Review: Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt Jr + Author Q&A + Giveaway

Review: Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt Jr + Author Q&A + GiveawayAssassin's Price (Imager Portfolio, #11) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #11
Pages: 512
Published by Tor Books on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Assassin's Price is the eleventh book in the bestselling, epic fantasy series the Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and the third book in a story arc which began with Madness in Solidar and Treachery's Tools.
Six years have passed since the failed uprising of the High Holders, and the man behind the conspiracy is where the rex and Maitre Alastar can keep an eye on him.
Charyn has come of age and desperately wants to learn more so he can become an effective rex after his father but he s kept at a distance by the rex. So Charyn sets out to educate himself circumspectly.
When Jarolian privateers disrupt Solidar s shipping, someone attempts to kill Charyn s younger brother as an act of protest. Threatening notes following in the wake of acts of violence against the rex and his family, demanding action build more ships or expect someone to die.
The Imager Portfolio#1 Imager / #2 Imager s Challenge / #3 Imager s Intrigue / #4 Scholar / #5 Princeps / #6 Imager s Battalion / #7 Antiagon Fire / #8 Rex Regis / #9 Madness in Solidar / #10 Treachery s Tools / #11 Assassin s Price (forthcoming)
Other series by this author: The Saga of RecluceThe Corean ChroniclesThe Spellsong CycleThe Ghost BooksThe Ecolitan Matter
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My Review:

After two book failures, I gave into temptation and picked up Assassin’s Price about a month before I’m scheduled to review it. And I’m very glad I did. Just like all of the books in the Imager Portfolio (starting points are Imager, Scholar or Madness in Solidar) this one sucked me in and didn’t let go until the very end.

And now, as usual, I’m stuck waiting a year until the next one comes out. Because this story definitely isn’t over. Thank goodness.

Assassin’s Price takes place six years after the equally marvelous Treachery’s Tools, but this entry in the series switches perspectives, and that’s part of what makes it work so well.

At the end of Treachery’s Tools, Maitre Alastar had decisively ended the threat to the Collegium and to the rule of Rex Lorien. But six years is a long time, especially in politics, and people forget. Sometimes willfully.

But this isn’t Alastar’s story. Nor is it Rex Lorien’s. Just as with all of the previous books in this series, this is a story about coming into power, and specifically about the coming into power of someone who has already come of age.

Rex Lorien’s oldest son Charyn will be Rex someday, but that day is not supposed to be yet. He’s a young man in waiting for an event that he hopes will not come soon, because they only way he becomes Rex is when his father dies. And in spite of Rex Lorien’s authoritarian grip on the Regial household, he is doing the very best he can in surprisingly limited circumstances, and he really does love his family – and vice versa. This just isn’t a family where those emotions get expressed all that often.

But Charyn is old enough that playing the self-indulgent and over-indulged prince has begun to pall. He needs purpose. And as much as he doesn’t want to be Rex anytime soon, he is tired of being left out of all decisions and barred from any information about the state of the kingdom he will someday inherit.

So he starts cultivating his own sources, and in a direction from which his somewhat paranoid father is unlikely to feel threatened. And he hopes to learn things that seem to be outside the grasp of entirely too many people. One of the realities of life in Solidar is that the world is changing, not that that isn’t true everywhere all the time. But Charyn lives at a time when the power of the nobility, the major landholders, is slowly fading, while the power of the factors, the merchants and business interests, is very much on the rise.

Charyn gets himself a seat on the Solidaran equivalent of the Mercantile Exchange. It gives him the perfect opportunity to learn what factors do, and what they don’t. This knowledge becomes critical when an anonymous assassin begins threatening the Regial family and their holdings in protest of the Rex’ slow build up of a naval fleet to protect shipping interests. The anonymous assassin represents himself (herself, itself) as being one of the factors.

But as the outer tendrils of the plot come to light, it becomes clear that whoever or whatever is behind the threats has been planning their campaign for months if not years – and that they have sources within the Regial palace itself.

The Rex is dead, long live the Rex. Suddenly Charyn is the one on the very hot Regial seat, trying to work with councilors and advisers who seem to be certain that they don’t have to pay any attention to what he says or does, because they believe he’s not going to live all that long.

Charyn races to uncover the plot by any means necessary, before it takes his life and plunges his country into chaos.

Escape Rating A-: The first quarter of this book, while interesting, was not the stuff of high drama. In the beginning, we see Charyn learning, trying to discover a purpose and a way of keeping himself intellectually engaged. Also his father, Rex Lorien, doesn’t exactly show himself in the best light. He’s paranoid and very authoritarian in ways that grate. But like the old joke, you’re not paranoid if someone really is out to get you, and someone really was out to get him. It turns out that he’s not a bad man, just frustrated and overwhelmed. And then dead.

The pace really picks up when Charyn unexpectedly becomes Rex. Once he takes center stage, the story clips along at breakneck pace. Although relatively little time elapses, Charyn is under siege and under threat from the moment he becomes Rex. His realization that his councilors don’t care what concessions they grant him is because they are all certain he will be assassinated in short order is chilling.

And yet, he builds allies and keeps trying, not necessarily to win them over to his side, but to convince them that he’s going to live more than long enough for being on his side to matter. It’s an uphill battle, but a fascinating one.

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrAlthough this is part of the Imager Portfolio, the imagers themselves do not feature greatly in it. In this story, the imagers are doing what their founder, Quaeryt envisioned, not being a power themselves but keeping the balance between all the factions, between the Rex, the high holders and the factors. And as Quaeryt envisioned and Alastar exemplified, the way they do that best is by keeping good Rexes alive and functioning.

But speaking of Quaeryt (and I believe that the character pictured on the cover of Rex Regis IS Quaeryt and not the Rex), the hero of the middle five books in this series from Scholar to Rex Regis, it was good to hear him spoken of again, and to have his legacy recognized. Tying this present story back to some of his (and his redoubtable wife Vaelora’s) actions was a very nice touch and a way of setting this piece of the story into proper sequence. For readers who start with Madness in Solidar, knowing who Quaeryt was and what he did isn’t necessary to enjoy this part of the story, but the books are marvelous for anyone who loves politically charged epic fantasy.

This is a series that, as a whole, manages to do an excellent job of making political machinations endlessly fascinating. In this world, politics is always war conducted by other means, and it’s always a race to see if the hero, in this case Charyn, can manage to outmaneuver his enemies before that always impending war breaks out.

But speaking of the war, once things get settled within Solidar, it looks like Charyn will have some external enemies to deal with. And I can hardly wait.

Quick Q&A with author L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Marlene: So often, epic fantasy is the realm of coming of age stories, where the destined hero or heroine comes of age and into their destiny during the course of the story. The Imager Portfolio is different in that regard. None of the heroes, not Rhenn, not Quaeryt, certainly not Alastar or even Charyn feel like destined heroes. They’re just the right person at the right time. And, this part has always fascinated me, these are explicitly not coming of age stories. All the heroes are adults at the beginning of their adventures. Possibly relatively young adults, but not “young adults” as the term is generally meant. They are grown ups who already have a life mapped out for themselves when their circumstances change and they are suddenly thrust into power they did not expect. So the stories are coming into power stories that are explicitly not coming of age stories. How did that come about? Was that a conscious decision, or did things just evolve that way over the course of the series? 

Lee: I’d have to say that the first three books about Rhenn came about in the way they did as a combination of autobiographical factors and an underlying philosophy/concern of mine, in that I’m not much of a believer in “destiny from birth.” That’s because my own life, and the lives of many other people I’ve known, took radically different paths from what anyone could have predicted. When I was truly a young adult, I very much wanted to be painter and a poet. I even had a painting place in a small scholastic art competition, but the plain fact is that while I have excellent gross motor control, my fine motor control is a bit shaky, perhaps from a mild case of polio as a child, and I realized that my artistic conceptions were far beyond my physical capabilities. Then there was the fact that when I graduated from college, my family-endorsed semi-career plan, similar in a way to what Rhenn’s family planned for him, to go to law school and join my father’s law firm, ran into an immediate and absolute roadblock. There was a war in Vietnam in progress, and rather than let the government decide my fate, I went through Navy OCS and emerged a very green ensign, assigned to small amphibious craft, a duty I detested so much that I volunteered for flight training in the middle of a war, a rash decision definitely not calculated to maximize survival. In short, I never got back to the “family plan” because my Navy experience as a search and rescue pilot made me realize several things, but especially that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Yet later on, ironically, in my nearly twenty years in Washington, virtually all the political and consulting jobs I held were the type of positions usually held by lawyers. That might be one reason why I’m a great believer in irony.

All of those experiences also conveyed to me the fact that no sane person ever sets out to be a hero, but that some people do amazing deeds, when required by their place in life and their background. There’s definitely some of me in each of the main protagonists in the Imager Portfolio. So… the summary of this long answer is that the structure was planned, but heavily influenced by autobiographical experiences of various sorts.

Marlene: Now that I’ve finished Assassin’s Price, I’m waiting breathlessly for the next one. Any idea what it and it’s title will be? And when?

Lee: I’m currently working on the sequel to Assassin’s Price, which also features Charyn, but since I’m only about halfway through, I’m not ready to say much yet, but that means, if I finish on schedule, it won’t be available until late in 2018 or sometime in 2019. And so far I haven’t settled on a title. In the meantime, there are two new Recluce books on the way, The Mongrel Mage, coming out this October, and its immediate sequel, Outcasts of Order, scheduled for release next June.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I absolutely adore this series, so I am very happy indeed that, thanks to Tor Books, I am able to give away one copy of Assassin’s Price to a lucky US/Canadian commenter.

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Q&A with Authors Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

shadow ritual by eric giacometti and jacque ravenneShadow Ritual (reviewed today here) is one of those books that just reached out and grabbed me. It wouldn’t let go, or I couldn’t, until I turned the last page a few brief hours later. I was absorbed and enthralled.

The history and mystery that fuels this story is one that most of us don’t know well. The Freemasons and the history of the Masonic Order is shrouded in mysteries and secrets for those of us on the outside. In this Q&A, the authors tell a bit about how they chose as their protagonists a police detective who is a Mason and a security officer who is beyond derisive of those practices, as well as a glimpse of how much truth in wrapped in their absorbing piece of fiction.

Just to whet your appetite for this book, an excerpt is included at the end. This is one of those book tours where I wish that there was a giveaway attached. However, the publisher is doing a book tour at the same time as this one, and it does have a giveaway. Check here for details.

And now, on to the questions…

1. How did the two of you come together to write SHADOW RITUAL?
Many things led us into this adventure. First of all, Jacques is a Freemason, and Eric had investigated scandals linked to freemasonry. We had two different visions of this brotherhood. Second, Eric had already written a mystery and his French publisher was encouraging him to write another one. Thirdly, we had known each other since our teenage years together spent in Toulouse, in the south of France, when we shared a passion for esoteric mysteries and secret societies. At the time, while others were flirting, we were exploring Cathar castles and Templar outposts, certain we would find some lost treasure, perhaps even the Holy Grail. We always kept a bit of that feeling of wonder. All of this came together with the idea of a Freemason inspector. Two other inspirations fed Shadow Ritual: the little known story of Freemason persecutions in Nazi-occupied France, and the true story of French Freemason archives stolen by the Nazis in 1940, recovered by the Soviets in 1945 and only returned to France in 2000. What secret did they hold?

2. How does the fact that Jacques is a Freemason and Eric is a Profane affect the portrayal of the relationships between your characters?
It gives us a more balanced view of freemasonry: one that is not too indulgent and not too full of fantasy.

3. What was the inspiration for the characters Antoine Marcas and Jade Zewinski?
Antoine embodies an upright Freemason who believes in his ideals, but is aware that the brotherhood is not perfect. He is always doubting, and that is his strength. Jade is hostile to freemasonry and challenges Marcas, by asking him all the questions the Profane have about this secret society.

4. The Inspector Marcas series is an international phenomenon! Has the success of the series changed your life?
The success of the series has allowed us the freedom to write and earn a living from it, which is a real luxury.

5. How did you decide to write a series with a freemason as the protagonist?
We though thrillers are an excellent way for readers to discover the world of freemasonry. Then, we were doubly lucky: at the time, nobody in France had had the idea of creating a positive Freemason protagonist, and Dan Brown published his Da Vinci Code a year before we brought out the first Antoine Marcas mystery in French. We were the first French authors to benefit from the Dan Brown effect.

6. SHADOW RITUAL deals with actual Freemason history and the potential implications of a breach; has SHADOW RITUAL ruffled some feathers?
At first, Jacques’s brothers were a little thrown off. But over time, freemasons have become fervent supporters of Inspector Marcas. The rituals and meetings described in the books are genuine, and readers can understand a little bit more about the brotherhood.

7. How much research do you have to do, which are the most difficult types of scenes to research, and have you ever had to go to extreme or unusual lengths to research a scene?
We spend a lot of time in libraries, often in Freemason libraries, which have many rare books. We also meet with scholars. This is a fascinating part of the work, but it’s important not to get lost in the research or to recount too much of what we found in books. The hard part is building a plot and adjusting the mechanism to work like clockwork.

8. What are you reading now?
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a fascinating book about the unforeseeable events that change the destinies of nations.

9. Who or what has influenced your style of writing?
Jacques’s influences are very literary, as he was a French professor and a Paul Valery scholar. Eric’s are more thrillers (both books and movies).

10. What’s up next for you, Eric?
I’m heading to New York for Thrillerfest in July. I can’t wait to meet other thriller writers. And next year, there will be another Antoine Marcas thriller in English, one with surprising Freemason information about the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

11. What’s up next for you, Jacques?
Las Vegas in August to celebrate my son’s twenty-first birthday, and shared impatience with Eric for the next Marcas adventure.

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

1945
BERLIN

The bombings had redoubled at dawn, and the ground trembled. The man’s razor slipped a second time. Blood dribbled down his stubbly cheek. He clenched his jaw, grabbed a damp towel, and dabbed the cut.
Designed to last a thousand years, the bunker’s foundations were showing signs of weakness.
He looked in the cracked mirror above the sink and barely recognized his face. The last six months of combat had left their mark, including two scars across his forehead, souvenirs of a skirmish with the Red Army in Pomerania. He would celebrate his twenty-fifth birthday in a week, but the mirror reflected someone a good ten years older.
The officer slipped on a shirt and his black jacket and shot a half smile at the portrait of the Führer, a mandatory fixture in all the rooms of the Third Reich Chancellery’s air-raid shelter. He put on his black helmet, adjusted it, and buttoned his collar, fingering the two silver runes shaped like S’s on the right.
His uniform had such power. When he wore it, he soaked up the fear and respect in the eyes of passersby. He reveled in the gazes that oozed submission. Even children too young to understand the meaning of his black uniform pulled away when he tried to be friendly. It reactivated some primitive fear. He liked that. Intensely. Without his beloved leader’s national socialism, he would have been a nobody, just like the others, leading a mediocre life in an ambitionless society. But fate had catapulted him to the inner circle of the SS.
Now, however, the tide was turning. Judeo-Masonic forces were triumphing again. The Bolsheviks were scampering, ready to take over like a swarm of rats. They would spare nothing. Of course, he hadn’t either. He’d left no prisoners on the Eastern Front.
“Pity is all the weak can be proud of,” Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler liked to tell his subordinates. That same man had given him—a Frenchman—the Iron Cross for his acts of bravery.
Another tremor shook the concrete walls. Gray dust fell from the ceiling. That explosion was close, maybe just above the bunker in what remained of the chancellery gardens.
Obersturmbannführer François Le Guermand brushed the dust from his lapels and examined himself again. Berlin would fall. They had known this since June, when the Allies invaded Normandy. But what a year it had been. A “heroic and brutal” dream, to borrow the words of José-Maria de Heredia, the Cuban-born French poet Le Guermand loved.
A dream for some and a nightmare for others.

It began after he’d joined the SS Sturmbrigade Frankreich and then the Charlemagne Division, swearing allegiance to Adolf Hitler. This came two years after he’d marched off with the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism. Marshal Pétain’s spinelessness had disgusted him, and he had set his sights on the Waffen SS units that were taking foreign volunteers.
He had fought bravely, and one day a general invited him to dinner that changed his life. Anti-Christian comments filled the conversation. The guests praised old Nordic religious beliefs and championed racist doctrines. Le Guermand listened with fascination as they related the strange and cruel stories of the clever god Odin, the dragon slayer Siegfried, and mythic Thule, the ancestral homeland of supermen, the real masters of the human race.
Le Guermand was seated next to the general’s liaison, a major from Munich who explained how SS officers with pure Germanic blood had received intensive historical and spiritual training. “The Aryan race has waged battle with degenerate barbarians for centuries,” he said.
Before, Le Guermand would have mocked the words as the wild imaginings of indoctrinated minds, but in the candlelight, the magical stories were a powerful venom, a burning drug that flowed into his blood, slowly reaching his brain and cutting it off from reason. Le Guermand was caught in the maelstrom of a titanic combat against the Stalinist hordes, and at that moment, he understood the real reason he had joined this final battle between Germany and the rest of the world. He grasped the meaning of his life.
On that winter solstice in 1944, in a meadow lit up by torches, he was initiated into the rites of the Black Order. As he faced a makeshift altar covered with a dark gray sheet embroidered with two moon-colored runes, he heard the deep voices of soldiers chanting all around him: “Halgadom, Halgadom, Halgadom.”
“It’s an ancestral Germanic invocation that means ‘sacred cathedral,’” the major told him. “But it’s nothing like a Christian cathedral. Think of it as a mystical grail.” The major laughed. “In a Christian context, it’s like a celestial Jerusalem.”
An hour later, the torches were extinguished. As darkness swallowed the men in ceremonial uniforms, Le Guermand emerged a transformed man. His existence would never be the same. What would it matter if he died? Death was nothing but a passage to a more glorious world. François Le Guermand had joined his fate with that of this community. It was cursed by the rest of humanity, but he would receive sublime teachings promising new life, even if Germany lost the war.
The Red Army continued to advance. Le Guermand’s division took a battering. Then, on a cold and wet morning in February 1945, when he was supposed to be leading a counterattack in East Prussia, Le Guermand received orders to report to the Führer’s headquarters in Berlin. There was no explanation.
He bid good-bye to his division, only to learn later that his fellow soldiers, exhausted and underequipped, had been decimated that very day by the Second Shock Army’s T-34 tanks.
The Führer had saved his life.
On his way to Berlin, Le Guermand passed countless German refugees fleeing the Russians. The radio broadcast Dr. Goebbels’s propaganda: Soviet barbarians were pillaging houses and raping women. It made no mention of the atrocities committed by the Reich when they had marched victoriously on Russia.
The lines of frightened runaways went on for miles.
How ironic. In June 1940, his family had pulled a cart along a road in Compiègne, France, fleeing the arriving Germans. Now he was a German soldier, and he was retreating. From the backseat of his SS car, he contemplated the dead German women and children lying on both sides of the road, some in an advanced stage of decomposition. Many had had their clothing and shoes stolen. This de- pressing spectacle was nothing compared with what he would find when he arrived in the capital of the dying Third Reich.
Past the northern suburb of Wedding, he gazed at the burned and crumbling buildings, the victims of incessant Allied bombings. He had known Berlin when it was so arrogant and proud to be the new Rome. Now he gawked at the masses of silent inhabitants trudging through the ruins.
Flags bearing swastikas hung over what remained of the rooftops. His car came to a stop at an intersection on Wilhelmstrasse to let a convoy of Panzer Tiger tanks and a detachment of foot soldiers pass. Le Guermand watched as a man spit at the troops. Before, such behavior would have led to an arrest and a beating. On this day, the man just went on his way.
A banderole remained intact on the side of an intact building—an insurance company—that hadn’t been destroyed. “We will vanquish or we will die,” its large gothic letters read.
Arriving at the chancellery guard post, he found the bodies of two men hanging from streetlights. They hadn’t been as lucky as the man who had spit at the troops. The dead men were wearing placards: “I betrayed my Führer.” Probably deserters caught by the Gestapo and immediately executed, Le Guermand thought. Examples. No Germans could escape their destiny. The bodies, their faces nearly black from asphyxiation, swayed in the wind.
To his surprise, there was no officer to meet him at the bunker, but instead, an insignificant civilian. His thread- bare jacket bore the insignia of the Nazi Party. The man told him that he and the other officers of his rank would be assigned to a special detachment under the direct orders of Reichsleiter Martin Bormann. His mission would be explained in due time.
The man led him to a tiny room. Other officers, all detached from three SS divisions—Wiking, Totenkopf, and Hohenstaufen—had received the same orders and were lodged in nearby rooms.
Two days after they arrived, Martin Bormann, secretary of the Nazi Party and one of the few dignitaries to still be in Adolf Hitler’s good graces, called the Frenchman and his comrades together. With a cold, self-confident gaze on his bloated face, he looked at the fifteen men gathered in what remained of a chancellery meeting room. Then Hitler’s dauphin spoke in a strangely shrill voice.
“Gentlemen, the Russians will be here in a few months. It is possible that we will lose the war, even though the Führer still believes in victory and has put his faith in new weapons even more destructive than our long-range V-2 rockets.”
Bormann let his eyes drift over the group before continuing his monologue.
“We need to think about future generations and remain committed to final victory. Your superior officers chose you for your courage and loyalty to the Reich. I speak especially for our European friends from Sweden, Belgium, France, and Holland who have conducted themselves as true Germans. During the few weeks we have left, you will be trained to survive and perpetuate the work of Adolf Hitler. Our guide has decided to stay to the end, even if he must give his life, but you will leave in due time to ensure that his sacrifice is not in vain.”
Le Guermand looked around. The other officers were murmuring and shifting in their chairs. Bormann continued.
“Each of you will receive orders that are vital for our work to continue. You are not alone. Other groups such as yours are being formed throughout German territory. Your training will begin at eight tomorrow morning and will last for several weeks. Good luck to all of you.”
During the two months that followed, they were taught to live an entirely clandestine life. François Le Guermand admired the organization that persevered, despite the impending apocalypse. He felt detached from his French roots, from that nation of whiners that had prostrated itself at the feet of Charles de Gaulle and the Americans.
Le Guermand was cloistered in underground rooms and went days without seeing sunlight. A rodent’s life. There was no rest between the lectures and coursework. Soldiers and civilians introduced him to a vast network that was especially active in South America, as well as Spain and Switzerland.
They were trained in covert bank transfers and identity management. Money didn’t seem to be a concern. Each member of the group had a duty: to go to his assigned country and blend with the population under a new identity. Then wait—ready to act.
By mid-April, the Soviets were just six miles from Berlin. Three hundred French survivors of the Charlemagne Division were guarding the bunker. That was when the liaison officer from Munich arrived. Bormann deferred to the major, as though he were a superior officer. Le Guermand ate a quick lunch with the major, who called Hitler an evil madman and then held out a black card embossed with a white capital T.
“This card marks your membership to an ancient Aryan secret society, the Thule-Gesellschaft,” the major explained. “It has existed since long before the birth of Nazism. You have been chosen for your courage and devotion. If you survive the war, other members of the Thule will contact you with new orders.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
shadow-ritual-giacomettiravenne2012_credit_melania_avanza

Jacques Ravenne is a literary scholar
who has also written a biography of the Marquis de Sade
and edited his letters.
He loves to explore the hidden side of major historical events.

Eric Giacometti was an investigative reporter
for a major French newspaper.
He has covered a number of high-profile scandals
and has done exhaustive research in the area of freemasonry.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.
***
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Q&A with Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

Linda Lael Miller’s Parable Montana series got me hooked on contemporary western romance. I loved the series so much, that I was thrilled when she continued to feature stories in the nearby Bliss County. The Marriage Pact (see review) was lovely, and today’s review book, The Marriage Charm, is a terrific way to keep up with people I really enjoy. Here is a  Q&A from Linda Lael Miller, all about The Marriage Charm.

marriage charm by linda lael millerQ: In The Marriage Charm, Melody Nolan falls in love with Chief of Police, Spence Hogan. Spence has a reputation that he’ll never settle down. Is his reputation deserved? And just what is it about Melody that has grabbed the attention of womanizer Spence Hogan?

A: Spence has actually cultivated his reputation as a player, in order to avoid settling down, and it’s served him well—until now. He and Melody were in love, years before, but the time wasn’t right for marriage; Spence knew that, but Melody didn’t. Now, following their mutual friends’ romantic wedding, the old attraction is back.

Q: Female friendships play an important role in The Marriage Charm. Do you have female friends that support you the way Hadleigh and Bex support Melody?

A: Oh, yes. I have a number of very close female friends, people I can confide in, and most of them go way back. I wouldn’t know what to do without these strong, smart, funny women. Through all the ups and downs, we’ve always been there for each other.

Q: Melody is a talented jewelry designer and her pieces sound absolutely gorgeous in the book! Did you do research on jewelry design and jewelry making before writing the scenes where she’s working on some of her creations?

A: Some research, yes. I’m an artist myself, and I love beautiful jewelry, so this career made sense for Melody.

Q: There’s some real danger—and mystery—in The Marriage Charm. How did you decide to work suspense into this story? Was it always a natural part of the plot or did you want there to be some mystery involved?

A: Sometimes an element of suspense fits the story and characters, and I decide to go with it.

Linda Lael MillerAbout Linda Lael MillerThe daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education.More information about Linda and her novels is available at her website. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Linda is kindly giving away a copy of The Marriage Charm to one lucky winner! (Contintental U.S. only) To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Q&A with Lori Foster + Giveaway

Lori FosterPlease enjoy this Q&A from Lori Foster, who recently published No Limits (reviewed here).

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, No Limits?

This is Cannon’s story, a character that readers met in my last series, Love Undercover. From the second Cannon showed up on the page, I knew he’d get his own story. He’s that kind of guy, the guy who steps up and takes notice and gets a lot of notice in return.

In No Limits, Cannon reunites with Yvette, another character from the previous series. They parted under strained circumstances, with Cannon just heading into professional MMA and Yvette young and traumatized from a horrific threat. Cannon saved her then, but he was noble because of her age and what she’d been through.

Now she’s older, more independent, and he’s ready to make up for lost time.

What was it like getting inside the mind of a mixed martial arts fighter?

no limits by lori fosterI’ve interviewed a few fighters over the years, chatted with others while getting promotional photos and during before and after “meet and greets” while at live events. Every single fighter I’ve met has been extremely nice, unassuming, dedicated to fans, and (though it sounds silly) very sweet. It took only a few questions to see how much they give to the sport they love, the discipline it takes to stay in training, and the confidence they gain from having extreme ability.

Since I’ve never asked a fighter about his love life, that part of the story is pure imagination on my part. But then I only write good guys, and talented lovers.

What is your process for choosing names like Cannon Colter?

I’m a terrible cheat when it comes to names. More often than not I see a name on Facebook or Twitter that I like. I never, ever use a first and last name together, but I do pick and choose and mix and match. When I see a unique name, or a name that resonates with me, I grab it up.

When I’m writing, I’m far less focused on names than I am on personality. Names for me are an afterthought, so stealing from my social media sites makes it easy.

What music did you listen to while writing No Limits?

I have a long playlist of about 150 songs. Much of it is from KORN and Kid Rock and Marilyn Manson, but I’ve also really gotten into Disturbed, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, Skillet and Puddle of Mud. Oh, and Cage the Elephant. I like loud, strong music that I can sing along with while I’m writing.

Can you tell us about the process behind the cover artwork?

Ooooh, I LOVE getting new covers. So exciting. The way it works is that I give my editor an idea of what the characters look like. Usually this means emailing her my own character sheets – notes I keep on the characters to detail (and help me remember) height, eye and hair color, body type, etc… I usually include any and all info like the car he/she drives, job description, age and any other pertinent information that I might need to recall from book to book.

My editor also asks for a synopsis, but since they usually start working on covers long before I know what the story is about, it’s a guessing game on my end. I know there’ll be a hunk, a heroine, some suspense, hot sex, lots of emotion, and a happy ending. The how’s and why’s are often not clear to me at that point.

Then the publisher has a meeting with the art department and they all brainstorm cover ideas and come up with a concept that I get to see.

The concept is just an idea. It’ll show a model, but not THE model. It’ll show a pose, but not THE pose. I see where the placement of my name and the title will appear, along with any quotes.

Once that’s approved, the art dept does a photo shoot and from those images they choose the once they like best. I weigh in with pleas of chest hair.

Chest hair is always my #1 requirement if they show the model with his shirt off.
Understand, this is for new novels, not novellas or reissues. For those they generally use stock art.

It’s all very fun and I can honestly say I’ve loved the artwork so far.

Have you written an outline for the No Limits series or do you make it up as you go?

hard knocks by lori fosterI totally make it up as I go along. Or I should say my characters make it up. I never try to figure things out in advance because as sure as I do, the characters will have a different idea and they’ll rebel, making it difficult to write until I give them their way. Fighting it is futile. But since they’re seldom wrong, it works for us. (And yes, I’m nuts. I don’t fight that either.)

Usually the characters will give me enough clues along the way to keep the writing flow steady. For instance, while I was writing No Limits, Denver stepped up and talked about Cherry and made it clear his book needed to be next. Now while I’m writing Holding Strong (Denver’s story) Stack is giving me nudges, saying, “Me next, me next. And I’m going after Vanity… whether she or I know it yet or not.”

So that’s how I know Stack’s story will be after Denver’s.

Armie has said he wants to wait, stew on things a while, come to grips with his future… so I’m letting him get used to the idea of what is to come. 😉

What are you working on next?

I’m writing Denver’s story right now, titled Holding Strong. It’s due out in spring 2015 and I’m loving Denver and Cherry together – and them as a couple with the rest of the fighters around. It’s a very fun dynamic.

After that I’ll do another benefit novella for June 2015. It’ll be part of the Buckhorn family and all proceeds from sales of the book will go to a charity. I’m not yet sure which of the Buckhorn clan will be featured, but I’m sure it’ll all come to me in plenty of time.

And then I’ll jump into Stack’s story. He should be ready by then – which means I’ll also be ready. Luckily the characters keep me writing. In fact, if there were more hours in the day, I’m not sure they’d ever let me stop.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Lori is kindly giving away a copy of No Limits to one lucky winner (US only)! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Q&A from Author Susan Mallery + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome Susan Mallery, who recently published the 15th novel in her Fool’s Gold series, Until We Touch (reviewed here). Please enjoy this Q&A:

UntilWeTouch_BadgeFRONT

Question: In what ways do you think every woman can relate to Larissa Owens?

Larissa is a sweetie. She’s not rich; she’s working as a personal assistant and personal masseuse for Jack. She gets to go to work in yoga pants and touch sexy guys all over. (Dream job!) Until We Touch is my nod to the boss/secretary story, one of my favorite kinds of romance.

Larissa has a pure heart, and when she sees someone hurting, she doesn’t just think about helping. She does help, with whatever resources are available to her. Fortunately for her, since she’s been working for Jack, he has allowed her to use his wealth and connections in service to her causes. In fact, he likes it. With Larissa using his money to try to save the world, he can feel like a part of something without actually putting himself out there. It’s a very comfortable arrangement for them both… until Larissa’s mom tells Jack that Larissa is in love with him, and everything changes.

Question: What about Jack McGarry makes him like no leading man we’ve ever seen before in Fool’s Gold?

I think what makes people relatable—both in fiction and in life—are our imperfections and our vulnerabilities. From the outside, Jack’s life appears perfect. He’s rich, handsome, famous. He was a pro quarterback who retired on top and is now experiencing the same phenomenal success in the private sector with Score, the PR firm he co-owns.
But Jack has a secret pain that makes him protect himself from feeling too deeply, from caring too much. He lost someone dear to him when he was young, and he felt responsible. The lesson he took from that loss was that it’s safer on the surface.

Larissa works for him, so she knows he’s not a good bet when it comes to relationships. She has watched a string of temporary girlfriends come and go. She even bought the parting gifts. Despite that, despite her better judgment, she likes the man. He’s a good guy, a great friend, and he’s the sexiest man she’s ever met.

Question: If Until We Touch were made into a movie, who would you envision playing Jack and Larissa?

I’m going to go with Chris Pine with black hair and Amy Adams as a blonde. (We must keep the Hollywood hairstylists employed!) Both could handle the funny scenes and the moments of honest emotion.

Of course, one of the funniest scenes in the book would probably have to be cut in order to keep the R rating. No spoilers, but I will say that Larissa is a massage therapist, and as their feelings for each other change, new situations—ahem—arise.

Question: Larissa keeps her romantic attraction to Jack a secret at first, before her mother spills the beans. Do you think you should ever keep that secret from a friend you’re falling for, or is it better to confess your love?

In the case of Larissa, she didn’t realize she was keeping a secret… she kept her feelings a secret even from herself. Until her mother’s assertion, Larissa didn’t think she was in love with Jack. Just by saying those words, Larissa’s mom changed everything. These two friends and colleagues are suddenly thinking of each other in a whole new way. Which is inconvenient, to say the least.

As for whether someone in real life should keep her feelings for a friend secret or confess all, I’d have to say it really depends on the situation. Friendship is the best foundation for lifelong love, but not all friends-to-lovers stories end happily. I think you’d need to examine your heart and ask yourself, honestly, what is the best action for you to take.

Question: You have written well over 100 books. How do you keep developing such unique storylines and characters that keep your fans coming back for more?

It’s a challenge! The truth is, every love story is unique. We all know dozens of couples who met, fell in love, and married. The framework may be similar—first glance, first kiss, deepening feelings, declaration of love—but the nuances are different. Which means that as a writer, I need to start with the nuances and build from there. What makes these two individuals unique and uniquely suited for each other? What events in their past color their actions and emotions today? As I develop their characters, I look for aspects that put them in conflict with each other, but also for aspects that will make them a couple you can believe will make it for the long haul. The conflict has to last nearly the length of the book, but the things they have in common have to take them through the rest of their lives.

Question: What do you think is the recipe for a perfect romance novel?

A perfect romance should carry you away from your everyday world and fill you with emotions as you read. When you put down the book before you’re finished, it should call to you. Chores can wait, dinner can wait. It should be a challenge for you to turn off the light to go to sleep, even when it’s way past your bedtime. You should want to read just one more chapter, and then just one more after that, and then just one more until you’re done because you can’t bear to put it down until you know the characters are happy and in love. And when you do finish this perfect romance, you should feel happy, with a renewed feeling of faith in the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

Question: What’s next for Fool’s Gold?

Next up, Kenny and Bailey will fall in love in Yours For Christmas. Readers are in love with Kenny already, started asking for his story right away. He was introduced in When We Met, and readers could immediately sense that there are hidden depths beneath his happy-go-lucky façade. Kenny is one of Jack’s partners at Score PR. What he wants more than anything is a family, but he was burned badly by an ex. The one thing he won’t do, no matter what, is fall in love with a single mom. And then he meets Bailey…

Yours For Christmas was originally slated to be an ebook exclusive novella. However, Harlequin has decided to release it simultaneously in print on October 28. It will be printed at the back of the mass market paperback reissue of Christmas on 4th Street. Both Yours For Christmas (ebook) and Christmas on 4th Street combined with Yours For Christmas (print and ebook) are available for pre-order now.

Question: Any fun summer plans?

I’m going to soak in as much of this rare and precious Seattle sunshine as I can before the rainclouds descend again! Seattle in the summertime has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I swear, there are a million shades of green, and every single one of them is on display as we walk the dog around the city.

SusanMallery_photoAbout Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women and the relationships that define their lives. She has published more than 100 romance and women’s fiction novels beginning with two books the same month when she was just out of college. Susan has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and went on to get a master’s in writing popular fiction and has extensively studied story structure in screenwriting courses. Her goal, always, is to give readers a story that will move them, populated with characters who feel like real people. Born and raised in California, Susan now lives with her family in Seattle, where she survives the dreary days of winter with the help of a “happy lamp” and plenty of coffee.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Susan is kindly giving away a couple of Until We Touch to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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Q&A with Author Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

Today please enjoy this Q&A with Linda Lael Miller, author of The Marriage Pact (reviewed here) and the Parable Montana series (one of my personal faves)

Q: It’s exciting to read your new Bliss County series! What inspired you to write this new series and how long have you had the idea for The Marriage Pact?

marriage pact by linda lael millerI was actually inspired by my own penchant for arts and crafts, since I love to make things, and by the beautiful state of Wyoming. In the books, three women friends, all successful in their own right, decide to help each other find husbands. One of the women is a jewelry designer, and she makes a special bracelet charm to represent each of their romances. If I hadn’t already been inspired, my visit to Jackson, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park last September would have done the trick.

Q: In The Marriage Pact, Hadleigh is determined to find Mr. Right but it turns out Mr. Right isn’t who she thought he would be. Do you think most relationships are like that?

Maybe not most relationships, but definitely a lot of them. I think we human beings have a tendency to look for love (and everything else) in strange and faraway places, instead of in our own backyard.

Q: The pressure to get married can be huge for women. Do you think you can really find love when you are “looking” for it? Or is it easier to fall in love if you aren’t on the hunt?

Complex question! I do think it’s possible to find true love by actively looking for it—several of my friends have done exactly that. On the other hand, there is something to be said for letting the chips fall where they may.

Q: The group of women Hadleigh makes the “marriage pact” with are dear friends to her. Do you have a group of friends like she does? What makes friendship between women so special?

I do have a group of very close friends, people I would literally trust with my life. Women are especially good at friendship, I think, because they know how to nurture, and they’re generally quite empathetic.

Linda Lael MillerAbout Linda Lael MillerThe daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education.More information about Linda and her novels is available at her website. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Linda is kindly giving away a copy of The Marriage Pact to a lucky winner! (U.S. only). To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Q&A with Author Eleanor Moran + Giveaway

Today I would like to welcome Eleanor Moran, who will be publishing the heart-wrenching friendship (and other things) story, The Last Time I Saw You (review here) later this month. Although I didn’t know this when I picked up the book, in addition to the TV series listed in her bio, she has also executive produced one of my favorite series, New Tricks. I knew I liked her writing, and now I know why!

Eleanor Moran Blog Tour

Q. What was your inspiration for The Last Time I Saw You? How did you first get the idea for the story?

last time i saw you by eleanor moranA. The Last Time I Saw You came out of two experiences – a hypnotic, seductive friendship I had at university which exploded in my mid twenties. It took me a long time to process the viciousness of the ‘break up’ and I wanted to write about the ambiguity and treachery of female friendship gone wrong. I also wanted to write about the ‘haunting’ that can take place in relationships we have in our thirties and forties. Livvy’s sister tells her “men move on, they can’t stand the silence” and I think it’s true. I wanted to write about that.

Q. Do you have a favorite character from the book? One who was a pleasure to right? Difficult?

A. I love all my characters! I fell in love with William, despite him being such a stuffed shirt. I sort of have to when I write a love interest. I loved the complexity of Sally, and I loved her, despite her selfishness and how bad she was for Livvy. She is mercurial and a trickster, and in drama those characters are vital. She can do unexpected, wild things. Livvy has a lot of me in her, as all my heroines do.

Q. If you could give just one piece of advice to fellow writers what would it be?

A. Gosh, I wouldn’t presume to advise other writers at my stage, but to newbies I would say… Do you know, I don’t know! Understand the market, but don’t be handcuffed by it, as you need to find your own voice.

Q. Who are your favorite authors? Who has inspired your writing?

A. I adore Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier found something universal, and then wrote a deeply specific story. Beautiful Ruins. Loved that. The Fault In Our Stars. The Help. Heartburn. The Time Traveler’s Wife. For me it’s the books about rounded, flawed characters doing their very best in believable ways. If you look at my website – I wrote about my 10 favorite love stories. And romantic films.

Q. What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

A. I am hard at work on book 5. It’s about a young female psychotherapist who is forced to confront her past.

Eleanor Moran, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson.About Eleanor MoranEleanor Moran is the author of three previous novels: Stick or Twist, Mr Almost Right and Breakfast in Bed, which is currently being developed for television. Eleanor also works as a television drama executive and her TV credits include Rome, MI5, Spooks, Being Human and a biopic of Enid Blyton, Enid, starring Helena Bonham Carter. Eleanor grew up in North London, where she still lives.To learn more about Eleanor, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Eleanor is kindly giving away a copy of The Last Time I Saw You to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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Q&A with Author Anderson Harp + Giveaway

retribution by anderson harp My guest today is Anderson Harp, the author of the action-adventure/political thriller Retribution. (Retribution is also today’s review book). If you’re looking for a meaty and complex story just like Tom Clancy used to write, Retribution is a terrific place to start!

Q: Why did you write “Retribution”?

A: I enjoy the challenge of writing and, to some degree, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was reportedly frustrated with the criminal novels of his time, I was frustrated with what I had been reading in the military thriller world. Some had implausible plot lines and didn’t connect to what I saw in military operations centers. Likewise, putting the plot together and making it authentic is the challenge. I wanted a plot that both propels the reader forward and leads to an unexpected ending. It places you in the true world of military operations with credible threats, accurate technology, and real action. And giving you what we all hope for – a hero that is complex but hardened steel. The guy that we all wish could be there when we needed him.

Q: Who is Anderson Harp?

A: Not William Parker, but close. Someone who enjoys challenges and is loyal to his fellow Marine. Someone who has fun doing crazy things like climbing Mount Fuji, or surfing the North Shore (with his daughter -not very well), or hunting around the world. A past member of the All Marine Track Team and national level runner, and someone who held the school record at his university for the 800-meter run for over a decade. And someone who has been dedicated to helping out servicemen and women by creating Operation Thriller, a USO Tour of authors to hazardous duty zones and who has served in operation centers both at the Pentagon and in support of Marines responsible for the invasion of Afghanistan. Someone who was the chief instructor for the Marine Corps mountain survival and cold weather training school.

Q: What is “Retribution” about?

A: Despite our best intentions, there remain bad guys, jihadists, and terrorists in our world. And the planet has gotten so much smaller. Without a guard at the door, anyone can step on a commercial airplane in Pakistan and be in your neighborhood the next day. Borders are only challenges. They are not insurmountable. We need someone who will stand at that door for all of us. William Parker, given the chance, stands at that door. We just need heroes. “Retribution” is an intense, plot driven, mission-oriented thriller that combines what is going on out there in the jihadist world with our response to that threat.

Q: How real is it?

A: VERY. The world is in flux, our military and intelligence agencies are constantly changing, upgrading, modifying in response to threats. So our military changes rapidly, but, nevertheless, the jihadist is consistent. He updates his strategy too, but remains a constant danger to our world. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, which are always at risk. The tribal territory is only a short distance from those nuclear cores. We think the danger is an assembled weapon, but the chance of a dirty bomb can have long effects. Thus, we need William Parker.

Q: What does your military background and being in the Marines thirty years bring to your writing? What is unique about this experience in the world of military thrillers?

A: In my life, I’ve been involved at different levels in the service with several world crises and helped with our nation’s response to those threats. It’s a unique opportunity in the thriller world to have been a first-hand participant in events like these. There are experiences from the small to the large that give depth to the story. For example, I spent thirty years being trained and qualified as an expert in firing weapons. The recoil of an M-14 is different from an M-16 or the 9mm is vastly different from the 45. The use of a suppressor affects much. On the larger scale, calling in artillery and air support require certain coordination’s of fire control. Operations centers are vastly different between the battalion and the Pentagon. All of this affects the realism of the story.

Q: Will we see William Parker in other books?

 A: Yes, Will Parker reflects a unique warrior with special skills. He has this ability to be comfortable speaking any language. Language skills are the only way to merge with and into a culture. He is a bit of a loner who lives for the challenge. He isn’t pushed by a normal life. He likes a marathon. He is a survivalist. And he gets angry when wrongs have been committed.

Q: What motivates a Yousef  al-Qadi?

A: The jihadist Yousef al-Qadi is damaged goods. He came from Saudi wealth and essentially a broken family. He doesn’t fit and his jihadist beliefs are a vehicle to place him in history. He is guided by his beliefs of a disjointed Muslim world where the fundamentalist believes everything is wrong. Women are not to be treated as equals. Non-believers must be removed from the Holy Lands no matter the cost. Brutality is accepted. It matters little if a prisoner is buried alive. He is not alone in this. He wants to establish another fundamentalist Muslim nation in the ruins of Afghanistan and western Pakistan. He is repeating history to some degree, as that area was kingdom centuries ago. He is ruthless but believes he is righteous. In “Retribution” he is disconnected from his mother. She is the daughter of the oil magnate’s gardener. He is half royalty and half pauper. And his mother dies an early death. His world is complicated as amplified by the traditions of the Arab mind.

Q: You mention that some children recruited by the Jihadists are drugged for missions.  Is this a common practice?

A: Yes. Recruiters persuade children and even family members with promises of their entering a land full of flowers and food. The children come from the deepest depths of poverty where a bundle of tied together plastic trash bags are a substitute for their soccer ball. To ensure that some do not hesitate, drugs are provided. Like the Japanese kamikaze, a warrior that is most dangerous is one that believes his death or the death of others is for a value worth more than his life or the life of a child. We have good reason to be fearful of this enemy.

Q: Are you already writing another book?

 A: Absolutely!  The whole special operations world has changed our forces, our capabilities, and our military structures. And William Parker was a special operator before these new commands were invented. Plus, he is a light warrior. Our men and women today fight with tons of gear and technology. For instance, the most decorated soldier of the European campaign in World War II was Audie Murphy. He received the Medal of Honor for single handedly attacking a German force. He received many more decorations for his bravery. (And went on to be a movie star as well.) When he enlisted in the Army, Audie Murphy was 112 pounds and stood five feet five and a half inches. The gear that some Marines carry today is close to 112 pounds. So a light warrior like a Will Parker is important.

Q: You started the USO author’s tour named Operation Thriller. And you did two tours. What has this achieved that hasn’t been achieved in other USO Tours?

A: I had the honor and pleasure of both creating and chairing Operation Thriller. Also, I had the chance to participate in the 2010 Tour and 2012 Tour. In 2010, we covered several bases in Iraq. And in 2012, we did a whirlwind tour of bases in the Gulf. Most locations were in hazardous duty zones. It was an absolute pleasure to meet our service men and women and say thank you where they served. It gave them the chance to meet the creators of heroes that they have read and even seen in the movies. I have written articles on this experience for CNN Larry King Live, The Huffington Post, Newsmax and the ITW. Some of my co-authors that went on the tours had never served in the military, had never held a weapon and had never been in an operations center. It was great to see both the military appreciation of these writers and the writers gained appreciation of those that serve.

Q: Are soldiers a great audience for thriller writers?

A: They are for two reasons. First, as a good friend and combat Ranger said to me, “we need heroes too!” In this world, we need Will Parkers who win. We need Will Parkers who understand the threats. And second, the military, particularly when in combat or in a hazardous duty zone, has tons of down time. Nothing helps pass twenty hours on a military flight (my longest was twenty four hours stopping for refuel) like a great thriller.

 

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

retribution by anderson harpAnderson Harp and BookTrib are giving away a paperback copy of Retribution. To enter, just fill out the rafflecopter.

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Q&A with Carla Neggers + Giveaway

cider brook by carla neggersMy guest today is Carla Neggers, the author of today’s featured review book, Cider Brook, and also the author of one of my new favorite romantic suspense series, the Sharpe & Donovan series.

Q:      You have more than two dozen books on The New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. What does it feel like to have such a loyal fan base that keeps coming back for more?

A: It’s wonderful! My first readers were my three sisters. They found one of my early works-in-progress and read it aloud and then urged me to finish the story, which I did. It was great to have them connect with a story I’d made up. Since then, I’ve met and corresponded with many, many readers, and I’m truly grateful for each and every one. It’s an honor and a pleasure.

Q:      You have taught writing workshops across the country. Do you have anything currently planned for the future?

A: I’m going to be at Thrillerfest in New York City in July. It’s a gathering of writers and readers put on by International Thriller Writers. It’s too early to know my exact schedule, but I look forward to hanging out in New York and talking books and writing!

Q:      What is your strangest writing quirk?

A: I don’t know if it’s strange or a quirk but I don’t eat when I’m writing. You won’t find breadcrumbs or BBQ sauce on my keyboard or notepads. I don’t know if it goes back to my days writing up in a tree as a kid, but it’s one of my few rules. I sometimes will write at a coffee shop or restaurant, but I’ll stick to a latte or pot of tea when I’m actually writing.

Q:      We know you love to travel, but where is a place you haven’t been that has high priority on your list?

A: Italy! I want to see Tuscany, Rome, Venice. My husband does, too. We love to travel. We visit

Ireland often, We head back there this spring. We’ll also take a week to walk in the Cotswolds in England. Of course, there’s the Netherlands, too. I have lots and lots of family there, including in one of the cutest Dutch villages ever. And Montana, Wyoming, the Pacific Northwest…I could go on and on!

Q:      What are you reading right now?

A: I’m reading Home to Seaview Key by my good friend Sherryl Woods. I loved Seaview Inn and couldn’t wait to revisit the endearing people and beautiful scenery of Seaview Key.

Carla NeggersAbout Carla NeggersCarla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, with translations in 24 languages. Born and raised on the western edge of the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir in rural Massachusetts, Carla grew up with tales of her father’s life as a Dutch sailor and her mother’s childhood in northwest Florida.At a young age, Carla began penning her own stories on a branch high up in her favorite sugar maple. Now she enjoys spending time at the family homestead (now a tree farm) with her six brothers and sisters and their families. When she’s not writing, Carla loves to travel, hike, kayak, garden, and, of course, dive into a good book. She lives with her family in Vermont, near Quechee Gorge.

To learn more about Carla, visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Carla is giving away a copy of Cider Brook to one lucky (U.S.) commenter. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:
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Q&A with Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

big sky secrets by linda lael millerMy very first guest of 2014 is Linda Lael Miller, and she’s here with her final book in her lovely Parable Montana series, a series that made me fall in love with western romances! If you want to meet the people in this marvelous town, start with Big Sky Country and finish with today’s book, Big Sky Secrets, reviewed here. Linda is also giving away a print copy of Big Sky Secrets (U.S. only); to enter, please use the Rafflecopter at the end of the post.

Q: Do you write every day? Do you have a writing routine?

A: Yes, mostly.  I write five days a week, from about 9 am., stopping at 1 or 2 pm because by then my brain starts turning to jelly.  I am definitely a morning person.  Sometimes, when a deadline is pressing hard, I’ll put in longer hours and work weekends, but mostly I avoid that.  I need time to refill the well by reading, doing art, puttering in the yard and playing with the pets.

Q: If you could go back 15 or 20 years ago and give yourself one piece of writerly advice, what would it be?

A: I LOVE this question—I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this one before.  I’d tell myself to chill out, relax, and not take myself so seriously, to go with the flow and to avoid comparing myself to other writers at all costs.

Q: Big Sky Secrets has a fair share of family drama and a lot of family secrets and family history comes to light throughout the course of the book. Did you set out to write a book like this or did Ria and Landry’s stories just kind of come together?

A: I always start with a few characters and a situation.  I have a general idea how the story will play out as I begin, but my stories tend to evolve, often surprising me with the direction they take.  As I’d become acquainted with both Landry and Ria in “Big Sky Wedding”, I had a pretty good idea what they’d do in any given circumstance.

Q: Big Sky Secrets is the last of the Big Sky novels. Why did you save Ria and Landry for last?

A: It just turned out that way.  Each of the Big Sky books grew from the one preceeding it–in essence, what we have here is one long story.  I love to create a community, people it with interesting characters, and just let things unfold as I write along.

Q: There are some great teenage characters in Big Sky Secrets. How did you get into the teen mindset to write Quinn and Nash?

A: It’s been a long time since I was a teenager myself, and since I raised one, but I guess I still have an affinity for them.  They’re not children and not adults, either, and that presents them with specific challenges to meet and overcome.  Good stories are all about overcoming challenges, methinks.

Q: Quinn’s stray dog Bones is as loveable as any fictional dog ever. You are known for your love of animals and working them into your books. Was there a particular dog that inspired Bones?

A: I love ALL dogs (plus cats, horses and every other kind of creature), especially those in need of a loving home.  When I write about animals, I’m hoping, deep down, that folks will be reminded to be kind to them–not that the vast majority of my readers need a reminder, because they love God’s creatures as much as I do.  Still, it’s a good thing to keep in mind–there’s no such thing as too much compassion.

Q: Readers and reviewers have loved the Big Sky books and we know a lot of them will be sad to see the series come to an end. What’s next that we can be looking forward to?

A: I’ve already started a whole new “Marriage” series, set in a fictional Wyoming town called Mustang Creek in the present day–a town that happens to resemble Jackson Hole.    I recently traveled there to get my bearings, so to speak, and see what my characters will see.  The first book is called “The Marriage Pact”, and includes a sexy cowboy hero, Tripp Galloway, a smart, feisty heroine, Hadleigh Stevens, and at least two adopted dogs–Ridley and Muggles.  There’s no telling, though, what other four-leggers might turn up as the story goes on–like human characters, they tend to show up out of nowhere and demand to be part of it all.

Linda Lael MillerAbout Linda Lael MillerThe daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education.More information about Linda and her novels is available at her website. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.

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