How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?
Good morning, Linda. Thanks so much for having me on your blog today. I’m excited to meet your readers!
Where were you raised?
I’m a Midwestern girl, born and raised in Iowa, in a town near the bump at the Mississippi. I attended college in Virginia though, and fell in love with the beach. I moved there my sophomore year of college and never went back.
My mom, dad and younger brother still live in Iowa. We visit every so often, mostly around the holidays. Thank goodness for Skype!
My husband, Matt, is an FBI agent assigned to the nearby field office. I met him at a mystery conference. He was giving a talk on profiling serial killers, and I asked him to show me his badge <winking>. We’ve been together since.
Did you always want to be a book reviewer?
Well, no. My degree was in English lit, so I always hoped I would do something with books and fiction. I was one of those kids who hid under the blankets with a flashlight reading after my bedtime. I started my review blog, Readers’ Retreat, in college, and it took off. Now I read and review two to three books a week.
What do you like most about reviewing books?
The best part is discovering a new author and helping to get the word out to other readers. It’s like finding that pristine, perfectly formed conch shell on the beach after a storm. Like it’s been there all along, just had to get churned to the surface.
What are your reading tastes?
My personal favorite is romantic suspense. I love that feeling of apprehension in a well-crafted suspense novel, and trying to figure out how the hero and heroine will get themselves out of trouble, and into love. I also love relationship stories, not necessarily romantic. You know, like mother-daughter stories, or sibling stories.
Professionally, I read pretty much all genres, but I draw the line at the way-out things, like bestiality.
List your favorite book of all time and why.
Oh gosh…that’s a tough one. I don’t think I can. It would be like picking a favorite child.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook and experiment with new textures and flavors. It’s a great outlet to cleanse my palate, so to speak, between books.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?
(Shivering) Well, last Halloween I got in a bit of trouble while Matt and I were walking on the beach. There was this big, red moon in the sky, and it was so romantic. And all of a sudden, all you-know-what broke loose. (Shivers again.) But, you know, now I’m fine, Matt is fine, and the bad guy is behind bars…I hope.
Leah St. James – Blood Moon
One Halloween night, a killer terrorized a strip of Virginia beachfront, murdering a dozen young women whose only crime was walking the beach with a boyfriend. Now, fifty years later, book reviewer Ronnie can’t shake the feeling that another has come to take his place. Is it nothing more than her vivid imagination running wild, or are the spirits stirring, warning of approaching danger?
Leah is a worrier, a self-described neurotic who tends to imagine the worst-case scenario in response to brewing troubles. She hasn’t decided if this leaning toward the dark side is what draws her to write edgy, gritty stories, or if the suspenseful mysteries and Gothic romances that filled her childhood bookshelves somehow imprinted their shadows on her psyche. Despite (or maybe because of) this propensity for infusing her fiction with murder and mayhem, she still craves those happily-ever-after endings and the romance of everlasting love.
You can read more about Leah at www.leahstjames.com
EXCERPT FROM “BLOOD MOON” included in “Mysteries of the Macabre | A Halloween Anthology.”
On the beach, two lovers kissed. Behind them, the moon—hanging giant and hazy red in the sky—dripped feathery tendrils into the sea, painting crimson tips on the dancing waves.
Its raw beauty was lost on the two, engrossed as they were in each other, entwined so closely, they appeared from a distance as one. They never heard my approach. Never knew I’d been observing them earlier while they joined their friends around a bonfire.
I moved closer, my steps inaudible over the crashing surf. Something about the woman—girl really—called to me. More than that…vexed me.
Maybe it was her waist-length hair the color of coal. Most of the girls teased their hair into those ugly beehives, but she’d let hers flow free, like a curtain of silk. She reminded me of…
I forced that image from my mind. Maybe it was the way her date, a handsome young man, brought her hand to his mouth for a kiss. He pressed his lips not to the back of her hand, like a gentleman would, but to the center of her palm. I imagined their eyes making love as surely as if they lay together, unclothed, in bed.
Maybe it was her response, a trill of sensuous laughter, carried by the sea-scented breezes to my ears.
My stomach stormed. What made her boy-man so special? Why did he deserve her love?
A need to make her suffer, just as I had suffered, rose and filled my soul with hate. Despite that, my hands flexed with the urge to touch, to sample the woman’s lushness, the curves so happily on display in the indecently short dress with fanciful red polka dots that looked eerily like that moon.
Was it a symbol, a sign, that it was time to indulge that craving for her body, her blood? Was it destiny that brought me to their part of the world on that specific night?
I moved in. First on the boyfriend. So unaware. So full of youthful passion in the way he clutched her close. A quick chop to the back of the head, and the boy-man was down, twitching in the sand. When he woke, would he understand that it was his attention that caused her death?
I turned to her. She backed up, her eyes rounded, her hands over her open mouth. Screams bubbled from her crimson lips, so loud and shrill they must have come from some deep dark place in her soul.
Blood coursed through my veins, carried by the excitement of the prize before me, and I laughed at the sheer power of the moment. I stepped closer, close enough to see that her cheeks were wet with tears, close enough to smell fear.
I grabbed for her and —
Something hot and sweaty clamped on the back of Ronnie’s neck, and a shriek tore up her throat as she twisted to face her attacker.
Matthew jumped back, hands lifted, palms out. “What the hell, Ronnie? I just wanted to tell you it’s almost time to go.”
“Sorry.” Sitting up from where she’d been lounging on the couch, she gave her husband a sheepish smile and drew in a slow breath to calm her heart. “I was reading.” She flipped the paperback around to show him the cover of the true-crime novel she’d started earlier in the day.
Half illustration, half black-and-white photo, it depicted a shadowed man poised over a woman sprawled on a beach. Her body lay prone, right arm akimbo, legs splayed. A tear in the bodice of her mini-dress revealed a jagged, bloody gash over her heart. Blood had gushed from the wound and pooled in the sand at her side, puddled slick and oily-looking in a splash of red moonlight. In the background, a man’s face stared from behind prison bars with eyes that were at once triumphant and defiant.
It was a mock-up—he’d never been caught—but every time Ronnie looked at the cover, she shivered at the sheer evil of the man whose very real kill diary had been excerpted in the best-seller.
With a snort, Matthew took the paperback, flipped her bookmark in place, then snapped it shut and placed it on the end table. “What a shock. I’m surprised you even remember you have a real life half the time. Pretty soon you’re going to be buried in your work…literally.” He gestured to the several stacks of books crawling drunkenly up the wall in the corner of their living room.
“Not all of us can have jobs saving the world,” she said, raising her voice so he could hear her as he walked away. Wasn’t a big to-be-read pile to be expected for the life of a book reviewer?