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andrea

Andrea Sisco is co-founder/owner of the popular book review site, Armchair Interviews. She's joining us to today to talk about her debut mystery novel, A Deadly Habit, to be released on July 17th by Five Star. Visit her website at AndreaSisco.com. To read my review of A Deadly Habit, click HERE.

Thanks for this interview, Andrea. Tell us, when did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I didn't decide.  It just happened.  Really, it just happened.  I had an idea.  I sat down and wrote it and when I wrote The End I said to myself, "You wrote a book!  Now try and get an agent and sell it smarty pants."  By that time I was determined.  I was 60 (a very young 60) years old and my bucket list cried out for author to be written on it.  Did I tell you how excited I am?  It's just bubbling over.

Your mystery novel, A Deadly Habit, features a feisty, stubborn, and quite endearing protagonist. What was your inspiration for her?

I'm not sure where Penelope came from.  However, my editor, in a flurry of emails said at the end of three or four of them, "Oh, I get it, YOU are Penelope.  I was shocked.  My son Guy (he's an actor in New York) called and I asked him about my editor's comments since he had read the book.  He laughed and said, "Duh."  So maybe there is just a little of Penelope in me.  They say, write what you know and I guess I knew Penelope.  And I had been a probation officer for almost twenty years…

Did you plan in advance all the parts of the plot or did she lead you along the way? I wouldn't be surprised!

I did everything wrong.  I had no idea how to write a book.  I had the basic plot.  I a deadly habitsat down at the computer.  I wrote.  The result was A Deadly Habit (my husband titled the book).  The characters led me every step of the way and let me tell you it was an uncomfortable position to be in.  I don't like to lose control of things!  I tried many times to just slap them down, but they were like stubborn children and wouldn't mind.  By the end of the book I thought I would like to take my own gun and just shoot Penelope.  She can be a bit aggravating.  The process was painful and I won't do it like that again.  The next book is plotted!

Some of your secondary characters, like the nun and the priest, add a lot of humor to your novel. How did you come up with the idea for these characters?

I grew up a protestant and all my cousins were Roman Catholic.  I was entranced with the ritual, the pomp and circumstance of the faith.  I used to dress up in bed sheets and pretend I was a nun.  And let me tell you, I was a drama queen.  It seemed like a great deal of fun to have an elderly priest and a young nun trying to keep the impetuous Penelope on the straight and narrow (Yeah, that would be a Kodak moment).  So a little idea became Father Daniel and Sister Germaine.

Will this be a series? If so, when will the second one be published?

It began as a stand alone book and grew into a series.  I didn't sign on for another book, but it is happening as we speak.  I had to write it because Penelope was hounding me, not to mention the three emails from my editor. 

Tell us about your writing habits while working on this novel? Did you write every day? Were you disciplined?

My writing habits were despicable!  I don't want to talk about how I wrote this novel as it is embarrassing.  But I will tell you because I think other authors feel awful about how they write.  They feel guilty about their process.  And they shouldn't feel guilty.

They read those interviews where the author says: "Oh, I'm disciplined.  I write six days a week, five pages daily…" Or "I write every day for four hours."  Or the big lie, "I'm at my desk for five hours every day, even if I can't think of anything to write.  I just sit there."  Well doesn't that one make you want to slit your wrists?  Hey I've got a husband, children, grandchildren, a puppy and friends, two homes, not to mention the wash, ironing (yes I still iron) and bills to pay.  I don't have time to punish myself if I'm experiencing writers block.  I'm a woman with things to do.  I write or I don't write.  But what I don't do is gaze out the window (I'd just look at weeds that needed plucking or think about taking Sophie for a walk).  But what I did do was write erratically.  I'd write every day, all day for three weeks and then nothing for two.  It's difficult to do everything I do and then run Armchair Interviews and write a book.  I should be three women.  What I need is a wife.  Oh, did I say that as busy as I am, we're discussing another puppy?  Crazy woman that I am.  Yes, Sophie and I need a companion and we're thinking about a certain Yorkie.  A little boy that needs us.  My husband Bob has veto power and we're waiting to see what he thinks.  But I digress.  See how it goes?  Its tough to have a writing schedule when you've developed adult onset ADD.

What was the hardest part of writing this novel? The easiest?

The most difficult part was actually writing A Deadly Habit.  It's tough to be funny and I'm not sure I accomplished it.  I'm waiting for some reviews to tell me if I was successful.  I have an interesting view of the world.  I see it like a movie and I provide the running commentary.  I'm not sure others will think my view is humorous.  The easiest thing was writing The End.  In other words, when writing a novel, nothing is easy.  Oh, it was easy to tell everyone "I sold my book!"

How do you divide your time between maintaining a popular book review site like Armchair Interviews, which has about 100 reviewers, and writing?

I don't do a very good job at all.  I'm leaving my Minnesota home early this fall (mid October) and locking myself away in my Arizona home (I'm not telling anyone I've arrived) and writing.  I have to.  If I allow myself any leeway at all, I'll be off and running in another direction.  I'll start a new quilt, take the puppies (notice the plural—I am like Tinker Bell—I believe!) for a walk, I'll call my grandchildren or read a book.  Note to self:  You should cook something occasionally.  Your husband would certainly appreciate the effort.  That effort may help the puppy situation also.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

 A Deadly Habit: A Penelope Santucci mystery will be released July 17, 2009.  The easiest way to purchase is from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or the publisher's website which is www.gale.cengage.com  If anyone is in the Twin Cities (St. Paul/Minneapolis) on July 30; please join me at Once Upon a Crime mystery bookstore at 7:00 p.m. for the formal launch.  OUAC is my FAVORITE bookstore.  If anyone is coming that night they can preorder A Deadly Habit via www.onceuponacrimebooks.com

And finally:  If you long to write a book, do it!  If I can write and sell a book at age 60, anyone out there with the desire can do it!  Go for your dreams.  Life can sometimes be a real downer and daring to follow through with a dream is better than those little bitty pills I've heard so much about.

Thanks for the great interview, Andrea, and good luck with your new novel!

 

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About Jean Koning…

visions“As most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego ‘!JP’) was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.

At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you’re studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren’t too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel “Visions”, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.

He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit: http://www.1jp.org/

About VISIONS…

Visions is a collection of columns written for the e-zine, The Noise. A surprisingly intimate portrait on life and every day politics, accomplished with a fierce manner of writing.

Inspired by his own research for the musical album ‘Notes from Purgatory’, Jean Koning digs deep into the well of his personal life and blends the stories he found there with his experiences and visions of the American Way of Life, to portray a whirlwind of emotion, anger and doubt.

Dipped deep in a cocktail of absurdity and melancholy, the swift stories are built upon the eagerness to achieve a deeper understanding in trends, hypes and the corrupt world of commercial art.

The stories’ subjects change as swiftly as the Dutch climate. From Amsterdam hookers to New York art openings and the ongoing war in Iraq. From the duality toward American lifestyles and Hollywood productions to Barbie and Ken in a setting of ironic perversity. From a heartfelt letter full of tips for Hillary Clinton to a remarkable talk show with Oprah Winfrey.

Visions is a humoristic approach of the life we lead today, with a huge comment made on worldwide politics. This is our planet today, with America as the prime suspect, Europe as the jury and Koning himself as the brutal judge.

Surprisingly enough, Koning doesn’t point a finger of blame at anyone without pointing that finger at himself first.

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opertionemubookThird-rate Hollywood actors and top NASA astronauts come together in this quirky, hilarious romp of a novel.

Somewhere in the depths of NASA, a team of scientists begin to conduct a top secret operation called OPERATION EMU… Soon afterwards, a Hollywood producer puts together a team of actors for a mysterious, low-budget movie…

Some time later, after an intense training period, NASA sends three astronauts to space on a special mission to visit a nearby planet believed to have intelligent life. The astronauts are sedated for the whole duration of the long trip. When they wake, they realize they have landed on said planet. However, a huge surprise awaits, for this planet is inhabited by primitive cave people who roam around practically naked and who are friendly and naive. Untouched by technology, they live simply and happily, without such worries as politics or feminism. Indeed, the men hunt, and the women cook and take care of their home’s bare necessities. Their religion consists of worshipping animal gods.

The story goes on to show the behavior of the three astronauts toward the aliens. Are the astronauts compassionate and protective, or does their dominating, imperialistic nature as ‘superior’ humans take control? How are their actions and interactions in this new, prehistoric environment where they suddenly have the capacity to become kings and even ‘gods’ to these weaker living beings?

Operation Emu is a thought-provoking satire, one that will make you wonder about Hollywood, science, and the US Space Program. The novel will also make you wonder about human nature and the advantages of technology, as well as our capacity to dominate. We have, in fact, achieved a lot in the last few thousand years, but at what price? Could it be at the price of our humanity? The reader will enjoy the story’s political and religious implications. The dialogue is sharp and propels the story at a quick pace. The characters are offbeat and some of the ridiculous situations will make you laugh out loud. Author B. Brandon Barker has created a smart, funny parody of what really means to be an ‘advanced’ homo sapiens.

If you enjoy satire, you’ll want to add Operation Emu to your shelf.

Visit the author’s website at http://www.bbrandonbarker.com/

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03My guest today is Misa Ramirez, author of Living the Vida Lola. Misa’s work combines elements of humor, romance and mystery. In this interview, she talks about her inspiration for the novel, her busy schedule, and her future projects.

Thanks for being here today, Misa. After reading your book, I was surprised to find out that you’re not Latina by birth, but by marriage. How did you come to idendity so well with Latinas? 

A.   I am thrilled that you feel I did justice to the Mexican culture and to Latinas!  In a lot of ways, I do feel that Lola Cruz is my ‘alter ego’ if I were a Latina.  I think it comes from being so involved with my husband’s family for so long.  We’ve been married for 19 years.  Various members of his family have lived with us at different times, including his parents.  They have always been a dynamic family with so many strong personalities, yet their culture has always been a subtle part of who they are and how they live.  That’s what I wanted to capture through the characters in my book.  Not every Latino’s experience is the same.  Not everyone thinks the same, has the same sensibility of cultural values or expectations, but they each embody some elements of the culture.  I really wanted to have Lola be an American who was also Latina.  I wanted her to balance all the different parts of who she is, all the while being true to herself.  I think my approach, and being “Latina by marriage” made me super aware of not falling into stereotypes, as well.  None of my husband’s family are ‘stereotypical’ Latinos.  They are all complex, multi-cultural individuals and I’ve learned so much from them.  I love the culture and my husband and wanted to write something that in some way represented who my children are on some level, as well.

When did you start writing? Do you have another job besides writing?

I wrote in college, but got a little more serious when I first started teaching middle school.  But then I had children and writing took a backseat.  I came at it again after my 5th baby was born and I needed an outlet.  I’d had the good fortune of having a children’s book published and kept working toward getting another one published.  But the magic wasn’t happening.  I was writing to prompts and Lola was born.  Her family came next, and pretty soon the whole book was pouring out of me. 

Of course then I went back and rewrote it SO many times, working in more character development and adding plot points.   I also went back to teaching which left little time for writing.  But I persevered, landed the most awesome agent ever, and Living the Vida Lola was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur!  Now I’m writing full-time, dabbling in some part time teaching, and loving my new career.

What compelled you to write Lola’s story? 

Like I mentioned above, I really wanted to tell a story about someone like my own children.  I wanted to capture the bi-cultural aspects of my husband.  And I wanted to write a fun, sassy, strong, smart woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted most of all–a career as a writer–oh, no!  That’s me!–a career as a detective. 

I love Lola and her family.  They really are real to me! 

Describe to us a regular writing day in Misa Ramirez’s life. Are you a disciplined writer?

 

Unfortunately I’m not disciplined enough.  Since our recent move to Texas (from California), I’ve jumped into some community work.  It’s taking more of my time than I’d anticipated!  But I’m definitely the type of person who will just keep working.  In fact, I probably work better under a little pressure. 

The typical day:  Wake up; Wake up children (6 year old takes 15 minutes minimum to get out of bed!); supervise the kids’ breakfast and drink coffee (me, not the kids); make their lunches if they are running late, or supervise their lunch-making if they’re not (I believe in teaching them how to do things for themselves!); take them all to school; go for a walk (or do yoga on Thursdays); come home, clean up, chores (never-ending), and go into office to begin working (this is assuming there is nothing child related or community activist related on the calendar for the day); write, drink more coffee, tea, or water; eat something carby (argh!); pick up kids from school; help with homework; check email and do miscellaneous tasks on the kitchen laptop computer as time allows; do sports, piano, guitar lesson runs; dinner; reading to kids; playtime (if there’s time); bed for the kids; watch a recorded or Netflix show if one is available, read, or back to the computer.  Next day, begin again. 

More detail than you wanted, right?!

What’s in the horizon? 

Book 2 in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series is in production.  I believe it will be released in winter 2010.  No date yet, and no title yet!   Beyond that, I have books 3 and 4 in the works, a proposal for another series–this one about a curandera, am working on a middle grade proposal, and am doing some freelancing.   I also am a columnist at www.romancingtheblog.com, and co-operate http://chasingheroes.com, a very cool website all about hero archetypes (and heroine archetypes) and so much more.  Always something in the works!

Anything else you’d like to tell readers? 

Thank you for having me, Mayra!   And thanks to those of you who’ve read Living the Vida Lola.  It’s hit the local (Dallas-Fort Worth area) bestseller’s list and I’m thrilled that so many people are loving Lola! 

Visit my website at : http://misaramirez.com for contest information and more...

Thanks, Misa, and good luck with your work!

 

Read my review of Living the Vida Lola.

 

–Mayra Calvani, www.MayraCalvani.com

 

 

 

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Sybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including upstreet, The Bitter Oleander, Paper Street, and Alehouse. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle in September 2005. Her website can be found at www.sybilbaker.com.

Thanks for being my guest today, Sybil. It's a pleasure to have you here at Blogcritics. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started writing?

Well, I actually started writing stories when I first learned to write in the first grade. I’ve been writing creatively ever since.

I started The Life Plan in late fall 2004. I was living in Seoul, South Korea, and wanted to write a comic novel that took place in Thailand and chronicled a couple’s marriage in crisis. I finished the first draft about a year later.

What was inspiration for your novel, The Life Plan?

From 2003-2005, I was a student in Vermont College’s MFA program. In spring 2004, I told my advisor Patricia Henley that I was recently divorced, and she suggested I write about it. I agreed with her but was afraid I was too close to the subject and that whatever I wrote would be a bitter, self-involved pity party. I used to write humor columns when I was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, so I thought that if I made the character different from me and wrote with humor I might have the distance to pull the story off.

At that point I’d been living in South Korea for about nine years and had traveled around Asia extensively. I’d always loved Thailand and thought it would be a great place to set a novel.

Tell us a bit about the plot and about the protagonist.

I think the best way to learn about The Life Plan is to watch the book trailer:

If I have to describe the plot of the Life Plan in ten words or fewer I say the plot is Bridget Jones meets Eat, Pray, Love. Here’s the longer version.

Kat, a lawyer in DC, is a woman with a Life Plan—written and documented so that nothing will go wrong. When Kat’s husband Dan enrolls for a course in Thailand to study massage, Kat is compelled to go with him to save the marriage. Soon Kat finds herself not only fighting for her marriage, but her career and reputation as well. Yet when Kat has a chance to regain all that she has lost, she finally questions her own reasons for pursuing her rigid life plan.

Kat is like a lot of women I’ve met. She’s twenty-nine and facing the pressure of trying to have “it all”—career, family, marriage—by the time she’s thirty five. When she first arrives in Thailand she’s a cross between the stereotypical ugly American and the innocent abroad, a la Daisy Miller. Kat’s physical journey through Thailand mirrors her emotional journey of trying to accept that that life does not always go according to plan.

I understand the novel is written in the first person. You also worked as a humor columnist before. Was it easier to find your voice in first person because of your column writing background?

That’s a great question. I chose to write this novel in the first person because I thought it was important to tell the story in Kat’s voice. I wanted to make it clear that the impressions and reactions to Thailand are Kat’s and not an “objective” commentary. I thought that writing in first person would make it easier for me to keep a comic tone in the novel as well. So yes, I think writing a humor column helped me access that comic voice—one I hadn’t used in my writing for almost twenty years.

Who is the target audience for your book?

The target audience is women in their 20s-30s who are interested in reading comic novels about strong complex female characters living in the modern world. People who are interested in reading about different countries, travel fiction, and global fiction would also be interested in The Life Plan.

Because the novel poses so many questions that are relevant to women today, I think The Life Plan would be great for book clubs as well. I’m working on posting reading group questions on my website, and I can meet with clubs in person (if they’re club is within driving distanc) or via Skype.

That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of men who have told me they loved the book. That unexpected response has been great.

You've traveled extensively around the world. How have your travels influenced your writing?

I think even more than traveling, living out of the country for twelve years influenced my themes and outlook in my writing. Even though I visited the States frequently, Asia felt more like home and the U.S. like the foreign country. Because I lived abroad for so long, I hope I can place my stories and themes within a more global context than if I’d not traveled or moved abroad. The novel I’ve almost finished takes place in the States, but after I finish it I plan to return to writing about Americans in other countries.

What are your writing habits like? Are you disciplined?

More than disciplined, I’m busy! My writing habits depend on the time of year. Because I teach at a university, I can write a lot during the summer and on breaks when I’m not teaching. There are also periods in the semester when I can get a lot of writing done, but there are other times when I have to let it go. I try make writing goals like, I’ll finish chapter x by Friday, or I plan to have a draft finished by the end of x. Right now I’m planning on revising the novel I’m working on by the end of April so that I can give it to a few friends to read and comment on while I’m traveling in South Africa in May. When I get back in June I’ll start notes for a new novel and work on some essays.

What are you working on now?

The novel’s working title is “Replay.” Like The Life Plan, Replay is a comic novel and the main character, Stacy lives in Washington DC. Unlike Kat from The Life Plan, Stacy has artistic ambitions and doesn’t have much of a Life Plan at all.

Here’s the synopsis:

Thirty-four-year old Stacy Mullins is stuck artistically, romantically, and professionally. After her father suddenly dies leaving his daughters in debt, Stacy moves from city to suburbs to be a temporary nanny to her sister’s children. When her college ex and now successful screenwriter, Ben Logan unexpectedly shows up in her life, Stacy falls for Ben all over again. While her own life continues to fall apart, Stacy must decide if undoing the mistakes of her past is the only way to move forward with her future

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

If you read The Life Plan or are interested in reading the book for your book club, please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear from you. And please leave a review at Amazon, Goodreads or other sites. Spread the word—ever reader’s voice counts!

Thanks, Sybil!

Thank you for hosting me! I enjoyed it!

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lolaYou may want to hold this book with gloves, because it is caliente!

Lola Cruz is a young and feisty private detective working for Camacho and Associates. Her quirky co-workers include an overbearing boss and a blue-haired secretary who thinks she looks like Jennifer Lopez. Of course, these aren’t the only people driving her crazy: there’s also her meddling, over-protective mom, playboy brother and a young cousin who wants her help for an upcoming quinceanera party.

Then one day Lola is put in charge of a high-profile case. A woman has disappeared, and Lola must find out what happened to her. Her investigation once again puts her in contact with Jack Callaghan, a journalist she’s had a crush on since high school and who happens to be her brother’s good friend. Just as in the old times, sparks go off as soon as they meet. Though Lola doesn’t exactly want his help, he somehow finds a way to show up in the most unusual–and dangerous–situations. As the investigation progresses, takes a bad turn, and the list of suspects keeps growing, it becomes evident that the case isn’t a simple ‘disappearance’ and that some important people are involved. Will Lola bring her relationship with Jack to another level, solve the case, and live to tell about it?

Living the Vida Loca is a fun, entertaining novel. Lola is a sympathetic, good-hearted, spunky protagonist who gives a new meaning to the words ‘private investigator’. For one thing, she refuses to carry a gun! The story combines romance, mystery and humor and moves at a fast pace that will keep you turning those pages. There’s a great array of secondary characters that add color to the story. I found there was a good balance between the romance and the mystery, without one getting in the way of the other. There’s also a lot of romantic tension between the hero and heroine. This is the first book in the Lola Cruz mystery series and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the next book. Be sure to add this title to your summer reading list!

Visit the author’s website: http://misaramirez.com/

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nutcase1Nutcase
Charlotte Hughes
Jove
978-0-515-14593-9
288 pages
February 2009
$7.99

Author’s website: http://www.readcharlottehughes.com

Nutcase is part romance, part comedy, part chick-lit. There’s also a touch of mystery to add to the mix. The second book in the Kate Holly psychology series, this is a light read that will appeal to most chick-lit fans, especially those who are interested in psychology.

Kate Holly is a young clinical psychologist living in Atlanta. Unstable patients aren’t the only problems she has to deal with. There’s her firefighter ex-husband, psychologist ex-boyfriend, quirky secretary, and meddling mother… not to mention her little dog, whose depressed disposition gets him into serious trouble.

When a serial arsenist starts terrorizing her town, and a young boy is accused of attacking the local priest, Kate does her best to help while dealing with a quirky array of characters and unusual situations. On the one hand, she’s going to therapy with her ex-husband; on the other, she’s evicted from her office and has nowhere to go to but with her ex-boyfriend, who offers to share his office with her. At the same time, her aunt is seeing one of her criminal patients… In other words, Fate keeps putting obstacles on Kate’s path.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Though there are many hilarious moments and the protagonist has a strong sympathetic voice, there’s no central plot to pull the reader along. There are several subplots going on and no major one to make the reader wonder what’s going to happen next or to really care about the predicament of the characters. Everything seems to be coming randomly from different directions. I had to force myself to finish the book in order to review it; the lack of a strong unity in the plot took away my concentration and desire to care for the characters. The pace moves fairly quickly, the dialogue is natural and energetic and the characters sympathetic, so there are many positive aspects in this book. But the plot has no substance and just doesn’t cut it. I also don’t understand why it’s categorized as mystery/suspense. I got no sense of suspense whatsoever. For me, this falls under humor/satire.

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sunstruck_2

Sunstruck
by Mayra Calvani
Zumaya Publications
Release date: February 2009
Print ISBN: 978-1-934841-18-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-934841-19-8
Parody/Satire/Women’s Fiction
Available on Amazon and as ebook from EReader.com

Sunstruck has its own site at: www.sunstruckthenovel.blogspot.com

Blurb:

Twenty-four year old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man.

Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella’s mother is always there to offer a shoulder.

Several strange mysteries are threaded through Daniella’s everyday life: her ex-husband, Ismael, has just opened an outlandish hotel for animal lovers that has her distraught; Ismael’s wife, a rich woman Daniella fondly refers to as “Lady Dracula,” has some gruesome ways to keep her skin looking young; Daniella’s mother is founding a revolutionary, feminist society called The Praying Mantises; the island’s national forest is being depleted of hallucinogenic mushrooms; meanwhile, young girls are disappearing and there’s a nut loose dressed as Zorro slashing the rear ends of women who wear miniskirts.

Oppressed by all these crazed, eccentric characters, Daniella feels herself falling into an abyss. Then something horrendous happens, making Daniella wake from her stupor and take charge of her life.

Reviews:

“Salvador Dali meets Terry Gilliam in a surrealistic romp that skewers the society of dilettantes and artistic poseurs. Reading Sunstruck is like having one of those long, convoluted dreams that seem to be totally logical until they twist off into another dimension entirely. Monty Python’s Flying Circus would be proud.” -Blue Iris Journal

“Brilliant” –MyShelf.com

“Dark and quirky humor coupled with quixotic characters adds to the surprising mix found in Sunstruck… I’ve never read a book remotely like it. Everything from the humorously weird to the actue macabre can be found between these covers, and then some.” -Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review

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happyHappy Hour at Casa Dracula
By Marta Acosta
Pocket Star
1416531602
Vampire/Chick-Lit

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

With a title like that, you know a book has got to be darkly humorous. In this the first book in the Casa Dracula series, Latino author Marta Acosta introduces us to her opinionated, feisty yet delightfully naïve heroine, Milagro de los Santos, and her new breed of friendly vampires.

Told in first person from Milagro’s point of view, our tale begins as our heroine attends a book party in honor of her arrogant, snob ex-boyfriend Sebastian. It is there that she meets a mysteriously handsome stranger by the name of Oswald. Sparks go off almost immediately. Later that night, in his hotel room, they accidentally kiss and exchange blood… an event that has serious consequences for Milagro, who soon begins feeling sick. Transformed into her new nature, she is persuaded to move into a grand estate—Casa Dracula—inhabited by a group of rich, eccentric vampires who insist they must take care of her until she is well and fully understands her new ‘illness’.

At the same time, the estate and its vampires are in danger of annihilation by a secret group of vampire hunters who dream of destroying them. Interlaced with this are Milagro’s various relationships with the different members of Casa Dracula.

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula
is an entertaining, upbeat, sassy novel driven forth by one very individualistic heroine. I’d say the strength of this novel, more than the plot and the rest of the characters, is the heroine. Yes, Milagro is sometimes witty and her sharp humor will make you laugh out, but there’s also a naïve, scatterbrained, ‘lost’ quality about her that is quite endearing and that probably has to do with her awful relationship with her mother, who has never in her life understood her and who is mentioned offhanded throughout the story. In a way, she roams the world like a little waif, trying to find her true home among her various romantic relationships. No doubt Milagro will frustrate many of her female readers; I know I felt like shaking her at times, but this is part of who she is and these flaws make her more genuine as a character.

The sexy scenes are handled with taste and there’s really very little graphicness at all in the book. This is a fun book to enjoy on those long summer afternoons. If you like humor, vampires, and a sprinkled of Latino flavor, I’d recommend you give this one a try.

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Author Mary Cunningham

Author Mary Cunningham

Your hair is getting white, you’re losing muscle tone, you wish gravity didn’t exist so wrinkles wouldn’t take hold of your face, menopause is finally kicking in – really kicking in. Is it the end, or the beginning of great things to come?

Authors Diana Black, Mary Cunningham, and Melinda Richarz Bailey share their experiences — sometimes sad, sometimes joyful, sometimes funny — about their road ‘downhill’. Or is it really to middle age? They also share their dreams and realizations about life and what it really means to be 50.

WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty is a combination of short personal essays, poems, and witty quotes that will touch your heart and enlighten your mind about the aging process. At the end of each chapter the authors invite readers to write their own experiences and thoughts, so you may want to have a pencil or pen in hand as you read.

Bad hair days, chocolate (and expanding waistlines!), dogs, the menopause (flashing!), being a woman, cell phones, and computers are some of the topics covered in the book. Take a look at this short segment on the powers of chocolate:

Seriously, how could something so rich and luscious;
something that can make most grown WOOFers lie, cheat
and steal; something that can, with one delicious, melt-in-your-
mouth morsel bring a menopawsal, endorphin
deprived, raving lunatic back from the brink of insanity;
be bad for you?
Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what we’re talking
about. Who hasn’t searched underneath the sofa cushions
in January for a stray piece of Halloween candy?

And of course, every WOOFer over 50 must have a WooFer name. In the book, Diana Black is ‘d. d. dawg’, Mary Cunnigham is ‘Milkbone’, and Melinda Richarz Bailey is ‘Mad Dog’. Towards the end there is a list of names with their behavioral characteristics, so you can choose the one that best suits the WOOFer in you.

WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty is a light, humorous, entertaining, and certainly uplifting read. I finished reading it in two hours. Many of the segments are hilarious and made me laugh out loud – and mind you, I’m not 50 yet. This little book would make a great Christmas or birthday gift to anyone who loves a good laugh, but especially to those Woofers over 50.

For those interested, the authors have formed a club for WOOFers: www.woofersclub.com.

And there’s also a blog: www.woofersclub.blogspot.com.

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