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Archive for February, 2009

Lucky Chica
luckyBy Berta Platas
St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN: 978-0-312-34174-9
Copyright 2009
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
ChickLit

Author’s website: www.bertaplatas.com

Lucky Chica is a charming, entertaining novel about a poor Hispanic young woman who wins the biggest lotto ever, and how her life—and those around her—change because of it.

Twenty-four-year old Rosie Caballero, a college dropout, lives in a tiny, rundown apartment with her best friend, Tootie—a tiny dog that looks like it was ‘rescued from the Katrina waters.’ Rosie hates her no-end job, her mean boss, and has been recently dumped by her boyfriend. At such a young age, her life couldn’t get any worse. The only good things in her life are her grandmother, Abuela, and her cousin Cheeto.

Then something incredible happens, something that drastically changes her existence forever: she wins the biggest lottery ever, $600,000,000! All of a sudden she finds herself surrounded by diamonds, furs, luxury suites, yachts, and all the things she never had before. She decides to share her fortune with Abuela and Cheeto. But what does one do with so much money, after the first shopping sprees at Tiffany’s are over? How does one know with whom to share his fortune when everyone wants a piece of it? Not only are greedy people after her, but so are the paparazzi, especially now that Rosie is going out with Brad Merritt, the hottest Hollywood actor around. Has her life really changed for the better?

Lucky Chica makes a very amusing, fun, relaxing read, a perfect one for the beach or those lazy weekends. Part romantic comedy, part coming-of-age story, this is a novel that will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever seriously fantasized about winning the lottery. The characters are sympathetic, the dialogue engaging. Rosie is well drawn, her personality a mix of naiveté and uncertainty about her future, with a nice round arc towards the end as she suddenly wakes up and realizes what to do with her life. But reader be warned, Lucky Chica may prompt people to keep buying those lottery tickets!

*This review previously appeared in Armchair Interviews

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Hi all,

I just started a new promo blog for authors where my golden retriever, Amigo, interviews authors’ pets. In other words, your pet will talk about you and your book, from its ‘unique’ perspective.

I was wondering if any of you would like to be one of my first, er, victims… 🙂

There will only be five questions (I want to keep it short and funny) and I would need a photo of your pet and your book. You just have to answer as if you were your pet.

I’ll be promoting each interview on about 10 groups, sites, blogs, communities, and I plan to post one interview a week. I’ll also keep your book cover permanently on the sidebar (or as long as blogger allows me, LOL)

This is the blog. It’s empty for the moment, but I’m contacting dozens of authors, so I expect it to fill up quickly (already have 10 takers on day 1)

http://petsandauthors.blogspot.com/

I’ll be happy to host authors on virtual book tours as well. If you’d like my golden retriever to interview your pet, contact me at mayra.calvani@gmail.com and I’ll pass him the message. 🙂

Best,
Mayra

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Hi all,

I was recently interviewed by NY Times Bestselling author Marta Acosta on her popular blog, Vampire Wire.

The link is http://www.vampirewire.blogspot.com

I’ll be giving away two free copies to two lucky winners who leave a comment.

Thanks in advance! It’s nice to be the interviewee once in a while 🙂

Best,
Mayra

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My name’s Joe Davis. I run a small detective agency that handles the usual type of case found in a small town like Meadeville. Runaway mates and divorce cases our specialty. Occasionally, we get a case with more hair on it, but never anything like the one that just wandered in off the street one day.
It was a typical July afternoon when even the sidewalks were sweating. I sat in front of an open window with a small fan blowing on my face as I leaned my back against the desk with my feet on the sill. The copy of Playboy I’d been lusting at slid off my lap when the door to my inner office opened.
I jumped up and got into my desk chair and tried to look busy. The hair on my neck and arms rose as if an electrostatic charge had passed over me as I sat. I glanced up. I never should’ve done that.
A character dressed in a black robe was blocking the doorway. His face was lost in the folds of an overlapping hood.
“Come in,” I said. Never should’ve done that either.
The guy–well, he wasn’t a guy… Couldn’t tell what it was. He just stood there.
“You are Joseph Daniel Davis?” His voice was deep with gravel in it.
“Yeh. What do you want?” I didn’t like the get up. “It ain’t Halloween,” I said. Made me hotter just looking at him and besides, he give me the creeps.
“You find people?”
I didn’t like twenty questions with the door open. “Close the door and we’ll discuss it,” I said.
You can imagine my shock when he turned to close the door. A huge, long-handled scythe with the blade pointing back rested on his shoulder.
Death!
I blinked and shook my head. Couldn’t be. Some stupid prank.
I pulled my pistol from the side desk drawer where I keep it and pointed it at him just in case.
He set the scythe against the wall with a large crack in the plaster and approached my desk. Then he pushed his hood back so I could see his face. I wished he hadn’t done that. He didn’t have a face!
I froze in my chair. My pistol fell onto the desk. I had trouble breathing. Death heads do that to me.
He loomed over my old wooden desk so I had to look up at him. A skull doesn’t have any expression but I swear those empty eye sockets could see me.
I couldn’t even shudder.
“What do you want?” I did manage to croak.
He pointed across the desk at me with a fingerbone that poked out of his sleeve.
“You can stop being afraid,” he said. His jaw moved, but I didn’t see how he could form any words. His voice sounded like rocks rolling around in a tin can.
How was it I could understand him?
I tried to breathe again. I stammered, repeating, “What–what do you want?” I still couldn’t move.
“I’m not here for you,” he rattled. “I want to hire you.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” I forced the question out. “Did my ex-wife send you?” I didn’t really believe this was happening. He wasn’t real. Somehow I was being had. And I thought my vicious ex was the most likely to set me up.
“I’m not a joke,” he rattled again. “I want you to find someone.”
“How do I know you’re real?” I asked. “I don’t think death has a physical form.”
“You require proof. Very well.” He touched the pot of the only other live thing in the office, an african violet my last secretary gave me. Its meaty leaves shriveled as the lavender blossoms turned brown.
Then he turned back to me. “Do you believe now?”
I was forced to, wasn’t I? “Yes.”
“Fine. Shall we continue?” he asked.
I closed my eyes. Ah…I could move my eyelids.
As if he knew what I was thinking, my visitor said, “You can move if you want. Fear paralyzed you. Not me.”
I tried to move. I could. A little. My brain began to function, too. Well, sort of. I realized if he was Death and had come for me, I’d be gone. So maybe he was telling the truth about not coming for me. And maybe I was going to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. A guy in his line of work probably said anything he had to, to get the job done. I mean, he was one of those Four Horsemen.
“Okay, who is it you want found? And I gotta know why. For the records.” I tried not to let him see I thought I found a way to get rid of him. “And I don’t do nothing illegal.” Meanwhile, I’d try to think of how to send him on his way–without me.
He straightened and moved back from the desk a few inches. “I want you to find Calvin Desmond James. It’s his time.”
That threw me for a loop. His time? “You want me to find some guy so you can take him?”
The skull nodded.
I started to shake my head when the weirdness of the situation hit me. I laughed.
He never moved.
I started to feel uneasy. “I can’t do that. I can’t be no party to no killing.”
“You wouldn’t kill him.” Death said. “I will. He’s going to be thrown from his motorcycle and I have to be there.”
“Why do you need me?” I tried to figure this out.
“We don’t know where he is.”
Well, there went any theory I might have had. Death couldn’t find somebody? I didn’t believe that.
He read my thoughts again. “We need him.”
“Who is he that he’s so important? Why don’t you just go on to your next vic–er the next person on your list?” My body suddenly went limp. I was free. I could move so I did. I slid my chair back against the wall as far from him as I could get.
“Several years ago they hired him to program our computers–we didn’t know how–and when he was done, he said his work was guaranteed and if we had any problems to come get him. We found a problem and now we need him.”
“What’s the problem? I know several geeks who could probably fix it.”
Death shook his head. “Mr. James left his name off our list.”
“Just one guy. Why not forget him and go on to the next one?”
“He’s not allowed to live forever. He’s eighty-three now and it’s his time.”
This was really getting strange. “So because he’s old now, you gotta take him? How did you know about him at all if he’s not on your list?”
“We share data. The birth records have to match the death records. If we let him go, it becomes a bookkeeping nightmare. Always short one in the accounts closed column.” He leaned over the desk again. “That would never do.”
Death works for a bunch of bookkeepers?
“How do you know when he’s supposed to go, if he’s not in your records?” I asked. I couldn’t figure out how they could know the time a guy was supposed to go and not know where he was. Didn’t make any sense.
“The time of passing is included at birth. Each person has an allotted time. No more. Each one is different.”
“Don’t you keep track of him while he’s here?”
Death shook his head. “That’s the Life Department and they have trouble keeping their data up to date since the invention of the automobile.”
I kept quiet for a minute. Let him think I was considering taking the job. Okay. One thing sure to drive him away.
“You’ll have to sign a contract,” I told him. “It’s a standard form. I don’t take any job without a contract. I have to protect my license and, in case you don’t pay,” I figured I had him here. Death wouldn’t be carrying cash or have a credit card, “I have proof you hired me if we gotta go to court.”
No response. Nothing. Several seconds passed and then he nodded. The hood fell over his skull again.
“I’ll sign the contract,” Death said in that rolling-rock voice of his.
How could he? For a few moments I didn’t know what to do. He’d called my bluff. So I took it one step farther. “I require five hundred bucks up front for two days and expenses. I refund anything not spent and you get a copy of the expense sheet. A bill, if it takes longer than two days.”
He nodded again. The skeleton of a complete hand came out of the sleeve this time with five one-hundreds in it. He lay them on the desk.
I opened the center desk drawer and took out a contract and pen. While I had it open, I put the pistol back, then pushed the form over to him. He appeared to stare at the form for a bit and then one word appeared on the line where the client signs.
Death.
I sagged in my chair. I had Death as a client. I was stuck. I figured if I tried to weasel out now, he’d take me for spite. Besides, I needed the money.
So, okay. I had a new client. He wanted a man found. I took a deep breath and found my backbone. Yeh, I know. Bad pun.
“Do you want to know what Mr. James looks like?” Death asked.
I shook my head. “Nope. Just tell me how you got in touch with him the first time.”
He appeared to ruminate over the facts. “We ran an advertisement in the help-wanted section of the local newspaper.”
Huh?
“And he answered it?” I asked.
Death nodded, his hood fluttering in a breeze the came in my window.
I looked at the sky. A storm was coming in. There’d be lots of noise in those clouds. They were black as sin, black as Death’s robe. I’d have to close the window and then I’d roast. The landlord hadn ‘t installed the new air conditioner yet.
“How long will it take you to find him?” Death asked, interrupting my train of self-pity.
I looked at him. Well, best get it over with. “Not long,” I told him.
I pulled the cover off the computer and turned it on. I seldom used it, not being a techno-geek. It sat on a little stand in a shadowy corner out of the way. It always took a while to warm up. After a prolonged period of coffee-grinder sounds and grunts like a contented pig, the screen lit up. I clicked on the logo for my server and waited for the connection.
No, I didn’t have the speedy service. Cost too much. I only used the machine to play games and visit a few adult sites. Yeh, I know. I had too much free time. My ex-wife says the same thing. I need to get a better job…
Finally, the server answered and I was on. I brought up the search engine I favored and clicked on the name find logo. When the screen came up, I typed in Calvin Desmond James, clicked and waited.
Death seemed taller now. His hood faced the monitor. I swear his bones rattled with excitement.
A screen came up, notifying me of sixty-six Calvin Desmond James in the country.
“I’ll need Mr. James’ last known address,” I told Death as I started looking for an eighty-three year old man. The name find service I subscribed to included age, occupation, address, criminal record, date of birth, phone number, and other information.
“He never gave it to us.”
I raised my head to look at him. “How did you pay him? Didn’t he send you a bill?”
The hood moved in a negative fashion. “He was paid just as you have been.”
Great. So now I had to check all the names.
I scrolled down slowly, discounting the first fifteen. On the sixteenth, I sensed that static electrical charge again.
Death pointed at the screen. “That’s him. He’s eighty-three.”
“There might be more than one. Let me finish checking before you go rushing off and maybe get the wrong guy,” I objected. Much as I wanted him gone, I had to be sure.
He seemed to be fidgeting with his robe, but he waited. I noticed though that he moved closer to the door and his scythe.
I rolled through the rest of the list and found no more of a matching age. I scrolled back up to the sixteenth name. “That’s him,” I said. And felt sad for the guy who thought he’d fixed it so he’d live forever. But bookkeepers are a persistent bunch. They’ll spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to find a missing penny so I guess Death is one of them.
Death opened the door and turned to me. “If we ever need to find anyone else, I’ll be back.” He vanished.
Wonderful. Just wonderful.
Fini??

Copyright 2009. This story may not be copied or reprinted without permission from the author. Previosuly published in New Mystery Reader.

About the author:

Anne K. Edwards enjoys writing mysteries, but dabbles in children’s stories and other genre. She reviews for some publicists and web zines and is co-editor of Voice in the Dark ezine. She is a member of Pennwriters and Books We Love. She does an occasional editing job and loves to read. Her website is http://www.Mysteryfiction.net.

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Touring the blogosphere this month of February is fantasy author A.F. Stewart. Her book, Chronicles of the Undead, tells the story of three generations of one family and their dark connection to the realm of vampires. Visit the author’s blog at: http://www.squidoo.com/undeadchronicles

Q: Thanks for this interview. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

A: Well, I’m a writer of fantasy stories and poetry primarily, and I publish my books independently. I’m still a novice at this whole business and it has definitely been an education trying to learn it from scratch. I getattachmentaspx2think I’m finally getting the hang of it, though.
I’m a single woman from Canada and live on the east coast of the country, in Nova Scotia. I’m a self-professed sci-fi/fantasy geek, action movie buff, and a fan of comic books. I like to draw and paint, mostly landscapes, as a hobby. My other hobby is collecting: comics, sword replicas, and movie collectables.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

A: I’ve always written poems and stories, but I actually would have preferred to be an artist. Alas my artistic talent did not extend far enough, so I went with my other creative outlet. I wrote my first book several years ago (an opus of King Arthur, still badly in need of editing), and have been attempting to pursue the career of an author ever since.

Q: Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

A: My latest book, Chronicles of the Undead, is a bit of a departure for me as it is in the horror genre, rather than fantasy. I have written the occasional horror short story, but never tried writing the genre in a book.

Chronicles is a novella, a classic vampire tale set in 18th and 19th century London, written entirely as diary entries with no dialogue. The book exposes the secrets of Samuel Harrington, his son Edmund and Edmund’s daughter Charlotte, as they deal with the tempting influence of the vampires who infiltrate theirgetattachmentaspx lives. Chronicles of the Undead is an intimate portrayal of family, weakness, the lure of evil, and how one selfish act can have horrific consequences.

I was inspired to write the book because I wanted to explore the original aspect of the vampire, one of a predatory evil. The romantic, dreamy portrayal of vampires seems to be the prevalent one these days, but I think their evil nature is far more fascinating.

Q: How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

A: I had to do a lot of planning with this book, but I didn’t use outlines, as is my usual practice. It was more of a free form channeling of my characters, writing diary entries as I was inspired. The biggest struggle I had was writing the character of Edmund Harrington, he just wouldn’t behave; I had to change his plotline three times before it finally worked.

Q: Did your book require a lot of research?

A: Yes. I had to research vampire folklore and mythology for the background of my villains, and then I had to do extensive research on the customs of 18th and 19th century London. I had to explore the city layout of the time, the history of the London coffeehouse, the when and where of historic events, and the social structure of two centuries. The strangest thing I had to check were the diary dates, to ensure the entries didn’t contradict with holidays or Sundays.

Q: Who is your target audience?

A: Chronicles of the Undead would probably appeal most to readers who like classic horror or paranormal dark fantasy. The rest of my writing is aimed at people who like a good tale of fantasy and magic.

Q: Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

A: My muse generally tends to be most annoying, popping ideas into my head any time of the day. If she ever refused to inspire me in might be a nice vacation.

Q: Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

A: I generally don’t write the first draft of a book in order, but skip around from chapter to chapter. I usually start with the beginning, and then I might write the ending, or a key plot point, editing as needed until the draft is finished. Then I start on the power edits, ruthlessly cutting anything that doesn’t work and polishing the prose.

Q: What type of scenes give you the most trouble to write?

A: Romance scenes. I am the most self-critical when I write those scenes, probably because I don’t use my romance writing skills very often. I’m more comfortable killing off my characters than letting them live happily ever after.

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My latest novel, The Dead Guy, is a murder mystery set in Detroit. Why Detroit? Two reasons. I was born and raised in a Detroit suburb, so I knew the area well and could write about it convincingly. The second reason was that I couldn’t think of a better place for a main character who investigates car insurance scams for a living. After all, Detroit is known as the Motor City.

Of course, my main character, Jack Thigpen, gets pulled into a murder investigation when his best friend gets shot and killed. And actually, Jack was the target. Not only did I want to add a lot of irony to The Dead Guy, I wanted to add a lot of twists and turns to the plot.

For someone who starts out writing novels in the mystery genre, the murder mystery will follow certain conventions. The writer learns these conventions and writes the storyline accordingly. But what if the mystery genre hasn’t been the main focus of your writing? That’s what I faced when I started writing The Dead Guy.

I’ve written mostly in the horror and suspense genres. And as I point out sometimes, when a black cat appears in a horror novel, the implications are totally different than when one shows up in a mystery. But I was determined to write a straight-up mystery with no supernatural elements. But then, how do I create tension? It’s easy when there’s a monster lumbering toward town. Everyone fears monsters. But what do people fear in a mystery novel?

The answer I came up with was death. Everyone fears death, which is why I gave my main character a fatal disease in the first chapter. It’s a fast-acting disease, too, which adds to the tension. In a way, it’s a ticking bomb, and the mystery has to be solved before the disease renders my main character dead.
The first reviews are in, and they’ve all been good so far. The common thread is that The Dead Guy is a fast-paced mystery. I think that stems from my history as a horror writer. I want readers to want to turn the page to find out what happens.

With The Dead Guy, I think I’ve succeeded.

The Book:

Jack Thigpen works in Detroit, nicknamed The Motor City, the perfect place for a fraud investigator who specializes in car insurance scams. He is on a case he believes is a typical, low-level crime, but it quickly turns into a situation with ominous international consequences. Ironically, as he is targeted for death frontcoveronlywithbylinejpeg-185x255because of his investigation, Jack is diagnosed with a fatal disease that is untreatable, a disease that will end his life within months. And instead of killing Jack, the hit man shoots Jack’s best friend. Struggling to come to terms with his impending death, Jack vows to track down his friend’s killer.

Jack plunges into the world of corrupt car dealerships, chop shops, and fraudulent auto repair shops. He is soon swept into the darkness of Detroit’s criminal underbelly to uncover the truth about power struggles within organized crime rings. Death is staring him in the face, but Jack doesn’t back down. He pushes ahead, plowing through perilous roadblocks planted by his enemies, propelling himself toward the finish line and a teeth-gritting, heart-pounding conclusion.

Bio:

Doug Hewitt was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan and now lives in North Carolina. Along the way, he did a four-year stint in the Marine Corps and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. He has been writing short stories for over 20 years and has been getting them published for most of that time, with over 80 stories in print. His stories have appeared in anthologies such as The Dead Inn and 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories. He has appeared in the premier issue of Apex Digest and has seen his chapbook, Slipstream, published by Scrybe Press.

He turned his attention to longer works and had his first novel SPEAR published in 2002. The Midwest Book Review calls SPEAR “a thrilling and deftly crafted novel.” After being remarried in 2004, he and his wife, Robin, founded HewittsBooks.com. In addition to authoring a non-fiction parenting book, The Practical Guide To Weekend Parenting, Doug and Robin teamed up to write The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting.

Doug returned to his original passion, writing fiction, and wrote The Dead Guy, which St. Martins author Lynn Chandler-Willis calls a “high-octane, pedal-to-the-metal ride through the criminal underbelly of the automotive world.” You can visit Doug Hewitt and read a free PDF chapter of The Dead Guy at www.HewittsBooks.com.

www.HewittsBooks.com (download the first chapter free here!)
www.TwoHewitts.blogspot.com (where I blog about book promotion)
www.ParentsWrite.com (where I blog about parenting)

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Anne K. Edwards gets interviewed on Advice Radio on the slippery subject of book reviewing. Listen slippery_smallto the live interview here.

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