Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Interview with Juliet Harper

MM2: Juliette, you will never know how much I admire you. However first, let's start with your backstory. How, when, and why did you start writing books?

I had a childhood that wasn’t perfect -- not that many of us do. But mine lent itself to creating more interesting worlds than the one in which I was living. I always created, even if it was just in my head, but I didn’t put anything down on paper in a formal way, although I won a poetry contest in grade school. As a young girl, I did keep a journal. I never put my ideas in story form for a book until more recently.

When I began to write professionally, I was doing nonfiction ghostwriting for clients until the need for self-expression took over. I could see that other people were self-publishing and that was something that motivated me to go beyond and to create because I liked the idea that I would be able to control my books.

I also like the freedom not to be pigeon-holed in a single genre. I’m interested in so many things that I have no desire to be a one-dimensional author. As a self-publisher, I thought I would have a greater ability to write and to publish in a number of genres, which is proving to be the case.

MM2: You wear many hats so tell us about all of them and how you manage to work and sleep?

Obviously as an Indie author you have so many roles to play to cover all the business essentials of self-publishing. It would be great if you could do nothing but write, but you are also responsible for marketing your books as well. I do enjoy the aspect of writing that puts me in touch with my readers. I also enjoy communicating with other authors and people in the business. It’s wonderful to be part of a creative community. Fortunately, I don’t have any other job and I work from home, so I suppose the answer is that I simply find time to get it all done. Some days I’m more successful at that than others.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

I have a specific office area in my home, but I have a real love of nature. I force myself to get up and get out to take walks and enjoy the landscape. I also travel a great deal between Texas and Maine. Each place has its own beauty, which constantly rejuvenates my creative spirit.

In both locations there’s an “office,” but often where I write is where my laptop lands. My workflow is a combination of organized routine and spontaneous opportunity. Sometimes little routines can help get you in a different place.

Mainly it’s the idea of creating a cocoon that nurtures the senses required for that day’s work. I like to take out my fine china tea pot and have a proper cup of tea instead of just filling a mug with coffee -- although coffee is essential.

The place where you write is often as much in your head as in your physical surroundings. Part of that slightly territorial sense of space is probably a direct result of having grown up as an only child.

MM2: For you what comes first? The setting, plot or character?

The setting. Sometimes I get the setting and the real landscape of the area by designing the cover of the book first and then writing to that visual. I create the world with an outline and then I start thinking about if this was on film, who would be playing the roles? I cut and paste pictures to “cast” the book.

Plot involves a great deal of research. I like to take from real world situations and regional realities. I look at history, geography, current events, and try to incorporate real life events and consider how the characters could have an impact on or be impacted by those happenings.

It’s a real iterative process of modifying and changing, but I stay open as the story unfolds. I think staying flexible to switch directions to fit what’s happening on the page is essential. That can mean a change in time, mood, situation, characters. Whatever keeps the story authentic is what has to happen.

MM2: Take us through a typical work and writing day?

Well, “I” am actually two people, Patricia Pauletti and Rana K. Williamson. So “my” routine is a combination of what they each do. Patti likes to get the real world stuff done first, like walking the dog and doing the dishes in the sink. Rana heads straight for the coffee machine, then feeds the cats, and starts work. By about 9 o’clock, my two halves join each other via video conference and spend the rest of the day working together.

MM2: What is it like to work together as a writing team?

As trite as it might sound, there actually is no “i” in teamwork. Rana is a scene setter, but Patti is the master plot-smith. Without that framework, there would be no scene. You can put a penguin, a rabbi, and a fifth of vodka in a bar, but without a plot, all you get is a punch line.

MM2: Let' talk about You Can’t Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet. You make humor read so easily but it is one of the hardest things to write. Why the 1960's setting? You have nailed the small town life. Tell us about your characters?
 
Rana is from a small ranching community in the Central Texas Hill Country. The characters are based on real people she knew there growing up in the 1960s. Their unintentional flamboyance etched itself on her memory, so what comes off as a comical “send up,” is more real life than most readers might suspect.

MM2: If you could sit down with any three authors dead or alive? What meal would you serve and what would you ask your guests?

Since this would have to be a party of six, the guests would be Dashiell Hammett, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and Margaret Mitchell. For Hammett and Papa Hemingway, liberal amounts of alcohol would be required. Peggy Mitchell would most likely not object. Beyond that, I think a bit of boiled beef would be up Dickens’ alley. And Sylvia Plath could have anything that would make her happy in the slightest.

I would love to ask Dickens if he could describe, from his perspective, what the world of 1970 -- one hundred years after his death -- might look like. As for Hemingway, I would want him to tell us something about himself other than all the obvious facts we all know. My question for Sylvia Plath would be what dream she would like to see actualized. For Hammett, it would be to encapsulate his love of writing and Lillian Hellman in a single sentence. For Margaret Mitchell, did she actually give a damn? And for Seneca, is it possible to be a moral man and leave the confines of one’s home?

MM2: Okay now for some really get-to- know- you questions. What is your favorite meal, place to vacation, movies, song, TV series, books (maybe ones you reread), dessert and a place you want to visit?

Patti
Meal: any pasta dish
Vacation: Bermuda
Movies: Field of Dreams
Song: Over the Rainbow
TV Series: Scandal
Books: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Kite Runner, Anna Karenina
Dessert: key lime pie
Place to Visit: Rome

Rana
Meal: steak
Vacation: Scotland
Movies: Gone with the Wind
Song: Faded Love
TV Series: Scandal
Books: Gone with the Wind and Seneca’s Letters
Dessert: pecan pie
Place to Visit: The South Llano River

MM2: I say every cancer patient ought to own a copy of your book. You would make them forget about being ill for at least a few hours. Tell us your future writing plans and what you want your readers to walk away with from your books?

I’ll be working on the sequel to Shag Carpet, You Can’t Put a Corpse in a Parade and a new cozy / light paranormal series will debut this fall, the first of the Whaler’s Nook books set in Maine.

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?

She’s not as funny as she thinks she is.

MM2: Lastly, leave us with  character quote?


“Really, Petunia,” Ida Belle said as if she were explaining a simple equation to a dull-witted student, “is it all that difficult to put an incriminating piece of literature in the hand of a dead man?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is happy to see her mother the former Duchess of Rannoch as she was bored to tears. Soon her mother sweeps Georgie away on a trip to America. They were booked on a passage that would leave on Thursday and there was much to be done before they could set sail for America by way of the ship of millionaires called Berengaria. The ship would leave from Southhampton, before the cruise ship could take place there was shopping to be done and they were staying at the Brown's Hotel.
Queenie who is Lady Georgiana's maid is not amused to be traveling with Celeste who is the Duchess of Rannoch's personal maid, and she for that matter doesn't much care for Georgie's mother. Georgie is growing tired of Queenie always being unhappy and she complains about everything and everyone.
Georgie's mother (Claire), takes Georgie shopping and they have a lovely time seeing sights they have the most fun.
Then the day arrives and they set sail for America because Claire needs a divorce from her husband. Needless to say this must happen in Rena Nevada and it must happen immediately as her mother's latest rich man Max who lives in Germany wants to marry as soon as possible. Max doesn't know Claire is already married. German Royals do not like entanglements that might end up on the front page.
Everything goes fairly well until jewels turn up missing, then Georgie sees what she thinks is someone who fell overboard but when it is investigated there is nothing to be found.
Georgie soon discovers her own true love is on the ship. He is on a secret mission and Darcy O'Mara does not ever take his assignments lightly.
Darcy and Georgie are madly in love both while both are in love Georgie doesn't have a penny to her name. Just the title and Darcy has to work for a living so he wants to eb wealthy enough to marry Georgie.
Next comes more and more troubles. The one thing that happens is Cy Goldman wants to make a movie and nothing would have it but he wants to make Claire a star. Claire is bored and thinks it might be fun.
They end up at The Beverly Hills Hotel in California and Charlie Chaplin the movie star first sets his sights on Georgie, then Claire. There are many interruptions and it seems everyone from England and other places end up in California.
Upon arriving in America and the many mishaps that happen on the movie set Cy decides that everyone including Darcy and many others should come to his Hollywood home in the hills. Cy takes his mistress and she is the only one allowed to stay in the big house that is really a castle.
When they arrive Cy's wife and her friend show up. Cy has guest cottages with different names and styles. Georgie and her mother get the English cottage and while beautiful they are appalled at the way Cy has wasted money. He is like a child. What he wants he has to own. This includes animals imported from everywhere. His wife doesn't like it one little bit.
A lot people don't like how he treats them. Soon he is murdered and there is a long list of suspects. The thing is there is a very small window of time and most everyone has an alibi.
All of this is just the tip of the bottle. There is much going on and way to many plots and suspects, to add in this review.
QUEEN OF HEARTS (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen is the best absolutely the best historical cozy mystery that I have read this year.
Delightfully devious, fun and filled with surprises clear up until the last page.
This is definitely a ten out ten star review.
Pamela James

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

An Interview with Linda O. Johnston

AN INTERVIEW WITH LINDA O . JOHNSTON
BY: PAMELA JAMES

MM: Linda, give us the back story on your writing career?

          I've been a writer all my life, and each of my careers has added to it.  My first job was as a secretary at my father's advertising and public relations agency and it led me to get my undergraduate degree in journalism with an advertising emphasis.  Later, I attended law school where I wrote articles for the law review and also learned to write contracts.

          But I also started to write fiction, and my first published fiction, a short story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best first mystery short story of the year.  Then came novels, starting with time travel romance--and, by the way, I'm currently making some of those first stories available as e-books, including ONCE A CAVALIER, where Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (my loves!) help the heroine travel to the time of King Charles II of England when the spaniels who were the ancestors of Cavaliers first became popular.  And of course the heroine meets the hero there...

          Since then, I've written more romances, including paranormal and romantic suspense, as well as four cozy mystery series.

MM: What comes first the character, plot or setting?

          In general, I get a good sense of the protagonist before I start putting her into the situation where she'll wind up solving murders in my cozies, or finding her true love in my romances.  But plot comes in a strong second since I need to know quickly what's going to happen to her and how she's going to handle it.  Setting is generally fit in to work with the rest.

MM: Do you have a village of people who help you? Such as a writing group, people who read your manuscript as you go along to help catch the error before the editors see the book?
          I belonged to the same critique group for twenty years but it recently disbanded.  Now I have a couple of writer friends who read my manuscripts, tell me what errors they see, if any, and give me suggestions about the story.


MM: Is there a mentor or teacher you would like to thank?

Maybe one of my junior high English teachers, who, when my school year with her was over, told me I'd never be successful because I didn't participate in class enough.  That was because I was shy, not because I didn't know the answers.  But her criticism helped to convince me to work even harder and, yes, hopefully become successful!  So, in a backhanded way, I thank her.


MM: If you could sit down with five authors over a meal. Who would be authors be? What would you ask them? What meal would you have and what would you tell them?

          I suspect I'd choose a meal at one of the mystery writer and reader conferences I attend and I'd want to get together with my buddies who also write pet-related mysteries, such as Tracy Weber, Sparkle Abbey, Dean James, Krista Davis and Janet Cantrell.  Yes, I know that's six authors but the two wonderful people who are Sparkle Abbey write together.

          I'd ask them what's next in their writing, thank most of them for our great Facebook group Nose for Trouble Mysteries, and tell them what I hope to write next.  Not sure what meal we'd have.  It'd have to be something fun and quick!


MM: Give us the guided tour on where you live? Why do you like living there?

I live in Los Angeles in the Hollywood Hills.  L.A. is a fun place to live since it has so much going on, but that unfortunately includes ever-growing traffic. 

MM: What would your characters tell us about you that we don't know?

I can be a bit demanding of my characters at times, but they all seem to step up and do a good job following what I tell them to do.


MM: Do you have any television shows, snack or dessert that you binge on once in a while?

Well, I'm an admitted chocoholic...  And of course my favorite TV show is Castle, partly because it's about--what else?--a mystery writer!

MM: Now for fun questions. What is your favorite movie, songs, vacation place, do you ever reread your favorite books?

Movie: Maybe Mamma Mia, because I like Abba songs, but there are a lot of oldies I'd like to watch again.  And recently, I really enjoyed The Intern.
Songs: "I Was Born Under A Wandering Star" from Paint Your Wagon; "It's My Life" from Bon Jovi, "Lucky Ladybug" and, of course, "Linda."
Vacation Place: Cruises, particularly Alaskan.  Australia.  And especially London since I met my first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on the Underground on my first trip there.
Rereading favorite books: Yes, when I have a chance.  And I do reread my own!  (Especially when I'm working on another in that series.)

MM: Tell us about your series? Your latest book and professionally what 2016 will hold for you?

My latest release is KNOCK ON WOOD, the second Superstition Mystery.  In the Superstition Mysteries, Rory Chasen is a superstition agnostic who first came to Destiny, California--which is all about superstitions--to learn if superstitions are real after her fiancĂ© walked under a ladder and was killed shortly thereafter.  When she arrived in town, her lucky black-and-white dog Pluckie found an ill older lady in the back room of her store, the Lucky Dog Boutique.  Now, Rory runs that boutique.  That beginning is described in the first Superstition Mystery, LOST UNDER A LADDER.

In KNOCK ON WOOD, Rory's best friend Gemma comes for a visit and winds up staying to manage the Broken Mirror Bookstore--and run from her newly ex boyfriend.  She starts flirting with others in town, and when one of them, Lou Landorf, the town's Public Affairs Director, is found dead... well, you can guess who the main suspect is.  And there will be at least one more Superstition Mystery.

I'm also writing three other series.  My Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries began in May of this year with BITE THE BISCUIT, and the second one, TO CATCH A TREAT, will be published next year.  I also write romances for two Harlequin series.  My Alpha Force miniseries is part of the Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romance series, about a covert military unit of shapeshifters, and I also write for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. 

MM: Lastly, is there something you would like to say to your readers?

Anyone who's familiar with me and my writing knows that I'm a dog lover, and I try to include dogs in my work whenever possible.  In fact, all of my mystery series involve dogs.  I wanted to mention that here, since it's important to me and my work.
And I especially want to say to my readers, thanks for reading!




Review: Dinosaur Lake by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Henry Shore is the Chief Park Ranger at Crater Lake in Oregon. After a series of earthquakes unearth some fossils of an unknown species of dinosaur, other strange things start happening. Some people and their boats disappear, and animal carcasses and unusual tracks are found on the lake's islands. Stories begin to circulate of a lake monster. 

Of course, being an ex-cop, Henry takes the stories with a grain of salt until he and a paleontolgist send to examine the fossils see the creature and realize not only that it is real, but that if it can't be contained, a lot of people are going to die. The dinosaur is smart, cunning, and hungry and he and his team have to find a way to stop it. 

Some of the characters seem a bit too stereotypical -- Mad scientist, Vulture-like journalists from the Inquirer, Ineffective bureaucrat and so on. That said, I still liked/hated them and they moved the story along for me in a fast-paced and interesting way.  This is an absolutely fun monster vs. man story.


Terri

My library trip last night

My library trip was to drop off and pick up books. Last here is what I walked out of my library with and I hope to soon let you know my thoughts.

IF BOOKS COULD KILL: By Kate Carlisle ( A Bibliophile Mystery Series)
GAME OF MIRRORS (AN INSPECTOR MONTALBANO MYSTERY) By: ANDREA CAMILLERI
THE HAUNTED SEASON : By : G.M. MALLIET

I am currently reading X By SUE GRAFTON
BLACK CAT CROSSING By KAY FINICH

It's raining today so this will be a good day to curl up and read.
Hugs,
Pam

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Interview with Maggie Shayne

INTERVIEW WITH BESTSELLING AUTHOR: MAGGIE SHAYNE
BY: Pamela James



MM2: Maggie, give us the backstory on your writing career?

Back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth my goal was to get published before the youngest of my five daughters started kindergarten. I sold my first novel, Reckless Angel, to Silhouette Intimate Moments for a $4000 advance with just a couple of weeks to spare: August 24th, 1992. I had also submitted a vampire novel, Twilight Phantasies, to Silhouette’s new Shadows line, and a few weeks later, they bought that one too. It was the beginning of my vampire series, Wings in the Night, which I’m still writing today. 

For the next several years I alternated between writing paranormal stories for Shadows and writing westerns and romantic suspense novels for Intimate Moments. 

When the Shadows line folded, I was told no more vampires. I wrote another one in 8 weeks flat, because that’s how I react to being told not to do something. (I’m sure this was challenging for my mother.) Harlequin eventually published that as a “Silhouette Single Title” which I didn’t even know was a thing. 

Over the next 22 years I published novels with Avon, Berkley, and Harlequin MIRA, continued writing category length romances for Silhouette Intimate Moments and wrote numerous novellas for all of the above plus Pocket, St. Martin’s Press, Spilled Candy Books, and others.

I spent a year writing story arcs for CBS’s GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS and was offered the job of co-head writer for GL. I tearfully turned down CBS's million dollar offer because my heart was in my books.

In March of 2014 Harlequin and I went our separate ways. We’d had a very good working relationship and because of that, I was able to leave with a sort of a severance package that included two of my western series, The Texas Brands and the Oklahoma All-Girl Brands. Several books in each of those series had already reverted to me, and as an act of good will, Harlequin reverted the remaining titles. (There is a lesson in this!)

I was in a panic having no other source of income. My oldest daughter Jessica, who had been helping me re-publish reverted backlist titles here and there, did a happy dance and promised to make me rich now that I could finally focus on being a completely independent author. She’d formed her own company by then, (Authors Lifesaver, Inc.) and she had a real handle on how to manage indie books.

During the remaining months of 2014 while I finished writing the two remaining books on my final Harlequin contract, Jessica formatted, packaged and uploaded all the 14 westerns. My oldest daughter Jena also launched her own business, Practical Proofing, and she took over the editing end of things. By the end of 2014 year, my income from those backlist books was double my best year ever with traditional publishers.

2015 has left 2014 in the dust. I’ve incorporated Thunderfoot Publishing Inc. I’ve written several new titles and have more in the pipeline, and I’m having more fun than ever before in my entire career. Better yet, two more of my daughters are coming into the business as authors in their own right and will be publishing their work through Thunderfoot in 2016.

 August 24th, 2015 marks my 23rd year in this biz. My first book was contracted in August '92 and released in August '93. 


MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

Mainly I write in my office on the second floor of my home. It was originally the master bedroom. Its walls have giant peel & stick sections of dry erase. My view is spectacular and it holds all my favorite thing including my antique typewriter collection. (Well, I have three. It’s the beginning of a collection.) 

MM2: Take us thru your writing day?

It has evolved. A lot. Nowadays I spend about two hours a day writing, and about that same amount of time running the rest of the business, which includes a lot of time on social media. 

I start each morning with a cup of coffee or tea, and if the weather’s nice, I take that out on the back deck and listen to the birds and sip and think. I like to get my mornings off to a quiet, peaceful start. Often during this time I make a list of my priorities for the day. This seems to help a lot in keeping me on track. I ease into a half hour of yoga, shower up and get to work. After that it’s email, social media, and any business items that need attending to. I’ve found it’s best if I set a timer for those things, or they’ll take up the entire day. An hour in the morning, no more. Then up to the office to write for a couple of hours, and after that, if there’s more business and online stuff to be done, I tackle it in the afternoon.

Now this can vary a lot. When I’m approaching deadline, the online and business stuff takes a back seat and the writing takes up much more of the day. Other times, I feel like writing first. I kind of go with what I feel most like doing at the moment. It never steers me wrong. 

MM2: What are the genres that you write in and tell us about the latest book in each series ?

Contemporary Western Romance, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense and Thrillers, and Paranormal Romance are my genres, with a little non-fiction self-help for good measure.

My western series are: The Texas Brands, The Oklahoma All-Girl Brands, and coming soon, The McIntyre Men. These series are all related, and The McIntyre Men will launch with a very special holiday anthology this year. The latest book in the Oklahoma series is SWEET VIDALIA BRAND.

My suspense series are: The Mordecai Young Series, The Secrets of Shadow Falls, and The Brown and de Luca novels. The first two of these are related, and the third is its own series. My most recent Brown and de Luca novel, Deadly Obsession, was also my final book for Harlequin.

My paranormal series are: Wings in the Night and Wings in the Night: Reborn, The Portal Series, The Immortal High Witches Series, The Fairies of Rush duet. The most recent releases are Twilight Guardians and Twilight Vendetta in the Wings in the Night: Reborn series. 


MM2: Dead or alive if you could interview three authors who would they be? What would you ask them?

I talk to authors all the time. There’s this vast pool of knowledge and experience that is right there to tap into. When I want to ask a living author a question, I just ask it. I love living in the internet age where that is possible. When I want to ask a “dead” (no such thing) author a question, I do the same. And very often, I get answers. Nor orally, but I’ll get a blinding insight, a new idea, a sign, something. And I’ll know.

MM2: What is your greatest fear? Do you plan to conquer it someday?

I don’t have any fears. Everything’s going exactly the way it’s supposed to. Nothing happens to me, everything happens for me. There’s never any reason for fear. When something unwanted happens in life, it is always coming for a reason, often to clarify what would be better, to spur growth in a particular area, to point out a place where more balance is needed. The secret is to get your focus off the problem and onto the solution as quickly and completely as possible. There’s never anything to fear. Not death, not disease, not debt. Nothing.


MM2: Where would you like to spend your golden years?

Every year is a golden year. I always do exactly what I want to do, and I spend my time exactly where I want to be now, rather than waiting until I’m older or retired or whatever. I live every day in bliss, and that’s what I want to keep on doing. Whether rich or poor or anything in between, I choose happiness and joy every single day. I adore where I live, I love my home, I am madly in love with my soulmate, and I absolutely adore my life. And this was as much the case 8 years ago after my home was gutted by fire as it is now. I’m the happiest person I know. My happiness never depends on conditions around me. It depends on me looking at what’s good, realizing how blessed I am, appreciating all that I am, and loving just being alive on Planet Earth.

MM2: As a writer what is the best advice you have read, been told or spent some time implementing?

Find your joy first. Find what makes your heart sing, and do that. Being joyful in what you do is the definition of success. You do that, and the other trappings of it will follow. The money, the things. But it’s not about money or things. It’s about joy. Love what you do. Don’t strive, don’t struggle, don’t fight for it. Relax into it. Life is short. There is no reason to spend it striving and stressing and working hard. Spend it doing what you love to do. That’s what it’s for.


MM2: They say it takes a village to write  book. Who are the members of your village?

My husband, spiritual partner, and co-plotter, Lance. 
My daughter Jessica, who’s my right hand woman in all of this.
My daughter Jena whose editing skills have reached the level of the best NY editors I’ve worked with. 
My daughter Katie who keeps me laughing and finds the humor in every situation.
My daughter Stacie, who’s expecting her first baby and writing her first novel, which is absolutely delightful.
My daughter Lisa who’s also writing her first novel and is a better writer on number 1 than I am on number 85.
My grandchildren, all 10 (almost 11) of them!
My critique group, affectionately known as The Packeteers.  
My street team leader Michelle Leah Olson of Literal Addiction.
My photographer, Paige Wissenbach.
My dear friends in RomEx. 
The fabulous NY editors I’ve worked with, who taught me so much, Leslie Wainger, Cindy Hwang, and Melissa Senate who “Discovered” me. 
My agent of many years, Eileen Fallon.
Rose Sversky and Mitch Gary, two high school teachers who had a huge impact on my early years.


MM2: Now or some fun questions. Be the tour guide and tell us where you live? What is your favorite drink? Meal and dessert?
What is your favorite song, television series, movies and place to vacation?

I live in the rolling hills and forests of Cortland County NY, which is the heart of Wine and Dairy country. My nearest neighbor has a 700 acre farm. I look outside, and see nature. Deer, wild turkeys and coyotes are rampant here. Bald eagles, red tailed hawks and turkey vultures are constant companions. It’s far from what most people think of when they think of New York. 

Favorite drink: Coffee. Then water. Trying to reverse that.  
Favorite meal: The local volunteer fire department’s bbq chicken. 
Favorite dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake. 
Favorite song: Some of my top picks are Happy by Pharrel, Rhiannon by Stevie (that song inspired my vampire character Rhiannon) and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran. 
Favorite TV Series: Ever? Buffy and Breaking Bad. Current? Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Favorite Movies: The Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein, Legend 
Favorite Places: The red rocks of Sedona Arizona. That place takes my breath away. And my home, Serenity.

MM2: What comes first the plot, the setting or the characters?

Usually it’s the conflict. I come up with a situation where if one wins, the other loses, and both goals are vital. Then from there I start trying to figure out who these two people are and what makes them tick.

MM2: Give us a sample of what your characters have to say about you?

Rhiannon talks about me all the time. She loves me when I’m writing about her, and resents me when I’m writing about anyone else. (She’s @VampRhiannon on Twitter.)

Mostly, I think they would say that I do my best work when I stop trying so hard and just let them whisper their stories into my head. It’s all about relaxing and opening, and then just taking dictation. Any sort of struggle or effort blocks it. It has to flow like water.

MM2: In closing what would you like to tell your readers?

I give away a lot of prizes and a whole lot of free reads, including a free serialized novel in my newsletter. I truly enjoy interacting with my readers, so I hope you’ll come join me on Facebook and elsewhere.

Also, I want to let you know about my current freebies and bargains:
TWILIGHT GUARDIANS, Wings in the Night: Reborn Book 1 is FREE 
THE LITTLEST COWBOY, Texas Brands Book 1 is FREE (contemporary westerns)
THE BRANDS WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, Oklahoma All-Girl Brands Book 1 is FREE (contemporary westerns)
ETERNITY Book 1 of the Immortal High Witch series is FREE. (Epic paranormal romance)
DREAM OF DANGER, a Brown & de Luca novella is FREE (romantic thrillers)

And if you want to connect, here are my digits, so to speak.




Law of Attraction Blog: www.MaggiesBlissBlog.com




MM2: Lastly what comes next in your career?

 Coming up next THE RHIANNON CHRONICLES (Wings in the
Night: Reborn, Book 3)  releases on Halloween Rhiannon Chronicles

And we hope to have a very special holiday anthology, tentatively titled “Country Christmas” featuring stories by me and four of my daughters.

After those, I’ll be giving the vampires a brief break to focus on a new western series, The McIntryre Men.



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard

TITLE: THE MISER'S DREAM (AN ELI MARKS MYSTERY)
BY: JOHN GASPARD
Pub date: October 27th 2015
Fiction Mystery Series

One night Eli Marks looks out his apartment window into the projection booth of the movie theatre net door. He sees the projections (Tyler) laying dead in a pool of blood. Eli calls the police. It's murder and the list of suspects begins to unfold.
Eli is a magician and while it's been a while since he spruced up his act he is still a pretty magician. The thing is a magician at the top of his profession comes to town. What is worse than his rival is the fact that Megan Eli's girlfriend is smitten by the other magician's act and well he is a dapper fellow.
Uncle Harry is even enthralled with Quinton Moon the best magician ever. Eli helps his Uncle Harry out in the magic shop and lives on the third floor in an apartment. Uncle Harry's apartment is on the second floor.
Everything starts to unravel at once for Eli as Megan is asked to participate in an act with Quinton Moon, something she had refused to do with Eli and then there is Tracy the new manager of the movie theatre. S
Someone tries to run down Eli and then Tracy is found at the foot of the ladder and it doesn't look like an accident. She is taken to the hospital then Uncle Harry and Eli are hit by ice and snow from the roof and Homicide Detective Fred Hutton thinks that is no accident.
Mr. Lime a man that has his own agenda and someone that would frighten anyone tries to draw Eli into his agenda and he doesn't like the word no.
Then there are the people who would do anything to own rare movie posters such as LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, with this movie poster comes three people who want the poster very badly. One is a famous mystery author Clifford Thomas, this man has a house to die for complete with hidden rooms.
Then there is Sherry Lisbon, a woman as cold as Alaska and Eli thinks she could be twice as deadly if someone were to stand in the way of what she wanted and she might even want Eli which is a problem because Eli wants nothing more than to stay away from this woman.
Then there is the supposed widow Mrs. Tyler James and her "I will do anything for you", right hand man Gunnar.
There is also a comic book store owner who knows a thing or two about buying, selling and trading for a price of course. in his own world he is a genius.
When another murder happens Eli thinks maybe if he doesn't solve the murders he is next to die.
All the while the magic trick The Miser's Dream might just offer a clue or two and trick by trick, conversation by conversation and jealousy by jealously Eli realizes he know whodunit.

THE MISER'S DREAM by John Gaspard, is a wonderful slight of hand book for anyone who is enthralled with movies, magic, geeks and mystery.
In Hercule Poirot fashion Eli takes center stage then directs his logic and magic to uncover a killer.
THE MISER'S DREAM is the third book in the series. I can't wait to read what happens to Eli Marks in the next book.
Pamela James

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs

Willa Chance has returned to small town Mystic Notch after a career as a crime reporter 'down south' when she inherits a bookstore, home and cat.  When Lavinia, the town Librarian is murdered, her Ghost demands that Willa find her killer.

I enjoy cozies with a paranormal twist.  This is the first book in a series that I see the potential in. The characters are likeable and the book light and fun.

What I found frustrating though, was Willa.  I liked her and yet, she drove me nuts.  She would obsess on a suspect to the exclusion of the facts, started off with an antagonistic attitude to the sheriff investigating the case with no real basis and jumped in with a dramatic reveal scene where she accused the wrong person.  I hope to see more development of her character as the series progresses.

I also had an issue with her friend Pepper (owner of the local tea shop and a fun character otherwise) dosing people with herbs without their knowledge or consent.

Yet, I did enjoy the other elements of the story and felt that I will like the series more as it evolves.  There are elements of magic that have yet to be explored and a cast of characters which are interesting and engaging.  I also want to see more of the mysterious cats and their secrets.  So:  not my favorite but hopefully a good launching place for more to enjoy in the future.

Terri

  • File Size: 1353 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Publication Date: March 12, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • ASIN: B00IZ0ZY9E

Friday, October 23, 2015

Magical Arts Fridays - An Interview with Artist Kim Power



Magical Arts Fridays


An Interview with Kim Power
by Terri Parsons

Check out her WEBSITE!




MM:  You have been so creative and artistic as long as I have known you.  It is definitely in your blood.  Did you always know it was going to be your career?

KP: We’ve known each other for about thirty years, wow. It has been a while! You’re right, it is in my blood, literally. My mom was an interior decorator and my dad designed lamps so they were into art and there was always something creative going on at home. We also had this fabulous batik artist next door when I was growing up. I don’t know that I thought of it as a career as such early on but it has always been something I had to do. Whether it’s in visual media or in words I am driven to express myself. I’ve also always had a curious mind so making art was the perfect way for me to continue learning throughout my lifetime.

MM:  You work in multiple mediums.  What do you like about each?  And are there any other mediums you are interested in exploring?

I really believe in the element of play. Art can be serious when it comes to technique but I think all artists need to take time to find out what the materials can do when you just fool around with them. I keep asking myself, “What if?”
I started off learning fiber art at James Madison University with Barbara Lewis. I also had a terrific painting teacher in Frank Hobbs. Ultimately though, I’ve also been my own teacher. I mentioned I had a curious mind, right? So along with my education I’ve always researched on my own and tried different techniques and materials. I loved working in the medium of textiles because it was so experimental at the time. New materials and tools were constantly coming on the market. Also, when I was beginning to work in the medium it was still very new to the contemporary dialogue. The P&D Movement gave it great credibility and fiber artists were pushing the envelope on for textiles being considered a real art form rather than, what was then a derogatory term, a craft.  I would look at artists like Pacita Abad and Faith Ringold and see so many possibilities!



I got into painting much later. Basically, I wanted to improve my compositional and drawing skills so I could take the textile paintings I was making to another level. I was so lucky because I found the perfect teacher in Hakim Tourdiev in The Netherlands. He was a friend and a mentor along with being and excellent instructor. He would work with me for a few weeks on a painting and then I would work for several months doing more paintings and pushing my abilities as far as I could go. When the opportunity arose for us to come to NYC, I was thrilled to be able to continue my studies. I was able to take figure drawing with Costa Vavagiakis and Michael Grimaldi at the Art Student’s League and with the skills they instilled in me I applied to the New York Academy of Art. I studied painting there under some amazing teachers like Vincent Desiderio and Dik Liu. Roberto Osti’s, Artistic Anatomy class was phenomenal. I got not only a strong foundation in figurative studies, but also a deeper understanding of what art is and what I want to do with it. I had abandoned textile art for my new love of painting, but when I needed to rely on my strengths, the language that I had developed in textiles served to inform my painting. Acrylic and oil paint give the ability to describe form and space on a flat surface and it is that which intrigues me. At the same time, getting back to my roots has been very satisfying. It is the interplay of these two worlds that intrigues and challenges me today. If I could explore other mediums, I think it would be mediums that relate to sculpture, which doesn’t exclude the ones that I am working with now. Ultimately, the materials I work with are chosen to express an idea and not the other way around. I see something in my minds eye and I ask, “How can I make that happen?”

MM:  I was lucky enough to be at your very first exhibit at JMU and was so proud!  Tell us something about favorite moments at some of your exhibitions over the years?

KP: That’s great that you remember that! Thanks for you’re your kind words. Favorite moments, hmm… Well, I had this amazing moment at an exhibit I had at the Salle Basse in France. A woman was discussing my large textile paintings with me and at a certain moment in the conversation she began to cry. It had to do with the way the colors affected her and the imagery as well. That was really powerful to me because I realized the immense responsibility we have as artists, that we are touching peoples lives, communicating something to them that we just can’t say in words.
The other one I will share with you is when I showed my series, Women in Transformation at The Glenview Mansion. Just accomplishing that with the time and effort I put into it, to see it completed in the gallery was a great thing. My mom had died that year and it had slowed me down quite a bit. When I realized I was behind for the deadline, I spent days and nights, catching only a few hours of sleep for several months, embroidering these really intricate pieces. I realized then that there is a fine line between creation and destruction because I was forced to slow myself down in order to do a good job even though I was rushing to get it all done. It taught me a lot about what we can achieve when we really believe in something.

MM:  How do you sift through all the things that inspire you and focus to start something?

That’s a terrific question. I am inspired by many things every day. Here’s what I do: I write down everything, so it doesn’t get lost in the storm. I also document a lot of visual information, through sketches and photos. Lately, I’ve been working on a series of paintings of my friend Monstah Black. I started it at the Academy and am on my last piece with the imagery I’ve developed. Working on series is perfect for me because I have this seed of an idea and I can expand upon it till I’ve said everything I want to say. I’m a gatherer, so I hunt down all the information I can on a subject and that leads to associations that lead to new ideas. It’s an evolving process. When I have enough to start with conceptually, I begin with a sketch. When that is ready, I decide how I’m going to handle it, though the whole time I’m sketching I’m already playing with several ideas in my head. I try stuff out and try to keep it open for as long as possible so I don’t tie myself down to something that’s finished before I’ve been able to develop the idea fully, then I just keep at it till everything feels as complete as I can make it without overworking it.

MM:  How do you deal with it when what you are trying to do isn’t coming out the way you want it to?

KP: There’s a lot of head banging and I have the bumps to prove it. No, just kidding. As I mentioned, I try to keep it open. I fully embrace the motto, “There is no such thing as a mistake. There are only possibilities.” Sometimes I need to walk away or turn it away for a few hours. Mostly though, if something isn’t working, I’ll work on a different part of the painting and that will help the part that I was working so hard to develop. Letting go can be hard but the moment I see I’m holding on too tight I do just that because experience has taught me that trying to get it “right” is not the answer. Also, I’m willing to fail, because failure leads to learning. At every moment I have to be able to say, “I’m just going to try this.” Making something too precious kills any chance I have to discovering new things.



MM:  You have lived in a lot of interesting places.  How have they each inspired your work?

A sense of place is very important to me. Home is where the heart is, as they say and my heart is in my community. Wherever I’ve lived, France, The Netherlands, New York City, I’ve always looked to develop that. In France, I was in living in the countryside so that played a role in the imagery I developed. In the Netherlands I was surrounded by the painting of the great Flemish masters, so that had a big influence on the subjects I was exploring. NYC has given me a connection to the urban aesthetic, though now that I’m in the Bronx, I’m surrounded by beautiful parks and not just high-rise apartments. The feeling of the space and the things that I witness everyday become part of my painting, directly or indirectly.

MM:  You are teaching others now.  What are the best moments for you?  The most frustrating or challenging?

KP: Actually, I’m not teaching right now, although I did have the wonderful opportunity last year to be the Teaching Assistant to Patrick Connors at the New York Academy of Art, a teacher whose skill as an artist and knowledge in education I greatly admire. The class was Portrait Painting. Being in charge of his uninstructed sessions reminded me how much I love to teach. That moment the light turns on and someone has grasped a concept is so great. Then, you get to see where they take what you’ve taught them and that is even more special because everyone has their own way of expressing the same idea. I don’t feel frustration unless someone just doesn’t put any effort in at all and that’s rare because who doesn’t want to be they best that they can be? I think what is challenging is figuring out how someone learns, because we don’t all learn the same way. I may say something to you that makes total sense but someone else might struggle to understand it. That’s a positive thing for me because it means we aren’t all the same. We all see the world in our own unique way and I love trying to figure out how someone else thinks.

MM: Conversely, in your own studies – what have been the best moments?  The most challenging?

KP: I’ll start with the most challenging. That would be going to the New York Academy of Art. Working to find my own voice amongst such talented colleagues while being sleep deprived and trying to learn as much as possible in a short time was intense, to say the least. It was also the best moment because it forced me to take a stand on what I believe in. You can study forever and develop your technique but until you try to use those skills to say something that matters to you, you will just be incredibly skilled. Skill is nothing to scoff at. I am constantly trying to improve my skills, but it helps that I have a vision and goal that I am working towards. Being an artist means that I am constantly learning and that is something I love about it. It is infinite.

MM: If you could give one word of advice to others as to how to tap into their own artistic creativity what would it be?

Play.

MM:  Who are some of your own favorite artists (historical and contemporary)?

Top of the list would be Andrew Wyeth. His Helga paintings brought me to tears and made me want to paint. Rembrandt, for sure. I especially love his later paintings, you have a sense that he is so familiar with his material that he can do whatever he wants, so visceral. Tim Okamura’s and Jonas Burgert’s paintings really turn me on. John Singer Sargent’s painting is pretty sexy too.

MM:  Do you ever look back at something and say WHAT was I thinking?

Haha! I don’t usually do that because I know at each moment I was trying to figure something out. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made some awful things. Some of those I keep just to remember what I was trying to learn. I try not to be too critical because doing that creates a block in the process.

MM:  What’s a typical workday like for you?


KP: I have the freshest ideas when just I wake up. I’m lucky enough that my studio is in my home, so as soon as I get up, I’m in there, looking at what I did the night before. I always try and leave something for the next day that I need to develop or “fix,” that way I can jump right into it. I grab breakfast and make a plan of what I want to get done that day. I work for a few hours painting or preparing surfaces to paint and take a break for lunch then I’m at it again. It sounds a bit mundane, but making art is a job. I don’t just work when the muse inspires me. I have to put the time in or it doesn’t get done. I take breaks to do admin or research and that gets me thinking about other things so I have fresh eyes for my work. If I’m particularly into something, I only stop when I absolutely need to sleep, or the cat insists that I have worked hard enough and it is time for a long scratch.

MM:  Now – what is your favorite…

        Color(s)? Peacock Blue
        Foods? Raisins
        Vacation spot? Paris, France
        Music? Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”
        Movies? “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
        Books? “The Glass Bead Game” by Herman Hesse
        Drinks? Champagne, of course!
        Scents? Lavendar
        Down-time hobbies? Reading, knitting, yoga.
        Museum? Musee D’Orsay

MM:  What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?

KP: I think that would be the current body of work I am finishing. It has taken me so many places and I have learned so much from it. A selection of them is in FreshPaintMagazine’s London Issue this month!  

MM:  What’s next for you?

KP: Several things are going on at this moment. While I’m finishing up my latest painting, I am also beginning a career as an art writer. I have written for the BrooklynRail and QuantumArtReview so far. I’m also planning an exciting new series of paintings that I’ll be starting in the New Year. I’ll keep you posted!




Review: The Semester of our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

Lila is teaching at a private school in Colorado and working on her tenure track.  The misogynistic department head is murdered and her co...