum about it later.
She left the gate open to this second paddock, wanting to get closer to the arena quickly.  She grinned as she watched three people riding their horses around an arena at the trot, being instructed by another figure standing in the middle of them.

A horse riding school?  We live next to a horse riding school!

Jacqui ran closer, standing at the fence line to watch the three moving across the middle of the arena and then changing direction.

“Don’t forget to change your diagonal as you change direction!” their instructor called out, correcting one rider.

Jacqui looked at the three horses, two brown in colour and one a reddish colour.  This she knew to be chestnut because of her mother’s gift of a horse book a year ago.  The horses looked so lovely to Jacqui that she lost track of time watching them.  She sighed when the lesson seemed to come to an end, the instructor letting the group of three out of the arena where they disappeared from view.

Jacqui watched for awhile longer but it seemed that no one else was coming to ride in the arena for her to watch.  Shrugging her shoulders she continued on down the fence line, knowing that this paddock was the end of their property in one direction.

New Beginnings is the first book in the Free Rein Series.  For purchase details and updates on the series, visit The books can be ordered directly from

Book 2: In Pursuit of a Horse:

Jacqui King has settled in well at her family’s new property Genesis. She has even made some horsey friends.

Jacqui’s two close friends Hannah Johnston and Geordie Smith have been told by their parents that they are allowed to each get a pony. It so happens that Hannah has an Aunt Jan who breeds and trains ponies for a living.

An invitation is extended to the girls to come to Jan’s place for a short stay to ride her ponies and find two to buy. Jacqui is thrilled at the idea of learning to ride better.

Even more exciting is the fact that at the end of their stay, her two close friends will be brining their ponies back to agist at Genesis. Even if she isn’t getting her own pony, Jacqui is delighted for her friends and eager to help them each find their perfect first pony.

Excerpt from In Pursuit of a Horse

“So!  Who’s ready to meet the horses?” Jan asked in a businesslike manner.

Three excited girls exclaimed yes very quickly.  Jan laughed and led the way to one of her closer paddocks.  The four stood at the gate as she pointed out the four ponies that lived here.  Jan described their colours and markings first so that the girls knew which she was talking about.  Then she detailed their personalities, ages and gender.

Jacqui loved that she knew each one individually and was able to provide so much information about them.  She decided she wanted to be able to do this with any horses that were agisted at their property Genesis.

The group moved on to the next paddock as Jan led the way.  This one housed six ponies and again the girls were introduced to each one.

Jan also showed the girls the two stallions that she had on the property and used to breed her mares to each year.  She explained that she kept her broodmares – the ones she used for breeding – separate from the riding ponies that she introduced to saddle and then sold on to other people.

Jacqui loved the set up of the whole property and excitedly talked about this with Hannah and Geordie that night as they lay in bed.  Hannah knew her aunt’s place well but it had been a little while since she had visited and she was just as excited about this adventure as her two friends were.

They discussed in the dark of their room that night which ponies they would try out first.  Jacqui had a dream of owning a little grey pony so she’d chosen one of the two grey horses to ride first.

Geordie had chosen a little chestnut mare that reminded her of the horse she rode at the East Riding School where she had lessons.  Hannah hadn’t minded which horse she rode first, so had asked her aunt if she could recommend one.

Jan had pointed out that the six horses in the second paddock she’d shown to them were all between the ages of six and ten and that they were all fairly quiet.  She said she’d be happy with the girls riding any.  She’d obliged Hannah however, and pointed out a little bay pony for her to try first.

Excited about their ride the next morning, the three fell asleep talking of all the ponies they’d been introduced to that afternoon.  Jacqui managed to thank God for this time with her friends and riding horses before she succumbed to slumber.

In Pursuit of a Horse is the second book in the Free Rein Series. For purchase details and updates on the series, visit The books can be ordered directly from

About the Author:

Christine Meunier considers herself introduced to the wonderful world of horses at the late age of 13 when her parents agreed to lease a horse for her. She started experiencing horses via books from a young age and continues to do so, but recognises that horses cannot be learnt solely from books.
She has been studying horses from age 16, starting with the Certificate II in Horse Studies and is currently undertaking her Bachelor of Equine Science via distance education.

Christine has worked at numerous thoroughbred studs in Australia as well as overseas in Ireland for a breeding season.
She then gained experience in a couple of Melbourne based horse riding schools, instructing at a basic level before heading off overseas again, this time to South Africa to spend hours in the saddle of endurance and trail horses on the Wild Coast.
Particularly passionate about the world of breeding horses, she teaches equine studies focused on breeding, at a TAFE, Victoria, Australia.

Christine writes a blog about equine education which you can view at equus-blog.
You can also check out her debut novel which was released in July 2013 at and the Facebook page for Horse Country, or visit the Free Rein series on Facebook.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Release Day Party: The Migraine Mafia

Welcome to the Release Day Party & Giveaway for
The Migraine Mafia
By: Maia Sepp Genre: Humor, Contemporary,Women's Fiction
Release Date:
December 13th, 2013

About the book: 
On paper, Viive McBroome lives the perfect life--a key player in a fast-paced, technical field, one promotion away from real success--but that's only if you ignore one little problem.

Sandwiched between one migraine and the next, Viive's life is like those choose-your-own-adventure books you read as a kid, only less fun and with a lot more drugs. And lately, as her bosses politely march her toward a vacation that might never end, even the good days feel like a struggle for survival.

Faced with frustration from her loved ones and the dark machinations of a new colleague, Viive feels herself getting pulled under by guilt, apologies, and workplace shenanigans. But then she meets the Migraine Mafia, a quirky, vibrant support group, and her fragile camouflage begins to crumble. She discovers that a room full of strangers just might be able to change the way she views her illness--and realizes that if she doesn't learn to ask for help, her health isn't the only thing she stands to lose.

Sometimes painful, frequently hilarious, always entertaining, The Migraine Mafia is the story of one woman's life-altering decision to thrive in the face of chronic illness.

Where to Purchase The Migraine Mafia:

About the Author, Maia Sepp:
Maia left the tech sector to write about sock thievery, migraines, and...the tech sector.
The Sock Wars is her debut novel. The first chapter of The Sock Wars was published as a short story/novel excerpt titled Irish Drinking Socks, and became a Kobo bestselling short story. The Sock Wars has been a top-100 digital bestseller on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the iBookstore, as well as a genre bestseller on Kobo.

Maia's next novel will be released in December 2013: The Migraine Mafia, a story about a nerdy thirtysomething's quest to come to terms with a chronic illness. 

Connect with Maia:
Website  | Facebook Twitter 


There are two giveaways for the Release Day Party...

Giveaway #1
Maia Sepp will be giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to a lucky winner via the Rafflecopter below!

Giveaway #2
Plus, one lucky commenter at each stop will win an eCopy of The Migraine Mafia. To enter to win simply leave a comment below. One commenter will be randomly selected! Good Luck!