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Yippee, it’s here, Playing Havoc by Steve Morris arrived safely and is now waiting for me to pick it up as soon as possible and get started on Steve’s first novel!

Regular readers of this blog would know I am a fan of Steve’s short stories and I was just so excited to receive an email from Steve saying he would like to send me a copy of his first novel.  Of course I said yes!  Of course I was excited!  When reading Steve’s short stories I (and many other readers) wished I could read beyond the end of the short story, get to see how the characters lived outside of the few pages they occupied.  Well, now I get the chance and I can’t wait to begin!

I must thank Steve for sending me a copy of Playing Havoc – thank you, Steve!

BANG! Lights out!

Just how would we cope in an event where every electronic device on our planet was rendered useless in an instant? If all electric power, industry, basic utilities, transport and the very communications that we all take for granted were zapped in a single moment, how would life carry on? What survival skills do we have to help us rebuild life from its very foundations?

Playing Havoc, partly based on fact, partly a black comedy, describes one small British Island’s battle to maintain some normality in the chaos after a coronal mass ejection through the eyes of one man who had only recently moved there with the very intention of getting some peace. A reluctant man with enough problems of his own to deal with finds that the longer the havoc goes on, more and more of the islanders turn to him for help.

I love when I get new books in the mail, it’s exciting to come home and find the package, rip into it and discover which book has made its way to its new home – this time I had double the excitement, two books in one day! 

Thank you to Erin McNichols of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc for providing me with a copy of The Line Between Here and Gone AND thank you to the team at Europa Editions for providing me with a copy of Three Weeks in December.

The Line Between Here and Gone

The man she loved is gone forever. The child she lives for could be next.

Each day is a struggle for Amanda Gleason’s newborn son as he battles a rare immune deficiency. Justin’s best chance for a cure lies with his father, who was brutally murdered before Amanda even realized she carried his child.

Or was he?

One emailed photo changes everything, planting a seed of doubt that Amanda latches on to for dear life: a recent photo of a man who looks exactly like Paul. Could Justin’s father be alive? The mother in her is desperate to find out. But tracking down a ghost when every second counts is not for amateurs.

Forensic Instincts is the one team up for the challenge.

A behaviorist. A former navy SEAL. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. A retired FBI agent. A human-scent-evidence dog. Together they achieve the impossible, pushing ethical and legal boundaries whenever the ends justify the means.

The manhunt is on for the elusive father. Yet the further FI digs into his past, the more questions are raised about whether the man Amanda fell in love with ever really existed at all.

Dark secrets. Carefully crafted lies. From the congressional halls of Washington, D.C., to exclusive Hamptons manors, there are ruthless people who would stop at nothing to make Forensic Instincts forget about the man Amanda desperately needs to find.

Little do they realize that once Forensic Instincts takes the case, nothing will stop them from uncovering the shocking truth that transcends The Line Between Here and Gone.

Three Weeks in December

In 1899 Jeremy, a young engineer, leaves a small town in Maine to oversee the construction of a railroad across British East Africa. In charge of hundreds of Indian laborers, he becomes the reluctant hunter of two lions that are killing his men in nightly attacks on their camp. Plagued by fear, wracked with malaria, and alienated by a secret he can tell no one, he takes increasing solace in the company of an African man who scouts for him.

In 2000 Max, an American ethnobotonist, travels to Rwanda in search of an obscure vine that could become a lifesaving pharmaceutical. Stationed in the mountains, she shadows a family of gorillas—the last of their group to survive the merciless assault of local poachers. Max bears a striking gift for communicating with the apes. But soon the precarious freedom of both is threatened as a violent rebel group from the nearby Congo draws close.

Told in alternating perspectives that interweave the two characters and their fates, Audrey Schulman’s newest novel deftly confronts the struggle between progress and preservation, idiosyncrasy and acceptance. Evoking both Barbara Kingsolver and Andrea Barrett, this enthralling fiction, wise and generous, explores some of the crucial social and cultural challenges that, over the years, have come to shape our world.

The engaging story and memorable characters make this fine novel an ideal book club selection.

Andrea Kane is on a blog tour to celebrate her book THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE and as part of that tour has taken part in the following Q&A provided by Erin McNichols of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.  Please enjoy!

Q: What is your daily routine as a writer?

A: My day doesn’t begin until I’ve had my morning cup of coffee. I love my new Keurig.  It lets me brew one cup at a time so I can keep the fresh caffeine stream coming.  Then I check emails and look at social media (Facebook, Twitter) before I start writing. I take frequent breaks to play with my Pomeranian or Google something for research.

Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

A: My favorite part is getting fan mail from my readers, letting me know my characters are as real to them as they are to me.  I especially enjoy receiving feedback on my animal characters, since I’m such an animal lover.  With the FI team, I’m thrilled that so many readers are attached to Hero.  I have a feeling he will be center stage in future Forensic Instincts novels.

Q: Is there a specific element in your writing that you find most challenging?

A: Descriptions.  I’m much more audial than visual, so I tend towards writing “she got dressed” rather than detailing her clothing.  Whereas dialog comes naturally to me, so I concentrate hard on being more descriptive.

Q: Which author inspires you most?

A: It depends on when you catch me. There are so many talented authors, each mastering an element. I go back as far as Carolyn Keane, when I first started reading mystery novels as a kid.  I was a big mystery reader, so later it was Agatha Christie and on to Robert Ludlum.  Now I read all genres, and my most memorable ones are the ones that are character based.

Q: What, do you feel, is your biggest success?

A: From a professional standpoint, hitting the NY Times Bestseller list and hearing from my readers about how I’ve impacted their lives. But on a personal note, being a mother is the most rewarding role I fill.

 

Please visit

http://booktrib.com/blog-tour-between-here-and-gone/

to follow the scavenger hunt blog tour where you will find additional links leading to reviews, author Q&As and giveaways!!

Joy Castro’s book HELL OR HIGH WATER (Thomas Dunne Books; Hardcover) is set for release on 17 July 2012 and to celebrate the book hitting the shelves Joy is currently on a blog tour.  As part of the tour Joy has stopped by on Mandythebookworm’s Blog to share the following guest post.

Thank you, Mandy, for having me on your blog!  I thought I’d share with your readers my all-time favorite dessert:  flan.

When I was a little girl, my Cuban grandmother used to make the most incredible flan:  creamy, sweet, and delicious, with a caramel so dark it tasted burnt.  My aunts all learned the recipe, but I didn’t want anything to do with cooking when I was younger.

Later, after I’d had my own child and my grandmother had passed away, I longed to make her delicious dessert.  I tried different recipes out of cookbooks.  But the flan never came out right:  the texture was too heavy, or the caramel tasted wrong.  I gave up.  I shifted my allegiance to bread pudding.

Finally last year, when I visited my Aunt Lou (for Lourdes) in Key West, she gave me the secret family recipe for flan at last.

I’ve made it repeatedly since then, and it’s heavenly every time.  It includes about a billion eggs and way too much of the national fruit of Cuba:  sugar.  To me, it tastes like home, love, and sweet refuge.  I wish I could share the recipe, but since it’s such a great family secret, my aunt said if I ever made it public, she’d hunt me down.

In Hell or High Water, the protagonist Nola Céspedes, who’s also Cuban American, makes flan for her roommate Uri and for her girlfriends when she hosts Girls’ Night.  I loved giving Nola a little bit of my own cultural heritage, and I’m making flan for the book launch party on July 17th at Indigo Bridge Books, so if you’re in the Lincoln, Nebraska area, come have some!

 

Thank you, Joy, for stopping by!  That flan sounds delicious and I have no doubt it will be consumed at a fast rate on 17 July.  All the best for the party!!

 

“A terrific mystery, but HELL OR HIGH WATER is more than just a mystery; it’s a heartfelt examination of a second America—poor but undaunted—that was swept under the rug but refuses to stay there . . . I can’t wait to see what Joy Castro does next.”

—Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River

Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, catches a break: an assignment to write her first full-length investigative feature. It’s a far cry from the club openings and plantation tours she usually covers and could become a story that will send ripples through New Orleans in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The piece is about sex offenders who have fallen off the grid since the city was evacuated.

While Nola speaks with survivors, offenders (some still on the registry, others not), and experts, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in New Orleans. As Nola’s work leads her into darker corners of the city, she has to hide her work from her friends and ultimately must re-visit her painful past of living in the housing projects as a Latina where there are few people of her ethnicity.

Vividly rendered in razor sharp prose, HELL OR HIGH WATER brings New Orleans to life in a riveting journey of trust betrayed and the courageous struggle toward recovery.

Links: 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hell-High-Water-A-Novel/dp/1250004578

Joy’s website: http://www.joycastro.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com@_joycastro

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com

More about Joy Castro: 

JOY CASTRO teaches literature at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Her 2005 memoir, The Truth Book was elected an ABA Book Sense Notable Book.

Please visit Joy’s website to find out more about her and her books and be sure to continue following the tour at:

http://www.joycastro.com/Blogtour.htm

Dan O’Brien is currently on a tour of the blogosphere and has decided to stop by at Mandythebookworm’s Blog.  Here is a little about Dan to get us started –

Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, Deviance of Time, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, The Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He also works as an editor at Empirical, a national magazine with a strong West Coast vibe. Find out more about the magazine at www.empiricalmagazine.com.

And now for the main event – a guest post by Dan O’Brien – please enjoy 🙂

A Writing Perspective from the Other Side of the Fence

Life as a writer can be hard sometimes.

Success is elusive; fans shift as often as a summer wind.

Yet, we persevere, writing into the late hours of the night and waking in the early hours of the morning to log the hours and enter, for a time, the worlds we create. When I first started writing, more than a decade ago, it was because I loved the idea of immersing myself in a place where I could construct the narrative; walk through dense forests and to the tops of mountains. Over time the process became more about writing as a tool to move through emotions and languishing memories that required catharsis.

Writing takes on many forms, for many different writers, over the course of our lives.

For me, the process is the reward.

I love to write.

When I ask myself that silly question of what I would do if I had all the money in the world, the answer is always quite simple: write. Now more than a decade later, I have a renewed sense of purpose and have become quite adept at balancing the spinning plates of responsibility.

Recently, between being a full-time graduate student and writer, I joined Empirical magazine as an editor – among other responsibilities. A national magazine similar in spirit to Harper’s or The Atlantic, the magazine is firmly rooted in a West Coast sensibility. There is a little something for everyone, and honestly, the hope is that everyone will take a look. Contributors to the magazine come from around the globe and cover everything from politics to fiction.

Working at a magazine, especially at this point in its maturation, is a wonderful experience. There are so many moving parts that enliven your day. Sometimes I spend the day sorting through fiction and poetry submissions, searching for that piece of prose, or perhaps a stanza, that ensnares my imagination. Other days I am editing, constantly referring to the Chicago Manual of Style to ascertain the correct usage of an archaic sentence structure. As a writer, the prospect of editing and rummaging through the work of others might not sound exciting, but there are some wonderful consequences: 

  1. You learn to become a better editor of your own work
  2. You begin to recognize redundant sentence structures and overused phrases
  3. Your grasp of language grows exponentially

However, the most important component for me is: 

  1. You get to help others bring their work into a public forum

For many writers, and certainly for me early in my writing career, the notion of being picked up by a magazine or a small press was foremost in my mind. It was that distant promise of publication and everything that goes with it that pushed me forward. When I got rejection letters, most of which lacked a personal touch, I would get down on my writing, denigrate my ability.

The years passed, during which thousands of rejection letters amassed, and I realized that the pursuit of writing for a purely extrinsic reward was dooming myself to Vegas-style odds. I became clear to me that I needed to write because I loved it, and then find a way to share it with others – even if it was not through traditional routes. I found that I was more comfortable with my writing when I did it for the pure joy of it.

Now that I am on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I have noticed a few myths about submitting to paying publications that otherwise mystified and frustrated me prior to becoming an editor and being responsible for interacting with first-time and established authors.

I have decided to provide a humorous, but serious, collection of things you should do and things you shouldn’t do when submitting and entering into a discourse with a publication – sprinkled, of course, with some anecdotes. And without further ado (or perhaps slight ado if you count this sentence here): 

Things You Should Do 

  1. Read the publication you are submitting to before sending an email. This one sounds obvious, I know. However, it happens so often that it warrants mentioning. If you have written a brilliant piece of prose that is about zombies, it is quite likely that Popular Mechanics will not be that interested in it. Pick up an issue of the magazine you are interested in submitting to and familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories they publish. The next part is the hardest part: be honest. Does your piece fit with what they publish?
  2. Read and follow the submission instructions. Again, a no-brainer. If you are thinking that you don’t know where to find the submission instructions and you just have an email address, be prepared for disappointment. Your email might go to submission purgatory with a one-liner response about having received your correspondence – if you’re lucky.
  3. Address your submission to the appropriate person. If you are thinking that I am giving you the obvious pointers, then you are quite right. With that in mind, imagine that I still receive hundreds of emails a month that manage to ignore these simple suggestions. If you are writing a stunning expose on corporate greed, the poetry editor is probably not the best destination for your work.
  4. Edit your work. I tell this to students a lot, so I will mention it here as well: spell check in Microsoft Word is not sufficient. I am not saying that you need to be a copyeditor to submit to a magazine, but do yourself a favor and read it out loud. If it something sounds funny when you read it, you can only imagine how it will sound to an editor who is choosing among thousands of articles and stories to determine what goes to print.
  5. Be cognizant of turnarounds. By this I mean, the amount of time between when you sent in the work until you hear back from an editor about the status of your submission. Nothing will send your work to the bottom of a slush pile than to send a follow-up email the day after you submitted, wondering whether or not you are going to be in the magazine. Most publications will post how long it takes to hear back from them about the status of a submission, and an amount of time after which you should contact them if you haven’t heard from them. 

Things You Shouldn’t Do 

  1. Send an email telling an editor that they would be stupid not to publish your work. It always surprises me when I get an email telling me that I need to publish a story, poem, or piece of nonfiction because it is the next best thing. Top this off with letting me know that I would be a fool not to accept it, almost guarantees a trip to the trash can.
  2. Send a photocopy of your story by registered mail.  If you want to have your story in a magazine, start by giving it to editors in a format that they can actually use. By sending a faded and blurry photocopy of your forty-word poem and declaring that it is a soul-searching masterpiece does not inspire as much confidence as you would think.
  3. Contact an editor on a frequent basis about the status of your submission. I have to sort through hundreds of emails a day, edit for the current issue, and work on editing an anthology; not to mention a thousand other intangibles. We posted a time table about getting back to you for a reason: read it.
  4. Be discouraged by a form rejection letter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many writers. They think the form rejection letter means that the editor didn’t read their work, or simply had things already planned and was stringing writers along. The reality is on any given month I send out hundreds upon hundreds of rejection letters. There is simply not enough time in the day to offer feedback to every single person. This not to say that I do not offer feedback, or that editors do not offer feedback in general, but instead the process is streamlined so writers can be responded to in a reasonable amount of time.
  5. Call the magazine to find out about your submission. This is subsumed by not contacting an editor about the status of your submission before enough time has passed, but I thought it warranted a special mention considering it is really going the extra mile in terms of being an irritation. If we haven’t gotten back to you yet, calling us is not going to suddenly make us more accessible.
  6. Send another email with corrections. Read twice, send once. If you don’t think what you sent is ready for publication, then please don’t send it. You get one chance at a first impression, and nothing speaks to being underprepared and unprofessional than sending a draft and immediately following up with another draft. If your piece needs work, note that in your submission, but don’t send a series of emails chronicling the different stages of the edits for that story. The exception, of course, is if you have already been accepted and you have been asked to make edits.
  7. Contact the magazine to air your frustrations about not being selected. I say this with all seriousness. It is very likely that you got rejected because the piece was not a good fit and not that the magazine has decided to order a hit on your writing career. Please don’t treat it that way. Lashing out at a publication for sending a form rejection letter, or passing on a piece you have written, reeks of a lack of professionalism and could impact your ability to publish elsewhere. Many editors are friends, especially in the digital age, and word spreads fast.
  8. Contact the magazine to ask if you think a story you are working on would be a good fit elsewhere. I can appreciate the sentiment. A lot of editors are writers themselves, and they love talking about the process and the product. I find myself building friendships with writers, those we publish and those we do not, and often I will give them suggestions about their work. However, if you don’t know me personally and have never been published or solicited in any way to use me as a sounding board, then do not contact me and ask if a poem or story would be a good fit at another magazine. If you think it is ready for publication, then submit it here. An obvious exception would be if the writer knew the story would not be a good fit and asked because they were uncertain in venturing into new territory.

I could probably keep listing things you shouldn’t do, but I will wrap it up there. I encourage you to keep trying and keep writing. Things only get better with time, and time is all we really have. I love to hear from other writers and potential readers, so please stop by and say hello.

Thank you for your guest post, Dan, and good luck with the rest of the tour!!!

THE BLURB

Being hardheaded is a common character flaw, but most teenagers can’t crack a concrete curb with their skull. And while a skilled skateboarder appears to defy gravity, he can’t keep water from pouring out of an upturned cup. Unintentionally tapping into latent powers has brought Jayke Wolff to the attention of the Aduro, an ancient society plotting an apocalyptic new world order. He’s now their number one draft pick, and they’ve dispatched their most seductive member to close the deal. It shouldn’t take much convincing a hormonal teenage boy to turn his back on a cryptic covenant for a future of self-indulgence and unchecked power. But if Jayke can’t be tempted by pleasures of the flesh, the flesh can be influenced in less pleasant ways as well. Armageddon can’t wait forever. Killing Jayke will also work.

Not remembering your past and not believing in your future can make it hard to choose who you’re going to be. Jayke has to decide how much of his teenage life he’s willing to sacrifice for a greater good. After all, you’re only young once.

WHAT I THOUGHT

You would think only being able to remember the last 7 years of your life would be enough to try and deal with.  Well, Jayke Wolff has plenty more on his plate.  This is not the typical teenager coming of age story, there is so much more contained in The Buried Covenant and this aspect is what appealed to me.  Keenan managed to give Jayke’s story a feeling of realness, even if super powers are a thing of fiction. 

Jayke is a foster child ready to go out into the real world and go to school after previously being home-schooled and so this story begins.  All of a sudden he’s defying gravity and suffering no cuts when others would.  Jayke is left wondering what is going on?!  He gains some friends at school and feels the little butterflies in his tummy which may be attributed to female infatuation.  It almost seems as if he is learning to live a new way of life, not to mention that being a teenager is hard enough at the best of times.

I really liked the cast of characters who travelled along with Jayke through this story, they seemed very apt and just what the book needed to keep it real.  Having said that the Aduro, a group who want Jayke for his powers, are I guess portraying the unreality of the power side of things but at the same time bringing to the story further struggles teenagers may face in a group situation like this – peer pressure, bullying, violence, et cetera.  It’s not all doom and gloom though, there’s Ben and Tina, some of the best friends a guy could have and even Amber, fellow foster child, has her positive traits, just not when she’s using her recruitment skills.  There are quite a few other characters in the book, some of them fairly integral, but I shall comment no further as to do so may give something away.

The Buried Covenant is a book which includes many topics/issues relevant for teenagers including the usual trials and tribulations you go through, making and breaking friendships, infatuation for others, looking for answers, trying to find yourself, dating, power struggles, family life, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  It really is a quite all-encompassing YA novel.

I enjoyed the writing style and felt the humour was well-placed throughout.  It’s definitely set up well for a sequel  and by checking out Shawn’s website I see it could well be a sequel is penned at some stage in the future and I just know there will be a lot of happy teens out there who will look forward to that book hitting the shelves 🙂

I must say thank you to Shawn P Keenan for providing me with a copy of his book – thanks, Shawn!!

After intense, top-secret training with the FBI, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Andrea Kane is back with the next exhilarating installment in the Forensic Instincts series! BookTrib is hosting their next Scavenger Hunt Blog Tour for THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE with such an inspiring woman with a devoted following of ardent fans in 16 countries. Posts will begin on the release date of July 1st, running for the entire month! You can follow along HERE http://booktrib.com/blog-tour-between-here-and-gone/

 

Be sure to stop back here on 17 July when I will be posting a Q&A with Andrea Kane – until then please enjoy the below and follow the tour on the link above 🙂

 

 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Andrea Kane Knows That Disappearances Can Be Deceiving

THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE

The man she loved is gone forever.

The child she lives for could be next.

A special investigations team battles local corruption and government interference in the lastest nerve-racking thriller by New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Andrea Kane, the LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE (Harlequin MIRA; July 1, 2012; $24.95 U.S./$27.95 CAN.). It’s a race against the clock to locate a man everyone presumed dead — all before the infant son he doesn’t know he has dies.

Amanda Gleason was distraught when authorities declared her boyfriend, Southampton real estate developer Paul Everett, a no-body homicide. They discovered signs of a struggle around his abandoned, blood-spattered car but were unable to find a body after days of searching and dredging. Amanda was even more crushed when she realized that she was pregnant with a child that Paul didn’t live to see. When she discovers that their newborn son, Justin, has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency and desperately requires a stem cell transplant, Amanda laments the fact that the best chance for Justin’s survival would’ve been Paul, if only he’d been alive.

So when a friend emails her a photo of a man who looks identical to Paul, Amanda is stunned. Angry and confused, she realizes that if Paul is somehow alive, he is Justin’s best hope. That’s when she turns to Forensic Instincts—a specialized team with a reputation for solving cases no one else can.

Comprised of a behaviorist, a techno-wizard, an intuitive, a former navy SEAL, a retired FBI agent and a human-scent-evidence dog, the FI team tackles the case on two fronts—the murder/disappearance of Paul Everett and his apparent resurfacing in Washington, D.C.

However, powerful foes are aligned to make certain Paul Everett stays buried, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the FI members come up empty-handed. When the FI team members find themselves up against civic, underworld, political and government forces, they realize that not only must they be on the right track but that there is a whole lot more to Paul Everett than anyone could have suspected.

FI always gets its man, but will they find him in time to save his infant son?

THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE

By Andrea Kane

MIRA; July 1, 2012

400 pages; $24.95 U.S./$27.95 CAN.

ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1337-3

ANDREA KANE

Andrea Kane’s psychological thriller The Girl Who Disappeared Twice became an instant New York Times bestseller, the latest in a long string of smash hits. It introduced Forensic Instincts, an eclectic team of maverick investigators, each with different personalities and talents, all with one common bond: a blatant disregard for authority.

The Line Between Here and Gone is the next exhilarating installment in the Forensic Instincts series. Armed with skills and talents honed by years in the FBI and Special Forces, and training in behavioral and forensic psychology, the team solves seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement.

With a worldwide following and novels published in more than twenty languages, Kane is also the author of eight romantic thrillers and fourteen historical romances. She lives in New Jersey with her family, where she is plotting new ways for Forensic Instincts to challenge the status quo. For more information, please check out Andrea’s website at AndreaKane.com.