Monday, 31 October 2011

Official DB Business - This week in Reviews

Winner: Long & Short Book of the Week

Hi all, I thought I'd share several recent reviews we've received:

by: Michelle Levigne

"Michelle Levigne has added to the Borealis family with a romantic story of finding love where you least expect it, and with the most unlikely couple. I found this to be a fun filled and action packed adventure, with tongue in cheek humor, sweet first love and lots of danger along the way..."

Foxglove -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 4.5 Books
Nominated for BOOK OF THE WEEK!

by: Vijaya Schartz

"Pick up a copy of Borealis: Black Dragon by Vijaya Schartz and enter a world of adventure, romance and a spoiled cat named Marshmallow."

Foxglove -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 4.5 Books
Nominated for BOOK OF THE WEEK!

by: Nancy Kay

"Deadly Reflection is a book that you just can't miss. I absolutely loved this multi-faceted story. Anything Nancy Kay writes from now on will be an automatic add to my "have to have" books."

Val -- You Gotta Read Reviews
Rating = "You Gotta Read"

by: Linda McMacken

"Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. I had to know what would happen and how much Abby would manage to get under his skin. I loved the sprinkle of mystery and the loads of laughter in these pages, too."

Nymphaea -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 4.5 Books
Nominated for BOOK OF THE WEEK

by: Sandra Sookoo

"In Embracing The Lemonade Life the author takes a hard-hitting subject and weaves a tender tale of love, hope, and joy that will stay with you long after you turn the final page."

Fennel -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 5 Books

by: Sue Perkins

"Blitz by Sue Perkins is everything a romance should be, and then… the war arrives. It is as you suppose: the blackouts, fear, bombing, but also, much much more. Perkins never loses sight of her characters, their goals, or the truth of their feelings... Fans of the era will particularly love this one."

Snapdragon -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 5 books

Nominated for BOOK OF THE WEEK!

by: J. Morgan

'I recommend this series for those who like laughter, sarcasm and a lot of romantic silliness in their lives."

Foxglove -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 4.5 Books

by: Stephanie Burkhart

"This is one of the best werewolf books I have ever read. Stephanie Burkhart gives a great view of the 18th Century Catholic Church and Werewolf relationship, as well as going into more detail about the attributes of werewolves. If you enjoy the Werewolf legends, or just romantic relationships, The Count's Lair is a wonderful read."

Sizzling Hot Book Reviews
5 Hearts

Friday, 28 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from White Roses

Thanks so much for supporting Michelle this week. Leave a comment on the excerpt post today, Sat., and Sun., and Monday I'll pick a winner to receive Michelle's promotional giveaway which includes: A travel mug package, with white rose lollipops, and a Tabor Heights keychain and pen and notepad.

Enjoy today's excerpt!
Moderator Steph


"Ah, I don't think a funeral is the place to bring a date."

"Not a date." Curt glanced sideways at her. "If you and I go as representatives of the paper, doing a story on people's reactions to the White Rose, then nobody will think twice if you ask more questions later."

"Don't you hate having to always be thinking ahead?"

"You get used to it. And you've been doing a lot of thinking ahead yourself. Kind of unavoidable, from where we're both sitting." He picked up his slice of pizza and just looked at it. "Sometimes, I can't stop thinking about it."

"Curt... are you blaming yourself? For what happened to Angel, I mean," she hurried to add, when he turned sharply to look at her.

"Why? There was nothing I could have done."

"You found her. You were still trying to get her interested in you when a lot of those other boys were saying some pretty nasty things about her, from sour grapes."

"Did you ever think that difference makes me a likely suspect?"

Toni gasped and jerked away, but Curt dropped his pizza and grabbed hold of her hand, keeping her close. Idly, she noticed that he smeared pizza sauce on the cuff of her sweatshirt.

"You did think it might be me, didn't you?" he pressed.

"Not... not consciously. I had a dream the other night. While I was waiting for the chief to think over Angela's proposition. I barely even remembered it when I woke up, but you were in it and you were yelling at Angel and trying to blame so many people. And I thought, it's always the people who make the most noise who end up being the guilty ones. You know what I mean?"

"The more noise they make, the more dirt they can toss onto other people, the less they think anybody will blame them." He nodded. "But that was just your dream, right?"

"Just my dream. And I know you couldn't be to blame."

"How do you know?" He stared into her eyes, until finally she had to look away without being able to come up with an answer. "A good reporter follows his gut instinct when he's tracking down a story. Doesn't mean he should rely on his gut when his life is at stake." He finally let go of her wrist. "But thanks for your vote of confidence."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne talks about her upcoming release, Blue Fire

Our heroine, Nureen Keala, is a Rover pilot and grew up with Rhianni Day (heroine of "Blue Fire"). When the story starts, she's peeved because Rhianni is in trouble on Mallachrom and Nureen is assigned to patrol seemingly dead space on the far side of the galaxy and can't be there to support her.

Pretty soon, though, Nureen has far too much to deal with to grumble. First she's out in a small scout craft and gets a distress call, then she tries to rescue an alien ship being chased by Talroqi, and then all three craft are pulled into a space anomaly that could crush them all to the thickness of a molecule. As if that weren't bad enough, the alien she rescued turns out to be a shapeshifter named Tessur and he can reach into her mind. Not a fun day.

When Nureen and Tessur get spat out on the other side of the anomaly, they're in another universe and dimension altogether, and find themselves facing this humongous, decrepit space station: The Borealis, run by the TPP (Trans Planetary Protectorate). (Think Babylon 5, set in the evil empire of the "Mirror, Mirror" episode of Star Trek. Clear enough in your head?) With Tessur there to translate for her, Nureen might just survive -- until she runs up against a man who claims to be Commodore Tedrin Creed from HER universe.

Problem: Tedrin Creed is dead, killed 50 years before in a huge battle with the Talroqi. Nureeen isn't about to trust anyone who has to be lying, even though he looks like her adolescent crush/fantasy, but he's her only chance to get her scout craft repaired and through the anomaly before it closes again.

On his part, Creed has been waiting 5 years for the anomaly to open so he can go home. He's sure he can handle Nureen -- until he finds out she's the granddaughter of his best friend, "Killer" Keala. But time is running out and they have to get off the Borealis before the TPP realizes he's been lying to them for the past 5 years and gets ... nasty.

They can worry about what her grandfather will think and whether it's against regulations to fall in love and how many years of back pay is waiting for Creed when they get home again. IF they can get home.

Check out the Cyber Launch Party on November 15 for "Blue Fire" and "That Synching Feeling."

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Blue Fire by Michelle Levigne

Today we're going off-subject and out of this universe.

Even though we're officially talking about my October Tabor Heights release, "White Roses" this week, I want to point out that I have two SF pieces coming from DBP in November.

"Blue Fire" is a full-length SF romance, and ties into DBP's Borealis universe through the short story, "That Synching Feeling," which we'll talk about tomorrow. (See how sneaky I am, making sure you have to come back tomorrow?)

Rhianni Day, our heroine, is a military brat -- raised by her father's Rover Corps squadron, and serving as a medic until her father's death and a new assignment sends her home to the colony world, Mallachrom. Her father always planned to come home to Mallachrom and find out what happened when his squadron was pulled out and sent to the far side of the galaxy to fight the Talroqi -- because although Mallachrom was far from the fighting, the Talroqi landed and held the planet for a while, slaughtering most of the colony. The Talroqi are hive creatures and use humans for food and other nefarious purposes Rhianni discovers almost too late. (I just love it when I can use the word "nefarious.")

The big challenge for Rhianni is that her best friend in childhood, Petroc Ash, is the leader of a group of survivors from that invasion. They're called the Taken: children snatched from their homes on the verge of the invasion, and sheltered in the wilderness of Mallachrom by the Shadows -- sentient canines. Now, going on 20 years later, the new colonists and other survivors live in fear of them. They aren't quite Human anymore, they don't trust the government, and the government is doing all it can to control them and blame them for everything that goes wrong.

Rhianni's job: find out what really happened during the invasion, what really happened to the Taken, and prove the Taken aren't pawns of the Talroqi, waiting to destroy the colony. For his part, Petroc has far too many secrets to guard and lives to protect. He's ready to tear himself apart with longing for a soul-bonding with Rhianni. The Taken mate for life, but that could kill Rhianni, because Taken can't leave Mallachrom, and she plans to leave when her mission is finished, never to return.

Check out the Cyber Launch Party on November 15 for "Blue Fire" and "That Synching Feeling."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Next Year for the Tabor Heights Series

"White Roses" is the 10th Tabor Heights novel. There are only two more books left to be released in Year One. So what's going to happen in Year Two?

Well, some of the people we've met in Year One will be getting married. That's a given.

And people you've met -- or are still going to meet -- in Year One will have stories of their own.

The next book, "The Mission," is due out in March of 2012. You'll get to know Claire and Tommy Donnelly a little bit better. Brother and sister, Claire and Tommy work at the Mission, which is run by Tabor Christian Church. Tommy is in a wheelchair. You'll learn what happened to put him in a wheelchair when he was a child, and how it shattered their family, and how Claire and Tommy are still putting the pieces back together years later. "The Mission" is Claire's romance story -- so in Year Two, Tommy get's his story, called "Wheels." All I'm going to tell you about that story is that Tommy is running Handicap Awareness Day, and quite a few unexpected things happen to him and a lady reporter who spends the day with him, in a wheelchair, to see how the "other half" lives.

Then there's "The Teddy Bear Dancer," which is the story of Vic Thomas, proprietor of the Gold Tone Gym, and his business partner, Rene Ackley. You met Rene in "Common Grounds." She's the roommate of Hannah Blake. The past has a way of catching up with us all, and while Vic is dealing with suddenly acting as a guardian for a 12-year-old girl, Rene realizes she has to go back to the town and the church that betrayed her and her father, and face the pain before she and Vic can try for a future together.

There will be 2 collections of short stories in Year Two, both dealing with students at Butler-Williams University. Look for more details on my web site, some time down the road.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Michelle Levigne

STEPH: I don't know much about White Roses. What's it about?

MICHELLE: This follows up and concludes the story begun in "Common Grounds," where Hannah is threatened by a copycat of the White Rose Killer. It starts with Toni coming back to town, determined to identify and bring to justice the boy who killed her big sister 20 years before, who was never caught and has grown up to be a sick, dangerous man.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: I don't honestly know, because I have written it and re-written it multiple times over the years. I had the first 9 or so Tabor Heights books rough drafted before I approached Gail, so it's anybody's guess. But I had 3 drafts in my files, so at least a month for each revision. Then lots of "sitting and fermenting" time in between each one, making notes for changes, especially as the town grew more solid in my mind and the lives of other characters got more three-dimensional and details changed. For instance, Xander and Hannah both had different names many drafts ago.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the story?

MICHELLE: I worked at a local, weekly newspaper that yes, is the foundation for the Tabor Picayune, and there was an incident where a girl vanished and her body was found wrapped in an old tarp in the Metroparks. It turned out her boyfriend strangled her in his bedroom and his aunt helped him move and hide the body. Months later, I heard rumors from someone who worked at a church-type counseling place that there was a girl being counseled, and her boyfriend was pressuring her for sex, and she just stopped coming -- and the speculation was that she was the girl who was killed. Especially since a witness to the murder said the murderer fondled the body after he strangled her.

I had it at the back of my mind: What if they never caught that boy, and the murder preyed on his mind, and years later he saw a girl who looked like the dead girl, and he sort of cracked and thought she had come back to him?

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the Tabor Heights Series?

MICHELLE: Not really an "inspiration," per se -- I was just writing different stories with subtle or outright faith element, in a small town, and I realized they all sort of "fit" together, like a big puzzle. With some adjustments in each story, I could have characters overlap and "visit," and adding the "visiting" characters' stories and lives to the main story of each book made them all richer. And Tabor Heights was born.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the leads of the movie.

MICHELLE: Actually, I'm going to plead the 5th on this one. Because some of the characters are based on real people I worked with or came into contact with -- at the newspaper, in the towns that I used as foundations for Tabor. There was this couple at the newspaper who were good friends, but I thought they were JUST friends. I referred to them -- in my mind, at least -- as Lois and Clark. Curt and Toni are based on them. And that's all I'm gonna say!

STEPH: What's the theme of the novel?

MICHELLE: There are so many threads in there. I guess a big one is exploring the damage that secrecy can do. Angel wouldn't have died if she and her boyfriend hadn't kept their middle school romance a secret. They would have caught him 20 years ago if Angel's parents and known who her boyfriend was. And the secondary romance in the story, Police Chief Cooper and Angela Coffelt, edior of the newspaper -- she wouldn't have been targeted by the White Rose as his next "true love" if the Chief and Angela had gone public with their relationship. Toni and Curt even play at deception -- pretending to be a "couple" to keep the White Rose from targeting her. They're miserable for a while when they both realize they want a real relationship, not a "shield" one.

And of course, there's the longing for justice. And the longing to be loved. And trust, loyalty, faith, and keeping promises. I tried to make the readers feel a little sorry for the White Rose Killer -- he just wanted someone to love him, but he certainly went about it the wrong way!

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MICHELLE: I'm lucky enough to have an actual room where I can close the door. One end is filled with bookshelves, and I have posters on the walls -- and maps of my various towns or fantasy lands that I write a lot of stories in. I have a drafting table I inherited from my father, and my notebook computer, notebooks, snacks, big tea mug, books for reference and DVDs waiting to be watched sit on it. On the opposite wall, sitting back-to-back with the drafting table, is my computer desk/hutch with an older desktop computer that I mostly do my bookkeeping and web site maintenance on,filing cabinets, and more bookshelves foroffice supplies. I also have a big walk-in closet where I dump promo supplies and shipping boxes and we store lots of out-of-season clothes. And of course, I have my music system -- gotta have my music when I'm writing. I'm listening to the soundtrack for "Dragonheart" while I'm answering these questions!

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

MICHELLE: Mixture of both. I do a general outline, and then insert all the notes I've gathered over the last few months of brainstorming and letting the idea ferment. I give myself permission to go off on tangents and "color outside the lines" because sometimes the best stuff shows up when I go wandering. I find out things about my characters or their friends or their pasts that I hadn't even thought of yet. And that sometimes creates big changes in the plot. Sometimes it's like sitting down with a script and watching a TV show or movie, and seeing all the things that got on screen that weren't in the script. It's fun -- like being surprised, or reading along with your intended audience WHILE you're writing the story.

STEPH: Fun Question: Who's your favorite football team?

MICHELLE: What's football?

Honestly, I don't really care about footall or basketball. I adore the Cleveland Indians. They did so great this year! Vast improvement. World Series next year for SURE!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Talk of The Town

Enjoy this excerpt from Talk of The Town. Leave a comment on this post today, Saturday and Sunday and I'll pick a name out of a hat on Monday for one lucky commenter to win a copy of Barbara's latest release. Thanks so much for supporting Barbara this week.

Moderator Steph


No coffee.

It wasn’t the end of the world, just close to it.

Max rapped the empty can on the counter trying to shake enough grounds loose to squeeze out a cup of the vital fluid. No luck. He squinted at the clock. 4:45. His neighbor George would kill him if he came begging at his back stairs for java at this predawn hour.

With the crumpled rejects of his last five cartoons littering the floor and deadline looming, Max had no other choice. He’d have to siphon his bankroll for enough cash to spring a can from the Spee-dee Mart 24 on the corner.

Max raked his fingers through his smashed-flat hair. He cursed the four hours of sleep he’d snatched, slouched on the sofa. The TV with its monotone delivery of the all-night news was the wrong choice to keep him awake and alert through the wee hours. His ancient, ghost-ridden set blinked and wavered from its place on the window sill, antenna straining through the blinds to gather in the signal. On screen, angel-faced street reporter, Kari Bryan bubbled about the rescue of a scraggly cat from a house fire. Max shrugged and jammed his feet into his knotted hi-tops. If Kari Bryan could be chipper at this ungodly hour, Max Dawson could too, damn it.

The sultry night greeted him with a wet kiss fogging his glasses. He grabbed them off and shoved them into his pocket. The sweating street looked better hazed in the soft blur of his nearsightedness. At the corner, Spee-dee Mart’s neon spelled out a tentative welcome, minus the burnt out M. SPEE-DEE ART. Max wished the sign could be an omen for the cartoons he had to finish for his ten o’clock meeting with his agent. God, how he hated deadlines.

The "24" promised in Spee-dee Mart’s name did not come without effort on the customers’ part. Or the owners’. Harold and LaVonda Peebles struggled to keep their tiny store staffed through the graveyard shift. More often than not, their wayward clerks would plead the stomach flu, or a death in the family, or the cat having kittens to get out of working the scary, lonely hours between midnight and dawn. Then, Harold or LaVonda or both would man the store, double locking the door against shady characters, but allowing entry to their well-known neighbors, less shady only by virtue of their familiarity.

With his rumpled hair and stubbly chin, Max expected he’d have to shout his identity to Harold or LaVonda as they blinked at him like owls through the grimy windows. He was surprised to find the door hanging open, a greasy rag shoved against the hinge. He stepped into the shop which throbbed with heat like a pizza oven. Mrs. Peebles, bent and thin as a twig, stood behind the counter, beads of sweat clustered on her mahogany brow.

"Whew, AC out again, Mrs. Peebles? The open door isn’t helping. You need to get a fan."

"And you need to say your prayers, sucker," a voice growled from behind him.

Max started to turn and felt the nudge of something hard against his ribs.

"Don’t look. Put your wallet and your car keys on the counter."

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Barbara Scott takes a look at the Bootheel of Missouri, part 2

When Kari and Dahlia of Talk of the Town left the Bootheel of Missouri for the bright lights and opportunities of the big city, they left behind a rural landscape of lore and legend. Comprising only 980 square miles of what should have been Arkansas, the Bootheel of Missouri has a history more varied and notorious than many similar sized patches of the United States.

From ancient times more than 2 million acres of the lowland region between the Mississippi and the St. Francis Rivers was covered with cypress-tupelo swamp. Under that blanket of primeval forest lurked the fault line of such power that it would produce a series of earthquakes in the winter of 1811-12 that were among the strongest ever felt in North America. Tremors were felt over 1 million square miles square miles and caused severe damage to houses in St. Louis and cracked windows and set church bells ringing in Philadelphia and New England. The most severe of the four major earthquakes changed the course of the Mississippi River and caused land movements that created Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.

During the Civil War, two battles took place in the region. One in 1862 was a series of conflicts in a battle of the ironclads in the Mississippi near New Madrid. The Union victory opened the river for the North through to Ft. Pillow, Tennessee.
After the war, the Bootheel earned a reputation for lawlessness. During the 20 years between 1872 and 1913, US Marshals waged continuous battles with bootleggers that became known as the Moonshine Wars. More than twenty Marshalls were killed in the performance of their duties.

As the land reclamation projects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries began to open up more land to agriculture clashes began between migrant workers and African-Americans who moved to the area looking for work.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Barbara Scott takes a look at the Bootheel of Missouri

Lifelong friends, Kari Bryan and Dahlia McAllister of Talk of the Town grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri. It was there they developed their grand dreams of finding success in the city. It was there they hatched their pact to keep men out of their lives until they achieved their dreams. Men only complicated things. They'd seen the proof of that among their classmates and neighbors. They were serious enough to sign their agreement in blood.

The Bootheel is a unique geographic location at the southeastern corner of Missouri which got its name from its shape, jutting into the state of Arkansas like the heel of a boot. Stories of the reason for this border anomaly range from the accepted truth to folklore.

At the time the border was drawn, a pioneer plantation owner in the area argued for its inclusion in the new state because of his political and financial ties to St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, and Ste. Genevieve in Missouri. He was accommodated with the fifty mile jog south. Legend gives other explanations including fear of wild panthers, bears and copperhead snakes that roamed Arkansas territory and the story of a sympathetic surveyor who wanted to include his sweetheart's farm in Missouri when it entered the Union in 1821.

Plagued with frequent floods, the three counties in the Bootheel are mainly agricultural with rich soil supporting crops of soybeans, rice and cotton. However, until the twentieth century the area covered with native forests and swampland. The forests were cut and the swamps drained during a series of reclamation projects extending from 1893 to 1989. Its culture identifies more with the South than the Midwest and its residents are among the more impoverished in the state. It is primarily rural with no big cities.

The Bootheel's colorful history is ripe for storytelling. I'll delve more into it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Dear Santa by Barbara Scott

Dear Santa,

It's been years since I wrote you. Maybe you won't remember me. Maybe you put aside the memories of adults who have passed beyond your purview. I get it. I did the same with student names and faces in June to allow space for the new ones in September. If I can refresh your memory, I was the one who wanted a Shirley Temple doll for my fifth Christmas, and I promised never to comb out her curls. I should remind you I kept that promise. It was my sister who turned her Shirley's hair into a frizzy mess.

Speaking of my sister, why is it you always gave her the pink stuff and me the green, yellow or blue? If we had to have matching everything, even though we weren't twins, just once, I would have liked the pink.

But all that is in the past, Santa, snow under the ice bridge so to speak. I know it's early, but the stores are bright with Christmas already. K-Mart and Sears are talking layaway. You may have to use it for this gift if it exists at the North Pole. The item I want is a bit pricey. It has no place in my budget. Santa, you're my only hope.

Please being me an iPad2 for Christmas. I know I don't need it. Who does, really? The iPad2 is the ultimate want. And I want it. E-readers are cheaper, easier to read with longer battery life, much more practical for reading e-books. Anyway, I already have an i-Phone and a laptop to serve that function as well as several others. I don't need a newgadget to hide my growing TBR pile. Already, I have a mountain in both places and shelves full of physical TBR material.

So no, I don't need it. But Santa, aren't you the Wizard of Wants? If anybody could bring me that iPad2, you could. With its cameras and internet power, think of the Facebook status updates I could post. You can't do that with an e-reader. With its big, bright screen and aps, think of the angry birds I could launch and the words I could have with friends. Don't forget, the iPad2 has word processing abilities I could use to keep up with my writing. Best of all, I could do all of this, plus read e-books anywhere. Why should I have to be at home to be bombarded with distractions?

Don't worry, if the economy won't allow you to grant me this wish, I'll understand. Maybe by next Christmas, there will be an iPad3 to want.

Love, Barbara

**Moderator's Note: Barbara's latest release is Talk of the Town, released 15 OCT.

Barbara Scott
West of Heaven
Talk of the Town, Oct. '11
Listen with Your Heart
Cast a Pale Shadow, EPIC Award winner
Haunts of the Heart

Monday, 17 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Q& with Barbara Scott

STEPH: I don't know much about Talk of the Town. What's it about?

BARBARA: Talk of the Town is a romantic comedy about a couple who play out their love-at-first-sight relationship in the full glare of the spotlight. Max and Kari meet when he's the hero of the day who foils an armed robbery and she's the first reporter on the scene. Sparks fly and the viewers take notice, clamoring for more. When they become engaged, they are invited to become the wedding couple on the channel's annual bridal event show.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

BARBARA: An old early 80's TV series, The Greatest American Hero, inspired the reluctant hero Max becomes without the paranormal elements or the suit, of course. Depicting Max as a man who struggles to overcome his impulsive tendencies came from years of working with kids who had similar difficulties. I taught them in middle school and often wondered how they'd cope in adulthood.

STEPH: How long did it take you to research?

BARBARA: Most of my research involved nailing down facts and flavor of the setting and workplace for this contemporary novel. I plunged into the book and did the necessary research as I moved along. I had the most fun with the pre-marital counseling scenes. The web abounds with sets of "essential questions" for potential mates.

STEPH: How important is the setting to the novel?

BARBARA: Since the Town plays a title role in this book, the setting, St. Louis, is very important. The landmarks and culture of the area play essential roles in the story.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the main characters.

BARBARA: I see Max as Chris Pine who played the young Captain Kirk in the recent Star Trek retake. He has the right swagger. Emma Stone of Easy A and The Help would be good as Kari. Cam Gigandet charmed me as Jack in Burlesque. He would do the same as Todd. A younger Jennifer Hudson could bring Dahlia to life and sing the theme song as well.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

BARBARA: I do a little of both. I enjoy the surprises of pantsing when the characters get their head and take off in directions all their own. This method gives me access to creative corners of my brain where m muses come out to play. Plotting has a place in every book, however. Eventually a structure must be imposed and the happy ending must take place. I have one book which I plotted from beginning to end before I started. That book took me the longest to write. I already knew the story, so the drive to complete it was diminished.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

BARBARA: Lately, it seems my writing space is anywhere I plop my laptop. With two moves in the last year and a stint in a physical rehab facility, I've learned I don't need a familiar space surrounded by books in oreder to write. Have keyboard, will travel.

STEPH: Do you listen to music when you write?

BARBARA: I do have to have some ambient noise in my writing environment. It doesn't have to be music. Often it's TV in the background.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one.

BARBARA: I have an iPad2 on my wish list. Until I get one, I read books on my laptop or my iPhone.

STEPH: Fun Question: Who is your favorite football team?

BARBARA: I loved the old Cardiac Cardinals of the 80's before they went to Phoenix and the Super Bowl winning Rams when Kurt Warner was the QB. I haven't been into football much since then.

Barbara Scott
West of Heaven
Talk of the Town, Oct. '11
Listen with Your Heart
Cast a Pale Shadow, EPIC Award winner
Haunts of the Heart

Friday, 14 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Powerline

The seated draftee, currently senior deacon Ed McCaskey, began jeering at the men. Ball after ball failed to dunk him. "Hey, everybody, I'm still dry up here. Isn't any of you man enough to drop a tired old beanpole like me?"

"Pick any of these. They'll get you yet," Andie said.

"You said it, lady." Kevin's eyes narrowed into a steely glare. He took aim and made a huge powerful throw, missing the target by a hair.

"Not even close, farm boy," yelled the deacon. "This target's practically the broad side of a barn. Come on, turkeys. Isn't there one among you with any--"

Jeff cut him off. "We haven't sent in our strongest player yet." He backed up to where Cassie stood sipping lemonade. With a gleam in his eyes, and a courtly bow from the waist, he offered her a ball. "How about it? Relief pitcher?"

She laughed aloud, flushing with embarrassment and a peculiar twist of pleasure. "The relief accepts the challenge." In a deliberate manner, drawing out the suspense, she handed her lemonade to Pam, and accepted the ball from Jeff. Their fingers met, and he clung to her touch for a moment. That strange electric thrill happened, the one she felt each time his skin made contact with hers. Cassie frowned with a studious air as if gauging her throw, and stepped up to the line. "You're in trouble now, Ed," she informed the deacon politely.

He gave an airy wave off gesture with one hand. "You're too little to move that ball half this distance."

"Get him," yelled her friends. "Make it count, Cassie!"

She judged the distance, biting her lip as if concentrating. "This is for the youth ministry," she said, enjoying her moment.

"Powerline, Kids' Clubs, and the Sunday school. All worthy causes."

"Come on, Cassie!"

"You can do it!"

"Let him have it, girl!"

She wound up her best sandlot pitch and let fly. A huge splash dropped the deacon abruptly into the inky depths. Ed came up sputtering, wiping his face down. "Well," he called, "I'm cooled off now, by golly."

Cassie laughed in excitement. The day seemed charged with enjoyment and good fun. She accepted her tiny animal prize with pleasure from the attendant. It was a four-inch tall stuffed eagle. Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. You promised, Lord. Let us always remember to wait on You. She turned to Jeff, gravely handing him the toy with a little flourish. "I hereby present the turkey prize," she announced to their laughing friends, "to the turkey who put me up to this -- Jeff Hadley."

He burst out in an unrestrained, infectious laugh, a warning look in his eyes. Cassie knew he'd pay her back later. "It's an eagle, not a turkey. What do they teach farm girls these days? Can't you tell the difference?" He stuffed it into his pocket as the laughing group moved on to the next stall.

"You're a good sport." The group moved on to the face-painting booth with the eager children. Cassie declined, not liking the feel of tempera on her skin, but watched as Melinda, Pam and Vera's girls all acquired pseudo-tattoos. "Neat," enthused Heather, Vera's twelve-year-old.

Amber, age four, rubbed at hers, afraid it might be permanent. Jeff scooped the giggling child onto his shoulders.
"Will it come off, Jeppie?" she asked plaintively.

"Sure it will, sweets. Just give it a good scrub-a-dub in the tub." He tickled the child. Cassie beamed, a step behind and out of sight. She thought of Leon's nieces, or of cousin Santiago and his daughter Amalia. Jeff was good with kids, like the men of her own family. He'd fit in with them. They'd like him, everybody would. He was a people person, like the folks she'd grown up with. Even Abuelita would take to him like a Cuban to picadillo.

On the spot she decided that Jeff was a prize, the pearl beyond price the Word spoke of. If he was crazy enough to want her, she'd spend the rest of her life giving to this man. He'd been tested, gone through the fire. He'd lost his wife. But Cass was here, and there was a plan for their lives, the two of them together.

Funny, thought I was getting pretty tuned in, pretty spiritual. But Jeff saw it way before I caught a glimmer. He sensed we belong together. Glad he didn't give up on me. Thank You, God. I asked You to give me a love for him that I couldn't mistake. And that's exactly what You did.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Deborah Kinnard dares to fly

Lately we’ve heard about authors in the general fiction market and some genre markets turning down large advances in order to take their stories direct to the readers. Yes, that’s right – the bad child of the industry, self-publishing, is growing up. Barry Eisler turned down a six-figure advance to self-publish. Joe Konrath has been trumpeting the advantages of direct-to-reader publishing for years now.

It’s easier now to self-publish, and from some blogs lately I’ve sensed that it’s both more lucrative for the writer and more risky. Read Kiana Davenport’s blog to see her take on the risks.

So has the Christian romance market embraced this brave new world? Not so much. We’ve been led to believe for a long while that the publishers are the gatekeepers, the patrones who watch over us all and make sure we don’t get our hands on bad fiction. For that matter, even edgy fiction…

Do I have answers for a writers who want to dip a toe into this edgy new market? No. I’m happy with my publishers, though frustrated at times that the market doesn’t provide much of what I like best to read. I salute those authors who have sufficient following to try this approach. What the markets will look like five years from now, or even two, I’d need a crystal ball to say.

Whatever shape it takes – more out of the box fiction, please!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Deborah Kinnard discusses Writing to All The Readers

A senior editor at a major Christian publishing house was lately quoted as saying, “We don’t pay attention to what our readers say they want” in referring to “edgy” or “out of the box” fiction. What? Last time I heard, readers were the folks who bought the books. Yet the sales numbers mean nothing? Publishers don’t pay any attention to them?

This isn’t only disingenuous, it isn’t true. Fact is, publishers do listen to their sales numbers, and therefore, they’re hearing their readers every time they vote with their Visas. That one type of book may consistently sell better than another does not mean there is no market for the latter. It just means the publisher may have to try a little harder to reach the non-easy part of the market.

I suspect that means they’ll go for the easy sell whenever possible.

It also means some of us are becoming strongly tempted to “go indie.” More on that later.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Deborah Kinnard talks about "the easy stuff"

Many of us have heard that Christian fiction is simplistic and boring. Mostly we hear this from people who deliberately stay away from reading in our market – maybe years ago they gave a historical romance a try, or maybe one of those short novels you can find at Wal-Mart.

Their complaints may go a little over the top. Did you cease reading literary fiction because you were forced to read THE LORD OF THE FLIES in high school? Okay, well, maybe you did. But most people don’t dismiss an entire genre because they’ve had one less than stellar experience.

The easy stories, the simple themes – why does Christian fic embrace them? Easy, we’re told – they sell. Prairie romance is better than medieval romance, because it sells better. A popular author is allowed to try her hand at a medieval, and her novel sells a third of what the publisher expects. It cannot be the publisher’s fault, obviously it’s not the author’s – so it must be the time frame.

I submit that Christian fic must rise to the challenge of writing – and publishing – out of the box types of books as well as those that sell predictably. We readers are not all the same. Why should we expect our reading material to be? Since we don’t all read bonnet books, is it necessary to produce only that type of novel?

Is some of this due to laziness? Stay tuned for more thoughts.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Deborah Kinnard

DEB: A little about POWERLINE: the book grew out of my own experiences as a crisis line volunteer back a few years. Since it was run from a secular, humanistic mindset, we weren't allowed to point people toward Christ or indeed faith of any type. I started playing with what might happen if a crisis line was set up the other way--and encouraged its volunteers to counsel the callers with the love of God. POWERLINE grew out of that, and I think my volunteer did a pretty good job.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write PL?

DEB: In several drafts, it took almost three years. I showed it in an early incarnation to a friend who writes and sells screenplays, and she liked it enough to show it to a friend. Once they were done, they wrote me a note saying, "If you fix these six major problems and 60 minor problems, we think it's marketable." It went on to be the first book I sold. I'm honored that Desert Breeze chose to reissue it.

STEPH: Do you cast your characters? If so, who are the leads?

DEB: I never have. I prefer to visualize them as they take shape in my mind, and let my readers do the same as they read. Although I think Cassie does look a tad bit like I might've looked as a young twenties. She's prettier, though.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

DEB: Non-seriously, since age 10. Seriously, since the late 80s. I first sold in 2002, so I guess I'm a 40 year overnight success.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster? Totally, 110% pantser.

DEB: I rarely plot anything out beforehand. I prefer to write "character-driven" fiction, and the characters don't always tell me what they're up to. The one time I tried to outline, the book bogged down and still isn't finished.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

DEB: I don't ... but family, if you're listening, Christmas IS coming!

STEPH: What was the last novel you read?

DEB: I've been writing so much, I can't think of the last one I picked up and then finished! LOL. I'm currently reading Laurie Alice Eakes' print book LADY IN THE MIST. But since I'm heavily in rewrites on another project, I can't honestly say I'm diligent about reading for pleasure just now.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Voodoo Bones

VOODOO BONES is now available from Desert Breeze! You can read my earlier posts from this week to find out how I came to write this story. Now, it's time for an excerpt!

Noel Galliano has always wanted her own business, and despite critics who believe she won’t succeed, opens a tiny French Quarter voodoo shop. What she doesn’t count on is finding a dismembered corpse upstairs. Detective Mathieu Bergeron is considered a screw up around the district station, until he puts away the Bayou Ripper. Then another body is found mutilated, and both his arrest and competence are thrown into question. Matt and Noel must work together to solve this terrifying crime in the Big Easy...and along the way, they fall in love.


The night's inky blackness reminded Detective Matthieu Bergeron of hot chicory coffee: thick, rich, and filled with mystery. A muted jazz tune echoed off the French Quarter's worn bricks, and heavy fog rolled in off the river, masking the scrollwork on the balconies and dampening the air. October in New Orleans was fickle. Warm one night, and cold as hell the next. Tonight's humidity chilled Matt to the bone and told him it was the perfect night for murder. Not many people were out, and those who were, hurried to wherever they were going.

He halted just outside the narrow alley where Crawford Delacort, one of the chief techs from the Orleans Parish Medical Examiner's office, knelt beside a sprawled female corpse. The air reeked of stale cigarettes, river mud, and old beer. He scowled.

Fog snaked eerily around the body, and the bright yellow crime scene tape stretched across the entrance to the cave-like space fluttered in the damp breeze. Matt ducked beneath it and approached Delacort, a tall red-haired man with a runner's lanky build.

"Hey, Crawford. Please tell me this woman has all her parts."

"You're in luck tonight, Detective." Crawford rose and brushed off his hands. "She's all here."

"Cause of death?"

"Strangulation with some sort of ligature." The ME looked down at the body lying face down on the cold concrete. "Maybe a necklace. Can't be sure."

"Was she raped?"

"No fluids, but I'll know more once I do the autopsy." He cocked his head. "I'm thinking she might be a hooker, though. Just look at her clothes and shoes, and she has needle marks on the inside of both arms. Killer left her empty purse. He cleaned her out."

"Could've been a dissatisfied customer."

"Or a drug deal gone bad. Even a simple robbery." Crawford shrugged. "Who knows?"

Matt squatted beside the dead girl and examined her twisted, pale neck. Sure enough, a dark red line was gouged into her skin. He sighed. "Okay. Where's CSU?"

"On the way."

"Make sure they get plenty of pictures of her neck."

"I've got it covered."

Something in Crawford's tone made Matt look up. The ME's dark eyes gleamed with derision. Anger boiled inside Matt, but he held it in check. No way would he let the bastard know his air of superiority bothered Matt in the least. Damn it. Gage Simms had soured everyone against him.

He gritted his teeth and came to his feet. "Any witnesses?"

"No idea." Crawford peered down his sharp nose at Matt and jerked his head toward the other end of the alley, where two uniformed officers lurked in semi-darkness. "Ask the first guys on scene."

"All right." Matt's heart raced. He dug out his pad and pen and made a few notes. Even his big collar two days ago, when he'd single-handedly brought in the Bayou Ripper, hadn't silenced his critics. His former partner's constant barbs had alienated everyone in the district station, and now that the jerk had been elevated to commander, Matt was seriously considering asking for a transfer. He started down the alley, and his cell phone rang.

With a sharp curse, he jerked it off his belt. "Bergeron."

"Matt." Speak of the devil. It was Gage Simms. "Got another one for you."

"You can't be serious." Matt halted. "I just got here."

"I'll send someone else. Get your ass over here. To Vous Deux, on Esplanade."

"That new voodoo shop?"

"Yeah. And Matt -- I told you so."

"What are you talking about?" A sick feeling swirled in the pit of Matt's stomach.

Simms laughed. "You'll see when you get here."

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Melanie Atkins talks about The Big Easy

New Orleans, Louisiana. The Crescent City. The Big Easy. No matter the moniker used to describe it, the city is sprawling, busy, and often chaotic. The French Quarter adds a bit of mystery, too, making it like no other city. More sexy and sultry, since it's right on the river, and simmering with a boiling heat all its own. The heat of humanity.

Most of my stories set in New Orleans take place in this quaint area filled with wrought iron balconies, picturesque structures made of old brick, and rowdy tourists. A murder in an apartment above a Voodoo shop doesn't seem too far-fetched in this part of the city teaming with so many nationalities, personalities, and odd folks.

VOODOO BONES, my October Novella out at Desert Breeze, is not for the squeamish. In this story, Noel Galliano has always wanted her own business, and despite critics who believe she won’t succeed, opens a tiny French Quarter voodoo shop. What she doesn’t count on is finding a dismembered corpse upstairs. Detective Mathieu Bergeron is considered a screw up around the district station, until he puts away the Bayou Ripper. Then another body is found mutilated, and both his arrest and competence are thrown into question. Matt and Noel must work together to solve this terrifying crime in the Big Easy...and along the way, they fall in love.

I got my idea from this story from a news article online… a true story about a dismembered corpse found above a Voodoo shop. My eyes widened as I read about it, and a story was born. I had my premise. Next, I developed my main characters and then just started to write. The plot progressed from there. What a fun story to write!

Look for an excerpt from VOODOO BONES on this blog tomorrow (Friday).
Hope you'll check the book out here:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Melanie Atkins talks about researching romantic suspense

I love writing and reading suspense, watching crime shows, and even hearing about crimes in the news. Why? I have no idea. I just know I do. And when I write my books, I want to get the details right. So I do a lot of research.

I've bought books about police procedure, forensics, and the deviant mind -- everything from Forensics for Dummies to Lee Lofland's Police Procedure and Investigation, one of the best books out there for people who write about law enforcement. I've also attended some fabulous conferences, including Forensic University in 2007, sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Sisters in Crime, various LEO sessions at RWA conferences, and Lee's Writers' Police Academy in 2010 and 2011. Some of my best information, however, has come from local citizens' police academies. I've been to two: one sponsored by the Jackson Police Department, and the other by the Hinds County Sheriff's Office. Both were excellent and gave me a much needed glimpse inside these local agencies.

I've talked with detectives, ATF agents, members of the bomb squad, SWAT team members, and forensic experts, gone on ride alongs, and taken jail tours. And at this year's WPA, I did hands on fingerprinting, learned about blood spatter from an expert, and viewed an outdoor crime scene in the pouring rain. It's so great to get a glimpse into this world!

I'm working hard to "get it right", not only by doing what I've listed above, but also by talking to local cops… and I hope you'll check out my books! Last month at Desert Breeze, the second book in my Keller County Cops series, Shield of Valor came out, and this month, Voodoo Bones, a novella, is available. I'll post an excerpt in a later post.

Buy link for Voodoo Bones:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Melanie Atkins talks about her favorite show

As many of you probably know, I'm a Castle addict. No, I'm not jonesing for a medieval home. I love the TV show Castle that airs on Monday nights at nine central on ABC... starring hunky Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. Best. Show. Ever!

Fillion plays Rick Castle, a bestselling mystery writer along the lines of James Patterson (who, by the way, has appeared as himself in poker games on the show, along with Michael Connelly and the late Stephan J. Cannell) who finds himself bored with his career until he meets Detective Kate Beckett, played by Katic, when some yo-yo starts killing people the way he does in his books. He is immediately entranced with Beckett and decides to start a new series about "a saavy female detective" -- Nikki Heat. Of course, to develop his characters, he has to do research. So he pulls strings with the mayor and winds up shadowing the beautiful detective as she solves cases -- much to her chagrin.

Sparks fly between them from day one despite her annoyance… and that was all it took to get me hooked. I love a good romance, and this show has it in spades. Andrew Marlowe, the show's creator, says that when he started developing this show, he "set out to write a great romance", and so far, he's succeeding. What a treat!

I seem to obsess over only one show at a time, and I was in the doldrums lamenting the lack of what I most wanted to see on my previous favorite program, Law and Order SVU, when Castle came along. In my opinion, SVU peaked in seasons seven and eight and then went down the tubes. The writers drew the audience in with Elliot's impending divorce, thrilling those of us who desperately wanted Olivia and Elliot to get together, only to dash our hopes when Elliot's estranged wife Kathy turned up pregnant. What a waste of a great storyline! I just couldn't get excited about that show after that, even though I tried.
And then along came Kate Beckett and Rick Castle. Marlowe is following through on his promise to get the two together, even though it's taking a while, and I love it. Finally, a show that doesn't disappoint in the romance department. Sure, some episodes are better than others, but as a whole the show, which has been called a "dramedy" because of its mix of comedy and drama -- and their relationship (or friendship, as it is right now) -- rocks. They will get there eventually, Marlowe swears, and I believe him. He hasn't let us down so far.

He's also a marketing genius, because each fall a new Richard Castle book comes out. First there was Heat Wave, then Naked Heat, and now Heat Rises. Of course, Castle is a fictional character, so he can't really write the books… and Marlowe won't say who pens them. I don't care. They're just like the show, only with Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook as the main characters, and I always enjoy them. This year, they've even come out with a graphic novel called Deadly Storm that focuses on Castle's pre-Nikki Heat series about cunning Derek Storm. Too cool!

In addition to watching the show and read the books, I also blog about each Castle episode with Lee Lofland, an ex-cop, author, and fabulous resource for anyone writing crime fiction, on The Graveyard Shift. Lee puts on the Writers' Police Academy in North Carolina, and I've never been to a finer conference (I'll blog about that another day). Lee critiques Castle's police procedure every week, while I discuss the romance. Sometimes, we go good cop-bad cop in our reviews. It's so much fun! You can read our blog each Tuesday morning here:

Don't forget to catch Castle on Monday nights at nine central on ABC… and if you become addicted like I am, check out the fansite at

Monday, 3 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Melanie Atkins

STEPH: I don't know much about Voodoo Bones. What's it about?

MELANIE: Noel Galliano has always wanted her own business, and despite critics who believe she won’t succeed, opens a tiny French Quarter voodoo shop. What she doesn’t count on is finding a dismembered corpse upstairs. Detective Mathieu Bergeron is considered a screw up around the district station, until he puts away the Bayou Ripper. Then another body is found mutilated, and both his arrest and competence are thrown into question. Matt and Noel must work together to solve this terrifying crime in the Big Easy...and along the way, they fall in love.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MELANIE: Voodoo Bones is a novella, and I wrote it in about a month.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for it?

MELANIE: Not really. It's a romantic suspense set in New Orleans, like many of my books, so I'm familiar with the area, and I already do plenty of law enforcement research.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the story?

MELANIE: I read a news article about a dismembered corpse found in an apartment above a voodoo shop in New Orleans (a true story), and the plot formed from there.

STEPH: How did you go about picking the hero/heroine's names?

MELANIE: I went with Cajun names because my h/h are from New Orleans.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

MELANIE: I'm a pantser. I've tried plotting, but it doesn't really work for me. I come up with a basic premise, develop the main characters, and just dive in and let the story unfold.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MELANIE: I write in a corner of my bedroom in a recliner, surrounded by research books. It's a cozy little space.

STEPH: How long have you been writing? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

MELANIE: I've been writing for about 13 years. My advice is to never, ever quit. Write everyday.

STEPH: What's the last book you downloaded for your Nook? What feature do you like the most about your Nook?

MELANIE: The last book I downloaded is Heat Rises by Richard Castle (the fictional author). lol As anyone knows who reads the blog I co-write with Lee Lofland on his blog The Graveyard Shift, I'm a Castle addict.

STEPH: Fun question: Fess up: Who is your favorite football team?

MELANIE: I'm a devoted New Orleans Saints fan. Who dat? Geaux Saints!

STEPH: Where can we find you on the Web?


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