Interview with Mark Rosendorf, Author of The Witches of Vegas

What can you tell us about your new release, The Witches of Vegas?

The Witches of Vegas offers a new take on the witches and vampire genre. Isis Rivera is a teenage witch and adopted daughter of The Witches of Vegas. They, along with their vampire mentor, Luther, openly and actively practice their power as they train to fend off a potential threat to the entire world. They do this by hiding in plain sight…as magicians on the Vegas strip. They quickly become the number one show in Las Vegas and one the other local magicians can’t possibly compete.

Zack Galloway is the teenage nephew and magician’s assistant to the last remaining magic show in Las Vegas: The Herb Galloway show. As the Witches’ success continues, Herb and Zack are one bad audience away from losing their theater and ending up homeless. When Herb and Zack are offered a chance to destroy the witches’ show forever. Although what it will take for that to happen goes against all their morals and principles as magicians, they are also desperate. They are left with little choice.

Regarding Luther, he has been training generations of witches for hundreds of years, preparing them for that threat he knows could come at any time. When it arrives, it will be up to Isis and Zack, even though they should be rivals, to bring their families together and combat this threat…if it isn’t already too late.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Writing was something I always knew I wanted to do. As a child, I had a wild imagination, especially when playing with my toys. I used to create worlds which were detailed and followed a story that would continue each time I laid on the floor and played.

I was in the seventh grade when I knew writing was in my future. My social studies teacher gave us an assignment to interview a grandparent and then write up their story. Unfortunately, my grandparents had a 1960s sitcom ability to turn every single topic into an argument…and they both hit below the belt. The fact that they were married for 70 years is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world. I did take a shot at the assignment; I asked my grandfather to tell me about his life growing up during the depression. He told me about the girl from Ohio he wished he’d married instead of the woman he did marry. My grandmother jumped on the line and, of course, they ended up arguing. Even as I hung up the phone, they were still yelling at each other on the line.

I sat down and made up a story about my grandfather. In the story, I explained how, during the depression of the 1920’s, he left home at fourteen years old and survived by carrying bundles of hay for a nickel an hour. I talked about how he managed to save one nickel every other hour, which he used to open a business and become successful. Then he met my grandmother, and it was love at first sight. They settled down and lived happily ever after.

None of that was necessarily true, but my teacher loved the story. He gave it an “A” and asked me if I would bring my grandparents to school so they could talk about their lives and take questions from the class. Picturing what a disaster that would have been, I did some quick damage control and explained that my grandparents wouldn’t be able to make it.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Wow, narrowing a book list to five may be the hardest question for me in this interview. But, let me take a shot…my top five books:

Number one on my list would have to be “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I found the story clever, funny, and well told. Not to mention, so many of the lines are quotable. The sequel, “Restaurant at the end of the galaxy” was just as good, if not even better. After that, the sequels started to drop in quality, but I’ve reread the first two books many times. (Truth be told, I’ve gone through both books twice before realizing that one of the main character’s name was NOT Ford Perfect).

My next book is “The Time Machine” by HG Wells. The concept of traveling through time and witnessing the future is every fiction writer’s dream.

Stephen Baxter wrote a direct sequel to “The Time Machine” titled “The Time Ships.” It was one of the first non-classics I remember reading. It had short chapters and each one ended with a cliffhanger. It was a book that inspired me to become a writer.

This is a short story, not a book, but it still belongs on my list: “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradberry. It is the original classic that displays The Butterfly Effect, which is one of my favorite fictional concepts. It’s based on the idea that if one event in time gets changed, over the course of a long period of time, everything changes. It’s a subject discussed in many philosophy classes and among fiction writers all over the world.

For the fifth and final book on this list, there are so many to choose from…but I’m betting the one that I would find the most inspiring hasn’t been written yet. Perhaps one of the aspiring authors reading this interview will be the one the next book I can’t put down and will want to read over and over again.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

If I could have any guest I want, I’d want to interview William Shakespeare. The reason is not just the fact that his writing intrigues me, but he had an interesting life and a unique mind. For starters, he was an informant for Queen Elizabeth I. He also got away with having two wives by convincing the public that one of them was his daughter. Now, I’m not condoning or impressed by such behavior, but I’d love to get to know the mind that could come up with such a plot and pull it off to the point that no one figured out the truth until long after he was dead.

Add to this, that same mind actually invented words in his writing that are used in everyday English today. “Excitement,” “eyeball,” “bedroom,” “critic,” and “compromise,” are just a few of the words Shakespeare created and used in such a way that they became accepted as part of the English language. Yeah, I’d definitely a brain I’d like to engage.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

The best part of writing is being able to use it as an outlet for all my creativity. Fantasy worlds and events travel through my head, especially in the middle of the night, and they practically take me over. Writing them and turning them into stories such as The Witches of Vegas allows me to not only release these stories from my brain, but I get to bring them to the world. It’s a lot of work but if they bring entertainment to some readers out there, then it’s all worth it.

What is a typical day like for you?

My typical day has changed since COVID-19. It used to start off by taking a shower, getting dressed and driving to work. Then, coming home, going to the gym, eating dinner with my wife and then we’d watch TV. In the time I had free, I’d work on my writing or play on the internet. My typical Saturday evening with my wife involved having dinner out and bringing home Red Mango yogurt which we would eat while watching a movie.

Now that I work from home until further notice, my schedule has changed. I still wake up and take my shower but now I take a walk to get breakfast since I won’t be able to go to the gym later in the evening. I also sit in front of the computer a lot more since that’s also my workstation. Dinner and Red Mango yogurt still happens on Saturdays, except dinner must be ordered in. Now, we are at the point we can eat out, and by out, I mean outside the restaurants.

The one good thing that has come from this is I’ve had a lot more time for my writing. The Witches of Vegas was completed ahead of schedule and I’ve also finished and submitted the sequel. It also helped that my editor and members of the publishing company were all also quarantined at home.

What scene from The Witches of Vegas was your favorite to write?

Let me share a little tidbit about me. I am a former magician. I performed during my college years and a bit afterwards. Today, as a high school guidance counselor in NYC’s special education district, I share my knowledge of magic with my students as part of the school’s Performing Arts program.

I mention this because it speaks to the scenes I had the most run writing: One was teen magician, Zack Galloway, watching The Witches of Vegas’ show and trying to figure out how the tricks were done. Even with all of his experience, he is unable to figure out their tricks…mainly because he has no idea they’re using actual witchcraft to accomplish the feats on stage.

The second scene was Zack discussing magic with Isis. Figuring she’s not only a magician like him but a performer in the top magic show in all of Vegas, he uses certain terminology related to magic such as “misdirection” and “Rabbit box,” yet Isis has no idea what those words mean. It leaves Zack confused how she wouldn’t know standard industry lingo.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Life is like the weather. No matter how good or bad it may seem, don’t get too comfortable because it could change at any point.” — Mark Rosendorf

Mark Rosendorf is the author of the new book The Witches of Vegas.

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Interview with DD Prince, Author of Wild

What can you tell us about your new release, Wild?

I’m a multi-genre romance author with contemporary, dark, and paranormal romances and this is my very first shifter romance. Shifter books were what got me back into reading about 8 or 9 years ago and I knew I’d eventually want to write one, but I also knew I wanted mine to be different. I’ve been marinating with this story idea for a couple years. Wild starts like a Tarzan and Jane scenario because our werewolf grows up without his pack and away from humans, so he doesn’t have a lot of social skills. He smells this girl and all he knows is that he’s finally got his mate and doesn’t have to be alone any longer. This makes for some interesting scenarios. He’s extremely alpha and possessive and wants nothing more than to convince our reluctant heroine that they’re destined mates. It’s a story with some fun, a little darkness, steam, feels, and a few surprises. I’m hoping it becomes a series and while there’s no cliffhanger, there are some hints about stories for some of the secondary characters.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always loved to write stories and got a lot of encouragement from teachers. I started writing a dark romance novel at fifteen years old. I picked it up and put it down, scrapped the idea and started over many times. It eventually became my first book, The Dominator, which was released in 2015.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

The book that has stayed with me the most is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It was not only enthralling but absolutely unforgettable. It still haunts me more than ten years after reading it.

My favorite romance novel of all time is The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley. It’s fantasy in a parallel universe with a girl from our universe who wakes up there. It’s an incredible journey and a romance with a whole lot of compromise. I’ve read it at least five times. She’s my favorite romance author and whenever I’m in a book slump, I go to her books for a re-read.

My favorite book as a young teen was Are You There God, it’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Judy Blume’s books were extremely important to me as a girl heading into my teens when I felt like no one understood me. Several of her books helped me understand myself during that time.
This is so difficult. And I know I’ll think of others after I’ve answered this question so I’m only going to list those three, but I will say my current favorite authors include Kristen Ashley, Tiffany Reisz, CD Reiss, and JA Huss.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

Instead of a traditionally published / big name author, I think I’d want a big round table event with a bunch of my indie author friends. I’d love to give them a chance to be in the spotlight. This career can be very isolating. If not for a few authors that I think of as my tribe, it’d be very lonely.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I both enjoy and loathe parts of the process because of how gruelling it can be, but there’s a point in the process I’ve nicknamed The Zone. This is where I want to be. It’s where the words flow like silk and where I do nothing but live and breathe the story. I wake up excited to get back to my desk to see what’s about to happen next and I always know that when I hit The Zone, typing The End isn’t far off.

What is a typical day like for you?

As an indie author, I spend time marketing my books, interacting with my readers, planning, and doing a bunch of admin stuff as well as the actual writing. I’ve tried to structure my day for maximum productivity but mostly I just wing it (unless I’m in the aforementioned Zone). There are days where I get distracted or spend a day on graphics and other days when I bang out 10K words. Sometimes I’m writing at the crack of dawn bright-eyed and sometimes I’m writing until three o’clock in the morning because the story is just playing out in my head and I need to get it down.

What scene from Wild was your favorite to write?

Tyson was stolen from his pack as a baby and lied to about why. He has always felt like there was a missing piece in his joyless life. There’s a scene with him and his cousin running as wolves when he first begins to let his guard down with these people who tell him they’ve mourned his loss for years. I loved how free he felt in that scene, both as a wolf and as a man when he and his cousin were talking afterwards. He returned to our heroine all happy and playful and opened up even more with his family before kicking them out so he could ravish his woman. I think I smiled from ear to ear the whole time I wrote that chapter.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I just try my best to be kind. You never know what someone else is dealing with in their life despite a smile on their face or in the case of a scowl. And with my books, I just try to write in a way that gives people a fun escape.

DD Prince is the author of the new book Wild.

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Interview with Brooke Skipstone, Author of Some Laneys Died

What can you tell us about your new release, Some Laneys Died?

Laney’s world collapsed when she caught her dad cheating. He begged her not to tell, but she did. Her family fell apart and regret consumes her, especially when she learns every decision she makes spawns a new universe for the opposite choice.

If only she could skip sideways to the Laney who didn’t tell.

But her only escape is through her imagination, until a news story blurs the lines between worlds. Two girls were murdered at the same time and same place as her father’s adulterous act. Strange events lead Laney to believe their bones are connected to her and the sister she always wanted.

Laney now has another decision to make. Some Laneys say yes, while others say no; some live and some die.

And some skip between worlds.

Additional info: I’m very interested in the weirdness of quantum physics, including the fact that a particle (an electron or photon) can be in many positions at the same time, a photon can act as a wave and particle, and the possibility that multiple universes exist. I decided to translate some of this weirdness from the micro level to the macro level. If subatomic particles from different universes can interact, then why can’t versions of ourselves do the same? Like my first novel Someone To Kiss My Scars where I imagined memory existing outside the brain, I imagine a world in Some Laneys Died where consciousness can exist outside the brain. What makes these books exciting is that they are based upon real scientific theories. I have not created a traditional fantasy world, but present a contemporary world as it might really be.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I have always felt the urge to write—poetry, music/lyrics, plays, and now novels. Living in Alaska where sexual assault rates are the highest in the nation and interacting with many teens who have suffered from sexual abuse and assault drives me to illuminate this problem and the lasting damage these events have on young girls.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Where the Crawdads Sing, The Fault in Our Stars, The Great Alone, The Hate U Give, The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto

All of these books begin with young protagonists, mostly female, who must deal with great emotional challenges. They are all filled with high drama. They grab the reader’s heart and squeeze mercilessly until you beg for release. They are not boring. I hope my books have these same qualities with the additional one of stretching your mind, even making your brain hurt.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

Kristin Hannah. She grew up in Alaska and writes amazing books. I loved The Great Alone not only because of the family drama but also because of the portrayal of Alaska, its raw power, its unique lifestyle, the primacy of the place in our lives. She gets it and portrays it amazingly well. I would like to ask her about her sense of pace and her use of figurative language.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

The power and passion of the creative process. The absolute all-consuming rush of imagining a scene and trying desperately to type all the words as fast as I see and hear everything in my head. The discovery of what’s inside my head. Michelangelo approached sculpture with the belief that the finished product exists inside the rock and his job was to find it. I firmly believe the story exists in my head long before I write it. The process of writing is to discover the amazingly complex and thrilling plot that plays hide and seek in my mind until I grab it by the privates and put it on the page.

What is a typical day like for you?

Walking dogs, playing with cats, tending my garden and yard, and thinking, thinking, thinking of the next book I am writing. Writing, sometimes for hours a day. And doing some of the necessary tedious tasks to make a life and living.

What scene from Some Laneys Died was your favorite to write?

The reunion of the twin sisters, which is a spoiler, so I can’t describe it here. However, this book revolves around the bond of sisters who never knew each other existed. When they find each other—the pain and the joy.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Not a single one. I think it’s important to remember that there’s always someone who suffers more than you. And that no love is more earnest and real than that of dogs.

Brooke Skipstone is the author of the new book Some Laneys Died.

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Interview with C.C. Wood, Author of I Crave You

What can you tell us about your new release, I Crave You?

I Crave You has been almost a year in the making. I had the story idea last summer but wasn’t able to start the actual writing process until the fall. I had so much fun writing this book, and the next, over the past six months. The characters made me smile, laugh, and sometimes groan in frustration. But I enjoyed every minute of it!

What or who inspired you to become an author?

My mother is the person who fostered my love of reading. She took me to the library every single week when I was growing up. It was from the love of reading that I found my passion for writing stories of my own. I’ve written stories and poetry since elementary school, but it was my sister-in-law who actually encouraged me to self-publish. She’d read several books by an up-and-coming indie author and knew I had written a couple of (horrible) romance novels in the past, and she told me I should write something else and publish it. That was eight years ago and I’m glad I took her advice.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

There are two books I read during my teen years that have stuck with me the most, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Bell Jar. In the last few years, I’ve also grown to love A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

I would invite Sarah J. Maas because I love her work and I would definitely want to ask her about her process for writing the Throne of Glass series. The characters, world-building, and timeline were so intricately connected that I want to pick her brain a little, maybe a lot, about how she did it.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Telling stories that make me happy and, I hope, make other people happy when they read them. That’s one thing I love about the romance genre—the happily ever after. Or even the happy for now endings. There is enough uncertainty and pain in the world and there are times that it’s nice to put that aside for a few hours and watch people grow and fall in love, even if they’re fictional.

What is a typical day like for you?

Pre-COVID19, I had a solid routine. I would get up in the morning at 5 a.m., work before I took my daughter to school, go for a run, work some more until it was school pick-up time, and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening doing homework, making dinner, and spending time with my family. Now, there is no schedule. There are no rules. Chaos reigns! I still go for runs and write, but I have to fit it in between homeschool lessons and feeding a seven-year-old who is always hungry.

What scene from I Crave You was your favorite to write?

I enjoy writing love stories, but the scenes between Cameron and her best friend, Sierra, were my absolute favorite to write in I Crave You. I guess that’s a different sort of love story, though. A story about the love we can have for the family we make with our friends.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

It sounds extremely corny, but I try to find joy wherever I can. Things have been so very dark in our world this year that it’s difficult to find the moments that can lighten that load. So, even though I know it will be a lot of hard work and long while before the state of the world improves, I also know that finding happiness in any place I can will help. And sharing that happiness as much as possible might help someone else.

C.C. Wood is the author of the new book I Crave You.

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The Story Behind Shadows in the Salon by Kirsten Fullmer

By Kirsten Fullmer

When I decided to write a series of cozy mystery books I wanted to do something different. First and foremost, I didn’t want there to be a dead body. I knew this was breaking the mold and more than a few rules, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Or in this case, what the heart doesn’t want. I also didn’t like the idea of the leading lady owning a book store or a bakery, I wanted to create something different; something with a new twist. I knew that if I was going to take away the intrigue and fear of death I’d have to come up with something thought-provoking and fun to keep the reader engaged. And of course, since I love to write about small towns and bossy women, I knew they’d have to be included as well.

One day while chatting with my daughter about my ideas, she said she’d read a mystery/comedy where the women in a small town had much more power than anyone suspected and it sparked a memory. When I was young, Disney released the movie North Avenue Irregulars, about a group of church women who take on the mob in their small town. I remembered loving that movie! I thought it was so funny how the women managed to spy on the bad guys while driving their kids to soccer practice etc. And there it was, the idea for my series of cozy mysteries was born!

In my other books, The Hometown Series about Smithville PA, I chose to center the stories around the same small town, but each book in the series has a new leading couple and they are friends with the couples in the previous books. I like that idea, so it was decided that my new lady spies/sleuths would be friends and each book in the series would be written from the point of view of a different lady in the group. So what type of a group should it be? I considered a church group or a reading group, but those have all been done. Then my kids gave me the idea to make the group look like one thing, but be something else entirely. It was genius! I could camouflage them in plain sight as something benign, but what? I spent days talking to my family about different ideas, and even though I’m sure I drove them crazy, they had so much fun input. I spent months working out the characters and their jobs and personalities.

I knew I had to choose an unconventional location for my town. My husband and I travel for his job and we’ve stayed in many interesting and historical places, but at the time we were in the mountains of western North Carolina. My maternal grandfather was from the area before he went west to homestead in Oregon in 1900, and the more I looked into his hometown, the more I fell in love with the idea of setting my new series there. Given the interesting and unique history of the area, I decided to make my leading ladies into a historical society. It was my son’s idea that the ladies have much more than history on their minds, so their reenactments are always a mess. This gives the group the cover of being inept, making them and their activates no threat to anyone in town.

Since I’d primarily written romance novels up to this point, I also wanted to add a bit of spice and male/female conflict, a combination of romance and cozy mystery. I can’t seem to help myself, It’s just too much fun.

So, there you have it! Shadows in the Salon, my newest release, is book 3 in the Sugar Mountain series. This story is told from the viewpoint of Michelle, the free-spirited beauty salon owner. Her home and salon are being haunted, and she thinks it’s a sign from beyond that she should beware. But the ladies of the society think someone is trying to frighten Michelle, and they are determined to find out who’s behind the spooky goings on.

I know the series doesn’t quite fit the mold as a cozy mystery, and if you love the ebb and flow of that well-known genre you may not enjoy my twist. But if you’re looking for something new, something with a bit of sweet romance, something sassy and fun, then you’re sure to love the antics of the Sugar Mountain Ladies Historical Society. Come along for the ride in this zany, offbeat, romp through Sugar Mountain!

 

Kirsten Fullmer is the author of the new book Shadows in the Salon.

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Interview with E.G. Radcliff, Author of The Last Prince

What can you tell us about your new release, The Last Prince?

The Last Prince is a prequel to The Hidden King, and tells the story of Ninian, Áed’s partner. Overall, it is a very character-driven story–there are no dragons or grizzled monsters, quests or evil empires; instead, it’s a story of growth and self-discovery laced with fae magic and the beautiful, dangerous journey of trusting another. From the violence of the city streets to the quiet moments between partners, The Last Prince is made of trauma and healing, folklore and family.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I like this question, because the answer is… amusing to me. Being inspired to become an author implies that I chose to become an author, when in reality, it was something that just had to happen. I wrote a book because I liked writing; I decided to self-publish because I didn’t want so much work to gather dust, and I fulfilled that decision with the love, support, and hard work of an awful lot of different people. Inspiration for my writing comes from everywhere and anywhere; I keep lists of tiny things that catch my eye, whether I’m at the hardware store or in the woods, and I observe the people around me to understand how my characters can function. So in that regard… I’ve been inspired to be an author by everyone I’ve ever met, and everything I’ve ever seen.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

It’s a strange list, I think. These are the books that I thought best because they were the most engaging, and of which I have tried to emulate certain facets, so they aren’t sorted by genre, number in a series, or even age group; middle grade can exist alongside adult nonfiction, and I’ll love them just the same.
The Once and Future King
A Court of Wings and Ruin
A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
The Night Circus
A Storm of Swords

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

I assume the guest should be an author, and not a researcher of whatever subject has caught my fascination that week, but I’m going to pick someone who’s not alive, because the rules didn’t say I couldn’t. Probably T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn–his books obviously fall outside of the genre I typically write, but from his worldbuilding to his dialogue–which is so subtly, brilliantly executed that one can discern which character is speaking without a single dialogue tag–his works are masterpieces. He’s the sort of author whose character dynamics are profoundly human, and they’re the driving force of the story, even when White uses that humanity to make statements about the nature of such vast subjects as Might versus Right.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

It’s like reading, but I get to do whatever I want. It can be cathartic, or escapist, or a way to explore my own emotions. It’s always a challenge.

What is a typical day like for you?

I make sure to write at least 1,000 words every day, ideally more, and if I have nothing I need to do, then I assign myself work that I know I’ll find fulfilling. I don’t actually do very well when I’m not juggling five hundred projects; stress keeps me sane.

What scene from The Last Prince was your favorite to write?

There is a scene in the second half which is very peaceful: Áed and Ninian simply have a moment to themselves. Though The Last Prince is more character than external scheme-driven, it does have parts that are quite heavy, and I personally relished the chance to let Áed and Ninian relax and be happy for a little while.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I suppose that the philosophy I try hardest to live by is ‘forgive me my humanity’. I, like everyone, sometimes fail to live up to my own standards, and self-forgiveness isn’t one of my strengths–not when I want so very, very badly to be a good person. So sometimes, I need to remind myself that I’m human, imperfect by definition, and that it’s okay. So long as I don’t give up trying to do the right thing, I am allowed to make mistakes. This helps build compassion for myself, which I need, but also for other people; if I can work past failings in my own actions, then I can forgive those who, like me, try and sometimes do not succeed.

E.G. Radcliff is the author of the new book The Last Prince.

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Interview with Geneva Lee, author of Blacklist

What can you tell us about your new release, Blacklist?

Blacklist was inspired by my love of classic romances like The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. I actually came up with the idea when I was thinking about planning a roaring twenties NYE party and thought Gatbsy should have come back to get revenge on Daisy for giving up on him. So that’s where the whole idea started and then it snowballed from there. There’s quite a few hidden references to classic novels and then both the main characters are readers, which is how they connect in the first place. It’s really an epic love story with two really stubborn protagonists. Sterling grew up poor and becomes wealthy through less-than-legal means to get back at Adair who was born rich and privileged. Of course, neither of their lives are that simple and they continually discover there is more that is pulling them toward one another than pushing them away.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always loved to read. When I was a kid, I would devour a novel or two a day. Authors were basically my rockstars. I never thought I would have the patience to write an entire book, so I got a Masters in British Literature instead. Turns out there aren’t a lot of jobs for English majors, so I decided to stay home with my babies. After my second baby was born, my mother-in-law challenged me to write a book. I’m so competitive that I did. I read the bios of all my favorite authors during that time and it really inspired me to keep pushing my writing. But really the credit goes to my mother-in-law for goading me and to my husband who is super supportive of my career.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

That’s so hard! One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read in terms of writing is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was so awed by how it came together. I had a similar reaction to White Teeth by Zadie Smith. But, honestly, I love book series, so I go back to them over and over. I particularly love The All Souls Series, A Court of Thorn and Roses, and Harry Potter. I’m just a book junkie in general!

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

It would probably be Deborah Harkness, who wrote All Souls. She’s an author that I really admire and I love her work. I’m also impressed that she’s managed to write, help produce the television version of her series, and teaches as a college professor. I’d love to ask her about how she balances all of that and what her process is like each day. I adore hearing about other author’s work days and writing processes. There’s always some genius nugget of insight I can apply to my own work.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Honestly, I rarely (if ever) tell anyone the twist in my books. There’s often more than one and I enjoy torturing my first readers by not giving any secrets away. I love that part and I won’t spoil it for anyone! My husband reads everything I write first and not even he gets to know, because I enjoy his reaction to reading it so much.

What is a typical day like for you?

It’s definitely changed a lot in the last few months! Not only due to the pandemic but also because we welcomed a surprise baby in January! Usually I get up and putter around with some coffee and check in with the older kids and my husband, play with the baby, etc. Then I head to my studio. Thankfully, my husband talked me into the house with a separate writing studio a few years back. I spent the first part of the day in my writing office where I write and plan and just focus on stories. I stop for a long lunch with the baby and my husband and then come back and hang on the couch in my business office reading and editing. After that I handle business, check in with friends/social media. and chat with my sister about the bookstore we own together. I have so much going on that I’ve learned to be more strict with my spaces and schedule. Before baby I would write at all hours. Now I’m striving for a more healthy balance between home, work, and creative life.

What scene in Blacklist was your favorite to write?

There’s a charity auction in the book that involves a lot of banter and subtle digs but also a ton of heart. I loved writing it, especially because it introduces my first canine character Zeus!

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I have strongly embraced the myth of the phoenix as a personal philosophy. I look at challenges as opportunities for growth and I truly believe sometime when it feels like all is lost, we have an opportunity to be reborn from the ashes. Nothing is constant in life, especially failure or pain. We can also rise again.

Geneva Lee is the author of the new book Blacklist.

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Interview with Avanti Centrae, Author of Solstice Shadows

What can you tell us about your new release, Solstice Shadows?

Let me tell you a story about this thriller. I’d finished THE LOST POWER, which went on to win multiple awards and become a Barnes and Noble bestseller, and was in the early stages of outlining the next book in the VanOps series. I like to include intrigue, history, science and mystery in my tales, and all the pieces had yet to come together. One day, I was perusing Facebook and ran across a news story related to the pyramids of Central America. I’ve always been fascinated by archeoastronomy and it clicked – this novel would involve a race to solve a puzzle where the heroes would need to visit a number of interesting, ancient sites that had something to do with how early man saw the night sky. That’s how SOLSTICE SHADOWS ended up with an action scene in Chichen Itza, a shootout at the temple of Artemis in Turkey, and a grand finale at a UNESCO World Heritage site. No spoilers. I can’t tell you more, but the final scenes take place at a gorgeous place rife with the shadows of history. Regarding characters, there are three heroes in this story, Maddy Marshall, a smart computer app designer and aikido black belt, Officer Thorenson, Maddy’s boyfriend and a new officer at the ultra-black VanOps agency, and her tall dark-haired twin brother, Will Argones, who is also a new analyst at VanOps. Squaring off against our heroes, we have two antagonists. The first is a Russian with mysterious eyes, and the second is a Spaniard with exotic facial tattoos. Here it is in a nutshell: A computer-app designer. An encrypted relic. Can she decipher the dangerous code before extremists trigger a high-tech apocalypse?

What books are currently on your nightstand?

I’m researching my next novel and reading CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff, along with GOOD HUNTING by Jack Devine, which is a story of spycraft. SURPRISE, KILL, VANISH by Annie Jacobsen is proving to be an excellent resource on the secret history of the paramilitary aspects of the CIA. Fiction-wise, I’m looking forward to reading James Rollins THE LAST ODYSSEY, and KJ Howe’s latest thriller SKYJACK about a smart, complex yet kick-ass character who works as a hostage negotiator.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

My teenage self was full of angst and loved to read. The summer before I turned sixteen, I remember lazy days at our lake house where I’d enjoy a fat John Jakes novel while lounging on an inflatable in the water. In terms of advice, I’d like to tell my younger self to follow my dreams and not be so darn practical. That younger version of me wanted to be a writer, but caved to the pressure of having a real job. I went on to get a degree in computer technology, even though my favorite classes were in the softer arts. It took me decades to find the guts to pursue a writing career. Now, I’m glad for all the experiences of my youth, especially the international travel to Europe, Central America, New Zealand, and Canada, as they provide plenty of fuel for my globe-trotting action thrillers.

If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?

If I had an extra hour every day, I’d love to spend it hiking in the local Sierra Nevada mountains. Life, especially around the time of a new release, gets pretty hectic and it would be fantastic to spend more time on the trail. We recently enjoyed a socially distanced vacation at Lake Tahoe, and had a blast discovering some new places. One hike was a lot of uphill, but the vistas of Desolation Wilderness at the top of the mountain were worth it!

What makes your world go round? Why does it bring you joy?

My family and pets provide daily amusement. We have a goofy German shepherd who has an innocent soul. Things like the wind in the trees fascinate her. One of the cats throws toys under the door so that we’ll push them back. Cracks me up. The other big thing that brings me joy is hearing from my fans that they loved my work. Writing an award-winning novel is a long, labor-intensive effort and having a fan reach out to me on social media and say “I loved this!” makes my day and keeps me writing.

What scene in Solstice Shadows was your favorite to write?

That’s tough, as the final action scenes are exhilarating, and there are many chapters with dramatic interpersonal conflict between the three protagonists. But let’s talk about the beginning. When the story opens, Maddy’s ex-boyfriend has shown up to walk her home from the aikido dojo, and she, the foster boy she wants to adopt, and the former beau head home in the cold rain on a dark San Francisco afternoon in December. As she opens the front door of her high-rise loft, a light is moving inside her bedroom and an instant later, the doorjamb at her knee explodes. The three of them run for the stairwell and Maddy’s ex-boyfriend is injured. She sends the boy to the roof of her building and takes on the attacker by herself. A shootout in the hallway leaves her with a bullet wound on her forehead, and the attacker jumps down the fire escape with an ancient star chart in his bloodied hand. From his hiding place, the boy recognizes the thief as a Russian who kidnapped him sixteen months earlier. That scene sets the stage for the rest of the action, as Maddy needs to get the boy to safety and decides she has to help the VanOps team decode the secret of the star chart before the Russians can figure it out. Thanks for a fun interview, Grant. Readers who want to learn more can get explore my website at avanticentrae.com or can find SOLSTICE SHADOWS wherever books are sold.

Avanti Centrae is the author of the new book Solstice Shadows.

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The Story Behind Challenged by You By Tracey Jerald

By Tracey Jerald

Two truths and a lie inspiring Challenged by You:
• I’ve worked in a professional restaurant.
• I’ve run a restaurant group.
• I’ve cooked for celebrities.

If you chose one and three, you are correct! Now, by no means was the restaurant on the level of Seduction New York, but it was a great place to work during my college years. And we fed more than our fair share of golfers from the PGA Tour during Championship Week at that pasta joint on the beach in Florida.

I worked every single position in that restaurant and I did so with pride. I was hired to cook appetizers and desserts, but guess what? People get ill. Sometimes that’s the bartender and sometimes that’s the dishwasher. What was the most fun for me was when I was the line cook and I was slinging around pans of pasta like I was some early day Food Network personality.

Now, how does all of this lead to a single-mom baker falling for a sharp food critic who makes a mistake on a review? For me, it was remembering the back of the house laughter. The crazy person who stole a table. Co-workers whose weddings I went to, baby showers I attended, birthdays I celebrated. In other words, we opened a restaurant as strangers and through laughter and fellowship became a family. And there isn’t anything you won’t do, give up, or fight for your family.

Challenged by You is a humorous, sassy read that brought to life memories from a time too many years ago to name.

And it makes me regret losing touch in the days before the internet.

So, I hope you enjoy my jaunt into Kristen Proby’s Fusion Universe. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there!

PS – if anyone reading this happened to work at Semolina in Ponte Vedra during the late 90s, shoot me an email. I’d love to catch up. And to see if you remember the recipe for Macaroni and Cheesecake.

Tracey Jerald is the author of the new book Challenged By You.

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New Romance Books to Read | August 11

Looking to fall in love with some new romance reads? You’ll adore these exciting new novels! This week you can get your hands on books by bestselling authors Willow Winters, Geneva Lee, Tracey Jerald, Winter Renshaw, C.C. Wood, DD Prince, and more. Enjoy your new romance books and happy reading!



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