This blog is for those 18 and older.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Interview with Ann Duran

It gives me great pleasure to have Ann Duran with me today. Ann has released two novels, Phoenix Rising and Raven’s Nest, which are as different as any two novels can be. Thank you for stopping by Happily Ever After Thoughts. It’s wonderful to have you here.

Marie: I have to know, Ann, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Ann:  As a child of the 50’s and 60’s, my burning ambition was to be a reporter ala Brenda Starr.  My life, however, zagged when it should have zigged and I never followed that career path. Instead, I married and had children. Now, fast forward to the late 1990’s.  I was a huge fan of The X-files and enjoyed reading the fan fiction of the show.  Some of it was excellent and some of it not so much. However, it ignited in me a flame of desire to tell my own stories.  I hesitated due to a lack of confidence, but after 9/11 my youngest daughter said to me, “if not now, Mom, when?”  Thus an author was born. 

Marie: Tell us a little bit about Phoenix Rising and Raven’s Nest.
Ann: Phoenix Rising is my first book. It’s a product of the old saying “write what you know.” The setting is a fictionalized Mafia-owned brokerage firm in Phoenix, Arizona.  Many things in the story are drawn from life. Not the murder/arson/mayhem (thankfully) but my life as a stock broker presented me with a rich banquet of experiences to draw upon.  It’s the story of Jack Herrell, an undercover agent for the Arizona Attorney General’s office,  who wants to find his wife's killer and make him pay, because even though ten years have passed, he's determined to solve the murder. Little does Jack know he isn't merely waging battle with a murderer; he's in the middle of a bigger battle, one between Satan and Michael the Archangel. For his soul.  Angels and demons take an active part in the lives of the characters.  Available at Amazon  as well as B&N 


Raven’s Nest is a time travel/fantasy adventure with romantic elements. Eric Morgan, a time traveler and shape shifter living nearly 300 years in the future finds out how complicated love can be when he travels to 1718 Camden Maine to rescue Celeste Beckett from the clutches of ruthless Blackheart the Pirate. When Eric receives a call from Celeste's father, Nathaniel Beckett, also a time traveler, begging him to save his beloved daughter, Eric can't resist another journey to the past. Little does he know his trip will not only bring him face to face with his old nemesis, but also a new, more dangerous one. Eric's actions cause a cascade of events that will tear apart one family and force another to test the bonds of forgiveness and love.  Available at Amazon and B & N

Marie: What were your inspirations to write such different stories?
Ann:  I’m a free spirit when it comes to writing, drawn to paranormal, fantasy, time travel and romance. Thus, when a reader chooses an Ann Duran book, the subject matter will vary. The tagline for my website is “take a journey to the unexpected” and that’s what I hope my fans feel they receive.  

Marie: I’ve been in on Raven’s Nest since the beginning. What made you choose a time travel/shape-shifting fantasy?
Ann: I was on a summer vacation to Maine a few years ago with my Significant Other. We drove to Camden from Portland and sitting back from the road in a belt of trees, I saw the most glorious three story Queen Anne style house that reminded me of a fairy tale castle with turrets and verandahs.  I’d had a dream several weeks prior to that about a “creatures” in a house that assumed different forms such as furniture.  I combined the kernel of inspiration from the dream with the house and started asking “what if…?” 

Marie: You’re an avid reader so which authors inspire you?
Ann:  My love of reading was inspired by authors such as Alexandre Dumas, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen. I could lose myself by the hour in their books.   I was drawn by their lyrical use of language and vivid characters. I was fascinated by Dumas’s exploration of revenge in the Count of Monte Cristo, while Mark Twain’s humor drew me like a magnet to his writing.  

Marie: Everyone has their own writing process…how they come up with ideas, how they name their characters, how they choose the setting. Can you describe your writing process?
Ann: Sometimes my ideas are the result of vivid dreams, other times they are the result of wondering “what if…?”  Phoenix Rising and Raven’s Nest both embodied a “seat of the pants” process that involved sitting at the computer and letting my characters surprise me with where they wanted to take the story. This necessitated quite a bit of reworking for continuity, pacing etc.  I found it quite time consuming.  I’ve decided with my next book, Waking the Dead, to do a substantial amount of plotting and outlining to see if that’s any faster for me. So far…not so much. I think I’m just a slow writer by nature and need to make my peace with that fact.
As to naming my characters, once I’ve decided the time frame, setting, and genre I try to pick names that express a facet of the story. In Waking the Dead, for instance, my heroine’s name is Anastasia, which means “resurrection”. Most appropriate for the storyline. Supporting characters get names to reflect certain character traits or flaws and are period appropriate. 
            I typically write at night and on weekends since I still have my day job as a stock broker.  One thing I do like to do is occasionally write in long hand on good old fashioned paper. That truly does release creativity, at least for me.  It also imparts a greater appreciation for the classical authors mentioned above who had no access to a “delete” key.  

Marie: Fill us in, Ann, as with other writers, you’re constantly working on new ideas so what are you working on now?
Ann:  I’m working on a story involving the ghost of a Union officer in the Civil War, Stephen Austin,  who is fated to relive a fateful battle nightly on the property of a local school teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi.  There is only one way for the ghost to end his horrifying reenactment and free his spirit to heaven and that is to save a life.  How can a ghost save someone’s life? We shall find out.  There are several twists and turns to the story that I believe will make it quite compelling.

Marie:  I thoroughly enjoyed both Phoenix Rising and Raven’s Nest and I’m so glad you could be here with us, Ann. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.
Ann:  It was a pleasure to be here with you today.  Thank you for inviting me.
For a chance to win a copy of Raven’s Nest, be sure to leave a comment for her.  And don’t forget to include contact info in your comment in case you win.
For more information on Ann’s stories, go to www.annduran.com, follow Ann on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ann_Duran11 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ann.Duran11

Marie: For a chance to win a copy of Raven's Nest, be sure to leave a comment for Ann.  And don’t forget to include contact info in your comment in case you win. Winner will be announced and contacted on Wednesday. Now, c
heck out this excerpt from Raven’s Nest:

Prologue 
Camden, Maine 1718

      “Damn you, harlot’s spawn!” Blackheart the Pirate spat the words through a haze of blood and pain. A sharp kick to his groin caused him to bite his lip, drawing blood that trickled into his beard. Taking Celeste Beckett hostage was more trouble than he had bargained for. Not one of those shy, spiritless maidens populating polite drawing rooms, she forcibly reminded him of her mother, Moriah, whose charms he remembered well. The finely sculpted dark eyebrows above those startling blue eyes, the sneering mouth, the rounded breasts and curvaceous hips, and, finally, those golden curls, brought memories to the fore of more pleasant times and activities.
      As badly as he itched to teach her a lesson, he hadn’t the time for such luxuries. He launched himself upon her body and clapped his fingers over her mouth, careful to avoid a repeat encounter with her eager-to-kick legs. He held his finely honed dagger to her slender white throat and pushed aside the ruby pendant hanging like a bloody teardrop.
      “You are in my power now, Celeste. Make a single cry or utter one whisper of a sound and you will die on the spot. Have I made myself clear?”  The furious drumbeat of her heart throbbed against his arm. She nodded and he noted with satisfaction a sheen of moisture cloud her magnificent eyes. “Moriah and Nathaniel will pay dearly for their betrayal. You, my dear, are the coin I will use to satisfy their debt.”  With that, he bound and gagged Celeste, hoisted her over his massive shoulders, and climbed out of the window whistling a jaunty tune.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dawn Kunda Reviews THE DRESSMAKER by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck


A romance in Paris sounds like the only place acts of love can’t go wrong.  Claude Reynaud, a talented and handsome dressmaker, has a different take on the elusiveness of the love of his life.

Claude is content to be a small town tailor in a little berg, Senlis, outside Paris.  His first wife left him when he wouldn’t make a name for himself in Paris.

Eight years later Claude met Valentine.  She came in for a fitting for her wedding dress.  He couldn’t think of anything else other than the beautiful and seductive Valentine and why she wanted to marry someone she didn’t love.

He’d make it his mission to change her mind.

Valentine knew her fianc√© since childhood and it only seemed right they end up together.  Yet, she lets Claude seduce her.

Claude does whatever he can, including accepting a position with a renowned design company in Paris, to please Valentine.  She is pleased, but is it enough?

Sip on French wine, smell the apple blossoms, and feel the satin surrounding the love affair of a dressmaker and an artisan while you follow their pattern of love.

Enjoy,
Dawn

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Guest Author: Sam Cheever with Giveaway


We are pleased to have the witty Sam Cheever with us today. She is talking about characters who are Too Stupid To Live and giving away a copy of her latest release, YESTERDAY'S NEWS to one lucky commenter. So don't forget to comment. Enjoy!


What makes a character too stupid to live? I’m sure everybody has a unique list of traits that make them root for the bad buy to succeed in taking out the hero/heroine. Since I write adventurous paranormal and romantic suspense/mystery, I tend to couch my TSTL descriptions in thriller/horror movie terms. Here are the traits that might make me pick up a chainsaw and join the killer in the hunt: 

1.      A total disregard for the intelligence of walking into that dark, spooky house alone and unarmed…or out of the house into the shadow-drenched yard where a guy holding a chainsaw and wearing a hockey goalie’s mask awaits. Yeah, nice guys always lurk around holding chainsaws and wearing masks. Yeesh!

2.      The proclivity to do the same things over and over and yet be surprised by the result. Let’s see, I’ll just go down these basement stairs and see what’s making that thumping noise. Yikes! A horrifying killer…ack…he sliced off my arm! Retreat…Oh, I wonder what’s making that scraping noise in the attic? I’ll just climb the attic stairs and… Argh! A terrifying slasher…ugh…he sliced off my leg! Retreat… Is it really too much to ask for the hero to figure out it’s not a great idea to pursue the cause of the latest scary noise before he looks like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. ‘Tis but a scratch

3.      The oh-so-obvious ploy for attention—such as wearing a sleeveless black dress with half her boobs hanging out to go ice skating. Mm hmm. Or four-inch, spiked heels in a chase scene. Really? Actually I blame producers for this. Please stop insulting my intelligence!

4.      Then there’s the whiny, emotionally weak character. All that angst and whining puts my teeth on edge. Give me Vampire Pam in True Blood any day. At least she does something about what hacks her off, rather than just sitting around her apartment, whining about how horrible her life is, and eating Ben and Jerry’s in her bathrobe. Ugh! 

5.      The judgmental yet hypocritical character. I’m all for expecting the people we care about to be the best they can be, but let’s not expect perfection. I can’t stand the character who is continually judging her love interest for real or perceived flaws while amping up her own flaw tally with abandon. “I can’t believe you forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste…it’s over between us.” “But honey, you slept with the grocery delivery guy yesterday.” “Don’t deflect, we’re talking about you right now.” 

6.      The clueless lover. Have you ever read a book with this character? Everybody in the story knows that the guy who lives down the street adores her. Everybody but her. Somehow she misses the constant, love-sick vibes he sends her way…or the way he’s always there almost before she needs him and will do anything for her—anything—including losing his job/health/mind to keep her safe. Don’t you just want to smack this clueless wonder upside the head? Gack! 

I could probably go on and on and on…but you get the idea. Characters like these are enough to turn me off a book/movie and the author who created them for a long, long time. What characteristic(s) make a character TSTL for you? Let me know in a comment and I’ll add you to a drawing for a download of my fun cozy mystery, Yesterday’s News. Make sure you include your email!

Book Blurb:
Antiques can be a dangerous business. Especially when you’re dealing with a desperate politician, a sexy ex-cop, and a couple of “spirited” companions. 

Anna Yesterday owns Yesterday’s Antiques in small town USA. When she finds an old newspaper clipping lining the drawer of an antique dresser, she realizes she’s never heard the ugly story of rape and suicide detailed on the yellowed newsprint. So she starts to dig, and her sleuthing exposes an ugly cover-up that casts the residents of Crocker, Indiana into danger and intrigue, and leaves them with a corpse.

"With a sexy ex-cop (who doesn’t love a romantic element), ghosts and a mystery that kept me riveted how could I resist? If you like paranormal elements and romance with your cozy mysteries
then I recommend this one."
~ Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

For more information on Sam Cheever visit: http://www.samcheever.com/ 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Are You Reading?

When I’m out and about, I sometimes will spot someone (a complete stranger) reading a book and I cannot, for the life of me, resist asking “What are you reading?”
           
Now sometimes, I’ll get a look and the stranger will close the book and walk away (rather swiftly, I might add), but in most cases, the opposite is true. The reader will generally close the book (with his or her finger marking their place) and show me the cover and there begins a discussion on favorite authors and genres. Right there. In the middle of the sidewalk or standing in line at Starbucks or the grocery (yes, I do spend a lot of time at the grocery store or so it seems) or waiting for an elevator. Me and a complete stranger although anyone who loves to read, especially authors I enjoy, is never really a stranger…just someone I haven’t met yet.
           
I love when this happens. I always feel like I’ve made a new friend, one who appreciates the writings of others and the pleasures found deep within the pages of a novel as much as I do. And it’s the perfect opportunity to let this reader know about other authors she/he might like and I never hesitate to name several (I’ve even told them about myself. I know! Can you believe that?) I’ve found new authors because of this as well.
           
So next time you’re out and about and some woman approaches you with a big smile and asks “What are you reading?”, it might be me. Don’t close your book and walk away. Stay for a minute. We’ll chat and share our love of reading.

As always, happy reading!
Marie

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guest Author: Dani Collins with a Giveaway


I’ve missed the Ides of March, which would have been a better tie in to my book, The Healer. 

A quick Google search tells me the ‘Ides’ phrase started out as merely the time of the full moon, but that whole 29.53 rotation, rather than a nice round 30, got in the way.  The Romans kept the mid-month date as a marker to settle debts, but pretty soon Shakespeare’s soothsayer was Bewaring it, then ol’ Julius got a tingle down his spine.  

So the expression as we know it now suggests many of the elements that emerge in The Healer: an outstanding payment of a fine, power seeking, lies, conspiracies, the divergence of cultures.  People getting stabbed.

Which doesn’t sound like a romance novel, does it? 

I assure you it is!  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t, ‘cause I’m all about the happily ever after.  Says so right at the top of my website: Pursuing Happily Ever After One Page At A Time.

It’s just sometimes I take the winding route.  Here’s why:

As a reader, there are days you want a quick fix of HEA.  That’s what my Harlequin Presents are for: get straight to the good part, gorge yourself on the all-inclusive extravagance, then promise to stay in touch as you return to your everyday life. 

There’s no shame in it.  We’re all pressed for time.  I love watching movies for exactly this reason.  In under two hours we go from Cute Meet, to Sexy Complication, through the Midpoint Hook, Swivel, Dark Moment and Joyful Defeat. 

Blissful sigh...  Okay, back to reality.

But sometimes you want the long-stay vacation. You want to develop relationships with the locals and learn about their culture and create attachments that stick in your mind.

That was my goal when I sat down to write The Healer.  I didn’t know much about what was going to happen in the story, but I did know I wanted to write the kind of book that a reader immersed herself into for days.  

And so we get an Ides of March puzzle-piece story where myriad small actions grow into a bigger picture of major consequences. And seriously, Vaun has such bad luck in the first chapter—mistaking Athadia for a Kerf like himself, when she’s actually an Alvian healer—well, that’s not exactly shamrocks and St. Paddy’s day, let me tell you.  It’s Et tu, Brut√©? all the way.

Here’s a little more about The Healer to hopefully put you in the mood for a ‘big’ book:

Vaun frees Athadia from his Shote enemies, thinking she is a Kerf, like him, but she’s Alvian, one of the mysterious race of healers his people fear. As they begin to realize what she is, his men succumb to superstition and attack her. Vaun intervenes...

Excerpt:
Athadia dodged the next blade that jabbed at her thigh and blocked a third with her forearm, feeling the cut streak deep. If she hadn’t been so taxed, she might have found her center and accompanying discipline, but the men closed in, stealing her concentration. She tripped over the hem of her oversized robe trying to escape another swipe and curled as she fell, protecting herself. A stab nipped into her side anyway.
A male bellow sounded and the sickening thud of a blow followed. She cringed, waiting for boots and pain, but nothing struck her. The sounds of fighting continued though, with cries of protest.
Working up the nerve to peek past her bent elbow, she saw the leader of these Kerfs using his fists to break up the mob, forcing the men back from her. One man babbled hysterically and pointed his sword tip at her, as though he wanted to skewer her to the ground. The big Kerf cuffed him.
Distantly, Athadia heard his fury in his sharp words, but turned herself inward, not bothering to attempt translation as she searched within herself, found shreds of calm and balance, mentally spoke her vows and repaired herself. When she became aware of silence, thick with hostility, she tentatively uncurled. Most of the men looked abashed. Some glared with mistrust. The leader wore an expression of angry remorse.
If she begged for freedom, he might grant it. Longing washed over her for The Circle, the closest thing to a haven her people had left. If she could rest and heal, consult with the Elders, she might try again to fulfill her purpose. If only it hadn’t been so long since she’d spoken. She wasn’t sure she could make herself understood. Perhaps if she just walked away. Surely the Kerf would comprehend that.
He reached to help her rise.
Hesitantly, she let him close his hand around her arm.
Alvian energy burst in her cells, buckling her knees as she tried to stand. She used both hands to catch at him and he steadied her while his own feet staggered, his expression shocked.
Like weak sunlight expanding through a break in the clouds, his gift washed over her, pale and lacking intensity because he was only a Latent, not a full-blooded Alvian. He emanated signals of exhaustion and taxed muscles and seeping battle wounds—a deep need for healing, but he was a glimmer of everything she longed for.
Her energy reached insistently for greater contact, craving Alvian healing. He’s Kerf, her mind insisted, but vows and a fundamental recognition prevailed. She let her body tip forward until she collapsed against him.
~ * ~
Lightheadedness struck Vaun as he absorbed her slight weight, nearly knocked off balance by this feather of woman. His blood heated in one mighty, restorative pulse. At the same time, melancholy homesickness rippled through him. He thought of his mother for the first time in years and experienced a sudden longing to hold his youngest son before Mekel grew too big to be lifted willingly like the older boys.
The strange, out of place thoughts were disconcerting. He dismissed them. Of course he wanted to see his sons and his brother. He wanted to ensure his village, nay his entire Kingdom, was safe. He wanted to report and devise a strategy to keep their corner of Kerf territory protected. He wanted to be home.
“You’re claiming her?” Gunar asked with shock.
Vaun realized his arms had closed around her. He hadn’t held a woman outside a bed since his wife had died, but he tightened his hold as he surveyed the frightened, hostile faces of his men.
“She could have knowledge of Shote armies,” he said, searching for logic behind his purely instinctive compulsion to draw her tight against him. “Information on their weaponry and intentions. And look at her. She’s just a harmless woman.” Near unconscious judging by the limp weight of her. Badly injured, perhaps? A slit in her sleeve showed a wet line of blood on her upper arm. Vaun smeared it, leaving an outline where the welled blood had been but the injury was gone. The hair on the back of his neck lifted.
Harmless, yet unable to be harmed.

To read about my personal journey to HEA as a published author (it took 25 years!) visit my website, find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  You can also download a map of Kerfdom from my website along with a Reading Guide and Character Guide for The Healer.

You can find buy links for The Healer on my site or pick up The Healer through ChampagneBooks, AmazonUS, AmazonCA, Kobo, or ARe.

I’d love to give away an electronic copy of The Healer.  Leave me a comment telling me how you like to get to happily ever after.  Do you prefer to sprint to it or are there times you want to meander through an intricate storyline?