Interview with Caren J. Werlinger

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Who or what inspired A Bittersweet Garden?

I have truly loved The Quiet Man for decades (my wife has graciously watched it 26 times with me, 27 coming up for St. Patrick’s Day!). When we finally got to Ireland and Cong in 2015, it was a dream come true for me. Everywhere we went in Ireland, it was as if I could hear the ghosts whispering. This story just grew from that experience.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I was one of those kids who would lock myself up in my bedroom and spend entire weekends writing stories. I continued writing until I got into physical therapy school, and then stopped for several years. When I took creative writing back up in the mid-90s, it was ten years before I was able to get that first novel published… just in time for the recession and the mass closure of bookstores. Perfect timing!

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Oh gosh, that is so hard. All the characters become a favorite (even the not-so-likeable ones) while I’m immersed in their lives, but if I had to choose overall, I would probably pick my two girl characters: Connemara from Miserere and Caymin from The Dragonmage Saga. I loved their spunk, their integrity, and their determination to do what’s right.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

It partially depends on where the story comes from. I keep a book of story ideas and, so far, one or another has always bubbled to the surface to turn into my next book. I let it percolate in my head for a while, jotting down thoughts as they come to me. Every book has an “Ideas” document or an actual physical file, where I keep maps, research articles, lists of names, etc. I refer to it frequently while writing. I just found a page with all of my handwritten notes with Irish translations of terms for the Dragonmage trilogy.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

It varies. Miserere was totally inspired by an abandoned farmhouse we looked at when I was about nine. We didn’t move in, but I always remembered that house and wondered what kind of stories it could tell. Neither Present Timehad two inspirations: another house, an old mansion, and an inscription in an old book.My own experiences in religious life inspired In This Small Spot. Turning for Home was inspired by a note someone slipped to me when I was traveling years ago. Inspiration comes from many sources!

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I bring my laptop to work with me every day, and take advantage of my breaks to get bits of writing in during the week, but weekend mornings—when my wife and the dogs are all still sleeping—that’s my favorite time! I’m very much a morning writer. My brain is shot creatively by afternoon.

 

What is your writing process?

I used to write my first drafts longhand, but I don’t tend to do that any longer. I still keep a notebook where I can jot down scenes and ideas as they come to me. I am one of those writers who finds it a struggle to get the first draft completed, and then I love editing, rewriting, polishing that draft!

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

When you’re writing your first book, it’s like a secret—just you and the characters. All of your gratification comes from the act of writing. I think that can’t help but change a bit after you publish. I still think I could only write what I love, what I would want to read, rather than write for a market as some are advised to do. But some of the gratification becomes more external, things like sales/royalty figures, reviews, etc. Some authors have said they’re going back to writing fan fiction purely for the love of it, so they don’t focus on those external factors. As to my actual process, I am much more confident now with how to spool out character traits and plot points, and I don’t panic when I realize I need to delete entire scenes because they’re just not working.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I have spent isn’t necessarily related to writing, but to publishing. Hiring an incredible cover artist and a professional formatter who are both willing to work with me to make my books as beautiful as (I think) the words are is one of the best moves I’ve made. I love it when readers comment on those details because I agonize over them!

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Gosh, there have been so many. I’m very fortunate that so many of my books have resonated with readers on a deep level. A reader who’d received a recent diagnosis of cancer told me she found a lot of comfort and strength from Looking Through Windows and In This Small Spot. A couple of readers—single, closeted women living captive lives as dutiful daughters in conservative families—wrote to tell me how much Cast Me Gently meant to them. Year of the Monsoon has connected both with women who gave babies up for adoption and women who were adopted (as I was). In This Small Spot has also touched many women who were in religious life, and they’ve taken the time to write and share their experiences.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

The book that influenced my life more than any was In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. It influenced my own exploration of a vocation and religious life, and Ms. Godden sort of became my writing mentor. I wrote to her when I was sixteen, and she very kindly wrote back. I treasure that letter.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I’m working now on a book set in 1983 in central New York. I don’t have a working title yet, but it’s flowing nicely, so I expect it to be out before the end of the year if all continues on pace.

 

How do you take your coffee?

Ha, I am a straight-up coffee drinker! No sugar, no cream, no flavors. Just good, strong, and black.

Review of A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J. Werlinger

A Bitter Sweet Garden

Caren J. Werlinger is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books have always shocked me by how well written they are. A Bittersweet Garden is no exception. It is a beautiful written paranormal romance that will suck you in from the very first page.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Nora McNeill has always dreamed of exploring her Irish roots. When she finally gets the opportunity to spend a summer in the village where her grandparents grew up, the experience promises to live up to her very high expectations. Except for the ghost that is haunting her rented cottage and is soon invading her dreams.

 

Briana Devlin has arranged her life the way she likes it: a good dog, good mates, and work with horses. There’s no room in her life for a relationship. Especially with an annoyingly clumsy—and attractive—American who is only going to be around for a few months.

 

The weeks fly by, and Nora’s ghost becomes more demanding, seeking her help in solving the mystery surrounding her death. Briana watches as Nora becomes more wrapped up in the past, seeming to fade away before her eyes.

 

Past and present are on a collision course, leaving Nora and Briana caught in a ghostly intrigue that could cost them not only their chance of a future together, but their very lives.

 

A Bittersweet Garden is like nothing I have ever read before. It is a mixture of ghost story and romance novel. I was sucked into the history of the cottage and its past inhabitants. The haunting of the cottage is so interesting it really sucked me into the book. I wanted to know what had happened to the past inhabitants. But I don’t want to spoil any of the story so I will stop here.

 

The romance aspect of A Bittersweet Garden is great. Briana is the strong silent type. She might come across as hard and uncaring but that isn’t the case at all. She is just very selective about who she lets in. Nora on the other hand never really thought that she deserved love. She was used to being everyone’s second choice. When they come together their chemistry is amazing.

 

I really loved the side characters in this book. Eve is one of the most interesting characters that I have ever read. I can’t say too much about her because it would spoil the story, but she is my favorite character. As most of you know I love the addition to pets in a story and Shannon, Briana’s wolfhound, is a great addition. The way she reacts to the haunted room and protective nature make Shannon a great addition to the book.

 

The one thing I wish was different about this book is the lack of an epilogue. I think it could have really added to the book. I would have loved to know what happened to everyone at the end of the book.

 

If you are looking for steamy sexy scene this book might not be for you. The sex scenes are all fade to black. But there is some sexy build up to where there would be sex.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves paranormal romance and to anyone who likes a good ghost story.

 

You can purchase a copy of A Bittersweet Garden by clicking here.

Interview with debut author Tammy Bird

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Who or what inspired Sandman?

Sandman was inspired by a trip to the outer banks (OBX) in October. The majority of tourists were gone, and we had much of the beach and sound to ourselves. One afternoon, my wife and I stepped into one of the few local businesses that were still open: an ice cream shop. The owner was playing on his phone. I think we startled him when we entered. As we ate our ice cream cones (sprinkles for me, chocolate and peanut butter for my wife) we chatted with the owner about the end of tourist season and the quiet that settles over the sand.

He said, “Yep. Quiet enough around here in the off-season to bury a body in the dunes and never get caught.”

Just like that, Sandman was born.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

As a kid, I worshipped my dad. He loved words. He often challenged me to look things up in the encyclopedias that were housed on my shelf in my room. Then we would talk about it over dinner. He would ask me questions like, “What do you think the children in Chile are having for dinner? Are they quiet or loud? What are their parents like?” We would build an entire story around their meal. I suspect this was the catalyst.

I also am a high school dropout who fell in love with a local community college instructor who used to come into my restaurant and ask me to read and discuss things to keep her company. At first it was weird, but I found myself looking forward to being challenged in that way. She eventually talked me into getting my GED and going back to school to earn an English degree. So, she took up the challenge where my dad left off, and I am forever thankful.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

This is a tough one. I am going to go with Paige. She trains cadaver dogs and gives them names like Derrida and Nietzsche. It is her and one of her “little nose artists,” as she calls them, that uncovers the secret burial ground of Buxton. If that isn’t cool enough, she is the character who tells the main character, Katia, like it is. No BS. Throughout the novel we witness a growing respect and friendship between the two women.

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I am somewhere between a planner and a pantser. I like to have a rough outline of where a storyline is going, and I typically have the ending in mind when I start, but I also allow the characters to take me on a new journey if what I have planned doesn’t suit them. At the end of the process, I always compare what I intended to what happened. In the editing process I often have to rein a character or two in a little.

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Everywhere. I am sure you hear this a lot from writers. I can be sitting in a meeting at my day job, and someone will say something in a particular way, and I think, “Oh man. That is the voice of a character.” Or, I will see a mom in a bookstore trying to read, and a small child crawling all over her. The mom keeps reading like the child isn’t even there. I think, “What if the child really wasn’t there? What is she is a child lost to another world who wants to be seen. What if whoever actually feels the child will be deemed the mother?” It goes on and on. LOL

Where is your favorite place to write?

A coffee shop. I don’t listen to music. I know, weird. I prefer words whistling by, settling on my table, rattling in the air. I don’t want to interact with them. I just want to know they are there. The people are just the vehicle for the words. It is this introverts way of being with others.

And there is coffee. Lots of coffee.

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What is your writing process?

I have a calendar reminder set for everyday at the same time. When it reminds me, I treat it like any other meeting. Sometimes I write new words. Sometimes I edit words that are already there. Sometimes I journal new ideas or write character sketches. The idea is to treat writing like a job. To be successful, you have to show up. If my boss puts something over the time-slot, I honor that, of course, and sometimes a grandkid wants to play, and I honor that, too. Otherwise, I show up and I write.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I don’t know that it changed my process. I taught me a ton. That’s for sure. Writing the first draft of a book, writing “THE END,” for the first time, is an amazing experience. It is also where the real work begins. I had no idea the work that goes into editing, negotiations, marketing, readings, etc. Going into book two I am better equipped to know what works and what doesn’t. I know the word “had” is a word I overuse and I need to search for it in my document and revise. I know that adverbs are often a weak tool and that I use them too often in my first draft. Stuff like that.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Two things come to mind. (1) Money spent on other books. Stephen King said something to the effect of, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the tools to write.” I totally agree. Not only do I read, but I study books by the masters. (2) The GCLS writing academy. I’m not sure if you want to include plugs for awesome writing academies, but this one was phenomenal. It is a year-long program where new writers learn the trade from well-established writers in the lesbian community. I actually finished the first draft of Sandman in this program.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I am dedicated to inclusion in my writing. As such, when someone writes a review like the one below, I am blown away:

“One of my favorite things about the characters is how three-dimensional they are. Even fairly minor characters are so realistic and believable. The amount of detail used in descriptions of the Katia’s brother, who is on the autism spectrum, is incredible. It is clear that the author is either familiar with autistic children or did a great deal of research on the subject.”

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

I was a literature major in college, so I am in love with American literature. It influenced me as a whole. Words have to taste good on my tongue for me to turn the page. Reading and dissecting the works of greats, including, but not limited to, Burroughs, Faulkner, Perkins-Gilman, Morrison, Walker, Hawthorne, Hurston, and Frost taught me that there is always a message. Regardless of what I write, I want a well-crafted message.

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I am nearing completion on my second novel, tentatively titled, “Book of Promises.” It is a coming out story with a twist. Best friends, Katie and Tess, held hands in fourth grade and promised one another that they would never be apart. Now in high school, one of them will stop at nothing to make sure this promise is kept.

I also have an outline for the sequel to Sandman. Stay tuned for more on that.

How do you take your coffee?

Sweet and light. Iced or hot.

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Review of Sandman by Tammy Bird

Sandman

As most of you know I’m a huge fan of thrillers. When I was given the opportunity to read Sandman by Tammy Bird I jumped at the chance. I mean who doesn’t love a strong group of lesbians fighting against time to bring a serial killer to justice.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Katia Billings, EMT with the Emergency Medical Services of Buxton Beach, NC, is one of the first to respond after a hurricane rips through the small island community. As she helps search for survivors, she and her fellow responders discover a secret that will haunt Katia the rest of her life.

 

Lurking beneath the sand dunes is an evil that no one suspected.

 

A sandy grave not connected to the storm leads investigators to uncover the tomb of a serial killer, literally beneath their feet, hidden for years from the residents of the tight community.

 

For Katia, it’s personal because she knows one of the killer’s victims. She enlists help from K-9 search expert Paige, and Katia’s on-and-off lover, Zahra, in her determination to find the killer, dubbed Sandman, and stop him from killing again.

 

What small-town secrets will they unearth in their pursuit of the truth? Will the three women survive the physical, emotional, and psychological attack being waged against their small slice of sand? Or will they become the next victims of Sandman?  

 

I was drawn into Sandman from the very start. Katia is everything I love in a main character. She is cool in the face of danger and willing to do anything to help protect the ones she loves. When a hurricane rips through the Outer Banks of North Carolina Katia’s life changes forever. The woman who was like a mother to her growing up was found dead in the dunes with her throat slashed. This gruesome discovery leads the team of investigators to find several more bodies and the discovery that there was a serial killer in their small town.

 

Zahra is an investigator on the case of the Sandman serial killer. She is also Katia love interest. Before the story starts, they had fooled around a little bit but nothing serious. The case brings them closer together. I liked that the romance element didn’t overpower the thriller aspects of the book.

 

The book uses points of view from all of the characters involved. For me, this really made the book interesting. It really transformed the story into something spectacular. Marco was one of my favorite points of view. Marco is Katia’s brother and is non-verbal autistic. Marco knows who the killer is, but he struggles to communicate who the killer is.

 

What really made this book standout is that you never truly know who the Sandman is until the very end of the book. When I found out who the Sandman truly was my jaw dropped. It was such an amazing twist. It is by far my favorite book of the year so far.

 

 

I would recommend Sandman to anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers.

 

You can purchase a copy of Sandman by clicking here.

Interview with Amanda Kayhart

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Who or what inspired Shipped?

My wife and our honeymoon in the Caribbean. There’s lots of little Easter eggs in the story about her and our trip together. We celebrated our 13thwedding anniversary this month, so it was fun to reminisce about that time in our lives as I wrote it.

 

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bahrenburg. She had a contagious passion and energy about writing and books and poetry. She read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geesein class (I can still hear her steady, soothing voice in my head to this day), and hypnotized me with those revered lines. Words were never just words after that. They felt supernatural, almost. And I wanted to be a part of the magic.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

I can only pick one?? But I don’t want the others to be mad at me LOL I think I’ll have to go with Avery from my first book, Running the Tides. She was the first fictional character I ever wrote, and because of that, she’ll always have a special place in my heart.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Obsession and curiosity. I enjoy picking a setting or profession or topic that I’ll need to research. Something that fascinates me to the point I know I’ll get nerdy obsessed with, and get excited about to learn more and write about.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

I pull a lot from real life acquaintances, or people I’ve encountered in life, maybe even for a very brief period of time, who really left an impression on me.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

My answer will be probably odd, but it’s in the woods. I live in Vermont and there’s an abundance of hiking and nature trails here, and I find my best writing and plotting is done, not sitting in front of my computer, but outside where my mind can wander as freely as my feet.

 

What is your writing process?

I’m a pantser, so it’s messy and disorganized. I start with a real crappy and careless first draft, followed by several rounds of meticulous edits I obsess over until I break down and cry into bowls of ice cream. *shrugs* It seems to be working fine LOL

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I learned to relax. I was very nervous and uptight my first time around, freaking out over minor details. Now, I let the mistakes happen and not let the imperfections in a story take away from the fun of writing.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Taking writing classes. Being a part of a small writing community, and learning, not only the craft and mechanics of fiction, but also how to take and use criticism productively.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Olivia, one of my MCs in Running the Tides, is bisexual, and a reader thanked me for having positive bisexual rep in my story. I want my books to be, not only inclusive to all identities within the queer community, but done so in a welcoming and affirming way. Their message to me really meant a lot.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Winter Jacket by Eliza Lentzski. It was the first lesfic book I ever read and inspired me to start writing my own stories and start my author journey.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Fire and Water. It’s an age-gap romance set in Vermont, between a college professor and a glass blower. There’s a nice sprinkling of ice queen thrown in there too.

 

How do you take your coffee?

Preferably iced

 

Review of Shipped by Amanda Kayhart

Shipped

With the cold weather enveloping Arizona, who thought it would snow in Arizona, I thought I would escape with a little reading. Shipped by Amanda Kayhart is the perfect escape into a tropical beach vacation.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

No one understands that more than Leah Ives–a fresh college grad who spent the last several years studying, working hard, and counting pennies. So what did all that hustle earn her? A dismal day job, debt up to her eyeballs, and a Bachelor’s degree in fetching coffee.

 

Leah needs a getaway.

And luckily, she’s taking one.

 

After years of planning, Leah finally saves enough for her dream cruise in the Bahamas. Her bags are packed, and she’s ready to board that ship and sail off on a trip of a lifetime. Except all that organizing doesn’t prepare Leah for Mallory Miller, her bitter ex-girlfriend who threatens to capsize her entire Caribbean vacation.

 

Shipped is a novella that focuses on Lucy’s cruise to the Caribbean. Lucy’s vacation starts with a catastrophe. Somehow the cruise line double booked her room. They ended up moving her into a suite with another woman. The shock truly comes when Lucy finds out her roommate is no one other than her ex-girlfriend Mallory who she ghosted shortly before she started college.

 

Malloy and Lucy were uncertain how to approach their new living arrangement and ended up walking on eggshells around each other for the first part of their stay. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. It kept me wondering if they would ever be able to get over their past. One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Lucy and Malloy spent their final day on the beach.

 

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the inclusion of a gender non-conforming character. It is not often that you see trans character in books and I was pleasantly surprised by Devon’s character. I would love to see more books with trans characters.

 

There was only one thing that I thought detracted from the book. I felt that it could have used an epilog. It seemed like there could have been a more in-depth ending.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good second chance romance or to anyone who likes new adult romances.

 

Shipped is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of Charm City by Monica McCallan

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With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching I thought I would get myself in the spirit by reading a Valentine’s Day novel. The book I chose was Charm City by Monica McCallan. It was so much more than the traditional cutesy romance novel and I couldn’t put it down.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Taylor Tate has one last chance to turn things around. As the owner of Charm City Events, she needs her upcoming week of Valentine’s Day events to go off without a hitch. She’s painstakingly planned every detail down to the last red heart decoration, but what Taylor doesn’t plan on is the less than enthusiastic bar manager she’s paired with stumbling into her life at the worst possible time, making things more difficult every step of the way.

 

Carson Smith is getting by fine. She loves her job as the bar manager at Second Chances, a dive bar staple of the Baltimore landscape, and she doesn’t need anything or anyone disrupting the delicate balance she’s finally created. Especially for a stupid Valentine’s gimmick to take advantage of desperate singles. When the owner of the bar forces her to work with an event planning company to drum up business, she has no choice but to begrudgingly agree. It’s either play along or see the bar close, and she can’t let that happen.

 

It’s only a week, but time passes differently when there’s love in the air and too much on the line, and both women soon find their lives, and hearts, intertwined as they work together to make the week a success.

 

Can opposites attract? Find out in this HEA Valentine’s Day novella.

 

I wouldn’t really call this book a novella. I defiantly saw it as a full-length novel. No matter what you want to call it Charm City sucked me in from the very beginning. The book had more layers than I was expecting. I really enjoyed Carson’s character. She is the type of person who seems tough on the outside but once you get to know them, they turn into a huge softy. Carson’s past has left her broken she finds it hard to trust anyone because in the past she didn’t know what would happen in her life from day to day. Carson is the exact opposite of Taylor who seems to have her life so put together. While Taylor appears to have her life together that is not truly the case. Behind the scenes she is struggling, she is working her butt off in order to save her business and rebuild her brand.

 

I really liked the opposites attract aspect of Charm City. It made me want to keep reading to see how they would push each other buttons. I also liked how Taylor and Carson’s backstories played into their behavior. I could really see why Carson would shy away from relationships and why Taylor had trouble trusting. It really added to the angst keeping me hooked into the story.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good Valentine’s Day read or to anyone who likes opposites attract romances.

 

Charm City is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.