Twin sisters on a perilous journey to remove an ancient curse . . .
Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.
Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master. But all is not a bouquet of lovely lilies…they are hunted by a cunning warlock and must rid themselves of The Warlock’s Curse.
Fascinated by the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, C.B. Oresky began writing her own fantasy novel, The Warlock’s Curse, after dreaming of being whisked off to an alien realm. Besides her debut novel, she has seen four of her short stories published in a small, national literary press: Conceit Magazine. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through the woods, dancing flamenco, or planting flowers in her garden. She currently lives in a small town in Connecticut with her bodybuilder husband, their exceptionally naughty Scottish terrier and Siamese cat, ten chickens, Mr. Tiggy the hedgehog, and a yard filled with majestic flowers.
Avis: Hi Caryn! I’m so glad you have joined us for today’s blog post! I love middle grade stories that feature strong female characters, and your book does just that, with twins Angelica and Clara! What a great read! But let’s get to the interview because I know readers want to get to know more about you. Let’s begin with our first question:
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Caryn: I most certainly believe in writer’s block. There are just those times (hopefully short) when one finds oneself stuck and unable to write anything new.
Avis: I agree. For me it’s usually when something happens in my life that throws me off center. The next question is:
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Caryn: Writing energizes me. I love to have ideas and words just flow through me. For additional inspiration I often write in my favorite bookstore, slurping down a frozen drink after settling down in a comfy armchair.
Avis: I love the image of sitting in a bookstore writing! For me it would be a hot cup of black coffee. 😊 Here’s our last questions:
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Caryn: I never considered writing under a pseudonym. Instead, I used the initials of my first and middle name, followed by my last name…as did my favorite authors: J.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. I like to think big!
Avis: Always good to think big! I like it! It’s been such a pleasure to get to know more about you! I know people will love your new novel, The Warlock’s Curse. For more information check out Caryn Oresky’s social media links below, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for my five-star review!
C.B. Oresky’s The Warlock’s Curse takes twins Angelica and Clara Grace to a land far away beyond our one mooned planet to a place where drogans roam the skies and Foulmouth, the One True Master, rules, or does he?
Angelica and Clara may look alike, but their personalities and temperaments are opposites. Outgoing and brave, Angelica talks the timid Clara into the adventure of their lives to escape the doldrums of their existence at Seacrest, a rundown mansion on the New England coast town of Coldport. Rumored to be haunted, the dilapidated mansion creaks and moans as if alive. It’s rotting porch and leaky roof cause shame for the girls and stress for the parents, who can’t afford to live any place besides this house built over a century ago by their distant grandfather Claudius Grace, a sea-captain believed lost at sea.
Picked on by the Fabulous Five, an all-girl gang of bullies, the sisters long for better times and the family riches that were lost by their relatives. If they could only help their parents, maybe the fighting would stop, and they could live normal lives with nice clothes and an occasional vacation away from the dreadful Seacrest.
Oresky builds a world of ghosts and magic, or gems and swords that possess power beyond imagination, and portals that transport the girls to a world of reconciliation and great danger. They meet Urtleby, the famous warrior general who turns the tides of war; Foulmouth, the warlock who has cast the spell that ruined Angelica and Grace’s family fortunes; Aomar, an enlightened being that aids them; and they meet their distant ancestor, Claudius Grace, who wants nothing more than to defeat the evil warlock and return his family to the status it once knew.
Angelica and Clara may be opposites in temperament and bravery, but they work together to overcome evil in this daring adventure that will take readers to fantastical realms, where dreams are worth fighting for and reaching for the stars is not impossible.
C.B. Oresky’s The Warlock’s Curse provides hours of reading escape for children and adults alike. This book earns five-stars for creativity and magical adventure.
Blurb: Jessica Stratton’s long-cherished dream of opening her own Folk Art gallery in an idyllic Cape Cod setting finally comes true. However, her start-up is anything but smooth sailing.
Her ten-year marriage hits the rocks and when the hunk next door – a brooding ecologist on a mission to save the planet – proves too irresistible to ignore, she’s got to relearn the rules of the dating game while figuring out how to run a successful boutique.
Unfortunately, someone’s far too interested in an 19th century example of advertising art in her collection and will go to any means – legal or illegal – to acquire it.
Maybe the planet isn’t the only thing that needs saving…
Bio: Corinne LaBalme lives in France and loves everything about it… except eating snails. Her articles about European fashion, food and fun destinations have appeared in The New York Times Travel section, Diversion, La Belle France and France Revisited. Her favorite place to write? Any Parisian café with a good croissant connection…
The setting for Summer People is founded on childhood memories of vacations on Cape Cod and based on my mother’s (very real) house in Brewster.
However, the romantic hero of Summer People — Rick Martell — is the kind of guy who exists only in our sweetest & beachiest dreams…. sigh!
Avis: Welcome to another interview Corinne! I’m so happy to see you again and hear more about your latest wonderful book Summer People! Let’s begin with this question:
Did you find Summer People easier or more difficult to write than French Ghost and why?
Corinne—Both Summer People and French Ghost sprang to life organically. What’s been much harder to write is the second book in the Paris Ghost-Writer Series. Too much backstory from Book One? Too little? Hopefully, thanks to a great editor, that question has been resolved and French Toast should be in print by the end of 2022. But then… there’s Book Three…
Avis: Yay! Book Three? I’m so excited to read more in the Paris Ghost Writer Series! But we want to learn more about Summer People. Our next questions is:
What was the hardest scene for you to write in Summer People?
Corinne: The picnic scene on the Truro beach was definitely the hardest to write. The reader already knows that Rick and Jessica are attracted to each other… so why can’t THEY figure it out? Yes, yes… they’ve both been burned before. Too bad there’s no soothing aloe lotion for bruised souls.
Avis: That picnic scene was a great scene, but you handled the tension and attraction so well! What about this question:
I loved the idea of dualling antique stores between Max and Jessica. Did you have a reason for setting this up as a major element in the story, and what was that reason?
Corinne: Oddly enough, this romance didn’t take its first-draft shape around a pair of lovers-to-be. The genesis for Summer People is a hunk of fantasy real estate and the people came second. Therefore, Wilder House is just as big a part of the book as Rick and Jessica. (Frankly, I’ve always thought that the brooding presence of Thornfield Hall and Manderly push Jane Eyre and Rebecca into similarly tricksy ménage à trois territory.) Those houses, alas, burned right down to the ground. Jessica, thank goodness, has installed 21stcentury fire alarms.
Avis: I love it when the setting becomes as much a character as the characters! That cute Victorian house is well described, and I wish I could have visited it! Thank you so much for participating in another interview and giving more insight into your latest publication, Summer People!
If readers want more information on Corinne LaBalme and her books, see the links below, and please check out the review that follows the links! Until next time. read on!
Review: Summer People, Corinne LaBalme’s latest novella, introduces Jessica Stratton who finds her fairy tale marriage to a New York socialite Maxwell Stratton is nothing but a sham, just as she is opening her summer project. Wilder House Antiques in Cape Cod has been a dream for years, a place to showcase her Americana antique collection in a house she prefers to her New York City townhouse.
LaBalme takes us from New York City and the hustle and bustle of Stratton Gallery Antiques to the beachside town of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Jessica loves everything about Cape Cod, the beautiful Victorian house she bought and renovated, the beach, the small laid-back community, but for her new neighbour, Cape Cod is perfect.
Rick Martell is attractive, but also overbearing. Her realtor friend, Nancy, talks him into helping Jessica, and he regrets meeting Jessica from their first meeting, when she beats him with a fireplace iron because she thinks he’s broken into her house and crashing on her floor. Then when he tries to help her move the heavy and cumbersome Hiawatha statue into her house, he is so offended, since he has indigenous ancestry and storms out.
Jessica is grateful for Rick’s help but unsure how to mend the bridges she keeps burning with him. LaBalme creates a perfect storm for Jessica when Eddie Winthrop returns after years in Europe. He steps into Jessica’s role as Max’s right hand person at the Stratton ‘Gallery and allows Jessica to embark on her dream of creating her own antique store in Cape Cod, but the blessing turns on our hero and becomes a curse in more ways than one.
LaBalme sets up a suspenseful story of one woman’s journey to independence and selfhood. Jessica learns she is the tough, smart woman her friends think she is, and that she can make her dreams come true. The mystery comes in a grand finale that will surprise and delight readers. This is a quick summer read, but it is a book for all seasons! It is sure to satisfy romance readers everywhere and is definitely deserves five-stars.
Can she help a lost soul, jumpstart her love life, and dispatch her nagging mother’s spirit?
Marni Legend is about to publish her thirteenth novel. Gus Zuckerman has been hanging around since his death in nineteen-ninety-five. With her deadline looming and her recently deceased mother refusing to move on, can Marni dispatch both spirits and still have time for romance?
Armed with sarcasm and a warped sense of humor, her innate ability to stumble into awkward situations lands Marni in the midst of a car theft ring. As her circle of friends becomes populated with felons and possible murderers, the lines blur around whom she can trust.
Juggling a hot new beau with one hand and rekindling an old flame with the other, she may need to put on the brakes with one. Should she pick the probable criminal who may know Gus’s fate or play it safe with the sweetheart from her past? She’ll need more than her special abilities and quick wit to navigate the twists and turns of this paranormal mystery.
BIO: Terry Segan resides in Nevada. The beach is her happy place, but any opportunity to travel soothes her gypsy soul. The stories conjured by her imagination while riding backseat on her husband’s motorcycle can be found throughout the pages of her paranormal mysteries
Avis: Welcome back Terry! I’m so glad you agreed to join us again and talk about your second novel, Spirit in Tow! Your paranormal premise is intriguing in this one and so creative! Marnie is such a strong female protagonist and a sassy, risktaker! Let’s start this interview, shall we? Here’s the first question:
Did you find your second book easier or more difficult to write than your first?
Terry: I found the second book easier because I’d learned so much from both the writing process and the publishing process of my first book. Since I grew up on Long Island (pronounced Lon Giland by natives), I found it easy to channel my inner sarcastic klutz when fleshing out Marni’s character. My first book, Precious Treasure, had a more serious tone, while Spirit in Tow leans more toward humor and light-hearted banter with a little bit of danger thrown in.
Avis: I noticed the lighter tone, and that’s what I found so appealing! The banter between Marnie and Gus is hilarious at times! I’m so happy to hear this is book one of a series, which leads me the next question:
How do you see the storyline progressing in this series?
Terry: Marni will continue to be a klutz and find herself in sticky situations—it’s part of her charm. While I love the town of Northport where she has settled, not all the stories will take place there. You see, Marni loves to travel, and some of her adventures will take her to other cities and states. Besides, I’m sure the residents of Northport would welcome a breather once in a while. There will also be recurring characters but not in every book. This way, the reader never knows who will pop up—dead or alive.
Avis: Hmm. A protagonist who loves to travel? Sounds like an author I know! LOL! It sounds like you scope out settings for your stories as you travel, combining two passions! Brilliant! Which leads us to our next question:
What was your hardest character to develop?
Terry: I’d have to say her blast from the past, Kendall Kramer. He needed to be a sweet memory while also being a viable candidate to rekindle Marni’s love life. I prefer writing quirky characters (my head is filled with them—don’t venture there alone), but Kendall needed to be more mild-mannered. When I write, I’m a pantser and don’t use an outline. So I struggled with composing his personality and whether he’d end up changing in a phone booth and wearing a cape whenever Marni got into trouble. I believe he turned out okay for the role he plays.
Avis: Kendall turned out perfect! He was a surprise character to me, and I enjoyed the role he played in the story! Well done! I really enjoyed this novel, and I really look forward to the next adventures of Marni Legend! Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy release day schedule to give us a look into your writing world! It’s been fun, and until next time! I’d also like to thank all the readers checking in. For a review of Spriti in Tow, and make sure to get your copy! Terry’s social media links, website, and buy links can be found below!
Terry Segan’s second novel, Spirit in Tow, Book One in the Marni Legend series, takes us beyond the grave with strong willed and clever Marni Legend. Segan creates a world where ghosts who have unfinished business visit those who have special abilities to see and hear the dead, and author Marni Legend is one such person. Marni inherited this family trait from her mother, and her grandmother taught her everything she knows about helping the troubled spirits who find her for help.
Segan wastes no time in introducing Marni to the dearly departed Gus, a local tow-truck driver turned miscreant who died in 1995. However, Gus’s problems are a stark departure from the usual finding of lost deposit box keys or locating where the savings bonds were hidden. Marni embarks on a journey into a darker realm, to solve Gus’s murder and soon finds herself embroiled in the world of crime and deception.
Segan’s introduction of Marni’s family happens at the funeral of her mother. An event made all the more dramatic by a sister-dynamic that is explosive at best. To make matters worse the family is notified that their mother’s remains might not be buried with their father’s. Next thing Marni knows, her mom has returned with definite opinions on how to handle the situation.
Segan’s masterful handling of all these unruly characters unfolds a story of intrigue, suspense, and deadly consequences for Marni as she sleuths her way into a ring of car-jackers who will not stand for nosey writers asking too many questions or showing up in places where she doesn’t belong.
This gripping story will have you reading into the night to find out “who dunnit,” and Segan keeps the suspense going, teasing us with juicy tidbits of information until the final satisfying page.
I look forward to the next adventures of Marni Legend. She’s one sassy character who won’t rest until she’s found all the answers helped her latest spirit cross over. This book is a five star read.
Mirror, mirror, on the lake. Reveal the path the queen will take.
In this dark fairy tale adaptation of a medieval French legend, Issylte must flee the wicked queen, finding shelter with a fairy witch who teaches her the verdant magic of the forest. Fate leads her to the otherworldly realm of the Lady of the Lake and the Elves of Avalon, where she must choose between her life as a healer or fight to save her ravaged kingdom.
Tristan of Lyonesse is a Knight of the Round Table who must overcome the horrors of his past and defend his king or lose everything. When he becomes a warrior of the Tribe of Dana, a gift of Druidic magic might hold the key he seeks.
Haunted and hunted. Entwined by fate. Can their passion and power prevail?
Bio: Enthralled with legends of medieval knights and ladies, dark fairy tales and fantasies about Druids, wizards and magic, Jennifer Ivy Walker always dreamed of becoming a writer. She fell in love with French in junior high school, continuing her study of the language throughout college, eventually becoming a high school teacher and college professor of French.
As a high school teacher, she took her students every year to the annual French competition, where they performed a play she had written, “Yseult la Belle et Tristan la Bête”–an imaginative blend of the medieval French legend of “Tristan et Yseult” and the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” enhanced with fantasy elements of a Celtic fairy and a wicked witch.
Her debut novel, “The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven”–the first of a trilogy– is a blend of her love for medieval legends, the romantic French language, and paranormal fantasy. It is a retelling of the medieval French romance of “Tristan et Yseult”, interwoven with Arthurian myth, dark fairy tales from the enchanted Forest of Brocéliande, and otherworldly elements such as Avalonian Elves, Druids, forest fairies and magic.
Explore her realm of Medieval French Fantasy. She hopes her novels will enchant you.
Avis: Welcome Jennifer, or can I call you Ivy? I’m so happy to meet you and to read your fabulous book! You really have a flair for history and legends, and you know them well enough to blend them seamlessly in your novel, to that leads me to the first question:
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Ivy: For my trilogy–I researched everything from medieval Dubh Linn and Viking naval battles to healing crystals, herbal medicine, and dark fairy tales (in French) from the Forest of Brocéliande.
Avis: That sounds more like fun than research! As an English major and teacher, we share a similar background that led to our writing lives. It always seemed to me that research can only take you so far, so my next question involves hands-on research:
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Ivy: I have traveled to castles in the Loire Valley, troglodyte caves in Aquitaine, and medieval châteaux-forts, all of which I included in my trilogy.
Avis: How wonderful! Sounds like visiting a fairy tale. I have to say that those pilgrimages play a wonderful part in your storyline and have helped you describe your world in the most wonderfully detailed way. I loved it, but that leads me to my next question:
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Ivy: It definitely energizes me. It’s like my creativity starts flowing and I feel charged and revved up. I burn it off with power walks on the beach every evening.
Avis: Walks on the beach? That sounds wonderful! Creating worlds and writing can be its own kind of escape for some people, and you sound like that type, a true artist! In my own writing, I’ve had critique partners suggest I use a pseudonym when I write outside my preferred genre, so that leads me to my next question:
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Ivy: I did consider writing under a pseudonym but decided to use my real name. I might use a pseudonym in the future if I wrote a different genre other than Medieval French Fantasy.
Avis: It’s interesting to consider a pseudonym. I didn’t use one for my next book which is romance, a far cry from my YA novels! Your real name is lovely, and I bet you love seeing it on the lovely cover of your debut novel!
Thank you so much, Ivy, for answering a few questions for us! It’s been wonderful to get to know more about you as a writer and what goes into you process. I hope you’ll come back for a repeat performance when the second book in your trilogy comes out soon! In the meantime, I’m sure readers will enjoy learning more about Ivy at her social media sites, buy links, and website. All the links can be found below.
Thanks also to our readers! You are the ones who keep us writing! For further information about Jennifer Ivy Walker’s book, scroll to the bottom of the page for my review of The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven!A five-star read, all the way!
In Jennifer Ivy Walker’s debut novel, The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven, we meet Issylte, from the story of Tristan and Isolde, a story that has withstood the tests of time. Retold by authors over the millennia, each telling explores the rich and captivating relationship between these two young lovers, and it remains a story for the ages.
Contemporary readers will delight in Walker’s novel as she revisits Tristan and Isolde and their fight against evil forces that strive to kill them or keep them apart. Walker brings the story alive once again in a way that is unique, surprising, and satisfying.
We meet Issylte, the Emerald Princess, as she prepares for her father’s wedding to Princess Morag of Scotland. Her father, King Griogair, smitten by his bride, sets Issylte aside as he spends more time with Morag, but Issylte still has her nurse, Gigi, and her horse, Luna. Issylte comes to life under Walker’s masterful storytelling.
Next, we go to Cornwall where we meet Tristan, heir to the throne of his uncle, King Mark of Tintagel Castle. Tristan becomes one of ten champions for Cornwall and travels to Camelot where he is knighted by King Arthur, whom he will serve.
Walker paints these well-known characters and places with rich descriptions and all the embellishments that draw readers in and lets them see the places and the people and keeps them reading. She does the difficult work of creating the villain, Morag, as the evil queen begins her plot to separate Gigi from Issylte and kill her husband, King Griogair. Then she goes after Issylte. The fairy witch, Maiwenn, rescues Issylte and hides her deep in the forest. She teaches Issylte the healing arts, and Issylte finds that she too has magic, healing powers, and that she is a fairy.
Back in Camelot, Tristan defeats Lancelot in a tournament of champions, and they become fast friends. Lancelot insists Tristan accompany him to Avalon for the summer where Tristan becomes a member of the Tribe of Dana, but upon his return to Camelot, he faces his own brand of treachery and deceit.
Walker’s retelling of this beautiful story is woven masterfully between Issylte’s point of view and Tristan’s. We see them growing and overcoming obstacles, gaining successes, and growing into adulthood. When they finally meet, Tristan has been wounded with a poisoned sword, and Issylte saves him. The pacing is quick, and Walker keeps us on the edge of our seats as Issylte and Tristan learn their fates are entwined and their destinies are as one.
Jennifer Ivy Walker has made the Tristan and Isolde story her own. Her world building skills are masterful, and Avalon, though hidden in the mists, is brought to life as a place both fragile and powerful. Walker moves with ease from Ireland to Cornwall, to Camelot, and to Avalon. She peoples her story with characters like the Lady of the Lake, Vivian, guardian of Avalon, the Elfin warrior Ronan, and the fairy witch Maiwenn. Her rich storytelling and blending of genres will delight readers and fans of paranormal, historical, romance alike. This tale is dark yet filled with hope and is the first in a series of three novels. Readers will be delighted to know that Book 2, The Lady of the Mirrored Lake is coming soon.
The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven earns a full five-stars as a riveting and satisfying read.
Kat Out of the Bag, Katherine Watson purse designer and amateur sleuth likes to gift purses year ’round. Some wonderful things can be gifted inside a woman’s handbag too. Sometimes what’s inside a purse can lead to a very cozy mystery indeed.
Bio: The result of Wendy Kendall’s passion for purses, mystery and romance is the intriguing In Purse-Suit Mysteries. Kat Out of the Bag introduces Katherine Watson purse designer/sleuth. As Kat moves from designer bags to body bags, she’s uncovering clues to a murder. The prequel, Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash delves into a chilling cold case. The romantic suspense, Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For creates a tangle of mystery and love and raises suspicions about Desiree’s romantic new sweetheart, Leo. A summer read that will keep you on the edge of your beach towel, Cherry Shakes In The Park blends danger, divas, and frothy delights. Wendy enjoys investigating the Pacific Northwest life, and she leaves a trail of her own clues as a blogger, YouTube podcaster, speaker, project manager, and syndicated columnist. Just wait until you see what Katherine Watson and her friends in Bayside face in their next adventure.
Avis: I’d like to welcome Wendy Kendall, my critique partner and friend, to “Your Next Favorite Author!” I’m so happy to finally have you as a guest, Wendy, and readers are going to be so excited to see that you have four titles they can read and a fifth releasing this holiday season! I’m know they are going to fall in love with your books, your characters, and you! So, let’s begin, shall we? Here’s question number one:
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Wendy: I’ve gone on a couple of wonderful research pilgrimages. I confess to a passion for purses. Give them a chance, they’re truly fascinating. Not only a fashion statement, what people carry gives clues to their personalities, actions, and even motives. That includes men carrying messenger bags or other accessories. How fun to have an amateur sleuth, Katherine Watson who is a purse designer. Her attention to detail and her creative spirit are traits enabling investigation.
My research for my books is always fun, but especially memorable was my trip to Little Rock, Arkansas where I visited the Esse Purse Museum that shows women’s history through their diverse display of each decade’s purses carried. It’s a fantastic collection and includes so many lessons about women’s lives during those decades. It’s one of only 3 purse museums in the world, not including the Purse-onality Museum Katherine Watson runs in Bayside, Washington.
During my visit to Esse Purse Museum, I not only studied the displays, I also interviewed the incredible, fun staff. I also met and interviewed the talented, energetic, visionary Anita Davis. In the front of my book Kat Out of the Bag you’ll see the Esse endorsement “. . . purses have a story to tell and for Kendall’s mystery, these stories unveil more than just purse-sonal history; they’re the clues to catch a killer.”
My second passion has to do with the K-9 officers. Katherine Watson’s investigation at times has her head to head matching wits with local Bayside cop Jason Holmes, and his K-9 partner Hobbs. Although they disagree often, Katherine and Jason discover an undeniable attraction. They have to put their feelings on hold and focus on solving the murder, before Katherine becomes the killer’s next knock off. Faithful Hobbs is also suspicious of Katherine’s adopted cat, Purrada.
I also research local policing for my mysteries. I recently graduated from the Community Police Academy. I met great people, learned lots, and kept many notes for reference. When I was writing Kat Out of the Bag I went on a police ride along with K-9 partners. Very exciting! So, Hobbs in my book came from that experience. Here’s a picture of the inspiration for Hobbs while I was on my ride along.
Avis: I just love how you weave your passions into your books. This explains so much about Hobbs, and about Kat and her passion for purses! I’m sure so many readers will be able to relate to both these characters and will fall in-love with Hobbs! He steals the show sometimes! Let’s move on to question number two:
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Wendy: What I’ve heard from readers is that they not only love my characters in Kat Out of the Bag, especially Katherine and Moonjava, they love the community of Bayside and they’re interested in the characters who live there. I’m enjoying writing mysteries for Katherine, and for the citizens of Bayside. It’s the town of Bayside that ties my characters together. Katherine and Jason, with Hobbs, both appear in Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For with Desiree and Leo.
I’m so proud that Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For was a Finalist for Best Suspense at Killer Nashville in August, an amazing mystery writers and readers annual conference. And, if you’ve read and enjoyed my book, it’s also in the running for Readers’ Choice Award.
Romantic Suspense is a great combination, and this book practically wrote itself. Desiree is a first-grade teacher at Bayside Elementary, dedicated to her students. She’s a very warmhearted character and I enjoyed writing about someone in that profession. She’s at the beginning of a sweet, new romance with Leo who works on the school’s maintenance staff. Desiree’s suddenly being tormented by a secret stalker though, and the situation is dire. There are several suspects, including Leo. At the end, there is a shocking confrontation. Enjoy the cookies too, because the yummy, original Snow Kiss Cookies recipe is included.
The character Arturo Girardo is in both my summer beach reads, the Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash, and also Cherry Shakes in the Park. You just never know who’s going to pop up again in my books! Right now I’m writing the sequel to Kat Out of the Bag. It’s such an exciting case with returning and also intriguing new characters.
Avis: Bravo! I was hoping you’d mention a few characters from your other books! More great characters to fall in-love with! And congratulations on Snow Cookies to Die For! You are a seasoned author with several published books under your belt now, so I’d like to ask you this:
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Wendy: I’ve learned so much from my editor at The Wild Rose Press. Through working with me on edits, I’ve absorbed improvements and my first drafts have grown cleaner.
I’ve also developed a curiosity to expand my writing skills in more genres. Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For plunged me into Romantic Suspense, and it was an adventure in writing, for me.
I followed that with the Romantic Mystery Cherry Shakes in the Park. I was inspired by my love of the works by the Bard, William Shakespeare. This newest book is a great summer read which is a contemporary new twist on A Midsummer Night’s Dream including all the humor, romance, and adding an enticing mystery.
Here’s how Bryson’s story begins –
Standing at the bottom of the wooden stairs to Girardo’s ice cream shop, Bryson wished he could shake off his broken heart as easily as he shook the beach sand from his feet. He’d missed Marta from the moment she got on that bus and left him. A rogue wave of sadness hit hard, splashing visions of their walks along the bay in his face.
There on the beach, Marta’s friends waved to him. Naomi stood in the sunshine, up to her knees in water. Next to her, Tara took pictures on her cell phone. The space between them where Marta should be standing reflected the hole in his heart. Bryson waved back. Nice girls, but neither were Marta.
He clenched his fists. Here he was, mid-twenties with plans for this decade of his life. Settling down with his girl, Olympic tryouts and qualifying, sprinting to a medal, product endorsements, and a happy new career. It all crashed and burned a month ago. His broken spirit affected everything, even track times. What do you do when your dreams hit a dead end?
As the story goes on, Bryson is faced with mysteries of the heart when Marta returns with the Not Royal Shakes Company to perform in the park at Bayside. Sparks fly as Bryson is torn between rekindling flames with Marta or a new spark with her co-star Senona. They’re racing to follow clues around Bayside, along with the Shakes Company cast of humorous characters, and of course a dog, to try and win the scavenger hunt prize.
In the meantime, Bryson faces the mysterious kidnapping of his beloved coach’s brother, and wants to help, but the clock is ticking to find and save him. Who knew that a comical midnight dalliance at Loon Point would merge clues to both mysteries and reveal the true danger Bryson faces?
I’ve followed these writings with a brave plunge into a full romance novel, Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams. You can watch for this book release this holiday season, and the recipe for the delicious, original cookies is included. George is a chef, and Liz is a corporate leader. What is it that can bring these two wandering souls together? Whatever it is, ribbons of love run through it.
I enjoy exploring some other genres. My roots are in mystery though. Right now, I’m finishing the sequel to Kat Out of the Bag, another cozy mystery. Just wait until you see what mystery Katherine faces this time.
Avis: Wow, Wendy! Books five and six are looming on the horizon! Such good news for all your fans! It’s so exciting to see you blending genres and having so much fun with it! I have loved seeing you go from “cozy” to “romance” to “romantic mystery.” You really capture that element of surprise in all your novels! Here’s my final question today:
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Wendy: The entrance fee to attend my first Writers’ Conference. It was for the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association. This event opened my eyes to the fantastic world of writing and gave me the hope that I could do it too.
I learned so much and met people with great advice and enthusiasm that rubbed off. I found a way to move forward. I even got to pitch story ideas to agents and editors. It was a very motivating time and has led me to where I am now with my writing. I sincerely believe that I could not have created all I have without the decision to attend that very first Writing Conference. I have found members of the writing community incredibly generous in giving back to new and aspiring writers, and it all started there.
Avis: Thank you so much, Wendy, for being my guest today! I’ve known you for years, and I learned new things about you, your writing, and your books! If readers haven’t already, you can find Wendy Kendall’s books wherever books are sold, and on all the social media platforms and her website! You can find links below to connect with Wendy and her wonderful books, and after the links, you will find my review of Kat Out of the Bag! A five-star book, for sure!
Kat Out of the Bag, by Wendy Kendall is book one in An in Purse-suit Mystery series. Her protagonist Katherine Watson will keep you turning pages as she sleuths her way through this charming and mysterious who-done-it.
Katherine Watson, a celebrated purse designer of international fame, has returned to her hometown of Bayside, Washington, nestled on the shores of picturesque Puget Sound where she opens a Purse Museum. At the gala opening, we find Kat kicked to the curb, her dress in tatters, her hair flattened by rain, and her best friend dead.
Thus begins the story of Katherine Watson, purse designer, and amateur sleuth who works tirelessly with her family and close friends to solve the murder of her friend and mayor of Bayside, Brenda Dirling, much to the chagrin of the local law enforcement.
Wendy’s characters leap off the page, like Moonjava, or MJ, Kat’s mother. Hippie and yoga aficionado, her daily meditations delight with their wacky but “right on the money” focus.
Today’s mantra is—to be great, feel great, act great. I’m meditating on
There’s also K-9 officer Jason and his German shepherd, Hobbs, who take an interest in the case and Katherine.
Wendy’s knowledge of designer bags also shines through. She filters the history of purses throughout in her active setting of the museum displays, and also through her characters as they use the story of some bags as clues to Brenda’s murder. The purses and her friends help her catch the villain in the end, as her assistant Amber goes in search of clues.
[Amber] gently lifted the Whiting and Davis flapper bag and held it out for Francine to see. Francine’s hands went to her cheeks and her mouth popped open.
Through chance and mishap, we follow Kat as she finds suspects in the most unlikely places. Wendy ratchets up the suspense by leading us down the flower-lined alleys of Bayside and the hearthside chats in living rooms keeping us guessing to the very end.
The cast of characters masterfully drives the plot as they help Katherine Watson on her dangerous search for the killer, and in a surprising twist, Katherine shifts from pursuer to prey in the exciting conclusion.
I highly recommend Kat Out of the Bag for readers and cozy fans everywhere. Here’s another author to add to your must-read list—Wendy Kendall. Keep your eyes peeled for her other books and her new releases from The Wild Rose Press.
A young screenwriter meets her soulmate, only to discover he is from the future and must return in order to save her life.
Bio: Janie Emaus believes when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the blended holiday picture books, Latkes for Santa Claus, and the forthcoming Matzo Balls & Easter Eggs. As well as the novel, The Time Traveling Matchmaker. Her essays, stories and articles have been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and websites. In 2016 she won an honorary mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing competition. To learn more about Janie visit her at www.janieemaus.com.
Avis: Hi Janie! I’m so glad you join us for today’s blog post! I love stories that blend genres and The Time Traveling Matchmaker does just that with romance, time-travel, and mystery! What a great read! But enough of that. Readers want to know more about you, so let’s begin with our first question:
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Janie: I’ve always wanted to be a singer/songwriter. But there was one large drawback to pursuing this career – I can’t carry a tune. To myself, I think I sound wonderful, but not to anyone within earshot, over the age of two. I can write lyrics, though, and I do make up silly songs to entertain my grandkids, nieces, and nephews. And two of the characters in my women’s fiction novel are performers and songwriters.
Avis: LOL! A songwriter who can’t carry a tune, I can relate! I love music, but ditto on carrying a tune! I bet all the kids in your family love hearing your songs, though! But back to the writing questions:
How do you select the names?
Janie: I often start with family members, as a place holder. And then when I get a feel for the character, they usually let me know what name suits them best. I try not use similar sounding names or ones that start with the same letter.
Avis: I like your process for choosing names. Let the character tell you! There is so much in a name, and your characters were speaking loud and clear! Here’s a questions that focuses on you as a reader!
What is the first book that made you cry?
Janie: I can’t remember the exact first book, but I know that Sophie’s Choice by William Styron was the first one that made me literally sob for what seemed like hours.
Avis: William Styron wrote magic into Sofie’s Choice! That’s for sure! He’s one of my personal literary hero’s! Here’s another writerly question:
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Janie: Energize, for sure. I’m excited to see where the story is going to take me. I don’t plot out the novel, scene by scene. I get to know my characters, what they want, what stands in the way and then I say – go for it! And let them tell me the story.
When writing essays and articles, it’s the greatest feeling in the world, when I get that last line to bring the piece full circle.
Avis: You are a multi-faceted writer, for sure! It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your writing process and some of your reading faves! And for my review of her fabulous novel, scroll to the bottom!
For more information on Janie Emaus and her work, check out her social media links below!
Blurb: In The Time Traveling Matchmaker, love takes on a new meaning when soulmates are brought together through time and space.
Like every goal-oriented twenty-something, Jessica Singleton, an aspiring filmmaker, is obsessed with finding her future as quickly as possible. What she doesn’t know is that the future is obsessed with finding her, too. Renn Porter, an agent with Time Traveling Matchmaker’s Inc, blasts back in time – and into her life- in order to transport Jessica to the soulmate who has paid for this service…in the future. But things turn dangerous when it’s revealed that Renn has been sent after his own soulmate.
Caught between two times, Jessica and Renn must struggle to stay alive. Falling in love is the biggest risk either of them has ever taken – because, as they are destined to learn, the very existence of Time Traveling Matchmakers, Inc. rests in Jessica’s hands.
Janie Emaus’s The Time Traveling Matchmaker is a paranormal/fantasy romance that builds up to steamy romance by the end of this (her debut) novel. Emaus warps the space-time continuum to bring us a nail-biting story that builds scene after nail biting scene!
Emaus’s protagonist, Jessica Dylan Singleton, is a young woman still reeling from a bad relationship and breakup a year later, who just wants to move on already. She wanders through life with her eyes half-closed until she meets a mysterious man in a tan trench coat. When she witnesses that man’s disappearance into thin air, she has a new mission. Find out how he does that!
Jess, a screenplay writer, is on hiatus from her writing program, but her advisor is pressing her for a chapter, so she doesn’t lose her place in the program. No pressure there. But Jess finds inspiration in the most unlikely place, her father’s love story with her mom. Soulmates who met in the 1980s, her mom and dad had a special kind of love, but her mom was killed when Jess was only six years old. Her dad never recovered or remarried, but he also disappeared from Jess’s life.
Soulmates is a theme Emaus weaves throughout her fantastic book. Her grandparents and her aunt and uncle are also soulmates, and that’s what Jess wants too. She thought she had it with David, but that relationship did not fulfil her. It left her scared and abandoned, and she realizes how lucky her parents were to find such an elusive love.
Janie Emaus creates a world where love and magic are masterfully intertwined into the setting, the characters, and the plot. Jessica’s search for love and the dangers that come with that search will satisfy fantasy/time-travel/romance fans and any reader looking for an thrilling weekend read or fun escape. I highly recommend The Time Traveling Matchmaker, a five-star read, for sure!
Sometimes you have to gamble like your life depends on it. With Caroline’s life on the line, can she pull out a win?
Cara Bertoia grew up in a strait-laced Southern family, but she was always fascinated with casinos. In her twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, she drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. She discovered that after teaching high school, handling an unruly gambler was a piece of cake. Her mother highly disapproved of her working in a casino, “a place so bad it has ‘sin’ in the middle.”
Eventually, she succumbed to pressure from the family and returned east to take a hi-tech job in Boston. She also began working on her MFA in writing at Emerson. Her goal was to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. She is always amazed that normal and sometimes quite intelligent players become absolutely clueless in the casino. They repeat superstitious nonsense and no amount of logic can change their position, maybe her novel will.
While in Boston she was offered the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. Jumping at the chance, she spent the next five years circling the globe. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. She was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in St. Petersburg.
Cara returned from ships with a very special souvenir, her Scottish husband Ray. They went to work at the Spa Casino in Palm Springs, and now live in Hollywood, Florida, where she writes about her casino years while wistfully gazing out at the ocean.
I love to connect with my readers. Please send me a picture with Casino Queen. I will post those pictures to my social media.
Avis: Hi Cara! I’m so glad to have you as my guest today! I loved your book and the fascinating world of casinos and gambling. It’s not my thing, but you made it so interesting, and your book was so engaging! Let’s talk about you and your book now!
How did your career and life experiences influence your work?
Cara: For the last ten years I have been juggling writing with my day or should I say night job as a croupier. I say croupier not to be pretentious but because I can deal about ten games not just blackjack. I have left dealing a few times but it always sucked me back in. I will list some of the reasons.
You get paid for playing games all day. Every casino I have ever worked in provides health insurance. You also only work 8 hours a day. I decided I’d rather work by the hour than for a salary. These hours gave me an opportunity to write during the day.
You can work any shift that you want to. At a young age I decided I liked to work night shift. I lived in Lake Tahoe and if I worked nights that left my days free to ski or swim in the lake. I also hate waking up to an alarm clock.
Gambling is a growth industry. With more states and cities in desperate financial straits, they are turning to casinos. Fifty years ago, there were casinos only in Nevada now according to Wikipedia there are casinos in 30 states.
You can’t be outsourced. Someone does have to actually pitch those cards on a blackjack game.
You can get a job at almost any age. I have seen dealers in their sixties get hired.
Free food is a great incentive. Most casinos I’ve worked in have provided free meals and drinks and if they do charge the cost is minimal.
You don’t have to buy clothes, because your company will gladly provide you with a uniform. It will be ugly, it will be made of polyester, but it will be free.
You get to live in nice places which is what got me into the business in the first place. Besides Tahoe, I have lived on a cruise ship circling the world, and Palm Springs. My husband has worked in Moscow, London, the Czech Republic and the Bahamas. Not all casinos are located in nice places but with a little research you can find a beautiful place to deal.
You get to meet celebrities. I was thrilled whenever anyone from Vanderpump Rules played on my game. Well, okay to me they are actually big celebrities. I have also dealt to official Hollywood stars.
Avis: Wow! You’ve really lived an exciting life and it sounds like you have a unique skill set, writer/dealer! Your experiences working in casinos really makes your book come alive! How about another question:
Did you have to cut any favorite scenes?
Cara: I had to cut and replace about a third of my novel. The catalyst of my new novel—CASINO QUEEN—was brought on by the boom and bust of the first decades of this century. My goal was to write a thriller filled with twists and turns to capture that special time and place. My editor, Kaycee John at The Wild Rose Press, always encouraged me to tap into everyone’s fascination for the gambling industry. “Millions of dollars pass through the casino every week, casino fleas operate their personal side businesses on the gaming floor, and you never knew who might walk through the door itching for a fight.” She wanted me to pull from my decades of working in the industry to tell the stories only an insider can tell. In the process the story became more concentrated on the Night Hawk Casino and less focused on Caroline’s past. Since she was the casino manager it became the story of a strong women succeeding in a career usually reserved for men.
Avis: You got some really good advice and guidance from your editor! Getting to follow Caroline through the casino on her daily business was so fascinating to me, and the way you work in the thriller/mystery was excellent! No spoilers here though, so on to our next question:
What was your hardest scene to write?
Cara: I found out it is very hard to write a thriller, it’s like designing a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has to fit, but it can’t be too obvious just how they do. The most challenging scene I wrote was the climax of the book. You know the place in the thriller where the crime and the villain are revealed and the protagonist lays her life on the line. For me it was important to write a realistic novel, one that could actually happen. I also had to tie up all the plot points. But most importantly I wanted the ending to be a surprise and you can tell me if I succeeded Avis, since you read Casino Queen.
Avis: Oh, Cara! You succeeded! This interview has been so interesting, and it’s so great to hear your behind the scenes decisions and choices as you wrote Casino Queen! You’ve overcome any challenges and produced a really top-notch read for anyone interested in the gambling, the casino scene, or a really fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering whodunnit!
Here is a list of Cara’s social links, and below that is my review of Cara’s excellent book, Casino Queen. Check it out!
Here is the link to my first novel Cruise Quarters. It is a novelization of my five years working for Princess Cruises. In honor of the cruise, I just took I am offering it for the low price of $2.99 or for free at Kindle Unlimited.
Review, by Avis Adams:
Cara Bertoia’s Casino Queen had me hooked from page one! Bertoia’s experience working at Casinos as a dealer helps her develop the world of gambling. She introduces us to the world of Native casinos and gives us so many interesting aspects of casino life. From all the people it takes to keep track of the thousands of dollars that flow through the tables, slots, and other games, to the ties the casino has to the tribe and the local community, we learn the important connections and role the casino has in so many lives. In the midst of this world, Bertola guides us through and develops a mystery that keeps up on the edge of our seats!
Caroline Popov, our hero, is a tall, beautiful woman with a broken heart who is more concerned about the running of her casino than herself. Her failed marriage is the backdrop to every decision she makes. Through flashback and back story, Bertola weaves a picture of a woman who had no choice but to leave when all she wanted to do was stay in the loving arms of her husband. Alone and on her own, she makes her way in the cutthroat world of casinos and gambling.
As the manager at the Night Hawk Casino, she is the boss, and as the boss, she must navigate the fine line between friend, family, and manager because the casino acts as one large family, and it employs people who are family, which can create unique problems as we find out. At the Night Hawk Casino, some of the employees steal and extort their colleagues, and even though their schemes are smart and slide under the radar of previous managers, When Caroline arrives, she notices, and she stops the stealing.
Bertoia develops scene after scene where security and cameras are called upon to expose card sharks and double-dealing dealers with Caroline at the head of the sting. To state the obvious, she makes enemies, and her life is threatened. Her mentor and boss, the enigmatic and handsome John Tovar, worries about her, while admiring her skill at managing her staff and exposing and catching criminals, patrons, and employees alike.
Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Mojave Desert backdrop provide another layer to the complex plot and Bertola’s master storyteller skills meld the story with the setting creating tension and tone in this dessert wonderland. A casino sponsored half-marathon is the event that brings all the players together, and readers will delight in the tension and action-packed conclusion to this riveting story.
Cara Bertoia’s Casino Queen delivers on all fronts, and readers of mystery/romance will love this book. And the best news is that Casino Queen is book one in the Night Hawk Casino series! This book is highly recommended and is definitely a five-star read!
BIO: LB Griffin is happily married and surrounded by her family in Wiltshire UK. She has had a variety of jobs from cleaner to lecturer and has worked alongside the homeless. All of her life she has absorbed the wonders of the world and will always fight for the underdog. She absolutely loves writing fiction from those observations. Her stories touch upon social issues and are filled with gentle hints of romance. Her women don’t see themselves as courageous, strong, or survivors, but they certainly are.
Avis: Welcome back LB! Can I call you that? It’s such a pleasure to host you on the blog again! The Twenty-One-Year Contract is the sequel to your historical, mystery romance Secret’s, Shame, and a Shoebox, which I also thoroughly enjoyed!
The Twenty-One-Year Contracts continues the story, and we do meet Hattie again, but this time your protagonist is someone featured in the first book! I found it fascinating to read the story through another set of eyes as you overlapped the plot of the first book in the second! Did that make sense?! I think on that note, we should begin.
Did you have to cut any favorite scenes?
L.B. Griffin: Yes. In fact, I did a complete re-write to reduce the number of words. That was hard. I’ve held onto the information though.
Avis: Do you mean in the whole book? Oh my! That is so difficult. I’ve had to do that too, and it’s so hard to part with your “darlings!” The next question is:
What was your hardest scene to write?
L.B. Griffin: I always find the first chapter the hardest. I end up writing it numerous times and find that the story grows because of it. Great fun though because those characters are telling me exactly what to say!
Avis: I love it when the characters talk back! Sometimes that is! When they get sassy, it’s annoying, but we have to listen to them, right? LOL! Speaking of characters, that’s a perfect segue to the next question:
How do you select the names of your characters?
L.B. Griffin: I desperately try not to use names of people (first or second) I know because if I like a person, it influences the character as it develops. So, I have looked at gravestones, newspapers, trailers of films…
Avis: Oh, great ideas for finding character names! I always try to avoid people I know or that I’m related to as well! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions! It’s been a pleasure to get to know you a bit more, and I know people will love your book as much as I did!
Please read on for a review (at the bottom of the page) and links to purchase The Twenty-One-Year Contract,as well as links to L.B. Griffin’s social media sites and blog!
Blurb: Kathleen Gray—talented, a little wild, at times rebellious, but always popular—has a fun, easy life in rural Somerset, with a doting family.
Suddenly, they are gone, everything is changed, and she has only Uncle Jack. Try as he might, he cannot be father and mother to her—he has a business to run and his own life to manage.
Kathleen takes a chance and becomes Kate Westfield, fending for herself in London, with a new life built on her hopes and dreams and new friends. She could hardly have imagined that one of those friends has a shoebox full of answers.
I just finished The Twenty-Year Contract by L.B. Griffin, her second novel in 2022, and I couldn’t put it down! This novel continues the story started in Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox. One of the characters in the first book, Kate, takes the lead in this one. Griffin has intertwined the plots of book one and two, so the second book is an overlap and continuation, but not to worry. You could read the second book as a stand-alone. It will make you want to read the first one, though!
Kate is an orphan adopted by a loving couple who have a baby boy, and she longs for the parents she never knew. When her adopted parents and her infant brother are killed, Kate goes from pampered and privileged child of two loving parents to an orphan once again.
Lucky for her, Uncle Jack swoops in from America and tries to be mother, father, and loving guardian. He wants to fill in the gaps he knows Kate is feeling, but his own career takes him all over the world.
Kate soon learns to survive, but she also learns that to thrive she must rely on her own wits, and as a young girl boarding at school, she learns how to use her seamstress and clothing design skills to help her escape a life that threatens to kill her creativity.
When it is discovered that she is found missing, her uncle is notified. He finds her and realizes she is right where she needs to be. Not in school but working as a designer at a high end dress shop. He keeps a close eye on her, albeit from a distance, and Kate soon finds her clientele expanding.
One client in particular draws her into the seamy world of mob violence and human trafficking. Enter Harriet, the hero of the first novel. Kate and Harriet help the women being trafficked and find the answers to other secrets that will change their lives forever.
I was fascinated by how she wove the plot twists and the different story lines to overlap, continue, and extend to such a satisfying ending! I highly recommend The Twenty-Year Contract. This suspenseful romance/mystery is fast paced, and action packed, a story that will keep readers wanting more until the last satisfying page. I give this book five stars!
Archaeologist Pauline Marsh has an uncanny talent for locating priceless artifacts but finding true love will take a lot more digging.
Bio: Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her fiction.
Avis: Welcome Amy! I’m so happy we can showcase your wonderful new novel and get to know you a bit better! I just finished your book, and I have to say, it was riveting! Which leads me to the first question: What was your hardest scene to write?
Amy: The hardest scenes to write in The Nighthawkers were those that take place in the magical, mystical, parallel reality that looks like home, but isn’t. I found it challenging to invent a place that was believable, although it exists outside of our normal time-space continuum. I wanted readers to feel they were there, so I had to choose details carefully, yet make this place feel special.
Avis: You create such a magical parallel reality, and your attention to details made me want to know more about Pauline’s roll in all of it. Those scenes really sucked me in and made me curious about the other people there! Which leads me to the next question: How do you select the names of your characters?
Amy: Choosing characters’ names is so much fun—and often quite difficult! Usually, the name just comes to me as soon as I know something about the character. Sometimes, I go for a name that has a particular sound. In The Nighthawkers, I thought “Grey” sounded very masculine. But the protagonist’s other love interest has an ancient Egyptian name with special meaning. So you really have to find the name that suits the character and his or her history.
Avis: Ancient Egypt? Wow! You really developed some great character back stories! I was so curious about the names and the historical importance of each of them. In a novel like yours that blends genres, history is all important. Your world building in this novel really draws the reader in, which leads me to my next question: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Amy: I am a multi-genre author, meaning, I don’t wish to pick a lane and stay in it. I enjoy the thrill of writing in different styles and genres, though all my books have some common themes around social justice, love, and loss.
Avis: Well, not to give anything away, but this book does deal with all of those issues in a sensitive, logical, and realistic manner. I am always interested in an author’s response to this question: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Amy: Writing is both energizing and exhausting. When I’m in the middle of a good stretch of writing, I feel exhilarated, like I can do anything (well, almost anything). Once I’m done for the day, however, I’m often exhausted, physically, and mentally. Writing can feel like running a marathon—but you do, on occasion, get the runner’s high.
Avis: I agree! When the writing is good, it’s an amazing feeling!
Amy, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s a pleasure to get to know you better. For people interested in learning more about Amy Bernstein, here are links to her website and her social media pages:
Please continue reading for a blurb and a review of The Nighthawkers!
Blurb: Archaeologist Pauline Marsh is convinced she’s an unlovable freak. Who else in the world shares her ability to locate ancient artifacts without a map, hear their stories, and commune with long-dead artisans? But all that changes when handsome, charismatic Grey Henley persuades her she’s the girl of his dreams. For Pauline, Grey is the family she never knew. And for Grey, Pauline’s treasure-finding skills will make him immensely rich. But the lovers are keeping secrets from one another that push their relationship to the breaking point. Grey is in league with a criminal and Pauline is visited by an other-worldly stranger with a message. Sometimes, it takes a broken heart to discover your true destiny—and find eternal love where you least expect it.
Amy L. Bernstein’s latest creative work is Nighthawkers, a novel filled with mystery, suspense, and fantasy. Bernstein sets her story in the world of archeology and creates a strong woman protagonist, Pauline March, PhD for us to follow. I’d follow Pauline anywhere, even when she experiences the pulse, a mysterious physical response that leaves her floating above her body.
We meet Pauline as she is about to graduate and follow her to the party at Dean India Nojes’ house. Pauline just wants to fit in and belong. She’s looking for acceptance, but not at the expense of who she is. The Dean is notorious for her parties and her control issues, so Pauline attends hoping to avoid any drama.
Fat chance. She meets Grey Henley, the Adonis of her class. Together they are called into the infamous room where their fate is decided? Maybe, but no one is certain. Dean Nojes does not take no for an answer and calls her students into the room. Pauline and Grey enter, and they feel the bond of the experience. Thus begins a journey that will break all the laws her best friend and law school bound Bette is to expose.
Pauline and Grey begin their careers as Nighthawkers, people who find and sell artifacts for profit, and she learns more about herself and the pulse. As the puzzle pieces of the Pulse come together, her misgivings about what she and Grey are doing fill her with dread. She knows that Grey will leave her if she doesn’t use her abilities to find the next precious artifact.
What she learns about Grey as they amass a fortune and build a life together based on stolen artifacts is that she won’t be party to any of it. Bernstein’s novel is a non-stop action-packed adventure on the scale of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft with the added element of fantasy for extra flair. This page-turner will keep you satisfied to the last word and wanting more! And rumors have it that several more books will follow! This is a five-star read!
J. L. Sullivan writes young adult stories inspired by gritty urban environments and the fantastical tales that percolate within abandoned buildings and desolate alleys.
In high school, he wrote for a local newspaper before venturing into creative writing in college. He is a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild and currently lives in St. Louis with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Princess Penelope Picklesworth.
Avis: Welcome, John! It’s so nice to host a fellow YA author on the blog today! I just want to say happy book release day (May 16, 2022)!
I thoroughly enjoyed your novel, From Brick & Darkness. Your creative brain must have been in heaven as you built this world for Bax, and what a conundrum to unleash the Jinn and not be able to control it. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say, I loved your page-turner!
I’m sure your fans will want to know more about you, so let’s begin! Here’s the first question:
Have you always wanted to be an author?
John: I have. In sixth grade, I wrote a science fiction story. Every Friday, I’d distribute 12 pages, comprised of three chapters, to my friends. I watched way too much TV as a kid, so of course, my story had cliffhangers right before school breaks and a climax at the end of the year like a season finale.
For our first wedding anniversary, my wife somehow found those pages, had them bound, and gave it to me as a gift. It was very entertaining to read how my sixth-grade-self wrote romance subplot!
Avis: I would love to see that romance subplot! LOL! In your case, watching too much TV paid off, and your humble beginnings have set you up for your life as a published author. I love that your wife created a book from those first writings, too. That leads us to our next question, which you have partially answered:
Does your family support your career as a writer?
John: Absolutely. I’m a lucky parent in that my daughters are avid young adult readers. Since I write young adult stories, I’ll often ambush one of them or their friends and ask questions like, “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?” Or, “I need some good superhero names that don’t exist, but should—go!” Plus, they are incredible beta readers of early drafts. Partially because they read a lot, but mostly because they won’t hesitate to tell me how a section is boring or tell me to “get back to it” because they want to see what happens next.
Avis: Wow! Lucky you, and how convenient to live with your target audience and bounce ideas off them as you’re writing! That sounds like the original fan-club! Every writer needs that kind of support. Our next questions is:
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
John: I currently have a job in addition to writing, but have always written and can’t imagine not. Years ago, an author at a conference told me successful writers must enjoy the process of writing, not just the outcome of being published. Successful writers find excitement and happiness in learning the craft. Such a true statement. I find that writing grounds and centers me. I’m not a golfer, but I liken it to that. It’s what I do in my off time for enjoyment and am always striving to “improve my game.”
Avis: I agree. The love of writing must be the impetus behind our creative life, and the work we produce will shine with that dedication to the craft!
It’s such a pleasure to get to know more about you as a writer, and I can’t wait to read your next book because From Brick & Darkness is amazing, and I know readers will love it!
For more information about J.L Sullivan and his future projects or to find links to purchase your copy, follow the links below. His books can be found wherever books are sold!
Also scroll down for a full review of From Brick & Darkness.
J.L. Sullivan’s debut YA urban fantasy From Brick & Darkness takes readers on a wild ride. When an old man gives Baxter Allen a purple ring, he enters a world he can’t control, and everything he does to fix it makes it worse. Jinn, Djinn, or Genie, all these words conjure magical creatures who grant three wishes. Just rub the lantern, and we will have riches beyond our wildest dreams, but Bax doesn’t get a lantern, he gets a ring, and he doesn’t get instructions, no user’s manual, nothing to tell him what to do.
Bax, lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his mom in an apartment across the hall of from Ashley, the annoying. If only Scarlett still lived there, his life would be perfect. The only thing that would make it better was if his father returned. Why wouldn’t his mother talk about the man who’d abandoned them so many years ago? All these things are running through his mind as he rushes home from playing video games with Jason, his best friend. An old homeless-looking man sits on his stoop. He holds out his gnarled hand and presents Baxter with a ring, tells him it’s from his father, and disappears.
He shows the ring to Jason who helps him decipher what the ring means. Bax hopes the ring will reconnect him to his long-lost father and clasps it in his hand, brushing the purple stone. The smell of burning hair fills the air, and a creature that looks something between a Hobbit and an Ewok stands before him. Its high-pitched voice says, “It is Djinn,” because Djinn speak of themselves in the third person, and the story is off and running.
“Janni” helps Bax discover an ulterior world filled with magic and pure evil when Bax needs Djinn more powerful that Jinni to do his bidding Jinni, Ashley, and Jason research the world of Djinn and Genies and Ashley proves her superpower is in finding information. But in spite of Jinni’s warnings, and his obvious fear, Bax summons the more powerful Djinn, Ifrit. What happens next is mayhem at its worst, and Bax finds himself trying desperately to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak.
When people start dying and ending up in intensive care, Bax fights sleep because that is when Ifrit can read his subconscious and through Ifrit’s own interpretation, wreak havoc on the people Bax loves and would never dream of hurting.
Sullivan creates an urban world where the magical and terrifying exist just under the surface and in the shadows. His characters leap off the page and make us care. We fear for Ifrit’s next victim, and root for Bax as he puts himself in danger to save his friends and family.
Sullivan’s From Brick & Darkness shows the inner workings of an ordinary young man who does extraordinary things to put the world right again, and with the help of his friends and his Jinn, he does just that. This page turner will suck you in and have you reading into the night to find out what happens to Baxter, Jason, Ashley, and Scarlett. The old saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” is the motto of this story, and what a story it is. This is a full five star read and comes highly recommended!