10Qs with Author, J.E. Smythe

JE SmytheIf you could spend time a character from your book who would it be?

It would probably be Odessa. She has so many unknowns to her and she is so complex that she becomes the kind of villain that you would hate but want to just give her a hug and make her feel better all at the same time.

She’s so closed off that you want to sit down with her and get to know her better. You want to know what makes her tick, what hurts her, and what has hardened her heart against the world.

If you could automatically get a skill that one of your characters possess what would it be?

I would like to have Chanel’s computer hacking skills. She can get into so many computer systems that at times I think that’s a gift that I need in my life. But seriously, Chanel is that artist free spirit type that is able to make light of tough situations and she brings a calm balance to Emilia. I think everyone needs a friend that helps us see the best in everything

Which character from your book could use a hug or slap?

Odessa could use a hug and a slap all at the same time.

Tell us about your book cover and how it came about.

For me, my book cover should always be like an art piece that summarized what the book is all about. This was no different. I wanted it to be haunting and have the focal point on a woman surrounded by nothing but woods. I wanted someone to look into her eyes and see that there was a story there.

How do you choose the names of your characters? Continue reading

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Ten Fantastic Things to do in California by Alexandra Sokoloff

I consider myself fabulously lucky because my Huntress Moon series is a manhunt, which means it’s basically a constant road trip – my all-time favorite thing to do. So my characters live out these fantastic things in California, my characters’ home base. In no particular order!!

Pioneertown and Pappy and Harriet’s in Yucca Valley; Joshua Tree National Park

You have to take the above as a package! I love the ocean. I love cosmopolitan cities. But there’s something about the desert that is profoundly peaceful and inspirational to me.

Pioneertown is an actual film set, built out in Yucca Valley by movie cowboys Roy Rogers, Dick Curtis, and used to shoot numerous westerns. The motel they built still operates and is completely charming, and you can walk a hundred yards across the sand to one of the greatest bars and music venues I know in California: Pappy and Harriet’s, where countless LA bands have played, to funky and enthusiastic crowds.

Combine a night in Pioneertown with a camping trip out in the alien landscape of Joshua Tree National Park – I’m in heaven.

Sequoia National Park

You haven’t really experienced a forest until you’ve hiked through these massive beauties – the redwoods and Sequoias. Primeval is the word.

Salton Sea 

The second largest body of water in California, 350 square miles of salt water in the Sonoran Desert. From a distance, idyllic. Flocks of birds gliding along the rippling blue surface past vast shorelines of deserted white beaches. Up close – it’s a wasteland of apocalyptic proportions. But if you’re into trippy desert settings, ghost towns, found art, and the best spooky photo ops on the planet, this is a must-see tourist stop. Just don’t go mid-summer. You were warned.

San Francisco

“The City” needs no introduction, but even with the massive gentrification and Silicon Valley invasion, it’s still the most breathtaking city I know. I love the Haight, still crazy and psychedelic; Golden Gate Park; the Mission; the museums; just staring out at the Bay… Hey, I’m no fool. I made San Francisco my FBI headquarters in the Huntress series so I could spend time there all the time – with no actual traffic!

Berkeley 

Just across the Bay, a 30-minute BART ride from the city, Berkeley is still its magical, synchronistic self. One of my power spots, my college town, and first school teems with art, film, music, politics, culture, and eccentricity. And it’s GORGEOUS. Try the Rose Garden at Sunset, walk through the eucalyptus groves on campus, go to a film or a protest… it is the most vibrantly alive place I know. Continue reading

Wild Hearts Combo by Vivian Wood

Wild Hearts Vivian WoodsTitle: Wild Hearts by Vivian Wood

Synopsis

From Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author Vivian Wood

In order to find love, you must set your heart free.

All her life, Faith has lacked a true, deep connection to someone. Her parents are long buried, her friends are too busy, and all she has is her job in corporate law to make her feel grounded. Each day is like the last with no telling if there will ever be something more for her. When a distant aunt passes away and leaves Faith her land, Faith has to put her empty life on hold and travel across the country to settle the estate.

A West Coast girl used to a fast-paced lifestyle, Faith is ready to be entirely unimpressed by what she finds on the Georgia coast. That is, until she meets Alex.

Strong, tall, and decidedly anti-social, Alex is everything that Faith has been dreaming of her whole life. The fact that he scowls as he shows her the wonders of her new land doesn’t bother her… not like seeing him without his shirt does, anyway.

Alex has a lot of ground to cover before he can learn to trust someone again, but Faith is a lovely temptation. Slender, raven-haired, and smart as hell, she calls to him on a primal level… if he can get over the ghosts of his past.

Distrust, uncertainty, fear of change… In order to find their way to each other, they will each have their own demons to overcome. Continue reading

Sara Zalesky’s Top 10 Movies

This was a very hard list to come up with, I have to say. It’s more what movies will I pay to re-watch if they’re On-Demand:

Iron Man (The first one)

Captain America: Winter Soldier

The Last Unicorn – although I have this one on DVD

The Lord of the Rings (counts as one, ‘cause you can’t just watch ONE, they must be binged)

The Hobbit (also counts as one, same reason)

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (the best in my opinion)

Star Trek (2009 and Into Darkness)

Star Trek (The Motion Picture)

Wonder Woman

Bourne Trilogy

Notice a theme here? I prefer action/adventure and sci-fi over chick-flicks. The Last Unicorn is a holdover from my youth and while the singing is atrocious, I love it. I will read the book one of these days. Continue reading

Pros/Cons Living in Italy with Stacey Keith

Photo Stacey KeithWhy I Moved to Italy (And Never Looked Back)

When people find out I sold my car, quit my job, packed all my earthly possessions into two suitcases and moved to Italy, they tend to have questions. So I thought it might be nice to give a brief overview of the pros and cons of living here. FAIR WARNING: I’m crazy about this country, so expect absurd amounts of gushing.

Let’s start with the cons:

Things don’t always work in Italy the way they should. The ATM at the bank, for instance. It’s down a lot, especially when I’m really strapped for cash and in need of an emergency cappuccino. They say the wifi connection is slow, but I have my suspicions. In Italy, the afternoon pausa pranzo, or break, is observed with near-religious reverence, and if that means a bank employee can’t be bothered to reset a modem because he has to walk back to the house for a coffee, a cigarette, a home-cooked meal and a nap, you’re out of luck.

Every other day here is a national holiday, which means all the stores are closed. Stores are also closed daily for that pesky pausa pranzo, 1pm to 4pm, and on Thursdays for no reason other than they want to. You never know for sure when a store might be open, but for Italians, it’s fun to keep the foreigners guessing.

Italian pop music is ghastly. And Italian pop is all that’s played on Radio Subasio—and Radio Subasio is all that’s played in every coffee bar in or around Rome. Italians LOVE a power ballad, which is always wildly over-emoted, features the same three-chord progressions, and is usually sung by some shockingly old pop singer from the early part of the last century.

Noise. Italians celebrate it. Marching bands, squalling babies, blasting car horns, blaring televisions (especially soccer matches)—but in Italian, even normal conversations sound like yelling. This serves to remind me of what a sadly repressed person I am, which is why I’ve learned to yell along with the rest of them and to swear volubly in Italian. It’s pretty impressive, to tell you the truth. I can teach you.

Italians don’t do good junk food. Most potato chips taste as though some clueless but well-intentioned individual took wood pulp, salted it, and then stuffed it in a bag covered in bad English. Crik Crok, for instance. Famous Italian potato chip company. Their national slogan? “Snack is fun”. It’s on everything, including their display cases. No one could be bothered to see if the English was right or not. Because #Italy.

Pros

Photo by Stacey Keith

It’s so beautiful here, you are tempted to remove your eyeballs, polish them on your T-shirt, and then pop them back inside your skull just to make sure you’re seeing things correctly. Twenty or thirty lesser countries were sacrificed in order to make just one Italy. Whether it’s the ancient artifacts, the old churches, the priceless paintings, the ramshackle farms, the clear-water beaches or the quaint seaside villages, you are never the same after you set foot on Italian soil.

The Italians are so patient with my attempts to speak the language. I can understand Italian, but I’m not a fluent speaker yet. Unlike the French ***COUGH*** your average Italian is kind and helpful even when you’re blithely mangling the tongue of Dante. Writing in English all day definitely hampers my efforts. But to be fair, Italian is a bitch to learn. Think: Times Square meets the Spanish Inquisition. It’s both a beautiful and expressive language, one that requires many florid-sounding syllables strung together in a way that promotes the use of hand gestures, which are needed to speed things along. Continue reading

Get to know author Sheena Binkley

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I used to play the clarinet in middle school. I was really good at it. I also wanted to be a news reporter and did a news show for a local public access channel when I was in college.

What are some of your pet peeves?

People chewing with their mouths open and leaving trash in my car.

What inspired you to write this book?

Just Right is a novella that is part of one of my series, Something Just Ain’t Right. I did the series over two years ago, and I figured I should write an update on the main characters of the series. It felt good to go back and write about how the couple in the series changed over the years and what they have accomplished after everything that has happened after the series ended. I think the readers of the series were also happy to read about how much the characters have changed and just to see how they are adjusting to life now.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I just wrapped up the third book, How Deep Is Your Love, from my current series, The Love Chronicles. This book is a romance/new adult novel that is a continuation of the main couple in the series. The story is an emotional roller coaster that readers will experience. I know I did while writing the story, so I know readers will feel the emotions throughout every scene.

Where were you born or grew up?

I was born and raised in Houston, TX.

If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

I would spend my last day with my family, and I would do all of the things that I would love to do, including bowling (if I can), going to the beach, and watching the sunset.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I mainly listen to music to unwind. When I do, I’ll just put my earbuds in, lay back and just relax. Shopping also helps too, lol.

How to find time to write as a parent?

Writing when you’re a parent can be a challenge, lol. My son is 10, so I try to balance everything on a daily basis. I would usually write when he’s asleep, or on my days off from work. When I have a huge deadline, I would either try to write while I have some downtime at work. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about writing as much when I go home.

What advice would you give new authors?

My advice to new authors is to never give up on your dream. There will be critics and naysayers that will criticize your work, but don’t let that discourage you. Also, write because you love to do it, and not for the fame or money; because believe me, sometimes writing is not all it’s cracked up to be. You must have patience and thick skin to be in this industry; if you do it for the wrong reasons, then you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for about 27 years since I was 9, but I have been a published author for four years.

Bonus Q: Describe yourself in 5 words or less!

Unique, imaginative, spunky, energetic, & romantic. Continue reading

My Review of Choosing Hope

5 Mind Blowing Stars!

Choosing Hope is very well written. The characters and situations felt very real. At first, I thought this was just another romance novel; Insta-love, timid female, alpha male, happy ever after (eye roll), but it turned out to be very unexpected.

The author kept me guessing and made me identify with the characters even though I have never been in their situation.

Hope’s marriage looked great on paper. Her husband provided for her and their two boys. They lived in a big house, took fancy vacations, drove nice cars and seemingly wanted for nothing. But something was lacking between them.

Here we have two broken adults. Conversation and intimacy damaged beyond repair but the glue holding them are their two kids. At times it felt that there was hope for the relationship, but in walked Adrian— Hope’s high school sweetheart.

Adrian appeared perfect! He promised to give Hope everything she couldn’t get in her marriage, but Adrian had a secret that slowly bubbled to the surface.

This is not your average romance novel folks, it is a story about strength and finding the courage to move on after your life plans get shot straight to hell!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Continue reading

Creating The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series with Becki Willis

Photo Becki WillisBecki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of ’13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Creating The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series

Five years ago, my son was married along the Brazos River, at a rustic ranch venue that was once part of a cotton plantation. The simple blacktop road out front squiggles through the river bottom, weaving past old cotton gins, through white fields ripe with cotton, tracing the graceful bends of the Brazos, and crossing over the iron tracks of a railroad.

On one side of the railroad is a hundred-plus-year-old ranch, registered with the State of Texas as a historical landmark. Several interesting-looking old buildings are clustered near the railroad, reminiscent of sharecroppers’ shacks.

On the other side of the tracks is an old train depot, even though the nearest town is miles away. There is also an active feed mill, with its industrial silos and bins, and an entire railroad at its disposal. The cars stop on site to load/unload their burdens.

Something about the railroad sparked an idea for a story, and I could only imagine how things might have been back in the day when cotton was king and the rails offered the ultimate source of transportation.

I imagined a cotton plantation along the river, so big and so important that the railroad came to them. Before long, I had the back-story for my series.

Bertram Randolph was the undisputed cotton king of the Brazos Valley, but he was saddled with two spoilt, selfish, impossible-to-deal-with daughters who constantly feuded with one another.

The only way to keep  [the] peace was to ultimately give each of them their own namesake town; Juliet’s town lay to the south of the tracks, Naomi’s town to the north. Any chance of the sisters reconciling was forever lost when they both fell in love with the same man.

To Juliet, Darwin Blakely gave his name; to Naomi, he gave his child. And with Darwin’s untimely death, the rivalry between the two sisters – and their respective towns – exploded.

The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series is set in the modern-day communities of Naomi and Juliet and revolves around the citizens (all two thousand of them!) determined to keep that rivalry alive and well. Continue reading

Thigh Highs by Katia Rose

Thigh Highs book coverTitle: Thigh Highs by Katia Rose
Publication date: October 26th 2017
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

Synopsis:

Modelling lingerie for her arch-nemesis was not on Christina’s to-do list.
Then again, neither was he.

Aaron Penn might be the talk of the advertising school they both attend, but to Christina, he’s just an egomaniac with a cocky smirk to match. Fast forward to the end of [the] term, when a class project gone wrong has her stripping down to a negligee and letting Aaron photograph her to advertise a line of women’s underwear.

She expects suggestive comments and smarmy-eyed stares, but when Aaron gets behind the camera he treats her body like a work of art. Even though all she’s got on is a scrap of satin, the room suddenly feels way too hot.

As the tension between them builds to expensive-panty-melting-levels, Christina finds herself caught between falling for the complicated artist who knows just what poses to put her in, and wondering why he acts like such an irritating hotshot around everyone else. Continue reading

Why We Fall In Love with Things That Need Fixing by Laekan Zea Kemp

Photo Laeken Zia KempSimple. Because we’re broken too.

That’s all life is really. One chaotic mess, all of us scrambling to fit in, to fill our holes, to find someone who gets us. The goal in life isn’t to find happiness, it’s to find ourselves—the pieces of which have been flung all over this world. Glinting there in someone’s smile, steaming in that first bite, scattered along a road you’ve never traveled before.

We find these pieces of ourselves in people, in places, in tastes and smells and the things that abandon sensory explanation. They are in the invisible. They are in the every day. Life is about gathering these pieces and keeping them safe. Life is about connections. Because without them we’re all just floating, waiting to be tethered to something.

And when you read a great book, one with characters as tactile as the face in your bathroom mirror, one whose words are so true they leave a familiar taste on the tip of your tongue, that’s what it feels like. It feels like you’ve been tethered to something and it’s been tethered to you. It feels like you belong.

People write for all kinds of different reasons. To make the world a better place. To provide people with an escape. But, for some reason, I don’t think about those things. Not because it wouldn’t be nice to make the world a better place or to entertain someone long enough to forget about whatever they’ve been going through. But because that’s not what keeps me up at night when I’m lying in bed, desperately trying to answer the why. Even though the answer is usually always the same. Why am I writing thisWhy do I write at all? Because when I do I don’t feel so alone and when people read my books I hope that’s how they feel too.

Understood.

Recognized.

We cling to characters who are broken because they remind us that we are not alone.  And when those characters—who we’ve come to recognize as one of those pieces of us flung out into the world; scattered in the pages of a book written by someone we’ve never met—find what they’ve been looking for, part of us feels found too. Continue reading