Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interview with romance novelist Maggie McConnell

My special guest today is romance novelist Maggie McConnell. We’re chatting about her new romantic comedy, Spooning Daisy.


During her virtual book tour, Maggie will be offering a Nordstrom "Daisy" vegan leather clutch, a Nordstrom turtle pin, or a Rebecca Minkoff star pendant/necklace to three (3) randomly drawn U.S.-only winners. International winners will receive a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card. To be entered for a chance to win a gift, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!
Bio:
Golden Heart nominee Maggie McConnell spent her childhood overseas as the daughter of US diplomats. Attending college in Illinois, she earned a BA in Art and an MBA while working at the local humane shelter. At 26, she packed her dog and cat into a Ford truck and drove the Alcan Highway to Alaska, where she spent 23 years exploring The Last Frontier in a single-engine Cessna. A vegan and animal rights advocate, Maggie provides a sanctuary on her Arizona ranch for all creatures great and small, but her immediate family includes dog Molly, cat Sara, horses Quinn and Teena, and an ever-growing dynasty of chipmunks. Every year, like the Gray Whale, Maggie returns to Alaska.

Welcome, Maggie. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Chef de Cuisine Daisy Moon is a woman without a kitchen after a "bit of trouble" at her last job. Now blacklisted from Seattle to San Francisco, Daisy's sole job offer is from Wild Man Lodge in Otter Bite, Alaska, where the end of the road is just her beginning.

What inspired you to write this book?  
The original idea (and opening scene) was inspired by my own garage sale, right down to the sheets covering the makeshift plywood tables and the silver-plated chafing dish. As the day progressed, I started thinking “what if…” and the book was born. The primary location of the story, Otter Bite, Alaska is inspired by the very real Kachemak Bay village of Seldovia where I spent summers during my 23 years living in Anchorage. Anyone interested in learning more about this special place can visit Seldovia.com.


Excerpt from Spooning Daisy:
"I had apple strudel. I never have apple strudel. It's not my usual."

"You came here to tell me you had apple strudel?"

"The thing is...I liked it. For a change, I mean. Once. Not every day, of course."

"Max--"

"The truth is..." He stepped toward her. "The truth is...I feel bad about giving you such a hard time at breakfast."

"Ohhhh. This is an apology."

"No, absolutely not." Max retracted the step he'd just taken. "This is absolutely NOT an apology."

Daisy huffed. Normally, she'd take great satisfaction in Max's guilt and take equal pleasure in the banter that would surely follow. However, she was a woman on a mission, and she didn't have the time, not with Otter Bite hanging by a manila envelope. "Fine. Thank you for coming here NOT to apologize and for that apple strudel thing. And--" She momentarily softened. "--the money. But I just don't have the time for whatever this is."

Once again he stepped toward her. "You're making this extremely difficult."

"This? This what? What am I making--"

"This." The word melted into her mouth.

The two hundreds floated from her hand to the floor. Then, her arms wrapped Max's neck, his body pressed hers, and Daisy was lost in a kiss she never expected to own.


What exciting story are you working on next?
Embracing Felicity, also set in Otter Bite. Thirty-five-year-old, part-Alutiiq Felicity Arhnaq lives on Bobrovie Spit and has a curio shop in town named FLuke Eleven-Nine. Enter Ian MacIntyre and his 10-year-old daughter Emily. Ian is an oilman whom we met along with Emily in Spooning Daisy. Now he and Emily are back in Otter Bite for the summer, but what’s Ian up to? Looking for the next drilling site where it otter not be? Not on Felicity’s watch! Throw in the legend of Sedna, a 200-year-old mermaid, and it’s romcom with mystery and environmental undertones.

And for those familiar with Spooning Daisy, we see what’s happening with Max and Daisy since their Happily Ever After.

Anyone wanting to read the first chapter can visit my website. Or, if you sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon newsletter, I’ll be sending out the first three chapters to subscribers.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Interesting. Maybe when I put “writer” as my profession on my tax return and started deducting expenses! My first royalty check made it legitimate.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I live on a (no-kill) ranch and spend 6-8 hours a day taking care of ranch and animals, including wildlife that wanders through and sometimes stays, like the skunks under my back deck. I try to get in at least 6 hours/day writing so I’m up early, 4-ish, and write until 7:30 when I start my ranch day. I fit in another 3 hours of writing in between ranch work, usually in the afternoon before I return to the barn for evening feeding. After that, I have dinner and watch some television, usually PBS (including Grantchester, Call the Midwife, Nature, The Great British Baking Show, A Place to Call Home, Miss Fischer’s Murder Mysteries, Father Brown, The Coroner, and Murder in Paradise, Last Tango in Halifax, My Mother and Other Strangers, Home Fires, and assorted documentaries that might catch my interest. Currently loving The Big Pacific.) I try to spend a little Facebook time before bed, where I read a bit, then lights out, and I do it all again the next day. I’m an hour out of town so I only go in about once a week and try to get all my grocery shopping and errands done. Every day is pretty much the same as the next.

On my personal Facebook page I have photos and videos of ranch and critters.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have a quirk, but then would it be a quirk to me? I always meditate in the morning before I write—would that be a quirk? In general, I think I write “normally.”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A horse. Seriously. I’m not sure how old I was before I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Then I switched to veterinarian. But I have horses now so I feel like part of the herd—perhaps I’ll have to rely on reincarnation.  BTW, Queen Elizabeth II (when she was a child) also aspired to be a horse. So I’m in good company.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
With so many books competing for attention, I’m grateful to all who notice Spooning Daisy, and especially to the tour hosts who make Daisy noticeable. Thank you and good luck with the giveaway. BTW, each giveaway item has a connection to the book.

Links:

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

Thank you for having Daisy and Max, and me.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interview with debut novelist Tiffany McDaniel

Debut novelist Tiffany McDaniel joins me today to chat about her work of literary fiction, The Summer that Melted Everything.

Bio:
Tiffany McDaniel is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. Also a poet and artist, she is the winner of The Guardian's 2016 "Not-the-Booker Prize" and the winner of Ohioana Library Readers Choice Award for her debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything. The novel was also a Goodreads Choice Award double nominee in both fiction and debut categories, is a current nominee for the Lillian Smith Book Award, and a finalist for the Women's Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Outstanding Debut.

Welcome, Tiffany. Please tell us about your current release.
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperature as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.


What inspired you to write this book?
The novel started first as a title. It was one of those hot Ohio summers that I felt like I was melting. Out of true heat, the title was born. I always say I’m inspired by the characters, to write their story, to the best of my ability.


You can use this link to read an excerpt from the publisher’s site:


What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve returned to that very first novel I wrote when I was eighteen. It’s titled, The Chaos We’ve Come From. I have eight completed novels, and just like in all of them, in The Chaos We’ve Come From, the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio will be the setting. Ohio is a land that has shaped me as an author. The Chaos We’ve Come From in particular is inspired by my mother’s coming-of-age in southern Ohio, in those foothills of the Appalachians, from the 1950s to the death of her father in the early 1970s. It feels like a good time to return to these characters and to this story.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was when The Summer that Melted Everything was published. I should say that while The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything. It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of rejection and perseverance. After such an uphill battle, seeing one of my books finally on the shelf certainly made me feel as if I was an author.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
For the most part, I just sit there and type. It’s boring, but out of that, comes story.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I wrote short stories, poetry, and made little homemade books out of notebook paper and cardboard. I certainly always wanted to write, but as a kid I never associated writing with a job because I never considered it work. My parents had jobs. Hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. I thought that’s what I would have to do with my life, too. Have a job I hated. I wouldn’t have that distinction between a job and a career until I was in middle school. I started on the journey to a writing career when I was eighteen, when I wrote my first novel.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I don’t have social media, but readers can always reach me direct through my website.

I personally answer every email. I also Skype with book clubs. Having that connection with readers is important to me.

Links:


Thanks for being here today, Tiffany!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Interview with fantasy author Cindy Lynn Speer

Welcome, readers. Today’s special guest is fantasy author Cindy Lynn Speer. We’re chatting a little bit about her fantasy mysteries The Chocolatier's Wife, and The Chocolatier’s Ghost.

During her virtual book tour, Cindy will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to one lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Bio:
Cindy Lynn Speer has been writing since she was 13. She has Blue Moon and Unbalanced published by Zumaya. Her other works, including The Chocolatier’s Wife (recently out in an illustrated hardcover to celebrate its 10th anniversary) and the Chocolatier’s Ghost, as well as the short story anthology Wishes and Sorrows. When she is not writing she is either practicing historical swordsmanship, sewing, or pretending she can garden. She also loves road trips and seeing nature. Her secret side hobby is to write really boring bios about herself.

Please tell us a little bit about The Chocolatier's Wife.
A truly original, spellbinding love story, featuring vivid characters in a highly realistic historical setting.

When Tasmin's bethrothed, William, is accused of murder, she gathers her wind sprites and rushes to his home town to investigate. She doesn't have a shred of doubt about his innocence. But as she settles in his chocolate shop, she finds more in store than she bargained for. Facing suspicious townsfolk, gossiping neighbors, and William's own family, who all resent her kind - the sorcerer folk from the North -- she must also learn to tell friend from foe, and fast. For the real killer is still on the loose - and he is intent on ruining William's family at all cost.

Please tell us a little bit about The Chocolatier’s Ghost.
It’s the enchanting sequel to The Chocolatier’s Wife.

Married to her soul mate, the chocolatier William, Tasmin should not have to worry about anything at all. But when her happily ever after is interrupted by the disappearance of the town’s wise woman, she rushes in to investigate. Faced with dangers, dead bodies, and more mysterious disappearances, Tasmin and William must act fast to save their town and themselves – especially when Tasmin starts to be haunted by a most unwelcome ghost from her past…literally.


Excerpt from The Chocolatier’s Wife:
At the top of the hill, the snow spun and shimmered in the cruel wind. As she neared it, she slowed. Tasmin didn't want to step into that whirling, dancing wall of snow, but she mentally kicked herself and kept going. Home and warmth, Tasmin. Not so far, now. Just stop letting your imagination draw strange fancies where nothing is.
She crested the hill, and the wind fell silent. The snow fell away, except for one spot, where it swirled and settled, drawing details that glowed faintly in the darkness to become the figure of a woman. Her head turned slowly, looking over her shoulder at Tasmin, and then the rest of her followed suit, the snow falling and lifting and resettling on the curves and folds that outlined the silvery figure. She stared at Tasmin, moving her head this way and that, as if trying to focus on the face in front of her, considering.
The ghost tilted her head, reaching out one hand slowly, making as if she would touch Tasmin. Tasmin backed up a step. The hand was getting closer, and she panicked. No herbs, no amulets would help her, but she did have another talent, thin and unpracticed, but still there.
She raised a fist, palm towards the figure, and opened it quickly, warding the touch away. "Forbidden," she whispered, and a spear of air shattered through the snow. The ghost disappeared, and the world seemed to right itself, the wind died down and everything seemed to be normal.
She stepped carefully around the newly formed pile of snow and continued her walk home. Determined not to think any more about it, she stripped off her clothes and fell into bed, half wondering if her exhausted mind had not conjured the whole thing.


Where did you get the idea for these books?
One of my friends bought me chocolate for Christmas, and as I was unwrapping it, I was thinking about a favorite character from a movie, and the actor, and wondering what else he could do. I took a bite of the chocolate, and all of a sudden, I knew everything – the title of the book, the people, the first lines. It is a wonderful experience, to be struck with inspiration that perfectly. 

Any weird things you do when you’re alone?
Nooooo…what have you heard?
I do fencing drills – does hitting a piece of wood on a wall count?

What is your favorite quote and why?
“Full little knowest thou that hast not tried,
What hell it is in suing long to bide:
To lose good dayes, that might be better spent;
To waste long nights in pensive discontent;
To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow;
To feed on hope, to pine with feare and sorrow.”
- Edmund Spenser

It’s my favorite because I hate waiting – but you can’t lose long nights in discontent or waste your days, you have to keep going, even if you get “put back” – it’s a reminder to me to keep going, to not waste what I have, no matter how useless or hopeless it feels.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I have a lot of favorites, but Barbara Hambly holds a special place because it was in reading her work I understood what I loved about fantasy and mystery, and realized that the things I liked to write were things that could be written. She takes a story about a dragon or a vampire and turns it, gently, on its head and makes it something amazing.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Strong, well-written characters…someone who feels real. I can put up with a lot if the character feels like a living, breathing human being.

Links:

Thanks for being here today, Cindy. 

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Interview with sci-fi author Edward Ashton

Welcome, readers. Today’s special guest is author Edward Ashton. He’s here to share a bit about his new speculative-fiction-with-a-heavy-dose-of-humor novel The End of Ordinary.

During his virtual book tour, Edward will be awarding a 14-ounce Nalgene bottle filled with candy corn! & 1 VeryFit Smart Band (US only) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To enter for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

Bio:
Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.

Welcome, Edward. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The End of Ordinary is set in the near future, which is not entirely a spooky dystopia. Things are actually mostly okay in late twenty-first century upstate New York, despite the occasional super-plague or near-apocalyptic civil war. Drew Bergen works for Bioteka, a custom genetic engineering shop. His daughter Hannah is a fourteen-year-old running phenom who got her awesome lung capacity from Bioteka, and her questionable social skills from her dad. 

Hannah doesn’t have a ton of friends, so when she meets Devon Morgan at a cross-country meet, she’s willing to overlook a few minor flaws—including that Devon’s family is on a government watch list, she’s palling around with what is probably an illegal A.I., and she’s convinced that Hannah’s dad is caught up in a scheme to end the simmering hostility toward the genetically modified elite by wiping the world clean of the unmodified. Hannah and Devon set out to learn whether there's more to Drew’s work than blight-resistant corn, and hilarity ensues.

What inspired you to write this book?
Almost all of my fiction starts with a single scene. The End of Ordinary started with this one:

Here’s a story for you. The summer she turned two, we took Hannah to the beach. It was a perfect day, hot and clear, with an offshore breeze kicking up sharp little whitecaps on three-foot swells. Kara and I took her in shifts, one of us in the water, the other watching her dig in the sand. 
After an hour or so, Hannah started getting cranky, and Kara told me to take her into the ocean. I carried her out twenty or thirty feet, to where the swells were riding up my thighs, knelt down and dipped her into the water, let her kick her feet a bit and cool off. Then Kara waved to me, held up her phone, motioned for me to stand for a picture. I picked Hannah up, held her face next to mine and waved. Kara raised the phone. I smiled. I just had time to see Kara’s mouth open in a scream when a breaker hit me from behind like a runaway bus, lifted me off my feet, and flipped me forward. My arms flailed as I spun around. I tucked my chin, and hit the sand hard on the back of my neck. There was a moment of fuzzy numbness. I reached out. 
Hannah was gone.
I struggled to my feet as the wave rolled back out, my heart pounding like a jackhammer in my chest. Kara was running toward me and I spun once around, searching . . .
And there, drifting past me on the tide, was a fan of blonde hair. I dove for her, snatched her up out of the water, and held her face to mine. Her eyes were wide open, and she was laughing. 
Ever since that day at the beach, I’ve dreamed of losing her. Sometimes it’s in the forest. We’re hiking together, talking and laughing, and suddenly she’s gone. I crash through the trees calling for her, knowing that something has taken her, that if I don’t find her soon, it’ll be too late. Sometimes it’s in the city, in the subway or one of the abandoned neighborhoods. I always wake up soaked in sweat and panting. 
I never find her. 


This book has a lot of stuff in it—humor and cool tech and adventure and suspense—but at the end of the day, it’s the story of a father and a daughter, and the almost-unbearable fear of letting go.

True story, by the way.


Excerpt from The End of Ordinary:
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s take this one step at a time. Why do you need accomplices?”

“I already told you,” Micah said. “We are like ninety percent fully opposed to your plans to murder Jordan. Ninety-five percent, even.”

“Quiet,” Bob said. “Grownups are talking now.”

“Micah’s an idiot,” Marta said, “but believe it or not, he’s mostly right. We know about Project Snitch, Daddy.”

Bob’s eyebrows came together at the bridge of his nose.

“Project what?”

Marta rolled her eyes.

“Give it up, Dad. I don’t have anything else to do around here, so I snoop. I’ve heard you and Marco talking about Project Snitch more than once.”

“Actually,” I said, “I think Hannah said that the real name for it was Project Dragon-Corn.”

Bob’s face went blank.

“Oh,” he said, after a long, silent pause. “Oh. Oh, honey. You mean project Sneetch.”

I looked at Marta. Marta looked at me. Micah finished his smoothie, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and smiled.

“Uh,” Marta said. “What?”

Bob sighed.

“Sneetch, honey. Not Snitch. Sneetch.”

“Oh,” Marta said. “I thought you were just making fun of Marco’s accent when you said it that way.”

We all turned to stare at her.

“Anyway,” I said. “Confusion-wise, I’m not sure that’s…”

I slapped my palm to my forehead and let out a long, low groan.

“What?” Micah asked. “Are you having a stroke?”

“Sneetch,” I said. “Project Sneetch. Holy shit, dude. You think you’re Sylvester McMonkey McBean.”

“Right,” Bob said. He leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. “See, honey? Your gay boyfriend gets me.”



What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently about three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my new book, A Brief History of the Stupid War. This book takes place in between the events of The End of Ordinary and my first book, Three Days in April, and tells the story of the war that almost ended the world when Hannah was little. I know, I know—I’m publishing out of order. It’s okay, though. These books are not a series. They’re just three stand-alone novels set in the same world. It’s totally okay to read them in any order you like.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I can't ever remember not considering myself a writer. My dad still has a collection of (very) short stories I wrote when I was nine, and I cobbled together my first novel (written in longhand, in pencil, on two hundred sheets of lined notebook paper) when I was twelve. The reviews for that one were not great (“Hackneyed and derivative” - love, Dad) but I’ve actually still got the original manuscript in a lock box in my closet.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I do not write full-time. I have a number of hungry mouths to feed, and making a living as a novelist is a surprisingly tough gig. I’m actually a cancer researcher by day, which has given me an interesting perspective on the whole genetic engineering thing. As you can probably imagine, this is a pretty demanding job, but I find time to write in the interstices of my life. Got twenty minutes left on my lunch break? Bang out two hundred words. Twelve hour flight to Tokyo? That’s a chapter at least. When you approach it in that way, its surprising how quickly the words pile up.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
For a long time, every story I wrote had a minor character in it somewhere named Doug. This wasn’t a deliberate thing. I just find that name really amusing for some reason, and I kept using it. If you get a chance to read The End of Ordinary, see if you can figure out which character’s name was Doug until my editor made me change it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A famous novelist, of course. Also, power forward for the Boston Celtics. I’m still not sure which of those dreams was more realistic.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I sold my first short story to the newsletter for an Italian sausage company. They paid me in sheet pizza and savings bonds. Until surprisingly recently, that was my biggest single payday as a writer. Like I said—it’s a tough gig.

Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Amazon buy link | Amazon back list

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you! This was a lot of fun.

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