Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review of Friendship Makes The Heart Grow Fonder by Lisa Verge Higgins

Friendship Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
Lisa Verge Higgins
Grand Central Publishing -5 Spot
352 pages
Release Date 3/19/2013

Monique lost her husband Lenny to cancer four years ago, and she’s had his “bucket list” hanging over her head, so when she learns that a friend is suffering a loss of her own she proposes a preposterous idea.
Becky has just gotten news that’s making her already dimming eyes more cloudy, she’s got children to raise and a troubled marriage to figure out, she’s got no time for going blind. When her friend and neighbor who’s suffered a loss of her own suggests completing her dead husband’s bucket list she thinks it’s the craziest idea ever.
Judy is suffering a huge case of empty nest syndrome that’s left her at loose ends which makes her feel small when she learns of Becky’s situation and thinks of the loss that Monique has suffered, especially since her married life is in good working order. But when Monique invites her on this complete the bucket list trip, she’s all for it.
This journey will mean different things to these three friends who’ve all suffered loss, who’re all at a fork in their particular road. Will they be enlightened or will this trip just make their losses more real. Will Monique find closure, and resolve to live again? Will Becky come to terms with her diagnosis, can she face what ever waits for her at home? Will Judy find a new reason to get up in the morning when she’s got no to do list to complete?

Lisa Verge Higgins has delivered another masterpiece in fiction and what makes it especially memorable is how she really “gets” friendship, the unique relationships that defines kindred spirits. She takes reality to a new height  and she delivers it not with the happy endings we find in romance and yet not with unhappy endings either, what she gives instead is a realistic recipe for life, served with a huge helping of hope. Her plot is not far fetched, it could happen to you or someone you know. Her narrative flows and her characters shine and no matter who you are or where you are in your particular life journey you will find a bit of you inside her pages.
Lisa you’ve taken me around the world more than once now and each time I find something new to love about what you lovingly have to say. So wherever in the world you plan on going next I’m in.
Pre-order the book here, visit the author's website here

And be sure to join us at the Barnes & Noble General Fiction forum in May 2013 when we'll read and discuss this amazing novel as a group, of course Lisa will be there every step of the way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Release Feature Finding Home +Q&A w/Lois Greiman

Debbie - Lois, welcome to the B& General Fiction forum. Can you tell us a little about your new novel Finding Home?
Lois - Finding Home is very near to my heart and near to my roots. It's set on a South Dakota ranch (I grew up on a North Dakota ranch) and is about a young woman who is trying to find her place in the world. Along the way, she learns who she is and who she wants to be.

Wow you have quite an eclectic career path, from horse trainer, to model, to veterinary assistant, to fitness instructor. How did that path lead to your being an author?
It doesn't make much sense, does it? But the truth is, I've always loved fiction and I've always fictionalized life. In other words, I have always told stories in my head. But about twenty years ago I began putting those stories on paper. I entered a short story in a writers' contest and I've been obsessed with fiction ever since.

According to your book list on your website you write romance and mystery. What genre would you call Finding Home?
I think of it as women's fiction. While it does have a romantic element, that's not the main thrust of the story. To me, the focus is on Cassandra Carmichael and how she shapes her life into what she wants it to be.

Do you have a favorite genre to write?
I'd like to say that every book I write is my favorite while I'm working on it, but I'm afraid the opposite seems to be true. Quite often, when I'm writing a mystery I wish I was writing a romance and when I'm writing a romance I wish I was writing women's fiction. It's one of the most difficult things about writing...sticking to it long enough to make it all work.

Do you belong to a writer’s group?
I belong to several. Sisters In Crime meets in a wonderful little mystery book store called Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis. I also belong to Midwest Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Having a writing community is so important as it's difficult for non-writers to understand the extreme weirdness of authors at times.

Do you write full time?
What constitutes full time exactly? Does it count if I take frequent thinking (aka nap) breaks? Basically, yes, I do write full time, but I also spend as much time in the barn as I can. Horses are good for my creativity...and my soul.

Since your first release day was in 1992, how has the experience of “release day” changed for you? Is it still exciting and nerve-wracking?
I've written over thirty novels, so my nerves are a little steadier than they used to be. But I'm extremely excited about Finding Home. It's a whole new world for me. I think this is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers and I'm really looking forward to hearing from them.

You also have a busy life caring for your family and farm residents. So tell us what would your ultimate vacation be?
 My son asked me that recently. Mind you, this is the same son who likes 'adventurous' vacations. We've done a few of them together. In fact we spent ten days in Costa Rica and spent a whopping $500 a piece so you can imagine there weren't a lot of luxury hotels involved. A couple years after that we climbed several mountains between Minnesota and California on my way to a writer's conference in L.A. Except for the kidney stone episode after scaling Mt. Elbert (the highest peak in Colorado) it was lots of fun. Still, even after all that 'fun' I'm not very good at sitting around and watching the sun set. My favorite vacation would involve horses, lots of miles, and probably a good deal of discomfort. I'm not proud of that fact. These masochistic tendencies do no one any good.

Do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned?
I have a couple...with several more in the works: I'll be signing a fun little anthology (Fifteen Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Malice from the Land of Minnesota Nice) with fourteen other mystery writers at the B&N in the IDS tower in Minneapolis on December 6th. Then on December 15th I'll be in Fargo North Dakota for my first event involving Finding Home. I can't wait.
Buy the book here, visit the author's website here

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review of Ember's Kiss by Deborah Cooke

Ember’s Kiss
Deborah Cooke

Brandon Merrick is a dragon shape shifter, a Pyr only he thinks of himself as a monster, he doesn’t know about his heritage because of an absent father. He’s focusing on surfing the Hawaiian waves while getting help from his old Chinese friend to save him from his dragon-self. But now there’s another fly in the ointment during an eclipse Brandon’s firestorm erupts, (when the Pyr find their one true mate), and what a woman she is but it’s also causing his dragon to take control.
Marine Biologist, Liz Bennett is also in denial, she’s running from a past full of magic and legends too hurtful to remember, so she’s come to the islands to start over. But before she can even unpack her suitcase she’s literally hit by the sensual sparks coming from a gorgeous surfer and she never knew what hit her. Worse it unleashes her thought dead powers.
Liz and Brandon are alight in the newfound light of the firestorm and before the sparks die down nature is erupting in catastrophe, but there’s nothing natural about it. A terrible enemy has them in their sights and will do anything to end them. The other Pyr have sensed the firestorm and are on their way to help, if they can reach them in time. Will the firestorm bring them together forever or will it burn them to ashes.

Deborah Cooke’s excellence in world building just keeps getting better and better and her characters just keep getting more interesting. This time she brings us a man who’s ignorance of his heritage gets him in a world of trouble and a woman who’s knowledge of hers scares the daylights out of her and we get to watch as the magic of Deborah’s words give them life and meaning and make them fall in love as well. Her plot of fantasy and contemporary mixes like the perfect ingredients of a time loved recipe, her characters keep the pages turning and the nails bitten to the quick. And the romance, oh the romance is poetic how she makes these not so ordinary folks bow to the altar of extraordinary love. As with every series they’re best read in order but she also makes each one stand well on it’s own.
Deborah yours is always one of my must reads and always keepers on my shelves.
Buy the book here, visit the author's website here.

photo credit: Michelle Rowen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Release Feature A Winter Wonderland anthology + Q&A w/Kristina McMorris

Q&A with Kristina McMorris
A Winter Wonderland

It’s my pleasure to introduce to the forum Kristina McMorris. She will also be my guest author in January when we read and discuss her novel Bridge of Scarlet Leaves.

Kristina, welcome to the General Fiction forum.
Debbie - Can you tell us a little about the Anthology A Winter Wonderland?
Kristina - Thanks so much for having me! I'd be thrilled to chat about A Winter Wonderland. Ideally enjoyed by a cozy fire and with a cup of hot cider (splash of brandy optional), the book is comprised of four novellas: "A Winter Wonderland" by Fern Michaels, about a snowboarding accident that leads to surprising love; "The Joy of Christmas" by Holly Chamberlin, spotlighting the rekindled romance of a Christmas Scrooge; "The Christmas Thief" by Leslie Meier, about an investigation of stolen jewels that uncovers so much more; and "The Christmas Collector" guessed it, me.

My particular story features an estate liquidator named Jenna Matthews, who, as t
he daughter of a former hoarder, seeks catharsis through her career. While preparing a sale in time for Christmas, a materialistic season of "junk" exchanges in her mind, she stumbles across a shoebox of World War II keepsakes. All tied to the secret past of an elderly woman, the mysterious collection forces Jenna to reexamine the true value of life, holidays, and memories -- both those we'd like to forget and the ones we hope to keep.

What I especially loved about writing this novella was the inclusion of two elderly characters who were young in my debut novel, Letters from Home!

You are no stranger to the spotlight.
Tell us about your five year stint hosting a children’s television show starting when you were 9. (there’s much more I’d love to ask, but I’ll save it for your next interview)
I had just started fifth grade when my mother heard about an audition for a weekly TV show host, and thought it would be fun for me to simply try out. I was originally a pretty shy girl, so any activities to help boost my confidence weren't uncommon. Well, when the casting director gave me the cue to run into the audition room -- where I was to hop onto the chair, pretending to be late for the program, then launch into a reading of the teleprompter -- I wasn't expecting the chair to be on rollers. Yep, off I flew onto the floor. Laughing heartily, I popped back up and managed to get through my lines. Next thing I knew, oddly enough, I was hired.

I admit, it was an interesting way to grow up. Although I had to make a number of sacrifices due to a pretty rigorous shooting schedule, there were many, many benefits that helped shaped my personality early on, namely a strong work ethic that yes, occasionally borders on obsessive. And n
ow that I have a nine year old child myself, I was recently struck by the thought, Wow, I was THAT young when I started working? :)

Kristina, as you know I’m a friend of yours on FB and so I see all the snippets we see through the eyes of your six year old.
Here is an example –“ The 6yo trying to understand how babies eat before birth: "So, I was in your belly..." Me: "That's right." The 6yo: "And when you ate food, the vitamins went through the cord to my belly button." Me: "Yep, you got it!" The 6yo: "And when I was full, I just...took the cord off?" (A better mother would have restrained her laughter.”
Do you think social networking with your readers is important?
I honestly don't know that it's as important as it is fun. The conversation above is just a small sample of the hilarious exchanges my kids and I have on a daily basis. I can't imagine not sharing the laugh with others. Social media sites are also a great place to ask research questions or opinions on aspects of developing stories. Of course, if any of your readers are interested in contributing or watching me babble, feel free to friend me!

Do you write full time?
By full time, if you mean typing like crazy whenever I possibly can between driving my kidlings to soccer games, school events, art and science camps, and a never-ending series of birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese -- then, yes. Yes, I do. Ha! Seriously, I'm very fortunate in that I do get to write full-time during their school hours and also have the amazing benefit of being there when they get home.

Do you belong to a writer’s group?
I actually belong to several online groups, and the camaraderie is wonderful. It's always reassuring to know you're not alone -- whether it's in celebrating achievements, venting occasional frustrations, or seeking advice on a million topics. For example, I recently posted a comment about hitting a point in my current work-in-progress that left me questioning if the whole thing was as exciting as watching paint dry. As you can imagine, I was SO relieved when at least two dozen other writers -- many of whom are hugely successful bestselling authors -- said they all feel the exact same way in the midst of editing or writing every one of their books. In other words, my neurosis is apparently the norm.

Do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned?
Not at the moment, but I certainly plan to when my next novel releases!

Kristina, thank you for sharing a little with us now. I look forward to our next interview where I expect to learn all your secrets.
Thank you and good luck with the anthology.
It's been a pleasure. Thanks for the warm wishes. I'll be sure to dust off plenty of "secrets," so we'll have lots to dish about during our next interview.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here

Here's Kristina on the cover of my favorite magazine

 And her other works

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review of The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

 The Last Policeman

Ben H Winters
Quirk Books
288 pages

It’s been confirmed, asteroid 2011GV affectionately known as Maia is on a direct course for Earth. It’s too big to blow up, and it’s too big to avoid and it’s just the right size to end the world as we know it.
People of Concord NH are coping in different ways, the hangers, are committing  suicide, the bucket listers, have left for parts unknown to fulfill all their dreams before they die, and there are those like newly promoted detective Henry Palace who’re getting up every morning and going about their daily lives like they won’t be ending in six months.
Today Hank has another reason to do his job, a suspected suicide looks fishy to him, but to prove it’s murder he has to rely on resources that just don’t exist anymore, on specialized personnel that have long flown the coop and on citizens and witnesses who just don’t care. It’s hard to get answers when the questions are disregarded.

Ben Winters gives a unique look at apocalyptic fiction, he does this by focusing most his efforts on the day to day business of living while letting his doomsday device hang like a dark cloud over everything. His protagonist Hank Palace is young and naïve, his innocence is refreshing and his tenacity to do right by his victims is endearing. The storyline is believable yet fantastic. His characters are depicted expertly and run the gamut from good to evil, caring to indifferent, hopeful to despairing. His narrative moves effortlessly throughout the novel, is easy to read and understand. What makes it the most terrifying, is the reality that it represents, it’s that all too horrific, “could be”, image that we see that make the possible scenarios the hardest to dismiss.
Thank you Ben for a bizarre yet convincing tale of terror and I can’t wait to see where you take us and the world.

I am so pleased to announce that Ben has graciously agreed to be our guest next July when my forum at B& will read and discuss this novel just in time for book two to be released.

Buy the book here visit the author's website here

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Release Feature Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim

It's my great honor and pleasure to present my New Release Feature plus a special Q&A with mother daughter author team Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.

Here's Lisa's

Lisa Scottoline Q&A

Debbie - What was your proudest moment as Francesca’s mom?
Lisa - I don't have a single proudest moment, and for me, motherhood is a teary blur of proud moments.  I was proud the day Francesca was born and drew her first breath, and I've been proud every day since.  My pride in her isn't linked to any of her accomplishments, though she has plenty.  It's just really about unconditional love.  I always think of my late father, who, when someone at one of my signings asked him if he was proud of me, he answered, "Lady, I was proud of her the day she came out of the egg."

You write fiction and collaborate with Francesca on your column and books.
Can you tell us how and why you became a writer?
I had been a trial lawyer, but when my first marriage ended and I became a single mother with a three-month-old baby Francesca, I found that I had to make under another way of earning a living, because I wanted to stay at home and raise her.  This was over 20 years ago now, and at the time I didn't feel that there were enough strong, smart, and funny female main characters in fiction, and since that's what I imagine myself to be, I started writing. 

Is there a negative side to co-authoring with your daughter?
Not at all.  My daughter Francesca writes her essays and sends them to our amazing editor, Jen Enderlin at St. Martin’s, and I send mine, so we don’t write together per se, which I think is best for us.  I love Francesca no end, and she doesn’t need me to tell her how to write.  She’s a wonderfully talented writer herself and has her own unique voice.  My job, as her mother and co-author, is to encourage her to write in her voice, not mine.

Do you consider your “Chick Wit” column a sort of comic relief from your more serious fiction writing?
Do you need comic relief from your mystery writing?
I don't consider writing the humor memoirs as comic relief from my fiction, because there has always been a fair amount of humor in my fiction.  Because I write it.  Everybody who's any good writes from the heart, and the soul, and I like to laugh.  In fact, I like even more to make other people laugh, and I think even my earliest mysteries are populated by characters who are witty and clever, which I can attain after 37 rough drafts.  So in a way, rather than one form of writing being a relief from the other, they’re both parts of the same whole, probably along some spectrum from total clowning around, to murder with intent to clown around.

You have many writing awards.
Is there one that is more special than the others?
Most of us authors crave praise like puppies, and I am the worst offender in this regard.  Awards, certificates, nice reviews, reader email, and any morsel of positive reinforcement keeps me going like oxygen, premium gasoline, or chocolate cake.  I still need to be told I'm a good dog, and in this regard probably I would single out the Edgar Award as being my most favorite treat ever.  It's given for excellence in crime fiction, and it was a thrill for me not only to receive it, but to later become President of Mystery Writers of America.  That said, now that I've written been writing for so long for a long time, my secret real goal is to have a body of consistently excellent writing over the life of my career, so, no pressure.

What are you working on now?
I just finished the my next stand-alone novel, entitled DON’T GO, which will be out in April and is a huge departure for me, in that it tells the story of a male main character, an Army surgeon who serves in Afghanistan.  However, DON’T GO specifically asks the question whether a single father can never feel as competent as a parent as a mother.  So in a way it's continued a exploration of mothering, this time with testosterone.  

I've also just proofread my new entry in the Rosato & Associates series, entitled ACCUSED, and coming out in July.  It stars Mary DiNunzio and Judy Carrier, and in the novel, they represent a 13-year-old girl who believes that the man convicted of her sister's murder is actually innocent  So it's kind of a twisty, emotional plot, blending family and crime, if I don't say so myself.  Readers have been asking for the Rosato lawyers to come back, and so at this point in my career, I'm thrilled to have three types of books going out into the world, my stand-alones like DON’T GO and COME HOME, the humor nonfiction series with Francesca like MEET ME AT EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE CLAIM, and Rosato & Associates, back every summer, starting with ACCUSED.

Are you a reader?
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I read constantly, in almost all areas, except maybe history.  I love crime fiction, but I read all kinds of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir because for me, it's ultimately about voice, and memoir can have extraordinarily strong voice.  I also listen to audiobooks, because I walk a lot, as I have way too many dogs, and I just love to be told a story.  In fact, I'm a fan of storytelling in all of its many forms, whether it's ebook, audiobook, or somebody I just met in the ladies room.  Talk to me.  I'll listen.  I'm easy that way.
Lisa, thank you for this and good luck with the book.

And here's Francesca's

Francesca Serritella Q&A

Francesca-First thank you for taking the time to do this.

Debbie -What’s the best thing about being Lisa Scottoline’s daughter?
Francesca -There are so many wonderful things about having Lisa Scottoline as my mom, but the best is easily her warmth.  Anyone who comes to one of our signings knows that my mom is a hugger, and she’s the same at home.  She has a big, warm, cuddly personality, and although I strive to impress her, she never makes me feel like I have to.  She is always my soft place to fall.

What’s the worst thing about being Lisa Scottoline’s daughter?
She’s a worrier.  Every mother is, but all of my mom’s emotions are larger than life, and this is no different.  I tell her she has a “Chicken Little energy” where she gets some worst-case-scenario stuck in her head and then goes around and around it until she’s ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN the sky is falling.  You can’t reason with her once she’s in a tizzy, so I usually give in.  But even this has its perks—thanks to my mom’s worrying, I evacuated my New York apartment just before Hurricane Sandy hit—my building has been without power and heat for over ten days, but I’m safe and cozy at home.  Thanks, Mom!

This is your fourth collaboration in book form with your mom.
Do you see more ahead?
Do you see any solo books ahead?
We have another of these collaborations coming next November, entitled  HAVE A NICE GUILT TRIP, and honestly, we have so much fun writing these memoirs, I hope there will be more after that.  The transition of child to teenager gets a lot of attention, but I think the period of greatest transition, especially between mother and daughter, comes after college.  That’s when the child-parent relationship really has to change to one between adults, and ours is ever-evolving.  I’m sure my mom and I will have to readjust when I get married, and again when I have kids.  And again much later, when she inevitably moves in with me—yikes!!
It’s always been my dream to become a fiction author, and I just finished a novel of my own, titled GHOSTS OF HARVARD.  It is a psychological drama about a young woman struggling to come to terms with her older brother’s suicide at college.  When she starts hearing voices, she fears she may be losing her grip on reality—or are they ghosts?  The story has elements of American history as well as the supernatural, but it centers around the fact that in a family, no tragedy touches only one person. 

Did you seek advice from your mom when you decided to become a writer?
I talk to my mom often about the ups and downs of the writing process.  It’s great to have a parent who understands and accepts the realities of working in a creative profession.  But I don’t typically ask her for specific advice on my writing, even for the books we write together.  In that department, she has truly given me the space I need to find my own literary voice, and I’m so grateful.

Is having a famous author in the family a hindrance or a blessing for your own writing career?
It’s been a blessing, but maybe not in the ways you might expect.  My mother’s struggle has given me more advantages than her success.  My mom was not an author when I was born; I got to watch her build her career.  She worked for years on her first novel and it was never published, but I saw her dust herself off and write another.  Today, her great success might be daunting if I hadn’t seen the everyday hard work and perseverance it took her to get there.  Now I can start on my own knowing that failure is an event, not a definition, and that any writing career is hard-fought, not an inheritance.

I have to admit that the covers of your books really grab me, this is, in part, what makes me choose what to read.
How do you choose what you read?
Are you a fiction or non-fiction lover?
I’m so glad you like the covers!  We love them too, and we put a lot of thought into them.   I am definitely influenced by cover, who isn’t?  But the main influence of my reading list is word of mouth.  My friends will tell me the latest books they enjoyed, or I’ll ask a bookseller for a recommendation, or I’ll even check reader reviews online.  It’s why I think book clubs remain so popular—for a supposed solitary activity, reading is fundamentally social.

Fiction is my first love and I always make time for it, but I also really enjoy memoir.  I just love stories about people, I don’t care if they’re true or false.  I like biography too, but memoir has the added bonus of the author’s own voice and possibly slanted perspective on his or her life.   For a while I was on a kick of addiction memoir—those are fascinating because, at bottom, it’s always a family drama, just with life and death stakes.  But if that gets too grim, I’m a sucker for those “I have a bad dog” or  “My rescued cat rescued me” animal memoirs.  I cry every time.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I hope I will have several novels published and a happy family started.  In addition, my mom and I will have probably written a couple more memoirs, one on my mom’s mania planning my wedding, and one on her hysteria over my first baby.  It will be a blast.

Thank you Francesca
Good luck with the book
Thank you, Debbie, for your thoughtful and fun questions!  -Francesca

Be sure to visit both women's websites-Lisa's is here and Francesca's is here
Buy the book here

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Release Feature 11-8 The Trial of Fallen Angels + Q&A w/James Kimmel Jr.

Q&A with author
James Kimmel, Jr.

James, welcome to the B& General Fiction forum.
Can you tell us about your novel?
JK: First, thank you for hosting this forum and inviting me. I love to interact with readers. My novel, The Trial of Fallen Angels, is a spiritual thriller about a young lawyer named Brek Cuttler who dies unexpectedly but, in the afterlife, doesn’t remember how or why she died. While trying to solve the mystery of her own death, she learns that she has been chosen to join the elite team of lawyers who prosecute and defend souls at the Final Judgment—many of whom, it turns out, have a connection to her life. In the process of presenting cases in a courtroom of eternity, Brek learns the terrible secret of her death and must reconcile the conflicting desire for justice with the inconceivable possibility of forgiveness.   

This is your first work of fiction, but not your first book.
How different was writing The Trial of Fallen Angels from writing Suing For Peace?
JK: I actually wrote the initial drafts of The Trial of Fallen Angels long before I wrote Suing for Peace. In today’s book market, nonfiction is easier to get published than fiction, so Suing for Peace was published first.  The process of writing the two books was entirely different.  Fiction is subtle and, if done well, a form of art. It requires a great deal of time, reflection, and inspiration. So much goes into conceiving characters, plot, and another complete world. Much effort also goes into phrasing, metaphors, and word choice to evoke emotions and ideas subconsciously in the mind of the reader.  The Trial of Fallen Angels took me a decade to finish.  I poured my soul into it.  On the other hand, Suing for Peace took me a little more than two weeks to complete.  They were an intense two weeks, and I poured my soul into that book as well; but I was not occupied with creating new characters and describing new worlds. Nor was I trying to be subtle. My task was more straightforward: to set forth a series of observations and a philosophy.  To be fair, though, I could not have written Suing for Peace so quickly without having first written The Trial of Fallen AngelsSuing for Peace contains a statement of the conflict and philosophy that plays out in the novel.  They are, in a sense, companions.    

Along those same lines, was this release day any different from your first?
JK: I don’t think so, actually. Suing for Peace was published by a smaller publisher (Hampton Roads) with few resources and reached a smaller audience. But as a nonfiction book, the media seemed to regard it as somewhat newsworthy and were interested in doing interviews.  The Trial of Fallen Angels is being published by an enormous publisher (Penguin/Putnam) and is being translated and published on 5 different continents. But despite the greater expanse of the publishing effort, the media interest seems less so far.  I think this is because fiction is generally not regarded as newsworthy on its own—unless the person writing it is a celebrity of some sort.  So, release day for both books feels about the same.  For me, it is a quiet time to stand back and reflect—and to feel gratitude for all the people who worked so hard to help bring the book to the public. A single author’s name appears on a book, but there are hundreds of people behind it who helped make the words manifest.  Release day is also a time to think about all those who will read the book and to hope that they will accept what has been gifted.

What led to your becoming a novelist?
JK: I fell in love with writing in high school. I remember feeling psychically broken and reborn when I first started reading literature. What the great books could do to the heart and soul of a person while sitting in perfect stillness scanning a piece of paper was a powerful revelation. I was never interested in books that did nothing more than tell a great story. The novelists that affected me, that made me weep with joy, were using great stories to tell us something vital about the human condition, something that we needed to hear, sometimes to secure our happiness, sometimes to secure our very survival. I wanted to be able to have that effect on people. And over tie I believed I had something important to say.  I also found that I loved the process of writing, the challenge, the puzzle, the stillness, the power to create characters and worlds, the delight of discovering the perfect word or phrase.  Nothing I do as a vocation brings me as much joy as writing. I also find it to be a way into the soul, a path of self-discovery and Oneness with God.

Are you planning another novel?
JK: Yes, I am at work on a trilogy actually—a spiritual thriller that begins with the scientific discovery of the human soul. More soon!

Do you still actively practice law?
JK: Yes, but I do so now primarily as general counsel to a company I co-founded called Peerstar LLC that provides mental health peer support services to individuals with serious mental illness.  In addition to serving as general counsel and Executive Vice President of the company, I am the Director of Forensic Services. In that capacity, I collaborated with the Yale University School of Medicine to develop a forensic peer support program for individuals suffering from serious mental illness in the criminal justice system.

According to your website, you are the co-founder of Peerstar LLC. Tell us about the organization and what led to your co-founding it?
JK: I was drawn to forensic peer support services by the idea that individuals can recover from serious mental illness and the stigma of having a criminal history when supported by peers who have had similar experiences and recovered from them. This type of mental health recovery program, which has strong scientific evidence backing it, fits well with other research and work I had been doing into why people commit acts of violence. I have come to the conclusion that justice-seeking in the form of revenge is the primary cause of intentionally inflicted human suffering and violence—from bullies on playgrounds and thugs on street corners to acts of terrorism, torture, and war. A growing number of brain imaging studies are showing that the same area of the brain that activates when people crave chocolates, narcotics, and sex also activities when we feel wronged by somebody and want justice.  This suggests that justice-seeking may for some people become an uncontrollable compulsive disorder akin to addiction. A key to reducing rates of violence might be to begin to identify these people and help them. I have developed a nine-step self-help program that combines law and spirituality called “The Nonjustice System” to do this.  This is discussed at length in my book Suing for Peace. Forensic peer support is a way of reaching out to help individuals struggling with mental illness and this compulsive justice-seeking behavior.  

James, thank you for taking time out to let us get to know you and your new novel a bit better. Good luck!

Buy the book here visit the author's website here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review of Edge of Black by J T Ellison

Edge of Black
JT Ellison
368 pages

Dr. Samantha Owens is settling into her new life in DC. She still mourns her losses but she’s made new friends, has a new career path and has a new love. And now she also has another disaster on her capable hands. What looks like a terrorist attack on the DC subway is taking a new and devious turn. It seems an unknown substance has been released, one that has killed not hundreds not thousands but three, with no apparent relationship to each other. Her friend detective Darren Fletcher needs a favor, needs her to don her medical examiner persona and find answers to some disturbing questions. The authorities are headed in one direction, but is it the right direction. Will there be more attacks, will more die or is this heinous crime something very different than what it looks like at face value. Sam will use her extensive knowledge as a forensic pathologist to search for answers. It will put she and her lover, former Army Ranger, Xander Whitfield in imminent danger from not only a most allusive and deadly villain but from detective Fletcher and the authorities too.

JT Ellison just keeps getting better and better. She turned a co-star from her bestselling Taylor Jackson series, Samantha Owens, into a superstar in her own right. This time she takes us deep into a terrifying ordeal that’s not too far removed from what we all fear today. She gives us a storyline not only realistic, but feasible. Her impeccable research is evident as she takes us through this non-stop action packed terror filled tale using her customary no nonsense narrative in which she deposits some well placed prose which gives more dimension to the novel and to her characters. Her stars we’ve met before but she’s giving us more in depth information about them now, more secrets revealed, more dreams uncovered, making them more approachable and she introduces us to many more characters some good, some bad and some we wonder which side of the fence they’re on. If you love the thrillers of Lisa Gardner or Lisa Jackson, Nelson DeMille or John Sandford you’ll love this new explosive thriller by JT Ellison.
JT you never cease to amaze me as you delve into topics that make me shiver and I can’t wait until the next chill.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here
photos by Chris Blanz
Other works by JT Ellison
Number one in the Samantha Owens series

Taylor Jackson series


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Release Feature 11-6 Happily Ever Madder + Q&A with author Stephanie McAfee

Q&A with Stephanie McAfee
Author of Happily Ever Madder

Debbie - Stephanie, welcome to the B& General Fiction forum.
Stephanie - Thank you for having me!

Tell us a bit about your newly released novel Happily Ever Madder.
The misadventures of Ace Jones continue in Happily Ever Madder, which begins with the grand opening of Ace’s art gallery in Pelican Cove, Florida. She’s a nervous wreck, gives a terrible speech, and, despite her solid dedication to being a nicer person, manages to offend a not-so-nice-herself pillar of the community, Lenore Kennashaw. Lenore doesn’t take kindly to being insulted and squares-off against Ace in what becomes a struggle of one-ups and will power. And she’s not the only problem Ace has in Pelican Cove. Mason gets busy with work, leaving Ace to plan their wedding solo; she has the misfortune of meeting Margo and Cindy, two silly ladies who relish their positions of authority in the neighborhood homeowners association; and then there’s Kevin Jacobs, a big sexy country boy who keeps showing up at the gallery. The good news is that Ace picks up some great new friends along the way. She meets Tia, who has an aristocratic dachshund named Mr. Chubz; Jalena, a fellow warrior in the battle of the bulge; and Avery, who provides some much needed company at the art gallery.

Your website says this is a sequel to your smash e-pub hit, Diary of a Fat Girl.
Are you planning a series?
One more is on the way! It’s called Down & Out in Bugtussle and it’s scheduled to be released in the summer of 2013.
How does this release day compare to your self-published release day?
(Oh, and great job using Pubit the first time.)  J
Hey, Pubit is a great website and I recommend it to everyone. As you might imagine, there’s quite a bit of difference in the two release days. First of all, I didn’t tell anyone I’d written Diary of a Mad Fat Girl nor did tell anyone when I listed it for sale as an ebook. My husband was the only person who knew. I was trying to save myself some embarrassment in case it turned out to be a complete and total failure. After the ebook started selling, I told my parents and then some of my friends. Of course, when it showed up on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists, I told everyone.  
The release of Happily Ever Madder is a completely different story. For example, I’ve been talking up the release date and showing off the cover for the past several months. I’ve been tweeting, blogging, and posting on Facebook about it. And there are so many advantages to being with Penguin, all of which I very much appreciate. I have a great editor so I don’t have to worry about being embarrassed by mistakes or typos. I have a great publicist who schedules really cool events and interviews. I think I’m extraordinarily lucky that my self-published book got me to where I am right now. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m very thankful.     

Tell us the history behind your becoming an author. Did you always want to write, was it just something that came about?
My eleventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Jackson, didn’t tolerate laziness in the classroom. And it just so happened that my family went to the same church as her family so anything I was slipping on, she’d let slip to my parents and I would get grounded. So I worked really hard in her class. As a result, I discovered a love for reading and creative writing that I might or might not have realized otherwise. Toward the end of the school year, I wrote a descriptive essay which she read to the class as an example of how to write a descriptive essay. That was a fine day for me. And that’s how it began. I entertained the idea for a long time before I finally sat down and did it.
So what made me do it finally? One day I was looking at my son, who was about ten months old at the time, and thought, “How can I teach him that he can do whatever he wants with his life when I’ve never even tried to do what I really want with mine?” That’s a little bit corny and sentimental, but that’s how it happened. And no one was more surprised than me by how it all turned out.    
Are you working on something now that you could tell us a little about?
Right now, I’m working on a plan that involves a relaxing vacation sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Are you a reader? What genres and authors are your favorites?
Of course, I love chick lit. Or maybe I should say women’s literature that’s humorous. I really like Jennifer Weiner and Laurie Notaro. I’ve read all of John Grisham’s books. I’m also a fan of spy/espionage novels so I read a lot of Robert Ludlum and David Baldacci. And I just finished The New Exotic Marigold Hotel. I loved it so much I read it twice. 

Stephanie, I love your “official author video” (which I’ve posted below). I think more authors should settle down and get serious in front of a camera like you did. While it gives us a glimpse of the “real you,” it’s not a full picture. Could you give us an example of a day in the life of Stephanie McAfee?
Oh me! I have a three year old so, as you might imagine, everything revolves around him. I try to get up early and get some work done, but that doesn’t always happen. When he gets up, it’s eggs and toast or biscuits, sometimes pancakes, and then Jake and the Neverland Pirates. When he goes to his grandmother’s, I work at home. Or I might go to Panera Bread or the library at the college. Then when everyone gets home in the afternoon, it’s choo choo trains, dinner, rocket ships, and bath time. Right before bedtime, we read four or five books. He really likes Little Nutbrown Hare and Scuffy the Tugboat. Sometimes I stay up after he goes to bed. That depends on how early my day started.        

I would love to meet you in person if you ever left your gator-infested back yard long enough to visit the Midwest, and I’m sure the multitude of fans who read this would also like to know if you’ll be visiting their cities and towns. Do you have any Barnes & Noble events planned?
I’m sure I’ll have some Barnes & Noble events. And I’m a rambler so I’ll go anywhere. I love to travel. Maybe I can get out that way soon!

Stephanie, thank you so much for taking time to chat with us and let us get to know the “real you” a little better. Good luck with your new novel and Go Ole Miss (my son is an art professor there).
That is fantastic! I love Ole Miss and I love Oxford. I’m actually doing Thacker Mountain Radio at Square Books on Thursday, November 1 and I’m speaking at the annual Bridging the Gap event hosted by the SAC on November 9. Hotty Toddy! 
Buy the book here visit the author's website here

    photo by Rachel Wade

Enjoy the Author video by Stephanie