New Release: ASCENSION by Gregory Dowling

ASCENSION51j3vh3jrl by Gregory Dowling / Historical thriller / Released Sept 13, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

The setting, Venice 1759, and the animated protagonist, tour guild Alvise Marangon, make for an incredibly intriguing start to this original series.

When a young tour guide offers to help an English Grand Tourist, little does he know that it will lead to his being embroiled in blackmail and conspiracy.  To add to his woes, he is them forcibly recruited into the city’s powerful secret service to investigate a murder case.  A reluctant spy he may be, but he is a gifted one.

Amidst the world of gambling dens and courtesans, something momentous is being planned for the Feast of the Ascension, Venice’s most important and spectacular holiday, and it seems that only Alvise can prevent the day turning into bloody mayhem.

GREGORY DOWLING grew up in Bristol before studying English at Christ Church, Oxford.  He moved to Venice in 1981, where he is Associate Professor of American Literature at Ca’Foscari University of Venice.  He has published four novels, co-edited two anthologies of poetry, and written various non-fiction books and academic articles on Italian, British and American literature.

New Release: BETWEEN TWO FIRES by Mark Noce

between-two-firesBETWEEN TWO FIRES by Mark Noce / Historical Mystery, Romance / Released Aug 23, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales.  Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.  But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue.  A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians.  But when she falls for a young hedge knight names Artagan, her world threatens to tear itself apart.

Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart.  Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.

Reminiscent of classics like The Mists of Avalon and A Game of Thrones, and newer popular titles like Hild, Branwen’s tale masterfully weaves together elements of mystery and romance with Noce’s gift for storytelling.

MARK NOCE writes historical fiction with a passion.  Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been an avid traveler and backpacker.  He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife.  By day he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook.  He also writes short fiction online.  When not reading or writing he’s probably listening to U2, sailing his dad’s boat, or gardening with his family.

New Release: THE SPICE BOX LETTERS by Eve Makis

51dm7dn4pcl-_sx331_bo1204203200_THE SPICE BOX LETTERS by Eve Makis / Women’s Fiction / Released Sept 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

Katerina longs to know why her grandmother, Miriam, refused to talk about the past, especially when she inherits a journal and handwritten letters stashed in a wooden spice box, cryptic treasures written in Armenian, Miriam’s mother tongue.  On vacation in Cyprus, Katerina finds the key to unlocking her grandmother’s secrets and discovers a family legacy of exile and loss.  Aged seven, Miriam was expelled from her home in Eastern Turkey and witnessed the death of her beloved brother Gabriel, or so she believed.  Katerina sets out on a fact-finding mission across the island and solves a mystery that changed her life and lays the ghosts of her grandmother’s turbulent past to rest.

Based on real events that took place during the genocide, THE SPICE BOX LETTERS is a story of family, love, hope, and tragedy that is also rich with history.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Sarah’s Key in this amazing story that weaves the past with the present and tragedy with redemption.

EVE MAKIS studied at Leicester University and worked as a journalist and radio presenter in the UK and Cyprus before becoming a novelist.  Eve is a part time tutor in creative writing in Nottingham University.  She is married with two children and lives in the UK and Cyprus.

New Release: PUMPKIN PICKING WITH MURDER by Auralee Wallace

51dxqxbwdzl-_sx303_bo1204203200_PUMPKIN PICKING WITH MURDER by Auralee Wallace / An Otter Lake Mystery / Cosy Mystery / Released Aug 30, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press

For a small town like Otter Lake, New Hampshire, the annual Fall Festival is a big deal:  a Ferris wheel, corn maze, caramel apples and pumpkin pies – even a Tunnel of Love.  Back in her hometown, Erica Bloom is trying to enjoy herself, which includes getting better acquainted with Sheriff Grady Forrester.  But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her romance will have to take a backseat.

Speaking of love affairs, the other passenger in the boat – and only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan song – is not his wife.  It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt” Tweedy, who quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murder – despite the objections of Grady, who’s convinced the amateurs are going overboard in their investigation.  And he just may be right.  But as Erican and Freddie start to dredge up long-kept small-town secrets, will they head straight into troubled waters?

AURALEE WALLACE has played many roles in her life, including college professor, balloon seller, and collections agent.  When this semi-natural blonde mother of three children (and psychiatric nurse to two rescue cats) isn’t writing humorous novels about quirky characters, she can often be found pontificating about the Golden Age of soap operas or warring with a family of peregrine falcons for the rights to her backyard.

Review: BECAUSE I’M WATCHING by Christina Dodd

UnknownBECAUSE I’M WATCHING By Christina Dodd

Suspense with romantic elements Released Sept 6,2016 by St Martin’s Press

The survivor of a college dorm massacre, a woman accused of her lover’s murder, Madeline Hewitson is haunted by ghosts and tormented by a killer only she can see. At night, she works, writing and drawing the monster that slithers through her imagination, and living in fear of those moments when the doors of her mind unhinge and her nightmare lives in the daylight. 

A seasoned military veteran, Jacob Denisov lives alone in his small, darkened home, sleepless, starving, and angry. Every day he lives with guilt. When neighbor Madeline Hewitson drives her car through the front wall of his house, she breaks his house–and his life–wide open.

Jacob had given up and was simply waiting for death to find him. But with his home ripped open by Maddie’s car and no interest in leaving his chair while the workmen repaired the damage he began to watch Maddie across the street.

He found a spark of his old self in watching Maddie fight back against her demons with everything she had. His protective instincts were triggered as the odd things that were happening to Maddie began to look like they originated from an outside source and not Maddie as everyone believed.

Called heartbreaking, funny and terrifying this book lives up to the hype with page turning action, compelling characters and a backstory that perfectly seasons the story. It’s easy to see why Ms. Dodd is a New York Times Best Selling Author.

Book Excerpt: BEHIND THE MASK by Linda Joyce

Behind_The_Mask  jpegBEHIND THE MASK by Linda Joyce / Spicy Contemporary Romance / Released May 17 by Word Works Press

This part of the scene begins with Bill, Chaz’s business partner, trying to pry information from Chaz about a certain woman…Chalise Boudreau.

“So, we’ll invite the mayor to be the guest of honor at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the ship. Back to the woman. The New York model.”

“I told you.”

“She made plenty of money at one time. Why is she here?” Billy asked. “No offense, but Ascension has two classes of people—the wealthy and the help. Then, there are the transient tourists. I know she doesn’t fit into one of those pockets.”

“You’re a snob.”

Billy shrugged. “You’ve always known that about me.”

“Chalise has history here. Her family was once the richest in town. Her father built the mansion that’s now Boudreau B&B. But while Mrs. Boudreau has never said, I’m guessing he left a river of debt, which is why she went from socialite to businesswoman. Her mother has developed a soft spot for me, wanting to right an old wrong, she says. No idea what she means, but I’m going with it. We’re making headway with local society through Mrs. Boudreau’s connections as the Chamber President. And, as I said before, Chalise Boudreau is my ticket to respectability. Remember, I come from a family who wasn’t good enough to clean the shoes of those you label ‘the help.’ And you’re wrong about Ascension. There is a thriving middle class, and they’re our target market. They’re the heartbeat of this place. Not the society rich.”

“So what’s your plan, dude? She’s refused to take your calls. You sent a bouquet of flowers. She sent them back. How do you plan to get beyond the moat surrounding her? What the hell did you do to her in the past?”

Chaz rose. “Nothing.” He raised a warning eyebrow. “You work your plan. I’ll work mine. But just so we’re clear, she’s off limits to you.”

He turned and strode out of Billy’s office with the ring of his business partner’s laughter following him down the hall. “I’ll get to the bottom of this thing between the two of you,” he shouted. “I’m good at solving puzzles.”

Chaz was done playing nice with Chalise. His once bad-boy reputation had attracted her, drew her to him like a fish to bait when she was still in high school. The aloofness she showed to the world was a façade. Behind it beat the heart of a do-gooder, raising money for a variety of charities and even volunteering at the animal shelter. She’d let down her royal guard for the tough guy who skirted the law and thumbed his nose at rules. On to plan B. He could revive a bit of his bad-boy ways, throw in a bit of finesse—whatever it took to get Chalise’s undivided attention. Ten years ago, she’d taken his heart, cut him out of her life, and yet, it still only beat for her.

“Princess,” he said, reaching his office chair and settling into it. “I’ve got a deal for you. One you won’t be able to refuse.”

Interview with Linda Joyce

Linda_Joyce_0342Tell us about your new release.

BEHIND THE MASK is a novella set in fictional Ascension, Louisiana. It has all the flavors of southern love story of two people who are reunited after suffering broken hearts years ago. I’m told by several readers, the love scene is not to be missed. Someone even said it is the steamiest of all the love scenes in all my books, but…I think I had little to do with it. I think it’s all about the long, smoldering attraction between Chalise Boudreau and Chaz Riboucheaux. Let’s blame it on them. hehe

What led you to write this book?

I went to Mardi Gras in 2013. My hubby had never been before and I wanted to be sure he had THE best time. Just taking in the sights, sounds, and scents…suddenly, the characters came to me. It was as though they pulled up chairs to our table at Café Du Monde when we were having hot chocolate and beignets. Chalise and Chaz started talking to me. Yes, my husband has gotten use to my brand of crazy…or at least he lets me think he has.

Behind_The_Mask  jpegDid you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

Absolutely, though I didn’t know it at the time. A surprise trip, a gift from my husband, to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, became the seed-bed for sprouting all the ideas for BEHIND THE MASK.

On Valentine’s Day about eight years ago, I received an envelope. Inside was a plane ticket from Kansas City to New Orleans. Of course, I thought we were headed home, but my Hero had other ideas. After landing in NOLA, hubby rented a car and drove us to Bittersweet Plantation, owned by Chef John Folse and his wife—if you ever get the chance to go, don’t miss it! While we were there, we met the famous artist Alvin Batiste and purchased a painting. We saw photos of a sinking pirate ship and had many locals tell us the story behind the photos. Then, in May of 2013, I was asked to write a few short stories for a romance magazine. This year, I took the characters and the setting from the short story to write a novella with Chalise and Chaz.

How important is setting to your story?

Undeniably critical. In all my novels, setting is a character. Check out my book covers. They show how much I love setting. It influences so much about a reader’s experience. I want readers to see, feel, smell, and hear the elements of each setting. Also, I’ve been accused of making people hungry since I usually have food in each of my stories. If readers were to cook the dishes mentioned in my stories, it might make their reading experience even more powerful. Or at least, I can hope.

Which is more important characters or setting?

Please don’t make me choose. Please. There is no story without characters, but characters require a setting. Setting is almost always plays a part in the external conflict of my characters. Biloxi in Bayou Beckons doesn’t have to shovel sunshine ever, but Lia in Her Heart’s Desire sure has to shovel snow in the wintertime.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

I don’t base my main characters on anyone I know in real life—because my main characters usually come to me fully formed and then, I must learn about what makes them tick. What their fears and desires are. My characters talk to me. We have conversations, sometimes at inopportune times—like when I’m in the shower.

Earlier this year, I spoke at a mixed writers group—writers of many different genres—and a young man, an attorney, approached me afterward with fear flickering in his eyes.

Him: “You said your characters talk to you. Do you actually hear voices like I’m talking to you now? No, it really is just your imagination, right?”

Me: “Well, if hearing them speak is just my imagination, then that’s news to me.”

Him: “No, really, you actually hear voices?”

Me: grinning, I shrugged.

The answer is YES! I hear voices talking to me. But I don’t want to scare people with my truth, so I let them use their imagination about what’s real.

Do you people watch for character inspiration?

My secondary characters are often based on people I know…know is a relative term. A chance meeting somewhere. I watch everywhere. If someone strikes me as amusing or interesting, I ask if I can take their picture. This helps me communicate the essence of their personality when I begin to write a new character. Like the nearly-seventy-year-old lady in the grocery store in Cincinnati with big “southern hair,” white jeans, red-white-and-blue flag shirt, and stilettos.

Or in Port Aransas, Texas, the woman who owned a everything-pink shop. Everything, including her car and her hair, this was long before the current trend of hair highlighting, was pink. I have a woman’s fiction story in mind, and Miss Pink will be a strong secondary character in that book someday.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to meet?

My birthday is Christmas Eve, so I think I’ve already met the best character there is to meet—Santa Clause. At least that’s the story that was suggested to me about how I arrived in my family. But truthfully, every book I read, in my mind, I’ve met and lived with those characters. I have a rich internal landscape with lots of book friends.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

I want readers to feel as though my female characters are women they would want as friends. Someone who is strong and carries on in the face of great adversity. Someone who is willing to look at their life and make changes to be a better person. Someone loyal. Someone kind. Someone flawed, but rich in integrity.

Do you have an interesting quirk about your personality that you’d like to share?

I count things. I didn’t know this was an OCD trait until I read a Reader’s Digest story about a boy who counted telephone poles as he rode in the back seat of the family car. I find my brain starts counting and then my conscious mind suddenly realizes it—usually this behavior appears when I’m under the most stress. Everywhere I look, I see patterns and I count them.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Sadly, it’s been a very long four years. My momma had lung cancer, and after a four-year battle, died in May. Following her, in June, were two of my three fur babies, Masterpiece Renoir and Gentleman Jack. So for four years, I’ve had to fit writing in between all the needs of my family. I’m a reader, so I read something every day. I also enjoy painting and cooking. I love jazz and the blues—Chris Botti and Tab Benoit are “my guys.” I’m also big romantic comedy movie fan…and no, I’ve never written a romantic comedy, but maybe someday.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

It wasn’t a book, it was an author—Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was in a finance class in college and a classmate finished a book and handed it to me. That’s when I got hooked on romance. And I enjoy feeding my addiction to this day.

Do you read the same genre you write?

I write contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I do read the same genre I write, just not while I’m writing. When I’m writing, crafting, and creating a new novel, I read historical, self-help, and inspirational non-fiction.

What is #1 on your bucket list?

Here’s a secret. I don’t have one. A bucket list that is. The most important things in life to me are love, music, good farm-to-table food, family, and my fur babies. I am so blessed to have all of that…everything else is gravy. But if you twist my arm, I’d love to spend a summer at Yellowstone National Park working in one of the gift shops for the summer and camping in a motorhome. (Don’t have the motorhome, so maybe that’s on my non-existent bucket list?)

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?

I took a writing class with Nancy Knight. We had to write a synopsis for a horror story. There were 9 people in the class, of those, three were men. I wrote a synopsis for The Rose, which was based on a nightmare I had a couple of years after my brother was killed in a plane crash. In the class, each student had to read their synopsis aloud. When I finished, one of the men said, “Damn! The quiet ones will always get you.” I found his statement rather funny. I don’t think anyone had ever considered me quiet before.

Do you have a favorite writing place or writing rituals?

When I first started writing, I did. I had a favorite chair, would light a favorite candle, would turn on some classical music and beg my three four-legged boys to “let momma write.” But when I moved from Kansas back to the south and family matters took control of my life, I learned to write when and where I’m able. Noise-cancelling headsets became a good friend. I’ve written in the middle of the night sitting in a recliner next to Momma’s bed in the hospital, in the room where she took chemo therapy, in the truck with my husband driving down the road on a trip between Atlanta and Largo, Florida. When your fingers itch to type and your head’s going to explode, you learn to adapt.

Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?

Kinda, sorta? Most of my stories deal with second chances. Second chances at love. Second chances to make amends. Second chances to prove loyalty. I guess I’m looking for second chances in my life.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading What a Duke Desires by Sabrina Jefferies, How to Read the Akashic Records by Linda Howe, and a back log of Writer’s Digest magazines. If you want a book to help you through life, I highly recommend Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you want a book on how to improve your relationships, try Dr. John Gray’s Men, Women and Relationships. If you want a romance, send me an email and I’ll make lots of suggestions.

What social media do you participate in?

I’m learning periscope—only done it one. I’m happy with Skype for book clubs. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and I have a blog on my website. Oh, and there’s my YouTube Channel! Video interviews with that special southern setting.

Website: http://www.linda-joyce.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindaJoyceAuthor

Twitter: @LJWriter https://twitter.com/LJWriter

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6950241.Linda_Joyce

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Joyce/e/B00BODDROS/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/LindaJoyceWorld/boards/http://pinterest.com/LindaJoyceWorld/boards/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/lindajoycewrites

Google+:   https://plus.google.com/+LindaJoyce/posts

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrjZh-TMFbeN1k7BlWAAxeA

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

“What do you enjoy about meeting readers?” First of all, I am an introvert. I appear “talky” because it’s my coping strategy when I’m nervous. However, I do love meeting readers because I love connecting with people. I grew up Air Force and lived in many places. My parents gave us the gift of travel wherever we lived, so I’ve seen many places. Meeting someone new and finding out that we have a book in common is wonderful, but finding out that we have more in common is fabulous—like a love of place, or music, or food, or animals. I hope that after people meet me, they walk away thinking that we will stay in touch and be friends.

What’s next for you?

I am sooo excited! I have four—yes, four—novellas in production right now. My Fleur de Lis series will have a companion series—Fleur de Lis Brides—coming out soon. It’s a trilogy. Each novella will release as an eBook novella, and when the third novella is released, a print version will be available that includes all three stories. The titles are simple: Branna: Fleur de Lis Brides, book one, Biloxi: Fleur de Lis Brides, book two, and Camilla: Fleur de Lis Brides, book three.

At the same time, I am thrilled to have Christmas Bells as a novella in the Love & Grace anthology. The book will release on September 1st. For the first 90 days, ALL sales are donated to Gracepoint, which is a school that specializes in helping students with dyslexia. After 90 days, I will get my rights back, and I’ll self-publish the book in time for Christmas. Christmas Bells is a sweet romance. Here’s the blurb:

After grieving the loss of her husband and son, TV host Morgan Marshall is ready to embrace life again. But she won’t risk a relationship with the father of her favorite cooking student, Avery, since the girl’s happiness is more important than her own.

Advertising executive Alex Blake never thought another woman could pique his interest after losing his wife to cancer. Yet every time he’s in Morgan’s presence, she brings sunlight into the room. Plus, she’s a role model for his daughter, always assuring Avery that dyslexia can’t hold her back. But if he asks Morgan for a date and then she refuses a second one, the person he loves the most, Avery, could get hurt the worst because she adores Morgan.

When Alex is injured in a fall Morgan insists on caring for him and Avery. As they share holiday fun, Avery topples Morgan’s beloved crystal bell collection, shattering it to pieces. Through it all, they discover love of one another is more priceless than any object money can buy. Love rings in the air at Christmastime.