It’s been a September of new-book postings by authors whose specialties range from paranormal romance to horror to YA. And next up is my prolific author-friend Sandra Cox, who makes everything possible in her writing from mutant teenagers with dolphin DNA (read my reviews here and here) to buying ghosts on ebay, as in her new novel, Ghosts for Sale, from eKensington.
Caitlin King can’t believe that her shopaholic cousin actually bought two ghosts off of eBay. But she can’t ignore the truth when she starts seeing sexy Liam O’Reilly, who’s been dead for over a hundred years. He’s a fascinating specter, and the more time Caitlin spends with him, the closer they become—sending them both spiraling into a star-crossed tailspin. No matter how desperately they long for each other, there’s just no future with a guy who’s already stopped breathing.
Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She’s a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast. Find Sandra on the web : Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook .
I love YA novels: from the drama and angst of high school to self-conscious protagonists longing to fit in to gossipy cliques and the always-present yearning to be loved and admired.
And even though it’s been years (decades!) since I negotiated a high-school hallway—eyes downcast, avoiding the mean kids—to the relative safety of my locker, YA books always bring back an onslaught of memories, some happy, some frustrating, and many totally cringe-worthy.
If you, like me, have a soft spot for young adult stories then author Krysten Lindsay Hager should have a place on your bookshelf.
Ms. Hager brings the teen years to life with absolute perfection in Next Door to a Star. Handling multiple plotlines with an expert touch, she’s crafted a young adult dramedy that on the top layer is a story about Hadley Daniels, an average teen whose only ambition is to fit in, have a few friends, and find her place in the world.
And when she finds herself vacationing, and eventually living, next to a former television actress, she thinks this is her opportunity to finally become part of the popular crowd. But beneath that top, superficial, layer rests a meatier story about acceptance and being true to oneself, regardless of the consequences.
I’d been wanting to read one of Ms. Hager’s novels for some time now, and Next Door to a Star certainly didn’t disappoint with characters that felt familiar, as if they were people I’d met before, and plot twists that kept the story moving at a brisk pace.
And, as with most YA novels, the ending will make you smile, satisfied to have spent several hours with Ms. Hager’s charming characters.
After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.
Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.
It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte.
To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…
He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.
So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.
The school year should end right after spring break, because all anyone can focus on is summer vacation. You can’t learn anything new, because all you can think about is all the fun stuff you’re going to do once you don’t have to get up at the butt crack of dawn. Summer always seems full of possibilities.
Nothing exciting ever happens during the school year, but maybe, during summer vacation, you could run into a hot celebrity and he’d decide to put you in his next music video. Okay, it wasn’t like I knew anybody that happened to, but my grandparents did live next door to a former TV star, Simone Hendrickson, and Simone was discovered in an ice cream parlor one summer. Of course, she lived in L.A. at the time and was already doing plays and commercials, so the guy who discovered her had already seen her perform. But hey, it was summer, she got discovered, and that was all that mattered.
Amazing stuff didn’t happen to me. You know what happened to me last summer? I stepped on a bee and had to go to the emergency room. They’re not going to make an E! True Hollywood Story out of my life. I didn’t go on exotic vacations—like today, I was being dragged along with my parents to my cousin’s graduation party. Most people waited until at least the end of May before having a grad party, but Charisma was having hers early because she was leaving on a trip to Spain. I was dreading this party because I didn’t want to listen to everybody talk about how smart and talented Charisma was—making me feel like a blob in comparison—but my mom RSVP’d even though I said I’d rather die than go. My death threats meant nothing. But still, for some strange reason, I had a feeling this summer was going to be different.
About the author
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
It’s an honor to have award-winning author Janet Ruth Heller with me once again to discuss her new children’s book, The Passover Surprise (read my review), as well as her writing process and other literary insights. It’s such a great interview, full of so many interesting tidbits, that I’ll jump right into it:
Tell me about your writing style? How would you describe it?
I try to write in a very clear and concise style. I avoid extra words, especially adjectives and adverbs. I want to communicate well with my readers, so I avoid ambiguity in prose. I experiment with more ambiguity in my poetry, however.
Your writing style comes through in your most recent work, The Passover Surprise. How did you come up with the title?
I have always loved the Passover holiday because we used to spend it with my mother’s twin brother’s family. My main character, Lisa, has conflict with her father, and I thought that Passover was a perfect time to resolve this conflict. Passover also celebrates the Jews’ independence from Egyptian masters. Lisa has learned how to cope with a difficult problem and is becoming a more independent young woman. Therefore, Passover seems the right holiday to celebrate Lisa’s new maturity.
Almost all writers are also voracious readers. What books have most influenced your life?
My mother read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) to me when I was a child. I loved the poems’ rhythm and imaginative details. I was sick a lot as a child (so was Stevenson), so I especially identified with the poem “The Land of Counterpane.” I read Teenagers Who Made History (1961) when I was a teenager in the 1960s. Author Russell Freedman portrays young people who began to succeed in their chosen careers when they were teenagers. He chooses both men and women from very different fields. Because I was a young writer, I especially connected with the story of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet, who won a college scholarship after placing second in a national poetry contest. This book helped to inspire me to become a professional poet, dramatist, fiction writer, essayist, and literary critic.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I learned from John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean? (1959) to write concisely using specific details and images. He helped me to make my writing less wordy.
And what are you working on now?
I’m revising a scholarly essay that I wrote about Jaimy Gordon’s novel Lord of Misrule (2010). I share her love of horses, and I admire her ability to portray the diverse characters surrounding an obscure racetrack.
Looking back, do you remember when your interest in writing first began?
My first-grade teacher Mrs. Mesias did a poetry writing workshop with us. She liked one of the poems that I made up so much that she dittoed 25 copies of it for the class. The poem was about flying a kite with my father in a park. I guess that was my first publication. I was lucky to have fourth-grade teacher Marjorie Schroeder and high school teachers like Zelma May Oole, Barbara Gensler, and Margaret Sturr, who also admired my writing and encouraged me to develop my skills.
And now for a little fun with a few not-so-serious questions…
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I love antelopes because they are graceful and can run fast even over rugged and rocky terrain. In contrast, I’m rather slow-moving and I have wobbly feet.
You are given one superpower… What would you select?
I would like to be able to know what people are secretly thinking. Sometimes, I misinterpret people, so I would prefer to understand them better.
And I couldn’t agree more–reading minds would be an excellent superpower and particularly useful for an author. As always, it’s been a pleasure to host Janet today, and I look forward to seeing what pleasant surprises her work brings to readers in the future.
“Sitting here with one’s knitting, one just sees the facts,” says Miss Marple in The Blood-Stained Pavement, a short story from Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems.
Throughout her long sleuthing career, the needle-wielding grand dame of British mysteries knits about 47 garments until, toward the end of her mystery-solving days, poor eyesight sadly forces her to give up her lifelong passion.
Yet, her influence can still be seen today as numerous crafty detectives continue to find the soothing influence of knitting helpful while solving crimes from knitting-store proprietresses, like Sally Goldenbaum’s Izzy Chambers, Mary Kruger’s Ariadne Evans, Anne Canadeo’s Maggie Messina, and Barbara Bretton’s Chloe Hobbs (half-human/half sorceress) to knitting clubs as seen in the Maggie Sefton mysteries.
I first discovered knitting in fiction shortly before I learned how to knit through Anne Barlett’s Knitting. Its simple title hides a complex story about loss, acceptance, and an unlikely friendship between two women.
The novel came as a surprise to me, the author unknown, discovered, as are many of my favorite books, at a used bookstore. I devoured it, fascinated as one of the main characters, a textile artist, creates a knitted three-dimensional sculpture of a horse. I had never heard of such a thing, didn’t even realize it was possible, and from there I began to knit, although on a much smaller, simpler scale.
But it was also the beginning of my adventures in knitting fiction, which continues today, and which I’ve decided to share through a Facebook page. It’s all for fun—trivia, reviews, author news, and the like. Take a peek when you get a chance and if you enjoy what you see, a “like” would always be appreciated.
“I imagine you knitting headscarves and that sort of thing,” one of Miss Marple’s clients writes while requesting her services. “If that’s what you prefer to go on doing, that’s your decision. But if you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope you find it (the case) interesting.”
And, luckily for readers, she didn’t have to choose, happily pursuing both knitting and justice.
Joel Eisler is a mutant with special talents. He can detect an oil leak in the ocean simply by tasting the water. Because of this unique ability, he’s been purchased by a large oil company, along with his dolph-sister, Amy. The upside of spending his days and nights in the ocean is that it gives him the opportunity to save the lives of his brother dolphins. The downsides are life as a closely monitored slave—and that he can’t be with Piper, the dolph-girl he loves…
To make matters worse, Joel discovers the lab he grew up in has extracted his sperm and Piper’s egg and created a baby, and his handler, Craven, is plotting to kidnap Amy for more experiments. Now Joel must rescue the infant, bring her to Piper, and find a way to save Amy. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, he needs to convince Piper she belongs with him instead of her all-too-human boyfriend—if Craven doesn’t get to them first…
Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She’s a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.
While traveling through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—as I am now—my mind often takes a literary bend. Not uncommon for me, but it’s Great Lakes freighters, foreboding Lake Superior, stretching to endless depths, and rugged inhabitants (Yoopers), enduring winter for six months out of the year*, that come to most people’s minds when thinking of the U.P.
Yet, while mountain biking this week through the rolling, dense forest and rocky cliffs of Western U.P.’s massive trail systems, I found myself thinking about author Jim Harrison, once a summer resident of Grand Marais. The Woman Lit By Fireflies, his novella, has to be one of my favorite titles of all time, and in another novella, Brown Dog, he perfectly captured an aspect of the Yooper spirit and culture.
Two mystery series by Steve Hamilton and Joseph Heywood also pry their way into my consciousness, a reminder of my to-read list. The remote, semi-wild feel of the U.P. provides the perfect setting for murder and intrigue.
But it’s an older, somewhat forgotten writer, Robert Traver, attorney and author of Anatomy of a Murder, on which the classic film, starring Jimmy Stewart and a very young, sassy Lee Remick, was based, who most often joins me in my mental wanderings. Although best known for that novel, Mr. Traver was actually a prolific outdoor writer, specializing in fly fishing.
It’s easy in the U.P. to conjure up long-gone authors. Time seems inconsequential, a nuisance best ignored. Quintessential cabins hug remote shorelines, as if they were always part of the landscape, created like the hills by glacial carvings.
And one afternoon, during a ride on those hills, I pedaled along a skinny trail with Carp River’s rapids churning below me. Waterfalls spilled over rocks, merging with the river in a silvery pathway, cutting its way through the earth. I pictured a lone angler, flies decorating his vest, casting next to the river. He murmured a greeting and tipped his cap but otherwise remained silent as sun and shadows flitted across his features.
The trail took me around a corner, swooping across a hill before forcing me to gear down for the next climb, leaving the ghost of Mr. Traver behind until my next visit to the U.P.
*During a cross-country ski trip to the U.P. earlier this year, I marveled at two elderly women as they skied, scarf-less, in single digits as a frigid wind slapped against my face. “We grew up here,” they informed me. “We like the cold.”
Fifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 sits on my bedside table. It’s an unusually heavy book and has burst from its spine, as if weighed down by the importance of the stories and authors contained in its covers. Pages tumble from the book like leaves falling from a tree or perhaps a branch, when a larger chunk of papers breaks apart from the binding.
But I have no intention of discarding it.
I keep it because I admire Editor Martha Foley’s confidence, no equivocation–so sure of herself. “These are the best short stories spanning fifty years,” she seems to say, “and I dare you to disagree.”
It’s also a reminder of forgotten authors—Elsie Singmaster, Morley Callaghan—along with familiar ones—Ernest Hemingway, John Updike: a symbol of both the transitory and permanent nature of literature. But, most importantly, the book was a gift from my sister Kelly, which she rescued from a used book sale, knowing my love for unusual collections of short stories.
It also joined me one summer while traveling along the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It became my literary companion, as dark and somber as the depths of Lake Superior, which were always in view.
The collection began to disintegrate during that trip. At night, I’d grasp several pages and read Flannery O’Connor, James Thurber, or Bernard Malamud. I considered scattering pieces of these great stories across the U.P.–John Cheever in Grand Marais, a few pages of Dorothy Parker for Munising, and a smattering of Lionel Trilling in Marquette.
And now I wish I had… a souvenir of my reading self everywhere I went, to be picked up by a walker strolling next to a park bench or a waiter bussing a table, creating an endless cycle of reading and sharing, just as Martha Foley intended.
Rocking in my hammock, under a hot Idaho sun, I traveled to windswept moors dotted with heath, swooned over brooding lords of the manor, and identified with governesses, plain yet intelligent, full of thoughtful observations. They not only won over my heart but also the love of the lord, as well as solving mysteries.
But by July 31, having come to the end of my self-directed summer-reading program, I uttered the words that all parents dread.
“I’m bored,” I said. “There’s nothing to do.”
I cringe now. Nothing to do? Impossible with endless libraries to explore and subjects to study. But I was 13, restricted by immaturity and narrow-mindedness, which, of course, I never would have admitted at the time, let alone recognized.
My mother, not one to accept boredom, took to me to the library and introduced me to another favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage became the cure for my boredom.
I approached the book with skepticism, even though my mother had introduced me to Mary Stewart’s Moon-Spinners, the beginning of my summer-reading-binge. I soon softened, though, to the main character Phillip, and Of Human Bondage joined me in the hammock. Other Maugham novels followed. Then school began with its predictable reading lists, and I found myself daydreaming about ramshackle mansions and secrets hidden in attics.
So it was appropriate that, almost 35 years later, my mother, a life-long letter writer of extraordinary ability, sent me the following quote, taking me back to my hammock, piles of books, and endless summer days stretching as long and wide as an Idaho sky.
From The Moon and Sixpence (Chapter 2) by W. Somerset Maugham: “It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them. What chance is there that the book will make its way among the multitude? And the successful books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered to give some chance reader a few hours of relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey.
And if I may judge from reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone in to their compositions; to some even has been given the anxious labor of a lifetime. The moral I draw is that the writer should see his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.”
Now another summer begins with a note on books from my mother, her ability to send the perfect message at the most appropriate time still finely tuned. Books gather around me in piles, waiting to be read. The only thing missing is my hammock, and the cupcake or two always waiting in my mother’s pantry.
Happy weekend everyone!
And if you have a moment, please share your favorite summer books and/or quotes from authors in the comment form.
If you enjoy romance, mysteries, and suspense, I invite you to take advantage of my limited time offer for Eclipse Lake. Grab your Kindle copy, June 8 to June 10 for FREE. This is a stand-alone full-length novel of old wounds, buried secrets, and sweet romance. It’s not part of a series, so you can enjoy the complete tale.
Small towns hold the darkest secrets.
Fifteen years after leaving his criminal past and estranged brother behind, widower Dane Carlisle returns to his hometown on the banks of sleepy Eclipse Lake. Now, a successful businessman, he has kept his troubled past a secret from most everyone, including his seventeen-year-old son.
But memories in small towns are bitter and long.
Ellie Sullivan, a nature photographer for a national magazine, has a habit of ping-ponging across the map. Her latest assignment leads her to Eclipse Lake where she becomes caught up in the enmity between Dane, his brother Jonah, and a vengeful town sheriff. When freshly-discovered skeletal remains are linked to an unsolved murder and Dane’s past, Ellie is left questioning her growing attraction for a man who harbors long-buried secrets.
I hope you enjoy Eclipse Lake and ask only that when you’ve finished reading you’d leave an honest review on Amazon. Authors love hearing what readers enjoyed about our novels (even what didn’t work). It’s a favored reward.
I’d also like to ask for your support in the release of my brand new Halloween-themed romantic suspense novel, Myth and Magic. There’s nothing like a little October spookiness for weaving a touch of magic into your summer.
Love and danger intertwine
AS CHILDREN THEY PLAYED GAMES OF MYTH AND MAGIC…
Veronica Kent fell in love with Caith Breckwood when they were children. As a teenager, she was certain he was the man she was destined to marry. But a traumatic event from Caith’s past led him to fear a future together. He left Veronica, hoping to save her from a terrible fate. Twelve years later, Caith, now a P.I., is hired to investigate bizarre incidents at the secluded retreat Veronica manages. Returning to his hometown, Caith is forced to face his nightmares—and his feelings for the woman he’s always loved.
THEN ONE DAY THE MONSTERS BECAME REAL.
After the callous way Caith broke her heart, Veronica isn’t thrilled to see him again. But strange occurrences have taken a dangerous toll on business at Stone Willow Lodge. Forced to work together, Veronica discovers it isn’t ghostly apparitions that frighten her, but her passion for a man she has never forgotten. Or forgiven. Can two people with a tarnished past unearth a magical future?
Release day for Myth and Magic is June 9, but you can pre-order prior to that. It’s available from all of these bookstores:
Purchase Myth and Magic and grab your copy of Eclipse Lake for free. You get TWO full-length books of suspense, mystery and romance for under $4.00! Either way I hope you will enjoy the free book. Both stories plus their characters hold special places in my heart.
About the author: Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with mystery and romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
Congratulations to Deidra Eden on the release of Hidden Fire, the second book in The Watchers series! Everything about this book–from the cover to the characters to the plot and theme–screams page-turning summer reading…
Finding your own unique strength and courage is a major theme of The Watchers. The characters in this series are as diverse as they come: different nationalities, male, female, dwarf, human, dragon, pixie, noble, peasant orphan, young, aged. Yet, no matter the situation, whether tragic or triumphant, they find ways to grow and develop into something stronger.
The main character, Auriella (Aura), is born and lives in a society and time when girls, especially of her social status, didn’t have opportunities for education or growth, let alone a chance to be a hero. The Watchers must learn to work together, despite differences, to defeat Erebus and the Shadow Legion, just as we, no matter our gender, race, age, circumstances, etc., are capable of great things.
Strong men and women grow in all situations and become heroes when one is needed. They don’t think about it, they just do what’s right. –Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers Series
Auriella’s new life as a royal protector is in shambles. The new king ignores her warnings of a Shadow Legion invasion and he is determined to marry her off. Ghosts from her past, the discovery of other Watchers, and a handsome Scottish warrior throw her off guard and weaken her emotional defenses. Caught in a web of secrecy and betrayal, Auriella struggles to control and protect the devastating power of Starfire. A terrible truth and a fateful choice will lead her to her destiny as the fabled Lady of Neviah, or could shroud the entire world in eternal darkness.
Filled with action, romance, drama, and comedy, Hidden Fire is an addicting read that you won’t want to put down.
“Deirdra Eden has surpassed her earlier achievement in this daring tale of struggle between good and evil forces that exist in every universe.” Mark F. Cheney, author of Mark of the Jaguar.
“Thought provoking and full of action, I didn’t want to put the book down! I really loved the symbolism and it was a fantastic read.” Mary G. – age 15