Q&A with Pia de Jong, author of Saving Charlotte

Photo Credit: Chris Lane

Photo Credit: Chris Lane

When your daughter was just two weeks old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. You rejected all suggestions of any treatment, of which the most common was chemotherapy, and instead made the decision to wait and see. Was this approach consistent with your personality up until that point or did you surprise yourself?

I did surprise myself, especially because I was so certain about what to do. There was no doubt in my mind, no negotiating, no second thoughts. I just knew I had to have her home with me. I had learned to trust my intuition when I became a mother, though. Like all new mothers, I was bombarded with rules: when to wean your child, where and how to sleep, when to introduce food, etc. I had decided to follow my instincts regarding my kids. But then I often discussed those decisions and doubts with friends. This was different.

What material did you draw on when writing Saving Charlotte? Did you keep a journal or write notes during that year at home with Charlotte?

I wrote down notes, whenever I could, although not with the intent to write a book, since I was not a writer then. They were to help me remember her as she was then. Some sentences I wrote:
The hairs on her neck are damp. They smell like raisins.
Her smile flutters like a butterfly’s wings just before taking off.
A dove on the windowsill scared me with his staring eyes when I woke up. Then he tried to convince me he meant well.
I want to jump in the blue lakes on her skin and emerge without being scared.
Woke up frightened. At two in the afternoon, when walking home, Jurriaan found a caterpillar. It fit perfectly in his hand.

You quit your job when Charlotte was diagnosed. Once she recovered, what was it like to reenter the world and what changes did you see in yourself afterward?

I took me quite some time to reenter the world. I had grown accustomed to being in my cocoon, my small world where all that mattered were details. Outside, the rest of the world seemed unfamiliar. Too big to comprehend. I had no interest in other people or things. It took me a long while to venture outside. I had changed from an extrovert to an introvert.

How did Charlotte’s diagnosis impact and change your family, and how do you think it’s shaped your current relationship with her?

Our family became even closer than we already were. I had become a storyteller in that year. I made up one after another, and my children loved it. They still remember them. When in 2012 we left the Netherlands to live in the USA, we relived that closeness. How we were all in uncharted waters, and had to rely on each other. Charlotte has always been very close and trusting of me. She still is.
 
What did you learn about the Dutch medical system throughout Charlotte’s illness? How do you think your experience would have been different if it had happened in the United States?

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I feel very fortunate that my doctor supported our decision not to treat Charlotte. He realized that giving chemotherapy to her could have unintended consequences that were perhaps worse than the disease. The result is that we felt relieved of a burden of pressure. Some parents want to do everything they can: see every doctor in the field, raise money for experimental drugs. It is difficult to say how different my experience would have been if we lived in the United States. Doctors in both countries have established protocols for patients like Charlotte. They try to postpone treatment. Her oncologist agreed with and accepted our decision to not do anything at all.
 

What advice do you have for parents who find that they need to become health advocates for their children?

It takes a village to help a sick child. Try to be the mayor of that village. Conduct the orchestra of physicians, nurses, psychologists, etc. Take charge. No one else will do it the way you will.

Why You Need Integrity to Write Children’s Literature and Why Julie’s Cat Is Evil by Galia Oz

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Creating a living and breathing story and building a complete, convincing, three-dimensional world around it; portraying rounded and thought-out characters; writing without it seeming like you are trying too hard; writing a story that seems to have always existed but never put to paper. 

How does one do that? My first answer: I have no idea. I can recognize beauty when I see it, but I don’t believe in a magic formula. I only know how to try to write well. My second answer: You need to have talent to write well, but that’s not enough; you must have integrity.

About ten years ago, I published a short children’s book in Israel about a group of kids, written entirely from the perspective of Julie, the owner of Shakshuka, a little dog with big adventures. The book quickly became a series that has sold 150,000 copies thus far, and has been translated and published in France, Spain and Brazil. The first three books in the series were recently published in the United States as one book, under the title Dog Trouble.

 I'm not sure I was able to do half of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph. If only... At any rate, I hope I write with integrity. In other words, the protagonists of my books are not perfect in any way: Julie is jealous of the new popular girl who recently arrived at her school; insecure Effie is jealous of almost everybody; cynical Brody mocks Adam's stutter; Danny is a bit violent at first, although the conflict between him and the other children takes on more a sophisticated form later in the series; and even the cat adopted by Julie’s is described as ‘a really evil cat.’

And yet Julie and her friends are brimming with joie de vivre and drive, and a sense of confidence that allows them to be playful and inventive and imaginative. They thrive in an imperfect world with evil cats – which means they can come to terms with problems that don’t necessarily have an immediate solution.

True, there is also hostility. Many times, hostility exists alongside with love. Anyone who thinks it is possible to raise children in an environment free of hostility or conflict is simply lying to themselves. You cannot spare children pain; you can only spare them literary representations of it.

Here, I return to the second answer I gave to the question: Integrity. Integrity is vital not only for a writer who hopes to establish a three-dimensional reality in his writing but also for the children reading it. Otherwise, in the name of political correctness, children are told that someone who behaves well will always be rewarded, that the wicked are always punished, and that the rejected will without a doubt have some sort of curative experience. 
There is no limit to the manipulative practices of well-intentioned adults in children's literature. There is an underlying desire to “improve” the child, to socialize him, to impart a life lesson, to hide and protect him from the real world.

The point is children have an inbuilt lie detector. When you try to sell them a sermon dressed as a story, they shut down emotionally. They may enjoy the plot, but the moral will pass right over their heads.

In short, children understand nuance. They are able to empathize with complex characters rather than with saintly, stock characters. Simplistic messages and manipulation are an insult to their intelligence. When children are exposed to quality literature, they are likely to grow up to read quality literature. And most importantly: beauty has value in and of itself, and children, just like everyone else, have the right to enjoy it. Just as they have the right to read of evil cats without someone jumping to their defense.

About the Book

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Readers who have graduated from Junie B. Jones and Ivy & Bean will fall head over heels for feisty Julie and her troublesome new dog. 
 
Julie has only had her dog for two weeks, but she is already causing all sorts of problems. For starters, she is missing! Julie suspects the school bully Danny must be behind it. But it will take some detective work, the help of Julie’s friends, and maybe even her munchkin twin brothers to bring her new pet home.

Wonderfully sassy and endlessly entertaining, the escapades of Julie and her dog are just beginning!

Julie’s adventures have sold across the globe and been translated into five languages. Popular filmmaker and children’s author Galia Oz effortlessly captures the love of a girl and her dog.

Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

 

About Galia

Galia Oz was born in Kibbutz Hulda, Israel, in 1964. She studied film and Television in Tel Aviv University 1984-87.

Her award winning series of 5 books titled DOG TROUBLE was published in France, Spain and Brazil – and recently in the US by CROWN BOOKS Random House. The series is a steady seller in Israel for over 10 years (selling over 150,000 copies).

Oz has directed several documentaries, all screened in international film festivals, and in Israeli leading television channels.

Over the years, Galia Oz has been meeting thousands of readers in Israeli elementary schools, and taught creative writing and classic children's literature to kids in public libraries.

Galia Oz is married and has two kids, a dog and a cat, and they all live in Ramat Hasharon, just outside Tel-Aviv.

New Species in The Dragonrider Legacy – What new creatures can we expect? by Nicole Conway

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Because a significant portion of this series takes place in Luntharda, there will be a LOT of new creatures and beasts introduced, as well as reappearances of some old favorites from the first. Here’s a quick look at some of what’s in store for readers just in SAVAGE …

FAUNDRA – We saw a few glimpses of them in The Dragonrider Chronicles, but they will play a much more significant role in this series. Since the elves are now at peace with their jungle home again, they are utilizing faundra once again. They use these majestic, elk-like creatures as mounts, as well as farming them for their meat. In size, they are taller than a horse but with a much shorter body length. The males have a set of long, regal white horns that are often worn by gray elf royalty.

SNAGWOLVES – The “scrunt” from Lady in the Water was such an impactful villain to me, and he was part of the inspiration behind these jackal-like predators from Luntharda. They have leafy-looking pelts that mimic the jungle floor so they can stalk their prey. Usually hunting in large packs of around twenty, they use their numbers to deter larger predators from attacking them. Their greatest weapons are their toothy jaws, which clamp down much like an alligator’s with incredible force. Once bitten, it’s nearly impossible to escape their grip.

SURTEK – A lone predator of Luntharda, this monster lives primarily in the trees and hunts by night. Despite its size, the surtek can move with incredible speed and agility – which it uses to stalk its prey of choice, shrikes. Gray elves fear this creature for its stealth, speed, and unsettling ability to electrocute its prey using a pair of bony, protruding pincers around its mouth. The pincers also have inward facing teeth that are angled inward so that the more a prey object struggles, the more stuck it becomes. Definitely not something you’d want to stumble across on your own!

And of course, DRAGONS – Can’t leave them out, can I? Once again, we will see lots from the dragons that call the sea cliffs of Maldobar their natural home. In size, they are typically twelve to thirteen feet tall. The dominant male, called a king drake, may grow to twenty feet. In the wild, they primarily eat fish and small game animals. Newly hatched dragons weight about fifteen pounds and remain at the nest to be fed and guarded by their mother. They remain close to her even after they learn to fly, which occurs about 3 months after they hatch. Female hatchlings will generally remain with the mothers longer than the males, who strike out on their own to compete for a social standing in their flock. They come in a wide variety of colors and temperaments, although the dragonriders prefer bold colors and patterns and aggressive, stoic personalities for their mounts!

Q&A with Lilly Atlas, Acer

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Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.

The first time was a bit daunting because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, what the experience would be like, or if turning my book into an audiobook was a good financial decision. After some research, it looked like ACX would be the best option. I listed the first book in the series, Striker, on ACX and received a bunch of interviews. Noah was my clear favorite, and thankfully he’s a pro at this and was very patient and helpful with a total newbie. Now that we’re on to the fourth and fifth books, the process is easy and we have a great working relationship.

How did you select your narrator?

I chose Noah for the first book through ACX’s audition process. Striker received quite a few auditions and Noah’s was the clear favorite. After working with him and having a fantastic experience, I decided to use him and his partner Erin for the rest of the series. Having the duet narration really takes the storytelling to another level.

How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?

Before each book, I provide basic character sketches for any new characters. I highlight the way the character looks, attitudes, accents, and anything I think will help them bring the character to life. So far, Erin and Noah have done an fantastic job of making my visions a reality. Throughout recording, they will upload a chunk of chapters at a time to ACX and I’ll review and approve them.

Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?

The entire series takes place in the desert in Arizona. The town is fictional, but descriptions of the desert are based on real experiences. My husband is in the Navy and we were stationed with the Marines in Twentynine Palms CA for a few years. It doesn’t get much more desert than Twentynine Palms, at least not here in the US.

Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?

There are a few parts of the story that are quite emotionally charged. Erin and Noah do an amazing job of capturing the range of emotions the characters go through. That’s one of the things I love about audiobooks. You can really feel the story coming to life and experience it in a way that is very different from reading alone.

What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?

Thankfully, I have yet to experience a true writing slump. There are times when I struggle through a scene or chapter. Either I’m not happy with the way it’s moving from my head to the computer, or I’m a bit stuck with what I want to say. I’ve found that as long as I write something, even if it ends up being complete junk, it helps me push through. Later, when my mind is fresh and I’ve stepped way from it, I come back and edit the scene until I’m satisfied.

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?

So far I’ve only written in a series. I recently plotted out a book that I thought was going to be a stand alone, but as I developed the secondary characters, ideas began flowing for their stories as well. Guess that means it’s going to end up being a series instead of a stand alone!

What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Hire a professional editor and really try to learn from them. Since I started this process, I’ve learned so much about writing, editing, marketing, business management, publishing, and the list goes on. What’s been extremely valuable, is all the lessons, tips, and tricks I’ve learned from my editors. I try to internalize everything they tell me and use it in subsequent books. It can be a bit daunting at first, especially the part where you sometimes have to put away your pride and take some criticism you may not agree with, but it’s a worthwhile learning experience every time.

Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?

Spend some time going through the auditions. You want to think about pacing, accent, do you like the way they do male and female parts if it’s just one narrator. There are a number of things to take into account. But don’t go crazy! For me, it was really a gut feeling about who I thought would portray my characters the best. Also, don’t be intimidated by ACX. Once you have the process under your belt once, it’s much easier. There is a book called the Audiobook Book that really helps walk you through the process of audiobook creation. It’s very helpful.

What’s next for you?

In terms of audiobooks, Erin and Noah have the next two books in the series, Hook and Lucky, in their queue, so they are forthcoming. Right now, I’m writing the last book in the No Prisoners MC series. Then, it’s on to a new series!

Guest Post: Kevin Bannister, The Long Way Home

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There is no shortage of statues around both the United States and Canada that depict leaders from history. Every small town has a couple, most cities have dozens. The problem is that some of these leaders held views that are now seen as racist, sexist or just plain wrong. But, to me, that’s not the most basic problem with these celebrations of men (and they’re almost all white men) who were flawed, misguided or, in some cases, prejudiced and cruel.

The biggest problem is that these statues are almost always made of men who were born into the right families at the right time. If they’d been the sons of blacksmiths or farmers or teachers or artists we would never have known anything about them. Certainly there would be no statues made of them. Most of the statues in North America are of men who were not exceptional, talented or skilled in any way. They were merely lucky enough to be born in the right family. Are these the men from our past we truly want to celebrate?

My belief is that all statues of any historical figure should be taken down. The discussion now should not be about which statues to leave up and which to demolish but rather on why we need to erect statues to anyone at all. If, and it’s a big if, society decides that there is merit to having statues of historical figures let’s not put them up to men who were born into aristocratic families or political families or families with long-established, inherited wealth. Let’s not honor men from the past who were, in modern terms, born on third base and think they hit home runs.

If we feel people from our past should be honored, perhaps as a way of remembering that past, let’s look to the common, everyday people who actually did the fighting in the wars (and not from behind the back lines like the generals or from war rooms like the politicians) and who made medical or practical discoveries or created lasting works of art. Those are the truly interesting, innovative, exceptional men. And let’s, too, look to women from the past, often overlooked or ignored, and to people from other races other than white. Both of these groups have made lasting and important historical contributions to the advancement and betterment of humans that have been utterly ignored in our rush to celebrate entitled aristocrats, wealthy bumblers and other members of the elite who through the ages have been so good at not only putting their offspring into powerful positions but also duping the masses into believing that they were acting for the good of humanity.

I’ve written a historical novel, The Long Way Home, about two men who most people in the United States and Canada have never heard of: Thomas Peters and Murphy Steele. They were slaves who fought to gain freedom for themselves and many others during the War of Independence and then, afterwards, in Nova Scotia. They faced incredible hardship, entrenched racism, government indifference, disease and the miseries and losses of war. And yet they held on to, and worked towards, their vision of a free life for themselves and their comrades.

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

The Long Way Home is an exciting adventure story. It’s full of harrowing ordeals, dangerous experiences, terrible loss and heart-rending frustration. It’s also full of hope, love and compassion from unexpected sources. It’s a novel about two real men who lived in difficult times, who came from the humblest of beginnings, who fought against all manner of oppression and who triumphed through sheer force of will, intelligence, dignity, courage and foresight. The book has been well received throughout the world because it resonates with basic human qualities that are to be respected and honored.

There are no statues of Thomas Peters in the United States or Canada. If we want to erect any statues he should be near the top of the list. There are others like him---many from racial minorities but also from white men from the past who weren’t of the ruling class. Women too. Let’s remember the men and women from our past who were courageous, intelligent and thoughtful, not the ones who were born with silver spoons firmly planted in their mouths.

If we must put up statues, let’s put them up to deserving people, individuals who were real leaders and heroes. Let’s read books about those long-forgotten people too. My book, The Long Way Home is exactly that as well as being a hell of an adventure tale.

Guest Post: Tina Gabrielle, The Duke Meets His Match

Thank you for featuring me! I’m Tina Gabrielle and I write adventurous historical romances.

The Duke Meets His Match is the third book in the Infamous Somerton’s series and can be read as a stand-alone book. The series is about the three daughters of an infamous art forger who duped half of the ton with his forgeries, then abandoned his daughters when his crimes became known. I like to write strong, intelligent heroines, and each of the three sisters has their own story. In An Artful Seduction, Eliza is the eldest sister who devises a false identity as a widow to open a print shop. In Real Earls Break the Rules, Amelia is the middle sister who inherited her father’s ability to forge priceless works of art.

In The Duke Meets His Match, Chloe is the youngest Somerton sister with the most colorful past. She was sickly as a child, and in order to help her sisters afford her medicine from the apothecary, she became a pick pocket. Years later, her sisters have married wealthy earls and Chloe’s lifestyle has changed. She now has a chance to marry Henry, a young, wealthy lord. But things don’t go quite as she’s planned. Henry has a mentor—the dangerously handsome Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron—who stands in her way. Michael recognizes Chloe from her thieving days. He’s also returned from Waterloo, and he owes his life to Henry’s father who died on the battlefield to save his life. Michael sees Chloe as a fortune-seeking miss and warns her to stay away from Henry and his newly inherited fortune. But Chloe refuses to be intimidated, and what begins as a battle of wills soon becomes a fierce attraction.

But both Michael and Chloe have their own internal struggles. Michael suffers from nightmares from the war, and Chloe harbors guilt from keeping her thieving past from her sisters. They find unlikely solace in each other’s arms. Chloe helps Michael find peace from the war, and he eases her conscience. They realize they are not enemies, but the two most lonely souls in England must learn to trust their hearts and risk all for the ultimate prize—true love.

Here’s a blurb for The Duke Meets His Match:

She’ll be his ruin or his salvation…

London, 1816 - The daughter of an infamous art forger, Chloe Somerton grew up poor. Desperate to aid her sisters, she’d picked a pocket…or two. Now circumstances have changed, and Chloe has a chance to marry a young, wealthy lord. Only his mentor—a dark, dangerous duke—stands in her way. The duke knows about her past, and she’ll do anything to keep him from telling.

The moment Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron, sees Chloe Somerton, he recognizes her as a fraud. The stunning beauty with sapphire eyes and golden hair now appears to be a proper lady, but he knows better. What begins as a battle of wills soon escalates into a fierce attraction. In Chloe, Michael finds peace from the memories of war, but he refuses to marry…and she won’t settle for anything less.
 

GIVEAWAY! To celebrate my release, I’m giving away an Art Masterpieces adult coloring book, a $15 Amazon gift card, and an ebook of An Artful Seduction, the first book in the Infamous Somertons series. Thanks for reading!

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About Tina Gabrielle

Bestselling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away. She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances for Entangled and Kensington Publishing.

Publisher’s Weekly calls her Regency Barrister’s series, “Well-matched lovers…witty comradely repartee.” Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website to learn about upcoming releases, join her newsletter, and enter free monthly contests at www.tinagabrielle.com

Q&A with Charles Kowalski

Can you describe what your book is about in one sentence?

A peace-loving religion professor, striving to atone for his crimes as a military interrogator, must help stop deadly biological attacks on the world’s great pilgrimage sites on their holiest days.

What is the theme of Mind Virus?

Mainly, that the fanaticism that leads to violence can be found anywhere, whether among religious believers or nonbelievers, and the will to seek peace and understanding can also be found anywhere.

How do you develop your plots and characters?

Everything begins with “What if…?” In this case, the question was, “Everyone is always talking about terror in the name of religion; could there be terror in the name of atheism?” From this question flows the rest of the plot and the characters. It was easy to develop Robin Fox; he’s the person I might have been if my life had taken a slightly different turn. As for the other characters, they may be loosely patterned on a real person, or a composite of several. If a minor character doesn’t seem sufficiently well-developed, I ask myself: if I were an actor, how would I play this character? How would I see the story from his or her point of view, since in our own minds, we’re always the central character of any story we appear in?

What was your favorite part of writing Mind Virus?

Following in my protagonist’s footsteps in Israel, Vatican City, and England.

Give us some insight into your main character. What does he do that is special? What are his character flaws?

One reader described Robin Fox as “Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes: brilliant, moral, instinctive, with uncanny powers of perception.” Having seen a great deal of the world as the son of a Foreign Service officer, he is multilingual, culturally adaptable, able to survive in just about any country, but never completely at home anywhere. After his traumatic experience in Iraq, he is passionately committed to peace and nonviolence, to the point where he sometimes hesitates when decisive action may be called for.

If you could spend time with a character from your book, which character would it be? And what would you do during that day?

I would love to spend a day with Robin Fox, listening to his stories about all the places he’s traveled in search of enlightenment—meditating with monks in the Himalayas, whirling with dervishes in Turkey, sweating with shamans in the American Southwest—and asking what conclusions he’s drawn about the beliefs that unite the world’s faith traditions.

Tell us about the conflict in this book. What is at stake for your characters?

There are many layers of conflict. The main one, of course, is the race to stop the villain before he can start a worldwide epidemic. There’s also the undercurrent of tension between Fox and his CIA counterpart, John Adler, and Fox’s anxiety that the more he cooperates, the deeper he’s dragged back into a chapter in his life that he wanted to keep closed forever. And to top it all off, there’s danger to the woman for whom Fox secretly harbors an impossible love.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Mind Virus?

I learned a great deal about the subtle art of interrogation. Stories of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a code word for torture) dominated the news during the Iraq War, but the best interrogators would probably dismiss those as crude and ineffective. Good interrogators have to be keen students of psychology and talented actors, capable of improvising themselves into whatever role will help them earn the subject’s trust. Fox summed it up when he reflected, “In any interrogation, the most important questions are the ones that aren’t asked. Who is this person? What does he want most? What does he fear most? Once you know the answers to those, the field is won.”

Mind Virus seems to have some technical aspects that appear to require some expertise or background in the field. How did you come by this information? (Is it in your background, or did you just do research?)

Mind Virus was a very research-intensive book. Very little in my own background prepared me for it, so I read everything I could get my hands on and consulted everyone willing to share their experience and expertise with me.

What makes your book different from other books in your genre?

Mind Virus isn’t the typical thriller that pits the infallible West, led by the invincible United States, against the dark forces of Islam. It paints the world in more shades of gray (though perhaps not fifty!). And Fox is quite different from the standard-issue action-adventure protagonist; he’s a reluctant hero, tormented by remorse and self-doubt, who always prefers nonviolence over violence when he has a choice.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

Of course, Robin Fox is my favorite, but his antagonist is a close second. It was great fun to read authors from Nietzsche to Harris and combine the nastiest parts of their philosophies into one monomaniacal psychopath from hell. His appearance may be brief, but he gets some of the best lines in the book.

What are some of your favorite authors or books?

Of course, I took some inspiration from the big names in the genre, like Lee Child. Tana French showed me it’s possible to write genre fiction with a literary flair. Dan Brown, Daniel Silva, and Jeffrey Small paved the way for thrillers with religious themes. Barry Eisler and Barry Lancet showed me it’s possible for Japan-based authors to produce books with worldwide appeal; I’m hoping the same will prove true even for one who isn’t named Barry! And the list wouldn’t be complete without Leo J. Maloney, who ever since our chance meeting at Killer Nashville has been very generous with his time and expertise and always gave me a dose of encouragement at just the time I needed it.

What other projects are you working on?

I have other Robin Fox novels in the works, the next one set in my adopted homeland of Japan. I’m also working on a standalone thriller featuring an archaeologist who, in the course of an undercover operation to recover artifacts stolen from Iraq, finds evidence that she is descended from an extraterrestrial race tasked with saving humanity from an impending disaster.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Forget what they say about “write what you know.” Write what excites your imagination, and the knowledge you need can be acquired. And if a story grabs hold of you and won’t let go . . . tell it! Pay no attention to the inner voices that say “this is no good” or “no one else will be interested in it.” Believe in yourself, even when it feels like no one else does. To paraphrase Florence Foster Jenkins, people may say you can’t write, but never let it be said that you didn’t write.

Blind Tribute Guest Post: Letters to Palmer

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Palmer:

Your reckless and foolhardy move here has put you in great danger. Only your father’s influence keeps us out of danger as well. I must, as your loving mother, advise you to leave Charleston forthwith; in fact, leave the South. Those in a position to make life difficult for you have already begun. It can only become more perilous should you choose to stay. I know better than to think you will stop writing, so please, my son, I beg you. Go home to Philadelphia.

Your mother,

Mrs. Emily Beaufain Wentworth

 

 

My dear brother:

It breaks my heart to ask you to leave when you have been here such a short time. I long for the days of our youth when we were not separated for so much as a mile, and it has been with a heavy heart I accepted your move to and life in Philadelphia. Still, Palmer, you must reconsider your decision to stay in Charleston. Anyone who would speak for you is constrained by the confines of our small community. You belong here, my dear brother, but I hope to have many years within which to share our lives, even at a distance, which necessitates your removal from Charleston.

Your sister,

Mrs. Ruth Wentworth Telfair

 

About the Book

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.
 
As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Excerpt

He took a seat at his desk, pulled out a fresh sheet of paper, inked his pen, and began to write, referring, again and again, to the structure and notes he had developed on the wall, occasionally flipping through earlier entries in the notebook. He had not even fleshed out half a page when a hush fell over the newsroom, accentuating the thumping of the press under his feet, printing the pages he had already approved. Reluctantly, he turned the clock on the corner of his desk to read the face.

Still more than an hour till deadline. What in the name of—?

His half-open door blocked his view, so he stood and strode to the doorway, stuck his head out, and bellowed, “You have sixty-four minutes. I want to hear nothing but news out…” His voice trailed off.

Fleur and Belle—who shouldn’t be out without an escort, and certainly shouldn’t be in a room filled with men—were crossing the newsroom to his office. All his reporters’ heads had turned to watch.

At sixteen, they were enchanting, charming, perfectly matched miniatures of his wife, and had only recently been deemed old enough to wear their hair up and hems down. They were dressed in fashionable coats, exactly the same but for color: Fleur in sea green and Belle in lemon yellow, to match their hair ribbons. Harry and Anne had named them in a fit of mutual whimsy, when he’d said, at first sight, they looked like two beautiful flowers. Harry had been charmed by the scene of his wife with his brand-new girls; she had been charmed by the pink hothouse roses and star sapphires he’d brought.

Now, however, his beautiful flowers were ten steps into the newsroom, both blushing identically and trying to keep the men from looking by staring at their own toes. It only took one hard stare from Harry before every man present began to examine his own desk.

He rushed out to meet the girls halfway across the room, where he put an arm around each in a futile effort to protect them from the gaze of these worldly men whom he never intended for them to meet. Then he scooted Belle and Fleur into his office and slammed the door behind him—making both girls jump—to let the entire building know, in no uncertain terms, what sort of mood it had put him in to find his little girls in his newsroom. Eventually, Harry heard the noise of the newsroom slowly, tentatively, take shape again, certain more than half the conversation was now devoted to detailing the vile things they would like to do with his daughters. He would sack any man he heard make an untoward comment. If he could manage not to shoot him first.

“This is no place for you!” Harry yelled, grinding his teeth, trying, far too late, to keep his anger from frightening them. “What the blazes are you doing here? Why are you without an escort?” Their governess should never have let them leave, and his driver would never have prepared the carriage for them, were they alone. He couldn’t help himself from shouting louder, “What is your mother thinking, letting you come here?!”

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About the Author

Mari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor. 

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q'equ'mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.
 
She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

Connect: Website

Songs That Played a Part in Until You by Bridie Blake

Music plays a huge part in my writing process. I can’t write without listening to it, certain songs inspire specific scenes or character inspirations, or some songs just remind me of the story I’m trying to tell. For each book I work on, I create a playlist to write to, constantly adding to it when a song pops into my mind.

I’ve compiled a list below of the songs that played a part in creating Until You:-

  1. Will You Love Me Tomorrow - Carole King - this song helped inspire the character of Jason and the lyrics really spoke to me of his fears that people only want the movie star and not the person.

  2. Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran - this is what I imagine as the theme song

  3. Young and Beautiful - Lana Del Rey

  4. Starving - Hailee Steinfeld, Grey feat. Zedd

  5. All of Me - John Legend

  6. No Promises - Shawn Mendes

  7. Everything Has Changed - Taylor Swift feat. Ed Sheeran

  8. Heartbeat - Carrie Underwood

  9. Ordinary People - John Legend

  10. Stay My Love - Una Healy, Sam Palladio

  11. Like This - Shawn Mendes

  12. Issues - Julia Michaels

  13. Million Reasons - Lady Gaga

  14. As She’s Walking Away - Zac Brown Band

  15. White Blank Page - Mumford & Sons

  16. Like I’ll Never Love You Again - Carrie Underwood

Q&A with Sophie Barnes

What is their favorite place to visit? 

Denmark. It’s where I’m from. My parents have a summerhouse by the beach in the southern part and a house near Copenhagen. I love it there plus I get to see the rest of my family.

What are 5 things you must have with you when you write?

My laptop, a notebook, my Jane Austen Map of London, various pens in different colors and a hot cup of coffee.

Do you have any post-publishing regrets?

Yes! In my first book, How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back, Tchaikovsky is mentioned as a current figure. I meant to change him to a different composer since he wasn’t even born at the time when the plot takes place, but I forgot. Really wish I’d seen that during edits. I haven’t used ‘fillers’ since.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

It’s a fresh spin on Pygmalion featuring a bare-knuckler boxer from the slums of St. Giles who suddenly becomes the Duke of Huntley. Navigating high society can be troublesome – especially with two younger sisters in tow – but thanks to his next door neighbor, the alluring Gabriella Radcliffe, he comes up to scratch while losing his heart in the process.

What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

I LOVED Julia Quinn’s The Girl With The Make-believe Husband. Right now I’m reading Sarah MacLean’s The Day Of The Duchess. Both authors are auto reads for me.

What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?

Definitely dialogue. When the characters are interesting and there’s a bit of tension, the dialogue pushes the story forward in a fun and interesting way. Describing what people are doing sometimes gets me while Love scenes are the hardest.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

The sequel to A Most Unlikely Duke is called The Duke Of Her Desire. It releases December 27th and features Raphe’s sister, Amelia, as she struggles to renovate a house on the edge of St. Giles and turn it into a school. Contending with her brother’s friend, the Duke of Coventry who’s been charged with protecting her, leads to a lot of quarreling, tension and high passion.