Bookish Happenings & Social Media Mishaps

me-iiIt’s that time again for bookish happenings! Today, I am sharing a few things that have been going on in the world of blogging and at indieBRAG. We are completely drawn into the world of stories and the people who write them. Our passion is to share our love of reading, good reads and our hunt for them. Daily we are exploring social media and various book sites for the next great read.

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This week I was not able to post this post, yesterday. The reason is, I had a marvelous interview with author C.S. Harris on Thursday and so my Cover Crush was posted on Friday. Alas, no time like the present to publish bookish happenings! I few bookish things have been going on this week. I’ve added a few new books to my reading pile and have taken on a few more books to review. Which I need to slow down on that so I can catch up!

 Also, I have been interacting in a few conversations about content on social media. It has been enlightening to say the least. Ha!

For example:

Author Clare Mackintosh asked her followers on Facebook what we like to see authors post about/talk about on social media. My answer. “I am a book blogger and I work in the book industry. I follow and work with a lot of authors. I love it when an author draws themes from their story and post about that. I love the writing quotes and when they support book bloggers. Also, I love the interaction between the author and reader. What I don’t like is when authors post none stop about politics. I’ve seen it get ugly time and time again. One must be careful of that when promoting one’s brand. You can lose a lot of readers that way…”

Now, before you get in a tizzy about authors being citizens and all. I totally get that authors are citizens and have a voice and have the right to express themselves like everyone else. That is great and all, but just know you seriously run the risk of demolishing your “brand” by alienating potential readers and fans-if you’re insulting people for believing differently than you or posting none stop political posts. I don’t recommend doing that. Having said that, I do actually like some political posts-when they are intelligent, insightful and respectful.

Matter of fact, a couple of authors and I on Facebook were discussing talking about the parallels of historical and modern day politics from stories written. Now that was interesting!

I’d like to further add that talking about negative reviews on social media platforms is a bad idea. I don’t recommend it. Here’s why: While some-authors- mention about negative reviews are totally legit. (Meaning, some of the things people say in reviews that have no standing on the story is ridiculous and embarrassing!  I understand why the author would want to vent about it on Facebook to their “friends.”) Just consider you are even then taking a risk in doing so. Now, often times, I do see authors complaining about negative reviews (reviews that make sense) on social media, and it turns into a bully fest and then it carries over into bashing book bloggers/book reviewers in general. NOT cool at all. Here is my advice: Just don’t do it. Period. It does not complement you what-so-ever. On top of that, you run the risk of losing readers or potential book bloggers support and you need us. Just like we need your stories!

Just my two cents.

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Today I want to highlight my interview with C.S. Harris. She has written a story that I feel is the most important works of historical fiction I have read this year thus far. Check out the interview HERE.

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Here is a few of my fellow book blogger’s book highlights for the week! Be sure to check them out. These bloggers are dedicated to their craft of sharing stories and a big support to the book world. I highly recommend you follow their blogs.

in-a-dark-dark-woodColleen over at A Literary Vacation reviews, In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware HERE.

Magdalena over at, A Bookaholic Swede has a fun cover crush of, The Dastardly Miss Lizzie by Viola Carr HERE

Holly over at 2 Kids and Tired Books has a wonderful post called, Пятница Ponderings: He was an example to me HERE.

Heather over at The Maidens Court shares with us her Top 5: Non-Fiction Books Read HERE.

the-alice-networkErin over at Flashlight Commentary reviews a book I’m dying to get my hands on called, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn HERE.

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Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and enjoy your weekend! Happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

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be-frank-with-meReclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

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I am doing things a little different today. Since my exclusive interview with C.S. Harris was posted yesterday, I am posting my cover crush today. Tomorrow I will be sure to post my, Bookish Happenings post. I do have lots of interesting topics to talk about on that post. Be sure to come back to tomorrow for that! 

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit I first judge a book by its cover.

This cover really jumps out to me. I like the black and white with a touch of color. The male’s back facing us with his head down gives it a mystery feel as to what is going through his mind. At least I hope it’s a male? Anyhow, the premise sounds interesting and like unconventional stories and being pulled in by uncommon characters. So I am willing to give this a try sometime! I have added it to my to-read pile.

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and please look below for more great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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More Great Cover Crushes! 

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush: 

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

 

Interview with Best-Selling Author C.S. Harris

me-iiI’d like to welcome C. S. Harris today to talk with me about her new release, Good Time Coming, novel of the American Civil War. C.S. is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series and the standalone historical Good Time Coming. Under her own name, Candice Proctor, she is also the author of seven historical novels and a nonfiction historical study of women in the French Revolution. As C.S. Graham she writes the Tobie Guinness contemporary thriller series.

A Former academic with a PhD in European history, Candice has also worked as an archaeologist at a variety of sites around the world and spent much of her life abroad, living in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans with her husband, retired Army intelligence officer Steve Harris, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

Hi, Candice! Thank you for talking with me today about your newly release novel, Good Time Coming. It is a true honor to be talking about what I think is the most important work of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year and in a long time. Please tell your audience about the premise of your story?

c-s-harrisHi Stephanie, thanks so much, and thanks for having me! Good Time Coming is the story of Amrie St. Pierre, a young girl forced to grow up fast in Civil War-torn Louisiana. This is a side of war we don’t often hear about—the struggle faced by the women and children left alone to survive in the face of starvation, disease, and the ravages of an invading army. War looks very different when seen through the eyes of a child learning hard truths about personal strength, friendship, and the shades of good and evil that exist within us all.

Rarely do I hear people talking about what the women endured during this war. I believe many are uncomfortable talking about it for many reasons. Neither do many people realize the starvation that was taking place because of the blockades and soldiers taking food for their own needs. You really touched on this and I am glad you did. Were there any moments while writing about this that you thought that it might not be well received? Also, what were your own emotions about this while writing your story?

When I first started thinking about this book, I simply wanted to tell a story about a dramatic, compelling aspect of the Civil War I felt had been neglected for some strange reason. (Yes, you can call me naive!) I’d never lived in the South until I moved to New Orleans shortly before Katrina, so I had no idea just how horrible the war was for the women and children of Louisiana until I started reading their surviving letters, diaries, and memoirs. Although I’m a historian and therefore should have known more than most about the brutal realities of warfare, I was frankly stunned. I was also disturbed to realize just how effectively the truth has been glossed over and hidden.

All nations mythologize their past, but I have a sneaky suspicion Americans do it more than most. The brutal realities of our Civil War don’t fit well with the stories we Americans like to tell ourselves, so we tend to ignore them—or try to. Slavery was a vile institution, and anyone who tries to excuse it (as some, amazingly, still do) by saying most slaves were well treated hasn’t read the numerous extant journals and letters of the period, or the Slave Narratives from the Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project. The simple truth is that slaves worked because they were whipped. Full stop. And because a statistical percentage of any population has sociopathic tendencies, any institution that allows one group of people absolute power over others is a recipe for sadism. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the North did not go to war against the South to end slavery. Their war aim was to preserve the Union, and their motive was the same one that led to the Mexican-American War and the virtual extermination of the Native Americans. The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

But breaking that taboo and telling a story that portrays what really happened is dangerous for a writer. I knew the book would probably provoke discussion; I didn’t realize it would be so controversial that it would be hard to get published. As for its effects on me, writing this book was a wrenching, highly emotional experience. It’s a powerful story and I still cry when I reread it. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and I am not the same person I was before I started it—it was that life altering.

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I believe you have truly captured the diversity of people and social standings and showed different views of the war in a concise way. The attitudes of the war and government were so complex. It wasn’t as straightforward as people would like to believe. Without giving too much away will you tell your audience a little about how you portrayed people’s attitudes during that time?

I carefully studied the people who were living in St. Francisville and Bayou Sara before the war and made a determined effort to be true to their profiles (many of the minor characters in the book are real historical figures). A surprising number of residents were recent immigrants either from the North or Europe. There were a few wealthy, large plantation owners, but most people were small farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen who owned no slaves. Some, inevitably, were eager for war (as was the case at the outbreak of WWI, most people assumed the war would be over quickly and their side was sure to win). Many were swept up in a patriotic fervor that sounds eerily similar to that of the Revolution. Others, like Amrie’s father, opposed secession but felt compelled to step forward and defend their homes and families. And some, like Amrie’s uncle, a West Point graduate, made the agonizing decision to remain in the Union army and fight their own people.

And then there’s the fact that a huge percentage of the people in the area were enslaved. The antebellum South was also home to over a quarter of a million gens de couleur libres or “free people of color.” Louisiana, especially, had a large population of free African-Americans. Some owned plantations and slaves themselves. Some formed units that fought for the Confederacy; others formed the Corps d’Afrique and fought for the Union. As the war continued and more and more slaves walked off the plantations, those numbers increased.

The longer the war went on, life became increasingly desperate, and society simply broke down. What happened to the people of the area during those years had repercussions that lasted for generations. For many decades after the Civil War, the Feliciana Parishes (in Louisiana, the civil administrative districts known elsewhere as counties are called parishes) had by far the highest murder rate in the country—higher even than the wild, wild West! To be frank, in a very real sense I don’t think it has recovered yet.

What are some emotional triggers for Amrie and her mother and how do they act on them?

One of the things that made the war particularly hard on Southern women was the fact that nineteenth-century Southern culture really did treat women differently—and expected them to behave differently. For example, it was not unusual for women in the North to become schoolteachers and nurses, but that was not true in the South; in fact, it was powerfully discouraged. So when the men all marched off to war (and died at a shocking rate: something like a quarter of the male population) it was even more of a stretch for their women to take over the farms and start running shops. Amrie St. Pierre is what we would today call a tomboy, while her mother defied expectations as a young woman by attending medical lectures in New Orleans (women were allowed to attend lectures even though they could not be licensed as doctors). Yet despite these advantages, they still face enormous hardships in an increasingly dangerous world. And of course one of the truths this story confronts is the reality of rape in war and how Southern women handled that. Two important themes are women finding strengths they don’t know they possess, and the bonds that can form amongst a community of women undergoing hardship together.

Please tell us a little about the supporting characters.

One of the most interesting characters for me to write was Amrie’s mother, Kate St. Pierre. At the beginning of the book Amrie sees her the way all children tend to see their mothers, with little understanding of the hardships and strains Kate is facing. But as the war goes on and Amrie grows up, their relationship subtly shifts, and Amrie begins to realize just how much there is to admire about her mother—and the ways in which they are and are not alike. The mother-daughter dynamic is always a powerful one, and when it is played out against the strains of war and extreme hardship, it’s fascinating.

A very different character is Adelaide Dunbar, Amrie’s grandmother. Adelaide is a hard woman who has done some terrible things in her life (Amrie discovers just how terrible as the story progresses), and yet she has an inner grit that can’t help but inspire respect. She forms a distinct contrast to Castile Boudreaau, a freed slave who serves as something of a mentor to Amrie. He’s an evolved soul who has already lived through so much pain and hardship that he has the calm and wisdom that Amrie lacks—and sorely needs as the war progresses. I could go on and on, talking about Finn, Amrie’s childhood friend, and Hilda Meyers, the enigmatic German shopkeeper; they’re all so real to me that since I’ve finished the book I find I miss them the way you miss friends you haven’t seen in a while.

For those who are not familiar with Civil War battle sites like Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, and Camp Moore, could you talk a little about that?

It’s hard to overstate the strategic importance of the Mississippi River in the Civil War. The Union knew that if they could take the river, they would effectively cut the Confederacy in two and stop the influx of cattle, horses, and other vital supplies coming into the South from Texas. Once New Orleans fell, the last two Confederate strongholds on the river were Port Hudson and Vicksburg, which became the scenes of horrific sieges. The once prosperous town of St. Francisville and its port, Bayou Sara, lay in between the two, so they suffered grievously from the depredations of Union troops trying to overrun both those two fortifications and Camp Moore, an important Confederate training ground that lay just to the east. The entire area was constantly raided and burned, and guerilla attacks on Union supply lines led to brutal acts of retaliation against area civilians. The things done to the women and children of Louisiana were abominable.

This is a big leap from your Regency England St. Cyr series. What prompted you to write this story and will there be any more like this from you? I hope so!

One of the hazards of keeping a series going for years and years is that there’s a risk of the writer becoming complacent or bored working always with the same characters, setting, and types of stories. For a while I was also writing a contemporary thriller series (under the name C. S. Graham), but I’m a slow writer and it almost killed me trying to keep two series going at the same time. So for me, standalones like this are a better solution.

I’ve actually wanted to write this book for over a decade, ever since I wrote a historical mystery set in occupied New Orleans (Midnight Confessions: currently out of print but due to be reissued soon under my real name, Candice Proctor). That’s when I first learned something about how hard the war had been on the civilian population of Louisiana, and I started thinking about looking at those events through the unblinkingly honest eyes of a child. Then Katrina hit, and one of the ways I survived those first horrible months of living in a devastated city was by reminding myself of how the residents of other destroyed cities throughout history pulled together to survive and rebuild. And that experience put a new spin on the story I wanted to tell.

I’m currently writing a novella set in Kent during World War II that will be part of an anthology by four authors called The Jacobite’s Watch. This is a new venture for me in two ways: it’s a time period I’ve never tried before, and I’ve never written a novella. I do think it’s important for a writer to keep challenging herself.

How would your characters describe you?

Ha! That’s an interesting question. I guess it would depend on the character. Amrie and I have much in common—she has a lot of my faults along with a number of characteristics I’d like to have but don’t. Ironically it wasn’t until I was reading the galleys for the published book that I realized Amrie’s mother is in many ways a blending of my own mother and grandmother with parts of me, too. I suspect all writers do this—put parts of themselves in their characters, including parts they don’t have but wish they did.

How much time and research did you spend on Good Time Coming and what was the process in getting a publisher to take it on?

I researched this book for years. I read hundreds of letters, memoirs, and journals, along with countless histories on various aspects of the war. I visited the historic sites that are important in the story—Port Hudson and Camp Moore, Jackson and the site of the vanished town of Bayou Sara. I even bought a weekend house not far from St. Francisville, between Jackson and Clinton! I went to Civil War battle reenactments, toured plantations and slave quarters, and spent days and days in dusty museums learning everything I could about how things were done and what objects actually looked like. And then I sat down and wrote the manuscript in five months in a white heat of eighteen-hour days, seven days a week. I’m normally a painfully slow writer, but this book just came pouring out of me.

Because I’d never written anything like this before—a coming-of-age story told from the first person viewpoint of a young girl—I was more than a bit apprehensive about my ability to do the story justice. But I honestly believe it is the best book I have ever written, and my agent was so excited when I sent it to her. Then she sent it out, and we received the most glowing, lyrical rejection letters ever penned. The problem was the subject matter—the effect of the Civil War on Southern civilians, plus, oddly, the issue of rape. New York editors were afraid to touch it. There’s a reason this book was published in England.

What do you feel is the importance of historical fiction?

As a professional historian, I find it frightening how little so many people know about the past. History has so much to teach us, not only about past events but also about human nature. As the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme (a truism attributed to Mark Twain although he actually wrote something slightly different). For those who may not enjoy reading nonfiction histories, well-researched historical fiction offers an accessible window to the past.

Who are your influences?

I’ve long believed that the books we read as children influence us the most, and as a child I read Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Alexandre Dumas. Plus we lived in Europe when I was young, and our weekends and summers were spent crawling around crumbling castles, abbeys, and Roman ruins. So it’s no surprise I grew up fascinated by history, and that when I started writing I gravitated to historicals.

Other writers that undoubtedly had an influence on this book are James Lee Burke, both because of his insight into human nature and his lyrically beautiful prose, and of course Harper Lee. It’s impossible to write about a young girl coming of age in the South without consciously or unconsciously referencing Scout.

When writing, do you use visuals to give you inspiration?

I’ve never been one of those writers who makes collages with photos of characters, houses, clothes, etc. But I do like to go to the places I’ll be writing about and look at objects—a Civil War surgeon’s instruments, for example, or a real nineteenth-century homemade bow (I was so excited when I actually found one hanging on the wall of an outbuilding of a St. Francisville plantation house; they were common in the South in the years after the Civil War because former Confederate soldiers were not allowed to own guns).  I tramped all over the extensive battlefields of Fort Hudson, waded through the swamps of Cat Island, and stood in St. Francisville’s churchyard to watch the annual reenactment of what they call the Day the War Stopped (a commemoration of the time Federal and Confederate Masons joined together to give a Union captain a Masonic funeral). When I sit down to write, those are the things I draw on.

What is your writing process and how much time during the day do you write?

I do the bulk of my research before I start writing because I find my plots and characters grow out of what I’m reading and learning. I’ve heard some authors say they plot first and then research only what they need as they’re writing, so they don’t “waste time” learning what they’ll never use. The problem with that approach is that it risks turning history into mere window dressing. When I’m writing, if I come upon something I need but don’t know, I will stop and look it up. I’ve spent half a day chasing down information to get one word right—it’s the hazard of having been a history professor.

Ever since Katrina (when I had no choice) I’ve learned to love writing my books by hand in a legal pad. Recent studies have shown that there is something about holding a pen that stimulates the creative parts of your brain, so I’m not just imagining it. When I finish a chapter, I type it up, print it out, then find a comfortable chair to reread and edit. I constantly go back and edit the chapters I’ve written, so that by the time I finish a manuscript it is virtually in its final state. Yet I have a good friend who composes entirely on her computer, never edits until she’s finished, and never prints out her manuscripts. À chacun son goût.

As for how much of my day I spend on writing, I feel as if I’m always working, that I’m never free to just relax the way someone with a 9-5 job can. The problem with working for yourself is that you feel as if you should always be working. And yet because you’re operating on this long deadline—in my case, usually a year to write a 440-page manuscript—it’s all too easy to waste time, to tell yourself you need to think more about your plot or that the article about sociopaths you want to read is “research.” And then there’s the Internet. Publishers push their writers to be active on Facebook and Twitter, but I think it’s a mistake—soooo many writers I know are now locked in a constant battle against the distraction of social media. It’s a huge time sink.

There was a time I was rigorously self-disciplined. Now, not so much.

What is up next for you?

The twelfth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, Where the Dead Lie, will be out in April 2017, and I’ve almost finished #13 (which unfortunately still doesn’t have a title). Then I’ll be moving on to #14, which does have a title: Who Slays the Wicked (love that title!). The anthology with the World War II novella I mentioned will probably be out in 2018. And I’ve also been revising four of my out-of-print historicals; they should all be available early next year.

Where can readers buy your books?

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is available in virtually all outlets in the States and online elsewhere. Good Time Coming is available in hardcover and e-book through various outlets online and can also be ordered through independent bookstores.

Author Links:

Website

Twitter:  @csharris2

Facebook

Amazon

 

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Lisa Brunette

me-iiI’d like to welcome back two time B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Brunette today to talk about her award winning book, Framed and Burning. Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne du Maurier and Taylor Caldwell. 

A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.

Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.

With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Hi, Lisa! Thank you for chatting with me today. First, I HAVE to ask you how you came up with the name “Dreamslippers” for your series.

lisa-brunette-ii-bragThat’s a great question. Before I published the first book in the series, Cat in the Flock, I’d been mulling over what to call the psychic dreaming gift that my characters possess. I had used the phrase “slip into your dreams,” and one of my BETA readers, Chrysanne Westin, suggested I call it “dreamslipping.” When I released the first book with the old cover (which my husband and I designed) in July of 2014, it ran under the series title “McCormick Files,” after protagonist Cat’s last name. But when I updated with a professional cover, I decided at that point to call it the Dreamslippers Series. It’s perfect for a family of sleuths with the unique but limited ability to slip into other people’s dreams.

Tell me about Framed and Burning. By the way, I love the title.

Thank you. I agonized over the title for quite some time, testing a few with BETA readers. I settled on Framed and Burning because, like the title for book one, it contains a double entendre. Someone gets framed in the book, and there’s a lot of different kinds of burning in the book, that of the fire in the first scene but also burning ambition, passion, truth… The story opens with a fire in Mick’s studio, killing his assistant, Donnie Hines. The evidence shows its arson, and the police suspect Mick. His sister and grand-niece are PIs, and they work to clear his name.

By the way, it used to be part of my job description to name mystery games at Big Fish; I’ve named hundreds of games. It’s never easy, but it can be fun!

Will you give me a little background on Mick Travers?

Sure! He’s often the only dude in the room, since my series is very female-centric. Mick is a fellow dreamslipper, but he uses the images he picks up from other people’s dreams as inspiration for his art. His older sister, Amazing Grace, and his grand-niece, Cat McCormick, use it to solve crimes.

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How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

Mick is very jaded after living most of his life in Miami, which can be a plastic-y, materialistic place. Grace is a dyed-in-the-wool Seattleite: politically liberal, spiritually open, self-directed, and very DIY. Cat is like a lot of people from the Midwest: practical, skeptical, grounded. But she’s also adventurous and curious, which draws her to the other two locations.

What are the habits of your protagonist?

Grace’s habits form the basis for much of Cat’s apprenticeship. Grace is a lifelong yoga devotee, a practitioner of several different spiritual paths, including Buddhism and New Thought, and she regularly meditates. In book three, she takes up a holistic, barefoot dance practice called Nia. And she does all of this in her 70s! You can tell I have a lot of fun with her. Cat is a Millennial who’s tied to her tech, never without her cell phone and adept at online research. But she allows her grandmother to take her under her wing, learning the value of yogic breathing, for example, and using it.

How long did it take to write your story, and what was your process? Did your process for this book change from Cat and the Flock?

Framed and Burning came out in a rush over two months. But that was just the first draft. I spent another six months polishing it. My process for Cat in the Flock was much different, as I took two years to craft the story, but I was working 50-70-hour weeks at my day job during that time and couldn’t concentrate on it as much as I did with Framed and Burning.

Tell me a little about the quirky Miami art world in your story. What does art mean to you, personally?

I didn’t grow up around art or museums, but as soon as I left home and was free to explore on my own, I made art discovery a priority, visiting museums in every city I went to and covering my walls with inexpensive art poster prints. In college, I made it part of my curriculum in American Studies, and I worked for a time at the St. Louis Art Museum (selling memberships), where I spent hours staring at paintings, especially in the modern and contemporary galleries, coming to think of them as my friends. My first husband was an artist who worked out of our home, so I was surrounded by paint and canvases for eleven years, with artists of all types traipsing in and out, and I acquired numerous pieces of my own through that experience.

That doesn’t really answer your question, though, does it? I guess you could say I fell in love with art on my own first—and then I fell for an artist. Even though the ex and I have been apart now for seven years, the art is very much still with me.

Who designed your book cover?

I work with Monika Younger, a super pro with more than a decade of experience designing covers for Harlequin (both their romance and mystery lines). I highly recommend her.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just launched the third book in the series, Bound to the Truth. It’s about the murder of a brilliant Seattle architect. Her widow hires Cat and Grace to investigate a man she suspects as the killer, a well-known conservative radio talk show host.

Thank you, Lisa! It was a pleasure chatting with you!

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lambert Nagle who is the author of, REVOLUTION EARTH, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, REVOLUTION EARTH, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Book Review: Dead Silence (Stillwater Trilogy #1) by Brenda Novak

dead-silenceThere’s a body buried behind a Mississippi farmhouse

Grace Montgomery knows who it is, and she knows why it happened. She was only thirteen the night it all went wrong. And now, like then, she has no choice but to keep her mouth shut.

Grace left the town of Stillwater thirteen years ago, trying to forget, trying to make good. As an assistant D.A. in Jackson, she’s finally achieved the success that was supposed to change her life. But it hasn’t so she’s come back to confront her own history. Which means returning to the farmhouse now owned by her brother and facing the people of Stillwater, a number of whom suspect the truth.

Widower Kennedy Archer is one of those people. He’s running for mayor and needs to stay as far away from Grace as possible. And yetshe’s an enigma he can’t resist. Even though her enemies are close to finding out what really happened and that could ruin them both.

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me-iiMy thoughts:

I connected with Brenda Novak a few years ago on Facebook and even though I followed her post, I hadn’t read her books. Until recently. Dead Silence is the third book I have read by her and I must say, she writes a heck of a story. Having said that, I am not a romance reader or reviewer. Sometimes I make an allowance. The story has to have more than just romance and the plot has to be solid. I do love a good crime thriller and mystery, so her stories fit that bill nicely. I also have to admire how she is not heavy on the romance but gives you realistic relationship situations.

Dead Silence is the first book in the Stillwater Trilogy and I’m really looking forward to the next book. I think what first appealed to me about this book was the setting. As a southerner myself, I am always on the lookout for stories that take place in the South. The second thing that drew my attention was the premise. A body buried on a farm and the family is trying to forget but how can they when the body is buried on their property and they know why? One of the family members Grace-who was probably affected the most-left years ago to only return and face the secrets her family tried to bury along with the body and a town who is suspicious of what happened. Now that makes for a great story!

When she returned to town, she did not expect to stay long or get find a connection in the most likely of men-Widower Kennedy Archer. I enjoyed their interaction and how they come to grips with their problems and how their relationship develops. I look forward to reading more about them in the next book and will be cheering for them!

Last but not least, I really thought Novak did a great job with the supporting characters and they really enriched the story and I thought the small town feel she gives you was perfectly told.

I rated this book three and a half stars!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Manic Monday & Bookish Happenings

me-iiAs we all know Mondays can be pretty manic but nonetheless I was looking forward to it. Why? Because I want to share all my bookish happening for last week and over the weekend! What can be more exciting for a book blogger? Well, besides reading books and discovering new books to read. Every single day!

Today I am combining two post. Last week- due to the Holidays- I did not post Bookish Happenings. However, last week was a great Thanksgiving at indieBRAG with lots of wonderful guest post from our award winning authors. Be sure to check them out here.

In the last week and over the weekend I received several ARC’s from NetGalley and I am so excited about them. Here is the list:

  1. Bardwell’s Folly: A Love Story by Sandra Hutchinson
  2. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  3. The kaiser’s Last Kiss by Alan Judd
  4. Out of Reach by Elizabeth McGregor
  5. His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James.

For my reading pleasure this week I am hoping to get to, A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain. Julie is one of my favorite new authors and I have had the pleasure chatting with her about her first book last year.

a-twist-in-time-ii

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Here is a few of my fellow book blogger’s book highlights from last week! Be sure to check them out. These bloggers are dedicated to their craft of sharing stories and a big support to the book world. I highly recommend you follow their blogs. #supportbookbloggers

return-to-taylors-crossing-iiHeather’s interview with award winning author Janie Dempsey Watts at Maiden’s Court, here.

Colleen’s book review of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins at A Literary Vacation, here.

Magdalena’s book review of The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin at A Bookacholic Swede, here.

Erin’s book review of The battle of Seattle by Douglas Bond at Flashlight Commentary, here.

all-i-want-for-christmasHolly’s All I Want for Christmas…Review at 2 Kids and Tired Books, here.

And my feature Layered Pages post from last week, Wish-List 5: A little of This & A little of That, here.

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Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today. It is always a treat to be able to talk about books with you all. Be sure to stay tuned all week long for more great posts. Happy reading and God Bless.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush: To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery by Gail MacColl

to-marry-an-english-lordTo Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery by Gail MacColl

From the Gilded Age until 1914, more than 100 American heiresses invaded Britannia and swapped dollars for titles–just like Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, the first of the Downton Abbey characters Julian Fellowes was inspired to create after reading To Marry An English Lord. Filled with vivid personalities, gossipy anecdotes, grand houses, and a wealth of period details–plus photographs, illustrations, quotes, and the finer points of Victorian and Edwardian etiquette–To Marry An English Lord is social history at its liveliest and most accessible.

 

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My thoughts on the cover. Title and premise:

I’ve said this before and I will say it again. I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit I first judge a book by its cover.

I am no means a romance reader. Having said that, I will make certain allowances to that and I think this story has much more than the usual romance we often find in books. The title and cover caught my attention. I love the elegance of the cover and the soft colors. The dress is absolutely stunning. The cover kind-of reminds me of Downton Abby a little and I do adore reading stories from the Gilded Age. When I read the premise, I thought, “Yes, this looks right up my alley.” I am definitely adding this to my wish-list.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush: 

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!