Interviews with Judy Alter and Sasha Summers

resizedMYSTERY AUTHOR & FOODIE JUDY ALTER

First published in 1978, Judy has been a writer since she was ten years old. Her main focus for years was the American west with novels about Jessie Benton Fremont, Elizabeth Bacon (Mrs. George Armstrong Custer) and Etta Place and the Sundance Kid.

Now she is turning her attention to mysteries. Utilizing her passion for cooking, MURDER AT THE TREMONT HOUSE is the second installment in her Blue Plate Cafe Mystery series.

Q: Tell us about your new release and why you chose this genre.

MurderattheTremontHouse-md (2)My new book, Murder at the Tremont House, is a cozy. I’ve been a cozy reader since my days with my nose in Nancy Drew books. When I switched from writing about women of the nineteenth-century American West to mysteries, naturally the cozy was my genre.

Q: What led you to write this book?

This is the second in the Blue Plate Mystery Series, following Murder at the Blue Plate Café. I wrote the series because of a cafémy kids and I used to visit in a small East Texas town and because I wanted to write a bit about food even if it isn’t quite a culinary mystery. It’s mostly down-home cooking, but recipes are included.

Q: Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

Choosing recipes, especially for the cooking school section. Otherwise not much research was involved. It came out of memories of the place and my imagination, and of course the characters were in place from the first book.

I wasn’t sure I was ready to write this until the first line came to me one day. It’s “Gram’s dead.” And suddenly I had the situation—twin sisters whose grandmother owns a café and dies suddenly. It just went from there. I’m a pantser not a plotter.

Q: What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

Affection for the characters and curiosity to investigate my other fiction, both the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and my books about women of the West. I’m interested in all aspects of women’s lives, both in contemporary Texas (my settings) and the historical West.

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

Why aren’t you a New York Times best-selling author? I want to know the answer!

Q: Are you doing blog tours or other promotional events and giveaways?

I’ve scheduled several individual blogs, mostly in March, but will keep working on that. I’ll do giveaways on some of those and a giveaway on Goodreads once I get print copies. I announce these things on Facebook—all readers have to do is “Like” my author page, Judy Alter Author. Readers can also follow my blogs: Judy’s Stew (http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com) and Potluck with Judy (http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com ).

 

SASHA SUMMERSme

Sasha’s passion for storytelling has taken her down a new road with the release of her first YA – COWBOYS & KISSES.
Q: Tell us about your new release and why you chose this genre.

COWBOYS & KISSES is a total departurefrom what I normally write. I never thought about writing YA, honestly, but I loved these characters and wanted to tell their story. I’m a character writer – normally characters come to me and the story goes from there. Allie, the heroine, had a very strong (loud) voice, she wouldn’t give up until I told her story. J

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

Our family went through a huge move a few years ago. It was very hard on my daughters. I remembered going through a similar experience when I was a teenager. Allie kind of ‘sprang up’ from there. Wyatt followed – sigh- thank goodness. And the story sort of fell together in a very satisfactory way!

Q: What research did you use for this book?Cowboys and Kisses

Interestingly enough, I used a lot of real life experiences for this book. I grew up surrounded by the cowboy culture. Even though I was never ‘in it’ it’s a very unique lifestyle. I loved being able to introduce readers to that world. I just hope I did it justice.

Q: What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

I love it when readers connect to my characters/stories. I guess I’d hope this book resonated with young girls out there. To remember that there are people out there that do love you, don’t give up.

Q: Are you doing blog tours or other promotional events and giveaways?

The month of March, C&K will be on tour through Viviana Enchantress of Books AND InkSpell Publishing as well. Here’s hoping they get readers excited over Allie and Wyatt’s story!

Thank you so much for having me!

March GLBT Reviews

GIFTS NOT YET GIVEN AND OTHER TALES OF THE HOLIDAYS by Kergan Edwards-Stout GiftsGivenPicPublisher: Circumspect Press Pages: 186

Kergan Edwards-Stout has complied a collection of fourteen short stories all centered around different holidays. Yet, these stories are not about holidays, but about turning points in character’s lives, where the emotions and magic of the holidays push these characters past those turning points. These are tales of personal awakenings, where dreams are achieved, hope is found, life is cherished. Many are touching, others sad.

Like all short-story anthologies, I found this work a bit of a mixed bag, connecting with some stories, some characters, and not others. I felt the author’s talent shown brightest with Glenbourne, Il, where a woman, Sarah, struggles to gain acceptance from her in-laws. And in The Old Rugged Cross where a mother leaves her home in Alabama to be near her son in L.A. I found these characters genuine, and their stories thought provoking.

The author’s prose is well-paced and beautifully written, yet I often felt there was simply too much telling, as apposed to showing, and I also found the author’s habit of head-hopping a bit distracting. As much as I enjoyed each of these stories, I feel that this collection does not live up to the promise that this talented author exhibited so eloquently in his first novel, Songs For The New Depression. Still, this anthology is a worthwhile read.  (Reviewed by Alan Chin)

THE QUEERLING by Austin Gary Publisher: Deckle Press (2013) Pages: 256 Preston Nesbitt became the QueerlingPicstar of a controversial YouTube video gone viral, yet because he has no memory of participating in the video, he’s been confined to a Portland, Oregon mental hospital. Preston is a precocious, eccentric, sixteen year old, who has the ability to diagnose everybody’s psychological condition but his own. The story is told through Preston’s journal entries, where he hopes to convince his doctor and parents that he is not delusional.

Through Preston’s writings, the reader finds that he is a savant with a rare form of Asperger’s, who rails against society’s wrongs. Much of this story seems like Holden Caulfield meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, yet it has a delightful turn of events that leads to a reality-bending conclusion.

This enchanting tale introduces one of the most complex, interesting, and amusing characters I’ve read in years. Preston Nesbitt, as a fictional character, is nothing short of brilliant. He is cocky, irritating, too clever, egotistical and rude, yet he touches your heart. He blends humor, deep-set emotions, and unique insights to conjure up a mesmerizing read. While telling his own inner conflicts, Preston lays out the backstory of his dysfunctional parents, and also showcases the pack of memorable misfit peers who are also on his mental ward. The author uses contrast, Preston against the other characters, to brilliantly show the protagonist’s virtues. This esoteric novel is a captivating delight, first page to last. Funny, thought-provoking, unnerving. Bravo.  (Reviewed by Alan Chin)

 

IN DISCRETION by Reesa Herberth   Riptide Publishing (Dec 2013)   Pages: 89   Genre: M/M Sci-FI   Score: 3In Discretion

Book description: Thanson Nez thought his career as a Discretionary would take him to the stars, not strand him on a space station.  Thanks to his last client, he’s carrying a secret he can’t get rid of fast enough. Already desperate for help, he runs into yet more trouble: his ex, and an explosion that paralyzes the station moments after their uncomfortable reunion.

 Kazra Ferdow, Station 43’s communications officer, is almost as blindsided by the return of his first love as he is by the sudden loss of power and life support. The station is a floating graveyard in the making, and something is turning its inhabitants into savage killers. Fighting human monsters and damaged tech, Kazra and Thanson must put aside their past long enough to try to save everyone.

It’s a familiar tale of secrets on a stranded space station.  I found the storytelling rather dry and matter of fact. I don’t feel the need to warn you off the story but it was not one of my favorites.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

 

CIRCUIT THEORY by Reya Starck   Riptide Publishing (July 2012)   Pages: 43   Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance   Score: 5Circuit Theory

Book description: Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.

In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.

 Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.

This is one of the most unique stories I’ve read.  In very few pages the author brings us on the emotional journey of three individuals who find that even in a virtual world we can’t escape who we are.

This is a must read.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

 

FRAGIL BOND by Rhi Etzweiler   Riptide Publishing (Feb 2013)   Genre: M/M Sci Fi   Pages: 149   Score: 5Fragil Bond

Book description: Sniper Sergeant Marc Staille and his trusty rifle, Mat, are on bodyguard duty at a mining operation on a backwater planet. The resource-rich valley is crawling with tawnies, the native dirt-colored predators that hunt in packs and kill as well with tooth and claw as Marc ever has with Mat.

Commander Hamm Orsonna, leader of the fefa clan, is determined to chase off the invading aliens by capturing one for Intel with an unexpected weapon: pheromones.

This is a story about relationships, about accepting individuals for who they are not what they are.

In the beginning the closest relationship Marc has is with his rifle. Once captured, we watch the relationship between Marc and Hamm develop.  Initially with the expected emotions of anger, distrust, fear but something else, something unexpected – lust.   As things change between Marc and Hamm it triggers tension between Hamm and his clan. Leadership is challenged.

The pacing kept me turning pages, and the characters drew me into the story. I recommend this book.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

March Mystery Reviews

The Sandcastle MysteriesTHE SANDCASTLE MYSTERIES: DEATH AND DECEPTION AT THE JERSEY SHORE (Eight Women Writers, 2010, $15.95) is the result of a collaboration by the aforementioned women who write under the name of Amea Lake. When a young woman finds the body of her husband on the kitchen floor, she realizes that she knows almost nothing about the man she married. Her amateur sleuthing leads her into a web of international intrigue, money-laundering and murder, while coping with the usual stresses of life along the Atlantic seaboard.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

Jeff Markowitz takes on small-town New Jersey are always trenchantly funny. In A MINOR CASE OF A Minor Case of MurderMURDER,(Crossroad Press, 2013, $13.00), his reporter sleuth Cassie O’Malley goes to a local baseball game, and finds herself involved with the murder of the team’s mascot. Was the girl in the mosquito suit the target, or was this a case of accidental death? A land deal, a bird fanatic, a cab driver and a would-be sports baron all figure in this jaunt to the Jersey shore and its eccentric inhabitants.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

As recent events have shown,politics in New Jersey can get nasty. In DEADLY CAMPAIGN, by Alan Orloff (Midnight Ink, 2012, $14.95), Comedy Club owner Channing Deadly CampaignHayes thinks he’s doing a friend a favor when he lends his support to a friend’s political ambitions. Then a gang of goons disrupts the meeting with baseball bats, and things get really serious. Since the young politician’s family doesn’t want police involvement, Channing is pressed into service as a private investigator. It’s a look at the dark side of New Jersey, with pay-offs, blackmail and murder as business as usual.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

E.F. Watkins shows the artistic side of New Jersey in her latest Quinn Matthews Haunting Mystery, HEX, DEATH & ROCK ‘N ROLL (Amber Quill Press, 2013, $15.00). Quinn’s been called in toHex, Death & Rock 'n Roll help restore an old theater in Elizabeth, NJ, once the preferred venue for vaudeville, later used by rock stars. Now it’s going to be the setting for a new video by the hottest new rock band, Mad Love, but the band’s lead singer is worried about a series of accidents that have plagued the group. Is it sabotage, or something more unworldly? Quinn’s psychic gifts are called on to get to the bottom of the tangled web of personal and professional loves and hates that surround the musicians and their entourage. In the process, she helps an unhappy young woman find fulfillment, and makes a few decisions about her own love life. As always, E.F. Watkins delivers a sold mystery with a psychic twist.  (Reviewed by Roberta’s Ramblings)

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD By Laura McHugh (Randon House Publishing Group March 11, 2014) Genre: Mystery Score: 4.5The Weight of Blood

Blurb: The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.

Review: The book was wonderfully paced, building with each page as Lucy delves into the disappearance of her mother and Cheri. Told in dual storylines we find out the truth about the secrets of Henbane. The only downside to the story was about half way through the author decided to delve into a lot more POV’s which bogged down the story. I don’t think much of it was needed and, for me, it was the wrong place for it. This is still a wonderful mystery. I highly recommend this intriguing, complex story about the weight of blood.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

THE LOST SISTERHOOD by Anne Fortier (Ballantine Books March 11, 14) Pages: 608 Genre: Adventure / Women’s Fiction Score 5The Lost Sisterhood

Blurb: Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse – to fly to Coppenhaugen.

Review: Since I’ve always had more curiousity than common sense, I had to trouble believing that Diana would leave the country with a complete stranger in her quest for the Amazons. There are three storylines that weave together the present and past to tell the tale of Diana’s work to uncover proof the Amazons existed, her memories of her missing grandmother and Myrina, the first Amazon queen. No journey would be complete without a couple of good looking men and Fortier offers us two – James Moselane, Diana’s longtime crush and Nick Barran, the secretive man she meets in North Africa. There’s danger and intrigue and I loved every page. Since I’m not a student of history, I don’t know how her story stacks up to the facts but as an avid reader I can tell you this is not a book you only read once. A very satisfying journey with twists, turns and plenty of surprises that you don’t want to end.  (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)

March YA Reviews

FOOLS GOLD by Lynn Lovegreen

Prism Book Group (Dec 2013)    4 Stars   Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceFools Gold

This debut novel was a fun, sweet, new adult romance with an old-fashioned tone. Eighteen-year-old Ellie Webster sets off on the adventure of a life-time when she heads to gold rush Alaska with her younger brother to save the family farm. The young duo needs to raise money to settle a debt that their now deceased father incurred. Ellie doesn’t expect to fall in love along the way, especially not with a saloonkeeper. Duke Masterson may operate a saloon, but there is more substance to him than Ellie thinks. Slowly, she begins to realize she might have found the man of her dreams. Skagway, Alaska in 1898 was a wild, raucous place that comes to life in Lovegreen’s book. The reader gets a good view of everyday pleasures and problems, such as Soapy Smith, the con-artist determined to steal a fortune. When Ellie and her brother fail to make it to the gold-fields, she starts baking pies and selling slices to the miners. Ellie isn’t sure what she wants. Is it a husband or her independence? Does she want to share her life with the man who courts her or does she want to send him away? Well-developed characters and a beautifully described setting make the story come to life for the reader. Duke Masterson is a charming, wonderful, handsome hero. He could have used a few flaws. The way he chooses to earn a living really isn’t one of them since he won’t serve alcohol to underage drinkers, a bit of a stretch in 1898. He also doesn’t have saloon girls, or cheat his customers. He’s determined to earn a decent living by selling booze to the miners. Along the way, he helps people, not just Ellie. As a hero, he’s an all-around “nice” guy and Ellie is a very “nice” girl who reminds the Skagway locals of the women they left behind. That makes this book, a nice cozy romance with an old-time feel, the perfect way to enjoy a rainy evening, perhaps with a piece of apple pie.

INTO THE DEEP by Missy Fleming

Fire and Ice YA ~ January 2014    4.5 Stars    Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceInto the Deep

Blurb: No one understands the fury of the ocean like Zoey.

Turning sixteen can be a watershed moment in any girl’s life, but for Zoey, it means discovering who and what she truly is – a mermaid. Wow, what a hook! The victim of a devastating accident when she was six, Zoey deals with a prosthetic leg and feels like she’ll never be accepted by her peers. Then a trip to the beach shows her a whole new world. She is a mermaid, a princess and she decides to explore what this actually means. She can talk to sea animals and makes a new friend, a dolphin that in turn helps her find the father that she’s always missed. She’s a princess in this new underwater realm, but it doesn’t make her life easier. Zoey soon learns that her royal family faces an enemy determined to destroy them. She wants to help them and along the way help herself. She needs to save not only this new world, but the one she left behind. She isn’t alone in this struggle. There are others who will help her like Nerio, a young mer that she finds as brave as he is handsome. He has issues with the fact that she is from a higher class than he is and attempts to keep his distance from her. However, being strong, smart and resilient, Zoey won’t back down from the challenge he represents. She can catch her mate and keep him, or not. It’s up to her and he’s in trouble. The sparks between them could definitely set the ocean on fire! They’re a fun couple. It’s always difficult to build a believable fantasy world, but Ms. Fleming manages this very successfully. When she describes the ocean, we see the garbage, the debris left by humans from a sodden diaper to an abandoned suitcase. Then, Zoey views the multi-dimensional colors of other sea creatures as well as herself. The descriptions don’t slow the pace of the story, but add to it. The same is true of the sharp, sassy dialogue which is never overloaded with tags. Still, there isn’t any difficulty in knowing who speaks. When Zoey visits her father, she learns that his marriage is a political alliance. Her stepmother and half-sister definitely have understandable issues with Zoey, but this becomes a bit contrived. Zoey is far too reasonable and polite with them for a sixteen-year-old girl. It would be more natural for her to express what she honestly thinks and then regret it later. The same is true with her assigned “maid” who has a very snarky turn of phrase. She rudely informs Zoey of what she needs to know and again she tolerates it to obtain the information. This level of maturity in a heroine is truly amazing, but somewhat unbelievable in a teenager who wasn’t raised in the royal environment. Yet, Zoey seems as if she could definitely lead the next generation of mer-people into the future and most readers will eagerly await the next installment in her adventures.

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER By J.C. Carleson

Random House Children’s (Feb 11, 2014)    Genre: Teens & YA Score: 5!    Reviewed by Donna KeihleThe Tyrant's Daughter

I was immediately drawn into this book. In the author’s note she refers to this as a “big story told in small details” and it was done perfectly. It is the story of Laila who was ripped from her country by the CIA during the coup that killed her father and dropped into America with little understanding of what happened. Shocked to discover the person she saw as a loving father is referred to as a tyrant and a dictator she seeks answers and understanding until she learns to everything there is a price. Carleson humanizes a complex situation and brings to light a point of view we seldom see in this country. It’s not a story you walk away from feeling good but rather enlightened. I highly recommend this book.

SECOND HEARTS and STORM SHELLS by G.J. Walker-Smith

Books 2 & 3 in the YA romance Wishes Series   (Amazon Digital Services, Inc 2013).  Reviewed by Donna KeihleSecond Hearts

When book 1 ended, Adam had returned to New York and Charli had left for her adventure. In book 2 she travels to New York to see if what she had with Adam was real. There this sweet young woman from Tasmania is introduced to New York high society. They were never the same after that. Charli is reminiscent of a series Storm Shellsof books I read decades ago called CLAUDIA with her sweet, naive steadfastness to remains true to herself. Adam turns out to not be quite the prince she fell in love with and at the end of book 2, well, things looked grim for this couple. In Book 3 Adam follows Charli back to Pipers Cove. Can two people who are so in love with so little in common find a way? This is a wonderfully written story, a must read for any age. The layers to the characters is amazing. The series is captivating and not one you want to miss but be sure you start with the first book.

GHOST HAND by Ripley Patton

Publisher: Ripley Patton    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 5    Reviewed by Book BabblesGhost Hand

To understand the background of this novel it’s best to provide the blurb from the jacket: “Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy. How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand? Well, she’s a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky. “ I loved the whole concept of PSS—one body part is ghostly (could be hand, arm, leg, nose)—and the different and strange powers that come along with PSS. I also enjoyed the storytelling. This action-packed novel grabs you from the first sentence and the story just keeps going as a group of PSS teens face a powerful organization of PSS haters and twisted scientists who have their own plans for the teens. Toss in a little potential for romance, some deceit, disagreement and tension between the PSS kids and this really becomes a real page-turner. There is suspense, mystery, action, and moments of heartbreak balanced by tears of joy. The second book, Ghost Hold, is already out and a third is on the way. I am definitely planning to read the entire trilogy.

WHAT IN GOD’S NAME by Simon Rich

Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 2.5   Reviewed by Book BabblesWhat in God's Name

I read this for book group. I was really looking forward to it because I knew that Simon Rich had written for Saturday Night Live and could be really funny. Unfortunately, though this book had some funny moments, for the most part I found it to be cynical and a slog. The premise is that God runs a corporation, Heaven Inc. The angels work for the cooperation, doing a variety of jobs for the cooperation, ranging from prayer triage to arranging miracles that are hard to detect, and to helping God open his own fusion restaurant in heaven. I had no problem with the premise and figured it would provide plenty of opportunity for funny commentary on the human condition. However, Rich decided to make Heaven Inc. the most pathetic, dysfunctional, and uncaring corporate environment ever. Even God doesn’t care about humanity anymore and wants to destroy them all and retire to run his Asian Fusion restaurant. The two “good” angels who actually do care are hopelessly immature, socially awkward, and are able to save the world completely based only on happenstance rather than any competent action. I think using one incident in human kind as pathetic could have been funny, as one angel could have been funny. The juxtaposition of competent people against the pathetic, hopelessly and forever lost ones might have yielded more laughs. For me the over-the-top dysfunctionality of both humans and angels, with God being the most dysfunctional of all was too much. In the end, I felt tired and depressed. I did laugh at a couple of bits. But the bits weren’t enough to carry the book. I felt like I was listening to a stand up comedian who had maybe 4 or 5 good jokes at the beginning that stretched too far. At the end I was smiling to be polite but no more laughs were to be had.