Saturday, May 31, 2014

Featured Author: Tricia Drammeh

I'm so happy to have my friend Tricia Drammeh back at A Blue Million Books today. Tricia was my very first guest in September 2012 with her YA novel The Claiming Words, and she came back last April to talk about The Fifth Circle, also a young adult book. She's here today with her new chick lit novel, Better than Perfect, a book one reviewer called, "Tricia's best work yet!"

About the book:

Twenty-three-year-old Karlie is in the type of rut some people never escape from. With few friends, no boyfriend, and no plans to graduate from college any time in the immediate future, Karlie is as stuck in her ways as the elderly neighbor she spends all her time with.

When her world is invaded by two surly twins bound for criminal court, a too-good-to-be-true love interest, and a cute cop who keeps showing up at the most inopportune moments, Karlie can either fight against the changes in her life, or embrace them.

Excerpt from Better Than Perfect

The sun is coming up before I finally crash into sleep. When the ringing of the telephone startles me into a sitting position, I struggle for a moment to remember where I am. Three, four, five times, the phone rings, a noise from the past, from a time before cell phones all but obliterated the need for a land line.

Who’s calling this early? How early is it? Maybe it’s the hospital. Oh, my God! Maybe it’s Sharron. I bolt from the sofa. My feet tangle in the blanket, nearly sending me crashing face first into the coffee table. I right myself and skitter to the kitchen, yanking the olive-colored plastic handset from the wall phone. “Hello,” I gasp breathlessly.

“Karlie, honey? Everything okay?”

“Hi, Marita. Everything’s fine,” I lie. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m a little weak, but I’m feeling better. Just worried about my boys. Are they awake yet? Are you coming over to the hospital?”

The clock on the microwave blinks 9:35. I’d overslept and missed my Colonial Lit class. Two days in a row of missed classes. Way to go, Karlie.

“I’ll get them up soon and we’ll be over after breakfast. Have you seen the doctor yet? What’s going on?”

“Doctor Evans was here this morning and wants to run some more tests. I’m supposed to see a heart doctor this afternoon. Tomorrow morning, I’m having an EEG. They think I might have had a small stroke last night...”

My head begins to pound. Tomorrow morning? What does that mean? “When are you coming home?” I ask, interrupting her list of tests and medications.

“That’s one of the things I need to talk to you about,” she replies sounding tremulous. “The doctor said I’ll be here for at least a couple of days. I can’t impose upon you to watch the boys that long. You’ve got a life to live—a job, and school...” she trails off, hesitating. “Have you been able to get in touch with Sharron?”

“Not yet. Her phone isn’t working, but I’ll keep trying.” Then trying to sound casual and non-judgmental, I ask, “When is the last time you talked to her?”

“Hmmm, let’s see. I talked to her when I picked the boys up from the airport. Did I talk to her after that? No. Yes. I might have talked to her once, but it was a while ago.”

Oh my God. Sharron has disappeared off the face of the earth and I’m going to be stuck with the boys forever.

I hyperventilate just thinking about what I’ll do if I have to deal with those twins another day, much less another week...or more. Even if Marita gets out of the hospital tomorrow, that still leaves today to worry about. I’ve already missed two days of school, including today, so I can’t miss any more.

There has to be someone to take these demon children off my hands, but who? Darla? She has a sick husband to care for and isn’t in the best of health. She probably isn’t the best option, but what choice do I have? It’s not like the boys are babies. They’re practically grown. Of course, with the visits from the police and their tendencies to wander off, they probably need more looking after than toddlers.

“Karlie, are you still there?”

“Yes ma’am. Sorry. What were you saying?”

“Darla promised to stop by today before chemo. She said she would take the boys if she was able, but she can’t because she’s having a procedure done on Friday. I was supposed to help her, but now it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to.”

“Well, that can’t be helped,” I say instinctively trying to soothe her while still worrying about my own difficult position.

“Keep trying to get in touch with Sharron.”

“I will. I asked the boys if they could think of any other numbers where she could be reached, but they weren’t any help. I’ll keep trying, though. She’s bound to call to check on the boys eventually.”

“Of course.” She doesn’t sound very sure. I can’t blame her for doubting her daughter. What sort of parent doesn’t call to check on her kids? What kind of parent doesn’t make sure the person responsible for her children has an emergency number? If something happens to one of the boys...

No. I can’t let myself think about that. I have to think positive. In all likelihood, Marita will get out of the hospital in a day or two. Things will be back to normal before too long. How hard can it be to take care of two fourteen-year-old boys? I just have to sit them down and reason with them.

“The boys and I will be there soon,” I assure her. “Do you need anything?”

She rattles off a list of personal items before I hang up. Hopefully she won’t be in the hospital long enough to use all the things she’d asked for. I try calling Sharron’s number again and nearly cry in frustration. Where the heck is she?

My heavy, tired feet trudge up the stairs and down the hallway to the boys’ room. I knock several times before a disheveled twin opens the door.

“Do you want to go see your grandma?”


“In an hour.”

“We’re tired.”

“So am I,” I snap. “I’ll make breakfast.”

“We’ll get ready.”

Food is a useful bargaining tool with the twins, I’ve realized. I’ll have to remember to use their stomachs against them in the future. I go back downstairs and sort through the fridge, pulling out a few items for breakfast. The smell of frying bacon and eggs fills the kitchen and it isn’t long before the boys shuffle down the stairs. They look like zombies—stiff arms, uneven gait, a look of mindless hunger on their faces.

While they feed, I run across the yard to my own house. I’ve never been so happy to see it in my life. I revel in a warm bath and get lost in luxurious, sudsy solitude until my guilt reminds me it’s time to get moving. Marita is waiting.

Other books by Tricia:

The Alexanders have always kept their secrets hidden...When sixteen-year-old Jace Alexander moves to the small town of Oaktree, Georgia, he attracts the attention of every girl in school. Shy, introverted Alisa Cole immediately casts Jace in the leading role of her latest fantasy, but she assumes he'll never return her interest. After she saves Jace from a Hunter, everything changes. Her accidental discovery of Jace's secret propels her into a world of magic and danger. Alisa's newfound courage is put to the test when Jace introduces her to his intimidating older brother, Bryce, and she decides she would rather battle a Hunter than endure another moment under Bryce's intense scrutiny. Jace and Bryce aren't the only ones with secrets... Rachel Stevens is the girl who has it all. She's beautiful, popular, and in possession of an ancient power which endangers not only her, but those sent to protect her. Jace is drawn to Rachel-and he isn't the only one. The Demon Re'Vel will do anything to claim her-even if it means waging a war with the entire Alexander family. As layers of secrets are peeled away, revealing the truth of her heritage and her family's betrayal, Rachel struggles to resist an immortal suitor who stalks her in her dreams. With the Alexanders fighting to protect her, can Rachel escape the power of the Demon and his Claiming Words?

The Fifth Circle:

Sean is no stranger to darkness. He's overcome a dangerous addiction, struggled with mental illness, and faced relentless bullying by his peers. His best friend, Alex, has always been there for him, but when he falls in love with her, he replaces his online gaming obsession with a possessive interest in her.

Alex's survival depends upon her ability to lock memories of her troubled childhood deep inside her mind, but an unhealthy relationship with Sean causes dark visions of her past to rise to the surface. Sean's obsession and Alex's complacency collide, resulting in tragedy.

Together, Sean and Alex live in a hell of their own making. One will escape at the expense of the other. Both will discover why Dante chose to condemn the Wrathful and the Sullen in the Fifth Circle of Hell.

The Seance (Dark Summons)

Ninth grade can be a nightmare when you don’t fit in at school, your crush chooses someone else, and your parents tell you they’re having a new baby. Abby was prepared for normal high school problems. She wasn’t prepared for a demon.

Abby has always been fascinated by the paranormal, but after an ill-fated séance, she discovers not all Spirits are benign. A dark entity unleashed during the summoning sets out to destroy Abby, and within days, she loses her best friend, incurs the wrath of her parents, and becomes a prisoner in her own home. With time quickly running out, she assembles an unlikely group of helpers: the most hated guy in school, a retired psychic, and the cute clerk from her favorite bookstore. Unless the demon is defeated, Abby and her new baby brother won’t stand a chance.

The Séance, a Dark Summons Novel, is a full-length Paranormal book for teens and young adults. Join Abby as she navigates the complexities of ninth grade, tackles the supernatural, and even finds a bit of romance along the way.

About the author:

Tricia Drammeh is a wife, a mother of four children, and an author. She lives in New Hampshire with her family. When she isn't writing, she can be found devouring books, chasing cats, and consuming vast amounts of coffee. You can learn more about Tricia by visiting her website.

Connect with Tricia:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy the book:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Featured Author: Lisa Becker

Lisa Becker is the author of the chick lit Click series, which includes Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click, and Right Click. Lisa was here in January 2013, when she braved my 20 Questions and shared an excerpt from book one. In April 2013, not only did she sit down for an interview with me, she also shared a talk she had with her main character Shelley Manning, and she brought an excerpt from Double Click. I'm happy to have Lisa back today with the third and final installment of the Click series.

About the book:

Love. Marriage.  Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn't be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30's. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set "right" before everyone can find their "happily ever after."

Click: An Online Love Story Book Trailer

Interview with Lisa Becker

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

I remember writing short stories and poems as a little girl and always told myself I would write a book someday.  So, it was incredibly gratifying to see a “bucket list” item/dream come true when Click: An Online Love Story came out in 2011. The feedback has been tremendous, so much so, that I’ve turned it into a trilogy which includes Double Click, released in 2013, and Right Click, which just came out in May 2014. 

What’s the story behind the title of your books?

I liked the double meaning of click – both “clicking” a mouse while using a computer for online dating and “clicking” or making a special connection with someone. 

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m fortunate to have had a series of wonderful careers outside of writing including being a wife, mom, PR professional, college professor, community volunteer and Girl Scout troop leader. Needless to say, there is never a dull moment around here.

How did you create the plot for this book?

My husband and I met online on a popular dating website. After we married, I was recalling some of the hilarious experiences that I had with both traditional and online dating. I decided to capture some of them in writing and from there, a novel emerged. The books are loosely based on my real-life dating experiences, as well as stories friends have shared with me. In some cases, things are written as they actually occurred. Other scenarios are exaggerated for entertainment value or comedic affect. And some scenarios are completely fictionalized. I really did go out on a date with someone I met online who started every story (no joke!) with “My buddies and I were out drinking last night.”  The ultimate goal was to create a fun read for anyone who has ever had a bad date, been in love, been dumped, or is searching for "the one." But, the happy ending is real. Steve and I have been happily married for more than 10 years and have two amazing daughters - ages 9 and 7.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?  Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

I most readily identify with Renee. She and I share a lot of qualities including a self-depreciating sense of humor, fear of flying, motivation in our PR careers and love of baking. Mark is loosely based on a friend who encouraged me to try online dating. He’s a terrific guy who is still himself searching for “the one.” So if you know any nice single girls, let me know. But my favorite character is Shelley. She’s confident, brash, outrageous and wholly unapologetic for her choices. She was so fun to write. Her hilarious habit of giving nicknames to her “man du jour” was inspired by a childhood friend of mine who had a nickname for a guy in college that she admired from across the dorm cafeteria.  She called him Maverick because he looked like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Much like Shelley, she is a self-confident, gorgeous, lovely gal and it wasn't long before they met and dated for a spell. 

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

I just finished the independently-published book Ripple by L.D. Cedergreen. She is a friend, and her son goes to school with my daughter. It’s a wonderful love story about difficult choices and the consequences they create. 

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

I sit in my home office at an HP desktop computer with a really big screen. My eyes grow tired pretty easily in my old age;) And I like to write with the television on in the background. When I first started writing, I was obsessed with Law & Order reruns.  Now, I can’t seem to get enough of NCIS. I guess there’s a part of me that likes to see justice served. 

If you were leaving the country for a year, what’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

I’ve had this question before and honestly, if I could only have three foods for the rest of my life, I’m confident I could survive on macaroni & cheese, carrot sticks and chocolate pudding. 

Why did you decide to self-publish?  Are you happy with your decision?

Don’t write off (HA! Like the pun?!?) self-publishing. I explored the traditional publishing route and got feedback from multiple literary agents. One in particular explained the current economic state of the publishing industry to me. Due to the large investment to edit, produce, distribute, and market a work by an unknown author, many large publishers won’t take the risk. Self-publishing is a way to get your work out there.

I'm also reminded of some advice I was once given. I had interviewed Charles Rosen, one of the producers of the original Beverly Hills 90210, for an alumni magazine article while I was in graduate school. And I'll never forget what he told me: "Don't fall in love with your words, because somebody above will probably change them." One of the great benefits of self-publishing is that you can really take control of the process.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  -Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

What’s your favorite candy bar?

I’ve been known to hide candy bars all over the house and my office, so I’ve been known to sneak a Snickers or two among others. 

Snickers with almonds? They're the best! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I live in a part of Los Angeles County called Manhattan Beach, less than two miles from the ocean. I love walking along the strand, looking out over the ocean, searching for dolphins and playing in the sand with my girls. 

What are you working on now?

Like most everyone else in Los Angeles, I’ve decided to try my hand at screenwriting. I’m nearly finished with my first script called Clutch. It’s a light romantic comedy about a young single handbag designer in Los Angeles who has a series of relationships that she equates to different style handbags, searching for “the one” she wants to hold onto or “clutch.” I hope it is coming to a theatre near you soon. 

More about the Click Series

Click: An Online Love Story -Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds entirely through emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical “B” celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee wades into the shallow end of the dating (cess)pool and endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends. And ultimately, they will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.

Double Click - Fans of the romantic hit Click: An Online Love Story will enjoy another voyeuristic dive into the lives of Renee, Shelley, Ashley, Mark and Ethan, as Double Click picks up with their lives six months later. Are Renee and Ethan soul mates? Does Mark ever go on a date? Has Shelley run out of sexual conquests in Los Angeles? Will Ashley's judgmental nature sabotage her budding relationship? Through a marriage proposal, wedding, new baby and unexpected love twist, Double Click answers these questions and more. Readers will continue to cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends.

About the author:

Lisa Becker had endured her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates, many of which inspired Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click, and Right Click.  She is now happily married to a wonderful man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach with him and their two daughters. So, if it happened for her, there’s hope for you!

Connect with Lisa:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Featured Author: Christoph Fischer

Christoph Fischer's fourth book, Time To Let Go, is a family drama that deals with the issue of Alzheimer's Disease. My mother, who recently passed away, had dementia, a sister to Alzheimer's, so I'm anxious to read this book. This is Christoph's fourth visit to A Blue Million Books. He's been here previously to talk about his Three Nations Trilogy, specifically, The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn. Check out those features, and then check out the books. But first, read my most recent interview with Christoph and an excerpt from Time To Let Go.

About the book:

Following a traumatic incident at work, Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, she and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.

The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.

Interview with Christoph Fischer

Christoph, what inspired you to write Time to Let Go?

I thought I knew a lot about Alzheimer’s and dementia until I finally got to witness the disease first-hand, about five years ago. I have seen some very different approaches as to how to best look after the victims. Caring at home or using professional help? That issue played a prominent part in my life. At the time of writing the book, I was working for an airline, which should explain the other parts of the story.

Who is your target audience?

Fans of family dramas will probably enjoy it the most. People who are unfamiliar with Alzheimer’s or the life of cabin crew may get some ideas of what is involved, whereas those already in the know hopefully might find it re-assuring and enjoyable.

How long did it take you to write this book?

I wrote the first draft within two months, in 2011. It was actually the third book I wrote, but I got carried away with the historical novels, and revisited Time To Let Go only when I needed a break from my war stories. Since November 2013, I have rewritten it about five times before giving it to the editors in March.

What do you hope readers will get from Time to Let Go?

I hope the book provides entertainment for its readers with some informative parts and a little food for thought. Understanding Alzheimer’s and what the sufferers and their families go through is only one aspect of the story. The life of flight attendants is something that many people have misconceptions about. 
Primarily however, the book remains a family drama. We all come to crossroads in our lives and need to make tough decisions. We hold on to things that we need to let go of, only we need to know what they are and when is the right time to do so.

Why did you decide to write Time To Let Go? Have you had any personal experience with Alzheimer’s patients?

Yes, my aunt, who played a very central role in my life, was diagnosed with it several years ago. I see her once or twice a year and have witnessed the progress of the disease and the way she is cared for over the course of time. I have also come in contact with a few other sufferers, although much more superficially.

Did you do much research for this book?

I read several books about the disease when my aunt was diagnosed, long before I thought about writing this book. A lot of the information was also collected from real life – first and second hand. In my life for the airline, I met many people and exchanged stories with them on long sleepless night flights: there was no shortage of material. I took a deliberate decision though, not to make a fictionalized documentary.
 The most difficult parts to research were police procedures and other details that play actually a very minor role in the book.

What was the most difficult scene or chapter to write?

The scene I am including as an excerpt. At a certain stage of Alzheimer’s, patients can get very repetitive, yet obsessive in their interactions. At that point, conversations with them can be very taxing. It was very hard to write that scene at the Korhonen kitchen table. I wanted to show the problem without losing the attention of my readers, I wanted to show Hanna and Walter’s different ways of handling it, while making sure that Biddy still remained a likeable character. 
I have witnessed many such moments in my life but needed to come up with something new and fictitious to protect the dignity and privacy of the people who inspired my story.

What’s your routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?

I work best very early in the mornings, before the Internet wakes up and keeps me busy. I do need to take the dogs for a walk first though, or Molly will push my hands off the keyboard with her nose, Wilma will drop the ball in front of my feet every two seconds, and Greta will give me her most evil look.

You're a devoted dad! Where do you prefer to do your writing?

Anywhere quiet and secluded really. I have a small office which is away from everything else in the house.

Where’s home for you?

Home is wherever my partner and my dogs are. I have moved so many times in my life that I feel quite ungrounded, to be honest. I missed over twenty-four years in my hometown in Germany. It has changed so much, it feels somewhat strange to me now: the people and the culture (the language even) have evolved, leaving me confused in otherwise familiar surroundings. I spent nine years in London and will always feel home there to some degree, but not entirely. Where we live now, the deep West English countryside, is beautiful and very familiar, too, after 5 years, but there is not much of a community, so we could easily move somewhere else.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

"He is not the Messiah, he is a very naughty boy." From Life of Brian, Monty Python.

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

Currently, I am binge-watching Dexter, a very gory TV series about a mass murderer and some more lighthearted comedy programs, such as Modern Family and Brooklyn 9-9. I love running, walking the dogs and lifting weights to balance the hours in front of the computer; I still have the addiction of reading books, and I enjoy just being completely silly with my friends.

You’re self-publishing this book. How has that process been for you?

The process has been amazing. I was lucky to have met helpful people who gave me good advice very early on in the process. In particular, I attended a self-publishing seminar in London and realized that the publishing industry has changed dramatically over the last decade. You are expected to do a lot of your marketing and social media platform work yourself. What some publishers offer may not be in your best interests; for example giving up the rights and control over your work and how it is promoted. I was lucky to have had the right help, the time to learn and to do it. 
It is a bit of an acquired taste, but now I absolutely enjoy doing it all by myself – of course with the help of wonderful friends I made on the way.

What have been the most effective marketing tools in promoting your books?

Book blogs and Twitter. I found that the second I stop tweeting, my sales drop. Via HootSuite, I have learned to catch the people who like or respond to my tweets, and I have made more helpful contacts that way than I would have dreamed. Many reviews and messages about my books suggest that readers found my books on other blogs, which is encouraging.

I noticed you have 18.5K Twitter followers. I know you’re a great guy with a charming personality, but on earth does one get that many followers?

Weeks’ worth of continued hard labor on Twitter and HootSuite. Making your tweets interesting and not just hard sales of your own books but also about other books and issues I believe will keep you the followers that you gained. I interact with other twitter users and re-tweet their interesting tweets, which helps both parties to get attention from the other user’s followers.  Following the followers of similar authors can lead to reciprocation, and having my dogs in the profile picture helps, too. There are automated tools to take some of the workload off you, but since twitter has floated on the stock market and offers to ‘promote your account’ for cash, they are a little restrictive about this.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on several projects. An epic historical novel set in Scandinavia, mainly Finland, from 1918 - 1950, currently with the working title In Search of a Revolution. It tells the story of two friends on opposing political sides and how their lives change during the various wars being fought in Europe during that era. I also just started writing a psychological thriller, currently called The Healer, which my partner had the idea for last week. I have not been able to stop writing it.

Other books by Christoph Fischer

Excerpt from Time To Let Go

Hanna looked around the room for inspiration, but all she could think of was the tried and trusted: “Is there anything interesting in the newspaper?”

“Yes. Let me have a look,” her mother said, as she folded the newspaper back to the front page and scanned the article in front of her with intense concentration.

“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...” Biddy began, and read the entire article remarkably well, without any errors.

After finishing Biddy asked: “What is the Taliban?”

Walter shot his daughter a warning look and shook his head.

“Oh, they are politicians,” Hanna said vaguely. “A lot of people do not like them.”

“Ah, politics,” she replied. She hesitated for a moment then she went back to the paper.
“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...”

“Is everything ok with you?” Walter asked his daughter whispering so as not to disturb his wife’s reading.

“Oh yes, all good,” she nodded enthusiastically.

Walter turned away from the stove and looked at her intently.

“There’s something you’re not telling me. I’m not stupid!”

“There is nothing going on that you should be concerned about,” Hanna said, shifting in her seat. “You are doing a fantastic job looking after mother. Stick to that as your family duty. I can manage my life. I am 40 years old, for crying out loud.”

“Who is the Taliban?” Biddy interrupted.

“They are politicians,” Hanna repeated.

“What kind of politicians?”

“Not very nice ones,” Hanna replied. “A lot of people don’t like them.”

“Ah,” Biddy nodded, looking at the paper. Then she turned back to Hanna and asked “Who is it that the people don’t like?”

“The Taliban, Biddy.”

“Who is the Taliban?”

“They are politicians.”

“Hanna save yourself the effort, you are hardly going to teach her about world politics now,” Walter said, but Hanna ignored him.

“What kind of politicians?” Biddy asked again.

“You don’t need to worry about them,” Hanna put her comforting hand on her mother’s shoulder. “The government is dealing with them. They have no relevance to you or me.”

“Are you sure?” Biddy was shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

Hanna pressed harder on her mother’s shoulder.

“Quite sure.”

“Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...”

“I admire your endurance,” Walter said, blatantly talking over his wife now from the stove. “If I were you I would just steer the conversation to something else. Why should she concern herself with the Taliban?”

“Why should she concern herself with anything these days?” Hanna shot back. “It doesn’t really matter what she engages with. As long as she interacts and asks questions I am glad for her.”

“You can only confuse her by talking about abstract things like that. Keep it simple.”

“I am not going to discourage her if she shows interest in something. I just want her to feel valued, surely that is worth a few repetitive moments.”

“We’ll see how you feel when you have done this for a week, or a month,” Walter said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love your patience. Just don’t burn yourself out.”

About the author:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border. After a few years in Hamburg he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small hamlet, not far from Bath.  He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.

Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in libraries, museums and for a major airline. He completed the historical Three Nations Trilogy last year, which included: The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn.

Connect with Christoph:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | 

Buy the book:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Featured Author: D.M. Annechino

I'm talking with D.M. Annechino today about his medical mystery/thriller Hypocrisy. Don't miss the excerpt from the book after the interview, and check out iRead Book Tours for a full list of Daniel's virtual book tour schedule.

About the book:

Dr. Lauren Crawford is a brilliant research scientist who discovers a revolutionary treatment for cancer that not only extends life, but much improves the quality of life for terminal cancer patients. The treatment, in some instances, can even cure certain cancers. On the evening before Dr. Crawford holds a press conference to announce that the FDA has given preliminary approval of her new cancer treatment, somebody follows her to her car and puts three bullets in her head. Was it a planned murder with a motive, a mugging gone badly, or merely a random act of violence?

Two New York City homicide detectives, Amaris Dupree and T.J. Brown, are assigned to the investigation. The detectives evaluate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Crawford’s death and follow a trail of clues that exposes a sequence of startling facts. One by one, the detectives carefully examine each suspect and piece together a puzzle with unimaginable implications. As the investigation gets more intense, and the detectives get closer to solving the murder mystery, someone threatens Dupree’s life. The detectives now realize that Dr. Crawford’s murder was much more than a homicide. And if they don’t arrest the murderer soon, Dupree might be the next victim.

Interview with D.M. Annechino

Daniel, Hypocrisy is your fourth published novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

After working in the retail automobile business for 18 years, in 1992 I wrote a nonfiction book titled How to Buy the Most Car for the least Money. Signet, an imprint of the Penguin Group, published it. It sold about 22,000 copies and rekindled my repressed desire to write a novel. Between 1993 and 2008, I wrote four full-length novels, all of which were rejected by every publisher on the planet. But in 2009, I was at a point where I wanted to quit writing and move on. But this little voice in the back of my head kept saying, “Just one more time.” So, I wrote a book titled They Never Die Quietly, and remarkably, I signed a contract with Amazon Publishing. Since then, I’ve published four novels and I’m halfway finished with my fifth.

What’s the story behind the title Hypocrisy?

In one word, Hypocrisy, pretty much sums up the theme of the story. Many people believe that a cure for cancer really exists, but it is suppressed. This book explores the possibility of what might happen if there were a revolutionary new treatment, and possibly a cure for cancer, and the impact it would have on healthcare and traditional treatments.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I worked as an Account Executive for San Diego Gas & Electric until I published my first novel. When I signed a two-book deal with a German publisher, I decided that I couldn’t serve two masters, so I retired and devoted myself to writing full time. 

How do you get to know your characters?

Before I start a book, I like to fill out a comprehensive character questionnaire for each significant character. The questionnaire covers everything: appearance, emotional makeup, attitudes, political views, family, philosophies, loves and hates—just about everything you can think of. As I write, I do sometimes modify a character slightly if certain things about them just don’t work. But by completing a character questionnaire, I really get to know my characters intimately, and this is absolutely essential in order to make the characters three dimensional. 

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

It may be common and unoriginal, but I thoroughly enjoyed characterizing Homicide Detective Amaris Dupree, the protagonist. I thought she really came to life with her crisp wit and the fact that she was flawed in many ways—just like all of us are— to a point. I’ve read lots of novels where the protagonist is portrayed as nearly perfect—without fears or insecurities, or dark secrets. This, to me, does not imitate real life.

Is your book based on real events?

There is one particular aspect of this book that references a real person who developed alternative treatments for cancer. Her treatments were very controversial and she had more adversaries than advocates. Some called her a charlatan, others a saint. But her real research plays a major role in this story.

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

Sami Rizzo, Al Diaz, Kate Miles, Amaris Dupree, and T.J. Brown.

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

1)    Stephen King
2)    J.K Rowling
3)    Pat Conroy
4)    Charles Frazier
5)    Quentin Tarantino

Who are your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Donna Tartt, Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris, and Charles Frazier.

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

Morgan Freeman.

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

Stay Close
by Harlan Coben in e-book format.

Do you have any pet peeves when you read?

What absolutely drives me nuts is when an author doesn’t follow the first commandment of writing fiction: Show, don’t tell. The only logical reason for this is laziness on the author’s part. It’s much more challenging writing action scenes than it is to merely tell the reader what’s going on, particularly when a scene involves an exchange between two characters. Telling takes away the deep emotions and dramatic tension.

I totally agree. 
Where’s home for you?

I was born and raised in Rochester, New York, frozen tundra in the winter and a humid sweatbox in the summer. I finally reached my limit shoveling snow and taking cold showers, so I moved to sunny San Diego in 1993, where we get 300+ days of 75 degree sunshine. And you can even buy a cute little bungalow for about a half-million dollars.

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

That’s an easy one. The Bible.

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

Fresh California Sushi and Sashimi.

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

I would take a walk to the ocean. Sitting near the ocean gives me a profound feeling of tranquility. It’s the best way to unwind. And the vastness of the Pacific is just amazing.

Again, I totally agree. I think that's why I'm rarely tranquil. I live thousands of miles from an ocean. Let's say you can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

Indiana Jones.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

My first three novels were published by Amazon Publishing. I self-published Hypocrisy, my fourth novel, through Create Space. I enjoyed a great relationship with Amazon. With their global reach, their marketing plan for my books was very successful. But I thought it might be a great experience going it on my own. Only time will tell.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” --Mahatma Gandhi

Good one. What’s your favorite candy bar?

Dove Dark Chocolate Promises are my all-time favorite candy, but technically, they’re not really a traditional candy bar. I highly recommend them for any chocolate-a holic.

I'll accept that answer, and I'm with you except mine would be milk chocolate. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I hate to admit it, but I love to watch TV, particularly movies and some of the series that appear on the premium channels.

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

Positano, Italy.

What are you working on now?

I’m halfway finished with A Piece of You, novel #5. I hope to have it completed by the end of summer.

Other books by D.M. Annechino


Excerpt from Hypocrisy

When he pressed the pistol against her temple, Dr. Lauren Crawford remembered something she’d heard many years ago. At the exact moment before death, when the end is inevitable, your entire life passes before you. She’d always believed it was a legend, but now she knew the truth. She saw herself playing hopscotch in front of her home with Teresa, her best friend. She could see herself on her tenth birthday riding a Shetland pony at the State Fair. A giant Ferris wheel spun slowly in the background; the smell of cotton candy filled the air. She remembered her high school senior prom, Bobby Hanford, the purple orchid corsage, her first kiss. She could see her dad, lying in a coffin, his skin pale, cheeks sunken, feeling inconsolable and torn to pieces. Then there were memories of Christmas, her favorite time of the year. She envisioned herself helping her mom decorate the entire house, hanging wreaths and garland and red and green stockings above the fireplace. She recalled writing her name on the steamy windows while the fragrance of a slowly-roasting turkey teased her senses. But then, the vivid memories froze and all she could see was a splash of red light.

In an instant, total darkness.

About the author:

Daniel M. Annechino, a former book editor specializing in full-length fiction, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, in 1992 while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly. His second book, Resuscitation (Thomas & Mercer 2011), a follow-up to his first novel, hit #1 in Kindle sales in the UK and reached #26 in the USA. He is also the author of I Do Solemnly Swear (Thomas & Mercer 2012). Hypocrisy, is Annechino's fourth novel.

A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time on the warm beaches of Southern California.

Connect with Daniel:

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Featured Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier

Fans of Ellen Mansoor Collier and her Jazz Age Mystery series will be thrilled to know the third book in the series, Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns, has been released. I'm happy to have her back today with with an excerpt. Ellen has previously been here to talk about book one in the cozy mystery series, Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play and book two, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets. To read an interview with Ellen and excerpts from both books, click here and here.

About the book:

During Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, the Island was called the "Free State of Galveston" due to its lax laws and laissez-faire attitude toward gambling, gals and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she's stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.

After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz must work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames Jasmine’s half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.

When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against each other, as well as a common enemy.

Excerpt from Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns

In the background, I heard a scuffle, loud voices, furniture scraping across the floor, an object being thrown. Burton tensed up and turned toward the noise, his slate-blue eyes darting around the room.

“What’s all the ruckus? A fight?” I stared at the casino, hoping for some excitement. The other diners also shifted in their chairs, whispering and clucking like nosy busybodies. Finally a diversion from the “James and Jazz nightclub act.”

“I’ll go see what’s wrong.” Burton stood up just as two bouncers escorted, or rather dragged, a dark, disheveled middle-aged man in a top hat and tuxedo, toward the exit. His swollen face had taken quite a pummeling, resembling raw beefsteak. A bleached blonde floozy  followed him, loudly complaining, “Unhand him, you beasts! That’s no way to treat a paying guest. He won fair and square. The Maceos owe us money!”

I gripped Burton’s arm, his muscles taut beneath his sleek suit. “James, wait. You’re off-duty now. This isn’t your department.”

“I can’t stop being a lawman just because I’m out with my girl.”

My girl? When had we made it official?

Holding my breath, I watched as he approached the Maceos’ men, asking, “Where are you taking him?” When they refused to answer, he rushed toward the commotion in the back.
How could I blame him? Curious, I leapt out of my chair and pretended to look for the powder room, making eye contact with the gun molls giving me the once-over. Did they think Agent Burton was going to raid the place?

Rows of slot machines and black jack tables sat positioned in full view of the dining room, beckoning diners to try their luck. A few gold-diggers decked out in beaded gowns and feathers draped their arms over geezers old enough to be their fathers, if not their grandfathers, betting at the craps tables.

“Want me to blow on your dice, honey?” I heard one gal purr to a fat cat in a top hat. How could he refuse?  Some guys in tuxedoes guarded a couple of closed rooms, frowning as I glanced their way. I imagined the high-rollers were losing their shirts while club owners Ollie Quinn and the Maceos counted their profits like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

In the powder room, the mirrored walls reflected the elegant seating area with its marble wash basin and gold fixtures—real gold or plated? —straight out of a movie set.

“Nice gown.” I smiled at a flashy flapper who wore an ice-blue sheath with a big bow on one hip, her plunging neckline dangerously close to revealing all her assets.

“Gee, thanks!” she drawled. “You don’t look so bad yourself, sister.”

“Any idea what that fight was all about?” I washed my hands, acting nonchalant.

“Who knows? Those gamblers are always accusing each other of cheating.”

I wanted to ask more questions, but an older Negro attendant handed me a fluffy towel with a frown. I rushed back to the table just as Burton returned with Sam Maceo glued to his side....

“Who was that man?” Burton pressed. “The one with his nose out of joint.”

“A couple of wiseguys got hot under the collar, that’s all. Accused this city slicker of cheating. So Rose took care of the situation on the spot.”  Maceo shrugged it off, knowing his brother Rosario Maceo provided in-house muscle and protection. “We call it cleaning house.”

“Does this city slicker have a name?” Burton asked.

“I’m sure he does.” Maceo gave Burton a pointed look, then turned his full charm on me. “Wouldn’t you rather be enjoying the company of this lovely lady?..."

“He wasn’t very forthcoming, was he?” I said to Burton after he left. “Did you see anything fishy?”

“A bunch of stuffed shirts sitting around a table playing poker. Seems a few goons ganged up on this joker, beat him to a pulp. Wonder if he really tried to cheat them?” 

“Did you recognize anyone?” I asked. “Any bigwigs?”

“Not off-hand. I think the victim is from out of town, maybe a card shark. I wonder what they plan to do next. Take him for a ride?” Burton suddenly stood up, put on his new Stetson and held out his hand. “Let’s go. Maybe we can follow them?”

Flustered, I grabbed my mesh bag, nervous yet excited at the thought of going on an actual police chase. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take the Champagne.” I shoved in the cork and picked up the bottle.  “Hate to let all this fine bubbly go to waste.”

All heads turned as we made our exit, the staff gallantly opening the wide double doors.  Outside, the humidity hit me like a slap and my carefree curls began to droop.

“It’s a 1925 Packard convertible,” Burton told the valet, scanning the area for signs of the men. “Say, did you see the last car that just left?  Any idea where it was going?”

“Beats me,” the youth said with a shrug. “But they were in some kind of hurry.”

As Burton stepped off the walkway, following the valet into the parking lot, an old Ford swerved around the corner, brakes and tires screeching, headed right at Burton.

“Look out!” I screamed, dropping the bottle of Champagne, hearing it shatter on the pavement, spraying liquid and tiny specks of glass. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion: I saw a flash of light and heard loud, popping noises, covering my head as shots rang out, staring in shock when Burton collapsed on the lot.

Other books in the Jazz Age Mystery series:

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman's World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she's worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband Gary and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

Connect with Ellen: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon | available at Barnes & Noble soon!

Featured Author: M. Skye brings M. Skye here to talk about her romantic suspense novel, Circle of Deception, just published in March.

About the book:

Megan Marie Cardoza, is a twenty-six-year-old Media CEO with a less than impressive personal life. When Meg’s best friend Emily returns to town, she, and Meg’s siblings shake things to the core prompting Meg to reveal her true feelings for her ex Alex, and give in to her needs she has been suppressing for six long years. After a steamy reconciliation between her and Alex, things seem to be falling back into place, until the past comes back to slap them in the face at their engagement party no less. With the arrival of Meg’s parents and the continued interference by Alex’s father, who hates Meg, secrets much deeper than they ever expected float to the surface threatening to rip Meg and Alex apart for good, with fatal results for some. When everything she thought she knew is in question, Meg must decide if the secrets are big enough to walk away for good.

Interview with M. Skye

Hi, M...should I call you M? Okay, M, Circle of Deception is your debut novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve been writing since middle school, mostly poems and short stories. I only recently started to dabble in full length novels. I love to read, so I was sitting reading a book from one of my favorite authors, and I thought, hey, I can do this. Two months later, I had Circle of Deception, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What’s the story behind the title Circle of Deception?

The title lets you know right off that the book will be full of secrets and dramatic events. I wanted to sell the belief that at some point, every character in the book has a secret to be told. Some are insignificant and some are too large to contain, thus making the whole circle of friends deceptive to a certain extent.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I have a full-time job working in the medical field. I work forty hours a week and still average to dedicate about twenty hours a week to my writing.

How did you create the plot for this book?

The plot for the book is completely fictional, while some of the relationships mirror those of people I know personally. For instance, the relationships and bonds between the siblings are like those between my siblings. (We meddle in each other’s lives as well.)

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Hands down, Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

How do you get to know your characters?

My characters and I are one in the same in some ways. They all display some semblance of my snappy personality, but they also have the ability to make you fall in love with their sincerity. I’m a big fan of evolution, so you will see growth in my characters as the books go on. Even the most unfortunate of characters have their turning points.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I loved the character of Gio. He was so fun, carefree, and comfortable in his skin. He has a big heart, and is very devoted to his family. He places their happiness above all with his hilarious lease on life.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

In a way, the characters are like many of my friends and family all wrapped up in one. For instance, the main characters, Meg and Alex, are strong, stubborn, and passionate much like a couple I’ve known for quite a while. Their love gets them through some pretty dark times in the book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

There were so many to choose from, but I would have to say, the scene towards the end where Bianca comes clean about everything past, present, and her plans for the future. In that scene, we get to see how deep Alex and Meg’s connection really is and how selfless they both are when it comes to protecting their daughter. It gives you so much to smile about in a time of tragedy.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I’m a huge R&B fan, so I would have to say “Drama, Love, and Lationships” by Babyface. The lyrics really spoke to me when I was writing the scenes.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Eric Jerome Dickey and Brenda Jackson.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

I hate unresolved story lines and predictability. With each of my projects, you can expect a dramatic twist, and if it is not resolved, then you can believe there will be a sequel.

Do you have a routine for writing?

My routine is a bit unorthodox. I work crazy late hours, and when I get off of work, it’s like I get a second wind. When I get home, I toss in my headphones with a nice R&B playlist and write until I fall asleep. I have been averaging a chapter every two days or so.

Where’s home for you?

The beautiful state of Texas, Dallas, to be exact. I love it here, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

Are you happy with your publishing decision?

I am very happy that I made the first step. The publishing company I’m working with has been amazing throughout the whole process. I submitted my story with them, and two weeks later, we got started. They have been working very hard to make my vision happen, and they are great with details. Virtual Bookworm was the best choice for me with my first book!

What’s your favorite candy bar?


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

Oh goodness, I’m sleeping! No, really, I’m spending time with my husband and family or either at work. My life is hectic sometimes, but I love it!

What are you working on now?

I have been writing a new book every other month. I recently finished the sequel to Circle of Deception and started a new series called Mixing Business with Pleasure. I am currently beginning the second installment of that series. Like Circle of Deception, it has all the drama and steamy encounters you can stand, with an exciting plot and main characters with very strong personalities. I hope to get all three novels published by the end of the year.

About the Author:

Circle of Deception is the debut novel for author M. Skye. In her novels, she likes to evoke strong dramatic story lines, with strong romantic content. She loves to throw twists and curve balls you won’t see coming into her stories, with racy encounters at every turn. This is the first published work, but won’t be the last from this imaginative writer. She spends her free time writing and spends time with her large family.

Connect with M. Skye:

Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Featured Author: Steven Manchester

The Story Plant brings Steven Manchester here today to talk about his latest release, Pressed Pennies. To read an excerpt from the book and see the schedule for Steven's virtual book tour, click here.

About the book:

Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige's father nearly destroyed Abby's spirit.

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they're hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She's very protective of the life she's made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn't know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you've dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love in its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart.

Steven, you have twelve published books. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

Is your book based on real events?

Pressed Pennies
is one of my favorite works because it’s so personal to me. And if I didn’t admit to that, then I’m fairly certain that my wife, Paula, would have my neck. At its foundation, Pressed Pennies is autobiographical. After both suffering failed marriages, Paula and I were blessed with a second chance at love. Just like Rick and Abby, we met at the party of a mutual friend. And from the moment we laid eyes on each other, the adventure had begun. Although Rick and Abby’s details are completely fictional, the feelings are the same. As a writer, my greatest goal is always to make my readers feel. By placing myself within the scene, I have a much better shot at successfully pulling that off.

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?

Being from frigid New England, he’d impale me with an icicle...watching as the evidence just melts away.

How do you get to know your characters?

Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I'm completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Abby...because she’s primarily my wife, Paula.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

The Dance by Garth Brooks.

I love that song! Who are your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Mitch Albom, and Lou Aronica.

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

Morgan Freeman.

Where’s home for you?



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

My wife’s Fettuccini Alfredo.

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

Hang outdoors with my kids.

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

Addicus Finch.

What would your dream office look like?

Some historical library.

With you living in Massachusetts, you should

 check out the Stockbridge Library, if you haven't already. The upstairs room in particular. Best. office. ever. What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney.

What’s your favorite candy bar?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

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

With my wife and kids...location wouldn’t much matter.

What are you working on now?

Although it took me nine months to pen Gooseberry Island, it’s been a novel in the making for better than twenty years. Again, I served in Operation Desert Storm and have both experienced and witnessed the terrible suffering that accompanies combat service. More times than not, the wounds that are invisible prove much more painful than those that can be seen.

On the heels of Pressed Pennies, we decided to create another love story. In Gooseberry Island, David and Lindsey fall deeply in love, but quickly face a monstrous obstacle—the after effects of war.

Gooseberry Island is a tribute to all who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who stayed behind and suffered every moment until their loved one’s return.

The novel’s excerpt depicts David during his first few days of returning home from combat in Afghanistan. He is suffering terribly from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and must decide whether to continue seeing Lindsey, the woman who helped him survive the twelve months of hell. My life is in complete chaos, but maybe if I tried talking to Lindsey? David thought, shaking his head. wouldn’t be fair.

About the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin' Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (released May 13, 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning, and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.

Connect with Steven:

Website | 

Facebook | 
Goodreads |
Amazon | 
Barnes & Noble 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Featured Author: Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano

Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano is here to talk about her young adult contemporary romance, The Donahues, published by Safkhet Publishing.

About the book:

On Emily's sixteenth birthday, she discovers a letter that tells of her long lost father, who not only wants her back but is also filthy rich! Tensions between her and her mother were never very good, and with this letter, they escalate to where Emily moves out for the summer to her new/old family - at their opulent summer home. Find out how Emily wrestles with her feelings, finds love and balances her two families in The Donahues. (Safkhet Publishing)

Interview with Ayelen Barrios Ruiz Pagano

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

I started to take writing seriously at the end of elementary school. I would write a very bad stories but from there I would write more and more. I would show it to my friends and had a different project at all times. I’m 21 now so it’s been at least ten years. How many of those years have included good writing is a different question.

What’s the story behind the title The Donahues?

The last name itself to me sounds like it is from a wealthy family, so it was easy to decide that their last name would be Donahue. As for making it the title, I think the title should represent the book itself. The plot in the book only begins after Tim’s letter to Emily is found. He is a Donahue, the name Donahue to Emily represents her true self for a long part of the novel, or the missing part of herself. The surname is also what drives her to go back home after spending the summer with them. It is a catalyst for many decisions and actions in the novel so I thought it suiting.

How did you create the plot for this book?

I think the plot creates itself once you’ve established all of your characters. Yes, I came up with the beginning part, the makeup, of the story: Emily was adopted, however her parents never gave her up. The rest came with the characters. The characters drive the story. The decisions they make are the drivers for the next series of events. Jason for example: Jason thinks she’s cute, but he values being popular. Therefore, he only actually goes for it with Emily when he realizes who she is and who she is related to. Ben’s love for his family and university future merge and give him incentive to accept Tim. Stephen keeps Emily’s secret because he would do anything for her. Their true selves influence their decisions which influence the plot.

How do you get to know your characters?

I need to know a little bit about my characters before I can ever write down a word.  I need to understand their motivations even if those motivations and intentions never get written down. I get to know them as people. Each character therefore (like people) have different taste in music and movies. You can learn a lot about a person by taking a look at their iTunes "most played." I like to say the dialogue out loud when I get the chance to; it helps me make sure it is true to the character, the way the character would speak instead of the way I would speak. Sometimes that creeps in, but it can’t be completely out of character.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I would have to say Debbie because like Emily, I find her to be very amusing. She’s a free soul, she’s a little bit of a wild child but a true friend. She’s the kind of friend you want to have. Because of her absolute free-child spirit it was fun to let her do what she does best--have fun and not apologize for it.

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

I think Debbie has it pretty good. She’s free spirited, confident, rich, and has a cute boyfriend. She has a lot going for her. So I’d choose her.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

My favorite scene from The Donahues would have to be the scene alongside the train tracks. I think there’s something romantic about a railroad station, and in this scene Emily completely breaks (SPOILER) Stephen’s heart, which I love because in a way it defies the norm. I like that she realizes what she’s doing, and that she gets called out for her actions. I like that Stephen finally has the courage to speak up, and they talk to each other as equals. It’s my favorite scene because the reader really gets to grasp how these two characters are in their own worlds. When they are together, there may be people around them but it doesn’t matter. That’s what it’s like to be a teenager, and that’s why I like that scene.

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

Ooh, let’s see. Since the story is told from Emily’s point of view I would choose a girl, as for who I would have to say...Emma Stone. She’s young, funny and has a great voice.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

I like it to be quiet around me when I’m writing, meaning no one there to disturb me. However, every once in a while, I like to blast some music to get the juices flowing. It doesn’t matter where I am, as long as I have head phones, music, and no one speaking to me. I like to talk out loud especially when writing dialogue, so being alone in those moments is a must, otherwise people think you’re crazy. Ha ha.

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

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Yes it’s a stereotypical answer, however I decided to study English in University because of my pure love for Jane Austen. My favorite of her books, the one I read when I’m sad, happy, or just feeling meh is P&P. Mr. Darcy always makes me feel better.

That's one of my favorites, too. You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

This is easy, Elizabeth Bennet, for one reason: Mr. Darcy. The pretty dresses wouldn’t hurt either, and since it’s only for one day the pros conquer the cons.

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

Read, Homework, Work, TV, Movies, Web series, or think about what I’m going to write about.

What are you working on now?

I just finishing launching my first web series (Ironically called Firsts it can be found on You Tube). So for right now I’m focusing on school and then off to continue writing.  I don’t know what that project will be but I hope it’ll be great.

About the author:

Ayelen is a proud fanatic of Disney, bad reality TV, and all things romance. She's always looking to find a new project to occupy her already busy time. Loving nothing less than a good story, you can find her reading, writing, or watching a movie based on a book somewhere in Canada.

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