Guest Post: Alissa Grosso – UP THE CREEK

Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso Banner
 
Happy Monday, my bookish divas and divos. I’m finding it a bit hard to accept that this is the last Monday in January of 2021. It seems as if this month just started a few days ago yet took forever to get to now. I look forward to the New Year and all of the new books being published as well as the new-to-me authors I know I’ll be introduced to along the way. Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to one of those new-to-me authors, Alissa Grosso. Ms. Grosso is the author of the Culver Creek mystery series, which includes Up The Creek. She’ll be discussing with us just one of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years, easy reading makes for hard writing, and she describes the seven things she’s learned about writing a book series. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say, follow along with the blog tour, enter the tour-wide giveaway, and add Up the Creek to your reading list. Thank you, Ms. Grosso for joining us today. The blog is now yours!
 
Up The Creek Guest Post Photos

7 Things I Learned Writing a Book Series

Alissa Grosso

 

As someone who has started writing and abandoned more novels than she cares to disclose, I knew that writing my first book series would be a daunting proposition, but I also knew that a series could be a great way to build an author’s fanbase and also actually earn a decent living from this writing thing, so I was determined to do it. Along the way, I learned a few things.

 

1. Make Sure You Like Your Protagonist

Writing a series of books means you’ll be spending a whole lot of time with the main character of your series. Sage Dorian, who features in Up the Creek and the other novels in my Culver Creek series is a police detective still haunted by the unsolved murder of his sister. He’s a tortured and complex individual whose story unfolds over the series. His life situation gave me plenty of fodder for the four books in the series, but I also decided to give him a few traits that helped endear him to me. Like me, Sage doesn’t eat meat and can’t abide the taste or smell of coffee. Though his reasons are different, his eating and drinking habits helped to make him someone I enjoyed spending time with. Because it turned out I was going to spend more time with him than I originally planned.

 

2. Series Sometimes Become Longer Than You Planned

The Culver Creek series was supposed to be a trilogy. This was deliberate. I was new to this whole writing series thing, and I figured I would start with the bare minimum of books to be considered a series. Three seemed doable to me. Then I began working on the third book in the series, and it was a disaster. There was too much going on. There were too many characters. The whole thing was a convoluted mess. I took some time to think about it, and realized that the book I was working on was actually two different books, and thus my trilogy turned into a four-book series.

 

3. Copyeditors Are Invaluable

Look, even if you are working on a standalone book, it would be in your best interest to work with a good copyeditor. No matter how many times you read your book, and think you have cleaned things up and fixed all of your mistakes, copyeditors will find plenty more that needs fixing. And when it comes to keeping track of characters, settings and other important details, copyeditors are amazing. Once, years ago, I wrote a book, and while working on it my copyeditor pointed out by her count I had written of a July that was seven weeks long. Look, in my defense sometimes July feels seven weeks long, but thankfully I had a copyeditor to set me straight. I worked with freelance copyeditor Lisa Gilliam on all four books in the Culver Creek series, and she did amazing work including making sure that all the details I described matched from one book to the next. (She did not work on this blog post at all so any mistakes are mine, and mine alone.)

 

4. Characters Can Surprise You

There’s a big debate in the writing world between pantsing and plotting, that is writing by the seat of your pants and making things up as you go along, or writing outlines and carefully planning your book. I’m a reformed pantser, and these days tend not to dive into a book until I have written at least a rough outline for it. So, I had a plan when I set out to write the Culver Creek series, and wrote out outlines before working on each book. But even so, I found that some characters surprised me. The biggest surprises came while I was working on the fourth book, where I ended up rewriting my outline halfway through because I realized my original plan for the book wasn’t as good as this new version.

 

5. Write All the Books First

Depending on your publishing situation, this might not work for everyone, but if you can write all the books in a limited series before publishing the first one, it might just save you some grief, like if for instance you get to the fourth book, realize that things are going to be radically different than you first planned, and then need to go back to the previous books to make a few little tweaks to make sure everything fits with this new development. If Up the Creek had already been published, when I started working on Book 4, Blood Answer, I wouldn’t have been able to change things up the way I wanted.

 

6. Publishing a Book is a LOT of Work, Publishing Four is Even More Work

I’m not going to lie, there were times during the writing and publication planning of this book series that I asked myself why I was publishing four books, one right after the other. I love writing books, but these days being an author means that you have to do a lot of things beside simply writing a book. I don’t regret my decision to publish a book series, and hopefully I’ll publish another series or two down the road, but it IS a lot of work.

 

7. Have Fun

That’s why it’s so important to have fun when you are writing and publishing your books. There are tedious tasks to be sure, but if you write a book that you truly enjoy reading, because you’ll likely be reading it over and over again as you ready it for publication, it’s easier to find the joy in what you are doing. I write because I love books and love writing them, and I truly do have fun sharing my creations with the world.

 
 

Up the Creek

by Alissa Grosso

January 11 – March 12, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Thriller
Published by: Glitter Pigeon Press
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Number of Pages: 356
ISBN: 9781949852080
Series: Culver Creek Series, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Alissa Grosso

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

 

Find out more about Alissa Grosso and her books at:
AlissaGrosso.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter
Facebook

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


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Giveaway!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alyssa Grosso. There will be two (2) winners each receiving one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on January 11, 2021 and runs through March 14, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Spotlight: A TOURIST’S GUIDE TO MURDER by VM Burns

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop) by V.M. Burns

About A Tourist’s Guide to Murder

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop)

Cozy Mystery 6th in Series

Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2021)

Paperback: 256 pages

ISBN-10: 1496728955

ISBN-13: 978-1496728951

Digital ASIN: B087YRY1S4

While visiting the land of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Samantha Washington finds herself on a tragical mystery tour . . .

Sam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.

But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer . . .

About V.M. Burns

Author V.M. Burns

V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She currently resides in the warmer region of the country in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers of America, Crime Writers of Color, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Valerie is the author of the RJ Franklin Mysteries, the Dog Club Mysteries, and the Agatha Award-nominated Mystery Bookshop Mystery series.

Author Links

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/v-m-burns

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vmburnsbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/burnsvm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vmburnsbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmburns

Website: vmburns.com

Purchase Links: AppleAmazonGoogleKoboNookBAMBookshop.orgHudson BooksellersIndieBoundTarget
 
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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

January 21 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 21 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

January 21 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW, GUEST POST

January 22 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

January 23 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 23 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 24 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW

January 24 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

January 25 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, GUEST POST

January 25 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

January 25 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

January 26 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

January 26 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

January 27 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 27 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 27 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 28 – Here’s How It Happened – REVIEW

January 28 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

January 29 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

January 29 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

January 29 – Books to the Ceiling – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

January 30 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 30 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 31 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 31 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

January 31 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

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Guest Post: Peter W.J. Hayes – THE THINGS THAT LAST FOREVER

the-things-that-last-forever-by-peter-w-j-hayes--banner

Happy Thursday, my bookish peeps! Before I started this blog, I dabbled in nonfiction writing. Yes, I’ve done some writing, but it was primarily for religious journals, religious short stories, and other religious writings. Since starting this blog and with the increasing rise of social media outlets, I’ve been pushed to promote the blog on various outlets with weekly, if not daily posts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the now-defunct Google+). I know from personal experience how difficult it is to keep things fresh and write something new and different each time I sit down (and yes, I know I often fail at this goal). Writing is hard work and the best writers, in my not so humble opinion, make it seem effortless when it is anything but that. Today’s guest, Peter W.J. Hayes, author of the recently released The Things That Last Forever, will be sharing with us his philosophy on the stages of writing a story. If you’ve ever wondered about the emotional investment of the author in the story, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to see what Mr. Hayes has to say and perhaps follow the blog tour to learn more about this author and book. Please help me welcome Mr. Peter W.J. Hayes to the blog. Thank you, Mr. Hayes for stopping by and sharing with us.

The Five Stages of Writing a Story

I’ve published three novels and almost twenty short stories over the last five years, including my most recent novel, The Things That Last Forever. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that writing is a process, not unlike the Siege of Stalingrad or raising a teenager.

For me—whether a novel or short story— the writing process is the same. The only way I can complete a story is to navigate five clearly defined stages, one at a time, in order. That might sound like a lot, but remember they are stages. You can rest in any of the stages—well, ‘wallow’ might be the correct term—but trust me on this, every spouse or partner knows through an innate and unholy instinct when to gleefully kick you in the rear to get moving.

The stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Good grief, why would anyone want to be a writer?

DENIAL: Human beings, as a species, mastered the art of denial about the time we learned to walk upright. Writers are the final evolution and ultimate triumph of denial. I learned that early in my career, when I used to deny I was a writer simply because I had no published works to prove it (despite three unsold book manuscripts and enough rejection letters to wallpaper the Lincoln Memorial). And as I start each new story, I must always battle denial’s evil twins. I am at once in complete denial the story can actually work, while denying that it could fail. Yes, things are that complicated. I then spend several days (or longer) deconstructing both opinions until that moment when I realize the story—despite some flaws I might be able to work around—is writeable.

ANGER: Unfortunately, at that moment my reaction is always anger because now I must write it. It’s a bit like a wartime military draft. I’m in it now, I can’t get out, and ghastly things will happen before I reach home. But, as I rage at my conscription, the first third of the story takes shape, leading me directly into the next stage.

BARGAINING: This is the ugly, dark-of-night, desperate stage. Every day, facing a blank screen and that relentless, blinking cursor (it’s called a cursor for a reason), I make deals. If I can write just four more pages, I’ll treat myself to a beer. No, an IPA. I’ll do more charity work. Just let me write something, anything, and I’ll live with it. For one good analogy, the devil can have my soul. And so it goes, day after day, until the draft is finished and I stagger into the next stage.

DEPRESSION: In fairness, the day I finish the first draft of any story, I have a few moments of euphoria. That is, of course, an evil trick. As I reread the manuscript, tendrils of doubt creep in. The characters are flat. The plot is hackneyed, worse, boring. Do I even know how to write a sentence? Every insecurity I have (and a few new ones) weighs on me like a millstone. By the time I complete the final draft I’m a work-zombie, and I barely notice as I move into the final stage.

ACCEPTANCE: Sending any manuscript to an editor is a ritual similar to placing flowers on a grave. Yet (and this is a minor miracle) despite the fact that rejection may come, so can acceptance. I rarely feel much excitement or joy at that moment. Perhaps I’m too far into the stages of Bargaining or Depression with another story to think about it. But later, when I see the story in print, I always have a thought along the lines of ‘good grief, it’s risen from the dead.’ I take satisfaction from that. My story has found a home of its own and a place in the world.

Just as we hope for our teenagers.

 

 

 

The Things That Last Forever

by Peter W. J. Hayes

On Tour: January 1 – February 28, 2021

 

Synopsis:THE THINGS THAT LAST FOREVER - PWJHayes

 

After a house fire hospitalizes his partner and forces him onto medical leave, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police detective Vic Lenoski starts a desperate search for the woman who set the blaze. She is the one person who knows what happened to his missing teenage daughter, but as a fugitive, she’s disappeared so thoroughly no one can find her.

Risking his job and the wrath of the district attorney, Vic resorts to bargaining with criminal suspects for new leads, many of which point to North Dakota. He flies there, only to discover he is far from everything he knows, and his long-cherished definitions of good and bad are fading as quickly as his leads. His only chance is one last audacious roll of the dice. Can he stay alive long enough to discover the whereabouts of his daughter and rebuild his life? Or is everything from his past lost forever?

“The mystery plot itself is riveting…a captivating and emotionally intelligent crime drama.” — Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery: Police Procedural
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 294
ISBN: 978-1-947915-56-5
Series: A Vic Lenoski Mystery; Pittsburgh Trilogy #3 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Author - Peter WJ Hayes

Peter W. J. Hayes worked as a journalist, advertising copywriter, and marketing executive before turning to mystery and crime writing. He is the author of the Silver Falchion-nominated Pittsburgh trilogy, a police procedural series, and is a Derringer-nominated author of more than a dozen short stories. His work has appeared in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Pulp Modern and various anthologies, including two Malice Domestic collections and The Best New England Crime Stories. He is also a past nominee for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award.

Peter can be found at:
www.peterwjhayes.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

Tour Participants:

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https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=299742

 

 

Giveaway!!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Peter W.J. Hayes. There will be 4 winners for this giveaway. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and two (2) winners will each receive one (1) physical copy of The Things That Last Forever by Peter W.J. Hayes (US Only). The giveaway begins on January 1, 2021 and runs through March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: Reyna Marder Gentin – MY NAME IS LAYLA

Good day, book people! I’m finding it hard to believe that we are more than halfway through the month of January of 2021. Time during this pandemic seems to either fly or go slower than molasses up a hill backwards in the winter time (one of my dad’s favorite sayings). If you’re anything like my mother, you might be struggling with ways to keep busy during this quarantine. Her normal go-tos of reading, working crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles seemed to have failed her after a few months. She’s not big on watching television, other than the news, so even that’s a none issue. Others, like today’s guest, Reyna Marder Gentin, author of Unreasonable Doubts and the recently released My Name is Layla will be sharing with us another approach to the pandemic, school. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say about going back to class, add My Name is Layla to your TBR list (or to the TBR list of one of your younger bookish divas or divos). Thank you, Ms. Gentin for joining us today and sharing your pandemic experiences. The blog is now yours.

 

 

BACK TO CLASS

 

Some of my well-meaning friends have speculated that staying home during the pandemic must be easier for me since I’m usually here anyway, at my desk in my kitchen, alone, writing. Of course, there’s a certain truth to that. There are those hours in the early morning when I can still pretend that I’m not a captive to the virus restrictions–just a person who prefers the quiet of her home, a freshly brewed pot of coffee, limitless snacks (and their unfortunate attendant weight gain), and ample time to try to put something worthwhile down on the page without the distractions of going out, seeing friends, or attending cultural or religious events.

But try as I might to fool myself, I feel as trapped as anyone else. That’s not to say I don’t recognize the distinct advantages. I may be holed up at home, but there’s plenty of space for my husband and children to do work and school and not be on top of me or each other. We’re in the suburbs, where you can still take a walk and stay so far from anyone else that you can ditch the mask. And we count our blessings every day that the pandemic doesn’t take a health or economic toll on us. So it’s not that I’m not grateful that I work from home. My point is only that my need for routine, diversion, and company is no less real because my “usual” reality is solitary and home-based.

So how have I handled the isolation of this crazy time? Well, the evenings are the easiest. Like so many others, my husband and I cruised through The Queen’s Gambit and The Crown, very different programs but both enormously enjoyable. We also watched all of The Kominsky Method, which I found poignant and my husband found depressing. I watched the latest season of Fauda, the searing Israeli action drama, which could give the most hardened viewer nightmares, on my own. Now at bedtime, we’re haplessly choosing indie movies we know nothing about and that we turn off after 25 minutes when we can’t find their redeeming value and sleep is a better alternative.

Television as a method of escape works best for me at night, when it doesn’t feel indulgent but rather a reasonable attempt at relaxation. The days have been harder. Pre-pandemic, I gave my writing and my mind a chance to percolate by breaking up my schedule with volunteering as an attorney and taking writing classes. The clinic where I represent victims of domestic violence in Family Court went virtual in March. I tried to continue remotely, but the lack of interaction with my colleagues and the necessity of relying on electronic filings and appearances were too many new tricks for this old dog to learn. I’ll return when the courts reopen.

So I chose to go back to class, my reliable happy place, although even this took trial and error before I landed on something that works in the bizarre circumstances of 2020.

First, I signed up for a graduate level philosophy class being taught remotely by a local university. The topic was the binding of Isaac, one of the foundational stories in the Hebrew bible, in which Abraham exhibits his complete faith in God by being willing to sacrifice his son and then is rewarded when Isaac’s life is spared. Anticipating that the subject matter and readings might be over my head, I registered as an auditor, and reminded the professor that I would just be “sitting in the back” of the class, gleaning what I could. And, although the class had its fascinating moments, that’s exactly what happened. I took in the gist of the lectures, but missed a lot of the real substance, as my classmates bantered about the sources in their original Hebrew and left me in the dust.

Next, I signed up for an online class at The Gotham Writers’ Workshop. I chose a mystery class because it looked interesting, even though mystery is not my genre. Although I did some good workshopping and cranked out a first pass at 10,000 words or so, I discovered what I already knew deep down: mystery is (likely) not my genre. I don’t create puzzles, drop clues, or weave suspense. I put what I had aside, an experiment worth conducting but probably not worth pursuing.

And then I stumbled upon One Day University, the perfect addition to the pandemic lifestyle for the working-at-home writer. Let me explain.

For a small monthly fee, One Day University offers a lecture every day at 4:00 in the afternoon by a distinguished college professor in his or her area of expertise. Right off the bat, this scores two important points in my battle against Corona monotony. The class happens at the same time everyday, giving me both a routine that I sorely lack, as well as something to look forward to as the day wanes. And the variety of topics is perfect for my COVID-eviscerated attention span that only allows me to concentrate on any one subject for a limited amount of time. With One Day U, I get exactly 50 minutes of science or art or literature, and I make no further commitment. Perfect!

I’ll admit that some of the lectures have worked better for me than others. I love listening to one professor, a museum curator who’s taken me on an in depth tour of the Metropolitan Museum on one day, the Parthenon on another, and in one lecture demonstrated how she approaches setting up an art exhibit, down to how she picks the colors for those little signs that are posted next to the paintings. One afternoon I learned about sleep science, and was convinced to cut my usual 45 minute nap down to a 20 minute power nap to better accommodate my circadian rhythms. Another day, a film studies professor walked me through the mechanics of how Alfred Hitchcock created suspense in his movies with clips and behind the scenes stories. (Probably should have watched that one before my mystery writing class.) On the flip side, I was entirely lost in an astronomy lecture recently on how scientists look for new planets orbiting other suns, and another day I was intrigued by the life story of Albert Einstein but totally unable to follow the discussion of his various mathematical theories.

But the best part of One Day U comes in the last ten minutes of every program, when the professors answer questions posed by the students in the chat function during the lecture. I always try to come up with something to ask, partly because I want to know the answer, but mostly because when the teacher reads and answers my question, it’s an affirmation that our virtual connection is also a human one. We both exist in that moment, COVID, isolation, lockdowns, and social distancing be damned! We’re still teacher and student, engaging in something new, bridging the cruel gap that this virus has imposed on the world. And silly as it is, on the occasions when the professor comments that my question is excellent or important, that small moment of recognition is all the encouragement I need to continue with my solitary writing endeavors the next day, until 4:00 rolls around again.

 

 

MY NAME IS LAYLA - RMGentin
 
My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin
ISBN: 9781952816086 (paperback)
ASIN: B08D1ZM4FW (Kindle)
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Release Date: January 19, 2021

 

School will never be the same…

On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her– another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.

Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?

 

 

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository

 

Author Bio:

Author - Reyna Marder GentinReyna Marder Gentin grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney with a public defender’s office before turning to writing full time. Reyna has studied at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her work has been published widely online and in print. Her debut novel, Unreasonable Doubts, was named a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award in 2019. Her first novel for children, My Name is Layla, was published in January 2021, and Reyna’s latest adult novel, Both Are True, will be published in October, 2021. Reyna lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York.

 

Visit Reyna Marder Gentin:
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Guest Post: Cara Putnam – LETHAL INTENT

Good day, book people! I hope you’re having a good bookish January so far and that your reading is on goal for the year. If you’re seeking something new to read, then I hope you’ll add Lethal Intent by Cara Putnam to your 2021 TBR list. This romantic legal thriller might be just what you’ve been looking for and didn’t know it. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Putnam for visiting with us today and sharing her insight into character versus plot. Please see what she has to say, follow the blog tour to read some great reviews for her latest release, Lethal Intent, and enter the tour-wide giveaway. But for now, sit back, relax, and let’s visit with Ms. Cara Putnam.

 

 

Character or Plot? Which comes first?

 

There is a perennial debate among authors. Which comes first the characters or the plot?

As an attorney, my answer is a classic it depends.

In some of my books, the character is what drives the creation of the story. I know I want to write a book with the Monuments Men. Or I want my next series to feature strong heroines who are all attorneys, but in different ways.

Other times, the spark of the idea is a story or headline that I’ve seen or read. An event that happened somewhere else and I twist it into a new what if: what if the mom didn’t really kill her daughters in front of her husband on her birthday? What if he really did it, but set her up to take the fall? This was the idea spark for Imperfect Justice.

With Lethal Intent, the key question for the hero Brandon Lancaster had been established in fore-shadowing in other books. He had started a group foster home for sibling groups, and it was in danger of folding. What I didn’t anticipate was that between the idea and writing the book, the federal law governing these types of homes changed… completely. This created a whole new level of complexity as I was writing because though the law had changed in 2018, the regulations for how it would be applied in the state of Virginia were still unfinalized as late as July 2020 – and the final version of the book was turned in during May.

This is where having a great network of writing friends can help. My friend Tricia Goyer connected me with a man who ran a similar home in Arkansas. You can imagine my relief when his approach to the law mirrored what I had reasoned was the only way Brandon could handle the conundrum.

Each book is a little different. And even when you think the characters are driving the plot, some times life intervenes and changes the balance as you’re writing. Which do you think is more important to a good novel?

 

 

Lethal Intent

by Cara Putman

January 11 – February 5, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

 

LETHAL INTENT - CPutnamIf they expected silence, they hired the wrong woman.

Caroline Bragg’s life has never been better. She and Brandon Lancaster are taking their relationship to the next level, and she has a new dream job as legal counsel for Praecursoria—a research lab that is making waves with its cutting-edge genetic therapies. The company’s leukemia treatments even promise to save desperately sick kids—kids like eleven-year-old Bethany, a critically ill foster child at Brandon’s foster home.

When Caroline’s enthusiastic boss wants to enroll Bethany in experimental trials prematurely, Caroline objects, putting her at odds with her colleagues. They claim the only goal at Praecursoria is to save lives. But does someone have another agenda?

Brandon faces his own crisis. As laws governing foster homes shift, he’s on the brink of losing the group home he’s worked so hard to build. When Caroline learns he’s a Praecursoria investor, it becomes legally impossible to confide in him. Will the secrets she keeps become a wedge that separates them forever? And can she save Bethany from the very treatments designed to heal her?

This latest romantic legal thriller by bestseller Cara Putman shines a light on the shadowy world of scientific secrets and corporate vendettas—and the ethical dilemmas that plague the place where science and commerce meet.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785233318 (ISBN13: 9780785233312)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Author - Cara Putnam

Cara Putman is the author of more than twenty-five legal thrillers, historical romances, and romantic suspense novels. She has won or been a finalist for honors including the ACFW Book of the Year and the Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Cara graduated high school at sixteen, college at twenty, completed her law degree at twenty-seven, and recently received her MBA. She is a practicing attorney, teaches undergraduate and graduate law courses at a Big Ten business school, and is a homeschooling mom of four. She lives with her husband and children in Indiana.

 

Visit Cara Putman:
CaraPutman.com
Goodreads: caraputman
BookBub: @CPutman
Instagram: caracputman
Twitter: @Cara_Putman
Facebook: Cara.Putman

 

 

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2021 Book 15: DEEP INTO THE DARK by P. J. Tracy

Deep Into The Dark, Detective Margaret Nolan #1, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250754943 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250783578 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250790071 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B088ML1NXZ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKL7N6K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.

But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.

Set in an LA where real people live and work—not the superficial LA of Beverly Hills or the gritty underbelly of the city—Deep into the Dark features two really engaging, dynamic main characters and explores the nature of obsession, revenge, and grief.

P. J. Tracy is known for her “fast, fresh, and funny” characters (Harlan Coben) and her “sizzling” plots (People); the Monkeewrench series was her first, set in Minneapolis and co-written with her mother. Now with Deep into the Dark she’s on her own—and it’s a home run.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | AudiobooksNow | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt by clicking here.

Good day, book people. I know some of you struggled with reading during 2020, but it was a banner year for me. Although I’m a bit ahead of my reading schedule for 2021, I’ve been struggling with my reading for the past few days. This is partially due to renewed tech device issues (yes, I killed another tablet and then I had to wait for the new tablet to arrive, set it up, and transfer most of my 9700+ ebooks to said new device; apparently tablets aren’t designed to be used 15+ hours/day. Who knew?!) and a series of severe migraine headaches. As a result, it took me several days to get into Deep Into the Dark. I struggled with the first perhaps 15-20% of the book (it’s difficult to provide page numbers when I’m reading a digital review copy and only see percent read, sorry) and that took the better part of the first two days. Perhaps my inability to read it in one sitting was due to the frustration over tech device issues (I had numerous issues with one reading app and it gave me nightmares after installing the app, attempting to download some of the 4100+ titles owned via this company, then removing/reinstalling it several times before it actually worked and allowed me to download anything, whew!). Then again, it might have been due to the severe pain from the migraine headaches. I can’t say for sure what the cause was but once I made it past the 20% mark, I was hooked on this story. I needed to learn more about Sam Easton and Melody Traeger and their dark places and pasts. I needed to know more about the police investigation into the serial murders and then the murders linked to Sam and Melody. I simply needed to know more.

I’ve read all of the Monkeewrench series by P.J. Tracy and was looking forward to reading the start of this new series. Although Deep Into the Dark got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, I’m hooked. I enjoyed the twists and turns the multiple storylines took. I enjoyed the friendship and similarities between Sam and Melody in terms of their past traumas and shared current experiences. I liked Margaret Nolan and the only drawback, if any, is that I didn’t feel that I got to know her as much as I got to know Sam and Melody. All of the primary characters are realistically flawed and quite human rather than caricatures or stereotypes. The action within the story was believable and the secondary characters were just as relatable and realistic as the primary characters. Deep Into the Dark is a psychological thriller with several mystery storylines happening, and also introduces characters dealing with marital separation, marital infidelity, post-traumatic stress disorder, continued drug recovery, attempts at alcohol recovery, physical abuse, survivor guilt, and murder. Ms. Tracy provides the reader with just enough information about the twin mysteries to keep you guessing until the bitter end. I can’t reveal any more without revealing too much, but if you have read the Monkeewrench series, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark. For those of you that enjoy psychological thrillers filled with plenty of dark twists, then I suggest you grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark as well. If you’re not sure about psychological thrillers but just want something a bit out of your comfort zone to read this year, then please add Deep Into the Dark to your TBR list, it won’t disappoint. For now, I’m patiently awaiting the next release in this series and, who knows, perhaps I’ll be re-reading Deep Into the Dark while I wait.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer:
I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 3: THE FORTUNATE ONES by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

ISBN: 9781616206802 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9781643751078 (ebook)

ISBN: 9781649040237 (audiobook)

ISBN: 9781664709461 (audiobook on CD)

ASIN: B08QXZMS9Q (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08519FF6Z (Kindle edition)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Release Date: January 5, 2021

The Fortunate Ones feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one. Tarkington’s understanding of the human heart and mind is deep, wise, and uncommonly empathetic. As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next.” —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

When Charlie Boykin was young, he thought his life with his single mother on the working-class side of Nashville was perfectly fine. But when his mother arranges for him to be admitted as a scholarship student to an elite private school, he is suddenly introduced to what the world can feel like to someone cushioned by money. That world, he discovers, is an almost irresistible place where one can bend—and break—rules and still end up untarnished. As he gets drawn into a friendship with a charismatic upperclassman, Archer Creigh, and an affluent family that treats him like an adopted son, Charlie quickly adapts to life in the upper echelons of Nashville society. Under their charming and alcohol-soaked spell, how can he not relax and enjoy it all—the lack of anxiety over money, the easy summers spent poolside at perfectly appointed mansions, the lavish parties, the freedom to make mistakes knowing that everything can be glossed over or fixed?

But over time, Charlie is increasingly pulled into covering for Archer’s constant deceits and his casual bigotry. At what point will the attraction of wealth and prestige wear off enough for Charlie to take a stand—and will he?

The Fortunate Ones is an immersive, elegantly written story that conveys both the seductiveness of this world and the corruption of the people who see their ascent to the top as their birthright.

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The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington has been called a contemporary The Great Gatsby, and I can definitely see the similarities. Charlie Boykin is definitely from the “have nots” and the wrong-side of town according to those in the know in Nashville society. His life changes, possibly for the better and then again maybe not, when he is provided a scholarship to an elite all-boys school and is befriended by Archer Creigh. Over the course of Charlie’s high school career, he eventually moves away from the wrong-side of town when his mother is offered a job as a personal assistant to a wealthy society matron. That move changes Charlie’s life forever. It isn’t just the disparity between the haves and the have-nots that shakes Charlie up, it’s the “affluenza” and, for lack of a better phrase, “white privilege” that he bears witness to that finally pushes him away from his family and friends permanently.

I’m going to go out a limb here and say that I didn’t really like The Great Gatsby, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Fortunate Ones. I liked the way Mr. Tarkington told the story, in almost a flashback mode, by taking us from Charlie’s present life to his past and then brought us back to the present. Although Charlie is the focal point of the story, the reader gets to know all of the secondary characters through Charlie’s eyes. I enjoyed reading about his friendships in high school, his return to Nashville in his late 20s, and his final departure from the life he knew but grew to despise. There’s a lot to take in with this story, including: class, racism, closeted homosexuality, mental illness, suicide, marital infidelity, affluenza/white privilege, love, the psychological toll of trying to be something and someone you’re not, loyalty, and more. Mr. Tarkington has crafted a coming-of-age story that pulled this reader in from the first chapter until the very end. For those of you that actually enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby and are interested in a modern retelling, then I highly recommend The Fortunate Ones. For those that are like me and didn’t exactly care for The Great Gatsby or didn’t read it, I still encourage you to grab a copy of The Fortunate Ones to read. This is my first #mustread recommendation for the year, folks. Now, go grab yourself a copy!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 2: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
ISBN: 9781250245496 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250245519 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250752451 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250752468 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08DRR2K6X (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKLVZRJ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

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I debated internally over whether I would post this review on my blog or not, but then decided to go for it. I had been looking forward to reading The Wife Upstairs ever since I heard it was a modern, Southern gothic take on Jane Eyre. If you follow me on social media, then you probably know that Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite classic novels. I've read several retellings of this book and enjoyed them all, well up until now. I really wanted to like this book, especially after reading some of the advance reviews and praise. Sadly, this one just didn't work for me. I can't point to any one thing about this book that I didn't like other than I'm very upset over the fact that Jane isn't very likeable, is a thief, and isn't even a Jane (you'll need to read the book to understand that part). 
I found this to be somewhat of a slow read and actually had to set it aside several times before I could actually start it and read through to the end. The first third of the book seemed to go very slow and I didn't care about any of the characters. Normally having unlikeable characters isn't an issue, but perhaps because this is an adaptation of my favorite book it became a problem for me. The one interesting thing was that the book was told from multiple viewpoints, that of Jane and of Bea (aka Bertha Mason Rochester). I didn't really become invested into the action within this story until the last few chapters of the book. This just might be one of those books that readers even love or hate. I don't "hate" it, but it just didn't grab me the way I had hoped. Well-written? Yes! Interesting premise? Again, yes, but there was just something that didn't quite come together to make this an intriguing or gripping read for this reader. Hopefully I'll be able to pick this one up in a few months and tell you differently. If you grab a copy of The Wife Upstairs then I hope that you're in the "love it" reader camp.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Post: Cara Reinard – SWEET WATER

sweet-wate-by-cara-reinard-coverGood day, my bookish people and welcome to 2021! It’s a new day, a new year, and I’m starting off with a new blog company. Please bear with me as I learn how to use WordPress (recently transferred over from Blogger).

I’m incredibly pleased to be starting off the year with a visit by Cara Reinard, author of the newly released crime thriller Sweet Water. I hope you’ll help me welcome Ms. Reinard to The Book Diva’s Reads as she shares with us where her idea for this novel came from. Thank you, Ms. Reinard for stopping by and sharing with us today. The blog is yours.

Where did the idea for Sweet Water come from?

For me, plot ideas for stories come from everywhere and nowhere—an article read online, a conversation had with an interesting person, or something much more random; a moment where I’m rinsing shampoo out of my hair and suddenly a plot jumps into my head (why do life’s most profound thoughts happen in the shower??).

For Sweet Water, the idea started with a short story that I recently published in an anthology of short stories, poems and essays titled Into the Woods. The collection was published through a Mindful Writers group led by authors, Kathie Shoop and Larry Schardt. My story featured two college-aged kids who messed around with narcotics in a wooded area outside of Manhattan, but only one of them left the woods alive. It was a story that stuck with me long after the anthology was published.

Short story here: https://www.amazon.com/Into-Woods-Stories-Mindful-Writers-ebook/dp/B07CZMJQDY

I started thinking about affluent wooded areas closer to where I live in the Pittsburgh area that might be appropriate for a similar premise, and played around with a chapter or two basing the story in my favorite tree-lined suburb, Sewickley. Like a lot of writing projects, I started on a whim and before I knew it I had fifty or so pages and the start of a full-length novel that I really wanted to finish.

I’d also just read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. She does a beautiful job weaving her setting, Shaker Heights, Ohio, into her novel. I wanted to do something similar with my story. As I started writing Sweet Water the setting began to take on a life of its own, especially as I researched Sewickley and learned more about the executives who once owned estates there, most notably, B.F. Jones, a steel tycoon whose party home I used as inspiration for the residence of my main character. The home still stands today. I’m friends with the family of the previous owner, and have been inside the house which helped me create the immersive atmosphere I was striving for. Sewickley is the Native American translation for sweet water, and with all the water references in the book, it made for a perfect title as well.

sweet-wate-by-cara-reinard-cover

Sweet Water

by Cara Reinard

January 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

 

What did her son do in the woods last night? Does a mother really want to know?

It’s what Sarah Ellsworth dreamed of. Marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Martin. Living in a historic mansion in Pennsylvania’s most exclusive borough. And Finn, a teenage son with so much promise. Until…A call for help in the middle of the night leads Sarah and Martin to the woods, where they find Finn, injured, dazed, and weeping near his girlfriend’s dead body. Convinced he’s innocent, Sarah and Martin agree to protect their son at any cost and not report the crime.

But there are things Sarah finds hard to reconcile: a cover-up by Martin’s family that’s so unnervingly cold-blooded. Finn’s lies to the authorities are too comfortable, too proficient, not to arouse her suspicions. Even the secrets of the old house she lives in seem to be connected to the incident. As each troubling event unfolds, Sarah must decide how far she’ll go to save her perfect life.

Sweet Water Reviews:

“An unsparing account of ‘rich people problems’ that goes on forever, like all the best nightmares.” —Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Thriller, Crime Fiction
Published by: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: January 1st 2021
Number of Pages: 364
ISBN: 1542024935 (ISBN13: 978-1542024938)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Author - Cara Reinard

Cara Reinard is an author of women’s fiction and domestic. She currently lives north of Pittsburgh with her husband, two children, and Bernese mountain dog.

For more information, visit:
www.carareinard.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @CaraReinard
Twitter – @carareinard
Instagram – @carareinard
Facebook – Cara Reinard, Author

 

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Cara Reinard. There will be two (2) winners each receiving one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on January 1, 2021 and runs through February 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Spotlight: RACHEL TO THE RESCUE by Elinor Lipman

Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman
ISBN: 9781785632556 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781785632570 (ebook)
ASIN: B08LHG61N8   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lightning Books
Publication Date: October 16, 2020



Will Rachel Klein bring down the President? Or will he manage to do that all by himself?

Rachel Klein is sacked from her job at the White House after she sends an email criticizing Donald Trump. As she is escorted off the premises she is hit by a speeding car, driven by what the press will discreetly call ‘a personal friend of the President’.

Does that explain the flowers, the get-well wishes at a press briefing, the hush money offered by a lawyer at her hospital bedside?

Rachel’s recovery is soothed by comically doting parents, matchmaking room-mates, a new job as an aide to a journalist whose books aim to defame the President, and unexpected love at the local wine store.

But secrets leak, and Rachel’s new-found happiness has to make room for more than a little chaos. Will she bring down the President? Or will he manage to do that all by himself?

Rachel to the Rescue is a mischievous political satire, with a delightful cast of characters, from one of America’s funniest novelists.

Purchase Link #CommissionEarned:   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  BookDepository  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo eBook

Praise:


“A sweet, daffy comedy.” – Slate

“With the light, frothy touch that her fans have come to expect from her witty comedies, Lipman dreamily integrates the tastelessly tawdry world of the Trump administration with the upbeat buoyancy of modern love in this timely political satire.” – Booklist


Meet The Author:

Elinor Lipman is the author of 11 humorous novels about contemporary American society; essay and short story collections, and a book of rhyming political tweets. Born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts, she graduated from Simmons College where she studied journalism. She lives in Manhattan and received the New England Book award for fiction in 2001. Her first novel, Then She Found Me, was adapted for the screen, starring Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, and Matthew Broderick. Her fourth novel, The Inn at Lake Devine was adapted for the off-off-Broadway stage by Tongue in Cheek Theater. In 2011-2012, she held the Elizabeth Drew chair in creative writing at Smith College.


Connect to the author via her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.


This spotlight brought to you by Wunderkind PR.