Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale and Q&A w/author Lynda Rutledge

Q&A with Lynda Rutledge
Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale

Lynda, welcome to the General Fiction book club forum at B&
Hi. Great to virtually be here!

Tell us a little about your debut novel
I’d love to: On millennium New Year's Eve, the reclusive richest old lady in tiny Bass, Texas—Faith Bass Darling--believes she hears the voice of God tell her to have a garage sale of all her mansion’s incredibly expensive worldly possessions, because she believes it to be the last day of her life. 
As the townspeople grab up the family's heirlooms for pennies and those close to Faith hustle to try to stop it, chaos ensues, of course.  And the antiques of five generations of Faith's founding family—a Civil War dragoon, a wedding ring, a French relic clock, a family bible, a roll-top desk,  begin to reveal their own roles in the family saga. Before Y2k midnight fireworks, almost everybody will be forced to think about life’s deepest questions, such as: Do our possessions possess us?  Who are we without our memories?  Is there life after death or second chances on earth? And most of all, is Faith Bass Darling REALLY selling an authentic Louis Comfort Tiffany Lamp for a $1?
I have to admit that the title. Cover  and premise really grabbed me
Tell us where the idea came from for the novel.
So many ways to answer that!  Who knows exactly where a writer’s ideas come from. I often say that a writer doesn’t have an idea, an idea has the writer. But the idea started somewhere and I think the germ came from what you’d expect—a garage sale.
My mom, who had a rambling old two-story house full to busting with stuff that five kids left behind, started having garage sales a few years after I finished college. I found this out, living thousands of miles away by that time, when she called to tell me she'd sold my long-forgotten stash of comic books yellowing in the back of one of the house's old closets for a dime apiece (my dad owned a drugstore so I had hundreds). It was an inexplicably sad moment. Then I remember laughing at myself, surprised by my hurt feelings. Why was I so attached to those old things? But I was. About that same time I  heard that the first Superman comic book went for a million dollars and that, as you might imagine, got my attention! Then I began watching PBS’ Antiques Roadshow and after hearing dozens of spotlight stories of garage sale-found treasures, I began to think not just of their value, but their history. And the ah-ha bolt of lightning struck.  What if our antiques could talk? What if a neighborhood was offered expensive antiques for garage sale prices?  What would make something like that happen?   And that led to thoughts of what we can’t take with us, and what we truly want to leave behind. Of course, then the characters all started pushing their way into the story, and I began to believe this idea was trying to tell me something, and so I finally began to listen.

Did you know how the novel ended before you started writing it.
I had an idea, but it was a “working” idea, something to aim at.  My writing process seems to be that I get an idea for the beginning and the ending, trusting the middle will take care of itself, and I’m off and running, with the full realization and self-permission to change it all in the process, of course.

Your bio states that your writing career is very eclectic from journalist, film reviewer to ghostwriter and both fiction and non-fiction. Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction (oh and can you tell us who you ghostwrote for)
I’ve always preferred writing fiction, but it’s a lot harder than nonfiction. Nonfiction is more a skill, although it can artfully done. But fiction is skill AND art, which takes time to mature and develop. Nonfiction gave me the time to do so, while working with words.   I used to describe my career as  being a fulltime freelance journalist with ongoing literary pretensions.   Now, happily, I may have to stop saying that, eh?  I love moving into life as a novelist after all those years of dreaming about it.  Hopefully, the future holds more fiction.
(Oh and no-no-no, I can’t tell you who I ghostwrote for because that’s rather the idea of a “ghost,” right?  But it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, believe me.  It just allowed me to begin writing as a fulltime career, nurturing my own literary dreams and practicing, practicing, practicing.)

What’s next for you, are you working on another novel?
Ah, we crazy writers are always working on something, if even just in our heads. I’ve got a couple of ideas that haven’t quite battled it out for my next obsession, but it will come.  For now, though, I hope to have some fun with this book for awhile (like this interview), and then I hope to have a chance to publish another one. We’ll see, won’t we?   Might happen if your readers like the book idea enough to try it! And thank you ahead of time, if you do.

Do you have favorite authors and or favorite genres to read
Amy Einhorn Books tries to hit the sweet spot between commercial and literary fiction, and that’s really my home. But I will read almost anything and often do. I’m a sucker for the occasional good speculative fiction or literary mystery, for instance,  and the last book I read was a book of cartoons; the one before that was a travelogue narrative nonfiction, and the one before that was an acclaimed novel about an international newspaper in Rome.  All pretty darn good, but all very different.   I think it’s because I read as a writer, which means I rarely lose myself in a book anymore, a rather sad thing. Of course, that makes the times I do even more special.   Reading as a writer is more like hunting/gathering. A writer reads out of curiosity and quest for knowledge, waiting for the things that capture the imagination and spur us to creativity, be it now or later.  That’s my long way of saying I read most everything, all the time, but if I had to choose some favorite writers, I’d choose ones for what they taught me, classic authors such as Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty for classic Southern voice. But also living authors such as Pat Conroy and Marilynne Robinson for language, Margaret Atwood for fearlessness, Amy Hempel for brevity, Ray Bradbury for imagination, and Larry McMurtry for a sense of place.

Do you have a target audience in mind for your novel
I wrote it to appeal to most everyone, because the themes are so very universal, even if set in an usual context like a garage sale. There’s a little there for every taste, I hope: Those who like a fun story, those who like deeper ideas, those who like character-driven stories as well as interesting plots, those who like Southern novels, those who like smalltown sagas, those who like pageturners, and those who, well, like antiques and garage sales. There are strong male characters as well as female ones and lots to think about on any level you read it, whoever you are. That was the plan, anyway.  I can say this: The best stories to me are the ones that are fun but offer me something that keeps me thinking for days afterward, a nice takeaway--much like a good garage sale, right?  I hope your readers find that to be a case at Faith’s Sale if they chose to drop by.

For such a well traveled person can you tell us what and where your dream vacation would be.
Oh my goodness, what a question.  Right now my dream vacation is…the next one.  But if I had to choose right now, give me a fancy hotel that opens onto a pristine beach with coral and turtles and parrot fish only a few steps away.  But if it were my dream, then it would also be on the edge of an exotic, international city with winding ancient streets, great restaurants, and a world class museum or two.  How is that for impossible? That’s why they call it a “dream,” right?

Thank you Lynda for stopping by and good luck with your new novel!
Buy the book here, visit the author's website here

My review of Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale
Lynda Rutledge
Amy Einhorn Books a division of Penguin
ISBN13: 9780399157196
304 pages

There’s an old saying money can’t buy happiness and that’s very true for Faith Bass Darling, she lost her son in a terrible accident, her husband’s death followed soon after and her daughter ran away in her teens, yes this was years ago but Faith seems to be reliving it like an old movie loop.  Now lately her days aren’t as clear as they once were but when she’s woken up not once but three times by a God she hasn’t spoken to in years, she takes notice. Does he give her an epiphany, or give her prophecies, oh no he tells her to clear out her stately mansion in Bass Texas and have a garage sale to end all garage sales and on this the most momentous of days, December 31, 1999.
So on the dawn of a new century lives will change in the small once prosperous now mostly forgotten town of Bass Texas and the ripple effect will spread until no one is spared the backlash, especially Faith, Bobbie Ann Blankenship, Claudia Darling, Father George Fallow and John Jasper Johnson. These lives will be changed forever, but will the sale change them for the good or for the worse.

 I love reading debut novels, it always feels like a birth when a new voice in the writing community comes on the scene and it was no different with this unexpected gem of a novel. Now by the title you might think that Ms. Rutledge has a comedy, well you’d be wrong just like I was. Instead inside this book I found the epic struggles of her characters and finally absolution and resolution, there were haunted and troubled people who could be anyone I know and I loved how the author came to her conclusions and found solace for her troubled crew. She used dialogue that I could easily read and understand and her narrative was animated enough that I could easily put myself in the scenes she created. This is a read that would appeal to a wide audience by both sexes and many ages. Now if you’re looking for a novel that gives you a concrete conclusion this isn’t for you, but if like me you like to have that almost absolute ending yet with degrees of variations left to your own imagination, then this is definitely your next must read.
Ms. Rutledge this was exactly the kind of novel that goes on my keeper shelf to be brought out to read again and again and to share with only those who can be trusted with a treasured keepsake. Thank you and I look forward to what you come up with next.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review of What Doesn't Kill You by Iris Johansen

What Doesn’t Kill You
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press
416 pages

Catherine Ling needs help, it seems her long time friend and once mentor Hu Chang has gotten himself into a heap of trouble and in the sights of some very bad characters, but it’s who the CIA sends to help her that’s not sitting too well. John Gallo is the one man she can’t seem to forget ever since they met on the case involving his and Eve Duncan’s daughter.
John Gallo knows what he wants but Catherine is an enigma and he knows he can’t push her or she’ll run and he only wants her running towards him not away. He also knows that the relationship between she and Hu Chang is complicated and he’s not sure where they all stand.
Right now they must focus on getting Hu Chang out of harms way and keeping his potentially Pandora’s box of a potion out of the wrong hands before they can even start to explore the attraction and sexual pull they have towards each other.

Iris Johansen has thrilled fans for decades and this fan was indeed thrilled by this her newest release. In her previous trilogy she formed the sexual tension between her characters John Gallo and Catherine Ling and in this one she increases that tension by putting them in yet another impossible situation and inventing a plot that encases the aspects of a thriller and mystery mixed with romantic tendencies. Her characters are as usual over the top and yet she gives them humanity, humbleness and vulnerability, her villains are as nasty as can be and her supporting characters are just as important as her stars, you’ve noted I didn’t say hero and heroine because there seem to be multiple heroes and as she sometimes does I was left with more questions than answers regarding where these characters are heading next. The action is non-stop, edge of your seat and always imaginative and the narrative flows beautifully.
If you’re a fan of Ms. Johansen you will not be disappointed, if you’ve never read her (you must live under a rock) and you like your thrillers mixed with a bit of romance this is your read.
Ms Johansen wherever you take these characters I will follow as I look forward to their next impossible mission.
Buy the book here, visit the author's website here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Q&A with Kristan Higgins and review of Somebody to Love

4-24 Q&A with Kristan Higgins

Kristan is another favorite author of mine; in fact, she was the co-winner of my best novel of 2011 (here is the post on my blog).

Kristan, welcome to the B&N General Fiction Forum, and happy release day for your brand new novel, Somebody to Love. Tell us a little about it.
Thank you so much for having me today! I’m quite thrilled to be here!
Somebody to Love is the story of Parker Welles, who suddenly finds herself in very different circumstances. Bad enough that her career is somewhat stalled and her life is about to change hugely as her son starts all-day kindergarten…she’s just learned dear old Dad cleaned out her trust fund, trying to cover up an insider trading deal gone wrong. Her best option is to flip a house she’s never seen and try to write another children’s books series…fast. A relationship? Please. Not gonna happen.
Enter James Cahill, aka Thing One. James is the personal attorney for Parker’s dad, and Parker does not like him a bit. Maybe James is the son Harry never had, maybe it’s that he seems to exist solely to kiss up to her dad…maybe it’s that one little encounter they had a few years back. Whatever the reason, Thing One really gets on Parker’s nerves. Not that she’ll let him know.  So the last person she wants hanging around as she heads up to the coast of Maine is James, yet there he is, on Harry’s orders. Tiny problem—the house needs far more work than she realized, and she can’t turn away his help and still get the job done.
James has had a thing for the Princess since the day he met her, not that much has come of it. She made it clear she’d have nothing to do with him a while back. Besides, he’s got his own problems this summer—a boss in jail, a family in tatters—but he knows he owes Parker some help. Truth is, he doesn’t mind…maybe he can change her mind about her, especially if they’re stuck together, alone, in a 900 square foot house for three weeks.
I think the book is about second chances and finding out who you really are when everything familiar’s been stripped away. Reinventing yourself, creating a new future, all that good stuff. A very rewarding aspect of the book was revisiting a favorite place from a previous book—Gideon’s Cove, Maine, setting of Catch of the Day, so faithful readers will see a few familiar faces.

Shhh, we won’t tell anybody, but do you base your characters on anyone you know, you can trust us to keep your secret. :)
Of course not! Um…well, sure I do. All writers are thieves, isn’t that how the saying goes? My notes will often have something in them like, “Make the mom like Susan’s mother” or the like. But during the writing of the book, characters tend to take on a life of their own, so if the character was inspired by someone I know, the resemblance is usually a lot less than I thought it would be.

Tell us what led to your life of writing.
Reading! A life of writing can only come from a love of reading, I think. I often blame Margaret Mitchell for my becoming a writer, because much of my adolescence was spent trying to create a “better” ending for Gone With the Wind. (Upon rereading it a few years ago, I discovered that Miss Mitchell knew exactly what she was doing, just for the record. Ah, youth!)
I also started writing for very pragmatic purposes—I was a stay-at-home mom, my son was approaching school age, and I didn’t feel right about having my sainted husband supporting us all by his lonesome, especially when I’d have a lot more time on my hands. So I figured I’d try writing romance. I was 36 at the time (ten years ago), and I’d been reading romance voraciously since I was 13. If I had a field of expertise, it was that.

Do you write full time?
I do! I’ve been very, very lucky to have a publisher who’s wanted me from my first book on. I’m under contract with them for four more books at the moment.

Do you belong to a writers group?
Yes, I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, as well as both the New England and Connecticut local chapters of that group.  I remember when I first joined—it was such a relief, finding others who understood just how compelling imaginary people can be.

The one constant in your novels besides the romance part is the dogs and perhaps a cat or two. Tell us a little about the why behind the animals in your novels.
I love animals and can’t imagine life without a pet or two. They give us so much, and the choice of animal says so much about a person, don’t you think? It was a very unconscious decision to have a dog in my first few books. Sometimes, people will ask if I decided to have dogs in the story so I’d get cute covers, and the answer is no, not at all! The pets came first. I think owning a pet shows an ability to commit and a willingness to love unconditionally, and I just love choosing the animal that’s right for my character. In Somebody to Love, Parker has never owned a pet before, and given her drastically changed circumstances, the last thing she needs is a dog. That being said, she just can’t turn away from little Beauty. It’s a little hint about her personality. The pet always is, in real life or in my books!

What is the biggest challenge when writing a novel?
I have to turn my heart inside out to write a book. I break someone’s heart at least once a story, and to do that, I have to break mine, too. Then, of course, I get to put it back together and make everyone happy, but that’s a joy.  But to get the kind of emotional depth that I try to feature in every book, I have to be a little brutal in the process. In My One and Only, it was Harper’s mother. In Until There Was You, it was Liam’s fears about his daughter. It’s so worth it to me…but it does take a lot. At some point in every one of my books, I cry during the writing, and heaven help me if my kids or husband see! “What’s the matter?” they ask, and I say, “No, no…it’s good! Would you get me a tissue?”

Okay walk us through a normal (I’m sure glamorous) day in the life of Kristan Higgins.
It really is so glam, so prepare yourselves. I wake up at o’dark-thirty and make the kids a hot breakfast, pack their lunches and draw a cartoon on their napkins (well…on my daughter’s. My son is too cool for that these days). Then I get them off to school, head for my office, which is just down the street, over the neighbor’s garage. Make a cuppa joe, give my dog a cookie, sit down and work for the next six hours. Get the kids, take them to their various and sundry activities just like any mom or dad. Hope that McIrish will be home to make dinner so we won’t suffer through my own efforts in the kitchen. After dinner, answer some interview questions, write a blog, something like that, then shut down the computer and hang out with the family.
I have a wonderful hubby and great kids, I love my siblings, my parents loved each other…no half-brothers in prison, no secret babies coming back to meet me. Too bad. It’s great fodder. The only thing really different about me is my wicked awesome job. I travel 6-8 times a year for work. Otherwise…I’m sorry, have you dozed off? I don’t blame you a bit. Listen. In person, I’m adorable. It’s these pesky day-in-the-life questions that make me sound so, ah…normal.

I’m sure fans here would love to meet you in person Do you have any B&N events or signings planned.
I go to B&N whenever I’m asked! Just did a signing at the store in East Brunswick, NJ and have a few that are associated with conferences in the next few months. My calendar is on my website at, so pop over and see if I’m coming to your neck of the woods. I’d love to meet you!

Kristan, thank you so much for letting us get to know you just a little better, and just in case you haven’t figured it out, all your secrets are being tweeted as we speak :)
I hope the world can handle it! Thank you so much for having me! Always lovely to pop in.


My review of Somebody to Love
Somebody to Love
Kristan Higgins
ISBN-13: 9780373776580
432 pages

If you were looking from the outside at the life of Parker Harrington Welles, you’d think she had it all. She has a trust fund, is a best selling children’s author (even though the characters may make her throw up a little in her mouth), a wonderful son and never wanted for anything. In the blink of an eye life as Parker knew it changed, her financial whiz father’s going to prison for insider trading, the family mansion she grew up in is on the auction block and the only thing with any possibilities is the home her Great Aunt left her in Maine. When she first sets eyes on the place it’s not exactly a mansion, in fact it’s not even livable, and if that’s not bad enough her father’s former attorney and minion “Thing One” is offered to help her fix it up. Why is that bad, well in addition to her father liking him more that her, in a moment of madness a few years earlier she and Thing One did the deed.
James Cahill has a lot of regrets in his life but the one thing he’s never regretted is going to work for Harry Welles who’s always respected him and treated him like gold, if only his daughter thought the same and yes he’s in for quite a summer working beside Parker but his loyalty to Harry is worth every snide remark and insult, oh and it doesn’t hurt that he’s never gotten over that earth shattering encounter when they made love.
As Parker and James begin their rehab project it becomes quite clear to both of them that there is more there than meets the eye, for one she’s not the insensitive, arrogant snob and he’s not the unfeeling minion and mini me of her father and just maybe they’re who they’ve both been looking for. But there’s a lot against them too and the biggest problem they have is each other, if they could get past all of their preconceived and most of the time untrue feelings about each other they might just get to the truth, that they just might be what they’ve both been searching for “Somebody to Love”.

Kristan Higgins really knows how to get to the heart and soul of this reader by giving me everything I look for in a romance and then some, by giving me characters that are far from perfect but still embed themselves in my heart and we’re not talking about just the hero and heroine but all the other major and minor characters too and then there’s the story and my oh my what a story it is, you see Kristan usually brings us main stream people to star in her novels but this time she brought us a riches to rags story that not brings someone down off  a pedestal as much as someone who learns what’s really important in life and that aint always money. Then there’s the romance that you know from the start is going to end up happy and still you’re scratching your head that she’s picked this particular pair to fall in love until all of a sudden you get to that ah ha moment when it all starts to make perfect sense and now the only thing holding them back, is well them.
Thank you Ms. Higgins for another unforgettable romance and the couple who make it all possible.

Kristan and Digger

Monday, April 23, 2012

How a book signing event is like a wake-The Atria Mystery Bus Tour


Last Thursday evening I attended the Atria Mystery Bus Tour at a local Barnes & Noble store. The authors John Connolly, William Kent Krueger, Liza Marklund and last but never least (being one of my all time favorite authors) MJ Rose. Now you have four very diverse mystery authors from all over the world, best selling authors who sell books in the hundreds of thousands for this publisher, so I ask you why was there so few in attendance and not just at my event but I have it on good authority (not naming names) that the events were mostly poorly attended. I wondered how that could be, but then I didn’t see them advertised on any TV morning talk shows local. My Barnes & Noble did advertise the event and it was posted on the main webpage under events and stores, but that’s not even how I found out about it. I found out by accident by interviewing MJ Rose for myGeneral Fiction forum for B& where she mentioned it and I checked the tour schedule and low and behold my calendar was full for that evening. So why then weren't we breaking down the doors to see them, is it them or is it us.

So my question is this, why were there so few attendees to these events, is author signings a thing of the past, did the publisher not do enough to promote the events, did the event locations need to do more. And here’s the big question, if you knew there was an author event near you:
1) would you attend to see any author
2) would you only attend to see a favorite author
3) would you not attend at all
4) why
I have to tell you that I was embarrassed for these multinational best selling authors sitting up there in front of so few people and yet the gracious professionals they were, they acted like they were talking to hundreds of fans. And then when the Q&A part began you could hear a pin drop, so naturally me and my big mouth spoke up.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of those wonderful authors for this tour, for stopping in my city and for being so gracious as to treat us as if we were the greatest fans on earth. I salute you all!
And for those of you who are ever lucky enough to meet an author idol in person, think of this, it might be your last chance, do you really want to miss it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview with Chris Womersley author of Bereft

We at the General Fiction Book Club forum were given a rare opportunity to read and discuss a pre-pubbed novel, discuss it with the author and talk about it with each other. Bereft is the novel it comes out in the US May 1st and it is my honored privilege to present the interview that the author did with me.

Interview with Chris Womersley

Debbie - Chris first let me say welcome to the Barnes & General Fiction board, myself and all the participants are really looking forward to the opportunity to not only read and discuss a  pre-pubbed novel but really looking forward to interacting with you the author as well.
Chris- Thanks so much for having me!

You’re in Australia and the novel was first published there in 2010 and is due to come out here in the US on May 1st. In how many countries has the book been published.
- Bereft has so far been published in Australia, the UK, the US and France, with Germany and Croatia to come some time next year. The Low Road will be out in the US in September, I believe.

Your bio states that you are a radio journalist and you’ve gone all over the world for your work
What was your favorite assignment
- Although I have worked as a journalist and I have traveled, the two are not really connected. I travelled a lot in my 20s, through Europe, Asia and South America and didn’t really start working in journalism until I was 30 or so. My journalism work has been largely about sub-editing, which is an office-bound job of writing headlines and correcting grammar.

Do you still work as a journalist
- Yes, although not as much as I used to. I still gotta make a living!

You’ve written full length novels and short stories, which venue do you prefer
- I love them both, to be honest and each requires different mindsets and sets of skills. A good short story can be truly satisfying because it can be read in a single sitting but a novel has the potential for richness and depth of characterization that few other art forms can offer. In that way, the challenge is more akin to that of running a marathon. One needs reserves of imagination and energy, not to mention quite a deal of patience.

You have two novels published so far and they’re both very different The Low Road is a contemporary and Bereft is from WWI era.
Did you prefer writing historically or the contemporary
- I don’t really have a preference, although I must admit that writing something historical was great fun. Basically, it was a great excuse to sit around reading interesting history books and call it research. Always an advantage. On the other hand, The Low Road is not set in any particular time or place and that was a wonderful exercise in pure imagination.

Where do you get your ideas
- Ideas bubble up from all over the place. Sometimes I read articles in newspapers or file away stories people tell me (you can never really trust a writer!). Bereft began in some way after a friend told me the story of their father, who had perhaps been partly responsible for the accidental death of a schoolmate and who was from then on known, by teachers and fellow students, as The Murderer, although he was never charged with any crime.

Did you always want to write
- I attempted my first novel when I was about 12. It was a Star Wars sequel that ran to about 70 handwritten pages. It is long gone and I cannot even recall the title now. So the answer is probably Yes. I’ve always loved reading and trying to evoke in others what certain books have evoked in me always seemed a logical thing to attempt. I am at my happiest when reading or writing.

Are you looking for a specific audience for your novels
- Not really. My ideal audience is probably a 18-year-old version of myself. I try to write the kind of book that I haven’t read but would like to. I try to write the book that doesn’t yet exist, but should.

Are you working on another novel, can you tell us anything about it.
- I am about halfway through a new novel called (a this stage) Cairo. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man called Tom Button who becomes enamored with a charismatic group of bohemians who lure him into a world of art forgery and theft. With a bit of luck and time it might be out later next year.

What do you do when you’re not writing, for fun
- Writers don’t have fun! We sort of work all the time – stealing people’s life stories to use in our novels, reading other books, worrying about money. Although I do enjoy swimming and playing Lego with my beautiful son Reuben when I can. Although I am getting a bit sick of Lego, to be perfectly honest…

Thank you Chris for the interview, now let’s get on with the discussion!
Thank you!

Vist Chris's website here pre-order the novel here and you'll find my review here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Release A Deeper Darkness and Q&A w/JT Ellison

Q&A with JT Ellison
A Deeper Darkness

Debbie - First of all I want to remind you all that JT will be our guest in June when the forum features this novel for the month, so this will just be a short how do you do right now, I’ll ask for all the skeletons later J
So without further ado JT welcome to the General Fiction forum

Tell us a little about the new novel.
J.T. - A DEEPER DARKNESS is the first in the Samantha Owens series. It’s different from my earlier Taylor Jackson books – it’s set in Washington, D.C. for the most part, and is more of a suburban thriller. Samantha, the head medical examiner for the state of Tennessee, is asked to perform a second autopsy on her ex-boyfriend, Edward Donovan, and during the course of the investigation, comes to realize Eddie was murdered, not carjacked as the police thought. The closer Sam gets to the truth, the less safe she becomes. And she’s fighting an inward war, trying to recover from the loss of her family, so she’s up against it on all fronts.

Sam has been in your previous novels as she is the best friend of Taylor Jackson who is the protagonist in that series. So tell us what made you tell Sam’s story (which is great by the way)
Thank you! Sam has always functioned as Taylor’s conscience in the previous novels. Her role kept growing and growing until I realized I wanted to try her as a point of view character (see Where All the Dead Lie, TJ #7.)  Her voice came easily to me, and I thought it would be cool to give her her own book. And then of course, things went to hell in Nashville, with the biblical flood of 2010, and that experience needed a book as well. So Sam has lost her family in the Nashville floods. In this novel, she is very human, very accessible, completely damaged and broken, exactly Taylor’s opposite. It was cool to write a different kind of hero – one that’s not striding around with her hand on her gun, but at times whimpering in the corner, afraid to face the world. Sam is every woman. She is much more me than Taylor.

What happens to Taylor now?
She and Baldwin are taking a nice long vacation. Honestly, I’m happy for her to have a little break. She’s been through so much the past few years, she earned some time off. I do want to return to her story sometime – I have a few ideas of what might be happening in her world. God willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be able to go back to her soon.

Now a bit on the personal side. Tell us about being a Presidential Appointee
 It was an absolute hoot. I was 21, just out of college, and working in the Executive Office of the President for the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. There was something absolutely magical about going to the White House each day, knowing I belonged there. I wrote Congressional white papers and did advance work, but mainly I was a Confidential Assistant, which meant I was the dogsbody. I had a major takeaway from that experience – I make a damn fine pot of Earl Gray tea. In all seriousness, I was honored to be an appointee, and crushed when we lost the election and I had to turn in my badge and move along. It was a wonderful, enriching, life-changing experience, especially because in order to keep my job, I had to do graduate school at George Washington University instead of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and I met my husband the first night of classes at GW. Everything happens for a reason, right?

What would be your dream vacation?
Oooh, that’s a hard one. I have so many countries on my bucket list, so many experiences I’m anxious to have. Tibet, maybe, to sit zazen with the monks, or riding  The Orient Express. Or Banff, on the train through the Rockies… My husband and I love to travel, try for an overseas trip every couple of years. We’ve done Italy and Scotland recently – and then the research made its way into my books. But for me, a real vacation involved isolation: hubby, rum drinks and soft sand, no Internet, no phone, no note-taking, no deadline, and a stack of books a mile high.

I’m sure the fans would love to meet you in person. Do you have any B&N scheduled events or signings?
I have a pretty aggressive schedule, with several local signings in the Nashville area, plus Heart of Dixie, Southern Kentucky Bookfest, Book Expo America, Thrillerfest and RWA. My events page has it all… and I hope to see y’all on the road!
JT, thank you so much for answering a few questions and we all look forward to June when we really get to dig into the new novel.
Thank you, Debbie! I’m looking forward to it!

Good Luck and we’ll see you soon.

 My Review of A Deeper Darkness

A Deeper Darkness
JT Ellison
384 pages Pub Date April 17,  2012

Dr. Samantha Owens has lived the last two years of her life in a fog of tragedy, only surviving by focusing on her work as the Chief Medical Examiner for Nashville, but not really living since the waters of a cataclysmic flood stole her entire family from her. Sam gets a call from the mother of a former love Eddie Donovan, a love that is now also lost to tragedy but his mother is not convinced of the circumstances of his death and calls Sam to perform a second autopsy to be sure. Needing an excuse to escape from her self imposed prison for awhile Sam answers the call to help even though she hasn’t heard from Eddie since they broke up after his decision to join the service. When she arrives in DC she’s not welcomed by everyone, Eddie’s wife isn’t at all happy to be hosting a former girlfriend and the detective on his case sees her as a distraction at best and a hindrance at worst. This does not deter Sam as she goes about her business letting the dead tell their secrets and this death is no different it also has secrets to tell, secrets that are pointing in the direction of murder especially as further evidence comes to light and another murder is committed that has ties to Eddie and his time as an Army Ranger serving in Afghanistan. The more Sam digs the more questions arise and with the help of detective Darren Fletcher who’s come to welcome her help they start putting pieces together, but the answers are still just out of reach and the terrain is getting very hazardous as the body count is piling up. But being here a part of something bigger than her, Sam realizes that a partial healing is taking place and is realizing that the human heart is much more than mere valves and blood flow and much more resilient than she first thought. The question is will she survive this new threat long enough to find out what else her heart is telling her or will she become just another victim of a different kind of flood.
JT Ellison has once again gone above and beyond what I expect and done it beautifully. She’s taken fact and fiction and together she’s woven an intricate patterned drama filled mystery. She uses the very real Tennessee flood of 2010, some call it the thousand year flood where very real lives were lost and some of those exactly as was depicted here. She also brings light to life after combat for our homebound men and the real healing they must also go through. Her storyline is imaginative, it’s illusive, it’s brilliantly filled with twists and turns and kept me from closing the pages until I either found out what happened or fell asleep trying to. Her narrative is that of the profession shown, the cop-speak and doc-speak fluently mixed with the everyday dialogue of everyday people. Her characters are all so well defined that I knew them intimately by the end of the novel, some I came to care for and some I hoped to stand under a large falling tree. Is this a mystery, very definitely but it’s so much more, it’s a love story, past present and future, it’s a drama with an edge and it’s a story about one woman’s weakness, her strength and her will to live on.
If you’re lucky enough to have read JT’s Taylor Jackson series then you already know Sam, if this is your first foray into the vivid mind of Ms. Ellison you will learn all you need to know and yet at the end you might be itching to find out what else this talented author has written while you’ll also get to know Sam a little better as well.
JT it’s as always my immense pleasure to be an early reader for you and I look forward not only to your next story but the fact that you’ll be sharing yourself with my B& book club later on in the year.
Pre-order the novel here visit JT's website here

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of Twisted by Laura Griffin and a Q&A with the author

 Q&A with Laura Griffin 
Twisted 4-17-2012
Debbie - First of all let me welcome NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author Laura Griffin to the General Fiction forum at B&, Laura is one of my favorite authors in the romantic suspense genre and I’ve been an early reader reviewer for her for some time now.
Welcome Laura
Laura - Thanks for having me here! I love chatting with readers.

1. Tell us about your latest Tracers series novel Twisted
TWISTED is about a rookie detective working her first big case.  Allison Doyle is investigating a brutal murder in her town when FBI profiler Mark Wolfe shows up and tries to convince local authorities that they are focused on the wrong suspect. Mark believes the real murderer is a serial killer he’s been investigating for years, who goes by the name Death Raven.

2. Now I want to go back to Snapped for just a moment because you dedicated that novel to your mom, tell us a little about why you did that
SNAPPED is a very personal story for me. It was inspired by my mother, who was on the University of Texas campus the day of Charles Whitman’s infamous shooting rampage. I grew up hearing stories about that harrowing incident.
SNAPPED opens with a sniper scene on a college campus, and my mother’s account of her ordeal helped me get inside the head of my heroine as I wrote the scene.

3. Are there a definite number of Tracers novels
Readers have responded so well to the series, and my publisher has asked me to do more books. Next up is SCORCHED, which comes out in the fall. It features two of my favorite Tracers characters, Kelsey Quinn and Gage Brewer. SCORCHED was a fun book to write because I got to do a lot of research about Navy SEALs.

4. You started your writing career as a reporter, what kind of news did you report
I covered everything! As a newbie reporter, you get stuck with some of the worst shifts (holidays, weekends, nights…) But that can be interesting, too, because that’s when some of the biggest news happens. Newspaper reporting isn’t all edge-of-your-seat excitement, though. I covered my share of school board meetings and county fairs.

5. On your website you mention some of the research you do for your novels, what’s the craziest thing you ever did in the name of research
I once wrote a short story (SURRENDER AT DAWN) in which the hero flies charter planes in Thailand. I have a friend who’s a pilot, and we were on his plane once and I was doing my typical reporter thing where I ask a zillion questions. Maybe he wanted me to shut up because he put me in the pilot’s seat and actually let me fly the plane… for about ninety seconds. He assured me everything was fine, but I was terrified.

6. Do you belong to a writers group?
I belong to Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. As part of ITW, I was happy to be invited to contribute a story to their new anthology, LOVE IS MURDER, edited by Sandra Brown. It’s an amazing lineup of authors, and the reviews so far have been terrific.

7. Your novels have won many awards, including the 2010 Rita and the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award which is a testament to the reality quality in your novels, do you think having reported the news helps with writing so realistically or is it just innate in you.
I think my writing style will always be shaped by my reporting roots. In news writing, you have to get to the point quickly. You have to grab your reader in the first paragraph. And you never know when your story is going to get chopped, so you had better not leave all the best stuff until the end.
Also, reporting taught me to not be afraid to track down information. When I need a question answered, I go looking for an expert who can tell me.

8. What do you like to read and do you have authors that have either inspired you or are a favorite to read
I read all kinds of books: mystery, romance, biography, true crime. I even read text books sometimes if I’m researching a story.
Some of my favorite fiction authors are Patricia Cornwell, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag. I’ve been reading Lee Child a lot lately.

9. I’m sure the fans here would love to meet you in person, do you have and events or signings planned
I’m participating in the RWA Autographing for Literacy event in Anaheim, California on July 25. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by and say hi!
Also, readers can find me online: or on Twitter: @Laura_Griff

Laura thank you so much for answering my questions, good luck on the new novel and I know it won’t be long before this one is also a bestseller.

My Review of Twisted
A murder’s been committed and a suspect is in custody, but rookie detective Allison Doyle after talking with veteran FBI agent Mark Wolfe is convinced that they have the wrong man. Mark has been trailing a serial killer that was thought to have been silent for a decade, but the similarities of the cases is too much to ignore and with begrudging assistance the police department go with Mark’s theory. Allison wants on the task force to better her abilities and to prove to her fellow officers and herself that she’s up for the job. It doesn’t hurt that the famous Delphi-Center is in their backyard and is willing to step in and help when needed and help is exactly what they need as the body count rises and this elusive predator keeps off their radar. As the danger escalates Allison and Mark find themselves fighting against time to find this killer and also fighting a fierce attraction they have for each other which will only complicate matters and more complications is the last thing they need, they’ll need their heads on straight and their guns loaded because this is the worst kind of criminal their tracking, a very smart one.

Laura Griffin gives me that hard hitting thriller that I love mixed with a love story that I crave and combined it in a read I couldn’t put down and if I need any evidence that she’s a New York Times bestselling author all I have to do is get immersed in her plot, get carried away by the evident extensive research that’s obvious by her level of knowledge of not only police procedure but fighting crimes with cutting edge technology as well, I was totally blown away as always by her characters some I’ve known the whole series and some are new to me, but they all exhibit a vivid realism that shows throughout the novel. Her dialogue is all cop, and she speaks it eloquently and her romance is subjected to seemingly immovable obstacles from the get go, so it’s with pleasure as I read how she gets her hero and heroine on the track toward a head on collision of the heart. The love scenes are intense, sensual and the lust hangs like dense fog.
If you like a little romance served up with your thriller Laura Griffin is your kind of author, if you need that adrenalin rush that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what turns the rollercoaster will take next, you’ll find it here. If you like the writing of Lisa Gardner or Lisa Jackson, you’ll find that Laura Griffin will give you that same terrifying punch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Q&A with Katherine Howe and Review of The House of Velvet and Glass

 It's with great pleasure I present today's New Release feature and Q&A with Katherine Howe and what better day to release this wonderful new novel than on the 100th anniversary of the launching of the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner known as The Titanic.

Q&A with Katherine Howe
The House of Velvet and Glass

Debbie - Katherine is not a stranger to the B&N boards as her debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was a FirstLook feature in 2009 and went on to debut at #2 on the NY Times Bestseller list so instead of saying welcome I say welcome back Katherine it’s nice to have you and thank you for answering some questions about your brand new release The House of Velvet and Glass.
Katherine - Thanks, Deb! I was delighted that you would ask me back. Participating in First Look was a terrific experience for me, particularly as a first time novelist. I was so delighted and touched that everyone on the B&N boards would take the time to read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and give me such great feedback, so I'm doubly excited to have the chance to do it again for The House of Velvet and Glass.

Tell us a little about the new novel
The House of Velvet and Glass follows one Boston Brahmin family as they reel in the aftermath of the Titanic sinking. The year is 1915, and the eldest daughter, Sibyl Allston, is doing her best to keep the family together after her mother Helen and sister Eulah went down with the ship. Like a lot of women of that era, Sibyl has taken to visiting a spirit medium to try to connect with her mother and sister, only with mixed results. Then with no warning her brother Harlan appears back home, having been kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances that have something to do with a beautiful young woman of obscure antecedent. As Sibyl joins forces with Benton Derby, a young Harvard psychology professor with whom she shares a complicated past, to solve the mystery surrounding Harlan's trouble, she will also uncover a shocking truth about her family's past, and in turn, about herself.

Can you tell us what led you to a career in writing
I'm trained as an academic, and started working on The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane while I was studying for my PhD qualifying exams (if you happen to have read Physick Book, that's the exam Connie takes in Chapter 1). As it happens, fiction is a wonderful way of investigating the past, and I love engaging in rich conversations with readers who are also interested in investigating aspects of history. Both Physick Book and The House of Velvet and Glass are set in time periods – the 1690s and 1910s respectively – in which the world is undergoing very drastic change, and I am interested in what it feels like to live through periods of upheaval. I take the details of my historical periods very seriously, because I feel that one of the real pleasures of historical fiction is having the chance to feel as though you can see into a corner of a vanished world.

Do you write full time
I am fortunate to be able to write full time, yes, although I also occasionally teach. This semester I've been leading an undergraduate seminar on historical fiction at Cornell. We just finished talking about Gone with the Wind, which is really a lot longer than I remember it being.

Do you belong to a writers group
I do not. However, I am fortunate to have a network of friends and colleagues to whom I can show work. Some are great for looking at pages at the very early stage, when they are unreadable dreck, and saying “Keep going! Don't quit!” Others are great for reading larger chunks when it's coming along but needs shaping to make sense, and still others are wonderful at reading the whole thing and helping me figure out which fifty pages really should be set on fire.  Every writer needs a community who will both encourage and also help refine her work.

What genre does this new novel fall into, is there a bit of the paranormal that was in the debut novel, and how do you feel about being put on a certain genre shelf 
I would say that The House of Velvet and Glass is historical fiction, although like Physick Book it does contain the suggestion of an imaginative twist. I am interested by time periods in which the perception of reality differs pretty drastically from our own, which is one reason I enjoy telling stories that are accurate to their stated time period, but a bit beyond the pale for today. Mainly, regardless of how they may be categorized, I hope the books find their way to readers who will enjoy them.

Tell us a little about how you felt when your debut novel sold and then went on to become a phenomenal bestseller that has now been translated into more than twenty languages.
I was stunned. First, I wasn't at all sure that Physick Book would find a publisher. That it did find one, in fact found several as Physick Book has been widely translated, is a source of continual amazement to me. I never imagined that I could love my work so much. I love dreaming up ideas for new stories, and I love wading deep into research as I put the stories together. I love the process of writing. And forging connections with a fascinating community of readers has been one of the most wonderful parts of this experience for me.

What do you like to do when your not working
I hang out with my friends and family, poke around in the woods with my dog, read books, garden, and sail. I fall behind on the New Yorker, eavesdrop on people's conversations in cafes, play cards, get distracted, spend too much time researching esoteric things that don't belong in the next novel, and make kale smoothies. Sometimes I watch too much Law and Order.

Do you have any B&N events or signings planned, I’m sure your fans would love to meet you in person.
I will be at the Barnes and Noble at Boston University in Kenmore Square, Boston on Monday evening May 7, and I hope that any Boston area readers will join me there. That and other events will appear on my Facebook page, as well as on And B&N readers outside of Boston can always track me down on Twitter at @katherinebhowe.
Side note about the BU B&N event: I am still – technically – a PhD student at BU. To my advisor's continual dismay.

Katherine thank you so much for your time in letting us see the real Katherine Howe just a little better and good luck with the new release.
Thank you so much, Deb, and thanks everyone for being here on the B&N boards. I hope that you all enjoy The House of Velvet and Glass.

My Review of 
The House of Velvet and Glass
The House of Velvet and Glass
Katherine Howe
Voice-Harper Collins
432 pages

What’s left of the Allston family of Boston’s Back Bay is still reeling from the loss of Matriarch Helen and youngest child Eulah who had the misfortune of being on the Titanic. Each remaining member is dealing with the loss and going about life in their own way. Sybil, the oldest has taken over running the house and furthering her spinster lifestyle, but it’s in the séance parlor of Miss Dee where she finds the most solace and closest to her lost family as she deals with the guilt she can’t seem to shed and knows that speaking of it to her stoic father Captain Lan Allston does no good. In the midst of all this it seems her younger brother Harlan has gotten himself kicked out of school, returned home only to get into deeper trouble. The troubles with Harlan also brings back an old family friend of the Allston’s, Benton Derby who was once much more to Sybil than just a friend and who is now in the position as a professor to help Harlan back in the classroom and out of trouble, but the complications continue as Harlan’s paramour Dovie arrives on the scene. Sybil joins forces with Ben to help her wayward brother but also turns to her faith in the occult for succor which has she and Ben butting heads. And as they seek answers journeying through the mystical psychic world they find only more questions and deeper puzzles, and some of those puzzles are leading back to a deep dark family secret.

Katherine Howe burst on the literary scene with her debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and now brings us another blockbuster in The House of Velvet and Glass. She took me on board the Titanic, through the streets of Shanghai and the elegant and eclectic Boston of early 20th century America and as she did so I could see in my mind’s eye the scenes, the people and the happenings around them. As she spun her tale of misfortune and of catastrophe she showed me also the lengths that we will go to find comfort, she showed me the strength it takes to go on in the light of loss and she once again went into the preternatural world and did it with aplomb. She introduced me to some amazing characters that will stay with me for a long time with Sybil, Ben and the Captain leading the cast but not foreshadowing her co-stars, Harlan and Dovie and finally her cameo appearances by Helen and Eulah and we can’t forget Baiji. Her narrative is all reminiscent of the era she’s portraying and done beautifully and vividly expressive with such attention to detail that her research is obvious not only in the industrial miracles of the times but also the costume and attitudes brought out in her characters. And finally this is a love story, of familial love and romantic love, it’s a story of the right thing to do in the face of opposition and the love of oneself.
If you’re a fan of historical literature, family drama, or just a great story this is a novel you should read. If you like just a little woo-woo with your big dose of reality you’ll also find what you’re looking for between the pages of this novel.