Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Author Feature: Liana Laverentz

Current Read: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Please welcome today's featured author, Liana Laverentz!

Tell us about your new release, Ashton's Secret.

Ashton’s Secret is the story of a woman who knows what she believes in her heart, and isn’t going to stop asking questions until she gets some answers that make sense about the death of her sister five years earlier. Unfortunately, the only person who can help her refuses to for reasons of his own. Here’s the blurb:

From the moment he'd caught her snooping in the loft of his barn-turned-garage, Meghan Edwards knew Nicholas Hawkinson was the man she’d been looking for. Given his unfriendly attitude, unshaven face and the Harley hidden in the shadows, she was willing to bet this was the man her sister Heather had referred to as Hawk. But would this dark, secretive stranger help her solve the mystery of her sister's death?

Nicholas Hawkinson wanted nothing to do with the city-girl photographer who asked too many questions. He'd had his share of trouble five years ago when the people of Ashton had been so quick to accuse him of murdering Heather. The townsfolk still considered him the town's black sheep, a bad boy at best and a killer who got away with it at most. Both he and Meghan would be better off if they went their separate ways and never spoke of Heather again.

All of Ashton saw Nick as a dangerous man. But Meghan was trained to observe, and it didn’t take long to find the pain of betrayal and unexpected gentleness he hid behind his hard stare. Her sister was dead, and Meghan knew it wasn't suicide. So did Nick. Whether he liked it or not, he was the only one who could help her now. And Meghan wasn't leaving Ashton until she'd unraveled this sleepy little town's secret--or died trying.


Sounds great! You and I met through a mutual friend and realized our heroes are both "Jakes". Would you like to tell us a little about your Jake's story?

Jake in Jake’s Return is the story of a small town bad boy who keeps running from the woman he loves. The only person in the world who believes in him one hundred percent. He’s so determined not to ruin her life that he doesn’t realize he IS her life, by virtue of her love for him and the daughter he never knew he had. Even when he learns about their daughter, he still feels its best to stay away, to protect them from the taint of his past. But as stubborn as Jake can be, Rebecca is even more stubborn, and in the end he realizes his own worth, and the value of a good woman who will stand by him through thick and thin. Here’s the blurb for Jake’s Return:

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.
Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.
But who is Jake now? That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.
Jake’s been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?


Another one for my to-be-read pile. :0) You've had some interesting experiences with collaging. Would you tell us a little more about that?

I’ve done three poster-size collages. The first was when a friend and fellow author I get together for lunch with occasionally showed up at my house with a huge box of magazines and said, “Today we’re going to rip pages out of magazines.” Just rip them out, anything that speaks to you, don’t stop to think about it. Then, she left me with some poster board and glue and said, “Make a collage of all the things you’d like to bring into your life.” I finally finished it a few months later, just before we got together for lunch again—nothing like a deadline to get a project done—and after an hour and a half of arranging and gluing, framed it and put it up on the wall.

About three years later, I was looking at it one day, and realized that everything in there had indeed appeared in my life. The realization was staggering. In the interim, I’d done another collage, about a relationship I was in, and how I wanted that to work out. Again, everything in the collage had appeared in my life and my relationship. Spooky, I know. So at the beginning of this year, I created a third one, again with the theme of things I wanted to bring into my life. I didn’t like the first version I laid out, so I tried again, using the art of Feng Shui. Wow. What a difference. There are nine sections in the collage. For prosperity, fame, career success, relationship success, good health, friends, family, creativity and wisdom. I’ve yet to see how it all turns out, but based on the success of the other two, I’m feeling optimistic . If you want to see a picture of it, go to http://lianalaverentz.blogspot.com/2009/01/create-collage-for-2009.html

I've been gathering pictures for months. I'm going to work on the actual collage today - try a little experiment of my own. :0) Your take on balancing life is inspiring! I'd love for you to share a bit about it.

My main theme in balance is to set your priorities and do nothing that doesn’t fall in line with one of your priorities. I’ve whittled my list down to seven priorities, which I review periodically and change as needed. Without resorting to list-making, I try to hit each priority twice a week at a minimum. These could include spending time with friends and family, making soup, exercising, meditation and prayer, reading, doing things that are good for me, that refuel me mind, heart, body and soul. Then, by the end of the week, when I look back at what I’ve done, I can see I got a lot more done than I thought I did, and it’s all fairly balanced. For more information, go to my Musings page and read my article on Finding Your Balance. http://www.lianalaverentz.com/musings.html
I also do a weekly chat on Balance at The Bookspa Yahoo Loop on Tuesdays and anyone is welcome to stop by and join in. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thebookspa/
I do the same the first Thursday of each month over at the Long and Short Romance Reviews Yahoo Group.
The next chat there is tomorrow, July 2 . For more information on any of this, go to http://www.lianalaverentz.com/

Give us three words your friends or family use to describe you?

My faith-sharing group once described me as honest, loyal and dedicated to self-improvement. We had to each write on a piece of paper three words we would use to describe each member, and those were the words that came up the most for me.

And three words you use to describe you?

Kind, caring and compassionate. I’ve got a real soft heart, and I’m always trying to look at both sides of any situation. My motto is seek first to understand, then to be understood.

How do you define your writing?

I write about real people facing real issues, and try to make my characters as compelling as possible. The stories may have a dark side to them, but they’re also stories of love, hope, and forgiveness. I’ve found a recurring theme in my books is that one character has a family he or she doesn’t get along with or appreciate, and the other has none and longs for one. In Jake’s Return, however, neither of them had a family to speak of, and so they had to create their own.

Interesting - I love stories about characters searching for family (in whatever shape and form that may take). What are you working on right now?

I’m working on some ideas for a new romantic suspense story. I love romance, and I love suspense. I think I’d like to try inspirational suspense, so I’m reading a lot of those, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t. I’m also working on a non-fiction book on women’s health and wellness, PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) in particular. As part of my research, I’m looking for stories from others who either have or live with/love someone who has PMDD. For the details please go to http://lianalaverentz.blogspot.com/2009/06/day-in-life-of-someone-with-pmdd.html then email me with your story. Thanks!

What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?

Summer tends to blow by me. But every chance I get, I like to attend an ethnic festival and or outdoor concert. We’ve been to some amazing street concerts, and I make it a point to get to a concert at the Chautauqua Institution at least once a year, usually around my birthday. I also enjoy locally grown strawberries and cherries and peaches, so I tend to visit those festivals, as well. I just love the food and the atmosphere.

Happy summer birthday! If I remember correctly, you're going to offer a copy of Jake's Return in a drawing?

Yes, an autographed print copy of Jake’s Return. What I’d really like to hear are ways people try to balance their lives. I’d like to know people are out there trying, not just getting swept away by their to-do lists. Make them stop and think a moment, maybe plan something special just for them and possibly their loved ones. Then I’ll just pick a winner from the comments if that’s okay. An idea that sounds like a lot of fun.
So, you heard Liana, people. Let us know how you balance your lives, and you'll be entered in the contest! Thanks to Liana for joining us today and thanks to all of the AH readers!

Congratulations to...


Robyn, I forwarded your mailing address to Liana so Jake's Return will be headed your way shortly!

Thanks, everyone, for joining in the conversation!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh, Hail!

Current Read: Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

This was supposed to post yesterday, but I messed up the scheduling. Oops!

Anyhoo, I was whining last week about the hail storm we got here in Colorado so I thought I'd share pictures. I wish I had some before pictures...of course, pre-hail I kept thinking, "I should take some pictures of the yard. It's looking so good!" Too late now.

The damage to our backyard in no way compares to the loss those hit by hurricanes or tornados or floods experience, but it did give me a tiny glimpse into the desolation I would guess they feel.

The hail broke chunks off my square pot.

Look at the leaves littering the patio.

This poor Black-eyed Susan was stripped of its leaves. Amazingly the one next to it didn't suffer as much damage.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...Wait! It's June!

This is one of the golf ball size hail stones my children "salvaged" and put in our freezer (see below).

I do have to say the storm gave me a nice little creative burst. It inspired a scene in my vineyard manuscript!

The following morning my husband and I were having coffee before he left for work like we always do. We were wandering the yard, feeling a bit sick to our stomachs, when we noticed four house finch babies hanging out in our lilacs, cheeping and chittering like crazy. It made me smile in a circle-of-life kind of way. My plants will grow back and rebloom and, in the meantime, the neighborhood birds will still hang out in our backyard.

Have you ever lived through a crazy storm? What was it like? Were you able to find good things before, during or after?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Trailers for Your Viewing Pleasure

Current Read: Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Happy Monday! Here are a few book trailers for your viewing pleasure

Friday, June 12, 2009

Contest Winner

Compliments of Random.org our winner is...


Congratulations! Email me at Tiffany@TiffanyJames.net and At Her Command will be zinging your way through cyberspace!!

Once more a big thank you to Marcia and all of you for joining us! See you next week and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Author Feature: Marcia James

Current Read: Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Today I'm pleased to welcome colleague and friend, Marcia James!

*** Big round of AH applause ****

So, Marcia, one of your stories, “Rescue Me”, is part of the Tails of Love anthology that just came out this month. Tell us about “Rescue Me”.

In “Rescue Me”, ex-quarterback Adam “Nuke” Baumgardner saves a starving stray, and Buddy, the Chinese crested hairless dog, returns the favor by reuniting him with his lost love, veterinarian Claire Mendelsohn. Reviewers have described the story as heartwarming and humorous. One of the reasons I enjoy including “crestie” dogs in my stories is I love the comic contrast between a tough, Alpha-male hero and a tiny dog. And I’m a sucker for a pet who’s also a matchmaker. By the way, I have an excerpt of “Rescue Me” on my Web site’s Books page: http://www.marciajames.net/books.html

I checked it out and it's great! How did you get involved in the Tails of Love project?

Tails of Love (Berkley, June 2009) is NY Times bestselling author Lori Foster’s pet project, pun intended, and she invited me to donate a story to the anthology. I was thrilled to be asked. Lori supports many charities and spearheads a benefit anthology each year. 100% of the author and agent proceeds from Tails of Love will go to the Animal Adoption Foundation, a no-kill animal shelter in Hamilton County, OH. Lori contributed a story to the anthology, along with mine and those of award-winning and bestselling authors Kate Angell, Stella Cameron, Dianne Castell, Anne Christopher, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder. Each of the stories features an animal--from dogs and cats to a goat and a monkey. Lori created a cute book trailer for Tails of Love that I have on my Web site: http://www.marciajames.net/index.html

What's next from Marcia James?

The first in a comic romantic mystery series I’m writing, featuring a sex therapist/amateur sleuth, is with Berkley Publishing. The heroine “writes” a sex advice column on my Web site (http://marciajames.net/QandA/). Dorchester and Sourcebooks have requested the manuscript I’m finishing--a funny contemporary set in a clothing-optional Caribbean resort. Beyond Tails of Love, I don’t have a release date for my next book. There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in publishing.

You're not kidding. But how exciting for you! Tell us seven things we couldn't possibly know about you.

I have a list of “fun facts” on my Web site’s bio page (http://www.marciajames.net/bio.html), and the following is from that:

1. As a volunteer at charity events, I’ve met a lot of celebrities, including Tom Selleck, Paul Newman, Michael York, and Bob Hope. I have photos with some of the stars on my site (

2. My wedding was covered by People Magazine because we encouraged our guests to donate to charity vs. giving us wedding presents.

3. I worked as a sound technician for an NBC-TV affiliate in Maryland. (This was a challenge, given the weather girl’s sometimes salty language.)

4. I was a movie extra in a church scene for the War and Remembrance miniseries. (The part required 1940s dress, hairstyle and make-up but no acting, thank goodness.)

5. I participated in a March of Dimes Celebrity downhill ski race in Big Bear, CA. My team captain was Olympic gold medal pole vaulter, Bob Seagren.

6. I wrote, produced and directed training videos for the U.S. Navy. We videotaped aboard nuclear subs, a minesweeper, a destroyer and a tender.

7. I once asked actor David Niven, who was appearing on The Charlie Rose Show, what Scotsmen wear under their kilts. (The answer? Nothing.)

Hahaha, that's an amazing list! What's the craziest place you've found inspiration?

Before I moved to Ohio, I worked in video production in Washington, D.C. I was involved in shooting a Chinese beer commercial and learned firsthand how difficult it is to get the necessary filming permits from the various federal and D.C. agencies who have jurisdiction over the nation’s capital. That lack of interagency cooperation gave me the idea for my first book, At Her Command (http://www.marciajames.net/books.html). The premise question for that comic romantic suspense: What might happen if the DEA, FBI, and D.C. police unknowingly put operatives undercover at the same sex club? The comic and sensual possibilities were endless. ;-D It was a fun book to write.

I'll bet. You've had a lot of varied experiences (jobs, travels, etc.). How do those experiences contribute to your writing?

As a freelance video producer/scriptwriter and advertising copywriter, I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects for corporations, nonprofit organizations, government, and the military. That gives me a lot of experiences to draw from when I write my contemporary romances. And the sense of humor I’ve needed to deal with many of the personalities I’ve encountered serves me well when writing hot, humorous fiction.

What's your best marketing advice for new authors?

My best advice is not to ignore the business side of publishing when learning the craft of fiction writing. Learn about promotion and branding before you sell. Once you’re a published author, choose those self-promotion options that work best with your budget, time constraints, books, and personality. I present author PR online workshops (check my site’s Schedule page for upcoming workshops: http://www.marciajames.net/schedule.html), and I see how stressed authors can get from attempting to do too much promotion or the types of promotion that don’t come easily for them--such as a technologically challenged person like myself trying to learn Web design. Since authors’ Web sites are our most valuable promotional tool, it’s important the sites look professional. I also recommend understanding what your brand is and making sure your Web site and PR materials reinforce your brand. Jenn Stark is the go-to person on author branding, and she has information on her site (http://www.jennstark.com/branding.aspx) to help authors determine their brands.

Great advice! I can't wait to take your PR class in September. If you could invent a new holiday, what would it be and why?

I’d establish “Read a Romance Week” for people who have never tried a wonderful, feel-good romance. It’s ironic that most of the people who denigrate romance novels have never tried one--at least not in this century. In addition, I could definitely get behind a “Support Your Local Author Day”. ;-)

Love both of those. :0) What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?

I’m not a beach person, but I definitely enjoy relaxing with my husband on our patio after dinner, reading a good book and watching the chipmunks and rabbits who like to hang out in our back yard. I also enjoy road trips through Ohio and neighboring states, especially when we come across small-town street fairs and yard sales. And year-round I like to get out from behind my computer to meet friends for lunch. Writing is a solitary job, so I enjoy socializing online, on the phone, and in-person.

I'm a backyard hanger-outer myself! I'm so sad - our plants got stripped last evening during a gargantuan hail storm. I'll post pictures on Friday...

Thank you so much for being here, Marcia!

AHers, a copy of Marcia's book At Her Command is up for grabs today. Comment, ask questions, just let us know what you're thinking for your chance to win! The winner will be announced Friday in a new blog post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Second Life: A Place for Readers and Writers to Mingle

This is a picture of an author salon I attended last month in Second Life. You can just see me back in the corner on the left near the Soul of a Highlander poster. What is Second Life, you ask? It's a virtual world where you can do almost anything you do in "real" life. Most exciting, in my opinion, are the opportunities it presents to meet other readers and our favorite authors.

Getting started in Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com/) is relatively easy. You download it to your computer and create an account. It's free, and I haven't had any problems with viruses. You choose a generic avatar then, once you're in-world, you can get clothes, accessories, tattoos, basically anything you desire to personalize your avatar. You can also stick with the newbie avatar until you feel ready to "get a makeover". I just got mine yesterday. :0) The currency in Second Life is called Linden dollars, but there are many free items out there, so don't feel like you have to purchase Linden dollars right away.

Yesterday yours truly, along with two of my colleagues and friends, Melissa Mayhue (http://www.melissamayhue.com/) and Elaine Levine (http://www.elainelevine.com/), were interviewed in Second Life at a show for readers called Off the Shelf. You can listen to the interview here if you're interested: http://www.archive.org/details/OffTheShelf-Episode0007 . The Off the Shelf gang is an active group of readers who have interests that span the genres. They hang out at Bookstacks.

Another great way to mingle with authors is at author salons hosted by Melissa and Elaine. In fact, there's a salon this Wednesday with talented author/agent Lucienne Diver. It starts at 7 pm mountain time. It will be held at Melissa's booth. If you'd like to attend, get your account set-up, come into Second Life Wednesday night a little before 7 pm then send me an email or a message in Second Life with your SL name, and I'll teleport you to Melissa's booth.

You can also send me a message when you join Second Life. My in-world name is TJ Capelo. I can send you landmarks to my favorite reader and author places. Feel free to send me an email at Tiffany@TiffanyJames.net if you have questions.

Happy Monday, and I'll see you in Second Life!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Author Feature: Rosalind Noonan

Current Read: What current read? School's out and I'm still trying to submit requested partials...

Today, I'm pleased to welcome author Rosalind Noonan! Please give her a big round of Armchair Heroines e-applause.

Welcome Rosalind. Tell us about ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING.

The novel begins when Abby learns that her husband John, who left a successful career playing for the NFL to enlist after 9/11, has been killed in Iraq. When Abby investigates the circumstances of John's death it becomes clear that he was shot by someone in his platoon. At the same time we see the grief caused by John's death sweep through family and friends, including his father who served in Vietnam, his mother who has always felt at home in military communities, his brother Noah who is a fellow soldier, his younger sister Madison who has been protesting against the war. The story spins into a mystery suspense plot toward the end, which was a lot of fun to write.

Sounds wonderful. Is this your first novel?

SEPTEMBER is my first novel, which is exciting and nerve wracking. I was so vested in this book that I used my own name on it, which had a wonderful silver lining: friends that I've lost touch with over the years have found the book and contacted me. It's better than a school reunion! My friend Audi from college, Kathy K from St. Philip Neri, my sorority sisters and other alums from Wagner College have been in touch, and I'm hoping to visit with them in the future.

Although this is my first novel, I am no stranger to publishing. I was an editor at Silhouette Books in its infancy, and have written dozens of books under various pseudonyms, including Carolyn Keene, Roz Bailey, Carly Alexander. Look me up on Amazon and you'll see a CHARMED book I did years ago that's still selling well. I'm still not sure how my real name got on that one...

You're a pro! While you write and work on a specific book do you find you enter that world?

When I'm working on a book I do enter that world, which might explain why it takes me so long to finish the first hundred or so pages of a book. Although I work from an outline, there's still a fair amount of world building and character dimension/backstory that needs to happen, and for me that takes place in the first painful century of pages. Sometimes during that stage of writing I have to make some significant changes to characters, add or cut a character, to make things work. I envy those writers who say that they sit down and the characters just run away with a scene or use them as a means to channel through! A lot of my time is spent molding and psychoanalyzing my people. The up side of this in my process is that if I do the heavy building up front, the second half of the manuscript flows for me.

Do you have a mantra or favorite saying in relation to your writing?

My goal is to entertain, educate a little and build empathy -- my three Es. On a more mundane level, I always say you just have to get it down on paper -- do the sloppy copy -- and then you can go back and rewrite, slash and burn. I think we would all love to have perfect prose flow from our fingertips, however if you don't have something flawed to work with, well...you don't have a story.

Good point. Just get it down! What's next for Rosalind Noonan?

In November 2009, Kensington is publishing SNOW ANGELS, an anthology led by Fern Michaels. My contribution is a novella called MIRACLE ON MAIN STREET, which was inspired by my husband's twenty plus years with the NYPD. The setting brought me back to my old stomping grounds in Flushing, Queens. The sights, the sounds, the roar of the subway trains, the smell of the pretzel carts...it was very nostalgic for me, and I enjoyed writing a story in which a longstanding romance is reawakened.

As I write this I'm working on a novel slated for publication in 2010. It's a family drama that will be stylistically similar to ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING, but it's a very different, much smaller world, this one set in Syracuse, NY. One of the bonuses of this story is a developing romance between my main character Kate and the detective who's trying to help her pin her son's attacker. This one was a bear to start, but I've reached page 100 -- insert happy dance here! -- so I'm starting to get a handle on these characters.

Those both sound great. Old flame stories are my favorite! Finish this sentence : I'm happiest when......

I've just finished a book and I've nailed it! The characters, the twists, the ending...when it all comes together and I've finally got it on paper after carrying these things in my head for so long, the adrenaline rush is tremendous. My kids are usually happy when I nail it, too, because that means I can leave my cave and resume cooking, carpooling, road trips, etc.

Ain't that the truth?! Read any good books lately?

I just finished Anna Quindlen's BLACK AND BLUE for the second time, and I don't reread books very often to that's a rave. I enjoyed it on a different level, realized it's somewhat picaresque in structure. Anna Quindlen creates scenes, characters and impressions in such a complete yet compact way. She is one of the great American writers.

And have you read Nora Roberts' ANGELS FALL? That book transported me last summer. Her romantic suspense novels always deliver, and there's something about the worlds she builds that just makes you want to go there.

Hear that Armchair Heroines? Two more books for your "to be read" piles. :0) What is one thing you love to do in the summer?

Summer is my favorite time of year! I love to sit on the dock and read, swim in the lake, stretch out in the sun and dream. (Oops...I think that's way more than one!) Sometimes my husband and I walk for miles on the beach, and there is nothing quite like that total plunge into a salty wave. I guess we're water people!

I used to go to Nantucket as a nanny in the summer. Going back and hearing the ocean always made me feel like I was returning to an old friend...now I'm in landlocked Colorado (but it's beautiful). :0)

Rosalind, thank you so much for being here and best of luck to you.

AHers, thanks to the generous folks over at Kensington Publishing, I have TWO ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING to give away. Leave a comment about your favorite summer things, good books you've read lately or ask Rosalind a question and you'll be entered in the contest. The winners will be announced right here on Friday!
Sorry, ladies, I had this set to post automatically yesterday and it didn't!
Congratulations to:
Robyn L
You are the lucky winners of the One September Morning ARCs. I have your addresses (as past winners - congrats) so I'll get your books in the mail on Monday!
A huge thank you to Rosalind for spending some time with us here at AH, and as always, thank you to all of you readers out there!
Have a great weekend!