Interview with Kathryn McMaster, author of Kids Who Kill: Austin Sigg

What can you tell us about your new release, Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg?

“Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg” is the last book in the popular series on teen killers. The case covers the abduction, rape, murder and dismemberment of ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway from Westminster, Colorado.

This was a shocking and callous crime and I had to leave the story several times before I could complete it. Many who have read it since, have commented on how the story moved them to tears.

It was heart-wrenching to research, but more disturbing, was the intense planning that went into committing the crime by one so young. The very nature of the crime, and the meticulous effort by the killer in leaving virtually no evidence behind, the police were looking for a seasoned criminal who had killed before. When they then had a voluntary confession from a teenage boy, their initial reaction was that it was a hoax. It was inconceivable that a teen could have carried out this murder.

There is no doubt in my mind, that had they not caught the killer, he would have killed again and again.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid reader who managed a bookshop. My father was a true crime reader and the house was filled with his books no youngster should read at any age, but with the aid of a torch and some clandestine late night reading, read they were! So, with that background, crime writing was a natural progression.

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

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl
A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
Exodus by Leon Uris
The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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

I would love to interview Benjamin Bennett. He was one of South Africa’s greatest true crime writers of his day and he was a methodical investigative journalist. It was his books that I first started reading as a youngster. I have always admired his ability to gain access to crime photographs and files that added substance to his cases. Unfortunately, these days many court records, that used to be available to journalists and researchers, are often sealed or unavailable for general consumption. This makes research difficult for today’s crime writers. I would like to ask him about his methods of unearthing the information in the days prior to the Internet and to get him to talk about some of his famous cases.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love researching my books. Whether the research is for my novels or for my true crimes, I enjoy hunting down the information that would make the book the best it could be. With crime stories you have to keep digging until you know for sure you have unearthed everything there is to know about the case, and making sure there have been no new developments. Then, once I have the case files, the anecdotes, and the case details, I enjoy putting it all together so that if flows in a readable, cohesive manner that is still a page-turner but making sure that the story sticks to the facts with no embellishments or suppositions from me.

There are two types of true crime writers out there. One type where the author takes enormous poetic license in supposing how scenes played out and what people said. The danger here is that one loses the ability to separate fact from fiction. At the end of such books one is left wondering: how much of this is really a true account of what happened?

The second type of true crime writers presents the case strictly using the facts available; including what was said by those involved using court transcripts, interviews, and newspaper articles, with no supposition or flowery additions. To me, this is staying true to the story. It reflects what took place. I always aim to be this kind of true crime author.

What is a typical day like for you?

I run a farm, an author group, several websites and an online business, so this takes up a lot of my day. When I can steal an hour or two, I spend the time either planning, researching or writing. Most of my writing takes place in the early hours of the morning or late at night when the house is quiet and I have no distractions.

What scene in Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg was your favorite to write?

As mentioned earlier, the story was so harrowing I had difficulty writing it from time to time. However, for me, the most important chapter was the abduction of Jessica. It was important to show the reader how the killer had planned the crime by showing where he had parked, how he had had the zip ties on the back seat, and how he had hidden himself on the back seat knowing she would cross over and walk passed the car at that spot that would enable him to complete the abduction without being seen. After being caught, the killer denied he had planned any part of the crime, but it was important to set the scene and detail his actions so the reader would be in no doubt that the crime had been premeditated.

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

“Life is not a dress rehearsal. It’s the main event.” I think we so often take life for granted with the attitude that tomorrow is another day. In having that approach we plan for nothing, allow life to pass us by, achieve little and waste opportunities. I have packed a lot into my nearly six decades because I never wanted to be old with a life full of regrets, for the things I should have done, but didn’t.

Even with this attitude I have still made errors in my life. Sometimes things have not turned out the way I would have liked. So, I still have several regrets. However, without my philosophy, I am sure I would have had many more regrets than those I now have.

Never afraid to tackle new challenges and meet life head on, I have to add the other philosophy that I live by. That is: “Some people make dust, and others eat dust. I don’t eat dust for anyone!”

I have enjoyed our interview and thank you for the opportunity to share a slice of my life with you all.

Kathryn McMaster is the author of the new book Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg.

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Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg: True Crime Press Series 1, Book 6

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Interview with J.R. Ripley, Author of Five More Minutes

What can you tell us about your new release, Five More Minutes?

Five More Minutes is a follow-up but not a sequel to Five Minutes. I originally wrote Five Minutes some years ago and it was published under another of my pen names, Nick Lucas. It was well-received, with Booklist comparing it to the works of other Florida crime writers like Carl Hiassen, Lawrence Shames and Tim Dorsey. They even stated that “further adventures would be most welcome!”

After all these years and at the urging of readers, I decided it was time for Todd Jones to have another adventure. I had a lot of fun visiting with Todd and his quirky assortment of friends once again. I expect to write more books revolving around them. As one reviewer put it, Todd’s a bit of a lovable loser and he is rather unscrupulous. All of this makes him fun to write about.

Here is the official what’s-it-about promo copy:

Five more minutes. That was all the woman standing outside his floundering business, Todd Jones Realty, wanted. Just five minutes. What could go wrong? Surprisingly, everything. And that’s what Todd Jones is about to learn when he allows the enigmatic Caterina Kadlec to enter his office. He’s hoping that her wealthy client, and the big fat commission he’ll earn, will be the answer to his prayers. Unfortunately, Caterina has other plans and those plans include grand larceny. As for the murder, well, sometimes things don’t go as planned, do they?

Nope, they sure don’t. And that’s what Todd is also about to learn and learn the hard way. No matter, Todd always has plans of his own and has no qualms about implementing them. Because when it comes to ethics and morality, it’s all a gray area as far as Todd is concerned. To complicate matters, his girlfriend has left him. Again. And his live-in mother, who already insists on keeping an annoying pet pig named Mr. Squeals, has invited a homeless Russian woman to take up residence, thus kicking him out of his home office. If it wasn’t for downhill, it seems Todd’s life would have nowhere to go. And he’s going to have to do something about that…

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Absolutely nothing and no one. I’ve been writing and making music pretty much my entire life. Well, maybe not so much when I was in the womb, but that’s only because there wasn’t room for a typewriter and/or musical instruments.

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

This is impossible to answer. I really don’t think in terms of best. Each book and author is a unique. Plus, it depends on the sort of mood I am in at the moment. So I don’t like to make comparisons. I grew up being drawn to authors like Vonnegut, Dumas, Huxley, Hesse and a lot of sci-fi. These days, I read in many genres and usually have more than one novel going at a time. I just read a novel by Ovidia Yu called The Paper Bark Tree Mystery. Ovidia is one of Singapore’s most acclaimed author and playwright. She recently surprised me by including me as a character in this, her latest novel! It’s a terrific historical crime novel.

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

What would you want to ask? Hmm, I guess I’d say Alexander Dumas since I just mentioned him above, a wonderful adventure writer who lived in a very interesting time. Plus, I could brush up on my French. Of course, being a 150-year-old corpse, Alex might not have a lot to contribute to the conversation…That’s okay, I won’t have to share that bottle of Bordeaux.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love creating something new every day and every day I am surprised to see where my stories take me. And it beats having to get a real job.

What is a typical day like for you?

Rise and shine early, work out in the home gym, shower, head to my desk with my coffee and apple. From there, I’m at my desk writing and throughout the day I am either writing, reading, playing the guitar or piano or chilling with the cat. Jeez, I sound terribly spoiled, don’t I?

What scene in Five More Minutes was your favorite to write?

Yikes, I can barely remember the book! I write quite a few novels each year. Let me think (by which I mean cheat and look at the book)…[insert final Jeopardy theme here]. Okay, I’m back. First off, some of my favorites are the scenes in which Todd interacts with his pal, Nick Durham, a Ft. Lauderdale cop with dubious scruples. I also really enjoy the scenes between Todd and Surfer Steve, the son of a wealthy Russian arms and ammo maker, who lives in his own quirky version of reality. My absolute favorite scene in Five More Minutes is the last scene in which Todd interacts with his housekeeper. It includes a twist that even I didn’t see coming!

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

Life will be better if you buy all my books. Life will be better if you buy all your friends and family copies of my books. Last but not least, life will be better if you buy copies of my books for each of your pets. They may not be able to read them, but dogs love to chew on the covers and the interior pages (once you run them through the shredder) make nice, ecofriendly recyclable cat litter. Other than that, I’m a live and let live kind of guy. We’re only here once. Let’s enjoy it and each other and not take ourselves too seriously.

J.R. Ripley is the author of the new book Five More Minutes.

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FIve More Minutes: A Todd Jones comic thriller

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Interview with Dickie Erman, Author of A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story

What can you tell us about your new release, A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story?

A Spy’s Eyes is my fourth book in the “Antebellum Struggles” series. It’s set in the civil war genre and introduces a new protagonist, Rachael, who grew up as the daughter of a wealthy cotton plantation owner. The Confederacy is losing the war, and Rachael joins the cause by becoming a spy and infiltrating the inner-circles of Washington, D.C.

But these new circumstances cause her to question the South’s reliance on the slave trade, and forces challenging decisions for her to grapple with.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve simply always wanted to write a novel, and felt that my life’s experiences would be appreciated by readers. Obviously not regarding the civil war, but with relationships between blacks and whites and their intertwined misconceptions.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Creativity. Placing my mind in a scene that’s unfolding and unrehearsed. Watching the expressions on the character’s faces, listening to their words – how they say it and the point of view they have. And then writing it down in a way that the reader can “be there”. It’s like painting a vivid picture with words.

What scene in A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story was your favorite to write?

Probably Rachael’s introduction to the black (holy-roller) church. I experienced that scene several times in real life, and the hair on the back of your neck does stand up!

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

I’ve read and heard so many “mottos” and “quotes”, they become cliché. What gives me peace and happiness is to see God everywhere, enjoy God everywhere, and give and receive as much love as possible.

A Spy's Eyes:  Rachael's Story: Book Four of Antebellum Struggles

 

Dickie Erman is the author of the new book A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael’s Story.

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Interview with François Houle, Author of The Little Lies We Hide

What can you tell us about your new release, The Little Lies We Hide?

It was a lot of fun to write. My previous books have been emotionally heavy (especially the endings), and this time I wanted it to be a bit lighter. Not to say that readers won’t go through a gamut of different emotions as they make their way through the tale, because they will, but overall, it’s a little less emotionally draining. One of my early readers sums it up nicely: “I felt hate, pity, love, betrayal and anger while turning each page.”

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always been a reader. I remember in grade 3, my friends and I used to trade comic books. In high school, I started to read novels, and when I was twenty-two, I challenged myself to write a novel. It took me 2 years and wasn’t very good, but I had learned that I had the patience to see it through.

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

It’s hard to remember books that I read when I was younger and my taste has changed so much. I also didn’t start to read English books until my late teens, once I was done high school (I was educated in French so I missed on reading the English classics). These are my most recent favourite books:
o The Lightkeeper’s Daughters – Jean E. Pendziwol
o The Alice Network – Kate Quinn
o Pennie from Burger Heaven – Marcy Mckay
o Julia’s Daughters – Colleen Faulkner
o The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov (I read those in the 1980s when I went through my sci-fi phase and they are the only sci-fi books from those days that I’ve kept).

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

Marcy Mckay. Her character Copper Daniels is so refreshingly unique and I would love to know how she came up with such a sassy and strong 11-year-old protagonist.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

The actual writing process, seeing the words appear on paper (or MS Word) where nothing was until I thought of them. Sometimes, those words surprise me and they just come out fast and furious, and other times it’s a struggle just to get a page done. It’s painful and aggravating, and I’m often full of doubts and wonder why, oh why I spend so many hours of my life sitting alone in my office to write, but then when I get wonderful emails from readers who simply want to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, then I know that’s why I do this. My stories connect me with other people.

What is a typical day like for you?

I get up at 5:15am and get ready for my day job. I’m usually home by 4:30pm and might be able to write for an hour. If my wife is working late, I’ll get dinner ready. We’ll reconnect and talk about our day during dinner, and then I might be back in my den by 7:30pm and write until I’m tired.

What scene in The Little Lies We Hide was your favorite to write?

That’s a hard question as there are a lot. I really like the opening scene as it sets the story quite well (I think), but there’s a scene near the end with David (and I can’t say more) that surprised me because it wasn’t what I had planned but the story did.

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

• I just try to be a decent person, a loving husband, and a supporting father.

François Houle is the author of the new book The Little Lies We Hide.

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The Story Behind The Golden Pecker by Penelope Bloom

By Penelope Bloom

I finished Anyone But Nick about four months ago and was faced with the wide open unknown. It’s always an exciting and daunting prospect to finish a series. It means coming up with a “brand” for your new books. New titles. New cover concepts. New characters, etc. As fun as all of that is, it’s scary, too. Every little decision could be one that ultimately comes back to bite you and tanks your series. No pressure!

A lot of my stories pop in my head with the meet-cute moment. I’ll have an image, like I did for Her Cherry. I saw William coming in her shop and “stealing her cherry.” That was pretty much all I had when I started writing the first chapter, but an exciting idea like that can really power the story for me.

This time, it came a little differently. I knew it had been forever since I’d dabbled in the world of BDSM, and I wondered what it would be like to write a BDSM book as a romantic comedy. And four months later, here we are.

The path from there to here wasn’t exactly smooth, so I thought it’d be fun to talk a little about the issues I ran into with getting this book off the ground.

The Cover and Title

Problem number one was that I originally planned to sort of “pitch” this series to Montlake. If they liked my pitch, it would mean a contract for another group of books I’d do with them. The part I didn’t realize is that Montlake can’t advertise BDSM books. Whoops.

I also didn’t realize Anyone But Rich and Anyone But Cade weren’t exactly going to be bestselling hits. I’ll probably make a post talking about that whole situation soon, too.

But my early drafts of titles and covers were all with the idea of pitching the series to Montlake. So I was trying to make more cute kinds of titles that were clean and wouldn’t create any advertising issues. One of my leading concepts was something like, “How to Tie Down Your Boss,” or, “How to Tie Down A Dickweed,” etc. The cover was just going to be a guy’s hands tied to the title by a tie on a white background. Very simple, very rom-com, bla bla.

Well, once I learned that the book I’d started writing wasn’t something Montlake could touch, even if they wanted to, my options opened up. I still remember showing my editor my cover (she’s usually my first critic with covers, and I’ve come to really trust her opinion). I was almost done with the hands being tied to the title and I basically presented it to her thinking she was going to congratulate me and tell me how talented I was.

Instead, she said the title was kind of “meh” and the cover wasn’t really working for her.

Womp womp. I didn’t exactly believe her that it was bad at first, but I was kind of driven to make something crazy just out of frustration. So I don’t even quite remember how the idea popped into my head, but I thought it would be wild to call the book, “The Golden Cock” and just have a golden rooster emblem on the cover. When I showed her the finished draft, she loved it. She said it reminded her of the kind of crazy that made His Banana so fun.

I kind of mulled it over, just like I had with His Banana. The title “The Golden Cock” was almost guaranteed to draw some unwanted attention from the watchful eye of Amazon. But I really liked how brash and in-your-face it was. It was fun, and I love fun things. I also didn’t really have another word for Cock that would’ve worked with the chicken image as I was brainstorming. I considered maybe just calling it “The Golden”, but it felt so safe and a little boring.

That was when it hit me. Pecker! No, it didn’t have quite the impact of “Cock”, but it was also about 99% less likely to get me banned from Amazon. So Pecker it was.

The cover itself went through 0 drafts once I had this concept. It was a rare case where the image in my head is pretty much exactly what I got on the cover on my first try. If only they could all be like that.

The Story

Ugh. I learned a very important lesson about writing books early in my career: editing is something you do once the book is finished. At all costs, avoid going backwards and making changes that will require re-writes and deletions when you’re still in the process of writing.

Basically, if you want to write a book every month or two, you really can’t afford to bounce around and re-write things. You’ve got to do your best on the first round, and then attack the finished manuscript in editor mode as much as you can once it’s all in place. That way, you’ll stop yourself from changing things that don’t absolutely need changed.

So, what did I do with this book? I jumped around like crazy. I constantly went back and re-imagined how I’d open the book up. I changed motivations, rules, personalities, even names.

This will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but books are complicated. If you’ve written 25 chapters and you decide to change something in chapter 2, you’re most likely creating a ripple effect. Just for fun, let me give a real example from this book:

I ended up changing the hero and heroine’s dynamic for the first few chapters, which meant I also had to axe some lines that didn’t fit with the new tone of their encounter.

One such axed line was the heroine (Andi) joking that she doesn’t usually cum until the second date.

No big deal, right? Except while I was carefully re-reading after making a bazillion changes, I noticed a line where the hero (Landon) and Andi are debating whether something qualifies as a date. This prompts him to make a reference in some way to the fact that she doesn’t cum until the first date and how he plans to challenge that, etc. THEN, that comment also leads the conversation down an entirely different path that I liked. So now I needed to find some other way to pivot the conversation naturally in that direction, delete the reference, etc.

And THEN even farther down the line there was a joke about how she doesn’t sign sex contracts until the third date, which didn’t make sense anymore. So that had to go, along with the conversation it led to.

Maybe it seems crazy that you wouldn’t remember all the spots you reference back to things in a story or build off of them as the author–but it all blurs together. So the only way to really be sure you’ve covered your tracks when you make a change is to re-read the entire story.

I wound up re-reading the entire story three times before sending it to my editor to scan for inconsistencies like that, and then another time when I got the edits back to make sure the additions I made didn’t make new problems.

My brain probably looks like a fried potato right about now.

The Good News

It’s done now, and I’m super happy with the finished product. I’m also relieved to finally be launching another self published book. It has been way, way too long, and I regret how I started shifting my focus to the world of traditional publishing so much.

Yes, I still want to take advantage of the opportunity to work with publishers if I get another chance, but I’m also not going to be so ready to jump off the self publishing train. This is part of who I am. All the marketing and hustling it takes outside of actually writing the book is how I’ve helped make a career for myself. Completely leaving it behind just wouldn’t feel right.

Oh, last thing! I probably won’t really go into talking about this anywhere else because it’s kind of awkward to bring up, but I’m going to give a test run to launching my books at the $3.99 price point instead of $0.99. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, it won’t impact you at all. Borrowing is still free.

The reasons behind the change could make for a post by themselves, so I may holster that one and save it for another day. The short version is that there is a growing feeling among authors that we can’t afford to keep giving away our books for pennies (we earn $0.33 per sale at $0.99). The last thing I’ll say on it is that the only reason $0.99 books are so common is because it’s essentially a marketing strategy. You are trading the monetary value of those sales for rank and hoping your gamble pays off. If it does, the book ranks high enough to gain organic traction and it can repay what you lost selling it for so little. If it doesn’t, you basically wrote, marketed, and planned an entire book for nothing. A higher price point lets your loyal base of readers enable you to have a living wage without feeling like you’re rolling the dice with every launch. In theory, at least!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I just mentioned two things I need to make posts about soon, so I will try to remember to get to those soon. Thanks for reading!

Penelope Bloom is the author of the new book The Golden Pecker.

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Interview with Anne Holster, author of Finding Jackson

What can you tell us about your new release, Finding Jackson?

When I started writing ‘Finding Jackson’ I had no idea where I was going with it. All I had in mind is that I thought it would be fun to write about a young girl experiencing love at first sight. I also thought it would be kinda cool if the object of her affection wasn’t at all a guy most would describe as ‘classically handsome’. So, from that, ‘Finding Jackson’ was born! Although the story starts out with the blossoming relationship between Jackson and Leah, there’s also a backstory and that backstory is Jackson’s past, a past that he doesn’t want Leah knowing anything about. The story is told from three different perspectives – Jackson, Leah and Jackson’s mother, Anna. Anna’s story is told in flashbacks and begins when she first meets Jackson’s dad, ‘Ace’. The book spans several decades and involves all around major character growth – some good and some not so good. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this…’Finding Jackson’ has it all – romance, heartbreak, betrayal and lastly…love, a real lasting, all consuming perfect love.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Anyone who writes a book – particularly a novel – is inevitably asked what their inspiration was. Of the many questions I have been asked as a fairly new writer, the most common are concerned with how the story came to me, how I created the characters and how I chose my setting. Like most writers, I was inspired in large part by the books I love – you know, the ones you can’t wait to get home and read? The ones that make you ignore a ringing phone or stay up hours past your bedtime, even if it means you’ll be tired for work the next day? For me those books include the Twilight and Fifty Shades series, and much of their allure lay in the unique qualities of their male leads – Edward Cullen and Christian Grey. So, in the nutshell, I guess I was inspired to become an author by my love of reading!

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

1. Thoughtless, S.C. Stephens
2. Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire
3. Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James
4. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
5. How to Kill a Rock Star, Tiffanie DeBartolo

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I like the solitude of writing. I also consider myself to be an avid, conscientious reader which I think is important because it allows you to learn from the experts in terms of storyline, character development and realistic dialogue. The more you read, the more you learn and it teaches you what you can get away with as an author and what you can’t. I learned just as much from books I didn’t like as those I did.

I’ve so far stuck with writing within the new adult genre although I haven’t ruled out writing in another genre at some point in the future – mystery, perhaps? New adult is what I mainly read, though, and you know what they say – write what you love to read!

What is a typical day like for you?

My typical day is similar to most – kids, work, making dinner, etc. – I’m not that complicated so, in turn, I keep my writing process pretty simple. I usually start out writing on my laptop in the evening and most nights I keep going until I run out of ideas. On some nights when the ideas are flowing, I could literally write for hours, but then there are those nights when I seem to develop a bad case of writer’s block and on those nights, I just turn in early. I always keep a pen and pad on my nightstand in case an idea comes to me out of the blue during the night – believe it or not, this happens quite often. Of course, there have been many a morning when I had quite a hard time deciphering what I’d written the night before!

What scene in Finding Jackson was your favorite to write?

There were a lot of scenes I loved writing in ‘Finding Jackson’ but I guess if I had to pinpoint one in particular it was the one where Jackson finds out the truth behind why his father became so bitter towards his mother and him and his siblings. It was a very moving scene.

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

My favorite quote is from Irish-born author Iris Murdoch and reads, “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” It’s so true! It’s the little things that make life so special!

Anne Holster is the author of the new book Finding Jackson.

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Interview with Betty Shreffler, author of Countdown to Christmas

What can you tell us about your new release, Countdown to Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas is a naughty and nice, sweet and sexy, friends to lovers romance mixed with the spirit of the holiday season.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve been a writer since I was 12 years old. Writing was an emotional escape for me and a way to cope through the hardest times. It still is to this day. I didn’t consider writing as a career option until my senior year of high school. My hobby transitioned to an aspiration when my creative writing teacher told me I had real talent and should pursue classes in college. In college, my major was not creative writing or English, but I did take courses as electives. I didn’t believe I was capable of becoming a published author. It was a dream that seemed out of reach. That is until I met a co-worker in the National Park Service who was traditionally published. Meeting her opened my eyes that it was possible. That fire that had always burned inside of me became a bold flame. Several years later, I published my first novel.

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

Oh wow! I’d like to be able to narrow my reads down to the top 5, but I’ve read so many amazing books in my 20+ years I’ve been reading, I can’t pick only 5. The ones that do come to mind are all in the sub-genre of romance. I’ve had a love for romance books since I first got my hands on Nora Roberts, Anne Rice, and regency romance books in my teens.

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

Nora Roberts. I’d ask if she ever worried about running out of plot ideas or worry about her writing becoming repetitive and what she did to combat those worries. I’d also ask what her writing moto was to keep her going in the times that being an author is the most challenging.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

1) Beginning a new book when the characters are fresh and the words can’t be typed fast enough. 2) Reaching the end and completing another novel. 3) The cover design. It’s another creative outlet and exciting to see your story turned into a book cover. 4) The first 5-star reviews that roll in after the book is published. 5) When readers message you to share that your story touched them emotionally or gave them a great escape.

What is a typical day like for you?

Every single day is different for me, which is what makes my job of being an author so fun. I do try to have somewhat of a routine and it consists of doing house chores and exercising at the gym or taking my dogs to the city park to walk the 1-mile trail in the morning. Afterward, I begin work in my office of either writing for the day or do author business activities. Friday is my social media day where I spend the day interacting with readers and fellow authors. In the evenings, I make dinner for me and my husband, then cuddle with my pups to watch TV or a movie with my husband. If I’m actively writing a story and the characters won’t stop talking in my head, I’ll sometimes go back to writing after my husband goes to bed.

What scene in Countdown to Christmas was your favorite to write?

The scenes I enjoyed the most were the intimacy scene between Jaxson and Sophia when they fully open up to one another and the scene where they have sex in their boss’s bathroom. That scene makes you smile and giggle.

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

(No dream is worth dreaming if it’s not lived in life.) It’s a quote I created, sign in books, and have in my office. It’s a reminder to pursue my dreams and never give up.

Betty Shreffler is the author of the new book Countdown to Christmas.

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Countdown to Christmas: (A Christmas Romance Novella)

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Interview with Julie Howard, Author of Wild Crime

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

This is part of a series about a young abused woman who is accused of killing her husband. In Wild Crime, she discovers a letter that changes everything she’s believed about her mother. The main character has to uncover secrets of the past in order to understand who she is, and to find her own future. While this is part of a series, the book can be read as a stand-alone.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ll be forever grateful to my parents for having books and magazines everywhere in our house when I was growing up. They were both teachers and there were bookshelves in nearly every room, stocked with everything from Dr. Seuss to works from the literary masters to a full set of encyclopedias. I loved fiction and the magic of being transported to other places and times. By the time I was 7, I was already crafting my own stories and have never stopped.

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

I love a great story but also when told in an excellent way, teaches me something, and in a manner that surprises me. Here’s my top five:
The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Stand by Stephen King

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

I’d love to interview David Mitchell, who wrote Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks along with several other intriguing books. Of course, I’d want to ask the question authors hate: Where do you get your ideas? Beyond that, however, I’d want to know what central themes are his favorites and his writing process. I’d want to ask him everything you’ve asked me in this interview.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love reading and losing myself in a story. Writing is almost the same way, in that I lose myself in a story I create. I choose the people, places and plot – if I do it right, the characters take over and very nearly write the story themselves. When that happens, I know I’ve written something worth sending to my editor.

What is a typical day like for you?

I write every day, and work best in the morning. I have my morning coffee and write until about noon. Then I break for a couple of hours. This is dangerous because distractions quickly creep in and, before I realize it, the day is over.

To help myself stay on task during the week, I started a group called Shut Up & Write in Boise, Idaho where I live. This is part of an international organization of writers who get together in various communities and write in group sessions. The accountability of working alongside other writers keeps me from straying to other projects. I also love meeting other writers and learning about what they are doing.

What scene in Wild Crime was your favorite to write?

There’s a scene when, for the first time, Meredith confronts a man she believes is her father. She’s never met him and her late mother warned her that he was a terrible person. I love this moment when Meredith both yearns for this connection to a father, but also hates him for abandoning both her and her mother. This seemed like such a human conflict, having competing emotions, and the scene was fun to write. I must have rewritten it twenty times.

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

I’m incredibly grateful for the life I have. Certainly, there have been times of struggles and pain. But I live in a wealthy country with a stable government. My children have grown up healthy and into wonderful adult people I’m proud of. I’m able to spend my time doing what I love, which is writing. Everything else pales in comparison. If I have a bad day or week or month, I remind myself of all I have. Gratitude is invigorating.

Julie Howard is the author of the new book Wild Crime.

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Interview with Elin Peer, author of Atlas

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

Atlas is the second book in my new romantic suspense series called Cultivated. It’s a series for readers who love a great psychological drama and doesn’t mind some dark scenes before we reach the HEA.

As the oldest son of a monstrous cult leader, Atlas has dedicated his life to understanding mind-control. When he hires psychologist, Jolene Fisher, to help him research, she sees through his perfect façade to the troubled man behind. Atlas doesn’t like her poking around in his disturbed mind. It’s making it harder to suppress and control the dominant, hungry beast inside him that has its eye on Jolene.

Like all my books, Atlas is fast-paced, thought-provoking, and offers humor and a solid romance story at the core.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Because I write so many hours each day, I prefer to listen to audiobooks and podcasts instead of reading books. My passion is psychology, so I listen to all sorts of podcasts that relate to the human experience. Right now, I’m enjoying Russell Brand’s series of podcasts called Under the Skin.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

1: To never feel guilty about spending days and weeks reading. It wasn’t a waste of time as it turned out to be valuable research.

2: To set boundaries more kindly. As I matured, the wrong things I did to others haunted me more than what others did to me.

3: I would also tell her never to be afraid of stepping outside her comfort zone. It’s the only way to grow.

4: Oh, and one last thing; don’t change channel when your older brother is watching his favorite show. He’ll sit on you and fart in your face.

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

In nature, with the people that I love, talking about things that matter, and getting in some good laughs.

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

LOVE! My philosophy is LOVE. My religion is LOVE. I write about LOVE. I practice it with my family and friends every day. Sometimes love is a smile to a stranger, a compliment from the heart, a home-cooked meal shared with the people I hold dear, a walk&talk with a friend who needs a safe space to cry. I use the word love and give out big warm hugs every single day. My husband and two amazing daughters can testify that my priority in life is always LOVE!!

What scene in Atlas was your favorite to write?

Atlas has been at war with his sexuality for his entire adult life. In my favorite scene, he feels as if he has lost everything. It’s the emotional breakdown before the powerful breakthrough which was a satisfying moment that I loved to write.

There’s another scene that stands out to me as well.

To understand why Atlas is so disgusted by his dominant sexuality, and why he suppresses and hides it, I felt that it was essential to show a disturbing scene where his father uses smooth talking to overstep a young women’s boundaries. I take the emotional reactions from readers as a compliment. Fearless writing is about daring to go into the darkness and bring people back out in the light. I did it daily as a personal coach, and now I do it with my characters. When I read reviews telling about aha moments and healing through my books, I smile and feel that I’m doing what I’m supposed to. I’m showing that true love comes without judgment.

Elin Peer is the author of the new book Atlas

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Atlas (Cultivated Book 2)

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The Story Behind Let Me Go by Willow Rose

By Willow Rose

Let Me Go is the fifth book in my Eva Rae Thomas Mystery series.

Former FBI-profiler Eva Rae Thomas is chasing a killer that no one believes even exists. The story is about swatting, the act of making a prank call to emergency services to bring a large number of armed police officers to a particular address. It’s been known to be used as harassment and has ended up fatally in some cases. It’s used a lot in the gaming community. The killer in this book is using it to get his message out. It’s the perfect murder because it doesn’t look like murder.

The idea for this story came from an article I read about a woman who had been swatted as a form of harassment. Her teenage son was at home alone when it happened, and she was terrified that he might be killed by the police entering her home, thinking he might be armed. He wasn’t harmed, but the thought of it stirred up something inside of me, and I began researching the phenomenon. I found a lot written about it and found out it was very common in the gaming world. Some YouTubers are being swatted regularly while doing their videos. Luckily, it’s rare that it ends in fatalities or even people getting hurt. But I did find one story where it went terribly wrong. That was the story I used as the inspiration for my book.

Tyler Barriss was a serial swatter, and he called in bomb threats regularly and was making money off of people wanting him to swat someone for them. He bragged about it online, and one day, he and someone else decided to swat a guy that they had a dispute within a Call of Duty game. They called in a hostage situation to an address, and when the police arrived, the man living in the house at the address they had given walked out on the porch and was shot because the police thought he was armed and reaching for a gun. The man died. But that’s not all of it. It turned out it was the wrong address. It wasn’t even the guy they wanted to harass; it was some complete stranger, a 28-year-old man and a father of two who lost his life that day. The guy who made the call was later found, and he got twenty years in jail. His friend got fifteen months.

Willow Rose is the author of the new book Let Me Go.

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LET ME GO (Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Book 5)

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