Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interview with Amy Corwin, author of VAMPIRE PROTECTOR

Please join the Mojito Literary Society in welcoming Amy Corwin, multi-published author of historical and contemporary novels, as she tells us about her latest work, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR, with occasion digressions into apex predators, writing disasters, and Mimus polyglottos.

1. Tell us a little about VAMPIRE PROTECTOR.

Vampire Protector is the first in what I hope will be a series of contemporary paranormal novels set around Virginia and Maryland, near where I grew up. Like many of my books, it deals with themes of redemption and self-realization. The heroine, Gwen, has been through two harrowing, life-changing experiences that have left her with fragmented, partial memories, and she soon finds that the holes in her memory may prove deadly.

Her neighbor, John Wright, is a vampire, and what Gwen doesn’t realize is that he has been protecting her family—and a deadly family secret—for centuries. Over the years, his own dreams, ambition, and desire to find love have been subsumed by his obligation to serve Gwen’s family. All he has left is duty, and after he meets Gwen, he finds his life even more hollow. Duty is a poor substitute for love. But as a vampire, he has nothing to offer her except endless, empty years which are not the kind of fulfilling life and family she craves.

Their personal tragedy only grow more intense when they face the challenges of deadly forces trying to discover Gwen’s secret and the physical danger of her old family home which may be haunted…
2  Your previous books include Regency romances and mysteries, both contemporary and historical — what made you decide to write a contemporary paranormal?

Vampire Protector is very special to me. It’s both my first contemporary novel and first paranormal, and it was one of those novels I felt driven to write. After going through the death of my parents, a new—and first--marriage, and other life changes, I found myself needing to write about the longings we all experience to recapture the past and find meaning in our lives.

Although Gwen, the heroine of Vampire Protector, faces unique circumstances that none of us has ever faced, she also faces issues with which we are all, sadly, familiar. She must come to terms with the loss of her family and move forward. It is definitely fiction, but the themes and issues are ones that all of us work through. Some of the scenes where Gwen remembers her family were very difficult to write because of the memories they evoked about my own childhood and the loss of my parents. I don’t believe you ever stop longing for those special, fleeting moments of shared love, even if those times were just mundane activities like baking a pie with your mother.

Fortunately, there’s more to Vampire Protector than my maudlin longing for the early sixties. Most of my readers know I also write historicals and my love of history shows up again in this book, in what I hope is an unexpected turn of events. I won’t spill the beans, but suffice to say, vampires are long-lived creatures and those in my novel have some interesting intersections with our own early American history.

3.  You mention that you are a former biology student (which explains why you can offer such a useful timeline on both corpse decomposition and Regency rose-growing). How else does your former scholarly interest affect your writing?

Having a “scientific bent” has been both an advantage and a curse. The advantage is that I know how to do research and have personal interests which help ground the books I write in the reality of our physical world. Some odd kink forces me to know how every bird, animal, and plant would look, respond to stimuli, and interact. I’ve found that this has helped me enormously in building fictional worlds because one of the most important aspects of biology is the understanding of ecosystems and the interdependencies within communities of living organisms.

And while much of that sounds like mumbo-jumbo, what it does provide is a holistic foundation for developing paranormal worlds where history, the paranormal, and fictional elements work together as a logical system of interdependent elements.

For example, how would vampires, as a super predator, realistically interact with their prey, humans? I find that question fascinating.

Science can help me frame fictional answers such questions and create realistic behaviors for the characters.

The curse, of course, is the deep need I feel to explain everything. I often find myself having to stop and remove passages where I wax poetic with scientific explanations or boring—but factual—descriptions of minor things like birds. Does anyone really care about the life history, songs, and Latin name of the Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos?

On an amusing side-note: there is a debate, even among ornithologists, about whether common bird names ought to be capitalized or not. I stand firmly in the camp that states since these are proper names, they ought to be capitalized. I’ve almost come to fist-a-cuffs with editors who wanted the names in lower case.

But if you use lower case, then you don’t know if a green heron is the proper name of a specific bird, the Green Heron, Butorides virescens, or just a generalized description of a heron that happens to be green. Lower case is a description, not a name.

Sorry, I digress. But you can definitely see where a background in biology can be a downright curse at times. You never want to get into fights with your editor.

4. Your website includes a section on Bloopers, Out-takes, and Writing Disasters. What made you decide to share some of your — as you describe it — unforgivably  bad writing?

Glad you asked because it gives me an opportunity to explain.

No one is perfect. Certainly, no manuscript is perfect. And even after publication, you can find errors in your book that dismay and disgust you. All of us, including our wonderful editors and copy editors, are human. Even computers, which are not human, make mistakes during grammar and spell checks.

So…I’ve always found it more useful to admit mistakes right up front. It’s the only way you learn and move forward. After having a few embarrassing errors show up in published books, I decided, well, I might as well just admit them as we discover them. I hoped to make a game out of it, since I love to hear from readers, even if it’s only an e-mail cataloging mistakes my editor, copy editor, and I missed. By listing a few on my website, we can keep track of mistakes already found, so sharp-eyed readers can send me e-mails about new, hitherto undiscovered mistakes. LOL

There is also the odd notion, expressed to me by several readers and authors-to-be, that you do a draft or two of a manuscript and it’s perfect. (And of course you can write a book in one month, just writing an hour or two during the evening while scarfing down bon-bons and drinking gallons of Scotch, right? ) By exposing a few sections of my own shameful early drafts, I hoped to show how much work goes into transforming a manuscript into something acceptable as a book.

Finally, I thought it might be fun to post pieces of novels that got cut out in the final form. Sort of the like the outtakes you sometimes see at the end of movies. I love them in movies. They are frequently hysterically funny. So I thought a few “outtakes” of my own might amuse readers and intrigue them enough to want to read the “real” story that hopefully isn’t quite so bad.

5. Your website also features articles from the broadsides, what you describe as the Regency’s version of tabloids. What do you find so fascinating about these sensationalistic accounts of horrid apparitions and murdering publicans?

I admit it, I’m a sucker for ghost stories and murder mysteries. The two often go hand-in-hand. In college, I actually wrote a paper on the rise of the Gothic novel with its elements of murder and the supernatural.

In addition, one of the major influences on both my writing and reading habits was Barbara Michaels. She wrote a brilliant combination of paranormal, mystery, and romance. In many of her stories, history plays a major role in the genesis and resolution of the mystery.

My love of history forced me to start writing in the historical genre, specifically historical romantic mysteries, but I always wanted to include that paranormal element. So I was on the lookout for murder mysteries, ghost stories and actual, historical accounts of paranormal events. I wanted facts to lend more realism to my stories.

Then I found actual accounts from the early 19th century of experiences with the paranormal and murder. The accounts concerning the investigation of murders during that period helped me tremendously to ensure I got the sequencing of events correct when I had a mystery subplot in my historical romances.

Finally, because many of my stories have a very comedic tone, I wanted to make sure that I got the actual period details correct, particularly when it came to investigating murders. I didn’t want my stories to move from the humorous into the territory of the completely ridiculous. I needed to have some foundation in reality.

Of course, all of that can’t hide the fact that I just found the broadsheets incredibly fascinating. Sort of like the “Forensic Files” of the Regency period.

6. Do you have a current work-in-progress?

Yes! I have three!
I’ve got a contemporary paranormal about a minor character in Vampire Protector, a woman named Quicksilver. She’s literally gone through hell at the hands of vampires and wants nothing more than to kill them all. But she meets a man who is determined to save the souls of vampires and give them a second chance. The sparks fly as they try to meet on some small bit of common ground. The working name of this manuscript is Quicksilver, and I hope to finish editing it and start submitting it by January 2011 to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press.

Right now, I’m writing a contemporary cozy mystery called It’s a Crime about a woman who is an exhibition shooter and who gets dragged into a complex series of murders, set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Finally, I’m editing a historical romantic mystery. The working name is Deadliest Rose. This book draws on my research into the history of roses to create a story where the murderer sends a rose to a detective agency, to indicate who the next victim will be. If they can identify the rose, they have a chance at saving the victim. The first draft is done, and I’m hoping to finish edits later this summer to prepare it for submission late in 2011.

7. Any other exciting news you'd like to share?

I’m awaiting word on a contemporary, cozy mystery set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, tentatively called Whacked. I should hear by the end of November. Keep your fingers crossed.

In addition, I have one more historical romantic mystery, The Necklace, due out very, very soon. I hope by the end of November or December. For those following my other historicals, this book features the incorrigible Archer family. Oriana Archer manages to find an Archer family heirloom—an emerald necklace—only to lose it and have it reappear, clutched in a dead man’s hand.

I can’t wait to have it released!

That’s it for now, and I hope readers will find something of interest. Don’t forget to visit me at http://www.amycorwin.com for the latest news.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!
Amy Corwin


Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and has been writing for the last ten years in addition to managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry.  She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy's first paranormal, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR, debuted in November, 2010.Amy’s first Regency, SMUGGLED ROSE, received a 4-star review by “The Romantic Times” and her second Regency, I BID ONE AMERICAN, received a perfect score of 5 from  Long and Short Reviews. Her third Regency, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, is out now from The Wild Rose Press.

Website: http://www.amycorwin.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/amycorwin
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AmyCorwinAuthor
Blog: http://amycorwin.blogspot.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tina's Review of SHADOWS OVER PARADISE by Anne K. Edwards

            The Beach Read — it’s a genre unto itself. The kind of book that lends itself well to a sandy spot next to a rolling ocean, a comfy chaise lounger, an umbrella. For me, the ultimate beach read is a certain type of mystery novel — character-driven but well-plotted, intelligent but not stiffly cerebral, preferably with an exotic setting and lush descriptions. No forensic analysis please. And no psychotically clever serial killers either. Just average people caught up in that most ordinary of extraordinary events — good old-fashioned murder.
            Those are my requirements. If that sounds good to you, then pull up a towel next to me and I’ll share Shadows Over Paradise by Anne K. Edwards with you.
            The plot starts off like any good vacation — promises of sun and sand and exotic splendor. There’s a wedding in the works, a gathering of intriguing characters (and the usual in-fighting that such gatherings provoke). Add a splash of deceitful sneakiness, throw in a vengeful female rival, shake well with a few chunks of cold-blooded ambition, and you’ve got yourself a treachery cocktail. And all this happens before the first body washes up on the beach for our intrepid heroine, Julia Graye, to find.
            Edwards’ writing is fine — descriptive phrases like “the air around them prickled their skin” develop both setting and tone. And the history of the Mantuan Islands is woven within the narrative with finesse, so that the bits and pieces of this setting don't feel like a fictional travelogue.
            So if you’re lucky enough to have a warm beach waiting for you, grab Shadows over Paradise and find yourself a nice spot by the water. I’d recommend you take an umbrella drink with you — something fruity and cool and laced with deceptive amounts of rum.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Talking Chocolate with Denise, Foodie and Chocolate Enthusiast

I'm thrilled that my friend Denise Chiavetta agreed to visit the Mojito Literary Society and share her passion (addiction) to chocolate. Aside from being a die hard foodie and member of the artisan slow food movement, Denise is a professional futurist. She studies trends in technology and their potential impact on industry and culture. In other words, Denise is a badass. Her knowledge of the history and processing of chocolate is quite impressive.

* You have a Tshirt that reads "life begins after 70 percent." Can you explain what that means?

I've had people ask me all sorts of questions about it, such as "is that the passing grade for the bar?" I'm not sure according to what governing body, but chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids is "dark" chocolate, the consumption of which is one of the very good reasons to be alive.

* Can you give a quick overview of the process of making chocolate?

Cacao pods are filled with a sweet pulp and bitter seeds (cacao beans).

After harvest, the sticky insides of pods are scooped out and allowed to ferment. Fermentation is what gives the beans their "chocolate"

characteristics, so it's an important step. Fermented pulp easily washes off the beans so they can be thoroughly dried and eventually roasted. Roasted beans are milled/ground into chocolate liquor. The next critical step is conching, which is basically more mixing, usually with other ingredients (sugar, milk, etc.). The longer you conch, the smoother the chocolate. To cut conching corners, some makers add an emulsifier like soy lecithin.

Finally, chocolate is tempered, which is basically controlled cooling to control crystallization. Tight tempering ensures a snappy but smooth, glossy chocolate.

*What makes a good chocolate?

The same things that make good wine......varietal, terroir, handling, storage, etc. The vast majority of chocolate produced in the world is the forastero varietal, a very hardy and productive plant that produces bitter and not very complex beans. Rarer is the fragile and less productive but sweeter and more complex criollo varietal. Trinitaro is a hybrid of the two.

There are so many points "farm to table" (or in this case, maybe farm to

finger) to "show some love" rather than "take the money and run" that significantly impacts quality. Chocolate love includes harvest of ripe pods, ample time for fermentation, even and careful roasting, patient conching and tempering, etc.

*If I wanted to be a chocolate connoisseur, what terms would I need to know?

I would say definitely conching and tempering. While a crisp snap emits from the chocolate you just broke in two, say "this glossy, snappy chocolate was perfectly tempered."

*Why is it important to know the source of cocoa beans in your chocolate?

For two reasons. Since the early steps of the farm to finger process (varietal planting, harvesting, fermenting) happen at the source, knowing who's hands were involved and what decisions they made makes for a quality experience. The second reason is that like all tropical commodities (coffee, sugar, chocolate) from the southern hemisphere, production is steeped in a tragic history of exploitation of people and land. Purchasing a chocolate with a fair trade certification ensures chocolate spreads love.

*Recently you've become interested in how the Aztecs made chocolate. Can you explain a little more?

Having heard for so many years (from the common wisdom fairies) that chocolate was "the food of the gods" for the Aztecs, I decided to research the topic. Actually, it has a much longer history, beginning with earlier mesoamericans, but they all fermented, roasted, and ground the beans as is still done today. Each culture ground in a preferred spice combination. Hot peppers are still popular today, but they also used musky and savory spices.

Chocolate was always mixed with hot or cold water to make a drink. A significant aspect of what defined chocolate and the consumption experience was the froth created by pouring the chocolate liquid from one container to another from a fair height, i.e. standing while pouring into a vessel at your feet. Specialized vessels were used to pour. The froth could even be removed for final seasoning of the liquid, and then put back on. I really would like to go back in time and see what the froth produced by a palace expert was like :-)

* Who are some chocolatiers you would recommend?

There are so many, it's fun to explore. The empty wrappers currently strewn in my office are Amedei (Italy) , Coppeneur (Germany), and Vosges (USA).

*Is there a question I should have asked but didn't?

When is the best time of day to enjoy chocolate? Anytime :-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bobbye's Holiday Book Recommendations

I was hoping I would have book recommendations from the local Community Relations Manager at our Barnes & Noble store, but since I haven’t gotten them yet, I thought I’d suggest some of my own from the small press publishers with whom I’m familiar. Here are three I think readers would really enjoy for the holiday season:

Dying for a Date by Cindy Sample
June 2010, L&L Dreamspell

Note from Bobbye-A laugh-out-loud funny romantic mystery. This is a keeper. Read with a glass of good Merlot.

Not sure if she is looking for Mr. Right, or Mr. Every Other Saturday Night, recently divorced Laurel McKay reluctantly joins THE LOVE CLUB, a matchmaking agency advertised as the safe alternative to on-line dating.

After Bachelor one decides he wants her for dessert, Laurel dispatches him with her cell phone. The next day she discovers her drop dead gorgeous date has literally dropped dead. When Bachelor two disappears during dinner, Laurel’s only alibi is a friendly bottle of Dom Perignon. The investigating detective has to decide if the sassy soccer mom is a killer, or the next target.

Magick Charm by Jennifer Wells
September 2010, Crescent Moon Press

Note from Bobbye-Take a solid paranormal romance, throw in a generous dose of humor, liberal dashes of thriller and toss gently for an exciting read. Read this with a margarita.

Janie Adler likes her quiet, orderly life reviewing books for a small New Orleans newspaper exactly the way it is. So what if Duke Hot Pants, the hero of her favorite romance novel, is the only man in her life? She has a Pulitzer Prize to chase. That is until her quirky twin sister Rachel moves in, bringing boyfriend drama, a smelly ferret, and irrational belief in all things magickal along with her.

Persuaded by a local voodoo priestess-and maybe one margarita too many-the twins cast spells to improve their love lives. Loser-magnet Rachel focuses on avoiding the wrong men and Janie seeks her romance novel ideal. While plenty of eligible bachelors flood into their lives, Janie only has eyes for her coworker who lives in the apartment downstairs and works in the cube next to her. But the twins soon discover the incantations' many unintended-and dangerous-consequences. The increasing number of mishaps and misfortune putting the sisters in grave peril seems more like the work of a curse. Can Janie and Rachel's "twintuition" save them from the menace stalking them?

Believe, Christmas Anthology 2010
November 2010, Turquoise Morning Press

Note from Bobbye-Eight uplifting short stories to read by the fire with an Irish coffee.

Second Hand Horses by Amy LeBlanc
Mall Magic by Cat Shaffer
Another Quirky Christmas by Tonya Kappes
Concourse Christmas by Margaret Ethridge
Love in an Elevator by Krista Ames
Fixing Christmas by Elizabeth Chalkley
Angel on Board by Janet Eaves
The Twelve Seductive Days of Christmas by Marissa Dobson

Have a great Thanksgiving, and I suggest you feel free to take a nap afterwards.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Katrina's Stiltsville Book Review

I was prepared to love Susanna Daniel’s debut novel, Stiltsville, based solely on the cover photograph, which called to me from the advertisement in Poets & Writers and lured me to the new book display in my local library, where I was powerless to resist. Despite the adage that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, I often choose them just that way. The cover of Stiltsville promises simplicity and serenity, and the book delivers both, eventually.

In Stiltsville Susanna Daniel invites us to tag along with an average couple, Frances and Dennis. They meet, get married, and have a girl child, none of which is very exciting or memorable in and of itself. What is memorable is the way Daniel draws the reader in to the story and creates characters we care about, some from the beginning and others as we move through time. As we follow this Georgia girl, Frances, through her life, almost exclusively in Florida, we are reminded that we have choices to make. She shows us that while a few people are static, most of us are making decisions every day that make us different people than we were yesterday. Daniel shows us the reality of love—all sorts: romantic, familial, long lasting friendship—and marriage and all the phases of both. She chronicles the cycle of life of a particular fictional character and manages to show us everywoman’s journey—an honest journey and one readers can identify with on many levels.
My favorite writing professor used to say that all good writing makes the reader feel something. Using that gauge, Daniel is a great writer, and I cannot wait to read what comes after Stiltsville.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Gift

When I was very young, except by south Georgia standards, I met a delightful, quiet, kind man who I married as quickly as I could sort out how. He endeared himself to me a little more every week we had together with little notes and cards and calligraphy doodles of his affection, but the very first gift he ever gave me was a single rose delivered to me at work on a random Tuesday for no reason other than to send me a flower. He was very clever. Over the years I got many other more expensive and sometimes more coveted gifts from him, but that first one took me completely off guard.

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Gifts

by Susanna Ives

I should preface that my husband is a Viking. The other day, I was watching a special on Vikings. It seems the first waves were the famed pillaging raider types, however many years later, the more peaceful merchant Vikings appeared and set up trade around the globe. My husband is of the merchant variety. Just last night he was recounting all the exotic places he had to visit in the coming months. He tells me a Viking is never happy unless he is somewhere else.

My husband and I were friends for many years before we admitted that we loved each other. We were still in the friends stage when he gave me the lovely silk painting in the center of the picture. I think it was on this trip that he flew over the international dateline and celebrated his birthday twice. Then he travelled again and came back with the gold box made in Kashmir. (Although he didn’t travel to Kashmir, so I’m puzzled as to where he picked it up.)

Later, we progressed into a romantic couple, and I received the large wooden box from Malaysia, then the shiny black box from Japan, followed by the tiny brown box from Indonesia. Then I told him that I didn’t need any more boxes and we switched to jewelry.

What was your first gift from a significant other? Link up your blog using the instructions below and hop on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Magic debuts today

Member Bobbye Terry w/a Daryn Cross, in conjunction with co-writer LJ DeLeon announce the debut of their romantic fantasy, It's Magic. Imagine Santa, on his offseason, matching two people per year who are disillusioned with finding love everlasting.

Here's a blurb and the Kindle buy link. Also available in print:

Can true love exist between a man who believes a woman is capable of sticking a shive in his heart while making love and a woman who is convinced men think with only one head? Maxwell Magic, an eccentric mysterious matchmaker swears it can and he’s the man to provide the stimulus to make it happen. Kasey Bell, feminist writer, and Guy McLane, radio’s famous chauvinistic psychiatrist, are his targets. Even with carefully executed plans, the road to true love is strewn with mishaps, mirth and money-hungry nighttime talk show hosts. Will Kasey and Guy risk their reputations by exposing secrets buried beneath layers of shame and self-doubt for a desperately needed big money pay-off? Or, will they claim what has evaded them their entire lives—a love that lasts forever?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fantasy Between the Covers

No, no people—not those kind of fantasies! Snap out of it. I’m talking about reading. Here are my thoughts:

Could it be that every human being requires time lost in fantasy? Some of the greatest psychological minds in history say “yes.” Sigmund Freud stated that men and women “cannot subsist on the scanty satisfaction which they can extort from reality.” So let’s assume people must fantasize in order to fully enjoy life, for it is through fantasy that immediate gratification occurs, if only for a few fleeting moments or the duration of a good novel.

Following this train of thought, I believe I can hypothesize that the avid reader has discovered the ability to tap into the imaginary world of others by simply picking up a book and becoming lost in the persona of the hero or heroine and the world in which they live. In this way, he can supplement his own fantasies by attainment of lofty goals through the eyes of another. Is it any wonder, then, that reading is as popular as it is?

However, many say younger people are swayed into not reading as much because they now have the ability to escape into an alternate world via the Internet or through gaming, visual and less taxing methods for escapism with even more immediate gratification than reading a book. Perhaps, but these methods are visual and thus preconceived. There is “little left to the imagination.” And isn’t our ability to imagine what we really crave?

So, how does one make reading a book more enticing to the young than playing the newest video game? By creating a world populated with characters who can only be appreciated to their fullest through the imagination of the reader, as he interacts with them at his own rate and as he pleases in his mind while turning the pages of the book.

Through books, we’ve done wondrous things: traveled through time, gone around the world in eighty days, spent time on deserted islands, had numerous satisfying love affairs, traveled to other worlds and battled mighty demons, always emerging victorious. All worlds are possible between the covers.

Bobbye Terry aka Daryn Cross

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bobbye's Review of The First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde

Lori Wilde had me with the acknowledgements. Okay, I have to admit, I’d read one of her Twilight, Texas series books. So, I knew what I was getting ready to read. But, as always, I had a surprise. This time it started on page vii before I even got to the actual story. Don’t skip it because it will really get you in the mood to read this book.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read any books in her Twilight, Texas series, because with no introduction,The First Love Cookie Club will stand on its own. These days, I read mostly romantic fantasy and suspense, but there’s something that just beckons about a wonderful romance as Christmas approaches, especially when it takes place at Christmas. Besides, who can resist a town with a Horny Toad Tavern, a Sweetheart Park and a Merry Cherub store?

The story centers around a self-conscious young teenager who feels out of place, with parents who are married to their careers and no time for little Sarah Ann Collier. Thankfully, she has a Grandmother who lives in Twilight, Texas and tries to take up the slack during the holiday season. It is there in Twilight Sarah discovers the town’s legend about Kismet cookies, the home-baked goodies with magical powers that, if placed under your pillow on Christmas Eve, will make you dream about your soulmate. During all her teen years, Sarah has dreamed about the same guy, Travis Walker, the next-door neighbor’s son. But on the Christmas of her fifteenth year, she discovers Travis is getting married that day. She rushes to the church, dressed in a reindeer sweater with bells and wearing antlers, and declares she’s his soulmate to Travis, his bride and the entire congregation. He tried to let her down easily, but an unrequited first love never truly heals.

A little girl with a broken heart grows up into a woman, goes to college, strikes it big with her first book, The Magic Christmas Cookie, and discovers through a letter from a sick little girl that she has an opportunity to revisit Twilight, this time as the little girl’s favorite author. Perhaps she can regain the self-confidence she lost there. Upon discovering, the little girl, Jazzy, is the daughter of none other than Travis Walker, now divorced after his wife left him, Sarah can’t help but wonder if she has a chance to regain a soulmate as well.

This book starts as what appears to be a romantic romp, oh, so enjoyable but predictable. Don’t forget the author is Lori Wilde, and after all, every small town has sordid secrets. Just like in real life, the road to true love is never traveled without a hitch. Be prepared for surprises when you least expect it. But at the end, you get what you want, a warm and loving feeling,and a knowing that things can turn out happily ever after. So snuggle next to a fire with The First Love Cookie Club and enjoy it with a big cup of hot cocoa laced with a generous dose of Kahlua.

Friday, November 12, 2010

First Gifts Blog Hop: You're Invited!

Do you remember the first gift you ever received from your boyfriend? Girlfriend? Spouse? Life partner? Did you get something sparkly? A mood ring that turned your finger purple? Sexy lingerie? An ugly puppy?  A toaster?  If you've got a story to tell--funny, sad, or in-between--I'd love it if you'd join me and the cool chicks at The Mojito Literary Society in our blog hop next weekend.  Virtual mojitos and chocolate cupcakes will be served.  Here are the deets:

Who's Invited:  Everyone!  Anyone can post a story or hop around or both!

When:  November 19 - November 21

Why:  Because laughter is the best medicine, or something cheesy like that.  And we're basically nosey.  Seriously, this blog hop should be a blast!

How:  All you have to do is click on the linky link below and join!  Then on November 19, post your story.  And if you have a photo to share, even better!  Your story does not have to be long.  In fact, I'd recommend no more than 500 words.  You can even post the linky link html code below to your blog if you're feeling techy.  ;-)

Prizes:  What are we, 12 years old?! There are no prizes and definitely no judging.  Blech!  Just the satisfaction of reading other people's stories, making new friends, following new blogs, and generally having a good time.  What's not to like?  "Tis the season, too.  We all might as well get in the gifty mood.

Anything else?:  Please include the cute little Blogger Button above in your November 19 post because, well, what's a blog hop without a cute lil' blogger button?  Any help you could provide in spreading the word about this blog hop--your own blogs, Twitter, Facebook, skywriting, bull horns--would surely be appreciated!
A Final Note:  I'll be sharing a photo and story of my first anniversary gift from my husband.  Let's just say that the moment I opened his present, I seriously thought that Martians had landed and someone abducted my real husband, leaving me an impostor.  Like those pod people.  I could NOT believe what he wrapped up for me in shiny paper and bows.  Good news, though.  After 20 years, we're still married.  Oh, but that first gift...Can't wait to share it with you on the 19th!

Be there!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Works by Jen Pezzotti

Today Jen Pezzotti, a brilliant photographer and airline stewardess, is sharing some of the beautiful photographs she has taken in her travels. I was thrilled when she kindly agreed to display her stunning work on our site. Please leave a comment telling Jen how much you like her photos.

NOTE: Click on the photo to view entire image!


I became passionate with taking pictures about 2 years ago when I realized that I was traveling to all these interesting places and wasn’t really going out. After a long flight I would just run to a local market and back to my hotel room. In March of 2008 I purchased my first digital point and shoot camera, a Canon G9 (which I still love), and really started to enjoy taking pictures. I started taking my camera with me on my trips and searching out good locations to take shots. This past summer I finally purchased my first DSLR, Canon 7D, and subsequently started taking photography classes. I think what I love about digital photography the most is the instant gratification as a creative outlet.

Light in Dublin

A portion of Brighton Pavilion

Carousel Brighton UK

Mermaid Inn Rye England

Ha'Penny Bridge Dublin

London Bridge

London Bridge

Train tracks in Aston, Pennsylvania

Boat House Row Philadelphia

Philadelphia Art Museum and the Water Works

Pusey Plantation Upland, Pennsylvania

I carry my camera everywhere and will stop anywhere now to get a picture - hence the tractor doing work while I was driving down the highway.

Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach

Stairs in San Francisco

Salem, Masschusetts

Thursday's Recommended Reading!

This week's Recommended Reading comes from Mollie M., an inspiration in all things reader-related and good book-oriented. These are her top picks, painfully narrowed down from a list of about one zillion, she says.

My #1 recommendation right now is Blackout by Connie Willis. It came out earlier this year and the second part, All Clear, was released a couple of weeks ago. I haven't gotten my hands on All Clear yet, but I'm absolutely dying to read it. Anyway, Blackout is your typical meticulously researched doorstop science fiction novel about time-traveling Oxford students who go back to the London Blitz to do research for their history papers. Ms. Willis took eight years to write and research it, and the level of detail is just phenomenal. Here's what I wrote about it a few months ago:
"Blackout by Connie Willis. Honestly I don't know if there's a book out there that is more up my alley than this one. I adore Ms. Willis, as well as books about time travel and books about WWII that focus on Dunkirk and/or the London Blitz. Put all those together and I'm in heaven-- although seriously I would have liked some warning that it was just the first half since the cliffhanger nearly gave me a heart attack. Definitely the book I've enjoyed most this year."
I'd also like to plug Jane Smiley's newest, Private Life. Quietly heartbreaking, it traces one woman's life from her St. Louis childhood in the late 19th century to her WWII experiences in San Francisco. Along the way she marries a man who turns out to be a good old-fashioned scientific crank in the mold of Ignatius Donnelly and her unhappy marriage becomes the book's emotional center.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Story Supplies

I have been blessed in my life to be surrounded by many amazing artists of one variety or other. One of those artists was Lew Alquist, a renowned late 20th century American sculptor and the husband of my friend Jane Pleak, a well-known artist herself in the ceramics world. Lew went to that big artist’s studio in the sky in early 2005, but as all good artists do, he left us not only art, but also wisdom.

On New Year’s Eve 2003, several of us sat around Jane’s kitchen table decorating cookies and talking about art. We made up pen names for my as yet unrealized romance novel career, and we talked about inspiration. Lew said, as he often did, that “everything is not art, but everything is art supplies.” When I helped sort out his Arizona studio in 2005, I found that he meant just that as we decided what to do with cases upon cases of things like stainless steel specula (yes, those are what you think they are), bolts of every size and most anything else he could find for a deal at a state surplus auction.

All right, you’re thinking, this is a fine story, but what does it have to do with writing? So, I’ll tell you. Everything is not a story, but everything is story supplies. We are asked time and again where we get inspiration, how we decide what to write about, how we know something is worth writing about. The answer to that, I find, is inspiration is everywhere in everything.

Often, the things I write about aren’t things I decide to write about consciously, but rather, images or ideas that refuse to go away until I write them down. Anything you can’t shake is worth writing about. An event that makes you feel something is worth writing about, at least in some form. Everything is not a story, but everything is a story supply—a detail that makes fiction seem truer and truth more real, a piece of overheard conversation that starts your mind racing into a whole other world, a picture you see every time you close your eyes.

Pay attention to the world around you; it’s all fair game.

So, y’all start gathering your supplies. It’s time to write.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Susanna Interviews Tia Nevitt

Tia, thank you for visiting the Mojito Literary Society. For those of you just joining us, you may want to read my gushing review of Tia's book Sevenfold Spell.

If you have any questions for Tia, please leave a comment below.

Let's get started...

What about fairytales fascinates you? Why do you want to retell them?

I love all kinds of old legends. When I was a kid, I heard not only fairy tales, but also Irish legends told by my Ireland-born mother, and stories and legends of Catholic saints. When I was in the sixth grade, I learned about mythology for the first time (in Catholic school!), and it was like discovering a whole new treasure trove of fairy tales--except these were much darker and more dramatic.

I've been rediscovering the fairy tales for years as Disney has been re-releasing all the Princess movies and I've been sharing them with my daughter. The idea of a homely spinster came to me when I watched the scene where they burn all the spinning wheels, and I wondered what happened to all those women put out of work. And that naturally led to wondering just where that last spinning wheel came from--and how it survived the spinning wheel ban.

Talia is a wonderful character. She is a pragmatic survivor with a great sense of humor. I adored her. How did you develop that character?

Over time. I knew she was going to be ugly--Aurora's opposite--but I didn't know much else about her until she took me by surprise and asked Willard if he wanted to kiss her. The rest came out bit by bit, through rewriting and through Talia's interactions with the other characters. Talia's mother is every bit the survivor that Talia is, trying to earn her living first by weaving, and then by importing, and finally by the spinning of bootleg thread on an illegal spinning wheel. But she could not have done it without Talia, who was the one who put her plan into action. They have a relationship of mutual dependency.

One of the many things I loved about Sevenfold Spell is how you weaved Talia's story through the actual fairytale. Can you tell us a bit about how you plotted the novella?

I clung to the Sleeping Beauty story for dear life and let it carry me along. I also knew I had many plot holes to fill and I had a lot of fun coming up with reasons for the arbritrary rules in the original story. As I came across each turn in the Sleeping Beauty story--and there aren't many--I tried to think of how it might impact Talia. And when Talia's story needed a turn, I would turn to the Sleeping Beauty story as well, trying to bind up the two stories without impacing the story at the tale's heart.

I thought you made an interesting decision to keep Aurora in an emotionally childlike state which contrasted with Talia's experienced view of the world? Why did you choose to characterize Aurora that way?

That came from one of those plot holes. Why would Aurora go anywhere near a spinning wheel if she knew they posed such a deadly danger? In the stories, Aurora seemed almost simple. I tried to account for it by having Aurora being under a spell, but that didn't work for me. It was too convenient. I tend to really probe character motivation.

I also needed a reason for Talia to intervene, a reason for her to be so protective of Aurora. So I decided to give them a history. But they don't know they have a history until that critical moment.

I think Sleeping Beauty is a tale about innocence and chastity. On her seventeenth birthday, Aurora pricks her finger (starts menstruation) and sleeps until awoken by the kiss of the man she is going to marry. Yet, Talia is, well, the village slut. Both women get a happily-ever-after and true love. Was this a theme that you intended?

That's correct; I did want to contract Aurora's purity with Talia's sullied state, just as Aurora's beauty is contracted by Talia's ugliness. And I did want them both to have a happily ever after. But I didn't want to fall into that trap where I made the beauty into a monster or anything like that. Instead, I gave her a supernatural beauty that gives her unexpected problems.

I didn't really associate the prick of the finger with the start of menstruation. I thought of it as a statement about how pampered the royalty is compared to the common people. For example, in The Princess and the Pea, the princess is exposed by a mattress made uncomfortable by the presence of a pea. It is over-the-top ridiculous. Similarily, a princess is so delicate and pampered that a mere splinter can kill her where a peasant would simply pull it out.

You are also a book reviewer and run the fabulous review site Debuts and Reviews. When you write, how do you balance the writer and the critic?

Thank you! It's difficult and I often have to put my blog on hiatus. Over the years, I have recruited three other people to occasionally review books on my site--Katie reviews a lot of young adult novels and epic fantasy alongside me, Raven handles the darker stuff, such as horror and dark fantasy, and Deborah reviews the urban fantasies.

But I do have to give everything a priority. Commitments come before the writing, and writing comes ahead of the blog. I would read regardless of whether I ran a blog or not, so as I have time, I review the books I read. And I've always loved discovering new authors, so debuts are a natural focus for me.

I do have trouble saying no, and ever since Carina published The Sevenfold Spell, the requests for reviews has easily doubled. Right now, I'm turning almost everyone away unless they give me a lot of lead time, but secretly I am buying the books if they appeal to me. I consider review copies to be a commitment, and I'm taking on very few commitments of any kind right now.

However, if I buy a book on my own, I have the freedom to review it on my own schedule, without any pressure.

What's on the horizon for you?

I wish I knew! I'm actively writing two additional stories for the ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS series, one where I am almost finished and one that I have just begun. I am under submission with an unrelated novel and a short story, and I'd like to finish another short story that is based on a Cherokee legend. It could almost be another story for Accidental Enchantments, but it's not nearly long enough.

Is there a question I should have asked you, but didn't?

No, you did great--I loved these questions! Thanks for having me.

You can learn more about Sevenfold Spell by visiting Ms. Nevitt's website or read an excerpt at the Carina Press website.

Again, please leave a comment for Tia.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Susanna's Thoughts on Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying "good" fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia's prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation—which plays right into the evil fairy's diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she's willing to make?

The night I agreed to read Tia’s eBook Sevenfold Spell I was in what they call in the Princess Bride “the pit of despair” for various personal reasons. As I opened my Sony eReader, I was nervous. What if I hated the story and had to force myself to read it? What if I had to make up good comments? The first paragraph started with the main character Talia on her knees, looking at the hard boot of the man destroying her and her mother's livelihood. Then my favorite thing in all fiction reading happened: I was drawn into the story from the very first page. And the book didn’t let up. In my night of despair, Talia and I were hanging like old friends laughing and commiserating over the kitchen table. Gentle readers, at 1:30 that morning, I was fighting to keep my eyelids open to finish this story I wanted so badly to know what happened to Talia.

Here was this wart-ridden, homely girl stuck in the middle of a fairytale populated with fairies, beautiful princesses, handsome princes, and happy endings. Always scraping along, Talia gets hit with one disaster after another. Her lover leaves her, she is barren, she befriends young Aurora and treats her like her own daughter only to have her taken away, she tries to drown her sorrows in shallow sexual relationships, and later contracts a serious illness. As I write this list, Talia sounds awfully pathetic, but she isn’t. No matter what happens, she keeps moving forward, pragmatic as ever and with a wonderful ironic sense of humor. In a way, Talia is an odd, R-rated version of Pollyanna.

This story is the mature fairytale. It speaks to the grown woman who has known heartache, adversity, and loss. The woman who doesn’t feel sorry for herself, but strives to improve her circumstances using whatever means available. Doesn’t she deserve a happy ending? Shouldn't she get a prince? Hell yes.

I loved this story and how it engaged me on multiple levels. Emotionally, I followed the story of Talia all the way to her Happily-Ever-After (and not the Little Match Girl or Little Mermaid kind of Happy-IN-in-the-Ever-After.) Intellectually, I observed how Ms. Nevitt deconstructed the fairytale and then rewove it with Talia’s story running counterpoint. Brilliant.

Ms. Nevitt can deliver an emotional punch in a few perfect words. The first person narrative is engaging and witty. Talia’s voice and humanity shines through in her descriptions and interactions with others. The book is saturated with fun sex, although not graphic or erotic. So if you’re wallowing about in a pit of despair or just looking for something fabulous to read, might I recommend Sevenfold Spell? It goes well with a Baileys topped with a large dollop of cream sprinkled with brown sugar. Start the book early in the evening ‘cause you’re going to be up late.

We will post an awesome interview with Tia Nevitt tomorrow so check back. In the meantime, you can learn more about Sevenfold Spell by visiting Ms. Nevitt's website or read an excerpt at the Carina Press website.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interview with Sunny Frazier

Interviewing Sunny Frazier, mystery writer and editor of Oak Tree Press today on my solo blog, www.BobbyeTerry.Blogspot.com. Come by and say hi.


Book Recommendations

Recommendations from H – the world’s best Borders manager:
Cordelia's Honor (Vorkosigan Saga Omnibus: Shards of Honor / Barrayar)
Philosophy mixed with interstellar adventure.
Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances.
H likes this Manga series so much that if she saw a competitor had the latest book, she would forgo her employee discount!
Recommendations from E -- the wonder librarian and bookworm.
A FOOL AND HIS HONEY by Charlaine Harris.
Aurora Teagarden is back!
Escaped by Carolyn Jessup.
A shocking memoir detailing Carolyn Jessup’s
years in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, her polygamous marriage, and how she and her eight children escaped.
Recommendations from Susanna
satire. Even the New York Times agrees.
What are you recommending this week?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Storytelling and Telling Stories by Tina

My grandmother always told me, “Now don’t you be telling no stories.”

But I always did. I couldn’t resist a story, even if it meant making one up for no reason but the making.

My grandmother said these were lies. My husband would agree. He’s an engineer, suspicious of the frayed edge that all stories have, the place where facts start unraveling. He says that fact and truth are the same thing. He says that if he started writing equations based on my ideas of truth, planes would fall from the sky.

It’s a point.

And yet my brain can’t make sense of all the facts around me; it’s an impossibility. Information overload. My brain has to leave out certain things for me to make sense of the rest. It edits my reality into something I can comprehend, leaving out this, focusing on that. It connects my present experience to the other experiences folded and tucked in my gray matter, and by doing so, creates a chronology, a sense of past and future, effect and consequence. The human brain is wired for stories, and it programs our consciousness accordingly.

Not facts. Stories.

Memory is useful not for what it records, but for what it erases. It takes out the extraneous -- however factual -- and leaves us with essence -- however slanted. And it is slanted; it must be. No true and perfectly accurate memory exists. Certain details, by necessity, weren’t captured in the first place, and every subsequent time your consciousness touches the memory, it further alters it, even as it carves it deeper into your brain. Jonah Lehrer explains it more eloquently than I can in his SEED magazine article "The Neuroscience of Proust":
Every time we remember, the neuronal structure of the memory, no matter how constant it may feel, is delicately transformed. If you prevent the memory from changing, it ceases to exist. So the purely objective memory . . . is the one memory lost to you forever.
Our memory is a fallacy. All we have are our stories. All we are are our stories.

Which is why I write fiction -- because it's the only way I know to find something real. And there isn't an equation in the world that can do that for me.