Category Archives: Guest Interview

Guest Interview–Gemma Snow

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Hi! Thanks so much for having me on the blog today! I guess I can say I’ve always been a writer, since I’ve been telling stories my whole life. I come from a family of artists and the support I needed to turn a passion into a career always kept me on the track towards authorhood. I studied journalism in college, and that’s been an incredible asset to me as a fiction writer. I also lived in a castle for several months, which I consider equally as important.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

 So I’m actually an automotive journalist, which is a world away from romance in many ways, but similar too. Most of the things I love, love stories, classic cars, baking, art history, travel, share a certain theme, a celebration of the world and beauty and romance over the years, albeit in unique and different ways. I’m also very active, a die-hard yogi, a hiker and an amateur runner. #Ravenclaw #Feminist

Do you start a new story with plot or characters first?

 It’s actually funny, because it’s been so long that I’ve started from scratch, I really couldn’t tell you. I love writing series and worlds for my books. In the Triple Diamond series, I have whole other offshoots of characters that I know I could play with once the first four books are finished. Seduction en Pointe is a series, as are both of my WIP and coming releases for my other pen name. Because writing isn’t always a linear process, I tend to know the characters and overall action of books two, three and four while writing book one.

Is your writing planned or freestyle?

 I am one ball of yarn away from full-on, recently fired FBI agent with a cold case and a hunch. The bulletin board up right now is a six book series, including all the characters, excerpts, images and folders for books I haven’t even outlined yet. I have the rest of Triple Diamond planned out and already know how Full Swing is going to go. I think a lot of that is the world building that goes into a series, and a lot of that is just because I’d lose my mind if I didn’t.

Have you traveled to any of the locations that appear in your books?

 This is a great question! When I first started with Triple Diamond I’d never even flown over Montana, so the process for staging a whole full-length series there included a crash course in ranch life and Montana as a state, which was fun and challenging. Several of my books have been very heavily influenced by location, though. Seduction en Pointe is Paris, which I visited a few years ago and currently long for, haha. I’d say the biggest one is a book set in Amsterdam, heavily centered around the Rijksmuseum. I studied art history in Amsterdam and I couldn’t have had more fun writing those scenes.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

 I’m a Pinterest nut. Honestly, it’s a ton of fun to look for character inspiration, so I have a bunch of secret boards of really attractive people. But the Triple Diamond series, for instance is full of images of ranches and mountain ranges. Since it’s a seasonal series, The Lovin’ is Easy is summer and my current WIP is fall, I get to go exploring for the feel and look of each new season. It’s such a fundamental part of my planning process that my boyfriend just rolls his eyes when he sees my screen filled with half-naked cowboys or pirates.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

 Names are tricky for me. Like titles, they’re either set in stone from the very beginning or close to the last thing I figure out. The historical books are definitely harder—they named all their boys after kings and all their girls after kings, but with an a at the end. For modern books though, it’s more about how the hero and heroines names sound together, or if they’re a team, how they’ll sound in a group. I also think about nicknames and how they might refer to each other, as well as name origin, so sites like BehindtheName.com have been incredible. I’d say one of my biggest challenges is in my current book, because Micah’s Native American, and I wanted to follow the specific naming customs for his heritage, but they weren’t easy to find. Suffice to say I’ve learned a lot.

Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?

I love animals. Right now, we have a big white and brown mutt named Houdini. We got him around Passover when he was still a baby, and my folks were dead set on naming him Moses. The great joke I’ll ever make in my life was that we named him after another famous Jew who escaped… And then there’s Vinnie, who we named for Vincent Van Gogh, because he’s white and ginger and had a small part of his ear missing. He’s the most loving cat I’ve ever met, except he’s now figured out that I’m watching the screen on my computer and not the keyboard, so he’ll just stand in front of it until I pay attention to him.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

 I mean, I love the idea of a reader using one of my books for escape, during all the madness of our current world. Romance has been an escape for me during many challenges in life, and it would be a real honor if I could help even one reader through their own or the world’s obstacles. I’m also pushing for inclusivity of all types in my books, regarding race, sexuality, age, relationship type, physical and mental capabilities and more. It’s really fundamental to my ideology that feminism isn’t feminism unless it’s intersectional, and I hope my writing reflects that.

 

New Release! (3)BLURB

When successful TV star of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Nicco Castillo, finds his boyfriend in bed with another man, he goes full-on Hollywood trainwreck that lands him in ER. Next thing he knows, the producers are shipping him off to Paris to shape up and learn to dance for the next season’s story arc. But his incredibly tempting Parisian ballet instructor, Isabelle La Croix, makes that all too difficult, especially when he learns about her decadent desires–desires Nicco is all too pleased to indulge in. Against the ballet barre, the balcon railing, and wherever and for however long Isabelle is willing to have him.

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EXCERPT

“What is it you’re reading?” he asked, thickening his Spanish accent. As long as he’d been chasing lovers, the Spanish charm had always worked wonders. Hell, it did wonders for getting him starring roles too.

“Who wants to know?” Her accent was light, as though she’d learned English alongside her French, studied in Sweden or London or New York City. But for all of the softness that came spilling out of those pale-rose lips, there was a steel core that told Nicco she wasn’t having any of his charm. Her words came out strong, self-possessed, and confident, and they made him curious about the woman below the slight frame. Despite appearing so soft, she held her head at a tilt that signified power, kept her neck straight, her shoulders arched. Everything about her stance told Nicco exactly how she felt at his intrusion into her space. Normally, he took his cues and left the obviously uninterested alone, but this woman was enchanting and mysterious, and Nicco found he couldn’t quite look away from her, even as he knew that he tempted the serpent, perhaps because he did.

“Niccolo.” He extended his hand. “Here for a meeting with Monsieur La Montagne.” According to the terms Parker had laid out, Nicco would be working alongside La Montagne’s office on a PR tour of Paris while he took his dance classes, giving a few interviews here and there, a signing or two, onward and upward.

The woman beside him, however, appeared abjectly unimpressed. He liked that, liked that she didn’t buy into his bullshit the way everyone else did, the way he’d been doing for so long.

“That is a remarkable coincidence,” she replied, her eyes taking on a sardonic glint he knew came at his expense, “given that you are in his office, after all.” Feisty, this one. She obviously enjoyed goading him, and Nicco felt a wash of something dangerous at the thought that men probably attempted to charm her quite often. For some reason, his visceral reaction to this strange, nymph-like woman grew stronger each time she stabbed him with her barbed tongue. That was inconvenient, to be certain, but it didn’t stop him from wanting more.

But there was something about his—well, he wouldn’t necessarily call it just an attraction—to this woman that went deeper than lust. Nicco had had lovers, more than his fair share of them since everything with Antonio had gone so royally tits up, and he’d never lacked for a partner if he wanted one. No, whatever had him suddenly desperate to learn more about this mysterious woman went deeper than that, to some fundamental part of himself that might even long for redemption.

“I’d heard about the French,” he said. He should just turn around and leave her to her magazine, but he just couldn’t seem to do so. “Seems the rumors about witches and the smell of cheese aren’t so terribly off.”

She raised an eyebrow, and he took some satisfaction in the small quirk at the corner of her mouth that told of a repressed smile. He’d bet a week’s pay that her smile would light up the city, and he promised himself that at some point, he would be the cause of it. He didn’t know how or why, just that it would happen one way or the other.

“American, is it?” she asked, ignoring his slight.

“Mostly,” he replied. “Spanish sometimes. Occasionally English.”

From her confused expression, Nicco wondered if he had been spending too much time in California. Normally, folks didn’t question his various origins. Of course, the French were reputedly distrusting of anyone who wasn’t French. Still, he had to admit that there was something simple and altogether enjoyable about flirting with a woman who didn’t want to sleep with him just because he was a celebrity or because she angled to get her face in the papers. It felt good to just be himself for what seemed like the first time in a very long time.

“Of course,” she replied, breaking his train of thought. “All that ego can’t be exclusively American, can it?”

Nicco almost laughed out loud.

“You already know me so well,” he said. “Would you care to know me better? Dinner, perhaps?” It was bold, and the moment the words were out of his mouth, Nicco knew it had been too audacious. Something flitted across her eyes, and he could almost see her folding into herself. No, he didn’t like that, didn’t enjoy seeing this confident person turn into something else so quickly. He might be an ass about recognizing the signs in his own life, but someone or something had clearly hurt her—recently, if the ache across those beautiful pale-blue eyes was anything to go by.

“No smart remark,” he commented, hoping to bring back some of the devil he’d seen in her expression. “I’m surprised.”

She squared her jaw, and Nicco found himself happy to see even a little of the fight fill her eyes, even if it was at his expense. And, as he had anticipated, she turned a cold tongue in his direction, murmuring low under her breath.

“You don’t know the first thing about me, so I’ll ask you kindly to take a walk.” Fury, for all it was leashed and low in her whisper. And it made him ache, made him feel some of the hurt in his own chest, because the first week after he’d discovered Tony with his lover, Nicco had lashed out at everyone and everything, taking the whole wide world down to his level of hurt and sadness.

He didn’t doubt that he was nothing more than the proxy for her fury, and it made him feel bad, made him ache for her and for himself a little too.

“Miss La Croix?”

Before she could say anything that might cut him to the quick—would most definitely cut him to the quick—the woman beside him nodded in answer to the receptionist and stood without another word. If he had thought the slope of her neck enticing, he wasn’t prepared for the way her long, powerful legs, visible below her light-blue dress, mesmerized him. She didn’t so much walk down the hall as glide, her body so completely under her command that it made him wonder about putting his body in her hands too. She didn’t give him a second look as she slipped away, and that made Nicco’s heart ache in a way he didn’t want to analyze.

Her magazine still sat on the corner of the table, one of the pages bookmarked with a thick, folded corner, as if she planned on going back to it. Thinking quickly, he pulled out a pen and scribbled a note down on the back cover.

If you ever need a stranger for a friend, give me a call. There are some things we don’t heal from so easily.

Below that, he jotted his e-mail address and then took a short jog down the hallway to catch up with her. The simple note, just like the few extra moments he had spent with his fans outside, felt like color returning to the black-and-white version of himself. He still couldn’t see the full picture, not yet, but just being out of LA helped him focus.

She looked surprised and not all that happy when he drew level with her.

“You left this,” he said, handing her the magazine but not letting go.

She pursed her lips. “And what do you want in exchange for it?” Her tone sounded almost resigned. Bored, almost. He knew better, though. Her expression had a fire—blue and burning—and he rather enjoyed inspiring a reaction in her, whatever it was.

“What’s your name?” he asked her, suddenly desperate to know. By the smallest amount, her expression softened, and Nicco had to wonder what she had expected him to ask. He’d never push a person to do anything they didn’t want to do. He had retained some standards over the last few months of going full-on Hollywood.

“The catch?” she asked, her lips still pointedly pursed in his direction. And what lips they were.

Nicco shook his head. “No catch. I just want to know your name.” He really, really did. She sighed and nodded, sending the white-blonde ponytail swishing across her shoulder. Then she squared her jaw and lifted her chin.

“Isabelle La Croix.” She offered nothing else.

“Isabelle,” he repeated, because he couldn’t seem to stop himself from doing so. “A pleasure.” He handed her the magazine with his note facing down and watched as she gave a sharp nod and continued down the hallway, watched her far after there was nothing left to watch. What about this woman set his body to flame and his mind to far more carnal images than would ever be appropriate for a chance encounter in a producer’s waiting room and so, so much more?

Something hidden that came in bursts of emotion across her pale-blue eyes, something that came in the cut of her shoulders and the grace of her walk.

Miss La Croix. It fit her. She was so utterly French, petite, graceful, sharp around the edges and beautiful beyond the pale. Nicco trod in dangerous waters. He had only just left California behind, and already he panted after a woman he would never see again, unless her facade cracked and she actually decided to contact him. He could hope, kind of had to hope, because there was something about her that was so unlike anyone he had ever met. She had a self-possession, a self-awareness that almost made him envious, would have, if it hadn’t impressed him so.

The whole thing made him…a little relieved. He’d had lovers since Antonio, of course, men and women to waste the lonely nights with, to party with and get drunk with. But to actually find himself feeling a deep, intense connection—and with a person he had only just met—it gave him hope that he might not be on his own forever. Maybe Tony’s infidelities hadn’t completely destroyed who Nicco had been before, after all.

Ruby Small

Gemma Snow is the author of several works of erotic and romantic fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres, and enjoys pushing the limits of freedom, feminism, and fun in her stories.  She has been an avid writer for many years, and recently moved back to her home state of New Jersey from Boston, after completing her education in journalism and creative writing.
In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent a semester abroad living in a 14th century castle in the Netherlands. When not exploring the world, she likes dreaming up stories, eating spicy food, driving fast cars, and talking to strangers.

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Enter Gemma's Raffle

Seduction en Pointe Raffle! 

As a thank you to everyone who checked out Seduction en Pointe, I’m raffling off a stack of fantastic romance novels, bookmarks and other fun treats – and it’s super easy to enter!

All you have to do is send confirmation of purchase for Seduction en Pointe to GemmaSnowRomance@gmail.com with the subject line Raffle Entry, before 11:59 p.m EST on August 31st! It’s that simple!

More info: https://gemmasnow.com/raffle-entry/

 

Guest Interview–Min Edwards

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a retired archaeologist, archaeological illustrator and former owner of an independent bookstore, A Thirsty Mind Words & Wines (books and wines, what’s not to love!). I’ve lived in some rather eclectic places in my life; the high plains of Texas, the Philippines during the Marcos regime (I had more shoes than Emelda Marcos), London during the Northern Ireland unrest, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba before the prison was established there, Downeast Maine, Austin Texas and now back to a small farm on the shore of Cobscook Bay, Maine with my own private beach which since I began writing I haven’t visited much.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Reading, reading, reading. However, I’d like to say cooking but although I do it every day I’m awful at it. The kitchen was my mother’s domain when I was a kid. In fact, she wouldn’t even let me in there to do dishes (we had a dishwasher, but she didn’t trust it). I loved her for this. But a few months before I married I tried to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my fiancé. I should have started my writing career then because that Thanksgiving was a date to remember, a true tragedy. I didn’t know the turkey had to be thawed so I got out a hammer and big flat-head screwdriver and tried to hack out the giblets (thank goodness I knew there were giblets inside wrapped in waxed paper!). All day I wrestled with that bird until about 6 pm, then threw the bird into the kitchen sink and left him there until 10 pm and threw it in the over regardless of its defrostedness. When we sat down to eat at 3 in the morning, I have to say the turkey was tasty… not like my mom’s but my fiancé liked it. But then he’d eat roadkill if he was hungry enough. Faint praise for sure.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I’m a dialogue person, so usually I start jotting down dialogue, then I figure out what type of person is saying these sentences, then somehow the story fleshes out from there. Of course, I find myself spending way more time doing drafts than in writing the initial story. My debut novel wasn’t finished until the 17th draft. However, now I can have a finished manuscript to my editor after 3 drafts normally.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Freestyle, for sure. I can’t even plan a meal much less a novel!

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

I’m still working on my writing process, but with my recent work in progress, I found myself researching as the story unfolded… not the optimum step for sure. Now that I’m in the 2nd draft stage of that historical novel, I’m scrabbling for trivia to enrich my scenes. And unfortunately, I sometimes get lost in the research… bookmarking way too many sites on-line which have no bearing on the current scene or even the current book!

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes, so far all my books carry memories of places I’ve been. In PRECIOUS STONE I’ve gone rather far afield though. Of course, I live in the village where the story begins, but after that my journey is merely wishful thinking. I’ve only dreamed of visiting the land of the painted caves in France and Scotland as well is just at the moment a number in my bucket list. However, in one scene in my novel STONE FALL, book 3 in the High Tide Suspense series, I describe a large snake, a constrictor. That snake didn’t come out of my imagination or from watching Animal Planet. Oh no, that snake, a reticulated python, showed up in my drainage ditch during rainy season when I lived in the Philippines, all 18 feet of him. He’d washed down from Mount Pinatubo… yes the one that exploded and covered Clark Airbase in central Luzon, in feet of ash… the mountain (which we didn’t know was an active volcano) stood at the end of my street. But I digress, a neighbor or someone must have seen this snake slither into the ditch because I was made aware of his presence only when a big base maintenance truck parked and many men jumped out and wrangled the huge thing into the back of the truck and took him away… probably to the base ‘jungle survival school’ where animals such as this were kept and we heard that men trained for jungle warfare there (this was during the Vietnam war). Of course, we didn’t know for sure. It was the military after all. Loose lips, you know.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I get up, put on the coffee, and eat a light breakfast while reading. I can’t start or end my day without a story. Most days I get interested in the story and when I look up it’s almost lunch. I eat again, do some chores, then by about 2 pm I’m ready to write… and do other things related to publishing, like marketing (Yuck). I try to write 1000 words every afternoon, sometimes it’s more, sometimes less, but I write every day. I know lots of writers do their work in the mornings, but I’m not my best then. It has to do with being a night owl. Most nights I don’t go to bed before 1 or 2 am. This aggravates my old dog to no end. He has a schedule and expects his human to adhere to it. Buy hey, I’m paying for his kibble and dog treats so I can do what I want without his input.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Yes, PRECIOUS STONE is a romantic suspense but I also write straight contemporary romance, historical women’s fiction and am co-writing a new archaeological thriller series with a long-time friend and retired archaeologist.

In what genre do you read?

Romance, Romantic Suspense, Action/Adventure/Thriller and hard Science Fiction… not much fantasy.

Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?

Yes, since the age of 2. My current love is a 90 pound 11-year-old rescued black German Shepherd… neurotic and so funny. He’s actually too big for my current house. When he decides to leave the comfort of his huge leather club chair and stretch out on the floor, he fills up the space between my fireplace and the opposite wall. I’m not kidding! And in the past, he’s been a detriment to my health. Two broken shoulders (mine not his) when he was in his middle years and still pretty peppy. Thank goodness, he’s slowed down because I’m not getting any younger and broken bones shouldn’t be in my future!

Thanks so much for having me today, Linda. I found romance writing rather late in my professional career, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I hope your readers enjoy a peek into my process and my life.

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BLURB

PRECIOUS STONE: Book 4 in the High Tide Suspense series by Min Edwards

A gift of thanks to a young girl from the Tsar more than 100 years ago… and now the Russians want it back. 

Collee McCullough, the owner of The Bakery in Stone Bay, Maine, has a perfect life until early one morning men in suits come calling. She has something someone dangerous wants. Something that her Russian great-grandmother Natasha took when she fled Russia in 1913. Too bad great-gran never told her son or anyone else what she had or where she left it.

Jake Elsmore, visiting Stone Bay to sell his mother’s house, walks into The Bakery for a cup of Earl Grey tea, but gets more. There she is. Collee McCullough, stepping out from behind the Chief of Police, a lovely, fiery-haired fairy toting a shotgun while two men lay insensate on the floor of her shop. Looks like that tea will have to wait.

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EXCERPT

Collee McCullough stood at one of her wall ovens in The Bakery. She knew she needed to begin coordinating her day, it was after all 5 a.m. But this morning wasn’t working for her. She was fuzzy, confused, thinking of anything but baking. That was so unlike her, but she’d had that dream again last night… the one about running through snow, someone chasing her, knowing she was going to die. Since childhood that dream of fleeing in the snow haunted her nights, not every night, and after her teens not often. But when it came, it messed her up like nothing else. She’d never figured out where the damned dream came from. When she remembered details, which wasn’t often, the images in the dream weren’t familiar. The forest wasn’t the woods around Stone Bay, the snow was even different. She’d never figured it out.

Why couldn’t she dream of standing before an audience naked? That dream was supposed to be the worst, but that one never crept into her sleep… just snow-running.

Behind her the bell over her door jingled out its merry tune. Someone needed their coffee, or a sweet roll, or bacon. She needed to yank up her big-girl panties and get to work.

“The Bakery isn’t open yet, but what the heck. Come on in and find a table. I’ll be right out,” she yelled still trying to concentrate on the muffins coming out of her oven. Not the most professional thing to do, the yelling, but her customers and friends in tiny Stone Bay, Maine, thought it normal for her to bellow at them.

There was no sound from the dining room though, not even the scrape of a chair across her newly mopped floor. Some people don’t take direction well, she thought.

Collee shook herself, trying to knock last night’s dream out of her head. She didn’t need this distraction today. It was Friday, her busiest day of the week. She opened early but not at 5 a.m. as her customers seemed to think.

Walking out of the kitchen and up to her service counter, she was startled to see two men standing just inside her door. That was odd. Why were they merely standing there? What did they want? They certainly didn’t look like locals. Nope, no overalls, no foul weather jackets, no rubber boots, no gimmee caps on their heads. These men were city men, tailored suits, shiny shoes which of course wouldn’t stay shiny for long now that mud-season was in full swing. Mud-season, now that was an apt word for a Maine spring.

Being a safety-conscious person, Collee reached down under the counter and put her hand on the stock of the shotgun her brother Nick, the police chief, insisted she keep there. He said just the sound of cocking the damned thing normally scared the bejeesus out of people… unless they were high on something. But here on the coast of Maine, the edge of America, she didn’t see too many druggies. She knew some kids smoked pot… jeez, she’d done that herself in her younger years. But without a pharmacy in town, there weren’t any places to steal the bad stuff. And the clinic was down the road, five miles at least from her shop. There wasn’t much there to steal either.

While the men stood silently, staring at her with what she interpreted as mean, cold eyes, Collee slowly gripped the stock tighter and pulled the shotgun above the level of the counter, cocked it, then pointed it at the intruders, thinking to herself, Damn, I should have loaded it.

“What do you want? As I said, I’m not open yet.”

The man in front gave her a brief and not at all friendly smile, then began slowly walking toward her across the old oak-planked floor, leaving the other man behind guarding the door. Guarding? Why did she think that?

“Stop right there. My brother is the police chief. He comes in about this time every morning to pick up his coffee. He’ll kick your ass then throw your skanky butt in jail.” This was a load of hogwash because Stone Bay didn’t have an actual jail. Her brother, Nick, processed prisoners quickly and transported them to the sheriff’s department in the county seat. The only cell was his back spare office, which he kept bare of any furniture except a chair and a card table. He called it his conference room. The Stone Bay Police department was relatively new, and Nick had only been the chief for a little more than eighteen months. However, a jail extension on the police/fire department building on the hill was planned to begin in a month. She didn’t think this situation could wait a month though.

“Colleen Onegin?” The bigger of the two men asked with a small crooked grin, almost sinister-looking.

“No, Collee McCullough. You must have the wrong woman.”

“I don’t think so, my dear,” the man growled low in his throat as he came closer.

She kept her eyes glued to him but noticed in her peripheral vision her brother stepping up onto the sidewalk just outside the door. He noticed the interlopers because he gave her a wink, the rat, and nodded his head slightly. Then she watched him slowly reach for the handle on her front door.

In the next moment, that front door slammed open shattering the glass, hitting the second man who’d remained at the entrance in the back and throwing him across the room. Chief Nick McCullough stormed through the destroyed door, gun drawn, a menacing look on his face. “Get back to the kitchen, Collee. I’ll take care of this.”

She didn’t have to hear another word. Her brother was beyond tough, serving four tours in the military police in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan. He could take care of her and anyone else in his sphere with his hands tied behind his back, and by the story she heard from him one night while he was, as they say, in his cups, he’d once done just that.

BIO

Min Edwards is the pen name of retired Archaeologist and owner of A Thirsty Mind Publishing and Design, Pam Headrick. She toyed her whole life with writing but it wasn’t until she moved to her small seaside farm on the far eastern coast of Maine that she began her career in earnest. She’s published five novels with her sixth being released in just a few weeks, THE RUSSIAN PHOENIX, a women’s fiction historical novel and prequel to PRECIOUS STONE.

Drop in on her alter-ego, Pam at the business website at www.athirstymind.com where you can learn all about the book design business, and visit with Min at www.MinEdwards.com where you can learn about her writing life.

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Author Interview of Andrea R. Cooper

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a wife and mom to three kids. Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom and full-time author. I grew up creating stories and characters and haven’t stopped yet.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

Romancing Adventure

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Reading, Zumba, Martial Arts. Used to be a gamer, but hard to fit in nowadays.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Freestyle. I have an idea and characters and basic destination in mind, but I don’t plot or outline.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Imagine Dragons, Godsmack, anything with a beat

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

I brainstorm while cleaning. Since I’d rather write than scrub floors, my creative mind usually gives me ideas pretty quickly.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

My biggest surprise was when I discovered no writer has a perfect story. That editors and revision must take place for every book.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Yes. I also write fantasy romance, urban fantasy, and historical romance.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Scotland. I’d love to walk through the old and new castles there.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

Yes, I love Pinterest. All my books have boards there with characters, outfits, scenery, etc.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

Entertainment and a good story.

 

Fallen

BLURB

She has seduced men everywhere…but never fallen in love. Until now.

Succubus Adeline lost her powers. The crystal that all her kind crave has attached itself to her and rendered her powerless. Unless she finds a way to remove it, she’ll transform into a human–a fate worse than death.

Soon the tables are turned on the succubus, and the succubus finds herself the one at the mercy of desire.

Jack is running from vamps and weres. They want his hidden doppelgänger talents to locate a stone that enables weres to transform at will, but he just wants to be left alone. Now he has a bounty hunter after him.

In a race against time, vampires, and weres, Adeline and Jack travel from Boston to Greece to New Orleans to stay ahead of the hunters.

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EXCERPT

She scrolled through her cell as the taxi turned at a light, and Greek swear words were exchanged between their driver and an electric scooter rider. Jack’s eyes closed, and his head rested on the back of the seat, his cheeks pale.

What would she do if the order came from the master vampire who was after him? Jack tied himself to Beth in order to save Adeline. How can I repay him? The crystal latched onto her wrist caught the light. Right, if I don’t get this thing removed soon, all of my kin nearing 5,000 years will put a bounty on me. Visiting the Oracle, on behalf of a witchdoctor, would give her the chance to get information about removing the quartz without dying.

Her gaze glided over the Oracle voodoo doll. No, she’d probably be lucky if the Oracle didn’t strangle them when she met them.

Adeline dug out a mint and shivered when she pushed aside the cuffs in her purse. Snippets of hot memory of Jack on her made her debate sending the cab driver away for a few hours and straddling Jack. She offered him a mint and took one for herself. His hand brushed hers as the taxi took a sharp turn, its tires squealing.

Focus. It’s only his borrowed powers that make you feel this way. My powers. She checked her texts. Most were from men around the world asking when she’d come see them. Delete, delete, delete. Two messages from Renee, one from Damon, and one from her employer. She cringed.

Status update pronto. Never taken you this long to tag and bag a guy.

Yeah, well she’d never been without her abilities before. Working on it. She texted a reply.

Both of Renee’s notes were short, and the last one cryptic. You okay? Any update? And Call us when you can. We have something to discuss with you.

Damon’s text was blunt: Gotten the rock off yet? Or are you being chased?

Meaning by incubi and succubus who craved the crystal to amplify their gift and avoid becoming demons, or ones who already twisted and sought more wars and violence in the world of mankind. Of course, she’d tried everything to get it off. Even offered it to Damon and her succubus cousin, Samara, but the bracelet wouldn’t let go.

5-star Review snippet:

“This is a fantastic paranormal read and i just loved Jack and Adeline they were great characters.”

Andrea Cooper-June 21

Andrea has always created characters and stories. She writes paranormal and historical romance. When not writing or reading, one may find Andrea dancing in Zumba.

She believes in the power of change and counting each moment as a blessing. But most importantly, she believes in love.

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Guest Interview with Sheryl Winters

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Research is a tricky subject. I can get lost for hours so I now use a simple technique to keep the story flowing. In my first draft, I type the word RESEARCH in big bold letters when I need a solid fact. An example of this is in Harper’s Place. Since the story is set in New York City, the snow fall accumulation had to be right. I wrote the story, added a realistic amount of snow for a snow storm and upped the believability Harper and Patrick’s romance.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Writer’s block involves smacking my head against the table, repeatedly until the blood vessels in my head have opened up. I’m just kidding. When writer’s block hits, I will find myself reading the story over again from the beginning, letting myself feel all the emotions the characters feel. Usually, this is enough to clear up any writer’s block and let me proceed.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

Editing and revision can be fun. I like to restructure the story after I’ve made a rather terrible first draft. Each editing pass brings the story I’m working on closer to the original vision I intended. So I think I am most surprised at how much I enjoy editing something I’ve created.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

Baby name sites are wonderful for character naming, and I’ve more than one bookmarked. I can get stuck for hours finding the perfect name, so Baby Name sites become invaluable.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope my readers enjoy the stories I write for them. I want them to forget about reality as they roam through the worlds I’ve created.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I’d love to say I can devote an entire day to writing. I try to maximize the time I have. If I only have an hour or so, I’ll do light editing. I find that real creativity takes time and quiet and the ability to let myself be bored so that my imagination can explode.

Harpers Place

BLURB:

Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men.

Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.

Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.

When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?

BUY LINKS

Roane Publishing

Amazon  

Amazon (UK)  

Barnes and Noble  

Kobo Books  

Smashwords  

Bookstrand

EXCERPT

“How would you bring in new business, though?”

I’m amazed that he seems to find our conversation interesting. He’s an audience willing to listen and I’ve not had that in a long time. Damn this crush of mine. It won’t be easy to tame after tonight.

“New menu items, specials, things like that. Start serving dessert, like pies. Easy cook items. With the new burgers, I’ve created and a new décor, I’d open in the summer when the air is fresh and everyone is happy to be out of the snow, hungry for grilled food. I think we could do fine.”

“What’s your hold up?”

“Tony, Dad. It’s complicated.” I shrug. His arm feels good, and I have the overwhelming urge to nuzzle against it. “Did you kiss Amy Parker when you were twelve? She still brags about it.” Did I just ask him about kissing? What is wrong with me? Will this mouth of mine never shut up? Stop it, Stop it, stop it!

“That I did, in a closet over at Robert Anderson’s house.”

“Ew.”

“I was twelve and desperate. You can’t blame me. I do blame that stupid soda bottle.  And your first kiss?” There is a challenge in his voice.

“Kevin Monroe at the Klines Movie Theater. He sent me a six-page note the next day about how much he loved me, and I freaked out and dumped him.”

“Any regrets?”

I choke back a giggle. “Naw, ‘cept I remember I liked his cologne. It could have been aftershave, but it was nice.” It’s not half as nice as the Aramis that Patrick has on. Something about it sends a shiver up my spine that has nothing to do with the zombie waiting in Dad’s office.

“The dark isn’t so bad, now is it?”

“I guess not.”

Silence surrounds us. The fear that enveloped me seems to disappear.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

“No.” It sounds terrible now that I’ve said it out loud. Like I’m admitting to being a desperate and dateless leper.

“So,” he drawls out, “ever thought of dating a military guy?” He squeezes my fingers.

Is he serious?

His fingertip smooths over the rough callouses I’ve gained from years of hard work. Suddenly my wasted evening of not going out to celebrate is starting to look better. “I think it would depend on which military guy.”

“You’re killing me. You know that, don’t you?” His strangled tone only sets off a case of the giggles.

“Are you asking me out, Patrick?”

“Trying to, but you’re not making it easy.” The challenge is back in his voice.

“I wouldn’t mind a date or two,” I manage to squeak out. Breathe, Harper, just breathe, calmly through your nose, out your mouth. Sainted Mother of God, Patrick asked me out! I hit the jackpot! Now all I have to do is not hit him.

BIO

In a small town outside of Anchorage, Sheryl Winters can be found penning her next novel with her two cats and one dog at her side. On sunny days, she can be found in Hatcher’s Pass about an hour outside of Anchorage.

Sheryl is a firm believer that superheroes are among us—regular people whose actions “create beauty out of chaos.” Sheryl is an advocate in the fight against bullying.

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Guest Interview—Jana Begovic

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (ex Yugoslavia) where I spent most of my adult life. I also acquired most of my higher education there (B.A. and M.A. degrees in languages and literature). With my husband and son, I immigrated to Canada in 1991, half a year before the country was engulfed in a civil war. After graduating from the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Canada, I started working for the Department of National Defence and began my career path as a foreign language curriculum and testing specialist. With a full-time job that involves a lot of international travel, too, I currently write only as a hobby.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Gourmet cooking and entertaining friends and family, reading, running and other fitness activities, travel, walks in nature.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I think of the characters first and have a rough contour of the plot in my mind. I allow the story to evolve organically without much planning.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

I’ve traveled to most of the locations I mention. For example, in Poisonous Whispers, parts of the plot unfold in Vienna, Rome, Barcelona and Glasgow. Glasgow is one of the cities I have not visited yet. England and Ireland are also mentioned in this book, and I was fortunate to visit England several times. I dream of travelling to Ireland because I feel a strong attraction to that country. My bucket list is much too long for one lifetime.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

When I get stuck, I simply stop writing and let the story ferment further in my subconscious mind. I also believe in synchronicities, that is meaningful coincidences that come into your life when you need them. And invariably, whenever I’d hit a reef in my storytelling, I would hear a story from a friend or an acquaintance during my travels that would inspire me to continue writing. When it comes to Poisonous Whispers, I simply trusted the process because I believed this book was destined to be born. I will never forget sitting in an airport in Europe and having the “Aha” moment, and knowing without a speck of doubt where the story needed to go in order for the plot line to come full circle.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

I was shocked to see my characters assume a life of their own. They became alive and started to control the storyline. I was especially surprised that the heroine would reveal a certain secret to her husband almost ruining her marriage. That was so unnecessary and cruel!!! When it comes to editing itself, the realization that it is an almost never-ending process, that it is almost impossible to catch every single error discouraged and frustrated me many times. And I’m not even a perfectionist in my everyday life!

What’s your dream vacation destination?

A hot climate with white pebbled beaches surrounded by pine trees, buzzing with cicada song and infused with the scent of brine and Mediterranean grasses. I believe I’m describing the Adriatic coast where I used to vacation, and which I will always miss.

In what genre do you read?

I read both fiction and non-fiction, commercial and literary prose, but literary fiction is my preferred genre. I enjoy the depth of literary thought, and I crave books that make me stop after every couple of pages and contemplate life.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope that readers derive pleasure from reading my debut novel; I hope they read it slowly, visualizing the pictures of both the physical and emotional landscapes I painted; I hope they lose track of time once they step into the multi-layered worlds I created; I hope the heroine’s pain-laced journey touches them, and also shows them that pain and loss, and poor judgment can deepen, strengthen, humble and redeem us.  And I hope they like and relate to my characters in spite of their flaws and moral fallibility.

Poisonous Whispers-1207

BLURB

“Don’t you ever forget about me…,” he whispers during their secret encounters. Like a curse, these simple words now haunt Leandra, a reputable psychiatrist, who finds herself in emotional chaos after the sudden breakup of her illicit affair. Unable to heal on her own and tormented by dreams in which supernatural forces create havoc with her fate, she desperately turns to David, a colleague psychiatrist, asking him to take her through past-life regression therapy. She hopes that this unorthodox and somewhat suspect technique will explain her profound connection to the lover who has abandoned her so abruptly.

The sessions take Leandra through 17th and 19th century Ireland, Italy and England, where love, loss and betrayal are the leitmotifs in an ambiance of co-mingled fantasy and reality. In her hypnotic state, Leandra recounts a saga of intoxicating love, dizzying passion, flaming lust and profound heartbreak. Despite the painful answers she finds under hypnosis, Leandra still cannot let go of the hope to reunite with her lover. Ultimately, the shattering revelations from her past-life incarnations, along with the turmoil over her ruined marriage, become the stepping stones of her introspective path to healing, self-discovery and an appreciation of true love.

BUY LINKS

Roane Publishing

Amazon

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

EXCERPT

A tiny streak of pale light is cascading softly down the cell window and making a shy sliver in the veil of darkness. I open my eyes, disoriented. I do not move; I do not even dare blink until I get my bearings. Then I remember and freeze in horror. I sit up, an aching all over my body and cold dread in my heart. Instinctively, I try to disentangle my matted hair with my fingers, but it is hopeless. All around me, I smell mold, decay and death. How can I survive another day in this hole? The sound of the door opening with a screech makes me jump in terror.

The gaoler walks in; a heavy set of keys dangling and jingling in his hand.

“Come. You are being moved in preparation for tonight’s execution. A verdict was reached.”

I speak not but follow him. We climb a steep staircase. Below us, I hear moans and yells and what sounds like the death throes of those hopelessly lost to the world and forgotten by justice, compassion and mercy. Again, I am feeling dissociated from the event of my calamity; I see my body walking, but my soul is not in it and indifference over what might happen floods me. Death is not the end. Death offers me salvation from pain, from the torment of living a human life.

We leave the jailhouse and enter the house across the street to the village inn. The inn owner, James Bourke, looks at me with hatred and disdain. He also always hated my husband because his wife had hoped my husband would marry her. She was in love with him, and when he married me she tried to kill herself. James married her later, but has always known that she never stopped loving my husband.

The gaoler takes me upstairs to one of the guest rooms and locks the door behind me. The room is wide and clean even though sparsely furnished. The bed is large and looks inviting and I realize how exhausted I am. On the bed is a white, thin chemise and I immediately understand thisis what I will wear tonight when I am pushed off the bridge into the water that is cool even on the hottest of summer days. Will I have the strength or the will to swim and save myself? What surprises and almost delights me under such grave circumstances is a bathtub in the corner of the room. There is steam rising from it and I immediately undress and slip into it, relieved to be able to wash off the dirt, the grime, and above all the horrible stench on my body. I rub myself raw trying to clean my skin. Washing my hair is more difficult because at home I have servants who help me with bathing, dressing and undressing. I have been spoilt by marrying a man of wealth and power. Where is my husband now? I crave his protection. If he saved me now, would I give up Kieran, would I give up love in order to live? I surmise I would.

After I have washed, I come out of the tub feeling more exhausted than ever. At the same time, I realize I have not eaten for over a day and devour the plate of bread, cheese and apples ravenously. As I am eating, I can feel tears stream down my face; they are tears of silent despair and hopelessness. My chest is heaving with pain and I have difficulty swallowing the last few bites. I throw myself on the bed thinking my weeping and sobbing will continue forever, but I fall asleep. One would think that my dreams would be filled with the terror of the situation, but instead I dream of Kieran. In my dream I accuse him of being a weakling, of not fighting for our love. He just looks at me sadly and his eyes are filled with tears of powerlessness. He is also saying something in his defense, but I do not understand his words. I wake up feeling a sharp pain stabbing my chest and I gasp for breath. I feel like I am suffocating. I take a sip of water from the pitcher on the floor and the pain subsides. Outside, the moon is peering out from behind a cloud and I realize I’ve slept through the whole day. It is time to get ready for a new chance at life or for death.

I use the chamber pot and wash myself again with the bath water that is no longer clean. I tie my hair into a braid and pin it up. If I had scissors, I would gladly cut it off so it does not weigh me down once the cool river takes me in its wet embrace.

I sit on the bed waiting for my fate to open the next chapter of my life. I do not understand why I am suddenly so peaceful, and I cannot be certain if it is tranquility or resignation that has filled my heart.

I have no reaction when I hear the key turn in the lock and see the homely face of the gaoler appear in the doorframe. He is carrying a large red candle and in its light his toothless smile appears eerie and foreboding.

“Are you ready, my lovely, to face the savior? I must say ‘tis a shame to see such a nice body go to waste and be eaten by the fishes and snakes, but you are not the first or the last wretched witch this village has put an end to.”

His laughter is broken by a cough that must be tearing up his insides. It is so strong that it overwhelms him and he has to bend down to cough out something awful that seems to have been stuck in his throat. What a horrid man!

From a 5-star review

“The writing is exquisite—a book of depth, sophisticated in style, literary in nature. Ms. Begovic displays strong lyrical and poetic writing filled with symbolism and universal truths. The book also holds an element of suspense that keeps the reader wondering about the relationships of the characters until the surprise ending. A beautiful story, a compelling read.”

Beverly Knauer, Author of “The Line Between”

Jana_Begovic_Photo

As far back as she can remember, Jana has been fascinated by storytelling and intoxicated with the written word. As a young child, she began spinning stories, talking to an imaginary friend and devouring fairy tales. Her love of reading and writing drove her to study languages and literature. She works for the Government of Canada in the field of military language training. She was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but has lived in Canada since 1991.

WEB CONTACTS

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Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

One AUTOGRAPHED book copy as giveaway will be mailed to a reader who leaves a question/comment and his/her contact info. The author will select the winner randomly. Good luck!

 

Guest Interview—Willa Blair

Welcome to my friend I met while living in Texas. Tell us a bit about you and your background

A life-long student and reader, I’ve been a stained glass artist and instructor, a foreign language teacher, a computer scientist, an analyst, a manager and an executive. I’ve visited five continents and can get by in several languages. Scouting new settings for books is lots of fun, and being an author is the best job I’ve ever had.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

“Romance and Adventure”. I add “…in the Highlands of Scotland” for my Scottish books!

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand. What does “away from the computer” mean? ;^)

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

Plot, always the plot. I get to know the characters as I write.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Both. I wrestle with an outline and bare-bones synopsis to get the flow of the plot figured out. Then the characters step in and do all they can to wreck the plan.

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Again, both. I may need to do a lot of historical research if I’m starting in a new time period, then fact-check or look for amplifying detail later.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes – for my Scottish books—historical and contemporary—I’ve traveled through a good deal of central Scotland and the Highlands, but have plenty left to see and do! I’ve also been to Hawaii several times which came in handy for Sweetie Pie, and just went on my first cruise. Now I have 5 more countries to use as settings if my imagination decides to go there.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Go away from it for a few days—or weeks—and work on something else.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

That much to my editor’s dismay, I’m enamored of commas.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Yes. I also write Scottish historical romance.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

A summer in Scotland, a month each in Australia and New Zealand, a summer in Europe, shall I go on? I have lots of dreams.

perf5.000x8.000.indd

BLURB

Widow Lara MacLaren hungers for the hunky architect she hires to restore her derelict Scottish manor, but is she ready for a relationship…and is Ian ready for her twins?

Ian Paterson is eager to awaken Lara’s passionate side. Yet, if he reveals his ancestral claim to her estate, he risks losing her and his job. His clan’s history, lost over the years, may be hidden in the walls—along with a ghost waiting for the laird’s return.

When they uncover a room full of Jacobite treasure, proof of his ancestry, Ian realizes he’s out of time. If the ghost is real, it could expose his secret and destroy his romance with Lara. Ian must convince her she and her twins are the future he truly wants.

BUY LINK

Amazon

EXCERPT

“Are ye okay?” Ian felt Lara’s ribs expand under his hand as she breathed.

“I am now,” she murmured. “I could have sprained an ankle, or fallen and hit my head.”

“You needn’t worry,” he answered softly. “I’ve got you.” Pressed against his hard length, right where he needed her. Though he knew holding her was a mistake, he couldn’t let her go.

Her face flushed. “You do at that. I…I…” She glanced at the ceiling, then returned her gaze to his. “Thank you…”

“You’re welcome. I don’t mind a bit,” Ian teased. Her body was firm, yet soft against his. She made no move to escape his embrace. He lowered his gaze to her mouth. Her lips were so close. So tempting.

Lara’s breath warmed his face. Her gaze met his, then dropped quickly to his mouth.

He was certain she meant to allow his kiss…and to kiss him back. He parted his lips, drinking in her scent, eager to taste her.

Something moved in the darkness below them, soundless, but stirring the cool air and whispering across his hands. The back of Ian’s neck prickled.

Lara stiffened and cocked her head, as if listening.

“Just a draft,” he murmured. Ian could have sworn it was only moving air, nothing more. He hoped. He’d grown up hearing tales about Cairn Dubh—and its ghost. If Cairn Dubh did have a ghost, this ancient space would be a fine place for it to haunt.

Review Snippets

Waiting for the Laird by Willa Blair is a delightful romance and unexpected adventure set in Scotland.” Books & Benches Reviewer’s Choice Seal of Excellence

“Willa Blair spins a beautiful romance set in the Scottish Highlands full of suspense, history and mystery…This is an absolutely wonderful story to read while curled up in a comfy chair with a nice hot drink, I highly suggests you pick it up and enjoy.” Night Owl Reviews Top Pick

Willa Blair

Willa Blair is an Award-winning, Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 Bestselling author of Scottish Historical, light Paranormal, and Contemporary romance. Her books have won numerous honors, including the Marlene, the Merritt, National Readers’ Choice Award Finalist, The Reader’s Crown finalist, Historical Romance finalist and Honorable Mention in InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE Award, NightOwl Reviews Top Pick, Books & Benches’ Readers’ Choice Seal of Excellence, and InD’tale Magazine Review’s Crowned Heart.

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Guest Author Interview—Jeremy Higley

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I was born in California, raised in Alabama, I earned my bachelor’s in Virginia, lived and served in Colorado, and now I live in Arizona. I’m an avid consumer of text, video, and apples. I love writing, teaching, and making people smile.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

A vague prophecy, an ancient war between immortal wizards, and in the middle of it all, a young apprentice named Skel just wants to save his infant brother from a dream cult more powerful than magic itself.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

It’s scary, actually, just how much of my life involves my computer. Work, school, and play are all digitally entangled in some way or another. The biggest thing I do away from the cyber-void is talk to random people I meet in public. In the line at the grocery store, on the curb as I walk down the street… anywhere, really. The world is full of amazing stories hidden in plain sight.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I start with the milieu. The geography, the chronology, the theology, the magic systems… not until I’ve fleshed out the world a bit do I feel comfortable filling it with characters and designing good stories for them to be a part of.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

I plan more than Ray Bradbury, less than J.K. Rowling. My planning functions as a really basic sketch, but then I follow the characters as they fill out the details in their own way. I build the world, and then they explore it.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

For action scenes I’ll often pull out tracks from Star Wars movies, or anything similarly epic that can pull me in and help me keep my pacing. For everything else I’m usually listening to EDM, especially Lindsey Stirling.

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Neither, really. I’m more likely to just start over again if I get stuck. Research is something I do when questions come up. I make a lot of notes during the world-building process, and sometimes that requires some research, but more often the original idea for something comes from research I remember doing a long time ago.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

The Eltar plains are loosely based on the African savannah, which I have never visited. The Blood Mountains are based on the Appalachians more than anything, and I have been there. The Mirror Desert was actually inspired by a picture I drew when I was a Boy Scout of a reflective desert under a sunset. Irontree Mountain is meant as an echo of the Old Forest in Lord of the Rings, a place many of us have been in spirit. Personally, I’d much sooner brave the Old Forest than go anywhere near Irontree Mountain, as you’ll understand when you get to the end of the book.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

It’s very true that I often start over. If it’s the chapter that’s giving me trouble, I start the chapter over and use a different character’s perspective. I’ve done that three times in a row before. Whatever it takes to get the story across in the best way possible. I completely restarted Son of Dark after the first two years of working on it, and it ended up being a much better novel as a result. Sometimes I wish I’d started it over again before publishing, as it would have given me more time with it. Couldn’t have hurt, but I’m really enjoying having it published and working on the sequel.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

How fast everything goes! It felt like saying my goodbyes to a good friend while waiting for his plane to leave. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and it hurt to let go of a project I spent three years of my life on. I expect it will get easier as I write more novels, but a part of me kind of hopes it won’t.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I hardly ever write for longer than an hour or two. Because of other obligations, especially grad school, I snag time for writing in the evening before bed, and some writing sessions only last a half hour. I have a group of writing friends who will sit and write with me on their own projects for a couple hours each week, and lately this has been a huge help.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Egypt. I would love to visit Egypt and see all the sights. Especially the pyramids.

In what genre do you read?

Classic literature, such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, and Hawthorne. Science fiction, such as Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, and Orson Scott Card. My tastes for fantasy include such authors as Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Madeleine L’engle, Sean Flanagan, Patricia C. Wrede, T. S. Eliot, and Tolkein. Also, huge Bill Watterson fan.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

I develop a feel for each culture by coming up with a bunch of names that involve similar constructions and patterns, then choose from the list the names that will fall easiest on modern ears and don’t sound too similar to each other. As such, most of the names I come up with come straight out of my head, but I’ll fiddle with them a bit until they sound right. If that doesn’t work, I’ll look up obscure names to borrow. Orihah, for example. I got his name from a seldom-referenced genealogy list toward the end of the Book of Mormon.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

Most of all I hope they have a fun time. I can’t ask for much more. If there’s one moral I’d like them to pick up from this first book, it’s that suicide is never an answer. A second one might well be that you can find friends almost anywhere. Also, the darkness in the world is often not as strong as it seems, so long as you’re willing to stand up to it and not let it grow in your home or in your heart.

SonofDarkCover_Nov9

BLURB

A thousand years ago, the wizards of the Nynsa were tricked. They failed to follow the prophecy of the Darksome Thorn, and now the greatest evil of their time has survived into the next age. They will do anything the fix their mistake.

The Darksome Thorn, meanwhile, has revealed a new prophecy, and the very evil they failed to kill is working to use that prophecy to his advantage.

Forces of evil run rampant in the land of Duskain. Ancient powers are stirring. A greater darkness is imminent…

…and Skel, the foster son of an elephant herder, finds himself caught in the middle of everything…

BUY LINK

Amazon

JeremyHigleypic

For more information on Jeremy, visit his webpage

Guest Interview of Kara O’Neal

Welcome to Kara who has several releases of historical romance fiction.

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a teacher. I vowed up one way and down he other I wouldn’t enter into the profession. But God had other ideas. While I hadn’t planned on working in education, I certainly never thought about being an author. My sister challenged me to rewrite the end to a book I hadn’t cared for, and I did. In my head. Which opened up a new world, and soon I had four core families in a tiny Texas town in the late 1800s living in my imagination. It took thirteen years, and lots of rewriting, but I published my first book in 2013 and haven’t slowed down.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do anything else. I’m a mother of a cellist, trumpeter, and baseball player. I’d love to continue scrapbooking, but our children are too busy to allow for that kind of hobby. It doesn’t disappoint me because it’s truly a joy to watch them do what they love, to see them grow and change. I can’t believe I am so fortunate as to know them.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Well, the music I listen to while writing is whatever chant or cheer are played during an Astros or Texans game. I’m usually watching my favorite teams win, or lose, while I pen stories of romance and intrigue.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

I sure have. I am a native Texan and have traveled all over the state with my husband and children. All of my books take place in Texas, however, the 5th story, The Soldier’s Love, starts in Nebraska (I have been there, too.) and ends in Texas. The fort in my 5th book is based on Ft. Davis in West Texas.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

When I get home, I almost immediately start writing. I write while I cook supper. I write in the car while waiting on a child to finish practice, or CCE, or a club meeting. I usually have about 30 minutes in the morning before I have to walk out the door, and I write then, as well. Every free moment I have, I write.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Ireland. My husband is going to take me for our 20th wedding anniversary. I cannot wait.

In what genre do you read?

I read all books. I’ve read everything from Jane Austen to Tony Dungee (football coach). My absolute favorite author is Jane Austen. She transcends time. My favorite genre is definitely romance, though. I can’t get enough of people falling in love!

Love's Redemption 1019

BLURB

When she was little more than a child, Willa Kramer went to extreme lengths to save her family from their abusive father. After that horrible day, her mother and siblings moved to Tennessee, and Willa had hoped to leave Texas, its memories and Lonnie Davis, the only boy she ever trusted, behind. But fate is unpredictable.

Five years have passed, and Lonnie finds himself reunited with Willa, the only girl he’s ever loved. He’s determined not to let her slip away again, but a figure from the past looms, threatening his hopes for the future.

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EXCERPT

Lonnie excused himself from Willa’s parents, and despite his silent commands to give Willa space, he couldn’t keep from following the lady who had occupied his thoughts for the last several years. It would be odd not to speak to her. They’d been close. Once.

When he stepped into the vacant kitchen, he caught sight of her form through the screen door. She stood on the porch, her hands lightly gripping the rail, gazing at the outbuildings, field and the trees shading Glebe Run. The breeze caressed her, sending wisps of her hair to float around her face.

He paused. His chest tightened. He’d waited a long time to see her, had wondered if he ever would. Years ago, she’d wrapped him around her little finger, and he’d grown so attached to her, he’d thought about moving to Tennessee to be with her. But then she had stopped writing. To say it had hurt would be an understatement. But he hadn’t been angry. He could never be angry with her. Never. And now she was back and near. It was too tempting.

After taking a deep breath, he moved forward then went through the screen door. Even though it gave a loud creak, she didn’t turn. Did she know it was he who stood behind her?

The light breeze ruffled her skirt. Her long, velvety hair grazed the small of her back. An ache centered in the pit of his stomach. He’d missed her. And now she was here. “Hello, Willa,” he said, hearing the gentleness of his tone.

She tensed before facing him. Her gaze was shuttered, as if she needed to protect herself from him. Was she afraid? Had he said something in his letters that had hurt her? An urgency gripped him.

“How are you?” he inquired, tamping down the questions he really wanted to ask. Instead, he searched her face for clues as to why she seemed guarded. In the past, he’d been the person she trusted, the person she leaned on. What had he done wrong?

“H-Hello, Lonnie. It’s good to see you.”

Was it? She didn’t seem happy. “It’s…really good to see you, too,” he couldn’t help admitting.

“Did you meet my step-father?” she asked.

“I did. Seems like a nice fellow.”

“He is. He makes Mother happy.”

When she didn’t continue, he racked his brain for a response. Nothing came to him. Her upturned face held determined lines, and the barriers in her hazel eyes left him silent.

“Greg likes him,” she inserted into the awkward silence stretching between them.

He linked his thumbs through his belt loops. “I haven’t seen your brother yet. Where is he?”

She nodded her head in the direction of the barn. “Checking on his horse. He brought Tracks with us. He loves that animal too much to be apart from him for long.”

Lonnie understood. He was the wrangler on the family ranch and dealt with horses most of the time. He had a special relationship with the animals. “And Shelby?” he asked, inquiring about her sister. If mundane conversation was what Willa wanted, he would respect that. Besides, did he really want to ask why she’d stopped writing? Did he really want to return to the road that led to Willa Kramer? It had taken a while to stop feeling something whenever he thought of her. And he still thought of her. Every day.

“Married. She lives in Oregon. She hasn’t met our step-father, but I’ve written to her about him.”

Which meant Willa had indicated whether or not she trusted the man. Lonnie figured she did. If the man hadn’t earned the respect of Willa, Lonnie doubted her mother would have married him.

“How was the trip down?”

She shrugged. “As comfortable as possible. I hadn’t ever ridden on a train. It was much better than the stagecoach ride from Texas to Memphis.”

The day she’d boarded that coach to leave Pikes Run had ripped out his heart. He’d watched her go, unsure of what she meant to him, what he meant to her. A week after the Kramer family had left, Lonnie had understood he loved Willa. He’d written. And she’d replied. But then, after the fifth exchange, she had stopped. Without warning. Without explanation. What had he done?

As he looked into her eyes, it was all he could do not to move closer, to cup her cheek with a hand. He was falling again. Or had he ever regained his heart? That invisible tug he’d felt around her had returned. In mere minutes.

He refrained from uttering a curse. It wasn’t her fault he was still drawn to her. He’d probably never been free of her, though he’d worked like hell to forget her. But seconds had destroyed whatever barriers he’d managed to build, and he drowned in her eyes once more. And again, just as it had been all those years ago, he only needed her in order to keep his head above water.

But walls lived in the depths of her gaze. Walls against him. His gut clenched. Hurting Willa was the last thing he’d ever wanted to do, but it appeared he had. The need to apologize burned his tongue.

“Lonnie,” a male voice called.

Lonnie spotted a lankier, taller version of Greg Kramer walking from the barn toward the porch. Gladness gripped Lonnie, overtaking the frustrated helplessness rushing through his veins. He met the younger man in the middle of the yard. They shook hands, grinning at each other. Greg was a welcome distraction.

“It’s good to see you,” Greg said.

“And you. You’re taller.”

Greg laughed. “I can almost look you in the eye, huh? Might be able to beat you at arm wrestling now, too.”

Lonnie lifted an eyebrow, a grin still tugging his lips. “We’ll see about that.” He gestured toward the barn. “Willa tells me you brought your horse with you.”

A sheepish expression came over Greg’s face. “I shouldn’t have asked my step-father to pay to stable Tracks on a train, but I didn’t want to leave him. I just got him.”

Lonnie could feel Willa’s eyes on him. His body tingled with awareness, and if he wasn’t careful, he was going to whip around and jump right over the imaginary fence she’d erected and ask her why she’d stopped answering his letters. He had to put some distance between them. “Can I see him?” he asked Greg.

The young man’s face lit. “Of course.”

As they fell in stride with each other, Lonnie heard the screen door creak. Willa was gone. His heart sank to the pit of his stomach.

Kara ONealKara O’Neal was born and raised in Texas.  After surviving those awkward years of 7 to 16, she spent two years at Sam Houston State University where she met her husband.  He followed her to Texas Tech University and was proud when she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development.  Soon after graduation Kara followed her heart and became certified to teach Special Education.

She married the love of her life in 1998 and had three children.  The happiest times of her life are spent with her family and friends.  Kara is fortunate to be surrounded by the best and most amazing people God put on this earth.

When she was pregnant with her oldest child, Kara wrote her first novel.  And then rewrote it.  And rewrote it again.  She did this while teaching, raising kids, and traveling across Texas with her husband. Thank goodness for spiral notebooks!

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Guest Interview with DiAne Gates

Linda, it’s so kind of you to have me on your blog today. Thank you.

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a Florida gal turned Texan for the past thirty something years. I won my first writing contest when I was a teen. The article, entitled The Basis of a Great Nation is a Christian Home, and the paper still resides in my cedar chest. I cringe at the teenage grammar.  I also paint and for most of my life painting took center stage. Moving to Texas stirred my interest in rodeo and the rest is history. I wrote articles and took photographs for the Youth Rodeo Association in East Texas, and rodeo is kinda like Florida sand—once the sights, sounds, and razzle-dazzle of the arena gets in your blood, well, you know—Roped was the result and I’m pleased to let you know Twisted is finished and will be with my editor at Prism Books by the second week in June.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I come from a long line of foodies. My mom and aunt were caterers and I love to create new recipes and tinker with Mama’s family favorites. Being raised in the deep south, fried chicken, grits, and greens were the staples tingling my early taste buds. However, you can’t be a Texan and not love spicy. When the frustrations of technology get the best of me, I head to the garden. I love, love, love flowers and photography, as my FaceBook page and blog illustrate.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Definitely a SOP writer—Seat of the Pants—start to finish. Outlines are for sane, normal people. I’m sure if they tested me for ADD, I’d rank off-the-charts nutty artist. I’ve taken some personality tests that place me as a totally right-brained individual. Not one brain cell even leans left. Just ask my accountant husband, or my math teachers.

I generally begin with a situation or principle or character flaw and build my story from there. When writing Roped, my phenomenal edit group coined a phrase—that’s not a Crissy word. And bless their hearts, that phrase made Crissy’s character bud and bloom on the page. She’s Texan to the bone.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Terrell, Texas is the scene for the Roped series, that’s about twelve miles from our home in the small town of Crandall, Texas. But you will find a rodeo arena, horses and trucks and trailers, goats, and cattle, and, of course, barbeque, near any-town-Texas.

 Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Take a bath, a bubble-bath preferably. Don’t laugh, I’m in good company. Author DiAnn Mills shares my idiosyncrasy. Something about relaxing in the warm water sets my brain to problem solve.  I just have to remember to keep a note pad on the sink so I can write the dialogue, plot twist, or whatever down before I forget. DiAnn’s dear husband installed a white-board for her creative flashes. The accountant personality in my husband said, “Really?”

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

I mentioned earlier I belong to a group of the greatest writers this side of heaven. We are seven in number. I’ve dubbed us The Magnificent Seven, but in fact we are called The Literati. And six of them are indeed magnificent! When we began I would create what I thought was wonderful. Arrive at our weekly meeting to find these six magnificent writers had torn my work apart. The drive home was usually tearful, with my husband asking, “Why do you go to these meetings?” “To learn to write,” I’d reply, sniff, and blow my nose. “Well, are you learning?” I’d change the subject and determine next week I’d show ’em.

By the time Roped reached my Prism editor, tears, rewrites, and revisions could have filled several moving boxes. Too bad I didn’t buy stock in Kleenex. I’ve learned the editing process is an awful lot like work, but they are also a writer’s best friend.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Oh yes, my blog is serious non-fiction, written mainly to the Church. I believe the Church is one of the largest mission fields in the world. Most church members don’t crack their Bible during the week. They come to church to have their weekly feeding of the Word, then starve ‘til the next Sunday. That’s why our children have very little interest in the things of God and have been transfixed by the world. Because you can’t teach your children what you don’t know. I also write about the grieving process on my blog.

My writing career seriously began with a four book family devotional series entitled The Master’s Plan, which I’ve written and illustrated. And it keeps company with another children’s book, Arnold the Ant Who Didn’t Want To Be…an ant. Again one I’ve written and illustrated.  These five books are looking for a publishing home. Prism does not publish children’s books.

In what genre do you read?

If you had asked me three weeks ago,my resounding answer would have been, mystery/adventure. But two Prism authors have changed my mind by their new releases, Nancy Bolton with her historical fiction romance, Answering Sarah, and Julie Cosgrove, with her Navy Blues. My favorite author is Joel Rosenberg. His nail-biting, heart-stopping, fiction you’ll probably read as headlines in the newspaper in a month or two.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

No doubt whatsoever, the ability to see the issues my characters face and learn what to do and what not to do when facing those same life experiences. My stories are Christ based. Not hit you over the head with my Bible, but real life problems and what the Word has to say about our choices. In Crissy’s case, her Papa is the glue that holds the family together. A man who has walked with the Lord through the tragedies of life. The grandpa we’d all like to have claimed.

Roped

BLURB

“Will Texas teen Crissy Crosby’s rivalry and temper throw her off her dream to win the rodeo buckle?

When life bucks hard and unfair, will she latch onto the faith she was raised to rely upon or grasp anger and pride as her rope on this ride?”

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EXCERPT

“Before Chun could sit down, Jodie Lea leaned over and deliberately jammed her elbow into his side, then scooted as close as she could against the side of the bus, just as Mrs. Moore shifted the bus into gear and stepped on the gas.

One of his books jarred lose and tumbled into her lap. In a rage she turned and took aim. “What a jerk.” And with both hands, shoved the poor kid backward. He fell, fanny first, to the floor. Books flew every which way.

She leaped out of her seat and gathered up the fabric of her skirt, holding it fan-style for everyone to see. “Watch what you’re doin’, moron.” She turned to the other kids, stuck her nose in the air, and the curtain went up on her one-act horror show.

“His dirty Chinese slime is all over my brand new skirt. It’s ruined.” She brushed at an imaginary spot. “Stupid nerd. Why don’t you go back to China?”

I gasped. That was evil. Even for Jodie Lea.

She slipped a smirk at her two dingy girl-shadows who were equally offended. Jodie Lea stretched herself to haughty, her arms folded, her lips pouty, and her eyes narrowed to slits.

The boy sat motionless on the floor, muttering, “Please excuse me. I did not mean to cause you harm.” He struggled to his feet and reached to brush the invisible smudge from Jodie Lea’s skirt.

She flattened herself against the window wall of the bus. “Don’t touch me.” Her shriek had the grinding pitch of a tornado siren.

“Hey kid.” Jimmy Henry grabbed Chun’s arm and shoved him back down on the floor. “Can’t ya hear? Are ya yellow?”

Another boy jammed his foot against the new kid’s chest and pinned him there.

Our bus driver, Mrs. Moore, shouted, “Knock off the noise and sit down, or you’ll all end up in the principal’s office.”

Chun mumbled something in his native language. Sure couldn’t understand what he said. Prob’ly a good thing. But the hair on the back of my neck bristled. Poor kid. If Mrs. Moore didn’t do something—

The kids snickered and picked up Jodie Lea’s taunts.

I sprang from the back seat. “That’s enough.” In two quick steps, I latched onto Jimmy’s arm and shoved him away. “Knock it off. Can’t you see he’s upset?” I kicked the other kid’s foot off the boy’s chest and reached down to give Chun a hand up. “It’s his first day. Give him a break.”

An arsenal of words somersaulted syllable over syllable out of my heart and leaped off my tongue. “Jodie Lea Fairgate. This was low—even for you. You’ve done some rotten things, but this one ranks with the worst-of-your-worst.”

My bad-self suggested I rub her nose into the floor. I had enough cause. But Mama’s voice echoed in my ear. Not a word, Crissy.

So with all the self-control I could scrape up. I shut up, glared at her, and returned to my seat.

A voice came from the back of the bus. “You takin’ up for the nerd, Crissy?”

I stopped and, with my hands on my hips and my best cowgirl swagger, scanned the crowd of faces. “Yep, you wanna make something of it?”

“Don’t you guys know? Nerds of a feather fly together.” Jodie Lea twisted her face into an evil-step-sister grin and her groupie friends, of course, did the same.

Yikes, a litter of Cheshire cats. Monster-show scary. Right.

On his feet by this time, Chun’s face blushed a vivid shade of crimson.

I crawled under the seat to rescue his books. “Don’t pay attention to that girl. She’s the jerk.” I took his arm and guided him back to my row, then sat and glared at Jodie Lea Fairgate and the others ‘til their laughter stopped. Talk about rotten—that girl’s heart must be tough as steel. And dark. Very, very dark.

The boy glanced at me, his mouth forming a wanna-be half-smile. “Thank you for helping me.” Then he sat and stared at the floor.

I gestured toward the other kids. “They’re just a bunch of wooly-buggers. They follow whatever that stupid girl does. She’s trouble with a capital “T.”

“I did not mean to harm her.” Chun’s eyes met mine long enough for me to see those deep chocolate circles fill up with sad. My heart hurt to see him upset because of Jodie Lea Fairgate.

“Just stay out of her way and ignore her. That’s what I do.”

A twinge of guilt tugged my conscience. Yeah, right. Sure you do.”

REVIEW SNIPPETS

“A great read for teens and adults, Roped is a gallop-paced rodeo ride from the first to the last page. ” ~Lori

“Couldn’t put it down. Truly an AMAZING work of art.” ~Abigail

DiAne Gates

Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates and writes fiction for children, YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the Church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order.

DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Rodeo Association, which gave birth to this western rodeo adventure series, ROPED. The second book in the series, entitled TWISTED is just completed and with Prism Books.

She leads an edit group for North Texas Christian Writers and is a GriefShare Facilitator. Wife, mother, and grandmother, whose passion is to share those life lessons God is teaching her. Lessons she hopes will leap from the page into your heart.

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Guest Interview—Terri Wangard

Tell us a bit about you and your background

I’ve loved libraries since I was a little girl and we visited the North Branch of the Green Bay library. My favorite books included the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka stories. I earned a Master of Library Science degree and worked for a few years in libraries before joining the family business full time. We publish Classic Boating magazine.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

History that entertains and enlightens. And that’s what I hope my stories do.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

A little of both. For my first story, I had the characters. For the next two stories in the series, the plots were obvious, but not until I had the characters did the plots get fully developed.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Since I write World War II stories, I listen to World War II music. My favorite songs include “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.” I also listen the soundtracks like “Pearl Harbor” and instrumentals by Jonn Serrie.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes, but before I knew I would be writing about those locations. I’ve spent a little time in Germany and Sweden. Now I wish I’d taken more pictures, or could go back.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

After writing Friends and Enemies, which released in January, I started writing a contemporary, but an editor at an ACFW conference suggested I would need a series to be offered a contract. The story was set aside and I’ve been doing historical ever since.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

I didn’t get into Pinterest until after I’d written this series. Now I have Pinterest boards for each book. As I get ideas for my work in progress or future projects, I’ve been collecting pins in private boards. I tend to spend way too much time looking at pretty pictures!

What resources do you use for picking character names?

From my first book, I needed lots of German names, so I used my family tree. For my next books, I used names I liked and could live with during the year-long writing process. I have changed names or spellings. For No Neutral Ground, I noticed in cemeteries that “Jenny” was often spelled “Jennie” on older tombstones, so I made that change.

No Neutral Ground

 

BLURB

After his father divorces his mother because of her Jewish ancestry, Rafe and the rest of his family flee Germany. As a B-17 navigator, he returns to Europe. Flying missions against his former homeland arouses emotions that surprise Rafe. Despite being rejected, he is troubled by the destruction of Germany and his heart still cries for his father’s love.

Sweden may be neutral, but it’s full of intrigue. Jennie assists the OSS at the American legation in Sweden. She thought she’d be doing passive, behind-the-scenes work. Instead, she’s pushed into an active role to gain intelligence and frustrate the Germans.

How can Rafe and Jennie succeed in their dangerous roles when they are so conflicted?

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EXCERPT

The wind sliced right through Jennie Lindquist’s coat. So warm in Illinois, it now felt as thin as a pillowcase. Late winter was the wrong time of year to cross the North Atlantic. The temperature hovered around ten degrees, but with the wind and the ship’s speed, it seemed far below zero.

Her gloved fingers had grown stiff from the cold. She had to keep sketching, though, or she would lose her model.

The soldier continued to stare at the spot where the Statue of Liberty had long since faded from view in their wake. The quivering of his chin was his only movement.

Jennie perched on a stowage bin. After adding several pencil strokes to shade the edge of his arm, she held up her drawing and studied it through narrowed eyes. Had she captured his forlornness?

It would have to do. She shoved her sketch pad and pencil into her tote bag. Plenty of time remained aboard the ocean liner-turned-troopship to accomplish her goal of sketching a series capturing life aboard ship.

Overhead, the last escorting U.S. Navy patrol plane dipped its wings and turned back to New York. The Queen Mary was on her own to cross the North Atlantic and elude any skulking German submarines eager to hurtle a torpedo into her. Jennie scanned the horizon. Nothing but endless waves.

Ice crystals sprinkled down, luring her gaze upward. Lifeboats hung suspended overhead. A flexing chain caused more ice to break loose. Dismal gray camouflage paint hid the Cunard Line’s signature colors of red, white, and black. Behind her, one of the ship’s funnels belched smoke as the ocean liner charged full speed ahead at thirty knots. At least the frigid wind prevented soot from drifting down on the military personnel crowding the deck.

An officer standing ten feet away didn’t seem to mind the arctic blast as he raised his face to it. Jennie avoided contact with the military men. Her father had warned her to be wary of their intentions.

This one, however, tempted her. His profile presented classic lines an artist would love to paint. Portraits weren’t her specialty, but, my, oh my, his handsome features practically begged her to try her hand at capturing his likeness. Below the edge of his cap gleamed close-cropped blond hair; his eyes, when he turned his head, shone a startling blue. His heavy coat failed to hide broad shoulders tapering to a slim waist. To her eye, he presented the epitome of male perfection. Did the inner man match the gorgeous outer appearance?

Stray snowflakes swirled about him, and he brushed them away. She set aside Dad’s advice and invaded the solitude surrounding him. “You must be a northerner to be enjoying this glacial wind.”

He straightened to his full height, at least six feet tall, and settled his gaze on her. A quick grin lit his face, and her numb fingers itched to start sketching. “With a choice between enjoying the invigorating sea air or the warm, uh, unventilated air inside the ship, the cold air won.”

“Unventilated air?” Jennie laughed. “How polite.”

His smile came easily, as though he was used to wearing it.

“Someone on the last voyage must have been quite seasick in the room I’m assigned to. The smell was bad enough to drive me into this gale.” Looking back out to sea, he hunched his shoulders and tilted his head to the right, then the left. Weak sunlight glinted off white-caps as the morning overcast broke up, but the restless waves continued to batter themselves against the ship’s hull. He maintained his grip on the railing. “The way the ocean’s churning, we may have a lot more gastronomic upheavals. And to think, I used to enjoy being in a sailing club.”

“Did you sail on the ocean?”

“Sail, no, although I’ve been on a previous ocean voyage. Rivers or the North Sea was where I mostly sailed, but” ― he glanced back at the milling crowd of servicemen ― “we weren’t packed in tight like this.”

The North Sea? Wasn’t that in Europe? Jennie grabbed the railing as the Queen Mary veered to port. Every eight minutes, the ship zigzagged to avoid a potential submarine’s crosshairs. She’d timed the turns.

His voice held an unfamiliar accent. It wasn’t English. He’d been on an ocean voyage, singular, and he’d sailed on the North Sea. He must be from Europe, maybe from a country overrun by Hitler’s army. He should have some stories to tell.

The cold and the pressing crowd of soldiers faded into the background. “Where are you from?”

She leaned forward for his reply.

“Milwaukee.”

“Milwaukee?” She stepped back. So much for hearing about foreign lands. “Really? I’m from Chicago.”

His gaze roved over her. “You’re not in uniform. What’s a civilian doing on a troopship?”

Jennie straightened to her five-foot, six-inch height. “I’m joining my parents in Sweden. My dad’s a military air attaché based at the American legation, where he works with interned American airmen. He came home on leave for the holidays and took my mom back with him in January. Now I’m going, too, to help out.”

“My grandparents came from Sweden. Do you speak the language?”

“Enough to ask for help if I get lost.” She laughed at his widened eyes. “Yes, I speak Swedish. Maybe not as fluently as a native, but I have Swedish grandparents, too. My mom’s been pen pals all her life with a cousin whom we hope to meet.” She tugged her hat down more securely and retied her scarf before the wind pulled it free. “Do you have relatives there?”

“Opa’s brother, my grandfather’s brother, lives on the west coast of Sweden.”

“The west coast. Highly unlikely I’ll be able to pay him a call and tell him I met you.” As a group of rowdy soldiers brushed past them and eyed her, Jennie stepped closer to her new acquaintance and pulled her coat’s collar tighter.

She turned back to face his puzzled perusal.

“There are twelve thousand troops onboard.” He looked around the deck. “Are civilian quarters still available?”

“Well, I heard about the accommodations used by Prime Minister Churchill when he sails, but somebody already claimed those.” She could get used to his grin. “Did you know there’s a hospital unit onboard? I’m billeted with the nurses.”

A soldier stumbled hard into the officer, who muttered something under his breath that didn’t sound like English.

She stared at him. “You said something in neither English nor Swedish.”

He looked at her for a long moment, and his relaxed posture stiffened. “I am Rafe Martell, second lieutenant and navigator in the United States Army Air Force. In a more peaceful time, I had another name and lived in Germany. But then Germany decided I wasn’t good enough to be a German, and America offered me a new home.”

A hint of challenge gleamed in his eyes.

Why would Germany not want him?

“I’m Jennie Lindquist.”

“Jennie Lindquist? Good Swedish name. Do you sing?”

“Excuse me?”

“Sing. Have you not heard of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale? My great-grandparents heard her sing and my grandfather says they insisted they heard an angel.”

The ship lurched to starboard, causing Rafe to stagger against the rail and inhale sharply.

Jennie grinned. So he wanted to know if she could sing? Now was the time to demonstrate her ability. “Rock a bye airman, on the ship’s deck. When the ship rolls, the airman gets sick.”

A startled laugh burst from Rafe. Tears welled in his eyes ― from the wind? ―   and he used both hands to whisk them away. The childlike gesture was endearing.

“May I ask why Germany didn’t want you?”

He stared out to sea as though he wouldn’t answer. Why should he? His experiences were none of her business. Then his gaze probed her soul, and she resisted the urge to squirm.

“I’m half Jewish.”

His clipped answer was totally unexpected. Jennie had read newspaper reports about the Night of Broken Glass a few years ago, when the German people destroyed Jewish property. The pictures in the newsreels had been stunning. Hard to imagine such crime could be committed by civilized people in this modern era. Editorials speculated the destruction was inflicted by members of the Nazi Party and most Germans hadn’t approved. However it happened, Jewish lives and livelihoods had been ruined. That’s what he’d faced? She hugged herself to stop a shiver.

His look dared her to say something. What could she say? He didn’t resemble the people shown in the pictures.

“You don’t look Jewish.” She cringed at her rude reply, but a smile stretched across Rafe’s face.

“I agree. I should have been pictured on Aryan propaganda posters instead of being forced to run for my life.” He bounced his fist on the rail. “I had no idea my mother was Jewish until I was expelled from the Hitler Youth. That’s a Nazi version of the Boy Scouts. To suddenly be lumped with a social group I had no relationship to or understanding of…” He paused for a moment as he searched the horizon. He shook his head. “It was a shock.”

“How did you get away?” She might be probing an unhealed wound, but she might never have the chance to talk to someone from Germany again.

“My grandfather is a partner in a Dutch flower bulb business. I arrived in Amsterdam within two weeks of my disgrace, supposedly as an apprentice. The next week my grandparents, mother, sister, and brother arrived. The following summer, in 1937, we boarded the Statendam and never looked back.” His grin returned. “And as of last summer, I am a citizen of a country where the nationalities are mixed up and melted together.”

“What about your father?”

“He divorced us to keep his job.”

Jennie opened her mouth to ask him to repeat that, but Rafe’s flat tone hadn’t invited questions. Bitterness, anger, and hurt glittered in his eyes. His jaw shifted as though he battled his emotions.

She looked out to sea to give him time to himself, and they stood in silence.

What was it like to have a father who would turn his back on his family? And what was life like for Jews in Europe? They were so far away. Jews in America had it better, didn’t they? Did she know any? There may have been some among her colleagues at the art museum where she’d worked. How could she be so ignorant? She massaged her brow as her head began to ache.

Terri Wangard

Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.

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