Today's special guest is Michael Loyd Gray. He was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but grew up in Champaign,Illinois. He earned a MFA in English from Western Michigan University and has taught at colleges and universities in upstate New York, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas. He graduated from the University ofIllinois with a Journalism degree and was a newspaper staff writer in Arizona and Illinois for ten years, conducting the last interview with novelist Erskine Caldwell.
He is the winner of the 2005 Alligator Juniper Fiction Prize and the 2005 The Writers Place Award for Fiction. Gray’s novel Well Deserved won the 2008 Sol Books Prose Series Prize. His novel Not Famous Anymore was awarded a grant by the Elizabeth George Foundation and was released by Three Towers Press, an imprint of HenschelHaus in 2011. His novel December's Children was a finalist for the 2006 Sol Books Prose Series Prize and was released in 2012 by Tempest Books as the young adult novel King Biscuit.He has written a sequel to Well Deserved called The Last Stop, and another two novels called Blue SpartaandFast Eddie.Recently he finished a novel entitled The Salt Meadows. A lifelong Chicago Bears and Rolling Stones fan, he lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and teaches as full-time online English faculty for South University, where he is one of the founding editors of the student literary journal Asynchronousand sponsor of an online readings series featuring fiction and poetry.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
How did you select the 1960's as the time frame for your book?
In many ways the 1960s are my favorite decade. I was a teenager then and I embraced the music and the changing times with great enthusiasm. I grew up on The Beatles and Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, and many other great artists. That music is still played loudly in my house. And so I guess I always wanted to set a story in those times. It was great fun to create and maneuver characters in that setting. They were turbulent times and so a great setting in which to have conflicts play out.
What type of research did you do to make the backdrop authentic, or did you use poetic license?
Well, Argus, Illinois, is my own creation. I created Argus so that I didn’t have to worry about staying true to what was in a real town. If I wanted a town square I could have a town square, for example. A story set in a fictional town is certainly easier to manipulate than one in a real town—it was for me, anyway. As for authenticity, certainly I always keep a setting true to the time it inhabits. Argus in the late 60s conforms to the required cultural history of the Midwest.
How did you arrive at the lessons Mitch learns along his travels?
As you develop a character you learn more and more about that person—and that’s how you must view a character, as a real person. You are creating that person sufficiently for readers to believe they could have existed. And so as you get acquainted with this evolving person in your story, you discover along the way how they would react to things, the choices they would make. The choices Billy Ray Fleener makes in King Biscuit, for example, and the lessons learned from them came to me as I understood the character/person better. The same for Elliott Adrian in Not Famous Anymore and for all my characters.
What would you like the reader to take from this book when they've finished reading--or even along the way?
With any of my novels I hope that readers see and accept the characters as people who could exist and who face conflicts and make decisions that help readers better understand who the characters are. I’m certainly very interested in what goes on inside my characters, their psychology, so to speak – how they change and grow. Or even how they fail to change and grow if that’s the case.
What are you working on next?
I just finished novels almost back to back. The Salt Meadows takes place partly against a backdrop of the Haitian Revolution in 1985. And The Canary is about the last days of Amelia Earhart. I’m taking a few months away from writing. I have several ideas I could pursue, but I prefer to rest my head and body before getting into a new book. Writing a novel takes a toll—you live with the people and places in the book every day until it’s done.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s 1966. The Beatles have taken over the airways, Star Trek is in its first season on NBC, and 389,000 American troops are stationed in Vietnam.
A war is going on Argus, Illinois as well, between sixteen-year-old Billy Ray Fleener and his father.While his father dreams of Billy Ray joining the family business,Billy Ray dreams of moving to California, becoming a surfer, and getting into Margie Heinrich’s pants—not necessarily in that order. Instead, he gets a summer laying pipe and the dubious distinction of town hero after saving Purdy Boy, the mayor’s wife’s dachshund.
When his beloved uncle and role model Mitch is killed in combat, Billy Ray feels like he must leave Argus or be stuck there forever. With little more than the clothes on his back, he hops a bus for Helena, Arkansas to visit Mitch’s grave.Along the way he meets up with a cast of characters as varied and polarized as America itself, from a marine captain home on leave to a band of hippies bound for Graceland. Each teaches him something about love, loyalty, and the true meaning of freedom, but what Billy Ray really learns is that everyone has the power to define who they are. He may have left Argus a boy, but he returns a man.
As a restless boy who sensed manhood was not so far off, Billy Ray had a plan of sorts for easing into it: he fancied going out to California to become a professional surfer. He’d get a cool name, like MoonDoggy (he knew that one was taken by somebody in the movies), or Sharkman. His current favorite was Tubular Boy and he imagined would wear baggies and surfer shirts, listen to the Beach Boys, and wax his board a lot in the company of surfer girls in bikinis. He bought Surfer magazine at the Walgreen’s in downtown Argus and already knew some of the surfer lingo. His favorite surfer expression was “Cowabunga.”
But the plan had one fundamental flaw: Billy Ray had no money and no car, and he was still in high school in east central Illinois. The closest thing to surf: waves of corn that shimmied and rattled when there was a breeze. California was more a state of mind, a concept or philosophy, than a reality to Billy Ray, who had nonetheless scrutinized it pretty well in an atlas at the school library.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR - AND WIN A PRIZE!
Michael will be awarding a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:
Our guest today is author Shelly Holt, and I'll let her tell you a little about herself... Welcome, Shelly!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.
It's funny, I never wanted to be a writer! In 7th grade English, we were given an assignment. We were told to write an original poem and turn it in the next day. I was determined to turn in not a good poem, but a great poem. I spent the whole night working on it instead of watching my favorite show, The Waltons. (Hey! it was 1980.) I turned it in the next day. Apparently, I succeeded a little too well and was accused of copying it from a book. (1980 remember, no internet yet). The teacher stated and I quote "this is too good for a seventh grader, where did you copy it from?" Well, I didn't write for 30 years after that. In my 40's, after a life changing move to rural Nevada as a caregiver to my father, I realized I needed a way to earn a little money on the side. I did some research on the internet and read all about a certain little book, about a certain little college student and a handsome billionaire with some ahem! (issues.) I decided after reading that book, I could do that, and Tasting Fire was born. I'll admit it's been strange revisiting a talent buried deep inside for so long, forgotten, but apparently not lost. It's been an important journey and one I am quite thankful for and excited to see where it takes me.
P.S. Mr. Jordan, I really did write that poem!
I wanted to write the shape-shifting novel that I had always wanted to read.I was reading about highly descriptive, very sexy werewolves, but to my frustration as a reader, not a lot of thought was being put into how they came to be.I personally am having a hard time with my suspension of disbelief.I have realized lately that it has only gotten worse as I have gotten older. I was able to suspend my disbelief for J.K. Rowling and for Rick Riordan and was able to enjoy their work, but I think in general it's a part of my own aging process and will only get worse the older I get.
When I decided to write a paranormal romance, I knew I would be competing against hundreds of other books.I made an executive decision that to stand out, I would have to approach the storytelling from a very different prospective.
I thought back to my absolute favorite series by Sharon Shinn and picked apart what I loved about it.I decided that her Samaria series had captured and held my attention, due to her highly intelligent premise and world building skills that had created a universe where her angels were not divine, but engineered in a lab by human colonists thousands of years in the future.It allowed me to suspend my disbelief and fully enjoy her work.
I decided that would be how I approached my own book as well.I created a premise where shape-shifters evolved not by magic, but over thousands of years by means of a bacterial infection that combined the DNA of the human victims with that of animals.I knew that if this infection was too easy to catch, everybody and their grandmother by the 21st century would be a shape-shifter.In the plot I decided to make it fairly hard, but not impossible to become infected.If you take a swim in the healing waters of a hot spring that does contain the thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria and then come into contact with a secondary DNA code while the bacteria is still in your system, your descendants could very well be shape-shifters.
After I had created the method, I had to chose my shape-shifter to focus the plot on.I sat down on the floor, and went though my bookshelf full of library discards.I came across a charming little children's book about snow leopards and their babies that I had forgotten I even had.I had purchased the book from the library bookstore for a whopping .25 cents and after I fell in love with the cubs in the book, I knew I had found my shape-shifter.
Tasting Fire has strong spiritual overtones and extraordinarily well developed secondary plots that involve personal growth and fully defined characters.All of these well designed aspects make for a truly unique paranormal romance.I will warn readers at this point, if you want a book where the hero and heroine fall into bed within the first two minutes of meeting and have mindless sex, this is not the book for you!If you are looking for a rich, textured romance, full of world building and character development, and if you want to lose yourself in an original, intelligent, romantic, SEXY, adventure, this is your book!
Thanks for having me on Book' Em North Carolina to share my experiences writing Tasting Fire with your readers today.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. Kai leaves his small village where the mountains touch the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.
Nawang Wangdu walked through the hills of Himachal Prodesh, India.He had to leave Hong Kong quickly.The elderly Pari felt terrible about abandoning Dr. Hales, but he had no choice.He had sent several of his men to get her out of Kai's apartment, but Interpol had gotten a hold of her first.Nawang was a powerful man, but even he could not protect her from entire governments.
He also worried intensely about his son.Kai had fallen off the face of the earth.None of Nawang's contacts could locate him in the madness that followed.Just as in the dream, he could feel the weight of those eighty-two years bearing full force down on him.His long lost mother had told him it was all baggage and must be left behind.Nawang would not now, nor ever consider his son's safety baggage, but Nawang had to face facts.He was an old man.His money and influence only went so far.He had to have faith in the universe that it would all work out in the end without him.
The elderly shape-shifter knew in the depths of his soul that his time on earth was drawing to a close.Nawang had to take care of his assets and disappear.He gave each of his men two million dollars cash.The successful businessman bowed low to each one of them.Nawang thanked them all for their years of loyal service.He then told all of his men to take their leave of him.They should all be with their families during this trying time.
HOW TO CONTACT THE AUTHOR
Shelly will award a $20 Starbucks GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Today's special guest is Matthew D. Ryan, a published author living in upstate New York on the shores of Lake Champlain. He has a background in philosophy, mathematics, and computer science. He also has a black belt in the martial arts and studies yoga. He has been deeply involved in the fantasy genre for most of his life as a reader, writer, and game designer. He believes he saw the legendary Lake Champlain Monster (a.k.a Champy) once and he has a cat named Confucius.
ABOUT THE BOOK
We vampires do not make easy prey. Our weaknesses are few, our strengths many. Fear is something we do not know, and death but a distant memory. So tread softly, pray to your god, and gird yourself with silver when the moons arise and night’s dark prince awakens. We fear not the wizard, nor the warrior, neither rogue, nor priest; our strength is timeless, drawn from darkness and we know no master save the hot lust of our unending hunger. We long for blood, your blood and no blade, nor spell, nor clever artifice, can keep us long from our prize. Feel our teeth at your throat, your life ebb from you, and know as darkness comes to claim you that the price of your folly is your everlasting soul.
In Drisdak, the city on the Sea of Sorrows, the citizens have much to dread. Unease and foreboding has always been associated with the local wizards guild; peasants have an innate distrust of magic and those who use it. But now, something else is on the rise. A mysterious fire at the guild has left two men dead and a third missing. A small matter, you say? Well, one of those men was the guild master, and his successor wants to know what happened to him. Enter Coragan of Esperia, the renowned bounty hunter. If anyone can unravel this mess he can. But is even he prepared to challenge the horrible evil that lurks at the heart of the mystery? An ancient vampire by the name of Lucian val Drasmyr.
There’s a woman in chain mail standing across the room from me; her sword is leveled at my chest. I can smell the enchantment on the blade, it’s a strong one; maybe even strong enough to cause me harm. Still, I’m not too concerned; it’s at least a ten foot lunge and I know I move faster than she does. Indeed, she’s the one who is looking worried. My display of strength and the death of her comrade have shaken her resolve.
She’s got a pretty face, flushed with excitement but strong and in control. It is her neck that really draws me, though, so soft and inviting, filled with the warm blood I desire. The curve of her flesh glistens, waiting for a well-placed gentle kiss.
She’s breathing rapidly now, her breath coming in shallow gasps. Her trek up through the castle has sapped much of her strength. And the fear she feels is naked in her eyes. Now, she’s getting ready to pounce, just a little too much tension in her stance, her eyes just a little too focused. She couldn’t give me more warning if she were to ask my permission first.
She moves in with remarkable speed, her blade striking out like a serpent’s tongue. Even winded, she still manages to cut my cape, then prances away with her back toward the wall, ready for anything. Anything, except me.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR
Matthew will be awarding a set of metal miniatures: 3 Nosferatu Vampires (US only) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:
Today's very special guest is bestselling author Jennifer Conner. She has twenty short stories and one full length book on ebook and in print. She writes in Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, and Erotica.
Christmas Chaos was in the Kindle sales top 50 ebooks and #2 in the Romance category.
Her novel Shot in the Dark was a finalist in the Emerald City Opener, Cleveland, and Toronto RWA contests.
Jennifer is an Associate Publisher for the indie e-book publisher, Books to Go Now who resides in the Seattle area. They pride themselves in helping new authors get their foot in the door with well-edited manuscripts, professional covers, and platforms uploads.
She lives in a hundred year old house that she grew up in. Her semi-small town holds an interesting mix of resident hillbillies, yuppies and Navy Seals. And of course Seattle, only a few miles away, is the birthplace of Starbucks so coffee is always on the check list. She blows glass beads with a blow torch, (which relieves a lot of stress and people don't bother you) and isa huge fan of local soccer teams, the Seattle Sounders, and Kitsap Pumas.
ABOUT THE BOOK
An enchanting time-travel romance for fans of Jude Deveraux and Diana Gabaldon.
Hadley Easton has a family legacy to uphold as a Time-Keeper. He guides people forward -or back- who feel they were born into the wrong time.
Samantha turns his world upside down when she arrives through the front door of the London bookstore. No one arrives through the front door: it’s the time portal.On top of that, she informs him she’s from the year 2012, over a hundred years in the future.
When Hadley learns the truth, he realizes his time is running out...
Hadley Easton took the watch from his pocket and flipped it open to check the time. He wasn’t sure why— the hands never moved. Time seemed to flow everywhere except inside the portal where the bookstore stood. Here, time felt suspended.
Hadley stood with his back against the wall and stared at the floor. His boots felt nailed down. He wanted to run after the woman. Stop her. Ask her those million questions starting with, how could it be 2012? He couldn’t force his legs to move.
He slid his fingers along the chain and tugged the watch from his pocket again. He popped open the silver case. Once more the hands of the watch were frozen, as they were since he arrived at the bookstore. But now, it was a quarter to one. Time moved ahead ten minutes. The ten minutes he assumed he’d spoken with Samantha. How did that happen? How could it happen? Had he imagined the hands moved? Hadley tapped the glass face with the tip of his fingers.
He gathered his strength and made his way down the stairs to the front of the bookstore. She was gone.
Jennifer will be awarding a pocket watch (US/Canada only) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour stops can be found here:
Today's special guest is Lin Brooks. Lin is a lifelong Southern girl who lives in Mobile, Alabama with her family. She is a lawyer, runner, mother, home improvement enthusiast and an avid reader with a bucket list that includes visiting Australia, running a marathon and trying every kind of margarita ever made.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
We interviewed Lin about her writing and herself:
When and how did you become interested in writing?
I used to hate writing in high school. They never let me write about anything fun. Then, about twenty years ago, I realized that I enjoyed reading and, every time I picked up a book, I had plots swimming around in my head.Unfortunately, I wasn’t any good at it! All that blank paper was intimidating. So it took another ten years for me to actually finish a manuscript, and another two or three to finish one that I didn’t read later and think “Wow, that’s pretty bad.” I think going to law school helped. There is A LOT of writing involved in law school, and I got a lot of good practice.
How did you select the genre you write in?
I have always read a lot of women’s fiction and romance. My mom and my grandma used to pass around big brown paper bags of romance novels, so that was what was lying around when I was looking for something to read. The genre has grown so much since I was young, and there is such a variety of romance and women’s fiction now that you can write about anything that interests women, which makes it personal to me. There are so many great romance and women’s fiction authors that I can pick up a book by just about anyone and enjoy it, so writing in that area just means that I’m writing about things I know and am interested in.
What books do you read for relaxation? Who are your favorite authors and why?
My favorite author is Stephen King. My husband and I started dating when I was 17, and he was the one that turned me on to him. He can be a little dark (King, not my husband!) and sometimes it’s a little weird, but the main thing I like about King is his ability to entertain. The man can spin a story! The Gunslinger novels are a perfect example of just plain good storytelling. When it is time for bed, I can’t seem to find a good place to put the book down, and before I know it, it’s 3am.
How do you develop your characters?
My main characters are usually someone that I can identify with. When I was in college, I had screenwriting professor who told us to “always write what you know.” That advice stuck. All of my characters have at least a little piece of me in them, because if I can understand them, then I know how they should act in any given situation. From there, I give them a pretty thorough history. Sometimes that history never makes it into the book (and that’s a good thing—I think people lose interest in a story if you try to give them an encyclopedia on all of your characters), but it does motivate them to do and act in a certain way. And that’s what makes the characters interesting. My characters often do things that I don’t expect, and I really like that. I hate it when a writer has a character do something that doesn’t fit just so the plot will go in the right direction. It feels forced. I have changed many a plot point because my character decided to go off the deep end.
Where do you get ideas for your plots?
I am a moderate introvert, which means that I have several very close friends, as opposed to a lot of sort-of close friends. I am very involved in my friends’ lives and we’re all a little off (in a good way). So there is a lot of fertile ground. Sometimes I will see something, like a newspaper article or a story on facebook, that will trigger an idea, but mostly, my plots are twists on personal experience on the experiences of people around me.
What are you working on next?
I have a straight romance novel coming out early next year. Meanwhile, I have a short(ish) work coming out soon that is a little different for me. It’s called “The Divorcee’s Field Guide: Surviving the Apocalyptic Break Up”. It’s therapy by laughter for women who are recovering from divorce. The book is a perfect example of drawing inspiration from experience. My two closest friends and I are all twice divorced, and we have some doozy ex husband stories. We all three kept thinking we should put them in a book, because no one would believe them. So I finally did. My editor (he’s a guy) is looking over it now. I can’t wait to hear his comments….
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sending the children off to college is never easy. For Lacey Marchand and Cara Myers, an empty nest is enough to drive them a little crazy -- but sometimes, a little crazy is just what the doctor ordered.
Now that their daughters have left for college, Lacey and Cara have too much time on their hands. With nothing else to do, Cara decides to help single-mom Lacey get a life. And what better way to get a life than a few blind dates?
Lacey, however, can't think of a worse way to spend her weekends. She has her own ideas for curing their empty nest problems -- Cara needs a new career. And a career just happens to be what Lacey understands best.
For Cara and Lacey, coping with the empty nest means reinventing their lives without losing their sanity. Where the Greener Grass Grows is the story of two mothers learning to live, to laugh and to let go.
Lacey nodded at the young man in the ticket booth, the grin still fixed on her face. That had to be one of the more unusual gifts she had ever heard of. At least Cara had a sense of humor about it. “That one’s going on the list.”
Cara dug in her purse for her wallet. “Would that be the ‘gifts guaranteed to piss your wife off’ list or the ‘gifts only a total moron would actually buy’ list?”
“Neither. I was thinking the ‘out of ideas’ list. You’ve been married a long time,” she reminded Cara. Sometimes that was almost impossible for Lacey to comprehend. It had been twenty three years since Cara had given up flirting with every guy in sight and settled down with Brian. How could two people manage to stay in love that long? To Lacey, it was a complete mystery.
“I’ve been married since the frigging stone age,” Cara muttered. “Which means he ought to know better. Fortysomething people in those stupid coffee commercials do things like sit on a deck overlooking a mountain range while drinking cappuccinos or jet off to Paris to exchange anniversary rings while staring up at the Eiffel tower. I get pizza and a wood toilet seat. He just doesn’t give a rip.”
HOW TO CONTACT THE AUTHOR
Lin will be awarding a $15.00 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $15 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn host.