MerMountain Fantasy

You’ve heard about my Wombat friends – if not, grab one of my books and check the Acknowledgments page; they’re all over the place! – and today, one of them, author Pat Bertram has stopped by with a very clever post! Thanks, Pat!

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mountainsI feel a little out of my depth here — an inland dweller in the land of merfolk– but it made me think of the importance of setting. Since I’ve lived most of my life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, those mountains form the backdrop of my books, and because of that, they limit the stories I can tell and the characters I can create. My characters all breathe air, are subject to the vagaries of weather, and have to buy shoes. I’m being a bit silly here, but the truth is that setting does affect our stories.

What if I wanted to write a mermaid story? I’d either have to abandon my mountain theme, which I can no more do than breathe water, or I’d have to figure out how it’s possible for merfolk to live in the mountains.

Once upon a time, the area around here was beneath the sea — the soil is alkaline from the leftover deposits, and in spots the ground is totally white from sea salt and calcium. What if there was a remnant, deep in the mountains, of that primordial sea? If that leftover lake could be fed with sweet water to keep it from turning briny like Salt Lake, I could people it with merfolk who became separated from the rest of their kind. What would be the story? That they are trying to find their way home? That they are trying to find a way to live on land because the lake is drying up? That a mountain man and a mermaid fell in love?

DAI

 

 

That is an example of how setting forms the story. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I purposely worked against the mountain theme. Although the mountains are always there, two of my characters head east to try to escape quarantined Colorado rather than into the mountains. In Light Bringer, which will be published next spring I made use of known under-mountain facilities, such as a mention of NORAD beneath Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, as well as fictional installations. In Daughter Am I, my heroine inherits a farm on the eastern plains and a played out mine near Gunnison, so I included both significant Colorado topographies.

 

 

mermaid charm bertram

 

In keeping with the mountains and mermaid theme, and in honor of being a guest here on Judi’s blog, I have a special offer for you. For $16.00, I will send you an autographed copy of Daughter Am I, a mermaid pendant (the mountains in the background are not included), and I will pay postage. Contact me at pat at patbertram dot com, and we will work out the details.

This has been fun. Thank you all for indulging me in my mermountain fantasy.

pat bertramPat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

The Secret of Joy

Introducing THE SECRET OF JOY (Simon & Schuster trade paperback) by Melissa Senate, the “warm, winning” new novel from the bestselling author of See Jane Date and Love You To Death.

COVER.SecretofJoy

What would you do if you discovered you had a half-sister you never knew existed?

28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .

The Secret of Joy is a Simon & Schuster Book Club Pick! For more information, check out the Reading Group Guide:

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Secret-of-Joy/Melissa-Senate/9781439107171/reading_group_guide

Praise:

“The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate opened my heart, made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. A don’t-miss read!” –New York Times bestselling author  Carly Phillips

“The Secret of Joy is a warm hug of a book. Insightful, wise, and romantic, it’s as inviting as the small-town life it depicts.”  –Claire LaZebnik

“A wonderfully heartfelt story about hope, possibilities and the yearning for real connections. Senate’s latest will take you on a much needed vacation, while sneaking vital life lessons in when you’re not looking.”  –Caprice Crane

new.photo.Melissa.SenateAuthor’s Bio:

Melissa Senate lives on the coast of Maine with her son and their menagerie of pets. She’s the author of eight novels (seven women’s fiction and one young adult) with two on the way. Visit her website (http://www.melissasenate.com) for more information and she’d love if you became her friend Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MelissaSenate) and followed her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/melissasenate).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa, thanks so much for stopping by on your blog tour. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Secret of Joy?

     

    Several years ago, I received an email out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half-sister. I was. Am. It took me a long time to decide to take that little (huge) nugget and write a novel to help me figure out the answer to some burning questions, such as: if you haven’t seen or heard from your biological father, or any member of his family, since you were little (or, in Joy’s case, never at all), is his child from another relationship really your sibling? Or just a stranger? Does the word father or sister or brother mean anything without back up? I had a ton of questions and set out to uncover how I felt through a fictional character, but it’s interesting to me that I flipped everything on its head in the writing of the story. Nothing but the basic questions that are proposed in the novel are autobiographical. Just the questions! And I surprised myself quite a few times during the writing of this story with how I felt about certain things. Amazing how writing fiction can teach you so much about yourself.

    Who do you picture in your mind when you write?:

      Sometimes I picture a lone woman reading my book on a bus or on her sofa or in a coffee shop, and I imagine what she’s responding to, relating to, thinking about as she reads. Would this scene make her smile? Would she relate? But most of the time, I picture my characters’ faces with their personalities etched into their features. I rarely base my characters physically on celebs (except for my first book—Jane from See Jane Date looked just like Ann Marie from “That Girl” (a young Marlo Thomas). She did not look like Charisma Carpenter, who perfectly played her in the TV movie, but now when I think of Jane, I think of Charisma only. Which makes me think of hot David Boreanaz, which is a good thing.

      What was the inspiration for your hero?  An actor, a picture you saw, some random guy in the coffee shop?:

        I have long been drawn to guys with dark eyes and dark hair, starting with my very first serious crush in 7th grade. But Theo, Rebecca’s love interest, has sandy-blond hair and pale brown eyes because that’s just the way he came out of the keyboard—he sort of created himself. I never base the guys on anyone. They’re always inspired by the guy I wish I were dating. (Yes, I’m single!) Right now, as a single mother, I’d love a guy who, like hot, wise Theo, works with his hands and made things, like porch swings and tree houses for my son. A guy who’s smart and honest and romantic and always seems to say the right thing at the right time. Oh and hot, too.

        Writing a letter can be daunting. How do you even begin the process of writing a novel? Does it start with a title? A character? A plot? All or none of the above?

          An idea flits into my heart, mind and soul (if I may be so dramatic!) and I just know. The idea, just a wispy thing, grips me and I think about it until the two major characters—my protagonist and the person or thing who “forces” her change—become clear. Then I write out a one page treatment, a bare bones synopsis, then think about that, then revise the storyline into a “pitch” I can share with my agent. If she green-lights it, I’ll then let myself dream it into a full blown synopsis, which is what I usually sell a novel on.  The synopsis, in its major plot points, rarely changes, but how the characters get from page one to page 325 is another story.

          What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

            Trust yourself. Your gut knows. You know.

            If your book were to be made into a movie, who could you see playing the lead role?:

              For the main character, Rebecca, I see Rachel McAdams. She has such sweetness and hope in her eyes, and such a lovely face. For half-sister Joy, Kristin Bell, with all that “Veronica Mars” intensity. For delicious Theo, Rebecca’s love interest, the very attractive Aaron Eckhart. Love his face.

              Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?

                The moment my seven-year-old son closes those eyes for the night, I stretch out on my little sofa with a good book, hot chocolate (it’s getting cooold here in Maine) and my two black cats at my feet. I’m reading Elizabeth Berg’s Home Safe right now. I love how she manages to write so honestly and elegantly at the same time. She’s able to call someone a shit in the loveliest way. Next up: the seven or so books that came from Amazon, staring with Kristina Riggle’s Real Life & Liars. I love women’s fiction—all these interesting storylines and gorgeous covers.

                What’s next for you?

                  Next up is my second novel for teens, The Mosts, which will be published by Random House in June 2010. Then, my next women’s fiction novel from Simon & Schuster, The Love Goddess’s Cooking School, about five people in an Italian cooking class, will be published November 2010. I’m staring down a 1/1 deadline (the worst deadline to have!) And I’m being poked at by a new idea . . . .

                   

                  Thanks, again, Melissa, and wishing you all the best with ALL your projects.

                   

                  If you’d like to order The Secret of Joy, check out the Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Joy-Melissa-Senate/dp/1439107173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258292510&sr=8-1

                  Love Under Cover

                  Many thanks to Jessica Brody, one of my “Girlfriends” from my GirlfriendCyber Circuit, for stopping by on her wildwind book tour for her latest book, Love Under Cover. It’s currently in development as a TV series by the executive producer of Crash!

                  About LOVE UNDER COVER:

                  Love Under Cover - FINALIn her job, she’s an expert on men…

                  In her own relationship, she doesn’t have a clue.

                  Boyfriend behaving badly? Suspect your husband of straying? Jennifer Hunter can supply the ultimate test. She runs a company which specializes in conducting fidelity inspections for those who suspect their loved ones are capable of infidelity.

                  An expert on men, Jennifer can usually tell if they’re single, married or lying… Unfortunately, her new boyfriend, Jamie, is one of the few men that she’s never been able to ‘read.’ Has she finally found the perfect man or is he too good to be true?

                  A captivating new novel from the bestselling author of The Fidelity Files.

                  Available November 10, wherever books are sold.

                  Praise:

                  “With a complicated, sympathetic protagonist, worthy stakes and a clever twist on the standard chick lit narrative, Brody will pull readers in from the first page.”

                  – Publisher’s Weekly

                  “Those who enjoyed Brody’s debut will be eager to catch up with Jennifer, but newcomers will be intrigued, too…an honest, witty portrayal of modern love.”

                  - Booklist

                  “With her usual smart, deft, and witty prose, Brody delves deep into the psychology of a woman who tests the fidelity of strangers for a living but struggles with commitment in her own life.”

                  -          Joanne Rendell, author of Crossing Washington Square and The Professors’ Wives’ Club

                  So, Jessica, what was your inspiration behind Love Under Cover?

                  As soon as I finished writing my first novel, The Fidelity Files¸ I knew that Jennifer’s journey wasn’t over yet. Although she had seemed to find her happy ending there was so much more fun stuff I had in mind for another book. Setting Jennifer up with an entire agency of fidelity inspectors was definitely the first and foremost on my mind for the next instalment.

                  Plus, I really wanted to explore what a fidelity inspector would be like in a committed relationship. After everything she’s seen—all the cheating, dishonesty, and betrayal—would she really be capable of settling down herself? So that’s what I set out to focus on in this book.

                  Which scene (or scenes) in your novel did you love writing? Why?

                  I love writing any of the scenes with Jennifer’s friends. They’re all fun in their own way. Zoë  has a terrible road rage problem and she has a habit of talking on the phone while driving so those conversations with Jen and Zoë on the phone are always really entertaining for me. I get to channel my inner turrets patient. Sophie is totally neurotic. I love going over the top with her.

                  And John is the flamboyant gay boy from West Hollywood who is always quick with his sarcasm and wit. Sometimes I don’t know where his remarks come from. I must be channelling my inner gay man because I’ll write something that he says and think, “That’s really funny. Where the hell did that come from?”

                  Since becoming a writer, what’s the most glamorous thing you’ve ever done?

                  When my first book, The Fidelity Files, came out in France last year, my French publisher actually flew me out to Paris to promote it! It was a dream come true! I speak French almost fluently so I was able to conduct all my interviews in French, which was both nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time. Paris has always held a special place in my heart. I was a French major in college and I lived in Paris my junior abroad. Plus, I spent a month in Paris in 2005 finishing the novel so it was all very magical and kismet to be back there to see it in French book stores!

                  (Judi says: I’m not even going to mention how utterly jealous in a totally good way I am over THIS little tidbit!)

                  What’s the main thing you hope people take away from your book?

                  Entertainment. That’s all I seek to do. Entertain people. The reason I started writing was because of Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I read that book in college whenever I would go to the gym and I remember looking down at the elliptical and thinking, “Seriously? I’ve already been exercising for thirty minutes!?” The time would FLY by. I was so inspired and awed by the fact that a book could take me away from my life like that. I knew from that day on that I wanted to be a writer so I could attempt to do the same. So if my book can help pass the time of a long flight or a boring workout then I’ve accomplished my goal. And if some of the issues about relationships and love and trust that I’ve delved into get people thinking, than that’s just icing on the cupcake.

                  What’s next for you?

                  Although I strive to live in the moment, I can’t help but be excited about the future! I’ve got three young adult books scheduled to come out in the next three years from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. The first, THE KARMA CLUB, releases on April 27 and I simply can’t wait! It’s about three teen girls who are tired of waiting for Karma to get off its butt and do its job, so they decide to give Karma a helping hand by getting revenge on their evil ex-boyfriends. But they soon discover that when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. It’s a story I wanted to tell for years and I’m so glad it’s finally going to be put out to the world. The teen voice feels very natural to me (not sure what that says about my inherent maturity level, but whatever!) and the YA novels are such a blast to write. I think the teenage years resonate with everyone in some way. For me, my teen years were very painful so it’s somewhat therapeutic to be able to “go back” and relive them with all the knowledge and wisdom that I have now!

                  What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

                  I’m a total techno junkie. I love technology and gadgets. Ipods, digital cameras, computers, Tivos, Sling Boxes…those are my weaknesses. My toys. I would die without my blackberry and my Kindle. Unlike most women, I hate shopping for clothes and shoes. To me it feels like a huge waste of time. In a perfect world, I would just wear my sweat pants and Ugg knock-offs all day, every day (okay, maybe I already do that), but set me loose in a Fry’s Electronics or a Best Buy and you probably won’t see me for a week.

                  (Judi notes: I’m soooo with you on the Hating shopping thing. And the gadget thing, although, sadly, I can’t indulge that passion yet.)

                  To see an excerpt of Love Under Cover, check out Jessica’s website: www.jessicabrody.com/loveundercover_excerpt.html

                  Jessica Brody - Author PhotoAbout the Author:

                  Jessica Brody graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts with degrees in economics and French. In 2005, she left her job at MGM Studios in Los Angeles to become a full-time freelance writer and producer. Jessica currently lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on her next novel. Visit Jessica’s website at: www.JessicaBrody.com

                  And for her booktrailer:

                  Rod and Kyle: Uncensored After Dark

                  AAD with Rod and Kyle

                  Rod Tritone, author Judi Fennell, author Stephanie Julian, Kyle Rossini

                  Scene: The overcrowded bar of a large hotel somewhere on the eastern seaboard. It’s after midnight. There are mostly women talking, laughing and drinking. And drinking.

                  Rod Tritone rocks the no-longer-frosted beer mug in his hand, and keeps his head down. Those women have been eyeing him but he’s happily married, and he’s got the weight of the Mer world on his shoulders since he’s just taken over the throne. A land-based excursion wasn’t exactly high on his list of priorities at the moment–especially since his honeymoon wasn’t all that long ago. Luckily, Kyle Rossini, one of the few people who knows what he really is enters the bar at that moment.

                  Kyle: Hey, man. I was beginning to think I was the only testosterone in this place. I need a drink. All these women… (He slouches into the chair next to Rod, making sure his back’s to the wall and he had a clear view of all the exits) I’d rather be out on a run but this place is a concrete jungle. Hell, even New York City has Central Park.

                  Rod: And an aquarium. I can’t believe I let The Council talk me into this. The last place I need to be is surrounded by a bunch of Humans. I’ve got an ocean to run. (Drains his beer and nods to the waitress for another.) So how’d you get roped into this?

                  Kyle: Hell if I know. Tam and Steph were talking one night and the next thing I knew they were eyeing me like a side of beef. Then the lucani king decided I should come, have a look around. See what the humans say about us. I don’t have time for this shit. I’ve got three new sicari to train. Assassins don’t grow on trees, you know. Although I’ve got one who I swear was born to it. What about you?

                  Rod: Angel—you remember my younger sister, right? She’s all over me about doing some Human-Mer “dialogue” to get relations going between the races. I, frankly, think it’d be better to wait another few hundred years at the very least before we begin to even consider letting  them know we exist, but Val and Judi mentioned this gathering. (Inclines his head toward the readers milling around the bar.) Their argument is that the Humans most likely to accept new “beings” would be paranormal readers. I’m getting the lay of the land, so to speak. Must say, these women do have some very open minds.

                  Kyle: Yeah, that masquerade party last night was wild, all the wings and vampire fangs. I swear some of them actually believe in magic. I had a brief moment of insanity where I thought about giving them a real show. Just shifting into my pelt right in the middle of the dance floor. Would have loved to see their faces. Hell, most don’t believe we exist. But I know some of them wish we did. My daughter Cat would have a ball talking to all these writers. She loved Judi’s IN OVER HER HEAD.

                  Rod: I’ll have to mention that to Reel. Some of the readers jokingly asked Judi where Rod and I were, and they thought she was kidding when she said we were in her room. Good thing no one thought to check. My wife would have had serious issues with that. Being descended from the gods is one thing. Having people think I am one, entirely another. (Takes the frosted mug from the waitress as Kyle orders a 7&7.) Good thing Reel headed back to Ocean City. Two mermen walking around the place would be a bit much. Of course, I see Scarlata managed to convince everyone her pink wings were part of her costume. Wonder what they’d say if they knew there was a real Etruscan fairy hanging at the party with them.

                  Kyle: (snort) Yeah, Scarlata had way too much fun playing with the humans. I think pregnancy has softened her up. Of course, she’d have my head if she ever heard me say that. Too bad Justin couldn’t come. He would have had a field day with all these people talking about werewolves and fairies and Mer people. I’m surprised Scarlata showed up at all but Steph promised she’d torment Tivr in more stories, so she agreed. Scarlata really doesn’t like that god. Don’t know why. He’s been a good friend to my daughter. Cat’s got a serious case of puppy love for the guy. Of course, if he hurts her, there’s gonna be trouble. I don’t care if he is the freaking Etruscan God of the Moon. I’m sure you’d feel the same about Angel.

                  Rod: I hear you. My problem with Angel is that she’s always been so gung-ho on Humans that I’m worried she might go looking for her “catch of a lifetime,” and you know what kind of havoc that can cause. You’d think she’d realize after the shit Reel and I went through when we were kids and pulled the prank that almost exposed our world to Humans, that Humans aren’t ready for us, but she keeps insisting they are. It takes a certain type of Human to accept that they’re not the only swimmers in the sea. (Raises his beer halfway to his lips, but then stops and smiles ruefully.) Although, I guess the fact that Reel married one and my wife is half-Human doesn’t really help my argument, does it?

                  Kyle: (pauses as he takes his drink from the harried waitress) I know what you mean. My Tam doesn’t have any magic at all. But she’s coming up to speed pretty fast. She doesn’t get freaked out when Cat or I come home in our pelts. She’s still having trouble with the whole Gods and Goddesses thing, though. And I’m still damn worried about whoever tried to kidnap her It pisses me off that I don’t have a clue where to even start looking. And I don’t think they’re finished.

                  Rod: You might want to start with those closest to you. Drake was the last person I’d have suspected when that albatross turned mercenary and recruited half the bird population of Kansas to derail our run for the coast. Guy’s just not that bright. Which he proved with his ridiculous plan, but still— (There’s a disturbance at the end of the bar. A man joins the women, sporting a red leather hat with horns.) Hey—did you get a load of him? Think he might be your guy?

                  Kyle: (gives an amused laugh) Yeah, probably not. But that writer, Joey W. Hill, she looks like she might know more about secret societies than she’s letting on. Have you seen those vampire books she writes? (shakes his head and downs half his drink) The woman has some serious inside information. Anyway, when I get back tomorrow, I’ve gotta get Kaine out on the trail. She’s an even better tracker than her father, and that’s saying something. And Nic and Duke need to shake a few trees, see what falls out. You heading out tomorrow?

                  Rod: Out of the hotel, but not too far. Reel and Erica brought in another load of Blackbeard’s treasure from my old place in the wild blue under. I dole it out every so often to keep up the stock in Val’s mother’s gift shop and fund their operation of keeping Humans away from the kimberlite veins and Mer kingdom. I told them I’d stop by to help catalogue some of that stuff. I found that pile when I was a teenager out manta-surfing with some friends. Never would have figured it’d come in handy to keep Humans away from our world, you know? Of course, that Joey Hill you mentioned… Looks like someone clued her into my world as well as yours. Wonder where she gets her information.

                  Kyle: No idea. But we definitely don’t need the humans figuring out there are people like us in the world. It’s be all pitchforks and lab instruments for us. Hey, thanks for the company. I’m gonna head back to my room, hopefully get some sleep. Hate sleeping without Tam. (shakes his head with a rueful) Yeah, I know. I’m pathetic.

                  Rod: (pats Kyle on the back and stands) Yeah, without the women we love, aren’t we all?

                  The guys depart, leaving behind a couple of hungry gazes, more than a few “check-them-outs,” and a roomful of female sighs.

                  Ah, the tribulations of being a romance hero at a readers’ conference.

                  IOHH 155 WBU with tail

                  coal just cover with mermaid

                  1 seducedbymagic_msr

                  2 seducedinshadow_msr 3 seducedandensnared_msr

                  4 seducedandenchanted_msr

                  5 seducedbychaos_msr

                  6 point 5 shadowmagic_msr

                  6 seducedbydanger_msr

                  7 seducedbytwo_msr

                  8 kissofmoonlight_msr

                  Question: What Do Judi Fennell and Johnny Depp have in common?

                  Answer: They both created a character named Sparrow.

                  Judi Fennell com

                  plus sign johnny-deppjacksparrow_opt1

                  equals sign

                  WBU with tail

                   

                   

                   

                   

                   

                  Q: What do Adele Dubois & Johnny Depp have in common?

                  Answer: They both play characters named Sparrow.

                   

                  adele plus sign

                  johnny-depp_white shirt

                  equals sign

                  desertnectarcover

                   

                   

                  Call me Sparrow… Cap’n Sparrow.
                  …Or is that Miss Sparrow?

                  Yes, I’m talking about the cute, little brown birds. But I’m also talking about the hot and sexy pirate played by Johnny Depp. Okay, the pirate’s not so sexy (hot, in a rum-soaked-island-sun sort of way, yes, but not hot, as in sexy) but Johnny Depp sure was when he played Cap’n Jack.

                  And what in the world, you’re wondering, do the two have in common?

                  Yes, there is a method to my madness, and, no, it’s not the rum-soaked one of the Cap’n’s. (Are all those apostrophes correct?)

                  My current series on the shelves is about Mers: Mermen and Mermaids (though the maid part went by the quayside a while ago). And when writing about Mers one will naturally mention pirates. Or Johnny Depp. Or both. (And who doesn’t love the Johnny Depp reference?)

                  So, yes, there’s a Johnny Depp line in my first book, In Over Her Head, that sealed the deal for my agent. She loved that line, knew she liked my humor and our relationship was born.

                  The humor also sealed the deal with my editor, and along came book 2, Wild Blue Under, which launched this November 3rd. Now this story is about Rod, a Mer Prince who comes onto land (Kansas, because it’s as far as you can get from the ocean in the Continental US) to bring the lost half-Mer princess back to Atlantis. Only she doesn’t want to go, because, really. Mermen? Atlantis? Yeah, right. Matter of fact, she’s allergic to ocean water. No way, no how, is she going to the ocean.

                  And then the attacks start.

                  What attacks you ask? What kind of attacks could possibly get her moving?

                  Try dive-bombing peregrines and a mercenary albatross.

                  Now you see where the bird connection comes in.

                  But the sparrows are the good guys, er, ladies. Yes, Maybelle and Adele help thwart the evil villains and save the Prince and Princess so they can resume their rightful place on the throne of Atlantis.
                  Sadly, it’s not as easy as all that, and our hero and heroine – as well as the two industrious little sparrows – have a whole bunch of things to overcome.

                  Kind of like I did when I wrote this story.

                  And it’s thanks to my good friend Adele Dubois (seeing the tie-in with the sparrow now???) that I could get the research I needed for the cross-country dash to the coast.

                  Adele, fortuitously enough for me, was on her way to a drive out to the Midwest, along the same route I wanted my hero and heroine to travel, and she so very helpfully grabbed brochures and emailed me the sights & sounds, and her impressions of the trip, all of which were utilized in my story. She continued her trip to research her book, Desert Nectar

                  So, as Adele Dubois saved the day for my dearth of first-hand research, so, too, does Adele the Sparrow save the day for the hero and heroine.

                  *****
                  Visit award-winning author Adele Dubois at www.adeledubois.com and check out her latest release:

                  desertnectarcover

                  According to Jane… and Marilyn

                  In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . .

                  It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Elliaccordingtojane[1]e Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

                  Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go–sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

                  Still, everyone has something to learn about love–perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

                  Praise for ACCORDING TO JANE:

                  “A warm, witty and charmingly original story.” –Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

                  “An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.” –Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters

                  “This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December

                  An October “Fresh Pick” from Fresh Fiction!!

                  “Jane Austen fans will revel in this modern day unique twist on a classic, as well as learning interesting facts about Jane herself. There is just enough mystery of ‘why’ to keep you guessing, and the ending is thoroughly satisfying. This was a truly, irrevocably inspiring novel.”~Kelly Moran, Bookpleasures (5 stars)

                  “Just when you think Jane Austen could not appear in anything new, a refreshing reincarnation occurs as Marilyn Brant provides an engaging modern day take on the writer. Ellie is a terrific lead character as she adapts to the voice in her head while Sam is her nemesis…readers will thoroughly enjoy this fun contemporary romance that also provides insight into Jane Austen and her characters.”~Harriet Klausner (4 stars)

                  “According To Jane is a delight from beginning to end…a definite keeper that I can see myself returning to time and again, just for the happy pick me up feeling it gives me. I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Brant’s next book.”~Manic Readers (4.5 stars)

                  “All I can say is, again without any spoilers is that Marilyn Brant you have a new super fan and I am singing your praises…5 STARS–LOVED IT! COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN.”~Book Junkie (5 stars)

                  “According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit…a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.”~Working Girl Reviews (5 shoes/best book)

                   Marilyn Brant is the award-winning women’s fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE, the story of a modern woman who receives

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                  dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen (October 2009), and her second forthcoming novel about three suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages (October 2010), both from Kensington Books.

                  As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007.

                  Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog “Brant Flakes.” When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

                  Her website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

                  Hi Marilyn and welcome to my Journey! Can you tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it?

                  Hi Judi! Thanks for having me! My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who–for almost two decades–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

                  *Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?

                  The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, “Sometimes I go through phase where I’m so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” I will always, always love that message!

                  *Which scene in your novel did you love writing and why?

                  One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how “insufferable” he was.

                  *What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

                  In junior high and early high school, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Love Story by Erich Segal, Illusions by Richard Bach and, of course, everything by Austen. When I was an elementary schooler, I also loved Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key and all the Nancy Drew mysteries.

                  *Which ‘craft’ book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?

                  I’m a BIG fan of craft books, so I have more than one! I used Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! almost religiously in the plotting of my past several books. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us. As far as a great reference guide, Robert McKee’s STORY is incredible. It has more information about writing craft than I can ever internalize. Also, whenever I need a more emotional pick-me-up, I grab the Ralph Keyes book THE COURAGE TO WRITE. I recommend it to everyone.

                  *If you could ask one author (in all of history) for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what you would want to know from them?

                  Oooh, getting to be like my main character here! If I could have asked Jane Austen for advice before I was married, it would have definitely revolved around which type of man was the right one for me. (She would intuitively know the answer, I’m sure.) However, even without Jane’s help, I was fortunate to find “my Darcy.”   Now, I would ask her for her thoughts on the crafting of a perfect novel. What were the qualities she felt a great piece of fiction should possess? What was she consciously trying to achieve with her novels?

                  *Do you have a sample chapter posted?

                  Yes! On my website I have a segment of Chapter One available for anyone interested in reading. It’s here: http://www.marilynbrant.com/extras.html Also, if you go to the Amazon page for According to Jane (here: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238387155&sr=1-1), there’s a “Search Inside This Book” feature, and people can read samples from scenes throughout the novel.

                  *What is your author fantasy?

                  I’m secretly, unrelentingly ambitious, even when I have no right to be. Of course I want to hit the NYT bestseller list and get a movie deal. Also, I’d like an Oprah invitation and a few RITAs. However, these are not quite enough to satisfy every daydream I’ve ever had. I’d greatly enjoy winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and an Olympic gold medal (in both ice skating and gymnastics). The fact that I’m pathetic on skates and terrified of the uneven bars is, in no way, a deterrent from these unrealistic fantasies. My simple ability to *imagine* them, makes them almost real. Furthermore, I like shiny things (although I don’t like to dust them), so I hereby promise that if I win ANY heavy golden statuettes–ever–I will dust faithfully. Especially that Grammy award. Really.

                  *What’s next for you?

                  I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick–wildly fun!–while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010. 

                  *What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

                  Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But–if not–write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

                  *Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

                  I was asked for input on the cover by my editor, and I sent Kensington pages of possible scene ideas, plus a plot summary and descriptions of the main characters. In the end, I have no idea whether or not my notes were helpful, but the cover didn’t look anything like I’d imagined it–it looked far, far better! I couldn’t be more pleased with the way our cover designer, Kristine Mills-Noble, envisioned the look of the book. I’m really excited to see what she’ll come up with for my second novel.

                  *What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

                  This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men…

                  *Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!

                  I write in my home office–a messy, absolutely cluttered place–I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.

                  *What are you reading at the moment?

                  Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction, like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and the amazing Shaffer/Barrows novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

                  *Are you a member of a writer’s group? If so, how has it helped your writing?

                  I’m a member of Chicago-North RWA, and it’s an incredibly strong critique chapter. Every month, three members have the opportunity to have up to 20 pages of their work critiqued by those attending the meetings (usually between 25-30 published/aspiring authors). The feedback is excellent, and it really helped me when I was a newbie to hear what more experienced writers were saying about some of my earlier work. Not only what confused them or what they thought was structurally unsound, but also what they felt were some of my writing strengths. That’s priceless insight when you’re just starting out. I can contrast this experience with semester-long university-level fiction workshops, which I personally didn’t find to be nearly as constructive. In my opinion, if a new writer ever finds herself surrounded by people whose main objective is to show off how clever they are or to alter a piece of writing in a way that messes with her author voice, she should sprint, not merely run, to the nearest exit. It worth hunting for a group that will help you build upon your writing talents while, at the same time, assisting you in strengthening your weaknesses.

                  *Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale (including the title and publisher)?

                  Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance…)  I got some feedback though–mostly negative–from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell–to John Scognamiglio at Kensington–on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008.

                  Thanks so much for stopping by, Marilyn, and I wish you much success!

                  Book information:

                  Title: According to Jane
                  Author: Marilyn Brant
                  Publisher: Kensington Books (trade paperback)
                  Price: $14.00 U.S./$16.95 Canada
                  Release Date: October 1, 2009 (on-shelf date: Sept. 29, 2009)
                  ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-3461-2
                  Pages: 288
                  Links to my page on Kensington: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/catalog.cfm?dest=itempg&itemid=14890&secid=258&linkon=section&linkid=258
                  And to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=ed_oe_p

                  An Author Getting Some “Air Time”

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                  Some would say, It’s Prime Time for Air Time! Here’s what else is being said:

                  “Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.” Sue Grafton

                  “I love this series!” Suzanne Brockmann

                  “AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who’s sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it.” Nancy Pickard

                  Smart and savvy Boston TV reporter Charlotte McNally is back. In AIR TIME she’s taking on the fashion industry, where she learns “When purses are fake – the danger is real.” AIR TIME is the third of the back-to-back-to back Charlie mysteries—the first PRIME TIME (also in bookstores now) won the Agatha Award for best first novel. FACE TIME (also in bookstores now) is a BookSense notable book.
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                  Let’s hear from Hank in her own words:

                  1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book?

                  Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in…

                  Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture came straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

                  We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking it was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

                  You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

                  Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done many interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

                  2.)Are you more driven by plot or by character?

                  Ah, it’s both. I start with one little germ of a plot twist–and then figure out how Charlie is going to figure it out! So I know what I know–and she knows what she knows. And then she has to solve the mystery–based on what I let her know.

                  3.) Who’s your favorite character in this book and why?

                  Oh, I can’t possibly answer that. Charlie McNally is dear to my heart of course. When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in: when “you” get chased by the bad guys, or when “you” get held at gunpoint. And I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction.” But Charlie can say things I can’t say about the reality of television, and because she’s fictional, she can go places I can’t go. And say things I can’t say!

                  And the very sweet 8-year-old Penny, I must say, touches me every time I write about her And I get so many letters from readers, concerned about her, and asking about her, and who I based her on. But really? She’s right out of my imagination. (She’s the character who sometimes makes readers cry…along with Charlie’s mother. I guess family relationships are sometimes—universal.)

                  And in AIR TIME there’s a new character, a gorgeous FBI agent named Keresey Stone. She’s amazing. And unpredictable. But I wonder what you’ll think about her?

                  3.) What’s your writing process/writing environment like?

                  I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!)

                  Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, in a wonderful study that’s lined with bookshelves. I admit—I have a cluttered desk, and no real filing system, except for “piles.” But I know where everything is. I like it to be quiet.. At the TV station, it’s chaotic and loud, with three TV’s blasting all the time—and I can work fine there! But at home, with the books—quiet.

                  Because my schedule is so tight, I keep track of my words. If I know I have to write 90,000 words by the deadline, I literally divide that number by the number of days I have—and then set that as a goal. If I can do that, I’m thrilled.

                  I push my way through a first draft. I say to myself—just get the story down. Just do it. And you can fix it later.

                  Then I cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is!

                  I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job as a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.

                  4.) What’s your favorite part of writing?

                  Revision, no question. I love that. You have this whole first draft, and you get to go back and see what you really have. I often have wonderful revelations when I read over the first draft—there are themes and rhythms and even clues that I didn’t realize were there! It’s always so rewarding.

                  And after 30 years in TV, I know how valuable editing is—so I look at it as a real treat. To get to polish, and tweak, and rearrange, and make it all shine—oh, it’s great fun.

                  The other favorite part—when readers love the books. I can’t tell you how often I’m out on a story, for instance, and a stranger will come up to me , and pull the book out of a purse or briefcase, and ask me to sign it. I can barely resist bursting into tears. It somehow completes the writing, you know? when someone reads it.

                  5.) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?

                  There’s a plaque on my bulletin board with the question: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” That gives me a lot of courage.

                  Hank’s giving away five ARC’s of PRIME TIME to readers…to enter the drawing contact her through her website and put ‘PRIME TIME ARC’ in the subject line!

                  Other books by Hank:

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