Friday, October 30, 2009

An Article by Thad Carhart

Readers, today it's my pleasure to bring you this article by Thad Carhart, Author of Across the Endless River (Doubleday, 320p, ISBN-10: 0385529775), a historical novel about Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea, and his intriguing sojourn as a young man in 1820s Paris.

Across the Endless River imagines this mixed-blood child’s mysterious and unique boyhood in Missouri among the Mandan tribe and his time as William Clark’s ward in St. Louis. With unparalleled language skills and his ability to slip between and co-exist within two very different worlds, Baptiste proves indispensable to the explorers and scientists he meets through Clark.


 

Imagining the Past in Paris

To walk in Paris is to walk through multiple layers of the past, more than 900 years of built history that awaits any stroller. Having lived here for twenty years, I've seen the city change with new roads and bridges, new museums, new rows of apartments. And yet the deep respect that Parisians have developed for what they call their patrimoine, their inheritance, ensures that old buildings are regularly restored and preserved, integrated into the flux of daily life. The look of the city changes subtly, as it has throughout history.

The biggest transformation in modern times was simply the cleaning of the stone edifices of central Paris, initiated in the 1960's by de Gaulle's Minister of Culture, André Malraux. No change could have been more surprising, or more deeply satisfying. When I was a very young boy living in Paris, I was convinced that all of the buildings were made from the same stone, black as night and so softened by centuries of wood and coal dust that the surface was a felt-like matte whose edges looked as if they would soon crumble. This was the "atmospheric" Paris of all those voluptuous black-and-white photos (what blacks and grays there were on every side), the ponderous Paris of Buffet prints and countless tourist posters.

Then the government started to clean the major monuments one by one -- Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre -- and the transformation was shocking, almost troubling in its strange newness. The buildings of Paris weren't black after all, but very nearly . . . white! It took almost two decades of careful cleaning and restoration, but Paris emerged from the process the albino twin of its former self. To appreciate the contrast, buy a vintage postcard aerial view, dating from 1970 or earlier, at one of the bouquiniste stalls along the banks of the Seine, then compare it with the present-day aerial shot: the era of dirt and grime looks like a photographic negative of the light and airy Paris that current tourists will recognize as the "real" Paris.

Walking, however, reveals just one facet of the landscape. Recently, in researching a historical novel, I needed to imagine Paris as it would have appeared in the 1820s. The first stop for any such endeavor is the splendid Musée Carnavalet, the Museum of the City of Paris, whose collection documents in elaborate and fascinating detail every step of the city's past. As I consulted paintings, prints, and manuscripts, many of the differences were obvious: in 1825 the Champs-Elysées was already a broad, fashionable avenue, but the Arc de Triomphe did not yet grace its rise; the Eiffel Tower wouldn't appear until 1889; and, of course, Beaubourg, the Pyramid of the Louvre, and the Grande Arche, all sturdy Paris fixtures today, would only appear within the last four decades.

Another clear difference was the absence of cars, though factoring them out mentally also involved imagining the presence of horses . . . lots of horses. As I examined the numberless paintings at Carnavalet, I thought a lot about the look, the sound, and the smell of tens of thousands of horses plying the streets of Paris close to 200 years ago. Merely disposing of their manure -- and Paris was very well organized in this department -- was a Herculean task daily. And, just as in our day, when playboys often drive Porsches and tradesmen more likely use vans, the paintings reveal fancy thoroughbreds ridden solo by dandies, sturdy draft horses pulling huge wagons, and bony nags hitched to battered carts.

Perhaps the biggest surprise that comes with seeking the past in the Paris landscape, especially after examining the documentary record, it to realize how little the scale of buildings has changed over the centuries. With two exceptions on the Left Bank (the Tour Montparnasse and the university's Tour Jussieu), no high-rises spoil the illusion in the center of Paris that the modern age has yet arrived. Individual facades, a modern infrastructure, and hordes of cars all tell a different story, but the look and feel of many quartiers -- the Marais and the Latin Quarter are simply the best known examples -- would feel appropriate to a Parisian of the early nineteenth century. This tenuous, heady relationship to the past is often seductive, and yet it can also feel weighty, old-fashioned, and artificial. How long it can prevail in the face of change is anybody's guess.

©2009 Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River

Author Bio
Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River, is a dual citizen of of the United States and Ireland. He lives in Paris with his wife, the photographer Simo Neri, and their two children.

For more information please visit www.thadcarhart.com

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three Doggy Reads

Coincidentally, I received three books this week, all of which had a cute dog on the cover.  Here they are for your reading pleasure:

Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan at A Bookworm Reads  Wally's World: Life with Wally the Wonder Dog by Marsha Boulton  A Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman



Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan (Avon, 400pp, Isbn-0061547786)
Anna O'Shea has failed at marriage, shed her job at a law firm, and she's trying to re-create herself when she and her recalcitrant nephew are summoned to the past in a manner that nearly destroys them. Her twenty-first-century skills pale as she struggles to find her nephew in nineteenth-century Ireland. For one of them, the past is brutally difficult, filled with hunger and struggle. For the other, the past is filled with privilege, status, and a reprieve from the crushing pain of present-day life. For both Anna and her nephew, the past offers them a chance at love.

Will every choice they make reverberate down through time? And do Irish Wolfhounds carry the soul of the ancient celts?

Wally's World: Life with Wally the Wonder Dog by Marsha Boulton (St.Martins, 288pp, Isbn- 9780312561604)
When a puppy that fit into a baseball cap entered bestselling author and shepherd Marsha Boulton’s life, she had no idea he was really a rambunctious kid in a dog suit...With his indomitable spirit and wild enthusiasm, Wally’s unrelenting appetite for life renewed the couple’s strength and gave them the perspective they needed to persevere. Whether playing class clown at puppy school or looking up the skirts of judges at dog shows, Wally the Wonder Dog ensured that serious laughter was a daily routine. Wally’s World is a raucous memoir, a roller-coaster ride with an irrepressible partner in paws who is impossible to forget.

A Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman (Pocket Star, 352 pp, Isbn-1416595457)
Camry MacKeage has absolutely no intention of telling her parents that she left her job as a NASA physicist for the small-town life of a dog-sitter — which is why she's spending the holidays alone in coastal Maine with her furry friends Tigger and Max. Unfortunately, her irresistibly handsome rival, scientist Luke Pascal, accidentally spilled the beans. Now he's on a mission from her mother to tempt Camry home for the family's annual winter solstice celebration. But Luke is hiding his own secret, and he'll need a little bit of magic to earn Camry's trust...and a whole lot of mistletoe to seduce his way into her heart.

*****************

What about you? Know of any or blogged about books with a cute pooch on the cover? Say so in the comments!
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Author Guest Post - Michael Baron (& Giveaway)

Congrats to lucky winner - Deb!

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Readers, please join me welcoming Michael Baron, author of When You Went Away, who will be guest blogging here today! In this book, drama springs from finding the courage to put one foot in front of the other each day and, for protagonist Gerry Rubato, the alternate universe is one he can only imagine—one in which his wife, the mother of their infant son, is still alive and his teenage daughter has not abandoned them.

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In a Sentimental Mood

Many years ago, I read an article that John Irving had written for the New York Times Book Review. In it, he defended the novelist’s use of sentimental passages if they were intrinsic to the story and not contrived purely to generate an emotional response from the reader. His argument, if I’m remembering it correctly, was that these events do in fact come up in our real lives. Therefore, a writer should be able to reflect this reality on the page. Sentimental experiences can tell us as much about ourselves as tragic experiences, traumatic experiences, or disillusioning experiences. They are therefore no less “literary,” as long as the writer employs them honestly.

I found this piece extremely liberating. For years, I had gravitated toward novelists whose work had a certain heart-on-the-sleeve element. Someone like Pat Conroy, who can range from brutal to deeply sentimental in a matter of paragraphs. Or Barbara Kingsolver, whose characters so often express such deep care for one another. Or Luanne Rice, whose novels often teem with sentiment without ever becoming mawkish. Having been raised by proper literary mentors, I felt a certain amount of guilt over enjoying these writers so much. Real novels were supposed to be darker, their lessons more sobering. John Irving freed me from this thinking, and I am deeply appreciative of this.

For the longest time, this article only influenced me as a reader. I focused the first portion of my writing career on works of nonfiction and sentimentality was never a factor. Then I decided that I wanted to write fiction. Fiction about relationships. Fiction where people had an impact on each other. That meant I needed to make a decision. I could write an emotion-driven story influenced by the writers that most inspired me. Or I could write an intellectually driven story influenced by the still prevalent conventions about what made a novel relevant. I chose the former and set out to do everything I could to make the sentiment in my work feel real.

I did not make this easy on myself. I wanted to write about fatherhood and about the redemptive qualities of love. So I set up a situation that threw these themes into relief – in a way that could easily be interpreted as maudlin. I made my protagonist a man in his early forties whose wife had died only two months after giving birth to their second child. I had the first child – a teenager – run away from home, unaware of her mother’s fate. I had a woman come into my protagonist’s life in the midst of his grief and confusion. I did all of these things because they allowed me to write about issues that meant a great deal to me. But I realized that I was always one sentence away from descending into melodrama.

To address this, I strove to make every situation as honest as I possibly could (while understanding that there are some inherent contradictions between fiction and honesty). I wanted the reader to accept the sentimental passages in the novel (and there are many) because they felt natural to the characters and the situation. I wanted to live up to the standard that John Irving set in my mind when he put that article out into the world.

Did I succeed? Only readers can say. But I embraced the challenge so much that it has become my model for writing novels.
Thank you for that insightful post, dear author. Yes, honesty works for me most of the time, whatever form it might take. What about you, readers?

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Tell me about a book that has influenced you as a reader and how.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of December 2, 2009.

Eligibility  US & Can only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great New Books from Harper Collins

I received these books for review today and I'm so excited! Check them out. Click the link below the images to read more about them.



In Silent Night, Haunted Night, Joe Bascombe is no stranger to desire, but when a sexy spirit begins haunting his dreams, he finds himself ensnared by dark passions. What he doesn't realize is that the devious demon and her two sisters, otherwise known as the Three Fates, are out to teach the woman he loves a lesson.

To Love a Wicked Lord by Edith Layton, lovely Phillipa is tired of waiting for her missing fiance. Under his foppish demeanor, Lord Montrose is the only man who can help Pippa find her fiance. On the trail of the elusive husband-to-be, a simmering attraction builds between Maxwell and Pippa with a sinful passion that will be impossible to deny.

In Jordan Dane's The Wrong Side of Dead, computer wizard Seth Harper awakens in a bloody motel room with a grisly corpse next to him. Bounty hunter Jessie Beckett, is determined to prove his innocence despite his gaps in memory. Both Jessie and Seth must confront the demons of their past before Seth becomes a sacrificial lamb to a ruthless killer.

Having been presumed dead, rugged adventurer Captain Bennett Wolfe is now much sought after by every marriage-minded young woman . . . but Bennett only has eyes for the intriguing Lady Phillipa Eddison. That's the story of The Care and Taming of a Rogue by Suzanne Enoch.

Lorraine Heath's Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel stars Eleanor Watkins who's after revenge but instead finds desire. With none less than sinfully attractive scoundrel, James Swindler.

The Untamed Bride by Stephanie Laurens is part of a new series, the Black Cobra Quartet. They're battle-hardened, sinfully wealthy, completely unstoppable—and all male: Four officers of the Crown, fighting against a deadly foe known only as the Black Cobra.

As the new Duke of Billingham, Simon Crathorne has one main duty to fulfill: find a proper wife and continue his family's exalted name. But of all the eligible women who have come to his country party, he desires only one. And she may be the most unsuitable bride of all. Lillian Mayhew is desperate to expose a devastating secret about Simon's distinguished late father so she can salvage her family's reputation. Yet from the moment she meets her rakishly handsome host, she begins to question if she can destroy his world so callously.That's the story in What the Duke Desires by Jenna Petersen.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Author Guest Post - Blume Rifken (Giveaway - closed)

Congrats to lucky winner - Amanda

Readers, please join me welcoming Blume Rifken, author of Scarecrow Finds a Friend who will be guest blogging here today. This heartening tale involves Tally, a good witch, who is losing her power to fly. She befriends a Scarecrow and he comes up with a plan to save her flying power.

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"Scarecrow Finds a Friend" is my first children's book, and the first book that I have self-published. In 1987, I wrote "Silhouettes In America 1790-1840, A Collectors' Guide" that was published by Paradigm Press.

When the idea for "Scarecrow" came to mind, I decided to self-publish. It has become quite an adventure! The first thing I had to do was take a good look at what I was about to engage in and decide how much money and help I would need to accomplish my goal. I immediately decided that the only portion that I enjoyed was the creative process, and that everything else would be contracted out. Dan Poynter's "Self-Publishing Manual" was an enormous help that anyone who wants to self-publish should read thoroughly.

Poynter recommends a number of "book shepherds" to choose from who, for a fee, will help edit, design and arrange for the printing of a book. I chose "To Press and Beyond" which is located in Santa Barbara, California. I learned that one of the keys to good writing is to edit, edit and edit some more. It was very productive working side-by-side with Gail, Penny and Chris at TP&B. It was essential for all involved to refrain from any creative ego control, in order to reach a common goal.

My only regret in the entire process was that TP&B is located on the west coast, with me being on the east coast. I would have liked face-to-face contact, but that was not possible. I am very happy with the final result, and I appreciate Penny having lined up Greenleaf Book Group in Austin, Texas, to help with my marketing and warehousing.

My intent was for this endeavor to be a fun project, along with my friend and illustrator, Carl Wenzel, and I am very pleased with the outcome.
Thank you for that inspiring post, Blume. You can read my review of this delightful book at A Bookworm Reads.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Recommend a children's book that features a scarecrow or one that's a fun Halloween read.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of November 26, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Horrid Henry - Review & Giveaway - closed

Congrats to lucky winner - Clenna!

Come experience a world of fun and mischief in Francesca Simon’s latest books, Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter and Horrid Henry's Underpants!

Don't know who Horrid Henry is?! Here's a brief intro:
Francesca Simon is one of the world's best-loved children's authors. She is the only American to have ever won the Galaxy Book Award, and her creation, Horrid Henry, is the #1 bestselling chapter book series in the UK—with a hit TV show and over fifteen million copies sold! Each book contains four easy-to-read stories and hilarious illustrations by the one and only Tony Ross, so even the most reluctant of readers won't be able to resist Henry's amazing talent for trouble!

PhotobucketIn Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter, Horrid Henry encounters the worst babysitter in the world; traumatizes his parents on a long car trip; goes trick-or-treating at Halloween (with disastrous results); and emerges victorious from a raid on Moody Margaret's Secret Club.

PhotobucketIn Horrid Henry's Underpants, Horrid Henry makes a deal with his parents in return for eating his veggies; accidentally wears girls' underwear to school; tries to prove he is sicker than his brother; and writes the meanest thank-you cards ever (and makes money on it too).

Without a doubt, these are some of the funniest kid stories I've ever read! Have you ever read "Dennis the Menace"? These books remind me irresistibly of those. Written in the same mischievous yet innocent, tongue-in-cheek manner, trouble finds Henry whether he's looking for it or not (and yes, he's often looking for it!). Amusing and appealing, they made me glad that my kids don't behave as horribly as that - yet! If you haven't picked up a Horrid Henry book yet, make it your goal this holiday season. More info on this series can be found at Sourcebooks.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

PhotobucketA copy of Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse will go to one lucky reader. In this book, Horrid Henry indulges his favorite hobby—collecting Gizmos; has a bad time with his spelling homework; starts a rumor that there's a shark in the swimming pool; and spooks Perfect Peter with the mummy's curse.

To Enter
  • Recommend another book or series about a young, mischievous kid (other than Horrid Henry and Dennis the Menace).
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of November 23, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Author Guest Post - Therese Walsh (& a Giveaway - closed)

Congrats to lucky winner - Marilyn
 

Readers, please join me in welcoming Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, who'll be guest blogging here today. This haunting debut novel explores the intense bond of sisterhood as a grieving twin searches for her own identity in the ruins of her sister’s past.




When Your Characters Travel the World and You Don't Even Have a Passport


Once upon a time, I had a passport. As a junior in high school, I had the good fortune to be invited for a tour of Europe, to sing sing sing my heart out with others my age. I went, of course, I went. I remember taking pictures of castles in Germany, snow-covered mountains in Switzerland, grand cathedrals in Italy (where there were dress codes, I recall), elaborate town squares in Austria. Unfortunately, when we reached Paris, France, my purse was snatched, my passport, my money, my camera—and all of the film from the shots I’d already snapped—gone.

So sad. You can imagine, I’m sure. I still remember those pictures, even though the actual photographs will never be in hand. As a former psychology student, I know this is probably because I felt deeply moved by the scenes before me while snapping those shots, and so I remembered them better.

As a writer, writing in part about places I’ve never been—like Rome, Italy—it’s sometimes challenging to massage 26 letters into something that evokes place authentically and in a way that can move a reader. Sure, you can buy travel guides, and I do, but so often they merely list attractions in a robotic manner and miss the essence of a place. I wanted to bring Rome to full-bodied life in my debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy; I wanted my readers to see it, smell it, taste it, breathe it in.

A trick: Find someone who has been to that place you wish to know about, and ask them specific questions. What about that place moved them? What is it about that place that they remember? Sheets hanging from a line, the bakeries, everyone kissing, the cobblestone streets, the insane traffic, the flow of the language, music and artists everywhere, so many magnificent structures…

It’s important for me to listen with wide-open ears when they answer, because their answers are the equivalent of storytelling gold. They will remember what they loved, the things that touched them; and as a writer, those are the things I’d like to share and the emotions I’d like to evoke in you. If I can transmit an authentic love of place passed down to you from someone else, I can bring that place to life for you.

So you see, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a passport right now and haven’t been to Rome—and wouldn’t have the photographs to remind myself of the trip even if I had. What matters is that I know how to ask questions to tap into the essence of place, and use the answers to construct a world out of 26 letters that you can see and smell and taste and breathe, and hopefully that will move you in a way that you will never forget.

Happy reading!
Therese Walsh

Thanks for that enlightening post, Therese. I've often wondered how authors are able to breathe life into the locales of their books, short of visiting that place of course! I hope one day we can have you drop by again, perhaps to details some of the research you've done. I know I'm interested! and I'm sure my readers are as well.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader!

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : why you want to win!
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of November 22, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

9 Dragons by Michael Connelly - Review & Giveaway - closed

Congrats to lucky winner - Gena!


PhotobucketThere's no denying Harry Bosch is one of the smartest fictional detectives around and Connelly is a master at writing police procedurals. In Nine Dragons, crippled with a partner who has lost his nerve and with a self-imposed debt to pay, Harry investigates the death of a struggling Chinese shop owner which takes him into the deadly world of Triads. His own prejudices about Asians hampers him even as an internal leak has Harry suspecting everyone around him.

The investigation then takes an lethal international turn when Bosch's daughter is kidnapped in Hong Kong. What then happens is a kick-ass Hollywood style (actually make it Jackie Chan style, minus the martial arts shenanigans) adventurous romp with dead bodies piling up in the city of 9 Dragons, Kowloon, in Hong Kong.

The mystery is quite gripping, but what held me fascinated even more were the nitty gritty details of police investigation which are (true to life) 99.99% perspiration and only a 0.01% inspiration. Quite unlike what they show you on CSI or any of the other thousand and one TV mystery serials. Harry has to do a lot of hard work and puts in a lot of effort to solve what at first appears to be a small time shooting of a shop owner, but then develops into quite something else.

The story begins in LA and then moves over Hong Kong in the second half and in both parts, Connelly proves he has a gift for making the place come alive through his words. This is especially true of Kowloon where it's culture, streets, festivals, underworld etc come to startling 3D life. Readers have always known Harry Bosch as a detective, now we come to see him as a parent, as a Dad bent on finding his daughter come hell or dragon and without his badge to protect him. The ending was a terrific shocker and kinda bittersweet. And it leaves Harry with a lot more to deal with than when the story started. I quite look forward to what's going to happen in the next book of this series.

Great story-telling, realistic portrayal of people, places and situations, a breathless suspense and a very human central character makes this book (and this series) a must read for anyone who loves a good book.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.
Note - Sponsor will not ship to PO boxes.

To Enter
  • Recommend a mystery book that's set in Asia.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
  • Anonymous comments without an email address will not be considered.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of November 21, 2009.

Eligibility  US & Canada only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
Disclosure - I received a free copy of this book for review.
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Flu!

Despite all precautions, I've caught the Flu, maybe even H1N1. Doctors can't tell.

As such, I'm offline until I get better.

Sorry for any inconvenience. Hope to be back soon.
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Author Guest Post - Dianne Castell (& a Giveaway - closed)

Today I'm pleased to welcome Dianne Castell, author of Hot and Irresistible. Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion. And I received a copy of this book for hosting this tour.

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Southern Speak

Or...you’re not in Kansas anymore.

My November release, Hot and Irresistible, is set in Savannah. I love Savannah. I don’t live there but my daughter goes to school there and we vacationed in the area long before that and I knew some day I wanted set a book among the big moss draped oaks, magnolias the size of dinner plates, azaleas as big as a bus and Paula Deen’s. ‘course that Savannah is the most haunted city in the US made the city even more intriguing.

But there was this one teeny problem, I don’t talk like Scarlett O’Hara. I live in Ohio, the land of flat A’s and folks who say “please” when they mean “excuse me.” I have no idea where that come from but it’s better than “huh?”

I had to do a lot of research to make sure I had Lady and Sons on the right street and to make sure what streets are one-way and which way they go. But you have to do that when you write any book. The big challenge was how to write Southern-eeze?

I do live in Cincinnati and married a guy from Kentucky. He truly does say things like “fine as frog’s hair” and causin’ a ruckus and we do have fried chicken with white gravy once a week. But how do you write real Savannah?

Such things as Miss Emily and Miss Gloria are proper addresses as is asking how someone’s mama and daddy are but what else? I got a lot of flavor from Southern movies. Of course there’s Gone With the Wind, which was a far better book than move but still it helped to hear them talk. And Something to Talk About that was set in Savannah so that helped a ton, and my favorite Southern movie, The Client. This one just happened to be a better movie than a book, in my opinion.

So, I’m here to ask you... What is your favorite book set in the South and do you have any Southern-isms or words of wisdom from the South to pass on?

For you efforts, I have an ARC of Hot and Bothered to give away from the responses. Ya’ll have a nice day now, ya’ hear.
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About

USA Today best selling author Dianne Castell writes for Kensington BRAVA. She also writes a monthly editor interview column for Romance Writers Report. Her books have won Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, been on the cover of Romantic Times Magazine and included in Rhapsody Book Club, Doubleday Book Club and have made the Waldenbooks Bestseller list. The second book in her Savannah Sizzles series for the BRAVA line, Hot and Irresistible, hits the shelves Nov‘09. Hot Summer Nights is out May ’10.

Dianne lives in Cincinnati with her two cats and will do just about anything to get out of housework. You can visit her website at www.DianneCastell.com.

** Edited to Add ** My mistake. I forgot to add - the giveaway ends Midnight CST of November 21, 2009. Giveaway open to US only.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Conversation with Barbara Mahler (& a Giveaway - closed)



Barbara A. Mahler was amazed when the wizzen Netri showed up in her life. Night after night he woke her up and told her stories about a land on the other side of the hole in the sky. She wrote down his tales and the result is her first full-length novel, The Hole in the Sky (Sea Turtle Publishing, 300p).

Tell us about your book, The Hole in the Sky.

Following the death of her mother, thirteen-year-old Kaela Neuleaf struggles with her loss. Lured by an old diary and the mysterious power of her mother’s butterfly pendant, Kaela and her cousin Shawn are transported to Muratenland where the two are desperately needed to rescue a kidnapped child from the clutches of a vicious warlord.

The Hole in the Sky offers beauty and adventure, a bevy of strange and magical friends – and deadly enemies. When Shawn is captured, Kaela must dig inside for untapped wells of courage and love in her heart in order to save her cousin and new friends from the ravages of an impending war.

Give us some background on the main character, Kaela, and what drives her longing for a magical journey.

After Kaela’s mother dies from a protracted illness Kaela feels like all the magic and joy she once experienced has vanished from her life.

How did your work with cancer patients help inspire the story?

This story was profoundly influenced by my work with cancer patients and their families. I fall in love with the beautiful spirit of all my patients and I experience a deep sense of loss and helplessness when one of them dies. In some ways I think I made my own journey through loss by writing this story.

I have learned so much about the beauty and appreciation of life from each person I have cared for facing a serious illness and I am thrilled to be able to share some of that beauty with this story.

What kind of research did you do when writing the book?

I purposefully did not do any type of research for this book because I didn’t want to be influenced by other people. These characters and their stories came to me in visions and dreams. I never knew where the story was going to take me. Characters I didn’t even know were going to be in the story showed up and insisted on telling me their side of what had taken place. Then it was my challenge to find a way to weave together the stories.

To what age group is the book targeted?

9-12 is the targeted age group, but I have found that people of all ages are enjoying this story. It is a wonderful book to read together with your kids.

Is it true this book appeals to boys as well as girls – and even their parents? Why is that?

There are two main characters in this book: a girl and a boy that are swept from their ordinary lives into an extraordinary adventure in another world. There is a point in The Hole in the Sky that people tell me the story definitely becomes a page turner with plenty of action, mystery, unexpected twists and turn in the plot, and acts of bravery and love.

What is the moral of the story in The Hole in the Sky?

Ariala, one of the Butterfly Women in my book, says, “Love goes deeper than skin, flesh or bone. It is the great healer.” I definitely agree with her.

How is the book different from others in the fantasy/adventure genre?

At first glance this book appears to be a classic story of good versus evil, but as it unfolds the story challenges assumptions that we make about entire tribes of people as being totally good or evil. It also explores the choice we each face when experiencing loss of whether we will close our hearts and hide in bitterness or open to even greater kindness and compassion.

Have you always been a storyteller?

Yes, absolutely! I have made up stories all my life. Even when I am sitting and waiting for a plane I look at the people around me and weave fantastic tales about their lives and their destinations. I also use the foibles (of which there seem to be an unending stream) and humorous incidents from my life to entertain, inform and inspire my patients. I love to make people laugh.

The Hole in the Sky is the first in a trilogy. When can we expect the next two books?

I am definitely working away. I sometimes wish I was one of those writers that had an outline and three characters showing different points of view, but I am at the mercy of my muse Netri. He continually surprises me. At the rate I’m going I hope to be done with the next book in about a year.

How can our audience get your book?

Bookstores should be carrying it as of October 20th. If they aren’t you should weep, gnash your teeth and pull a hissy fit until they get online that very minute to order copies for you and the other people that will soon be pounding down their doors demanding a copy of The Hole in the Sky.

What is your website?

www.theholeinthesky.net

Do you have anything to add?

Do you remember when you were a child wondering if maybe somewhere there was a secret door or room you could enter that would take you to a magical place? If you have ever had that feeling, then go through The Hole in the Sky with Kaela and Shawn. I think you will be delighted by what you discover on the other side.

I recently had the honor of attending a meeting of The Boulder Butterfly Girl Book Group, six nine-year-old girls, who read the book over the summer. Their passion for my book truly moved me. They summed up the story as, “A magical journey about friendship, love and courage.”

I think those girls would agree with me when I say that it will be well worth your time to take this journey.

Thank you so much for your time.

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • When you're feeling sad or low, is there a particular book you like to pick up? Share with us!
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of November 20, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Author Guest Post - Joy DeKok (& a Giveaway - closed)

Today I'm pleased to welcome JOY DeKOK, author of RAIN DANCE. Her guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

In Rain Dance, Jonica is infertile. Stacie chooses an abortion. One is prolife, the other prochoice. Both are suddenly alone in misunderstanding, facing hypocrisies in their belief systems, and grieving – one the death of a dream and the other the death of her child. As their hearts break where in the world will they find healing and grace? Can shattered dreams be part of the plan?

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“Rule breaker!” the voice yelled. “Renegades don’t get published.”

I wanted to plug my ears. My arms were attached to my sides as if I was wrapped in a straight-jacket. The voice continued its attack from beyond the bright interrogation lights in my nightmare.

When I was able to stand up, I found myself alone in my dark hotel room. It took me a moment to remember where I was. Oh yeah – one of the best writer’s conferences in the nation and in the morning I had an appointment with a big time editor. A famous author was critiquing my manuscript and she had a reputation for being tough.

Although I was a first time novelist, I had read as many books on writing as I could afford, went to conferences, and bought the audio CDs for the ones I couldn’t attend. I knew the rules. Especially the one I’d broken. No author intrusion for a first timer with no experience on the market.

As I sat in the dark waiting for the sky to lighten into morning, I figured I’d leave branded as a rogue and be the next negative illustration in their workshops.

On the way down the hall, adrenaline kicked in and I considered calling in sick.

He handed me my proposal. I accepted it noticing only some big words scribbled across the top of the page. My mind refused to decipher them in public. He quietly said, “I wish I’d seen this last year. We just published two books on this subject.” He wished what? I looked up from the top button on his shirt to his eyes. He continued, “This book will be published someday.” I thanked him and headed back to my room to read the words he’d written to me. He’s written three: This is excellent!

Half-way through lunch, the author who was critiquing my first three chapters entered the room. My salad tossed in my stomach.

She scanned the room. I didn’t drop my eyes in time and she motioned me over. She said to the people around us, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to meet an excellent writer, Joy DeKok.” I thanked her politely and again headed for the privacy of my room.

She offered in writing to help me anyway she could, underlined areas she especially liked, and encouraged me to contact her editor.

I sent the manuscript out and although it went to committee at two houses, it was declined by everyone I submitted it to. Last year the editor at Sheaf House Publishers said, “I want to publish this.” Rain Dance released on August 3, 2009.

The journey from the nightmare to the dream come true was a long one for this renegade writer. You might wonder if it’s worth it all. As we say in Minnesota – yah sure, you betcha!

Joy DeKok and her husband, Jon, live in Minnesota on thirty-five acres of woods and fields. Joy has been writing most of her life and as a popular speaker shares her heart and passion for God with women. In addition to writing novels, she has also published a devotional and several children’s books.

Visit Joy online at: www.joydekok.com, www.raindancebook.com, www.believe4kids.com and www.gettingitwrite.net.


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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky US reader.

To Enter
  • Tell me, what are you - prolife or prochoice? And why?
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of November 19, 2009.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Author Guest Post - Shayla Black (& a Giveaway - closed)

Congrats to lucky winner - Kim!



Readers, please join me welcoming Shayla Black who will be guest blogging here today! In case you don't already know, Shayla is bestselling author of more than twenty sizzling contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances, including the Doomsday Brethren novels Tempt Me with Darkness and Possess Me at Midnight.

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I’m often asked, as an author of nearly thirty novels, where my ideas come from. The answer is as complex as the art of writing a novel itself. Just as there’s more than one way to write a book, there’s more than one way to come up with ideas. There’s more than one solution to filling and mining the well of creativity.

Sure, when you’re first motivated to write, it’s because you have an idea that, for you, is so exciting, so breathtaking and consuming, that you can’t not write it. I remember my first idea, which developed when I was in college. I mulled it while walking in my neighborhood, soaking in rays by the pool, driving to the retail job I hated, sitting through boring lectures. I talked incessantly to my friends at the time—who weren’t readers—about my fabulous idea. Many shrugged. They didn’t understand, but I did.

Fast forward a decade or so. I’d finished that first book, and a second, and a third, then I sold them all. Then came a new day: selling a book before having a new idea and agreeing to write that book to a deadline. Eek! Gads! What would I do??? My husband looked at me and promised me the ideas would come. “Light candles,” he told me. “Listen to music. Talk to your author friends.”

One day he looked at me over dinner and smiled. “The ideas came.” He didn’t ask; he knew. I nodded, wondering how he’d figured it out. He told me it was that faraway look on my face, coupled with that bit of excitement. Bingo! I had an idea to latch onto—one I couldn’t wait to write about.

With every subsequent book, I go through a sometimes frustrating period of trying nail down the plot. I’ll light my candles, find the perfect music, talk to my author friends. I also keep my well full by taking time to enjoy my family every day, always having a book for pleasure reading nearby, using those moments between consciousness and sleep to let my mind drift into all the possibilities of a book.

But when the idea for my current series, the Doomsday Brethren, hit me, I took a step back. Sure, I’d written connected books, even a trilogy before. But a multi-book series with plots for each book and a storyline that arcs over multiple books? Crazy! I had to be certifiable to try this, right? But I could see this paranormal culture set inside a familiar location, modern-day UK. A world where wizards and witches sharpened their special abilities to combat a common enemy, yet dealt with very human emotions—love, betrayal, revenge, death, depression, triumph, envy, insecurity, tragedy. What appeared in my head was so overwhelming, I had no idea how I’d ever harness it and get it on the paper in a coherent fashion.

But again, I went back to the old standbys: candles, music, good friends.

In your own life, you probably have hurdles to climb, situations that make you nervous. What is your equivalent of candles, music and friends? What enables you to relax and find the answers to your tough puzzles? Can’t wait to hear! When it comes to focusing, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas…

Shayla Black
TEMPT ME WITH DARKNESS - 9/08 | SEDUCE ME IN SHADOW - 10/09 | POSSESS ME AT MIDNIGHT - 11/09 * Pocket Books


**Download "Fated" - FREE Doomsday Brethren e-novella - http://www.simonandschuster.com/giveaways/fated-free-download**
www.ShaylaBlack.com | www.DoomsdayBrethren.com
 
Good question. I just pick up a book from among my favorites (and I have way too many to list) and just read in a quiet corner (or as much quiet as there can be with kids running amok!). Reading is what relaxes me and it's a great way to lose myself from my current situation into a new one filled with adventure/romance/mystery etc etc. I always come out of it - renewed!

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A Shayla Black/SJ Day tote bag and a signed copy of the first Doomsday Brethren novel, Tempt Me with Darkness.

To Enter
  • Just answer Shayla's question - In your own life, you probably have hurdles to climb, situations that make you nervous. What is your equivalent of candles, music and friends? What enables you to relax and find the answers to your tough puzzles? Can’t wait to hear!
  • Anonumous comments without an email address will not be considered.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of 18 November, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
______________________________________________________________________
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Conversation with Lisa Patton

Lisa Patton is a Memphis, Tennessee native who spent three years as a Vermont innkeeper—until three sub-zero winters forced her back to the South. She's used her experience to pen Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter (Thomas Dunne Books; October 1, 2009; $23.99), a hilarious and heartwarming debut novel about a Southern belle thrown into the wilds of rural Vermont. More than just a funny fish-out-of-water story, this novel shows how one woman learns to stand up for herself and triumph against difficult circumstances.

What was the inspiration for Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’Easter?

I really was an innkeeper in Vermont. Even better, a Southern innkeeper in Vermont! After surviving three sub-zero winters and discovering Vermonters don’t bury their dead in the winter, suffering from vampire bugs bites on the back of my neck, and enduring a four-week summer where I still had to wear a coat at night, I knew I had a story to write.

How has your personal life experience influenced this book? What similarities do you have with Leelee Satterfield?

The first thing that comes to my mind is the way southern girls are brought up, at least in my era. We were taught to be agreeable and polite. I’ve heard people criticize southern women for not saying what’s on their mind. That’s because we are taught from a young age to be great hostesses and make everyone feel comfortable. It might not be the best way, but it’s what we’ve learned. Sure, there’s a bit of me in Leelee. I get caught up in the same trap of sacrificing my needs for everyone else’s and wanting people to like me. Like Leelee, I’m a work in progress. Then again, so are most of my closest friends.

The best thing about Leelee is her fun side. Leelee gets herself into all kinds of messes – largely because of the choices she makes. She’s Lucy Ricardoish. I’m the same way and while that sometimes makes for a crazy personal life, it sure produces some rich scenarios for writing.

Are any of those crazy characters (such as Helga) based on people you know?

No doubt the characters in Whistlin’ Dixie are an amalgam of all kinds of people I’ve known - Leelee’s three best friends from Memphis in particular. I named all of them, Leelee included, after sorority sisters of mine from Kappa Delta at the University of Alabama. Helga is fashioned a little bit after an old spinster piano teacher I had in grammar school. She’s also part Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz and a lot Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations. I just love a villain, especially a funny villain. Glen Close is my dream choice to someday play Helga.

What other strange things happen in Yankee territory, and how is that different from life in the South?

Oh my. To be Southern and living in Yankee territory is quite an ordeal. Not only does one experience culture shock but the thermal shock is brutal. Southerners have this idyllic image of the Currier and Ives picture of winter up North. We have no idea what it’s like to actually exist in it. We see heaps of snow and think, “how perfectly beautiful!” Actually, shoveling snow and rearranging your life to exist in it is another thing all together – for a Dixie chick anyway.

I remember having to see a counselor four months into living in Vermont. He sympathized with my inability to connect right away and explained how the subtle cultural differences would make it hard for me. He was right. Southern women are generally bubbly and very friendly. Certainly, the people up North are more direct and they take longer to get to know, but once a friendship is formed it’s there for life - without pretense.


What are some of the positive things that Leelee experiences in the North?

Leelee is forced way out of her comfort zone. Nor’easter is a metaphor for the storm in Leelee’s life. While living in Vermont, she learns that she can survive any storm physical or mental. Leelee develops self-confidence in her ability to earn her own living (without the help of her husband.) Several real friendships develop for Leelee in Vermont - unlikely ones at that. I don’t want to give away too much here, but Leelee gets to experience some Northern wildlife that she’s only dreamed about in the South.

Can you explain the significance of the song “Into the Mystic” in your book?

First of all, it’s my favorite Van Morrison song, bar none. Romance oozes from each note. Leelee declares it’s her favorite song, too, so there’s another similarity between the two of us. When romance finally touches Leelee again, I thought it would be the perfect song to set the mood for this climactic moment in the story.

I was working for Michael McDonald around the time I wrote the scene with “Into The Mystic” and when he read it he was inspired to record the song on his next CD. He covered it on his 2007 Soul Speak record in honor of Leelee’s romantic dance. Michael’s version is quite dreamy, by the way.

How did you find the time to write this novel, as a single mom of two boys? Is there any message you’d like to give to the single mothers out there who may read this book?

Single motherhood is an enormous job and it leaves very little free time. Stolen moments are responsible for the writing of this book. Late at night, early in the morning before work, halftime on the soccer field, and waiting in the carpool line for the boys - I grabbed all the spare time I could find. That’s why it took me years and years to finish. I dedicate the book to my sons but I also have a dedication to single mothers. They need encouragement and it’s crucial to have hope in difficult situations. My message is to find your heart’s desire and never give up, no matter how impossible it might seem. I know because it happened to me. I have a testimony.

How does Leelee grow and change in your novel? Is she a “Southern Belle”—and is that a positive or negative thing?

When someone first reads Whistlin’ Dixie, they might be perplexed at Leelee’s inability to consider her own needs. As the book develops, though, Leelee’s metamorphosis is becoming evident to everyone. Her girlfriends from home are shocked by her newfound ability to say no and stand up for what she needs. Even Roberta, her housekeeper in Vermont, has been secretly watching Leelee’s inner strength and true grit develop.

Leelee is a Southern Belle but that’s a good thing. The dictionary.com definition of a Southern Belle is a beautiful and charming woman from the southern US. Leelee is beautiful, inside and out, and her charm is the most endearing thing about her.

Can you discuss the role of friendship in Whistlin’ Dixie?

Friendship equals family to Leelee. Having lost her parents at an early age, and as an only child, Leelee relies on her friends to be a substitute for that sense of belonging and love. Despite her insistence to the contrary Leelee is definitely naïve. Her entire life, prior to Vermont, has been spent inside a reinforced bubble. Her friends from home, including her childhood nanny, are not only her family but also her advisors. Much to her surprise, Leelee’s time in Vermont produces three more dear friends who become her Vermont kinfolk.

Where did you get the ideas for the new menu at the Peach Blossom Inn? Do you have a recipe for any of those dishes?

I’m a sucker for fine gourmet food and I get many of my recipes and ideas from the Fine Cooking Magazine. Most of the menu items in the book were taken from my own restaurant in Vermont. One of the appetizers, Crabmeat Henry, came from an old historic restaurant in Memphis called Justine’s. I do have many of the recipes and they’ll be available on my website, www.lisapatton.com. White chocolate mousse is available now.

Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter is a fish out of water story. One can’t help but think of another fish out of water - Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Helga and Leelee are obvious parallels to the classic tale, are there others?

Many. If you are an “Ozzy” the likenesses are easy to spot. If not, they might be subtler. Instead of a tornado, Leelee gets caught up in a Nor’easter. Leelee befriends three unlikely characters in her own Land of Oz. There are even a couple of lines of dialogue very similar to the movie. Of course there's Leelee’s beloved dog, Gracie. The only thing missing from Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter is an actual wizard. But Leelee’s survival symbolizes the wizard inside her. I wasn’t intentional with the major similarities, it just happened that way.


**Posted with permission from St. Martins.**
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