Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guest Blogger: NL Hight

Vendetta by [Hight, Nickolas]

Please tell us about your latest book:

My debut novel, VENDETTA, is a fairly straightforward tale of revenge set in the year 1377. A young squire in the Hospitaller Order, Angelo Anchioni, discovers his family has been murdered at the command of Bernabò Visconti, the ruler of Milan. He renounces his vows and swears revenge. The revenge component is set against the backdrop of the complex and very violent state of affairs which existed on the Italian peninsula during the 14th century. At its core is the divisive and passive-aggressive relationship of Bernabò Visconti and the English mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood, both real historical figures.   

What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm currently working on the sequel to VENDETTA, tentatively titled END OF DAYS. It picks up right where VENDETTA leaves off. I'm also working on a collection of military sci-fi short stories and collaborating on a contemporary crime/noir-ish thriller with a friend. Both of those projects, however, aren't just on the back burner. They're more like on the back burner of someone else's house out in the middle of nowhere. In Myanmar. 

In short, I'm focusing on the 14th century for the foreseeable future.

How do we find out about you and your books?

You can always check out my blog and website:  www.hightnl-author.com
I've got a FaceBook author page, too. https://www.facebook.com/NLHight.author/
It's also on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Book Depository, and will soon be available on Overdrive.
The easiest way to keep track of any updates on my work or any other news will be via my blog. 

Why did you decide to write historical novels?

I've always been fascinated by the medieval period. Reading "A Distant Mirror" by Barbara Tuchman planted the initial seed, I think, because that's when I first discovered John Hawkwood. He gets very little mention in the work; two or three pages out of 600. But I found it amazing an Englishman, about whose life very little is known, rose to such prominence on the Italian peninsula. And he never made it back to England. He died in the employ of Florence. 

And history has always been my favorite subject, so it's much easier to get fired up about conducting research ...

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

A little piece of me goes into every character. I think that's unavoidable for any writer. Not that it's a bad thing! I've had a broad range of work experiences and interests. It makes for better characterizations. For specific things, like describing the strain on people under severe physical hardship or extreme stress, fear, anger, etc, my time in the Marine Corps very much helps to describe those emotions. 

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

I am, for better or worse, an extremely undisciplined writer. I definitely qualify as a 'pantser.' 'Go with the flow' describes my writing schedule. But when I get into a rhythm, I'll hammer away into the wee hours. I finished VENDETTA at 4am on a Saturday morning ...

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

I cook and read. I play a lot of ultimate frisbee and disc golf. And I enjoy skate skiing when there happens to be enough snow to do it (I live in northern California, and snow has been hit or miss the past few years). In short, if it's taking place outdoors, I'm there. Unless I'm in the kitchen, where I'm equally happy ... Or making high-quality, high-octane cocktails, in which case I'm happiest.

Where do your ideas come from?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? I came up with the original premise for VENDETTA while staying at the hill town of Orvieto. It's in Umbria, a couple of hours by train north of Rome. And, like virtually every hill town in Italy, Orvieto has a magnificent duomo, stunning views, cobbled streets, amazingly preserved architecture, spectacular museums. I mean, it was like the Story Fairy dropped a brick on my head. There I was standing at the summit of a bell tower, on a crisp fall day, king of all I surveyed. I said to myself, "Hmm. What if ...?" And that was all it took. The finished product is not even close to my original idea. But I sure had fun completing the journey. There was so much going on during the latter part of the 14th century. It's impossible to NOT get ideas during a time when the human race was decimated by plague, war was endemic, the most trusted institution (the church) was also the most loathed, and yet we were on the cusp of the Renaissance. An altogether remarkable period in our history ...

What does your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend think of your writing?

When I first started working on VENDETTA, I think my wife thought it was a lark; that I'd lose interest or it would fall by the wayside. But she was always supportive. And I wasn't sure she'd like it, so I only let her read a couple of short excerpts. And then one day (mid-May, 2015) I had a 537-page rough draft. The dedication was to her, which came as a complete surprise and she read it and really enjoyed it. So, as far as writing goes, she's all about it. It's the business aspects of being an author over which we butt heads. All. The. Time.

Do you ever ask him/her for advice?

Character names. She's supplied some great Italian names for me ... Other than that, everything comes out of my noggin.

Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)I'll give you the condensed version. I've had a busy life. Why, I could write a book!! HA! Get it?! Uhhh, moving right along ... Army brat, youngest of four kids. Grew up in Germany and Colorado. Went to college for a couple of years after high school (Minnesota and Colorado; I swam in Minnesota until an injury ended my season) then joined the Marine Corps in 1991 and served in the infantry. Attended Texas Tech University; I majored in Russian Language and Area Studies. Got out of the Marine Corps. Then went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 2001. Did all sorts of things as a Marine officer. Resigned in 2007. Lived in Seattle. Taught swim lessons and had a personal training business. Married in 2008. Marine Reserves in 2009 (yes, yes, there's a definite trend). Moved to California in 2009. Tried to work as little as possible because I missed Seattle so much. Fortunately, the Reserves kept me busy. I did a few mini-deployments and a couple of extended ones. 2013, I started writing VENDETTA. Spent six months on active duty in New Orleans, Dec 2013-May 2014. Didn't write a single word. Went to Italy for just about the entire month of October, 2014 (research, of course). Had to do a complete rewrite. Retired from the Marine Corps last year. Spent about half of last summer as a wild land fire-fighter in Grand Teton National Park. Worked a full fire season there this year. 
I've traveled all over (and most of those places have been by choice, Iraq being the glaring exception). I've worked at the Air Force Academy bookstore, tended bar, waited tables, raced triathlons, climbed Mt Whitney, worked as an archaeological field tech (a fancy name for digger of holes), fought fire, fenced, and done a bajillion other things. With all of that and a wife who is one of the only humans I know truly capable of multi-tasking, we have no kids. But we do have a couple of awesome dogs and five chickens. 

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?

I'll read just about anything, but when it comes to HF Dorothy Dunnett is my all-time favorite. That woman knows how to eviscerate you emotionally. Just tears your heart out. Beautiful prose and such a magnificent story teller. Whenever I'm hurting for inspiration, I'll turn to her House of Niccolo series. When I need to take a break from all things medieval, I'll read Carl Hiassen, Kipling, Martin Cruz Smith, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Robert Heinlein. Hilary Mantel is also excellent. And anything by Michael Chabon.

What do you think of critique groups in general?

I haven't had much luck with finding a critique-group. To be honest, I haven't tried very hard, either. I think -- like so much else in this profession -- if it works for you, great. But I think you can get just as much constructive feedback from solid beta-readers as you can from a critique group. It's all dependent on the personalities involved, too. If you can make it work, do it. If you're serious about your writing, you'll have to get feedback. You can't write in a vacuum. As a writer, you lose all objectivity regarding your manuscript. Good critique partners or beta-readers will keep you on the straight and narrow. Bad ones will make you want to throw your laptop through a window. The trick is finding the right one(s) for you. 

What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?

Oh, jeez. You know what kills me? Anything to do with stuff that isn't manuscript-specific: marketing, PR, querying, writing a synopsis. I had no idea what ANY of that entailed and now that I do it's very difficult for me to come to grips with. Query writing is worse than being in combat, I swear to God. It's also why I don't have an agent, because every bone in my body rebels against the concept of the query. *sigh* 
And as I stated earlier, I am supremely unorganized and undisciplined. I just wrote VENDETTA. No organization, no synopsis, no outline. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end (I actually wrote the middle first). Just awful. On the other hand, it got done. As for easy, the only easy thing is the research. Everything that happens once I start writing has me pulling my hair out.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

I love the camaraderie. I had no idea what to expect at my first writing conference (Pikes Peak Writers Conference, last year) and was delighted by how welcoming and supportive the experience was. And it was just as wonderful this year, too. That's most rewarding to me; the sense of, 'we're all in this together' that transcends genre and experience. 

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

I'll sort of paraphrase Chuck Wendig ... Never quit and get your work out there. There are so many publishing options available to writers. Pursue one and get your work out there! 

And I will always remember the words of Seanan McGuire: Be kind to each other. Help other writers when you're able. When one of us wins, we all win!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Guest Blogger: Debbie De Louise

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Cobble Cove Mystery #2

Welcome to book two of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series.
If you had the chance to read A Stone’s Throw, you came to know widowed librarian, Alicia, and followed her through the mystery that brought her to Cobble Cove and her meeting with John, the town’s newspaper publisher. In Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Alicia is faced with several new mysteries and one that is particularly close to home.  

This new story features the main characters from book #1 and introduces new Cobble Cove residents.

Between A Rock and a Hard Place releases October 12, 2016


Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…
Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.
Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…
Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burglarized, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.
John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…
When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.
Alicia faces her worst nightmare…
The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?

About the Author:

Debbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island and has been involved with books and writing for over thirty years. She received the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, jr. Memorial Award in Journalism for her work as Features Editor on the Long Island University/C. W. Post student newspaper, the Pioneer. More recently, Debbie received the Glamour Puss Award from Hartz Corporation for an article about cat grooming that appeared on Catster.com. She has published a short mystery in the Cat Crimes Through Time Anthology and two novels, CLOUDY RAINBOW and A STONE’S THROW, the first book of her Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. Her short stories, THE PATH TO RAINBOW BRIDGE and DEADLINE appear in the anthologies, REALMS OF FANTASTIC STORIES and PROJECT 9, Vol. 2 published by Solstice Publishing. She is currently working on a psychological thriller, the third Cobble Cove Mystery, and a new pet-related cozy series. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and two cats.

Social Media Links:

Amazon Author Page: Author.to/DebbieDeLouise
Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up: https://debbiedelouise.com

      Friday, October 7, 2016

      Guest Blogger: K.A. Meng

      Superior Species by [Meng, K. A.]

      Please tell us about your latest book.
      Superior Species is about an ordinary girl, Ivory Ames. She receives a scholarship to Los Roshano University. With no family, it is an easy decision for her to pack up her things and move there. When she arrives, she figures out quickly that the town isn’t normal. It has a sunset curfew, and all the upperclassmen are incredibly good-looking. That’s not even the weirdest part. Somehow, she has caught the attention of four gorgeous guys. Ivory decides to figure out what is going on.

      What can we expect from you in the future?
      More books and short stories. I love to write. I’m working on a series for Superior Species. I’m editing the second book right now and I wrote a prequel for it. But this isn’t the only series inside my head.

      How do we find out about you and your books?
      All my latest news will be on my website. You can visit my website at www.kamengauthor.com.

      Why did you decide to write “Paranormal” novels?
      I’ve always been curious about the paranormal. I am a believer, but I also want everything debunked if it can be. I am the one checking out why the closed door opened or why there is a thumping in an empty room.  

      How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
      My personality is all over my books because of my characters. I put a part of me in each one. As far as my life experiences goes, if you have read something strange that I’ve written good chance it has happened to me.

      When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
      I’ve been thinking about writing for as long as I can remember. Writing off and on. It took joining a writer’s group for me to really start. What prompted me to submit my ms was the book was written and I loved it. I wanted to get the book out there and share it. I am so happy it worked out.  

      Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
      I have to admit it, it depends on two things, my mood and my family. If I am in the right mood, two to four months. I try not to be in the wrong mood. My family are learning to let me write.

      Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
      I wish I could set a schedule. My life is hectic. I’m a mother and I work 8-5, Monday thru Friday. It sounds like a dream schedule, but with everything going on in my life, it isn’t. I actually give myself deadlines to get things done. My life is planned on a weekly basis. I'm more with the flow. 

      What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
      Once I announced that my book is releasing, they’ve been more understanding to let me write but they still get in the way. They can’t help it though. I participate in NaNoWrimo, and have been for the last two years, I will be doing it this year too. They know I will cook them Thanksgiving dinner if they leave me alone for the month of November.

      What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
      To me writing is relaxing. Outside of writing, I usually go see a movie to recharge my batteries or hangout with friends something to get me out of my house.

      Where do your ideas come from?
      Life. An idea blossoms from anything. For example, Superior Species has been a series I’ve been planning for years then the vampire craze came and everyone seen the romance with them. I like these book and movies, but I grew up on vampires being scary. So I thought, “Would I date a vampire?” The answer is heck no. I want to bring back the fear in them.

      Do you feel humour is important in paranormal and why?
      Oh yes, you need those moments to lighten the mood of a story. It can’t always be fire and brimstone or in my case ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, oh, my!

      What kind of research do you do?
      Depends on what I am writing. I didn’t think I would need to research for some of my work because I made up the town, the rules of the town, and etc. but I had to research a lot. I do my best to make it accurate at the time.

      Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?
      I have ideas for a short story comedy horror and fantasy. I have written a short story that a friend of mine said this should be comedy paranormal. I doubt that genre exists but it should. 
      Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
      I am a single mother of a teenage son. We have four pets, two cats and two dogs. I honestly don’t think it is normal anymore for dogs to have the same eye color because both of mine don’t, one blue and one brown.

      I wish I had time for some hobbies. I am a huge fan of crafting and love to make things. Cooking is always fun for me. I want to learn how to make 5 star food and everything from scratch. I have a great friend who is willing to teach me.

      Over two years ago I graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science. It isn’t near the creative writing field but it helps me navigate social media.

      One thing most people don’t know about me is I am a multitasker. I can do many things at once. The most I have done is six. Now I am out of college, I do only a few things at the same time.  

      What do you think of critique groups in general?
      I am involved in two, one offline and one online, and I love them. They are awesome and so supportive. I think critique groups can help as long as a writer understands that the feedback they receive are opinions and they need to decide what to use and what to ignore. Although, after ten or more people saying the same thing, they should probably look back at their work. I do!

      How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?
      I’ve been writing for years, at least twenty Yes, it has always been about the paranormal. I remember an assignment back in elementary school to write a short story which I spun on its head. People all over the world freezing to death was not what the assignment called for. I don’t think I got top marks on that one.

      My first career choice was a lawyer in elementary school. Until college, I wrote off and on. After careful consideration, I decided to not pursue being a lawyer. When I entered college, I had to pick a major so I picked one that interested me some. I joined a writer’s group at the school and took a creative writing class. I fell in love with writing all over again. So I changed my major to Computer Science, so I could at least write programs.

      How many books have you written, how many have been published?
      I’ve written four books so far. Each are the first two books in a different series. One book will be published really soon. I hope to have them all published someday. 

      Thursday, October 6, 2016

      Guest Blogger: Steve Lindahl

      Hopatcong Vision Quest by [Lindahl, Steve]


      Please tell us about your latest book.
      The title is Hopatcong Vision Quest. The book is what I like to call a past life mystery. It has two settings: present day Lake Hopatcong, a resort area in northern New Jersey and a Lenape Native American village in the same location during the early 16th century, when what is now a lake was two ponds.
      Two drownings occur in the lake within days of each other. Diane, my main character, thinks these deaths were not accidents. She believes her mother and Ryan's wife have been murdered. When traditional methods don't help solve the crime, Diane and her friends call Glen Wiley, a regression hypnotist, who uses their past lives to seek clues to solve the current day crimes.
      The souls of the characters are part of a spiritual family in the sense that they travel through lifetimes together, so each of the present day characters has a counterpart in the past. There's romance, of course, and mystery, but the book is also historical fiction. The past sections take place at the time when this Lenape village has just had its first European visitor. The nature of the Lenape people was very welcoming and peaceful, but some in the village fear this stranger because they've heard stories from other villages, stories that scare them.

      How do we find out about you and your books?
      I have a website, www.stevelindahl.com, where Hopatcong Vision Quest, along with my other books are listed. You just click on a cover to go to a book page. My books are also in Goodreads and Amazon.

      Why did you decide to write past life mystery novels?
      I chose the genre because it is a perfect way to combine modern and historical fiction, like time travel books without the dilemma of affecting the future by changing the past. I've always believed in the eternal nature of our souls, but it wasn't until I did extensive research for my novels, that I began to accept reincarnation as a real possibility.
      Have you ever experienced a past life regression?
      Yes. I thought I needed to -- for the novels to feel authentic. I went to a couple of group sessions. One of them was useless because someone in the group kept coughing and I couldn't relax. But in the other session I did feel as if I went back to a primitive time. I looked down and saw homemade leather shoes on the small feet of a young woman. I couldn't tell if it was real of just a memory of a character from a novel I'd read a short time before the session. But I will say the experience made me more of a believer.

      Where do your ideas come from?
      The idea to write about a particular area or time comes from my personal background and interests. In the case of Hopatcong Vision Quest, I spent the summers of my youth at that lake and I love it. As for the plot ideas, the characters control those. So first I have to have a good grasp on who my characters are: their strengths, weaknesses, temperaments. After that, I have to relax and think about them in particular situations. I don't outline from beginning to end, so this is a process I repeat often while writing. At most I'll plan a few chapters ahead. I have a few methods of relaxing. My favorite for this book was to go out on a lake in my kayak. That worked so well, I'm using it for my next novel.

      Do you feel humor is important in past life mysteries and why?
      My books are not meant to be comic, but there are always a few scenes that are funny. I'm thinking of one in particular in Hopatcong Vision Quest. I'll let people read the book to find it.
      What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
      Hopatcong Vision Quest is not a traditional romance novel, but it does have its love scenes. All I can say is, if my readers enjoy those scenes half as much as I enjoyed writing them, the novel will be a best seller.

      What kind of research do you do?
      I grew up at the setting for Hopatcong Vision Quest, so I understand the feel of life near a lake. I still visited places around the lake that I included in the book and read some of its history for my own enjoyment. The past life setting in the early 16th century required much more research. I listed my source materials at the end of my novel. Briefly, they include internet sites such as http://www.lenapelifeways.org and www.lakehopatconghistory.com . Also there were non-fiction books such as The Delaware People by Allison Lassieur and fiction books such as Mark Harrington's wonderful novel The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon among the Indians. I also visited the recreated Lenape Village at Waterloo, NJ.

      Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?
      My next book is straight historical fiction with no regressions. So far it's going well.

      What does your wife think of your writing?
      She's my best critic. It helps to be married to an artist (check her work at www.tonilindahl.com ). I understand her work and she understands mine.

      Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
      My favorite authors and my favorite books keep changing, but right now I'd have to list the top three as:
      1. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
      2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (One of our dogs is named Leo)
      3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

      What do you think of critique groups in general?
      I have a fabulous critique group that helps my writing tremendously. The people in the group offer three sets of fresh eyes on whatever I'm working on. They see things I need to focus on that I couldn't see myself. They're also some of my best friends.

      What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
      I love creating a fictional world, filling it with interesting characters, and living in that world for as long as it takes to create a work I'm proud of.

      Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
      Writers should be careful about what goals they set. They should try to be the best writers they can be and the best at marketing their work. Publishing is a part of that process, but not the only part. Beginning writers should join critique groups and attend open mic sessions, anything to get their work heard or read as they polish their craft. The trick is to fall in love with the process.

      Saturday, October 1, 2016

      Guest Blooger: Steve Bederman


      Connections: A Mitch Jacobs Novel by [Bederman, Steve]


      Even when he’s hidden away trouble inevitably finds Mitch Jacobs. In his life he has known incredible highs and demoralizing lows; those from his personal failings so evident in his life and while building his company. In spite of this, starting with a simple idea, he has grown Symbiotic Technologies to a position as a world leader.

      He believes that what he has gained versus what, and who, has been lost has been a poor trade.

      Mitch has become reclusive, living deep in the Colorado mountain backwoods with his wife who was the former President of Colombia. Since he handed over the company to his employees there has finally been relative peace and safety.

      In this, CONNECTIONS, the fourth book of the series, the reader travels from Colorado, to Quebec, Colombia, and to Washington DC; The White House. His beautiful wife, Pilar Reyes Cruz, finally goes home to the land where she once was elected as the first female president of this machismo country. She is still recognized throughout the world for the salvation of her troubled people and, as many believe, the future of all of Latin America.

      There is no running from lust, and love, and business, and negotiation. Terrorism can show its ugly face at any moment and in many forms. Seemingly disparate events are all connected. Whether Pilar regains her purpose and Mitch refocuses on running one of the most passionate and inventive technology corporations in the world, are but two of the many questions left to answer. The US President, the King of England, the President of Colombia, and the world’s back alley power brokers all converge into Mitch Jacob’s continuum of CONNECTIONS.