Friday, 28 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Undercover"

Thanks so much for supporting Maria during her week in the spotlight. Leave a comment today, Saturday, and Sunday along with your email and we'll pick a random winner to win a copy of Maria's book, "Undercover." Winner will be announced on Monday here on the blog and on the DB Connections Loop. Enjoy the Excerpt!
Moderator Steph

Jenny and Alex shared the row with a talkative elderly gentleman who chattered away about business opportunities. His story of when he went to Russia and had to bribe the customs staff to be allowed to bring his money out of the country made Jenny bite her lip not to laugh.

"So, where do the two of you come from?"

Jenny answered with a friendly smile, "Oh, I come from around here. I was born in Adams, actually, but I've been moving around a little since then. Just in the state, though."

Alex said with a lot of glee, "I'm Russian."

Their new acquaintance exclaimed, "Oh," and fell silent.

During the past few years, Jenny's unwilling brain managed to learn some of her husband's language, and she understood him very well when he said, "Sorry, I couldn't resist."

She entwined her fingers with his. "It's really funny."

It was of course too much for the man to resist. "Excuse me, you two are together, aren't you?"

She nodded. This trip over the ocean was much more entertaining than she'd expected. "Yes. We've been married for five years."

Glancing towards Alex, who made the seat look tiny where he sat reading the newspaper, visibly pretending not to listen, the man whispered, "Please, I don't want to offend you, but... Is it difficult?"

"Is what difficult?"

He kept his eyes on Alex. "You know, adapting between such different cultures. Don't they have very different ways of viewing things in Russia? Are you allowed to work or do you have to stay at home? What language do you speak at home? Are you allowed to handle money?"

Neither his curiosity nor prejudice knew any limits. She wanted to formulate a killer answer, but Alex beat her to it. He smiled innocently and leaned over her, to make himself heard better as he exaggerated his accent. "Of course she stays at home, she has to take care of the children. We have seven; four boys and three girls. It would be unthinkable for her to take care of all of them, the household, tend to my needs, and work at the same time. My second wife works though. She has only been with us for three years, so she only has three children, but the fourth is on the way."

Jenny had all the trouble in the world not to laugh.

"Since both my wives are American we mostly speak English at home. I have decided it's best for the little ones. Regarding money, I give them everything they need, and they don't need any money of their own."

The man seemed about to faint. He said, "Excuse me," and fled to the restrooms. Jenny laughed so hard she had to lean on Alex, and smacked him over the arm. "You're... you're terrible."

"Me? What did I do?"

Further up in the corridor, the man talked to the flight crew, all of them sending covert glances in Jenny's direction. She wanted to wave, and folded her hands in her lap to keep them from doing something stupid. After a couple of minutes a young stewardess walked by, looked at her with open curiosity, and peeked towards Alex. Jenny smiled her friendliest smile as the girl passed them. It only took a minute until she came back. "Can I get you anything?"

Jenny shook her head. "No thank you, I'm good."

The girl's eyes darted towards Alex, who now looked like the epitome of serenity and friendliness. He encouraged her, now sounding almost American. "Go ahead and ask. The gentleman who sits here had some interesting ideas about the habits in my native country. Perhaps he has taken time to share with you..."

She looked relieved. "So, it's not true that you have ten children and several more wives, and that..."

She turned to Jenny and whispered, "That you are his slave?"

The corners of Alex's mouth twitched when he said, "Of course not. It's probably just an old man's fantasies."

Their flight attendant exclaimed, "Thank heavens. You two look so good together, and it would have been a shame."

"Look what you did. You're impossible."

He regained his poker face. "I don't know what you are talking about."

People in the row in front of them turned around to watch. They seemed amused. When the older man returned, Alex said in a tauntingly calm and slow voice, "I must apologize, what I told you earlier isn't entirely true."

The man stared, not at all looking convinced, and Jenny filled in. "The only thing he's said that's true this far is that he's Russian."

As relieved as the man looked, Alex wasn't able to leave well enough alone. His eyes sparkled with mischief. "We do have a lot of sex."

Their neighbor looked as if he would choke on his coffee, and people all around them started to laugh. Alex put his new sunglasses on and leaned back in the seat, clearly very happy with himself.


Book trailer link:

Review snippets:

"This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable" -- Mrs. Michael, reader

"You easily connect with the characters and feel the tension of their various situations - You will be guessing at the outcome, which is very original! Well worth reading!" -- Robin Olsson, reader

Buy link:

Find me on the web:

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Authors Spotlight - Maria Hammarblad talks about finding inspiration

The holidays are a time for sharing, so today I will share a secret. Well, I guess it won't be a secret any longer after revealing it here on the blog, but anyway...

I wrote the first draft of Undercover watching a Canadian TV show called Cra$h and Burn. The main character is called Jimmy Burn, and he works with insurance. When something goes wrong, he comes in to clean up the mess. He's stuck between an inner desire to do what's right for the accident victims, and management's demands that he give out as little money as humanly possible. His own past isn't exactly clean, and he also struggles with combining his sordid history with a wholesome girlfriend and her very enthusiastic family. It's a funny show. I don't think it was intended to be a comedy, but I had many laugh out loud moments when watching.

Anyway, the show also features a lot of crashed cars, and a hilarious side story about a gang of Russians making a living on a body shop and fake accidents. I do think they give Jimmy Burn some fresh gray hairs as the cars are stolen over and over again. As time goes by, they expand their insurance fraud business into accidents and start a clinic in an old strip club.

Canadian-Croatian actor Steve Basic plays the head of the Russian gang. He's one of my favorite TV and movie actors, and in this show he goes around saying, "Make it stolen" with a fake Russian accent to die for. When I first wrote Alexei in Undercover, Mr Bacic's mobster became his voice. This is years ago, and every time I look at the manuscript I still read Alexei's dialogue in that voice in my head. I don’t think there are any other similarities between the characters – they certainly don’t use the language in the same way – but the voice gets me every time.


Jenny cupped her hands around the warm mug. She should say something, but what? If she opened her mouth, something stupid might come out, like, "Nice weather," or, "What's the weather like in Russia?"

Alex's eyes glittered. "You have good coffee."

"Yeah, it's not bad. Mark usually makes a pot in the morning. He really likes coffee. So, what's the weather like where you come from?"

There it was, the stupid weather. Great for stalling a customer on the phone, but right now, not so much. Why couldn't she talk like a normal person instead of going from mute to babbling?

Alex chuckled, "Cold, colder, cold, really hot, and back to cold."


Book trailer link:

Review snippets:

"This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable" -- Mrs. Michael, reader

"You easily connect with the characters and feel the tension of their various situations - You will be guessing at the outcome, which is very original! Well worth reading!" -- Robin Olsson, reader

Buy link:

Find me on the web:

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Jenny from Undercover

Today, I’ll let my heroine, Jenny, take over the pen. She’s been slumbering in my mind ever since Undercover was published, and I think she wants to come out for some air.

Jenny, it’s good to see you here today. Reviewers say you can be a bit air-headed, but have a backbone of steel. What do you think made you such a strong woman?

Air-headed? How can I be air-headed when I’m stuck in my writer’s head? There’s no air in there, more like a vacuum… *fluffs hair* What was the question again? Oh yes, strong woman. I’d say breaking free from my first marriage. That taught me I really could stand on my own two feet and do things for myself. My friends and my job too. There’s nothing like solving a really tricky problem that seems impossible. The key is to believe in oneself. Even if you don’t believe in yourself at that very moment, pretend you do. If you can at least pretend to be on top of things, both your mind and other people will believe you.

Can you tell us something about your story?

Absolutely. I sat at work one day, pretty bored at that, and this amazing man appeared by my desk. I bet you know the type: tall, handsome, foreign… I had to figure out a way to talk to him, of course, so I made sure the guys invited me for lunch. He was interesting and charming, and as the day went by, I sort of fell for him. He seemed to like me too. Then, I discovered that he was a Russian spy. What a mess! It was really scary at times, but there’s nothing more important than family, and once you find the person you belong with you have to stick together, you know.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Actually, I do. Dalai Lama once said, “Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.” I like that one.

It’s Christmas time. How do you feel about the holiday season?

I love it. Love, love, love it. I think Christmas decorations are magical. I mean, imagine Christmas morning. The lights never shine brighter, tinsel never glitters as much, and the colors are never as full and bright as on Christmas morning.

Anything else you want to share?

Only one thing. Se-quel. Can someone please tell my writer to stop procrastinating and playing with imaginary space ships? She made such a big mess of my life she really needs to straighten it all up, she’s just too easily distracted to get anything done. From what I hear, my daughter wants a book too. She claims she’ll be kidnapped and locked in a box on some boat by people wanting to sell her as a slave. I think she’s just talking, but it might happen. If it does, I hope Alex and I taught her to take care of herself. You can’t imagine the worries of being a fictitious mom!

Book trailer link:

Review snippets:

"This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable" -- Mrs. Michael, reader

"You easily connect with the characters and feel the tension of their various situations - You will be guessing at the outcome, which is very original! Well worth reading!" -- Robin Olsson, reader

Buy link:

Find me on the web:

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Merry Christmas from Maria Hammarblad - Christmas in Sweden

Merry Christmas! I am honored to be here on the Desert Breeze Publishing blog on Christmas Day. Regardless of what you celebrate this holiday season, I hope it finds you well.

I’ve always been especially fond of this time a year. For a few days, life slows down to a pleasant pace and most people make an extra effort to be nice. Even those who normally steal parking spots from old ladies make an effort to behave and be kind. Imagine if we could keep this spirit all around the year!

I’m Swedish originally, and our Christmas habits are just different enough from the American to confuse me. Like… We celebrate Christmas Eve, handing the presents out late in the afternoon. No stockings, just presents. We have Santa nowadays, but when my mom was a little girl, back in the 1940’s, her family still adhered to an older Scandinavian tradition with a goat bringing presents. Many homes still have a symbolic straw goat we call “julbock” and many of our Christmas cards are decorated with a santa-like little man accompanied by a goat. One of these santas – well, we call them “tomte” -- were thought to live secretly on each farm in the countryside, helping the farmer care for crops and animals. Better stay on his good side, or he might not help!

Most homes put the tree up December 23rd, and we keep all decorations up until January 13th. On that day we have a ceremony called “Julgransplundring” – plundering the tree. It’s a festivity mostly for the kids, with lots of candy and games.

Even though I’ve been in the US since late 2008, I’m still in the Swedish rhythm. Early December my husband fidgets because we don’t have any Christmas stuff up. I’ll say, “But… It’s so early.” A couple of days into January each year, he says we have to do something, because everyone else already took all the lights down. I’ll be like, “C’mon, it’s just the third. They can sit for another couple of weeks.” Back home I’d happily leave them up until February, but I wouldn’t dream of putting them up before Christmas. When I look around I see he’s right; we’ll be the only ones with lights and glitter, and people in passing cars stare.

This difference in rhythm shines through in my writing. My novel Undercover starts just after Christmas, when the main character Jenny returns to work after a well-deserved break. Observant readers will note I claim she took a vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, and when she returns, all decorations in the office are still up. No one moves a finger to take them down. I didn’t even consider people here might find it odd.

Book trailer link:

Review snippets:

"This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable" -- Mrs. Michael, reader

"You easily connect with the characters and feel the tension of their various situations - You will be guessing at the outcome, which is very original! Well worth reading!" -- Robin Olsson, reader

Buy link:

Find me on the web:

Monday, 24 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Maria Hammarblad

STEPH: I don't know much about “Undercover.” What's it about?

MARIA: Undercover is a contemporary romance. It’s about Jenny Moore, whose life is pretty safe and a little boring. She dreams about adventure and being swept off her feet, and when this actually happens she gets more excitement than she ever wanted. If I may quote my friend Patty Froese, it’s about “dangerous men and the women who hold them back from the edge.”

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MARIA: I always have problems with that question because I tend to write in little bursts of energy… The first draft came together fairly quickly, a matter of weeks, but since then I’ve re-written it a number of times. It took either a few weeks or a couple of years, depending on point of view.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

MARIA: Quite a lot, actually. The book takes place in several countries, and I’ve been to most of them, but not to Russia and not to Mexico. When I looked at photos and talked to people who have visited these places, I realized my mental images were completely wrong. It’s a novel sprung out of my imagination, but I still wanted to get as much right as I can.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

MARIA: I think the cover artist did an amazing job conveying the feeling of the book, and I love this cover. It makes me think of spy movies and classic thrillers. My hero is a soldier -- and spy -- who has performed some horrific deeds. Love transforms him, and once he tries to fit into a normal way of life, he constantly has to put himself in harm’s way to protect those close to him. In my mind, that’s just what he does on the cover.

STEPH: Jenny is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

MARIA: Jenny is a romantic and na├»ve dreamer, and she’s so infatuated with the hero common sense goes right out the window. All of a sudden she puts up with things that would normally send her screaming and running in the other direction. Luckily, when put to the test, she also has a backbone of steel. When she sets out to do something, she’ll do it, and she’s strong enough to sort of the strangest situations, saving the day for both herself and him.

STEPH: What does Alexei find appealing about her?

MARIA: She’s kind, caring, and teaches him to appreciate the little things in life. He didn’t know how unhappy he was until he met her. He tries to explain the phenomenon to her in the book: "My life had been a black and white movie on a tiny little screen, and now it was full color IMAX with Dolby surround."

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

MARIA: Love conquers all. Definitely. They have to go through some horrible ordeals to stay together, but as long as they have each other, they’re okay.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

MARIA: Everything. My head is quite a bizarre place, and my mind is always asking, “What if.” I can look at the vacuum cleaner and think, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if this thing could fly?” I sometimes see interesting people on my way to work or going to the store, and by the time I get home I have a complete story ready about them. It doesn’t even stop when I sleep. I often wake up in the middle of the night with a story burning on my eyelids.

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

MARIA: I do. I have a Kindle Touch and I really like that it can read aloud. It took a while to get used to the voice, I thought it sounded kinda snarky at first, but now I just think it’s practical. I also love that it works in sunshine.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you put a star or an angel on the top of your Christmas tree?

MARIA: We have a silvery star. I bought it for my first apartment in Sweden and it’s been with me for well over twenty years. I bet it didn’t expect to end up in Florida. ☺

Book trailer link:

Review snippets:

"This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable" -- Mrs. Michael, reader

"You easily connect with the characters and feel the tension of their various situations - You will be guessing at the outcome, which is very original! Well worth reading!" -- Robin Olsson, reader

Buy link:

Find me on the web:

Friday, 21 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Invitiation to a Wedding"

Thank you so much for supporting Michelle's week in the spotlight. Michelle has written a short Christmas story, that she will post on her website as a PDF that readers can download.

The title is "One Small Child," and takes place just before Christmas at the end of Year One in the Tabor Heights Series. There's a nice blank gap between the last story of Year One, which ends in November, and when Year Two starts in early January.

The links for Michelle's website are at the bottom of the page.
Enjoy the Excerpt!
Moderator Steph


"Are you two fighting about something?" Drake asked.

"We'd have to be talking to fight." Dinah lifted the cutting board and scraped the celery off it into the bowl. "She hasn't come by, hasn't called, since I got home."

"Maybe she didn't know when you got home, and she's been waiting for you to call?"
"She has a point, dear," Mrs. Ashcroft said.

"Gretchen left messages for her." Dinah shrugged and reached for the tomato and concentrated on coring it before slicing. Drake knew it didn't take that much effort to take out the area where the stem attached. Something bothered his sister.

Still, he couldn't help snapping at her. "You left it up to Gretchen to tell Stacy you were home? Mom, what's wrong with this picture?"

"Gretchen has been very helpful. She's been helping even before the girls came home." Mrs. Ashcroft handed him the divided glass dish to hold the olives and artichokes. "All the things I would have asked Stacy to help with, Gretchen already thought of and took care of them."

"You wouldn't have had to ask Stacy, either. If she knew what was going on." He grunted as he got the second jar open and dug in with two fingers to scoop out a piece of artichoke heart. He grinned when his mother slapped his shoulder -- after he had the piece in his mouth.

"Something is bothering her," Dinah said, plopping the pieces of tomato onto the top of the salad. "She hasn't come by, hasn't called. She hasn't emailed, either."

"Did you email her? Call her? Stop by her house?" Drake sighed when his sister just shook her head and wouldn't look at him. "Di, you're the one with the open schedule. Stacy has to work. You know she'll drop everything for you, but you have to let her know you're here, first."

"She obviously knows I'm home, because she brought that present by."

"We did send her an invitation to the party," Mrs. Ashcroft offered.

"Stacy shouldn't need an invitation. She's just about family." He settled down on a stool pulled up at the counter. What was wrong with his mother and sister that they didn't seem to realize something was very wrong? Or was something wrong with him, that he thought Stacy was being hurt?

"True," his mother said. "Did she say anything was going on, the last time you two talked, Dinah?"

"We haven't really talked..." Dinah slid the salad bowl into the refrigerator. She barely met Drake's eyes before turning to their mother. "I got a Christmas card from her. That's about all the contact we've had for the last year or two."

"How come? What'd you do to make her angry?" Drake asked.

"What makes you think I did anything?" She glared at him and turned to walk out the door.

"Because Stacy is like a duck -- most of the time it rolls right off. Takes a lot to get her angry," he said, catching her arm to stop her.

"I wouldn't know. She just stopped writing."

"Did you ask her what was wrong?"

"If you're so concerned about Stacy, how come you don't write to her? How come you have to find out how she is by asking me?"

"Dinah!" their mother scolded. She stepped over, somewhat blocking her in, so Dinah had to step around her to get out of the kitchen. "Why did Stacy stop writing? What did she say in her last email?"

"I can't remember... exactly." Dinah wouldn't meet her eyes now.



Thursday, 20 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne - Teasers vs Spoilers

Don't you hate it when someone does a book review, and they basically give you the whole plot of the story? They tell you the names of all the characters, the history between the hero/heroine and their nemeses, the "black moment," and the names of all their children from the epilogue.

What's the use of reading the book, when you already know how it's going to end, and you know the most important points in the journey to get there?
Some may argue that romance guarantees a happy ending, so you know how it's going to end, so what does it matter if someone tells you all the gory or glory details?
It's the JOURNEY that matters in romance -- and yes, in a lot of other genres, too. And I hate it when the whole journey is revealed.

When my Dad was alive, I hated watching movies with him, because at some point he would turn to me or Mom or someone else in the room and say, "So, what's going to happen next?" He wanted to know -- which is fine, but don't ruin it for the rest of us when you find out, okay? And he would ask when he knew it was a movie we hadn't seen before, or a new episode of a TV show.

That's what we call spoilers, and it doesn't "make things better" when someone posts in all-caps SPOILER ALERT and then spaces down ten or twenty lines to create a blank space before discussing a movie they just saw or a book they just read. Because try as you might to not read it, you'll end up reading it. And then all the fun of "the first time" goes out of the movie or book or whatever.

So, that being said ... why in the world did I go ahead and talk about events in other books in the year-long correspondence between Stacy and Drake in "Invitation to a Wedding"?

To tease you and tempt you and make you wonder how a problem was going to be resolved -- or even more irritating, how the heck that situation got started in the first place.

Because Stacy only mentions the aftermath of something, or an odd event, and because she's on the outside, or she's living in her "now," there's no way for her to give away important details that will ruin it for the reader.

At least, that's the plan!

Because hopefully -- she says, with fingers and toes crossed, which makes it really hard to write and walk -- you'll have no idea whatsoever what event belongs in what upcoming book of Year Two. And yet, when you read the book someday in the future (please, you will read the other books, won't you?), when you get to the event Stacy mentioned in her email, you'll hae one of those "Oh, yeah, now I remember" moments. And you'll feel connected, included in the story, someone with an inside pass and inside knowledge.

At least, that's the plan. Please do contact me through my web site or one of my blogs, and let me know if it works, okay?



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne casts the characters!

This is a story where I had the germinal idea, and had to fill in all the blanks. Sometimes, I start with a character in a situation, and have the situation "come to a head," and work through it. For instance, for "The Family Way," in other books I had already talked about what a nasty man Mr. Montgomery was, and how people pitied his daughter-in-law, and I had even introduced Lisa and Todd and their on-again/off-again romance in a rough draft for a Quarry Hall novel (Blatant plug for the new Women's Fiction series, here!). So I had characters and situations already established for me, which actually gave me material to work with and a foundation to work on.
So, starting from scratch, how do you cast a story?

The germinal idea -- and I even mention the source of it within the story -- came from half an episode of "Northern Exposure." Anyone remember that show? How, you ask, could I work from half an episode? Well, I saw the first half, and never watched the second half! I think I was at a friend's house and watching TV while I waited for her to finish getting ready to go out. The story: a local celebrity was having his annual blow-out party -- gourmet food, fancy decorations, fancy plates, fancy invitations, etc. The new guy in town, the doctor, hears from everyone else what a great party it is. And of course, the doctor is invited -- but his invitation is lost. And before I turned off the TV, he was already facing the dilemma of not admitting that he didn't get an invitation to the big fancy yearly party.

So, that's where "Invitation to a Wedding" started. What happens if your childhood friend is getting married, and you're invited, but someone doesn't just lose the invitation -- they make sure you don't get the invitation?

The first question is: Why would someone do that? What kind of person is the heroine, that someone would want to keep her from going to a wedding?

Other questions I had to ask, so the story was believable -- especially when Stacy and Dinah don't get a chance to talk and fix things in the first two chapters -- dealt with why they weren't talking, compressing the timeline and circumstances to make it believable that Stacy wouldn't be included. Then I had to work on the hero -- what kind of a guy was he, that he would find out Stacy wasn't coming to the wedding, at a very late date, and be so upset that he had to do something about it?

What I came up with was: 1) Heroine is low on the social scale -- not that it matters to the hero and her childhood best friend. 2) Bride has been living in another state and lost contact with heroine. 3) Hero has been away from home for years, in the military and then seminary. 3) Bride eloped, so it isn't a wedding, but a weekend trip home for a wedding reception months later. 4) Childhood nemesis is living near the bride and pretends to be changed, so she is trusted with party details, and no one suspects when she takes over.

Compressing the time element of the story helped with the "why don't the idiots just sit down and TALK?" factor. I don't know about you, but I hate stories where the conflict could have been resolved in chapter 2 if the two main characters could have just been face-to-face for half an hour.

What I ended up with was a Cinderella story, and a year-long correspondence between the hero and heroine that gives everyone an overview of what else will be happening in Tabor Heights in Year Two.



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne talks about bullies

In "Invitation to a Wedding," our heroine faces the ultimate nasty trick, played on her by the "mean girls" who have come back to town for the wedding celebration of her best friend from childhood.

Stacy was the housekeeper's granddaughter, and even though the Ashcrofts treated her like a member of the family, obviously the other "social elite" families in Tabor Heights didn't agree with them, because their daughters grew up trying to keep Stacy in "her place," and interfere with her friendship with Dinah Ashcroft.

I've never had anyone play such a nasty trick on me -- try to keep me from a friend's party, or cut me out of an activity where I had every right to be there, but I've suffered other "slings and arrows" of abuse, criticism, mockery, and people telling two different stories to keep two sides apart. (Does that make any sense?) The best tactic when dealing with "social bullies," as I call them, is communication. Stacy and Dinah drifted apart and stopped communicating. The bullies never would have gotten between them if they had talked to each other.

Instead of believing someone when they say, "Jenny doesn't want to hang around with you," confront Jenny directly. I wish I had learned that lesson years ago. There are people who believe I hate them, when it turns out that a third party told me they didn't want to be around me, and then told them the same thing about me!
I dream of the day when these people who discouraged me and bruised my feelings and my dreams will want something from me ... and yes, I admit, I want to "get some back" at them.

It's not nice. It's something I'm working on. My favorite scenario, practiced many times in my imagination, is for them to come up to me at a booksigning with some friends they want to impress. They'll exclaim about how great I look, and how well my books are selling, and they're so glad for me -- and when they try to hug me, I'll pull back and say, "Sorry, I don't recognize you. Where do I know you from?"
I hope I grow to the point that I forget about the bruises, the hurt feelings, the lies people have told about me, the mockery -- so that when someone shows up, claiming to be an old friend, it's the truth when I say, "Sorry, I honestly don't recognize you. Where do we know each other from?" And when they tell me, I'll be glad to see them.

That's the biggest triumph over bullies. To lose the hurt they tried to inflict on us. To succeed despite their mockery and lies and trying to put us in what they believe is our "proper place."



Monday, 17 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Michelle Levigne

STEPH: I don't know much about "Invitation to a Wedding." What's it about?

MICHELLE: Drake Ashcroft, ex-Marine now in seminary, comes home for the wedding reception for his sister, who eloped with his best friend from the Marines. He finds a present on the back step, left there by Stacy Belmont, granddaughter of their former housekeeper. The problem is that Stacy grew up with Drake and his sister, Dinah, and he knows the two girls promised to be each other's maid of honor -- so why isn't Stacy helping with the preparations for the party?

As Drake investigates, he learns that the some people in town haven't outgrown their childhood rivalries and petty nastiness, and the "mean girls" still have it in for Stacy. It turns into a race against time to get Stacy to the party, but he's going to do it, even if he has to kidnap her.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: The first draft took me a month. This year, I rough drafted six of the eight novels for Year Two, giving myself a month for each one. Then, after letting it sit for five months, I went back and revised it. I had to wait until all the books were roughed so I could put together my calendar of when and where things happened in Tabor Heights, because I needed to refer to that calendar when Stacy and Drake correspond for most of the year. I was starting to panic, because the deadline was approaching for turning the book in, and I hadn't started the revisions yet! But I made it. Somehow. And I'm pleased with the story. At least, I think so ...... Still too tired to be sure it turned out right!

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

MICHELLE: Not much. I already had the setting, a good idea of the characters, their shared history -- and lots of experience with the problems caused by lies and social maneuvering and "mean girls" trying to rule the world. The biggest chore on my list was getting all the other books written so I knew what happened when in the different storylines, so Stacy could mention some of the events -- but definitely not all of them! -- when she emailed Drake through the year.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

MICHELLE: I think it arouses some curiosity, from the moment someone realizes it's an invitation that's been tossed into the wastebasket before it even got mailed. It's not an accurate picture, because the evil Gretchen didn't actually throw away Stacy's invitation, she just made sure it never got mailed. But as it reflects the "heart" of the story, the conflict, and the problem to overcome, it's spot-on. Jenifer and her staff always do an incredible job with the artwork.

STEPH: Stacy is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

MICHELLE: She is smart, and she is generally an upbeat, caring, kind, generous person. Right now she's going through a rough time in her life -- she just had her first Christmas without her grandmother, who raised her, and the family that treated her like she was one of their own has basically left her out in the cold because of some crises of their own that they went through over the holidays. Plus, a year of silence between her and her best childhood friend has culminated in "Retchin' Gretchen" (yes, you'll find out where the nickname came from!) acting as maid of honor, when Stacy and Dinah promised to be each other's maid of honor. Stacy doesn't want to dwell on her hurt, but it's hard. She has some pride issues, although the people who love her would argue with that. She's trying so hard to be strong and not let the "mean girls" know they hurt her, that she's hurting herself even worse.
She needs a Prince Charming.

STEPH: What does Drake find appealing about her?

MICHELLE: There's no one specific characteristic in Stacy that smacks him between the eyes. She's the perfect minister's wife -- but Drake doesn't want to use that label, because Stacy herself is important to him, not just what she can offer. She has always been there, a key part of his life, but he doesn't realize it until she's gone, until there's silence when he expects some input from her. It's a situation of, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." As he scrambles to make things right, to bring Stacy back into the family circle where she belongs, he realizes that she's no longer an adopted kid sister to him -- she's become someone very important, and he needs to take some time to analyze just how and why she is important, and figure out what he's going to do about it. One thing he knows for certain: He's not letting Stacy slip out of his life again.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

Ugh. I hate these questions! I'm thinking about the people, not what I want to say through them. In theater class and playwriting class, we were always told, "If you want to leave a message, use Western Union."

But the overall concepts being explored deal with communication, with ideas of family that extend past blood bonds, with the subtle ways we hurt the people we love without even realizing it, and maybe how we are so busy we lose things and people who are precious to us, and don't even realize it until it's nearly too late.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

MICHELLE: Is it a cop-out to say "Everywhere and everything"?

STEPH: Yes! (grin)

MICHELLE: Inspiration comes from things that catch my attention. Like a snippet of a story or situation in a TV show or book or movie that sticks in my mind. Case in point, the half-episode of "Northern Exposure" that I mention in another entry on this blog. It presented an unhappy situation for someone, and it stuck with me, so when I was looking for story ideas, that one was waiting to be used.

Inspiration comes from things that make me angry -- issues and situations and injustices that I want resolved. Or I want to totally humiliate bullies, or bring about justice for someone who in real life will never taste justice. Things that make me say, "Wow -- cool." Even things that make me shudder and take a step back and avert my eyes -- but the image is still there, lingering at the back of my imagination, to eventually come out of hiding and say, "Use me!" when I need a painful or terrifying or unbalancing situation.

Story ideas don't come to me in one piece. I put all sorts of pieces together and trim them to fit, or melt them, or add water or whack them really hard a couple thousand times until they change enough to slide into the opening available. Some stories need major surgery before they work. Others just slide together as if they were always meant to be. Sometimes I only do two or three drafts. Other times I write and rewrite and rewrite and put it away for a year or two and bring it out and rewrite again and put it away and bring it out again and ... put it away, in the hopes that someday, I'll figure out what's not working, so I can fix it.
Writing is craft and talent and inspiration and luck and stubbornness, all mixed together.

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

MICHELLE: I have one of the first Nooks, plus I have an iPod Touch and iPad with Nook, iBooks, and Kindle loaded on them. I like the flexibility offered by the three different programs. For instance, I have all the PDFs of my own books in iBooks, so I can show them to other people, let them read a few paragraphs if the situation presents itself, and I can also go through the PDFs to refresh myself on different people's stories. Much easier than getting into my computer and digging up the PDF. I like the instant connection of reading on the iPad -- no need to wait for the system to boot up and the menu to appear, like I do on the Nook. However, there's something simple and easy about my Nook, and I enjoy being able to sit down and read and not be able to do anything but read while I'm using it.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you put a star or an angel on the top of your Christmas tree?

MICHELLE: I don't have a Christmas tree! (waaaaaaah!)

I do have a ceramic Christmas tree my Mom made years ago, with an electric light inside it and clear plastic colored bulbs.

This year is my first year in my new place, and I've pulled out Christmas ornaments I haven't seen or used in years. I bought a spool of wide ribbon -- white with red snowflakes -- with wire reinforcing on the edges, and put a length across the wooden mantle of my fireplace, and another across the wooden frame of my living room window. Then I hung my ornaments on these ribbons. It looks pretty cool.

Maybe at the end of the holiday season, when everything is on sale, I'll go shopping for a tree topper to use next year ...



Friday, 14 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt for: Recipe for Romance

Thanks so much for supporting Sue during her week in the spotlight. Leave a comment today, Saturday, and Sunday, along with your email (so we can get ahold of you) and we'll pick one winner on Monday to receive a PDF copy of "Recipe for Romance." Enjoy the Excerpt!

Moderator Steph


Reeve removed the jacket of his dark business suit, and hung it up on a hook next to Chef's desk. Kirsty licked her dry lips at the sight of the muscles rippling under his brilliant white shirt. He tied on a fresh apron, tutting under his breath. He strode across the room to the kitchen sink while rolling up his sleeves. Kirsty heard him sigh when he saw how many dishes were hidden in the murky depths.

"Can I assume you've engaged temporary staff for tomorrow?"

"Of course. I've booked two people for the rest of the week." Kirsty blinked in astonishment. The immaculately dressed man pulled on pink rubber gloves and plunged his hands into the greasy water. He presented such an absurd picture she had difficulty suppressing her laughter.

"I would have thought a kitchen this size would have invested in a dishwasher," Reeve muttered in annoyance.

Kirsty quickly turned the laughter which escaped her lips into a strangled cough. A shiver ran down her spine as he glanced at her across the intervening space. With her features composed she pointed to the stainless steel monster lurking in the far corner, then turned her attention to her own work.

A loud clatter of pots and pans sounded behind her as Reeve loaded the dishwasher.
Kirsty tried to forget his presence and carry on with her own duties, but found it difficult. A strong temptation built up to peek and see how the arrogant executive coped with the enormous pile of breakfast dishes, some of which had to be washed by hand. Her thoughts drifted, and she wondered what he meant when he said his group now owned the hotel. Did he mean he represented them? Or did he own the Garden Group? No, not at his age, she decided. Besides, rich bosses didn't get their hands dirty with the day-to-day running of their properties, figuratively or literally. Yet this well-dressed executive had not hesitated to become elbow-deep in dirty dishwater. No doubt he was an accountant here to check up on the turnover.

"What's next?" His voice sounded close as she finished the seafood platter and placed the final savory flan into the oven. She set the timer before replying.

"Vegetables." Kirsty indicated the sack of potatoes sitting inside the doorway of the cool room. "The salad ingredients need washing, and the dessert trolley has to be laid out."

"With what?" He glanced around the room.


"What are you going to put on the dessert trolley?" Reeve asked.

"When everything else is finished, I'll raid the freezer." Kirsty kept her amusement hidden as he looked at her in astonishment. "We're a small hotel. If anyone's absent, it throws the kitchen routine into complete chaos. Chef always makes sure we have plenty of desserts in the freezer for an emergency. It's replaced on a regular basis. Which reminds me, today's menu will have to be altered."

Kirsty watched in amazement as Reeve displayed a good knowledge of food handling. In her experience, most up-and-coming young executives came straight from business college, and didn't have a clue about the practical side of things. This man knew exactly what needed doing. He surprised her further when he set up the dessert trolley on his own, his speed proving he'd done it before. By the time the restaurant staff arrived, the soup and main courses were ready, and the delicious smell of baked quiche drifted through the kitchen. Reeve had altered the lunch menus and he placed them in their folders.

"I'll get one of the waitresses from the restaurant to help with the lunchtime rush." He pulled down his shirt sleeves and fastened his cufflinks.

"Thank you. I'd appreciate the help."

Kirsty realized Reeve hadn't heard the sarcasm in her voice. He frowned in a preoccupied way as he shrugged his broad shoulders into the jacket of his suit and straightened his tie. Menus in hand he strode purposefully through the restaurant doors. Kirsty couldn't help herself. She had to see how he handled the pompous head waiter. As she pushed the restaurant door ajar, she peered through the narrow gap and eavesdropped on their conversation. Relief flooded through her when she saw Reeve had his back to her. She had difficulty suppressing her laughter when she saw the dismayed expression on the face of Henri, the head waiter.

"One of your staff will have to help out in the kitchen during the lunch hour. Two of the kitchen maids are ill." Reeve Stuart's deep voice carried easily to the kitchen doorway.

"No! Such a thing is impossible!" The head waiter's face flushed a deep red, and he stared at Reeve in disbelief. "I cannot possibly manage without a full complement of staff."

"Nonsense! If it becomes necessary, I'll step in and wait on tables. No!" He held up a hand to silence Henri. "The kitchen won't be able to cope without help, and your diners will go hungry. I leave it to you to choose which waiter or waitress you can spare."



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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Why Write Romance by Sue Perkins

Why write romance? I believe there's a little bit of romance in all fiction books. It may not be the usual - man meets woman, feels an attraction then conflict intervenes but all comes right in the end - style of story, but the pull of love is always there.

A well known romance writer once told me romance is where there is a happy ending, but a love story does not necessarily have a happy ending - as in the 1970s film Love Story. Dissenters object that romance books are not true to life, most people's love life goes fairly smoothly once true love has been found. What they seem to overlook is the romance reader likes to be taken out of their normal life, no matter how exciting and enervating their life might be, and taken to a different location, a different lifestyle, a different - well you get the picture, something completely different. In fact this is so for all fiction readers, but I believe it's more exaggerated in a romance book.

Romance books tend to be looked down on but I challenge those who think romance is not "quite the thing" to sit down and try to write a romance novel. It's not as easy as they think.



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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Kirsty from "Recipe for Romance"

Sue: Hi Kirsty, thanks for coming with me to the Desert Breeze Spotlight. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Kirsty: Not at all. What would you like to know?

Sue: What were your thoughts when you met Reeve?

Kirsty: [laughs] You really want to know? I thought him a stuck up prig who had to be in charge. The first time we met he breezed in as if he owned the place. I found out later this was almost right. He was the man in charge for the new owners.

Sue: What do you think he thought of you?

Kirsty: I imagine he thought he'd met a bumbling idiot. I stood in an untidy, less than clean kitchen trying to cope with everything on my own. Everything went wrong for me and I'm sure he thought I was totally incompetent.

Sue: Did you feel any attraction for him?

Kirsty: What do you think? I might not have liked his attitude but his dark hair and athletic figure is gorgeous. His smile is something to die for and - well I shouldn't gush too much about him or I might give away what happens in the book.

Sue: How did you feel when things started going wrong for you at work?

Kirsty: Frustrated at first, but after a while when things didn't improve I began to doubt myself. Tired emotionally and physically I didn't seem to be able to think straight. I couldn't understand what was happening and why everyone seemed to be out to get me.

Sue: Do you have any dreams to fulfill?

Kirsty: I'd really like to have a restaurant all of my own. The select type where you have to book weeks ahead to get a table. I think one should always have dreams to aim for, it makes life worth living.



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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Researching Recipe for Romance

"Recipe for Romance" is the second romance novel to be set in my home country of New Zealand. The first I placed in the South Island, but the location for this one is on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the Hibiscus Coast north of Auckland.

This book is an amalgamation of my time on the North Shore of Auckland and some memories of when I lived there. We wanted to live on a lifestyle block (smallholding) and searched the area for a property with two acres and a 3 bedroom home. Reeve's house rose from this search. My husband worked in hotels so I have visited hotel kitchens and spoken to hotel chefs. In fact my life was the research for the book.

I also had friends who worked in the catering industry so my research came to me rather than the other way round. This is only part of the work of writing a book. The main part is actually putting pen to paper - or the modern way of putting fingers to keyboard. Like all writers once I start I don't want to stop until the end of the book, but little hiccups occur now and again. I've found the best way keep moving is to jump to a part of the book where I know what's going to happen. By the time I've finished everything has smoothed itself out in my mind and I'm ready to fill in the gaps.

Sounds easy doesn't it? Not so. Once I collect all the ingredients (pardon the pun) I then have to spend time and effort to pull everything together and make it all work. Hopefully I've brought everything together to entice the reader to open the book and start reading. Then it's over to Kirsty and Reeve to keep them entertained.



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Monday, 10 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Sue Perkins

STEPH: I don't know much about "Recipe for Romance." What's it about?

SUE: It's absolutely beautiful on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula north of Auckland and when I this area instantly sprang to mind for the location of this book. In a small hotel the sous chef Kirsty and the new manager Reeve clash from day one. Attracted to one another but pulled apart by circumstances Kirsty and Reeve must solve the mystery surrounding the hotel before they can achieve any sort of future together.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

SUE: Not that long really. It seemed to flow once I'd got the original idea firmly fixed in my mind. Probably about three months from start to finish, followed by edits of course.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do? When I first began this story I lived in the northern area of Auckland and from the local beach I could see the peninsula. So location wise I didn't have to do much research. My husband used to work for one of the big hotel chains so I know the basics of what went on behind the luxury facade. The cooking and intimate working of the kitchen proved the major hurdle, but luckily I had friends who had worked in the catering industry for decades so they were able to help.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

SUE: Don't be me started about the cover or I'll never stop. Carol, the artist, got it right first time and I love how she took what was in my mind and made it reality. The kitchen implements give an indication of where the main story takes place, with the Chef's hat indicating a professional kitchen. The rose was Carol's idea and takes the cover one step further to show it's a romance. Absolutely gorgeous. I can't thank her enough.

STEPH: Kirsty is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

SUE: I wanted a strong female who believed in herself. Kirsty knows her strength lies in her cooking skills, but is wise enough to know she needs more practical experience before applying for an upmarket job. Her weakness comes when she begins to believe the catastrophes around her are her fault.

STEPH: What does Reeve find appealing about her?

SUE: He's attracted to her beauty, independence and feisty nature. Somehow she intrigues him and irritates him both at the same time. He is frustrated by his need to keep business first but can't help being drawn to Kirsty.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

SUE: Reeve's company has recently purchased the hotel but when he takes over he finds the restaurant has been losing money for the last six months. He believes Kirsty might be to blame. Kirsty begins to doubt her own capabilities when things go wrong in the kitchen and all errors point to her. The mystery of falling revenue must be solved and Kirsty must clear her name before they can think of themselves.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

SUE: Everywhere. Scenery, overheard conversations, unusual names. Sometimes I'm lying in bed and a story comes to me out of the blue. I very seldom write about people I know, or events that have happened. The one exception is my book "Blitz" which was based on my parents love story.

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

SUE: Yes, I have a Sony reader. This is mainly because until recently Kindles were not available in New Zealand and you still can't purchase a Nook here. However I mainly read on my iPad using the Kindle app and the iBook app. I can't really understand why people think the ebook will push the print book into oblivion. I love reading whether it's in hard copy or ebook format.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you have an artificial Christmas tree or a real one?

SUE: Blush. We have an artificial one. We've moved a few times in the last twenty years and it seemed easier to keep one in a box during the year. Now of course there's only my husband and I, so we tend to put the tree up just for us. We have a lovely semi circular full length window where we place it with the lights all twinkling. What's Christmas in New Zealand like? Absolutely lovely. Imagine all the things you enjoy doing during summer, including good weather and throw in Christmas as well. Days at the beach, the beginning of the long summer holidays - all these happen from Christmas onward so it's a very happy time. Dinner is quite often a barbecue either at the beach or in the back yard, with family and friends invited. Some of us who have emigrated from the northern hemisphere still have the traditional turkey and trimmings (that's the way for England - turkey) but also some have adopted the Kiwi way.



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Friday, 7 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Catch of the Day

Thank you so much for supporting Petie during her week in the spotlight. Leave a comment about the excerpt today, Saturday and Sunday along with your email so we can get in touch with you and we'll pick one lucky winner on Monday to receive a PDF or Epub of Petie's novel, "Catch of the Day."

Enjoy the excerpt!
Moderator Steph

Holy cow!

Gage looked over Lila's head and saw Cody stomping toward the dock, a big Igloo cooler in her arms, fire in her eyes, and steam escaping from her ears. He swallowed hard and tried to pry free, but Lila would have none of that.

"Now you just hold still, cutie patootie," she drawled, "and let little ole Lila give you your good luck hug." She crushed her barely-covered breasts against his abdomen, the neckline on her tank top drooping almost to her navel.

Cody reached the dock and stomped so hard he could feel the vibration in the boards. Her glare could singe the fins off an alligator gar, and he had Lila stuck to him like a tick. He was a sitting duck.

Cody looked even madder now than when she left to get the rest of her gear, which could only mean...

She was jealous.
Of Lila.

Cody's glare deepened upon final approach.

He grinned for real.

Zeke Tumson, my ass. She likes me.

He stopped trying to struggle free of Lila and waited for Cody to get to the boat and the fireworks to begin. Lila felt his struggle cease and snuggled in closer, rubbing every inch of her front against him and laying her cheek on his chest. A week ago, Lila's antics would have elicited a very pronounced and noticeable reaction. Today -- he glanced down to check -- nothing. His gaze shot to Cody steaming down the dock. Had she done this to him?

"Mmmm," Lila cooed and squiggled her body again, "good luuuuck."

Cody marched mere steps away. When Lila purred, Cody hesitated for the span of a second, made a sharp left, stepped down into the johnboat, and proceeded to hook up her livewell. He waited a five-count. Cody kept her head down and fooled with the tubing attached to the cooler. He had to move. If he didn't, Lila would be in his shorts any second.

Maybe he should let...

Nope, bad idea. Cody would push him overboard later and drive off and leave him. Heck, she may already be planning to do just that.

He cleared his throat to be sure Cody heard. "Thanks for seeing us off, Lila," he said politely.

No reaction from Cody.

"I didn't come to see her off," Lila said in a snit. "Just yooou," she cooed and rubbed her breasts against him again.

Cody missed it. She never looked up.

"All right, you get on back to your registration table, and let me get to my fishing." He took her shoulders and physically set her back.

Cody finished with the livewell and picked up a fishing rod.

Lila batted her eyelashes. "I'll be waiting when you get back, sugar. What say we have dinner tonight?"

No way was he answering that question. He smiled and stuck a foot out to step down in the johnboat. Lila chose that instant to hook her finger into his belt loop to tug him back.

Too late, Gage saw the butt end of Cody's rod push off on the dock cleat, and the johnboat shot back the full three feet of loose bow and stern line.

His sneaker stepped out into thin air, and he dropped like a rock.

He hit the water at an angle, and Lila followed him in, her index finger still hooked in his belt loop. The water wasn't nearly cold enough to chill his white-hot temper, and he broke the surface with an indignant roar. Lila climbed him like a dock piling, and he struggled for a moment to keep his head above water until he gained control and pulled her toward the dock.

Cody leaned over the side of the boat, eyes wide with innocence. "I'm so sorry," she said.

He didn't buy it for a second. She climbed out onto the dock and extended a hand to help them out. Two anglers appeared on either side of her and nudged her out of the way to pull Lila from the water. Both men were rightfully compensated, judging by their gapes. Lila's white sundress stuck to her like a second skin and looked far more transparent wet than it had dry. Lila hadn't stopped squawking since she came up for air the first time, but the appreciative stares of the two anglers slowed her down considerably. One of the anglers pulled Gage out, while the other stared at Lila.

When Gage climbed up on the dock, he rounded on Cody. "What the hell was that for?" he thundered.

Hard to believe, but her blue eyes grew even wider. "What do you mean?" she said, so calm and innocent he fought the urge to turn her over his knee.

"You did that on purpose."

He almost bought the innocent routine. Almost.

"You did, you little bitch!" Lila hissed and took a step toward her.

Cody didn't back down. She turned to face Lila, and the innocence left her eyes as her cheeks pinked with anger. "Don't blame me if you're clumsy."

"Clumsy!" Lila shrieked. "Why you misbegotten--" Her hand reared back, and Gage deftly snagged her backswing.

"Enough," he ordered. "You need to go change clothes, Lila, and so do I." Damned if he would spend the morning in wet clothes. He kept hold of Lila's hand and marched her down the dock and across the grass past more gaping anglers.

Cody called after them, "Gage, you better be back by our flight time or--"

He spun around. "Or what?" he thundered.

Back came the wide-eyed look and innocent smile. She shrugged. "Or I'll just have to wait for you."

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"4 Stars...CATCH OF THE DAY is Ms. McCarty’s second release and like the first one, EVERGLADES, presents the reader with likeable characters, a mini suspense, and an engaging storyline with an environmental edge. Great story and I am looking forward to more by this author." -- The Romance Readers Connection

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Lila Tumson from Catch of the Day

Bentonville Daily Chronicle Sports Editor Jeffrey Waller interviews Lila Tumson, supporting cast from Catch of the Day

Waller: "Excuse me, are you Lila Tumson?"

Lila: "Why yes, I sure am. And who might you be?"

Waller: "I'm Jeffrey Waller of the Bentonville Daily Chronicle, and I'm doing a series this week on the Loon Lake Tournament."

Lila: "Oh wonderful!"

Waller: "I'm pleased to meet you, ma'am. I understand you handle the registration for the tournament."

Lila: "That's right. The registration and all sorts of things for my daddy, Mayor Billy Tumson. Daddy runs this tournament."

Waller: "I see. Anything exciting happen at the registration this year, Miss Tumson?"

Lila: "Oh please, call me Lila."

Waller: Did she just bat her eyelashes at me? "All right, Lila. Anything exciting you care to share?"

Lila: "Why all the anglers are excitin'. I get to meet every cutie patootie in the tournament right over there at my registration desk."

Waller: "Every…cutie patootie?"

Lila: "Well, not every single one. I just met you this every instant."

Waller: "Um…Miss Tumson…your finger's caught on my shirt pocket."

Lila: "Oh, so it is."

Waller: "I guess what I really wanted to ask about was your very first female angler, Cody Ryan."

Lila: "What do you want to know about her for?"

Waller: "Well, because she's special -- being the first female angler and all."

Lila: "There's nothing special about her."

Waller: "All the Loon women I've interviewed think Cody Ryan is special."

Lila: "Yeah, but the Loon men sure don't. They want a gal to be feminine and helpless like li'l ole me."

Waller: "Somehow I don't see you as helpless, Lila."

Lila: "You don't?"

Waller: "Um…that's my belt loop you've got your finger hooked in…"

My buy link is:

Find me on the web at:


"4 Stars...CATCH OF THE DAY is Ms. McCarty’s second release and like the first one, EVERGLADES, presents the reader with likeable characters, a mini suspense, and an engaging storyline with an environmental edge. Great story and I am looking forward to more by this author." -- The Romance Readers Connection

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Petie McCarty talks about personal words

All authors are a tad eccentric. If someone accused us of that, we assuredly would cry "foul!" But honestly, think about it. How many people do you know who hole up for hours at a time and are often heard talking to themselves. Actually we are probably testing dialogue, but does the person on the other side of the door realize that? Of course not, only another author would. So it stands to reason, most folks would find us a tad eccentric.

This is not a bad thing, and the label gives us leeway to be creative -- or odd, as others might claim -- in new and innovative arenas. Take for example, new words -- personal words -- our own created words used only by us to juice up our writing. Or more importantly, to create voice.

Authors will take two common words, stick them together, and hyphenate them as a new adjective. We'll take two verbs and run them together to create an altogether new verb. Or we'll just pull a brand-new spectacular word out of our…thin air, like a magician, and call it our own. All of which drives our content editors to distraction for they want to pigeon-hole our grammar and word choice into acceptable guidelines, which is really a good thing in the grand scheme of safe and purchasable publishing. Yet some words just scream for their own time and their own stage. And we all have them.

Take for example, perseverate -- my old boss's favorite word, and he was a PhD in Environmental Engineering. A good definition might be "to persevere to concentrate" or in other words, you won't let the issue go and you stick with it like a dog with a piece of meat. You perseverate on the issue. Authors are adept at perseverating, especially if someone is editing their manuscript. Twenty years ago when the Doc came up with this, I couldn't find the word anywhere in Merriam-Webster, and it only appeared in recent years. Did my old boss coin the term as a personal word? Who knows? Anything's possible.

How about frinklesnatcher? What in the world is that? Well, it's a Petie-ism. [Actually now, my entire family and everyone in my office uses it.] The term started out as a descriptive word for the accoutrements found clinging to the grill at the bottom of the refrigerator. Little pieces of "I don't know what" that blew in and out with the air movements under the appliance. A good definition would be "that which no one recognizes and no one wants to touch or especially not to pick up." But frinklesnatchers do exist, and they did need a name, a name as unique as the whatever you don't want to touch. Thus frinklesntacher. Works in a myriad of situations. "Yuck! Look at that frinklesnatcher." Or "Ewww, pick that frinklesnatcher off my shirt." The word can also work for anything that requires a name and doesn't yet have one. I suspect as I get older and more forgetful, I will find more frinklesnatchers in this world.

And my segue back to this week's blog about Catch of the Day -- I do have a couple personalized words in my story, and my content editor was kind enough to leave them. I don't care what anyone says…pokety-outy is an absolutely perfect adjective when used properly.

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"4 Stars...CATCH OF THE DAY is Ms. McCarty’s second release and like the first one, EVERGLADES, presents the reader with likeable characters, a mini suspense, and an engaging storyline with an environmental edge. Great story and I am looking forward to more by this author." -- The Romance Readers Connection

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Researching Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day was a fun book to plot and write with the zany assemblage of townsfolk from Loon, Alabama that came along for the ride. But before I started writing out my story scenes for Catch of the Day, I spent quite a bit of time online doing research to get a flavor for the types of lakes one would find in Alabama as well as the type of fish habitat one would encounter in those lakes. I needed a just-right type of atmosphere, a little wild and a little crazy, for the Loon tournament.

First, I had to get the lake and the environmental conditions right. It wouldn't do to go to all that trouble with rods and reels and lures, only to have an Alabama reader email and say, "Hey, Loon Lake doesn't resemble any lake I ever saw in Alabama." I had to get close on water quality -- clear versus slightly turbid or even tannic -- and habitat, as in actual aquatic vegetation and the proper indigenous species. Or is the habitat supposed to be just boulders, tree trunks, and branches because the lake is an old reservoir?

Then I had to be sure I had the right fish species for both the habitat and for the tournament use [even though I may only mention fish species three times in the entire story, I had better get them right]. Plus, I had to tackle the tackle, so to speak. Find the appropriate lures, get the terminology, and make sure I applied those lures to the correct species of fish. No, our scaly friends are not all alike and each has food and habitat preferences, so the lures must correctly match up with the chosen fish and hiding spot.

And the biggest hurdle was to provide all that without making the story seem like it was bogged down with a lot of details. And even though I did all that research before I started writing, the more my survey partner talked about his professional tournaments, the more I knew I needed his help. So I started asking dozens of questions, and he, in turn, provided the technical background I required, teaching me basic tournament rules and procedures and eventually editing my final draft for fishing faux pas. I wanted plenty of fun and humor for my story and didn't want to bog down the plot and pacing with details. With my partner's helpful editing, we were able to keep our tournament details accurate -- but yet at a minimum -- which allowed the story to totally concentrate on the people and the plot and the romance.

The wildest part of the research came after the story was completely finished! I had a nice chase scene for a climax, but it didn't make me hold my breath as I wrote it, so I was a tad disappointed. Shortly after finishing the story and before my personal first round of edits, my survey partner returned from a tournament raving over the winning angler and how the man managed to jump a beaver dam in one of the coves with his bass boat to get to the prime fishing habitat on the other side. When my partner finished his wild tale, he stared at me for a minute and said, "What are your eyes all lit up for?" And I told him with a mile-wide grin, "You just helped me rewrite my chase scene," and I already knew I'd be holding my breath when I wrote it.

Hopefully when my readers reach the story's end, they will realize they learned tidbits of tournament fishing knowledge along the way -- and more importantly, laughed all along the way.

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"4 Stars...CATCH OF THE DAY is Ms. McCarty’s second release and like the first one, EVERGLADES, presents the reader with likeable characters, a mini suspense, and an engaging storyline with an environmental edge. Great story and I am looking forward to more by this author." -- The Romance Readers Connection

Monday, 3 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Petie McCarty

STEPH: I don't know much about "Catch of the Day." What's it about?

PETIE: In Catch of the Day, I hope to make readers laugh out loud one minute and grip the edge of their seat in the next. They will tag along with a red-headed spitfire named Cody Ryan and her tournament partner, Special Ops Coast Guard Captain Gage Connor, as the partners compete in a wild and crazy fishing tournament in the Doc-Hollywood-esque town of Loon, Alabama, accompanied by an assemblage of townsfolk as zany as the name.

The mayor of Loon makes up his own rules for the private town tournament, his lunkhead son plans to cheat to win the event, and his daughter just plans to cheat to win Gage Connor.

There's plenty of excitement for everyone when inept drug smugglers come looking for their uncut diamonds inadvertently stashed in the Coast Guard captain's borrowed bass boat as the exchange point for their smuggled drugs. The Colombians are playing for keeps and will stop at nothing to retrieve their stash, even if it means kidnapping Gage's girlfriend.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

PETIE: Catch of the Day took about nine months to finish. It would have been much shorter if I didn't have that "day job" to report to every day. But without the day job, there would have been no Catch of the Day. *grin*

I wrote a large part of the story before I had the technical assistance from a professional angler, so I eventually received a detailed editing from him that followed my own full-scale edits. Then after the manuscript was completely finished and I had let out my huge end-of-the-story sigh of relief, I ended up rewriting my story's big climactic scene. See "Researching Catch of the Day" on tomorrow's blog. *Sly grin*

STEPH: Where did you get your inspiration for Catch of the Day?

PETIE: This is an easy question, and it goes back to my day job. I routinely survey lakes for aquatic vegetation, and my survey partner is a professional angler with the National Bassmaster Southern Opens series. [The national fishing organization, B.A.S.S., has a membership more than half a million strong and is the focal point of a multibillion-dollar fishing industry.] He would always come back from his three-day tournaments around the southeastern United States with plenty of fishing stories, and then one day, the movie popped into my head. What would happen if a girl entered an all-guy tournament? And what if I staged it in the Doc-Hollywood-esque town of Loon, Alabama with plenty of quirky residents?

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

PETIE: I did quite a bit of research online [Alabama state parks, Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources,, Bass Pro Shop to "shop" for tackle] before I eventually turned to my survey partner for help. Research can get away from you if you let it, but in this case there was more research needed than just angler skills and fishing tackle.

In fact, I rewrote my entire finale after my partner brought back a whopper of a tale -- albeit true -- from one of his fishing tournaments. You'll have to read about Researching Catch of the Day on tomorrow's blog to see how I worked that in. ☺
STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

PETIE: The cover displays one of the physical focal points of the story -- Cody Ryan's crummy little johnboat on Loon Lake as the sun comes up. Cody, the heroine, is paired up with the hero Coast Guard captain for the tournament, but if both partners bring a boat, the pair has to use each boat for one day in the tournament. Thus, the feminine little johnboat causes quite a bit of ruckus amongst the sleek, thoroughbred -- and very male -- bass boats. If that isn't disturbance enough, her homemade livewell, made out of an igloo cooler, has the competition in an uproar.

STEPH: Cody Ryan is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

PETIE: Cody enters the Loon Lake tournament because her father had fished in it every year, and when he passed away, she thought she'd feel closer to him and maybe not miss him so much if she fishes the tournament, too. Meanwhile, the women of Loon decide to adopt her as their personal mascot, and before Cody knows it, she's competing for women's fishing rights in Loon. So her obvious strengths are her willingness to face challenges head on and her attention to detail. She's also an accountant with a soft heart and ends up checking the books for half of Loon.
Her real strengths come out in the tournament, however, and are obvious to everyone but Cody -- her patience, her endurance, and her courage.

Cody really only has one major weakness -- a definite lack of trust in others. Her mother died and left Cody while she was very young, and her father turned to his job and buried himself in his work, so he was never there for Cody. Consequently, she not only fears others will let her down -- she expects it.

STEPH: What does Gage Connor find appealing about her?

PETIE: Cody's tournament partner, Special Ops Coast Guard captain Gage Connor comes to Loon to resolve an old family dispute and to search for the girl who was his very first love. Meeting Cody throws a wrench into his well-laid plans.

Gage is enthralled by Cody's courage in entering and competing in the Loon Lake tournament -- the sole female angler in the male-dominated touranment. She suffers jeers and taunts with her chin up and her shoulders back. And standing behind her are all the women of Loon, watching the fun.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

PETIE: Your heart will always recognize your one true love, even if your eyes, at first, are blind.

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

PETIE: I was given a Nook for my birthday this year, and I didn't really want one, loving the feel and yes, even the smell of books. But my darling husband reminded me that if I didn't have a Nook I'd never get to read my own books. So on my release date at Thanksgiving, I joyfully put my second book in my Nook, so I could look at my book wherever I took ….oh well, Seuss I am not…

STEPH: Fun question: Do you have a favorite Christmas recipe you like to bake up during this time?

PETIE: I am without a doubt the world's lousiest cook! I knew how to make 10 things when I got married, and now I know how to make 12 things. When my husband told his mother in the Christmas season of our second year of marriage that I made Tollhouse cookies for Christmas cookies [which was a fib since I had never made ANY Christmas cookies], she sent me twelve cookie recipes. After reading them over, I thought I could only accomplish one -- a sugar cookie recipe that I decided to be brave and try. Grandma McCarty had the ingredients and the procedure on an index card, but it didn't say how many cookies each batch made, so I made SEVERAL batches. *sigh* And I kept rolling out dough and rolling out dough and rolling out dough…

Everyone we knew got cookies that year and so did the mailman, the garbage man, the toll plaza change-maker man… well, you get the idea. I made 22 dozen sprinkle-coated sugar cookies in the shape of St. Nick, bells, reindeer and stockings and never made Christmas cookies again.

My buy link is:

Find me on the web at:


"4 Stars...CATCH OF THE DAY is Ms. McCarty’s second release and like the first one, EVERGLADES, presents the reader with likeable characters, a mini suspense, and an engaging storyline with an environmental edge. Great story and I am looking forward to more by this author." -- The Romance Readers Connection

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Shadowed Dreams"

We hope you've enjoyed Tina's week in the spotlight. Leave a comment today, Saturday, Sunday along with your email address and we'll pick one winner to receive a PDF copy of one of Tina's books.

Enjoy the Excerpt!
Moderator Steph

Caroline finally made it out of the store after wrestling herself free, and all but slammed the door behind her. She tugged her dress into place with a 'humph'. "Doesn't anyone know how to fix anything here?"

Her diatribe of complaints continued outside as she nearly tripped on a loose slat, and maneuvered around a couple of men who forced her to the outer edge of the walk. She continued toward the hotel, hugging the outer posts when she could. "I see manners are lacking here as well."

She was so busy mumbling complaints to herself she didn't notice anyone else on the walk. It was too late by the time she did. She ran into a man. It felt like she hit a brick wall.

Unbalanced, she teetered, grasping for air, and fell off the walk. She found herself deposited face down in the muddy street. She righted herself quickly, and sat there stunned and fuming. Her hat was down on her forehead. She pushed it back, and with clawed fingers dragged the mud from her eyes, then wiped the mud from her face, which only added more mud.

An open hand slipped into her limited field of vision. "Let me help you." There were some gentlemen here, evidently. She started to accept until he added, "Sorry about this. Didn’t mean to knock you off the walk."

She snatched her hand back. This man, the one with whom she collided, was trying to offer her assistance. "How dare you? You weren't watching where you were going!"
Caroline renewed the attack at the mud on her face with the backs of her hands.
"Ma'am, honest, I'm really sorry but..."

It was a good thing he stopped talking, because it sounded like he was going to blame the entire situation on her.

"There are no buts about it. You ought to be sorry! Just look what you've done! Do you realize how much this dress cost?" Muddy tears filled her eyes. Caroline lifted her arms from the mud. The sleeves, weighted and wet, hung heavily, like muddy flags in the air. She flapped them. "Look at this mess you've made!"

"Can't comment much on the dress, ma'am. But it was you who ran into me. I'd be happy to help you." He stepped behind her, reaching down for her, and caught her under the arms and began to lift.

Caroline craned her head back to look at the stranger. He had soft and strangely familiar blue eyes. He was even somewhat handsome.

But he was dirty.

The buckskin britches and the shirt he wore were filthy and sweat-stained. He looked like he hadn't seen water in weeks.

Caroline continued her rant as she flapped her arms. "How dare you touch me? Remove your filthy hands from me this instant!"

"I daresay my hands are a heck of a lot cleaner than you are right now, ma'am." He smiled. She noted he had nice white teeth, and a little dimple playing just to left of his lips. "Besides, I doubt you want me to let you go right now."

"I do." Caroline stiffened her legs, and used her dead weight against him. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Ma'am, you're in a precarious position."

"Only because you're touching me." Nice eyes, bright smile, and dimple aside. "I don't want your foul hands on me! Now let me go!"

"Whatever you say." The stranger shook his head. "Tsk, tsk, as you wish." He let go of her. She flopped back into the mud, making a sploshing sound when she landed.

"How dare you! How dare you!" She kicked her legs and screamed, like a two-year-old having a tantrum.


Tina Pinson resides in Mesa, Arizona with her husband of thirty plus years, Danny. They are blessed to have three sons, and six grandchildren with another on the way.
Tina started her writing in elementary school. Her love of writing has caused her to seek creative outlets be it writing poetry, songs, or stories. Her WWII story Trail of the Sandpiper won third place in the Genesis in 2003. In the Manor of the Ghost and Touched By Mercy and When Shadows Fall Book 1 in the Shadows Series are available through Desert Breeze Publishers.

To Catch a Shadow the next installment of the Shadow Series about the civil war and the Oregon Trail, will be available, June 2013. To Carry her Cross will be available January 2013 and Then There was Grace a Sept 9/11 type story will be available Sept. 2013 and Christmas in Shades of Gray an offbeat Dickens type tale releases December 2013.

Matthew has braved the war and near death with one thought in mind… Rebekah. He won her hand in marriage, and now he has a few short months to make her see how much he loves her. How much he needs her. Given the wall she's put up between them, he prays he'll have enough time.

After fleeing the war, Rebekah is determined to go west to Oregon, only to be turned down when she tries to join the train. Matthew's proposal of marriage, in name only to help her west, becomes the miracle she needs. Loving him as she does, she dreads the idea of letting him go once they reach Oregon, but how can she ask him to stay with her, to love her? How could he love her once he's found out her secret? She must guard her heart and his.

My website --

Purchase my books at:

Desert Breeze Bookstore.
When Shadows Fall
Touched By Mercy
In the Manor of the Ghost
Shadowed Dreams

Touched By Mercy
In the Manor of the Ghost
When Shadows Fall
Shadowed Dreams

Barnes & Noble
Touched By Mercy
In the Manor of the Ghost
When Shadows Fall
Shadowed Dreams

Christian Books Distributors
Touched By Mercy
In the Manor of the Ghost
When Shadows Fall

Tina E. Pinson--
Touched By Mercy, In the Manor of the Ghost, When Shadows Fall
Shadowed Dreams Twitter @Tina_Pinson My Website, My Blog
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD... " Jer. 29:11