Karen Stivali HOLDING ON blog tour with giveaway

Why British men rather than Australian, Italian, etc?

I’ve always been partial to British accents, ever since I can remember. I’m not sure exactly how it started. Maybe because my dad was a Beatles fan and I listened to them a lot when I was little or maybe because I loved watching reruns of The Monkees and I thought Davey Jones was cute. Whatever it was that started it, it was cemented in place when I visited England. I lived there for several blocks of time while growing up and always picked up the accent while I was there. I love the sound of it and I adore the humor. Plus I can hear the accent  in my head anytime I want so that makes it particularly easy for me to write characters who speak with it. And since I love hearing British guys speak it makes it a lot of fun to have fictional ones talking in my head all the time.

That said, I enjoy listening to men with all sorts of accents. I have an Aussie friend whose accent I adore. I’m certainly not opposed to writing men from other lands, I just haven’t done so. Yet.

Lucky you.  I really want to go to England.

Do you think having been a waitress and a clinical therapist helps you when writing characters, dialogue and they way they interact with each other?

Yes, definitely. I’ve always been a people person and a good listener so those two professions were both very well suited to my personality. Dialogue is my favorite thing to write because I actually hear the characters talking in my head. It’s like eavesdropping at a café. Not that I do that. (Okay, I always do that.) I also love to examine the way people relate to each other so I really enjoy watching my characters interact with each other. People, real and fictional, fascinate me.

Is sarcasm your preferred humor?

Sarcasm? I don’t know what you mean by that.

Kidding. And obviously that’s a yes. Sarcasm is my natural response to a lot of things. I can’t help it. I have a dry/goofy sense of humor and appreciate a good, witty quip. If someone gives good banter, I’ll talk to them all day long.

Is there a genre you’d like to explore writing that you haven’t yet?

Nope. I write women’s fiction, contemporary romance and erotic romance. Those are really the only genres I can ever see myself writing. All of my stories are love stories that examine relationships. Writing in these three genres gives me the freedom to explore different scenarios, varied dynamics and heat levels, and yet still stay with the story lines I most enjoy. The only other genre I’d even consider trying would be YA, but only if a particular story really came to me and I felt I had to write it. I don’t think that’s likely to happen, but you never know. I don’t make the rules; I just listen to the characters that pop into my head.

Have you read a book lately that you couldn’t wait to discuss and recommend?

Yes. And I can’t discuss it, because it’s not out yet! One of the perks of being a writer is knowing other writers and being lucky enough to beta read for them. I recently read The Mistress, the fourth book inTiffanyReisz’s Original Sinners series. I’ve loved all of her books and this last one is no exception. If you haven’t read them yet, do it now! Start with The Siren and read them in order, that’s very important. I can’t wait until book four releases (sometime late summer) so I can finally talk to people about it.  I’ll wait patiently though. There are few things I enjoy more than a good secret. 

Such a tease, thanks for the recommendation.

My Meant To Be Review


When you have everything you’ve ever dreamed of, the hard part is Holding On.

British NYU professor Daniel Gardner thinks life can’t get better than the day his three-year-old stepdaughter, Ella, calls him Daddy for the first time. Then his wife Marienne tells him she’s pregnant. Daniel is thrilled, but worried about Marienne’s health. Not wanting to cause her stress he turns to writing to calm his nerves. He pens a screenplay, thinking it’s nothing more than a mental health exercise, but when a colleague reads it and hands it to a producer, it turns into a production contract. Daniel accepts the offer and transfers to a teaching position at Dartmouth, hoping that small town living and a shorter commute will simplify his life.

As he attempts to juggle his new responsibilities he gets an unexpected letter from Roger, the father he never knew. For the first time since they met, Daniel and Marienne are at odds; she wants him to give Roger a chance but Daniel wants nothing to do with the man he thinks abandoned his mother. As Daniel and Marienne struggle they must contend with interference from Daniel’s sexy ex-wife, who appears to want him back, and a handsome, all-too-helpful single dad who desires Marienne as more than a play-date pal. They must both confront deep-seated issues with trust and acceptance if they’re going to find a way to make their marriage work and hold on to the love they share.


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HOLDING ON at Amazon                                                B&N



Tour Schedule


Erotic geek romantic comedy with Angela Quarles

BEER cover smallThank you, Manic Readers, for having me on here! This is my first time, and I wanted to introduce you to my first release, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, an erotic geek romantic comedy with a touch of the paranormal by way of a wish-granting djinn. It’s a novelette, so if you’re looking for a quick but fun read, this might be just for you. Here’s the blurb:

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.



And for those that like book trailers:



Some people have asked how I came up with the story and title and really, it started with the title. I work in a bookstore and was shelving some Hunter S. Thompson, and I was like hmm, what could be a twist off of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? And first I was like Beer and Loathing, but I write lighthearted romances, and then ‘groping’ popped into my head. In the next instant I had the hero, as I thought he should be a microbrewer, and that the heroine would be an overworked software programmer. Once I had that, things started falling into place, including the description for him of being a geek trapped in a good ole boy’s body. I had that tagline for him before I even started writing the story. The bits where I describe running into sci-fi convention goers is from real life, as I attend Dragon*Con every year.

Want a little peek? Here’s the opening:

Mirjam rubbed the tiredness from her eyes, but the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland still occupied the Rivenbark Hotel & Casino elevator with her. She blinked and squinted. Yep. And life-size. Complete with hookah.

Plastic squeaked against glass as the caterpillar shifted to make more room. It made eye contact.

“Er, nice costume,” Mirjam ventured.

“Thanks,” came the muffled reply.

The elevator swooped to a stop on the mezzanine level. A pirate and a Ghostbuster stepped on and pushed the lobby button. Mirjam angled back to avoid being knocked over by the guy’s Proton Pack.

“Convention?” Mirjam asked the caterpillar and it rewarded her with a nod.

Mirjam groaned inwardly. She’d attended her share, but now, they reminded her too much of The Turd, otherwise known as Brian. Great. She wanted to go home but apparently, that was asking too much—a blizzard in Ann Arbor nixed her flight this morning. Next chance to get out—tomorrow.

The elevator dinged at the lobby, and she headed to the hotel bar. Maybe she could salvage the day by squeezing in some work.

“What can I get you?” The bartender sported a headband with gold, sparkly antennae in her pink, cropped hair.

Mirjam pulled out her laptop. “Sprite, please.” Only a few others populated the bar, too early for drinking. Though this was Vegas. Pink Hair Lady plopped down Mirjam’s drink, the stir stick topped by a wiggling green rubber alien.

“So, which convention is this?” Mirjam motioned to a couple of Spartans walking by, though they probably shouldn’t have chosen that look.

“It’s ConVegas—sci-fi, fantasy, pop culture, that kind of thing. Doesn’t start until tomorrow, but we always get some folks early. What brings you here?”

“AppExpo that ended last night.” Mirjam connected to the hotel’s free WiFi. Time to figure out what caused her new app to choke while compiling.

Pink Hair Lady cocked her hip, fist resting on the bone. “Lemme guess. You’re always working, aren’t you?” She slid a glass bowl of pistachios over. “This is Vegas. You should be out having fun.”

Fun. Pfft. No time for that. “My flight got canceled and the timing blows. Too much to do. I didn’t want to come, but my partner thought it might be good for business.”

“Was it?”

Mirjam shrugged and pulled up and scanned her code, hoping her fixed focus on the laptop would clue Chatty One to leave her alone.

“I’m Jenn, by the way.”

Mirjam peeked up and pasted on a smile. “Nice to meet you.” She tracked back to the code.

The bartender left to help another customer but returned her inquisitive butt a few minutes later. “So, Vegas at your feet and your nose is to the grindstone. This is truly what you wish to do with your unexpected free night?”

Mirjam gritted her teeth. If Jenn would stop pestering her, she might be able to figure out the rendering bug. “No. If I had my wish, I’d spend it having hot sex with the man of my dreams, but since that’s not going to happen…” she snapped.

The bartender’s eyes flashed for a second. Or had they literally flashed?

Mirjam shook her head. She really was tired. “Sorry. Don’t mind me.”

“No worries, I’ll leave you to your work.” Jenn smiled and strode to the other end of the bar.

No matter how long Mirjam stared at the code, the solution eluded her. Man, she could use a nap. She motioned to Jenn and settled her tab.

“Have fun in Vegas. Here,” Jenn fished in her back pocket, “try the slot machine on the corner there. On me.” She slid a dollar across the counter. “I hear one gets lucky with it.”

Mirjam tried to shove the bill back, but Jenn kept her hand in place, pinning the bill to the counter with a bright pink fingernail. “I insist.”

Oh, what would it hurt? “Okay, thanks. I will.”

She packed away her laptop and swung the bag over her shoulder. At the machine, she fed in the dollar and received three credits. Yank. Nothing. Yank. Nothing. Yank. Ding, ding, ding! Mirjam jumped back, a rotating red light atop the machine joining the cacophony.


What in the—

Mirjam peered into the output tray and scooped out a heavy-stock envelope with a pink wax seal, not the expected handful of chips one hopes for in Las Vegas. She flipped it over. Embossed on the front, her name—Mirjam Linna.


angela_verticalAngela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.

She’s an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since.

She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.

Find Angela here:

website | blog | twitter | facebook

Find Beer and Groping in Las Vegas here:

Amazon | B&N | ARe | BookStrand | trailer | goodreads | shelfari


Create a Mid-Life List – Maybe You’ll Find Your Passion

About four years ago, after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. Volunteer work didn’t appeal to me anymore. For fifteen years, I had helped teachers in classrooms, assisted coaches, and worked in school libraries. I wanted to do something different. Sure, I had my part-time bookkeeping business, but it consumed only a few hours a day and it wasn’t interesting any more. Something was missing, but what?

This prompted me to review what I like to call my “mid-life list.” This is similar to a “bucket list,” with an important twist. The idea was to refocus myself and figure out the things I wanted to do with my life in my fifties – while I could still do them. My list was short.

-Learn to play the piano

-Travel to Africa to see the elephants

-Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora

-Travel back to France (with my family this time)

-Write a book

At the time, I didn’t own a piano and, with two daughters in college (on the east coast no less!), I couldn’t afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. I had already traveled back to France in 2001 with my family, so that left me to examine the fifth item on my list more closely.  If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose?

The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough.) I’ll find my diary from my au pair adventure in France and write a memoir, I thought. For many years, friends and family had suggested I write about this experience and I would finally have the opportunity.

Over the next few days, I tore the house apart looking for my diary. Where in the world did I put the thing? It wasn’t in the garage. It wasn’t in the closet under the stairs. It had to be somewhere. I drove to our storage unit and searched through a few containers, but left in despair, certain I hadn’t put it there in the first place. The next day, I checked the house again and then went back to the storage unit. One item at a time, I carried everything out of the storage unit, searching through bins and boxes until only one remained. Buried inside this last container was a plastic bag and inside that bag was. . . my diary! Clutching it to my chest, I almost wept as I whipped out my cell phone and called my husband to tell him the good news.

There you have it. That’s how I found my passion. French Illusions took me three years and countless hours to write, but the effort seems to be paying off. Now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list.


In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an aristocratic French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. Her compelling story details her challenges and triumphs as she tries to adjust to her new life with Madame and Monsieur Dubois and their children. Join Linda on her unforgettable adventure of discovery and romance in an extraordinary part of the world.


“Ebook only 99¢ for a limited time. Visit Linda for more information and watch the book trailer. It’s a lot of fun!”








Michele Drier and The Third Wave

 “In a time when terrorists play death games with hostages, as currencies careen amid rumors of a Third World War, as embassies flame and storm troopers lace up their boots, in many lands we stare in horror at the headlines.  The price of gold—-that sensitive barometer of fear—breaks all records.  Banks tremble.  Inflation rages out of control.   And the governments of the world are reduced to paralysis or imbecility.” 

Alvin Toffler

The Third Wave


When social critic Alvin Toffler wrote this introduction to The Third Wave in 1980, he identified the First Wave as the agriculture revolution, moving from hunting and gathering to settled farming; the Second Wave as the Industrial Revolution when manufacturing moved from the home to the factory, and the Third Wave as a “super-industrial society”, an Information Age, a Global Village.

Now, some thirty years later, we’re moving headlong into some aspects of the Third Wave.

Toffler talked about changes in the family, the changing definition of family, moving toward the non-nuclear family, the child-free culture and the electronic expanded family.  We see some of this taking hold. The issue of gay marriage, child adoption by single people, surrogate pregnancies, invitro-fertilization, the “families” of facebook and other social media sites, the proliferation of specialized groups.

He predicted people would be working from their homes (“telecommunting” is the in-word now) and because of this they’d seek out friends and acquaintances in new ways. No longer would the Second Wave civilization be in charge with the 9-to-5 workday schedules tied to the rhythm of machines.  Work could be preformed any time.

Ah, brave new world!  I was entranced.

Not one to love schedules (let alone early mornings) I welcomed the day when I could work in my own time at my own pace.  And I found jobs where some of that was true. As the CEO of non-profit agencies, I allowed staff to work flexible hours. At daily morning newspapers I came to work later in the day and worked until 7 or so in the evening. Now as a writer and novelist, I begin work when I have my first cup of coffee, maybe around9 a.m., and work on and off throughout the day.  I’ve been know to still be answering emails at 10 at night.

There are an awful lot of people still working at the pace of the machine, though.  In my family, my son-in-law owns a high-tech company in San Jose. His days are a combination of working from home (on the phone and the computer most of the day) and going into his company two or three days a week. He has a lot of flexibility but is also available for calls from his staff at 10 at night.

My daughter is a Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit nurse. She works 12- hour shifts from7 p.m.until7 a.m.three days a week. She doesn’t have much flexibility because the hospital is staffed 24/7.

The one I feel most sorry for, though, is my oldest granddaughter.  Because she attends her neighborhood school, and most of the parents in the neighborhood work for the state and have to be at their desks at 8 a.m., she has to be at school at 7:45 in the morning. That means for a couple of months in the winter, she’s standing outside in a line, in the semi-dark shivering until they open the classroom doors.

I don’t know what the answer is, but when I watch the kids trudging to school to line up in the waning dark, the only vision I have is of mill and mine workers in 19th century England and I thought the Third Wave would eliminate that.


Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.

Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N and on audio at ACX.

She’s working on the second book in the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Labeled for Death, out in spring 2013.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook at Amazon, B&N and Kobo. SNAP: The World Unfolds,  SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, Danube: A Tale of Murder  are available as a boxed set. The fifth book, SNAP: Love for Blood has 5 star ratings. She’s writing the sixth book, SNAP: Happily Ever After? for release in summer 2013 and a seventh book in late fall 2013.


Visit her website or facebook page,  or her Amazon author page.

Beverley Oakley, SAVING GRACE and The Cavalier giveaway

Release Day for a sweet, erotic tale of revenge and redemption

By Beverley Oakley

Hi Ivy, it’s great to be back. I love Manic ReadersJ I always get such a warm and wonderful welcome here.

Well, I don’t know what to be more excited about: winning UK publisher Choc-Lit’s Search for an Australian Star competition and having three books due out with them over the next 18 months.

Or being shortlisted for the second year running for an Australian Romance Readers Award in the Favourite Historical category.

Or perhaps the fact that I finished final edits for my first Ellora’s Cave erotic romance, Her Gilded Prison, due for release in April. Finishing the edits came at a cost, though. I can now add World’s Worst Mother for January 15 to my ARR Award since my poor children spent the day foraging on chocolate and “Hundreds & Thousands” while I wrestled with my deadline. No milk, no bread, no nothing. I was at the supermarket at 6.30am today so we could have breakfast as DH is flying over in LA at the moment.


I think, though, the most exciting thing is the release of my erotic short story, Saving Grace.

It’s a sweet, poignant, erotic story and I love my strong but vulnerable heroine. I also love the wronged and noble hero. He’s very young and he, too, is vulnerable in his own way, but by the end of the story they’ve fought the demons that would hobble them from achieving their dreams.

Revenge and redemption are recurring themes in my erotic romances and romantic intrigues. In Saving Grace I’ve explored the shifting balance of power between two rich men and a vulnerable serving girl with a shared history. The story takes up at the point at which justice must be served.

Here’s an excerpt.



London, 1878

Reclining on the red plush sofa, Grace sipped the sickly sweet orgeat Madame Chambon insisted her girls drink and tried not to think about the night ahead. The others were gathered in companionable groups on the fashionable Egyptian sofas, their heavy scent perfuming the air.

As usual, no one gravitated towards her, though of course later, when their clients came calling, that would no longer be the case. Grace would have preferred the company of a like-minded female rather than the alternative.

An expectant hush fell as the heavy draped and tasselled curtain was drawn aside and Madame Chambon arranged herself theatrically in the opening, ready to address her petites choux.

Ravissement!” she complimented them in thickly accented English, clapping her hands. Grace suspected the elegantly ravaged Madame came from Lambeth rather than the Left Bank. Not that it mattered. No one in this business was who they said they were.

Least of all, Grace.

The girls, awed and anxious, straightened their rich, colourful gowns nervously. Despite her appearance of bonhomie Madame Chambon could turn on a coin. And it was she who ensured the girls did not return to where most of them had been plucked from – the gutter.

“A great opportunity awaits one of you tomorrow,” she addressed them, “for I have just been honoured by the visit of a woman of great discernment …”

A couple of the girls tittered. “A woman?”

They closed their mouths at Madame Chambon’s beady stare, attending as she went on, “who has requested I supply her with one of my loveliest …”

She drew out the pause as several of the brothel’s most popular young ladies preened.

“… most hard-hearted girls.”

All heads turned towards Grace. She blinked. Is that how they regarded her? Hard-hearted?

She simply had nothing left to offer anyone once she’d earned enough to pay her keep and just survive.

Madame Chambon levelled her expectant look upon Grace, whose mouth dropped open in protest. “A woman? But—”

“The woman wants to give her son a present to remember for his twenty-first birthday. She is obviously a very fond mother—” Madame Chambon allowed herself to share the girls’ amusement, adding, “with very good sense in choosing our select establishment to provide him with the very best initiation—” Her smile grew cloying as she continued to look at Grace—“without fear of him being lured into a transfer of affections amidst all the other … ahem … transfers that take place.” Though she made a gesture with her hands to indicate the transfer of money, the girls tittered at the double entendre.

The redhead closest to Grace dug her friend in the ribs. “Grace doesn’t have a heart to lose.” Her whisper resonated.

Nor did Grace have the heart to participate in the banter that followed.

So what if she’d been selected? It was just another job and a good thing she need not worry about eliciting the emotions of a twenty-one-year-old virgin. Pleasing, also, was the knowledge that it would inevitably be over in less than five minutes.


Yes, the final four books in the collection of 14 were released on all e-formats, and at all good romance e-tailers, though I’ve only included a link here to Amazon.

So thank you to those who dropped by, and to those who commented for a chance to win a copy of my English Civil War erotic romance, The Cavalier. It’s just had the most lovely review on Two-Lips Reviews, BTW.



Meanwhile, you can find out more on Beverley’s website, or buy Saving Grace at Amazon and all your favourite e-tailers.

I’d also love it if you could ‘like’ me at my Beverley Oakley FB page

Thank youJ

Colette Freedman and THE AFFAIR with giveaway

Was it a natural segue to novelist from playwright?

Yes, I’ve always seen them as two sides of the same imaginative coin.  Interestingly, before I wrote the novel, I had actually written the play, so the two pieces of work informed one another.  Writing plays is about creating believable characters and giving them compelling dialogue; however, you are limited by the location. Writing novels allows you to give more breathing room to your story. You can open it up more. For example, the play THE AFFAIR takes place in three static locations: Robert’s office, Stephanie’s bedroom, Kathy’s kitchen. The play works because it’s highly stylized, so I can convey the story through the character’s dialogue. In the novel, Boston becomes a character in the story and you feel the bitter cold, stress over the never ending traffic, get the flavor of the city … which is a fun element to add.

A bit about your debut THE AFFAIR, please.

There are two sides to every story, but in an affair there are three. This is the story of the three people caught in an affair, their perspectives and the choices they make.

Why tell the story of an affair from the perspective of the husband, wife and mistress?

I wanted to make all three characters sympathetic by showing how they interpret the exact same situation from three completely different rationalizations. As an audience, you will read the exact same circumstances unfolding from three completely different mindsets. After interviewing nearly one hundred couples who were involved in affairs, the same thing kept appearing: Everyone involved is somehow culpable and often times their motivation is truly understandable.  My research revealed that no-one sets out to have an affair – they just happen.


Why did you choose to have the husband be the one having an affair vs the wife?

When I was initially preparing the work, I did create a draft in which it was the wife having the affair. If the wife was having an affair, the story would be about two men and one woman and it would be hard, I think, to make any of them sympathetic to the reader.  The statistics are interesting though: “50-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship.”

I think it is a story I would like to explore some day.

Did you relate or sympathize with one character more than the others?

As a writer, I have to sympathize with all the characters.  I have to understand them and their motivations to be able to write about them.  So, my sympathies are pretty even among the trio. I ‘get’ why they are doing what they are doing.  I had written their characters as I was conducting my interviews with men and women who have been involved in affairs and, to my surprise, I discovered that I had hit their characters right on the head.

Was THE AFFAIR difficult to write?

 Yes, because of the unique three part structure.  Once I had the research in place, I had to ensure that each of the three pieces matched perfectly.

Was it exciting to work with Jackie Collins on the play JACKIE COLLINS HOLLYWOOD LIES?  I was an avid Jackie reader in the ‘80’s. I so wanted to be Lucky Santangelo. J

Who doesn’t want to be Lucky Santangelo? Jackie writes beautiful, ballsy, smart, funny women that are signature Jackie Collins. I think Jackie is one of the smartest businesswomen I have ever met. Not only does she write brilliant book after book, she knows how to market them into a deliciously wicked brand. She was a blast to collaborate with, incredibly generous and knowledgeable … and she took me out to some of the best meals of my life!

Can you share what it was like to collaborate with Michael Scott on THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS?

Michael is a true pro. Before I started working with him, I attempted to read most of his books (he’s published over 100, so it was a definite education). He writes across genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Paranormal: what doesn’t he write?  And reading his work helped me get into the mind of a truly complex man. Michael taught me the nuts and bolts of writing. Working with him was better than any university course on writing. And despite his talent and success, he has no ego. Zero. And it was fascinating to work with such a humble author (ego is one of my personal fatal flaws). So, in a nutshell, collaborating with him on The Thirteen Hallows was the best writing education I could have ever gotten. We’re currently working on the sequel, which is equally intellectually exhilarating for me.

Do you prefer collaborations, working alone, or does each satisfy a different creative urge?

I like them both because they involve different responsibilities. My favorite thing about collaboration is the camaraderie. Writing is such a lonely profession. It is you and your story. You become so involved in your characters’ lives, sometimes you lose track of reality. When you are involved in a collaboration, someone else is sharing your journey and it’s a lot less lonely. The downside is, there are two opinions and that often involves conflict. Resolvable conflict, but conflict nonetheless. Working alone is lovely because I can truly get into the zone and have a completely singular voice. Honestly, I love both collaborating (I’ve also been lucky enough to have terrific collaborators so my tune might change if you ask me this five years from now) and I love working alone.

What were the differences, for you, between writing THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS and THE AFFAIR?

The Thirteen Hallows was a fabulous story which was outside my comfort zone. I’m fascinated by fantasy and thrillers, but it was much more in Michael’s wheelhouse. I was definitely the junior writer in the collaboration as I got my feet wet jumping into an unfamiliar genre. The Affair was much easier because those are the types of books I devour. Stephanie and Kathy are women I would be friends with. Boston is a city I am incredibly familiar with. While The Thirteen Hallows was venturing into the unknown, The Affair is the classic example of “write what you know.”

Will you continue to write plays and novels or do you think you’ll eventually focus on one or the other?

I will continue to write both. While it’s wonderful to see my books on the shelves of a bookstore or get feedback from friends and strangers, there is nothing like sitting in the back row of a theatre, feeling the tangible energy of an audience reacting to your plays. Every time someone laughs, cries, shrieks or shudders at an unexpected reveal, I feel an incredible sense of pride and satisfaction. Plays don’t pay the rent, but they pay off emotionally…in spades. I love writing novels because I have a lot of stories in me and as long as people are interested in reading them, I will continue to write them.

What do you see as your ideal future, career wise?

Writing. Novels and plays. Perhaps the occasional screenplay to shake things up a bit.

Do you currently have a WIP you can share with us?

I’m working on two projects at the moment. A Young Adult book set in the world of a creepy All Girl’s School and the novelization of my play Sister Cities. I’m also working on the sequel of Thirteen Hallows, called The Hallowed Keepers.

Do you have a favorite genre?

Like most writers, I read just about everything.  I love crime and I am especially enjoying the Young Adult genre: it really is the home to some fabulous writing.  I also really enjoy women’s fiction and historical fiction.


Always such a dangerous question.  I’ve been lucky to work with two whose work I really enjoyed – Jackie Collins and Michael Scott, but I would have to say that my all time favorite is: Ann Patchett.  I think she is an absolute genius.

Have you read anything lately that knocked you back on your heels?

I actually just reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. I had read it in college and a few weeks ago, I happened to pick it off the shelf and start rereading it. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Especially the last third.

Current read?

I have two books on the go at the moment – Lissa Price’s Starters and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Going to Italy to see the play of The Affair – it’s touring the country from February through May and I can’t think of a better place to drink red wine, eat fresh pasta and see my play.

Thanks for taking the time to visit with me and Manic Readers, Colette.

Colette is giving away a kindle version of  THE AFFAIR  to one lucky commenter.  Would an affair be the end  for you or would you try to save your marriage?  

Giveaway ends @12 am est 1-23-13 with the winner announced shortly thereafter. Good luck!

THE AFFAIR on Amazon


Visit Colette

Colette on Twitter

COVER OF SNOW and giveaway with Jenny Milchman

Wow, I’ve seen the map for your Let It Snow Tour 2013. What a labor of love!

How did you come up with this idea?

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for 37 years, and I’ve been trying to get published for 13. But hard on the heels of that dream was another one…of going on the road once I had a book out, and meeting the people who supported me during all the time it took to get here. I met many of those people online, and I’m deeply aware of how forums and Facebook and listservs and Twitter all widen the world we live in. But there’s something about a real time, face-to-face meeting. I want to shake hands with people who helped me. I want to say hi to readers I never would otherwise have known, hear their stories because they have done me the honor of wanting to know mine.

How long are you guesstimating it to be so far?

As of now we have a few legs planned. One that runs north from Connecticut down to Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, then out west to Colorado, and back through Wisconsin and Michigan. Another that goes up to Vermont, before running south again to Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. And then we will head west to San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle—and it’s not clear where we’ll go after that!  Here’s what we’ve got so far though: http://www.jennymilchman.com/tour

How in the world did you get DH to agree to such an extended trip?

Why do you think I took all those middle-of-the-night feedings? No, I’m just kidding. I am lucky because my husband is an incredibly supportive guy. He believed in this dream of mine even when I didn’t. There were many times during those thirteen years when I felt ready to give up. When I would’ve given up, if it weren’t for some pretty major hand-holding. And our vision of Book Tour (it looms with capital letters in our minds) kind of grew for both of us together. We took our first cross-country drive to visit bookstores in 2010, before I even had a book contract. And as we saw all those wonderful stores, it just kind of planted a seed of hoping my book might be there one day. We knew we had to get back. I feel deeply lucky because it’s a ‘we’ kind of thing. I don’t think I could do this as an ‘I’.

Are the children excited and how did you arrange this with their schools, unless you home school?

The children are very excited—they love our time on the road. But I have to admit that when you say the word school, it is the one heartache of this whole thing, and I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Our kids go to this amazing charter school in our hometown. They’re two years apart and they’ve been there since my daughter started kindergarten. The school does all these cool things, like spending a part of the day outside to study the natural environment, and the teachers are…well, let’s just say that if I had teachers like them, I probably would’ve gotten better grades. Anyway, I’m just putting off saying the hard part, which is that because it’s a charter school, their places can’t be held when we go away.

 We’re trying to look at this as a meant-to-be type thing. In some ways, we’ve wanted to live in a different, more rural area—maybe this will be our push to find a new home. But I feel real sorrow that we are losing this place that has been so good to our kids. I feel like we have to find someplace pretty special to live up to what they’ve had.

And till then…guess we’ll be car-schooling!

You have a lot going on besides writing.  What is the Debut Authors Program?

International Thriller Writers is the largest organization of thriller writers, and they have a program for Debut Authors. It comes with all these fantastic opportunities—like at the yearly conference, you get to sit up on this massive stage and talk about your first book at a special breakfast. Or this event that’s coming up in April called Palm Beach Peril, hosted by Stacy Alesi (a.k.a. the Book Bitch). But more than parties or panels, the Debut Program is about building a community amongst people who write and read what we love: thrillers. The writing community is one of the most welcoming I’ve ever found…ITW has taken that and made into an official program.

What inspired you to found Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day?

In 2010 I had two young children I was bringing to story hour at our local bookstore almost every week. My kids probably didn’t realize it was as much of a treat for me as for them. Which started me thinking—were other parents in on this secret? How many children knew the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore?

I frequent the mystery listserv, DorothyL, and a more avid group of readers you couldn’t hope to find. When I floated the idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, bloggers on the listserv spread the word. My husband designed a poster, a website, and bookmarks, and we designated the first Saturday in December as Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. This would coincide with holiday gift giving, hopefully giving people the idea that books make great presents. Just two weeks later, 80 bookstores were celebrating.

A bit about Made It Moments, Writing Matters, and your teaching, please.

Made It Moments is a forum on my blog that began when I felt had no right myself to be writing. I’d been trying to get published for nine years, and I felt as if I was failing. But I wanted to begin connecting with readers and writers, and a blog seemed like a good way to do it. I decided that if I asked writers one question—How did you know you’d made it?—it would accomplish two things. One, I wouldn’t have to write anything myself. And two, maybe I’d find some inspiration to keep trying.

Writing Matters is a series that’s held at a wonderful, cozy independent bookstore called Watchung booksellers in the town where I grew up. My co-host is one of the booksellers, and we brainstorm topics—anything from Can Writing Be Taught? to Putting the Mist in Mystery—and invite authors and publishing people to appear on panels. Some of our guests are local, but some come from far away—one publisher of a small press came all the way fromSeattle toNew Jersey! And we offer food and wine and in general have a great time. Even though the web has expanded our world in invaluable ways, I think we will never lose the need for in-person, human connection. Especially over books!

What were the most valuable lessons/information you learned in the eleven years you were trying to get published?

You’re right—it was eleven years till I got the offer on my debut novel. The single most valuable thing I learned was how important it is to reach out to other people. I think that’s an important lesson for writing, and for life. This is not something we can do alone.

How thrilling was it to have your short story, “The Closet” appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine?

It’s funny, I wrote the short story ‘The Closet’ in about four days, and it’s one of the few things I’ve written where very few words got changed. As soon as it was done, I knew two things. First, I’d conveyed the heroine Ellie’s story just as she would’ve wanted it, and second, that my dream home for this story was the oldest mystery magazine in the country, Ellery Queen. Of course, I knew that EQMM is one of the most selective pubs, and not a good place to try and start out with. But I refused to submit anywhere else. After I sent the story, almost five months passed, and even though I realized that meant it probably hadn’t been taken, I still didn’t touch that story or do anything else with it. And then one day the editor,Janet Hutchings, emailed me to say she wanted to publish it in the Department of First Stories, and I sat back and thought, Ellie knew this would happen.

So it was one of those thrills that felt like destiny, and I will always be grateful to Janetf or seeing something and making both of us—Ellie and me—feel real.

Please tell us about your debut novel, COVER OF SNOW.

The idea behind Cover of Snow was a question that grabbed me around the throat and just wouldn’t let go. What would make a good man do the worst thing he possibly could to his wife? Of course, first I had to figure out what that ‘worst thing’ would be, but once I did, I had a premise and an opening scene that persisted over many years and about twenty-two drafts. (Oy). Another way to describe Cover of Snow is with this log line: When her police detective husband commits suicide in the middle of a frozen Adirondack winter, Nora Hamilton must lay bare the secrets a town has always kept…as well as her own.


Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, NoraHamiltoninstantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan,  has committed suicide.  
The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.  
Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for answers—but meets with bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer. For beneath the soft cover of snow lies a powerful conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep its presence unknown . . . and its darkest secrets hidden.


                                                                                                                           Chapter One

My husband wasn’t in bed with me when I woke up that January morning. The mid-winter sky was bruised purple and yellow outside the window. I shut bleary eyes against light that glared and pounded.

A second later I realized my toes weren’t burrowing into the hollows behind Brendan’s knees, that when I flung out my arm it didn’t meet his wiry chest, the stony muscles gone slack with sleep. I slid my hand toward the night table, fingers scrabbling around for our alarm clock.


It was late. As if drugged, my brain was making sense of things only after a dull delay. But it was a full hour past the time I always woke up. We always woke up. Brendan slept a cop’s sleep, perpetually ready to take action, and I had been an early riser all my thirty-five years.

Bits of things began to take shape in my mind.

The morning light, which entered so stridently through the window.

Brendan not in bed with me. He must’ve gotten up already. I hadn’t even felt him move.

But Brendan had been working late all week; I hadn’t yet found out why. My husband had good reason to sleep in. And if he had risen on time, why didn’t he wake me?

I felt a squeezing in my belly. Brendan knew I had an eight o’clock meeting with a new client this morning, the owner of a lovely but ramshackle old saltbox in need of repair. My husband took my burgeoning business as seriously as I did. He would never let me miss a meeting.

On the other hand, Brendan would know that if I slept late, then I must be worn out. Maybe getting Phoenix off the ground had taken more out of me than I realized. Brendan probably figured he’d give me a few extra minutes, and the morning just got away from him.

He must be somewhere in his normal routine now, toweling off, or fixing coffee.

Except I didn’t hear the shower dripping. Or smell the telltale, welcome scent of my morning fix.

I pushed myself out of bed with hands that felt stiff and clumsy, as if I were wearing mittens. What was wrong with me? I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror and noticed puddles of lavender under my eyes. It was like I hadn’t slept a wink, instead of an extra hour.

“Brendan? Honey? You up?”

My words shattered the air, and I realized how very still our old farmhouse was this morning.

Padding toward the bathroom, one explanation for the weight in my muscles, not to mention my stuporous sleep, occurred to me.

Brendan and I had made love last night.

It had been one of the good times; me lying back afterward, hollow, cored out, the way I got when Brendan was able to focus completely on me, on us, instead of moving so fiercely that he seemed to be riding off to some distant place in the past. We’d even lain awake for a while in the waning moments before sleep, fingers intertwined, Brendan studying me in a way that I felt more than saw in the dark.

“Honey? Last night tired me out, I guess. Not that it wasn’t worth it.”

I felt a smile tease the corners of my mouth, and pushed open the bathroom door, expecting a billow of steam. When only brittle air emerged, I felt that grabbing in my gut again. Cold tile bit my bare feet.


My husband never started the day without a shower, claiming that a night’s sleep made him ache. But there was no residue of moisture filming the mirror, nor fragrance of soap in the air. I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around my shoulders for warmth, and trotted toward the stairs, calling out his name.

No answer.

Could he have gone to the station early? Left me sleeping while my new client waited at his dilapidated house?

“Honey! Are you home?” My voice sounded uncertain.

No answer. And then I heard the chug of our coffeepot.

Relief flowed through me, thick and creamy as soup. Until that moment, I hadn’t let myself acknowledge that I was scared. I wasn’t an over-reactor by nature usually.

I headed downstairs, feet more sure now, but with that wobbly, airless feeling in the knees that comes as fear departs.

The kitchen was empty when I entered, the coffee a dark, widening stain in the pot. It continued to sputter and spit while I stood there.

There was no mug out, waiting for its cold jolt of milk. No light was turned on against the weak morning sunshine. Nobody had been in the icy kitchen yet today. This machine had been programmed last night, one of the chores accomplished as Brendan and I passed back and forth in the tight space, stepping around each other to clean up after dinner.

That thing in my belly took hold, and this time it didn’t let go. I didn’t call out again.

The sedated feeling was disappearing now, cobwebs tearing apart, and my thinking suddenly cleared. I brushed past the deep farm sink, a tall, painted cabinet.

With icy hands, I opened the door to the back stairs, whose walls I was presently laboring over to make perfect for Brendan. Maybe, just maybe, he’d skipped his shower and called in late to work in order to spend time in his hideaway upstairs.

The servants’ stairs were steep and narrow, with a sudden turn and wells worn deep in each step. I climbed the first two slowly, bypassing a few tools and a can of stripper, then twisted my body around the corner. I took in the faded wallpaper I’d only just reached after months of careful scraping.

Perhaps I didn’t have enough momentum, but I slipped, solidly whacking both knees as I went down. Crouching there, gritting my teeth against the smarting pain, I looked up toward the top of the flight.

Brendan was above me, suspended from a thick hank of rope.

The rope was knotted around a stained-glass globe, which hung in the cracked ceiling plaster.

Brendan’s neck tilted slightly, the angle odd. His handsome face looked like it was bathed entirely in red wine.

Suddenly a small cyclone of powder spilled down, and I heard a splitting sound. There was a rip, a tear, the noise of two worlds cracking apart, and then a deafening series of thuds.

The light fixture completed its plummet, and broke with a tinkling sprinkle of glass. A tangle of ice-cold limbs and body parts slugged me, heavy as lead blankets.

And I screamed, and screamed, and screamed, until the warble my voice had been before became no more than a gasping strain for air.

Why suspense?

When I’m standing on a subway, I imagine being pushed. If I’m in a movie theater, I look for the exit. I imagine danger everywhere. There’s something about the moment when the main character’s life crosses a line, and nothing is the same…what writer Rosellen Brown calls the before and after. But it’s really the psychological that engages me—how one person copes with crossing that line whereas another person would have an entirely different response. Before I turned to writing—or turned back to it, I should say, since I always, always wanted to write—I practiced as a psychotherapist. I think I was doing the same thing, except that I was helping other people tell their stories. Now I’m making up my own.

Who’s in control, you or the characters?

Can I say neither? When I embark on a day of writing either my husband or one of my kids usually say to me, “Good luck jumping off the cliff!” And when I sit down at my computer, that’s what it feels like. There’s always that moment of jumping, and not being sure whether the winds will be there to buoy you up. Scary. Exhilarating. I think I know how parachuters feel.

Then there are creaks and sputters as your writing fingers start. But something happens. There is an air current after all, strong enough to waft you away. And you look down…I mean, I look down…and somehow there are one or two or three thousand words and pages of text, and you’re not sure how they got there. See, it even feels like an out-of-body experience; that’s why I keep saying you instead of I. Someone’s in control, or something, but it sure feels like me and the characters are just along on one heckuva ride.

Is there another genre you’d like to try your hand at?

There really isn’t. I feel like crime fiction is one of the richest genres there is, with a literary history that includes the likes of Dostoevsky and Edgar Allan Poe, which covers topics as deep and as dark as the human heart. Getting to write in this genre is one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Do you have a favorite genre to read?

Crime fiction—again!

Favorite book?

I find this sooooo hard to answer. I always just do it by saying a couple that come to mind at the time that I’m asked. So…Winifred by Doris Miles Disney (best last line ever) and almost anything by Stephen King.


I am a huge Rob Reiner fan—Stand By Me and Misery—and also adore Witness with Harrison Ford.

Do you have a WIP?  Something for us to look forward to?

My next book is about three days away from being finished as I answer these terrific Manic Readers questions! I’m feeling a blend of excitement to see what happens at the end, and sorrow that I won’t be able to journey back to its world every day.

Cover of Snow is set in a fictional Adirondack town called Wedeskyull, and I think of the novels set there as the Wedeskyull stories. The recurring ‘character’ is the place. So in this next book, you might see cameos or walk-ons by characters who played a big role in Snow, while minor characters might go on to have lead parts. I’m fascinated by life in a small town, the ‘heart of darkness’ there, and I hope that I can get to know my town through the prism of many different stories.

I hope that you will, too. Thank you very much for having me here.

Thank you for taking the time to visit with us, Jenny!.  I’ve enjoyed it very much.

Jenny and Samantha are offering an ecopy of COVER OF SNOW to one lucky commenter who answers,  “What do you think when a location, town etc..is as much a character as the people?”

Giveaway ends @12am est 1-21-13 with the winner announced shortly thereafter.  COS is well worth the read. Personally, I’d like to see more about Dugger.  I found his character absolutely fascinating.  You can read my review here





Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Her first novel, Cover of Snow, is published by Ballantine.

Jenny can be reached at http://jennymilchman.com and she blogs at http://suspenseyourdisbelief.com






Joyce Blaylock and ADELICIA

When Adelicia graduated from the Nashville Female Academy at sixteen she did so with the highest honors.  What would her education have consisted of?

Rhetoric, orthography, spelling, syntax, reading, geography, history, arithmetic, painting, drawing, music, recitation, grammar, writing, etymology, and prosody.

Which, if any, of her husbands could be considered the love of her life or was it perhaps the boy she was engaged to at seventeen who died of typhoid?

It is difficult to say.  She loved each differently, was a different age and at a different stage in her life.  Each husband brought something to the table. I do have my idea…as she ages and reflects.

Adelicia’s first husband, Isaac Franklin, was fifty to her twenty-two.  There’s evidence that there was true affection between them.  Did Adelicia choose Franklin or was their marriage arranged.

The marriage was not arranged.  She “set her cap for him.”  There is evidence of true affection between the two.  Each brought something to the table.    

I can’t imagine the grief Adelicia suffered by losing her first four children all before the age of 11. Do you think parents in the past were more inured to a child’s death?

Actually, Adelicia lost five children before Emma’s death at age eleven. She lost the first three Franklin children, two little girls by Acklen, then Emma Franklin. I do not believe the loss of a child was felt any less in previous centuries than in our present one.   A mother’s heart is a mother’s heart, regardless of the time period. 

Did her children’s deaths have a lasting effect on Adelicia?

Yes.  She often reflected on their deaths with great sorrow.  Only four of her ten children lived to maturity.

When Franklin died he left the widowed Adelicia a fortune estimated at $1million, a substantial amount at any time, what would that be in today’s dollars?

The numbers vary as to the exact amount left by Franklin.  Nine hundred thousand dollars in 1846, converts to between twenty-one and twenty-seven million dollars in today’s market.

Did Franklin teach Adelicia the finer points of estate management and business or did she learn these prior to their marriage?

Adelicia was quick and astute by nature. She was also observant…and learned much from managing Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin,Tennessee, as its mistress.  She was fascinated with  Isaac’s ability to turn money into more money through wise investments.  She also oversaw the households of their homes in Louisiana. 

I read how Adelicia audaciously saved her cotton and a large portion of her fortune from both the Union and the Confederacy. Can you share the highlights of this fascinating story with those who haven’t had the pleasure?

It is factual that Adelicia’s cotton left the plantations in West Feliciana on Union wagons, pulled by Union mules and under guard of Confederate troops. The command to allow Mrs.Acklen to do this was from orders very high in the ranks of both North and South. You must read the novel to discover how this was accomplished.

When Adelicia and her children traveled to England to collect the proceeds from her cotton sale did they proceed to do a European “Grand Tour?”

She did not necessarily go there to “collect.”  She and the children did spend much time touring in Europe, and she did see to her fortune, accordingly.     

Depending on what you read, Adelicia is said to have received 920,000, one million, or two million for the cotton she saved and sold to the Rothschild’s.  How much did she earn from the sale?

Cotton was selling at the rate of $1.89- $1.91 per pound in 1863-1864.  Adelicia earned approximately four-to six million dollars.  I will let you know more when I do further calculations. The cotton was not sold to the Rothschild’s only.    


It’s fascinating and very forward thinking that Adelicia had Col. J. A.S. Acklen and Dr. W.A. Cheatham sign a pre-nuptial agreement.  Would that have been considered “unmanly” at the time, especially as Acklen was such an astute businessman who helped triple Adelicia’s fortune?

Pre-nuptial agreements were not that uncommon, however, Adelicia made certain that neither husband would own or have control of her land, money or investments. It would not have been considered unmanly. Many men married into money then as they do now. There is no record to indicate that Col.Acklen’s business acumen helped to increase Adelicia’s fortune.  Many were involved, including Adelicia.  Her fortune from Mr.Franklin had more than doubled before her marriage to Col.Acklen.

Did Col. Acklen receive a salary for his efforts on his wife’s behalf?

There is no data to indicate one way or the other.  He obviously profited from the marriage, (style of living) as did Adelicia from her marriage to Isaac Franklin. 


Please tell us about Belmont, the “summer villa” they constructed together.

It contained an aviary, bowling alley, art gallery, lake, lavish gardens and of all things, a zoo that she opened to the public.  You must visit Belmont Mansion in Nashville!  Although the mansion, gazebos and water tower are all that remain, it is easy to visualize the extent and grandeur of the grounds that consisted of 167 acres. 

Was Belmont considered extravagant or extreme for the times?

Belle Monte was considered extravagant, lavish and “extreme.”  An interesting fact is the description recorded by a Union officer in his diary of the mansion and its grounds.  Adelicia once replied to an acquaintance who had asked about her extravagance, “My dear, extravagance is when one cannot afford it.  I have never been extravagant.” 

Do you think Adelicia’s ghost walks the halls of Belmont as some claim?

Ghosts appear in many old homes, according to some.  I have not encountered a ghost at Belle Monte, however, I do feel a familiar presence there.  I was asked by my hostess at Fairvue to “discover” which room had been Adelicia’s. I think I selected the correct one.  

Was Adelicia considered eccentric during her lifetime or was she largely admired?

Maybe a bit of both?  Adelicia was both admired and envied, mostly the latter.

Are there any conjectures on why Adelicia sold Belmont and left Dr. Cheatham after twenty years of marriage?

Yes. A good question.  This will appear in the sequel.

I understand Adelicia was quite the equestrian, was that a lifelong love?


Have you ever considered a Sassy Southern Women, or something along those lines, or has it always been Adelicia for you?

Many titles have been brought to my attention. From the onset, I have wanted the title to be ADELICIA.

Does Adelicia have any surviving relations?

Yes.  Some great, great, great, greats.

I had never heard of Adelicia before but find her fascinating and look forward to reading ADELICIA.

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit Manic Readers, Joyce.

Visit Joyce and learn more about Adelicia.

Joyce/Adelicia on FB

Joyce on Twitter

ICONIC SPIRITS, Chocolate Martinis and Mark Spivak

Chocolate Martinis

There’s a theory that you should always begin a meal with dessert, just to make sure you have room for it. If you’re a fan of cocktails as well as desserts, there’s a drink with you name on it: the chocolate martini.

As the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, I was asked to do some research on chocolate martinis for a major women’s magazine. The publication wanted to expand on the idea that a chocolate martini was a relaxing and pampering indulgence that a woman could give to herself at the end of a long, hard day. I began by looking at recipes for the classics (basic chocolate, white chocolate, Godiva, chocolate mint). Not surprisingly, there were numerous recipes for each drink, and they were all radically different from one another. Seeking inspiration, I then looked at creations from “famous” mixologists.

The recipes from the experts were unnecessarily complex—it was unlikely that the average hobbyist would attempt them, much less a working mother at the end of a long day. They also contained a number of exotic ingredients that would be difficult to find and expensive to buy. To make a chocolate martini, most people would already have to purchase a few items not likely stocked in their home bar (chocolate and vanilla vodka, Godiva liqueur, etc.). Why scour the neighborhood looking for Peychaud’s bitters, orgeat syrup and Luxardo Maraschino liqueur?

I decided to collate different recipes for each drink, and fiddle with them until I got them right. I settled on Van Gogh Dark Chocolate vodka, because I had it in the house and I believe it’s the gold standard in chocolate vodka anyway. I purchased vanilla vodka, white crème de cacao, white crème de menthe, miniatures of regular and white Godiva liqueur, dusted off the cocktail shaker, and had a fun afternoon:

Basic Chocolate Martini

3 parts Van Gogh Dark Chocolate Vodka, 1 part Crème de Cacao (white)

Coat the rim of a martini glass with chocolate syrup or bittersweet powdered chocolate. Chill the glass. Combine the vodka and crème de cacao in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into the glass.


White Chocolate Martini

1 oz. StoliVanil

1 oz. Godiva White Chocolate liqueur

.5 oz. Crème de Cacao (white)

1 oz. half and Half

Drizzle the sides of a martini glass with chocolate syrup. Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well, and strain into the glass. Garnish with white chocolate shavings and fresh raspberries (optional).


Milk Chocolate Martini

1 oz. Van Gogh Dark Chocolate Vodka

1 oz. Godiva Chocolate liqueur

.5 oz. Crème de Cacao (white)

1 oz. Half and Half

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well, and strain into a frosted martini glass. Garnish with a Hershey’s Kiss. (Note: I’m specifically calling this Milk Chocolate, because it differs from most versions of the Godiva Chocolate Martini).


Chocolate Mint Martini

2 oz. Van Gogh Dark Chocolate Vodka

.5 oz. Crème de Cacao (white)

.5 oz Crème de Menthe (white)

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well, and strain into a frosted martini glass. Garnish with a candy cane.



Iconic Spirits Tour Page 

Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the restaurant critic for Palm Beach Illustrated. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Ritz-Carlton, Continental, Art & Antiques, Newsmax, Dream of Italy and Arizona Highways. From 1999-2011 he hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Mark began writing Iconic Spirits after becoming fascinated with the untold stories behind the world’s greatest liquors. As a writer, he’s always searching for the unknown details that make his subjects compelling and unique. His latest book is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History.

Visit Mark’s website

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Pick up your copy of Iconic Spirits at Amazon:


Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press; hardcover, $16.95), by Mark Spivak, is a compelling portrait of twelve spirits that changed the world and forged the cocktail culture. Some are categories and others are specific brands, but they are all amazing, resonant and untold stories. Each chapter closes with recipes for the most popular and important cocktails.

What’s the relationship between moonshine and NASCAR?  Why was absinthe considered to be the most dangerous substance on earth? What was the cause of the Gin Craze in 18th century London, an epidemic of mass drunkenness that continued for fifty years?  How did a homeless man become the 165th wealthiest person in America?

“These are the best types of stories,” says Spivak. “They are the kind a writer could never make up.” 




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Meet Selah Janel Geek extraordinaire

There are so many topics I could write about, but let’s just get the big one, the mega one, the one that’s near and dear to my heart out of the way. I’ve tried through the years to develop into a somewhat mature human being and to keep getting better at the writing craft.

None of this takes away from the fact that I am a giant, undiluted, unrepentant geek. I’m a geek in my interests, a geek in my writing, and although I may change and grow, I doubt that’s going to go away. Why bring this up at all? It intrigues me that with so many fan girls and boys of various books and series these days, writers of the speculative genre are still pushed into a far corner of the room by the more literary crowd.

This irritates me.

Granted, I get that what’s popular isn’t always good, but I feel that sometimes people heap horror, sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, and all the rest as things that are for strict entertainment. And there’s nothing wrong with that; I don’t mind being entertained and there’s definitely a market for it. As a writer, though, I feel like a lot of people and critics are missing the point. There’s an opportunity with genre fiction that I’m constantly tempted by as an author. It’s not just about zombies, vampires, aliens, telepathic powers, or suddenly finding that you’re being stalked by a time-traveling cult. Sure, these are fun and intriguing, but I think sometimes people forget that speculative writers have a lot of room to work with metaphor. Comic titles like Walking Dead and Batman are about more than the fantastic set-up; they’re about how certain types of people deal with loss, with survival, with obsession. Sometimes putting these heavy emotions into a fantastic setting makes it easier for us to talk about them, to make us wonder what we would do in similar situations.

Like or loathe how vampires have been portrayed lately, they can be a great metaphor for a lot of things. They can be the ultimate predator, a version of Nietzsche’s supermen turned into a nightmare because they break all the rules on the food chain. They can represent the longing a lot of people repress (though whether the longing is sexual, romantic, or to be able to get away with lashing out, that’s up to the reader to interpret).

Look at Ray Bradbury, who put a huge amount of human emotions on Mars. Not only did he get us wondering about space, he also makes us feel for the struggles his characters experience as they get used to their situations. Look at Neil Gaiman, who has not only introduced mythology in new forms to readers who may not care otherwise, but who explores those stories and characters in ways that really get his readers thinking.

As a writer, I want people to enjoy my work and be entertained, but I also hope it sticks in their minds. I want them to think about why rock stars might be tempted into turning into demons and what it means to want something so bad you’d do anything for it. I want people to take a good look at everyone around them and wonder ‘what if…just what if they’re something else and I’m taking that for granted?’ As entertaining as genre fiction can be, I think writers of it have a unique opportunity to not only give people the chance to dream, but to also wake them up and get them thinking.

If that happens to take fairies, spaceships, elder gods, and mutant zombie vampire hybrids, well, so much the better.



Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.


She has the holiday e-book Holly and Ivy released through Mocha Memoirs Press and four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including her first novel In the Red, the historical vampire story Mooner and the contemporary short The Other Man.  Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology Bedtime Stories for Girls. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.

Catch up with Selah and all her ongoing projects at the following places:


Fandom Scene Column

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Book Page 


Amazon Author Page


Claire de Lune and the Cairngorm Dragons

Hello my name is Clair de Lune and I’m here to introduce my latest series. In the summer of last year I went on a family holiday to Moray in Scotland. While there we visited Loch Ness. It was raining and tendrils of mist clung to the steep banks as I got out of the car to gaze at the long deep loch. Legend has it there is a monster in Loch ness. Her name is Nessie and she has been sighted many times. Often it has been a hoax but what if it wasn’t? What if there really was an explanation of the sightings? The thought stuck in my brain and the next day, being fine and sunny, we took the little ones to the beach. I sat in a deckchair and suddenly the idea hit me. I got out my notebook and pencil. Not very high tech but they go everywhere with me. That was the end of a peaceful holiday. Every spare minute saw me scribbling away and before I came home Dragon’s Mate the first of the Cairngorm Dragons series was written almost in its entirety.


Book 1 in the Cairngorm Dragons series “Dragon’s Mate” is out on  9th January

Book 2  in the Cairngorm Dragons series “Ness’s Bane” is out on    23rd January


Braemuir is the chieftain of the Clan and a shape-shifter. He must find a mate and impregnate her before the Gathering of the Clan at the Summer Solstice if he is to stave off a challenge for the leadership.

An unknown black dragon and his mate are trying to get rid of Braemuir in order to keep the Clan treasure for themselves. When Eilidh NicDhoughal mates with Braemuir, she becomes able to shape-shift, too, but being Braemuir’s mate puts a target on her back—and if one of a mated pair dies, the other will die, too.

As Braemuir struggles to keep Eilidh safe from the black dragon’s attempts to dispose of them, a battle ensues amongst the dragons. Just when the identity of the black dragon is finally discovered, Braemuir gets another shock that will change his world forever.

Solus changed into his man-shape. Now he was Braemuir of Braemuir. He walked down the main street of the small settlement. There was so much history there, so much violence and death. He could feel it in the very cobbles of the street. It was past time to end the violence, but if he did not find his mate and impregnate her before the summer solstice, there could well be more blood shed on these cobblestones.

He could follow the tendrils of her thoughts as she hurried out of the town and up the hill to the caves. The odd word she muttered to herself was borne to him on the wind. He might be in his man-shape, but his dragon senses were still available to him. He was Braemuir.

“Stranger. Harm. Hide.”

Those were the fragments he picked up.

She is heading to the caves where the ancestors are buried. She thinks hiding there will shield her thoughts from from me. She is my mate! Nothing and no one will shield her thoughts from me!

He had the plaid wound around him and the end thrown over his shoulder in the time-honoured tradition. The huge brooch with the cabochon emerald and the golden dragon held it in place. He strode purposefully down the street, looking neither to the right nor the left. All men avoided his eyes today, all kept out of his way. He was known! He was the laird of the Clan! Usually he was gregarious, but there was something in his countenance, on this day, that made men wary. He was Braemuir of Braemuir after all.

He was six feet four inches tall. His muscular frame was broad at the shoulders and narrow at the waist and hips. His legs were long, lean, and powerful. He was well used to walking great distances. His hair was long, blue-black, and glossy. He wore it pulled back from his face and tied at the nape of his neck with a leather thong. He carried a huge broadsword at his hip. It was long and heavy, with a matching cabochon emerald in the hilt. Not many men could lift that sword, let alone wield it in combat! None had ever bested him in combat, hence Oidhche’s machinations.

Oidhche, black as the night his Gaelic name suggested, was a huge male dragon, with malevolent yellow eyes. But who was Oidhche? That was what Braemuir would like to know. He was of the Clan. He had to be! Whose was the treacherous mind behind the huge black dragon? Now that was a mystery. If Braemuir knew, he could deal with the man. So far, glimpses of the dark mind had been afforded to Braemuir, but no more. He suspected that Oidhche was someone closer to him than he cared to admit to himself.


Since my youngest son challenged me to write a novel of my own and I wrote “Initiation” book one in the “Prometheus in Chains,” writing has taken over my life. It has been like a roller-coaster ride and a very pleasurable one at that. When I sent off my first book to Siren I had no idea what I was setting in motion. I have made many good friends, some readers and some fellow authors. Writing has certainly changed my life.

I believe the world has enough sadness in it and my characters will always get their HEA even if the road is rocky.

All my books are published with Siren.                                                                                                                    Manic Readers Review of Initiation


Amazon                 Amazon UK

Explore the world of Prometheus in Chains 


Email:  clairdelune4542@yahoo.co.uk






Cedar River Series with Gemma K. Murray and giveaway

Hello, world! My name is Gemma K. Murray Luna McIntyre. I’m here substituting for my favorite author in the world, Gemma K. Murray. Gemma is extremely busy with year-end items as well as writing her little fingers to the bone, but I’m here to tell you anything you need to know.

A little bit about my darling friend, Gemma. She is married and the mama to 5 of the cutest canine kids ever. She lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she writes the world I reside in, Cedar River. The Cedar River series is only 2 books long so far, but Gemma has plenty of characters to write about when it comes to this shifter community. Heck, the U.P gives her enough for *stops to count* at least 3 more series.



Natural Born Enemies is the current release in the Cedar River series. This is the story of a puma shifter and a wolf shifter. This is my story. Okay, mine and Adam’s, but you get the point. I’m the wolf shifter who has been in love with my sexy puma since we were in high school. He used to be a bad boy who made me drool with simply a smile. Our families were determined to keep us apart. Adam joined the military and I pined for him, but I went to school and learned to make sweets. In fact, I opened my own sweet shop in Cedar River called Full Moon Sweets. When Adam came home from overseas, he was a mess, but I still loved him with all my heart. We reunited and began taking steps toward a new life together. Unfortunately, someone wants us to stay apart. Enough so that they are threatening us and everything we love. You’ll have to read the book to see if our love is strong enough to make it through.

Here’s an excerpt from Natural Born Enemies to whet your appetite:


I’ll never forget the first look I got of Adam. He wore his bad attitude like a well-worn pair of jeans. Gods, I wanted to be the woman to tame his wild side. The anger radiated off him in waves, but I knew in my heart that he was simply hurting.

Every year since I could remember, the pack and the pride would lay aside their differences and would help with the clearing of downed trees in the woods between the two lands. Roman Pierce recruited Adam to help. He was a young and able body. His lanky muscles bunched and relaxed with each piece of wood he tossed into the waiting trailers. My mouth still waters at that memory. Then, Adam got arrested. My dad warned me to stay away from Adam, but there was something about that young man. I started to make excuses to go into town with my girlfriends in hopes of catching his eye.

“He’s nothing but bad news, Luna,” my friend, Maria, said.

“If that’s what bad news looks like, you can deliver it to me every day,” was my reply.

Adam’s black hair was always in his eyes, but when those piercing green eyes turned my way, I felt my insides melt. A mere glance from the Pierce Pride bad boy sent my heart racing. I would watch him in the halls at school and on the football field. His speed made him the best receiver on the Cedar River Miners. I’d watch him on the side lines palling around with “Bodacious” Bowie Golden. Those two together were enough to make a girl’s panties drop with a simple smile.


Pretty awesome, right? It still makes my heart jump in my chest when I think back. So, I’ll sign off for now and thank you for stopping by to visit. Gemma will be here to answer questions a little later. Let us know what you think.

Available at Leap of Faith Publishing and Amazon

Gemma is offering to give away a copy of Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart AND a copy of Natural Born Enemies to one commenter. Both are e-copies, but she has them in all the appropriate formats.

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