In Their Words: Q&A with Emily Ross (@emilyross816), author of Half in Love with Death

About the author, Emily Ross Emily Ross

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter @emilyross816.

HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH was inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’

Connect with Emily

Website | Twitter

Q&A with Emily

Tell us about you. If every five-ten years of your life had a chapter heading, what would it be? What are the highlights (or low points) of each chapter?

  1. School Days and Death

In elementary school I dreamed of being a pathologist or a ballerina, though I was weirdly squeamish and couldn’t dance. But after my cat died and my friend’s sister drowned, I had the awful realization that I wasn’t immortal. It was like I’d fallen down a well.

  1. A Teenager in Love

By the time I got to high school I no longer wanted to be a pathologist or a ballerina or anything. I hated homework and loved clothes and boys. Not sure which I loved more, maybe boys, though clothes made me happier. I still remember my white boots, fishnet stockings, herringbone mini-skirt, navy blue pea coat, and my first bell-bottoms and suffering greatly from unrequited love.

  1. Student teaching hell
  2. Emily's Workspace

    Emily Ross’s workspace

The only thing I could figure out to do with my English degree was to teach high school. During student teaching, I developed a hacking cough that didn’t go away until I was done. When one of my students picked me up and spun me around, it became pretty clear that teaching wasn’t for me. I had no idea how to support myself but a friend told me if I passed a test, an insurance company would train me as a computer programmer. I barely knew what a computer was, but I did pass the test and began a career in IT.

  1. Married with Children

I did a lot of things that I’d never done before—got married, bought a house, and wrote my first story when I was pregnant with my first child. Each of these things was exciting, surprising, and harder than I expected. Being a parent was the most rewarding and hardest thing of all. I was totally exhausted most of the time, but I did discover that the world is lovely and spectral at 4AM.

  1. Writing While Working and Married with Children

I juggled a demanding job, raising kids, my writing, and dropped a lot of balls. I spent a lot of time driving kids to dance lessons or soccer games while worrying about work. But it’s the dance lessons and soccer games I remember now. I’m glad I made time to try to do everything even if life was a little chaotic. Somehow I finished my novel in the midst of all of this.

What gets you to sit down with a computer (or pen and paper) and start writing? What keeps you going?

I force myself to put my butt in the chair and write at least a little every day. Once I’m there in the chair and have gone through my usual distractions (Facebook, Twitter, etc) the words and thoughts suck me in. My inner editor keeps me going. I might think I’m done but there’s this voice that keeps saying it’s not right, go back, fix it, and I do go back obsessively tweaking things. On a good day I make some forward progress.

Half in Love with Death was inspired by a true story. Can you talk a little about what drew you to that story, and how the book grew from that spark of inspiration? 

Charles Schmid, the charismatic young man known as ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, murdered three teenage girls, and buried them in the Arizona desert. He was popular with his teenage friends, and had many girlfriends. Though clearly a psychopath, he didn’t appear all that different from many boys I’d known in high school. I began to see him as a metaphor for the illusions teen girls have about love. Ultimately I had to put a lot of the facts aside in order to write my book, but this true crime led me to a story about sisters, lies, and a love that feels utterly real but may not be.

The story of Caroline’s search for her sister and the story of her falling in love with Tony are interconnected, but there wasn’t an exact moment when I decided to tell two stories. It just seemed likely to me that when her sister’s disappearance forces Caroline to step out of her quiet life into Tony’s exciting world, it would be inevitable that she would fall for him.

Half in Love with Death is both a YA and a period novel. (I’m hesitant to call it historical since it takes place in extremely recent history). What were some of the specific challenges and rewards of writing YA, and of setting the story in such a specific time and place?

I loved exploring the fashions, songs, and little details I needed to make that era come alive. One challenge was that most of the technological devices that define teen life today hadn’t been invented yet, so I had to think of aspects of the sixties that today’s teens would relate to. I felt they would be interested in the philosophy behind the sixties drug culture and, of course, love never goes out of style.

My biggest challenge was that some agents and editors thought there wasn’t a market for YA set in the sixties. I received a lot of pushback and this undermined my confidence in my choice to set my novel in this era. I actually removed a lot period references, and then on another revision put many of them back in. I second-guessed myself a lot – but deep down inside I knew I had to set this story in the sixties.

What one thing would you want readers of Half in Love with Death to take away from the novel?

I hope that readers will be moved by my teen narrator’s story. I also hope that they will come away with an understanding of how important it is for teen girls to find their own strength when navigating the murky waters of love and emotion.

My experience has been, as I think I said when I reviewed your book, that YA novels tend to have a lot of the strongest female characters and most provocative storylines in contemporary fiction. Do you agree? If so, why do you think that is?

I agree that YA novels have some of the most provocative storylines, and strongest female characters. Perhaps this is because the genre attracts innovative writers who are willing to take risks, and also because YA is about teens: an age group that’s volatile, creative, and that breaks rules. I think it’s great that YA authors tackle many of the issues facing teens today including rape culture, sexuality, and body image problems. Though these aren’t exclusively female issues, many YA authors recognize how important it is to provide teen girls with strong female characters as role models.

Writers, of course, are also readers. What are some of the books or authors who have influenced your life? What’s the most recent thing you read that really hooked you?

Raymond Chandler introduced me to noir. The voice in his polished prose is infectious and his books showed me that detective fiction can also be fine literary fiction. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier showed me how an absolutely compelling psychological thriller can be built around a quiet main character. I’m also a huge fan of Tana French and Gillian Flynn.

The most recent book that really hooked me was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I couldn’t put down this novel, whose maddeningly self-destructive and unreliable narrator glimpses a scene from a train window that unfolds into a twisty and unpredictable mystery.

If you were going to offer your 15- or 17-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Believe in yourself and don’t let love blind you. If someone is making you unhappy forget about him. There are no soulmates, no loves that are meant to be. You make your own destiny. Focus on yourself. Be strong.

What will your next project be?

I’m writing a novel about an aspiring ballerina who must prove that her Russian immigrant boyfriend and dance partner is not the mythical butterfly killer who murdered the captain of the high school dance team. The story takes place in my hometown of Quincy, a city that combines the charm of a small town with the gritty darkness of the inner city. I’m having fun writing about dance and murder!

About the book, Half in Love with Death Half in Love with Death

  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Merit Press (November 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 6, 2015

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her. Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the street culture of runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again, in a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

Buy, read, and discuss Half in Love with Death

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Food, Memories, and Love in Cauchemar, by Alexandra Grigorescu (@a_grigorescu) – #GuestPost @ecwpress #Bibliotica

I didn’t set out to write a book in which food figures so heavily. But I love talking about food. Food, to me, can be magic, and good cooks elevate the merely necessary into the extraordinary.

I can tell you in five seconds flat where I love to eat in my city. As a diner who gets legitimately upset when my local bakery is sold out of the particular pastry I’ve been craving, and as a cook who routinely doubles the recommended quantity of the “good stuff” (shrimp, pesto, spices, and oils, oh my!), food was bound to worm its way in.

So, when I, to my great surprise, discovered that I was writing a book set in the South (as a longtime resident of chilly Canada), food was an easy way to evoke that atmosphere.

My husband and I went down to Louisiana, and (over)ate ourselves silly. It’s my opinion that you can’t return from the South without talking about the food. Personally, I do so in tones that are reverential and cowed. I loved it, but it also weighed me down. It made me groggy and sluggish—and so, so happy. There were po’boys, and etouffee. There was cornbread and grits. There were fried oysters, and fried alligator, and donuts. There was chicory coffee and absinthe sipped in the company of a black cat. There were dive bar nachos, and white napkins in a romantic courtyard on New Year’s Eve. Much of what made me fall in love with the South is deeply connected to the food I ate there.

But almost without my noticing, food also became a narrative tool in Cauchemar: a way of contrasting between the familiar and the unnatural. Mae, Hannah’s adoptive mother, rules in the kitchen, and she’s immediately established as a healer. By contrast, Christobelle (Hannah’s birth mother) is extremely thin, and doesn’t seem to eat—at least, not in the human sense. She’s almost a succubus or vampire, feeding on the grief of the living and the spirits of the dead.

Finally, Hannah falls somewhere in the middle. Over the course of the book, she oscillates between the two extremes, which is an echo of her internal struggle, as well as the struggle between the worlds of the living and the dead.

The book opens with food—Hannah arriving too late to save Mae because she was eating a piece of pastry. In her grief after Mae’s death, she fails to eat properly, and turns to other people’s casseroles. In the blush of first love, she begins to experiment. She over-spices to echo her own overstimulation, and as a result her dishes are out of balance.

Then, as things start to get frightening and the stakes are raised, Hannah tries to find Mae’s recipes, hoping for some semblance of familiarity. Hannah searches her memory, too, and finds comfort in recalling Mae’s advice, so often spoken in the kitchen. There’s a long stretch in the book where both Callum and Hannah lose their appetite (and Hannah ends up eating something decidedly unappetizing), and this mirrors the blurring of the lines between this world and the next.

One very real way for Hannah to choose life, to embrace memory, and to honour Mae is through cooking. Some of the dishes mentioned in the book are ones I’ve made in my own kitchen, but more importantly, ones I’ve improvised on—in essence, letting Mae guide my own hands. I blackened some catfish for my husband one night, channeling Hannah and Mae in the book, and yes, I did fill the kitchen with billows of spiced smoke. I listened to the fish crackle and exhale, and I, too, squeezed lemon juice over it, and thought of it as a balm for that poor, overworked fish filet. I imagined someone older and wiser instructing me as I did so, but I was also aware of trying to impress someone I loved. I put myself in Hannah’s skin through cooking what Hannah might cook.

Eating engages multiple senses, and is a powerful grounding tool. Hannah uses food and cooking as a way to center herself. For me, food summons memories. It harkens back to my own Maes—my grandmothers. Food and cooking recalls my grandmother’s cabbage rolls, her flaky mushroom pastries, and her chocolate cake. When I think of sour vegetable preserves, I think of red peppers in jars on her balcony. I think of her smile, her voice, and I remember taking the photo that now sits by my bedside. In this way, food resurrects her. Food, as the privilege of the living, brings life.

I remember watching my grandmothers in their respective kitchens and being, on some level, aware that I was being initiated into a tradition. Now, that memory is coloured by the knowledge that one day, if I’m lucky, I too might be watched by a curious munchkin as I measure out ingredients.

Finally, cooking is love. It is familial love: me sitting in the sunlit attic of my childhood home as one of my grandmothers prepared a pot of soup. It is romantic love: my husband and I working in tandem over a new recipe, or the memory of baking my first-ever batch of cookies with him. It is the joy of cooking something for someone, and what a pleasure and honor that is.

Cauchemar is, to me, a book about many things. Family, love, danger, death—and hopefully they all coexist on the page. It took me a while to get to a place where I’m comfortable cooking by smell and taste alone. It is a coming into oneself, and also, a homecoming.

About the author, Alexandra Grigorescu Alexandra Grigorescu

Alexandra Grigorescu has a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Toronto, where she attended writing workshops led by George Elliott Clark and Jeff Parker and wrote her thesis under the guidance of Camilla Gibb. She works as a freelance writer and lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Connect with Alexandra

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About the book Cauchemar Cauchemar

Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: ECW Press (March 17, 2015)

Gripping, fast-paced, gorgeously written, and with unforgettable characters, Cauchemar tells the story of 20-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisianan swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumoured to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from — the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses. Like the nightmares that plague Hannah,

Cauchemar lingers and haunts.

Buy, read, and discuss Cauchemar

ECW Press | Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Alexandra Grigorescu’s Blog Tour Stops Cauchemar

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by the publisher, ECW Press. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE. For my review of the book, click HERE.

MARCH 1: Review and giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
MARCH 2: Review and guest post at Bibliotica (That’s ME!)
MARCH 3: Review and excerpt at Bella’s Bookshelves
MARCH 4: Guest post at Write All the Words! for their International Women’s Week feature
MARCH 5: Interview and excerpt at Editorial Eyes
MARCH 7: Review at Lavender Lines
MARCH 9: Review at Svetlana’s Reads
MARCH 10: Review and interview at The Book Stylist
MARCH 11: Review, guest post, and giveaway at Booking it with Hayley G
MARCH 12: Guest Post at Dear Teen Me
MARCH 13: Review and giveaway at The Book Bratz
MARCH 14: Interview and excerpt at Feisty Little Woman

The Art of Short Stories, by Rebecca Adams Wright (@rvleeadams) – #GuestPost #Bibliotica

The Art of Short Stories

a guest post from Rebecca Adams Wright

I love little things. Shiny things. Broken bits of larger things. I am a human magpie, tucking crumbling robin’s eggshells or eye-catching pebbles into my pockets when I find them on the street. I cannot walk past a dropped coin even if it turns out to old be an old button. I like old buttons.


My husband laughs when he sees me pick up these treasures, because, of course, I almost never find a use for them. But they are food for the imagination, my beautiful scraps. I hoard them in little boxes and cluster them in drawers. I stumble upon them later, having completely forgotten their context, not at all sure where they came from, but still admiring. I turn them over in my hand as if for the first time and marvel at the sheen on the feather, the perfect divot in the stone.

I am a collector of odds and ends. I appreciate when the edges are ragged or the provenance unknown.


This love of small and cryptic things is one of the qualities that make me a natural short story writer.


Necessarily more compact than novels and more prosaic than poetry, short stories both speak our language and plunge us into mystery. They will present some kind of familiar anchor (though that anchor can be as small as the recognizable tweed on a button), but they may well make no other explanations. Novels unfold before you—they offer you an entry hall, a place to hang your jacket, they take you on the grand tour of all the rooms in the hotel. Novels want to offer you a whiskey and soda. Novels, even aggressive and fast-paced ones, want to be with you for a while. They want to take time.


Short stories cannot and will not offer you this. Short stories do not expect you to stay the night and order room service in the morning. They are likely to introduce you to the world by handing you a bag of untraceable gemstones and they may never get around to explaining the origins of the one-eyed ravens. Short stories can be many things: elegant, expansive, brutal, humane, lyrical, piercing, inventive. But they are never long. That means they always leave at least one thread dangling on the loom, a little spot of mystery trailing behind them.


Producing a delightful sense of mystery is not the same thing, of course, as leaving important aspects of narrative untold. The best stories are as tight and complete as nautilus shells. They create a sense of fullness precisely because they contain all that they need, and nothing more. These stories are not mysterious because they are vague. Rather, the specificity of the text’s images, characters, and situations compels the reader to keep asking questions, to imagine more than is on the page. Short stories are often compared to snapshots, and we all know that some of the best photographs manage to imply whole worlds in a space no larger than four inches by six.


The other great appeal of short stories, at least to me, is the fact that they allow for such a diversity of themes and topics, investigations and explorations. From the writer’s perspective, working in short form means that (usually) a story can be finished and shared in a fraction of the time of a novel, and without as much editorial input. Individual stories, because they do not have to represent the trajectory of a career, can take more risks, push more boundaries, wander out of comfort zones. Serious authors can be silly, mainstream authors can go genre, authors of timeless novels can engage with current events.


From a reader’s perspective, short stories can offer new angles from which to view well-known authors. Even more importantly, they create opportunities to explore new voices, unfamiliar genres, or nontraditional narrative structures without the commitment of three-hundred-plus pages. Short stories allow both writers and readers to take risks that sometimes pay enormous dividends.


All this is not to imply that I myself won’t release a novel someday. Novels offer their own set of rewards, among them the great pleasure of long immersion. I am, in fact, at work on a novel right now. But I cannot imagine ever turning my back on the short story, just as I cannot imagine walking down the street without stopping when a glint in the road catches my eye.


Look, I just found something breathtaking. Hold out your hand—I’m offering it to you.

About the author, Rebecca Adams Wright Rebecca Adams Wright

Rebecca Adams Wright is a 2011 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop and a former University of Michigan Zell Writing Fellow. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and has won the Leonard and Eileen Newman Writing Prize. Rebecca lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Rebecca

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About the book, The Thing About Great White SharksThe Thing About Great White Sharks

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Little A (February 10, 2015)

In this collection’s richly imagined title story, our brutal and resourceful protagonist is determined to protect her family from a murderous, shark-ridden world—at any cost. Elsewhere, an old woman uncovers a sinister plot while looking after a friend’s plants (“Orchids”), and a girl in the war-torn countryside befriends an unlikely creature (“Keeper of the Glass”). In “Barnstormers,” a futuristic flying circus tries to forestall bankruptcy with one last memorable show. At the heart of “Sheila” is the terrible choice a retired judge must make when faced with the destruction of his beloved robotic dog, and “Yuri, in a Blue Dress” follows one of the last survivors of an alien invasion as she seeks help.

Extending from World War II to the far future, these fifteen stories offer a gorgeously observed perspective on our desire for connection and what it means to have compassion—for ourselves, for one another, for our past…and for whatever lies beyond.

Buy, read, and discuss The Thing About Great White Sharks

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

Rebecca Adams Wright’s TLC Book Tours Tour Stops: TLC Book Tours

This guest post is part of a tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For my review of this book, click HERE. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Friday, February 13th: Book Snob – author guest post

Monday, February 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, February 16th: Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, February 18th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, February 19th: 5 Minutes for Books

Thursday, February 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, February 23rd: Conceptual Reception

Tuesday, February 24th: Bibliotica review and author guest post

Tuesday, February 24th: Savvy Verse and Wit – author guest post

Wednesday, February 25th: Bibliophiliac

Thursday, February 26th: The Relentless Reader

Monday, March 2nd: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Tuesday, March 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 5th: Guiltless Reading

Monday, March 9th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, March 12th: The Book Binder’s Daughter – author guest post

TBD: Bound by Words

TBD: Life is Story

Guest Post: Paul DeBlassie III, author of The Unholy

About the book The Unholy The Unholy

Title: The Unholy
Publisher: Sunstone Press (200 pages)

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Buy, read, and discuss The Unholy

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Guest post from Paul DeBlassie III: Using Reality to Write Great Horror Novels

I’ve always believed that you should write what you know when it comes to writing books. Some authors might be able to get away with using their imagination and implementing research (good for them!), but in my own experience it really helps to log into my past experiences and expand on the ideas in order to come up with a terrific storyline.

Paul DeBlassie III did just that. The Unholy comes out of over thirty years of treating patients in his psychotherapy practice who are survivors of the dark side of religion. Can you imagine all the storylines he could come up with? These patients have all been used and abused and cast to the side.

Paul says, “I’ve seen that when this happens to people, those around the victim, to include family and friends, often turn a blind eye and deny what has happened. Rather than writing a self help book, I decided to approach this realm of human suffering in fiction. To tell a story moves the reader into a deep and unconscious dimension that bypasses conscious defenses, leaving us open to truths that otherwise would be blocked. So, dramatizing the dark side of religion, pulling what can be the most vile and evil, and pivoting it against an innocent and sincerely searching soul leaves the reader on edge, hopeful, but unsure as to what will happen and who in the end will survive.”

“To have written out a list of what to do or not to do in the midst of religious abuse might have helped some individual,” he continues, “but would have left many people stone cold because there is no emotion in such guidance.”

Paul tells us that The Unholy is a story of pure emotion, fear and rage and hope and challenge, that inspires and frightens and causes us to stay up late at night in order to finish the story. “Dream and chronic nightmares plagues people who’ve gone through the horror of being abused within a religious system. It could be emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual torment—or all of the above—a true encounter with the unholy—that people undergo during childhood or adolescence or adulthood.”

About the author, Paul DeBlassie III Paul DeBlassie III

PAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.

His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.

Connect with Paul

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

This post is part of a blog tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

In their Words: Interview with Anna Castle

Murder by Misrule

Last month, I reviewed Anna Castle’s historical mystery Murder by Misrule. Anna was kind enough to also grant me an interview, which we conducted via email. As you can see, she’s funny, interesting, and as unique as the book (series, actually) she’s created.

Melissa A. Bartell (MAB): Before we talk about your novel Murder by Misrule, let us get to know you. If you had to pick an historical figure to represent every 5-7 years of your life, who would they be and why?

Anna Castle (ANNA): This question is too hard for me! First, I’m not a navel-gazer; there are a hundred things I would rather think about than my personal history. Second, as a writer of historical fiction, it’s my job to uncover the complex layers of the people of the past, not to sum them up with short labels.

Anna Castle

It does sound like a fun game to play with the clan after Thanksgiving dinner, though. You could put historical figures on cards and let people draw one and decide who it matched, at what period of their life. (OK, I’m going to patent that idea, but I’ll split it with you, since it was your question.)


MAB: What draws you to historical fiction? What draws you to write at all?

ANNA: The time-traveling: writing stories is my way of working through the past and figuring out how a person could live and work and play back then and over there.

As for writing, when it’s going well, it’s the most fun thing there is. It’s like building and exploring at the same time, without any sharp things nicking your fingers or clouds of mosquitos swarming around your head.


MAB: You chose Francis Bacon as the lead in your novel; what about his story made you want to put him in a mystery?

ANNA: He’s the natural choice. Bacon was the most articulate advocate of inductive reasoning: study the facts, formulate a hypothesis, test, and refine.

He didn’t actually do much in the way of either scientific or criminal investigation, but he spent a lot of time thinking and writing about how such investigations ought best to be pursued.

All I do is put him on task by giving him urgent problems to solve.


MAB: There’s a big difference between contemporary Texas and Elizabethan England. What challenged you the most in creating your version of that period?

ANNA: The weather! Summer in Texas lasts from May through October. It seldom snows in Austin. We do not have fog. We rarely get that chilly drizzle that is so typical of English weather, nor that sweet, soft, delicious spring rain. Love that rain! Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the summer sun; maybe made cats and Texans go out in the winter rain.

One of the main reasons I go there is to inhabit their climate, see where the sun stands and how the wind blows. It surprises me every time that I can walk outdoors in a wool sweater in June and not be hot. I’ve even gotten sunburned in England! Who’d’ve thunk it?

MAB: Were there any cultural similarities that surprised you when you were doing research? If so, what?

ANNA: Not so much. Sixteenth century England is the root of both our cultures, after all. I’m as much like the people of Bacon’s time as a modern Englishwoman; more, maybe, in terms of dialect. I’m there to study the past, so I only pay enough attention to contemporary culture to keep from getting run over by a bus.

It does seem to me that English and American cultures are in many ways reconverging, since we swim in the same big media pool. I am sometimes surprised by the depth of familiarity with American history that crops up in British television. Like one detective saying to the other, “Houston, we have a problem,” or “Not quite ‘How did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?'” Tiny bits, but ubiquitous.

Murder by Misrule

MAB: This novel is set in the period of Misrule. Tell us a bit about that, and why you picked it as the perfect time of year for a murder mystery?

ANNA: I remember thinking of the first murder as a demented chase scene through the yew labyrinth in the Queen’s garden, drunken retainers from a pageant at the nearby Accession Day festivities chasing a sore-footed barrister. I liked the topsy-turviness of that scene. It got cut somewhere around draft 3, but it was the seed from which the rest of the story sprang.

I connected it to Gray’s Inn when I learned that they used to make a big deal of the season of Misrule. Young law students were obliged to remain in residence over the Christmas break, both to keep them from coming back late for the January term and to give them some of the social polish their parents expected them to acquire.

These restless young gentlemen had to be entertained. Why not bump a few of them off to make things more interesting?


MAB: Aside from Francis Bacon, do you have a favorite character in your novel? If so, who, and why?

ANNA: I love all my characters, even the villains. Even the walk-ons and the snivelly ass-kissers. So I don’t have a favorite, but I do have an avatar, so to speak — Mrs. Anabel Sprye. She’s me, which is why she’s writing a book.


MAB: Is there a specific scene in the novel that you’re particularly proud or fond of? Can you share it with us?

ANNA: This is one of those questions that’s easy to pose and impossible to answer. Pick a scene, any scene — I sweat them all. Far easier to point out the scenes that fell short of my grandiose dreams, but that would be foolish and self-defeating and we don’t go there.

MAB: Francis Bacon spends a lot of time reading. Similarly, the writers of our own time are also readers. What are some of your favorite books and authors? What are you reading now?

ANNA: All writers are readers first. If not, they shouldn’t be writing.

On my desk at this moment: John W. Weatherford, Crime and Punishment in the England of Shakespeare and Milton (proof that I couldn’t invent anything half as wacky as the truth); Anthony Esler, The Aspiring Mind of the Elizabethan Younger Generation (a fascinating if somewhat strained 60’s psychological analysis of my main guys); and my Kindle, on which I’m reading Eric Mayer & Mary Reed’s 10 for Dying; Katie Graykowski’s Perfect Summer; and Shakespeare’s Works.

MAB: What’s a typical day in the life of Anna Castle? Take us through one.

ANNA: I get up a little after daylight and screw around on the net for 30 minutes or so while drinking that all-important first cup of coffee. Then I write through lunch. Then I do chores or similar, go to the gym, come back and do writing biz for as long as it takes. And then my day is done.

Sometimes I break early to have lunch with a friend, which I like better than going out for dinner. Sometimes I blow it all off and go hiking.

MAB: Writing can be a solitary activity. How do you deal with it?

ANNA: Writing is most assuredly a solitary activity. That’s one of the things we like about it. If we wanted a busy environment, we would get jobs. I like the solitude. I like the silence. I like living in the past inside my head.

MAB: What advice would present-day Anna give to her sixteen-year-old self?

ANNA: Do not smoke that cigarette.

MAB: Will there be more Francis Bacon mysteries? What’s next for you?

ANNA: There will indeed be more. Book 2 is due to my editor on Sunday. Plot-a-thon for book 3 is slated for August, but probably going to get slipped to September because I think book 2 needs a lot of editing. Then again, I always think that at this stage.

I have another series of humorous regional modern mysteries in the sub-genre formerly known as ‘cozy’ which I plan to launch sometime in the coming year, as soon as I can think of a tagline that doesn’t sound like Prince’s new name.

And there are short stories leaping up and down in the back of my mind clamoring for attention. I’m looking forward to getting back into my newly rehabbed house and writing up a perfect storm.

Connect with Anna

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Buy, read, and discuss Murder by Misrule

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Guest Post: Austin Washington, author of The Education of George Washington

The Education of George Washington

Guest post by author Austin Washington

Dance Your Way to Being President (by Reading a Book)
The Education of George Washington gives unique, original, and new insight into how George Washington turned himself into the George Washington we all know. That is, it shows how George Washington, the awkward, too tall kid who wrote dorky love poems, whose father died when he was only eleven, whose family no longer had enough money to send him to the private school in England his older half brothers had gone to –  how this mostly uneducated guy bought a guide to greatness from his cousin when he was fifteen, and thus became the George Washington we’ve all heard of.

Actually, even before the parts of his life most people have at least heard of, George Washington became known as the best dancer in Virginia. Becoming great was a life long process. It’s interesting, by the way, once you learn a bit about Virginia at that time, why being a good dancer was important there.  Also, George was known as a great athlete, he was admired by women – basically, he was a star, long before he became a legend.

George Washington’s guide to greatness has been called a “groundbreaking new discovery”, that had been unknown by all previous biographers. George Washington got, when he was fifteen, a kind of proto Tony Robbins book, with a huge difference. The modern self help movement, the apotheosis of which, I’d say, is the almost unreadable book The Secret – unreadable simply because it is so poorly written – has a philosophy underlying it that has some truth to it. But that doesn’t make it good or right.

In essence, stripped bare, that philosophy says something like, “I saw a red Ferrari on TV, and wow, do I want one. If I wish and hope and pray, by God, I’ll get one. Maybe I’ll have to work a little, too.”

George Washington’s guide to greatness flips this on its head.  The idea is, if I listen to the voice of Providence, while simultaneously learning how the knowledge of what is good and great has been refined and distilled by our greatest civilisations, and if I internalise this, I might be onto something.

It’s not about greed, or materialism, but self sacrifice. The ultimate result, if you really “get it”, is you become not just good, but great. Greatness has its own rewards, which, coincidentally, often have a material component.

But you don’t end up like Donald Trump. You end up like, well, like George Washington. I mean, even only at the surface, at material things, look at Mount Vernon itself. It’s dignified, not gaudy. This is a reflection of something underlying, and deeper.

I spent three years, and three drafts, distilling this wisdom, then soaking the adventure  of George Washington’s life in it, so that you almost subliminally gain and understand what George Washington gained and understood, while being taken on the journey of his life.

Ultimately, The Education of George Washington is probably not for you. But it might be. It all depends. Would you prefer a red Ferrari, or, on the other hand, the material rewards you’ll get if you become great. (Material rewards are beside the point. It’s what you become that matters. The rest is just icing on the cake.)

Although, perhaps this is an unrealistic goal for a book.  One of the first reviewers called it “The best book ever written about the Father of Our Country,” then wrote me a personal note saying his review “did not do the book justice”. Well, even if my illusions about The Education of George Washington actually changing lives are wishful thinking , being “the best” in at least one reviewer’s opinion isn’t bad, I suppose.

Still, without a father, with very little formal education, starting out relatively poor, George Washington turned himself into “George Washington” with little but a book as a guide (which is included, in full, at the end of my book, by the way.) I do know that I  have actually changed because of what I learned, through writing it. Although, come to think of it,  I’m not President yet. But I am a good dancer.

Well, there’s time. What about you?

About the Author, Austin Washington

Austin Washington

Austin Washington is the great-nephew of George Washington. He earned his masters and did post-graduate research focusing on colonial American history, and is a writer, musician, entrepreneur and global traveler. He returns to an old Virginia family home whenever he can. Austin’s first book takes a common criticism of his academic writing – “You’re not writing a newspaper editorial, you know!” – and turns it into a virtue, taking a subject dry and dusty in other’s hands and giving it life. He has lived abroad much of his life, most recently in Russia, and visits friends from Sicily to Turkey to Bangladesh and beyond. His earliest influences as a writer were Saki, Salinger, and St. Exupery, although in more recent years he has got beyond the S’s. As for historians, he is partial to the iconoclast Gibbon, who wrote history to change the future.

Learn more about Austin

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About the book, The Education of George Washington

The Education of George Washington

In Austin Washington’s new book, The Education of George Washington, readers will learn all about President Washington’s true model of conduct, honor, and leadership, including the actual historic document that President Washington used to transform his life from a poorly educated child of a widowed mother, to the historic, curious, highly influential and awe inspiring figure he became and remains today.

Read and Discuss The Education of George Washington

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Read an Excerpt from The Education of George Washington


“I Cannot Tell a Lie”— the Cherry Tree Story Is True (but Different from How You Heard It)

“What shall I say of the Nobleness of his Mind; and of that Character of Honor, Truth and Justice, which was so Natural to him . . . incapable of the Dissimulation, and other sordid Arts of Court. He could not promise what he did not intend to perform.” —H. de Luzancy, A Panegyrick to the Memory of His Grace Frederick, Late Duke of Schonberg

Parson Weems was married to the wife of a cousin of George Wash- ington’s close friend, Dr. James Craik. Parson Weems knew George Washington. Parson Weems preached at George Washington’s church. So why all the hating? The tale of George Washington and the cherry tree has been mistold for two hundred years—and thus mistakenly criticized, as people have been criticizing a story that Parson Weems never told. Still, despite all the debunking, the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is almost as iconic in America as Santa Claus and his elves. It therefore seems worthwhile to spend a little time explaining how we can say with certainty that yes, Virginia, the story of George and the cherry tree is true (but no, it’s not the story you’ve heard).

For those non-Americans out there, the story, in essence, is this: George Washington, when he was a small child, chopped down a cherry tree with a hatchet. When confronted by his father, he confessed, “I can- not tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.”

That’s the story. (Not much of a story, is it? But the story of the story could change your life.)

No one in America believes it any more. We’ve all been told ad nauseam that the whole story is a pious fable—a confabulation invented by Parson Weems.

What’s wrong with the story? Why can’t we trust Parson Weems?

We obviously can’t trust him because he admired George Washing- ton. No, honestly, that’s a big part of the argument. Parson Weems is a fanboy and therefore can’t be trusted. The generally accepted idea, expressed by Wikipedia, is this: “Weems also called Washington the ‘greatest man that ever lived.’ This degree of adulation, combined with the circumstance that his anecdotes cannot be independently verified, demonstrates clearly that they are confabulations and parables.”

But wait just a minute.

1. I’d always thought ad hominem attacks were a logical fallacy.

2. If something that cannot be independently verified is, ipso facto, not true, then all trees falling in all forests are always silent. That’s just silly.

3. Actually, the story can be independently verified. Beyond that, it passes the sniff test. Pretty clearly.

The Education of George Washington

In their Words: Scott Eder, author of Knight of Flame

Every time I talk with an author, one of the subjects that comes up is marketing. Most of them tell me that they never expected to be so involved with the process. Today, author Scott Eder, whose novel Knight of Flame I spotlighted yesterday, talks about marketing, and specifically about Local Independent Bookstores.


Working the Marketing Plan – Local Independent Book Stores 


With Knight of Flame coming out on October 15th, I turned the crank on my great wheel of marketing to the notch labeled—Local Independent Book Stores (LIBS). While a tremendous amount of work can be done online, there is no substitute for, or a peripheral device yet invented that replaces, a firm handshake, and that personal touch.


Building relationships is still important, still relevant, and a great way to garner support at your local independent book seller. It’s not a one visit, wham, bam, buy my book, kind of deal. It can be, if your end goal is to see your book on their shelves; but, if you actually want the store personnel to keep you in mind and recommend your books to their customers, it takes a little more time and attention. I learned a lot during my first visit, and would like to share it with you.


The LIBS I targeted is touted as one of the biggest new and used book stores in Florida. They host quite a few author events, as evidenced by the huge array of signed book cover posters along the walls. These guys have been around a long, long time, founded in 1933 to be exact. I haven’t been in a store like that in years. The arid smell—of old paper, dust, adventure, and wisdom—filled the place. I loved it.


Now, I’ve been in tons of bookstores before, but as a reader. This was my first sojourn with more on my mind than picking up the latest release from Brooks, Farland, Anderson, Owen, or several of my other favorites. So, my expectations were low. I wanted to go in, look around, introduce myself, ask how they made stocking decisions, buy a book (I didn’t want to take up their time without giving something in return), and call it a successful recon mission with a plan to come back in a few weeks.


It didn’t quite work out that way.


I struck up a conversation with one of the guys behind the desk. It only lasted a few minutes, but I got the chance to introduce myself, handed him my business card, and mentioned that I had a book coming out soon. He gave me the owner’s card in return and suggested I give him a call. Done. Nothing major, but I was nice, made the initial contact, and gained the information I needed. Mission accomplished.


Free to peruse the shelves, I found the Fantasy section. Being an avid Fantasy guy, most of the other shelves, and there were shelves everywhere, appear grayed out to me anyway. While perusing the new releases, the gentleman I had spoken to, Roger (name changed to protect the innocent), walked over and picked up the conversation where we left off. We talked about some of the different authors, and then changed topics to cover art.


Roger appeared to be roughly my age, give or take, and he’d worked in the store since he was three, THREE, said he started in the comic book room. Based on his confident demeanor, and the comfortable, familiar way he talked about the authors that had held signings over the years, I got the impression he’d seen just about every book that had come out in the last thirty years worth seeing.


We discussed some of the old Frank Frazetta and Boris Valejo covers from the ’80s, among other things. Then, in the midst of Roger bemoaning the trend of some Sci-Fi covers being too abstract, I offered to show him my cover art. I mean, what could it hurt? We were in the midst of the cover conversation and he seemed to know a lot about the topic. He said, “Uh, sure.” Not overly enthused, but willing to take a peek. (He mentioned earlier that the owner of the store gets at least twenty calls a day from authors asking for him to stock their books. I bet he sees all kinds of covers, all the time. By his demeanor I assume that most aren’t all that spectacular.)


So, I pulled my cover up on my cell phone. Did I mention that I love technology?


Roger’s eyes widened. His stance changed. He stared at the cover. “That’s a really good cover.” His voice sounded deeper, different than it was before the reveal. “You know, every book is judged by its cover. I don’t care what anyone says. And yours is really good.”


His demeanor changed. I felt he took me more seriously. That great conversation we were having before just took on a new level of subtext.


Still on the topic of cover art, he pulled me to another section in the store, explaining how one particular cover sold well. It was a serious military series with a rifle on the cover. Nothing else. It left no question as to what the story was about. He related that the publisher was concerned that the cover was too serious, and rebuffed some readers who were looking for an element of romance. But there was decidedly no romance in the series. At all. None. Still, they changed that cover, depicting an abstract human torso dressed in a nebulous uniform. It gave no clues as to what the story was about, and the artwork sucked (his words). Sales for that entire series tanked. Roger said that he practically had to force people to check it out. Once they did, though, the story sold the rest of the series.


Since our relationship had evolved, and we were talking about a series of cover, I boldly took another step forward. I explained the plan for the changing covers in my four-book series. There are three consistent POV characters throughout my series to ground the reader. In each book, there is an additional POV character, typically one of the other members of the Knights Elementalis. I explained that each cover would showcase the face of that new POV character in the same style as my Knight of Flame cover. The next book features the Knight of Air.


Again, he paused for a moment, taking in the new information. Eyes wide, assessing, mulling over the possibilities, he said, “That sounds really cool. That could work well. Very distinctive.”


I got the same impression as before, could even see it on his face.


We talked about a few other things, moseying about the store. He kept track of the work going on around him, making sure the guys behind the counter could handle the steady flow of customers. When we got to the subject of local writers using recognizable settings in their work, I couldn’t resist. I mean, he lobbed a big juicy pitch over the center of the plate, I had to swing for the fence.


“Hmm,” I said. “Knight of Flame takes place here in the Tampa/St. Pete area. There’s an epic battle atop the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and major events take place on the top floor of the Regions Bank building in downtown Tampa. I’ve got a strong mix of real and fantasy settings in the story.”


He waited for me to continue.


“While the first book in the series is primarily local, the next book expands to the west coast, Canada, and Europe as the influence of the Gray Lord is felt on a more global scale. It escalates further from there until things wrap up in book four. My plan was to build a large story that would draw in readers all over the world.”


He smiled and nodded as I spoke. “Sounds really good.” That’s when he told me the process to win over LIBS. I’ll paraphrase.


  • When you go into an independent book store, don’t talk about the big retailers like Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. It really doesn’t matter to them how much you’ve sold through the other guys. Focus on the store at hand.
  • Be nice. Roger called out a number of the authors on the wall, all exceedingly nice people. He mentioned a few others, no posters marking their presence, giving examples of how not to behave.


That’s it. The key is to be nice. Got it. Roger that, er…uhm, Roger.

Business picked up in the store, so he excused himself. Not to belabor the issues, or to push my luck, I paid for my selections and left, exhilarated.


I’ve had a few days to mull this phenomenal adventure over, and I think there are more steps for a successful visit than Roger let on. I lucked out to some degree. I always try to be nice on general principal, and I have no past history with the big book dogs, so there was no way for me to cross the line there. Here’s the process I came up with:


  • Be Professional
  • Plan the trip – Don’t go in on a whim. Set the date and treat it like a business meeting.
  • Look decent – Look the part. Be the protagonist in your own author success story.
  • Leave a business card – A good looking, professional business card will enhance their perception of you, and leave a souvenir of your visit.
  • Be Nice
  • Courteous
  • Respectful
  • Watch language – treat the encounter like it’s a professional business meeting.
  • Get to the point – don’t waste their time.
  • Be Prepared – if you follow the first two points, especially number two, be prepared to take it to the next level. Create the opportunity to sell yourself and your work.
  • Cover art – my awesome cover art was done by Brad Fraunfelter –
  • Back cover copy
  • Story pitch – you’re not selling to an agent or editor, but you are trying to interest someone in your work.
  • Anything else you might be able to use to tell your story
  • If you have the means, buy a book – the LIBS guys and gals need to eat too, and your to-be-read pile can never be too large.


That’s it. Simple, right? Now, go out and win over your LIBS.

About the Author, Scott Eder

Scott Eder

Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author and explored many genres through high school and college. Fantasy, though, captivated his soul. Tales of Knights and magic, dragons and elves filled his dreams. After greasing the gears of the corporate machine for many years, he escaped the Information Technology vortex to focus full-time on writing. The stories he’d envisioned years ago—of nobility and strife, honor and chaos—demanded they be brought to life.

Scott lives with his wife, two children, and a giant Chihuahua on the west coast of Florida.

Connect with Scott

Facebook: Scott Eder
Twitter: @ScottEder

In their Character’s Words: Kaylin McFarren’s Buried Threads

Kaylin McFarren interviews her character, Shinzo Yamada

Kaylin McFarren: “Hello everyone! Today I’m interviewing Shinzo Yamada, one of the main characters from my latest novel Buried Threads. This handsome gentleman is a Buddhist monk who has a remarkable gift of prophesy. He travels the world freeing trapped souls and can see into the past lives of people he meets. This non-traditional monk is 29-years-old, has a tan complexion and trendy haircut and wears stylist European suits. He is definitely a “metro sexual man” by Tokyo standards, at least according to a recent New York Times article I read. So tell me, Shinzo, are you happy with how you were portrayed in Buried Threads?”

Shinzo: “We all have parts to play in this world. Some of us are leaders, others are followers and some prefer to sit back and simply watch the world go round. As for myself, I do whatever I can to help the lost find a path to enlightenment and to realize their true potential and purpose in life. Although I would have been happier assisting your readers in finding peace and contentment, my preoccupation with preventing a natural disaster in Japan was most apparent in your book. So in answer to your question, under the circumstances, I would have to say you did a fine job.”

Kaylin: “As I’ve indicated in your introduction, you have the ability the visualize past lives. How did you acquire this ability, how do these visions come to you and how does the past impact our personalities?”

Shinzo: “I believe I was actually born with this gift, but with training and the guidance of my superior, who is a direct descendant of Moses, I’ve learned how to control it and use it in a positive way. When I close my eyes and put myself into a meditative state, I can telepathically transport myself into the inner consciousness of the person I’m with and visualize the soul’s memories of past-life activities. Of course, their memories of past-life actions influence how they react to others. Through the same eyes that the personality sees life, the soul sees it, but the soul looks with a memory covering centuries of passion and adventure, caring and love, hatred and revenge, doubt and fear. When we feel a seemingly unfounded fondness for another person, it is very likely due to soul memory of the positive role he or she played in our past lives. On the other hand, when we react with what seems to be an unfounded revulsion or hatred towards another person, you can be pretty sure it is because the soul recalls their past actions against us or our loved ones.

However, the influences of past-life actions are rarely so clear cut. Often those with whom we have had many good lives and relationships are the same people with whom we have had many problems and disagreements, a mix of “good” and “bad karma,” so to speak. In fact, it’s rare that a past-life relationship has every aspect of life in good, clear focus. Those positive, well-developed aspects from our past lives will give us much pleasure and support in the present. Conversely, those aspects, which we did not have in proper focus, will give us opportunities for pain and growth in present relationships. Avoiding these influences is simply not possible. Whether we like it or not, the Universal Law of Karma constantly brings before each of us the meeting of our past use of free will and consciousness. Thus, what we have done to other souls and they have done to us is reflected in the circumstances surrounding our present relationships and the basic, innate urges, attitudes and emotions we feel toward each other.”

Kaylin: “Hmmm…I see where you’re going with this. But since my readers are not able to meet with you, can they personally acquire this ability on some level?”

Shinzo: “A past life meditation is an exercise you can do on your own, although it may take some practice and more than a couple of attempts to get anywhere. In a past life meditation, the Seeker uses meditation techniques to travel back to previous lifetimes. You can achieve this by allowing your mind to wander back through your current lifetime, to earlier memories, and then telling your mind to go back to an earlier period. Although this doesn’t always work for everyone, you may find yourself experiencing memories from what seems to be another lifetime.”

Kaylin: “Fascinating. I’m sure everyone will be trying this tonight. So going in another direction, were you able to win the affections of Mariko Abe, the beautiful geisha you fell in love with in Buried Threads?”

Shinzo: “Ah…I’m sorry, Kaylin-san. I’m not a fan of spoilers and would hate to ruin the fun, so I suggest having your audience investigate themselves by reading Buried Threads, since the answer is buried inside.”

Kaylin: “Thank you, Shinzo, and my thanks and best regards to readers who are sure to experience a wild, fun ride in this new steamy, non-stop action story.”


About the book, Buried Threads


Buried Threads 2

Rachel’s mouth sagged. “You mean you’re really a monk? But how’s that possible? You’re not even wearing a robe, and your hair…”

He simply smiled.

A disturbing prophecy sends a treasure hunting duo on an urgent race to rescue a country in Kaylin McFarren’s heart pounding new novel, Buried Threads. Full of erotic suspense and wild adventures, this is one trip that readers will never forget!

Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen work together as the successful owners of a treasure hunting company. But a seemingly simply assignment – to track down a priceless gem that is believed to buried in a shipwreck deep within the Sea of Japan – takes a starling, and dangerous, turn.

Faced with a monk’s dark prophecy that a natural disaster will soon strike Japan, killing millions, Rachel and Chase must embark on the mission of a lifetime in order to uncover the three cursed samurai swords that can avert the catastrophe.

Chaos ensues as their adventure takes them from shark infested waters and creepy caves to haunted hidden tombs and a confrontation with Yakuza gang members.

Time is running out as the prophecy’s day of reckoning draws near. Will Rachel and Chase succeed before disaster strikes?

Buy a copy from Amazon.

Watch the Trailer on YouTube

About the author, Kayin McFarren

Kaylin McFarren

Kaylin McFarren is a California native who has enjoyed traveling around the world. She previously worked as director for a fine art gallery, where she helped foster the careers of various artists before feeling the urge to satisfy her won creative impulses.

Since launching her writing career, McFarren has earned more than a dozen literary awards in addition to a finalist spot in the 2008 RWA Golden Heart Contest. A member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers, she also lends her participation and support to various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

McFarren currently lives with her husband in Oregon. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Connect with Kaylin:

Facebook: Kaylin.McFarren
Twitter: @4Kaylin
Goodreads: Kaylin_McFarren

Pump Up Your Book and Kaylin McFarren are giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card/Paypal Cash!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins October 7 and ends December 31.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, January 3, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
  • Only U.S. citizens can win the Kindle Fire.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buried Threads

In their words: Arnine Weiss, author of She Ain’t Heavy

She Ain't Heavy

As part of the blog tour for her newest book, She Ain’t Heavy, author Arnine Cumsky Weiss has written a lovely guest post for me about the benefits of joining a writing group, something I’ve always waffled about. I think it’s really appropriate considering the number of my friends and acquaintances who will be starting NaNoWriMo on Friday.

Five Benefits to Joining a Writing Group

by Arnine Weiss

I moved to New York City several years ago, kicking and screaming. My husband transferred here for a new job, and I learned that a mid-life move is not easy. I came from a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania where people on the street said hello and neighbors watched out for each other. I arrived in NYC to learn that the only people who will risk making eye contact with you are those with their hands out.

To make a better connection to the city, I registered for a writing class, which has evolved into a writing group. One of the highlights of my week is getting together with these fine folks and sharing our writing. I’ve realized there are five major benefits in belonging to a writing group.

  1. It forces you to meet deadlines. We all have busy lives and best-laid plans are often thwarted. By making a commitment to yourself and your fellow writers, the group keeps you on task and forces you to produce the expected number of pages.
  2. The feedback. The groups I’ve been involved with provide gentle, honest feedback while mutual respect is fostered. Our members come from a wide demographic, making the perspectives varied and more interesting.
  3. Sense of Community. Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, and writers spend time with characters that often don’t talk back. It can be isolating and requires constant discipline. The writing group creates camaraderie with like-minded individuals who understand your struggles and celebrate your triumphs.
  4. Familiarity. As your history grows with your writing group, your colleagues get to know your work and your characters, sometimes better than you do. I’ve heard comments like, “Oh, John would never do that.” Or “Mary would never say that.” They refer to your characters by name and know what they look like and how they behave. And the group will call you out if your work is not up to your professional standards.
  5. And finally, the snacks! We meet in each other’s apartments and celebrate each other’s work in an atmosphere of collegiality while snacking on fun food. It’s always a joy to get together.

Joining a writing group has changed my outlook on living in a city that can be cold and unfriendly. We started out as colleagues and have evolved into friends and like any good relationship, most of us are in it for the long haul.

About Arnine Weiss:

Arnine Cumsky Weiss

Arnine Cumsky Weiss is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and a teacher of English as a second language. She has worked in the field of Deafness for over thirty years. She is the author of six books. BECOMING A BAR MITVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES, BECOMING A BAT MITZVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES (University of Scranton Press), THE JEWS OF SCRANTON (Arcadia Publishing), and THE UNDEFEATED (RID Press) and THE CHOICE: CONVERTS TO JUDAISM SHARE THEIR STORIES (University of Scranton Press). Her second novel, SHE AIN’T HEAVY (Academy Chicago)was published in June, 2013. She is married to Dr. Jeffrey Weiss and is the mother of Matt, Allie, and Ben.

Connect with Arnine Weiss:

Twitter: @Arnine

About the Book, She Ain’t Heavy:


Just when counter clerk Teddy Warner is about to be evicted from her Scranton apartment, she bumps into beautiful, brilliant, blond Rachel – her estranged childhood friend whose mother forbid their friendship thinking Teddy was beneath them.

Teddy and Rachel reconnect over hot chocolate and under New Year’s Eve fireworks. Their discussion leads to an invitation. Soon, Teddy’s on her way to Philadelphia, where Rachel is a student, to share an apartment and begin an exciting new life in the City.

Teddy views Rachel as perfect. Rachel can’t bring herself to shatter the image by letting on that she is having an affair with a married man. Just when Teddy is starting to feel at home, Rachel insists on some privacy. Acting out her anger at being asked to stay away, Teddy indulges in a one-night stand.

When Teddy returns to their apartment the next morning, Rachel is being carried out on a stretcher – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. This unforeseen tragedy leaves Teddy alone in a strange city, with no money, no friends, and no connections.

As Teddy struggles to find her way, she meets a mentor at the same university Rachel previously attended who takes an interest in her, but with strings attached. She also develops a unique bond with the firefighter who rescued Rachel. And yet, Teddy remains committed to helping Rachel get back on her feet, at a time when no one else who supposedly loves her can accept her in this diminished way. Along the way, Teddy discovers her own strength in the roles of caretaker, lover, and friend.

Buy a copy at

Watch the Book Trailer:

In Their Character’s Words: Jess Money’s Public Enemies

I’m participating in a virtual blog tour for Jess Money’s new novel Public Enemies, and he was kind enough to write a guest post from the point of view of one of his characters. Enjoy! (And don’t forget to buy the book!)

Going Out With A Bang

by Kenneth Johnson, FBI Sr. Special Agent (Ret.)

Public Enemies banner

Everyone who becomes an FBI agent harbors the dream of helping break a big case, the kind that gets taught to future recruits at the FBI Academy. Fortunately, working under Supervisory Sr. Special Agent Darren “Doc” Medlin in Special Assignments Section Bravo, my very last case turned out to be the biggest in FBI history. Given how it ended, whether or not it gets taught at the Academy is still in question.

To a casual observer, Doc and I probably seemed like an unusual team; he was in his mid-30’s and I was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 65, yet he was my superior. This happened largely because Doc was willing to deal with the bureaucracy and political nature of leading an SAS team while I wasn’t. (Okay, the fact that he was a born leader and maybe the best FBI agent ever had a little something to do with it.)

The age difference never mattered to us. We were completely simpatico, Butch and Sundance, Batman and Robin. And like those fictional characters we had our own special woman, our Etta Place, our Bat Woman. Her name was Kelli Randleman and aside from Doc, she was the best agent I ever worked with.

To the public, it was known as the Manifesto case; inside the bureau it was the Crusader file. At its core, the case was simple: a guy using the alias Tom Paine, after the famous Founding Father, set out to force the country to reform through the adoption of a set of Constitutional amendments. As laudable as his goals were, unfortunately he set out to accomplish them using vigilante violence.

Doc’s team was assigned to spearhead the manhunt for Mr. Paine, which proved to be no simple chore. Paine was exceedingly smart, some might even say he was a genius, and during the course of living a normal productive life he had accidentally gained a skill set that later served his terrorist goals quite well. His understanding and command of technology let him evade some of our best investigative tools and even turn some of those tools against us. The more he eluded us and the more his movement grew, the higher the tension among the public rose. Our concern wasn’t just fact that we just couldn’t allow self-appointed vigilantes to whack politicians and business leaders they disagreed with. Doc and I both knew that domestic political terrorism and civil unrest are milestones on the road to civil war.

Our efforts were further complicated by the fact that Paine chose to communicate his messages and demands by calling a young, previously obscure female talk show host named Crystal Dickerson. Doc carried around this vision of his mythical ideal perfect woman and she was it. In all my life I never saw any man fight so hard against inevitable natural attraction, but he refused to let it compromise the case. Of course, for professional reasons she did a pretty good job of holding her ground, too. In the end you could say that we all won, but only because the country also won.

And I got to end my thirty-seven year FBI career with a bang.

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About the Book, Public Enemies:

Public Enemies

The only thing the elite fear, an uprising of the people, is about to be realized.
After bankruptcy took away his dying wife’s medical care, Thomas Paine is on a crusade for a Second Bill of Rights using violence against politicians, banksters, and CEO’s.

How far will FBI Agent Darren Medlin go to stop the public from joining Paine’s insurgency? Forced to publicize Paine’s demands, what decisions will talk show host Crystal Dickerson have to make? And which way will the country turn?

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