Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interview with Author Dana Delamar

Last week, I contacted an up and coming author, Dana Delamar; Dana wrote the novel 'Revenge (Blood and Honor)' which was the first book review I have done (and which created a monster, now you know who do blame, lol). Over the last few months, Dana and I have become friends, (I would like to think so anyways) and we continue to email, talk about things other than books and I will admit, I do become concerned when I don't hear from her every week. After reading Dana’s answers to my (some not so conventional) questions, I had a smile on my face and know that I made the right choice in taking a chance on Dana when she asked for reviewers for her new novel a few months ago. Please enjoy this glimpse into author, Dana Delamar.

*Please tell me about your first novel. What or who inspired you to write it?

 The first complete novel I ever wrote was a contemporary romance set in Italy, and it was based in part on something that had happened to me during a trip there. Like most first novels, it was a mess--I tossed in just about every idea I’d ever had for a romance novel, and I rambled on way too long. My beta reader liked a lot of it, but she suggested I rework the story so it wasn’t so episodic. That was her nice way of saying that I needed to plot first! She was right.

 I knew I wanted to keep the Italian setting, but everything else was up for reevaluation. I started asking myself “what if” questions about my hero and heroine. When I asked myself “What if the hero isn’t such a nice guy?” that led me to “What if my hero is in the Mafia?” and from there the characters and the plot of “Revenge” started taking shape. I ended up having so many ideas for “Revenge” that I realized I had enough stories for several books, which is how the “Blood and Honor” series was born.

 You could also blame this whole thing on my love of “The Godfather” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

 *Who are some of your favorite authors and books? Did they influence or inspire your writing style and give you ideas?

 I’m always reading something, and I read just about everything--fiction, nonfiction, literary fiction, commercial fiction, YA, suspense, true crime, biography, memoir, and of course, romance.

In romance, my favorite authors are J. R. Ward and Larissa Ione. Love, love, love their books! Greg Iles, Cody McFadyen, Chelsea Cain, Harlen Coben, Jeff Lindsay, Stephen King, Jane Austen, Mary Doria Russell, and Anne Rice (especially her early vampire books) are other faves.

 I’m sure I’ve learned something from every one of them. For example, Anne Rice taught me about the importance of setting and sensory description--she can put you so firmly in a character’s shoes that you get lost to the world around you. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter books dramatically illustrate the importance of voice--even though Dexter is the most “anti-“ of antiheroes (a serial killer of serial killers!), his clever, slyly humorous voice sucks you in and makes you empathize with him from the first sentence.

*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?

 The first public review of “Revenge” was a two-star review; the reviewer hated the heroine of the book. That was hard to hear--I knew Kate wasn’t always the easiest heroine to like, but I didn’t think anyone would hate her!

However, enough other reviewers have been tepid or neutral toward Kate (though some have loved her) that I realized I could have done more to develop her character. I didn’t spend more time on her in part because I didn’t want the book to be overlong (in fact, I’d cut a lot of Kate’s back story and two subplots involving her family), but I should have compensated for that by giving her a well-defined character arc. I’d always thought of the book as belonging to Enrico, but that’s no excuse for letting my heroine languish.

 So, big lesson learned about making sure both my main characters are fully developed, and I’m glad that reviewer gave me the benefit of her unvarnished reaction to the book. She also suggested working a little more levity into the proceedings, and I’ve tried to do that in book 2 as well. Praise is great for gauging your strengths (and sometimes for keeping you going!), but honest constructive criticism can be much more valuable in terms of growth.

 Interestingly, that same reviewer thought the book was “extremely well written” and was curious about the rest of the series, which I took as a big compliment considering how much she disliked the heroine. I’ve been gratified to hear that most reviewers love my writing style and the pacing of the books; I always get a big smile when I hear that people couldn’t put the book down. And RT Book Reviews gave it four stars, so I must have done something right. J

*This or That – Chocolate or Vanilla?? Coffee or Tea?? TV or Movies??

CHOCOLATE!!! (The perfect food substance, except for those pesky calories!)

Tea--I have a zillion different kinds. One of my faves is Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile. I also love chai. Mmmm…

I love many, many movies, but lately, a lot of the very best screenwriting around is on TV--Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Southland, Hell on Wheels, Dexter, The Borgias, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Rome, Boardwalk Empire. And for good plain fun every week--along with heaping buckets of angst-- one of my all-time faves: Supernatural. I love my Winchester boys! I also enjoy Castle and White Collar because I can’t resist Richard Castle and Neal Caffrey. I adore them both! (Yes, I know they’re not real.)

*When you sit down to write, are you at a computer or do you do it the ‘old fashioned’ way with pen and paper? Do you prefer one way or another?

I tend to write my first drafts on pen and paper. I worked as an editor for almost twenty years, so my first inclination when working on the computer is to start fiddling with my text because it’s so tempting to edit! The problem with editing too early is that it’s far too easy to get bogged down with perfection (or discouraged by the pursuit of it) and not finish the story. You’ve got to save perfection for the final polish.

Another big bonus: when I’m working in a notebook, there’s no alluring Internet to distract me. I’ll often go to Starbucks to make sure I don’t get tempted to “do a few minutes of research” on the computer when I should be writing.

*What do you do in your down time? Do you pick up something from your ‘to be read’ stack?

I usually have two or three books going at a time, so that’s the first thing I do. I also usually have a crammed DVR, so that’s another way I unwind.

*If your protagonist was a real person, what would they think about you? Would they want to hang out with you?

Hmm… considering my protagonist is a Mafia don, I don’t think we’d be hanging out. And he’d probably think I shouldn’t be writing about him and giving away his secrets! However, Enrico is well-educated, intelligent, and capable of forgiveness, so I’m sure we could find something to talk about. Perhaps our mutual love of Lake Como.

*What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

A juicy premise--danger, forbidden love, lots of sex!

*When you go to Starbucks or Jamba Juice, what do you order? Do they know you by name or drink?

Starbucks should name a kid after me. And yes, they do know me by name and drink in at least four different Starbucks around town. In winter, I’m all about the chai. In summer, I switch between iced green tea and iced chai.

*What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?

Favorite: Hearing from people who love my book and can’t wait for the next one. The first fan letter I got made me cry happy tears.
Least favorite: Trying to balance promotion and writing without both suffering.

*When you walk into a book store, where do you head first?

Paranormal romance, then suspense, then whatever else catches my eye. I’m a bit of a magpie--ooh, that cover looks pretty (or shiny or sexy or…).

*Did you get to quit your ‘day job’ and become an author, or do you have a ‘day job’ and writing is something you do for fun?

I quit my day job, which was very lucrative, but also very stressful. I had to write my first book (the one I didn’t release) between 1-3 AM most days because that was the only time I had open. I loved my job and my co-workers, but the stress was killing me.

When I turned forty, I became increasingly restless and dissatisfied. I had the completely unoriginal epiphany that I wasn’t going to live forever, and if I was going to follow my “someday” dream of being a writer, I had to get off my butt and do it now or risk never achieving it. So I quit that job shortly after I turned forty-one. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I knew if I didn’t do it, I’d always regret it.

Right now, writing is far from lucrative, but my health is much better and I’m much happier because I’m doing what I love.

*What has been the strangest thing a reader has asked you?

No one’s asked me anything too wacky. Mostly I keep getting asked if Antonio is getting his own book, and the answer is yes. But you’ll have to wait for book 3. I’m evil that way. J

*What is your favorite junk food vice?

Chocolate, especially Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (more chocolaty and not as frosting sweet as Nutella, so I feel slightly virtuous while eating it). Ooh, and those tiny little peanut butter cups from Trader Joes. And the chocolate-dipped Dunkers from Trader Joes. Obviously, I have to stay away from that store. And anything chocolate.

*Is there any movie you have seen that was based on a novel, which you think lived up to the novel?? What made it live up to the novel?

The movie adaptation of “L.A. Confidential” was masterful. The plot of that book is the very definition of labyrinthine--layer upon layer upon layer looping back on itself. If Curtis Hanson had filmed that story exactly as written by the brilliant James Ellroy, the movie would have lasted for weeks. Instead, he made perfect, judicious cuts. Casting the right actors (Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, Kevin Spacey) also helped. I had a few quibbles with the very ending, but considering that I’d thought that book was downright unfilmable (and I didn’t want anyone to wreck it), I was blown away.

I thought the screen adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” series was better than the books. Purists may want to beat me with their homemade hobbit feet, but Peter Jackson trimmed a lot of less-than-exciting stuff and made the stories lean and mean without losing their heft.

The adaptation of“Silence of the Lambs” was also note-perfect. Again, spot-on casting and superb directing made the story shine.

*If you could step into the shoes of your protagonist for one day, would you? What would you like to experience or see during that day?

Nope! Being a Mafia don is too high stress. But being his wife would definitely have its fun moments. I think you can guess which ones. ;)

(Note: In my mind, Enrico looks suspiciously like David Gandy. You know, the guy in all those Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue ads. Go ahead, Google him. Ah, *now* you get it!)

*Did you have any teacher(s) in high school or college that encouraged you to write? Did you take their advice?

Yes. I took a writing degree in college, with an emphasis on creative writing. I wrote short stories and started several books during and after college but didn’t finish a single novel until I turned forty and finally got serious.

*What type of ice cream could I find you eating on a hot summer day?

Chocolate hazelnut gelato--truly food from the gods. While I was in Italy, I had to try it in every town I visited. Purely for research purposes, of course.

*We all have our little ‘things’ when it comes to reading or writing; is their anything that bugs you when you read a novel?

Poor editing (or no editing) bugs me enormously. Everyone makes errors, and I can certainly overlook the occasional typo, but when the errors are egregious enough to knock me out of the story, that’s when I get peeved, sometimes to the point of not finishing. Anytime I’m scratching my head because the text is garbled or laughing because of a hideously wrong word choice (such as “oozy” for “Uzi”--I am *not* making that up), that’s when I’ve been kicked out of the story.

 Part of being a good storyteller is making sure your readers forget they’re reading; great (or at least good) editing is a necessary component of giving readers a superb entertainment experience.

*Is there anything else you would like to share or say to those who will read this?

I hope you enjoy the twists and turns of “Revenge”! It’s only the beginning of my Mafia saga. I’ve got a lot more stashed up my sleeve, and I hope to keep you relentlessly entertained.

Thanks for having me on your blog (and letting me blather on), Stephanie! These were great questions and I had fun answering them. J

Links to Dana’s first novel, Revenge ~

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Author Interview

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a new author Kayden Lee; she offered to be my first Author Interview and a copy of her novel, 'Abandoned Angel' how could I pass that up. I have not had the pleasure to read her novel as of late, I am working my way to it though and I am excited to dive in. I hope you enjoy getting to know Kayden as much as I did through our interview and in exchanging emails with her.

*Please tell me about your first novel. What or who inspired you to write it?

 Abandoned Angel, a suspense novel dipped in romance, is about the journey a young mother must take in order to rescue her kidnapped son. After being left at the mercy of a biker gang, the frightened woman rides across country with the members of the club, hoping to find help.
Blaze, the biker with whom she rides, introduces the vulnerable woman into the threatening world in which he lives - endangering her life in the process. Angelina must discover an inner strength and determination if she wishes to survive the ride.
My husband and I spend as much time as we can on the open road enjoying the feeling of freedom motorcycling offers. Abandoned Angel was created during these rides. From the back of the motorcycle, I would jot down sentences and ideas for the book until I had enough of a concept to begin writing. My husband, who is not much of a reader, became caught up in the story, which inspired me to have it published.

*Who are some of your favorite authors and books? Did they influence or inspire your writing style and give you ideas?

I imagine that everything I read, in one way or another, influences my writing. With that said, I don’t think I can pinpoint any one particular author as my inspiration. I love to read, and any author who is able to make me feel a wide range of emotion, inspires me to keep writing.
Some of my favorite authors include Dean Koontz, Harlan Coben, James Patterson and Lisa Gardner. More recently, I have enjoyed books by Kenneth Hoss, Amanda Kyle Williams and Wendy Corsi Staub.
*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
Toughest criticism, - I suppose that is probably still to come. LOL
Any compliment, or constructive criticism for that matter, is appreciated. Of course, the compliments are much easier to take than the criticism, but it is all part of being an author. I take what my readers have to say very seriously, and hope to learn from their comments.

The one criticism that comes to mind though has to do with the importance of having a book edited professionally. The editing process of Dead End Stranger, my second novel, has been different from the editing process of my debut novel, Abandoned Angel.
Any time a reader tells me they have enjoyed my book, is wonderful. My favorite compliment though, is when I am told that I need to write a sequel because they can’t get enough of the characters. Because of this compliment, there will most definitely be a sequel to Abandoned Angel.
*If your protagonist was a real person, what would they think about you? Would they want to hang out with you?
That my life is a lot easier, and less stressful than theirs.
*What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?
I love being an author. It gives me a sense of pride like none I have known before, and the writing community is full of wonderful people. The marketing, on the other hand, is my least favorite part of the process. It is very time consuming, and to be frank, I’m not sure I am real good at it.

*When you walk into a book store, where do you head first?
Usually to the children’s section – though I have not been in a bookstore for a while. With the e-reader technology, most of what I read seems to be ordered online, and as my kids have gotten older, we seem to spend less and less time there. Of course, thinking about it now, makes me want to go to a bookstore and snuggle in a cushy couch to read.
*Did you get to quit your ‘day job’ and become an author, or do you have a ‘day job’ and writing is something you do for fun?
I have not been able to quit my full time job yet, but I am hoping that will happen sometime in the near future. Whether it does or not though, I enjoy writing, and hope that it will always be fun.
*What is your favorite junk food vice?
Although I would rather have cheese and crackers over junk food, ice cream is one of my favorites.
*If you could step into the shoes of your protagonist for one day, would you? What would you like to experience or see during that day?

I hate to say it, as much as I love the characters in Abandoned Angel, I think I would rather be me. That way, I don’t have to recall the heartache and hurt experienced by the protagonist. The protagonist for Dead End Stranger, no way – but you will have to read it to understand why.

*Is their anything else you would like to share or say to those with those who will read this?

Being a part of the writing/reading community has been an absolute enjoyable experience. It is amazing how much help and advice the more experienced writers are willing to offer, and how wonderful the feedback offered by the readers is. For this, I am grateful.

Book Review "Decontamination' by Gail Seymour

**Disclaimer I received a copy of Decontamination in exchange for an honest review.

The opening of the book had me hooked. I was thrown into a world where you might be running for your life one moment and hiding from someone unknown the next. Once I got past the British vernacular, I enjoyed the novel for the most part.

 Some places were a bit long for my tastes, as their was not as much dialogue as I had hoped and those areas of the novel were not my favorites, yet I persevered. Some of the science was lost on me as were the locations. Perhaps if I had spent more time in the UK or in a science class, I would have been able to enjoy this novel a bit more.

 ‘Decontamination’ was a great read as far as the suspense factor and keeping the reader looking in several directions, namely over heir shoulder for the next murder or explosion.

Overall, I would give this novel 3 ½ stars.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Being Sick SUCKS!!!

It seems that I have taught my boys to share a bit to well.

Maybe I should have been a bit more specific when I told them to share, they decided to share their 'cooties' with mommy and as such, mom got sick. Still not up to par, but, I am vertical and moving around and here. I have some yummy recipes and pictures to share in the next few days; also, a book review and Author Interview on Tuesday, Plus an author interview with Dana Delamar the author of 'Revenge', currently I am doing a Beta read for the follow up novel 'Retribution'. I'll keep this post short so I can get back to taking care of a sick toddler and planting.

Pictures will be up on Wednesday for some recipes and of my gardening 'projects', aka what we did before the big rain on Sunday; I am a trooper, I still put in 5 hours outside despite the sun poisoning, but, our yard looks BEAUTIFUL, it still needs some work, yet it's coming along. I'm very proud of my hubby for working outside too even thought he wasn't 100% either. Can't say that us Californians aren't tough, heck us Central Valley residents have to be tough, 110+ in the summer, 0 visibility fog in the winter, I LOVE the valley.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend blog posts

I hope all my blog followers have had a wonderful and so safe weekend thus far. Pictures and recipes of my latest baking adventures will be up tomorrow. For the first time in forever I made cupcakes from scratch yesterday. Only a few left so I take that as a good sign, lol.
A couple side notes on this Sunday ~ I don't typically make blog posts on the weekends as that is family time. Second, book reviews and author interviews will be posted on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. I have been blessed to have a few authors seek me out to review their novels or offer to do interviews; so to keep the integrity of my blog, I will keep those to one or two days a week. In the near future I may start a separate blog fire those things, just not today.
Have a wonderful Sunday, I'm off to run a few erronds and put my kitchen back together after Saturday's baking and irish food cooking for my hubby.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Man in the Parking Lot.. Sent by God

I am a firm believer in angels. I believe that God sends people to you for a reason when you are least expecting them and they share something with you that you needed to hear, even if you didn't know that you needed to hear it.

Today, I met a man named John, while in the parking lot with my toddler. I just pulled into a parking spot one isle across from him and saw that he had a shopping cart, he only had a few bags left in it and I had my toddler on my hip. As I approached, I asked, "can I take that cart off your hands?" He looked at me, smiled, waved to munchkin and being neighborly said, "sure it's all yours."

John shook munchkin's hand and asked him if he was being a big helper for mommy and being good, I snickered and munchkin just smiled, hey, mommy was holding him and he wanted a treat so he was behaving for the moment, unlike less than 5 minutes before when he was having a fit.

Out of habit I checked my phone, I thought I felt it vibrate like it does when I get a text message; I was waiting for a text or a call from my husband. John looked at me an I told him I was waiting to hear from my husband, he just smiled at me and said, "I lost my wife of 40 years this past week. Her memorial is this weekend." WOW. What do you say to that?! He told me I reminded him of his wife and he asked if my husband travels if that's why I was waiting to hear from him. I told him about Hubby traveling and that he has been gone all week. John told me that he owns a business in LA and he lives there 4 days a week and keeps a house here; he would always call his wife when he was on his way home to let her know, so she could go back into that 'mode' of when he was there.

We spoke a few more minutes about being married and then John told me, "I called her cell phone the other day to tell her I was on my way home to see her and that I loved her. It was such a habit, that I didn't think about it, until I was hanging up, then I realized what I had done. After 40 years of marriage, I still thought to tell her I was on my way home and that I loved her." It took every bit of effort for me NOT to cry.

My husband and I had a fight last night, one that we have had numerous times since we got together; I know in my heart how much I love him and how much he loves me. Listening to John touched me and made me realize how much I do love my husband, even when I want to strangle him sometimes. Like John said, "Anger and Passion are so closely related that they are almost the same emotion, remember that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. When you see your husband, give him a big hug and kiss, tell him you love him and forget the negative stuff. 40 years is a long time to be married and we had our own ups and downs, in the end, we grew together. She made our house a home." 

God send John to share his story with me.; no doubt in my mind about that. Why else wouldn't their have been a shopping cart or two in the cart return or close by? I needed to hear John's story, and I am so glad I did. God Bless John and his wife who is waiting for him in Heaven. 

Book Review "Offbeat Love Stories and More" by Jennifer Lafferty

**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this novel in return for my review.

This collection of short stories was perfect for when I didn’t have much time, like being stuck behind a train or while waiting to pick to my son from school. Jennifer kept me wanting to read more after each one. This collection of romantic, comedy, lighthearted stories is sure to delight readers.

When you need a good laugh or still want to incorporate some romance into your day, pick up this novel and read a story to put a smile back on your face and get you going again, one of my favorites was 'Perwinkle 26'. It makes reading all those tabloid stories seem less believable, lol. I was able to read this one at a long light, just don't tell anyone.

Jennifer's take on 'love' is refreshing and had me laughing out loud as made my way through the novellas. This was the first novel or any sort I have read by Jennifer and it won't be the last.