Monday, July 30, 2012

Author Interview: Joyce T. Strand

Hi all,

Today I'm talking with Fiction/Mystery author Joyce T. Strand. Joyce has written two novels in her Jillian Hillcrest Mystery Series, On Message, and her latest novel, Open Meetings. Much like her main character, Jillian, Joyce served as head of corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she says that in that time, she never actually encountered a murder. You can find out more about Joyce, her book, and how to connect with her at the end of this interview.

An Interview with Author
Joyce T. Strand

Tell us a little about yourself

I love to eat – particularly Italian pastas, with penne Bolognese being my favorite –accompanied by California red wine – preferably Cabernet sauvignon.  I really enjoy Broadway musicals – tempered by the classics (Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven – oh, and Copland and Gershwin).  My husband of 40 years and I reared a boy and a girl – now adults with their own careers – 2 dogs, and innumerable cats. My contribution to our livelihood stemmed from a career of more than 25 years as a Public Relations manager at several high tech and biotech companies in Silicon Valley.  I am educated with a BA in Political Science and PhD in International Relations.

Briefly describe the novels you have written and the genre that you write in.

I like and read mysteries, so I chose that genre.  I also appreciate familiar characters, so I decided to write a series of mysteries with the same protagonist in a known setting: PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest solves Silicon Valley mysteries inspired by real California cases. 

The first in the series is: ON MESSAGE – The arrival of a strange package followed by a call from a homicide detective and murder interrupt Jillian’s activities promoting her biotech company. Inspired by a case in San Diego of the murder of a former biotech executive.

The second in the series, recently released, is: OPEN MEETINGS – Jillian is having lunch with a reporter colleague when a woman enters and begs him not to print anything she’s told him because they will kill her if he does. A few days later, the reporter tells Jillian that the woman was killed in a car crash. Inspired by a case of illicit police activities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What inspired you to write your first novel and/or become a novelist?

As you’ll recall, I said I like to eat.  When I was laid off in 2008, I was unable to find a job to help defray the cost of my pasta and California red wine. My husband suggested I write mysteries, since I liked to read them so much.  Fortunately I found some consulting work to help buy pasta and wine.

What made you choose to self-publish?

Impatience. To go the traditional route would have required at least another year or two before my books might be in the hands of readers. Also, the traditional publication business model seems archaic in today’s world of e-readers, social media, and Bookstores are disappearing as rapidly as newspapers. Of course, there are issues associated with self-publishing. I had to learn a lot about the industry to be my own publisher. And I’ve had to invest an incredible amount of time to market my books – which is time away from writing. 

When naming your characters, do you choose names at random or does each character's name have a meaning to the story?

I enjoy naming my characters. I search for names in my past – I’m originally from Pennsylvania so I appreciate Pennsylvania Dutch, i.e., German, and Indian names.  I also want the main characters to have memorable names.  I pour through baby naming books, check the latest popular names, and study character names in other mysteries. However, I do not give names that have a meaning to the story, although it’s a great idea.

How much does your upbringing and/or lifestyle today influence your writing?

There’s no question that my upbringing influenced my values reflected in my writing. Of course, my career and living in California highly influenced the subject matter of my mysteries. Rearing children has made me sensitive to kids. Working in corporations has taught me that corporations are run by people who make choices about whether to be ethical or not in their quest for profitability. Also, I have lived in Italy, Brazil and The Netherlands for a year each, which has helped me to view my country and my own life from different perspectives.  I weave all of these influences into my writing.

How long does it usually take you to write a novel?

Depends on how actively my muse, the roadrunner, is pacing outside my window. The more he passes by, the more I write! 

I write without an outline, so that means I re-write a lot. Typically it takes me 3-6 months to write a first draft. Then another 3-6 months to rewrite the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, nth drafts depending on how well I satisfy my editor.

Do you schedule your writing time or write at random times?

Eeeek! Schedule writing time?! I’m fortunate to have control of my own time. I have tremendous respect for authors who are working a day job, rearing children, and also writing. It must require strict scheduling. I am able to say to myself, “You will finish 30 pages this week.” And that seems to be enough of a goal to make me write 30 pages that week.

Which of your novels are you the most proud of, and why?

You’re asking me to choose between my two off-spring.  Can’t do it. The first was a major achievement, just because I made it happen. The second was also important because I didn’t stop with the first one. When I publish the third one (FAIR DISCLOSURE) hopefully by the end of the year, maybe then I can choose which one I like the best.

If a mainstream publisher offered you a publishing contract, would you want it?

Yes.  It would be a new experience! Then I could speak authoritatively about the benefits of self-publishing.

 Are there any self-published authors whose books you enjoy reading?

I tend to read mysteries:  Karen Cantwell, Anthony Carbis, Deb Baker, Marja McGraw – to name a few. 

Murder intrudes on PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest's routine as head communications executive at a small Silicon Valley biotechnology company. She is eagerly staying on message to inform investors, the media and the community about her company and its products. When someone near to her is murdered, a determined San Francisco police inspector involves her in the investigation, convinced she is key to solving the crime. She co-operates fully only to find that solving a murder is more hazardous than writing press releases. On Message is the first in the Jillian Hillcrest mystery series. As with all the novels in this series, it was inspired by a real California case.

PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest is having lunch with a reporter colleague when a woman enters and begs him not to print anything she's told him because they will kill her if he does. A few days later, the reporter tells Jillian that the woman was killed in a car crash in his hometown. The police ruled her death an accident caused by driving under the influence of alcohol.

Although Jillian is busy promoting her Silicon Valley biotech company, the reporter draws her into an investigation of his hometown's police department, located in California north of the Napa-Sonoma wine region. Coincidentally, Jillian's neighbor Cynthia Anderson wonders about the untimely death of her policemen husband years earlier as part of the same police department. Meanwhile, Jillian's ex-husband hovers over her to reverse the "ex" status. Unfortunately, none of them anticipates the frightening events that follow.

Ebook and Paperback

Ways to connect with Joyce:

Website: Joyce Strand

Twitter: @joycetstrand

If you love a good mystery, you'll want to give Joyce's books a try.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Author Interview: Alle Wells

Hi all,

Today I'm talking with Alle Wells, an independent author who writes Southern/Historical Fiction. I've reviewed Alle's books on this blog and I have to say, she is one of my favorite indie authors! To find out how to buy Alle's books or where you can find her online, follow the links at the end of the interview.

An Interview with
Author Alle Wells

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the coastal region of North Carolina. After living in several southern states, I settled down in a historic town near Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of my time during the summer months is consumed with preserving vegetables to sustain my organic vegetarian lifestyle. In addition to cooking, I enjoy bird watching at a local preserve and practicing yoga.

Briefly describe the novels you have written and the genre(s) that you write in. 

All of my books are Southern Fiction. They are also historical, depicting life during the 20th century. My stories have a common thread. Each story tells the story of one life and the role that the times, the environment, and the decisions they make play in the character’s life.  

My first novel, Lame Excuses, is the story of a woman who grew up in a fast food restaurant in the 1960’s that initiated her love for food. Railroad Man is my second novel, the story of a handsome railroad engineer in the 1930’s whose love for women ruled his life. The most recent, Leaving Serenity, is about a girl who seeks freedom from the confines of a small, close-knit community during the 1970’s. 

What inspired you to write your first novel and/or become a novelist?

I’ve always loved reading and writing. Compiling and recording historical data and publishing newsletters for non-profit organizations has been a big part of my career. One day, I read an article in the Charlotte Observer about self-publishing. I started writing Lame Excuses that afternoon.

What made you choose to self-publish?

When I started writing my first novel, I looked into a few small publishing companies. As a new novelist, I can’t justify the fees that most small publishers charge.

When naming your characters, do you choose names at random or does each character's name have a meaning to the story?

I choose names that fit my character’s demographic setting. One day I took a snapshot of names on a war memorial in a park to get ideas from that community during a specific time.

How much does your upbringing and/or lifestyle today influence your writing?

Lame Excuses is a good example. I grew up in a fast food restaurant just like Emily. Today, I see so many people in the South, young and old, who have debilitating food addictions. That is what inspired me to write Lame Excuses. 

How long does it usually take you to write a novel?

Three months.

Do you schedule your writing time or write at random times?

I started out writing randomly, when I heard the words in my head. Recently, I’ve found that I need to schedule a day for writing. At the moment, that day is Sunday. Any time I find to write in addition to that is a bonus!

Which of your novels are you the most proud of, and why?

I am most proud of Railroad Man because it appeals to both men and women, and I’ve never had a bad review!

If a mainstream publisher offered you a publishing contract, would you want it?

My stories are very personal to me. I doubt that I could agree to the cookie cutter image that mainstream publishers require.

Are there any self-published authors whose books you enjoy reading?

Deanna Sletten, of course! There are so many talented Indie Authors in every genre. I read and review Indie books for my book blog, Alle’s 5-Star Reviews.  I try to stay neutral and not choose one author over the other. 

Books by Alle Wells

Railroad Man follows the life of handsome railroad engineer, Mick MacDonald, from 1929 to 1978. Mick looks back on a fulfilling career and a turbulent private life. His career moves the reader from the steam engines of the Great Depression into the diesel age. Mick looks through the lens of history at his relationships with his mother, sisters, cousin, and wife. As he guides us through the vast changes during his lifetime, one constant remains...Mick's love for women.

Based on the life of Annette Bevels, "Leaving Serenity" takes the reader back to the quaint atmosphere of main street America in the 1960's where everyone speaks the same language and success is measured by conformity. At sixteen, she falls in love with Jack Harris, a romantic hippie with an unsavory past. Leaving Serenity, Annette creates a new identity and becomes the master of her own destiny. Her journey to success is inspiring and empowering.

(Read my review)

Forty-year-old Emily Halley sits in a wheelchair, reflecting on her life that began in a short-order café in the early 1960's. She shares her love for the café that provided everything she needed and demanded nothing from her. A misdiagnosed and ignored medical condition leads her to a tragic and unsatisfied end.

You can find Alle online:

Website: Alle Wells

I hope you all will try one or all of Alle's books. She truly is a talented writer.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Pushalooza! July 26th - 9 books for 99 cents each!

Welcome to the FIRST EVER BookPushalooza!

July 26th ONLY

9 Books, only .99.

With each purchase you get the chance to WIN while Helping Authors reach new heights in Amazon’s ranks.

It’s so easy a CAVEMAN could do it!

Follow the Instructions on the Rafflecopter Widget and for each book you purchase (or Borrow through Amazon Prime for Free) you get an entry in to WIN ---

(1) Grand Prize- $100 Amazon Gift Card

(2) Runners up of $25 Amazon Gift Cards

That’s not all! Purchase all NINE (9) books and get an additional 5 entries!

Don’t delay, this offer is good for JULY 26th ONLY!

Overview of Dark Isle

When evil begets evil, a choice is forced on Quinn, the one person who can see the danger. Does she save the ones she loves, or does she save the world from Chaos?

As the realms of Fae and human collide, Quinn's future has never looked so grim, or so damn impossible.

Genre- Urban Fantasy
Overview of Enemy in Blue

 The streets aren't safe when your enemy wears a blue uniform and a gold badge.
What if the good guys weren't good?
What if a cop went rogue and killed an innocent man?
What if it was all caught on video and the cop would do anything to cover it up?
Chase this lawless cop through the streets and to a scintillating series of showdowns with Cruz Marquez, a young attorney trying to nail down his enemy in blue.
Will justice be served?
Genre- Thriller

Overview of Land of the Noonday Sun

When two strangers have nothing left but their dreams, they must forge a relationship in Nantahala, North Carolina, a small town known as Land of the Noonday Sun.

A man with a traumatic past is able to turn his life around and is happy with his chosen career as a whitewater guide. Everything changes though when fate hurls a woman into his path. His carefree life is in turmoil, and his former weaknesses threaten to overtake him. Will he be strong enough when tragedy strikes and is once again in danger of losing everything he loves?
Genre- Contemporary Romance

Overview of This Time Forever

Delaney Brannigan and Blake Morrisson met at the Cedar Cove annual costume dance, known only to each other as the leopard and the cowboy--but, as Delaney soon discovers, the cowboy she'd thought had ridden off into the sunset never to tempt her again, is none other than the man she came from New York to find and discredit. Against her will, Delaney is drawn deeper and deeper into an overwhelming attraction to Blake--an attraction she can't give in to if she wants to keep the one thing she values more than anything else.
Genre- Contemporary Romance

Overview of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula

Fourteen-year-old Cassidy Jones wakes up the morning after a minor accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist to discover that her body has undergone some bizarre physical changes. Her senses, strength, and speed have been radically enhanced.

Lives are put at risk when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous, action-packed adventure. Soon they are forced to confront a maniacal villain willing to do anything - including murder - to reach his own ambitious goals.

Genre- YA/MG Superhero

Overview of Gray Justice

Gray Justice is the fast-paced debut thriller from Alan McDermott. When a killer walks free from court, the victim's father sees just two options: accept the judge's decision; or take on the entire British justice system. Tom Gray chooses the latter and his crusade attracts instant worldwide media coverage. It was just what Tom was hoping for, but it brought him a lot more than he bargained for.

Gray Justice is much more than a simple tale of revenge: it's a rollercoaster ride with an ending you'll never forget!
Genre- Thriller

Overview of Gone at Zero Hundred 00:00

"Their lives are in the hands of two 18-year-olds..."
A Prominent P.I. is gunned down - killed by a sniper - and it’s broadcasted on live TV.
Now, her daughter, along with her childhood pal, are thrust into a complex and riveting thriller forced to take on a secret club whose members call themselves The Privileged Ones.
Murder. Teen abductions and illegal underground parties.
They’re chased by men in ski-masks, nearly gunned down by members of a cartel, and the only way to bring down this criminal enterprise; is to crash a Mardi Gras bash and stop their private cruise ship from sailing off into the sunset.


Overview of Allegiance

Who do YOU pledge allegiance to?

After exposing one of the most notorious rings of police corruption in history, lawyer Cruz Marquez planned on starting a new life south of the border. That plan unraveled when an extremist group of Minutemen captured and tortured him and his wife.

Will Cruz pledge allegiance to do right, or will he do anything to serve up revenge?

Genre- Thriller

Overview of Curbchek Reload

Curbchek-Reload is a dark account of the streets as they were worked by Zach Fortier, a dangerously deranged cop. Welcome back to the inner city and the twisted mentality of Zach Fortier. Patrolling the streets, broken and mentally damaged from years of urban violence, Zach fights a losing battle to maintain a hold on reality. Join him in the passenger seat of a police cruiser for more of the darker and meaner side of life: The inner city. In Curbchek-Reload you get a front row seat to an attempted murder of a cop, suicide attempts, rapes, and DARK cop humor. Curbchek-Reload - Fasten your bullet proof vest and buckle your seatbelt, it is gonna be a wild ride!

Genre- Police Procedural" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

All winners will be notified via email July 28th 2012. For a list of winners contact

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Butch Cassidy, My Uncle by Bill Betenson

Hi all,

It's no surprise that I am quite interested in Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Etta Place considering that I wrote the middle-grade action/adventure novel Outlaw Heroes. I think I've read practically every research book on these historical characters that is out there. So, when a new book comes along about any of these three, I am the first one in line to read it.

Butch Cassidy, MyUncle is written by Butch's great-nephew, Bill Betenson, so this makes it even more interesting and exciting. I had read his great-grandmother's book, Butch Cassidy, My Brother and I was sure that Bill's book would be just as interesting, if not more so. I knew already who Bill was through the Western Outlaw-Lawmen Association, WOLA, (although I've never met him), so I was very excited to see he'd written a book about his famous great-uncle. I was not disappointed. Here is a description of the book and my 5-star review.

Butch Cassidy, My Uncle
Bill Betenson

Book Description:

Lots of people wish they were related to a famous person. Bill Betenson is, Butch Cassidy is his great-uncle. Bill's interest in Butch Cassidy was sparked when he was four years old and attended a private screening of the Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with his great-grandmother, Lula Betenson, who wrote Butch Cassidy, My Brother. For over two decades Betenson has researched and studied the life and times of Butch Cassidy. Betenson utilized privileged family information and memorabilia, traveled to South America to conduct interviews and visit Butch Cassidy's ranch, and spent hours in dusty archives. Betenson offers up new information about this infamous outlaw's life and death.

Show Le
My 5-Star Review

In the late 1800s though the early 1900s, Butch Cassidy and his band of outlaws rode wild and free across the western plains putting fear in railroad and bank owners while leaving people in awe of their daring, well-planned exploits. Then, at the height of his popularity, Butch and his friends Sundance and Etta left the U.S. and headed down to South America where many have only been able to speculate their eventual fate. In Butch Cassidy, My Uncle, author Bill Betenson, Butch's great-nephew, attempts to set the record straight on the many myths and stories surrounding his famous relative.

Butch Cassidy, My Uncle is filled with interesting information about the elusive outlaw. Between his meticulous research and inside family knowledge, Betenson shares new details and thoughts about this historical character. As someone who has read extensively on these outlaws, I was impressed by Betenson's research and attention to detail in this book. This is definitely a must read for anyone who enjoys reading about the old west and outlaws.

Other books you may find interesting on this topic include:

Sundance, My Uncle by Donna B. Ernst

The Sundance Kid: The Life of  Harry Alonzo Longabaugh by Donna B. Ernst

Etta Place:Her Live and Times with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by Gail Drago

I would suggest, however, finding them at used book stores instead of paying the outrageous prices Amazon has placed on them.



Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan

Hi all,

I have read every one of Elizabeth Buchan's novels and enjoyed each one. When I saw she had a new novel out, Daughters, and that it wasn't available in the U.S. yet, I was disappointed. However, the author very generously sent me a copy of her novel and I loved reading it! Here is a description of the novel and my 5-star review.

Book Description:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled. But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, realizing this ambition has not been easy. With an ex-husband embarking on a new marriage, and the surprising and late blooming developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about, especially with Eve's upcoming wedding. And when she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces the ultimate dilemma. Does she step in and risk the wrath of her daughters? Or does she stand by and watch them both make what she fears will be the biggest mistakes of their lives?

My 5-Star Review:

Families aren't always as they appear; even the happiest of families may hold deep, deep scars that they choose to hide on the surface. But when a big family event occurs – especially a wedding or a funeral – then those scars tend to raise their ugly heads and threaten family relationships. This is true in Elizabeth Buchan's latest novel, Daughters.

As Lara's middle daughter, Eve, plans her wedding, feelings begin to run high throughout the family. The sisters, Jasmine and Maudie, are slightly annoyed by Eve's strict planning and also begin to re-examine their own lives. Past grudges between the sisters arise and thoughts of their childhood invade their minds. Lara also examines the decisions she's made throughout her life and her struggle to let her ex-husband go despite his announcement to finally marry the woman he's been with for years. With all this going on, there is enough drama to fill the pages of this beautifully written book by Ms. Buchan.

I have read and enjoyed each and every one of Ms. Buchan's books and Daughters is no exception. I loved this book. Her writing style is so lovely; you become immersed into the story and the lives of these characters before you even realize it. The characters are interesting and well thought out. As in life, sisters are always different from each other and the sisters in this novel reflect that. Good plot, wonderful characters and realistic situations along with beautiful writing adds up to a five-star novel. Ms. Buchan's style is smooth, gentle and lyrical; you don't read her books, you float easily through them. I literally cannot say how much I appreciate her beautiful way with words. Most writers are writers, but Ms. Buchan is a true artist.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Memories is a Semifinalist!

Hi all,

I am excited to annouce that MEMORIES has been selected as a Semifinalist in the Romance division of The Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Books of 2012 Award. It is such an honor to be listed among so many wonderful books and authors. The top five finalists in each genre will be chosen on September 1st and the winners of each genre will be chosen on Oct. 1st. It will be fun to see who is chosen, even if it isn't me (but cross fingers!).

I have to admit, though, that I was probably the very last person to enter the contest. I am always on the lookout for contests, advertising opportunities and review opportunities, and I had just run into this contest literally the last 30 minutes it was open. I hurried as fast as I could to submit my entry and made it just in time. I'm so happy that I ran across this contest in time to submit my entry. Does fate have a hand in this? Or just good luck? Who knows.

Working on My Next Novel

I am currently fast at work on my next novel and although it won't be released until the end of the year, I am hopeful you won't be disappointed. The story is shaping up nicely and I've fallen in love with these characters - I certainly hope the readers do too. It is a women's fiction novel - more of a drama than a romance - and I will try not to make you cry throughout, but I can't promise no tears. :-) I will wait until I am further along with the novel to give you a description and/or the first chapter - I want to make sure it is perfect before I attempt at sharing it.

My book cover designer, Tugboat Design,  has already put together a beautiful cover for my next novel, which I hope to reveal soon. I hate to get ahead of myself, but I love it so much, I can't wait to share!

I appreciate all the support I've received from my readers - everyone has been so kind. I can't wait to share my next novel with you.