Interview with Miranda Macleod

30954226_498392987229633_6990753098333915281_o (1)

Who or what inspired Holme for the Holidays?

There were two things that inspired this book. One was a trip I took through the real village of Holme in Yorkshire, and the other was the movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. This story is nothing like the movie, but I loved the idea of a house swap that leads to romance.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid. I used to make up plays during recess and make my friends take roles in them. But it was as my 40thbirthday was approaching a few years back that I realized that if I didn’t do something to turn “I want to write a book someday” into an actual book soon, I never would.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

My very favorite character is Amanda, the office temp turned international spy, from Stockholm Syndrome. I think I like her because she reminds me of all the years I spent as an office temp while I was in graduate school. Often, when you’re in that type of setting, you don’t really know anyone and you can feel a little invisible and underappreciated, so it’s a great environment for letting your imagination run wild. Amanda daydreams about being a spy, only unlike most of us, she gets the chance one night to make her dream come true!

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I write down ideas whenever they come to me, often along the lines of “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Most of the time, the initial thing that draws me to a story is something funny, like a celebrity chef on a gluten-free diet who gets stuck in a tiny Italian village where the only things to do are eat pasta and flirt with the local chocolate maker. After the initial idea, I always write an outline, even if some of the scenes are a little vague at first. I have to have a plan before I can write, even if sometimes I change the plan halfway through.

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

Sometimes I base my characters and their occupations either on things I know myself, or on people I have encountered. For example, my Love’s Encoretrilogy is set in the theater, where I worked for several years. Other times, I ask myself what type of extraordinary life an ordinary person might like to drop in on for a few hours—perhaps a celebrity singer or spy. But it’s important to me that even the characters with the most unusual and exciting occupations need to be real and relatable.

Where is your favorite place to write?

During the warmer weather, I have a desk on my three-season porch, but when the New England winter gets too cold, there’s a local coffee shop I like, and the library is also a good choice. I find it helpful to get away from home, where there’s always a load of laundry to distract me from writing.

What is your writing process?

Ideally, I spend a week or so creating an outline and then launch into my first draft, which usually takes a few months. When that’s done I get editorial input, revise, and send for final editing and proofreading.

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

Getting through the whole process, from idea to final product, for the first time helped me to start building a series of steps that I refine with each new work. I found, for example, that I tend to get tired in the middle of the book, where it seems like the end will never arrive, and so it can help me to send it at that stage to a beta reader to get some feedback. Even if all the reader says is “Finish this so I can read the rest,” it helps to rekindle my energy to push through to the end.

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

For me, it was buying a Mac and loading it up with the Scrivener and Vellum programs. That gives me everything I need to go from outline to published e-book and paperback.

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

The comments that stick with me the most are when a reader reaches out to say that my story gave them hope in a dark time. My books are romantic comedies on the surface, but I try to deal with the emotions and challenges that real people face, and intfuse them with hope and humor. When I know that’s brightened someone’s day and made something difficult easier, that’s the best feeling in the world.

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

In 4thgrade, my friend Jenny gave me a copy of Emily of New Moonby L.M. Montgomery. That series is not as well-known as her Anne of Green Gables series, but it’s all about a little girl who dreams of being a writer, and who has great adventures along the way to achieving her dream, with a lot of embarrassing challenges thrown in for good measure. Even as an adult, I still go back and read it sometimes, and love it every time.

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

Yes! 2018 proved to be a difficult year for writing because of various things that came up in my family and personal life, but I’m pleased to say that I will be publishing London Holiday, the 5thbook in the Americans Abroad series, this coming spring. It’s a modern retelling of the 1950s classic Roman Holiday, which is probably my favorite movie of all time. In my version, a struggling journalist meets a runaway princess in London and has to choose between the tabloid story of a lifetime, or the possibility that she’s found true love.

How do you take your coffee?

Whole milk, and no flavored creamers or heaven forbid, anything sweet in it.

 

Review of Holme for the Holidays by Miranda MacLeod

Holme for the Holidays

I recently read Holme for the Holidays by Miranda Macleod for the monthly book club on the Lesfic Readers and Writers Slack channel. I really like the thought of reading a Christmas themed book to get in the mood for the holidays. This book was just the thing to kickstart my holiday spirit.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

An American musician with a broken heart meets a local farmer with a hidden past on a holiday house swap in Yorkshire. A charming romantic comedy that will fill your heart with holiday cheer

A country cottage is the last place Paige expected to spend the holidays, but a year after her girlfriend dumped her, her life is in shambles. A last minute house swap sends her from California to Yorkshire to put her life back on track. She doesn’t believe in forever anymore, but when she meets a raven haired beauty in the local pub, she seizes the chance for a night of fun.

On the brink of fame and fortune, Fiona suffered an unthinkable loss, and a year later she’s given up on singing, and just about everything else. When the brother she relies on too much skips town “for her own good” and loans his cottage to a stranger for the holidays, her life is turned upside down. She knows she can’t make a new relationship work, but when she meets a purple haired American at the local pub, she figures it wouldn’t hurt to blow off some steam.

They never meant to see each other again, yet from the very first morning when the vicar comes to call and Paige gets mowed down by a runaway llama, they just can’t seem to escape their lives becoming increasingly, and hilariously, entwined. And when a series of calamities threatens Christmas in Holme village, the two must work together to save the day, and maybe find true love along the way.

A year ago, their lives fell apart. Can a bit of Christmas magic help them build a new life together?

Holme for the Holidays is the second book in the American’s Abroad series and functions as a standalone. I really enjoyed this book. Paige and Fiona make a really cute couple. While the book happens in a short span of time it doesn’t feel insta lovey. They really get to know each other over the short amount of time that they are together. Fiona’s backstory is really heartbreaking. I don’t know how if I would be able to handle losing someone I loved in the way that Fiona had.

The setting is one of the best parts of this book. There is something magical about Holme. The way the people in the town jumped in to help out when needed. Also, the thought of a white Yorkshire Christmas was so sweet.

The humor really makes this book stand out. The scene with the Vicar was one of the funniest things I have ever read. I also liked the addition of Dolly, the llama, and Maxine, the dog. The animals really brought life to this story.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romantic comedies.

Holme for the Holidays  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with author M.J. Duncan

Who or what inspired your latest novel Heist?

 

A tumblr post, actually. There was an article in Smithsonian Magazineabout a wealthy collector known as “The Astronomer” who hired thieves to break into a London warehouse to steal rare books for them. My Muse took that idea and added, “Let’s add lesbians!” so yeah. That was how it all started.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Mostly short stories, like most kids who dabble with words, but I wrote my first novel when I was still in high school. It was a totally cringe-worthy attempt at becoming the next Patricia Cornwell—whose stuff I was obsessedwith at the time—but it was words on the screen of a brick of a laptop and I was quite proud of it at the time. I then went on to become a Creative Writing major in college, which meant I got to write a lot of words and learn a lot of B.S. theories about what makes “good” writing that I completely ignored. Then life happened and writing kind of took a back seat for a while, and I eventually fell back into it with fanfiction. That was great because I was playing in someone else’s sandbox and could just refocus on finding my voice again, and then I eventually thought “why not?” and started working on Second Chances.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

God, that’s like asking me which child I love the most! I love all of my characters for different reasons, but I’m definitely the most attached to Bryn Nakamura from Spectrum.Her whole path-to-self-acceptance/awareness very much mirrors my own, so I feel very protective of her in a way that I don’t with my other characters who all start their stories knowing that very important part of themselves.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

Most start with an idea for a particular scene. For Heist, it was that first robbery in Paris. Characters are next, because my stories are all very character-driven. I’m not a fan of drama, I avoid confrontation like the plague in real life, and to me the “real” story is the two characters falling in love—everything else is just shit that happens to them in the course of that journey. Anyway, once I have the characters, I come up with a very, very rough idea for the arc of a story that feeds into/incorporates that scene I mentioned above, and then I start researching the shit out of everything about the world/careers/lives of my characters that I don’t know. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the process. I love learning new things and putting them to use to make my stories (hopefully) more believable, but then when the story is done I can move onto something new. Once I feel like I have a working-knowledge of everything important, I cobble together something that looks like at least the skeleton of actual story arc in Scrivener and start hacking away at it all.

 

 

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

 

I know I said my characters drive my stories, but the story also dictates what I will need from each character to make the whole thing work. In Heist, for example, I needed Parker to have a reason to know the less-than-honorable skills that she knows, as well as a reason to have to use them. The key points in Sheridan’s personality were born of the same need—she had to have a reason to resist falling for Parker. Everything else, all the little details and quirks that make them real, flow from there as the story progresses.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

I have a great little office in the basement, but I do pretty much all my writing at the kitchen island because my dog Hunter doesn’t like going downstairs (he’s a big dude, 140 pounds, so he’s not exactly built to manage stairs). Every time I do try to go downstairs to work, he’ll grudgingly follow me down there, rest his head on the desk so he’s staring at me, and cry until I give up and go back to the kitchen. At this point, I’ve basically given up on using the office, but maybe someday I’ll get back to it. Or maybe not. It really is convenient working right next to the kettle and snacks.

 

What is your writing process?

 

Besides what I said already? It’s pretty much: open Scrivener, look at where I left off the day before, and try like hell to hit my word count goal for the day. Oh!, and try to not get distracted with shiny new ideas. Some people can have multiple projects working, but I’ve found that I work best focusing on one story at a time.

 

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

 

I’m definitely getting better at plotting chapters for the story. I went at Second Chanceswithout any kind of a plan besides getting Mac and Charlie together and pretty much just winged the whole thing, but I’ve learned to see the helpfulness of actually planning further ahead. Switching from Word to Scrivener helped with this, too.

 

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

 

Definitely Scrivener. It’s seriously the best large-project writing program I’ve ever come across.

 

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

 

I honestly treasure every nice comment anyone has ever said about my work. But the messages I treasure the most are the ones where people reach out to tell me that a particular character touched them in some way. Writing is a very solitary process for the most part, so whenever I get a message like that it’s like, “Okay, I’ve done something good.”

 

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

 

I don’t know if there is one book that has really influenced my life. Or, at least, there isn’t one that immediately comes to mind that I can point to and say, “Yes, that one.”

 

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

 

Eventually, yes. I am still working on finishing up my latest story, Pas de Deux, but my goal is to have it out in March. It’s another LONG one, though, so we’ll see if I can swing it. *sighs* I really need to learn how to write shorter stories. Anyway, it’s a kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to Symphony in Blue.Kinda-sorta in that it’s in the same universe, but not-really because this time the story is about Mallory moving past everything that went down in Symphonyand finding her happily ever after. There are two people in every failed relationship and two different stories about how the relationship got to that point, and while she was painted as the necessary villain in Gwen’s story, she wasn’t in her own and I hated leaving her where I did.

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

Like Maeve Dylan, I prefer my coffee to not taste anything like coffee. Usually a splash of flavored creamer (it’s peppermint mocha season!) and milk is enough, but I’ve also done the hot chocolate mix thing that I gave to Maeve.

Review of Heist by M. J. Duncan

Heist

When I saw that M. J. Duncan had a new book out, I was ecstatic. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors. Heist was a little different from her other books. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know how the book would play out.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Life is full of choices. Some are easy, others are more difficult, and then there are the ones that aren’t really choices at all. For Parker Ravenscroft, helping her brother always fell into that last category—risks be damned. All that changes when Sheridan Sloan re-enters her life. As their relationship grows from friendship to something more she’s forced to choose between her brother and her own happiness. Picking one over the other isn’t the end of things, however, because the ghosts of her past choices have the very real power to destroy the future she so badly wants.

 

I was sucked into this book from the beginning. It reminded me a bit of a mystery novel in some respects. The way that Sheridan was looking for the thief while Parker was trying to hide her involvement in the heists. I also liked Parker’s motivation for stealing the books. She wasn’t doing it for the thrill or the money like a lot of thieves. Parker was doing it to help her brother. When he got too greedy, she knew when to step away.

 

The romance aspect of the book was phenomenal. I’m a sucker for a slow burn and this book delivered. The chemistry between Parker and Sheridan was electric. Even though Sheridan was an FBI agent and Parker was a criminal they fit together perfectly.

 

Kelly was one of my favorite characters. The way he gently teased Sheridan about her relationship with Parker really made the book for me. Also, the way he constantly was getting bested by the women in the FBI.

 

The one problem that I had with the book was the way that the conflict ended. It was kind of swept under the rug. Never really brought up again. I wish it had played out more and they were forced to deal with the consequences.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves a slow burn romance.

 

Heist is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of Seeing Red by Cara Malone

Seeing Red

I have always loved a good fairy tale. Seeing Red: A Sapphic Fairy Tale by Cara Malone hit the right spot with its modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by The Brothers Grimm.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Hunter has spent the last two years running in place.

 

Trying to get ahead of the bills.

Trying to provide for her sister, Piper, and her nephews.

Trying to finish her nursing education.

Trying to keep Piper out of her criminal husband’s claws.

 

Big, bad Jed Wolfe is a con artist, a manipulator, and he’s currently doing ten years for counterfeiting. Now is Hunter’s best chance to convince Piper that he’s bad news and they can survive without him.

 

Except the mortgage is overdue again, there’s an eviction notice stapled to the front door, and Hunter can see it in Piper’s eyes. She wants to crawl back to Jed and ask him how to dig out of this mess.

 

They’re getting desperate and Hunter begs Piper not to be like him.

 

Then along comes a beautiful girl in a red cap. Her grandmother is sick, she needs Hunter’s nursing help, and the pay is great. It’s just what they need and soon Hunter is able to catch her breath. Stop running in place. Start to feel something that she hasn’t had time for in years.

 

Happiness. Desire. Love.

 

Until one day an old, familiar feeling returns.

 

Suspicion.

 

I thought the book started off kind of slow. It took me a little while to get into but once I got into it I was hooked. Hunter was a great character. She would do anything to keep her family safe. She didn’t want her nephews to have a hard life like she and her sister had. While Hunter worked hard to take care of her family. Piper pulled cons trying to provide. I loved how Piper’s character ended up.

 

I really liked Kiera’s grandmother. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Alzheimer’s patients. Even though it wasn’t Kiera’s main reason for moving in with her grandma I think it became important for her as her grandmother’s disease progressed.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fairy tale retellings.

 

Thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

You can purchase a copy of Seeing Red by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Dangerous Waters by Radclyffe

Dangerous Waters

So, everyone, I have a shameful secret. I have never read one of Radclyffe’s books. When I saw Dangerous Waters listed on NetGalley I thought I should take the opportunity to see if her books were as good as everyone says they are. I was not disappointed.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Army National Guard Colonel Sawyer Kincaid has served her time dueling with death in the deserts of Africa. Now that she’s home, the only sand she wants to see is on the beach in South Florida. Too bad Tropical Storm Leo, swiftly gaining strength out over the Atlantic, is about to draw her in to another life or death war, this time on home soil.

 

Dr. Dara Sims has too many critical patients in the intensive care units at Miami Memorial to consider evacuation, no matter how determined the battle-hardened colonel is to make her. As far as Dara is concerned, evacuate is just another word for abandon. When a state of emergency becomes a state of siege waged by Leo, all she can do is hope the rising waters relent before she loses everyone, herself included.

 

I thought that the book started off kind of slow but once it picked up I couldn’t put it down. The book is action-packed. With a hurricane barreling towards Florida there is everything keeping Sawyer and Dara apart. Yet, they are drawn to each other. I liked how both women were strong and independent. They both respected each other’s authority in their given fields.

 

Sawyers backstory was amazing. I thought it brought so much to her character. It also gave great insight into why she does the thing she does. She has great respect for the damage a hurricane can cause.

 

I found the section at the nursing home after the storm particularly hard to read. It reminded me of what happened at the nursing home after hurricane Irma. It broke my heart. I have a soft spot for older people with dementia because of my grandmother who passed away last year.

 

If you enjoy action-packed romance, you will love this book.

 

You can purchase a copy of Dangerous Waters by clicking here.

Review of When the Stars Sang by Caren Werlinger

39075447

I have been wanting to read a book by Caren Werlinger since I first saw an interview with her on the Lesbian Book Readers Club on Facebook. I thought she was very charismatic and her books sounded amazing. When I saw her latest book When the Stars Sang listed on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to read it. Let me just say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

This book hooked me in from the beginning. I couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed how the characters had so much personality even the side characters. I liked how the island town kept to the old ways of their ancestors. It really drew me into the story. The book is so well written.  This book made me feel so many emotions and I enjoyed every minute of my reading.

The romance between Molly and Kathleen was so believable. Both women had so much to overcome in order to be together. They both needed to get over the past in order to commit to their relationship. I really liked how when Kathleen first came to the island Molly was hesitant about her. It made their relationship seem more real.

As everyone knows I am a sucker for a pet in books. This book delivered. Blossom, they stray dog Kathleen takes in, was amazingly written. He is so cute and derpy. I liked that he followed Kathleen everywhere she went. He also alerted Molly when Kathleen was in danger and helped to locate her. I also really enjoyed Miss Louisa and Miss. Oliva. I think they were my favorite characters in the whole story. The way they mothered and cared for Kathleen was amazing.

The only con for this book is that it has cut to black sex scenes. I didn’t find this to be a problem, but some readers might not like that.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It is one of the best books I have read this year. I cannot speak enough praise for it.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can purchase a copy of  When the Stars Sang by clicking here.