Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with Stephanie Cowell author of Claude & Camille

 Interview with Stephanie Cowell
Author of Claude and Camille

Debbie - Stephanie first of all let me tell you how excited I am that you’ve agreed to spend April with us at General Fiction while we read and discuss Claude and Camille

Stephanie - I’m excited too! I live in New York City and the B&N stores have always giving me my debut readings for each of my five published novels so it’s wonderful to be in a B&N fiction group online!

I detect a theme in your novels-
Tell us what led you to write about historical figures in the arts.

I grew up in the arts; both my parents were artists (oil paintings and line drawings) and then as a teenager, I first discovered both Shakespeare and Mozart, and after that almost every friend I had was in the arts or wanted to be in the arts. And in my family and with my friends we always idealized the difficulties of artists to share their work with the world and pay their bills. That was a constant theme in my house! By the time I was in high school, I was already hoping to be on the best seller list and sing leads at the Metropolitan Opera! I wanted to be an artist but without the adjectives “poor starving” in front of it.

On that same note tell us what inspired you to write about Monet and his first wife Camille

I have always loved art and in 1995 I found a special exhibition of the struggling years of the impressionists at the Metropolitan Museum.  The young Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro and others shared studio space, models, loaned each other paint and bought each other dinner. They weren’t impressionists; that name was not yet in existence. They were friends and that drew me. They didn’t know they would succeed at all. And I was fascinated by Claude Monet’s many many paintings of Camille and his great love for her; she died at 32 and he was never able to give her the things he promised her. Very little survives about her – no personal letters etc. – so I had to use every tiny bit of information to create her.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer ?

I started writing at about the age of 7 as soon as I could write. I wanted to create my own worlds. I was a lonely child and I felt I really belonged in another period so I was drawn to historical fiction. When I was an adolescent, I would go to sleepovers with girlfriends and read them my stories.  I felt I had somehow been dropped by accident in the 20th century and was always trying to get back somewhere. In my heart I believe that there’s a half-timbered house in the old City of London circa 1595 where friends are waiting for me!

Do you belong to a writers group?

I had a writers’ group for about ten years, developed from studying with my generous mentor and friend, Madeleine L’Engle. We met in a NYC apartment around a table packed with all the food we brought. We ate and prayed and talked and read our work. They really encouraged me and when I published my first novel, they all got t-shirts with the novel cover on it! I am still close friends with some of them. I think I have an informal writers’ group now and most of my communication is through the internet. Some of them read my drafts and give me great comments.

Tell us a little about the woman Stephanie – walk us through a typical day in your life.

I live on the 7th floor of a large, old NYC apartment building and my writing cubby in a tiny area just inside where you first enter the door. It’s full of shelves, computer, papers, and lots of paintings on the walls and pictures of my family. Most days I get up around 8:00 and am writing within half an hour. I write for about 4 hours not counting all the various interruptions of life (groceries delivered, neighbors at the door, my lovely retired husband making breakfast and oh yes – e-mails and Facebook!) Then most days I go for a walk for a few miles and do errands. I love to go to classical concerts and I have a Shakespeare reading group which meets every month. I have been studying Italian for two and a half years. I adore my Anglican church which is one street from me; I am on the vestry and always running over there for something. I see friends and go to book readings. Sometimes I have several book presentations a month. I go for walks with my two sons when I can. We are very close. I have two granddaughters. I love to read. I love movies and am a mad fan of Downton Abbey! We probably have nearly two thousand books even though we keep giving a lot away.

What’s next for you

I am revising my novel on the love story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. I also have a few other books and want to finish my Elizabethan trilogy and get the first two books back in print.

In your bio section on your website it says that you left writing for singing and that you now mostly sing while doing the dishes
Tell us a little about your life as a classical singer, do you miss it

I sang as a high soprano for about fifteen years. I studied a lot privately. I sang such roles as Gilda in RIGOLETTO and a lot of the Mozart roles. I formed a small singing ensemble and we performed in colleges, museums, art galleries.  I also sang traditional songs in many languages with guitar and formed a small opera company. Yes, I do miss it! But singing classical music takes a lot of energy and that is all going to other things now. When I attend concerts and hear young high sopranos, I go backstage later and just tell them how beautiful they are!

What would be your dream vacation?

Travel is my greatest luxury and I have been fortunate to travel many times to England and Europe. If I had a lot of money and time this year, I’d like to go to Devon and Cornwall, and then to Paris for a few days, to Switzerland to visit some family members, and then get a car with my husband and drive through a lot of Italy, stopping in Rome, Venice, Tuscany…etc. 

Thank you Stephanie for giving us a closer look at who is the real Stephanie Cowell

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review of Fat Is The New 30 by Jill Conner Browne

 Fat is The New 30
The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping
with(The Crappy Parts of) Life
Jill Conner Browne
Amazon Encore
ISBN13: 9781612189291

If you’re a fanatic fan of Ms. Browne or you’ve never ever read her it matters not one bit you will if you are fan, enlarge your fandom and if you’ve never read her become an instant fan. In fact if you don’t erupt in laughter by the tenth page and have tears running down your face by the 30th, you’re either not human, there is absolutely no hope for you and are utterly unredeemable.
Now for the rest of you pay attention because her Highness Queen Jill herself has the undisputed end all cure for coping with life, love and the pursuit thereof and here is just a tease of what you’ll find between the covers of my spittle and tear stained copy.
1st Denial
2nd Get a Dog
3rd Laugh at your embarrassing moments
4th (my favorite) Vengeance
5th Diversion
Want more buy the book, if you know someone in need of a good cheering up buy the book as a gift, believe me no one capable of laughter in any form will get through the chapter on “gator hunting” without roaring and rolling on the floor and if they do then by the time they read the chapter about the “bus” will definitely do them in.
Now if none of this interests you or makes you run to your nearest bookstore you may return to the mother ship anytime because no Zippity Doo Dah® at all will help you.
My Queen Ms. Browne I am performing the best courtesy I know how to honor you for some of the happiest hours I’ve ever spent reading and I look forward to your next installment of wisdom.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review of Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Paris In Love
Eloisa James
Random House-Release date 4-3-2012
272 pages

In the aftermath of a successful battle against cancer Eloisa James aka Mary Bly and her family decided to sell everything and head to Paris for a year. It was a year of celebration, it was a year of reconnecting, it was a year of reflecting, it was a year of learning, it was a year of fun.
See how the family copes with language barriers, the culture shock of going from the suburbs of New Jersey to an apartment encased in a building built in the 1700’s. Join in family celebrations, friends visits, shopping expeditions and the challenge of school for the kids. See how chocolate solves more than most of the worlds troubles and how the fashions of Paris inspired more than one chapter in the book.

I have traveled many places and different eras thanks to the amazing storytelling talent of Eloisa James and now she gives me a perspective of Mary Bly and her family seldom seen by fans. I’ve been taken to Paris where I ate, shopped, worked, played and lived with her family, Alessandro, Luca, and Anna, I didn’t need a passport, airline tickets or reservations, the cost in fact was very little, the return however was enormous. I laughed on the very first page and didn’t stop until I closed the book and although it’s not all laughing it’s a main ingredient in the memoir as she took me through their year in Paris, the year she and her family ran away from home, when she in fact learned that she was really running toward something and not away from it.

If you enjoy a lighthearted escape from your own reality, you’ll enjoy this liberation. If you like or like me love the romances of Eloisa James, you will love the true story told by Mary Bly. If you love great writing look no farther. Just buy it and read it you will be glad you did.
Thank you Mary for this sojourn and I look forward to the next expedition brought to me via your alter ego Eloisa.
Please be sure and visit the website dedicated to the book here where you’ll get even better acquainted with the real characters in the book. Buy the book here, visit the author’s website here.


Here is a picture of Eloisa (Mary) w/husband Alessandro

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review of Goddess Interrupted and Q&A w/author Aimée Carter

Q&A with Aimée Carter
Goddess Interrupted book two of the Goddess Test series

Debbie - Aimée, welcome to the General Fiction book club forum
Aimée - Thank you so much for having me!

Tell us a little about your newest release Goddess Interrupted
Goddess Interrupted, sequel to The Goddess Test, continues the story of Kate Winters and modern-day Greek gods. Now that Kate has earned immortality, she must take her place beside Henry, King of the Underworld (and a modern-day Hades). But despite her growing love for him, he’s becoming more distant and secretive, and she’s as isolated as ever.  Then, in the midst of Kate’s coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.
As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it’s up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future – Henry’s first wife, Persephone.

Is there a planned number of books in the series
I originally planned on the series being a trilogy, but now that I’ve written all three books, I could easily see continuing it if there’s a demand for more story. In addition to the trilogy, there is an e-novella, The Goddess Hunt, that takes place between the first and second books. And in July, The Goddess Legacy, a book of five novellas about the gods’ history, will also be released. So as we’ve gone along, the number of stories has expanded, but in an organic way I’m very happy with.

Your bio says that you started writing fan fiction at eleven, was that when you first wanted to be a writer, or does it go back even further than that.
Even when I wrote fan fiction, it never occurred to me I could write for a living. It wasn’t until I was around fifteen that I realized it was possible, and it all snowballed from there. I wrote for hours just about every day, completing around two dozen “trunk” manuscripts before The Goddess Test, and I was determined to one day see my stories in print.

Was The Goddess Test you first published work
It was my first traditionally published work. When I was a teenager, my father had a few of my early manuscripts self-published to encourage me (and it didn’t hurt that it looked good on a college application). That was a good ten years ago though, and I consider The Goddess Test to be my first book.

Okay so why write about mythology and mythological beings
I’ve loved mythology since I was a kid – they were some of the first things I read on my own, and I dove in with gusto. As for why I wrote The Goddess Test specifically, Hades always intrigued me. In pop culture today, he’s generally regarded as being evil – a sort of Satan figure, if you will. But in actual mythology, he’s strictly neutral, and I desperately wanted to explore that.
As for mythology in general, there’s such a variety – a huge cast of characters to work with, several different versions of the more prominent myths, and timeless stories that still resonate with people today.  When I started The Goddess Test, other YA and Middle Grade stories dealing with the Greek myths (Percy Jackson, etc.) hadn’t been released yet, and as a reader, I felt that lack. It was the story I wanted to write, so I figured why not?

Your bio also states that you’re not very interesting, well I beg to differ, but just to prove either you or me wrong take us through a typical day in the life of Aimée Carter
Thank you! That’s so sweet of you to say. Really though, I’m boring. The most interesting thing about my daily schedule is probably the hours I sleep – usually 7am to 3pm, because I tend to work best at night. I usually do errand-type things shortly after getting up, and while sometimes this includes writing in a bookstore or café, I tend to save writing for later. The evening is usually taken up by family time or the insane amount of TV I watch, and after that, I tend to spend all night writing, especially if I’m in the middle of a project or up against a deadline. Even when I’m not, I have a few things I write for fun on my days off. So, other than the hours and the fact that my 9-5 job is really 11pm-7am, it’s pretty typical stuff.

I think that your books are mature enough for the adults
How do you feel about being placed on a certain genre shelf
As a huge fan of YA books, I’m honored to have The Goddess Test series among them. In general, I think most YA books could be placed on several different shelves, including adult fiction sections. There’s a ton of crossover appeal, especially with older teen protagonists (Kate is eighteen in the first book, for instance). But a book has to be placed somewhere in the bookstore in order for people to find it, and YA is a great place that reaches a ton of readers across all ages and genres.

Who’s your favorite author
J.K. Rowling. Maybe that’s a stereotypical answer, but really, the Harry Potter books changed my life. I was eleven when the first book came out, and in a way, I got to grow up with Harry. And my mother died when I was ten, so to read about a character my age who was also dealing with death helped immensely. The Harry Potter books are the reason I started writing seriously in the first place, and I regularly reread them. They never get old, and the plotting, the characters, the world – there’s nothing like it.
I’m also a huge fan of Orson Scott Card, Suzanne Collins, Anne Bishop, David and Leigh Eddings, Rick Riordan, and many, many others. But J.K. Rowling definitely takes the cake.

I’m sure the fans here would love to meet you in person, do you have any B&N events or signings
I love meeting readers! Right now I don’t have any upcoming B&N signings, but I always update my blog ( and Twitter account (@aimee_carter) with upcoming dates as I schedule them.

Thank you so much for spending time with us and good luck with the new novel.
Thank you so much!
Buy the book here
And be sure to check out the other book and her novella as well

My Review of Goddess Interrupted

Goddess Interrupted
Aimée Carter
Harlequin Teen
ISBN 13:9780373210459
304 pages
Kate Winters passed “The Goddess Test”, became Henry’s (Hades) wife and is now returning to the Underworld from her required six month stay on the surface. She’s hoping to reignite the fires that burned between she and Henry and hoping against hope that she can be the wife and Queen he needs to rule beside him, she’s also hoping against hope that the doubts she’s had before disappear and that Henry will give her some sign that he’s over his first wife, the one who left him for a mortal, her sister Persephone.
Upon returning she finds the realm in chaos when she learns that Cronus, the titan the Gods imprisoned is in the process of escaping with the help of one very unforgiving and unhappy Goddess, Calliope (Hera) and that Henry has been captured by them when he and the others tried to prevent his escape. Kate takes it upon herself to help and while the others prepare for the battle to save the world she goes in search of the one person who’s knowledge will help stop the war and find and rescue Henry, the same sister that abandoned him. The war has begun in earnest but Kate and Henry are still in a battle of their own, does he love her, does she love him enough to stay even knowing that his love may still be a prisoner to a love lost. Will she leave, will she stay what will happen to “Goddess Interrupted”.

Aimée Carter in her second novel in this series continues to give a brand new look to the Olympian Gods, to what role they have in humanity and how they pick and choose new Gods so where her storyline is as old as time, it’s her perspective that is refreshingly new, inventive and enchanting. Her dialogue is a mixture that well represents each character’s personality. Her characters will also win the test of time in that they are Godlike and human together. Her hero and heroine Henry and Kate are not exactly what I had in mind for the King and Queen of the Underworld but they quickly grew on me and in addition Aimée gives me a multitude of co-stars to fill her pages and to fill in the blanks for me and to explain how they all came to be. Her love story is fraught with heartache, heartbreak, yearning and hope and I empathized with each sob and each feeling of joy. Her love scenes are well clouded behind innuendoes contain nothing that would offend any aged reader.
This series is shelved with the YA and is published under Harlequin Teen but this very adult reader could not put either the first novel or this one down long enough to forget the previous sentence.
This is the second in the series and I would recommend reading them in order.
Aimée Carter thank you for my second look at Kate and Henry and all the other Gods that rule Olympus and I can’t wait for my next visit to see where you take them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review of Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude & Camille
Stephanie Cowell
Broadway Books
340 pages
Claude Monet knew he didn’t want to walk in his father’s footsteps, he knew there was more to life than being a merchant, he knew in his heart that he wanted to paint. He didn’t know that he would become one of the founding fathers in a school of painting known as Impressionism, didn’t know how steep a hill he would have to climb to reach the summit of his success, that he would be friends with other painters some that would go on to greatness and some that would be lost in obscurity, didn’t know waiting in a train station on his way to the army in Algiers that he would sketch a young distressed girl and that girl would become the most important part of his life and his life’s work.
Camille Doncieux knew she didn’t fit into the compartmentalized life her parents wanted for her, she knew she wanted more, she knew she wanted passion. What she didn’t know was what that passion might cost her, she didn’t know how much true love could hurt you as well as heal you, she didn’t know that a chance meeting with a young painter would be a prelude to the love of a man who’s passion would not only equal hers but exceed it.

Stephanie Cowell brought to life for me the historically accurate fictionalized story of one of the greatest painters who ever lived and brought it to me with all the pain, the joy and the turbulence in not only his life but the lives of the people around him, the people who meant the most to him and the times in history they went through as well as the history they themselves created. She gave me the inside scoop on the muse behind the man his first wife Camille, what she meant to him, what their love endured and what heartache that love caused both of them. She brought it to me in a narrative that takes me back to the time she’s covering and while the words may never have come out of any of the great master’s mouths, they could have. She showed me a true bohemian lifestyle that these artists lived and breathed and how it cost more than some of them could afford to give. And last but never least she told me one of the greatest love stories of all time in vivid detail so in my mind’s eye I watched as Monet sat in front of his easel and painted Camille.
This novel would appeal to any lover of fictionalized history, fans of literary fiction, historical fiction and those of us who love not only a great story but a terrific love story as well.
Buy the book here visit the author’s website here

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heart - a Poem by Holly


It comes from within,
so fragile,
so strong,
so breakable,
so ageless,
it comes from within,
its own rhythm,
its own beat,
it is capable,
of love,
and youth's energy,
it comes from within,
with the softest glows,
to the darkest abyss,
it is deep within,
the heart,
but it can still reach,
out across endless miles,
of land,
or sea,
it comes within,
it can be warm,
or cold,
it can be bitter,
or sweet,
or bubbling,
it comes from within,
always felt,
never seen,
but it is always there,
with a steady beat,
as I for you.

~ Holly

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Release feature Born to Darkness and Q&A w/Suzanne Brockmann

 Q&A with Suzanne Brockmann
featuring her new release Born to Darkness

Debbie - Suzanne, first of all I LOVE you, your novels (all of them) and your views, we’ll get to all of those things but let me welcome you to the forums at B&
Suz:  Thank you so much!  It’s my pleasure to be here!

D - Born to Darkness is the first of a brand new series, so tell us a little about it.
Suz:  The new series is called “Fighting Destiny.”  I’m taking my trademark character-driven, multi-story-arc, military-action-adventure romantic suspense and I’m setting in a darkly futuristic and vaguely paranormal world. 
Now, when I say paranormal, I’m not talking vampires or other types of demons or monsters.  (I’ve always felt that human beings can be quite monstrous enough, thanks!  Plus, I do believe that between Joss Whedon and JR Ward, all that needs to be said about vampires has been said quite nicely!)  The paranormal elements that I bring into the books in the Fighting Destiny series are based roughly in science – what we know, or rather, what little we know about the human brain.
I have a friend who can listen to a symphony once, and then, from memory, transcribe the score.  Can you imagine that?  Listening to a complex piece of music, and knowing exactly what the clarinets are playing, what the violins are doing, what the oboes…  Once, I asked him how he did it, and he just kind of blinked and asked me, “How do you breathe?”  In short, he just… did it. 
I’ve used his response – “How do you breathe?” – when people ask me how I come up with the ideas for my books.  For me, those ideas are out there, and finding them are – again, for me – as easy as breathing.
But, still, the things I cannot do (transcribe the score of a symphony from memory, learn a foreign language in a few weeks (or months or years!), figure out complex math problems in my head) seem crazy and miraculous when others can do them easily. 
Recently there was a story in the news about an autistic man who was able to draw a detailed and accurate map of New York after a half hour helicopter ride over the city.  How on earth did he do that?  For him, it was as easy as breathing, but for the rest of us, it seems almost… super human.
Imagine if we could exercise our brain and, through intensive training and practice, could tap into the same abilities that my friend or the autistic man can easily access.  Or… some people can control their blood pressure and heart rate, but what if we could teach ourselves to take those abilities even further and learn to heal our injuries and illnesses?  Take it a step further (considering the brain is such a complex mystery) and imagine if we could harness powers that seem supernatural, like telekinesis, telepathy, prescient abilities… 
So that’s where I went with this story.  I set in it a world where certain rare people are born with the potential to access and exercise and learn to utilize more of their brains than the rest of us.  In fact, the people with the highest amount of potential power are, ironically, those that so many world societies throw away or denigrate: little girls. 
So the heroine of BORN TO DARKNESS is one of those former little girls, all grown up, and still training hard to harness her powers.  The hero is a former military officer who is thrown into a crazy-to-him world where nerdly scientist types and petite women (like the heroine) can thoroughly kick his highly-trained, highly-skilled Navy SEAL butt.
When a very special little girl goes missing, all hell breaks loose…

D -Now tell us what happens to the Troubleshooters series, is it just on hiatus or has it come to an end.
Suz:  I’m pretty sure it’s merely on hiatus.  I can’t imagine being able to stay away from Jules, Robin, Sam, Alyssa, and the rest of the TS gang for very long.  In fact, I just wrote a new Jules & Robin short story called BEGINNINGS AND ENDS that will be available in all e-formats sometime this summer.  (Exact date TBA!)
I’ve got a TS anthology – a collection of short stories – coming out from Ballantine books in February 2013. 
And of course there’s Navy SEAL Jay Lopez.  Hard to imagine that I won’t feel compelled to write his story in the very near future!

D -There are many of your previous genre romances being re-issued, do you modernize them up before they release or do you let them stand as they were first published.
Suz:  I leave them very close to the original.  I reserve the right to fix typos, but other than the occasional small fixes, I really feel that the books stand as I wrote them.  And I wrote many of them in the days before everyone carried a cell phone.  (The SEALs in my TDD series, recently reissued by HQN, all carry pagers!  Yikes!)  Readers will have to consider them to be “recent historicals.”

D -You co-wrote an Off Broadway play which debuted in 2010 and it stars your son Jason. What lead you to do this, would you do it again and how was writing a play different from writing a novel.
Suz:  Oh, wow, the play was just the start!  We got done with our New York City adventure, and almost immediately set about writing a screenplay called THE PERFECT WEDDING.  Like the stage play, I co-wrote it with my husband, Ed Gaffney, only this time, we also collaborated with our son Jason.  That was an adventure, but when the dust settled, we had a script for a romcom with a hero and a hero that we really, REALLY loved, so we took it a step further, and produced it ourselves.  (That’s the only way a writer can keep total control of a script – you gotta be a producer, too.)  We filmed the move – it’s a feature length indie – over the course of 21 days last June, here in Sarasota, Florida.  We had a cast of nine main actors, including James Rebhorn (Homeland, Independence Day) and Kristine Sutherland (best known for her role as Buffy’s mom), and a crew and post-production team around fifty talented people. 
The film’s currently in the final phases of post-production.  We’re hoping to make an announcement about our upcoming spring first film festival screenings very soon!  Readers who want to know more about the movie should “like” our facebook page at
As for the differences between writing a script and a novel?  The biggest difference is the collaboration.  When I write a book, I’m god.  Whatever I say goes.  But when I wrote THE PERFECT WEDDING, I had to duke things out with Ed and Jason – and that was just the start.  Remember the nine plus actors and the fifty crew and production team members?  They all contributed to the storytelling process, too. 
But here’s the deal:  there’s no way I could make a movie by myself.  I don’t have the ability or knowledge to light a room, or design a set, or run a camera.  Directing, editing, sound, set dressing…  There’s so much more to movie-making than just writing the script.
But the bottom line is, with a movie, there are so many people adding their talent and skill – and contributing to the way the story is told.

D - You are a very vocal advocate for Gay rights, I applaud all the things you do and say and it’s a breath of fresh air to see an attitude in a parent that not only embraces but celebrates the difference, on that note in one of your most applauded Troubleshooter Novels you’ve brought us the culmination of the romance between one of your most beloved characters FBI agent (who I love) Jules Cassidy and Hollywood heartthrob Robin Chadwick.
Did the advocacy lead to the Jules story, was it the other way around, what made you add a Gay leading character’s HEA(happy ever after- for you non-romance addicts) in your very hetero and testosterone filled series.
Suz:  I’d pretty much figured out that my son, Jason, was gay back when he was around three years old.  As he grew up, I had a lot of time to really think about what it meant to grow up gay in America – a place where LGBT citizens don’t have the same rights as the rest of us. 
As I became more and more educated about LGBT rights (or the lack thereof), I became very aware that homophobia and discrimination against gay people comes from fear and ignorance.  And the best way to battle fear and ignorance is with education and knowledge. 
I knew from my work with LGBT advocacy groups that the best way to educate others was to make it personal.  I knew that people learn and grow (and hearts and minds are changed) when they know someone who is gay, or someone who has a gay family member.  Think about it this way:  It’s easier to be afraid of “those nameless gay men” than it is to be afraid of your friendly and kind neighbors Bob and Tom.
With that in mind, I decided to give all of my readers a “gay best friend.”  That’s one of the reasons why I created Jules Cassidy.  I also created Jules because I love including in my books the very real diversity that I find in urban America. 
Jules first appeared back in the second TS book, THE DEFIANT HERO, and (through the years, as Jason grew up) I slowly but surely included Jules in book after book after book as the highly skilled, very competent, funny, smart, and kickass FBI agent who, time and time again, came in to save the day.
I included Jules’s HEA ending because he’s just as a worthy a romance hero as any of my other characters.  He just happens to be gay.

D -You’re not the only writer in the house your husband Ed Gaffney is also a bestselling author. Do you share offices, write together, fall over each other. How does it work in your house.
Suz:  Oooh, we each have our own office, as far apart as possible! 
Ed grew up as the oldest of eight kids, so he likes to write in a “Grand Central Station” type environment.  I need peace and quiet.
But Ed also is a morning person and I’m not, so he gets up early to walk the dogs – and gets a lot of writing done before they all come in to wake me up at a more reasonable hour!

D - Do you know how the story ends before you start writing it.
Suz:  Always.  I’m an outliner, a plotter, a planner.  I write copious notes and backstory and character info before I sit down to write chapter one.  And I usually outline story arcs books in advance – so I know what will happen three or five or eight books into the future!

D -I’m sure your fans here would love to meet you in person, do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned.
Suz:  I do!  Here’s my schedule of upcoming B&N appearances:
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 -- Sarasota, FL
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
4010 S. Tamiami Trail (in the Best Buy Plaza)
Sarasota, FL 34231
Store phone: (941) 923-9907
Q&A and book signing (Born to Darkness)
Saturday, March 24, 2012 -- San Francisco/Sacramento/Napa Area
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
1600 Gateway Blvd.
Fairfield, CA 94533
Store phone: 707-435-0484
Q&A and book signing (Born to Darkness)
Note from Suz: This store is about the same distance from both San Jose and Sacramento, a little bit closer to San Francisco, and just down the road from Napa, where I'll be taking a post-virtual-signing mini-break with Ed and Jason! Readers in Northern California, I hope you'll come and say hi!
Tuesday, April 3, 2012 -- East Brunswick, NJ (NYC area!)
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
753 Route 18 / Brunswick Square Mall
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Store phone: (732) 432-0100
Q&A and book signing (Born to Darkness)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 -- Framingham, MA (Boston area!)
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
1 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA 01701
Store phone: (508) 628-5567
Q&A and book signing (Born to Darkness)

D -Suzanne, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to let us into your world a little bit, and congratulations and good luck on you upcoming debut in your brand new series.
Suz:  Thank you so much!

Visit Suzanne's website here
Buy the novel here

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review of The Dog Who Danced and Q&A with author Susan Wilson

Q&A with Susan Wilson
New Release The Dog who Danced

Susan first of all thanks for answering a few questions and congratulations on your new release The Dog who Danced
Tell us a little about the new novel
First may I say thank you for inviting me, Debbie. 
Justine Meade is a forty-something woman with the demons of her past never very far from her present.  Fleeing an abusive step-mother and ineffectual father, she has spent her life running away.  Now she’s called back to New Bedford from Seattle to attend her dying father.  Broke and reluctant to go, she accepts a ride with Artie Schmidt, a gypsy trucker who frequents the bar where she works.  This not only makes the trip east affordable, it means she can bring her beloved Sheltie, Mack, with her.  Mack is the only living creature who has never let her down, the only one who hasn’t withheld his affection; the only one who loves her unconditionally. 
When Artie abandons Justine at an Ohio rest stop, he inadvertently takes Mack with him.  Once he realizes he’s got the dog, Artie literally kicks him out of the truck and the dog is left on the side of the Mass Pike.
Alice and Ed Parmalee are suffering a loss of their own.  When Alice brings this woebegone and ragged dog home, Mack, who the Parmalees call Buddy, begins to work his canine magic on this grieving couple and to heal the breach in their life.  In the meantime, Justine is coping with her dying father while at the same time launching a massive hunt for her lost dog. 
It’s more than a lost dog story, however.  It many ways it’s a journey story, literally and figuratively.  Justine has to revisit her past and some of the decisions she’s made; the Parmalees have to travel through the emotional mine field of their marriage. 
I won’t tell you here how it ends, but it was the hardest writing I’ve ever done. 

Is there a specific reason behind these dog based novels
As a self-professed animal lover, writing about dogs and about their people is a natural and a great pleasure but I never set out to be a ‘dog writer.’  A number of years ago, when I was fishing around for a new story, my agent, rather casually, remarked that dog stories were becoming quite popular.  I was—and am—an unabashed fan of the stories of Albert Payson Terhune and Jack London.  When I was a kid I read any book that featured a dog: Lassie Come Home, Old Yeller, Bob, Son of Battle; Call of the Wild, White Fang.  I have a wonderful collection of Terhune first additions and one of the high points of my life was visiting the private Mercantile library in Cincinnati and finding myself in the, wait for it, Terhune collection.  So when my agent mentioned that dog stories were gaining traction in the book industry, I thought: I can do that!  For me it was the marrying of two of my greatest interests, dogs and writing.  Along the way what I’ve discovered is that dogs lend themselves so beautifully to illustrating human experience.  To observe humanity through a dog’s eyes is to see directly into the heart. 

I just learned on your website that your 1996 novel Beauty was made into a CBS Sunday Night Movie
So tell us, where you involved in the production, were you pleased with the results, would you do it again, in other words, spill please.
Oh, I wish I could say that I had a hand in Beauty’s transformation from book to film, but I didn’t.  Once the film rights were sold, I was out of it.  I will say this, though, that Citadel did a fantastic job with the story and actually validated my writerly instincts.  The story is this:  When I presented the finished manuscript to my then editor, she didn’t like my ending.  I grudgingly tacked on another third to the book, but was never completely happy with it.  Lo and behold…the film ended exactly where I had ended the original book.  Sweet! 

Do you know the end of your novels before you start them
Usually I know where I’m going, even if I don’t have the exact end in mind, I know what my resolution will be.  However, The Dog Who Danced was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written because I really couldn’t figure out how it should end.  With TDWD, I was flummoxed because I had written in a King Solomon-worthy dilemma—who gets the dog in the end, his distraught owner, or the couple who have come to love him so much? 

I have interviewed authors who have only been brought into the 21st century of technology kicking and screaming. How do you feel about, tweets, facebooking, blogging etc..
I’m a huge fan of the social media, although I typically don’t tweet (I think my blog tweets for me.)  I find that the ease of access to a writer by fans is wonderful.  Long gone are the days when a writer was sequestered and approachable only by sending a fan letter to his/her publisher to be forwarded.  Now I hear from fans directly and instantly and we can carry on a conversation.  The whole social media phenomena has been a very good thing for me.

What’s next for you
I’m working on another book (yes, with a dog as a central character) which will be out in 2014.  This one tackles the relationship that develops between a war dog and his handler during World War II.

Give us an average day in the life of Susan Wilson
Two things rule my life, animals and writing.  Three mornings a week, I’m on barn duty for the morning feed, so after a quick cup of coffee, I’m up and out to the farm where we keep our mare.  Then back home to work on writing as long as I can before my dog, Bonnie, reminds me that I owe her a walk.  After a break, it’s onto the business of the writing business, e.g. Facebook or answering emails, blogging or updating the website.  After an afternoon break, it’s back to the barn for evening chores.  Not a bad way to spend a day.  I’m very lucky I get to do what I love, both with animals and with my career.

Do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned, I’m sure the fans here would love to meet you in person
I don’t have anything scheduled right now, but I’m open to anything.  I love meeting people face to face.  I’m a Barnes & Noble fan from way back and look forward to any opportunity to visit. 

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule, good luck with The Dog who Danced and all your future endeavors.
It was my pleasure.  This Q&A is a terrific service to readers and writers.  Thank you for having me.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here

Susan will be our featured month long author at the B& General Fiction book club forum in November when we read her novel as a group, please check here for more information

Here's my review of the novel

The Dog Who Danced
Susan Wilson
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN 13: 978429950541
320 pages

An unexpected call has Justine Meade grateful for a shotgun seat on a semi heading towards a home she hasn’t seen since she left at seventeen because it means that her dog Mack is with her. Mack has been her salvation and made her look at life in a better way than the defeatist, betrayed way she used to when all she could think of was the loss of her childhood then later the loss of her son. The dog who learned to dance with her has been much more than a mere pet which is why she’s overwrought as she finds herself abandoned and dog-less by the trucker she hitched a ride with.
Ed and Alice Parmalee have been imitating life for the seven years since the death of their only child, a child that was prayed for then delayed until neither of them thought it was ever going to happen and then took away at fifteen, it was a tragedy that shook them to the core and that has been an invisible barrier between them ever since until the day a stray dog comes into their lives and puts color and connection back into their world.
In the midst of a family crisis Justine frantically tries to find Mack with the help of a few friends and many strangers while the Parmalees are reconnecting with the help of one small furry miracle and who know nothing about the dog’s distraught owner.

There are many dog stories out there, those who heal, those who protect, those who comfort, what makes this story different is the poignant way that Susan Wilson brings it to life with her words. Her characters are all three dimensional, so realistic that I could smell the earth at Stacy’s grave and could feel the wind in my face as she takes Justine down the highway on the back of a Harley. The dialogue is a mesmerizing string of monologues that took me into the hearts and souls of the narrator, that made me a fly on the walls of their worlds and that gave me insights that I wish they would convey to each other. And then there was Mack, who Susan gave a voice to as well and who’s expertise in translating dog really shines through, it was amusing, it was touching and it was beautifully penned. This is the story of rejuvenation of forgiving of unconditional love. It’s the story of one woman’s best friend and the lengths she’ll go to get him back and it’s the unconditional love that one dog has for his human(s).
This is my first foray into the writing brilliance of Susan Wilson but I guarantee it will not be my last.
Thank you Ms. Wilson for one of the most heartwarming and inspiring stories I’ve read for a while.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review of The Book of Lost Fragrances and Q&A with M.J. Rose

Q&A with MJ Rose
The Book of Lost Fragrances

MJ first of all I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of yours I’ve read all of your Butterfield Institute series and have loved each of your last three The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, and The Hypnotist. So tell us a little about this next novel The Book of Lost Fragrances.

Thank you so so much.

I was reading about Cleopatra (69 BCE to 30BCE), who was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and found she was fascinated with and some say obsessed by scent. Marc Anthony built her a fragrance factory where he planted now extinct flora and fauna including groves of balsam trees  (important in the creation of perfume at the time) confiscated from Herod.

In the 1980s a team of Italian and Israeli archaeologists believe they unearthed the factory at the south end of the Dead Sea, 30 km from Ein Gedi. Residues of ancient perfumes along with seats where customers received beauty treatments were found there.

Cleopatra was said to have kept a recipe book for her perfumes, entitled Cleopatra gynaeciarum libri. The book has been described in writings by historians Dioscorides, Homer and Pliny the Elder. No known copy of the book exists today.

When I read that I knew I had the idea for the novel.

Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

You are a true advocate for authors, founding the first marketing company for authors which I use as a go to tool for what to look for in new releases and contests too, and which my library puts a link to every weekday on their dear author emails you’ve also co-written the marketing book Buzz your Book and it’s a wonderful place to go for authors who have questions that a true veteran can help with.

Can you tell us what precipitated this, was it your own experience in publishing or something else.

I had been in advertising for more than a decade as the creative director of a top NYC firm, when in 1999 when my first book sold. I started working with my publisher and discovered not only how they marketed books but also how uninvolved authors were in the process. I thought both parts of the equation needed some help.
That led to me teaching authors marketing for the next year years as well as writing two non fiction books for authors. All of which led me to start AuthorBuzz in 2005.
By then it was more clear than ever that authors wanted to invest in their own books, and publishers wanted them to and both of them needed a reputable way to do it. Its turned out that as many publishers use it as authors – but what matters to me about it – is that its become a trusted resource in the industry and authors know that since I am one of them, we won’t sell something ever just to sell it.

Tell us a little about what led you to become an author.
I was always a reader and I think that’s probably what leads most of use to write. I also am a very anxious person and when I write I can forget about all the things there are in my real world to worry about. But the actual path was pretty round about. I wanted to be a painter and went to art school which led to me being an art director at an ad agency which led to me switching and becoming a copy writer at the ad agency. I wound up being pretty successful fairly quickly. Needing a new challenge I started writing screenplays. That somehow led to a novel, a great agent and rave rejections.

In your bio it says that one of the reasons you self published your first novel Lip Service is that it didn’t fit in one genre, now in the land of multi-genred reads all the time that should never be a problem. And on that note how do you feel about being put on a genre shelf now.
Genres are constricting and I really don’t like them and never have. I just want to read good books… and I just want to write them. I still make up my own genres. The Book of Lost Fragrances is historical fiction/suspense with a touch of the paranormal thrown in.
Walk us through a typical day with MJ Rose
I try to get up before six thirty and no matter how hard I try to start writing right way, I don’t. I waste at least an hour reading email and Twitter and the NYT. Then once I settle down I write for an two hours and then break to take a 45 minute walk or go swimming. Then errands and back at the computer by about 3 or 4 till 6 when I break again for wine!!! and dinner.
If I’m in the thick of a book or there’s a lot of AuthorBuzz piling up, after dinner I’ll go back to work and often work till midnight.
If I’m not doing that I love to read and watch movies. It’s really pretty boring when I write it down.
Somewhere in there is a lot of snug time with the dog, some great conversations with my husband or friends, looking at as many beautiful things as I can every day and getting out of the house and away from the computer as much as possible.

When you start a novel do you know how it ends.
Absolutely. I have to know the end. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change. For me writing a book is a journey. I need to know where I’m starting and where I’m going. The stuff in the middle is the fun part.

Do you have any upcoming B&N signings, I’m sure your fans here would love to meet you in person.
Yes totally. Here’s my tour schedule.
Thank you so much M J for answering my questions and letting your fans and me too a little inside your world.
Good luck with the novel.

Here's my review of the novel

Jac L’Etoile comes from a long line of perfumers, she can personally trace the ancestry back centuries and there’s even a myth that they go back longer still. But she gave up the dream of creating scents with the death of her mother. She’d always been plagued by fragments of past lives but the episodes since bordered on psychotic, the treatments she was subjected to were more like torture and without the help of Malachi Samuels of the famed Phoenix Society she might have gone mad. Her brother Robbie is the perfumer, holding the fragile business together by mere threads and her idea of selling their signature scents to pay off debtors is not going over well.
Robbie has ideas of his own and they don’t include selling anything except perhaps a family legend, he’s found some ancient pot shards and is hoping that revealing the hieroglyphics will show him the formula his ancestor is said to have brought back from  Egypt, to help him he asks long time friend and Jac’s ex-lover Griffin North who’s an expert in the field.
Robbie and the artifacts have turned up missing with a dead man in the lab which brings Jac rushing to Paris to find him. But being in Paris brings troubles of it’s own for Jac who’s visions are returning and who finds herself allied with two men from her past, one her savior Malachi and one ex-love Griffin who it seems has never left her heart or her thoughts. And more troubling than that there are forces against them that’s still a mystery to Jac and everyone else as well.

As always the work of M.J. Rose is exceptional, she takes a bit of mystery, a piece of legend and slice of reality and turns it into a finished product that’s both contemporary and literary with a portion that’s macabre and paranormal. Her storyline is one she’s revisited with each previous novel dealing with reincarnation but she gives each one a different set of realities. Her narrative is a symphony of chimera and realism where her research is evident in every sentence I read. She presented me with characters some that I came to know as friends and others who were on the fence, but each one she gave a three dimensional visage that made them all the more real. Her protagonist Jac is complex and fragile yet with tensile strength and her supporting characters all compliment Jac and each other and become an essential piece in this puzzle of a mystery that kept me reading til the wee hours. Combining the edge of your seat of a thriller with the flow of a drama and the heart of a love story I know I’ll return to read this over and over again, in fact it’s one of those novels where a re-read is beneficial and the nuances you miss the first time will become more relevant with each renewed look. This is the perfect novel for your permanent shelf and is perfect for gift giving as well. The glossary in the back is reason enough to buy the book as it gives details on the authors research and is ripe with pictures from her journeys.
Thank you Ms. Rose for an energizing adventure and I look forward to my next one with you.